Being the public relations person for the Ku Klux Klan must be a thankless job at best. At worst, it’s probably any PR person’s living nightmare, somewhat akin to persuading the public that anthrax has many convenient household uses, or that, despite the unpleasantness, Hitler did encourage strong economic development. Charlie Watkins always marveled at these attempts to somehow add a positive spin to guys in sheets, waving Confederate flags around outside the unemployment office, while shouting “White power!” at the top of their lungs. He found himself pondering this as he held in his hand a bag of candy-coated chocolate drops, no doubt meant to be a generic knock-off of M&Ms, but emblazoned with three large, Gothic Ks and the tagline, “Join the Klan!”
The package ended up in his mailbox one Saturday morning, part of a varied assortment of sweets, all bearing the same message, and including an eight hundred number on the back of each packet to call for more information. Charlie wasn’t sure how these folks had gotten into his subdivision. He’d never known any of his neighbors to belong to clandestine hate groups, but one could never be absolutely certain. Mr. Braxton over on Maple Lane did drive a pickup, and sometimes struck Charlie as a little too sympathetic to states’ rights.
To learn more, Charlie visited the Paytons, his next door neighbors, to see if they had received any candy. Marge Payton greeted him, then retrieved a similar package of sweets that had arrived that same morning.
“What are we supposed to do with these?” she said. “It’s not even good candy. What if the kids see this?”
“Why don’t I just take it off your hands, Marge,” Charlie offered.
“Really? You’d do that?”
“Sure, what are neighbors for?” Charlie said. “I’m guessing everyone on the block got one.”
“Probably,” Marge said. “Cynthia on the corner called me to say she got one.”
Charlie turned to face the street. “Then I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
He retrieved several Whole Foods bags from his garage, then went to every house on his block, collecting candy. When he exhausted his block, he started hitting each street in the subdivision.
“Hello, I’m your neighbor, Charles Watkins,” he’d say to whoever answered the door. “You wouldn’t happen to have gotten any Klan candy today would you?”
After much success collecting candy in his subdivision, just for good measure, Charlie went into the next subdivision, where he was equally successful at finding the goods, accruing nine large paper bags full of it. He thought long and hard what to do with it, when an idea came to him.
Charlie got a couple of the large plastic jack-o-lanterns he put out for Halloween, and filled them with the candy, placed the bags, and jack-o-lanterns in his car, and headed off to the city.
Arriving at a gas station in town, Charlie spotted three large black men having an animated conversation at the air pump, while a fourth put air in the tire of a Chevy Suburban. Charlie parked nearby and approached them carrying one of the jack-o-lanterns.
“Could I interest you fellows in some Klan candy?” Charlie said.
The men looked around at one another and one said, “Klan candy? What the hell is that?”
“Why, it’s candy distributed by the KKK,” Charlie said, holding out the jack-o-lantern. “See? I found it in my subdivision this morning.”
Each of the men took a packet and stared at it. The one who’d spoken up, continued, “What you bringing this down here for?”
“Just being neighborly,” Charlie said. Pointing at one of the the packets, he went on, “Oh, I failed to mention, there’s a number on the back, where people can call and thank them for the candy.”
The men looked on back, then started to laugh. One of the other men, nodded emphatically. “All right. We got you.”
“There’s plenty more where this came from. Can I give you some to share with your friends,” Charlie said. One of the guys took a Publix bag from the Suburban.
“We’ll do just that,” the first man said.
After setting them up with lots of candy, Charlie drove around distributing the packets to anyone he could find hanging around at groceries, churches, gas stations, barbershops, and nail salons, then gave some to the mostly Spanish-speaking guys outside a home improvement store, and left the remainder with the staff at the regional headquarters of the NAACP. Along the way, he made many new friends, and amused countless individuals.
Once all the candy was gone, Charlie headed home, secure in the knowledge that he’d done his good deed for the day.
Back home, his wife Mira noted the missing bags. “So you got rid of it all, eh?”
“I sure did,” Charlie said. “I just hope the guys in the Klan appreciate all the work I did for them today.”
“You’re a humanitarian,” Mira said, before letting Charlie know he wasn’t off the hook for cutting the back yard that afternoon.
“A humanitarian’s work is never done,” he said with a sigh, before heading out back.