This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Submitted into Contest #45 in response to: Write a story about activism.... view prompt



When Eden was ten, she had asked her mom why Hitler and the Nazis had killed all those people in Germany. She had read The Diary of Anne Frank even though her parents asked her not to. She was "too sensitive" they had said. It would cause her to have nightmares again

"Why? Because they were bad people, Sweetheart."

The answer was not satisfactory to Eden. Her grandpa David was the only one who understood. He had been an English teacher and encouraged her to read not only Anne Frank, but To Kill A Mockingbird which was her favorite book ever.

At the beginning of the school year before they were forced into quarantine, her ninth grade history class was assigned a unit about the Little Rock Nine. It was baffling to Eden that this ever happened. She was well aware of slavery, beatings, lynchings, all of that. But the idea that federal troops had to be sent to Arkansas so that 9 kids could get an equal education made no sense!

It was late May now and Eden had been sequestered in the house with her parents and her younger sister for two months now. They really did not go out except to go to the grocery store, pick up take out, or ride their bikes around the neighborhood.

Eden always finished her schoolwork way ahead of time and then she settled in the den to watch CNN or MSNBC. They kept showing the video of the police officer with his knee against the man's neck. Over and over.

Her mom would come into the room, grab the remote and demand Eden stop watching. Eden complied. Then she would watch the same footage on her phone or laptop.

She tried to sleep at night, but couldn't get the image of the man out of her head.

I can't breathe....

My life matters....

8 minutes and 46 seconds....

One evening Eden's mother was in the kitchen putting food in a Tupperware container. Rosemary chicken, roasted potatoes, and green beans. The same meal they had just eaten for dinner.

"Eden, I'm taking this over to your grandfather. He refuses to go to the grocery store anymore. You can come with me. Just wear your mask."

" They have Senior hours at the Jewel, Mom. Why can't you just get groceries for him when we go? "

"Because he won't cook for himself, Eden. The man is as stubborn as an ox. Maybe you can talk some sense into him. He loves you. I certainly can't."

They walked the three blocks to her grandfather 's condo carrying two Tupperware containers full of food. Eden's grandfather had sold the house he shared with her Grandma Rachel after she died three years ago.

Her grandfather was in his usual spot in front of the TV. He wore a thick grey sweater despite the May warmth. It seemed to Eden that after Grandma Rachel died her grandfather had become an old man overnight.

His eyes were glued to the TV screen. News footage of the "incident" in Minnesota and the subsequent peaceful protest followed by looting and rioting.

"Not you too, Dad. It's bad enough that I can't get Eden to stop watching all of this."

"She's 14 years old, Christina Blue. She's old enough to watch and form her own opinion."

Eden knew her mom hated it when her grandfather used her middle name. It was a reminder of the brief hippie period when her grandparents had lived in a commune in Oregon. Her mom was born there in 1971. That was why she had a hippie middle name.

"Maybe so. But she's having nightmares about this stuff, Dad."

"Grandpa, if you could go out and protest, would you?" Eden asked him.

" What do you mean if I could? I'm not that old and feeble yet. I'm just leaving it to the youngsters this time around. "

Eden had done a term paper last year about the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. She had interviewed her grandfather for her project. He told her all about meeting her grandmother at an anti Vietnam protest near the Northwestern campus. They'd been in Grant Park together when the Chicago police department turned on protesters with tear gas. With Mayor Daley's consent, as her grandfather put it.

"Don't be giving this one ideas, Dad," Eden's mom said.

Eden had a hard time sleeping again that night. She had finally fallen asleep when her phone pinged with a text at 3 am. It was from her neighbor and best friend Colin Regan.

Colin:Mom is gonna take us to a protest rally down in the Loop on Saturday. Wanna join us?

Eden: Yes! Yes! Yes!

David Berman was also having difficulty sleeping. Not that he'd gotten a decent night's sleep since Rachel died.

His granddaughter Eden was a beautiful, sweet sensitive soul. Strong, intelligent and compassionate like her grandmother. But she was young and had not figured out yet that the world was a complex place and that some questions did not have easy answers.

His older brother, Michael had been a Chicago cop. He enlisted in Vietnam after high school and joined the Chicago PD when he returned. He did not have a violent or abusive bone in his body.

Three years after he joined he was shot in the leg during a robbery. It took a year of rehab before he could walk normally. As soon as Michael recovered he was back on the job.

The images he had seen on TV were etched in his brain. At 72 years of age he thought he'd seen it all. He felt as though the country, his country, was a powder keg about to explode.

When he got the text from his granddaughter at 3am he almost didn't answer. David hated text messages.

Eden: I am going downtown for a rally on Saturday with the Regan family. Please come, Grandpa!

Eden was walking up the steps to the purple line stop in Evanston when she saw him get out of his car and walk toward her. This was so great! Her grandfather was finally getting out of the apartment and he was joining them!

He took her hand as they joined the others walking ahead of them. Most of them wore masks and carried signs.

"I take it your mom and dad do not know about this and that you snuck out. You will call them when we get into the city and let them know we are safe. And you will accept whatever punishment they dish out."

" Fair enough. I think both of us are in trouble. "

David looked at his granddaughter with love and pride. She was living proof that good things existed in a world gone mad.

June 10, 2020 02:11

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