Pay It Forward

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Pay it Forward—a story of redemption and second chances, altruism.

Submitted: August 15, 2018

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Submitted: August 15, 2018

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The one thing Seraphina Vitale knew was this, she knew his unforgiving, unrelenting old man would beat him three shades of black and blue the next time he was late getting home from East Edgewood High. It mattered none to Cecil Jacob Solomon that the boy—nearly a full grown man himself—was a high school senior on a full-ride scholarship to Clemson University.
What he was mostly fixated on was how his slackass, too soft, sorry excuse for a son’s tardiness had inconvenienced him today. His lateness today meant Solomon was left alone, to his own vices, to deal with his own unsavory self and left with the task of loading his old broken down Jalopy, a 1998 Ford Pickup, with scrap iron and other junk that he sold daily at the local Oklahoma Swap meat.
This was his only way, to let him tell it, of holding onto the few pieces of change jingling in his pockets and keeping good-for-nothin’ bill collectors off of his back, the two ordeals he bitched and moaned mostly about as if he was the first and only black man in America having to deal with such rigors of life.
This was the painful reality Seraphina had been forced to face so unerringly the last time her trusted friend and confidant went against his old man’s wishes. Seraphina remembered it well. That particular day was not your average warm day in May. Things were heating up. But with the school year finally coming to an end, they did what they did best, goofed off—and then they debated.
This time, it was their exploration and opposing views of Greek mythology and African gods that overtook them captivating them to the point that the deliberations about who took the prize, Africans or Greeks ventured way, way past the two thirty bell.
But later that evening it was he, and only he, who paid the price—two broken ribs, a fractured skull, bruises so black and blue, his skin looked more like a wildly painted canvas, overly saturated with flamboyant colors of red, black, and blue than the natural color of black people’s skin.
News of the carnage broke when Seraphina in home room the next morning heard Jolene Briars make the broadcast. Briars was quite nervous while doing so, an edginess which seemed to accentuate her boring features—she was the spitting image of Sissy Spacek, a plane Jane, red headed, beige colored woman of thirty-eight with dingy, yellow teeth so big and bold they resembled the chompers on a jackrabbit.
Briars beckoned all to keep Jimar Solomon in their thoughts and prayers—he was busted up pretty bad by his daddy, Mr. Cecil. His near brush with death, while not all that life threatening, was likely to keep him out of commission for quite a spell.
By some stroke of luck, Jimar, the tall, handsome, muscularly built young man of nineteen whose russet reddish brown color added much to his already jaw dropping features had  mended extraordinarily fast. No doubt, he was built, sturdy like a thick set of intertwined cable wires but no one expected his speedy recovery. Maybe, it was too expedient, in light of the ensuing repercussions.
When Seraphina received the call a month later at about ten thirty-five in the evening, and there was no immediate response to her “hello”, she thought the person on the other end to be some late night prankster getting his kicks and doing so at her expense.
There was light breathing, some fidgeting in the background but nothing coherent, nothing she could make out. Vitale was about to slam the phone down, and so forewarned, “I’m hanging up now. Get a life!” Though annoyed, something in that instant made her wait a split second longer before doing what she threatened.
The desperate voice cried, “No, don’t!” Then came another seemingly infinite pause.
He continued, “It’s me Jimar,” through a frantic, whimpering voice that did not seem to fit the profile of the self-assured, always poised, larger than life person she had always known him to exemplify.
“Jimar!” She said through a loud whisper while raising her shapely, lily white body upright from where she was laying on the bed. She didn’t even see where the book she was reading “Simply Altruistic” had  landed. Lately, she had become so engrossed in her discoveries about altruism and fascinated about how altruistic people functioned, putting the needs of others before themselves.
There was never a hunch about this sudden thirst for knowledge or where it was taking her, just as there was no inkling of what she was getting herself into, how her life would be different from that point, that split second that she allowed herself to wait.
“He's not moving,” Jimar’s voice whispered.
“Who...who's not moving?” She shot back.
“My pops, he…he lunged at me…I pushed him.” After a pause, he continued.
“He… he hit his head on the mantel. I…I think he’s… gone,” he said eerily.
“What? What do you mean, gone? Nevermind. I’m coming over!” She said, determined to get to the bottom of it all.
 
The scene in the living room at 2915 Luke Lane was much more devastating than Jimar portrayed. Sure enough, Solomon Senior hit his head on a mantel piece. But the part Jimar so conveniently omitted was that even before contact was made with the mantel piece, he had went, “oops upside his old man’s head”.
And she realized too that while “gone” was not too distorted of a description for “death”, the old man was actually toast! And there was blood, a whole lot of blood on an ax handle used to bash in the left side of Solomon’s skull. And then there were the blood splatters on the wall, an observation Forensics was sure to have a field day with, insisting that rage had to have been involved.
“Leave,” she said, quick and short while staring from Jimar’s sweaty, bruised, slightly swollen face to the stiff on the floor then back over to the ax handle up against the wall where blood had dried almost to the point of forming clots.
Jimar could tell her wheels were turning. She was up to something, up to no good. But somehow, he knew that try as he would, he would not be able to convince her otherwise.
He knew this as much as he knew that his Vitalie, his not so secret admirer had sensed more than met the eyes in their wildly explorations, extended pontifications, and endless debates which sometimes were over the most useless and mundane, whatever it took to buy more time with him. And eventhough she tried to be discreet, he knew also that those subtle touches, the many times their lips almost met weren’t really accidents. He could always tell when they came with hopes that he’d respond in kind or counter with an advance of his own.
And now this. Was this that? Was she going for the full court press, proving she’d take the fall for him in a heartbeat, at any cost, just to prove how caught up and madly in love she had become, enough to get tangled up in this, his tragic world of chaos?
“What?” He said finally.
“Just Leave…I’ll tell them…I’ll tell them, I came over to visit you and you weren’t here…things got out of hand.”
“Huh?”
“You were not home…he—”
She trailed off looking around, staging the scene, moving things about before continuing.
“He asked me to wait because you’d be coming soon…I declined…and the next thing I knew, he…he…came at me…yes…that’s it...he tried to come on to me.”
“What? I can’t—”
“It’s the only way, Jimar!” Then, she repeated as if reinforcing the maniacally insane scheme.
“He made a pass at me and when I resisted, he attacked me. I pushed him off. Tried to get out of his way, but then he blocked the door. I was trying to defend myself. I grabbed the ax handle, swung just to keep him off, and somehow it caught him on the left side of his temple.”
“But, wait…No, I cannot let you—”
“Look, I am a petite, young, white woman not much over a hunert and eighteen pounds, barely twenty-one…in Ardmore Oklahoma. And him, he is a gigantic, black man of what, six feet, five inches?” She was spot on in her description of Solomon.
Where Jimar was the crown jewel, Cecil was a revolting, repulsive dirty old man who likely used the tactics of intimation and coercion and control over his son to feel better about himself. One thing for sure, about the only thing Jimar had inherited from his old man was his height.
Cecil was an inch taller than his six feet, four inches son, an unusually lopsided, seemingly poorly figured man with a diamond-shape face, broad forehead, round cheeks and cracked, crooked teeth with a wide gap in the middle.
It was somewhat of a mystery that someone that gruesome looking could attract the opposite sex, let alone produce a boy that looked that good.
Peering down at his old man’s motionless body, Jimar realized he knew things that most people did not know and so had a sense of pity and compassion for Cecil Solomon that was unspeakable to those who had no inkling about the basis for his evil side.
No one knew his paps had a steel plate in his head because of shrapnel from a motor round in Granada. They also did not know Cecil had seen things no man in his right mind should witness. In Vietnam, Cecil Jacob Solomon had seen his friend evaporate right before his very own eyes upon being hit with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) used by the Gooks to erase the very existence of an American soldier from the battlefields.
Coming out of the momentary daze, Jimar flinched then nodded, confused, dazed, scared then alarmed by his own response. Stunned, at his audacity, at the notion that with this corroboration that his pop’s awkward size, haphazard look, and sick perversions made him a dead ringer for the allegations, Jimar knew he had made himself an accessory to a murder that, he had actually committed.
“And, let’s just say,” Vitalie continued, “he is someone with an appetite for young, white women, and a red hot temper to go with it…who do you think they will believe?”
 
Standing off in the distance, almost blinded by the glaring blue, green, and red flashing lights of ambulances and police cars, Jimar grappled with a few realities while witnessing Vitalie being handcuffed and guided into the police car.
Times were surely changing in this country. And eventhough those changes were only trickling down to blacks, the fact remained that even to this little suburban town, news that yet another black man had met his untimely end at the hands of a white perpetrator would prove shocking and deserving of answers, if not retribution.
And even in Ardmore, a city which had only changed in gradual stages since the days of Jim Crow, the sixties, and what bigots like to call the good ol'’ days when a black man could be hung, drawn, and quartered just for looking at a white woman, there had been much political pressure put on Ardmore to turn from its evil, wicked ways starting with its rogue justice system.
 
In the end, change while slow and quirky, proved to Vitalie’s detriment, and also her undoing. She was charged. She was convicted. She was found guilty and sentenced.
Jimar knew, as he set there as Judge Winthrop Reinhardt read Vitalie’s  sentence, that her life would never be the same. Neither, would his.
“Seraphina Vitale …Involuntary Manslaughter is a crime punishable by imprisonment of two to four years in the State Penitentiary. I am hereby sentencing you to three years at New Hope Correctional Facility, in Texarkana,” he said. He paused and then said this last, which pierced Jimar like a dagger.
“Young lady, because of you, a community is shocked and sickened with grief. Because of you, a son is now without his father,” he said this last, while fixing Jimar with a stare. “May God have mercy on your soul.”
And with that, Seraphina Vitalie was given three years hard labor, imprisonment for a crime she did not commit.
 
  It took a whole three years for Jimar Solomon to know the truth. It was not out of a school girl crush, though his good looks and athletic physique did give a whole new meaning to the term chick magnet. And, if truth be told, Seraphina’s idle thoughts about him did occasionally drift into baby-daddy aspirations.
  But in the end, it had far less to do with an itch that needed scratching or maternal desires but rather, it was out of redemption, it was because of a debt she owed, a longstanding debt which was incurred as a result of her defiance. A form of insolence which culminated into a near tragedy for her and the death of an innocent rescuer, who sacrificed his life for hers.
At the tender, guiltless age of nine, her life was spared, saved at the expense of three black guys one of whom succumbed while trying to save her. Alas, she had not seen Clinton Cleveland, fifty-five, Eric McKenzie, forty-five, and would never again in this life see Clifford Warren sixty-eight since that somber day. She knew she owed them big time.
“Pay it forward dear sweet girl,” were the last words Clifford Warren would say as his feeble body succumbed to a heart attack when the same mean-spirited, unrelenting circle of corruption that almost took Vitalie, sucked him under.
“Pay it forward dear sweet girl,” he said, having reached down, scooping her almost lifeless body from the clutches of the merciless current. To this day, those were the words that had reverberated in her ear, though only she had heard them.
 
Earlier that day in August as the sun beamed and the sweltering heat beat down through a fifteen year old Angel Oak in their back yard, Seraphina was no less hot, and she was no less fuming.
We had a deal, she thought.
“Take me along the next time or I will spill the beans about you punks smoking funny cigarettes and chunking rocks off of the I-90 overpass leading out of Ardmore.”
“Who taught you how to talk like that?” Bruce Vitalie, the eldest asked, smirking all the while at the nerve of his kid sister.
“Yeah, who, you little runt?” Kelvin Vitalie, who was thirty seconds younger than Bruce, said while thumping Seraphina’s forehead.
“Never you mind, we got a deal?”
  “Whatever…fine…you can go,” the brothers said in unison.
 
  Peering through a side window in their three bedroom house, she saw the Vitalie twins in their backyard moving quickly while laying out casting nets, crabbing nets, rake, buckets, and chicken necks. Every now and then they would look suspiciously over their shoulders- sneaky-like as if they suspected their rambunctious little sister would be dropping by soon.
Sensing the twins were up to no good, trying to make a fast getaway, Vitalie scurried down a flight of stairs and burst through the screen door, out into the back yard.
“Going somewhere? Without me?” She stared at them, from one to the next.
  Having previously strong-armed and blackmailed her brothers into taking her along on their journey to bog clams and oysters in the Halfingblood River which ran alongside a mountain near Sea Session Ville, Vitalie knew there was but only one response.
“Just go get your gear!” Bruce blurted out testily.
“And hurry up before the tide comes in. You’re not gonna’ make us late.” Kelvin added.
“Yeah and you better do whatever we tell you.” Bruce said.
At this, Seraphina sighed, “I won’t be bullied.”
 
Reaching the creek, peering over the wetland, the flowing river seemed to beckon her along on its journey. Eager, gullible, and equally enticed, Seraphina could think of nothing more than letting her hair down, kicking up hear heels, frolicking around and bathing herself in a warm river spring.
“Stay on the bank…don’t even think about going into to the water,” Kelvin admonished as he and Bruce rounded the mountain in route to their favorite spot which was ripe with clams and oysters, and the largest blue crabs.
Into the salty gush she plunged! Into a new world where she expected nothing short of a warm, wet, fun-filled adventure. She expected to live for this moment and then move on in natural progression to the next. In her carefree little mind, as far as she could tell, that’s how life was supposed to be.
And though her young life had not gotten to the point where her folks felt it necessary to drill into her the realities of life, she was naively unaware that she at nine, was about to be thrust into some of those same truths today.
She was about to learn that things did not always go as planned. That out there was a sick, crazy, mixed up world where strange things happened, even to undeserving people. Where the good dye young and even the young fall prey to the heinous of acts, flukes, and mishaps, and the worst of tragedies, like the dirty, old, salty bastard that was about to conquer her.
As she tried to propel herself upward, one viciously raging current snatched her back down! Without pause or forewarning, it overtook her bony body, sucking her in like the blunt force of a vacuum, then spitting her out like a cork only to pull her under again. It seem content to toy with her a little more, spinning her tiny little body around at the upper most part before it gradually pulled her in deeper and deeper.
Miraculously, she would rise again to faintly make out the black hair, brown skin tone of three men swimming towards her. But violently, her relentless demon pulled her under again, this time it seemed for good. This time, her lungs began to fill, she saw a fuzzy white light, and she felt her body succumbing, giving into the force that had overtaken her.
“I got you!” Clifford Warren, the eldest of the three said to her. “Hold on… don’t, let go!” The old man had literally reached down, scooped her out of the jaws of death, out of the mouth of a demonically vicious current which had taken her down. In that instance, everything went awry.
“Ahh…my chest!” She remembered hearing him say through a muffled voice.
Just then, she felt her battered, seemingly lifeless body being gently passed over, through the water, to the waiting arms of another.
“I got her!” Eric McKenzie said, his voice sure and bold.
Then, she heard from the same voice, “Cliff you alright? You alright man…Cliff!”
“Ahh…No…No…not like this,” she heard another lament. It was Clinton who came to grips with the fact they had just lost Cliff.
Though she could not have known, Warren was like the father to Eric Mckenzie, forty-five and to Clinton, the brother he never had. It was a painful reality she came to grips with as they hovered over her, smiling through pain, staring down at her pale white face staring back up at them.


© Copyright 2018 Anthony J Mungin. All rights reserved.

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