I never said I was.
The old man nodded, and his voice quivered with frustration and anger. You tell your daddy that he needs to stop being so goddamn selfish and think about the rest of the people in this county. Im not the only one that says so. A lot of people around here are fed up. You tell him that from me.
Thats enough, I said, stepping closer.
He didnt like it, and his hands seized up. Dont you talk down to me, boy.
Something hot flared in his eyes, and I felt a deep anger stir as memories surged back. I relived the old mans pettiness and disregard, his quick and ready hands when his son made some innocent mistake. Ill tell you what, I said. Why dont you go fuck yourself. I stepped even closer, and as tall as the old man was, I still rose above him. His eyes darted left and right when he saw the anger in me. His son and I had cut a wide swath through this county, and in spite of what hed said, it had rarely been me bleeding on some barroom floor. My fathers business is no business of yours. It never has been and it never will be. If you have something to say, I suggest that you say it to him.
He backed away, and I followed him out into the molten air. He kept his hands up, eyes on me, and his voice was sharp and harsh. Things change, boy. They grow small and they die. Even in Rowan County. Even for the goddamn Chases!
And then he was gone, walking fast past the flaking doors of his roadside empire. He looked back twice, and in his hatchet face I saw the cunning and the fear. He gave me the finger, and I asked myself, not for the first time, if coming home had been a mistake.
I watched him disappear into his office, then went inside to wash off the stink.
Excerpted from Down River by John Hart. Copyright © 2007 by John Hart. A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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