The back-half of the left pedal on his silver 10-speed was broken off, so Michael always seemed to be leaning when he rode up and down the bumpy streets of West Montgomery. With his foot flat on the right pedal and the other foot tiptoed on the right, he pimp-pedaled (as his boys had titled it) around the small circle folks called Black Park. It was said to be called Black Park because John E. Black Recreation Center was found at the North end of West Montgomery. But most people felt it was called that because it was where most of the Black people in Montgomery lived—generation after generation.
Michael was aware that Black Park had a bad reputation in Montgomery. Most avoided even driving through that part of town—not that there was any reason to do so anyway. There wasn’t a department store, museum, or even decent grocery store there. The city and businesses had sent a clear message: Black Park wasn’t worth investing in; and most residents took that assessment personally. Once you are deemed worthless by an entire city, you tend to believe it. Litter and graffiti were outward signs of the area’s beaten self-esteem.
Ironically, most people from Black Park felt safer in it, than out of it. When organizations sponsored field trips to take the school kids to plays, dance performances and museums, if people were to pay attention, they would see kids who were scared. The children delighted in many of the performances, but felt like plucked chickens: cold, bumpy and exposed being pulled off of their farm so these rich ladies could get their philanthropic fix. But at least the trips gave Michael the opportunity to escape Black Park for a day.
After his brother Matt was sent to juvie, Michael’s mother had severely restricted Michael’s freedom: allowing him only to go to school, church and the church’s summer camp. She had taken Matt’s arrest for shoplifting as a personal insult to her parenting, so she over-corrected the wheel and had driven herself crazy with worry and Michael crazy with over-parenting. The two would’ve probably crashed; but what Michael’s mom didn’t realize is that most of the time Michael wanted to stay home too because he missed Matt so much that functioning without him was like pedaling though life with an entire pedal missing. He was completely off balance.
Michael and Matt had always been close. People called them a special, mixed bag of M&Ms: one was all chocolate and one was chocolate and nutty. Matt, the older of the two by 17 months, was always the first to take a dare, to think of crazy games to keep all the neighborhood kids busy and to say whatever he was thinking. “He’s a genius like his dad,” momma used to always say, which would only anger Matt because he didn’t want to be anything like his absentee father.
“No genius would abandon a woman with a toddler and a 1-month old,” Matt would whisper when he and Michael were laying in their bunk beds talking as they did every night until Michael fell asleep (Michael would unfailingly fall asleep first. It was as if Matt’s protective nature couldn’t fall asleep until he knew that his brother had). Even in his whisper, Matt’s anger could be detected. He hated his father.
But at the same time, Matt also tried to replace him. He was always trying to be the man around the house: fixing things that broke as best as he could, opening the car door for momma, rushing to help carry anything for her, and also bossing Michael around, which is the only time those two would conflict. It was Matt’s unconscious desire to replace his father that’s caused him to shoplift. When Matt and Michael’s mom was laid off for six months, and the government took almost 6 weeks to process their mom’s unemployment, Matt started stealing from the grocery store right outside of Black Park. He got basic needs: deodorant, tuna fish, sandwich meat. But, he also got caught three times. He was lucky. They usually didn’t give boys from Black Park even second chances.
Once Matt got sentenced and wasn’t living at home anymore, being stricter with Michael wasn’t the only change that their mother made. She also got a boyfriend (though she would only call him “a friend). Lou Blakely had picked up the trash at their home ever since Michael could remember. When Michael was younger, he liked climbing up on the top bunk and watching the massive truck do its magic. He never got the story about how he and his mother became friends; but knew that his mother was smitten when she stopped making Michael take out the trash and started rolling the green trash bin to the curb herself, wearing Mary Kay Rasinberry lipstick and a squirt of Channel 10 (a Chanel 5 knockoff sold at the Walgreens up the street). In the beginning, she’d just wave, with one hand still on the bin handle, as if she’d just arrived. In time, Lou would stop, lean against the slightly rusted chain link fence that separated their small yard from the Johnson’s even smaller yard and chat with his mother so long that the traces of the Rasinberry lipstick would end up on her teeth from smiling so much.
Then one Sunday, after about 3 months of these weekly chain-link conversations, Michael came out of his room, while the game was on a commercial, and discovered Lou leaning back on one of the wooden kitchen chairs with his hands resting on his slightly protruding belly. “How’s the game. Is Lebron whining yet?”. Michael for a moment, couldn’t answer him. This was the first time Michael had seen a man in his home. It immediately shifted the air somehow. Also, Michael, as shown by the 5 posters tacked to the walls of his and his brother’s small room was a major Lebron fan, so he really didn’t know how to answer Mr. Blakely. Were it one of his boys, he would’ve busted on him so hard, but he knew his momma would slap him back into Friday if he ever disrespected an adult, so he just muttered, “yes, sir,” and took satisfaction that Lebron was whooping up on OKC like they had called his momma out her name. Michael grabbed the bag of Cheeto’s out of the cabinet and a can of grape soda out of the fridge and went back to his room.
These Sunday visits became as regular as the chain-link conversations had been, so Michael took the chance of asking his mother if he could start watching the games over at Laquan’s house like the rest of his friends. Laquan’s dad worked at Sears and got the 20% employee discount. Last Christmas, he bought the family a TV set so big that it didn’t fit in any of the rooms at their home, so they had set it up in the garage. For any major TV event, you could find at least 20 people sitting on a hodge podge of chairs sharing snacks, rooting on teams and trash-talkin’ in Laquan’s garage.
At first, Michael’s mom said, “no”; but Michael reasoned with her. Laquan’s house was two blocks from their’s he argued.
“Ma, what can happen? I’m just going to watch the game and come right home, it’s just two blocks” he pleaded.
“Michael, them games don’t be ending until damn-near 11:00. And how do I know what’s going on over at that house. I know folks like to drink and carry-on when they watching the game. I don’t want you around all of that mess.”
“Ma, you know Laquan’s mom from church. She became born-again years ago. That type of stuff doesn’t happen in her home,” Michael lied. Laquan’s mother was saved; but it was her husband who got her there: she realized that if she stayed married to him, she was going to end up at either the Lord’s house or the nut house. He was a sweet man, but one who was partial to strong liquor after he got off of work. He was harmless however. The only bad thing about Laquan’s father when he drank were his jokes.
“It’s not Laquan or his family that worries me so much. You know how deez streets get once it gets dark, his mother objected.
Michael didn’t know if Lou was trying to win him over, desirous of some alone time with his mother, or really just a good dude, but he piped in, “I’m not tryin to intrude on family business; but Lillian, I wouldn’t be able to get here in time to get Michael to Laquan’s house cause you know I go with my mother to church and Western Sizzler every Sunday; but I could go and walk Michael home after the game.
Michael looked at Lou feeling torn between wanting to thank him and one wanting to tell him to mind his business.
“Okay,” his mom resigned and walked into her room signaling that she had agreed but wasn’t happy about the decision.
Lou smiled, gave Michael a quick pat on the back, and then followed his Mother into her room (which Michael had ever seen Lou out of the kitchen).
Lou must’ve talked to Michael’s mother and then quickly left because in fewer than 20 minutes after she walked out of the kitchen she was opening the door to Michael’s room. Michael had already climbed into the top bunk and started his prayers. He found that he talked to God a lot more now since he didn’t have Matt to talk with anymore.
She shoved one of Michael’s rec league trophies to the side with her elbow and then left it there so that she could prop her head on her hand.
“Michael, I know I’ve been strict on you since Matt left. And there is no way you can understand this—you probably never will be able to cause you ain’t eva gonna be a momma. But I loved you and yo brotha’ the minute I knew you existed. The minute I took those pregnancy tests, I was in love. But, with love came a whole lot of worry. I swear that living in these parts robs the luxury of lovin mo than worryin’. I can’t enjoy you and freely love you sometimes because I am so focused on trying to protect you. It’s like them rich women with an expensive diamond, who can’t wear it cause they think somebody gonna steal it from them. Difference is—they got insurance. There is no replacing you.
And I know you and Matt hate yo daddy. I used to hate his sorry ass too. At first it was because I loved him and he broke my heart. Later it was because I knew his absence in some small way each day was breaking yours. And ain’t nothing worse than a broken man. A broken man is either weak or mean. But you and Matt aren’t either. You are strong and kind young men. But you are still living in a mean environment that will take advantage of even a brief moment of weakness. That’s what happened with your brother: he was weak because I didn’t have a job and the friends he was hanging around don’t consider stealing a real crime. So I need you to promise me that you will be strong– and not in the way these streets define strength.
It’s like we are in an ocean and the tide/the waves are all pulling you in one direction. Some of your friends are floating by, heading in that direction, not realizing that there is a whirlpool on the other end. Some are actually swimming with the tide, so they think that they have figured things out because right now life feels easy—like them drug dealers out there—but they are only going to drown faster. I’ve tried to be the anchor, holding you in place—hopefully allowing you to build your strength. As you get older and get a little freedom, you’ve got to be strong enough to go against the direction that life is pulling you. That will take so much strength and determination. Do you understand? The tide is against you baby. It’s not your fault, but it is and momma just needs you to promise me that no matter how tired you get, you will at least tread water or hang on to a rock until you either catch your breath or I can help you out.”
Michael didn’t say anything. When mom gave her mini sermons—as she did from time to time—it was best to stay quiet. She then walked over and put the covers over Michael. She hadn’t tucked him in since he was 10, but she seemed to need to do it tonight. And that was just fine with Michael—
Laquan’s Dad had jimmy-rigged his own surround-sound system so Michael could hear the TV almost a block before he reached Laquan’s house. Once he started walking up the driveway that had been cracked by age and now accessorized with defiant dandelion weeds, he could hear the essential sides that accompany any major sporting event: debates about who the greatest of all time is, bets being made on the game, and then general trash talking.
“Maaaaan, Curry can’t even control his wife’s mouth. What’s makes you think he can control his team?“ Little Step said to Laquan’s father, Duck.
He don’t need to control dem. Dey know what to do. It’s a team of playas. Dey work together like a well oiled machine—ya feel. Like me, Trey and Henry used to do back in the day,” and he turned around and dapped a heavy set guy wearing a Kobe Jersey.
Michael figured that was either Trey or Henry as he scanned the room for Laquan. He spotted him, leaning against the outdoor refrigerator that housed all of the beer talking to a girl who had chocolate, flawless skin and a massive afro-puff atop her head looking rather disinterested, but polite. Laquan didn’t know much about girls yet, but he knew enough to know that he wasn’t supposed to interrupt another brother’s game, so he stayed where he was, leaned against the wall, pulled out his phone and acted like Instagram had some memes on it that he hadn’t seen multiple times already.
“What’s up my man,” Laquan came over and hit Michael on his back about a minute later. Glad you decided to dip through.
“Ya man, of course. Saw you over there hollerin’ at ol’ girl. What’s up wit that?”
“Aww man, nothing. She new round here. Just tryin to park in the garage before dere any oil spills. Feel me?” Laquan said laughing.
Michael laughed too though he wasn’t completely sure he knew what Laquan meant.
The rest of the night seemed to go so quickly. There was never more than a three basket difference between the teams, so the high competition brought out Shakespearean-level Jonesin’ and Ali-level trash-talk. For two hours each man was a better coach and player than the ones on the court.
Man, you gotta make that shot!
Are they playing defense in this bitch or not?
Dey getting sloppy out there. Come on boyz!
Let’s do dis!!
During commercial breaks, someone would turn on the music—the few ladies in the room would start dancing in small circles, people would go refill their drinks or go into the kitchen to grab another piece of chicken or pizza, and people would up their bets.
At some point during the last quarter, Michael spotted Lou holding a Heineken in his hand and chewing the fat with a few of the older guys outside of the garage. Every now and then Lou would laugh so hard that the laughter seemed to invade his entire body and he had to place his right hand on his knee to keep himself from tumbling over. He had the type of laugh that could be heard rooms away, cause you to laugh too, or make you want to discover the root of the laughter. Initially, Michael was shocked that Lou seemed to know so many people at the gathering, but then he realized that Lou had worked in Black Park long before Michael was even born.
Lou must have felt someone looking at him because he looked up and immediately met Michael’s eyes. At first, embarrassed, Michael looked away; but when he looked back, Lou simply nodded an acknowledgement and continued mingling.
Michael appreciated that. He knew his mom would’ve come right over—wiping out any cool points he had racked up that night to tell him that it was time to go soon. Having a guy around was weird, but somewhat nice. Michael had to admit that Lou seemed to speak the same language.
Michael went inside the house to thank Laquan’s mom, who standing at the counter, arranging slices of Lemon cake on white plates while talking with several ladies.
“Hey Michael baby, come get you some of this here cake,” she compelled.
“Thank you, but I just came to say goodnight and thank you.”
“Oh, you headed home? Alright now. Glad you came. Hold up, I’ma wrap a piece of this cake up for you and your momma. Tell her that it’s my Aunt Ethel’s recipe. Your momma knows my Aunt Ethel well,” she relayed as she expertly ripped a piece of foil from the box and wrapped up two large pieces of cake. “Katrina, hand me a brown paper bag outta that drawer right behind you,” she said to the girl whom Laquan was talking to earlier.
Katrina looked at Michael over her shoulder as she was opening the drawer, “you can go head out wit’ yo’ boys. I’ll bring you the cake in a minute.”
“Thanks,” Michael mumbled as he walked out of the kitchen.
Michael went over and stood by Lou. Lou looked at Michael, “you good?”
“Yea,” Michael responded. “Let me nab this cake for my mom.”
At that moment Katrina bounced down the garage steps, her massive afro-puff moving a little in response and strutted over to Michael and Lou.
“Hi Mr. Blakely,” she said.
“Hey there little lady,” Lou responded.
I guess Lou really does know everyone in this neighborhood, Michael thought, even the new folks.
“Here ya go,” Katrina started to hand the bag holding the cake over. Just as Michael went to grab the bag, Duck backed into Lou, trying to teach one of the younger guys how to do two-step.
“See dis is how we used to put it down back in the day,” he hollered, smiling and shuffling his feet, until he bumped into Lou, causing Lou to spill his beer on Michael.
My bad, little man,” Duck apologized.
“Ain’t nothin’ ” Michael replied.
He looked at Katrina who was smiling as she was handing him something else. “Here’s something else sweet for you.” Michael looked down and saw that it was a piece of ripped cardboard from one of the pizza boxes, with the name Katrina (with a heart over the “i”) and her telephone number.
All Michael could do was smile. His first girl-situation. He couldn’t wait to talk to Matthew about it when they got to talk later this week. Matthew would be able to give him tips on how to handle things cause Katrina was sho-nuff a dime.
“A’ight, let’s get,” Lou said as he started walking.
Michael started walking with him—a step or two behind.
The Chief liked to tout how he had cops protecting many of the same streets that had once played on. In theory, Reggie could see how this idea sounded like a good one—I’m sure it was assumed that a cop who worked the same beat that was once his home would show more love and empathy towards the area; and that he would have familiarity and respect from the residents. But Reggie wanted to tell the Chief to wake up from his fairytale: he, for instance ,hated Black Park and most of the folks in it.
Growing up, they used to call Reggie the mayor of Black Park– not because he was so popular or a leader, but because he was so Black. He was teased from the time he started school.
“Anybody as Black as you, needs to be the Mayor of this place.”
“Damn boy, did they name this area after you and yo momma?”
“You and your family just like our hood: Black, poor and broke down!”
“Yo momma is like Black Park: nobody wants to go in her at night!”
Reggie could never figure out how Black people, the ones who claimed they were so proud, could be so mean to their own about skin hues. If Black was so beautiful; why did his own people make him and his Blackness feel so ugly? But his mother, Raelyne, a strong, prayerful woman never did let anyone get her down and kept chastising Reggie to stop being so sensitive.
“Them kids don’t mean nothin’. If Black is so ugly how you think you came to be? I wasn’t ever lonely for no male company; but you don’t need to hear all dat. Go on out there a play some kickball with your friends, Regg” she’d say.
Couldn’t she see that they weren’t his friends? To them, he was either invisible or the target of their jokes. So Reggie would stay inside, watch copious amounts of TV and eat. By the time he got to high school, he was 5’10 and 260 pounds. High School, where everyone seemed just see a fat, Black kid, the football coach saw potential and convinced Reggie to come out for the team.
That football field was where Reggie’s nickname, Mayor, finally took on a different connotation. Once he joined the football team, folks referred to him as Mayor with respect because Reggie was known as the man who was the CEO of the football field. No one got past the Mayor. He loved being part of a team; though he still never felt as if he fully belonged. Part of the reason that he was so good on the field was that he was still angry. And it was hard to completely trust the same cats who had harassed him almost daily for over a decade.
Playing on the football team revealed to Reggie that he liked working in groups and he liked the idea of protecting others; so he set his sights on joining the police force. The day that Reggie received his badge was his proudest. But he noticed immediately that while White residents seemed to have even higher regard for him since he became a police officer, Black people –even members of his own family—seemed to have disdain for him. He began to get looks from Black people that again made him feel like that fat kid sitting on the bench by himself at recess.
He frequently had to remind himself that he wasn’t that fat kid anymore, but a police officer—one of the most respected professions possible. Going out every now and then with his fellow Blues reminded him of who he was now and how respected the job was. Yes, he had heard a few of his officers use the N-word a few times, but a lot of these hoodlums acted like Niggers. He was just as frustrated as his non-Black counterparts were—actually more. Didn’t Black folks get that acting like idiots only made it harder for good guys like him to make it in this world? Once people started thinking that Black people were dumb thugs, the good guys like him couldn’t get promoted. Reggie had been passed over 3 times now for a promotion and was still stuck patrolling Black Park. Reggie was sure that his lack of career advancement had a lot to do with the way Black people were viewed in the police force.
So on the force, he had to work extra hard not to be lumped in as ‘one of them.’ He needed to be seen differently than 99% of the Black people that his colleagues came into contact with daily. He wasn’t only a good police officer, he was one of the best. He showed up early and left late; His paperwork was thorough and turned in punctually; His uniform was always pressed and spotless just like his performance record. But still no promotion. And no real acceptance either. Yes, he was one of the Blue and he believed that his colleagues respected him; but, he knew that several of these men got together outside of work and knew each other’s families, whereas, he rarely spent much free time with his colleagues. So he was in, but not IN and he felt it every day.
And he certainly wasn’t IN on the streets either. To his supposed “homeboys”, a Black cop was a traitor—the lowest form of mankind. So while it would have been nice to get some support and love from his community, he got the exact opposite.
In his community, he was Mayor again: the Black kid with no friends and no respect. Just thinking about it made Reggie’s hands sweat at he drove toward Black Park for the beginning of his shift. And who the fuck were they to look at him disgust?” Reggie thought. Most of them hadn’t progressed at all: still living in the same shitty-ass place, doing the same stupid-ass things they were doing 25 years ago; though, admittedly, they seemed happy. As poor, dirty and ugly Black Park was, it was a true community. He drove by and saw small gatherings of neighbors everywhere although it was almost 11:00 at night: a few drunks gathered around the non-functioning pay phones outside of Jack’s liquor store, 3 moms with strollers laughing in the parking lot of Lee’s Beauty, a gaggle of elementary kids rolling expertly down the broken sidewalks on their scooters while a few stragglers ran beside them, and house-steps with people of all sitting and talking. Why wasn’t he happy when he was the one who got out and did right?
Reggie’s thoughts were interrupted by the trap music blaring so loudly that he couldn’t hear the police radio. On his right, Reggie sees a few fellas sitting on the steps of an old faded yellow house, smoking blunts. Immediately Reggie pulls over to the side, parks, and gets out of the car. The guys see him approaching, but don’t even try to shift their behavior. “No fucking respect,” Reggie thinks.
One guys in a gray Adidas sweat suit, long dreads that have been tied with some sort of leather string, squints his eyes, sucks hard on this blunt and looks directly into Reggie’s eyes.
“What’s up, Mayor,” he sneers.
“Officer Brown,” Reggie replied. “Ya’ll need some help putting out those illegal substances?”
“Wakaaakakaakaaa,” all three guys started cracking up. “Illegal substances!? Nigga, you as corny as you were in high school. Wakaaakaahahhhaa!”
Reggie rested his hand on his night wand, tempted to use it to beat the shit out of Ray-Ray, the ring leader of these thugs, but he took a breath, looked at them and commanded, “I’m going to do you fools a favor. I’m going to get in my car, do my patrol. When I get back here in about 45 minutes, you fucking losers and your drugs better be gone or you might want to go ahead and tell your baby mommas to start gathering bail money again and that you won’t be home for a few nights.”
Reggie got in his car, let out a deep sigh, “stupid motherfuckers” he said to himself as he slowly drove off. Gradually, his shoulders started to unknot as he drove past Elm, then Cedar. He purposely drove quickly past his own street—too many bad memories still lived there. As he approached the stop sign on Chestnut, he sees Lou — Lou Blakley, his former teammate carrying a bottle of Heineken in his hand and walking with a pecan-colored teenage kid, wearing a red Lebron James t-shirt. Probably another knucklehead who thinks that he actually going to play in the NBA, Reggie thought, as he pulled over to the side, parked, turned on his lights, and started approaching Lou and Michael.
MICHAEL, OFFICER BROWN & LOU
“Hey dere, Mayor. How goes it? Did you see the game?” Lou greeted jovially.
“Officer Brown,” Reggie gritted. Do these mother fuckers see that I am wearing a uniform? Do I look like I’m still in high school?
“My bad. Did you see that game? Maaaaaan, I know some of ya’ll don’t agree with me but Steph Curry is gonna go down as one of the best players in NBA history. You mark my words…I tell you…”
Reggie cut Lou off, “You know you can’t be walking around with an open container of alcohol.”
Lou chuckled. “Good point,” and quickly chugged with rest of the beer down. “Man, this here is Michael, my woman’s son.”
Michael walked up to shake Reggie’s hand. “How are you, Sir.” Cops made Michael feel uneasy, especially since Matt was arrested and went to Juvie, but his mom always taught him how to act around authority figures generally and cops in particular.
“Hi,” said Reggie not even really looking at Michael. “Have you been drinking? You smell like beer. How old are you? Are you even 15?” Reggie said smirking.
“Naw Mayor, he’s a good kid”, responded Lou.
“Officer Brown for the 2nd time. Why don’t you let the boy speak for himself? Boy, have you been drinking?”
For some reason, though Michael knew he hadn’t been drinking, he felt nervous and guilty. He tried to say something, but suddenly his mouth became dry.
“Do you hear me talking to you,” Reggie’s voice raised as he stepped closer to Michael.
“Why are you trippin, Mayor. I told you he’s good. That boy ain’t touched any beer,” Lou said as he started to lose his smile.
“OF-FFI-CER BROWN. Can you and this mute kid of yours not hear? Call me Officer Brown. Can one of you coons have some fucking respect for once in your pitiful lives?”
Lou’s tone suddenly became deeper, “Look man—wait . . . I mean Officer Browwwwwwnnnn, I don’t know what in the hell is wrong wit you; but yo ass is buggin. Why don’tcha go on up to Lee’s and get yo fat ass a doughnut so you can calm down. Or why don’t you go on up to Letecia’s house and get you a piece of dat pussy. You got $10 don’t you? Your fellow officers visit her all the time. That should help yo tense-ass to relax. When was the last time you had some? I ‘member you didn’t have no play back in the day.”
Michael stayed quiet. He had never heard Lou curse or raise his voice, but Michael could tell by the way a vein in the middle of his forehead was pulsing that Lou was infuriated. Officer Brown seemed extremely tense too-his jaw was tightly clenched. Lou looked at Michael, motioned with his right arm for him to come on, and started walking away from Officer Brown. Michael followed closely behind him.
They hadn’t taken more than 5 steps when Laquan, Katrina, and 2 guys Michael didn’t know but remembered from the party came running up. “Michael,” Laquan yelled when the group was about 20 feet away, but moving quickly. Yo momma called the house. Matt got jumped at Juvie and is at Reed Hospital. She needs ya’ll to hurry.”
Michael’s heart immediately started to race. “Matt?”, he said aloud to no one in particular and started to walk faster.
“Hold up. I aint’ done with you boy,” Officer Brown ordered.
“Leave him alone, Mayor. Didn’t you just hear that his brother is hurt?” questioned Lou.
“I don’t give a….” Officer Brown started to say when Katrina, Laquan and the other two guys. cut him off.
He don’t even care
Fucking traitor man. Can’t stand cops. Black ones is the worse.
Lou was on his cell phone evidently talking to Michael’s mom, “calm down baby. We are on our way.”
Neighbors started moving in from their porches and gathering around all of the commotion. Babies were crying. Kids were playing. Someone turned up some rap music. And people were yelling at Office Brown.
Why don’t you just let the kid go?
Michael didn’t know what was louder, the beat of his heart or all of the commotion surrounding him. He just knew that he felt overwhelmed and started running in the direction of his home without even thinking about it.
The beat of his heart, boom-boom-boom-boom and the sound of his sneakers hitting the payment: clap, clap, clap, clap alternated.
Boom, Clap, Boom, Clap
Until there was a PADOW and a shrilling scream.
Michael immediately fell to ground, scratching up his legs on the rough, rocky pavement that he usually maneuvered his bike so expertly across. He lay there for a second, breathing heavily, and allowed the needle-pain of the rocks denting his face to message to him that he was okay.
The shrilling scream continued, but seemed muffled for some reason now.
Michael slowly turned over, leaned up and looked at the gathering crowd. He scanned the chaos looking for Lou, when he saw him, laying on his side, as if he were taking a nap. Officer Brown, was knelt down beside him with pushing down on the side of Lou’s chest, and screaming, “Shit, I’m so sorry! Shit! Shit! Lou! Lou!”
Michael could not move, he watched the ambulance come down the street and didn’t move out of the way. He watched the paramedics say something to Officer Brown, work on Lou, put him on a stretcher and in the back of the ambulance.
“You fucking murderer. You fucking Black pig.” People were hollering out. By this time other officers had joined Officer Brown, but were focused on watching and controlling the crowd.
One of the officers said something in Officer Brown’s ear and they started walking to one of the police cars as if they were about to leave.
The yelling continued:
You dirty bastard
You were never shit
The one officer got into the driver’s side of the car and Officer Brown walked as if he was about to get into the passenger side.
PADOW!! Another shot. Officer Brown crumpled to the ground, blood spilling out of his head as if a faucet had been turned on.
Every cop ran over and surrounded him, some started feverishly talking into their walkie-talkies.
Suddenly, everyone in the crowd fell silent except for Katrina who kept screaming. Only the sirens of the 2nd ambulance were able to drown out her screams.
Michael lay his body back down on the concrete. He needed to feel something solid. For whatever reason, no one said a word to him or touched him, as if they understood his need to be close to the earth. He didn’t move a muscle, just lay there, still breathing heavily, smelling tar, dirt, and gasoline until he heard his mother’s voice.
“I’m here,” is all she said, as she crawled down on the ground, lay her legs in front of her, lifted Michael’s head and placed it on her lap. She put one hand on his forehead like she used to when Michael was little and she was checking to see if he had a fever and the other on his back.
“Matt’s fine,” she reported. “They’ve already released him from the hospital.”
That news made a few tears fall out of Michael’s eyes and darken a spot on his mother’s jeans. They sat like this for awhile undisturbed.
“Let’s go home,” his mother whispered.
Michael got up, wiped some of the dirt off of himself. His mother lifted her arm and wrapped it around Michael and he leaned into her –allowing his head to rest heavily on her shoulder. They walked slowly like that down the bumpy road in Black Park.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more