short stories ~ literary fiction ~ social commentary
copyright © 1999 - 2013
Back in the early 60's, on a playground at school, a kid said: "Them niggers aren't smart like us. That's why we go to different schools."
Now, at the age of 8 or nine, I can't imagine a child having such a complex thought so well articulated. Even then, I knew he was repeating something he heard at home, likely from his father.
I lived in a small town. Three houses up the sloping hill, a phone pole lay blocking the dirt street, beyond that, 75 feet of open field and then, several square blocks of houses, which my father called Matchtown. To my eye, exotic people lived in Matchtown, with their rich chocolate flesh glistening in the sun and wonderful musical speech, which I didn't understand half the time.
Our neighborhood was half-wooded. I was told never to cross the telephone poll at the end of the street. I was willfully ignorant of the intention of the regulation, wandering through the woods of the back lot, playing with the exotic children who I couldn't understand half the time.
When the kid made his comment on the playground, I thought it might be fun to go to the same school together. The year our schools were integrated, my parents decided our house was too small.
We moved to a neighborhood fifteen miles away, white as winter's first snow.