Brown-Eyed Heaven

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49

***


Daphne and Joel Summerville sat comfortably in their café—The Brunch Parlor. They had established the business back in 1970. It was the first business that they had owned together.

It was platinum white with windows all around. A couple of 4K TV screens were in the center where the diners can see it. There was white carpet, shiny linoleum flooring, comfortable furniture throughout the establishment. A flowery garden lined up the walkway and extra seating outside.

“It’s such a lovely day, honey,” Daphne smiled at her husband of fifty years.

Joel smiled back and touched her hand. It almost looked the same as it did over fifty years ago when he first met her.

“Yes, my love. I always loved a peaceful and serene day.”

They looked up and saw their two children, Chad and Angela, approaching the table.

The café was crowded. Professional men and women were everywhere. It was predominantly African-American.

“Hey, sweethearts,” Daphne glowed at them.

“Right on time!” Joel laughed.

Chad and Angela sat down in their chairs.

“Hello everyone, I’m always on time, Father,” Angela smirk. “Chad is the one that is always late.”

“Excuse you, I’m always early. If I’m not early, I’m on time,” Chad shot back.

The four of them ordered their usual meals. Daphne tried to order for Joel but he teasingly blew her off.

“What am I senile now? I can order my own food and you don’t even know what I’m getting,” Joel commented.

Then he ordered his usual meal and laughed.

Daphne shook her head. “You see what I mean about this cranky old fool!”

The waitress brought their meals to them in no time. They finished eating and engaged in conversation afterward. It’s what the Summerville family has done for years.

“Children, your father and I were reminiscing about the good old days.”

“They all didn’t seem so good to me,” Joel added.

“Our good days outnumbered the bad ones,” Daphne replied.

“What were y’all talking about, Mama?” Angela looked around the restaurant.

“The same old stuff that we always talked about. When we first met back in 1968 and that was a horrible year. I thought back then that I wasn’t going to make it,” Daphne sniffed.

“Oh, honey, as long as you knew me, everything was going to be just fine…


***


Little Rock, Arkansas 1968


An eighteen-year-old Daphne Mildner ran to look out the window in the old house that she shared with her father.

She was dressed in an old summer dress and low heels, her hair was styled in her usual curly Afro that hung past her shoulders.

Daphne’s mother Ruby died of cancer when she was a child. Her father Henry hurried into the house that had been passed down to them through the generations.

“You got my supper ready, Daphne?” Henry asked.

“Of course, Daddy.”

Daphne quickly ran into the kitchen and placed the supper on the table for him. Henry washed his hands and began to eat. She got her supper too and hungrily ate it.

“How was work?” she asked after their supper.

They had dined on fried catfish, cornbread, collard greens, yams, and stew.

“It was hard work as always,” Henry answered.

“Daddy, when are you going to teach how to drive, shoot a gun, fish, hunt, all that man stuff! You already taught me how to fight in self-defense but I want to do more. You always said that if you had a son, you would have taught him all of that. Teach me because I want to learn!”

Henry smirked, “Of course, when I get time.”

Henry stretched and went upstairs to shower and changed out of his old work clothes. Daphne cleaned the dishes and told her father that she was going to take a walk around the block.

She had walked about twenty minutes until she saw a place where some Black Panthers were going inside.

Little did Daphne know at the time that a strange white man had been watching her.

He was sitting in an old pickup truck in the segregated black neighborhood watching the Black Panthers and Daphne.

Daphne stared at the Black Panthers’ establishment and didn’t see a young man approaching her.

“Hey there. How are you?” he asked.

Daphne, startled, turned around. “Hi, I’m alright and you?”

“Same here. I’m Joel Summerville and you are…?”

“I’m Daphne Milder.”

“Nice to meet you, Daphne.”

“Same.”

Joel nodded and smiled at her.

“So, you are a Black Panther?”

Daphne looked up at his all-black wardrobe. From his unruly Afro, slight mustache, black jacket, shirt, pants, and boots. She noticed a weapon among his gear too. That startled her a bit.

“Yes, I am. You want to go inside, Daphne? The brothas and sistas are getting ready to speak. A lot of our people are coming soon. Oh, look at them coming now!” Joel remarked.

There was a mixture of Black Panthers and regular townsfolks walking quickly to the event.

“Uh, sure I guess,” Daphne was a little uneasy.

“It’s cool, hon. I’ll protect you,” Joel laughed.

Daphne gave him a look as if to say, ‘Brother, please!’

She followed Joel inside the event. Armed Panthers were guarding the exits and a few observing the crowd. Daphne enjoyed the speeches. Then it was time for her to go.

“I agree with the Panthers’ beliefs but I’ve never been interested in joining any movement even if it’s for the people,” Daphne told Joel.

“I understand. You single?”

“Say what, Joel? How we go from the movement to this? Yeah, I’m single,” she smirked.

“May I have your phone number?”

“No!” Daphne walked off.

“I’ll give you a ride home,” Joel got into his car and crank it up.

“I’m fine. I don’t know you, Joel.”

“You can get to know me, Daphne.”

Daphne laughed and hurried off. That same white man’s eyes followed Daphne home as he drove through the neighborhood.

She was still unaware that he had been watching her even after she repeatedly looked behind her.

The days went by, Daphne and Joel went on some dates. Daphne kept Joel a secret from her overbearing father. On a Sunday after church, Daphne was in the bathroom.

Joel knocked on the Mildners’ front door. Henry answered the door and scoffed at Joel when he saw him there.

“Who the hell are you?” Henry asked.

“Hi, I’m here to see your daughter…” Joel began but Henry cut him off.

“Not my daughter!” Henry slammed the door in Joel’s face.

Daphne came running out of the bathroom. “Daddy, no! That’s Joel, my boyfriend!”

“You don’t have a boyfriend, not with some strange man that I don’t know. Don’t you dare bring some man over this house again, girl!”

“Daddy, I’m grown. I’m eighteen! You don’t want me to find love, start a family someday!”

“I am protecting you, girl! You grown but living in my house where I pay all the bills. When that no good boy knocks you up and leaves you, you gonna bring that baby home for me to take care of. Then I’ll have another mouth to feed!”

Daphne was sad and disappointed. She sank to the couch and look around the house. It was old-fashioned but look appropriate for the time period.

Daphne ran to the window and her eyes looked into Joel’s. He stood on their property for a minute then he got into his car and left.

Daphne secretly continued to see Joel without her father knowing. One night, Joel brought Daphne home from a date.

Henry was outside and glared at them, smoking his pipe. Daphne’s eyes widened when she saw a shotgun in her father’s hands.

“Daddy!”

“Go in the house, girl!”

Henry approached Joel. “I thought I warned you to leave my daughter alone!”

“Sire, I love your daughter and I want to marry her someday.”

“Say what now? Look, I got nothing against you. As a father, I’m trying to protect my daughter because no one else will. I lost my wife when Daphne was a child. She is my only daughter and all I have left in this world. A real man protects his family. Someday, when you are a father, you’ll understand."

“I understand. I’m sorry about your wife. I’m in love with Daphne and I would take care of her.”

“Really? What do you do for a living besides being an agitator, boy?” Henry observed Joel’s Black Panther attire.

“Sir, I work at the old factory. I’m also going to law school to be a lawyer someday. I would also like to be a judge after that but that’s way in the future.”

“Damn boy, you got some pipe dreams!”

“Yeah, I hope to turn those dreams into a reality someday.”

“Look, what the Black Panthers are saying is the truth but I don’t agree with the way y’all going about it.”

“Why don’t you come to hear us speak?”

“I got to work. I ain’t got time to be wasting checking out that mess!”

“Why not on your off day, sir?”

Joel, Daphne, and Henry sat in the audience and listened to several Black Panthers speak. Then Daphne got up and spoke, surprising Henry but not Joel because he was the one that helped her write her speech.

As the weeks went by, Daphne and Joel became closer. They were falling in love. Daphne noticed her father looked wearier and had a persistent cough. She told her father to see a doctor and he assured her that he would.

“You better watch out for those Summerville boys, Daphne. I heard they are something else.”

Joel and his friends were walking through town, cops drove by slowly and pulled over near them, and gave them stern looks. One of Joel’s friends, a Panther named Trent, smart off at the cops.

“How many black men y’all killed this week? How many black women? Teenagers? Children? Babies? Elderly? Disabled?” Trent hollered.

“Brotha, come one!” Joel commented.

“Come on what? What do y’all pigs do for fun for the past four hundred years? Oh yeah, don’t y’all murderous thugs got some black person to shoot or kill today or a black wall street to bomb and destroy again and again.”

“Look, man, we ain’t trying to go to jail today over some trumped-up charges?”

“Are y’all serious? They just lynched a brotha on Block Street last month and we are supposed to continue to be nice and act like nothing happened? Fuck that weak shit!”

“Brotha, you don’t always have to alert your enemy to everything you plan to do. You keep it to yourself and then you do it when they least expect you to,” Joel told Trent.

The cops drove off.

Trent nodded. “I like that approach.”

Later, Joel and his friends pulled up at his new property.

“Y’all got this place with no armed security around.”

“We are our own armed security. I decided to come up with a new name for us. The Go-Getters,” Joel replied.

“The Go-Getters, what the hell but I like it though,” Trent remarked.

“You’re not going to leave the Black Panthers, are you?”

“I always wanted to do my own thing, have my own group. I’m always going to be a Black Panther for life, homie,” Joel replied.

Daphne and some of the ladies in the neighborhood sewn the new Go-Getter jackets for Joel and his friends for their new organization: The New Black Wall Street.

The next day, Daphne went to the mailbox and saw a white man drive by in a red truck.

“Hey, honey!” he hollered at her.

“Oh, hi.”

He made Daphne feel uncomfortable. He drove off. Daphne told her father about it and he warned her to be careful.

Later that evening, Daphne woke up from a nap. Henry was upstairs listening to old blues records and moving furniture around. Daphne heard a sound, the doorknob rattled.

Before she could yell or run away, the door came open and there stood the same white man that had spoken to her earlier.

“I’m here for your pretty self,” the man whistled, walking up to her.

Daphne called for her father.“Get out of my house now! You broke into my home!” she yelled.

“How dare you disrespect me, you stupid nigger bitch!”

The man grabbed Daphne by her arm, slapped her hard in the face, and punch her like she was another man. It happened so quickly before she could react. No one had hit Daphne like that before.

“How dare you break into my home and hit me, you stupid white trash nigger motherfucker! Rot in hell, Satan!”

Daphne lunge at him and slapped him hard too and clawed his face and eyes, drawing blood. She pulled his hair out at the root.

He fought her back and threw her over a table and ran over to her, preparing to hit her again. She ducked and punch him in the face and kicked him below the belt but he dodged the full impact of that blow.

Daphne continued to call her father but he couldn’t hear over the loud music. They continued to fight and everything in their path was getting mess up.

She threw everything at him, lamps, furniture, anything she could find. She picked up a knife and stabbed him in the side, he knocked it out of her hand.

The fight continued while Daphne got the brunt of it but she gave him a run for his money. Daphne kicked him in the groin and that brought him down. She continued to hit him.

Finally, Henry heard the commotion and Daphne’s screams over a break in the music. He ran downstairs.

“What the hell going on down here! Fool get off my daughter! I got him, Daphne!”

Daphne took a break and Henry took over. Henry whupped his ass. The man was barely able to get a few hits in. Henry pushed him, threw him, repeatedly punch and kicked him until he fell. The man pleaded with Henry when he was too weak to get up.

“Please, I’m sorry! Don’t kill me! I won’t tell a soul!”

“After breaking into my home, attacking my daughter. Your people have never shown any mercy toward my people. Don’t expect any mercy from me now! I’m sending you to hell, you son of a bitch!”

Henry went over to get his shotgun from a locked safe then he shot the man through the heart, blowing his chest out.

Daphne sat on the floor, watching everything. “Is he dead, Daddy?”

Henry stood over the man and watched him stop moving and his eyes rolled back in his head.

“Yeah, that bastard is gone.” Then Henry ran over to Daphne and helped her out.“I’m so sorry, my sweetheart! I should have gotten here sooner then all of this could have been avoided."

“That’s okay, Daddy. It was you who taught me how to fight. I gave him a hard time but he still gave me the worst of it. He’s lucky that God made men stronger and could fight better than women.”

“Let me help clean you up,” Henry help her up.


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