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.That worthy pushed it through the slot of the locked ballot box beside him.“Mr.Driver has voted,” he said in a loud voice.Mr.Driver has voted.As far as Cincinnatus was concerned, the words might have been accompanied by music from a marching band: they sounded in horns and drums in his ears.He felt ten feet tall as he strode out to the old Duryea truck, and marveled that he still fit inside the cab.But he did, and, having voted, he went off to eat a quick dinner and hunt up more work.He was still eating on a bench down by the train tracks when Joe Sims sat beside him.“Why are you grinnin’ like a fool?” the older black man asked.“You look like you just tore off a piece your wife doesn’t know about.”“I’m happy,” Cincinnatus said, “but I ain’t happy like that.I went down and voted—first time ever—is what I did.”Sims scratched his head.“I was happy when I voted the first time, too.It meant I was twenty-one.It meant I could buy whiskey, too, back when whiskey was still legal here.But I can’t recollect looking like I just tripped over a steamer trunk full of double eagles because I made some X’s.”Cincinnatus studied the other Negro, who hadn’t the faintest idea how much he took for granted.“You was born here,” Cincinnatus said at last.Sims nodded.Cincinnatus went on, “You knew from the time you was a little fellow you’d be able to vote when you got big.”“Well, sure I did,” Joe Sims said, and then, belatedly, got the point.“Wasn’t like that for you, was it?”“Not hardly.” Cincinnatus’voice was dry.“My ma and pa was slaves up till a few years before I was born.Before the USA took Kentucky away from the CSA, wasn’t a legal school for niggers in the whole state.I learned my letters anyways, but I was lucky.I wasn’t a citizen of the CSA; I was just somebody who lived there, and all the white folks told me what to do.Now, when I vote, I get to tell white folks what to do, and it ain’t even against the law.Anybody reckons I ain’t wild about that, he’s crazy.”Sims took a big bite out of his sandwich.It wasn’t ham, but a pungent sausage Cincinnatus hadn’t seen much in Covington.Salami, people called it; it was pretty good.After chewing and swallowing, Sims said, “The stories you tell remind me of the ones I heard from my grandpa when I was growing up.I always thought he was making things out to be worse than they really were.”“Only reason you reckoned that is on account of you was born here,” Cincinnatus said.“Nobody could make it out to be worse than it was—and it wasn’t even so bad in Covington, because we was right across the river from Ohio.But it was bad there, and it got worse the further south you went.”“It ain’t so good here, either,” Sims said.Negroes in Des Moines—Negroes in the USA generally—were fond of saying that.They weren’t even wrong; Cincinnatus had seen as much.Nevertheless…“You don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” Cincinnatus said.“Get down on your knees and praise the Lord on account of you don’t, too.I seen both sides now.This here may not be heaven, but it ain’t hell, neither.”“Yeah, you say that every chance you get.” Sims breathed pepper and garlic into Cincinnatus’ face.“I can’t argue with you.I never set foot inside the Confederate States.I do admit, I never heard of any colored fellow leaving the USA to go there.”“It would happen,” Cincinnatus said.“About every other year, it would happen.The papers in the CSA would always bang the drum about it, too, to make the niggers there—and the white folks, heaven knows—happy about how things was.”“Happy.” Joe Sims chewed on the word as he’d chewed on his salami.“How could you be happy, when you knew you were lying to each other down there?”That was a better question than most of the ones about the Confederate States Cincinnatus heard up here.He had to think before he answered, “Well, the white folks were happy ’cause they were on top.And us niggers? We were happy some of the time.I don’t reckon you can get through life without bein’happy some of the time.” Cincinnatus crammed the rest of his own sandwich into his mouth.Indistinctly, he said, “Let’s see what they got for us to do.With a new young-un in the house any day now, I got to keep busy.”“Got to stay out of there to get some rest once the baby comes,” Sims said with a reminiscent chuckle.“I know all about that, damned if I don’t.What are you and your missus going to call the kid?”“Seneca if it’s a boy—that’s my pa’s name,” Cincinnatus said.“And Elizabeth’s ma was called Amanda, so we’ll name the baby that if it’s a girl.”“Those are good names.” Sims shut his dinner pail and got to his feet.“Like you say, we have to keep busy.We don’t, everybody goes hungry.”Cincinnatus found enough work to put money in his pocket all through the afternoon.He went back to his apartment well pleased with himself.Elizabeth greeted him at the door with a kiss.“Did you vote?” she demanded.“Did you really and truly vote?” She wouldn’t get her chance till the 1924 election, for Iowa women had only presidential suffrage.“I really and truly voted,” Cincinnatus said, and his wife’s eyes shone.Joe Sims might not understand what the franchise meant to him, but Elizabeth did.She waddled back toward the kitchen, her legs so wide apart, the baby she carried might almost have fallen out between them.Achilles was doing homework at the kitchen table.He had a sheet of paper turned upside down in front of him: his spelling words, which he was supposed to be committing to memory.“Orange,” he said.“O-R-A-N-G-E.Orange.”“That’s good, son.” Cincinnatus made as if to clap his hands together.“The better you spell, the smarter folks’ll reckon you are.I don’t spell near as good as I wish I did, but I know you got that one right.”“It ain’t…It’s not”—Achilles carefully corrected himself—“that hard once you get the hang of it.”“You won’t get any wrong on your test, then, will you?” Cincinnatus said.“Hardly ever do,” his son replied.Had that not been the truth, Cincinnatus would have clouted him for his uppity mouth.But Achilles was doing very well in school, which made Cincinnatus proud.The boy’s eyes went far away.“Month.M-O-N-T-H.Month.”“Supper,” Elizabeth announced.“I ain’t gwine try an’ spell it, but I done cooked it an’ it’s ready.”“Smells good,” Cincinnatus said.It tasted good, too: roast beef with buttery mashed potatoes and greens on the side.“Turnip greens, ain’t they?” Cincinnatus asked, lifting another forkful to his mouth.“That’s right,” Elizabeth said.“Can’t hardly get no other kind round these parts.Even black folks don’t hardly seem to know about collard greens, an’ they’re better’n turnip greens any day of the week.” She paused, looked down at her swollen belly, and laughed.“Baby just kick me.”“Pretty soon, the baby will be kicking Achilles,” Cincinnatus said.He and Elizabeth both laughed then, at their son’s expression.Having a new brother or sister still didn’t seem real to Achilles.It would before long.Elizabeth returned to the earlier subject: “Wish I had me a mess o’ collard greens.You’d reckon everybody in the whole world’d know about collard greens, but it ain’t so.”“Turnip greens are fine,” Cincinnatus said.Elizabeth shook her head, stubbornly unconvinced.He reached out and patted her hand.“Life ain’t perfect, sweetheart, but it’s pretty good right now [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]