Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tesla's Stepdaughters - Chapter 7 Excerpt


After breakfast, Andrews ordered a cab which drove them to a large park a short distance away. Atlanta was a beautiful city with white buildings and blue skies, a stark contrast to the smoky and black cities of the north. The city park was filled with trees and fountains, with a winding path wandering through them and eventually circling around to where it began. Just beyond the path was the playground with ten or twelve children spinning on the merry-go-round, sliding down the metal slide only to run around and back up to slide down again, or swinging in singles or pairs. Andrews watched for a moment, all the time it took to determine that all the children were girls.


“Shall we take a stroll around?”

Ruth nodded.

They slowly made the circuit of the park, enjoying the sun on their skin.

“This is kind of strange,” said Ruth.

“What is?”

“I haven’t seen any black faces since we arrived in Atlanta—not in the airport, not at the hotel, and not here at the park.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

“Well, you wouldn’t, would you? In Chicago, maybe one in ten women was of African descent. Even in New York…”

“Well, there are black people in this region, right? They didn’t all move north during the Great War?”

“A lot of them did move, enough for historians to call it the Great Migration anyway. But yes, there should still be some here.”

They had just about completed the circuit and were approaching the playground again, when Andrews saw two Atlanta police officers walking across the grass toward them. Placing his hand on Ruth’s lower back, he altered their course slightly toward them. Both officers were women, wearing blue uniforms with six pointed stars and leather-billed eight point caps.

“Hold it right there, ladies,” said one of the cops, lazily laying a hand on her sidearm.

Andrews moved his hand to Ruth’s stomach and gently moved her behind him.

“Science Police,” he said, loudly.

The two officers stopped, their eyes opening, though whether startled by the tone of his voice or by the statement of his affiliation, it was impossible to say.

“Do you have some identification to that effect… um, sir?” asked the one who had spoken before in a pronounced southern accent.

Andrews carefully withdrew his wallet from his right breast pocket, and holding it open so that both the picture ID and the badge were in clear view, he stepped toward them.

“Alright, Agent Andrews. We were just checking out a call.”

“A call about what?”

“A citizen reported two suspicious-looking people in the park.”

“Suspicious-looking because they thought I was a woman dressed like a man, or because of her color?”

The officer looked like she had something foul in her mouth. She said. “The colored women usually frequent the park on the other side of the train tracks.”

“The other side of the tracks… how… cliché. Segregation is illegal. The Science Council outlawed it in 1963.”

“We don’t work for your Science Council…” the other officer started, but was silenced when the first raised her hand.

“There’s no segregation here. They just usually spend their time at the other park. You have a nice day now.” She turned and started back toward the black and white Packard beside the road. Her partner stood for just a minute, as though she wanted to say something else, then she too headed back toward the cruiser.

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