Bad News


It was a day off school and Danny had been with his friends messing around at the stream all afternoon. Mostly gathering rocks and building a dam. He was hungry, wet and muddy. He said, “see you later” to his buddies, walked the half mile back into the small town and headed up the sixteen steps to the apartment above the small grocery store. Danny had not noticed the police car, parked across the street. Instead of fixing dinner, his mom was sitting in the back seat of that car, with her face in her hands. A cop sat in the driver seat. When Danny pushed open the apartment door, he froze. Two white men were sitting at the table and one stood near the sink. One of them said, “Come on in son, we need to have a little talk. Danny was confused and terrified.

Just before Danny arrived, four men had knocked on the door and bluntly announced to his mom that her husband and two oldest sons, age fourteen and twelve, were dead. They were returning from a visit with Grandma when the car swerved and slammed, head on into a tree. The nineteen, fifty-five Oldsmobile was not built for safety. They told Danny’s mom that the car was nearly bent in half and caught on fire before anyone could help but, by that time she could not hear what they were saying. She just cried, “Where’s Danny, where’s Danny” and her knees gave out. One of the men tried to catch her but she was on the floor. When she was able to talk, she just said, “I don’t know how to tell Danny,” The policeman and one of the other men helped her down the steps and into the police car. Her knees were weak and her thin body was shaking. It took both of them to get her safely into the back seat. By that time she was mostly silent except for some low moaning. The policeman climbed into the driver’s seat and the other man went back upstairs.

Danny thought about running but he couldn’t move. He said, “Where’s mom?” One of the men poured a glass of cold milk and set it on the table. Then someone said, “Your mom is ok.” Danny looked at the milk. He didn’t drink white milk, he preferred chocolate.

Fifty years later that’s all he remembers from that day. Those white men in the kitchen, someone saying, your mom is ok. And he remembers that glass of milk just sitting on the table.

03/07/2017 © Don Lehman