The Masks of Life

By Delbert H. Rhodes

Born to the North west coast of La Florida, and for reasons not his own, to some people he is different, dislikable and unwelcomed. Necessarily, these prejudgments are not by strangers, but often by people he knows; many of whom he encounters, everyday. In childhood, a woman acquainted with his Mother, calls him small; in jr. high school, a jealous boy tauntingly says, “The girls like that baby face of yours.” Later, in high school, his younger sister’s boyfriend notes, “When you were a little boy, we use to see you pulling your wagon up the street. We said, ‘Look at him, he’s not like us, let’s git him.’”

Why hurt him because of his differences; and is he responsible for what merely are accidents of birth?

As he ages, the art of deception becomes his sword and shield, he develops and expands his abilities of control, and regardless of the teasing and taunting that he sometimes receives, he permits no one to push him over the edge.

Infrequently, however, he cares to severely injure someone, nevertheless, this, he knows, is wrong, and would cause him much trouble and especially with the police. He is careful to neither embarrass, nor cause his Mother financial difficulties. His family is poor, and his Mom does all that she can to care for his siblings and him. For his entire life, these realizations, these truths, remain as his focal points.

Often: At his Aunt’s house Carlton spends private time in the front bedroom. The first time that he sees his image, the boy is in First Grade. He likes his looks, and customarily returns to the mirror. Staring at his face thrills him; and soon, he notices the big rotten tooth, in the bottom of his mouth.

One day, his Aunt tells him that he is to join his Mom, up north. Saddened: Carlton feels ripped from the people he loves most, and his home. At the age of nine years old, and living in a distant state, he attends school for the first time with White kids; and quickly develops a new behavior; Carlton, now, compares himself to them; and then, once more, he feels small.

Emphatically, after she reads his pocket Birth Certificate, a White classmate says, “Oooo, you’re a ‘Ne-e-gro-o!’” The word printed next to the word “Race” is not totally new to the boy; and somehow, he knew that it referred to his color. One time, in his hometown, a White man called him Black boy. The boy knew that he was different from White people, this was a matter of fact, but the word Negro seems to lessen him, reduce him.

“Negro.” He feels injured, stabbed in the heart by something that causes no visible damages, by something that delivers him distress, a word that he learns to strongly dislike; and yet, without actually hating it.

Years later and as an adult, he thinks of the comment, and then searches the facts in his original Birth Certificate. The document indicates nothing for him in the racial category; however, for his Mother the letter ‘C’ is inscribed.

His Mom is of mixed heritages, including White, Creek, and Black. Perhaps the Cee stands for Creek; however, and most likely, he thinks, because of her genetic mixtures, the Cee is for “Colored.” A word that feels somewhat although not totally better.

The Spanish noun Negro, and its variants are derivatives of the Latin neuter adjective niger, meaning black. Respectively, interpretation of the word is determined by the particular Language within which it is hosted; i.e., the term may translate to dark, or night, and even partner, or friend, in different localities, or regions of the world.

Over time, the Latin neuter form evolved to one of psychological and emotional corruption; and then used inhumanely, to ultimate measures of internal, and then later, external dysfunction; achieving social reduction, rejection and then destruction.

Black, and whenever generally applied as racial identifiers, is a misnomer, and is based in (so called) White standard. For, historically, and while searching for trade routes into India, the Portuguese, and Spaniards used the word to identify sub-Saharan Bantu People. Is it probable that these indigenous people used tribal rather than names of colors, for purposes of identification? Actually, and considering both continental African, and American Blacks, an array of hues exists, black, merely, represents one category.

Carlton wishes to express that he is neither black skinned, Bantu nor sub-Saharan African. Additionally, many years ago, and in-passing, a White man provided invaluable, nevertheless unsolicited information to the Lad. While walking by, and peering over his shoulder, the man offered, “You’re from Mauritania West Africa.” This comment, and as strange as it may seem, could ancestrally be more correct than not; for, the plausible truth is demonstrated in our astonished man’s physiognomy.

Yes, Negro, the word follows Carlton for the rest of his natural life; a life, he feels, better lived inside another skin. Later, the word loses its sting; however, its relative negative terms, like “nigger,” he despises. Into his sixties, the man recalls that White people never directly slapped him with the hateful term, nonetheless, one southern born Black friend, did so, and often. To Carlton: A nigger is a dead thing; and currently, he is very much alive. After about thirty years the “friendship,” ended.

Is it not ironic that (some) Blacks feel/claim ownership of, and casually use the term nigger; and decry usage to others, and especially White people; when, and of course and to the well informed, this behavior is nonsensical, for, is not the word, created, and used by White plantation owners and other Whites during and since Slavery, thereby the property of its creators?

Nigger, and no matter its forms: is a virulent, psycho-social and economical tool, used to emotionally degrade, control, and dehumanize Black African Slaves. Why would their Black ancestors care to claim, casually use, or desire relationship, of any kind, to the word? Why?

Moreover, another oddity is that the anagram of such an egregious perversion is well regarded; for its additive medicinal properties, to foods, and various human systemic symptoms, respectively. The spice enhances and offers delicious tasty morsels to the tummy; and corrects various systemic imbalances, such as upset stomachs and dizziness.

Oh, but please, beware: Although the positive effects of Ginger are absolutely welcomed by many, the provisions of its tasteless twin are not delicacies, they cannot medicinally assist, and with the precision of a razor’s edge, the targeted application of ‘this’ word achieves but one end, and the prognoses, the generational tragedies are nationally, culturally and humanly irreversible.

A White classmate occasionally rubs Carlton’s hair, “Cool,” says Alex, “I wish I had hair like that.” Sometimes the boy gathers another White boy to discuss their Black classmate’s differences; but, and no matter the smiles, the attention causes him discomfort and displeasure.

Similar to his Mother, Carlton has light brown skin, curly dark hair, dark brown eyes, and thin lips. He dislikes that his differences place him on display, and even infrequently. In junior high school, the boy begins to dislike his nose, it seems too fat at its end. The rest is okay.

At home and often, the young teen makes trips to the bathroom, to resume his private time. Staring into the glass, Carlton likens his nose to a potato, something better left to the garden and not his face. Also, and since elementary school, in order to appear more like his White classmates, he applies cosmetic grease to his hair; and then meticulously combs and brushes it, until it flattens.

While sleeping, and to hold his hair neatly in place, Carlton wears upon his head one of his Mom’s stockings. Curiously, a Black friend says, “Your hair don’t look real.” Somewhere along the way, Carlton’s nose no longer displeases him; and happily, it has lost its negative appeal.

Things are changing, and he even thinks less about his race; life offers other distractions, such as girls; a distraction demanding more exploration, and a pretty redhead in another school has captured Carlton’s attention.

The late sixties to early seventies, high school and friends, the lapsing Hippy generation, racial difficulties; although he never takes part in issues of race, a last minute decision against the Marine Corp., the redhead is gone, Lisa J., and then the question of what-actually-comes after graduation. Academically, Carlton performs poorly in both jr. high and high schools. These things and more fill his youthful mind.

During these years, his Mother spends much time in the hospital, and with two younger brothers to help raise, Carlton has much to think about. He never seems quite satisfied with himself, he never seems quite satisfied with his family. Still, and although consumed by uncertainties, and before him, the path is poorly lit, somehow, the older teen moves forward; and one step at a time.

Newly attending the local jr. college and because he furthers his education, some guys from his childhood resent Carlton. Historically, Black Slaves secretly learned to read and write; education that later, cost many their lives. Strange that some present day Blacks seem to prefer ignorance to knowledge. Viewing educated Blacks as sellouts to “their” people. “Trying to be like the ‘White man.’”

‘Their’ is a possessive pronoun, bestowing ownership; and Carlton strongly advises that he owns no one; and further, any people caring more of ignorance than knowledge is a people to which he cares never to belong; additionally, a mere accident of birth avails neither his allegiances nor obligations, to said people.

“I owe you nothing!” He protests.

Carlton’s years in jr. college provide him instructive distractions. His studies are exciting and he does well; and then graduates with good grades; however, at senior college things are different. In some ways, he is academically unprepared. During earlier school years, the young man shied Mathematics, and attended only three classes; courses hosting higher degrees of the subject become difficulties for him.

In 1976, and during his Junior year, Carlton has a car accident; from which he suffers the loss of the cap to his right incisor, a bump to the left knee, and loss of hair. These were the obvious injuries. Not as obvious were the inabilities to attentively focus and to speak completed sentences. Additionally, issues of esteem and minor depression hinder him, slow him. Never asking for help, the student tells no one of his troubles, and not even a best friend.

Daily, and even while in class, he fakes it; and unremarkably, gets by. His grades, however, do not; subsequently, his academic cum terribly drops, and he is close to expulsion. Fortunately, he slowly increases his cum, and then receives an academic award for the fourth quarter. The summer permits him time to heal, however, he decides not to return to school for the following term.

The year off, he works, earns money, and then buys another car; he lost the first one in the accident. Eventually, Carlton neither  suffers lack of focus nor degraded speech; and then, once more, he feels whole. The fall semester approaches and returning to school excites him.

The loss of his first car was reason, or possibly, an excuse to exit a long distance relationship, but then the loss of one girlfriend becomes the gain of another. An auburn beauty from town enters the young man’s life. Although the lady is lovely, and she deliciously deserves his attention, even she cannot distract him from his thoughts; often, Carlton wonders whether anyone would remember him after he perishes.

Frequently, Hollywood types, Pro-ball players, Musicians, Educators, Scientists, The Rich for one reason, or another are splashed across the Media; and especially to mourn death. Everyone sharing like, or dislike becomes imprinted with memory. “When I die,” Carlton thinks, “whom would remember me, or, care to, and would death make me a better person?”

Truly, the man thinks of various reasons to ponder death, and its aftermath; and In Memoriam, he agrees with and understands anyone scorning him. After all, everyone has a right to his, or her opinions; still, in his lifetime, he has harmed no one; he is not criminal and although a loner, is hugely, and nevertheless, privately, compassionate.

Now in his sixties, memories of his youth, and his personally hidden pains preoccupy the man. He feels and believes that he is a good person, but sometimes suffers from his negatively internalized emotions. Generally: People are unforgiving; and for lifetimes, certain memories linger. Surely, upon his death he would, by some, be remembered; however, in what way and why?

In the norm: Carlton cares little of how others think of him. Why, then, and considerably before his death, would their thoughts cause him pause? He lives in solitude, and even family cannot selfishly control him, imbue him with guilt. Yet, daily, privately, and as he constantly returns to the mirrors, the man reconstructs the masks of his life.

Copyright (c) 2017 Delbert H. Rhodes

Ten O’Clock


Delbert H. Rhodes

Years later, the memories hang on but why? Yesterday is gone and suffering is a benefit to no one; and yet no matter how she tries her ex’s memory haunts her, permits her little peace. An American woman whose Dutch parents emigrated Nederland to immigrate America, Story Vanderbloren was conceived in Amsterdam and born in Minnesota. Raised and cherished by a loving family, after high school she leaves to study Archeology; and it is soon after completing her P. H. D. that someone special enters her life.

At the age of twelve and while talking with Mommy, the girl asks about her first name and why she has it. “The tale of your conception, and delivery and love that you brought to us is a wonderfully, glorious story; and so, your Dad and I agreed that no other name could suit you.”

Tall, blond, blue, and curvy and intelligently beautiful, Story has traded French Fries for Fish and Chips. Her life, and new profession are better, much better and she prefers positive to negative distractions.

Time, and terms must meet the mind and hers struggles for clarity, to think clearly about things that matter most, that matter now.

London Towne is lovely and especially at night, the lights, the shoppes, Libraries, the Trem, the people and glory of the new world surrounding her. I digress: The “Trem” (silent e, long m: pronounced trm) is the local high-speed monorail, it is an excellent and wonderful ride.

Of the resources available in the city, its Libraries contain ancestral files, these halls of antiquity are some of the finest in the world, invaluable to her research.

Today Story walks the sidewalk in Belcher Street and then something wonderful meets her, rounding the corner to Tolstoy it occurs that the smells come from Le Patisserie, a shoppe two stores away. In America, “Le Patisserie” would be The Bakery. Entering, she sees not only beauty but something sweetly agonizing.

Unbelievably well organized, the cakes, pastries, cookies and other delicacies appear to await the photographer rather than customer. “I Love this place!” She visits no less than once weekly.

Oh, my, and Story simply adores her new life, except for one small thing…memories. If she could remove only a portion of them then everything would be happier. Although never easy she perseveres, surrender to the toils of yesterday is not optional.

“Sto-V,” the nickname given to her by her colleagues, is a Research Writer and she works diligently to uncover facts, truths to prove her premises. Sometimes she disproves them and this too is okay, a foot in the right direction. Disproof proves something, a person of critical thinking works either way, both are beneficial, worthy.

She loves it whenever waking to new questions. Life is strange, often placing answers before us that either incomprehensibly or, sensibly, we fail to recognize and may even refuse to acknowledge.

Yes, but since Story’s youth she has been a dreamer and the truth in dreams is less fuzzy than people make it; a superb analogy, she thinks, is the innocence of children which acts expansively, making anything, everything possible. As such, unlearning adult fears, permitting the mind to freely think, she believes, provides greater opportunities in life.

Opportunity: Story’s middle name.

As a researcher she is deeply busied by events of humankind, she has developed a premise that though not popular may one day prove man’s existence. No, not actually his place here but the reason he is here. Story believes that it has less to do with either the egg or the chicken and more to do with the bearer, the creator of them. She must somehow make sense of it. She will make sense of it.

This woman strongly feels reason to be both parent, and plan of humankind and whether Celestial, Natural, or, neither, she struggles to find the clues, the pathways leading to proof. Thirty four-years old and after five years of research, she uncovers only uncertainties; definitive evidence eludes her. Still, she persists and to the end would not falter. Either Story proves or disproves her theory, a dedicated Scientist, she tirelessly works long hours and so far, without rewards. “One day.”


The word flutters about her head like a lacy butterfly with little care. Tomorrow a business meeting about Policy and then Story attends the Theater, she sits front row center stage. “Les Miserable,” her favorite play is in town and she simply must see it; “Front Row Center Stage, Exciting!”

In many ways, her life resembles the theme and as the tale unfolds, like a looking-glass much of Story’s life unveils. She realizes that this too must be dealt, it has to one day (all) end. How the end plays out is the question and one the woman, right now, cares to ignore. Somehow, and even this moment, Darren speaks to her and as much as she should not, she listens…

“I told you, it wasn’t like that,” Darren stammers, staring out the window.

“You are lying!” Story stabs the air with her finger, trying to see his eyes. “And witnesses tell me that you and your girlfriend were there at ten o’clock. They are credible, I trust them, they saw you and I believe them!”

“Ten o’clock?” He says, looking directly at her. “I don’t know about witnesses but ten o’clock has always been ‘my’ witness. I was not there, I love ‘you!'”

He just kept repeating it over and over again but what exactly did he mean, what does “it” mean? “Ten O’Clock?” Of the many things said that last night the time frame lingers in her mind, she is oblivious to its meaning and is without useable clues to make sense of it. Surely, if truly she wanted to she could find the evidence: the missing pieces to the puzzle; but, is the responsibility hers?

“As far as I am concerned, those words, like time on a clock, have freed me of abuse; and true, he neither hit, pushed nor physically injured me but daily reduced me mentally and emotionally. The scars, though invisible, are more devastating and destructive than any black eye or, broken jaw. I am ‘free!'”

Story loves her new life and refuses to surrender it; and admittedly, Darren and she should have ended years ago but love strangely partners with reason.

Reason, the term strongly affects her and she knows that it plays, in large parts, a very important role in her life. Darren at one time was her life and without him she sometimes feels lonely. Loneliness has a way of prevailing truth and like a catapult propels Story forward. Now, here in wonderful London Towne Happiness and She stroll hand in hand; a ringless marriage to her work and life.

Once more and as usual dreaming offers more pieces to the puzzle; and waking, Story smiles. She stretches as the feelings in her dream embrace her with clarity. Lazily, she slumps into the bathroom for a Lady’s Moment and then to the Kitchen for some Chocolate Tea, “Chocotea,” she calls it. Blended with Cocoa and any Tea of choice, she favors Green Tea, her concoction is refreshing, tasty and medicinally healthy. Cocoa is a good thing.

As her dream and the phrase “A Loving Plot” touch her, Story permits a childlike innocence to control her; for, “Puty,” her laptop, seems to ask that she pen the dream, now, before its memories leave her. “Ok, ‘Ok,’ I’m coming.” Careful not to spill her Chocotea, slowly, Story crosses to her desk. Moments later, done, she has written something new and powerful. A wonderful addition to her poem book.

Filled with feelings and honesty, the poem exemplifies the lady’s suffrage; and understandably, truly, she admonishes and  admires it. Actually, why would Story not love it, for, from her heart, and inside every verse is her freedom and her life.


A Loving Plot

You think I love you
Please tell me why
Should I think of you
Better to cry

Challenge I must
The surging seas
The damning rock slides
Inside your knees

Scale I the towers
The tallest skies
Or smallest flowers
Your floral eyes

Want that I want you
Your tender kiss
A bee its honey
Want me you this

Sometimes I wonder
Why loved you, I
And then the thunder
Love’s alibi

Sweetly, you scorn
Oh, yes, I know
So dark your sunshine
A summer snow

Tarnished my teardrops
Torn is my soul
Autumn to Springtime
A Winter cold

Scripted, our tale
A loving plot
“To have to hold?”
I think, have not


…Outside, darkness smothers the sky; inside and deliciously, Chocotea creams her, the woman smiles…


Delbert H. Rhodes

Today, he reaches his tenth birthday, a special day for the boy, and everyone who knows and loves him. Yet his Mother, strangely, feels somewhat distant, she seems just a little left of center. Mr. Reland passed away one year ago; nonetheless, although she terribly misses her husband he is not what troubles her. Tommy is a wonderful child, her boy, and she loves him and he, her, should it matter that he is not truly her son. Still, she has always sensed and possibly, even known that the boy is different from other children; additionally, and although academically he soars above the rest, her feelings permit her only uncertainties.

2-4-07-15Tommy arrived into the care of the Relands ten years ago, and under strange circumstances. Travelers who were looking for a place to sleep entered an old farmhouse. In one of the bedrooms and all alone, a baby lie sleeping in its crib. The child, alas, abandoned, appeared uninjured and healthy. A search for the parents ended in failure; Child Services And Family Care aided the infant.

To his great fortune, the find soon provided Tommy a home. The lad and his newly found family love each other, nevertheless, he really never quite fit the mold, so unlike other children, so different, and including his stepbrother, Kamron.

Nights while his brother sleeps, often, Tommy lies awake staring at the stars. The heavens are beautiful but more than beauty their allure is incomprehensible to him. Then, one night the unimaginable happens, while transfixed by the celestials, the star gazer wonders of his home, his true family.

Remarkably, a shiny coin, a penny, appears beside him on his bed. “Wow!” “But, where did you come from?” Unusually bright and warm to the touch, the coin is wonderful. Resting it inside his palm, the startled boy closely regards its inscriptions and graphics; and as much as the penny appears usual, it is not.

Within moments, Tommy begins to remember things, curiously, he recalls not only how the coin was created but its creators, a team of researchers, headed by his Father. “Somehow, this tiny penny holds,” the boy silently says, “the key to life and my life.”

After a short while, the true purpose of the coin is revealed: it is a Galactic Library, harnessing the histories of every world, every planet, solar system, galaxy and universe; it is a bridge to Tommy’s ancestry and the truth of his arrival to this distant star.

Although centuries older, today, a son celebrates his tenth birthday; in addition to which, his first responsibility is to his people, his family. As the party below takes shape, he calls to Mother. The two alone in the upstairs hallway, she notices that he hides something. “What is inside your hand?” “Mother,” he begins, “I want to ask you something.” Before answering, and somewhat bewildered, Mom, smiling, says, “Of course, honey, what?”

Almost gliding across the floor, Tommy opens his hand, “Tell me, Mother, what do you see?” Hesitating, thinking that her son is merely joking, Mrs. Reland remains speechless for a while. Then staring at the coin, she answers, although somewhat uneasily, “A penny, why?” Placing the coin inside Mother’s right hand and while staring deeply into her eyes, the look on her son’s face causes Mrs. Reland more discomfort.

Instructively: “Look again, Mother; less is the difference between more than plenty.” “Understanding the worth of this penny is to understand the worth of your people.” Returning him the penny, “My people?” “Tommy?!” “But, what exactly do you mean?” “Besides, you are just a little boy, what do you know?” Intently, “I am neither little nor a boy.” Mrs. Reland pensively regards her son; and as though a vision cloaks his face, her chest quickly rises, her breathing increases and her heart races.

Today, on her son’s tenth birthday, a Mother must wrest with an awesome realization and responsibility; she must somehow come to terms with an uncertainty that she has always known, and it not only changes ‘her’ life but life, itself.

Copyright (c) 2015 Delbert H. Rhodes

His Silent Tears: A Sign of Tenderness

An unconscious Pina Menichelli at the start of...

By Delbert H. Rhodes


Five years have passed since the accident and Vera remains comatose. The medical opinion of her doctors is that she would not regain consciousness. The doctors have done all they could, they can do no more; with two exceptions, all doctors suggest terminating life support. Ty loves his wife more than he loves anything else and refuses to give up; he believes that Vera will return to him.

Her loving husband never misses a day. Ty is a banker and quite busy but his wife is never second. Aiding Vera’s recovery, he always brings something to read to her. His favorite is a poetic piece that he wrote for his wife when they were dating.

Whenever reading the poem, the hurting man surrenders to his tears. Ty is never the crybaby type but any man loving his wife, or anyone, must show (at least) a tiny sign of tenderness. Besides, he too enjoys the poem, and it reminds him of the early days, the days when nothing separated Vera and him. They share a wonderful marriage; the couple has great children and even a happy dog. This sickness, this horror would not take away the man’s partner and sweetheart. Ty would never abandon his lovely wife.

Kissing Vera “hello,” the weary man relaxes by her bedside: he begins:

“What’s it Like?”

“Baby, what’s it like; feeling warm yet not to know, you lie there naked on a bed of snow? Roaring hot, the fever burns in your mind. Worry not; passion soars from time to time. Your heart pounds, like sunshine raindrops through the night, and crystal melts in the darkness of the light. As sweet flowers dance in the fibers of your hair, you would love to spread your petals, but you know you should not dare.

What’s it like; gathering tears of snow filled clouds and moonlit dew; a tireless sun at the dusk of daybreak awakens you, to arise ready alert alive greeting the day, taking charge of whom you are or walk away.

What’s it like; (when) the mind screams and the body aches, from all you missed; tearful eyes and lust-filled lips await the kiss. Hungry arms seduce the soul the spirit lives. To be saddened for joy grief-stricken for more of all there is.

Tell me, what’s it like, holding you close in candle lit smiles, caressing the night. To make a choice to choose for now, to know it’s right; (baby), do you know what it’s like?”

Sitting and staring at the words, Ty remains lost in his mind; he wants Vera back, and needs to know what else he might do. This moment: he must support his wife; and then from his heart, Vera’s distraught husband begs God for her return. He refuses to submit, to say goodbye.

Tired, Ty rests his head across his wife’s breasts; his silent tears seducing his sweetheart’s spirit, soon, Ty falls asleep…

Copyright © 1995-2012 Delbert H. Rhodes