PAGE 2 - N.C. ESSAY
Photo by Barcelona
Short Story by Henry Pankey
Sweat keeps rolling down my face causing it to shine. My pulse and
heartbeat increase as if they are racing for life. A knot twists in my
stomach giving me the oozy-feeling one gets when one is about to
vomit but nothing comes up. My hands constently shake as if I am in a
deep freezfi. I know I am not about to freeze in tWs 90 degree cell. As I
think of my reason for being in this pig pen, I decided to write this
manuscript so that America and all tiie world can see my ghetto
reflections that contributed to the making of a criminal. I do pray this
story will be published but I know I’ll never live to see it go to press.
Let me also say I did shoot these two white policemen. Oh, everybody
thought it was a-shame. Me, Bob-shooting two cops. Well I am glad I
shot these “mothers”, and if! could get my hands on a gun I would
clean out this pig-pen. To be honest wiSi you, there was a time when I
would not have harmed any fellow human being. Maybe after you read
some of the events that happened during the course of my life you’ll
understand why I have lost faith in the so-called Great American
Dream, thus I’ll proceed.
I hate to even think of the tworoom apartment my mother, father,
and I shared. My Dad would always come home chinking or drunk
except when he got drunk at home. He would always beat Ma and hit
me, cursing, kick me and tell me how crazy I was. He always
reminded me how he hated I was his son. I still loved him for a long
time. Soon it was impossible for me to love him. I tried though, I tried
You can’t force love or hate. You can fight either or both of them, but
emotions are much stronger than the mind. I stiU pulled him out of the
rain, on cold nights when he collapsed on the sidewalk, steps and
sometimes even u. the streets. I would fight anybody that said
anjrthing bad about him to my face. Sure, I know kids talk^ about him
behind my back. I know he had tried to get a job but he wasn’t
educated. Dad was raised down south and he worked on the farm for
some white man that was supposed to have liked Black People. I don’t
see how because he used to pay Dad three dollars a day for slave laltor.
It took Dad a long time to realize that MAN was not 1^ friend. I thiidc
Dad got into a lot of debt with this man, and he ran away up-here-in
Brooklyn, New York. He never did,tell me the true story. He never told
me much of anything. People would call it a “Generation gap”, but I
think it was more of a “Comunnication gap.”
I do remember him once saying “Bob, ya know I ain’t had no chance
to go to school. I had to work on the farm. I want you to go to school and
be a barber. (Who in the hell wants to be a barber?) I tried to do my
best with you. I can’t help the way you been living. You know I tried to
do my best. Ya mama can tell you that.” I remember my Daddy
started crying. He just laid his head against the wall and cried. I felt
full of sentiment, pity and shame for him. I know he had a guilt
complex that was eating him away. I really felt low watehing Big
Strong Pop Cry. I look^ at them damn old dirty overalls and that
checked shirt he had on. He wore these cloth^ every day. His big lips
were encircled with a huge mustache. He always cut all his hair off but
as it grew back I could tell he was graying. He even had a few gray
hairs on his eyebrows. I used to think akhoi was killing him but to£iy I
knew his conscience was the real killer. Alcohol was his escape route. I
really felt sorry for him. I looked at him and let him watch me cry too.
I was not proud to let him see me cry, but it was my only way of
saying, I understand.
I remembered one night a white cop came to the apartment
“smiling”, he told us they had come to take Dad to jail for indecent
exposure. He claimed Dad had zipped his pants down and peed in front
of a white lady’s steps. WeU that’s how he got his first free “trip”
downtown, they gave him six months. He kept getting into trouble
when he got out. He finally left home. Ma couldn’t understand why.
Everybody said he was no good to leave ma and me. People said he
didn’t love us. For some reason I have always felt that he left home
because he did love us. He knew he would never be able to hold a job
and love us. He knew he would never stop drinking. He knew we were
miserable with Ma being the only one working. Ma only made $30 a
week. I swear only $30 a week. I know Dad knew we could get on the
welfare if he was not there. I know a lot of men that left home for the
same reason. We did get on the welfare just like Dad had planned. We
got some surplus goods and a check each month. I got some overalls,
army boots and some checked shirts. People would come to the
apartment at the beginning of each month to buy some of the goods.
Ma would sell it. I was glad. I hated to see it in the apartment.
I really felt sorry for Ma because if she didn’t have me she could have left the apartment. She was a
good looking woman. Although she was in her mid-thirties, she could have passed for twenty any day,
any man would love to have talked to Ma. She had beautiful skin, without a pimple, wrinkle or scar on
it. She was very slim. Her complexion was light brown and her large thick lips made her pug nose
look much smaller than it really was. A thick jet black Afro concealed the shape of her head but
caused it to look much larger than it was. It blended in perfectly with her large eyebrows. She took
life with a smile. She had so much faith in God, America, and herself that it was unbelievable. She
had struggled and tried so hard to make life better for me. I can honestly say she gave, she dedicated
her life so that I could live at least in comfort. I hope Ma do get to read this story so she will know how
much 1 appreciated all the things she did. You see, I was such a foo). I never tald Ma how much I
loved her. I thought it made me look like a “sissy”. It makes no difference now because I do love you
and I do appreciate aU the things you have done for me in life. Thank God for you, Ma.
I sometimes hated the sight of our apartment. I heard there was no place like home. Well, I pray to
God there is no other place like my home, but I know there are many more right around the comer.
The kitehen leaked until the ceiling had swollen. It sort of hung down almost touching Ma’s head. The
walls was sort of gray-greenish looking like the bottom of a river or a lake. I never tx>ftered to find
out what color they were supposed to be but I knew danfui well green was not it. The table in the kit
chen was one Daddy made out of some carts we found behind the A&P store. It looked pretty nice
sometimes when Ma covered it with a table cloth and fixed a real good meal for us. We sat on drink
cartons. They never really bothered me unless someone came to the house when we were eating.
Thoughts of our bed-room still linger with me. My bed was an old couch covered with cotton to keep
the springs from sticking in me. A long time ago Dad peed in my bed and I think the smell is stiU
there. It is probably all in my mind but I could swear the bed still has an awful smell. Ma had a small
folding bed that she and Dad used to share. I remember when I was small they used to make love in
the same room with me. 11 was okay when I was small because I didn’t know what was going on. As I
grew up and realized what they had done, I almost hated them. I would always make ud excuses for
them. I know Ma felt bad bout it. I am glad I didn’t ever bring it up. As far as Dad was con
cerned he didn’t give a shit. At least that’s how I know he would have put it, they were man and wife,
so I might as well face the facts. I did, but oh, how ithurts. I remembered one day we got out school'
early l^cause of the snow. Ma had got off work early because she was afraid to ride the buses in the
snow anyway, the apartment was so cold I felt water running out my eyes. A glass of coca-cola sitting
on the table had almost frozen. I decided to get in the bed. Ma was already in bed. My bed was cold so
I thought it was a good idea to put my cover on Ma’s bed and both of us sleep in her bed. At least we’d
both be warm. Ma gave me a funny look but she said okay. So I put my blankets as well as some of the
cotton out of the couch over us in bed. I guess we were in bed about a half an hour before somebody
ring the door bell. I was too sleepy to get up and Ma was asleep. I yelled come in.
A voice from ttie kitehen said, “Where are you?” I said in the bedroom. Unfortunately it was the
white social worker. She sort of turned blue, then red looking. She turned up her nose and sort of
sarcastically said, “I hope I didn’t break up anything.” Ma woke up just in time to hear the remark.
She looked so hurt. Can you believe she accused Ma of letting me make love to her? You know
anybody would know dannn well I wouldn’t want to make love to my own mother. She put her com
ments in some kind of report. She raised hell about the apartment being dirty and about it being cold.
Ma didn’t have time to clean up except on week-ends. The lady refused to listen to reason. We told her
why I was in bed. She said it was silly for a sixteen-year-old boy to be in his mother’s bed for any
reason. I admit it was out of the ordinary, but can’t you see my living conditions was not ordinary?
How could anybody be so cruel and merciless?
Everybody on the block was saying I was caught in the bed with my mother. I looked for someone to
say it to my face but they never ^d. Somebody would always tell me they heard someone else say it
but I knew they were thinking it too. I guess time made me forget to thbik about it 24 hours a day.
There was a time when that lie haunted me every minute of the day. Even today I hate to think or
write about it but I know it was a significant event in my life. I don’t toow whether it was because the
lady was white, the cops was white or what but, I do know this white lady forced me to hate people. I
soon had the belief that anything bad for the white man had to be good for the Black man and I was
now mad enough to deal with the man by any means necessary.
I wish I had enough time to write an autobiography of my life to let everyone read what I think of
this highly idealistic American (keam. I know I only have a few minutes left, so let me get to the
events that led to the killing of the cops. I have seen too many people beaten on the head with those
nigger boppers the pigs capy. I have been beaten on the head and taken down town for merely being
close to the scene of a crime. Still I have been indoctrinated all my life to believe in the “equal
democracy.” If our democracy is so danm good, then why in the hell are we cramming it down the
tiu'oats of others, all over the world with a gun? America is no longer a dedicated new nation but a
sick empire. People have talked about how a revolution is coming, which I believe is true. I know that
when it comes (and it is coming) the system must buck under and stop playing those nigger-honky
games. To destroy this system the revolution must begin within and outside of the nation because
destroying 50 states will not destroy this empire. I know enough about America to know there is
justice and equality for only a few. TTiis country passed a civil right bill a few years ago that was one
of the most degrading documents in the history of man since the Emancipation Proclamation.
America clainfis to be giving its people human rights; human rights are a gift from God and no man is
worthy to give or to take them away.
This nation is so sick, insane and out of its mind that it is policing and destroying the future of
twenty million people and I know by now you know I mean Black people. These oppressed people are
retaliating the only way they know how; violence.
They see life in a new perspective with new eyes. New eyes bring inexperience, thus allowing for
mistakes. As a part of such a people I am one that must give up. I can’t focus a better tomorrow for
my people. I guess I have been brain-washed and indoctrinated with crime, illiteracy and poverty so
long that I can’t see beyond these three illigitimate babies. The only thing I ever related to in life was
an apartment that I had to call home. Some cops were entering into my castle looking for me with a
warrant. I don’t know today what crime the warrant was for because I have committed so many in
the past few weeks. I know these men were kicking my door to my home. They didn’t bother to knock.
They didn’t bother to announce themselves although I did know who they were. I would have felt less
than a man to let them force their way into my home. I would have let them in, I swear I would have.
The only regret I have about dying now is I regret I can’t die standing up. Well, here they come after
me. I’ll mail the letter home hoping Ma will get it published for me. I wish I could say some great
words before I go. Let me see, can I think of a quick prayer. I got it. Oh God no, oh America take
a good look at your ghetto reflections that are giving birth to thousands like me. Please America, let
there be no more ghettos.
We left the strangled corpse
where it lay and immediately
telephoned for the police. They
came with their photographers,
surgeons, and detectives and
tramped all about trying to ferret
the mystery that had so disturbed
our little humdrum lives.
Auntie Climaxe and I were in
the living room; I administered
generous doses of cowslip wine to
the old woman, blanched with the
symptoms of shock.
“Mr. Hawthorne,” said In
spector Raphylltickett, “I should
like to ask you some questions.”
“Is the deceased of your
“What exactely happened
I then explained how we heard
the thud and found the body.
The sleuth only nodded. He
interrogated me further and then
stood up to depart.
“I’m putting two guards here,”
he said. “Just for your protect
ion, you know.”
My aunt had overcome her
stricken state ( but continued to
sip ttie cowslip wine.).
“I think you should rest, my
dear,” I informed Auntie, who
“I’ll read in bed,” she said and
took up her recent bookclub
selection MURDER ON THE
BLASTED HEATH (by Helen
The spinster reading and
dozing in her bedroom, a futile
task since the police had
throughly combed it. Suddenly,
there was a timid knock on the
front door. I peered through the
rather conspicuous peephole and
saw Sister Millicent and anottier
“Auntie’s not well,” I told
by A’ Marsh
“I’m sure she’d want to see
us,” insisted Sister Millicent.
“It’s excessively important.”
“And how! ” chorused the other
nun, whose name I discovered
was Sister Doris.
“Well, I suppose you may go
up,” I said with plain misgivings.
The black draped women entered
and mounted the steps with utter
silence. I heard them enter
Auntie’s chamber and the door
I migrated to the kitehen for a
tall glass of Ovaltine (Chocolate-
flavored) and was really en
joying that beverage when a tiny
scream from the_ upper floor
arrested my attention. I knew it
was my Aunt!
I swiftly seized a seam ripper
from the notions cabinet and ran
( who knows what two desperate
nuns will do ??).
“I’m coming. Precious
Relative!” I shouted, flinging
open the bedroom door, ready for
anything. _.pyjjg ^ext Issue