September 7, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

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John C. Weil




The Sign



We were on a road trip

in a blue station wagon

through the southern states.


I played with toy soldiers

in the back where I bounced

around with the luggage.


It was the 1960s.


I have to go bad, I announced.


Dad saw a rest stop up ahead,

a Howard Johnson’s advertising

24 flavors of ice cream,

so we pulled into the lot.


I ran ahead to the lobby bathrooms

and started to push through the door

of the men’s room when

a big hand grabbed me by

my collar and yanked me back hard.


“Not that one, boy,” the man said gruffly.

I looked up thinking I had accidentally

pushed open the women’s room door.

But the sign above the door said, ‘Colored’.


‘What the heck does that mean?’

I wondered when my Dad walked up and

told the man to take his hand off my collar.


“Just saving him embarrassment,” the

man said in a tense drawl, to which my

Dad said, “You should be embarrassed.”


For a moment I stared up at the old

wood sign above the door, all capitals,

green letters, black background, with faded,

badly chipped paint like you’d see on the gate of a

50-year old farmhouse.


The sign had a defiant look to it.

I glanced to my right to

a black and white photo of Governor

George Wallace on the wall,

looking just as defiant.

“We’re leaving,” my Dad said.


I remember being afraid of that sign.

As we got back in the station wagon

I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

We drove fifteen miles down the

road to a small restaurant with a mixed crowd.


I ran into that bathroom faster

than an Olympic sprinter.

But even as I did I understood

what my father had done.

I was very – very – proud of him.


I was afraid of that sign back then,

but it helped me to understand

that we should always be afraid of that sign.






John C. Weil

John C. Weil’s fiction and poetry credits include Chiron Review, First Class, ComputerEdge, Canary, Wild Violet, White Crow, The Oak, Mobius, Debris Magazine, Brain Training, Green’s Magazine, Folklore, The Black Hammock Review, Mind in Motion, California State Poetry & Story Quarterly and Antique Scene, among others.

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