In chapter 10 of the 2017 novel, King of Soul , we find a lovely young lady who is faced with a difficult decision:
Erma, sitting in the customer chair, turned her lovely ankle so she could get a better view of the pink high-heel that was on her right foot. She cocked her head. Looking down at the silken shoe, she said, "I just don’t know. . ."
Her friend Ruth knew more about these things. She had been out on many more dates than Erma. "You got to live a little, honey," she advised. "Those are a lot more fun than the navy blue. Just get 'em before you think too hard about it."
Erma was still in the mermaid position with her eye on the toe when Ruth read her mind and added, “I know you think that toe is too pointy, but believe me, Winnfred will love those shoes. Men go crazy for those pointy high heels.”
Erma looked up at her friend. “I’m not so sure I’m ready for that.”
Donnie arrived with a pink silk handbag to match. Ruth looked up at him and smiled. “You! You right on top of things, aren’t you?” she remarked.
“It’s a natural.” He set the handbag down on the carpet next to Erma’s foot. The perfect coordination between pink shoe and pink purse was an obvious combination.
“That’s it, girl!” said Ruth, with finality. Erma studied the pairing that Donnie had just presented to her. Donnie glanced over at the front door. Three more potential customers walked in. The clock on the wall said 12:25, almost half an hour past when his lunch break was supposed to have started. Where is Ed? he wondered. At that moment, the other shoe salesman walked through the swinging glass front entry door, almost a half-hour late. Donnie was glad to see him come in, and even more relieved when their boss, Mr. Picou, breezed by and announced, “You may go to take your lunch break, Mr. Evans.”
“Thank you,” Donnie said. He looked into Erma’s eyes. “Can I wrap that up for you?”
“Just the shoes,” she replied.
“Oh, come on, Erma,” Ruth exclaimed. “You know you want that handbag.”
Donnie was pleased that Erma’s friend was supporting his sales strategy. Handbag sales added up as a bonus at the end of each week. The unannounced placement of an accessory item next to Erma’s new shoe was an effective sales technique that Mr. Picou had taught him from the beginning. Donnie stood up, looked away from the two young women, caught Ed’s eye passing by. “Good afternoon, Ed,” he spoke to his co-worker. “So glad you made it.”
“Sorry I’m late,” Ed murmured.
Donnie smiled at him. “No problem.”
“I guess so.” said Erma.
Donnie stooped down, gently took the girl’s foot in his hand and removed her shoe. “I’ll wrap them up for you,” he said.
Twelve minutes later, Donnie was in the diner next door, sitting at the counter because there was no table available in the crowded place. Waiting for his hamburger and fries, he sipped a Coke and was watching the news on the TV, which was mounted nearby at the end of the counter on a platform suspended from the ceiling.
Up on the black and white TV screen, a well-dressed man was addressing the camera, explaining the benefits of having a new RCA color console in your living room. The commercial disappeared in an artful array of graphic wonders, accompanied by a musical jingle which ended with a tuneful phrase, “View the world the modern way!”
And then there was Walter Cronkite’s no-nonsense visage on the screen. Donnie could hear, through the clattering of silverware and the low murmur of conversations all around, Cronkite saying something about a trial in Chicago. “We take you now to the courthouse of Judge Julius Hoffman., George Herman reports.”
Now that you've landed here, have a Listen to some vibes, songs of Rowland:
Or how about this? Consider this snippet of quasi-fictional dialogue. In chapter 10 of Smoke , the third novel, three men share a meal in a London diner. They discuss what is presently happening in Europe. The year is 1937. Here we find Mark Chapman, an informed Londoner, speaking of current events:
The little German colonel is a troublemaker, a treaty-breaker, and probably a damned lunatic. Nevertheless, Franco’s Falangists, and the Carlists with them, are perhaps the lesser of two evils. I’m not so sure that our deceased, Mr. Wallris, understood that. In fact, though I had a lot of respect for him, I never understood why he was so ardent in his support of the government. He was risking—I daresay I can admit this in your hearing, and perhaps that of the young American here—serious consequences from the British government itself, for defying their gutless non-intervention blockade. And there were elements of our business community here who had detected what Paul was up to in supporting the Spanish government.”
Itmar retorted, “I don’t think Moseley’s blackshirts represent any legitimate part of our City or its business. Most of the fascists out on our streets appear to be unemployed workers who have nothing better to do than make trouble for the rest of us.”
“Those unemployed ruffians are, like it or not, a consequence of our capitalist way of doing things,” said Chapman. “God knows I have little sympathy for them; they are a constant pain in the arse over in East London where our office is. They are arrogant and rude when they come looking for jobs, acting as if they’re entitled to work just because of their British citizenship. But they are just pawns in the game, and there are rooks, and knights—one in particular I can think of—who manipulate their disruptions for their own purposes.”
“And what purposes might those be?” “To prevent the damned communists from taking over Spain, or any other country—Czechoslovakia—that’s what.”
Another long pause. Then Itmar asked, in a low voice, “What would you say, Mark, if I told you—and I know this may be hard to believe—if I told you that Hitler’s Nazis, the ones sending military support to Franco, are systematically rounding up people I know in Germany, then commandeering their personal property and sending them, on trains, to camps out in the country to do slave labor for the Third Reich?”
Mark Chapman thought for a moment. He looked quizzically at Itmar, as if this man-to-man encounter between an Irishman and a Jew in a dockside diner were an event of some fateful consequence, yet hanging in the stars. Slowly, he said, “You mean the Jewish people, your people, are being arrested, as if for crimes they did not commit, and then convicted and sentenced without trial, to some sort of prison?”
“I have heard that,” said Mark Chapman. “I heard it, in fact, from Paul Wallris, about three days before he died.”
On the other side of history-- on the other side of the Big War that came as a result of the German colonel troublemaker-- we find in chapter 2 of King of Soul, the novel published in 2017, a young American, Donnie, and his neighborhood pals making the transition between cowboys/Indians and baseball. On a summer morning in 1963:
The next morning, on the other side of town, three sixth-grade cowboys were running through a big grassy back yard, aiming at each other with toy pistols, whoopin’ and hollerin’ at each other, imagining themselves to be like their heroes in the movies. On this twelfth day of June, summer vacation was still new enough to be a wild pleasure. The boys paused from their make- believe gunfight to sample the plum trees in Donnie’s back yard, but the plums were not yet ripe.
A few minutes later those holstered playthings were dropped on the lawn when Troy and his buddies from down the street showed up.
“Y’all come down to the lot for a game,” Troy yelled from the next yard over. Donnie, Mike and Joe watched Troy and three others as they traipsed through the neighbor’s yard along the backside of the chain-link fence. When they got into Donnie’s yard, Troy voiced his challenge again. “Us against you. Come on.”
“Four against three?” asked Donnie, as if it made any difference.
The point was—it’s time to play ball, y’all. The numbers didn’t matter, especially to Troy, because the score always somehow ended in his favor anyway. “There’ll be some other guys showing up, you know.” Troy responded, with confidence, as if he could make it happen. “You can have the next one who comes. Just like last week, we’ll have a bunch more guys before long, since school is out.” Troy had a fielder’s glove on his left hand. He was tossing the baseball into it, then retrieving the ball with his right and tossing it into the glove again, with an easy fluidity of motion that demonstrated, in the midst of his friendly provocation, his baseball agility. He was doing this little perpetual motion between hand and glove while keeping his eyes trained steadily on Donnie.
So how could he not? Donnie knew it was time for baseball, because Troy said so. Troy was leader of everybody on Meadowbrook Lane. And he actually had a point there. This make-believe with cowboys and Injuns was going by the wayside anyway. Donnie knew it, he just didn’t have any direction about it yet, but he knew that because Troy had issued the challenge, now was the time for something more intense, more real than cowboys, more real even than cops and robbers—baseball. Troy knew. He was always ahead of everybody else, except in school. He was, however, king of the playground, the recess time. He was king of the hill too, although they had not played that one for awhile. Donnie’s mama had said it was too rough a game when Troy was involved. Now Donnie was watching Troy’s face, while the bigger boy moved slowly toward him. Troy smiled. His smile looked like the shark’s smile on some cartoon.
“You ready?” he asked. “You can use my glove.” He paused from his ball toss mantra, lifted the mitt up as if for Donnie’s inspection.
“I got one.” Donnie replied.
“Go get it. What’r you waitin’ for?”
I’m waiting for you to get outta my face.
Troy turned and began his next maneuver, which would be exit. The other three fellows followed dutifully. And so Roy Rodgers, the Lone Ranger and Tonto fell by the wayside, like ole Western clips on the cutting room floor of a Hollywood backlot. Now it was time for the real world. Now it was time for, as Donnie’s friend Chris called it, hardball. Maybe Chris would show up. He was a pretty good player—a better player than Donnie, and a better captain. Donnie would make sure to get Chris on his team, if he showed up.
Now it was time for Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra to step up to the plate. And Donnie and Mike and Joe, and Chris and whoever else would show up. Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Play ball, y'all!
Copyright 2017 © Carey Rowland
Consider this excerpt from chapter 19 of Glass half-Full , in which we find Marcus working hard to remove the stain:
Marcus opened a can of turpentine. He tipped it slightly so that its upper contents would spill onto a rag that lay on the parking lot next to his car. With the rag partially soaked, he began rubbing on the driver's-side door. Someone had painted a black swastika on it while he was working late. His cell phone rang.
Or this: From chapter 8 of Glass half-Full, we find Hilda, a restaurant-owner, telling some friends about an experience she had in Germany.
"Hitler and his thugs tried to take advantage of the situation; they launched a coup d'etat, called a putsch in German. But it failed, and they ended up getting arrested. The event has been named the beer hall putsch of 1923. Well, I was reading about these police officers who were killed by the Nazis that night. And I was reading in my guide book some information about the incident. I kept hearing this beautiful music, really spirited music. We walked in the direction of the music. We turned a corner...and there they were, five musicians playing five instruments: clarinet, violin, accordion, cello, a drummer. I could tell they were Jewish right away. I considered their courage: to stand there at the Odeonsplatz where the Nazis had made their first move to try and take over the world, and declare, with their music, that Jewish people, along with their music, were alive and well in the 21st century. They inspired me. We must have listened to them for an hour...the Bridge Ensemble."
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Carey Rowland writes where he lives with his wife of 37 years, Pat. They live in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. Their three grown young'uns, Micah, Kim and Katie, are long gone from the household and have moved onward to blaze trails of their own, here, there and yon. God only knows where all the Rowlands will go and what they will do.