Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.
Mom said I can’t go out and help. I have ta just sit here and watch cause it’s safer than wandering the streets. Looking up and down the block I can’t see nothing. Everyone has been following the sounds of the police and the fire trucks since yesterday. Jimmy next door gets to go, why can’t I?
“Well, Jimmy’s grandma don’t care what he does. You lucky to have someone like me watching out for you. Damn-it boy, you don’t know how lucky you really is!” My grandma always had a way of fixing an argument by telling me how lucky I is. I don’t feel lucky, just left out. Jimmy got a new pair of shoes yesterday from his uncle. Bright white Air Jordans, like I seen on tv.
Wonder where he got the money for them? Jimmy’s uncle ain’t been working much lately. That city job went away after he starting yelling at his boss. Jimmy’s uncle got a temper, I seen him hit Jimmy once before. Grandma says it’s none of my business, but Jimmy’s my friend.
Last night there was some excitement cause some kids started lightin’ firecrackers so the police would come running. Not sure why they do something like that? Why would you want the police chasing you? Grandma says they no-good kids just making it harder on her to get to work. Three buses, walk some blocks and all so she can style hair at Aunt Lucille’s House of Beauty. She ain’t really my aunt, but we all call her that outta ‘spect.
My phone’s been blowing up with messages telling me to get down to the CVS. Smoke still coming from the place since it burned down Monday. The old people place they building burned down too. Grandma was looking to move there, church had it all set up for her. I could get my room back, not sleep on no damn couch anymore. Why they have to go a ruin that for me? I need me my space.
“Boy, I need you to go down the street and get me some milk. Don’t you be draggin back here two hours from now. You go, get milk, get back. You understand?”
“Yeah, grandma. I hear ya!”
Finally I get to see what all this ‘citement is about. Grandma give me $5 bucks and says to give her the change, she ain’t running no charity. Grabbin’ my jacket, I put my headphones in and start off.
I can see what’s left of that cell phone place that Korean guy run. The windows are gone. The shelves empty. Did he leave? That was fast. Then I see the police tape over the door. Yellow rope always means someone done something wrong. You see it here too much.
That market Grandma wants me to go to is closed up too. What have people been doin’? Mom was talking about people stealing stuff, but this looks like they took everything they could stuff in a pocket. There ain’t even no Windex sitting on a shelf. Grandma always talking bout how that stuff cleans anything.
“Excuse me young man, what do you think you are doing?” I know that voice! That neighborhood watch guy who always walkin’ and wavin’ at people. Always writing stuff down, ready to call the police if something not right.
“I’m just getting milk! What you care?” A little more loudly than I thought. Not smart, just angry I being ‘cused of doing something I ain’t.
“You best be getting back to your grandma, kiddo.” Writing something in that notebook and just wandering off. How’s even sure who I am? Stupid guard dog!
Taking the long way back so I can tell Grandma that I tried, I see the people picking bottles up in the park. Another bunch of people carrying off the remains of that jungle gym where Sheila let me kiss her last week. Jimmy so proud I finally be acting like a man, not no boy. She smelled like strawberry.
They start waving me over, asking if I wanted to help. “Grandma told me to get right back! She don’t know where I am.” But I want to stay, this looks like fun. At least it ain’t sittin on the porch staring at cars.
“Call your Grandma, tell her you here.” It’s that old guy who keeps walking by at night, Mr. Tyson. I think he got a thing for my grandma.
It might work. Grandma likes him too, maybe this is my get outta the house card?
She’s cool with it once I tell her whose her. She didn’t even ask me about the milk. Says she’ll bring some water or something for us to drink. Thank you Mr. Tyson! Grandma must really like you.
Everyone talkin bout how to replace this stuff. Where the money gonna come from, stuff like that. Maybe that guy who runs things at the community center might be able to help. Maybe, someone find some donor to take pity on us poor folk and just give us new stuff. That one gets boos. Ain’t no one gonna care later bout this.
Grandma comes down and the old people start talking about Dr. King. They saying he wouldn’t have been happy bout how things working out. People still talkin about that guy who died last week after he been arrested. Mom doesn’t like me watching the news, too depressing she says. But I hear the stuff at school. Teachers talking in class about how to act if things get bad. Way to talk to the police so you don’t end up in the back of some squad car. Grandma told me always answer with “yes, sir” and “No, sir”. Don’t say nothing stupid. Jimmy’s uncle always talking about they looking to lock up anybody, no reason. Some quota thing.
I see Sheila across the park. She just sittin there with her sister, sipping on some water. She starts pointing over where the jungle gym used to be and sorta shrugs her shoulders. I guess she don’t know where we gonna hang out later either.
Time to go home and sit back on that porch. Staring at cars goin by, some just cruisin’ looking for something to do. Other people driving through so they can see what the heck happened while the sun is still up. Before the curfew goes in at 10. Mom making sure she gets home in time, no need to have no police asking her where she coming from.
I just want to walk mt street without lookin over my shoulder. Me and Jimmy just talkin about girls. Talkin’ ’bout sports.
Just as I get round the corner I see flashing lights in the street. Why the police on Jimmy’s porch? And why they holding they hats while Jimmy’s moms be cryin? Grandma just holds my shoulder and tells me to stay where I at. We find out soon enough.