Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War by Steve Yarbrough Read Free Book Online

Book: Prisoners of War by Steve Yarbrough Read Free Book Online
Authors: Steve Yarbrough
Tags: Fiction, Historical
Dan turned his pickup into the yard, L.C. was waiting, lunch bucket in hand. “You got a gun?” he asked.
    “What the hell for?”
    L.C. walked around to the passenger side, opened the door and got in. “Case any of them Nazis takes a notion to run off.”
    “They ain’t going nowhere. Most of ’em ain’t Nazis anyway.”
    “What make you say that?”
    “They just ain’t.”
    “They wore the uniform, didn’t they?”
    “Wearing a German uniform don’t make you a Nazi.”
    L.C. held his forearms up and examined them, rotating them one way and then the other. “I got nigger skin,” he said. “Reckon that mean I’m white?”
    “Sometimes,” Dan said, “I think that’s all y’all study.”
    L.C. laughed. “Sometimes that’s what we want y’all to think.”
    Dan turned the pickup around and headed back toward the highway. L.C. always made him feel like he was the butt of a joke without ever saying anything you could call a real punch line. Once or twice, he’d been tempted to ask if there was such a thing as black math. Two and two would always be four, as far as he was concerned, but he doubted L.C. would see it that way. He’d think there was something funny, maybe even simple-minded, about wanting two numbers to add up the same from one day to the next.
    L.C. was thumping his foot against the floorboard, humming a weird-sounding melody that didn’t seem to have any real words, just an
uuh-huh
from time to time, or an occasional
I mean.
He fancied himself a guitar player and was pretty good, to hear Alvin tell it.
    “What you call that music?”
    “Don’t call it nothing.”
    “Sounds a little bit like them colored spirituals to me.”
    “Yeah, well, it’s got some spirit to it. Maybe not the good kind, though.”
    “What other kind is there?”
    “Evil spirits.”
    “You mean to tell me you believe in all that trash?”
    “Ever know a nigger that didn’t?”
    Dan had half a mind to tell him he’d never known a nigger, because it was impossible to know one if you yourself were white, though it went without saying that they all knew you. “You wouldn’t like it,” he said, “if I was to call you what you just called yourself, would you?”
    L.C. rolled his eyes, as if this was complete nonsense. “You call me that all the time.”
    “I ain’t
never
called you that.”
    “Naw? In your mind, what you think of me as?”
    He had him there.
    “See?” L.C. said. “You know it as well as I does.” Shutting his eyes, he started thumping the floorboard again and singing about somebody named Holloway, who seemed to be some kind of colored Jesus, because fallen women adored him and— unless Dan had misunderstood something—he died every Saturday night and rose again on Sunday morning.
    Through the wire mesh you could see the prisoners milling around in small groups, wearing what looked like washed-out army fatigues with the letters
PW
stenciled on the backs of their shirts. There were guards inside as well, but Dan didn’t see Marty.
    He saw somebody else he knew, though. Frank Holder sat on the tailgate of his truck, drawing lines in the dirt with the toe of his shoe. Dan had played football with Biggie, but he’d never found the father very easy to talk to. He was the kind of man who never seemed to smile, never told a story or even drove into town to watch his son play ball.
    Still, Dan hated to see him sitting there alone. When they held the memorial service for Biggie, Mrs. Holder had clawed the varnish off a church pew and Holder himself had buried his face in a handkerchief.
    Leaving L.C. in the pickup, he walked over. “Hey, Mr. Holder.”
    “How you doing, Danny?”
    “Not too bad. You waiting for a labor detachment?”
    “Yeah. Supposed to get me eight of ’em.”
    “Me, too. You reckon Germans can learn to pick cotton?”
    “They’re pretty sharp folks,” Holder said. “I imagine they’ll do all right.” He gazed at Dan’s pickup. “Ain’t that the nigger

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