By Roy L. Pickering, Jr.
anxiously awaited train teasingly crawled forward a final few
inches, then whip-lashed backwards.
Before the doors even started to open, the crowd on the
platform began jockeying for position.
Floyd was initially in an ideal location to enter, once a
few square feet were made available by departing passengers.
But as the human torrent flowed out, he was bumped,
stepped upon and spun around.
In a matter of seconds the space was filled, and Floyd
could do nothing but watch as the third train he had failed to
get on that morning pulled away.
"You're not aggressive enough," his wife would
constantly berate him. "Don't expect and don't request what you want.
Demand it." Floyd knew that his wife had a valid point, but shoving his
way to the center of attention just wasn't his style.
Ten minutes later the next train pulled into the station.
This time Floyd was able to maneuver himself into what he
thought was the final open spot.
Unfortunately, the two hundred and fifty plus pound woman
behind him felt that her girth could also be accommodated.
Using Floyd as a human battering ram, she leaned every
ounce of her flesh into him.
After several failed attempts, the doors managed to close
in on the woman's enormous behind. Floyd spent the eternity seeming next few minutes sandwiched
between her flour sack breasts and the shoulder blade of a man
who had apparently eaten a raw onion for breakfast.
Such torture could have been avoided by leaving home a
little later than usual. Fifteen
minutes would have sufficed, and the extra sleep would have been
a welcomed treat. It
wasn't as if it mattered what time he showed up.
He was only going in to retrieve the few personal effects
he had been unable to remove from his office yesterday.
Yesterday was when Floyd joined the ranks of the
unemployed, forced to resign after twenty two years of loyal
service for the sin of aging in a youth oriented marketplace.
Floyd would not have minded expressions of pity from his
colleagues, many of whom were not much older than his eldest
grandchild. He had
already begun to grow weary of feeling sorry for himself, so
sympathy from other parties may have been kind of nice.
But not a gaze caught his own as he passed.
Everyone found another direction to look in with mild
walked by his replacement, a kid only a few years out of college
who possessed less knowledge of their business than one of
Floyd's after dinner farts.
But Tommy’s knowledge of the computer technology Floyd
had shunned was thorough, as had been his earnestness to siege
Floyd’s job from day one, and his willingness to kiss the
appropriate ass in aid of this cause.
Floyd expected a smug grin to be aimed his way, which
would have been somewhat appreciated, for at least it would have
been acknowledgment. But
all he received for his years of dedication was the back of
another gray-less, full head of hair.
Floyd quickly gathered his belongings and departed, a
despondent ghost haunting the corporate world which had done him
How had it ended up this way after starting off with such
diploma in one hand, college sweetheart clasping the other, he
had taken his first steps onto the rainbow with no doubt
whatsoever that the pot of gold at the other end would soon be
within grasp. The
years since had been filled with highs and lows, times good and
bad, and this was the moment they had led to. Instead of a pot
of gold, he held a convenience store shopping bag filled mostly
with mementos of minor accomplishments and photographs of loved
ones, memories that when strung together constituted his life.
With no particular destination in mind, his steps took
him to a fenced in concrete playground where sinewy urban youths
played basketball with reckless abandon and breathtaking grace.
More years ago than he cared to count, this game had been
his central preoccupation.
Floyd had been an above average high school player with
dreams of the NBA which didn't come to an end until the senior
year of a mediocre college career.
He had relished every second of his final game, praying
that the clock would never expire.
Of course, his prayer went unanswered.
Sooner or later, everything came to an end.
Floyd's remembrance of the sport seemed in slow motion
compared to how it was being performed before him.
The four against four full court contest was played with
a bare minimum of teamwork, and perhaps even less desire for
it was a showcase for eight individual demonstrations of one on
one moves, each more spectacular than its predecessor.
The ball whirred through legs and around backs as if on a
string, always coming back to its momentary possessor.
Almost every sequence ended with a sudden propulsion of
limbs above and beyond the rim.
During a break in play, Floyd's attention fell upon an
to his right, who like himself was about six feet four inches
tall. That was
where their similarities ended.
The kid was shirtless, lacking the paunch Floyd had
acquired while time was passing him by.
A low percentage of both body hair and fat caused the
kid’s muscles to glisten in the sun. Beneath his button down shirt, Floyd’s considerably paler
skin was not stretched nearly as tightly over his own frame.
The girl that the kid flirted with looked up with longing
into his dark, untroubled eyes, while Floyd observed them with
envy through the light gray windows from which he wearily viewed
the world. Floyd
knew, for he had once been looked upon similarly, that the kid's
confidence as much as his chiseled appearance was responsible
for the attraction he elicited.
His entire life lay ahead, he was in his prime, and like
a peacock spreading its feathers, his demeanor exuded to all
privileged to view him - check me out.
If aware of the toll the process of living would
eventually exact, taking away his beauty, his prospects, his
cocky self assurance, the young man gave no indication of such
The basketball ricocheted off the rim, going out of
bounds and heading in Floyd's direction.
He went through the entrance of the court to retrieve it,
fully intending to toss it back to its masters.
But after scooping the ball from the ground, Floyd found
himself dribbling down court.
The pounding of his heart echoed the rubber on pavement.
Looking ahead, he could see that the players had politely
stepped aside to make way for their elder.
A sense of deja vu overcame him.
The final game of his college career, the closing seconds
ticking away, Floyd then as now driving the lane hard, his path
clear. At the foul
line Floyd ceased his dribble and cradled the basketball.
He brought it upward as he took a long left step, higher
still with the following right, and then he was airborne, going
for the jam.
"Hey, are you alright?"
Floyd opened his eyes and took in the worried, quizzical
expressions above him. The
memory of what had transpired seconds ago surfaced.
The orange sphere hitting the unmovable rim, propelling
him backwards. His
vertical apparently wasn't what it used to be.
Very little was.
Then he heard the clapping and cheering, some mocking,
some sincere. The
animated ebony sculpture he had been admiring gave him a thumbs
up. This was the
end of the rainbow, and what Floyd had found was an insufficient
severance package, an unhappy marriage, some mild public
humiliation, and a sore back.
The words of his wife once again nagged at him.
Had she been able to see him then and there, he wondered
if she would be satisfied. He had aggressively gone to the hole, demanded that space be
made for him, and reached for the heavens.
He had fallen short of his lofty destination, come
crashing back to earth, and it hurt.
Once the pain subsided he would dust himself off and
return to the business of living amongst mere mortals, holding
firm to recollections of his brief view from the perspective of
Would his wife realize that the separation she had asked
for two months ago was a mistake?
Certainly not until he found a new job, preferably a
better paying one. Would
it matter if she never came back to him?
Why should it, when it had mattered so little when she
The progression of events which led to the loss of his
job had not snuck up on Floyd. Sufficient advance warning had been issued about the evolving
demands of his business. He
chose to ignore the signs of danger.
Things had been getting done the way he did them for many
years. He did not subscribe to the theory that all processes and
procedures needed to be periodically mended, even if they were
Long before the collapse of his marriage, Floyd knew
precisely what could have salvaged it.
He fully understood what type of man he would have to
become, and had given considerable thought over the years to
changing himself for the satisfaction of his wife. But Floyd had grown accustomed to who he was, and more
importantly, he was rather fond of that person. So he continued to be the man he was meant to be, choosing
not to be overly concerned about the possible consequences. Those consequences were now the state of his life.
He spent the first ten minutes of each morning wondering
when and if regret would be setting in.
Decades of effort had been given both to his marriage and
his employer, with the same result in each case.
He was told he was no longer wanted, long after ceasing
"Can you hear me, guy?
Floyd was okay, for he realized at that moment what the
greatest of fools instinctively knew.
No matter how high you get, sooner or later you will
land. Perhaps on
your feet, perhaps on your ass.
If the former, you look around with pride and smile. If
the latter, you do what Floyd did in response to the concerned
question posed to him. He looked up at the world above him, laughed, and then sprung
back up to his feet.
* * *
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
* * * * *
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