Rosalind awoke early the morning after DJ’s graduation intent on preparing one of his favorite breakfasts consisting of cheesy grits, scrambled eggs with cheese, and fried fish. She hummed as she reached into the refrigerator to take out the food. Placing the items on the counter she was surprised to find a note lying there. It read:
Dear Mom, Dad, and family,
By the time you read this note, I will probably be in a hotel somewhere in Mississippi. As you already know, I have accepted the managerial training position at Sonic and will be back and forth in various cities training workers. Mom and Dad, I would like to thank you both for all that you have invested in me. I know you both had other plans and expectations for me, but life is leading me in another direction. Don’t worry about me. I’m in good hands. You have taught us to be fighters and as you know I’m not one to give up easily. Yes, Mom, I’ll roll with the punches. I will be contacting Marsha so you don’t have to say anything to her. Kennedy already knows about my leaving. Tell Rachel and Jessica I will be in touch.
Rosalind hurried out of the kitchen and into the living room. Throwing the curtain aside from one of the windows, she looked out to make sure this was not some kind of joke DJ was pulling. DJ’s car was not in its usual spot. She checked his room. His bed was neatly made and most of his clothes were missing from the closet and from the dresser. Rosalind did not see his suitcase anywhere in the room.
She returned to her bedroom and shook Dwight to awaken him. “Here. Read this,” she said.
“I did not see this coming at all,” Dwight said after rubbing the sleep grit from his eyes and reading the note. “I had no idea he was leaving so soon after graduation. Did you?”
“Why couldn’t he have just told us his plans?” Rosalind said. “Why would he spring this on us, his own parents, especially after all we’ve invested into him?”
“Mmm. Well, at least he had the decency to leave us a note letting us know where he would be. He could have just taken off and not told us anything. I’m sure he’ll be giving us a call once he settles down in ol’ Mississippi,” Dwight said. “He was always an adventurous boy, and I don’t expect that to change.”
“He didn’t even mention what city he would be staying in or when we would likely see him again or anything along those lines,” Rosalind said with a moan as she climbed back into bed. Adjusting the pillow behind her back, she leaned against the headboard.
“He probably does not want us to follow him, you know, keeping up with his whereabouts,” Dwight said with a chuckle, “which you are famous for doing.”
“I just don’t see how you can take this so lightly,” Rosalind said. “And what is wrong with us, his parents, keeping up with his whereabouts? What if something happened to him?”
“Rosalind, DJ may just be eighteen, but he carries himself more maturely than some older men. I think you’re worrying unnecessarily. Anyway, he says he’ll be in a hotel by the time we read this note,” Dwight reminded her.
“Well, he hasn’t called yet.”
“He’s always been a private person, you know. Doing things without anyone knowing about it and then telling us afterwards. Kind of like you,” Dwight said giving Rosalind a friendly punch on her upper arm.
Rosalind glared at him. Like leaving and then letting you know afterwards? He’s not the only one who will be leaving and letting you know afterwards.
* * * * *
Rachel made a mad dash to the bathroom slamming the door behind her. Rosalind rolled her eyes before moseying out of bed.
She trudged into the hallway where Jessica was waiting by the bathroom with her ears pressed against the door. ““What’s going on? Stop all this noise before you wake everyone up,” she called through the door.
“Seems to me like everyone’s already awake,” Jessica said. “It’s Rachel. She woke up with another stomachache. I guess she’s taking some Pepto-Bismol which hasn’t been helping her any. It sounds to me like she’s throwing up.”
“Rachel, unlock this door now,” Rosalind said turning the door knob back and forth.
Rachel unlocked the door and looked at her mother sheepishly. Her face was drained of all its color.
“Child, you look terrible. What’s wrong with you now?” Rosalind asked walking into the bathroom and looking around. She poked around in the medicine cabinet and took a glance into the trash can.
“I believe I ate too much yesterday, you know, celebrating with DJ. But I’m feeling better now,” Rachel said quietly.
“Well, thank God, it is summer break. Go and lay back down. Are you sure it’s just a stomachache?” Rosalind asked as Rachel slid pass her.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
Rachel skipped breakfast. She spent the first part of the day in bed, but later that day, she stopped by Seneca’s house for a short visit. “I’m going to abort the baby.”
“You can’t,” Seneca said.
“I have no choice,” Rachel said. “I’m Bishop Jacob’s daughter.”
Dwight was in turmoil over the next couple weeks as he continued to seek clear direction from God. Should I give up my position as bishop of the Love and Peace Apostolic Church? Who can I get sound advice from? Apostle Dunbar? Apostle Morton? That’s who I’ll talk to: Apostle Morton. He must have seen something in me to place this work in my hands. Dwight wasted no time contacting his mentor.
“Bishop Jacobs, how are things going at Love and Peace Apostolic Holiness Church?,” Apostle Morton said. “Dimples tells me you’re doing a great work there in Fairhope.”
“Yes. God is blessing in spite of,” Dwight said.
“In spite of what? Did something happen there at the church?”
“No. Nothing’s happened with the church family,” Dwight said. “I’m just going through some personal conflict and I have to make some important decisions that I’ll need someone with some Godly wisdom and spiritual insight to guide me through.”
Dwight shared with Apostle Morton his conversion experience and the changes he believed the Lord was leading him to make. “As you already know, I apologized to the church family two Sundays ago. Rosalind still refuses to do the same; however, I have left that in God’s hands.”
“That’s all you can do,” Apostle Morton said.
Dwight shared with him his study of First Timothy and how he felt he did not meet all the requirements for the office of a bishop. “I may have to turn the church over to someone who meets all of the qualifications,” Dwight said.
“How many of us meet all the requirements for any office we hold?” Apostle Morton said. “We don’t even meet nor do we live up to all the requirements just to be a lay minister. Here’s why you do not have to give up your office as bishop of Love and Peace. From what I understand, you have tried to lead your family in the right way. Right?”
“And your wife refuses to follow First Peter and Ephesians where it tells the wife to submit herself to her husband. Right?”
“If you notice, her submission to you is unconditional. It does not tell her to submit to you if you do this or if you do that. She is to submit no matter what and trust God for the outcome,” Apostle Morton said.
“The same goes for the children. It’s right there in Ephesians chapter six. The children are to obey you because it is the right thing to do and God will bless them with long life. But you have to train them in the way of obedience because we are born sinners, and we don’t naturally bend toward obedience. Are you with me?”
“Yes, I’m with you,” Dwight said. “But I must admit I haven’t always disciplined them as I should. And Rosalind constantly going behind my back and disregarding what I say and letting them have their own way has only complicated things and heightened their rebellion, disobedience, and disrespect not only toward me but even more so toward her as well.”
“Now that you realize where you have gone wrong, you need to confess it to God. Then talk to your wife about her taking her role more seriously. The choice is hers. Your children are old enough to make the choice whether or not to obey you. Your job is to stand sure-footed, but you must be up for the fight because it’s not going to be easy. The question is: Are you ready to, as Paul wrote to Timothy, rule your own house?”
“Yes, I am,” Dwight said. “To tell you the truth, I am enjoying my office as bishop of Love and Peace. It would be very hard for me to give it up.”
“I believe God would have you to stay in that position,” Apostle Morton said. “Pulling from Paul’s epistle to Timothy, I must add, you’re no longer a novice; you’re now a humbled, seasoned man of God. You have a good report from people outside of the church.” Apostle Morton chuckled. “I say that with all confidence because I inquire about you every now and then from other pastors in our circle. They have had nothing but good things to say of you. And Dimples keeps me abreast of what’s going on from the inside. So you just go back to your Jerusalem as God is getting ready to bring about a spiritual explosion at Love and Peace. I sense it. I sense it!”
Dwight shared Ephesians 6:1-3 with his children who remained at home. “You’re all at an age to make the choice to obey or not to obey,” he said. “And that’s not just obeying me; that’s obeying your mother also no matter how she acts.”
“Okay, Dad,” Rachel, Kennedy, and Jessica said.
Dwight also spoke with his wife. Rosalind sat long enough for him to read portions of Ephesians 5 to her.
“Is that all?” Rosalind said.
“Just be quiet and listen to what else I have to say,” Dwight said.
His sharp tone left Rosalind speechless—at least for a short while.
“Things can go a lot smoother in this house if you begin doing your part by simply doing what I tell you to do and especially since you know I am not going to lead you astray. I’ll tell you what I told the children: The choice is yours to obey or not to obey. All I know is I am going to do my part.”
“Listen, Dwight, I just want to make this clear, and that is, I am not going to be anybody’s doormat. Not yours. Not anybody’s.”
“Rosalind, I am not asking you to be anybody’s doormat. Definitely not mine. I don’t want a doormat for a wife. I –”
“I’m the one to decide that,” Rosalind said.
“Apostle Morton says he senses God is getting ready to bring about a spiritual explosion here at Love and Peace, and I don’t want to be a hindrance in any way. I’m getting my heart right. I would advise you to do the same.”
“You don’t know my heart,” Rosalind said. “All I know is a person submits when he or she gets ready as that will make it more real. And if you try to force it, you will live to regret it. And that’s not an idle threat. End of conversation, Dwight.”
Kennedy was gone all day to fulfill his duties at the grocery store and to do only God knew what after he clocked out from the job. His whereabouts were becoming more and more of a mystery to Rosalind.
“You worry too much about Kenny,” Dwight told her several times. “He’s a boy. He’s going to take off whenever he gets the gumption to and mess around here and there. When I was a teenager, I did the same. I’d take off with my boys and sometimes by myself and mess around here and there, trying this and that. Let’s just thank God for bringing him back home safely to us every day and just pray for his safety each day. The Bible does say the horse is prepared for battle, but safety is of the Lord. We can’t monitor the children’s every move no matter how hard we try, but God can.”
“We can as long as they are living in our house,” Rosalind said curtly. “DJ did the same thing and look what happened. He’s gone. Left without notice. Nobody knows where he is. He’s only called us once since he’s left. I guess I’m to be blamed for that. Huh?”
“No one’s blaming you for anything. Just be thankful that he did call to let us know he got to Mississippi safely. Give him time to get settled in. He’s only been gone a little over two weeks. I’m sure he’ll call more often once he gets into the groove of thin and adjusts to his new schedule. And since the younger ones are all off to visit their friends, I guess I had better get up off my behind and go visit some of the church members. Do you want to come with me? I’ll bring you back home in time so you won’t be late for your job there at the Post Office,” Dwight said. “Where’s Jessica anyway?”
“She left with Rachel. Says the drama club will be meeting on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays during the summer. On top of that, they will be going to perform at different places and will be participating in different events throughout the summer. She has her summer all mapped out, and she did not keep it a secret,” Rosalind said. “Rachel should be starting her job at The Dress Shop next week, and neither did she keep that a secret either. At least we know where they will be. Why can’t the boys be like the girls and just let us know their plans ahead of time?”
“Either you’re experiencing early empty nest syndrome, or you’re just mad because you’re unable to control every move the children make,” Dwight said as he got up from his seat and stretched.
“You can forget that,” Rosalind said. “I will never experience empty nest syndrome, let alone an early one, because once they leave I will know that I did all I could to raise them in the right way.”
I’m not so sure about that, Dwight thought as he walked to the bedroom to get his car keys. On his way back into the living room, Rosalind said, “Dwight, I’m really concerned about Kennedy. He’s spending too much time to himself. He’s off somewhere and no one knows where he is. And whenever he’s home, he locks himself in his room. He claims to be at the library whenever he’s not at his job. I don’t know of any sixteen-year-old boy who spends the first two weeks of his summer vacation at the library. Those are signs of someone plotting suicide.”
“Rosalind, your mind has gone crazy again.”
“Crazy? The people who have committed suicide that I’ve heard of never told anyone upfront what they were going to do.”
“Give the boy a break. Of all the children, Kennedy has always been the one most serious about his studies,” Dwight said. “I should be back before you leave for the job. Get you some rest while no one’s here. Sometimes rest is the best cure for crazy thinking.”
Dwight stopped by the Azure Apparel Shop and purchased a scarf for Rosalind. He then stopped by the grocery store and bought her a jar of cashews, her favorite nuts. He wanted to surprise her and hopefully cheer her up since DJ’s departure seemed to be taking a toll on her.
When Dwight got home, he quietly entered the front door and glanced around the living room expecting to see Rosalind laying on the couch. No. The living room was empty. He tip-toed into their bedroom, but she was not there. Thinking she may be in the bathroom taking a bubble bath, he quietly pushed the door open and yelled, “Surprise!” But the surprise was on him; she was not in the tub. He glanced out the back door, but she was not outside taking an evening stroll around the yard. Where could she be? Wait a minute. I didn’t even pay any attention, he thought as he looked out the living room window to see if her car was parked out front. It was not. I didn’t even pay any attention when I pulled up. I guess she decided to go in early, he surmised as he placed the scarf and the jar of cashews on her pillow. That should encourage her when she comes in later tonight.
Dwight went outside to do some yard work. He was hardly out a good fifteen minutes when he heard the phone ringing. Hurrying into the house, he picked it up.
“Hello, Dad. This is DJ.”
“DJ! Son, what took you so long to call? Your mother has been worried sick about you,” Dwight said.
DJ chuckled. “I’ve only been gone a couple weeks. There’s no need to begin worrying about me so soon,” DJ said. “Anyway, I’m doing great. The job’s going well. I’m going to be in Mississippi for a month, and then I’ll be moving down to Louisiana. I’ll probably be there for a month as well.”
“When are you coming back here to Fairhope? Your mother would love to see you, and so will I as will your siblings,” Dwight said.
“I’m not sure. But I’ll keep in touch,” DJ said.
“I’m curious, DJ. What made you leave as you did? You know, leaving us a note rather than coming and talking to us?”
“To be honest, I did not want to go into it with Mom. She was already upset that I was not going to college in Fairhope, and another reason is, you know me. I like to go do what I have to do without fan-fare.”
“I hear you,” Dwight said. “I’m just glad all is well with you.”
“Say, Dad, I don’t know if I told you this, but I have been thinking of joining the military. In fact, I was thinking of going immediately following graduation but I thought I’d wait a while. What do you think?”
“That would be the best experience of your life,” Dwight said with a chuckle. “I remember when I got accepted into the Air Force and my first plane ride to my first station. It was quite an experience. Just looking out the plane window and seeing the night lights of the cities as we fly over them. Oh, man! It was an experience. Of course I did not get to fight in any wars, but just the training—not just to fight, but training you in some vocation to prepare you for civilian life, and then meeting all those new people and being able to play on the Air Force baseball team. I say to any young man, if you want to learn to be a man join the military. The experience will be worth it. You learn so many things. What branch are you thinking of going into?”
“The Air Force.”
“Just like me. Isn’t that something,” Dwight said with a laugh. “You won’t regret it. It will be the experience of your life.”
“How are Rachel, Kennedy, and Jessica doing? I hope they are not mad at me for taking off like that?” DJ said.
“Oh, no. They are too busy doing their thing they don’t even have time to be mad at you,” Dwight said. “Rachel will be working at The Dress Shop all summer. If she does well it might be a permanent situation. Kennedy will be working more hours at the grocery store. Rachel will be involved in drama activities at the school all summer. They are keeping themselves busy. You make sure you keep in touch with them now.”
“Have you been in contact with Marsha?”
“Yes, Dad. In fact, I sent her some money to help with the baby. I’ve talked with her a few times since I left.”
“I wish you could have stayed around for their sake, but you have to do what you have to do,” Dwight said. “Just you make sure you don’t neglect them. That’s part of being a man: taking care of your responsibilities and handling your business.”
Father and son had a lovely conversation that lasted close to two hours.
“Please keep in touch, now,” Dwight said as they ended their conversation.
Dwight was so excited that as soon as he hung up the phone after speaking with DJ he immediately called Rosalind on the job. He did not think it strange when a Mrs. Garrett answered the phone. But he was surprised at the information he got from her. “Bishop Jacobs, your wife called in sick. She said she was under the weather and would probably need a week off.”
I wonder where she could be? Dwight thought as he thanked Mrs. Garrett before hanging up the phone. She should be in the bed resting if she thinks she needs a week off. Probably out shopping. That’s the only thing that seems to soothe her. Dwight then chuckled to himself. She’s the only woman I know who will claim to not have even a penny but will come out of the store with bags and bags of things. By the time Dwight finished the yard work he had started on earlier, the children had returned home, the sun was setting, and Rosalind still had not made it home.
“Dad, when will Mom be back? I’m hungry,” Jessica said.
“I have no idea, so I guess we will have to fend for ourselves tonight,” Dwight said. “Go see what’s in the cabinets. I’m sure we can put together something tasty and delicious.”
“There’s spaghetti, Dad. That’s quick and easy to cook,” Jessica said after looking through the cabinets. “I’ll cook it. I love to cook.”
“Okay. You and Rachel go ahead and take care of it. I’ll be right here if you need any help. Just follow the directions on the box,” Dwight said. “I’m going to take me a quick shower and get all this dirt off of me.”
Kennedy remained in his room while Rachel and Jessica took care of the cooking They had the spaghetti ready within a short time.
“Did you all think to make some meatballs with it? And where’s the salad? Mom always has a salad or some kind of vegetables with our food,” Kennedy asked as he twirled his spaghetti around his fork.
“Who says we have to have vegetables with our food,” Rachel said.
“You all didn’t mix the sauce in all the way. I still see white spaghetti. It sure doesn’t look like Mom’s spaghetti does. Why is it so soft? Where is Mom anyway?” Kennedy said.
“You can’t thank God for the food and them complain about it,” Dwight said. “Be thankful you have something to eat because you could be going to bed hungry. As for where your mother is, your guess is as good as mine. You all eat up.”
“I sure hope she comes in soon cause I need her to help me take in the waist of my new dress. I begin working on tomorrow,” Rachel said.
“Can I come in to work with you tomorrow? I don’t have drama practice,” Jessica said.
“Sorry. Not this time. You’re going to have to find something to do on those days when you don’t have to go to the school for drama class. You can hang around with Dad. Or better yet. You can hang around with Kennedy. I’m sure he will like that.”
“Oh, no, she won’t. I don’t want my sisters hanging around with me,” Kennedy said. “And I do not want you in my room either while I’m gone.”
“You’re not paying rent here,” Jessica said.
“Enough,” Dwight said. “Say, I spoke with DJ. He gave me a number and says you all can call him. It’s the number to his hotel. He’s in room 25,” Dwight said.
“I’ll be the first one to call him,” Kennedy said as Dwight told them about the phone call.
When dinner was over with, Kennedy excused himself from the table and headed to his bedroom.
“Dad, can I have DJ’s room since he won’t be coming back?” Jessica asked.
“Who says he’s not coming back?” Dwight said. “Anyway, we’ll see. You girls go and take care of the dishes, then you all take your shower and do what you always do, and then get ready for bed. I’m going to wait up until your mother comes home.”
Seven o’clock came and Rosalind still had not made it home. Dwight called his mother-in-law.
“Mother Randall, have you heard from or seen Rosalind? When I got in at about two, today, she was not here. I called her job and they said she had called in sick. I have no idea where she is.”
“Yes, Dwight. I might know where she is. She called me earlier today. I think it was about one o’clock or thereabouts. She wanted to get her sister Eunice’s number and address. She said she was thinking of paying her a visit.”
“Oh, she did?”
“Whereabouts does Eunice live again?”
“She used to live in New York, but she moved to Savannah, Georgia, about two years back. You know she and her husband were having marital problems and they were thinking of getting a divorce and they just could not get along. But I am glad they moved to Savannah. Last I heard from her things were better between them. I tell you, New York is so fast paced it will cause stress in your marriage if you can’t keep up with its fast pace. I mean when they were in New York, they . . .”
“Mother,” Dwight said respectfully interrupting his mother-in-law. Although he loved his mother-in-law as he loved his own mother, he was not in the mood for her rambling. “Did Rosalind say when she was going to visit Eunice?”
“No. All she said was that she was thinking of paying her a visit soon. Is everything alright?”
“I hope everything is alright with her because I have no idea where she is,” Dwight said. “She did not leave a note or anything. If you don’t mind, let me have Eunice’s number.”
“Do you think she’s alright? I mean, sometimes she worries me,” Mother Randall said.
“Hello, Eunice. This is Dwight Jacobs. Rosalind’s husband. How are you doing?”
“Hello, Bishop Jacobs. It’s good to hear from you. Rosalind called me today. Said she was thinking of stopping by. Are you all on your way? When will you all get here so that I can have something prepared for you all to eat after a long ride. Are the children coming with you? I can’t wait to see my nieces and nephews,” Eunice said. “It’s been such a long while since I last saw them.”
“It’s nice to be talking with you again, Eunice,” Dwight said putting an early stop to her rambling. Just like your mother, he thought. “Rosalind might be on her way, but not us.”
“Oh, she’s coming by herself?”
“Did she say when she might be stopping by?” Dwight asked.
“No. She just said she was thinking of stopping by for a visit and that she did not know how long she would be staying. She said something about possibly going up to New York to visit family and old friends. Now, I don’t know why she would want to do that. All our old friends have moved on with their lives. Some of them are just plain dead. I tried to tell her it might be a wasted trip; that is, if that is all she’s going to do—visit old friends. But she wouldn’t listen. She kept saying she still was going,” Eunice said. “Why? You don’t know where she is?”
“Well, no. She left without saying anything to me or to the children,” Dwight said. “What time did she call you?”
“It was about three o’clock or thereabouts.”
“If I’m calculating correctly, she is no where near you yet. She will have to stop off at a hotel along the way unless she braves it and travels all night,” Dwight said.
“Or,” Eunice said, “she may be visiting Sister Dorsett.”
“She said something about stopping by a Reverend Dorsett to visit his wife,” Eunice said. “I tried to find out who they were as I had never heard of them before, but she said it was just a passing thought. Anyway, I’ll be listening and looking out for her.”
“If she doesn’t get there by early tomorrow, please give me a call,” Dwight said trying not to show his rising anger over the last news Eunice shared with him. “I’m going to let you go in case she’s trying to call. You have a good night, Eunice, and call me if you hear from her.”
“I will. Good night, Bishop Jacobs.”
Dwight tightened his grip on the telephone. The dial tone brought him back to reality. He placed the telephone back on its receiver, turned the television on and sat in his easy chair watching the television but not hearing it.
Reverend Dorsett, he kept thinking over and over. Reverent Dorsett. The ringing of the telephone interrupted his thoughts. He quickly rose to answer it.
“This is Rosalind. In case you’re wondering where I am, I am at a hotel just across the Georgia-Alabama line. I’m headed for my sister’s.”
“Are you sure that’s where you are because I just got off the phone with Eunice, and she told me you said something about stopping by Reverend Dorsett to so-call visit with Sister Dorsett. Where exactly are you?” Dwight said.
“Didn’t I just tell you where I am?” Rosalind almost shouted.
“I know what you just told me, but are you telling me the truth? Remember you once had something going on with Reverend Dorsett? Are you still seeing him behind my back?” Dwight said.
“That’s for me to know and for you to find out,” Rosalind said. “I did not call you to argue with you. That’s one reason I left. Because of this. The constant arguing. Can’t you just let me do what I want to do without always hounding down my back with a bunch of unnecessary questions?”
“Well, if you would just stop doing stupid things like walking out on your three children without even so much as leaving a note then we would not be arguing and I would not be asking you a bunch of unnecessary questions,” Dwight said raising his voice. “At least DJ had enough sense and maturity to leave a note.”
“DJ is a child; he had better leave a note if he expects to be well-received when and if he ever visits,” Rosalind said.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this from you, supposed-to-be mother,” Dwight said. “Rosalind, what has caused you to just get up and leave your other three children like that without saying something?”
“You don’t know? Let me refresh your memory: One, the constant arguing and questioning whenever I do something or whenever I say something.”
“Which you are the cause of most times.”
“You had better shut your mouth before I hang up the phone on you. It’s already costing me a lot to call you. I could have saved that money, you know,” Rosalind said. “Two, no respect from the children.”
“Well, you brought that on yourself also.”
“What did I just tell you?” Rosalind said. “No respect from the women at the church. They are always up in your face: ‘Oh, Bishop, you preached a great message.’ ‘I cook some food for you, Bishop.’ ‘Here’s a piece of my cake that I baked on yesterday, Bishop.’ Then you act like you have no backbone whatsoever; like you can’t say no. On top of that, I can never do anything right. And a host of other things which I do not have time to go into. You just better be glad I called.”
“You need to come home first thing tomorrow,” Dwight said. “You need to be here for your children. Rachel begins her first day at The Dress Shop and she needs for you to sew up the waist of her dress. The children came home and there was nothing cooked and ready for them to eat. DJ called and you were not even here to talk with him. Jessica does not have to go in tomorrow for drama rehearsal and she needs for you to be here with her. Your children need you. You need to come home right away, at least for them.”
“They act like they never needed me before. Well, I decided I’m going to take off whenever I get the gumption to. A person can only take so much. I’m only going to take so much.”
“And what am I supposed to tell the church family?” Dwight said.
“Ooh. You had better get off the phone then and begin thinking of something to tell them because I do not plan on coming back,” Rosalind said.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Dwight said. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“I don’t kid people. Good bye, Dwight,” Rosalind said as she hung up the phone.
Kennedy stuck his head out the hallway into the living room. “Is everything okay, Dad? You sounded a little bit loud,” he said to his father as Dwight was walking back to the living room.
“Yes, son. Everything is alright,” Dwight said as he sat back down in his easy chair.
“Sounded like you were talking with Mom.”
“Yes, Kennedy,” Dwight said with a sigh. “And everything is not okay. Your mother just upped and left to go visit with her sister, you know, your Aunt Eunice living in Savannah, Georgia. She left today while I was gone. I don’t know why she did not just tell me she wanted to go visit her sister. We could have all gone with her. I mean you children are out of school, and I certainly could use a short vacation myself.”
“Did she say why she left?”
“Her usual complaining mess. She’s tired of this and tired of that and tired of people not respecting her. A bunch of hogwash is what I say it is,” Dwight said.
Kennedy chuckled. “Did she say when she will be back?”
“No,” Dwight said. “But you don’t need to worry about her. We will survive without her. Go ahead on back to bed. Do you know if the girls are asleep yet?”
“I haven’t heard any sound coming from their room, so they must be asleep,” Kennedy said. “Do you mind if I borrow the phone to call DJ? I’ll just stretch it into the room.”
“Go right ahead, son.”
I never thought I would marry such a crazy-acting woman, Dwight thought. Reverend Dorsett. Reverend Dorsett.
Kennedy and DJ had a wonderful conversation.
“I didn’t think it was going to last,” DJ said after Kennedy told him about their mother leaving. “Mom just refuses to settle down as a wife.”
“And as a mother,” Kennedy added.
“How’s Dad taking it?”
“I don’t think he’s taking it well. But you know him. He always tries to make the best of everything.”
“Well, I can’t waste my time worrying about her. I’m too busy trying to make a life of my own,” DJ said. “How’s everything going on your job?”
“Everything is going well. They took me on full-time.”
“How’s your new hobby coming along? You know, the black group thing you said you were going to start?”
“That’s what I’ve been working on every spare moment that I have and I will work on it during the summer. I’ll be in the eleventh grade next year; I’m thinking of launching it then.”
“You be careful how you launch it now. You don’t want to cause a race riot. MLK will not be here to help you,” DJ said with a laugh.
“I’ll be using some of the tactics MLK used for sure. If it worked for him; it will work for me,” Kennedy said.
“I hear you. Well, I appreciate you calling. Tell the girls I say hello. I got to go hit the clock at this Sonic. Production is low, the main manager flew the coop, so I got to go try and revive it again,” DJ said.
When Kennedy went out to the living room to hang the phone up, Dwight was asleep. The Billy Graham program was airing.
“Dad. Dad,” Kennedy said shaking his father. “Wake up. I’m done talking with DJ. He’s doing fine. You’re missing Billy Graham.”
“Huh? Thank you, Kennedy.”
“Good night, Dad. I think you should go to bed, too.”
“Good night. I will in a minute.”
The next morning with Dwight’s help the children made the best of breakfast.
“I hope Mom comes back soon,” Kennedy said. “Your grits just does not taste like hers. And it’s so white. It has no color to it at all.”
“Since you know so much about cooking why didn’t you come out here and fix the breakfast,” Jessica said.
“And just how does Mom’s grits taste and look?” Rachel asked.
“Hers is smooth and yellow; yours is, well, gritty, like gravel,” Kennedy said. “ I think you forgot to mix some cheese into it, and I don’t think you cooked it long enough. But I’ll eat it.”
“I don’t have time to argue with you this morning,” Rachel said. “I have to be at The Dress Shop in an hour and my dress still isn’t fixed.”
“I’ll do it for you. I’m going into fashion designing,” Jessica said. “I know how to sew.”
“Not for my life,” Rachel said. “Dad, can I take it next door and ask Ms. Willa-Mae to sew it for me? I think she can do it.”
“Yeah. Go ahead. If she asks for your mother, just tell her she went to visit with her sister,” Dwight said.
After Dwight saw the children off, he called Reverend Dorsett.
“Hey, Reverend Dorsett, how are things going?”
“Just great, my brother. It’s good to hear from you. Anything new happening in your neck of the woods?”
“No. Nothing new. I was calling because my wife went to visit her sister in Georgia and she said she might stop by to visit with your wife. Has she made it there yet?”
“No, not yet,” Reverend Dorsett said.
“Will you please give me a call as soon as she gets there so I’ll know she got there safely?”
“Consider it done,” Rev. Dorsett said.
The phone call Dwight was expecting from Reverend Dorsett that day or the next day never came. In fact, it never came over the three to four weeks Rosalind was gone away from her family. Eunice did call that same day to let him know Rosalind had arrived safely.
“Famous crackling pancakes for breakfast this morning,” Dwight said as the children trudged into the kitchen one by one.
“Oh, Dad, we can do better than that,” Jessica said. “I’ll have a surprise for you all when you come home.”
After picking Jessica up from drama rehearsal, Dwight laid down for a nap. “Just stay in the house until I wake up,” Dwight said.
Dwight awakened to a smoke-filled house. “What in the world is going on?” he said. Jumping out of his bed he hurried into the kitchen to find Jessica with an apron tied around her waist and a fork in hand, standing in front of the stove trying to turn over a piece of dark brown chicken in the frying pan. There were a few burnt pieces sitting on a plate resting on the counter next to the stove. There was also an odor of burnt rice.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he said grabbing the fork from her and pulling her away from the splattering lard. He pushed the frying pan from off the burner and turned the burner off. He also turned the burner off from under the rice. “You dumb dip! Are you trying to burn the house down? Go open up all the doors while I get the windows, and stand outside so you won’t get suffocated with all this smoke.”
After checking into the kitchen to make sure all was well, Dwight joined Jessica out front.
“What do you think you were doing?” he asked her. “You could have burnt the house down.”
“I was just cooking some fried chicken so we all could have something to eat,” Jessica said almost in tears.
Dwight shook his head from side to side. “I know you mean well. You have always had a loving and considerate heart, but you should have let me know you wanted fried chicken. I could have helped you. Or better yet, we could have picked some up from the Kentucky Fried Chicken place.”
“It’s just that I wanted it cooked the way Mom cooks it. I watch her cook all the time, so I figured I could cook it just like her,” Jessica said sniffling.
Dwight, sensing the disappointment in his daughter’s voice, gave her a hug and said, “I know you miss your mother. Hopefully, she’ll be back soon. I’ll try to call her tomorrow and talk some sense into her. As soon as this smoke clears, we’ll drive down to Kentucky Fried Chicken and pick us up a family deal. How does that sound?”
“With fried okra and corn?”
“With fried okra and corn.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jessica said. “And, Dad, I’m sorry. It’s just that I want to be a great cook as well as become a great model and actress.”
“You’ll be great in all of those things; you just need practice and ask others to help you along the way. Learn from those who have already done what you want to do. Okay?” Dwight said.
That following Sunday, Dwight told the church family that First Lady Rosalind was away visiting her sister and would be away for a while.
“Please be praying for God to watch between us while she’s away,” he said to the church family.
The church members took care of them that week as the ladies of the church cooked and dropped of some of the most delicious meals they had ever had.
“How do you say it, Dad? They put their foot into each meal?” Kennedy said as he shoved a piece of roast into his mouth. “With good eating like this, Mom can stay away a bit longer.”
* * * * *
In addition to his job there at the grocery store, Kennedy spent most of his free time at the public library. As he told his father, he was very much interested in the black cause. He never forgot his fathers words: Politics is a dirty game. If you’re not willing to play the game and get your hands and feet dirty then you don’t need to step one foot into it. You have to be willing to lie, cheat, and steal. Are you sure you want to do that? His days spent at the library answered that question.
He placed another phone call to DJ and caught him in the nick of time.
“I was just checking out of the hotel headed for another one,” DJ said. “I was going to call you all once I got there.”
“Where are you ending up this time?” Kennedy asked.
“I’ll still be in Mississippi, but at another Sonic located closer to the Alabama-Mississippi border,” DJ said.
“You’re living it up,” Kennedy said.
“Yes. What’s up with you?” DJ asked
“Just wanted to get some advice on my project that I’m working on,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy eagerly shared his dreams with his big brother whom he looked up to.
“As you already know, I’ve been spending quite a bit of my spare time at the library reading up on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the King days, Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition, this new Black Power Movement started by Malcolm X, the NAACP, and all of that. I’m thinking of starting a student Black Power Movement,” Kennedy said.
“Are you serious?” DJ asked.
“As serious as I’m black,” Kennedy said.
“Man, you don’t need to get involved in anything like that. Malcolm X speaks good, but he was against MLK. He believed in violence. MLK believed in non-violence, and his non-violence responses to all the racism that was prevalent in this country has paid off. Why would you want to go the violent way?” DJ asked.
“I think there’s a lot more going on with this black / white issue than the white folks want us to know. The books I have been reading at the library have given me more insight into it than even the news people are revealing to us. What the media is giving us is only a touch of the iceberg,” Kennedy said. “I mean, just because black folks got freed from slavery and they signed segregation into law, that does not mean segregation is happening across the country. Racism is still thick here even in Alabama. I can feel it. I told you about the lady at the corner store, didn’t I?”
“Yes. But that is no reason for you to go stir up trouble. Those with racist hearts are just more subtle with it even more so now than before,” DJ said. “It’s going to take a long time to do away with—if it ever goes away because it’s a heart thing. Like I told you when we last talked about this, signing a law into being does not mean it will effect change in people’s hearts.”
“That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing,” Kennedy said. “I want to show the world that racism is still alive and that young black men are aware of it, and we’re not going to just take it sitting down. I think Malcolm X has the solution.”
“I don’t know about that, now. There’s a time for peace and there’s a time for war. MLK fought for peace and whatever peace we have now, it’s just wise we do all we can to keep it,” DJ said. “If you want to fight, I say, go join the Army.”
“Which reminds me. Have you enlisted yet? You told me you were thinking of enlisting,” Kennedy said.
“I signed up about two weeks ago. I’m waiting to hear from the recruiting office. Why don’t you come join me?”
Kennedy chuckled. “Nope. Civilian life is for me. I’m going to go into Environmental Engineering and make a lot of money, and guess what?”
“I’m not going to be like Mom. I’m going to save every penny.”
“I hear you,” DJ said with a chuckle. “Well, brother, I do thank you for calling me, but I must hit the road. The hotel maid is knocking on the door. She’s ready to clean it so she can go home, I guess. My next stop should be Georgia. I’ll try to stop by for a visit on my way there. Remember now, like I told you, you got to still watch folks, but at the same time, you make sure that you respond right so as not to give them cause to point a finger at you and come after you. Don’t get lynched before I get to see you again.”
Kennedy laughed. “That I do not plan on happening. Say, I almost forgot. Jennifer Pearson has been asking about you.”
“Is that so?” DJ said. “I’ll have to talk about her later. I got to run.”
* * * * *
Dwight called up Rosalind after giving her a few days to get settled in at her sister Eunice’s house.
“When are you going to cut this stupidity and come home? This has never been heard of before in the Pentecostal circle: A wife of eighteen years leaving her husband and four children. Do you see how senseless that is? You took whatever it is you claim you can’t take anymore for eighteen years. What’s another eighteen years?”
“If you’re calling to provoke me then let’s just hang up the phone,” Rosalind said.
“The funny thing about it is, me and the children are doing quite well without you. They are so busy they are hardly thinking about you. The church family is taking great care of us.”
“As they should,” Rosalind said more out of guilt.
“The women had a women’s meeting, and Mildred and Dimples were of their own telling me about it. They are not like you.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Rosalind said.
“They report to me everything that they discussed and I did not even ask them to,” Dwight said. “With you, it’s like pulling teeth.”
“That’s what I’m saying. You treat me like a child. You don’t have to question everything I do,” Rosalind retorted.
“You are taking it the wrong way. I ask questions to show you I am interested in what you are doing and also as a show of respect for your position there at the church. And as the Bishop, I have a right to know everything that’s going on in the church, don’t you think?”
“Maybe if you willingly reported to me as the Bishop of the church anything that you all decide to do in the women’s meetings especially if it may affect the church, then I would not have to so-call pull your teeth,” Dwight said. “The women of the church have shown me more respect than you my own wife has shown me, and that’s a shame.”
“Yeah. Right. And just what did they share with you?”
“Something about having someone else to lead them and having you to sit down for awhile.”
“And what did you say to that?”
“After the stunt you just pulled, which was not just against me and the children, it was also against the church family. What do you think?” Dwight said.
To be continued…