I've been working on a series of essays for some time. I envision a collection or multiple collections of short vignettes that emulate my thinking on 'stuff'. Personal ramblings for lack of a better word on life as I know and experience it thru my HD vision wraparounds. Disclaimer: although the lenses may have become distorted by wear and tear, they are sometimes illuminated by an unexpected ray of light.
I'm excited to share a segment of my first chapter of Part I of Essays in the Key of Life, entitled, 'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow'. Thank you Stevie Turner for the opportunity to step out of the shadows on this one.
‘Will Freedom Ring or Explode?’
Copyright@ Stephany Tullis 2017
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
The sun beamed as bright as my favorite barista’s smile when he thanked me for my daily coffee order. I tucked a dollar in the tip cup perched on the ledge of the drive thru window. As I navigate the early morning traffic, I marvel at the beauty of the fluffy, cumulus clouds that guide my path. Glad that I’m early for my appointment, I park, gather my belongings and wave to my mechanic as he points towards the front door of his shop. He meets me at the check-in desk.
The shiny glass window behind my mechanic's counter corroborated that I had achieved the cool, calm and collected appearance of the typical suburban female errand runner. My new Versace sunglasses complete my Friday mid-morning casual look. Seeing the dark glasses in the reflection reminds me that I'm no longer out but in so I shove them on top of my head. The sudden and pronounced churning in the pit of my stomach counterchecked my conscripted countenance. The mere thought of incurring a major car repair bill today when I also need to replace a washing machine that yesterday refused to agitate is not how I envisioned spending the last weekend of summer.
I passed my car keys to the mechanic in response to his, “I’ll look.”
I sat patiently awaiting Quang’s estimate. I came well prepared to spend a few hours in the repair shop. My tote contains everything I might need and more to ensure I have a productive morning—or as it might well be-- afternoon.
I ignored my overflowing tote, opting instead to peruse a couple of the outdated entertainment magazines tossed haphazardly on the side table next to me. I shared the waiting area with one other customer. He, like me, was stuck without a ride, forced to wait it out. Unlike me, he sat motionless, expressionless. His casual khaki shorts revealed a leg brace. I wondered how he could be driving with an injured leg. Poor guy, I thought.
I sipped my iced coffee and thumbed through the magazine until I found the "Latest Makeup Shades for Spring". A late summer thunderstorm was predicted for the evening—I was glad to be inside and out of the 90+ degree suffocating, pollen-saturated temps. I was thankful for the air-conditioned shop and off-season magazine.
My fellow-shop mate responded to Quang’s soft, “Sir?” by walking to the counter. I noticed, for the first time, a humongous American flag posted on the back wall in the corner of the shop and thought it was somewhat unusual. Thinking about the shop owner’s proud display of patriotism, makes me smile and conjures up past Independence Day celebrations and how great it is to be an American.
Despite Quang’s accent and soft voice, I deciphered bits and pieces of the explanation he provided his other customer—the customer shook his head. Quang cautioned him against driving the car too far.
The man insisted he needed his car for the holiday weekend. Quang handed the man his keys and added, “If you change your mind, give me a call on Tuesday. I’ll be more than happy to make the repairs.”
Quang’s step by step run down of the mechanical problems and related implications along with his caring demeanor alleviated my anxiety--worry wart that I am. I expected the worst--a gigantic bill for these unexpected but much needed car repairs. My witnessing of today’s exchange assured me that I was right in entrusting my one and only, usually very reliable, Chevy to Quang who had never failed me.
The man took his keys and turned to leave. As he limped towards the exit, I saw his holstered hand gun and shuddered. I looked up again at the gigantic red, white and blue manifesto. The stars blinked at me, "He has the right to openly carry his handgun."
Quang scheduled my appointment for next week to make the actual repairs and gave me an estimated cost that wouldn't blow my bank account. Grateful for the reprieve, I decided to check in with my sister regarding her lunch plans.
She answered her phone after two rings. Before inviting her to lunch, I inquired, “How many times have you seen a packer?”
"A packer?” she asked.
“Yeah, a packer. Like as in gun toter!”
“Just curious. Just saw this guy in Quang’s repair shop…”
“And… he was carrying his gun on his hip. It just reminds me of the wild, wild west. Cowboys and Indians, you know? I know it’s legal, but it’s so strange to see. I hate guns!”
“Yeah, like those old Westerns Dad used to watch. And hey there, don’t you mean Native Americans?”
“But it made sense in those days, right? Laws were not fully established. Kind of shocking to see gun slingers in auto repair shops, food markets and even fast-food joints these days. Duh, of course, I know Native American. Just referring to the past.”
“Yep, made sense then. Today, I don’t know. Regarding the gun toting folks that is.”
“Seems kinda crazy, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t know."
"Let's do lunch. I’ll meet you down at Sara’s Fish Shack.”
“Ok, see ya in a few.”
“Sounds good. By the way, do you remember Dad’s stories about when he carried his gun?”
“His hunting rifle?”
“No! That other one.”
“Oh, I do.” We whispered as though someone might be listening to what at one point would have been an illicit discussion. “But one big difference. It was concealed, remember?”
“Sure do! Under the seat. For those long trips Down South. His biggest concern was how to find a Colored bathroom. And then what to do if he was stopped, right?”
“Hey, how could he reach his gun if it was under the seat?”
“I don’t know. Guess we need to ask him next time we talk with him. Do you think he’ll remember?”
“He might…if he’s having a good day. That razor-sharp memory of his is not what it once was.”
“Oh yeah, now's a good time to tell you the latest. Your niece and her friend are heading to the shooting range. They’ve signed up for lessons.”
We sighed again.