Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bookfield, Delivery Week - Part 1

Mary, Chris and I had cardboard boxes of all of the books we sold delivered to the Sanders’ house before delivery week. We stored them in the central hallway adjacent to the stairs. Mary still had more books coming. It was such a huge pile of books! It as like a wall of cardboard and the Sanders remarked that they were astounded that we had sold so many. We tried to separate them into which ones belonged to whom.

When Jeff arrived, we loaded up his Impala’s trunk with the boxes of books for our first delivery run.

Early during delivery week, I returned the bike I had borrowed. I had had to replace the tires and had it all tuned up at a local bike shop. It was, however, still stuck in third gear. The man who owned the bike was shocked to see me return it.

“I thought that when you rode off on it, that would be the last I ever saw of it or you.” he said. “You have restored my faith in humanity, little girl.” He was amazed at the work I had done on the bike and how far I had ridden it during the summer. “I’m sure it came to better use than sitting in my breezeway.” he noted.

As we drove off, I said to Jeff, “Well, we might as well deliver to the one house I sold to in the projects today. It is on our way.”

“You sold books in the projects? Wait, you mean to tell me you went into the projects, alone?”

“Yeah. The sale was easy, but the woman had no money for a deposit and gave me one of her old shoes.” I opened my sales case and pulled out the shoe to show Jeff. He glanced over from driving and shook his head.

“I can’t believe you went in there by your self. You’re lucky you weren’t shot! If she didn’t give you any money, why try to deliver there? She probably still doesn’t have the money.”

“Well, leastways I will return her shoe.”

“It’s not worth anything, so why bother?”

“We made a bargain, and I will keep my half and return this shoe. We’re going into the projects; it is only one house any how.”

“Okay, but I suggest that you deposit what you’ve collected so far today in the bank before we go in the projects.”

“Do you really think we need to do that?”

“Yup. It would be foolish to go in there with any cash on us, or without a weapon.”

“Weapon?” I asked.

“Yeah, see that baseball bat in the back. I always carry it. You never know when you’ll need it, and I’ll feel better knowing that its there when we go into the projects.”

I looked over the back of my seat, and sure enough there was a heavy wooden baseball bat on the floor of the car. It looked brand new.

Jeff and I drove to the Citizens’ and Southern Bank to deposit all of the money in my blue-black zippered vinyl money collection envelope before we went to deliver to the one house I sold to in the projects. We had collected about a thousand dollars so far. It felt good to put it safely in the bank, and the bank cashier was so happy to see me when I walked in with so much cash. Jeff suggested that we take a Family Bible Library set out of the trunk here, in the bank’s parking lot, rather than when we got to the projects. He looked pretty serious about it, and I figured I’d just trust his judgment.

We got the set out of the trunk, put it on the floor of the front seat and hopped back into the old green Impala. Off we drove to the projects. The house I had sold to was only a handful of blocks from the bank. We pulled up in front of the house. Even though it was mid afternoon, no one was about. Jeff put the car in park and looked over at me nervously.

“Make it quick.” he suggested.

“Don’t worry, it will be fine.” I picked up the FBL set and the shoe and walked up to the door of the house. I knocked. The door did not open, but I heard noises inside.

“Shhh, honey, get away from the door and be quiet.” It was a whispered voice of the woman I had sold to from inside of the house.

“Hi there Mrs. Jones.”, I said. “It’s Sue Fairview. Remember you ordered some books from me and I’m here to deliver them?” I tried to speak loudly enough that she could hear me, without yelling.

“Do you have my shoe? Did you bring my shoe with you?” Her voice seemed fearful and aggressive.

“Yes, Ma’am. I have it right here.” I held out the shoe in front of me as if she could see it through the still closed door.

“Now you listen to me! I have a shotgun pointed at you right through this door. You leave that shoe on the stoop right there, and get out of here, so no one gets hurt. You leave that shoe, or I’ll shoot!”

‘Yes ma’am. I’m leaving it right here, ma’am.” I said as quickly as I could. I put the shoe on the concrete stoop theatrically, in case some on was watching, and backed off immediately. I walked briskly back to the car. I did not run. I felt that running would escalate the situation. Jeff leaned over to my side and pushed the door open before I got there. I slid in, slammed the door and said, “Let’s get out of here!” He did not hesitate to follow this instruction, and even seemed to have his drive out of there planned. I took one more look as we drove away. I saw the door open slightly. A black woman’s hand darted out and grabbed the shoe, pulling it back into the house. The door closed as quickly as it had opened.

“What happened back there?” Jeff asked me as we reached safer neighborhoods.

“She told me she had a shotgun pointed at me through the door and to leave the shoe on the stoop.”

“Thank God nothing happened! I told you it was a mistake to go back there. You risked your life to return that stupid old shoe. That bitch would have shot you for that damn shoe.”

“You were right.” I said dejectedly. But still I felt that returning the shoe to its owner was very right. I never should have been there to take it. It was as if the world order that had been disturbed the day that I took the shoe, was now restored. The shame I felt in taking it was lifted, especially since I had risked my life to restore the order.

At first I had been afraid when the woman claimed to have a gun. But that fear passed when I left the shoe on the stoop.

No comments: