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Fiction #341
(published August 2, 2007)
Maybe Today
by Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz
David lay on his back on the porch swing, one leg dangling over the edge. Eyes closed, arm across them, he swayed slow, trying to find an easy peace; he couldn't remember when he'd last had a chance.

He heard her steps, cautious and slow, emerging through the darkness and then she was at the open front door, asking through the screen, "You resting, Daddy?"

Yes, he answered in his head but he asked aloud "What you need, Rochelle?"

"You promised you'd read me a story 'fore I went to bed and Mama says I got to go now."

A heavy sigh formed in his belly, traveled up his chest, tunneling through his throat, but he pressed his lips tight to keep it from escaping. He didn't want his child to hear it, to think she was some kind of bother in his world when all he wanted was to hold her and her mama too. Love them all, and while, he could. It pained him snatching moments for himself, but he needed them.

"You go on to bed and I'll get there."

She didn't move.

"You brush your teeth real good," he said, hoping it'd prompt her on.

She waited.

He let out a small grunt as he righted. Stubborn as me. David pulled himself up and walked across the porch, the wood creaking beneath his bare feet. Opening the screen, he looked down at his daughter and smiled.

She was pretty like her mama, and dressed in that pretty pink nightgown, her brown toes peeking beneath the bottom ruffle, she looked like some porcelain doll.

David squatted. "I'm gonna read you that story now, Rochelle. You know why?" he asked, picking her up as he stood.

Rochelle wrapped her arms around her father's neck. "'Cause you're my daddy."

"Right. And that's what Daddy's do."

"Right," she told him.

"When you say you're gonna do something," he said as they walked down the hall.

"You do it," his daughter finished.

"You do what you gotta do," he said. "You understand that, Baby?"

"Uh-huh," Rochelle said, responding in a low tone. She laid her cheek on his shoulder.

He didn't want to read her a story right then; he was exhausted. He wanted to tell her that. Explain how sometimes you went ahead and did things, even when everything inside you was saying 'no.' He wanted to tell her so that one day she might understand.

He helped her brush her teeth and then he tucked her into bed. Settling himself on the mattress beside her, his fatigue gave way to the joy of time with his child.

He was living for moments like these because he was a nigger looking to die, that white man had hissed in his ear, David doubled over on his knees, his voting leaflets scattered about him, the rifle barrel jammed against his temple.

When he'd made it home after that incident his wife had remained silent as she placed the ice bag against his busted lip. She'd been gentle, dabbing the iodine on his cuts, blowing on the wound when he'd winced. But later, she'd said,"Next time they won't be looking to scare you so you'll stop"

Stop. The one thing he could stop — registering Negroes to vote in the middle of this Mississippi summer — he couldn't stop.

The next morning, his wife hugged him like she always did. Told him to remember to drink water. She never said "I'll have dinner ready at such-and-such time" because they knew that it could be that day — maybe today — he wouldn't be coming home.

I love my children and I love my wife with all my heart. And I would die and die gladly, if that would make a better life for them.
— Medgar Evans

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