Elaine T. Jones is a retired educator who continues to be active in her community. Elaine holds a Bachelor’s degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia. PA. She did her Master’s studies at Temple University. She is the mother of four, grandmother of five, and great grandmother of one… After retirement, Elaine began to write; Price Road is her first novel.
Price Road is the story of a White postman, Ed O’Reilly, who delivered mail on Price Road, a primarily Black community in North Carolina, in the 1940s and 50s – when Jim Crow Laws were in effect below the Mason Dixon Line. The place is real; the history is factual; the characters are composites of people Elaine recalls from her youth when she visited her grandparents, who lived on Price Road.
A large white delivery truck came down Price Road – fast – just as a car turned onto Shady Grove Road; the truck couldn’t stop fast enough, and the car was pushed into a tree on the church grounds. The car was crushed like an accordion.
Although Ed had only been on the job for a few months when the car accident happened, he was already friendly with the people on his route; therefore, he knew who was in the mangled car. Every cell in Ed’s entire body recalled the same pain, anxiety, fear, and sorrow that he felt that on that dreadful day. It was hard for Ed to look at that tree – it still smacked of tragedy, yet he couldn’t stop himself from looking every time he drove by. Someone planted a beautiful white rose bush at the base of the tree where the crushed car had been; the magnificent flowers shared the space with the large roots of the elderly tree and defiantly reappeared every year. Larger.
The accident occurred on a Wednesday afternoon; Ed was driving back down Price Road, on his return trip to the post office. It was Ed who instinctively drove as fast as he could to tell Big Mom what happened. He took Big Mom and Perry to the scene; they never stopped thanking him for that even though Ed told them that he didn’t think he had done anything extraordinary. Ed remembered how he instinctively removed the mailbag from the passenger seat to let Big Mom sit in the front of the car because it was the right thing to do. Still, Ed remembered the sense of relief he felt when he saw that there were no other White people around; thank God, he didn’t have to explain his actions to anyone.
As Ed looked back on that day, he wondered why such thoughts even entered his mind. As he relived his thinking at the time, Ed recalled the feeling of an internal conflict. That was the day when he first became aware of the fighting going on in his head between the Inside Ed and the Outside Ed. It was as if he were two beings rolled into one. His mind was as much a battlefield as Gettysburg. The Inside Ed felt stifled, and struggled with the fear of being discovered in his hiding place because if he was recognized he might be required to lead or act in some way – like John Brown. Ed knew the song about John Brown lying in the grave. John Brown was executed, and Inside Ed did not want to be placed in the position of opposing the majority; he was not a John Brown. The Inside Ed was concerned with what other people saw in him every time he emerged; therefore, he spent most of his time imprisoned deep in the dungeon of denial. Still on occasion, Inside Ed found the nerve to escape from his hiding place to do something he felt was right, albeit only covertly, as he did on the day of the accident.
The Outside Ed fought for the dominance of Ed O’Reilly’s mind; he was the smiling, happy go lucky, carefree personality that enjoyed being accepted by his friends and relatives. Outside Ed did not think his own thoughts; he always chose the path of least resistance. As long as he wasn’t the instigator, his position regarding racial and social issues was – ‘It’s not my responsibility.’ It was fear that controlled both Inside Ed and Outside Ed for different reasons; a fear that was hidden under the skin, but a fear nonetheless. Neither of these personalities was free, and their fight for the control of Ed O’Reilly’s mind felt like pure pandemonium under his skull.