First day on the Job
By Roy L. Pickering, Jr.
Curtis took a discretely proud peek at his
reflection in the tinted window of a lime green Mercedes. His
muscled torso was accentuated perfectly by the comfortably smug
fit of his brand new policeman's uniform. He struck quite the
imposing figure as he patrolled streets that he had grown to
manhood roaming. Surely no one would be foolish enough to break
the law on his vigilant watch. But if criminal activity were to
take place on Curtis beat, he felt certain that he was
adequately prepared for the task of maintaining order and safety
for the citizens under his protection.
Despite the criticism endured upon announcement of his
decision to become one of the city's finest, Curtis was positive
that he had been born to do this. The way to combat the many
legitimate accusations of brutality and racial profiling by the
police force was not to cry out in impotent anger, but to become
an active part of the solution.
Curtis took off his hat for a moment and rubbed a hand over
his cleanly chocolate brown skull. His friends had strongly
asserted that brown and blue did not, and could not mix. he
looked forward to proving them wrong. More so, he was anxious to
prove his worth and advance rapidly through the ranks. Once he
made detective he would marry Denise, buy a house out in the
suburbs, and get started on the family he had planned on being
the head of for as far back as he could remember.
"Looks like I'm going to have a quiet first day on the
job," said Curtis to his partner Steve.
"Don't get ahead of yourself rookie," advised
officer Steven Coley. "The sun is just beginning to set.
darkness gives people foolish ideas."
"Well, we'll be there to give those fools second
thoughts, won't we?"
Instead of answering the question, Steve chuckled, his belly
shaking under a uniform that seemed near ready to burst at the
"Quite the eager beaver, aren't you? Believe it or not,
rookie, I was once as primed to charge forth and do good as you
"So what happened?" Curtis asked, examining the
gray that had begun to invade his partner's curly blonde
sideburns. "have you seen too much to care anymore? Have
you grown jaded?"
"Nope," replied Steve. "I've just grown
* * *
Leonard looked carefully over the grocery store
that was laid out before his vantage point behind the cashier's
counter. he was not searching for anything in particular, simply
admiring each object within view because it was all his very own
to admire. Every can of soup, bag of potato chips, bottle of
detergent, was his to sell and profit from. years of working hard
and being frugal had paid off at long last. As of today, Leonard
was a business owner. he had earned his proverbial forty acres and
a mule. The dream he had always felt was within reach, no matter
how many setbacks and complications repeatedly managed to keep
them away, was now firmly within his appreciative grasp.
Mr. Kim seemed like a good man and had sold him
the store at a fair price, now that he was ready to retire and
move back to Korea. Leonard wished him well. Still, he felt that
justice had been served by the passage of this store from the
Korean man's hands into his own. In order for money to replenish
and revitalize this neighborhood, it needed to circulate
throughout the black community, not flow out into the hands of
outsiders who were willing and able to collect it. Leonard had
been born and raised less than twenty blocks away from the
establishment he came to acquire. but although the distance
traveled was physically short, several decades of strenuously
worked muscles and judicious application of his studies had been
necessary to complete the journey.
Leonard had big plans. He would not be content
merely to make a good living supplying his neighbors with bare
necessities. Little by little he would expand the inventory until
his store stood out from nearby competitors. People would walk a
few extra blocks to obtain what he alone could offer them. He
intended to give the store an Afrocentric flavor, to make it a
source not only of personal, but also of neighborhood pride.
Leonard may have been starting small, but felt
confident that customer loyalty would eventually enable him to
branch out into other areas of interest. he was determined to
become not only a successful businessman, but also a leader, a
pillar of his community. Leonard had always believed that most
limitations were self-imposed, that all goals were attainable
through hard work and commitment to a vision. he had imagined no
less than the world for himself, and this store was to be just the
first chunk of it.
A young man in his early twenties or late teens
walked through the door. he was greeted with a nod and slight grin
that Leonard could not suppress. Although numerous people had been
in and out to make purchases throughout the day, the feeling of
euphoric unreality had not quite evaporated yet. Leonard had only
been more proud on one other occasion, the birth of his son.
Julian was now assured of a mighty inheritance, an empire that
would be built one happy customer at a time.
* * *
Marshall desperately hoped that his apprehension
was masked, for if not, his intentions would no doubt be nakedly
apparent. He was deeply ashamed of his actions in advance of their
undertaking, but had been left with little choice in the matter.
His mother was sick, real sick, and the only think keeping agony
at bay was her mediation. the medicine was not free, now that
insurance was no longer part of the equation, not was it cheap,
not by a long shot. Somebody had to take care of Mama., and the
list of applicants consisted of Marshall alone.
He noticed a poster of Malcolm X in contemplation
on the wall and took this to be a sign of support for his cause.
After all, Malcolm had made the words "by any means
necessary" a legendary battle cry. Marshall certainly had no
shortage of necessity. As for means, this was it, his lone option.
His mother required her medication, and those who supplied it
required to be paid. This meant that Marshall needed money, plenty
of it, quick. there was not enough time to earn it honestly, so he
had set out in search of someplace and someone to take it from.
his feet had led him to this grocery store, and instinct made him
stop and decide that this was as good a place and time as any.
Marshall felt his nervousness slowly giving way to
resolution that was spiced with anger. it was unfair that he was
forced to stoop so low. he had never stolen from anyone before,
never hurt anybody. This wasn't the type of person that he had
ever intended to be. He was an honor roll student, known and even
teased for his clean cut lifestyle. living otherwise had not
really been an alternative. His mother raised him from day one to
always do right. She had done this on her own, having long ago
been abandoned by Marshall's father, and no one could have done a
better job. Marshall did not want to let his mother down. but this
wish was crushed under the weight of his desire to ease her
He grabbed a bag of something that he didn't
bother to take notice of and headed towards the grocer. the longer
he hesitated, the greater the chance that his nerve would be lost.
Marshall experienced one last quiver of doubt when he realized
that his crime would be against one of his own. he could have
sworn that a Korean man ran this store. But it was too late for
such a thing to be consequential. An unstoppable surge of momentum
was pushing Marshall towards his destiny.
* * *
"I'm going to run across the street to get a
pack of cigarettes. This is my last pack, and then I'm quitting
for good. it's my one vice, and we cops can't afford bad habits,
ain't that right?"
Officer Coley suspected that the remark was a dig
at his increasingly prominent beer gut. Then again, he may have
become oversensitive to the issue since Erma had gone on an
exercise kick and started harassing him about his physical
"You going on the patch, rookie?"
"Nah," answered Curtis. "Cold
turkey. Once I make a decision, I stick to it. I don't need any
"Whatever you say. I'll wait out here."
"You want me to get you anything?"
"No, I'm fine."
Curtis headed towards the grocery store, crossing
at the crosswalk after looking both ways for traffic like any law
abiding citizen should. he recalled with amusement Denise's remark
that he had developed a new stride, a cop walk, as he walked
around their apartment in his new uniform, his polished badge
gleaming the weapon in his holster and nightstick by his side
granting him officially licensed power. as a six foot three
African American male with a chiseled frame that may as well have
been armor, Curtis was used to being considered intimidating. But
in his new wardrobe, in his new professional capacity, with his
new "cop walk," a layer of respect had been applied to
the apprehension he naturally evoked. And Curtis was reveling in
* * *
Leonard took a glance at his watch. It was just
closing time. the young man headed towards him held a bag of
cashews that would be the final sale of Leonard's first day as an
entrepreneur. a dollar bill, the first one earned, was taped to
the wall behind him. he intended to bring in a picture frame for
The approaching customer had tightly braided hair,
much like Latrell Spreewell of the New York Knicks. Now that he
was on the short track to affluence, Leonard was considering
whether to loosen his purse strings for the opportunity to become
a season ticket holder. this would be a well-deserved reward for a
life-time of industriousness.
"Will that be all, young man?"
* * *
"No sir," answered Marshall in a near
whisper. he cleared his throat to properly enunciate his demand.
"I also want you to hand over all of your money."
"What?" Not wishing to confuse, Marshall
removed the gun in his waistband and pointed its barrel towards
the grocer. From this point on he was certain that his intentions
would be perfectly clear, questions unnecessary.
"I see," said the man behind the counter
in a voice that taunted with its calmness. Although Marshall was
the one calling the shots, the one in possession of the deadly
weapon, he had never been more frightened in his life.
"Take it easy, son. I'll give you whatever
you want. just take a deep breath and gather yourself. There's no
reason for anybody to get hurt."
Marshal looked down and saw what the grocer had
seen, that his hand was shaking uncontrollably, not a good sign
when one of its fingers was on a trigger. he felt a trickle of
sweat sliding down his temple, even though it was comfortably cool
in the grocery store. this show of fear shamed him. He half
expected the grocer to laugh at his amateurish behavior. if he
did, it would certainly be his last one, for Marshall would not
tolerate being ridiculed. he had entered this store with the
intention of committing a neat and efficient armed robbery that
would solve all of his problems. now he just wanted this
terrifying ordeal to be over with, one way or another.
"May I ask you something?" asked Leonard
as he gathered together the bills in his cash register. "I
don't wish to offend, but don't you want to do something
meaningful with your life? Don't you want to contribute to society
instead of leeching off of it? Because the truth is, all you're
doing is digging a hole with bad choices to bury yourself in. is
that what you want?"
"I just want some medicine for my mom,"
Marshall said, desperate to resume command of a situation that
seemed to have a mind of its own, to accomplish the goal he had
set for himself, to stem the blinding tears that the grocer's
questions had unleashed, and to convey to this man that he was not
a bad person, appearances to the contrary, that his trembling hand
had been forced by events beyond his control. "I can't afford
to worry about that other stuff right now. I can't afford nothing
but that medicine, and with the money in your register, I can't
get it. I didn't dig this hole. I was born in it. Now I'm trying
to climb out, cause my mom can't survive in a hole much longer. Do
"Yes, I think I do."
* * *
Officer Curtis Mason, hotshot rookie cop eagerly
anticipating his first opportunity to combat evil in any form he
saw it perpetrated, strode through the door of a neighborhood
grocery store. There he came across an unexpected sight that
caused him to hesitate, but only for the briefest of moments. As
an officer of the law, Curtis was trained to react swiftly and
decisively, even when taken by surprise, especially then. His hand
whipped instinctively towards his holster, like a cat stretching
forth its claws as a mouse ran by.
A boy was hunched over the counter, his braided
head cradled in his arms, shaking and sniffling in a manner that
suggested he was crying. one of his hands was clenching a large
wad of cash, which in of itself was suspicious. on the opposite
side of the counter, the store's proprietor was reaching behind
his back, putting a small, dark objects into his pants pocket, out
of sight. perhaps a wallet. perhaps not.
"Everything okay in here?" Curtis asked.
"Put your money away, son," the merchant
said. "Our transaction is concluded. We've both gotten
through the day. We can both start over tomorrow."
Curtis lowered his empty gun hand back to a
relaxed position, placated by the voice of the grocer who
simultaneously answered the police officer's question and
reassured the young man who was leaving the store with a look of
wonderment in his eyes.
"Everything is just fine."
* * *
Roy Pickering was born in
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, moving to the Bronx, New York at the age of
He is a freelance writer living in New York City, seeking
publication of his debut novel, Patches of Grey, as well as a
novella. His website (www.roypickering.com)
is used to showcase his fiction. he writes also a monthly column
entitled Sports Issues for Suite101.com.
He has known that writing
is his calling since grade school, when he came across the novels
of Jules Verne in the library.
Regarding his prose, Roy shuns categorization of any kind due to a
diversity of tastes. He hopes to continue weaving tales in a variety of
styles, addressing a vast range of subject matter.
Among his favorite authors are Ernest
Hemmingway, John Irving, Tom Robbins, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia
Marquez, Tim Sandlin and Kurt Vonnegut. The masterpieces he is most awed
by are The World According to Garp, Native Son, The Sun
Also Rises; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Love in
the Time of Cholera..
An avid tennis novice with a rich
fantasy life, he envisions himself vanquishing Pete Sampras at
Wimbledon in the none too distant future.
When in couch potato mode, Roy is
usually glued to the play of either the Knicks or Jets, and is best not
disturbed on days when they lose. To cheer himself up on such occasions,
a Miles Davis CD or John Sayles film usually does the trick.
* * *
* * *
Hopes and Prospects
By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky
surveys the dangers and prospects of our
early twenty-first century. Exploring
challenges such as the growing gap
between North and South, American
exceptionalism (including under
President Barack Obama), the fiascos of
Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli
assault on Gaza, and the recent
financial bailouts, he also sees hope
for the future and a way to move
forward—in the democratic wave in Latin
America and in the global solidarity
movements that suggest "real progress
toward freedom and justice." Hopes and
Prospects is essential reading for
anyone who is concerned about the
primary challenges still facing the
human race. "This is a classic Chomsky
work: a bonfire of myths and lies,
sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky
is an enduring inspiration all over the
world—to millions, I suspect—for the
simple reason that he is a truth-teller
on an epic scale. I salute him." —John
In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of
American empire and class domination, at
home and abroad, Chomsky continues a
longstanding and crucial work of
elucidation and activism . . .the
writing remains unswervingly rational
and principled throughout, and lends
bracing impetus to the real alternatives
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * * * *
The White Masters
of the World
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * *
Negro Digest / Black World
Browse all issues
* * *
Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /
George Jackson /
* * * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding
* * * * *
* * * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)