Three Days Before the Shooting ...

Three Days Before the Shooting ... by Ralph Ellison Read Free Book Online

Book: Three Days Before the Shooting ... by Ralph Ellison Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ralph Ellison
hearing, through this old man who himself did not know the language. Suddenly they no longer seemed familiar, and a feeling of dream-like incongruity came over her. They were so many that she could no longer see the large abstract paintings which hung along the paneled wall. Nor the framed facsimiles of State Documents which hung above a bust of Vice President Calhoun. Some of the old women were calmly plying their palm-leaf fans, as though in serene defiance of the droning air conditioner. Yet, she could see no trace of impertinence in their eyes, nor any of the anger which the Senator usually aroused in members of their group. Instead, they seemed resigned, like people embarked upon a difficult journey who were already far beyond the point of no return. Her uneasiness grew, then she blotted out the others by focusing her eyes narrowly upon their leader. And when she spoke again her voice took on a nervous edge.
    “I’ve told you that the Senator isn’t here,” she said, “and you must realize that he is a busy man who can only see people by appointment.”
    “We know, ma’am,” Hickman said, “but—”
    “You don’t just walk in here and expect to see him on a minute’s notice.”
    “We understand that, ma’am,” Hickman said, looking mildly into her eyes, his close-cut white head tilted to one side, “but this is something that developed of a sudden. Couldn’t you reach him by long distance? We’d pay the charges. And I don’t even have to talk, miss; you can do the talking. All you have to say is that we have arrived.”
    “I’m afraid this is impossible,” she said.
    The very evenness of the old man’s voice made her feel uncomfortably young, and now, deciding that she had exhausted all the tried-and-true techniques which her region had worked out (short of violence) for getting quickly rid of Negroes, the secretary lost her patience and telephoned for a guard.
    They left as quietly as they had appeared, the old minister waiting behind until the last had stepped into the hall. Then he turned, and she saw his full height, framed by the doorway, as the others arranged themselves beyond him in the hall. “You’re really making a mistake, miss,” he said. “The Senator knows us and—”
    “ Knows you,” she said indignantly. “I’ve heard Senator Sunraider state that the only colored he knows is the boy who shines shoes at his golf club.”
    “Oh?” Hickman shook his head as the others exchanged knowing glances. “Very well, ma’am,” Hickman said. “We’re sorry to have caused you this trouble. It’s just that it’s very important that the Senator know that we’re on the scene. So I hope you won’t forget to tell him that we have arrived, because soon it might be too late.”
    There was no threat in it; indeed, his voice echoed the odd sadness which she thought she detected in the faces of the others just before the door blotted them from view.
    In the hall they exchanged no words, moving silently behind the guard, who accompanied them down to the lobby. They were about to move into the street, when the security-minded chief guard, observing their number, stepped up and ordered them searched.
    They submitted patiently, amused that anyone should consider them capable of harm, and for the first time an emotion broke the immobility of their faces. They chuckled and winked and smiled, fully aware of the comic aspect of the situation. Here they were, quiet, old, and obviously religious black folk who, because they had attempted to see the man who was considered the most vehement enemy of their people in either house of Congress, were being energetically searched by uniformed security police, and they knew what the absurd outcome would be. They were found to be armed with nothing more dangerous than pieces of fried chicken and ham sandwiches, chocolate cake and sweet-potato fried pies. Some obeyed the guards’ commands with exaggerated sprightliness, the old ladies giving their skirts a

Similar Books

The Yellow World

Albert Espinosa

A Shadow of Wings

Linda Gayle

Wrong Thing

Barry Graham

Where Women are Kings

Christie Watson

Destructively Alluring

N. Isabelle Blanco

Ghost Walk

Alanna Knight

Slow Burn

Nicole Christie

Bristling Wood

Katharine Kerr