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Asphalt Desert Blues - Chapter 5

Asphalt Desert Blues - Chapter 5

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Published by Avtar Khalsa

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Published by: Avtar Khalsa on Feb 01, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/07/2014

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CHAPTER 5I made my way south, past the construction of an interchange where a neweast-west freeway crossed a new north-south parkway. It was all part of a never-ending effort to overcome gridlock in a city so bloated by urban sprawl thatownership of a car or truck was a necessity. My path wound around the east sideof the airport where southeast Phoenix touched northwest Tempe, past the airportand south of Interstate 10, west to 40th Street and south past Broadway.I found Charlie’s place, a two-story apartment building a block east of 40th Street. The apartment building was one of three on the street, all a fadingshade of yellow. They were three-sided, with the open end to the north. Astairway led up to a balcony for access to the apartments on the second floor.The rest of the neighborhood was made up of low-cost single-familyhouses. A windowless wall on the west end of the apartment building wasadorned with graffiti. Kids of various shades of white, black, and brown played baseball in the street, the outfield spilling over onto the worn grass in front of theapartment. I drove slowly through the game, giving the players a wave of thanksfor allowing me to pass through.The sun was now low enough to allow the apartment building to cast along shadow. I found a space in the shade on the east side of the building, parkedand got out. I saw no sign of Heidi, and wished I had had the presence of mind atLucinda’s to ask Heidi what kind of car she drove.I walked to the front of the apartment building. Heidi said that Charlielived in apartment G. Apartment G was at the far left of six 2nd floor apartments.
 
An old black man sat near the bottom of the stairs, sipping iced tea and watchingthe children play. He wore black baseball cap with the orange and purple logo of the Phoenix Suns basketball team. He wore a tan T-shirt, gray pants.“Evenin’,” he said.“Good evening,” I said. “I’m looking for Charlie Gonnerman. I’msupposed to meet his sister here.”“Charlie lives up in G. Haven’t seen him in a few days, ‘though. That hissister comin’ now?”I looked where he was gesturing. “Yes sir,” I said. “That’s her.”Heidi walked across the grass toward us. Her braided hair was still tied up behind her head. She wore a white, sleeveless blouse, loose khaki shorts and brown sandals. Her legs were long. As she got closer I saw that she was taller than I had realized at Lucinda’s.“Hi Travis,” she said. “Thanks. I really do appreciate you coming here.”I caught a hint of fresh gardenia in the air. She turned, held out her hand to theold man sitting on the stairs and said, “I’m Heidi Charlayne, Charlie Gonnerman’ssister.”“I’m pleased to meet you Ms. Charlayne. My name is Arthur Davis.”Without getting up he reached out with a long arm and shook Heidi’s hand. Thenhe offered his hand to me.“I’m Travis Jefferson, Mr. Davis,” I said as we shook hands. “Charlie andI went to high school together.”
 
“Well I’m pleased to meet you, too, Mr. Jefferson,” the old man said. I’mnot sure why, but I got the feeling Arthur Davis knew Charlie Gonnerman fairlywell. I was thinking about this when I noticed another black man walking towardus.“Something I can help you folks with?” he said. He was smiling, but Isuspected it was the smile he saved for white people, the smile that says, “’Scuseme, what are
 you
doing here?”“Rafer, this is Charlie’s sister and her friend Mr. Jefferson,” Arthur Davissaid. Then to Heidi and me, “This is my grandson Rafer Malone.”I offered my hand to the man named Rafer and introduced myself. Hestood about 6’ 2’’ and had strong arms on a lean frame. His hair was closelycropped. He wore black trousers and a white T-shirt, the old fashioned kind withno sleeves. I guessed he was maybe five or ten years younger than me. Rafer shook my hand tentatively. Then Heidi offered her hand and said, “Rafer, I’mHeidi Charlayne. I think Charlie has mentioned you. Haven’t you two knowneach other for a long time?”“A long time,” Rafer agreed. “Since I was a young boy.”“Rafer, have you seen Charlie in the past few days?” Heidi asked.“No, I can’t say as I have. But that’s not unusual. He and I often keepdifferent hours. These days, a week or two could go by and we might not run intoeach other. Why?”“Charlie left me a message on Saturday saying that he thought he might bein some kind of trouble. He said that if anything happened to him I should

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