My doctor says, “Zeeb, my old friend, your remaining days can be numbered in weeks, and not more than four. Then your Black ass is out the door forevermore.”
I reply, “Negro, please, you been wrong before and wrong more often than right, and I still owe on my bill. I know you gonna keep me going until I’ve paid in full—because that’s the way you roll.”
We laugh for a minute. He pulls out his single malt Scotch. We toast the good life and the quick, quiet death.
He asks, “You seen Que? What’s up with her?”
“Not in a while, Doc. Let’s drink to her, showing up before I get put down.”
We drink to that.
“Mokoi, number two, son, you come down from Juneau to help me check out? I’m honored that you gave up time from your mayoral duties to attend to my last laps around my back yard.”
“I’m a state senator, Pops. And you know that. Why are you always throwing shade on me? Can’t you give it a break-even now?”
“Well, I live in the shadow of your success. I think you the one throwing shade.”
My handsome as Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., son frowns, bites his lower lip and walks with me.
“Pops, you told us, ad nauseam, we were supposed to find our own path. You preached about being yourself despite what others said or did. I followed your advice, Pops. I’m my own self.”
“Yeah, you may have followed my advice and your own path, but that don’t mean I have to like your choices.”
“I believe it’s me you don’t like, not my choices. I honestly believe that.”
“Look, in our family history, we have had thieves, rapists, murders, turncoats, cowards, heroes, warriors, titans of industry, and models of decency. And I try to understand them, and sometimes I do, but you, a Trump supporter, collaborator, and disciple, I will never understand that.”
I sit on my oak bench under my maple tree, and my blockhead of a son joins me. We sit in silence for a moment.
“Pops, I’m with Trump in name only. Being a Black Trump Republican will carry me to the Governor’s office and beyond. I will be—”
“And I won’t be here to see that, and that, my boy, is a blessing.”
“Pops, remember how you told me Earl Warren was a red-baiting, antiunion, law and order DA before he became the most progressive chief justice in the history of the country?”
“You gonna choke me to death on my own words? Warren was the most popular politician in California when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. You are one of the most despised elected officials in the nation for your rabid support of our mad dog president.”
“Pops, I have legions of supporters, and you, time and time again, showed me how even Nixon was rehabilitated.”
“Why? Why do you want to be whatever it is you want to be?”
“President. I want to be president of the United States. I want to make this a better place to live. I will leave a legacy like Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. I want—”
“You want the power to make yourself great. That, my son, is worrying me to death.”
“Not literally. Cancer is killing you. You don’t understand me. You never have. And you don’t have confidence in me. You don’t believe in—”
“Hey, listen, I believe your crackpot scam to become president might work. That’s what’s scaring me to death. Literally.”
Mokoi looks at me like he’s seeing me for the first time. I think it is beginning to dawn on him the reason I don’t favor him is that he is too handsome, too smooth, too cunning, and he is very electable. He’s far more dangerous than Trump. He scares the hell out of me.
“Hey, mister state senator, wasn’t Que up in Juneau with you for a minute?”
He stands and looks down on me.
“You are a frightened, dying, bitter, old man. I can see that now.”
“Yeah, you dead right. What about Que?”
“I don’t want to talk about that bitch. Goodbye and good riddance, pops.”
“Gleti, hey, come, sit here beside me. You’re a sight for sore eyes. You, the best-looking pastor I’ve ever seen.”
My daughter looks like a milk chocolate-colored Dorothy Dandridge. She gives me her sunrise smile.
“Dad, you look tired. Did Mokoi get on your last nerve?”
She sits beside me and takes my hand in hers.
“Your brother is more than a notion. Let’s talk about brighter things. How is your ministry going?”
“Good. But better if you let me lead a few prayers and hymns at your going home celebration.”
“Honey, I’m going to be dead, and I can’t stop you. But you know how I feel about that religious mumbo-jumbo. I would prefer no religious observance at any festivities celebrating my departure from this vale of tears.”
“Okay, but your soul may be in jeopardy. Wouldn’t you like to have a prayer just to cover all possibilities?”
“How would prayer help me if I don’t believe in that ritual? You been praying for me to ‘see the light’ since you were a teenager. I still ain’t a believer.”
“Aren’t you worried about the afterlife?”
“Honey, I’m worried about one life at a time.”
“Are you afraid?”
“Yeah, I’m afraid that there might be an afterlife, and I will have to put up with all of the fools that I rejected down here.”
“Seriously, I want to help you through this transition.”
“Seriously, you can help me by telling me about my grandkids and the good things your megachurch is doing.”
“The girls are here. They’re eager to see you. They are worried about your soul too. We all want to help you so much.”
“Yeah, look, I think I’m going to lie down for a bit. We can all talk when I get up.”
“If you get up. This may be your last opportunity—”
“Hey, have you heard from Que? I would like to see her before—”
“She is no longer a part of our lives.”
“Yeah, but you two were close once. Right?”
“Dad, let me help you to your bedroom.”
I stand with her assistance.
“Are you going to answer my question?”
“Let the past be, please.”
“Gleti, what the hell happened between you and Que? Tell me so we can pray on it.”
My daughter hisses at me, “Don’t be an ass. When you pass on, I hope you get what you deserve.”
My stout and sturdy firstborn enters my bedroom with a bottle in a brown paper bag.
“Hey, daddy, o, what’s the word?”
“And what’s the price?”
“And who drinks the most?”
“Folks of the African American persuasion.”
We laugh, shake hands, hug. He sits on my bed and unbags the bottle of Thunderbird.
“Goddamn! Where did you get this from? How did you ever find it?”
“Man, I saw Gleti leaving your bedroom all frowned up, and I flew out of here and got this for you. I knew you would be in need.”
“Thank you, son. You all right with me even if you is homeless.”
“Nope, not homeless—unsheltered. That’s the politically correct term.”
“Shit, that sounds worse than homeless. It sounds like you have no shelter, not even a tent.”
“Well, when you put it like that—hey, where’s your chess set?”
“Gone, man. I gave it to your oldest. She is a darn good chess player. You need to keep an eye on her.”
“She sharp, alright. Hey, go light on that bottle. You ain’t the only one drinking.”
I pass the bottle.
“You still writing?”
“Oh, yeah. That’s what keeps me going. Otherwise, I lie down there with you, and we cruise on out of here.”
“No way. You got to keep things straight, be a guiding light, keep it real for your kids and your nieces and nephew.”
“Pops, I’m 45 and still trying to find my way. How am I going to be anybody’s example?”
“Ask your kids or your sister’s kids. You keep it real with them when no one else will. They love you, man.”
“Naw, you the one. They going to miss the hell out of your cranky self.”
“Well, you pick up the slack and don’t hog the bottle.”
He passes me the wine.”
“Pops, what do you want me to do with your record collection. I know you want me to have them, but I got no place to—”
“Hey, how did that trespass hearing go? Did you represent the other protestors?”
“I did. We got off. Macy’s withdrew the complaint. We all good now.”
“Shit, I’m proud of you. Do you miss the law?”
“Hell, no. I don’t miss being a property owner or a professional or none of that.”
He shakes his head and stretches.
“Damn, man, you drinking like it’s your exclusive. Give me back that bottle.”
I hand him the wine.
“Son, you done got liquor greedy in your old age. Hey, have you heard from Que?”
“Que? Why you asking about her after the way you treated her?”
“I just wanted to, ah, say goodbye. We all make mistakes, and I made a big one.”
“Well, I can understand mistakes. Look, I got to split for a minute. I’ll be back.”
“You got to go now?”
“I do. I’m going to leave you the wine. Try not to drink it all, okay?”
He gets up and opens the door.
“Because Que wanted to share it with you.”
Que walks in.
I’m blinded by my tears as Que hurries to me.
Image – Google images