Watch Your Back
“Adrien, come here”, my mom says to me when we are walking down the streets in the market. “Adrien you must always stay close by me when we are away from the house."
“I know mom." “I’m not allowed to go five feet from you”, I whisper to myself.
“What did you just say to me."
“Nothing mom, I was just saying how much I love you”, my response every time when she wants to know what I said. She can just be so annoying sometimes.
We continue walking through the market when suddenly a loud gunshot goes off and everybody starts running. “Adrien, Adrien!” My mom yells at me as we are separated from each other.
“Mom, where are you, Mom!” I start sprinting to where she was a moment ago and find her shoved in the corner of a stand and unable to escape. “Mom let’s go, let’s get out of this." I drag her out of the stand and we start off in the same direction as the crowd, away from the shot. We have to take the long way through the town because the whites have taken the streets and we know we’ll get in trouble if we get in their way. Heck, we aren’t even allowed to go to the same bathroom as them. Finally we get out of town and start along the street that leads straight to our house.
On the way home we walk quietly and don’t talk to each other because I know when I ask her what happened she will just tell me, “Nothing sweetie, we are going to be fine." I want to know what happened out there and eventually I will find out one way or another. When we get home to our huge house, I go up to dad and ask him, “Today there was a shot fired at the market, what happened?”
“There are many bad people in this world that we live in today. You are too young to encounter such evil ways. When you are older we will discuss the world and its people."
“But dad I’m 13 and we have been in the U.S. for 10 years. You told me last year and the year before that we would talk about this when I’m older and we never did. I’m at the age now that I would be a man now in Angola where you grew up. I want to know what happened."
“Well we live in a different place now son and things in the U.S. are different than how things ran in Angola. Soon son, but for now you should go in with your mother to learn about math and science and things that will help you be as successful as me when you are older."
I storm out of the room and into our classroom so that my mom can teach me. I buzz through the day thinking about what went down at the market. Several times while she is teaching, my mother has to stop and remind me what we are talking about. At the end of the day my dad tells me and my mom that he will be going to a whole town meeting about the man killed in the market earlier today.
“Dad, dad can I come too? I want to see the world how it is at night."
“No son, you stay here and go and get some sleep."
“Fine”, but in my mind I’m thinking up a plan of how to get out and spy on the meeting. I go into my room and sit, and sit, and listen, and sit until I haven’t heard any noise for a while. I crawl out of my bedroom window into the back garden. Thinking that I’m a spy in one of those old movies, when I land on the ground, I roll down against the wall. I creep through our house’s front gate and go into the bushes lining the road. I’m walking through the middle of the buskes being pricked when I hear a carriage coming. As fast as I can I jump onto the other side of the cover and hit the deck. As they are passing by I hear them saying something about the killing earlier today and the ones that have been happening once a week for the past three months. Whatever I am only focused on one thing getting to the meeting.
As I arrive to the town square I hide behind one of the barrels on the outside edge. I look around and see that not the whole town is here, only the black people and the mayor.
“Mayor we need protection from the klan." a person yells from the crowd.
“I know but all I can offer right now is safe passage down to Detroit. The klan is not as active in Detroit."
“But mayor my kids, what will I do with them, tell them that we could be killed if we don’t leave." Another person argues.
“Yeh I can’t leave my job here and go to a place with no good paying jobs." Another says.
“People, people, calm down." My father says and everybody even the mayor stops talking. “We need to find a solution and right now the best that we have is to go to Detroit. What is more important, your childrens lives or your jobs, I’m sure that Mr. Mayor here will help us out on the financial side. When we come back we will be paid double that of right now." The crowd is all slowly agreeing. Yup thats my dad the only person in this town that people respect more than the mayor. They think that he is just great because he is living the American Dream. Grew up in Angola, came to America and is now one of the most powerful people in Michigan. They all think that because we live in a big house and are wealthy solves all the problems, but it doesn’t we still have family problems.
Right then I hear another gun shot go off then two, then three. I see people falling down dead. I am too petrified to move so I just stay there. Suddenly I see men in white body suits crawling out of all the alleys and pull out guns. They start shooting at everybody. I look around and see that my dad is trying to help the mayor and some of the elder men out of the square onto the main road. Men all around are falling down to the ground dead.
A light appears from the sky. On the top of the town hall building there a huge thirty foot tall, burning cross. It strikes even more fear into the men still in the town square. More and more people are getting out but also more and more people are being killed. I curl myself into a ball so that I can no longer see what is going on. I hear men screaming and men laughing. The cross is projected right onto the wall in front of me and it looks wicked. You can see the flames licking all around it in a frenzy to destroy the wood and burn it to the ground.
Eventually the sound stops and I slowly stand up. Nothing is moving in the square. I run out, onto the road to my house as fast as I can. When I reach my house I sneak around to the back and climb back through the window and into my room.
I lay in my bed in a cold sweat. What is the klan and why would it do all of this? I lay there asleep all night and watch the sun glisten over the horizon.
When my parents come in to wake me up in the morning the say, “Alrighty Adrien, your dad just got a job offer in Detroit and I think that we are leaving today. Please pack up your things the sooner we leave the better." At breakfast my parents are whispering to each other.
“Hey dad, what is the klan?” He looks at me strangely. Then whispers something to mom.
“Son where did you hear something about the klan?”
“Yesterday when we were in the market I overheard somebody saying something about them. He also said something about a burning cross."
“Well they are a bunch of people that believe in different things than us thats all. You done we’re leaving." I can see he is eager to get off the subject.
“Ok yes lets go."
When we get to the train station as expected most of the black people from the town are there. I can see women huddled around little ones and I wonder if their dad was one of the ones that didn’t make it out alive last night. As we are boarding the train I look out the window and on the top of the town hall I can see an all chard up piece of wood sticking straight up.