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  • Keith T. Bishop

My Darkest Ink

I faintly remember the house. It was tall. The basement’s grayish stone walls were moist to the touch. Decades earlier, a previous owner’s name adorned the city’s original baseball park. My dad told me he had gone to games there, in the old stadium, before it was demolished. Once, on bat day, he waved a Pete Rose club in the stands. They did those things back then; gave weapons to boys and girls. The main floor of the house had a special window. Its sill was unusually close to the earth. For caskets I was told. The window’s panes overlooked the landlord’s adjacent property, an enormous, beautiful stone church. My dad was an atheist.

Railroad tracks a few blocks away marked the town’s border. As a toddler, I’d often escape to the street corner and watch the trains rumble by. To stop my exits, my dad installed a latch high up on the door. It didn’t take me long to realize chairs could elevate me. My parents weren’t going keep me down.

People on our side of the rails were educated, prosperous and diverse; people on the other side were impoverished and black. Both sides kept to their own turf—except when we needed access to the highway. Our small community revealed humanity needn’t be divvied. Previous generations’ built walls. Education afforded new pathways without barriers. My mom was a high school drop out.

I connected with the marginalized; those whose longstanding bitterness boiled beneath the surface. Though my pale skin clashed with their darker hues, I understood their angst, their sense of continued repression. I too had been repressed. For too damn long.

My mates silently railed about centuries of injustice. All vowed full-blown, consequential retribution. Yet the ship of fools always settled in safe harbors. Open waters were for me. My darkest ink was the letter “Y”. The rest had washed away.

Age twenty-three rolled to twenty-five, thirty, now thirty-five and not one damn thing has changed. Jobs, promotions, homes, cars and vacations never trickled down. My nemesis, our nemesis is not race, creed or nationality. It’s the children of the greatest generation. The me-generation that clung to all that was given them. They embraced Cardwell’s Law, contented to be the last generation better off than the previous.

Their bats drove racism, monotheism, and nationalism. Sadistically, they handed us participation trophies while they saddled us with their debts.

Smash the plaques. Our weapon is our darkest ink, the letter “Y.”

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