Death and Birth

While walking through some bushes, I heard a rustle behind me. I pulled out the pistol tucked into my waistband and looked around. It was quiet except for the sporadic gunfire in the distance. I realized that the rustling came from some thick bushes ahead. I walked in that direction, my fingers tightly wrapped around the pistol. Before I got to the bushes, a deadly scent filled the air. I wanted to stop walking because I knew deep down what I would find. Still I continued, my heart pounding hard, causing my vision to be blurry. My mother always said I was too bloody inquisitive. I parted the bushes, my eyes closed at first. Even though I saw what I expected, I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. There was a body lying on the ground, its green uniform, brown with dried blood. I stared at it as an army of nature’s scavengers helped themselves to the rotting flesh that was left. I stood there horrified, my heart racing, my body tingling. It was as if I was waiting for something to happen. I closed my eyes, I guess I was trying to see myself in that man’s place.

Bob Marley lyrics exploded in my head, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery none but ourselves can free our minds”. I swallowed hard, trying to stop myself from throwing up. Then another quote ran through my mind. It was the Karl Marx statement “Everyone is a victim of the system.” I wanted to be that body, feel free, no political system to tell me what to do, no religion to watch my every move. At that moment, feeling nothing would have been like paradise. Another Bob Marley lyric came to mind “If you know what life is worth then you will look for yours on earth”. I was not about to die to attain the freedom I seek. I had to stand up and fight for the life that I wanted. That moment was like becoming born again, a born again human being.

I was jolted back to reality when a helicopter swooped in and hovered over the bushes. I pointed the pistol at it, my hand shaking, beads of sweat rolling down my forehead, settling in my eyes. I wiped the salty liquid off and kept looking up. I was afraid they might have seen me; I was prepared to defend myself. The mosquito-like machine glided towards the hills on the other side and opened fire. Leaves and dust flew into the air, soldiers shouted, and birds flew from the chaos. I took the opportunity to run in the opposite direction. AK-47 rifles barked angrily as pockets of the local army fought back. I ran until I reached the dusty highway and I stopped to catch my breath, my chest burning. I realized I was still holding the pistol and tucked it into my waistband. The shooting stopped, and the helicopter whizzed by, its rotors creating a whirlwind of dust. I went home and sat in a chair on the verandah, my heart still racing. I got up, took out the pistol and looked at it. I placed it, along with an AK-47 and a couple of other guns, in a can that used to hold Lard, filled it with grease, dug a hole, and buried it next to a Paw Paw tree. That was the last time I held a gun, forever elevating the false sense of safety I once felt.  

Where The Weed At from I am a Dirty Immigrant

I was stressed out so I decided to seek out the only thing that calmed me down. Yes, I was going to find some good weed right here at this Christian school. One day, I was playing basketball at the small gym when I befriended this young man. He was quite large, about three hundred pounds and six feet three. He had sandy blond hair that hung down just above his eyes; a haircut shaped like someone had put a bowl on his head and cut the edges of his hair. His cheeks were permanently red, and his blue eyes were expressionless, like there was nothing but air and broken dreams behind them. Frankly he looked like an overweight Huckleberry Finn. He told me he knew where to get the good stuff. I almost laughed when he emphasized good stuff, his eyes lighting up like a Christmas tree.

One afternoon, we walked down the street looking for a place to smoke. The little town was quite beautiful. The houses lined the streets, the grass was brown from the winter cold and there were Christmas decorations on their porches. Their yards were covered with leaves of bright red, orange and brown. Quite frankly it was kind of peaceful.

We arrived at a small bridge where trains went by which was something I had never seen before. We got under the bridge; there were two other young men with us. The fat guy pulled something out of his pocket, and I remember thinking, I had never seen a white tooth pick before. To my dismay he flicked his lighter and lit up the smallest bloody joint I had ever seen. He passed it to me, and before I could take my usual long draw, the other kid had his hand out. When we were done, the big kid stumbled out from under the bridge. He was jumping around like Sugar Ray Leonard shadow boxing. To tell you the truth, he was surprising light on his feet. He was going to tell the world how high he was. I slowed down, letting him go ahead of me. Huck’s antics were going to get us caught. That day I decided to stop smoking. I could tell that this place was going to be a buzz killer.

Blackanova from I am a Dirty Immigrant

I heard the same sentiments from a couple of women I sat next to everyday at work. I was a little taken aback because these women were always being extra-friendly with me. Anyway, I expected that from the older of the two women. The younger one took me by surprise because she tried her best to portray an understanding of the plight of black people. She joined the conversation by stating that she did not believe in the mixing of races. This woman was a Jessica Simpson look-alike or wannabe, whichever way you see fit to categorize her. She stated emphatically that she would not allow her daughter to date a black man. I did not say anything at first, but when she insisted, I had to respond. I wanted to know why she felt that way, but she did not have a viable answer for me. I insisted, and she said that the children are the ones who suffer, so I informed her that it was people like her that made it hard for children of mixed origin.

She was speechless, her eyes rolling around in her head as she searched for an answer. She finally attacked my failed marriage, stating that it did not work because of our color difference. To tell you the truth, I had to stop and take a breath so as not to explode. Once again I had to explain to her that it was people of her mentality that made mixed relationships hard to maintain. I also let her know that it was not the ethnicity that ended our marriage. But still she insisted. Hell, I even heard her say that if a black man painted his dick white, she still would not sleep with him.

I was not defeated in my effort to show her that color played no role in how people feel about each other. The following day I embarked on a campaign of flirting. I was more tenacious than a politician, and from the beginning I knew I had her attention. I used my writing skills to woo her, using exotic images from my island. Every day she would come in and try to get my attention. She would swoon like a schoolgirl, always looking for my approval with what she wore or what color her hair was, and believe me she changed it daily. I laid on the poetic charm until I knew she was addicted to the attention, and then I stopped. Her reaction to me stopping was a little hostile, the wrath of an ignored woman. At one point I was walking by her when she told me to kiss her ass. For someone who would never date a black man, she sure seemed a little perturbed about losing the attention.

Walking on the Light

One day a busload of some church group came through the gas station. One of the young women, no more than sixteen years old, walked up to the counter. She seemed nervous, looking around as if to make sure that God was not standing behind her. She opened her mouth and for a second no words came out.

How much is this?” she whispered, pushing a packet of condoms towards me.

I looked at her, then looked at the older church members standing by the Deli. So guess what your friendly village trouble maker did? I held up the condoms and yelled, “Price check on condoms!” All the old church people turned around and looked over at us. That girl looked like she wanted to crawl into the baptism pool and hide from the grace of God. One of the older ladies started to walk over. The young lady made a bee-line to the door, the old lady in hot pursuit, her bible waving over her head, “Oh Jesus! Lord, child, what get into you? Jesus help her ‘cause I will beat the devil out of her.”

Her church hat tilted to one side as she stumbled out behind the young lady and everyone in the gas station was laughing. I guess I had just saved a young lady from the jaws of sexual deviance.

I was never around too many church girls back home. Catholic girls, yes, but no Protestants. I used to see them walking by. They never wore pants, or makeup, and they would never talk to us Catholic heathens. That is until they were away from the grownups; then they talked a mile a second. I did go to an outdoor crusade one night. I was kicked out because they said I was disturbing their preaching. Oh don’t think I am a little devil boy. What happened is they asked for people to come up and testify and one of the young men made me a little mad. He said he did not think of sinning anymore. Well just before the meeting started, he had brought some benches out and some older ladies sat on it. This young man went into a tirade of words that would make the Virgin Mary blush. Now here he is talking about being pure and sinless. So I stood up and contested his testimony. The congregation got upset, called me the devil and some even started speaking in tongues. For a second I thought I was in a Voodoo meeting. They said they were going to call the police so I hightailed it out of there. That is what I got for smoking a joint before going to that camp meeting. I could never keep my mouth shut when I was blazed up.  

Humour from the novel I am a Dirty Immigrant

I heard the same sentiments from a couple of women I sat next to everyday at work. I was a little taken aback because these women were always being extra-friendly with me. Anyway, I expected that from the older of the two women. The younger one took me by surprise because she tried her best to portray an understanding of the plight of black people. She joined the conversation by stating that she did not believe in the mixing of races. This woman was a Jessica Simpson look-alike or wannabe, whichever way you see fit to categorize her. She stated emphatically that she would not allow her daughter to date a black man. I did not say anything at first, but when she insisted, I had to respond. I wanted to know why she felt that way, but she did not have a viable answer for me. I insisted, and she said that the children are the ones who suffer, so I informed her that it was people like her that made it hard for children of mixed origin.

She was speechless, her eyes rolling around in her head as she searched for an answer. She finally attacked my failed marriage, stating that it did not work because of our color difference. To tell you the truth, I had to stop and take a breath so as not to explode. Once again I had to explain to her that it was people of her mentality that made mixed relationships hard to maintain. I also let her know that it was not the ethnicity that ended our marriage. But still she insisted. Hell, I even heard her say that if a black man painted his dick white, she still would not sleep with him.

I was not defeated in my effort to show her that color played no role in how people feel about each other. The following day I embarked on a campaign of flirting. I was more tenacious than a politician, and from the beginning I knew I had her attention. I used my writing skills to woo her, using exotic images from my island. Every day she would come in and try to get my attention. She would swoon like a schoolgirl, always looking for my approval with what she wore or what color her hair was, and believe me she changed it daily. I laid on the poetic charm until I knew she was addicted to the attention, and then I stopped. Her reaction to me stopping was a little hostile, the wrath of an ignored woman. At one point I was walking by her when she told me to kiss her ass. For someone who would never date a black man, she sure seemed a little perturbed about losing the attention.

Slapped From the novel I am a Dirty Immigrant

The language between blacks and whites was so different it took me a while to understand what either was saying to me. Remember, I said the brother called me a dog? Well, I thought that sort of slang was universal to all the people of The City of Golden Streets. My ignorance of the culture got me in trouble in a big way. I walked up to this white girl and greeted her with a rowdy, “What’s up dawg?”

Now you know the old saying that white men can’t jump? Well, I learned real quick that white women can jump because that short woman jumped up and slapped me across the face. Later I recounted the story to my friend from The Hoosier City and he educated me on the finer points of language between the whites and the blacks. Apparently some slang words were exclusive to each race, like in The Blue Grass Mountains, people called you cuz, or son, or even boy. Blacks were calling me Dawg, Homeboy, and some even used the n word. Where I am from everyone used the same slang and spoke with the same rhythm; it was a national thing.  

Funny Ole Lady from I am a Dirty Immigrant

My mother-in-law had a classic reaction, but before I describe her reaction, let me say that this woman was the most spiritual Christian I ever met. She was one of the few people who sincerely tried to make me feel like I was part of the family. The first time she saw a picture of me, she grabbed her chest and proceeded to perform the best Fred Sanford impersonation an old white woman could do. In my head I heard Red Fox’s raspy voice coming from the little white lady saying, “This is the big one baby.” Two hours later she invited me to their Thanksgiving dinner. That woman loved to hug, which was strange for me because my family was not the hugging type. She would squeeze so hard I felt my bones pop and crack. She had long gray hair that came to her waist, dark eyes and she was constantly telling stories about her life. The first night I slept at her house, she did something that scared me shitless. It was about 4am and I was fast asleep when I heard the wooden floor creak, so I opened my eyes. Her silhouette floated into the room and stopped at the foot of the bed, her long hair swaying gently as she stood. I tensed up; hell, I was ready to be whacked over the head. After a few seconds, she squeezed my toes, turned and walked out of the room. Later my ex-wife told me that that was something she did. It was a loving gesture, and whenever I stayed at her house, I would be woken by the creaking of the floor as she came in to squeeze our toes.