Our final exercise in the creative writing workshop was to write a FICTIONAL account of a famous person's day. It was meant to give us practice researching as well as writing. I wrote mine about Rosa Parks. I hope I've done her justice.
Rosa's feet hit the floor with a thud. She shuffled through the dim light to the washroom where she washed her face, and combed her thick black hair back into a tight bun. She put on the starched navy blue uniform that was on a hanger on the back of the door. With a final check in the mirror she went downstairs, gripping the handrail and taking the steps one by one, thinking about what she was going to say at the NAACP rally the next day.
She filled a kettle with water and turned on the stove. A bag of 'Red Rose' tea, she always bought this brand because of the name, was waiting in a heavy white mug. While her tea steeped she walked over to the calendar hanging on the wall beside the fridge and flipped the page to the next month. December, 1955. Oh my, only 25 days till Christmas, she thought, I'll haf'ta pick up gifts for the nieces and nephews soon. Sipping her tea she wondered what life would have been like if they had children, if she would have had grandchildren by now.
Rosa turned on the radio in time to catch the news and weather forecast. Twenty seven Fahrenheit, I'll have to wear a coat, she thought as she sipped her tea. She pulled a bag of bread from the cupboard and laid out two slices, a thin layer of butter and a slice of bologna finished the sandwich. With precision, she folded it in waxed paper and stuck it in her purse, along with a shiny, red apple. Her tea finished, she walked upstairs to brush her teeth, after rinsing her mouth she smiled at the dark face staring back at her. The clock downstairs on the sideboard chimed 7; she went back downstairs to finish getting ready to leave. Sitting on a straight chair beside the front door she put on her sturdy black shoes, then stood to put on her coat. The dark grey wool coat was scratchy against her neck as she fastened the top button.
From the bottom of the stairs she shouted up to her husband, "Raymond, don't forget we have the NAACP rally this weekend. I'm stopping at the drugstore on my way home, do you need anything? Okay, I'll get some aspirin. Wear a coat when you go out, it's below freezing this morning. See ya later!". The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People was an organization dear to her heart so she never missed a chance to help out.
She stepped out the door, an ordinary start to what would be an extraordinary day. Her feet seemed to know the way to the bus stop on their own, they'd travelled that way so often. Rosa stood straight as she waited for the bus to come, her large black purse gripped in front of her. She stepped on, paid, and walked to the back of the bus, careful to take a seat after the 'coloreds' sign. Every time she got on the bus it was the same thing and the unfairness angered her. At least this bus driver didn't make her get off after she'd paid and re-board at the back of the bus. She refused to be degraded like that and often waited for the next bus.
The bus rolled to a stop in front of the Montgomery Ward department store. With a resigned sigh, but shoulders back, she stepped off the bus and walked to the employee's door at the side of the building. A pile of men's trousers at her workstation waited for hemming and pressing. Steam rose from the presser causing tendrils of hair to be released from the bun on the back of her head. Beads of sweat peppered her brow as she leaned over the sewing machine, meticulously hemming each pant leg. A bell rang, signifying break time, so she finished sewing the leg she was working on and rushed downstairs to see H. Council Trenholm to finalize plans for the NAACP workshop she was giving at the college that weekend.
Rosa hemmed and pressed more trousers before lunch, humming 'this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine" under her breath as she worked. At noon, she picked up her lunch from the employee fridge and walked down the street to the office where her friend Fred Grey worked as a lawyer. She was proud to call the second black lawyer in Montgomery her friend. Seating herself in the chair in front of his desk she unwrapped her sandwich and between bites proceeded to fill him in on what she planned to say at the workshop. Fred listened without saying anything, he was used to her enthusiastic mutterings.
As the afternoon wore on, Rosa's shoulders ached from the tedious work. At 5pm the pile of pants had evaporated and she was free to go. Her coat unbuttoned, she walked a block to Lee’s Cut-Rate Drug and with a basket in hand walked the aisles. Aspirin, toothpaste, not the heating pad - too expensive. I'll try Rub A535, it's a lot cheaper than the heating pad, she thought. She set the basket beside the cash register and paid. Her purse in one hand and shopping bag in the other, she walked down the sidewalk to the bus stop. She couldn't wait to get Ray to rub the A535 on her shoulders.
A bus pulled up, and without looking at the driver she paid and walked down the centre aisle to the first non-white seat and sat down beside a man. Crammed onto a seat barely big enough to seat one adult, let alone two, she balanced her load on her lap and kept her eyes straight forward. The bus started. Three times it stopped for passengers until the front was full. The only seats left were the middle section where she was sitting with three other blacks. The bus driver, James Fred Blake, noticed a white man standing and shouted back for the 4 black people to move to the back of the bus even though there were no empty seats. At first nobody moved. Blake walked back and told them again. Rosa moved her legs aside to allow the man sitting beside her to leave then, gripping her parcels, slid over against the window. The other three moved to the back, where they stood, waiting to see what would happen.
Rosa sat firm, her jaw jutted out and head held high, tired, not from the physical work she had done that day, she was tired from years of racial injustice.
Blake threatened to get the police and still she did not move. She stiffened her body and in a firm voice said "No. I will not."
Blake left the bus to find the police. While she waited her resolve strengthened and although no other people stood beside her, she knew that she could not give in.
After a few minutes, two police officers accompanied Blake when he returned to the bus. The two officers walked to the back of the bus and confronted Rosa, ordering her off the bus.
“Why do you all push us around?” said Rosa.
The police officer replied, “I don’t know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.”
The officers escorted Rosa off the bus, one stopping to pick up her purse, the other to pick up her shopping bag. One opened the back door of the cruiser.
Rosa Parks stepped into the car and onto the pages of history.
“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.”
― Rosa Parks