Eight a.m. in San Juan, California and it’s already eighty-two degrees on this June morning. I’m in running shorts and a tee-shirt as I step out my front door to pick up the paper.
The black and white patrol car prowls my street like a predator looking for its next meal. The mechanical beast creeps toward my house, signals a right turn, pulls into my driveway.
Shit! I see eleven-year-old Sox, aka Asako Nakamura, my son’s best friend, grinning in the backseat. My son, Darin’s, sitting next to her.
The San Juan City police officer’s a stocky, white female in her mid-thirties. She tips her cap at me before she opens a rear door releasing the two eleven-year-olds. They all move to the rear of the SUV and the kids retrieve their sparkling, black BMX bikes and helmets.
Darin looks sheepishly at me. Sox looks like she’s having the best time ever.
My natural reaction’s to confront the officer, defend the kids, and keep the lawless enforcer out of my house and off my property. Cops are our enemies by design. They have a license to intimidate, harass, abuse and even slaughter me and my kind on a whim without preamble or punishment. Every time we encounter them our dignity is threatened and our lives are on the line if we move too fast or too slow or speak up or stay silent or look at them the wrong way.
The white power structure, liberal and conservative, created this subjugation force to keep niggers in check. I know that this officer’s just a tool of that repression, a government employed domestic terrorist, but I still hate and fear her kind.
I choke all that back, and in an almost normal voice I say, “Good morning Officer.”
The cop herds the kids toward me. “Good morning, Mr. Ansell?”
“Gregory, call me Gregory.” I stretch out my hand to Officer Flores. I’m assuming that the name tag above her badge’s correct.
She steps around the kids to give me a firm handshake. “You’re Darin’s father, correct?”
I nod yes.
“Darin and his friend were climbing the Grand Old Oak in Downtown Square. The GOO’s over three-hundred years old and’s off limits for climbing. Darin and Nakamura ignored the posted restrictions and were descending at about sixty feet when I arrived.”
Darin starts to speak. I hold up my hand and stop him.
I hear my cell phone ringing in the house.
Sox starts to explain. I halt her too.
Flores continues. “That may be Ms. Nakamura she asked me to drop her kid off here. She said she would call you.”
Sox’s mother, Kamako Nakamura, is in LA this morning. We share our schedules and support each other as single parents.
I take a deep breath.
I send the kids to the backyard.
I invite Flores into the house for coffee. Surprisingly, she accepts.
My kids, Darin and his sister Mae, and I live in a gated corporate ghetto. The five-thousand-foot home’s overkill for my two kids and me.
Flores is impressed by the vast, immaculate kitchen with the professional appliances and ship plank floor.
I prepare her requested iced coffee, while she details the tree climbing incident. “Kids can’t resist that tree.” She gives me a shy grin. “I climbed the GOO when I was their age.” She sips her coffee and smiles in satisfaction. “Normally, I just give the kids a warning, but Nakamura has a disrespectful attitude and a potty mouth.”
“This is a nice kitchen. Do you cook?”
“No. No, not much. My ex was the cook. I’ll tell Sox’s mother what you said.”
“Is Sox a member of the BMX Bandits?”
Now, I have to be careful with my response. Sox’s a leader of the loosely knit group of kids that are a summertime nuisance with their flash mob rides. “Sox doesn’t keep me in the loop with all of her activities.”
Flores recognizes and understands the evasion. She takes a final sip of her coffee, stands, looks around the kitchen again. “You have a good boy Mr. Ansell; he tried to cool Sox down.” She gives me a direct look. “He might want to find another kind of riding partner.”
I let her remark pass. I walk Flores to the door and watch her drive away. I feel a tremendous sense of relief as if I had escaped the attack of a viper hissing and twisting in my kitchen.
I return Kamako’s calls and update her. I promise to keep Sox here until Kamako picks her up this evening.
I call in the kids.
They have, of course, sneaked into the house and eavesdropped our entire conversation. They raid the fridge as they tell their side of the story.
“First of all, Mr. G, she don’t know me. She can’t call me a fuckin potty mouth. You should have called her on that shit. And—”
Darin cuts her off. “Sox, you called her a ‘white fascist bitch.’”
“Hey, man, like, she put her hands on me. She got no right to touch me. Fuck her.”
I intervene. “So, you were climbing the GOO tree? How high did you get?”
Sox shouts, “To the top.”
Darin adds, “Sweet!”
They bump fist. I join in.
Darin has milk and bran cereal. Sox’s dropping apples, an aged banana, and peaches into the blender.
“The top’s over a hundred feet. That’s some pretty good climbing. So, what happened when Officer Flores arrived?”
“Pop, she just sat at the picnic table gabbing on her phone.”
Sox adds, “It was, like, a coffee break for her, Mr. G.”
“Well, what happened to piss her off?”
The two again exchange glances. Sox responds, “She, like, had an attitude with me. I was cool. She asked us our names and for ID—”
“She asked Sox if she was a girl or boy. I mean, what difference does that make?”
“And like, Mr. G. she had a smirk on her face. So, I like asked her, ‘What the fuck are you?”
“Okay, I can see where things went—”
“Pop, the cop was nasty about it. She was a mean machine.”
Sox pours and sips her concoction. “And then she grabbed my shoulder. I told her to ‘back up bitch.’ And, and Darin kinda cooled it down. Thanks, man.” They bump fist again.
Sox’s Eurasian and stands about an inch taller than Darin’s five-five. Sox’s tan, fit, and an exceptional athlete. She’s a competitive BMX rider with the scars, sprains and broken bones (two fingers and her collarbone) to document her young career.
Darin’s slighter, more of an artist than an athlete. My son never rode a BMX bike until we arrived here in San Juan six months ago and two doors down from Sox. They were friends at first sight.
Truth be told, when I first saw Sox, I didn’t know her gender, either. That didn’t bother me. She seemed like a tough, bright, smart-ass kid. I liked her.
“Okay, youngsters. Gather around. We got to have that talk every black and brown parent in the US of A has to have with their children, especially their sons.”
Sox looks excited. “Hey, I need this too, right?”
Darin looks apprehensive. “I thought we had ‘the talk’ already.”
“Some of it. This is the rest. America has a plan for the black and brown man it’s cannon fodder or prison time for many of us. But even if you’re not in those categories. Even if you’re President Obama any cop, anytime, anywhere can shoot you dead, choke you to death or run over you with their squad car. Even, if the murder’s captured on film or video, they’ll most likely never be convicted of a crime or do any time. Both of you should know that by now.”
“Gee, Pop you told Mae and me that, like, a hundred times.” And he still flinches every time I tell him. His sister, Mae, grits her teeth and balls up her fist when we have the talk.
Sox punches Darin lightly on the shoulder, “You living in the danger zone, man.”
Darin is not having it, “Fuck off, Sox.”
“Come on dude. Most people don’t even know you’re black. I’m darker than you.”
Darin snaps back. “So, what? You don’t look Asian at all.”
“You both make good points. But the bottom line’s neither of you looks white. There’re a lot of mixed race people in San Juan. I think the cops see white and not white. If you’re not white, you might as well be black.”
“Pop, I don’t think all the cops are bad, like, racist bad.”
“Look, son, you were in the danger zone with a target on your back the moment Flores saw you two weren’t white—”
“Pop, cops don’t shoot kids for climbing a tree.”
Sox adds, “We didn’t do anything, man. Like, we weren’t hurting anybody.”
“Let me tell you Flores’s side of the story. Sox, what did you do when Flores grabbed your shoulder?”
“Fuck! I twisted away, knocked her hand off me. I got rights. I got the right not to be touched like that.”
“Sure, you do. However, the police report will read that you physically assaulted Flores, evaded apprehension, and verbally attacked her. The report will also say you refused to follow her orders, and resisted arrest.”
“Mr. G. that’s bullshit. She grabbed me for no reason.”
I turn to Darin. “What did you do, son?”
“Pop, I just jumped between them and started talking really fast. I don’t remember what exactly—”
“Okay, that’s interfering in an arrest, abetting, aiding or assisting an attack on a police officer and attempting to grab the officer’s handgun.”
Darin’s livid. “No way! I was trying to help. Come on Pop!”
“The report explains how the officer’s gun went off during the struggle and shot you in the back five times.”
My son’s near tears.
“And Sox attacked the officer, in your defense, and was shot nine times – also in the back.”
The two are silent for a minute.
“And now that you are both dead the cops will kill your reputations. You’re both gangbangers—”
Sox’s indignant now, “Mr. G. maybe they do that to ghetto kids, but we live in The Bluffs—”
Darin adds, “There’re no gangs here. That’s ridiculous.”
“Sox’ll be exposed as the leader of the BMX Bandits, a spoiled rich kid leading rich and poor kids in attacks on the elderly—”
Sox explodes. “Bullshit!”
I continue. “They’ll show how your flash mob ride through the mall parking lot last week caused an accident seriously injuring a senior citizen pedestrian.”
They look shocked.
“And Darin assaulted his sister breaking her arm and—”
“Pop, we were roller skating and, and it was an accident. I was eight.”
“They’ll use this long history of violence to show the officer had a right to be afraid and that the community’s better off now you two thugs are dead.”
Sox’s shaking with anger. “So, so, you can, you can, like, like, sue them, right? You could get millions, right?”
“We parents can file civil suits, but it won’t bring you back or clear your reputation, cure our broken hearts or stop the next shooting.”
“None of that happened, Pop. We’re okay.” The tears rolling down his cheeks say otherwise.
Now my voice’s stern, angry, searing. “It did happen. It happened somewhere today. Cops kill nearly a thousand people a year. We execute less than forty people a year through the courts. These motherfuckers are judge, jury, and executioner. It just wasn’t your turn today.”
I grab their hands, pull them to me, hold them tight.
That night Kamako sits in my dining room sipping a Bloody Mary.
“I talked to them Kamako. I don’t think a punishment’s in order. Look, look, Mae’s with her mother in LA and Darin and I’ll be joining them in Paris for the first week of school for a movie shoot. I want to bring Asako with us. She might even get to be in the movie.”
“Gregory, I, I don’t want them to be friends. It’s too dangerous. Asako’s a, a time bomb, she’s out of control – she had her first period. I think there’s some gender confusion – I don’t know – they just seem too, too vulnerable together. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
We talk for a good while and decide that having each other around might be their best available safety net. Kamako thanks me for the Paris offer and promises to think about it.
Later, she decides to keep Asako home and close to home.
Back from Paris, I’m walking Darin to the school office to sign him in, and I meet the Vice Principal, Ms. Cardoza. She greets us both warmly and walks with us.
As we stroll toward the admin building, Darin walks off the path to to talk to a tall blonde white girl writing in a notebook. Cardoza says she’s the school’s number one hottie. Way out of Darin’s league.
He asks her, “Are you a poet?”
She gives him that get the fuck out of my face nerd look.
“Are you writing poetry now?”
She shakes her blond head in utter contempt, turns, walks away.
My heart breaks a little for him. But she’s at least three inches taller than him. A runway model in the making.
Darin just stands there. She takes two steps, turns back to him. She asks, “How did you know?”
And they are off walking in front of Cardoza and me, acting like long lost friends.
And now my heart’s breaking for real. She and he together make them the number one target for American law enforcement ahead of serial killers and mass murders. They will draw law enforcement attention, suspicions, and resentment whenever they’re together.
As soon as that thought crossed my mind, Cardoza and I notice the school security officer pause his ticket writing to eyeball Darin and his new friend.
I start rehearsing in my mind my next talk. It’ll have to be the H-Bomb of talks.
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