Issue 57, Spring 1974
My old friend Charley that I’ve known for 20, 25 years stopped me in the street. He said, I’ve got something to tell you. Now, sit down. Right here. That was the steps of the Cafe Zipp in the middle of Macdougal Street. He put his hand on my knee. Then he said, now you listen, this is what happened:
Carter stop by the cafe early. I just done waxing. He said, I believe I’m having company later on. Let me use your place, Charley, hear?
I told him, door is open, go ahead. Man coming for the meter, (why I took the lock off.) I told him Angie, my lodger could be home but he strung out most the time. He don’t even know when someone practicing the horn in the next room. Carter, you got hours and hours. There ain’t no wine there, nothing like it. He said he had some other stuff would keep him on top. That was a joke. Thank you, brother, he said. I told him I believe I have tried anything, but to this day, I like whiskey. If you have whiskey, you drunk, but if you pumped up with drugs, you just crazy. Yeah hear that man, he said. Then his eyeballs start walking away.
He went right to the park. Park is full of little soft, yellow-haired baby chicks. They ain’t but babies. They far from home and you better believe it, they love them big black cats walking around before lunchtime, jutting their apparatus. They think they gonna leap off that to heaven. Maybe so.
Nowadays, the spades around here got it set out for them. When I was young, I put that kettle to cook. I stirred it and stirred it, and these dudes just sucking off the gravy.
Next thing: Carter rested himself on the bench. He look this way and that. His pants is tight. His head making pictures. Along comes this child. She just straggling along. Got her big canvas pocket book and she looking around. Carter hollers out. Hey, sit down, he says. By me, here, you pretty thing. She look sideways. Sits, on the edge.
Where you from, baby? he ask her. Hey, relax, you with friends.
Oh thank you. Oh the midwest, she says. Near Chicago.
She want to look good. She ain’t from maybe 800 miles.
You left home for a visit, you little dandylion you, your boy friend let you just go?
Oh, no, she says, getting talky. I just left and for good.
My mother don’t let me do a thing. I got to do the breakfast dishes when I get home from school and clean and do my two brothers’ room and they don’t have to do nothing. And I got to be home in my room by 10 P.M. weekdays and 12 P.M. just when the fun starts Saturday and nothing is going on in that town. Nothing! It’s dead, a sleeping hollow. And the prejudice, whew! She blushes up a little, she don’t want to hurt his feelings. It’s terrible and then they caught me out with a little bit of a roach I got off of some fellow from New York who was passing through and I couldn’t get out at all for a week. They was watching me and watching. They’re disgusting and they’re so ignorant!
My! Carter says. I don’t know how you kids today stand it. The world is changing that’s a fact and the old folks ain’t heard the news. He ruffle her hair and he lay his cheek on her hair a minute. Testing. And he puts the tip of his tongue along the tip of her ear. He’s a fine looking man, you know, a nice color, medium not too light. Only thing wrong with him is some blood line in his eye.
I don’t know when I seen a prettier chick, he says. Just what we call fattening the pussy. Which wouldn’t use up no time he could see. She look at him right away. Oh lord, I been trudging around. I am tired. Yawns.
He says, I got a nice place, you could just relax and rest and decide what to do next. Take a shower. Whatever you like. Anyways you do is O.K. My you are sweet. You better’n Miss America. How old you say you was?
Eighteen, she jump right in.
He look at her satisfied, but that was a lie and Carter knew it, I believe. That the Number One I hold against him. Because, why her? Them little girls just flock, they do. A grown man got to use his sense.
Next thing: They set out for my apartment which is 6, 7 blocks downtown. Stop for a pizza. ’Mm this is good, she says (she is so simple). She says, they don’t make ’em this way back home.
They proceed. I seen Carter courting before. Canvas pocketbook across his shoulder. They holding hands maybe and hand swinging.
Open the front door of 149, but when they through struggling up them four flights, she got to be disappointed, you know my place, nothing there. I got my cot. There’s a table. There two chairs. Blanket on the bed. And a pillow. And a old greasy pillow slip. I’m too old now to give up my grizzly greasy head, but I sure wish I was a young buck, I would let my Afro flare out.
She got to be disappointed.
Wait a minute, he says, goes to the kitchen and brings back ice water, a box of pretzels. Oh thank you, she says. Just what I wanted. Then he says, rest yourself darling, and she lies down. Down, right in her coffin.
He shares out a joint with her. Ain’t that peaceful, he says. Oh, it is, she says. It sure is peaceful. People don’t know.
Then they finish up. Just adrifting in agreement, and he says, you like to ball? She says, Man! Do I! Then he put up her dress and take down her panties and tickle her here and there nibbling away. He says, you like that baby? Man! I sure do, she says. A colored boy done that to me once back home, it sure feels good.
Right then he gets off his clothes. Gonna tend to business. Now, the bad thing there, is, the way Carter told it, and I know it’ so, those little girls come around looking for what they used to, hot dog. And what they get is knockwurst. You know we are like that. Matter of fact. Carter did force her. Had to. She starting to holler, Ow, it hurts, you killing me, it hurts. But Carter told me, it was her asked for it. Tried to get away, but he had been stiff as stone since morning when he stop by the store. He wasn’t about to let her run.
Did you hit her? I said. Now Carter, I ain’t gonna tell anyone. But I got to know.
I might of hauled off and let her have it once or twice. Stupid little cunt asked for it, didn’t she. She was so little, there wasn’t enough meat on her thigh bone to feed a sick dog. She could of wriggled by the scoop in my armpit if I had let her. Our black women ain’t a bit like that, I told you Charlie. They cook it up, they eat the mess they made. They proud.
I didn’t let that ride too long. Carter’s head moves quick, but he don’t dust me. I ask him, how come when they passing the plate and you is presented with the choice, you say like the prettiest dude—a little of that white stuff please man?
I don’t! He hollered like I had chopped his neck. And I won’t! He grab my shirt front. It was a dirty old workshirt and it tore to bits in his hand. He got solemn. Shit! You right! They are poison! They killing me! That diet gonna send me upstate for nothin’ but bone diet and I got piles as is.
Joking by the side of the grave trench. That’s why I used to like him. He wasn’t usual. That’s why I like to pass time with Carter in the park in the early evening.
Be cool, I said.
Right on, he said.
He told me he just done shooting them little cotton head darkies into her when Mangie Angie Em poriore lean on the doorway. Girl lying on my bloody cot pulling up a sheet, crying, bleeding out between her legs. Carter had tore her up some. You know Charlie he said, I ain’t one of your little Jewboy buddies with half of it cut off. Angie peering and peering. Carter stood up out of his working position. He took a quick look at Angie, hoisted his pants and split. He told me, Man, I couldn’t stay there, that dumb cunt sniffling and that blood spreading out around her, she didn’t get up to protect herself, she was disgusting and that low white bug your friend, crawled in from under the kitchen sink. Now on you don’t live with no white junkie, hear me Charlie, they can’t use it.
Where you going now Carter, I ask him. To the pigs he says and jabs his elbow downtown, I hear they looking for me.
That’ exactly what he done and he never seen free daylight since.
Not too long that same day they came for me. They know where I am. At the station they said, you sleep somewhere else tonight and tomorrow night. Your place padlocked. You wouldn’t want to see it, Charlie. You in the clear. We know your whereabouts to the minute. Sergeant could see I didn’t know nothing. Didn’t want to tell me neither. I’ll explain it. They had put out a warrant for Angel. Didn’t want me speaking to him. Telling him anything.
Hector the beatcop over here, can’t keep nothing to himself. They are like that. Spanish people. Chatter chatter. What he said: You move Charlie. You don’t want to see that place again. Bed smashed in. That little girl broken up in the bottom of the airshaft on top of the garbage and busted glass. She just tossed out that toilet window wide awake alive. They know that. Death occur on ground contact.
The next day I learned worse. Hector found me outside the store. My buffer swiped. Couldn’t work. He said: Every bone between her knee and her rib cage broken, splintered. She been brutally assaulted with a blunt instrument or a fist before death.
Worse than that, on her legs high up, inside she been bitten like an animal bit her and bit her and tore her little meat she had on her. I said: All right Hector. Shut up. Don’t speak.
They put her picture in the paper every day for five days and when her mother and daddy came on the fifth day, they said: The name of our child is Juniper. She is 14 years old. She been a little rebellious but the kids today all like that.
Then court. I had a small job to say, Yes it was my place. Yes, I told Carter he could use it. Yes, Angie was my roommate and sometimes he lay around there for days. He owed me two months rent. That’ the reason I didn’t put him out.
In court Carter said. Yes I did force her, but he said he didn’t do nothing else.
Angie said, I did smack her when I seen what she done, but I never bit her your honor, I ain’t no animal, that black hippie must of.
Nobody said—they couldn’t drag out of anyone—they lacking the evidence who it was picked her up like she was nothing, a bag of busted bones and dumped her out the fourth floor window.
But wasn’t it a shame, them two studs. Why they take it out on her? After so many fluffy little chicks. They could of played her easy. Why Carter seen it many times hisself. She could of stayed the summer. We just like the U.N. Every state in the union stop by. She would of got her higher education right on the fourth floor front. September, her mama and daddy would come for her and they whip her bottom, we know that. We been in this world long enough. We seen lots of the little girls. They go home, then after awhile they get to be grown womens they integrating the swimming pool and picketing the supermarket they blink their eyes and shut their mouth and grin.
But that was my room and my bed so I don’t forget it. I don’t stop thinking! That child. That child. And it come to me yesterday, I laydown after work: Maybe it wasn’t no one. Maybe she pull herself the way she was, crumpled, to that open window. She was tore up, she must of thought she was gutted inside her skin. She must of been in a horror what she got to remember what her folks would see. Her life look to be disgusting like a squashed fish, so what she did: she made up some power somehow and raise herself up that window sill and hook herself onto it and then what I see, she just topple herself out. That’ what I think right now.
That is what happened.