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Barry White

June 9th, 2008

WritingAssignmentIconMaster found a podcast for writers today and made me listen to one of the episodes. The podcast is called Writing Excuses and the episode is titled “This Sucks and I’m a Horrible Writer.” Perfect for me.

In any case, at the end of their episodes, it seems, they leave you with a prompt sentence. The one at the end of “This sucks…” is Barry knew his mumbling was going to get him killed some day. Master gave me an hour to write something with it. This is what I came up with.

Barry knew his mumbling was going to get him killed some day. It didn’t make sense. It was irrational. Who kills people over mumbling? But it would happen just as sure as his name was Barry White.

Not the famous Barry White, mind. No, this Barry White was unexceptional in every way. Except his mumbling.

Fast and low. Almost completely inaudible. And people were always misunderstanding what he had to say. Women he thanked for letting him pass thinking he told them they had a fat ass. Men he asked for directions thinking he was asking for sex. Thankfully, so far, everyone he spoke to had the intelligence to ask him to repeat himself before just hauling off and punching him and he would attempt to slow it down and enunciate. One day, however, he knew he wouldn’t be so lucky.

He kept his routine fairly simple. Up at eight; showered, dressed and out the door by eight-thirty; bagging groceries and carrying them to customer cars by nine. At one he took his lunch. One-thirty meant back to work and five put him on his way home. He didn’t take the fifteens because he smoked a cigarette at ten-thirty, eleven-thirty, two-thirty and four.

He walked both ways. It was cheaper and better for him and the store was only twenty minutes walking distance. Yet Barry was a large man. At six feet seven inches and three hundred seventy five pounds Barry white was the largest black man on his block. And the least feared. For Barry was a teddy bear.

He was slow. Child-like. And at the end of the day, after eating a dinner of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes and savoring a tall glass of sweet tea, Barry liked nothing more than to meander out to the neighborhood ball park and throw around some balls with the kids whose fathers were too busy. He never used a glove. Couldn’t quite get the hang of them. And the kids would throw the ball hard as they could and still go home groaning about how they hadn’t been able to hurt Barry’s hands. 

They didn’t know that Barry had lost all feeling in his hands in an accident when he was small.

This morning Barry was running late. He didn’t bother calling the boss man. Mr. Jameson didn’t worry too much. He knew if Barry was late there had to be a damn good reason. He also knew that Barry would turn up at some point. He always did. What he didn’t know was that Barry was being detained by a neighborhood bully.

Jefferey McAllister, a twelve year old brute, thought he was the coolest kid in school. And his group of cronies thought he was too. That is, until Wally Smith spoke up and told him what he was doing was wrong.

Jefferey was teasing Barry about his mumbling. “Why don’t you talk right, blacky?” Jefferey was too chicken to use the “N” word. He didn’t realize Barry didn’t know it himself and wouldn’t have been as insulted as a man who did.

Barry screwed up his courage and responded as clearly as possible, “I-I-I can talk right if I want to.”

Jefferey exploded into laughter and the rest of the kids, except Wally Smith, who slipped out of the group to stand beside Barry, did too. “How old are you now, Barry?”

Barry looked at Jefferey sadly, “I don’t know exactly. Mama said I was twenty-two. But Mama died and I’ve been alone since and I don’t know how long ago that was.”

Barry was actually thirty-five. It had been thirteen years since his mama died. And the last meal she ever made was roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. Barry had watched her cook that day and couldn’t remember how to make anything else besides a sandwich. But Mama never allowed sandwiches for dinner time.

Jefferey found that funny, too. “The big dummy doesn’t even know how old he is!”

“Jeff, stop being stupid.”

Jefferey spun on Wally. “What’d you say?”

“I said stop. Barry’s a nice guy. He always comes out and plays ball with us kids. He’s a real good pitcher.”

He’s probably a pedophile. Do you diddle little boys when their daddies aren’t looking, blacky?”

“Shut up, Jeff. He’s not like that.”

The crowd of boys behind Jefferey McAllister shifted. Whether to get a better view or because their opinion was changing, no one was sure. But they were now standing off to the side between Jeff and Wally instead of behind Jeff.

“Who the hell are you to tell me to shut up?” Jeff flicked a switch blade out of the back pocket of his pants.

Where’d you get that, Jeff?”

“I stole it from my big brother’s drawer. It’s sharp. Wanna see?” He grabbed Barry’s hand and sliced the palm from the bottom of the middle finger to the top of the wrist.

Well, you bleed like us white folk but you ain’t white are ya, blacky?”

“What the hell’d you do that for?” Wally slapped the blade out of Jeff’s hand, shoved him to the ground and ripped the tail of Jeff’s shirt off to bandage Barry’s hand.

“Just who do you think you are, Wally Smith, ruining my shirt and my fun? You’ll pay for that.”

One of the other boys, the largest in the group, moved to Jeff’s side. Barry and Wally felt a moment of trepidation as the boy seemed to have trouble deciding whose side he was on. Then the boy picked up his foot and placed it on Jeff’s chest.

“Stay down, Jeff. Wally’s right.”

Jeff studied the faces of all the other boys as they moved to Wally’s side. Then Wally led Barry to the store, crowd of boys in tow, and, with Mr. Jameson’s help, filed a police report. Jefferey McAllister would probably repay him with meanness and more bullying. But for today, Barry was alive. Despite his mumbling.

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