Not like him

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Jarell is torn. Just read. It's a freaking short story...

Submitted: January 09, 2012

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Submitted: January 09, 2012

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After an hour, Bradley’s screams for his mother subsided. Every now and then I could hear his subdued cries start up and quickly fade. Mostly, the sound of him rolling around uncontrollably was the only thing that seemed out of place, interrupting the normal conversation of bitches and money.

My cousin, Seneca, drove as far into the trees as he could before getting stuck in the mud. The head lights of his ’84 Cutlass Supreme barely projected into the brush as the light was caught in the dusk fog.

He stepped out of the car and pulled his black and purple letter jacket off, exposing his bulging muscles. Numerous burn scars and tattoos now cover just about every part of his chest and forearms, with a crumpled up left ear lobe serving as a reminder to everyone else that he is nearly deaf in that ear .

Seneca was an all-district defensive end four years ago before dropping out his junior year. Like most black athletes from my school, he wasn't an exceptional student. He never studied, or really paid attention in class. Instead, he had a penchant for causing trouble and getting into fights. The day he lost half his hearing, and went on to spend several weeks in a burn unit, some trouble with a group of white boys found him. The reason: he was caught making kissing faces towards one of the white's girlfriends. Despite numerous warnings to stop, Seneca persisted. It wasn’t long after that beating that he was busted for possession and armed assault.

“What are we doing here?” I stepped out of the car, my white shoes sinking about an inch into the ground.

“This town needs to change,” Seneca yelled. His friend’s Sam and Rachard nodded in agreement. “Aren’t you tired of whites making us cross the street cause we can’t walk the same sidewalks?”

“Yeah, there are flaws in this town, but he’s barely nine, a friend of my sister and doesn’t know what the fuck he’s sayin,” I placed my hands on the trunk of the car, pushing it down.

“Maybe it’s time we teach him,” Seneca shoved me aside, popped the trunk and pulled Bradley out by his hair. His face had puffed up and snot caked just below his nose, and all over his lips, like a dried up river bed.

He tossed the boy's half-unconscious body aside and pointed for Sam to move him. Bradley was dragged several feet and thrown at the base of a large Elm tree. Seneca pulled an aluminum bat out of his trunk, stared at the silver object for just a second and then walked towards the boy.

“No, we can’t do this,” I stepped in front of Seneca. I couldn't bear to look him up in the eyes. Instead, I stared forward at his chest, noticing his rather cool and collected breathing.

“He knows you, so he knows us. We all brotha’s, right?” Seneca tapped the handle of the bat on my chest. The cold metal felt like it was trying to burn through my skin.

“I…” I looked at Bradley, whose purple and red eye was sealed shut, then back to Seneca. “What if he just forgot us?”

“Fuck this shit, man,” Sam yelled, pulling his hands out of his torn black hoodie and walking towards me with his fists clinched. “Your cousin is too much like his dad: a big, white lovin’ pussy.”

“Fuck you,” Seneca pointed the bat at Sam and walked him back several feet. “He’s one of us; he just needs to show it.”

He gave me the bat and nudged me towards Bradley. The grip of the bat on my palms made a stretching noise as tiny grains of worn down leather slid through my fingers. Bradley gasped as his one good eye looked me over.

A quarter to six the next day, I got home. My mom was on the front porch waiting with her arms crossed. Seneca’s burgundy car crept up the pristine driveway. I opened the door and the low squeal of metal on metal broke the silence. I put my right foot onto the pavement and Seneca grabbed me.

“Remember,” he said, his fingertips burrowed into my shoulder. “What we talked about, it stays between us.”

I nodded, shut the door and ran up the steps of the blue and red front porch. My mom opened the front door, looked at me through the corner of her eye, but kept her gaze on Seneca to make sure he pulled away.

“Take off your shoes. You’ll track in mud,” she said, tapping her foot. “I don’t like you hanging out with your cousin.” She followed in behind me and lightly shut the door. She didn’t slam it, like she usually does when I’m late. “You and your cousin are completely different.”

“Yes ma’am,” I nodded. I slowly slid my jacket off and hung it on the rack just to the right of the door. My dad sat in front of the television with his after work grey sweater on. His worn down off-white slippers still graced his feet, despite the fact my mom has tried to throw them away several times.

“Jarell,” he said, clearing his throat. “I think we need to talk.”

My gut flipped as I slowly sat on the couch adjacent from him and pulled off my baseball cap.

“What about sir?” my mind raced through a million topics; only one I was worried about.

He threw an envelope onto my lap. On the front was the word “congratulations.”

“You’re gonna be a Razorback like your old man,” he patted my knee and gave it a squeeze. A huge grin pushed up his chubby cheeks. “You always make me proud.”

"Oh, great," ever since I can remember, my dad has been pushing me to follow in his footsteps. Instead of playing basketball, he taught me chess. Instead of running around on the playground, he had me read Sherlock Holmes. This was just another in a long line of ways for me to better edify myself and learn lifelong lessons. "I don't even remember applying."

He quickly glanced at me and then turned his attention back to the television, stuffing some Doritos in his mouth from the bag he has hidden in-between his chair and the couch.

My sister walked down the stairs with puffy eyes and a pinkish runny nose. My mom wrapped her up with a red and black quilt, gave her a peck on the forehead and pulled her in tight.

“I’ll visit,” I said to her, standing up and walking towards her. "It's not that far away."

“It’s not that son,” my father said, brushing the orange powder off his fuzzy mustache.

“What’s wrong?” my voice nearly broke. I licked my dried lips and pulled my sleeves over my hands to hide my dirty fingernails.

“Her friend, I forget his name, didn’t go home yesterday and wasn’t at school today. His parents think he ran off or something,” he didn't bother to turn around. He just sat there, sipping on his soda.

“Which friend?” I needed to ask to keep up appearances, but I knew the answer.

“Bradley,” she uncontrollably stuttered, sinking her face into my mom's chest.

Bradley was an odd little white boy. He lived down the street from us, but was often hanging out with his older sister who volunteered at the Boys and Girls club across town; the black side of town.

He would wonder to the basketball court and tell us little jokes. Seneca always said the kid was lame, but tolerated him because he would buy us large amounts of candy.

Then yesterday, Bradley came to us while Seneca was telling one of his more over the top stories, getting the usual laughs from us.

“No way nigga, are ya serious, that did not fuckin’ happen,” Sam laughed at Senca, making a jerking motion with his left hand.

“What the fuck, ya think I made that up? Nigga, that bitch was ready to fuck and was on her knees when her dad got home,” Seneca smiled and pretended to push a head towards his crotch while humping at the same time.

“Hey guys, I have airheads,” Bradley tugged on Rachard and handed him a fist full of candy. Tiny little snickers, airheads and other little treats quickly flooded into Rachard's much larger hands. Bradley looked up and gave a huge smile, exposing two missing teeth.

“Would you look at this little faggot,” Seneca laughed. “What kinda shit you got for us today?”

“I’ve got a real good joke,” Bradley fought back a chuckle. “Why did the chicken run across the road?”

“Why?” I asked.

“There was a car coming,” he laughed, grabbing his side as a little bit of drool slipped out of his mouth.

"That don't make any damn sense," Seneca shook his head and started walking away. “Really, are you serious?”

“Yeah nigga, I am,” Bradley giggled, putting out his hand for a high-five.

“What the fuck did you say,” Sam spit his candy out, arched his back and walked up to the boy.

“Nigga?” Bradley looked confused. Something must’ve snapped in Seneca because he stiff palmed the boys face, knocking him to the ground.

Bradley’s head bounced like a ball off the court. He curled up into the fetal position and pressed his hand over his right eye. I stood in shock as Seneca kicked the boy in the back of the head.

As I stood in the woods, with the bat in hand and the headlights cast over me, Seneca nodded and smiled at his friends, as if I already made my choice. I could still hear and see Seneca yell I aint yo nigga, while kicking Bradley as Sam and Rachard pulled him off the boy.

I closed my eyes and raised the bat back over my head. Visions of my mom telling me how much my sister looks up to me shot through my brain. The days in the early years of my life that my parents spent without food, so that I could eat, were frozen in my eyes. The damp and mill-dewy smell of the two bedroom shack they used to rent, before moving us across town, still lingered in my nostrils.

“Please,” Bradley said, the word barely audible. Three more quick sniffles were interjected before he continued. “I want my mom.”

I lowered the bat and looked to Seneca.

“There a problem?” he asked.

"No, I..." the tip of the bat hit the ground as I hung my head. I just wanted this all to stop. I didn't want to hear Bradley cry anymore. I didn't want to disappoint Seneca. Mostly, I'm afraid of what Sam and Rachard might do if I just walk away. "What if we just leave him?"

Rachard nodded his head as a bead of sweat started meandering down his forehead. He took off his beanie and started folding it with his hands.

"Maybe yo cousin is right?" he said. His eyes were locked on the ground. "I ain't sayin he gonna make it and snitch, but there are other ways of us getting out of this so we can sleep better."

"Are you crazy?" Sam yelled, pushing Rachard in the back. "Seneca, you can't be listening to this."

"It's a long way for him to go," Rachard turned around and shoved Sam back. The two stood nose to nose until Seneca got in-between them and shoved them apart. They were both big, much more intimidating than me, but they paled in comparison to my cousin. "Seneca, I ain't sayin what the kid say was right. But we ain't gotta kill 'em to make sure you don't go back. It's a long ways home."

Seneca turned around and stared me down. I had to look away for a second, but when my gaze turned back, he was standing over me.

"You want me to go back?" he asked, looking down as if he had grown an extra three feet.

As my family and I were getting ready to call it a night, I caught myself wondering how long it would be until Bradley was found. Just when I was walking up the stairs, flashing lights cracked through shades. A stream of blue and red flooded over my face as I couldn't help but think the game was up. It seemed like they found me rather fast. I wondered what gave me away.

My dad opened the door as I sat at the top of the stairs and listened to the conversation between him and the cop. I turned around, got up and walked into my bedroom. I opened my front window, which overlooked the driveway, and looked down to see my cousin and Sam in the back seat of the cruiser.

"Jarell," my dad called. Seneca looked up at me from the back of the police car, his nostrils flared as he shook his head at me. "Son, come down here now."

I pushed the front window up enough so that I could crawl out. With one leg draped over the ledge, my sister walked into my room.

"Jay?" she sniffled, holding tightly onto a doll I had given her several Christmases back. Despite the several ugly marks, and the shoddy re-stitching, it still remained one of her favorites. "Where are you going?"

I wanted to run, but I couldn't. Either way I would be leaving for good, but running felt like I was giving up on her. I guess I owed them all an explanation. Maybe if I gave my side of the story, they'll understand there was really nothing I else I could do.

I walked down the stairs and my dad asked me where I was the previous night. I told them I was with Seneca, and the cops cuffed me, causing my dad to fall onto the couch. My mom screamed and clawed as one of the officers forced her back. She threw herself on top of my dad and sobbed as I was escorted out of the house and put in the back seat with my cousin.

I noticed Rachard was missing, and assumed he was running, but what I gathered from the clumpy maroon stains on Seneca's clothes, and the conversations between the officers back at the precinct, he couldn't run fast enough.

What was hours, seemed like days as I sat in the jail cell, waiting to be interviewed. Being the last to go, and the worst liar of the bunch, I knew they were gonna roll over on me. My mom was right, I'm not like Seneca. My code of ethics aren't like his. Despite his love for me, I was going to be his sacrificial lamb.

I heard the clinking of locks, and the opening of doors down the stone hall. I stood up, waiting for them to escort me to the interrogation room. Even though I knew my future was gone, at least I made it on my own. I wouldn't be following my dad's path anymore.

The white cop got to my cell, put the key in the lock and opened it up. He stood there, just looking at me with his blue eyes, making me sweat it out.

"You're free to go," he said, stepping aside. He removed his hat, brushed back his curly blonde hair, and gestured with his right hand that he would follow me out.

My heart stopped. My hands began to shake and I could barely get off the bench. I felt like peeing myself.

"Ha...how?" I mumbled, using the cold wall to prop myself up.

"One of the other boys admitted to it," he replied with a sigh.

I steadied myself and smiled. I briskly walked out of the cell and down the hall to my parents who were waiting for me.

"Seeing as they threatened to kill you and your family if you talked, I'm sure you'll be fine," the officers country twang bounced off the walls and soothed me like hot co-co on a rainy day.

My mom ran up to me and started kissing me on the face. I couldn't feel her lips as my entire body had become numb. My dad placed his hand on my shoulder and whispered into my ear.

"You have a second chance at life, son," he rubbed my hair. "Don't ruin it."

Right then, Seneca and Sam were being escorted out of the building. Several cops walked with them, guns ready to be drawn. Sam noticed me and began screaming.

"Fuck you, you little cunt," he tried to run to me but one of the cops quickly put him down with a night stick. "I'm gonna kill you nigger!" He yelled as they beat him again.

Seneca looked at me and nodded, walking past his long time friend.

"I told you, you're not like those boys," my mom said.

No, I'm not. Seneca gave himself up for me. I would never do the same.

Riding home, and hearing some of the junk in the back of my dad's car roll around, my mind wandered back to last night. I hoped that sound wouldn't haunt me forever. I could still pick up the smell of urine and tears from Bradley as he laid there, pleading for his life.

“I love you cousin,” Seneca said, hugging me. "I get it. You don't have to."

He started to take the bat away from me, but I pulled it back.

"I'm not going to let you kill him," I said.

"I told you," Sam yelled. "The little fuck is gonna sell us out."

"No, he won't," Seneca replied. "We'll do it. It'll be cool."

"No, you won't," I pushed Seneca back and held the bat up at his face.

As I began to step away from Bradley, my thoughts went back to my dad. How he worked hard to get into school, but all the whites still gave him shit. How he sucked up for years to a greedy, balding boss who treated my dad like he was a plantation worker. How our neighbors, even after seven years, still looked at us like niggers. As if we're going to rob them the first chance we got.

I’m won't be my dad, I thought. I won't follow in his steps. I won't be weak anymore. I won't let one slip up, no matter how innocent, push me around and make me lazy anymore.

"It's my job," I smiled.

I reared back and took a cut, swiping the bat off of Bradley’s head. Two more swipes and he was knocked out. Another four or five and his head split open.

“You did right by us,” Seneca hugged me. “We got yo back for good now.”

"And I have yours."


© Copyright 2017 My Dog Chip. All rights reserved.

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