Three months passed and on the eve of Judge Harlow’s deadline, Travis found himself powerless to stop the rotund Sheriff Jethro Pickett from selling all his worldly possessions.
Strangers, townsfolk, and even Travis’ neighbors stood in line holding candle sticks, silverware, jewelry, and other assorted knick knacks and gee gaws. They all waited patiently as the sheriff accepted pennies on the dollar for every last bit of the young man’s life.
“I’ll give you a cool nickel for this picture frame, sheriff,” an old woman said.
“Wait,” Travis said. “Can I at least take the sketch of my dear Uncle Edward out of the frame, first?”
The sheriff looked to the old woman. She shook her head. “No deal.”
“No deal?” Travis asked.
“No deal,” the old gal repeated.
“You heard the lady, Travis,” the sheriff barked. “No deal.”
“But that’s my uncle,” Travis said. “What value could a sketch of someone not related to you have for you?”
The old lady shrugged her shoulders. “I get lonely. I’d like to pretend that he’s my uncle.”
Travis rolled his eyes.
“Stop interfering, deadbeat,” the sheriff said. “If its in this house then its for sale. That’s the law and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
Travis raised his hand to get the sheriff’s attention. “But…”
“No buts!” the sheriff hollered.
Forlorn and defeated, Travis retreated to a corner of the room and watched his home get sold off piece by piece.
“Mister Travis, sir?”
The young man had become borderline catatonic, so depressed and unresponsive that he didn’t even notice his slave Moses was tapping him on the shoulder.
“Mister Travis, sir?”
“Hmm?” Travis replied. “Yes, what is it, man?”
“Miss Fiona has finished tidying up in the kitchen and Albert and I have moved all the furniture outside for the new owners to pick up,” Moses said.
“Very good then,” Travis said. “That will be all.”
Clearly, it wasn’t all, as Moses remained.
“Something else?” Travis asked.
“Mister Travis,” Moses said. “I suppose it isn’t my place to ask but Miss Fiona and Albert and I, we were wondering sir, what will happen to us?”
And with perfect timing, Kirk Andrews, a local farmer, asked the sheriff, “How much for them negroes?”
“They aren’t for sale,” Travis said.
“Damn you, Travis,” the sheriff said. “I’ve already told you everything in this house is for sale and I will not tell you again!”
“I transferred their titles to them two days ago,” Travis said. “Its already done.”
Moses’ eyes grew wide with surprise. If Travis had given him his papers, it was news to him.
The sheriff was irate. “You had no right to do that.”
“I did and its done,” Travis said. “What are you going to do, arrest me twice? My times up tomorrow morning as it is.”
“Your slaves are old and been bought and sold a bunch of times,” the sheriff said. “Still, they could have fetched at least twenty bucks a piece and wittled your debt down some you horse’s ass.”
“The bank will take possession of the home and property tomorrow,” Travis said. “You’ve sold every last item I own and haven’t even left me a chair to sit on and I’m still three hundred dollars short of what’s due. There’s no need to ruin the lives of my three dutiful slaves just because I ruined my life.”
The sheriff shook his head. “Aww, you and your bullshit, Travis.”
The young man stepped out to the front porch and motioned for Moses to join him. Outside, the evening air was cool and a much needed breeze blew.
Albert and Miss Fiona were talking to one another when Travis and Moses joined them.
The young man pulled out three pieces of worn parchment, bills of sale for three individual slaves. He produced a charcoal pencil and using the top of a barrel as a makeshift desk, he proceeded to sign his ownership away.
He handed Miss Fiona and Albert their papers. “This is your freedom,” Travis said. “Do not lose these documents as you’ll need to present them if you’re questioned. Note that I’ve taken the liberty of back dating the transfer so if anyone asks, I gave these papers to you on Wednesday and you were kind enough to stay on and help me for two days after that.”
“Thank you, sir,” Miss Fiona said.
“Yes,” Albert said. “Thank you, Mister Travis.”
Travis shook Moses’ hand and handed over his title. “You’re free people now, but I’d recommend making your way to a Northern state where slavery has been abolished just to be certain.”
“We’ll do just that,” Moses said.
“Well then,” Travis said as he turned away. “That will be all.”
Moses stopped the young man. “Umm…Mister Travis…”
“Yes?” Travis asked.
“Miss Fiona and Albert and I were talking earlier and…”
Travis waited patiently.
“We just wanted to let you know that out of all the filthy, miserable, violent ass gotta have their way or all hell breaks loose cracker ass sons of bitchs that we’ve had the misfortune of being sold to over the years, you were by far the most tolerable.”
Travis’ eyes welled up.
“It’s true,” Albert said.
“You never whupped us or anything,” Miss Fiona said.
“Oh you wonderful negroes,” Travis said as he burst into tears and hugged each of his former slaves individually. “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you.”
“Alright then,” Moses said. “We best be moving on.”
Ignoring that statement completely, Travis put his hand on Moses’ shoulder. “Moses, I know what you and Albert and Miss Fiona are thinking.”
“You do?” Moses asked.
“Yes,” Travis replied. “The three of you love me so much and feel such loyalty and devotion toward me that you want to march right back in there and tell the sheriff to sell you all off so that my debt can become sixty dollars lighter but no! I will not have it.”
The three ex-slaves traded confused glances.
“We weren’t thinking that at all, Mister Travis,” Moses said. “You know sir, for what its worth, some of those white folks who are always telling you that you suffer from delusions of grandeur and that you have a higher opinion of yourself than you actually deserve aren’t wrong.”
Oblivious, Travis carried on. “I get it. I am a brilliant man. A genius, really. A scholar. A lawyer. A scribe. A man of not just inspiring words but also of bold action and naturally you want to assist me in any way that you can but you must know that I will not let you…”
Travis shut his trap just long enough to look around and realize he was alone. He squinted in time to see his three former slaves sprinting off into the night.
“Feets don’t fail me now!” Moses cried.
“Oh Travis,” the young man said, referring to himself in the third person. “You’ve inspired three more people to greatness with your wisdom.”
Travis stared at his soon to be ex-house only to frown upon seeing his wife Rosanna standing near a window and weeping.
“Now if I could only inspire Mrs. Travis.”
[…] 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter […]