I’m going to tell you a story. Come on down. Gather around. How about it? This is tale of a girl gone wild and a lover gone lovin’. Of a cat on the prowl and a kitten on the loose. Of a man in the gutter soakin’ in the stink of his own despair. And of a child, a blessed-blue-eyed-angel-gift-from-God of a child. What do you think? How about it?
We never slept in this room without Grandma, and since she’s gone we did not want to sleep in here now, but Mama said the bed in the other room was too little for me and Richard to sleep in together. She is sleeping in that bed, and Daddy is sleeping on the couch in the living room. We had to come down here because of Grandma’s funeral. She was Daddy’s mama, but Aunt Chloe, who lives in Chicago with us, raised him.
Midnight on a dark city street. There are three in a car. There you are in a dying pair of Reeboks. Should you run? Of course. So you’ve got a few extra pounds that have been slowing down your life. You have eluded German Shepherds and your ex-girlfriend’s other boyfriend before, so why should tonight be any different? Can you run? Well, with that deep-dish pizza balanced on your right arm, and that bag of wings balanced on your left, you might not be as elusive as you would like.
The worst of last winter found us in the first-floor unit of an extremely undistinguished graystone, somewhere near the elbow of Independence Boulevard. Often I went outside and looked it over wondering what Red had ever seen in it. From a distance it looked like an antique refrigerator; from up close it looked like contractors had practiced on it. In the soggy alley one of the windows was shivered; someone had lined it with a cheap terrycloth blanket that was covered with Ayanami Rei in a series of provocative poses. When I took out the trash I was subject to her bored gaze, while her colors bled eerily across the white space.
It was Red who chose our apartments, and sometimes they were hardly to be believed. “I’ve got a system,” she explained once, when I decided to press the issue. “Fascism is a system,” I muttered from the other room. But systems were not her strong suit; had she said it in appeasement? Appeasement was not her strong suit either, which is one reason we got along.
The wind is blowing out front of the church. Mexican women are setting up makeshift flower tents. A sign on the door says, “Los Globos no son permitidos adentro de la iglesia.” Beneath that, it reads, “No balloons allowed in the church.” In between, an uneven hand has scrawled “Class of 2014.” The swear word that came next has been scribbled out.
This is the story of graduated gang member Antonio Powell—but call him Bankroll if you see him in the streets—and remember you never heard anything from Annesti. Everybody has rough times, so Antonio doesn’t really fuss about when life gives him oranges. Instead, he thinks, “How am I supposed to make lemonade?” Continue reading
For as long as anyone could remember, there had been a lion on the second floor of A. B. Calloway elementary school. It had always been school policy that if a student misbehaved, he or she’d be sent to see the lion and never be seen or heard from again. But even so, the lion was very highly respected. Sure, technically he was a disciplinary figure, but he was just doing his job; nobody held it against him. In fact, at some point (about thirty years ago? something like that) he had been voted the school mascot. Really, everybody loved the lion. Continue reading
The light changed to red. As I stopped, a ragged clown stepped in front of the car. With movements more hungry than artistic he showed me his hands: nothing here, nothing there. He took four small balls out of his pocket, lit them on fire, and tossed them into the air. Continue reading