Blue Ridge Cabin
Eunice pulled onto Jasmine Hill Road in Blue Ridge around 9:00. She had checked on her parents at dinner, then drove in Harpo’s old Plymouth, the car she shared with Sam.
Mike Watts the musicology camp musician Eunice admired, had become a close friend of the posse. He offered up his folks’ cabin for them to use for meetings. The posse and a few of Terrence’s guys would converge there to analyze facts and discuss demonstration ideas.
“I’m finally here!” Eunice said, without vigor.
“Things okay with you?” Gabrielle asked, meeting her at the door.
“I’m still with Sam, if that’s what you mean. I’ve been going nuts. I swear I’m not even trying anymore. I tried to be his girl and do everything dutifully but it just made me low. I guess I lost my sense of adventure for a while. It doesn’t mean I don’t love him but I was bored without you guys. You are my true friends anyway. I feel guilty sneaking away but he’d try to stop me. Right now he thinks I’m at my folks’ place. Wink, wink. Clearly I’m not!” Eunice said.
“I think there’s more to life than boys!” Gabrielle said. “What are we doing letting boys control our destinies anyhow? Did you know that bromances are more important to them than girlfriends? After sex you’re in third or fourth position, depending how many bro’s he has. Ladies need to get wise. There’s no such thing as romance!” Gabrielle said.
Eunice dropped her duffle bag and gave Mike a friendly hug, “Thanks for letting us use your place Mike!”
Mike’s teaser line enticing them to meet up was he had information they would find intriguing. He had spies within Montgomery’s Business Association and City Hall.
“Some of them might be third hand information but I consider them solid leads,” he said. Being a session musician he was also well connected to a diverse mixture of people. Plus he’d previously been involved in activism for music and artists rights.
“Guys, think about it. We need to strike a chord now before another big story like Rodney King breaks,” Eunice said.
Mike, Gabrielle, Jaxon and Patty were present so far. A few more including Terrence were on their way.
“Come on Eunice, don’t you think it’s a waste of time? No one’s even thinking about how we saved Juliet anymore,” Gabrielle said. She was sitting near Jaxon on the sofa.
“At least she’s still clean,” Eunice said.
“… and locked away in a sober living house,” Patty said.
A year ago they’d been known as a vigilante girl posse who weren’t taking it anymore. They still teased Gabrielle for her sound bite on the newscast.
“OMG look Gabrielle’s on TV,” Jaxon had screamed.
“Well I knew Juliet was going down a bad path big time! She failed her algebra finals because of that awful boyfriend. What was his name…I guess she would do anything for love. I’m just glad we could help,” said Gabrielle’s TV talking head. The boys peeled with laughter.
“We all had our time off to do other things. I was one lazy bitch sitting in my trailer. My man off working a real job with benefits! What can I say, I was a kept woman,” Eunice said, with a curtsy.
Eunice pulled out a folder with photocopies and passed them around. One document showed a city council request for Alabama to legalize a state lottery so each jurisdiction could share in the generated cash flow.
Another was proof of a meeting about council’s budget allotment for a river walk casino.
“Geez, this one looks legit!” Patty said, referring to meeting minutes with attendee member signatures.
“You guys have no idea how many private establishment dinners there are. These elected officials play chess with citizen’s lives. My source says corruption happens in every city,” Mike said.
“I guess the way to go in government is to get loser gamblers and alcoholics to pay your debts. My Uncle Sonny lost a whack of cash last year. Now my aunt is divorcing him,” Patty’s serious tone sounded as if she had parachuted into a spy movie.
Mike talked them through each document.
“My buddy works with a guy who brags about cooking the books to make it look like schools are adequately funded but as you see here the money goes to these other schools. You see how only the lowest ones on the list have a Sundry items entry with a zero next to it,” Mike interrupted.
“Terrence says the sheriff is doing diddly squat about drugs in the black areas of course. That’s what Terrence said,” Eunice said. She hoped they could beef up their game. Get things done faster and be impactful.
“Where is Terrence anyway?” Mike asked.
“Whoa! I bet you got together with him, huh Eunice? Didya?” Patty asked, feigning shock.
“Lady P you are ridiculous! He and Lil Red are helping a girl move out of her parents apartment at Parks Place,” Eunice said.
“Naw, she’s gonna give up Sam for Oreo Jax here! Ha-ha!” Gabrielle said, poking Jaxon. They called him Oreo sometimes because he was less urban and more stiff on the inside.
“There is a correlation between this information which hopefully Terrence can confirm. Something gang related…” Mike said.
Terrence and Lil Red arrived looking beat.
“Speak of the devil,” Patty said.
There were nods all around but no one interrupted the intriguing discussion.
Eunice watched excitedly. WSFA-12 News had been focused on daily reports about the war on drugs so this information might very well get them a splash of air time.
“My informant Jack says conspiracy theories about government involvement and denial that black youth are failing in school, hide the fact they are hooked on drugs,” Mike said.
Decades old rumors fed the urban myth that the introduction of crack in black ghettos was by design.
“Are they knowingly letting us die off. Addicted on purpose to squeeze us out?” Patty asked.
“They don’t care if blacks are killing blacks! Police don’t even patrol for drugs, break ins or shootings in these marked areas,” Terrence said, holding a map.
“Okay, first of all addicts aren’t all black just most of them we see around here. You’re saying the gangs know the police don’t care and the police know the gangs know? That’s lawless!” Eunice said.
“You mean no one knows about this?” Jaxon asked.
“Course not. No city official wants us to know they’ve turned a blind eye to black schools and are letting drug overdoses do the clean-up for them,” Mike said.
“You mean they don’t want to know how many are dying of drug overdoses?” Eunice said.
“My sources say it’s a classic case of turning a blind eye to the drug problem,” Mike said.
“We definitely need to do something about it!” Terrence said.
Eunice looked at Terrence, then Mike and the rest of their faces. She threw her first fist in the air like the quintessential rebel rouser, “One team!”
“One Team!” everyone shouted. The posse was now a diverse mix of a dozen or so unofficial members.
She was used to manipulating to a goal. The best way she knew how to control a situation was to be one step ahead of it. She had always been able to steer her father toward the new outfit she wanted. She didn’t think all manipulation was bad. Persuasive facts weren’t manipulative.
She thought of how she and Sam had grown completely apart. “You were right. We need to get parts of us satisfied in other people. When I chatted with Terrence at the barbecue we talked about stuff I wasn’t interested in anyway. I wasn’t jealous or envious of him,” Sam said.
“I don’t always whisper lovey-dovey stuff to you but it doesn’t mean I don’t love you Sam. I didn’t realize how deep your mistrust was,” she said. It was easier to apologize, “I’m sorry for ignoring your calls yesterday. I don’t want to argue.”
All she could think about was how to get out of the schmaltzy conversation and up to the cabin where her friends were meeting.
“You told me it was my job to tell you when I have a problem. I wasn’t saying it in a mean way. You said we could discuss things calmly,” Sam said looking disoriented.
She kept still not knowing how to handle his gushing emotions. Didn’t he feel like a weakling? It was bizarre and foreign to her.
“Ignoring me and dismissing my feelings won’t make me forget you hurt me. Ignoring me is a different kind of fighting. I don’t know what to do with it because sometimes I haven’t done anything wrong, then all of a sudden you’re distant,” he said.
“You’re trying to make me feel guilty,” she said. It was working. She’d been open to talking if he was calm but she felt accused so she let nature take its course.
“Okay I’m sorry. I told you I don’t like being called names,” she said.
“I know but is everything a name to you? Seriously, is calling you selfish or self-centered like calling you names? I was pointing out that I find it selfish when you go out with your friends, have discreet birthday lunches and see movies without me. Have you considered I might want to spend time with you, on a date or something. All the while you act like nothing’s wrong,” he said.
“You have to admit you get angry for no reason. You called me a bitch a few weeks ago,” she said. It was a long shot but she might sway his pendulum away from Terrence and back to his own guilt.
“Oh my God! Insults were hurled from both sides Eunice! Didn’t I apologize on one knee and make you dinner after? I’m sorry again. I get infuriated repeating the same conversations. It makes me feel crazy. No wonder I’m blamed for having mood swings, I guess I really do have them,” Sam said.
Eunice asked herself what was wrong but in order to dig deeper she’d have to ask herself why she had animosity. She gave up. Did she even want to be with him? He was dull and she preferred the excitement of her friends. There was a big difference between ignoring him due to self-absorption and staying away from him to avoid conflict.