Posted by on January 8, 2017

Walking While Black

Written by Timothy N. Stelly, Sr.

Painting by Maureen Barten

July 16, 2016

Walking While Black by Timothy N. Stelly, Sr. & Maureen Barten

I woke up in what I thought was a ghost town. The gray suit I wore blended with the color of the sky. There was no one on the street and the only thing heard was the crying wind. Riding on it was the stench of old buildings with ripped, filthy curtains. I was far from home, but how far? I didn’t know.

I was groggy but not hung over. I simply couldn’t recall anything from… I didn’t know the day, date nor hour. By my best guess, it was close to noon. There was no map in my possession, and I deduced that had there been, it would jar some fragment of memory loose, and I would remember how I got here. I looked around for cars, pedestrian traffic, or an open business, but the main road was nothing but boarded storefronts and sidewalks in dire need of repair. There was a white church dropped in the middle of a field of bright yellow wildflowers. The paint looked new, but the building was without windows in the frames and had no front door. A black and white sign hang from a rusted pole.

STATE HIGHWAY 79.

Highway Seventy-Nine where? The one in California?

If so, it was one I’d traversed hundreds of times in my job as a vehicle transporter, but I saw no recognizable landmarks and my confusion gripped me tighter as I realized this wasn’t California. I stood, checked my pockets, and discovered my wallet missing. ID and the lack of legal tender would pose a problem.

How did I get here?

I fished my mind for remnants of what occurred before, but couldn’t recall anything except being twenty-nine years old, and my name was Larry Parker—a trucker, divorced, and currently confused. I dusted off my clothes and took the traveling advice of my grandfather, who always told me, when in doubt, go to the right.

I turned right, which was north, and began walking. Before me lay an endless blanket of sky and a pockmarked stretch of asphalt flanked by dirt and thistle. In thirty minutes not a single car or truck passed in either direction. By this time I’d reached the outskirts of town. I knew this because I read a sign along the side of the road.

 

YOU ARE NOW LEAVING

RALPH, SOUTH DAKOTA

Pop.392    Elev. 2,735

 

As far as I could see, there were no other buildings. There were only the foothills in the distance. Turning back wasn’t an option. I was unsure if I wanted to run across anyone. I doubted if such a person or people would look like me.

What if I get stopped way out here and

It was hard to keep worry from coursing through my veins. I whispered to the wind, “A brotha in South Dakota with no money or ID, and in a town called Ralph.” I shook my head. “This ought to be interesting.”