A Hot Time in the Old Town

"I couldn't very well sell the place. Oh, I could choose who I sold it to, but what if those people then went and sold it to some unsuspecting black family? I couldn't live with that possibility. So I hung onto it. The neighborhood went downhill a little bit, as neighborhoods do. Then the city made me an offer. They said they wanted to rip it down and build this park. I nearly sprained my wrist, I signed the paperwork so fast.

"See, nobody ever figured out--officially, at least--what really happened to Bob Harrison. Nobody but me. I figured it out.

"Bill Lundy and Frank Conway, when they burned poor Ezra, they just thought they were ridding the world of one more unwanted black man. But it was worse than that.

"Those two sons of bitches poisoned my house. All that hate. The worst kind of hate. Unwarranted hate. Idle, thoughtless hate. They left it behind. And poor Bob Harrison walked right into it."

The old man sagged against the back of the bench. I exhaled, suddenly, violently. My breath had been caught in my chest for some time and my head ached. Across the park, the excitable dog and his indulgent master had ended their game and were on their way elsewhere.

"You probably don't believe me, do you?" His voice cracked, whether from emotion or because he was unaccustomed to talking this much, I couldn't say.





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