Trent Lott stood on an old wood bridge spanning the Pascagoula River. He watched as the muddy water slowly made its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Some things move slow in Pascagoula.
Suddenly he became aware of a stranger standing to his right.
"This bridge doesn't feel very safe," the little old man said.
"It doesn't," Lott agreed, adding, "there aren't many wood bridges left in Mississippi."
"Oh, you'd be surprised," the stranger corrected with a chuckle.
Lott looked further into the night. The bridge shook with the wind, and he grabbed the rail with both hands. "There's a bridge of reinforced steel spanning this river." Frantically he looked closely at the bridge. Where was the interstate bridge?
"What's going on?" Lott asked softly.
"Didn't you just say you wished Strom Thurmond had been elected president?" the old man asked nervously.
"No. I said I wish that I never said that I wished Strom Thurmond had been elected president."
"Oh dear, I've made a little bit of a mess, I suppose," the old man said, looking up to the stars. "Well, since we've gone to all this trouble, how about a trip to Oxford to see your alma mater?"
The little old man took Lott's hand, and they found themselves standing in the middle of Ole Miss.
The old man suggested they take a look at the law school, now located in the administration building. They poked their heads in a cavernous classroom, where three young white men listened to an ancient professor with a tubercular cough lecture on states' rights.
Lott, appalled, grabbed the little old man. "What year is this?"
"2002," the old man replied.
"What happened?" Lott demanded.
"They just can't attract the students they once could. And a degree here doesn't mean much outside of Mississippi. These three students," he pointed into the classroom where the students appeared to be sleeping as an old, shabby black man swept the floor around them, "are Jefferson Davis Scholarship students. They may be small in numbers, but ... "
"This all seems like ... " Lott interrupted, "like the past."
"William Faulkner, a good chap, once said, 'The past is never dead. It's not even the past.' Or something to that effect."
Lott considered this and shuddered. "That sounds like something Colin Powell would say."
"Who's Colin Powell?" the old man asked.
"Never mind. Take me to Canton," Lott ordered.
The little man grabbed his arm. "OK, off we go."
They settled onto a field on the outskirts of Canton. It was a nice field. Lott saw the town and the I-55, but no factory or exit ramp. "Where, where's the Nissan factory?"
"It's not here," the old man said. "It was never built."
"What do you mean it was never built? I helped bring that factory to Mississippi. And with it 3,900 jobs. Good jobs."
"Nissan couldn't build their factory here. People -- all kinds of people -- have moved elsewhere, to places where they felt more welcome and where there were jobs. And immigrants aren't allowed in Mississippi. So you see, how could you expect Nissan to build a factory where there wouldn't be enough workers? You can't blame them really. It's sound business."
Lott began to lose control.
"Take me back! Take me back I tell you!"
"To Ole Miss?"
"To the bridge. Please!"
And they disappeared from the field. Lott found himself again on the bridge. He saw the Ingalls shipyard in the distance. Lots of lights, lots of jobs.
He realized the bridge was not made of wood and was steady, well built. He looked down at his hands, which trembled terribly.