Scranton Lives Matter! Ch. 7

Finally mustering the courage to confront Timmy Kelly face-to-face, Gino stood trembling on Woodlawn Street outside Hank’s Hoagies where they picked up take-out to eat in the car after their walk at the Little League field where Joe Biden played as a kid.

Gino bought a Hank’s Italian. Timmy got a Hank’s regular. Each hoagie on a National Bakery roll with Hank’s special sauce cost $4.25.

Your campaign slogan’s racist, Gino said, his words muffled through his mask.

Timmy only wore a mask if somebody made him put one on.

Scranton lives matter?

Black lives matter, Gino said.

But Scranton lives matter, too, right?

Black lives matter, Timmy.

Don’t all lives matter, Gino?

We’re pro-life Catholics, Timmy. Of course they do.

Then Scranton lives matter.

‘Black lives matter’ means we should pay attention to the wholesale slaughter of Black people.

Timmy smirked.

Like they’re baby seals?

Gino knew he’d lose this argument.

Mostly armed white cops kill mostly unarmed Black men, he said.

So that makes it OK for them to loot?

Most protesters don’t loot, including Black people.

You’re taking sensitivity training courses at the prison again, aren’t you, Gino?

I’m reading and watching the news more since my wife died. History teaches us a lot if we’re willing to listen. We weren’t friends with anybody Black growing up in the neighborhood, Gino said.

Yeah, you Italians were bad enough.

Gino closed his eyes like he was trying to hide from his father when he was little and being bad.

C’mon, Timmy, I’m serious.

You think Scranton voters will call me racist because I tell them their lives matter?

The Black ones will.

How many is that? Two?

Most people we know will vote for you for mayor.

Then why change my campaign slogan?

You’re twisting the meaning of the words. You’re disrespecting people of color.

Timmy raised his eyebrows in an overly dramatic fashion.

People of color?

Gino flinched like a timid boxer expecting to get hit.

That’s right, people of color.

That’s racist, Timmy said.

What’s racist?

You said people of color.

That’s what we’re supposed to call them.

Then why can’t we call them colored people?

That’s different, Timmy.

Sounds the same to me.

Like all Black people look alike?

You said it, Gino. I didn’t.

You really don’t get it, do you?

What I do get is that ever since the George Floyd riots white people are getting blamed for everything. My family never owned slaves. I’m Irish. We were slaves. White men particularly need to know we still matter. And I’m just the guy to tell them.

You sound like a Trump supporter, Gino said.

Timmy reached into the pocket of his blue sport coat, pulled out a cheap pair of aviator sunglasses he bought online, put them on and kicked into his best Joe Biden imitation.

Look, man, here’s the deal, he said.

Gino rolled his eyes.

Timmy spoke in the old-fashioned Scranton accent the way everybody’s lace-curtain Green Ridge parents sounded back when Biden was attending St. Paul’s Elementary School. They said ScranTun with a hard T instead of SranUNN the way the working-class pronounced the name of their hometown.

Listen, Timmy said. And this is no malarkey. Scranton lives matter because all lives matter especially Scranton lives because Joe Biden’s from here and we take care of our own.

Gino started to respond.

Will you shut up, man, Timmy said.

Gino gave up.

Whatever you say, Mr. President, he said.