Authors: Ace Atkins
My soul felt parched for home.
I had no family left. I had no job. Hell, I didn’t know what I was going to do once my ride ended and the hundred and eighteen dollars I made in jail disappeared. Didn’t matter, I was free.
I would sleep in the streets. I’d work the fields. I just wanted to feel the sun and watch those blessed dark clouds roll over this sweet earth once again.
The bus slowed and rolled off the highway into a downtown I once knew. It was as if a giant flood had washed the town clean of memories. I knew the buildings and the streets, but everything else had changed.
When we rolled to a stop, I hung back waitin’ for the bus to clear out. I could feel my heart in my throat and shakiness wrap my body. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe.
Ma’am?” the bus driver called.
I felt the torn edge of my old dress and rubbed my hands in my lap.
Ma’am, this is it.”
I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and walked down the aisle. The door would shut any moment. I couldn’t get off. They wouldn’t let me go.
I stepped down over the rubber-coated steps and onto the cracked asphalt. I hadn’t breathed since I left my seat.
I got my old trunk, coated in travel stickers, from under the bus and walked through the cool day into the station. Glad Travers had helped me slide out of town without no one’s notice.
As I crossed through the dark bus station, I heard the hard clicks of shoes behind me. A black gentleman with nice silver hair in a suit and a shiny pair of wingtips walked toward me.
He stuck out his hand and I took it.
Heard Chicago wasn’t for you.”
No, sir,” I said and looked at my forty-year-old shoes.
You hungry? Know a good barbecue place down the road.”
No. I’m fine.”
Nick tole me you didn’t want help.”
I know who you are,” I said. “He tole me to call you if I need anything. Would you give Mr. Travers somethin’ for me?”
And I handed him my notebook, my journal I had kept for so many years. He tucked it under his arm.
Nick has somethin’ for you too,” he said. “At a bank down the road, there’s an account in your name. I can show you if you like. More money inside than I made my whole life.”
I nodded, a bit confused, and he grabbed the rotted leather strap on my trunk and hoisted it to his side. I closed my eyes as I felt the spring breeze pass through me and shake the trees downtown. His heels clicked alongside me.
He looked straight ahead as he walked and said, ‘You want a job
singin’? Me and my wife got a bar down in New Orleans. Could use someone to sing them ole-school blues.”
I don’t sing the blues anymore. I left my blues up north.”
You know what they say,” he said. “If you can’t sing ‘em, means you got ‘em.”
He kept walkin’, the trunk in hand, and nodded with a simple understanding.
Let me know when you want to come back,” he said. “Lot of folks lookin’ for you.”
Then something happened I hadn’t felt in a long time. My face tightened into something I once remembered as a smile.
“Tie Yo’ Monkey in a Knot.” Words and Music by Moses Jordan. © Copyright 1957, 1967 Diamond Music Inc. Copyright renewed (BMI).
“Feel Like Going Home.” Written by Muddy Waters. © 1964 ® 1992 WATER- TOONS MUSIC (BMI)/Administered by BUG. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
“How Long, How Long Blues.” Words and Music by Leroy Carr. © Copyright 1929, 1956 Universal-MCA Music Publishing, Inc., a division of Universal Studios. Copyright renewed (ASCAP). International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved.
“Silent Night.” Words and Music by Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber. Public domain.
“It Hurts Me Too.” Words and Music by Elmore James. © Copyright 1974 Rhinelander Music (BMI).
“Sweet Home Chicago.” Words and Music by Robert Johnson. © Copyright (1978) 1990, 1991 King of Spades Music. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
“Black Angel Blues.” Words and Music by Lucille Bogan. Public domain.
Table of Contents