COLUMN EIGHTY-TWO, JANUARY 1, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
A KNOT IS NOT A NOOSE
[Singer-songwriter Josh Alan Friedman is the author of the seminal Tales of Times Square (Feral House). More writings by Josh Alan Friedman can be found at http://www.joshalan.com
. About the following piece, he writes: "I've been working on this autobiographical novel for decades called "Black Cracker." Based on myself, it's about the only white boy in a colored elementary school during the Kennedy years---the extremes of reverse discrimination. They couldn't pronounce my name, so everyone called me "Jock." Takes place in Glen Cove, Long Island.]
really a nigger, right Jock?" asked Jeffrey Lincoln. "You a
that's right," I said, convinced this was true.
the impression he was better off than the other kids. He always complained that
his momma made him take a bath on Sundays and he was known to have more than one
pair of underwear. The other boys marveled over the birthday presents Jeffrey
claimed to have gotten. "Ah got me a bicycle and a train set and a domino
game for mah birthday."
y'all see King Kong on TV last night?" he once asked.
He curled his
eyebrows in astonishment. "Man, it would take a thousand toilet papers to
wipe King Kong butt!"
So I figured he
had a TV. We'd been planning to hang out at his place, without Bobo. I'd never
been there and expected it to look like a toy store. We set out after school one
afternoon and Jeffrey led me deep into the woods, farther than I'd ever been
Some old drunk
emerged from behind a shack and poleaxed me with his stare.
hate niggers!" he shouted. Jeffrey led me on.
no fuckin' bum!" continued the old man, raising his fist. "Uncle
gonna get there?" I wondered.
upside that hill. That's where I stay."
looked like a haunted house, but this was no make-believe haunted house in a
basement. He really lived there. It was a crooked, boarded-up shack. Alongside
the house was a small gathering of middle-aged colored women passing around a
homemade jug of rotgut. It was in the vapor of their sweat. A 250-pound woman
was sitting up on a porch preaching while the audience listened attentively. She
was ranting on about Limpy, Bobo's uncle. Uncle Limpy was the rakish owner of a
body shop whose main source of business came from car wrecks that he himself was
the Lord is gonna visit that nigger, you wait and see, he's gonna visit him. The
Lord, or somebody gonna visit him, because you cain't go through life cussin'
and fartin' at everybody, everything you see, you just cain't do that and escape
the Almighty's wrath. Or do you think I'm a fool?"
shitheel and a heathen!" came another woman. They passed the jug.
go about stealin' everybody money. That nigger cussed out God
right, you right!" echoed the sisters, all of whom were whipped up to a
axed him ain't you s'poze to be runnin' yo' bidness at the shop, he just up and
showed me all his money and said he don't need to work cause he got his ways.
But ah know what his ways is. He a fartin' man. And a thievin' man. And ain't
one thing a fartin' thievin' man is good fo', and that's laying 'round the house
and fartin', then goin' out thievin'. I swear, that nigger got the devil in his
bones and his bowels. There is somethin' wrong with that nigger, somethin' done
gone wrong deep down inside his intestine. Am I right or am I a fool?"
grunts of amen amongst the ladies, as they passed a jug. Two women came into
view carrying shotguns with a rope of squirrels slung over their shoulders. The
larger one stopped in her tracks and bellowed, "Just a minute, Mr. White
Cracka! Where the hell do you think you is goan?"
All the colored
women took notice and I froze under their haughty gaze.
me," said Jeffrey.
The woman who
had been lecturing the mob stood up.
bringin' this white shit over here Jeffy, ah'm surprised at chu'!"
it's okay cause he mah fren," came Jeffrey. "Besides, he really one of
us, he a white nigger."
nigger, my ass! He got no bidness up here--"
just come to play--"
buttin' in! You buttin' in to what ah was sayin'. Ah tole you never
goan do with this cracka, Hattie?" said the woman with the
tar out of 'im," barked a voice from the mob.
ah'll blow off his fuckin' haid!" came the large squirrel woman,
"It be all
right by me."
I went limp
with a sickening fear for my life. The preacher woman wobbled over and knocked
me down. The force of her fat arm wasn't too hard, but I knew I'd better hit the
dirt. I was on my own now. I didn't move. I didn't know where to run, and if I
tried, the big lady was sure to shoot me down. On the ground I was at their
ladies encircled me and began to clap their hands and hum some supernatural
progression, foreign to my ear. Some of them swayed their hips, child-bearing
hips that had all once fallen prey to the rapscallion Limpy. And then they did a
two-step, shifting swollen bare feet toward me, then dancing back. It was a
nightmare. I strained to see Jeffrey, but he had disappeared behind the army of
black ladies. The preacher woman started in a sermon-like voice:
chained us hand and foot and took us from our mother land to live in slavery and
cried the rest.
chains you made us toil in the cotton fields from sun-up to sundown. You dressed
us in rags and made us eat the lef'- over scraps and slop not fit fo' a hog.
Lord have mercy on our souls!"
Lord have mercy," chanted the chorus.
"But. . .
I didn't mean it," I mumbled.
do it." My colored accent disappeared and I felt whiter than I ever felt
before. Right then and there I wished I was colored so bad I just looked up to
the sky and prayed, if the Lord really exists, prove it to me and make my skin
black right now, strike me with a bolt of blackness. Make me if not the blackest
nigger in the world at least a fine shade of brown. The preacher woman went on
to blame me for everything from the slave trade to the recent assassination of
Medgar Evers and the bombing in Birmingham, killing four of their young.
this day you continue to commit social injustice upon the colored people."
one of you, I'm a nigger, too." My words came out muffled with my face in
right, choke, go ahaid and choke!" came another voice from the pack. I saw
someone's old-lady shoe kick me in the head.
chu' to hate us!" came another voice.
lady with a lisp added, "Thaths right, thucka, an we wanna kill yo' momma
and yo' poppa and all yo' kind." The shotgun barrel was pointed my way as
the other women cleared away from me. The tribe of monsters closed in, about to
snuff me out. I heard black crows in the distance, seeming to join the chorus
against me. I wished I could be one of them. I cried to be back with my family,
in the safety of my bedroom, amongst my toys, with my guinea pig, Sitting Bull,
white-people things that seemed so far away. I had trespassed into hell, and
learned my lesson.
was no shot.
think he a nigger," came the sober voice of the squirrel lady,
ladies seemed more business-like than the others. They set down the day's hunt
and untwined a frizzy rope from around their shoulders.
Mr. White Cracka," said the huge woman with the shotgun, shoving and
smacking me off into the woods. "Ah got somethin' for ya."
held him at bay. I saw his eyebrows curled with helpless concern.
good!" yelled one of the ladies. The whole pack laughed as the two hunters
led me off to my little white boy's fate.
a nigger hit! Give him a nigger hit he won't soon forget!" screamed
another. The two squirrel hunters led me down a dirt path. They were on a
mission, they knew their business and spoke not a word till we reached a
clearing. "Stop right hyeah."
One of them
hitched up the rope around a tree branch about eight feet high. The other tied
my hands behind my back. I stared blankly as they fashioned a makeshift noose.
They tied it around my neck.
good rope lovin' for ya," she said. "Jus' the way you did to us."
My ideas on
death stemmed from pictures I saw in my favorite magazine, Famous Monsters of
Filmland. But they never portrayed the grim reaper as a big fat colored
lady. The two of them who led this death march were scarier than Dracula or
Frankenstein--whom I secretly believed were my guardian angels. But neither had
yet come to my rescue. Real monsters roamed the earth. The lady who tied my
hands behind my back snorted like a rhino through her massive nostrils. They
pulled the rope up as high as they could around the branch, which lifted me off
the ground. . . but just barely.
right, peckerwood, choke, go ahead and choke! Kick them little laigs, kick em!"
And, oh, how my little legs did kick. Luckily, I could still touch my toe to the
dirt every other moment as I bounced from the neck. Each time I touched the
ground I was able to equalize the pressure on my neck and catch my breath. Sort
of like coming up for air to prevent drowning. They were too stupid to tie a
proper hangman's noose. Or maybe they were too smart. They merely tied a loop
around my neck. Finally, they walked off.
My nose was
running and my mouth foamed with spittle. But I kept touching ground. It was
twilight, getting darker. I dangled in this pathetic situation, bouncing,
dangling, touching a piece of the ground, gasping, catching my breath. I didn't
know how long I could hold out. It seemed like a half hour before Jeffrey found
me, cutting me free. His expressive eyebrows were hunched up in a look of
Jock, run! Run!" Jeffrey ordered. So I did. I ran, as I'd done before from
enemies, up the hill past the point of being out of breath. I imagined if I
turned around the colored ladies would be right behind, grabbing for my neck.
When I finally reached my back porch I was gasping nauseously. The colored
ladies were nowhere in sight. I began to feel the warm safety of
home-sweet-home, and it never looked so sweet. I promised myself that I'd never
go down to Glen Cove Avenue again.
I was too
embarrassed to tell my parents how I got the rope burn around my neck. I made up
some story. They questioned me relentlessly, but I maintained I tumbled down a
hill. Then I became furious. The next day I figured to track down the squirrel
ladies and kill them with my stiletto imitation pocket knife, the one I had
ordered off a Bazooka Bubble Gum wrapper.
And so I brought the knife to school, but decided maybe I'd hunt them down tomorrow. Or the next day. ##
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMN EIGHTY-TWO
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMNS
Blacklisted Journalist can be contacted at P.O.Box 964, Elizabeth, NJ 07208-0964
The Blacklisted Journalist's E-Mail Address:
THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ