ASHES

Act One

Scene 1

WYNDEL BLACKMAN, a Black American aged early-thirties, and his mother MOMMA BLACKMAN have just arrived at the airport in an un-named W. African county. They and their luggage are in a booth where “he” is being questioned by a CUSTOM’S AGENT. There is a suitcase opened in front of the AGENT, and its contents spread in front of the AGENT. Other suitcases are also open, but their contents not spread. Included in those contents are three bags of gray/white powder, a book, and a framed photograph of a woman.

CUSTOM AGENT

So, you’re travelling as a family, Mr. Blackman?

MOMMA

Correct. We sure is.

CUSTOMS AGENT

You, your mother, and your father: is that correct?

WYNDEL

I suppose you could say that.

MOMMA

Why you asking these questions? Don’t you got nothin’ better—

CUSTOMS AGENT

(Interrupting)

Well, I see your passport and your mother’s but where is your father’s?

WYNDEL

He doesn’t need one.

MOMMA

No he don’t!

CUSTOMS AGENT

Sir, everybody entering our country is required to present a passport unless they are a citizen in which case—

WYNDEL

(Interrupting)

He isn’t a citizen although my mother might dispute that with me.

MOMMA

Boy, you know he comes from here. We done proved that with science. We tested your DNA to prove it.

CUSTOMS AGENT

He has to present proof of citizenship.

WYNDEL

Like I said, he isn’t exactly a citizen and he don’t have to have a passport.

CUSTOMS AGENT

Mr. Blackman, your father needs to be a citizen or he must have a passport.

MOMMA

Not if he be dead he don’t.

WYNDEL

We brought him with us but he isn’t here—not in the way you mean. He hasn’t been here for a few months now. But we have brought him back, back to his homeland. Least that’s what my mother says. She says,

(Mimicking her voice)

“This here’s his home and we got ta bring him home.”

CUSTOMS AGENT

I see. So he is with you in spirit, but not in person. That I suppose makes sense although it would have been easier if you….

(Picks up one of the bags of gray/white powder from the suitcase)

However, there is another problem. So, Mr. Blackman, do you think that you can bring drugs into our country and not get caught? Do you know the penalty for drug smuggling?

WYNDEL

(Laughs)

I told her it was stupid. “Momma,” I said, “they aren’t gonna let us bring those ashes into no country and scatter them.” Course, did she listen? No, sir. She never does. Just “We gotta take your Daddy home.” Home, Jesus, the man grew up in Mississippi and moved to Cincinnati when he was grown. Never been out of the U.S. of A. except once and that was by accident. He and his buddy, Uncle George, were driving George’s car to San Diego. Got lost in El Paso. They went across the border by accident. He told me that story when I was a teen. Says,

(Imitating his father’s voice)

“Two Black men trying to get back into Texas. Took most of a day ‘cause we had to be carryin’ drugs. Wyndel, if there’s one thing you need to know, boy, it’s two Black men doin’ anything the cops gonna stop ya and look for them drugs.”

Sir, those aren’t drugs. They are my father’s ashes. That’s what I was talking about. We’re taking them to scatter where his great-great-grandfather comes from. The slavers took him and dragged him off when he was just a teenager. That was almost two hundred years ago. I don’t know where he was buried. Don’t know where his great-grandfather was buried neither. His grandfather? Well, he’s in Mississippi, right in the cemetery next to the Black Baptist Church. My Granny and Uncle Luke, they’re in the same place, right next to. But, Momma, she says, “No, sir,—

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