It would be furthermore appropriate to hypothesize that, should the Washington Redskins remain as they are, bookie Dansel Darrons could not have been a very happy man.
He and the Cannoneer, that brave father to Miss Gyra (and it took less bravery to have been a near-revolutionary two years earlier) the young and elder man spoke over house-noises with fists stuffed into their pants pockets.
There were many footsteps upstairs, as maids were ordered about by the lady of the house.
Dansel went, “Cannoneer, sir, I do not want to go to this next place in our conversation…”
“Fine. You might as well go on and take me.”
“But you see, I’m owed, when your daughter is—”
“Careful with your next word, son.”
“…You have to put money right down, this time. Vick broke his ribs, in last week’s game. There is no way Washington will win the next one.”
“Broken? Oh, you know that was only a cartilage tear—err, irritation, as far as I remember it. Is that what they programmed at the Red-and-Gold Reserve for this year? I don’t believe it, they’d never revisit 2010 like that and hurt us Washingtonians so cruelly.” Here, the old Cannoneer’s speech was interrupted by Gyra calling downstairs, asking which parasol ‘her father’s wife’ would have wanted to take on a trip to see the whole wonder of Southeast.
“I hate to ask,” Dansel interrupted, “but where does Gyra really think she’s going next, after embarrassing—both ourselves—and ruining my business life ontop of that? You are going to punish your daughter, aren’t you, Cannoneer, sir?”
The old near-revolutionary waved it off, white handkerchief in hand. He might have just got through blowing his nose, but one might also argue that waving white flags had always been the way of those in his latest profession.
“Twenty-four-year-olds are well past punishment, in my experience. Anyways, Mister Darrons, the Red-and-Gold Reserve will—in fact—become a lot lighter and respectable on their television sets, I expect. Michael Vick’s going to be substituted out for Pete Wysocki and we’ll get a better season in that way. Change the 1970’s team for this one. Via injury for injury. Or, they might make a connection on that very date we won against the Eagles in 2010 and the Pete Wysocki’s own birth-date. I don’t think they put that together for the broadcast last week, on coincidence—”
“But that’s not fantasy football. That’s not anything, Sir Mattheson. Will you hear me out, already? Your daughter owes me money now, and that’s ontop of what you failed to hand over in these clean hands of mine, for weeks. Why don’t you just come off your pre-doomsday loyalties and bet against the Redskins, for once? I’ll starve to death at this rate, I swear.”
“They’ll make the connection and set up a less bleak season than before the near-revolution, they always do. The Taxation Without Representation Society is about lifting spirits. I hope you didn’t think the Red-and-Gold Reserve was ever established for making money? We wouldn’t have survived without a few good games after the stilt-bridges and that damned Beltway Wall went up, way back in 2010…”
“Do not go off on a tangent, sir. Please, do not waste any more of my time. I’m begging you to just pay me. Isn’t it enough that I walked her home?”
And Gyra was still charming as ever, her raggedy singing voice coming through the floorboards from the story above.
“How about this, Dansel?” and the old Cannoneer brought five crisp folded bills from his pocket. And this wasn’t play-money, either. It was real-blue currency, with Marion Barry’s face on its best side. You decide whichever that might possibly be. “…Gyra wants to go on some fine adventure. Take her. Drive my black Sunday-car even, buy her some dinners…”
“Why was that plural, just now?”
“I dunno… well, you two may be gone, for more than a day.”
Dansel Darrons only stared at first, for a long time. “Vick. He’s injured. Bet against the Redskins now, or I’m leaving.”
“Let me tell you something, D.D. Around here, on the high-hill of New Uniontown, the best gentlemen don’t betray their tri-stars and doubled-stripes. They stay loyal to the red-n-white cause. And if I’ve got money to burn still, through some miracle of my celebrity, then it’s gonna be done on my time to win the game I know the—will–win someday. And not just against the Eagles. We’re gonna get another Superbowl, Dansel. I can feel it. It’s been more than twenty years. How can I get there with them if I don’t work for it too? How can any man? Can you? As Frederick Douglass once said, ‘People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.’”
Dansel turned, and struck polished black boot-heels all across the white marble floor. He had a long time to exeunt and that also turned out to be the great brilliant design of the Cannoneer Mansion. It was never long before one of the Cannoneer family caught up to escaping people.
Gyra cried out, “Dansel, you can’t leave. Can he leave, Daddy?”
“I’m a man with my own will, you spoiled, rotten…” Dansel’s mumbling was quickly overcome by the crack of a shotgun being swiftly re-loaded.
The Cannoneer instructed them both. “Take this, the money I offered, my car, and enjoy your sudden holiday, young folks. Please Dansel, Gyra just wants time alone with her friends. And I need time alone with my friends, too… they won’t come over when she’s not able to leave. Young sir, I’ll add more to the deal for you later, I’ll even give you plenty of time to think up what you want in exchange for two days’ rest. You know that it would go a long way. She’s been through worse than most. And mine should have been worse than even hers… I don’t know how else to convince you, Dansel, if compassion for your nextdoor neighbor means nothing.”
“I don’t live nextdoor. I don’t come over here asking for sugar-cubes. I barely exist, in a room you’re renting to me down the street, Cannoneer, and I’m paying too much for that, as it is!”
Gyra said, “I really do like being in the room when other people talk about me, honestly it’s a likeable experience.” Gyra was carrying a ridiculous suitcase filled up when she found Dansel by the door and linked an arm with him. White lace gloves did not help the wild blue dress and its flashing red stars stabbed into the bodice. “I am a little off for a person, but it’s not as if my switch has been turned off.” She dropped shoulders and bowed head, as if a talking doll gone deactivated.
“Oh, stop doing the robot Gyra, I’ve been threatened enough by your personality this afternoon. Go get your Daddy’s shotgun and we’ll go. But only for one day. I’m bringing my dear friend back tomorrow. And, Gyra, wouldn’t you like to sit up front with me this time? Didn’t your fingers cramp from setting the shotgun up from the backseat and waiting on-the-ready to peg me during the whole ride? I swear, as if you being the way you are isn’t enough—you also have to be the worst female backseat driver known to man…”
The Cannoneer’s big black car was a Cadillac Gyra tried to slide across the hood of, like in the movies, before getting in. But she wasn’t sliding to the driver’s side. And she was still wearing that outrageous blue dress, and she dropped her suitcase in the process. Dansel knew better than to laugh. It was exactly what she wanted. So they solemnly seatbelted and drove.
Gyra reached backward, but her favorite souvenir from the near-revolution was laid across the backseat. “Dansel, I just want to know why we can’t ride horses instead.”
The only answer could have been, “What? I don’t even… Nevermind.”
“Nevermind, what? We’re already dressed up like The Good Ole Days, and speaking like it too. So then, why doesn’t the Taxation Without Representation Society make us all go back to using horses, too? They might as well. I think you’d be dashing up on a horse. And I could name mine Danselbiter.”
“That’s not the point, Gyra. It’s not a choice… this is a protest. Douglass had a vision. We are the vision. We see it just fine now. It’s okay to slip sometimes, but a real Washingtonian, a true patriot stays ruthlessly true–Ugh, nevermind. You don’t get it. You don’t care anyways, you’re just trying to annoy me.”
Perhaps Gyra truly didn’t care. She let her braided head nod to the side, and began to fidget with interest at all the things they drove by. Two old catholic churches, Cedar Hill, the museum for African American History and Culture, the Old Birney School, and then there was an AME church which was supposed to be the oldest black church in Hillsdale … all of which should not have surprised her, when Dansel and Gyra both were more than familiar with New Uniontown already. Dansel advised Gyra then, that she should have been an actress as a warning that his patience was dangerously thin after only an hour of their journey.
“It’s just that I really, really, really need to see new stuff—wait, look! Dansel, oh Dansel, there’s a pretty car there, and all the people in matching colors, I love it.”
Dansel stopped their car for her, when he realized. “Yeah, I guess. It is a nice funeral, Gyra. Just like your mother’s was.”
“I would have gone with a different sort of flower, though. You know, I didn’t dare let them put a lily anywhere near my mother or even a white rose. I had marigolds. Nothing but marigolds. I didn’t want her to get lost, on the way…Marigolds guide the dead, I even looked it up. In a real life library.”
“Yes, you planned the whole thing. You did a real good job. Be proud of yourself. Gyra?”
She was crying, but in the way only she did. By leaving the world for a moment, fearing to blink wet eyes. Holding still until the horror passed through her. Dansel did not breathe. He feared to even touch his troubled friend. He turned the engine off.
Gyra rested her forehead against the cool window. It was a big funeral letting out, just like the other one a year ago. Whatever people were calling to each other up and down the street, back and forth, mourning in their agitated way didn’t matter. Their voices were muted through polished steel and through whole glass.
“Why are do they look angry?”
“Maybe it wasn’t a good death…”
Suddenly, the crowd outside crumpled. People ducked heads and went on their knees like a gargantuan nuisance yellow-jacket had buzzed over all their heads at the same time.
Gyra looked for it, too. Whatever the instinctual terror was. Dansel gripped his leather seat. It creaked. Gyra was doing the wrong thing, he sensed, looking but not listening. “Those were gun shots, get down!”
“But we’re in a car…? Oh God! Drive away, D.D. Why can’t you drive us away?”
“Dammit. The engine won’t start again—your cheap father. Just try to stay down, there’s a wall of steel, practically.”
The back passenger windows shattered. Dansel yelled and forced Gyra down, down, beneath the glove compartment at least. She got quiet, he got loud. “The hell kind of guns do they have? Assault rifles?”
Gyra wouldn’t let go of Dansel. Her fingernails snagged in his tan check-coat. So many shots. Dansel was counting them? One… two… suddenly, nine. What was he doing, leaning across seats now, reaching for the shotgun Daddy left them? She couldn’t really shoot it. She couldn’t really do anything except point it away from people, play with blanks. And that was Daddy’s gun. Daddy’s was okay to play with, he said. It was good to have a gun in these times, and look protected, with it. But, the Cannoneers weren’t shooting off anything, anymore… unless one of them walked into the Red-and-Gold reserve while sorry-drunk.
“Please! Stop!” It wasn’t clear whether Gyra wa screaming at Dansel, or the people outside. Somehow, their car had become the target.
“…Have to make it stop.” Was all Dansel said, before he rushed them both out of the driver’s side of the car. Gyra watched Dansel count again, cock gun, lean to have his last glance out at life, it looked like, then ran. One powerful, double-barreled burst that deafened Gyra and made her see white, though nothing was that way. Everything was real, everything was painful, and it wouldn’t stop. Somewhere, Dansel was yelling for her to get across that sidewalk and behind a dumpster in the alley way. She raged behind her eyes. She didn’t want to hear any more. No the sidewalk was not right there. No, there was no way to survive this. Gyra almost didn’t run away like he wanted.
More terrible shots. Gyra felt that Dansel wasn’t there anymore, and then she peered around the green dumpster and he wasn’t. Men were standing lined up in the street, pointing. Shooting. Some of them fell. Women screamed. The way Momma had, not because she was in pain but because she was so done with DC, there was only a hollow wild rage left. It cracked her very voice towards the end. That scream made Daddy go on his knees. It had made Gyra give up on school and then sent Lucie fleeing for college. Gyra held onto the foul metal garbage dumpster now, and cried that she couldn’t do better for herself. No, she was not revolted. Hadn’t it always felt like this? People were fleeing. Or, more people were running out onto the sidewalks to see the result of so much violence. Gyra didn’t want to know.
In time, there were footsteps. The sweep of gunmetal near the ground, where the long barrel almost touched it. Out there, in the street, sirens were going off.
“It not the Cannoneers coming. Gyra, that was a gang, out there. Two rival ones, I think. Fighting over a funeral. They couldn’t even wait after… Now they’re going to need ten-times’ as many caskets. Get up. Let’s go.”
Gyra shut her eyes then tried looking at this stranger again.
“It’s D.D. Did you forget already?”
“Why are you still standing… Dansel Darrons?”
Dansel finally exhaled. He reached out a hand to help her up. “I’m fine, I’m not a ghost, Gyra.”
“I don’t want to go anywhere with you. What did you do? Did you kill people, Dansel Darrons? And what if they’d killed you too?”
“Calm down. And weren’t you the one shooting, and badly, at the ceiling of a crowded restaurant not long ago with this same gun? I was defending us. So let’s get over it already, and get gone.”
“I was drunk earlier at the Red-and-Gold Reserve and didn’t mean to shoot. I didn’t aim for heads either, there were supposed to be blanks in the double-barrel—you know that when I never did honestly shoot you all those other times. And, my father was a near-revolutionary. Near, did you hear that? So we almost attacked the National Guard when they came to Fort Stevens, but we didn’t really shoot first—”
Dansel swore and tugged her arm, but Gyra yanked him back down onto the filthy ground. “What if you’d missed and there were mothers out there, Dansel? You know that’s why I’m begging you, please don’t ever do it again. Let them fire, but we can’t fight back. Better to get directly away, stay safe.”
“What help is there really gonna be, when it’s 2012 already and DC is like this?”
Gyra had no answer. She cried and hugged her stomach. Despair did really hurt, for some people.
Dansel took off his fine coat at that moment because his best friend needed to calm down, and it was cold outside. There was also a great deal of blood on fabric. He quickly swifted out the winter lining and set that about her shoulders instead. The rest, he pitched fast over Gyra’s head, into the dumpster. “I was a gentleman, of course. Is that what this… fine, completely silly lady needs to hear? Now whatever you may think of my righteousness, your Daddy’s car or its engine is completely shot up and we need to get walking right now. As He once said, ‘I prayed for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.’”
“But Douglass also did say, ‘A gentleman will not insult me and not a gentleman can insult me.’ My father was a Cannoneer in the Near-Revolution of 2010, but he would never go shooting into a crowd, indiscriminate like you did, just to suit his pride. I still say we should have called for help or waited it out.”
“Dammit, Gyra!” Dansel stood, “‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress!’”
“’Well, a man takes his hue, more or less, from the form or color of things about him’—and you’ve always been darker than even I am.”
Dansel tossed head back and turned a circle, some exhausted military spin on his black heels. He philosophized in quiet rage for only a moment more before an answer occurred to him. It seized Gyra suddenly up with his work-a-day hands and shook her. “AGITATE, AGITATE, AGITATE!”
And that was promptly the end of being so fearful as to show supine disregard for their city’s hurtful realities.
1 The Red and Gold Reserve :: 2 Authentic Agitation :: 3 Bringing the Old Girl to Water :: 4 Message from a World of Fear, Insanity :: 5 No such thing as transitional musak after the Apocalypse :: 6 Fate and Basketball :: 7 Party in Mount Pleasant