12.06.82 (A Short Story)
I heard a story about a boy who had a dream. His dream was not unlike other young boys, who had seen their moms scrub and clean the houses of so many rich folks. He saw the difference in their circumstances compared to those who lived in large houses and who drove fancy cars. Now this child was just six years old, but wise beyond his years. For him, there was nothing that would stand in the way of his desire to give his mom the best. Through his young eyes he saw that people with money were respected. Those without, were treated like crap. He made a vow on a day that would hold significance in his life. 12.06.82 would become a reference point, a reminder of the pact he made with himself. No one or nothing would stop him.
This boy lived in a community that was the complete opposite of white picket fences and concrete massive structures that people claimed to be homes. The roads were riddled with deep impressions that accommodated water when the rains came. The houses were pulled together by any and all practical means that could be used to build shelter. The community existed. Its existence was mired in the conflict that existed within its borders, as men, ruthless men fought vicious battles associated with turf and spoils from ill-gotten gains. His Mother knew this environment would not help her son and made her own pact to ensure that she worked hard enough to provide him with a good foundation.
So she scrubbed and cleaned and put up with abuses from the Masters and Mistresses. Never complaining, she eked out a livelihood, knowing that all that she was doing was to help her kid rise above the scum that life had dealt her. She encouraged him to make use of the library, which was in fact a good thing as he immersed himself in learning about the world outside his bubble. He lived vicariously through the stories and imagined himself as the protagonists who battled good over evil. He wanted to be that hero. His mom would be rescued first.
Time progressed and the boy grew. No longer six, and in his teens, he realized that attaining the goal of helping his mom from squalor was easier said than done. He was now in high school and things got unimaginably more difficult for his mother. Many of her employers started to migrate. The shore of choice was the United States. Potential employers were no longer looking at weekly workers and the potential to earn benefits as well as a solid income dried up. His mom had to now be content with pursuing what was called “days work”. This in effect meant she had to come in and do household work for the day and be paid for the hours that were done on that day. Work like this was inconsistent and although they lived in the belly of the inner-city, they were not able to meet their daily needs. Things were getting bad and fast.
Temptation knows how to walk in when one least expects it and sure as hell knows how to disguise itself when one is practically on his/her needs. Seeing how depressed his mom was, the boy became an easy candidate for the recruiting of foot soldiers. Oh boy! He was approached by a classmate from the same community who suggested he could make quick money to help his mom. All he had to do was to transport something in his school bag for a known gangster. In his heart of hearts, the young man knew he should say no but an image crossed his mind of his mother and how much she had sacrificed and continued to sacrifice. He also remembered the significance of 12.06.82. With forced bravado driven by a need to make his mom’s life easier, he agreed.
The night came. Nervous about what he was about to do and what the possible consequences would be, this boy slipped out of the ragged board structure he shared with his mom. He was able to do this as his mom had fallen asleep after an exhausting day of searching for work. He met up with four young guys, all had the same profile; fatherless and economically deprived.
The instructions were simple. At no point did we see the man behind the voice. We were given small parcels to take with us. We were warned that our lives depended on what was given to us. If we got caught, we were on our own. He growled out the final warning, “Oonu bwoy better not get caught!”
The boy wanted to leave. He knew what he was doing was wrong and he would certainly disappoint his mom. But he also recognized that they had no other way out. She didn’t want him to know but he was aware she was sick. He saw her sneaking medication into her mouth. He asked her about it, but she said nothing.
The money he was getting for transporting the “white-stuff”, would help them get food and he would not mind getting his mom something nice. “Easy boy”, he reprimanded himself, your mom would throw a fit if she knew where the money came from. So he hatched a plan to do well for the ‘big-man” so he could become noticed and the money he earned from the runs made, he would save until a time when he needed it.
His life changed that night.
Copyright Suzette Henry-Campbell 2013
Sneak peek of a short story about the choices made by a boy with the heart of a leopard, forced to grow up fast. This story could easily represent the stories of any young marginalized male in any society. Given the right conditions with the proverbial statement, “against the ropes”, what would you do?