Favors and questions…a short story….

“Is it intolerant to be narrow-minded of other people’s views, uncle? Is it racist to accuse someone of racism without proof?” Angela Thrayson gulps down Mountain Dew while questioning her uncle about these tiny questions that formed in her 14-year-old mind. Derk Dickinson shakes his head. “Where do you come up with these questions? What does it matter in the long haul?” Twirling her naturally curly black hair around her finger, Angela peers at her uncle. “You were in prison. Are there racists in prison?”

“Yes, but we didn’t walk around accusing them of being racist.”

Angela ponders her uncle’s answer. “Well, then how do you know they are racist?” Derk shakes his head. “You know by their actions, kiddo or word of mouth.” The Mountain Dew is almost gone, so Angela removes the lid and tips the cup back and begins crunching on the ice. “I know a racist. He disagrees with everybody.” Laughing, Derk shakes his head. “Disagreeing with folk don’t make you a racist. It makes you disagreeable.” Crossing her arms, Angela pouts. “It does not. Every time somebody says something to him, he just disagrees. He claims to not care about the emotion and wants facts.” Derk turns his head to keep from laughing at Angela’s pouty mug. “Darling, why are you so hung up on this subject? Why don’t we talk about something else?”

“You don’t think racism matters?” Derk sighs. “Sweetie, the world is more than racism, or any other ism. It’s bigger than fear or love. People are going to do, what they do. There is no triumph over human nature. We all have one and we all succumb to it.” Angela tosses the cup into the garbage bin. “Is that why you went to prison? You succumbed to your nature?” Derk gets to his feet. Shaking his head, he walks out of the trailer and heads to his vehicle. Angela isn’t far behind him. “Uncle, I’m sorry. You don’t deserve to be treated like that. Come on back inside.” Derk whips around, his hand forms a knife point and he jabs it in her direction. “You’re too young to remember, but I went to prison saving your life, and your mother’s. You weren’t even born yet, and I loved you enough to make sure you came to no harm.”

Shocked by the sudden fury showing on her uncle’s face, Angela steps back. “I’m sorry,” she sputters. “Will you come back in? Mom will be home soon.” Derk shakes his head no. “It seems I have overstayed my welcome. Tell your mom, I came by.” Angela runs to him and throws her arms around his neck. “Please don’t go. Mom will be angry if she finds out I ran you off.” Muttering, Derk kicks at the ground. “Fine.” Together, they walk back into the tiny mobile home.

“Mom never talks about why you went to prison, or why we didn’t visit often.” Derk leans back against the plush leather back couch. “I asked her not to come. Prison is no place for a woman or a child to visit.” Angela moves to her mother’s desk and opens a drawer. “She keeps this picture of you. One night I asked her why she kept it, and she said it was a picture of you at your best.” Derk takes the picture from Angela. The black and white photo shows Derk in fatigues, his face painted in a woodland camo pattern. “It was a long time ago. Before…”

“Why did you go to prison?” Derk stares at his niece. “You’re like a dog with a bone. Can’t you just let it go?” Angela shakes her head. “No. I want to know.” Clenching and unclenching his fists, Derk looks at the floor. “I was on leave. Your mom sent me a letter telling me she was pregnant with you. She said your father was beating her. Sometimes he used a belt, other times he used his fists. I came home and confronted your father.” Derk’s words trail off but after some time, he continues. “We met outside of this Mexican joint on 3rd Street. He was drunk and belligerent. I told him to keep his hands off your mom.”

“And…?” Angela stares at her uncle, this man she hardly knows suddenly seems larger than life. “What happened next?”

Derk shrugs. “Your dad pulled a skinning knife and came at me. He said when he was done with me, he was going to cut you out of your mom. I killed him.”

Angela shudders. “Wow…” Derk nods. “Yeah. Do you think I was too narrow-minded concerning his views? Maybe racist due to our disagreement?”

“No. I think you did the world a favor.”

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