Away From Home

            “18? You just a baby, Youngblood”, said Fillmore to his younger brother Big John. Fillmore could have told John to set his tongue on fire, and it wouldn’t have been long before John would be getting rushed to the ER.  Everything he did, everything he said, was golden to him. He listened intently as Fillmore struck a match and lit his Newport.  Now, at this juncture of his life Fillmore had only reached the tender age of 23, but he was wise beyond his years. “It’s a whole lot that’s gon’ happen between where you at and where I’m at. You ready?” he said coolly between puffs of his cigarette. “Yeah”, Big John said, “I’m ready as I’m gon’ be.” With a cool chuckle Fillmore said, “You damn right about that”. Fillmore hadn’t only been Big John’s older brother, he was his father. He was his role model. He was everything John aspired to be. “If you don’t grab life by the throat, it’ll choke you out before you know it”, said Fillmore. “You gon’ have plenty of time to do whatever you wanna do, just handle your business first. Do good and good come to you.” Those last words were not unfamiliar to John. His grandmother ended every phone conversation that either of them had with her with those same words. But now, for some strange reason, they meant so much more to Big John. Do good, and good come to you. Was it really that easy? What about all the other times that he’d been hurt by doing the “right” thing? What about nice guys finishing last? What about the time spent or wasted trying to do good? What if good never comes? With all of those thought performing a decathlon in his brain, John just sat and let those words sink in a little more. After some deep deliberation he asked, “So how all you mean is gon’ happen?” After a very theatric inhale-exhale exhibition Fillmore calmly said, “Almost everything bro. I had good grades. I had awful grades. I had all the women. I been alone. I had plenty money. I been in the negative. I been robbed. I laughed. I cried. I been to jail. I been through it all. Crazy thing is, all of it stems from the decisions you make and the people you put yourself around. It’s more trouble to get into than anything else out here. Especially for us”. Big John let those words resonate in the caverns of his mind. “So, you think Ima go to jail?” He asked bashfully. “Haha. Naw man. I hope you don’t. I mean, I never expected to go, but I am saying that it’s possible. At this point in life it’s not much you can count out. You gon be out here alone. On your own. And you a black man trying to better himself. Ain’t nothing scarier than that to these white folks”. “So, you think its gon make me better?” John asked. “I know it”, spat back Fillmore. “I love the way things worked out. I’m happy I’m the one that went out first and got all the bad stuff out the way so you wouldn’t have to go through all that. I went through it for both of us!” With an open mind and an enlightened heart, Big John just smiled. “Cool. Now let me hit that cigarette!” John said. And they just sat there. Enjoying one another’s company.




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