“Hey folks, this is Cool Cal, coming at you from WAOK in Atlanta, G-A, right here at 1380 AM. I know I been promising y’all that Councilman Eddie Cantrell is coming. And I know he is. So y’all sit tight, cause I’m here to tell you, something big is about to go down in Atlanta, GA. Something that ain’t never happened before. So, you better mark your calendar—you better know what you were doing on December 14, 1977.
And you better be listening to what this cat has to say. I think we all know what it is. Rumors been floating. Lies been flying. But soon, my brother, Eddie, will be here to tell us the truth.
And y’all, it’s a lot of people down here. The brothers and the sisters have turned out. And you should see these reporters. We got press from the Washington Post and the New York Times. I was even talking to a brother here from Ghana, West Africa. So you know something is going down big. Don’t give up on the brother now. I know he’s late—30 minutes late—CP time late. But Eddie Cantrell is a serious brother. He ain’t but 38 years old and he is really smokin’. He is a man of the people and for the people. Not one of these skinnin’ and grinnin’ brothers. Y’all know what I’m talking about. So if he’s late, he’s got a good reason. Don’t you touch that dial, cause you ain’t doing nothing but eating skins and sipping on a Coke—or a little something else. Let me put on a little “Back in Love Again” by LTD to hold you til showtime.”
It was a cold December day. The sky above city hall was a blue gray color. The air was crisp, penetrating through the thin wool coats that most Atlantans wore in the coldest winter months of December and January. The crowd was shivering, standing on the steps of city hall. Some milled around on the yellowed grass, crunching under their feet from a light frost. The trees, devoid of any leaves, appeared to hunch over as if they wanted to reach down and scoop up the bystanders leaning against their trunks. The TV trucks were lined up around the curb. There was more than the usual number, as the national reporters were also there to broadcast the announcement. The news anchors were huddled inside of their trucks, while the written media reporters had to brave the cold outside.
Phyllis stood before the crowd with her two young children, anxiously awaiting her husband’s arrival. Eddie had phoned her before she left the house to ask her to go ahead, because he had to stop by his mother’s house. That was over 30 minutes ago. Mrs. Cantrell only lived ten minutes from city hall. Phyllis worried that something was wrong. Eddie was normally very punctual. He hated being late. And he hated for people to make him wait. Her mind raced over all the possible scenarios that an anxious wife would conjure up at this time—car accident, heart attack. Maybe Eddie had walked in to find his mother dead. Phyllis shook her head, as if to shake away those kinds of troubling thoughts.
But, they stayed with her. This was the most important announcement of Eddie’s life and he was late. She began to shiver. One of Eddie’s city council aides walked up behind her and lightly tapped her on the shoulder.
“Mrs. Cantrell, why don’t you and the children step inside?” Phyllis nodded, ushering Eddie, Jr. and Tracey toward the front doors of city hall. As Phyllis entered the doors, she could hear grumbling behind her. Understanding the short attention span of excited crowds and the cold, she knew that if Eddie did not arrive soon, there would be no one to make an announcement to.
Eddie stood, staring out of the window of his mother’s bedroom at the Atlanta skyline. It had been a while since he had been in her room. He never felt comfortable there since the death of his father when Eddie was fourteen.
The room had not changed much over the last twenty-four years. Eddie’s mother, Mary Louise, never changed her mother’s bedroom furniture, which was scarred and peeling from the years of use. She said it was antique now and would be valuable to whichever of her four children would take it when she died. The only new pieces of furniture in the room were the shiny fake brass floor lamps that sat on either side of the bed and a trifold 1978 calendar from the Auburn Life Insurance company that sat atop her bureau, along side an old green alabaster vase filled with dusty pink and yellow plastic flowers.
Mary Louise sat in her rocking chair by her bed, watching Eddie at the window, as she tugged at the afghan that she had wrapped around her. She usually talked to Eddie in the living room, but she was not feeling well today and had not been able to venture beyond her rocking chair. She sat rocking slowly, waiting for Eddie to tell her what was on his mind. She knew he was already late for his press conference. So, what he had to say must have been important.
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