Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blinded. (Short Story)

The fiends in the neighborhood were family.

Someone’s aunt who lost faith after unemployment stopped lending.

A teenage girl with a drug dealer boyfriend who suggested they just “try it.”

A mother of two boys who lost hopes that their father was coming home.

Jeffrey opened every cabinet in the kitchen, praying he’d come upon something edible in its crevices. His younger brother Jamal sat in the living room and completed his last bit of homework Indian-style on the carpet. Jeffrey leaned against the door between he and his little brother and sighed in anxious preparation to tell him what they’d avoided for almost two weeks. He pulled his burdened back from the hard surface and started a slow pace towards his always obedient sibling. He sat next to Jamal and draped his arm over his shoulder.

“We don’t have anything for dinner tonight, but I promise you there will be food in this house tomorrow.”

Jamal looked up at him with a glimmer in his thirteen year old eyes “Why, is mom coming back? She always brings groceries home on Fridays!”

“I don’t know. I’ve got no clue when she’ll be back. But I’m going to handle the groceries this week and I’ll check your homework everyday. Okay?”

Jamal pressed his face between his book and shooed Jeffrey away with his hand. Jeffrey got up and walked to his room, knowing his baby brother would be okay by morning. Jah, what they called Jamal for short, always had serious pride. When their mom brought him home from the hospital he scarcely cried. Jeffrey snuck into his room at night and would poke his fingers between the bars of the crib, “Cry silly! What’s wrong with you stupid?” He was convinced Jah was sick. Billy, the only other older brother in Kindergarten, said that babies cried all night. Jah never did and to this day when you thought he just might he’d disappear, even in plain sight.

The next day while Jah was away at school, Jeffrey went in search of a part-time job and a glimpse of his mother. He was a senior in high school with an amazing GPA and only one cut on his record for the Junior Beach Romp. Today he’d had a friend call in and excuse him, posing as a parent. She’d told the attendance office that it was a family emergency. Technically, it was not a lie.

Jeffrey watched his brown boots pound the pavement as he approached the local bodega. If you made eye contact with the fiends the sorrow in their eyes would pry the guilt from your skin. If that didn’t work, they would chew you out or tell you about yourself, like family does sometimes.

He made it to the door without harassment and filled out an application. The owner looked at him suspiciously as he handed it back, academic references were rare in this neighborhood.

The owner spoke, “Impressive. I’ve offered you a job here before, haven’t I? You’ve always had great rapport with the customers.”

Jeffrey smiled remembering the women with peach and brown wrinkled arms that he’d taken bags from and helped all the way to their warm and loving kitchenettes.

He left the grocery store with a smile, hope, and most importantly a job. He passed the small houses known for hoarding drug users and lingered in front, too afraid to go inside. He walked quickly past the rehab center and church, having lost faith that his mother would ever seek help for her habit. Eventually he took the ten block walk home and prepared a small dinner he’d purchased with their last five dollars.

Jeffrey sat at the kitchen table and concocted a plan for the next few months. He would work hard, get a small promotion, and move them to a nicer area when he turned eighteen. “I can do this,” he whispered to himself. By 5pm Jeffrey grew nervous, Jah was nowhere to be found and school let out at three. It wasn’t like him to be late. Jeffrey paced the living room thinking of all the things that halted his arrival home at that age.

Fiends trying to sell you something.

But he would never stop for any, Jeffrey taught Jah better:

1) Never stop and speak to the recruiters (gang bangers). Keep your head down, no predominate colors, and never look scared.

2) There’s so much time for girls. School, goals, and vision first.

3) Fiends are easily dismissed. Just tell them you’re broke, they’ll move on to the next victim.

4) As for bullies, you just tell me who they are, I’ll whoop their as

After another hour Jeff slung his coat over his shoulder and headed for the door, just as there was a knock on it. He grabbed the knob and began to yell, “Jah, where the hell…”

Jeffrey was confronted by two NYPD officers in their navy blue and solemn faces. His knees started to buckle as he grabbed the pit of his stomach trying to bring his descending heart back to the top of his chest.

“Son, is your brother Jamal Wright? We found him in an alley…..we think the fiends got to him…..stabbed…..loss of blood……wallet stolen……anyone we can call? Son? Son?

Jeffrey watched himself from an outside perspective for the next few weeks.

He viewed his feet dragging to the morgue and saw his insides fly through his throat on the concrete floor next to a small brown boy. He watched the cameras, listened to pervasive questions, and witnessed no answers to the flashing lights. There was a lawyer, a suspect, a quiet room. However, the only thing Jeffrey could picture was the bit smaller than usual casket, the non-existent family, and the social workers obligation lingering nearby.

During the trial he refused to look at the defense. He shuddered when they called his name, placed his hand on a bible he no longer believed in, and cringed at the audacity of it all. The lawyer asked questions, questions which he refused to answer. He stood up, let tears embrace his eyes, and ignored the roar of the judge,

“Mr. Wright, answer the question!”

Jeffrey finally looked towards the suspect, opened his lips for the first time and spoke,

“Before I answer anything, I’ve got to ask. How can you break a trance from something so beautiful? How could you break it long enough to harm it? How do you manage to perish that which is not perishable?

Tell me, how could you mom? Tell me.”



T. ODIS said...

Ahhh, I remember this poem, i think!!!

EDOKA said...


Ciara said...

Riv... when is your book coming out? This is sooo good.

Veronica said...

This is horrible (what happened, not your writing or the storyline of course! LOL) I really feel for Jeffrey...this is sort of an unexpected ending(which I LOVE) because I just KNEW that Jeffrey was going to come up with a plan and he and Jah were going to be alright after all.

This was good!