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(Fan-fiction challenge)


(based on the TV Sitcom Good Times)


created by Eric Monte, Michael Evans


Story by Elizabeth Griffin


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WAR TALES (excerpt)by Zalin Grant available on

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.





        Leroy Hicks grasped the stale, hard rice with his fingers pinching it together as he rimmed the bowl containing his dinner.  He greedily tried to gather each grain before bringing it to his mouth. 

            He was starving.

            The eyes of the 17-year-old Vietnam prisoner darted around the jungle  watching, listening as he licked his fingers and  wished for more to eat. 

            The lighting in the makeshift camp was sparse.  The canopy of trees above his head filtered the rays of the sun.  His prison walls were a few yards away-- a thatched hut, wooden floor,

            The Vietnamese troop  surrounding him was also eating its meal-- he grunted at the absurdity of the thought for what he ate did not constitution a full course.  It was not supper.  It could not even pass for a ration.

            The U.S. soldier gulped down the dirty water in a tin container.  The small amount did nothing to stop his thirst.   His lips were cracked; his mouth dry. 

            Leroy Hicks ignored the dirt which had settled at the bottom of his cup.  It had been disturbed in his haste to drink.  He did not think of  disease or infection as he ate. He had long ago given up those thoughts. 

            He simply wanted to eat, drink and stay alive. 

            The high school graduate from Chicago looked down at his  bare feet and the layers of dry/wet mud that were caked to them.            He missed his Army issued  boots.  The Viet  Cong soldiers had  robbed him of them.  His uniformed was also taken  and replaced with tattered clothing that did not fit. 

            The shredded shirt and pants stank, but the smell no longer bothered him; it was masked by the outdoor communal bathrooms-- excrement and other bodily fluids scattered the land around his prison. 

            Private Hicks looked at the faces of some of his buddies and wondered if they too were remembering that Christmas was fast approaching.  He did not know how close the holiday was, but he knew it was coming.

            The young private had been making plans to visit his high school sweetheart, Thelma Evans before he and his fellow soldiers were captured.

            Now that seemed like a distant dream.

            He sighed as he remembered the beautiful black girl back home.   His was proud of his baby and had showed her smiling picture off  to a few of the brothers in his troop. 

            The funny, good natured adolescent  thought of his prom date and all of the excitement of that night.  He remembered how amazing she  looked.

            Leroy Hicks recalled the sky blue gown she wore and his matching tux with its sequenced cummerbund.  He pictured himself standing next to her with his freshly trimmed Afro and her Cleopatra braids.   No one at the prom had dos  like theirs or threads as fine.  He relished the moment.   He had been so excited about life, love.

            The handsome African American man smiled briefly as he thought of Thelma's gentle kisses--  of her overprotective father-- of her strong, god-fearing mother.  He also visualize her older brother J.J and her little brother Michael.

           Leroy Hicks' smile grew a bit more.  He was is love with his girl and wanted nothing more than to be home with his family during the Christmas Holiday.

            He wanted to be as far away from this nightmare of a war as he could get.  He was too young to die.  He hadn't even begun to live.

            The young soldier set down his tin cup.  He looked up toward the sky and began to hum a Motown song by Marvin Gaye. The music filled his head.

            Soon the melody inspired him to sing softly.  The acoustic sound of the lyrics, drifted through the jungles of Vietnam  as Private Hicks began to sing, “I’'d give anything to see a little Christmas tree.  And to hear, hear the laughter of children playing in the snow.  To kiss my baby under the mistletoe...




            “Mama, Mama!” yelled Thelma Evans as she burst through the front door of the apartment. Did it come?  Is it here?  Where's the mail.”

            “Slow down child,” said Florida as she looked up and greeted her daughter from the small kitchen stove.  “Ain't no reason to rush in this house like somebody's chasing you.  The mail's not going anywhere.”

            “But Mama, it has been a month.  I think I'm gonna die if I don't hear from Leroy soon.”

           “Shush up girl.  Nobody is going to die around here.  Your brother J.J. put the letters on the kitchen table.   I haven't gone through them yet,” she said turning her attention back to the large pot of navy beans and ham-hocks cooking on the front burner.

            She stirred the pot and decided that the best way to stretch their meal out was with rice and homemade tea-- although she knew the family was running low on teabags and sugar.

            She sighed and added two more items to the mental grocery list she was making.

             Lord, would this family every go a day without needs? The refrigerator was nearly empty.  How was she gonna manage a Christmas dinner on nothing, but prayers and good cheer?

            Florida Evans shook her head and let the troubled thoughts go.  The Lord would make a way.  He hadn't failed her family yet-- and he wasn't about to start.

            “It's not here Mama,” whined Thelma as she spun around in a dejected attitude. “You think maybe the postman lost it.  He could have dropped it on the way to the other side of the Projects.  Or-- ”

            “Honey, there's no letter.  The boy is busy fighting a war.  He'll write when he gets a chance.  That Leroy has always been considerate.  He knows how much we all care about him.  Give it time.  The letter will come.”

            “But when Mama?  Tomorrow?  Next weeks?  I'm scared out of my mind.  Could something bad have happened?  Could he be--”

            “Hush your mouth girl.  That boy is just fine. He'll write when he can.  Now wash your hands and help set the table for dinner.  Your father is going to come through that door any minute and he's gonna be mighty hungry.”

            “Yes Mama,” said Thelma in a deflated voice as she tried to fight the tears that suddenly sprang to her eyes.

            The middle aged black mother of three caught the sadness in Thelma's voice and stopped stirring the pot of beans.  She lowered the flame before moving away from the stove.

            “Oh come here child,” she ordered kindly as she reached out to Thelma.  She drew the 17-year-old into her arms and wrapped her only daughter in a protective hug.  “Have faith.  Trust in God.  Know that Leroy is safe.  He's alright.  He knows how much you love him.  He ain't about to give up life just because times are hard.  It's not his way.”

            Thelma looked up at her mother with large, sincere eyes, “You believe that Mama?”

            “I wouldn't say it if I didn't.  Now let me see that smile of yours.”

            The beautiful African American teen attempted a smile.

            “You are going to have to do better than that.  Come on.  Try again.”

            “Oh Mama,” smiled Thelma.  “I don't have time to stand here smiling at you.  Daddy's going to come through that door yelling for his dinner.  I better get moving.”

            Just as the words left Thelma's mouth, the apartment door swung open and a big black man wearing a winter coat and knit hat walked though it.

            “Florida!  Where are you Baby!” he demanded as he took off his gloves and searched the small apartment.  “I have some news.  Good news baby.  This is gonna be one hell of a Christmas.”

            The sanitation worker approached his wife, drew her into his arms and gave her an affectionate kiss on the lips, “Baby,” he smiled and chuckled as he spoke.  “I've been wanting to do that all day long.  “You sure is one fine looking black woman.  Now I know why I rush home each night.”

           “Oh James,” she blushed emotionally.  “Cut that kind of talk out.  Wash you hands and come eat.”

            “I'd rather kiss you again,” he said drawing his wife back into his arms and delivering another kiss.”

            "Now you stop this foolishness.  We aren't teenagers anymore,” she said trying to pull away from him, but glad about all of the extra attention.

            “Maybe I'm not eighteen but, whenever I look at you baby, I feel like I'm a young man.   You've got that kind of power woman,” he said swatting his wife lightly on the butt.  “Makes a man proud.”

           “James!  Not in front of the kids,” said Florida as she acknowledged the arrival of her youngest son Michael.  "They don't need to witness this-- ”

            “Ahh Mama,” said Michael.  “There is nothing wrong with displaying black love.  Daddy is just setting an example.  He is showing  the next generation of black men-- me and J.J. that it is perfectly fine to be sexually attracted to our mates.”

            “Michael Evans!  Watch you mouth. What kind of talk is that.  You shouldn't be thinking about things like that.”

            “Why not Mama?”

            “Yeah, why not Florida,” asked James.  “He won't be a kid for long-- hell,”  the father snickered.  “He's got a point.  I am a role model.  You can emulate me son.  I have no problem with that.”

            “See Mama.  Daddy know what I'm talking about.”

            “If I catch you kissing a girl at your age,” warned Florida.  “I'm going to be smacking your butt with a belt.”

            “You have nothing to worry about, Mama,” said Michael.  “Right now I'm focusing all of my attention on preparing for college and then law school.  Girls will come later-- much later.  But Daddy, I'm going to be just like you.”

            “That's my son, Florida.  That's my boy,” he said proudly.

            James Evans junior, J.J. strutted into the living room from a back bedroom and joined the loud conversation which had dragged him there in the first place, “I learned everything I know from Pops.  That's why I'm lean, keen and a sex machine.  When black women take one look at me, they think Prince of the African Nile.”

            “No,” interrupted Thelma.  “They clutched their chest, roll their eyes  and wail.  I've been approached by a gorilla from the wild,” she continued in animated hand gestures and exaggerated body language.

            J.J. turned to his sister and gave her a self-confident grin, “Unlike Beauty of the Beast--”

            “Who are you calling a beast?” she said moving aggressively toward her older brother.  “I'll show you--”

            “Like I was saying.  Unlike the grizzly creature standing before me, I am bright, polite and kid dyn-o-mite,” exclaimed J.J. as he slapped his hands together and wiggled his long, lean body. “Few women can resist my charm.”

            “Humph,” snorted Thelma.  “They must be nine, blind and out of their mind--”

            “Enough!” yelled Florida.  “J.J. apologize to your sister.”

            “But she started it,” he protested.

            “And Thelma, you do the same.  Neither of you will be eating at this table until I hear some kind words.”

           Thelma looked defiantly at her brother, “Sorry.”

            “Yeah, yeah.  Me too.  You aren't that grizzly.”

            “Mama!  Did you hear that!”

            James Evans suddenly spoke out, “Boy, unless you plan on eating somewhere else, you'd better speak up.”

           “Yes sir,” said J.J.  “I didn't mean it.  You ain't that bad.”

            “Now that's better,” smiled Florida.  “Alright everybody lets sit down and eat dinner.  I sure am starving,” she said looking at the steam rising from the pot of navy beans and ham-hocks. 

            “It sure smell damn good,” commented her husband as he sat down at the table.

            “James?  You never told me the good news.  Did something happen today?” asked Florida.

            He looked up at his wife from his chair at the head of the table.  “You know how every year I complain about the job?  How the supervisors-- upper management always get big bonuses?  That we only get an empty card with hollow sayings.”

            “Yes, James.  I remember.”

            “Well guess what?  This year the words in the card aren't so hollow.  Every sanitation worker received a bonus.  There's enough money in that card to go grocery shopping.  And a little extra left over for a real Christmas tree-- no plastic artificial one this year.  I'm going down to the corner and buy the biggest tree I can find.”

            “Oh James, that's wonderful.  I haven't smelt a fresh pine tree since I was small.”

           “Can I come with you to pick it out?” demanded Thelma. 

            “Of course baby,” said the father  proudly.

            “And don't forget the candles for Kwanzaa,” interrupted Michael.  “We also need fresh fruit for the celebration of black family and unity.”

            “Don't worry son.  We've got money for both holidays,”  he smiled.  “Now let’s dig  into your Mama's cooking.” 

            The rest of the family pushed back their chairs and sat down at the small table.  They grasped each others hand and listened to Florida Evans say mealtime grace.



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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.