Cane & Able
Mr. Eddie was raised by his grandmother, Queenie James, and Queenie could do no wrong in Mr. Eddie’s eyes, especially now that he’d lost his sight, and even more so because Mama Queenie had gone on to be with the Ancestors. Mr. Eddie wasn’t a fighter–not by even the biggest stretch of the imagination–but he wouldn’t hesitate to knuckle up and buck, if there was even the appearance of disrespect toward his dearly departed grandma. That’s why religious debates were perilous territory, fraught with instigation; he’d swung his cane in the direction of a voice more than once. See, Mama Queenie was a devout Christian and he couldn’t separate an attack on Christianity from an attack on his grandma: if you were calling or insinuating that Christians were stupid, then you were talking about Mama Queenie too. Nobody had been more Christian than her. Mr. Eddie, who hadn’t lost his sight until after her death, remembered seeing Mama Queenie praying so much to Jesus that she never went anywhere without a kneeling cushion; it was her American Express card.
Mr. Eddie believed in truth–never left home without it–it was the only religion he truly prescribed to. Truth was the light and the way, so he had no qualms with anyone speaking truth to Christianity. That’s why in debates, he never whacked an opponent for pointing out that Jesus wasn’t white. (If Mama Queenie was alive though, and heard you blaspheming like that, you’d definitely get a Raisin in the Sun-smack.) Mr. Eddie knew the truth: Jesus was born in Galilee, which is in Palestine, a land that’s part Africa and part Asia, so there’s no way Jesus was as pale as depicted in the paintings behind pulpits in many black churches.
But white Jesus wasn’t the only problematic issue with Christianity. Mr. Eddie admitted there was more that the church needed to discuss. The altar needed to be moved, the rug lifted up, and Christianity’s roots in slavery needed to be swept out. The fact that this fact had not once been the theme of a sermon was the biggest contributor to his exodus from the church. There was also the matter of Mr. Eddie never catching the Holy Ghost. The first time he’d ever been told of the Holy Ghost, it was in Sunday School, and afterwards he hid under the covers when he got home. Maybe that’s why he had to give up the Holy Ghost–their relationship started off on the wrong foot. First impressions are everything.
Mr. Eddie sometimes got the impression that Christianity critics, while speaking truth, were doing it in a disrespectful-ass manner. There was always this flippant tone, this laughing-at-you-not-with-you vibe and that shit didn’t fly with Mr. Eddie. Say what you got to say, especially if it’s truth, but watch how you say it. Say it like you’re talking to Mama Queenie. Mr. Eddie compared it to when the children of his generation were forced to tell an adult a critical truth or corrective comment. For example: noticing grandma, who suffers from dementia, is on her way to worship service dressed in her Easter Sunday best–and you have to let her know it’s Thursday. When you humbly inform her, that it’s actually Thanksgiving, you better be respectful.
Mr. Eddie felt the last voice he’d swung his cane at was very disrespectful; their sarcasm pissed Mr. Eddie off and drove him to literally lash out. The person he lashed out at was one of those Afrocentric “praise the Ancestors” types, but Mr. Eddie was cool with that; even he could feel the appeal of a belief system centered around African culture and traditions–certain aspects of it seemed more logical and user-friendly than Christianity. It was the sort of thing Mr. Eddie’s roommate, Big Sha, was into. Big Sha, who was also blind, practiced something called Ifa. Mr. Eddie didn’t completely understand it, but certain elements did catch his fancy. So he borrowed a part of what Big Sha believed in and put his own twist on it. I guess you could say it was the blind leading the blind.
Part of Big Sha’s Ifa involved cooking for his Ancestors. Mr. Eddie couldn’t cook, as his vision was way worse than Big Sha’s. Mr. Eddie’s vision had completely degenerated; Big Sha was only legally blind. So instead of cooking, Mr. Eddie would eat for his Ancestors: he’d honor Mama Queenie by eating French toast, bacon, cheesy grits and drinking black coffee for breakfast; for lunch, he’d honor his Auntie Elaine by eating a fried bologna sandwich with mustard spread on one slice of bread and mayo on the other; for dinner, he’d honor Uncle Benoit by eating fried liver with sauteed onions and slow-simmered gravy; and he would honor his cousin, Brother Samuel X, by eating a bean pie.
Many blind people have a pet name for their walking cane; Humble Pie was the nickname of Mr. Eddie’s cane, and this most recent person he had walloped with it, well, that’s exactly what they got: a big ‘ol slice. In life, Mr. Eddie followed a 10-second rule: an offensive person, totally lacking in humility, could run their mouth in front of him for up to 10 seconds without any consequences and repercussions; after that though, if at any point The Spirit moved him, he’d start swinging.
The latest individual to feel the wrath of Mr. Eddie’s cane, asked for it without a doubt. If you didn’t want a taste of Humble Pie, why did you open your mouth? You should’ve presented your grievances with Christianity in a more honorable manner. All those snide remarks were completely uncalled for. Mr. Eddie didn’t care what someone’s views were on the Bible–to each their own–but even with all its discrepancies, the book had loads of practical wisdom that served him well in everyday life. Case in point: If it wasn’t for all those Proverbs about the danger of anger, Mr. Eddie would’ve swung his cane at a lot more people.
Lately, Big Sha had been reading to Mr. Eddie the negative stuff people on the Internet were saying about Christianity. Some of it was so salacious that Mr. Eddie had to ask Big Sha if he was sure he was reading it right.
“Hell yeah, I’m reading it right,” an offended Big Sha would say; he would then remind Mr. Eddie that the lenses of his new glasses were made by Lockheed Martin, the same company that built the Hubble Space Telescope. Still, Mr. Eddie would have doubts; especially about one story Big Sha read to him, which contained vile accusations against King James (not the basketball player, but the one on the front cover of the Bible). This story gave a version of King James that made him out to be some sort of sexual deviant. Boy oh boy, if it had been humanly possible, Mr. Eddie surely would’ve given the Internet a serious licking for lying like that.
Truth be told, Mr. Eddie was fairly certain Christianity had its fair share of lies like any other religion. But he felt for it to be so indoctrinated–to the point that the host and belief system would both die if separated–it was proof that there was some solid central truth at the core of Christianity. The best lies are always rooted in truth. Not that Mr. Eddie felt Christianity was a lie, quite the contrary. He just felt it was more a matter a faith and in matters of faith there is always some level of misguided and misunderstood.
Mr. Eddie’s summary judgment of Christianity and all other religions (with the exception of Scientology) was that it was a highly personal choice that others should refrain from criticizing. Mr. Eddie would often remark that offering your view on someone else’s religion was like the time he tried to be a good Samaritan: on a city bus, he heard “a young hoochie momma” cursing at her child, who didn’t even sound old enough to walk, and he admonished her for such a public display of poor parenting skills. It was commendable–intervening on the child’s behalf–but all it did was get poor Mr. Eddie cursed out like nobody’s business. She called him everything but a child of God. And since that incident, Mr. Eddie felt that giving an opinion on religion was the same as doling out parental wisdom to hoochie mommas; it was better if you, as that foul-mouthed gal put it, “Shut the fuck up and mind your own fucking business.”
Half-a-million thoughts ran through Mr. Eddie’s mind; he had plenty of time to think in the police precinct’s holding cell. Pastor Bayleaf had warned him of this.
“Vengeance belongs to the Lord, Son, not your cane,” pastor had said, “You keep this up–this unwillingness to spare the rod–and watch what happens.”
“WATCH what happens,” Mr. Eddie chuckled as he recalled the pastor’s poor choice of words.
Mr. Eddie had some choice words for the person who called the law and got him locked up. I mean, who presses charges against a blind man? Mr. Eddie knew he was shifting blame instead of taking responsibility for his own actions. Accountability, he needed to work on that. But not now, he was too upset. One word kept working its way into Mr. Eddie’s head: the p-word, that’s what he wanted to call the victim of his cane, the word used for female genitalia. But Mr. Eddie knew that wasn’t cool, using female anatomy as an insult. He needed to work on that. But yet, Mr. Eddie longed to call this guy something that he knew would be sure to piss him off. Mr. Eddie and the victim were both from a place rife with toxic masculinity, a place where referring to a man as female genitalia was almost a capital offense; the only thing worse was telling someone to suck your male anatomy (that could get you the death penalty).
Even though Mr. Eddie was livid, never in life would he take it to the point of that last point: inviting another man to his frank stand. Perish the thought! Mr. Eddie wasn’t going to counter disrespect with more disrespect, especially if it had that level of crassness. By modern day standards, Mr. Eddie’s verbal arsenal was relatively mild; “triflin’ ass negro” was about as spicy as he got. And that was only reserved for the truly despicable, like the “I’ll pay you back next week” dude who still hadn’t repaid the money Mr. Eddie loaned him a year ago. This m.f.’er even had the audacity to come inside the check cashing place, get his tax refund, then walk right on by Mr. Eddie…and act like he didn’t see him.
Mr. Eddie couldn’t see the injuries his cane had inflicted, but the detectives told him they were pretty serious and that he should expect to also get hit with a civil lawsuit. If that did happen, he hoped his Christianity critic victim didn’t call the Celino & Barnes law firm. They were good at getting gigantic monetary verdicts. Mr. Eddie didn’t have money like that, just his monthly S.S.I. check.
“But check it,” Mr. Eddie thought, “If I had it to do it all over again, I’d still do it.” Yes, Mr. Eddie would wack the person again. Several times, with extreme prejudice and force. So what it drew blood? Christianity was all about the blood.
For Mr. Eddie, it wasn’t only about Mama Queenie being a Christian. Mr. Eddie bet that some of these Ancestor-praising critics were probably praising Ancestors, who themselves were Christians. So the hypocrisy of that did get Mr. Eddie’s britches in a bunch. The critics of his grandma’s religion needed to get their houses in order, as they had contradictions of their own that needed to be addressed.
The surgical supply store clerk asked Mr. Eddie to confirm his address. After making bail, he’d come to pick up the new cane he ordered, Humble Pie Two-Point-Oh. While waiting, Mr. Eddie started mentally compiling a list of names he’d ask Big Sha to Google for him: Medgar Evers, Emmit Till, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer… He already knew where Martin Luther King Jr. stood, but he wanted to check and see if any of the other Ancestors were Christians. “Check and SEE.” Mr. Eddie laughed at the thought of his unintended pun.
Mr. Eddie thought to himself, I betcha that person’ll be more respectful next time. You couldn’t go around Mr. Eddie, all willy-nilly, violating the tenth commandment. Thou shall not covet. That person, talking all reckless, had definitely been yearning to have something, an oops-up-side-the-head, and Mr. Eddie gave it to him. Take shots at Christianity, if you must, but you better put some respect on how you do it.
“Mr. Able, your cane is ready.” He didn’t bother to correct the clerk. People had been mispronouncing his name for as long as forever; everyone thought he was a variation of Cain’s brother. The correct way to pronounce his name was “Ab-led,” a-b-l-e-D, but for some strange reason no one could see the “d.” So Abled shortened his name to just Ed.
However, as he got older and grayer, it turned to Mr. Ed; he had no problem with that because folks were simply being respectful and he was all about respect. Hence, settling on Mr. Eddie. He didn’t want to be associated with a talking horse; no one was gonna have him be related to a jackass.
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
a beautiful day for a story.
Could you tell mine? Would you tell mine?
– The Storyteller’s Theme Song