Carmen's attention was pulled back to the newsroom, where the pack’s yips and howls seemed more agitated than usual, and she ambled toward them. Norm held his position as alpha, Pinky a few feet behind him, all but wagging his stubby tail in support.
Ted, king of satire, had his back to her and so his contribution to the debate was lost, but Norm’s face was animated to the point steam might blow out his ears. “Cut me a little slack, Ted. It’s not like I’m the one out there planting bombs.”
Carmen cut into their circle. “Shucks and sugar, fellas. Can’t believe y’all are discussing Birmingham without me.”
Pinky elbowed Norm in the ribs. “You’re in for it now. Hettie Henderson’s here to c-c-cream your cob of corn.”
Trust a dog like Pinky to set off a round of cat calls. One point in favor of marriage? She wouldn’t have to put up with this lot anymore.
“What I’m trying to explain to these clowns,” Norm strained above the ruckus, “is that if people would pipe down and stop making a fuss, there wouldn’t be any bombs.”
That put a knot in Carmen’s beehive. “Your fellow Americans are trapped in the most extreme poverty, the most deplorable living conditions, the most oppressive injustice you can imagine, and you think they’re making a fuss?”
Grunts of agreement told Carmen she had their support. How about that? In spite of the way they tore into each other, they weren’t a pack of untrained mongrels.
“All I’m saying,” Norm said, “is that change is unsettling. It makes people feel threatened. Rallies and protests create unrest when what people need most is to feel secure.”
“To whose security are you speaking, Norm? Because I don’t imagine there’s much security living in a rickety pine board shack. One heated argument, and the whole place’ll burn down.”
Pinky reddened like a sunburn. “Don’t go blaming the rest of us if them p-p-people don’t want to work hard and take pride in where they live. Coupla of nails, coupla cans of paint, that’s all they need.”
“A couple cans of paint? Good Lord and a bottle of Jack! That’s no better than putting a bandaid on a festering wound. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t leak green puss and reek to heaven.”
“Know what’s wrong with you? You’re too fussy for your own g-g-good.” Pinky’s shout was as good as a rifle shot; the coyotes had scattered. Carmen understood. People tended to back their beliefs until the confrontation got too intense, at which point they slinked away and hid.
“People like you,” Pinky said, lips twisted in a snarl, “stuffing your ideals down people’s throats with your marches and your sit-ins, upsetting good people when what we need is to restore order.”
“There is no order, you imbecile!” Carmen clenched her fists. Name-calling wouldn’t win the day, but sweet Jesus, ignorance made her angry! “Are you really not able to see the lack of logic in your thinking? Or are you just content to sit by so long as the scales are tipped in your favor?”
“Now, now…” Norm, of all people, playing peacekeeper, put his arm between her and Pinky. He’d have better luck parting the Red Sea.
Pinky spat. He had the grace to do it in his cup, but still. It wasn’t likely his manners would improve once he learned Carmen had been offered a byline that should’ve automatically gone to him, even if she had turned it down.
“I bet you buy into all that Kennedy bullshit. Let me tell you something. Niggers will never be equal to whites, and man’s got about as much chance of making it to the moon as a woman making the front page.”
“Man will make it to the moon, Pinky. And mark my words, woman will walk right alongside him.”
“’Course she will. Who else is gonna do the laundry?” Pinky’s sickly sweet smirk was like potpourri in an abattoir, daring her to come closer and take a deep breath. She refused to give the little asshole the satisfaction.
The best way to deal with Pinky was to pretend he wasn’t there, so she cocked her head in Norm’s direction. “You know, my aunt once had a little chihuahua just like him, always nipping at some poor so-and-so’s heels. Careful when you’re walking, or one of these days you might kick him in the chin.”
Copyright © 2018 Sherry Isaac - All Rights Reserved.