It’s been a cold winter. I’ve been trying to sort out the means of my anger the way this great country taught me how. So when they turned up the air conditioning inside the interrogation room to make my blood boil I just thought; Yall should know by the grins I’ve been given, that I was born cold blooded. Ohhh!! How I laughed. Sat there staring at that mirror smirkin’ at all that I done did, and how they think a little air conditioning gone make me cringe. The door creaks open. When I look up a man walks in too insecure to fit his cheep pinstripe suit. Oh he’s just shakin’ in his boots. He can’t see I’m handcuffed to a table?
“BOO!” He don’t even flinch. Like he saw that comin.
“ Very funny Tom. Smoke?” He pulls out the dented package of Camel Backs from his inside jacket pocket. I take one.
“Light?” I lean my head forward as he strikes the match. Fire pleases me. It reminds me of good times.
“Those are some interesting tattoos you got there Tom. Mind telling me what they mean?” I puff out a cloud of smoke into his face. I haven’t stopped making eye contact yet.
“Never met a man who was confused by a swastika before.” I say laughin.
“Mph, I guess that’s fair. So Tom, mind telling me why you’re here?” I look him up and down quickly.
“You tell me. I didn’t cuff myself to this table.” He looks up from the manilla folder calm and smirking.
“So, you gonna tell me or not Tom? Cause I’ve got time. and we’ve got...”
“Let me guess. My DNA is everywhere and this isn’t my first offense they’ve caught me on. Save it. Cause I know you don’t. I’m not sloppy with what I do. And I know your lying, cause you’re tappin’ your foot faster than a winning horse in a race. You see Officer.....”
“O’neil, good name. Irishman. Me too as a matter of fact. You know we came over here and built this country from the ground up just as much as those gorillaz did? But we still had our skin color cause this means power.” I point at my hand proudly for him to see. I laugh.
“ You see, It always saddens me how a good white man like you shakes in his seat when he sees someone like me. Cause we’re one in the same!! Just lookin’ for a good ride you know? To feel that true white power we’ve been blessed with since birth.”
“You might be right Tom. So Why do you feel like it’s your responsibility to take care of these “Vermin.”
“I see. huh. You want a story. Just like the rest of em. You see people don’t hate me. How could they I make a good find for a story. It entertains people when they can hate or love. But people love to hate, and you best believe people love me.”
“Then give me a story Tom. If you’re so loved and hated. Spit it out.” He looks at me with dead eyes, like my fathers.
“I hate the gaps that we live in. The fact that we have to share the same grounds with animals makes me sick to my stomach. How everything shifts and changes. I remember when we looked at vermin with sideways glances like they didn’t even belong on the bottom of our shoes. The first time my father told me about purpose of the nigger I had to grit my teeth, because I learned how broken we are as a people struggling to come out on top. Cause I’ve got a whole lot of memories that make me wanna challenge the ideals of what it means to be a white man again. When daddy came home too dirty to sit from the coal mines in little stockton, indiana.
“Daddy! Can we play catch outside?”
“No, kid. Daddy’s too tired.” He always said that. While mumblin’ his frustrations of porch monkeys who shared his benches and wages and “morals!” Even way of life. The only power he had was his skin. So he used it. Every time one of those things would walk bye. He never cared much for me. Only joy he ever got out of his time was making cocktail bombs to light niggers on fire he said. And even then, he never felt like he had enough whiskey to ease himself to sleep. Momma was always waltzing with the wind anyway. Never payed me no mind. So the first time I played tag along with daddy I was ten. And boy was I excited. When you’re younger you always wanna lift up that curtain to see where your parents go, when they say “grown up stuff”. So I asked him can I come, and he said.
“Why the hell not. No son of mine is gonna grow up to be a pussy anyway so you best get on up and learn what it means to be a man.” I still can’t stand the smell of Budweiser. The way it hangs on breath like bitterness. But that’s what Daddy was. Bitter. I knew though, he was a man. And I needed to learn how to hold my head up in front of one. So we rode out in his busted up white pick-up truck. Painted with the confederate flag on the back of it. The only thing he truly loved. He drove us into town and we stopped at uncle Pat’s bar. It’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody. So when my dad walked in with his ten year old son no heads even turned. Not like now in these big cities yall have where everything is I.D’s and responsibility. We walked up to my uncle Pat wiping down the bar.
“How’s business?” Uncle Pat looks up at my dad and chuckles, like that was the dumbest question in the world. The bar was empty.
“Well this don’t help none.” When he pulled up his hand, I saw something that stuck with me for the rest of my life. His palm was covered with a black square kind of thing that was made by to separate lines that had curved with sharp edges inside of a white circle. Covered in another square that was red and bright. Like a flag.
“I told you, open hate is never no good for business. But you insisted. Always gotta be loud and proud Pat.” I hadn’t seen my dad laugh joyfully since I was five. He and Momma were dancing around the living room. It was christmas eve and I came down looking for santa.
“Hurts like a bitch too. Remind me never to get wasted with you ever again. Heyya Tommy. Your Old man tells me you’re ready to play with the big boys now?” I always loved uncle Pat growing up. He was the only adult who had this warm feeling towards me. Like it was okay for me to be boy and not man for once.
“Yeah!! Daddy said it was time for me to learn how to be a man and I’m ready!”
“Well that’s good big guy. Cause tonight we’re meeting some friends and they know all about what it means to be a man. And it’s about time you meet them.” Uncle Pat climbed over the bar top and gave me one of his big rocket ship hugs, where he picks me up and throws me. After that he squeezes me until I can’t breathe.
“Put him down. He’s too old for that shit!” My dad hates when Uncle Pat treats me like a kid.
“Oh calm your fucking tits Lucas. The kid needs someone to love him every now and again.” I liked my dad’s name. I loved Star Wars as a kid, so I guess since his name was Luke like that Skywalker guy that maybe he could be the hero one day. He never was. Just gave me a lot of bruises and drank a lot of beer.
“Whatever, I don’t have time for pussies right now. Can we go? Have they started yet?” Uncle Pat put me down and stared at my dad for a long time before answering.
“Yeah we can go. They’ve started betting already too.”
“What round is Tommy up?”
“After Buchanico and Jackson.”
“Who’s he fighting?” Uncle Pat put on a smile that I had never seen him in before.
“ Eddie’s kid.”
“Ahhh!! yes!! that bastard has to watch while his kid gets fucking trashed. Teach him to mess with us again.”
There were only two Eddie’s in the whole town. One was Dad’s and Uncle Pat’s friend. He was fat and smelly. He didn’t have any kids. I don’t think he ever could give a woman his seed anyhow. The other one was Eddie Baxter. He owned the local Pharmacy. But his kid went to my school back then. His name was Lewis. The only nigger in our grade, so he never talked much. Still I didn’t know what they were talking about. When they started walking towards the back of the bar, there was this drop in my stomach. I felt myself kind of weighing down trying to slow my steps. I was being a little bitch basically, is what was happening. So I gathered myself and stood up straight. Uncle Pat unclipped the keys that he always kept on his belt loop and opened this rusty steel green door, that you could only hear noise come out of when it was opened. When it was, there was this huge roaring noise of men's voices, and they were all proud. I recognised so many different faces. Friends dad’s, my teacher Mr. Shuels was there, even some of my friends who were with their dads. Like I said it’s a small town. They were all gathered around this cage that looked like a ring except there was no padding or anything it was just metal and concrete. There were no seats just men crowding behind each other screaming
“ Beat him! Beat the nigger!”
And the flag on Uncle Pats palm was hanging above the cage high. Proud. When we reached the front of the cage I saw these two boys, who were older than me. Luis Buchanico and Freddy Jackson. The men all around were waving bills in the air, no less than 20’s. Except for Freddy’s Dad in front of the cage. I have only ever seen a grown man cry twice in my life, and Freddie's Dad was the first time. His face was pressed up against the cage covered in his son's blood and these hysterical tears. Behind him Mr. Shuels was pushing his face against the cage and holding his hands behind his back. Uncle Pat was laughing hysterically.
“You see that Tommy? That’s what weakness looks like.” He wiped a tear from his face since he was laughing so hard. I remember thinking weak. Why didn’t he try to help his fucking son instead of crying like a little bitch while everyone laughed at him. But that’s what you get when you take cattle to slaughter. Freddy stopped getting back up after a while, watching him fall was surreal. His eyes didn’t match up anymore and he was looking at the ceiling and then boom he fell. This awkward exchange happened between the screaming of Freddy’s Dad there was just a wave of two different emotions. About a quarter of the bills floated out towards the center of the ring echoing with
“Never Bet on NIGGERS”!
Others had a thrill in their voices. They were betting against who would win. You could always tell who lost. When they picked freddy off the ground I don’t remember if he was breathing. I remember his dad got lost in the crowd and was no longer being pushed up at the edge of the cage and Freddy had disappeared when I looked back up.
“Your turn kiddo.” I looked back, waiting for the voice of Uncle Pat but it wasn’t. It was my Dad. He hadn’t looked at me like that in a long time. Like he loved me. He held up a 100 dollar bill to my face and said:
“I’m betting on you.” Then something yanked my arm and I moved through the crowd of men quickly and found myself in the middle of the cage. There was this gigantic wave across the mens voices cheering. I felt tall. Like I was the strongest person in the world. Like a superhero. I then saw that cocksucker Eddie crash through the crowd and Mr. Shuels held him up against the cage just like he did with Freddy’s Dad. I looked at the concrete floor. It was bloody, but you could tell that this game was old by the stains on the concrete. Because they’re were the fresh ones from Freddy, and then others that had turned purple from being there for god knows how long. Uncle Pat Has Eddy’s kid by the neck and throws him into the ring. Eddy’s kid was a lot smaller than I was, He was fragile. Not like Freddy’s boy who was a football player and had a much bigger build. He was just skin and bone. they tore our shirts off and a bell rang. The men started screaming, this blood curdling scream from a crowd. And the little shit in front of me was shaking. He had fucking pissed his pants, and you could tell that he was holding back tears in his eyes.
“HIT THE LITTLE PORCH MONKEY!!”
“Yeah do it KIDDO!!”
“PUNCH HIM IN THE GUT!”
“KNOCK HIM OUT!”
I could hear my dad through all those voices, so I hit his face as hard as I could and he went tumbling down quicker than anything I’ve ever seen. He stood back up and his mouth was bleeding. And the entire side of his face was blown up like a balloon. He was barely standing, when I heard the voices again. So I clocked him in his face as hard as I could and I watched him go down screaming, and I kept hitting him over and over, And it felt good. You never know power until you watch someone worthless completely collapse beneath you. When I got up the bell rang. I looked at Eddy’s Dad with his face pressed up against the cage. That was the second time I watched a grown man cry.”
“Do you love your father?” Officer O’neil hadn’t moved. I forgot he was there for a while actually. I felt like I had just woken back up.
“ Do you, Thomas Gibson Love your father?” He staggered his words like my fucking father did before he hit me with his drunken hands. Like I was stupid.
“YES! The fuck kind of question is that? He taught me how to be a man. How to walk How to speak. And those fucking koons got what they deserved. Cold and hard on a platter for taking our place in the world. Like we didn’t fucking Own it!!” Shit! He sees it now. Never go vulnerable in an interrogation, ever. I do love my father no one will ever deny me that ever!! He was the only person who would ever love me.
“Did I hit a nerve?” He had this smile on his face like he knew he had me, I was losing the game. I don’t care if I go to jail. But I sure as hell won’t go a pussy. I’m giving them a story. People love a good documentary about someone they should hate.
Breathe, I have to breathe.
“No.” I say calmly catching my breath.
“So mind telling me why you did it Tom?” I’m still a little out of it. Forgot where I was who I was with. If you’ve ever lost control you know. How weak you feel. How everyone uncovers those dirty little secrets.
“How I torched the Nigger? Or skinned him? Which one do you prefer?”
“Well I’ve only got the one you burned sitting here. But you’re welcome to tell me about either one.” I lean forward over my cuffs and get close to his face.
“I would do it all again.” He stops. Leans back into his chair trying to hold his breath. I watch him get up and walk out. I know what he’s going to do now.Like all the others, he’ll ask for a new detective because they don’t know why they feel sorry for me. Everyone is a sucker for a good story. So I stare through the mirror where they watch me from. I smile. Pretend like I have control between my teeth, when I know that I hated my father. That he was the first time I killed someone, and it felt good.