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Excerpt from book:
Harry Martin whistled the song “Walking on Sunshine” while taking his shower on a seemingly typical October Monday morning. He felt exhilarated as the warm water from the showerhead in the large whirlpool bathtub swiftly sprayed out and cascaded down his body. Later, before leaving his home for work that morning, Harry kissed his wife on her cheek as she looked up at him between sips of her morning cup of coffee. “Hey, Honey Bunny,” he said to her. He ruffled his son Roger’s hair and kissed him loudly on the cheek as Roger ate his pancakes. “Morning, Rog Dog!” he greeted. “That ‘fro is growing out great!” He fist pumped his son’s fist. Harry kissed his daughter Marissa’s forehead as she stood drinking a cup of orange juice. “Morning, beautiful, Rissa Dissa,” he said. He kissed their dear family friend and housemate Mrs. Appelbaum on the cheek while she was in the middle of chewing on a bagel with cream cheese. “Hello, gorgeous,” he said to Mrs. Appelbaum. “Have a wonderful day!”
Around when Harry exited his front door the sun was shining, the sky was a glorious azure and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Because he resided in
Harry was dressed in a charcoal gray Armani suit purchased by his wife. Around his neck was a silk tie designed with a print of M.C. Escher’s Sky and Water drawing – the tie was a present from Mrs. Appelbaum. After placing his leather briefcase (a birthday gift from his children) and daily newspapers in his vehicle, Harry stepped back to the porch of the family’s older but contemporized 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom house. The house was tan with dark brown trim. Harry hugged and kissed his wife on the lips under a tan concrete arch built over the porch (where his wife was standing to bid him goodbye). “Love you, baby,” Harry said. “Love you too, sweetie,” replied his wife.
Harry felt so exultant and was in such high spirits that he was tempted to jump up and click his heels a la Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire in one of those old movies. Before entering his shiny black Ford Explorer, he threw his car keys in the air in a carefree way, spun around and caught them successfully in his hand. He got in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, blew the horn and turned on the AC. His daughter, Marissa, a freshman in high school, came running out the door with her backpack slung over one shoulder. Her hair braids flopped up and down as she ran. She was dressed in Apple Bottom blue jeans, a yellow short sleeve shirt with a shiny silver Baby Phat cat on the front, and yellow high top Converse All Star sneakers.
When Marissa got in the passenger seat and closed the door, Harry said, “Let’s ride
Less than four hours later, Harry Martin was staring out the window from his 15th floor office in a dramatically different mood. He was looking through the glass, but he really wasn’t seeing anything. He was in a daze; a daze that was brought on by an incident that had occurred less than fifteen minutes prior. Boy, Harry thought. It was amazing how the world and life that you were accustomed to, and which was fine the way it was, could change in an instant. A person’s entire existence could be turned upside down by something as simple as a ten-minute phone call. This is what happened to Harry,
Harry felt that at any moment he was going to break down and cry. Sitting behind his shiny mahogany desk, his back cushioned by the luxuriousness of the soft leather of his chair, Harry sensed that if he didn’t keep himself together, he would erupt into a bawling fit. He sniffed up the water that was beginning to drip from his nose.
He snatched up a Kleenex from the Halloween themed decorative box on his desk and held it against his nostrils. Halloween was a few weeks away and someone had given him a Kleenex container covered with ghosts and goblins.
Harry squeezed his eyes tightly to suppress the teardrops that were accumulating and threatening to gush down his face. He swallowed and breathed deeply to calm the wail that was creeping up his six-foot plus tall body. He believed if he tried to speak his words would be blocked by the lump that had become lodged in his throat. He shuddered even as the sun shone outside. Outside the weather was so calm that the leaves on the trees barely moved.
Harry’s heart, body and soul felt worn out and heavy. All of this was the result of a 10 minute phone call which happened to be from the woman who had given birth to Harry; a person whom he had not seen in over 20 years. The woman who caused Harry to feel self-hatred and pain as a result of neglect, harsh, abusive language, an occasional slap across the face, and doing things such as locking him and his siblings out of the house on cold nights with no access to the bathroom because they hadn’t heard her “the first time” she called them to come inside. Her actions still affected Harry to this day. She had seen her son on some Internet web page and apparently decided to phone him. Harry really wished she hadn’t.
Harry could not believe the terror he felt but he just could not shake it. He had argued and won cases against some of the state’s toughest litigators. Those battles were mild compared to an impending confrontation with Myrlie, his mother. His mother was not a big woman – he knew this because even when he was a kid and saw her for the last time, she wasn’t much taller that he was. Now, at his current height, she probably didn’t even reach his shoulders. Still, that brought him no comfort.
Harry leaned back in the black leather chair and covered his face in exasperation. He regretted ever allowing his photograph to be taken at the “Hometown Heroes Recognition Celebration,” where he and others had been honored for their community work. He had been given an award for his pro bono work, which included helping indigent citizens, including people who might have been illegally evicted, immigrants (often brought to him by his and his business partner’s secretaries), and other types of cases. He also mentored troubled boys and ex-convicts, doing what he could to help them get their lives moving in a positive direction. He was on the board of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters and sponsored their programs.
His own “little brother,” Travis, whom he’d known for nearly twenty years, was now a doctor. Travis’ mother was a drug addict, abusive and neglectful. In fifth grade, Travis began to fight, curse out teachers and skip school. Harry’s mentor and friend, Chuck Gordon, found out about Travis and suggested that Harry spend time with him. At that time, Harry was a twenty-year old college student.
Harry and Travis would go to football, baseball and basketball games. They would go the movies and to the library. Harry would use some of his financial aide and salary to buy Travis new clothes. Harry was thrilled when Travis laughed out loud at Eddie Murphy clowning around in one of his movies. It had taken at least three months for Harry to crack through Travis’ angry exterior. Harry was forced to put the boy in his place several times. The first time Travis crossed the line Harry looked him in the eye and said, “You’re not going to talk down to me. I’m doing this because I want to, not because I have to. But you’re going to have to respect me. Are we cool about that?” Travis nodded his head. “Okay,” Harry said. “Let’s go get some ice cream.” Travis’ own “little brother,” Hunter, was in college. Travis now had a wife, Justine, and a five-year-old son named Sean.
Harry felt that without the support of kind people in his own life, his world would have become a very different place. So, helping others came naturally to him. He did not participate in volunteer work for fame and recognition. He was actually surprised at the speed with which his popularity grew from his face being posted on the Internet. His face became the image associated with stories about the event, and even related accounts of people helping people. People that he hadn’t seen in ages began contacting him. People that he had never met before began introducing themselves to him. Initially he was pleased and a little flattered about the attention, but several months ago a sickening feeling in his gut came over him that he couldn’t place. It hit him now.
Damn, he silently cursed at the force responsible for returning this woman to his life (be it fate, coincidence or the devil, he wasn’t sure). Although he hadn’t heard that shrilly, loud voice in years, he knew right away who she was when she said, “Hey boo-boo,” and before she said, “It’s yo’ mama.” What the hell does she want? he thought. This was all he needed.
“Splittin’ image of yo’ daddy,” she’d said. “I wa-ant always sho’ who yo daddy was, but soon as I saw dat piture I knowed right den. If you ain’t jes like that no good Hammer. So, you a lawya. Outa my fo’ childrens I neva woulda thought you be the one makin’ somethin’ outa yoself. You was always kinda smart, always readin’ books, but I thought you was not tough enough ta hang wit da big boys. I ain’t too proud to admit it when I’m wrong.
“But anyway. Listen, Boo,” she said. “Ooh, I’d love to see my baby. Yo’ black self. Mama’s comin’ ta town and she’ll be at the Miami Downtown Greyhound station ‘round 10 Wednesday monin’. Yo’ office is ‘round there somewhere, right?
“Oh, by da way, if that fii-iine chick standin’ nex to you was yo’ wife in one-a those pitures I saw, she sho got it goin on. Fo’ sho’. Never woulda thought you had in ya’ to end up wit somebody like dat, but I sho ain’t mad atcha. See ya Wednesday. Don’t forget – 10 o’clock at the Miami Greyhound station. Da Downtown one. Bye!” She hung up before he had a chance to blow her off or attempt to convince her that she had the wrong person.
Harry shook his head to clear his mind and regain focus. He watched a swarm of wild green parrots flying in the sky past his window. He turned his head and looked around his office. On the wood paneled wall were his Bachelor in American History and law degrees from the University of Miami; plaques and awards he received for his community work; framed drawings by his son and writings by his daughter. There were prints of paintings by Romare Bearden (“Jamming at the
The lyrics to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” were inscribed in calligraphy on framed parchment paper bordered in shiny gold. Versions of the Preamble and Bill of Rights of the U.S Constitution; the Declaration of Independence; the Emancipation Proclamation; and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech were framed on the wall. There were portraits of people that Harry admired: Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, Bayard Rustin, Julius Rosenwald, Grace Connors (Harry’s mother-in-law, who had been lawyer, as well as a civil rights activist), Dominick Dimaio, Sr. (Harry’s professional mentor and father figure) and Chuck Gordon (Harry’s life mentor and good friend). There was also a photo of Harry and Claire with Denzel Washington at a Boys and Girls Club fundraising ball
Harry looked at photos of his family on his desk. There was his wife Claire, daughter Marissa, son Roger, and the newest addition to the family: Mrs. Appelbaum, an elderly neighbor who had moved into their home after falling and breaking a hip. Harry cringed at the thought of introducing any of them to his mother. She had been married a few times by the time he was 10 so he wasn’t sure what her last name was. None of the marriages lasted very long. Harry wasn’t sure if she’d even gone through divorce proceedings when one marriage ended and another began. Harry was 11 when he saw her for the last time.