Post your short stories here.
Until next time,
Brother Author, Dr. T.
Here are two samples of my raw writing.
Alfred W. Tatum
July 9, 2008
His bright red cap, half-cocked, was the first thing I noticed when he entered the room. I am not quite sure why he showed up, but it was something about his presence that was welcoming. His movements were slow and measured. I could hear the questions he was asking although he remained silent. The baby face atop the grown-man frame was weathered with pain, but not totally washed of innocence. He was teetering between something that was difficult to pinpoint. Then he spoke, "Not in my neighborhood."
"Bull crap," I said. "Do something about it."
"Man, all of this is bull crap. We are sitting around waving our pens like magic wands, but
we can't write anything that's going to change anything."
Struck by the care of his words that were both troubling and halting, I had to find a way to reconcile myself to the young boy's truth without abandoning my own. Stunted by a reality that I did not fully understand, although media images abound, his notions of gloom warranted serious, yet careful conversation to keep him talking. He preferred to let his body do the talking – the folded arms across the chest, the face grimace that suggested naivety on the part of the unknowing, and the silent-sitting-slumped-in-the-chair stance. Each spoke volumes as they marked him as different, guarded. The hope was in his presence. Although the others ignored him as they wrestled with their own personal demons, I noticed him as a distinct fabric of the cloth. Not more outstanding, but shelled differently.
“So what is the answer?” I asked.
“I don’t have the answer. Nobody has an answer.”
He shifted in his seat. His hands were now folded on the rim of the table in the middle of the room where he sat. The others stared in anticipation, waiting for a response I had not yet formulated. The entire institute could be lost with poorly chosen words or an ideological foolish explanation that positioned me as an outsider of the realm of their day-to-day journeys. Did I truly understand? The sands of self-assurance were being washed away by this young boy’s strong language, softly spoken. I had a few seconds to think, to respond, to question, to recover. It was my move.
“There is a scripture in the bible that says, …”
“I don’t understand a word in the bible, please don’t go there.”
He leaned back again, and I was feeling suffocated by the weight of disillusionment. Out the corner of my eyes, I saw two other young boys nod in agreement with, Trey, because I missed the mark with my response. I imagined him asking, where was the bible when my friend, Jimmy, needed it. Or saying, I don’t know if you know this, but it’s not the bible that people are carrying around that is causing havoc. The wedge between us was growing wider. It was my move again. Had I lost the only chance I may ever have? It was close to noon, and our time together would be ending soon. I conjured up a silent prayer, “Jesus, please guide my words and my thoughts. In your name I pray, Amen.”
“What is the truth?” I asked.
“It don’t exist.”
“Is it true that you should just roll over and die, because the truth is, you are going to die anyway, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
“Maybe I should.”
“Maybe you should.”
Totally confused about where this conversation was going, I turned my back to the room of young boys and walked towards the chalkboard. My thoughts were marinating, but quite unclear. The resignation in the young boy’s tone was peppered with resistance, and I knew I had him where I wanted him. He was debating my clever questions. I was winning. He did not want to die, and I knew it. It is something about death that is too final for a young boy that causes him to reject it, to fear it. Where is the chalk, I thought? Searching for it gave me a few more seconds to think. The academic exercise ended abruptly. I heard him say,
“Write something to stop this.”
I turned around and saw, Trey, holding a gun to Craig’s head, his left hand around the other boy’s neck. “Let me see what you are going to write on the board now. How are you going to use writing to stop me from pulling the trigger?” I froze.
“Like I said, not in my neighborhood.”
He turned and left. I stared at the frightened faces of the other boys, and I thought, maybe Trey’s right. Craig came to the front of the room; picked up the chalk I was searching for and wrote five words on the board. “This is what you should have written,” he said.
Alfred W. Tatum
She sat two rows in front of me on the seven-car train that was moving toward the city. Her hair was uncombed, and there were naps all along her two-toned neck. The daughter’s hair was not in much better shape suggesting that she just didn’t have time to get to it this morning. Earplugs were in her ears and small gold hoop earrings, nothing extravagant, hung from her lobes. The dimples on her moderately dark face were attractive. She was really pretty. I made brief eye contact with the girl who looked like she was about sixteen. We exchanged a brief smile that was interrupted by a young boy who began to scream; the pacifier dropped from his mouth. It was obvious he hadn’t had his first haircut, and the white dry snot marks on his nose looked nasty. She spent the duration of the ride trying to calm him down. The train passengers, mostly white, looked irritated because the young boy’s cry was intruding upon their newspaper reading; their attempts to complete work on laptop computers, or their desire to simply enjoy four-dollar-cups of coffee. I felt sort of sad for the girl as she bounced the baby up and down on her lap as her little girl looked on. The mother’s face tightened each time his shrieks grew louder; she looked somewhat apologetic for disturbing the others. At one point, I even became irritated. Why won’t the boy just shut up, I thought?
“What’s your son’s name?” I asked as I helped her carry a nice sized bag off the train.
“Emanuel, but we call him, Man-Man, for short.”
“That’s his daddy’s name, but my daddy’s name is Bootsey,” the little girl said.
“Shut up, Tee Tee. I told you about talking so much.”
“Are you meeting his father down here?”
“Naw, we don’t talk anymore.”
“My grandma is picking us up.”
“Didn’t you hear me tell you to shut up?”
I helped her carry the bag through the crowded terminal as people in high gear rushed by us on both sides. For a moment, I suspected we looked like a young couple with two kids. I wanted to wait with her and carry the bag to the car that would be waiting for her outside of the train station, but I had to catch the number 60 bus that ran every thirty minutes. I would be late if I chatted any longer. I patted, Man-Man, on the head, and said, “Take care little fella.”
“Bye, Tee Tee.”
“Thank you for helping me with the bag.”
“What’s your name?”
“Richard,” I said before turning and walking in the other direction. As I reached the revolving doors, I hear the boy beginning to cry again, making me think about my own situation.
I was really sure that I was about to do the right thing when I boarded the train this morning. It was hard for me to imagine what my girlfriend wanted to do. We had been together since our freshman year, and I didn’t understand her logic. There was no way I was going to be like my old man or her old man. I got her pregnant on purpose just to prove my point. She knew it to, but I convinced her that everything would be okay. We argued a lot because she kept letting her mother and girlfriends get into our business.
“How we gonna take care a baby?”
“You’ll see everything is gonna be okay as soon as we finish school.”
“Where you gonna work with a high school diploma?”
“Oh, I’ll get a job. Don’t worry about that.”
“What about college?”
“We don’t need college to take care of no baby.”
“Where we gonna live?”
“It will work out, trust me.”
I replayed this conversation in my mind over and over as I waited on the bus stop. “Where is the bus?” I murmured. I got to hurry up and get to the clinic; I cannot let her do it. It was all running through my head - Man-Man’s crying. Tee Tee’s talking. My girlfriend’s questions. Reaching into my pockets for the fare card was also messing with me now. No money. Momma gave me money for this trip today. Still, I wasn’t going to be like him, or Man Man’s daddy, or Bootsey. I got this, and I will handle my business “Where is the bus?” I uttered loudly this time. I got to get to the clinic to stop her.
More people had gathered at the bus stop. If they were carrying burdens like me, it was difficult to tell. Stepping into the street, I could see the number 60 finally rolling my way. It was finally here. The doors opened, allowing several passengers off. I could hear a baby crying on the bus, a baby being held by someone who looked like me. “Are you getting on young man?” the driver asked. “No, I am waiting on the number 120.” The bus rolled away, and I walked back toward the train station.