By: Austin Clarke

From: Currents Vol.7, No.1 p.5
© 1991 Urban Alliance on Race Relations

Time was heavy upon BJ's nerves. He paced up and down his room, with various thoughts entering his head, and leaving him no closer to a solution of the things that were bothering him. He paced up and down, not hav ing enough length in the square room, to make his pacing more dramatic and satisfying. And when he realized the restriction of the small square room, his mind bounded back to a time, which he had almost wiped from his memory.

He recalled the time when he had spent three hours in a police station, in a cell, alone; not knowing really why he was being locked up; not having a charge made against him; not having a policeman enter the cell and interrogate him about the alleged theft of a kid's bicycle: when one afternoon in August, he and three other kids were horsing around near the grocery store, trying to raise enough quarters to buy ice cream, when this other kid came wobbly on his bicycle, his first, his present from his mother for Christmas past; and one of the three other kids took the bike playfully from the little kid, and the little kid started to cry, and ran home with tears in his eyes; and told his mother, and his father returned with him, sunburnt arms bristling with black hairs, and chest like a barrel under a nylon undershirt, with his underpants showing just above the waist of his green janitor's trousers, when the kid, whose vision was blinded with tears, raised his finger and pointed at the coloured fella, Dad, the coloured fella took my bike; and all hell broke loose; and the cops came screaming down the avenue, two carloads of them, to solve this little neighbourhood kid's prank; and slam!, into the goddamn cruiser you goddamn nigger, and BJ did not understand the various languages and accents, Portuguese and Italian, being spewed at him; no explanation in the eyes of the man who owned the peddling store, and who was holding the melting cone of ice cream and with no quarters to stop his disappearing profits; no explanation from his three friends, now no longer within ear shot; no understanding from the father, ripping the air with gestures which BJ thought were karate chops intended for him, and not understanding from the four cops who descended armed and sunburnt, like the father, to solve this serious crime: git, goddamn, git! into the damn cruiser! no, not in the goddamn front seat, in fucking back, where you belong; and they took him down, and did not book him, and put him into a nice large cell, bigger, goddamn nigger than the piss-small room you and your goddamn mother lives in! and left him there to stew and to mend his thieving ways; and then hours later, the truth was known, and the sargeant with a styrofoam cup of steaming coffee; have a cup, come now, have a cuppa; and then said, a little mistake, if you can understand what I mean, a little goddamn mistake, and you happened to be the goddamn unlucky one.So beat it, kid, and don't let me lay my goddamn eyes on you, again!

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