Bobby Lee was pushing his broom through the Hub when he saw Librarian Martha Hobbs rush from the cubicle of Medical Student and knock-out blond Eloise Altoids. Martha seemed to be upset and was wiping a tear from one eye as she hurried to the staircase to descend to office.
Bobby looked at the fleeing back of Martha, whom he considered more than just a co-worker, and went in to see Eloise to find out what was the matter.
"I think that she got her ancient granny panties in a was when she found out that I wasn't a virgin," said Eloise to his questioning. "You know how uptight and constipated some old ladies act when it comes to sex."
Bobby Lee nodded his head in agreement, took one last look at the delicious bosum of young lady, and continued his rounds. He decided to take a second swing through the library today, just to check on Martha again.
He had to check on her...after all, even if she didn't know it, she was still family.
His mind returned to that night and the events of many years ago.
Standing on a Rainy Porch
Robert Ezra Lee Johnson knocked at the door of the parsonage out behind the church. He was soaking wet in his raincoat and hat and only the area around his nose and mouth could be seen.
A woman answered the door.
"Evening, Ma'am. Is the Reverend Hobbs here?"
"We run a white congregation and you are dripping on my porch," answered the haughty lady with a Bible in one hand. "The black Southern Baptist Church meets on the other side of the tracks and can take care of your handout."
The man was somewhat dismayed by her tone and actions, and interrupted as she begin to shut the door. "This is personal between me and the reverend, Ma'am," he said. "Our parents were aquainted in Alabama."
The woman looked the dripping black man up and down and told him that her husband could be found in the church, tidying up after the day's services. She then told him that he needed to be sure and mop up any water he got on the floors and to not sit on any padded pews or chairs.
The Right Reverend J.E.B. Stuart Hobbs looked up as the dripping black man entered his chapel.
"Sir," said Bobby, "I've come many miles and many years to meet you." He removed his hat and raincoat and walked down the aisle towards the Reverend.
"Boy," said the clergyman, "we got a black Southern Baptist Church for you folks on the other side of the tracks. I can give you a ride over if you don't mind sitting in the back of my pick-up."
"Sir," said Bobby, "My name is Robert Ezra Lee Johnson, but most folks calls me Bobby Lee. Just like you, I come from Birmingham, Alabama. I know that our folks knew each other back there, and I comes to meet you for the first time."
The thoughts of his joyful childhood at the Seminary where his father was Dean pleased the Reverend, and he thought that he might like to reminesce with this man for a few moments, even if he were colored. "My father had a black maid named Johnson when I was a child. I remember her. Are you related? How is your mother?"
"My mother died six weeks ago, and that's why I'm here to talk with you," said Bobby.
He remembered the last moments, setting by the hospital bed as his mother gasped for air. He tried to will the pain from her cancer-ridden body, but knew that she was in the final breaths of life.
"Bobby, brings your brothers and your sisters around."
He'd gotten them from the hallway where all were awaiting the passing.
"For many years, I has lied to you childrens. You'se growned up now and deserves the truth. The man you call your Pappy wasn't really your Pappy. He was hurt in the war and couldn't father any childrens on me."
"The man who was your father was a man of strong and mighty passions and our doings was something we both needed. He was a man that I also loved, but he made me swears never to tell you'se the truth. Now, he's dead and I'se dying and I has to make myself right with God."
"Dean Hobbs was your father. You'se children is half cracker."
Bobby looked up at the man who was his half-brother but didn't yet know it.
"I'm sorry to hear about your mother. She was a good woman, for a negress. I remember that my father always seemed pleased with her."
If only he knew!
Bobby sat down on the last pew and tried to explain the history of their families to the Reverend. The clergyman, however, quickly grew angry and wanted no part of it.
"I'll take you to the county line and drop you off, but I never want to see you again or hear another of those monstrous lies again. Your mother has deceived you and I will not have such blasphemy spoken about my father in this church again! Speak another word and I call the Sheriff. Even if this is the North, we still have Knights in this area."
The Reverend continued hurling insults as he escorted Bobby Lee to his pick-up truck. The racial slurs were worse than anything he ever remembered hearing from his youth in the South and the insults of his mother brought a tear to his eye and rage to his heart.
The words of the Reverend angered Bobby Lee. How dare speak that way of his mother! How dare he deny the flesh and blood brother before him!
He rode in the back of the pick-up, feeling the force of the rain, while his "brother" sat in the dry and heated cab by himself. This treatment brought even more anger to him and he picked up the tire iron.
The truck passed an Asylum and stopped a mile later at the county line.
As the Reverend stepped out of the cab, Bobby hit him with the tire iron again and again, not wanting to stop. Speak that way about his mother! All of the pain of growing up black came out in a rage of fury.
Bobby only stopped when he realized that the thing before him on the ground was no longer a living and breathing man. It was only a pile of meat.
He knew he had to get away; he had to escape. If there were Knights of the Klan in this area and his half brother had been one of them, he knew he'd never get a fair trial and would endure a lynching.
He remembered the Asylum a mile back. Maybe he could hide out there?
As he ran back towards the place, he passed signs that referred to it as The Moorview Institute.
Nearing the facility, he saw that lightning had struck the building and that people were trying to put out a huge fire in the offices. He snuck in, found clothing like the rest of the patients wore, and found an empty bedroom.
Maybe he could blend in?
Bobby had managed to blend in for over twenty five years. People just assumed that he was a new resident and that his paperwork had been destroyed in the fire and that the employees who registered him had been among the dead.
Bobby had always thought that twenty five years was a pretty good sentence for murder, and now that his time had past, he wondered why he didn't just escape and leave this place.
The reactions of his brother had also made him question his faith. His father, Dean of a Seminary, refused to acknowledge parenthood of his children and always treated blacks as second class citizens. His brother, another minister, had many of the same feelings towards blacks. He didn't know if he could be a Christian if this was the way that Christian men acted.
He'd been scared at first when Martha started working here, worrying that she might recognize him as that "mysterious black man" that had murdered her husband on the highway.
In time, he'd grown fond of his step-sister in law and enjoyed their bantar in the library. He couldn't, however, tell her the truth of his identity of what had happened on the highway that night.
In some ways, he saw what his brother had seen in her and loved her, but what chance would a half-black man ever have...with no proof of identity...and a questionable faith...in Illinois.
With more Christian charity in him than anyone else in his white family, he headed after Martha to see if there was any way that he could give her comfort.
If you are interested in reading other chapters in the Moorview saga, here they are: