Watch out for the quiet ones. They often take you places you didn’t think you’d go. After Buck Crenshaw and his twin threw William Weldon from a hayloft and broke his arm in THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD I thought I’d never see Buck again.
But there was Buck in his quietly scheming yet tentative way tapping my shoulder. I’m going to West Point, he kept saying so when an actual human friend wanted me to tag along on a trip up to the academy to see her son I was game. I’d been going to football there for a while, but this time we walked the grounds on a perfect late spring day.
Buck came along, of course, in my mind. What’s the story, Buck? I asked myself or Buck or my muse. No one answered, but weeks later after I promised Buck I’d write something about him (I’d already imagined him now in cadet uniform, with violet eyes like his mother’s and sandy colored straight hair sitting at his desk and being far more studious than I would have guessed) I stumbled upon the controversy surrounding admittance of the first black cadets to West Point.
I shook my head, no. I’m not going to write about evil white boys hazing perfect black boys. I knew life was more complex than “this color is good; this color is bad” and I didn’t want to touch the subject. AND THERE IT WAS. Buck sat a little smugly at his desk now (polished uniform buttons and all). Yes, he seemed to say, I want no part of this messy race stuff. I want to be an officer and beat my twin brother in all things and win Rose Turner’s hand in marriage and THAT’S IT.
But what about this Milford Streeter (who is as seriously flawed as everyone else) arriving as one of the first (but not the first) black young men to give the Academy a go?
Buck looked me in the eye. So? What of it? I’m at the top of my class and going for colors. I have nothing against Streeter and I’ll be the gentleman I’m supposed to be.
But what will your brother Fred and his friends a year ahead of you at West Point think when you befriend Streeter?
Buck got a little ruffled at this question and replied: I SAID I’D BE A GENTLEMAN TO STREETER. I NEVER SAID I’D BE HIS FRIEND.
I noticed something in the way he said it though–a crack in his aloof and confident demeanor. Buck Crenshaw wasn’t hard like his brother. He’d allow a sort of friendship and there’s where Buck’s troubles began.
Perfection is a myth. Flawed humanity is the reality. Compassion is the only hope.
And for those of you who haven’t read the other story about the people of Tenafly Road, my first novel THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD will be on sale (KINDLE COUNTDOWN) in ebook form beginning Friday, June 5th-12th.