The Colored Museum
George C. Wolfe
Soldier with a Secret
The Colored Museum is a series of exhibits in “a museum where the myths and madness of black/Negro/colored Americans are stored.” In this exhibit, Junie Robinson, a black combat soldier, “comes to life and smiles at the audience. Somewhat dim-witted, he has an easygoing charm about him.”
Junie: Pst. Pst. Guess what? I know the secret. The secret to your pain. ‘Course, I didn’t always know. First i had to die, then come back to life, ‘fore I had the gift.
Ya see, the Cappin sent me off up ahead to scout for screamin’ yella bastards. ‘Course, for the life of me I couldn’t understand why they’d be screamin’, seein’ as how we was tryin’ to kill them and they us.
But anyway, I’m off lookin’, when all of a sudden I find myself caught smack dead in the middle of this explosion. This blindin’, burnin’, scaldin’ explosion. Musta been a booby trap or something, ‘cause all around me is fire. Hell, I’m on fire. Like a piece of chicken dropped in a skillet of cracklin’ grease. Why, my flesh was justa peelin’ off of my bones.
But then I says to myself, “Junie, if yo’flesh is on fire, how come you don’t feel no pain!” And I didn’t. I swear as I’m standin’ here, I felt nuthin’. That’s when I sort of put two and two together and realized I didn’t feel no whole lot of hurtin’ cause I done died.
Well I just picked myself up and walked right on out of that explosion. Hell, once you know you dead, why keep on dyin’, ya know?
So, like I say, I walk right outta that explosion, fully expectin’ to see white clouds, Jesus, and my mama, only all I saw was more war. Shootin’ goin’ on way off in this direction and that direction. And there, standin’ around, was all the guys. Hubert, J.F., the Cappin. I guess the sound of the explosion must of attracted ‘em, and they all starin’ at me like I’m some kind of ghost.
So I yells to ‘em, “Hey there, Hubert! Hey there, Cappin!” But they just stare. So I tells ‘em how I’d died and how I guess it wasn’t my time ‘cause here I am, “fully in the flesh and not a scratch to my bones.” And they just stare. So I took to starin’ back.
(The expression on Junie’s face slowly turns to horror and disbelief.)
Only what I saw… well, I can’t exactly to this day describe it. But I swear, as sure as they was wearin’ green and holdin’ guns, they was each wearin’ a piece of the future on their faces.
Yea. All the hurt that was gonna get done to them and they was gonna to do folks was right there clear as day.
I saw how J.F., once he got back to Chicago was gonna get shot dead by this po-lice, and I saw how Hubert was gonna start beatin’ up on his old lady, which I didn’t understand ‘cause all he could do was talk on and on about how much loved her. Each and everyone one of ‘em had pain in his future and blood on his path. And God or the Devil one spoke to me and said, “Junie, these colored boys ain’t gonna be the same after this war. They ain’t gonna have no kind of happiness.”
Well, right then and there it comes to me. The secret to their pain.
Late that night, after the medics done checked me over and found me fit for fightin’, after everybody done settle down for the night, I sneaked over to where Hubert was sleepin’, and with a neeld I stole from the medics...pst, pst… I shot a little air into his veins. The second he died, all the hurtin’-to-come just left his face.
Two weeks later, I got J.F., and after that Woodrow… Jimmy Joe. I even spent all night waitin’ by the latrine ‘cause I knew the Cappin always made a late-night visit and… pst, pst… I got him.
(Smiling, quite proud of himself.) That’s how come I died and come back to life. ‘Cause just like Jesus went around healin’ the sick, I’m supposed to go around healin’ the hurtin’ all these colored boys wearin’ from the war.
Pst, pst. I know the secret. The secret to your pain. The secret to yours, and yours. Pst. Pst. Pst. Pst.
(The lights slowly fade.)