The note was written in a scrawl
Maggie is stuck iat River Boy's shack with a hurt ankle.
He must get her back into Trinity before someone starts looking.
There are risks for Blacktown if she is discovered there.
Maggie was hoping they would hurry and get there with the car so she could go home.
There was no way she could tell her mother about this.
And her father Joel Winston? If he found out, the hell fury would hit Blacktown.
River Boy was 17. He knew the issues, and was devising a plan to smuggle Maggie back into Trinity unseen.
entertained the option of dropping her back onto the dirt road. Hoping
maybe Carl wouldn't drive the tractor back on the other road.
course he could run into Trinity. It was just a couple miles away, over
the hill. But if River Boy reported the problem, Blacktown would still
suffer a beating of some measure. Violence would need to be done to
keep things straight. Especially since Maggie’s father was a stiff
racist and all that.
Nope. The best plan was driving to Blacktown in a car, with Maggie hiding in the back seat.
He explained the plan to her.
He said, look, you have to lay down in the back seat so nobody sees you.
sounded exciting, but Maggie acted like it was beneath her dignity, not
that she had much position in the situation. She stalled and said, I
He ignored her play, and said, when we get to Blacktown, we’ll get somebody else to drive you into Trinity.
The plan was more sketchy than it sounded. He would need help.
And he knew exactly where to find the bunch of gambling Negroes who might sport up the deal. At the Top Hat Billiard Hall.
When they got there, River Boy walked in and saw Big Mak and Arkadelphia Slip playing high-stakes pool.
Arkadelphia Slip was a double blazing glory spinning side pocket pool
shooting genius. Big Mak was a local pool player who ran whiskey on the
side. The game was dollar a ball.
River Boy sat down, trying to act normal while he assessed the options.
Mak was white and moved around both worlds with ease. None-the-less he
was a level of disrepute that Maggie could not be affiliated without
Even so, Big Mak and his sidekick, Tony Mute, were the
only white guys in attendance and therefore the obvious choice for
driving Maggie back into Trinity.
Just as Big Mak was sizing up his next shot, and the room was quiet, River Boy stood up and said real loud, I have to piss.
That stopped the game flat.
They all knew River Boy, and understood whenever he was around that something interesting was about to happen.
peaked the sporting bunch in attendance, each wanting to know more than
the other, but none willing to risk exposing that they wanted
information from a white boy.
Especially interested were the two
gambling men over in the corner that carried Arkadelphia’s bankroll.
The large, dark-skinned one asked, why you ba dis game?
River Boy said, I need help.
Somebody yelled, doing what?
He said, I got a girl.
Big Mac sloughed out, well you better eat that cracker while it’s fresh.
The men laughed.
One of the gambling men yelled back, what is it?
River Boy said, there’s a girl in the car, and she's needs to get back to Trinity without anybody seeing.
That started a howl of speculation and men began to file out of the pool hall to look at the girl laying in the back seat.
gambling man yelled, bring her here so we can look. The crowd laughed
again. Couple men whispered over to the gambling man that Maggie
Winston was laying in the back of a car.
The murmur started across the room that it was Joel Winston’s daughter.
The men got scared.
One of the men started pushing River Boy.
Get the hell out of here.
You bring that trouble here?
River Boy pushed back, and yelled, the trouble is ours if we can’t do this.
center in the middle of the disagreement, Top Hat Jinkins opened the
door and stepped in the room. His shoes were shined. The room shut up.
Big Mak stopped talking, which was rare even in a blizzard.
Top Hat was listening from the back room as usual. His word was final.
He said, it has to be done.
He said it in a funny way that caused them to know it was going to be a joke on the white people, using white people to do it.
Top Hat was bottom Silver. So it was going to be done right, it would work, and everybody would help.
That’s the moment when the great conspiracy to smuggle Miss Maggie Winston back into Trinity from Blacktown became history.
Top Hat's girlfriend, Molly Princess, and some of the other girls help clear the big table in the back.
The participants gathered around.
Maggie was still laying in the back seat with about 20 black children
peering through the windows. The humiliation was unbearable, but the
lesson not unlearned.
The plan evolved quickly.
called over to Billy Johnson and Harold Cleaves, and said, you find
Bethel Wilkenson. Tell her Harold cut himself. When she gets outside,
you tell her.
Bethel Wilkenson worked at the Trinity pharmacy
and was trusted solid as a friend of the Negroes. However the other
lady at the pharmacy, Bethel Heaves was pure racist. Both had same the
name and white people often mistaked one for the other, but black
people never did.
Bethel Wilkenson would call her husband and
son to bring the car. First, they would drive out to a nearby dirt
road, where they supposedly find Maggie with a bad ankle. Afterward
they drive to the alley side of the pharmacy building and pick up
Bethel Wilkenson also worked as the doctor’s nurse when
there was a call. So she was trained medical, and reliable to the task.
And it would seem natural for her to accompany Maggie to her house, and
administer the injury.
It was agreed. The pool game would be
postponed for one hour, and Maggie would be smuggled from Blacktown to
the pharmacy in Big Mak’s car.
Big Mak agreed. He and Tony Mute
would sit in the front, with River Boy in the back, with Maggie Winston
laying down with her head on River Boy’s lap. That caused the men and
women at the table to laugh again. It was a nice personal touch.
couldn’t drive directly from Blacktown into Trinity. It was best if
they drove out to the egg man and bought a dozen large browns, took
another road out to the main highway, and then drove back into Trinity.
You might think it would be easier for Mak’s car to meet the Wilkenson
car along a country road to make the Maggie exchange, except farm men
were working the fields. The small rain wouldn’t stop them from tending
crops, and there were hundreds of eyeballs along those roads.
Mak usually drove crazy and often preferred the wrong side of the road
for thrills, but he was reminded of the seriousness, and of the wet
roads. Top Hat spoke to him directly. Big Mak nodded. The
gamblers laid down 3 to 1 odds that Maggie would be discovered with a
carload of disreputable white boys. And 1 to 12 that Big Mak would kill
them all in a crash.
Big Mak slapped a $10 gold piece on the
table, and they hit the road. The car started rumbling down the rutted
dirt road toward the egg man’s place with innocent high school junior,
Maggie laying on River Boy’s lap while bouncing around in the back seat
of another strange car, whereupon he discovered the note sticking out
of her dress pocket.
He pulled it out and began reading aloud.
started grabbing for the note. River Boy then reached back into her
dress pocket as if seeking more notes, but slightly compromising
Maggie’s virtuous outer thigh, whereupon she grabbed his arm with both
Yelling, what are you doing? Which caused both men in the front seat to turn around.
held firm onto his arm, so he curled it into her body and held her
softly. She continued her firm grip on his arm to ward off further
encroachment, while he held the note in his other hand.
Big Mak and Tony Mute were aggravating the situation by yelling, read it, read it.
River Boy said, Oh look at this. You were supposed to meet a man today. He leaned down and put his cheek against her head.
She gave up in despair.
It felt good having him touch her. She started to laugh, and the men turned to instant love the moment she did.
River Boy continued reading the note, adding, you see, you did meet a man. Just like the note said.
That car was crazy with laughter driving through mud puddles with fresh spring air blowing in the windows.
It was a great day to be alive. That’s how River Boy made people feel. And why Blacktown liked his adventures.
Boy’s last remark rather struck Maggie. Yes she did meet a man. But it
was not the right one. She said, we met by accident. River Boy put his
cheek against her head again and let her rest.
Big Mak won his
$10 bet. Maggie made it home, and the attention paid her ankle
distracted any inquiry about her discovery. She told herself she would
never talk to River Boy again. Ever.
Grandpa’s fish tasted
great. Music at the church that night was extra lively with people
happy and dancing. Good old Bangin' Gypsy wrote a lyric about the
River Boy went for a long walk into Trinity to check Maggie’s house. No extra cars were parked that night.
It meant that Maggie didn’t tell anyone.
And it also meant that she liked him. But he knew that anyway.
whose romantic note turned into a sourball, went to church the next
day, and to school the following day. All returned to normal, except
for crutches that stole the attention.
She felt so alive from her
morning adventure just two days before, and spent the entire Monday in
school looking for, yet trying to forget River Boy, who was not in
attendance. He usually missed Monday ... or just as likely any other
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