Kickass, the doorstop dog, stands with the keeper in honoring his—the keeper’s beloved old Army friend Bob Shephard who brought racism to its knees for the keeper and his family over many years. As a resident of Chicago’s South side, Bob provided lodging and egress to the Black community for the keeper during his column writing days with the Chicago Tribune. The egress was usually on Bob’s terms, and tinged with his amusement over the keeper’s cross-cultural naiveté.
But one day in 1984, the keeper drafted Bob to accompany him to the funeral of “Willie the Wimp” Stokes where he—the keeper was the only White attendee, and where Willie’s father Flukey Stokes had his 28-year-old son’s corpse displayed sitting up in a coffin designed to look like a Cadillac while holding $100 dollar bills in his diamond-encrusted fingers and wearing his hat at a jaunty angle.
Willie had been shot as a result of his involvement in the drug trade where his father Flukey was a well known king-pin. (Two years later, Flukey was similarly gunned down.)
The keeper had first been attracted to news of the Willie/Flukey Stokes event over the shared surname, and after the funeral he wrote a column that did not see the light of day, apparently deemed racially insensitive by editors. But he is left with vivid memories of the bizarre setting, and of Bob’s uneasiness in the midst of Chicago mobsters and their be-jeweled women. Bob later told the keeper he was done serving as a journalistic aide for him in cross cultural matters; but he wasn’t: In his ceaseless efforts to introduce the keeper to soul food, Bob cooked up and served a side dish of pig’s ears and nearly fell off his chair in laughter at the keeper’s surprised reaction.
It isn’t only on MLK Day that the keeper misses Bob. Black friends are hard to come by for the keeper and most of his racially isolated ilk. More than lip service is required to change that: Acknowledging the reality of the Flukeys and of pigs’ ears as a side-dish could be a start.