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Excerpt Alert: ALL THE DAYS PAST, ALL THE DAYS TO COME

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Welcome back to #FridayReads! This week we’re reading All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor. The saga of the Logan family–made famous in the Newbery Medal-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry–concludes in a long-awaited and deeply fulfilling story. Scroll down to read the excerpt!

all-the-days-past-cover

Moe and Henry were waiting for us at the stairs leading to the balcony.

“We had better go on up,” said Moe. “They’re beginning the previews.”

I stared at the winding staircase as several couples made their way up the stairs. Clusters of people were already gathered on the landing. All were well-groomed, well-dressed, and all were colored. The balcony was where colored folks always sat, and it was understood that it was where we were supposed to sit. I figured not to sit there today. I was sick of the bigotry. I turned from the stairs to Moe. “Moe, could I have my ticket, please?”

“Well . . . sure, Cassie,” Moe complied, without questioning me.

“Thanks,” I said and moved away.

“Cassie, where you going?” asked Brenda.

“I think I’ll sit downstairs this evening.”

“What!” exclaimed Henry.

And Moe shook his head. “Cassie . . .”

“I’m not sitting in the balcony, Moe. Not today.”

“Girl, you must be nuts!” surmised Henry. “What’s got into you?”

Brenda grabbed my arm. “Cassie, don’t get us into trouble!”

My eyes locked on hers. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to. Go on upstairs.” I looked at Moe. “You too, Moe. I’ll sit down here by myself.” I didn’t wait for Moe to respond. I left the three of them standing there and headed for one of the two downstairs entries into the theater.

I got in line behind a white couple. As the young uniformed usher took their tickets with a friendly smile and said, “Hope you enjoy the show,” I stepped forward. With his head turned toward the couple who had just passed, the usher, still smiling, turned toward me and his smile vanished. “Uh . . . you’re in the wrong line.”

“I don’t see any other line,” I said. “Here’s my ticket.”

The usher reddened. “Like I said . . . uh, you’re in the wrong line. You’re supposed to be in the balcony.” He nodded toward the stairs. “You just head up those stairs. Someone’ll take your ticket up there.”

“No, I don’t think so. I’m sitting downstairs today. Here’s my ticket.”

“And here’s mine.” I turned. Moe took my ticket and held both toward the usher.

“But you can’t—” objected the usher.

“We’ll need our stubs back,” Moe said.

The usher was baffled. He looked around for help, but the lobby had cleared and there seemed no one available. Most of the moviegoers were now inside.

“Could you hurry up?” I asked the usher. “The movie is about to start.”

Seemingly not knowing what to do, the usher took the tickets, tore them in half, and handed the stubs to Moe. “I’ll have to get the manager, you know,” he said as we walked past him.

“Go ahead,” I said. “We’ll be down front.” With that, I stepped into the darkened theater with Moe beside me and walked the plush red carpet toward the huge screen looming before us.

It was a long walk down the aisle and the audience began to take notice. A murmur rose against the backdrop of cartoons on the screen. I tried to ignore them. There were three sections of seating divided by two aisles, with the center section being triple the size of the two sections that ran along the walls. Four rows from the stage were empty seats right at the entry to the row. I took the second seat from the aisle and Moe sat in the aisle seat. I had finally made it to the main floor, the forbidden section of the theater. The irony was, though, as I sat watching the screen, I realized that the view of the massive screen was actually better from the balcony. But I kept telling myself it was the principle of the thing. Several seats separated us from the other moviegoers in the row, who nudged each other and turned to stare at us.

All eyes in the theater, it seemed, were on us.

I sipped the drink Moe had bought me. Moe looked at me and smiled. “Popcorn?” he said, offering me the box. I smiled back and took a handful. Then we both set our gaze on the screen. The main feature was about to begin. A few minutes into it, murmuring rose from the back of the theater and, turning, Moe and I saw a circle of light on the aisle floor. Then two men, one carrying a flashlight, were standing at our row. One was the young ticket taker. The other was a much older man who announced softly, “I am the manager. The two of you will have to leave.”

Moe and I looked at the screen.

The manager continued. “Now, I don’t want any trouble in here, but if you don’t leave voluntarily, I’ll have to call the police.”

Moe didn’t say anything, but I knew what he was thinking. He couldn’t afford to deal with the police. He could have gotten up and left, but I knew he wouldn’t. I had started this thing and he was leaving it up to me. I acknowledged Moe with a look and said to the manager, “Why do we have to leave? We paid our money just like everybody else sitting here.”

The manager seemed startled by my question. “Why? You know as well as I do the answer to that. You want to see this movie, you’ll have to move upstairs.”

Moe and I just sat there, staring straight ahead.

The manager’s voice rose. “Are you going to leave?”

Without turning to him, I repeated, “We paid to see this movie. We should be able to sit where we want.”

“Then you give me no choice,” said the manager. “I’ll have to call the police.” The manager left with the usher behind him. Murmuring rose throughout the theater.

Moe took my hand. “Cassie . . .”

“You’d better leave,” I said.

“I need to speak to Henry,” said Moe. “I’ll be right back.” Without giving me a chance to say anything else, Moe got up. I held the box of popcorn and my drink and gazed at the screen. The murmuring subsided and all grew quiet again, except for the action on the screen.

Moe did not come right back. He was gone so long I began to worry that maybe the police had already been called before the manager spoke to us and maybe they were arresting Moe. I hadn’t been afraid before. Now I was. This had been a stupid thing for me to do. I knew it. I already knew too what would happen if we sat here and so did Moe, yet he had come with me anyway. I figured I needed to go see about him, but before I made up my mind to do just that he came back and sat down beside me. The moviegoers took notice with renewed mutterings.

“What took you so long?” I whispered.

“Wanted to ask Henry to call his father. He already had.”

“Attorney Tate’s coming?”

“If there’s going to be trouble, maybe he can get us out of it.”

“They didn’t try to stop you from coming back in?”

“No,” Moe said. “They didn’t lay a hand on me. They’ve called the police.”

“Then you’d better go.”

“No.” He looked at me and again took my hand. “Not without you.”

As I looked at Moe I knew I needed to swallow my pride and not put Moe through this. He had too much to lose. I knew we had to leave, but still I sat there. I sat there too long. Light flooded the theater and the movie was stopped. The crowd reacted with a noisy swell, including a sudden rise of voices from the balcony. Heads turned as four men walked down the aisle toward Moe and me. The manager was one of the men, accompanied by two policemen. The fourth man was Stacey. The manager and the policemen stood back and it was Stacey who approached us. He stopped at our row, looked at me, and quietly said, “All right, Cassie, let’s go.”

I looked at Stacey, took a moment, then got up. So did Moe. “You call him?” I asked softly of Moe.

“Figured he was the only one who could talk sense to you.”

Moe stepped into the aisle and I followed, and together we left with Stacey. The manager and the police walked behind us. As we passed down the aisle, someone said, not in a shout, but loud enough to be heard, “Damn niggers! Think they can do anything they want!” I turned, but Stacey, not stopping and not turning, took me by the elbow and led me out. We stepped into the lobby and the lights dimmed behind us and the movie resumed. All was calm now. The moviegoers could see their film in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

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