The Minstrel

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The residents of the Bronxville Community were angry. Since the minstrel’s public arrival, several new bums had arrived. Like the minstrel, they were impossible to get rid of. Put them in jail for a night, they’d be back the next day like nothing happened.

They were impossible to help. If you offered them food, they would snap at you, implying that the offer was nothing more than an implication that they couldn’t take care of themselves. Which they couldn’t. If they could, why would they sleep on grates and eat from garbage cans. This was not normal. This as not civilized. Of course the sane residents thought that these people couldn’t take care of themselves. What else should they think?

And it was unnerving. People would be coming home from work in the November darkness to have one of these crazies walk in front of them, talking to themselves, cursing passerby. It was startling, particularly when there were no dark shadows to warn you of their presence. During the day, housewives/homemakers/domestic engineers/women-who-worked-at-home/soccer moms were harassed, afraid that they would be attacked and robbed and (raped) though no one mentioned the word, they knew that was what was meant by (attacked). Children were ordered to come straight home from school, often with anxious housewives/homemakers/domestic engineers/women-who-worked-at-home/soccer moms or, as the case may be, nannies/baby-sitters/childcare providers who were afraid to get sued if their charges had a speck of dirt on them, all waiting in their prospective herds at home, surrogate moms for pay on one side, real moms for no pay on the other. Well, the knowledge that one was a serial killer didn’t help, and who could blame them. To them, it was as though madmen ruled the streets, and the good people were remanded indoors as prisoners.

For some, the fear was not as strong. These were the ones with the knowledge that quite soon, they would be enveloped in walls of safety. Once more, control would be within their hands. For some, the knowledge was comforting news in time of unrest. For others, anxiety abounded. They would remember Mark Timothy Haines and the others before him and wondered if it would be too little, too late. For these people, the killing of Haines had crossed a line where no man was safe, all were vulnerable. There would be no safety until the walls were closed.

And there were others with fears that paralyzed. They were the seven who had been invited into safety’s grasp only to have the doors slammed into their faces as they accepted the invitation. It was a horrifying experience. They felt like they were innocent lambs being left to wolves. They would go to the town where the edges of serf blurred, and panic at the knowledge that this world was now their world. They didn’t belong here among the ghosts and goblins. They belonged in comfort and peace. They had earned it.

Emmanuel Jackson’s house was vandalized. Nobody was sure how or when it happened. Everyone who was interviewed swore they heard nothing. It was damaged sometime between late Thursday afternoon and early Friday morning. Several windows had been broken, and someone had spray-painted some monstrous figure on the front door. Some were indifferent, some were terrified, both for the same reasonthat the niggers had done it. For some, it meant that niggers couldn’t even treat their won right, hell, look at the damage they did in LA. For the others, the niggers’ mark had stronger, more terrifying implicationsthat they had come and attacked right next door. At any moment, they could be next. No security.

Williams had gathered some of the congregation together to speak to the DA the Monday afterward Williams knew without a doubt that this was a hate crime perpetrated by the white folk of the town. They laughed right in the DA’s office as several assistants stood around the coffee pot bullshitting about how flimsy people’s alibis were. One guy killed his wife because she didn’t put the dishes away the way his mother did. It had been his spousal right, he said. The Bible told him so, wives submit yourself to your husband. Guess he forgot to read the next paragraph that said for husbands to love their wives as Jesus loved the church. Oh yeah. Oops, sorry. Another robbed this white guy because he looked like the white guy that fired him, old geezer that he was. This nigger had made sure that justice was done. All laughed and turned.

To face Williams and his angry followers. And there was screaming. And there was yelling. All watched as two screamed, black on white.

When was Emmanuel Jackson going to be avenged? Hollered one.

When everyone else was, the scream came back.

The joy of modern technology: and instant picture care of Polaroid: the damaged house of Emmanuel Jackson.

Was this justice! They screamed.

Was it justice that two women died at his hands? What a blessed preacher! What a holy man!

Silence. God has forgiven him! Came the noble cry.

Yeah, maybe then you damn well should forgive whoever did this to your friend. Hell, if God can forgive, why can’t you, holy man?

The blue shirts were coming. One of the spectators dashed away while the screaming was still not so dangerous. By now, fingers were poked in the opponents face. Look, whitey, this is a black man talking. Look, Negro, this is the white man talking.

Tsk, tsk, tsk!! Not so nice for a preacher! The ADA yelled in victory as the blue shirts pulled her adversary away.

Linda Schumacher saluted Casper Williams as he damned her soul in dismissal.

Cindy Diesposito was a hot platinum blonde on a train. Look out, Heather Locklear. She had traded in her tatters for a pink suit she’d found in the donation bin. Took a lot of searching to find a decent rack of clothes. She’d been lucky not to get caught. God forbid, a homeless woman taking clothes that were for the homeless. Sure, totally logical.

She lay her head back in her seat. There was a passenger in the seat across from her who paid her no heed. It felt nice to not be noticed. She felt ordinary. She never knew what an extraordinary feeling it was to feel ordinary.

Seventeen dollars extra. She’d spent five on a romance novel at the train station. Then she passed someone holding a tin can, wanting money for food. She’d used another dollar to buy him a cup of soup. He took her offering and smashed it upon the ground. She called him a fucking dick, and was pissed. So now, because of the crack-addicted bozo, she had eleven dollars left. Damn, she needed the money for cabfare to where she was going. What the hell was she doing, acting like a bored housewife panting over Fabio and pretending she was Mother Theresa when she couldn’t get past being Mary Magdalene? Well, hell, she could walk. Not like she wasn’t used to it, hah hah. What she really needed to do right now was eat. Anything would do. When she was famished, she couldn’t think straight. The last time she ate was, God, she didn’t even remember. She had no idea how she’d survived like this. She shouldn’t question.

There was a line in the dining car. Sighing, Cindy resigned herself to wait. She did not like the feeling that standing in line gave her. It made her feel trapped, especially as someone closed the line by coming to stand right behind her. She felt like an alien. Normal life was beyond her grasp at this point. If she stayed in it, it would take much getting used to.

There were eyes everywhere. Cindy kept her guard up for any unusual signals. None were forthcoming. There was no sense of anyone watching her, or following her. Nonetheless, every time she met a stranger’s eyes, she panicked. You could never trust the nice ones. Cindy found herself made paranoid by the experience.

She’d walked to New York. One time, when she was sixteen. She’d been tied of the old life and the poverty. Somehow, living hungry on the streets didn’t seem as bad as wearing her mother’s hand-me-downs and not being able to go out with friends on the weekend because you couldn’t afford it. Some priorities.

She’d made it in a month. Man, her legs ached. When she got there, she stayed with a friend of hers from the old neighborhood who’d gotten a life. It had been so cool back then, going and hanging out in Soho and the Village. There had been no rules. Anything you wanted to do was fine, as long as it didn’t inflict on the rights of others. You could have all the sex, booze and drugs you wanted. These things, to a wild teenager who wanted nothing more than to escape herself, were the important things in life. Cindy lived it up there. Men every night bearing gifts of drugs for her. She’d do lines and the ugliest guy seemed attractive, especially if the snow was good. School didn’t matter. Neither did the future. The here and now with the glitziness and rawness of the early eighties, these were the happening things. Cindy felt like she’d arrived.

Down in the Village was where she’d met Patrick. They’d hated each other at first, which was what she should have continued doing. Her first impression of him was that he was a stuck-up asshole. He dressed in a business suit, had his nose up in the air, and used five syllable words to describe himself. Cindy and Wendy both made fun of him. They mimicked his hand expressions. He would point in the air a lot when he talked. She and Wendy pointed, too, with their middle finger, that is.

He saw them. He said fuck you, bitches. Cindy and Wendy oohed and ahhed in mock terror. Then he put a white bag on the table. It was the best damn coke they’d ever had.

So they sat and partied. In the meantime, Patrick went into a sob story of how his big sister was hit by a drunk driver. He’d never thought once about driving home after getting bombed. Then he had to identify his sister’s body because his parents were in Tahiti with his younger brother, and his other sister lived in Hawaii.

Wow, Wendy cut in. Cindy, she heard the arrogance. Man it pissed her off, but man it turned her on. Sniff sniff, snort snort. Turn her on as his eyes blaze at his monologue was interrupted.

Yeah. Well, since then, Patrick never drove when he was drunk. Maybe once in awhile when he was stoned, because what was grass? But never when he was drunk. He used the subway instead.

Cindy decided he had nice eyes.

So they got drunk and stoned and high that night together. Wendy, she went and passed out, leaving the two of them to fuck and get to sink each other’s tentacles into each other. Wendy, if she hadn’t gone off and drank a bottle of tequila on top of it all, would have been there, and it would have just been a decadent and quick threesome that would have ended in a bad hangover. But that wasn’t meant to be, and she wound up with a husband instead. Funny, how little things could wind up to be so important as to alter a life. In her case, it was a bottle of Cuervo Gold.

So they got drunk and stoned that night together. She found out that he was from Boston. Even drunk off her ass she could hear him loud and clear saying cah instead of car. So they would up talking about the old neighborhood, even though that was the last thing in the world she wanted to talk about. It turned out that Cindy’s next door neighbor had worked for his family as a maid. Cindy felt instantly paranoid that he would run back and tell her mother where she was. After all, he was an adult. He was nineteen. Adults pulled that kind of shit. So she told him she was eighteen. He believed her. So Patrick had spent most of his courtshipif you could call it thatthinking that she was two years older than she was. What a surprise it had been for him when they went for the marriage certificate and he discovered a nineteen year old bride instead of a twenty-one year old, meaning that for two years his ass could have been in jail just for fucking her. She got some beating that night, the third or fourth of its kind. Looking back, Cindy could hardly blame him. She would have beaten him up if he’d lied like that. She would have stood up for being fucked over like that. She didn’t know what that said about her, that she agreed with a violent ethic, whether she was the victim or not.

She’d slept with him that night, a good fuck. She was immediately hooked and couldn’t get enough of him. Where he was, she would follow. He was staying in a loft on the Upper West Side for the summertime. She found herself gradually moving in one outfit at a time. Cindy had long since lost her virginity, but for the first time, she was mad in lust and love, And by the way he made love, so was Patrick.

What had she loved about him. People used to ask that all the time of her, especially the ones who’d witnessed aspects of his rageful behavior. She would, in those early days, say it was because he loved her. Now, older and wiser, she would just say, she didn’t know.

Then in September, he was gone. Back to Boston in his grand mansion, probably with all the girlfriends he wanted falling at his feet. Cindy had always wondered throughout the summer why someone like him would want with someone like her. Many times, when he talked, she felt out of his league. He sounded educated. Unless he was high, which only was on weekends, he hardly cursed. With Cindy, every other word she said was fuck. Over the years, Patrick would degenerate, but then, he had the refined talk of educated Protestant ministers.

And he was Protestant. Episcopalian, to be exact. They were so weird. Cindy was used to the Italian Catholics of her neighborhood. Everyone said what was on their mind. There was no bullshit etiquette protocol. But he was hard to read, like he had no feelings. They couldn’t be expressed. Anger and joy looked the same on hima calm, inexpressive stance. Everything had to be polite and perfect. Cindy wondered why she wanted this man. Yet his aloofness made her want him more. He would call, then not show up. She would wait for him, and feel like a fool for waiting for him, and feel like a fool for waiting for him, and yet feel helpless to do anything but wait for him.

The first time she didn’t wait was the first time he hit her.

October: five months after they’d met and had the good coke and sex. He was back in Boston, and would call when he wanted to get together with her, which would be about once or twice a week, whenever he wanted. Cindy was beginning to get nervous about this whole arrangement; and Wendy was getting lame, too, wondering when Cindy was getting a job. After all, even free-spirits had to pay the bills. One time, Cindy had a job interview for this boutique. Unfortunately, Patrick was supposed to call. The job interview was for ten-thirty in the morning and Patrick was supposed to call at eight, which obviously from past experience didn’t mean too much.

And neither did it this time. Eight o’clock, eight-thirty, nine o’clock, nine-thirty. Cindy got angry. She had to make a choice. Patrick or the boutique. At ten-thirteen, desperation chose the boutique for her. In no way or shape did she want to wind up back home. She needed money. The job won.

Patrick was a sore loser. When they played cards over the summertime with Wendy and everybody else, he would frequently lose, and then heaven knew no fury like Hughes scorned. He’d kick the table, call everyone including Cindy a fucking cheater, and twice threw glass pitchers of beer at the wall (Wendy quickly purchased plastic ones). Once time he almost threw his fist in Chad’s face. Chad was this guy that Wendy was screwing, and he didn’t put up with any shit. He jumped over the table and started beating on Patrick. That didn’t teach him anything. Next time was the second time that the beer pitcher was shattered. Nothing could scare Patrick when he lost.

Cindy was home when the insistent knock came. The interview went well; she was to start work on Monday. Wendy had come home for a celebration lunch with her and had returned to her bookstore job an hour earlier. Cindy was busy smoking weed and having munchies and watching Erica/ Susan Lucci break yet another heart when pound, pound, pound, pound. Cindy nearly had a heart attack as she jumped to the door to see what the noise was all about. When she saw Patrick through the keyhole, she thought something terrible must have happened. And she was right.

He shoved her against the wall by her throat when he came in, yelling in her face as she slowly choked. Then he smacked her, punched her in her gut. She lost track of where and when the blows fell. She felt powerless to fight back, she was in so much pain.

It stopped because someone saw. Patrick in his haste to inflict his violence had forgotten to shut the door behind him. It was only when a hysterical “Omigosh,” came from the hall that he bothered to turn and look at Cindy’s neighbor three doors down. From there, he slammed the door shut.

Cindy returned to Boston in grand style, albeit with physical agony. A stretch limo with champagne, which had its benefits in curing certain pains that she now felt. Patrick shoved a silk dress at her and ordered her to put it on, which she did in full view of the leering limo driver. She smiled and waved back. Patrick smacked her. The driver said nothing, but he kept his eyes on the road from that point on.

Patrick had a penthouse. Beautiful view if one had eyes that were not so bruised so as to see the scenery. Patrick said they were meeting his mother. And tell two lies: they met at college and you fell down the stairs. Cindy was too dazed and numb to do anything but comply.

Which she did for fourteen yearsdamn, that was a long time. But she never went hungry and never had to smell urine in the hallways, or on herself. For a long time, it was enough of a payoff.

Cindy needed to know who she was. Thirty years was supposed to be a time of identity, but she assumed that presumption was based on people who’d led normal lives and who had some basic ground on which to make this grand breakthrough. She had nothing to base it on. She would have to start at the beginning. Which was why she was going home. What ever that was supposed to be.

Thanksgiving had always been a time of celebration in his home. He had so much to be grateful for.

This life he was given was a gift. God didn’t have to have done so, he had seen fit to give him life on this Earth and one day to join Him forever in the glorious kingdom of heaven. Each year he celebrated this with Lupe and Raulita at Thanksgiving. The feast resembled life with all the treasures of the world to behold.

He missed those times. Seeing Raulita again, he’d hoped they would come true. But it was not to be.

He saw the men he usually saw at this time,. Last time he had missed work because he had been following Raulita. But he needed money to eat. And he would not beg. He would work for his food. He needed work. Among these men, he would find work.

The man who usually was there by himself was there again, sleeping as usual. The minstrel began to walk away when he heard a voice behind him.

“Raul!” The voice called.

He had heard it often. Raul. Why, he was not sure.

“Raul! Are you deaf, man!” the voice called out in Spanish. The minstrel turned to hear the voice. “Yeah, you. Come here!”

Puzzled, the minstrel obeyed his command. Raul. It felt good. Raul. Him?

The siesta man nodded at him as he stood in front of him. “You come for work this week, eh? We missed you last week.”

The minstrel nodded. “I was with my daughter.”

“Your daughter? Ah, how nice. My daughter, I haven’t seen her for ages. She’s in Hispanola. I hope to one day bring her here. You are lucky to have a daughter so close.”

The minstrel swallowed a lump that had suddenly formed in his throat. “Yes, I know.”

“There was a white man looking for you last week, amigo.”

“Al Greenwood.”

“No. Not him. But he looked for you last week, too. But I speak to you of a different white man.”

The minstrel felt confused. Did he know where Lupe was, or Raulita went? He felt an urge to see this man. Something told him that it was very important that he did so.

“When will he come back? Do you know?”

The siesta man shrugged like he was changing sleeping positions. “I told him to come back here today. So far, he hasn’t come.” The minstrel stopped for a moment to wonder who it could be. “Maybe he will come. Al Greenwood should be here sometime. Maybe, your mystery man will too.”

The minstrel nodded, thanking the siesta man. He hoped the white man would come soon. He had many questions to ask. Maybe, he would have good news to him.

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