Louis pulled the olive-drab wool service cap down as far as it could go. Why he was hiding his face, he didn’t know. It was not like anyone could see him. Louis’s heart fluttered. After all these years, even the thought of her made him blush. His excitement was quickly replaced by sorrow. He had not been the best husband. Maybe if he were, she would not have asked for that restraining order, he would not have joined the Army, and the terrible future he knew was coming would not happen.
But Louis was on a mission, so now he couldn’t think about that. Life was funny in that way. Sometimes you don’t realize your purpose until after you have already lived.
The scream of the train’s horn startled him out of his thoughts. The 63rd Street Station in Chicago was lively, with travelers. He looked down at his watch as the train’s horn sounded again. They will be here any minute now.
“Now, where do you think you are going?”
Louis looked up and smiled. That tiny voice and round, golden-brown face always did something to him. Then, she had the nerve to have those sexy glasses on. But Mamie wasn’t talking to him and had not spoken to him in years. No, Mamie Carthan was talking to their son.
Louis stopped thinking about her beauty and rushed over to stand next to them. There was not much time left, and although he knew neither one could see him, the whole situation still made him nervous. Nerves. Was that even a thing anymore? Louis brushed imaginary lint from his wool, four-button olive coat. It was the same coat he had been wearing for ten years now. The same uniform he has worn since he died.
“Come on, ma. I’m gonna be late,” whined the chubby little boy.
Louis smiled. He knew Emmett would be a handful the day they discovered he was a breech baby. That’s why he gave him his name because he knew he’d be hard-headed, just like his father. Emmett Louis Till. Bursting into the world wide-eyed and feet first.
“Yea, but you didn’t kiss me goodbye.”
Emmett smiled and gave Mamie a peck on the cheek.
Give her the watch.
Louis cleared his throat. He hadn’t realized how long it’s been since he had said anything out loud. He looked around at the people walking by. It was strange the way they seemed to look right at him.
Give her the watch.
He repeated the command as he stared down at his son.
You won’t need it where you are going.
He could see the boy thinking the words over in his head. He knew he thought they were coming from his own mind. Louis had come to learn that sadness was different in the after-world, but if he could, he would shed a tear. He stood watching his son remove the watch he was wearing and give it to his mother, and his heart ached at the future.
“Here,” said Emmett, “take my watch.”
Mamie frowned as she put it on, “Why?”
“I won’t need it where I’m going,” he said, turning his back to his mother and dashing off in the direction of the train where his cousin Wheeler and great Uncle Moses were waiting.
“Bobo, wait! What about your ring?”
Louis turned away from Emmett to look admirably at his ex-wife. She was the one and had always been the one. He thought she was chosen for him to be his wife this entire time. But the truth is she was chosen to be Emmett’s mother.
He pulled himself away from her face. He was running out of time. Emmett had to be on that train.
Show it to the fellas.
Emmett turned around and pulled the ring from his pants pocket, and put it on, rubbing his fingers across his father’s initials. He lifted his head and stared straight ahead, like someone who had just discovered a new world or happened upon a new invention, and flashed a big grin.
“I’m gonna show this to the fellas!”
Mamie laughed and waved her handkerchief.
“Alright then, boy. Go on ahead now.”
Louis watched his son jump on the train and Mamie staring after him. He remembered the day he got the thing made in Europe, just one year since he had been drafted into the Army. But it was not his ring anymore. Soon, the whole African American community would wear that ring.
No. This was no longer LT’s ring. Now, it was the ring of freedom.
The quietness of the station alarmed him, and Louis looked around in awe of the now dark, empty station. The Master warned him that time moved differently here. He had better get a move on it if he was going to make it to Money in time.
Louis inhaled deeply as his body disintegrated into the wind for his next mission.
After watching ABC’s “Let the World See” about the role of Mamie Till and how she handled Emmett Till’s death, I was happy to see some discussion about Emmett’s father, Louis. Since grade school, I have been studying the Emmett Till story, when I first learned about it, heard many versions of the story, and have seen countless documentaries. My favorite is the one that aired in 2005, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” on YouTube. I like it mostly because Mamie Till was still alive and could tell it the way only she could.
But in all the docs, even my favorite one, there was never anything about his father. This had me thinking.
What if we tell both of their stories at the same time?
Louis Till died at the young age of twenty-three when he was accused of assaulting some Italian women in Europe while serving overseas in the Transportation Corps of the U.S. Army during World War II. He and a friend were found guilty and lynched in 1945.
What if our story doesn’t end here?
What if the spirit world informs Louis about his son’s death and its necessity to jump start The Civil Rights Movement?
And what if it becomes Louis’s responsibility to make sure Emmett wears his ring so that they can identify his body?
And what if his soul isn’t allowed to rest until he does?
What if we can tell both stories through the power of the ring that binds them?