“Lord, forgive them. Keep my boy from the world’s evil. You know I can’t force him to act like a Christian. I got to depend on You now to make a good man of him.
We went to church Sunday and afterward to my grandparents’ house for our traditional noon dinner. Garnet Harrison’s expulsion of the coloreds came up.
“It’s about time Garnet stopped lettin’em nigger kids play in his backyard,” my grandfather said. “Now just you hush, Alonzo,” my grandmother scolded. “That was a mean thing to do. Them little nigger kids wasn’t hurtin’ a thing.” “Don’t make no difference. First thing you know they’ll be wantin’ to play with the Majors if somebody don’t put a stop to it”. It re-ignited my outrage. “Why can’t they play with the Majors?” I said without thinking. “Chicken Coop’s good enough already!” I was almost shouting, oblivious to my heresy. It shut down the conversation momentarily. My grandfather looked at his son and with the finality of a lawyer closing an airtight case, simply said, “See”.
We adjourned to the living room to see something else new that summer in Greenville. My grandfather had bought the first television set in the county and wanted to show it off. It was a credenza with a porthole. He turned it on, fiddled with the controls several minutes until a dim, fuzzy, black and white picture of a man talking appeared in the little window.
“Robert, you want to hand me the colorizer,” he said to my father, pointing to a sheet of transparent plastic tinted blue across the top, green across the bottom, and orange in the middle. He taped it over the porthole. “This’ll make it colored.”
We all looked at the contraption with the strange colors overlaying and distorting the picture underneath. After a few moments, my father said, “You know, I think you got taken, Dad”. “Naw, naw. That’s how it’s supposed to be.”
Early Monday morning I climbed through the fence to find Chicken Coop. He and I could still play catch, I thought, even if we can’t use the Harrison’s lot. I knocked on his door and his mother answered.
“Whachyu want?” she asked, with a belligerence I didn’t understand. “I was wondering if Chicken Coop could come out to play,” I said. “Yo mama know you here?” she asked. “Yeah,” I lied, afraid of the truth and in the conviction mother wouldn’t object. She looked at me for the longest time, like she was assessing or deciding what to do. Finally, she sighed. “You best be runnin’ on home now. Jimmy can’t play wit’you no more. Best you not be comin’ here again.”