Solomon

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
"Solomon" is the story of a young black man in France who's world is turned upside down when his final close relative dies. Racism is an important theme explored in the story.

Submitted: April 27, 2011

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Submitted: April 27, 2011

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Ahmad Ali
Danville, CA 94506
ladoopants786@gmail.com
 
Solomon
“I remember when she still smiled, still laughed. Of course at that time, I was only a child.”
“Solomon, she’s going to be alright.”
Immediately after his comment, however, a nurse rushed out to get Solomon and Reginald. Adorned in those all-too-familiar ugly blue scrubs, the nurse rushed the men into a busy hospital room. Solomon knew this environment very well, and as he rushed over to his grandmother’s convulsing body he remembered how his mother, brother and aunt each had been on that bed in their final moments. He watched the usual events unfold: a doctor barking instructions at nervous nurses, men scrambling all about the room in a streak of blue, the recurring sound of a defibrillator on a fragile heart, and finally the humbling static sound of the heart monitor. He walked over and kissed his grandmother’s hand, holding it with a tight grasp. She was gone.
Solomon rushed out of the hospital into the cold French air, tears streaming down his face. Reginald sprinted after him, carrying a few valuables from the small place. He finally caught up to Solomon on the bridge down the cobble-stone road.
“Solomon, there’s nothing we could have done – it was just her time to go. I’m sorry.”
Reginald’s comforting words slashed through his heart like a scimitar, fuelling Solomon’s tears. Solomon had realized that he was alone at last. Only twenty years of age, Solomon was all alone.
The two men decided to flee to Tunisia, where Reginald’s family resided. The journey would be perilous, and the two men knew this. It was not easy for two young African men to travel across France to the port city of Valencia. From there, they would have to take a ferry to a small Northern port in Tunisia. They had to leave, for Solomon did not have anything, nowhere near enough to pay off the corrupt doctor for keeping his grandmother alive until that day. The only money they would have with them were the few valuable items Reginald took from the hospital as they fled.
The first day on the road was rather simple. The two followed a small road through the French countryside, tricking local merchants into giving them food. The two found themselves in Andorra, a border principality between France and Spain. There, the two approached a small inn along a river. They went inside, looking for a room to rest for the night.
“One… please”, Reginald managed to express with a small Spanish dictionary. The receptionist was hesitant, eyes fixed on Reginald and Solomon like a hunter on prey. But that’s exactly what they were to her. She responded in fluent Spanish, which not only perplexed the young travelers, but also made them tense because they were sure that her words came in a negative tone. Solomon tried stringing together a few words so as to ask the woman for one room as his companion flipped through the dictionary. After a few minutes of what seemed like rambling, the woman stepped into a room behind her. Two large men then emerged from the room, each displaying a large physique along with a silver revolver. Solomon began retreating slowly, his feet sliding on the marble floor. Reginald simply stood staring at the white men in front of him. They blurted out some foreign words and motioned the nomads to leave with their guns. Only then did Reginald turn around and begin to follow Solomon out.
He didn’t get far, however. Reginald stopped dead in his tracks when he heard one of the guards say the word, a word too familiar to conservative-minded Spaniards in his time. He heard one of them follow a long sentence with the nasty arrangement of letters. Nigger. Reginald threw his book and other personal items he was carrying at Solomon’s feet.
“Reginald, no!” Solomon screamed. But as he turned around, he was sprayed with blood. His friend’s blood. He witnessed Reginald’s body fall limp onto the lobby floor in front of him. Shots rang out throughout the large chamber, but Solomon’s heart beat louder. One guard aimed his gun at Solomon’s head and put his other hand in plain view. He held up five fingers and began bringing them down, one by one. Solomon did not need any more convincing; he gathered up their belongings and sprinted out of the hotel.
He sprinted down the road. He didn’t look back. He counted to 100 out loud and then finally collapsed on the side of the road. He stared up into the sky in a pile of brown and orange leaves. “Welcome to Spain”, he thought as he lay under the unforgiving stars.
Solomon awoke to a brilliant morning. The sun filled the sky with warm color as he slowly rose and stretched about. He noticed how he was on a narrow highway in the middle of a withering forest. Surrounded by towering trees, the road seemed to slither through the trees, a black snake in tall, brown and yellow grass. He began walking down the beast, dictionary and bag in hand. He thought about his last time with his father, one of the greatest people he knew ever existed. He always remembered how he preached equality in their makeshift schools in rural Trinidad. The way his father spoke and gestured with his arms always fascinated the few students there. Solomon recalled the last thing his father said to him before being assassinated – “Solomon, no matter what color a man’s skin is, everyone is equal. Just because you are darker than someone else does not mean that you can’t be smarter than him, or faster than him. Never forget that”.
That advice was given to him after they had moved to France, where his ideas of universal equality were widely known among the community members. Of course, locals did not condone such wild ideas during his time. He was beat to death in a bar the night after by a group of white supremacists. Solomon never, not even for a second, believed his father’s idea to be misconstrued; he never found it to be just a mixture of feelings and reactions during his father’s lifetime, but rather a universal mantra by which everyone should live by. Perhaps that is why his father was dead and why he was trekking along a hopeless path in a country filled with bigots, no goal in mind.
Solomon was just pondering how he got stuck in this situation, when suddenly he saw a small gas station up ahead. As he approached the station, he noticed that the cargo truck was carrying all black men. He began wondering what was going on there.
“Hola, amigo”.
Solomon turned around to find a small black man staring up at him. His straw hat seemed new and his clothes clean. The man began speaking a few more words of Spanish, but then realized that Solomon’s face was still.
“You look terrible”, the man said in Solomon’s mother tongue, to which Solomon immediately reacted.
“Sir, what is this?” Solomon asked, pointing to the convoy.
“Young man, this is an escort service. I am taking these men to a good place.”
“What place is that? What good place is there in this country?”
The short man laughed, and then walked into a small shop next to the station. He emerged a few minutes later with two cups of coffee.
“I am taking these men to the Golden Fields. It is a place where no one cares about the color of your skin. You would be lucky if you captured a small glimpse of its beauty in your lifetime. Men kill to come to this place, to approach the large white gate and know that they are safe. Too many of my kin have I seen slaughtered and betrayed in this country. I myself am from Tunisia. What did you say your name was?”
He handed Solomon one cup.
“Solomon”.
“Ah, well Solomon, if you wish to come with us to this paradise then step into my truck. If not, I understand that you are on an important errand”, he said, looking into the barren road ahead.
“Drink this. It is a preview to what will come in the Fields.”
Solomon slowly placed his lips on the cup of coffee in his hands. He looked down at the black potion in front of him and wondered what it was. The first sip he took made him feel warm inside. His taste buds exploded as he drank more of the black coffee. The small man donned a huge grin as Solomon consumed the coffee, and almost the cup with it.
“There you go”, the small man said as he retreated into his vehicle, “it seems like you want to accompany us to the Spanish Heaven?”
Solomon followed without question. This man came as a savior to him, and Solomon was not about to pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. Besides, there was something about this man that made Solomon feel secure and safe; he immediately trusted the man, and crawled into the back of the truck. It was a bit crowded, but he didn’t mind. He knew the place was of great desire.
As the convoy rolled along the highway, Solomon thought about how his father would have killed to be in this place. He had worked his entire life to promote peace and acceptance between different races, and the small man described this place as a “Spanish Heaven”. No one would harass him because of his race, and Solomon just wished his father was there with him. A tear fell down his face as he remembered how his best friend had been taken from him one day before, and only because of blind bigotry. He thought about how his loneliness, a disease that followed him throughout the latter years of his life, was soon to be abandoned. He imagined how he would meet new friends at the Fields, and how perhaps he could marry a beautiful woman and start a family of his own. His life would finally pan out the way he had fantasized as a young boy.
The convoy slowed to a smooth stop some hours later. Solomon’s heart beat in anxiety and excitement, as did the other men in the back of the truck with him. They talked amongst each other about how they were going to feel like they were home again. The back curtain which shielded the men from the outside world was lifted, and Solomon was right at the front. For a few seconds, the sunlight was too much to bear for his eyes. They soon refocused, however, and Solomon’s grin grew tired as it held on his face. But what he saw in front of him dissolved his smile. Solomon’s mouth instead shot open in utter disbelief, and his heart was overcome with dread. Staring at him in the face was the barrel of a hunting rifle.
The small men pushed Solomon onto the muddy Earth in front of him. Solomon got up quickly and stared at him until he was forced onto his knees by the man with the gun. Another man came with cold silver shackles and bound his hands and feet together. He then grabbed the next man out of the truck and did the same. One by one, each dumbfounded man was chained and forced into a single-filed line.
“Welcome to Hell, boys”, the small man said cruelly. The man with the gun forced the men to start walking.
It took Solomon some time to overcome his shock and become aware of the situation. He had been utterly duped. Bamboozled. Stupefied. The man he trusted at the station had deceived him, and deceived him badly. As he led the connected men in a slow march, Solomon wondered why he had trusted the man. Then he remembered the taste of black coffee and felt ashamed.
The men walked down a small hill toward a grandiose stage. In front of the stage was about 250 white men and women seated in rows. A large sign on stage read “SLAVE AUCTION”. The whole scene was located in a small field next to a sea, but Solomon did not know which sea it was. He kept walking toward the stage, the same armed man striking his back every time he sped up or slowed down.
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” exclaimed a round white man with spectacles, “Bienvenidos!”
The man continued on with some Spanish, some of which Solomon understood. He picked up words like “prestige”, “slave”, “home”, and others.  He was taken back stage and stripped of his clothing. Two particularly ugly men then put a white cloth around his waist, and rubbed his body with water. He simply stared as the men examined his muscular body, nodded to each other, and then sent him back to the armed man. Seconds later, he was thrust onto the stage. The announcer walked around him, describing his body he assumed. He occasionally lifted Solomon’s arms up and rotated him so that the audience could see his back. All of a sudden, one man shot up out of his seat wielding a number painted on a stick.
“1.800 pesos!” the man exclaimed. Another jumped up.
“2.200 pesos!”
“2.600!”
“3.200!”
The price offered for Solomon finally stopped at 45.000 pesos. The announcer congratulated a tall Spanish man. Sweat trickled down his face as he brought Solomon over to the side. The winner walked up to where they were, and examined Solomon thoroughly for ten minutes. He then nodded, his scruffy beard moving up and down in a comic manner. The announcer handed the man a large key and then Solomon. As Solomon was escorted by the man and another armed man, Solomon had no feelings. His entire body was numb as he tried to make sense of the situation. He tried to imagine what his life was going to be like, and how his perception had taken a complete turn in the opposite direction in the past hour. Where was he going? What was he going to do? What was his life worth now? He was pushed onto a cart fastened to a horse where his new owner examined him once again.
“Hmmmm,” the man pondered. “Jose”.
He patted Solomon on the head a few times and smiled. He then got on his horse and proceeded down a dirt path onto a paved road.
“Jose”, Solomon whispered. “Jose”.


© Copyright 2017 Ahmad Ali. All rights reserved.

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