“This is my business, Jerome. You want to cut up some of
these college boys, that’s your business—business of you
and your friends-- but you do it outside the Jubi.”
Jerome turned and started for the door. “I’ll be waitin’ for
you outside,” he said and pointed a finger at me like a gun.
“Better drink up,” said someone, “I understand it hurts less
if you’re drunk.”
I turned to Calvin, “What am I supposed to do?”
Calvin said nothing. He looked at me, he looked around at
the bar keep. He looked into the depths of the bar room.
There was no solution offered by anyone. The bar keep
came up to me and offered me the baseball bat. “I suggest
you head straight for Broad Street and don’t look back.” I
looked at Mountain and he just turned around toward the
bar without any hint of involvement.
(Thanks for that, by the way.)
What none of these good people could know was that there
were people who hated me every bit as much as Rashid did
on the other side of Broad Street. The only difference was,
they wore my same skin color. What these good people
didn’t know was that among these haters were some cops.
For me, in a peculiar way, I felt more at ease, more accepted,
in that neighborhood than I did in some of the neighborhoods
around school. The two guys in a pickup truck who threatened
to kill Joanie and me with a shotgun; the kids outside the fast
food joint who surrounded our car and tried to turn it over; the
old woman who told me, “In my time we didn’t even allow
niggers on this street,” were all white. The people who refused
to take my order, give me service, or accept my money, were
all white. I didn’t have time to explain this to them. And I was
fairly certain they wouldn’t believe me if I told them, but I felt
less nervous in their bar at night than I did walking down Floyd
Avenue in broad daylight, where a guy once took a pot shot
at me from his front porch.
No, the other side of Broad Street was no comfort to me.
Calvin once suggested jokingly that if I ever got in
trouble in his neighborhood, I should announce loudly that
I’m a descendant of Warren G. Harding. I was pretty sure that
advice wouldn’t help me in any way on our side of Broad.
from When I Was a Low-Life
by Henry Edward Fool
page 152, 153