ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Leonard had big plans. He would not be content merely to make a good living
supplying his neighbors with bare necessities. Little by little he would
expand the inventory until his store stood out from nearby competitors
First day on the Job
By Roy L. Pickering, Jr.
Curtis took a discretely proud peek at his reflection in the tinted window of a lime green Mercedes. His muscled torso was accentuated perfectly by the comfortably smug fit of his brand new policeman’s uniform. He struck quite the imposing figure as he patrolled streets that he had grown to manhood roaming. Surely no one would be foolish enough to break the law on his vigilant watch. But if criminal activity were to take place on Curtis beat, he felt certain that he was adequately prepared for the task of maintaining order and safety for the citizens under his protection.
Despite the criticism endured upon announcement of his decision to become one of the city’s finest, Curtis was positive that he had been born to do this. The way to combat the many legitimate accusations of brutality and racial profiling by the police force was not to cry out in impotent anger, but to become an active part of the solution.
Curtis took off his hat for a moment and rubbed a hand over his cleanly chocolate brown skull. His friends had strongly asserted that brown and blue did not, and could not mix. he looked forward to proving them wrong. More so, he was anxious to prove his worth and advance rapidly through the ranks. Once he made detective he would marry Denise, buy a house out in the suburbs, and get started on the family he had planned on being the head of for as far back as he could remember.
“Looks like I’m going to have a quiet first day on the job,” said Curtis to his partner Steve.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself rookie,” advised officer Steven Coley. “The sun is just beginning to set. darkness gives people foolish ideas.”
“Well, we’ll be there to give those fools second thoughts, won’t we?”
Instead of answering the question, Steve chuckled, his belly shaking under a uniform that seemed near ready to burst at the seams.
“Quite the eager beaver, aren’t you? Believe it or not, rookie, I was once as primed to charge forth and do good as you are now.”
“So what happened?” Curtis asked, examining the gray that had begun to invade his partner’s curly blonde sideburns. “have you seen too much to care anymore? Have you grown jaded?”
“Nope,” replied Steve. “I’ve just grown up.”
* * * * *
Leonard looked carefully over the grocery store that was laid out before his vantage point behind the cashier’s counter. he was not searching for anything in particular, simply admiring each object within view because it was all his very own to admire. Every can of soup, bag of potato chips, bottle of detergent, was his to sell and profit from. years of working hard and being frugal had paid off at long last. As of today, Leonard was a business owner. he had earned his proverbial forty acres and a mule. The dream he had always felt was within reach, no matter how many setbacks and complications repeatedly managed to keep them away, was now firmly within his appreciative grasp.
Mr. Kim seemed like a good man and had sold him the store at a fair price, now that he was ready to retire and move back to Korea. Leonard wished him well. Still, he felt that justice had been served by the passage of this store from the Korean man’s hands into his own. In order for money to replenish and revitalize this neighborhood, it needed to circulate throughout the black community, not flow out into the hands of outsiders who were willing and able to collect it. Leonard had been born and raised less than twenty blocks away from the establishment he came to acquire. but although the distance traveled was physically short, several decades of strenuously worked muscles and judicious application of his studies had been necessary to complete the journey.
Leonard had big plans. He would not be content merely to make a good living supplying his neighbors with bare necessities. Little by little he would expand the inventory until his store stood out from nearby competitors. People would walk a few extra blocks to obtain what he alone could offer them. He intended to give the store an Afrocentric flavor, to make it a source not only of personal, but also of neighborhood pride.
Leonard may have been starting small, but felt confident that customer loyalty would eventually enable him to branch out into other areas of interest. he was determined to become not only a successful businessman, but also a leader, a pillar of his community. Leonard had always believed that most limitations were self-imposed, that all goals were attainable through hard work and commitment to a vision. he had imagined no less than the world for himself, and this store was to be just the first chunk of it.
A young man in his early twenties or late teens walked through the door. he was greeted with a nod and slight grin that Leonard could not suppress. Although numerous people had been in and out to make purchases throughout the day, the feeling of euphoric unreality had not quite evaporated yet. Leonard had only been more proud on one other occasion, the birth of his son. Julian was now assured of a mighty inheritance, an empire that would be built one happy customer at a time.
* * * * *
Marshall desperately hoped that his apprehension was masked, for if not, his intentions would no doubt be nakedly apparent. He was deeply ashamed of his actions in advance of their undertaking, but had been left with little choice in the matter. His mother was sick, real sick, and the only think keeping agony at bay was her mediation. the medicine was not free, now that insurance was no longer part of the equation, not was it cheap, not by a long shot. Somebody had to take care of Mama., and the list of applicants consisted of Marshall alone.
He noticed a poster of Malcolm X in contemplation on the wall and took this to be a sign of support for his cause. After all, Malcolm had made the words “by any means necessary” a legendary battle cry. Marshall certainly had no shortage of necessity. As for means, this was it, his lone option. His mother required her medication, and those who supplied it required to be paid. This meant that Marshall needed money, plenty of it, quick. there was not enough time to earn it honestly, so he had set out in search of someplace and someone to take it from. his feet had led him to this grocery store, and instinct made him stop and decide that this was as good a place and time as any.
Marshall felt his nervousness slowly giving way to resolution that was spiced with anger. it was unfair that he was forced to stoop so low. he had never stolen from anyone before, never hurt anybody. This wasn’t the type of person that he had ever intended to be. He was an honor roll student, known and even teased for his clean cut lifestyle. living otherwise had not really been an alternative. His mother raised him from day one to always do right. She had done this on her own, having long ago been abandoned by Marshall’s father, and no one could have done a better job. Marshall did not want to let his mother down. but this wish was crushed under the weight of his desire to ease her suffering.
He grabbed a bag of something that he didn’t bother to take notice of and headed towards the grocer. the longer he hesitated, the greater the chance that his nerve would be lost. Marshall experienced one last quiver of doubt when he realized that his crime would be against one of his own. he could have sworn that a Korean man ran this store. But it was too late for such a thing to be consequential. An unstoppable surge of momentum was pushing Marshall towards his destiny.
* * * * *
“I’m going to run across the street to get a pack of cigarettes. This is my last pack, and then I’m quitting for good. it’s my one vice, and we cops can’t afford bad habits, ain’t that right?”
Officer Coley suspected that the remark was a dig at his increasingly prominent beer gut. Then again, he may have become oversensitive to the issue since Erma had gone on an exercise kick and started harassing him about his physical condition.
“You going on the patch, rookie?”
“Nah,” answered Curtis. “Cold turkey. Once I make a decision, I stick to it. I don’t need any outside help.”
“Whatever you say. I’ll wait out here.”
“You want me to get you anything?”
“No, I’m fine.”
Curtis headed towards the grocery store, crossing at the crosswalk after looking both ways for traffic like any law abiding citizen should. he recalled with amusement Denise’s remark that he had developed a new stride, a cop walk, as he walked around their apartment in his new uniform, his polished badge gleaming the weapon in his holster and nightstick by his side granting him officially licensed power. as a six foot three African American male with a chiseled frame that may as well have been armor, Curtis was used to being considered intimidating. But in his new wardrobe, in his new professional capacity, with his new “cop walk,” a layer of respect had been applied to the apprehension he naturally evoked. And Curtis was reveling in it.
* * * * *
Leonard took a glance at his watch. It was just closing time. the young man headed towards him held a bag of cashews that would be the final sale of Leonard’s first day as an entrepreneur. a dollar bill, the first one earned, was taped to the wall behind him. he intended to bring in a picture frame for it tomorrow.
The approaching customer had tightly braided hair, much like Latrell Spreewell of the New York Knicks. Now that he was on the short track to affluence, Leonard was considering whether to loosen his purse strings for the opportunity to become a season ticket holder. this would be a well-deserved reward for a life-time of industriousness.
“Will that be all, young man?”
* * * * *
“No sir,” answered Marshall in a near whisper. he cleared his throat to properly enunciate his demand. “I also want you to hand over all of your money.”
“What?” Not wishing to confuse, Marshall removed the gun in his waistband and pointed its barrel towards the grocer. From this point on he was certain that his intentions would be perfectly clear, questions unnecessary.
“I see,” said the man behind the counter in a voice that taunted with its calmness. Although Marshall was the one calling the shots, the one in possession of the deadly weapon, he had never been more frightened in his life.
“Take it easy, son. I’ll give you whatever you want. just take a deep breath and gather yourself. There’s no reason for anybody to get hurt.”
Marshal looked down and saw what the grocer had seen, that his hand was shaking uncontrollably, not a good sign when one of its fingers was on a trigger. he felt a trickle of sweat sliding down his temple, even though it was comfortably cool in the grocery store. this show of fear shamed him. He half expected the grocer to laugh at his amateurish behavior. if he did, it would certainly be his last one, for Marshall would not tolerate being ridiculed. he had entered this store with the intention of committing a neat and efficient armed robbery that would solve all of his problems. now he just wanted this terrifying ordeal to be over with, one way or another.
“May I ask you something?” asked Leonard as he gathered together the bills in his cash register. “I don’t wish to offend, but don’t you want to do something meaningful with your life? Don’t you want to contribute to society instead of leeching off of it? Because the truth is, all you’re doing is digging a hole with bad choices to bury yourself in. is that what you want?”
“I just want some medicine for my mom,” Marshall said, desperate to resume command of a situation that seemed to have a mind of its own, to accomplish the goal he had set for himself, to stem the blinding tears that the grocer’s questions had unleashed, and to convey to this man that he was not a bad person, appearances to the contrary, that his trembling hand had been forced by events beyond his control. “I can’t afford to worry about that other stuff right now. I can’t afford nothing but that medicine, and with the money in your register, I can’t get it. I didn’t dig this hole. I was born in it. Now I’m trying to climb out, cause my mom can’t survive in a hole much longer. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I think I do.”
* * * * *
Officer Curtis Mason, hotshot rookie cop eagerly anticipating his first opportunity to combat evil in any form he saw it perpetrated, strode through the door of a neighborhood grocery store. There he came across an unexpected sight that caused him to hesitate, but only for the briefest of moments. As an officer of the law, Curtis was trained to react swiftly and decisively, even when taken by surprise, especially then. His hand whipped instinctively towards his holster, like a cat stretching forth its claws as a mouse ran by.
A boy was hunched over the counter, his braided head cradled in his arms, shaking and sniffling in a manner that suggested he was crying. one of his hands was clenching a large wad of cash, which in of itself was suspicious. on the opposite side of the counter, the store’s proprietor was reaching behind his back, putting a small, dark objects into his pants pocket, out of sight. perhaps a wallet. perhaps not.
“Everything okay in here?” Curtis asked.
“Put your money away, son,” the merchant said. “Our transaction is concluded. We’ve both gotten through the day. We can both start over tomorrow.”
Curtis lowered his empty gun hand back to a relaxed position, placated by the voice of the grocer who simultaneously answered the police officer’s question and reassured the young man who was leaving the store with a look of wonderment in his eyes.
“Everything is just fine.”
* * * * *
Roy Pickering was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, moving to the Bronx, New York at the age of 5.
He is a freelance writer living in New York City, seeking publication of his debut novel, Patches of Grey, as well as a novella. His website (www.roypickering.com) is used to showcase his fiction. he writes also a monthly column entitled Sports Issues for Suite101.com.
He has known that writing is his calling since grade school, when he came across the novels of Jules Verne in the library. Regarding his prose, Roy shuns categorization of any kind due to a diversity of tastes. He hopes to continue weaving tales in a variety of styles, addressing a vast range of subject matter.
Among his favorite authors are Ernest Hemmingway, John Irving, Tom Robbins, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tim Sandlin and Kurt Vonnegut. The masterpieces he is most awed by are The World According to Garp, Native Son, The Sun Also Rises; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Love in the Time of Cholera..
An avid tennis novice with a rich fantasy life, he envisions himself vanquishing Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in the none too distant future.
When in couch potato mode, Roy is usually glued to the play of either the Knicks or Jets, and is best not disturbed on days when they lose. To cheer himself up on such occasions, a Miles Davis CD or John Sayles film usually does the trick.
* * * * *
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
* * * * *
By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forwardin the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest “real progress toward freedom and justice.” Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. “This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the worldto millions, I suspectfor the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him.” John Pilger In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of American empire and class domination, at home and abroad, Chomsky continues a longstanding and crucial work of elucidation and activism . . .the writing remains unswervingly rational and principled throughout, and lends bracing impetus to the real alternatives before us.Publisher’s Weekly
* * * * *
Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
update 11 January 2012