Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

by Bill Hillmann

This is an example of why no matter how big you are you should never go to somebody’s house looking for a fight. It was a school night, around 11, I lay in bed, I could still hear my parents TV blaring down the hall as I started to feel myself drift off to sleep. When I heard Rosie’s voice raging “Oh, I know you didn’t come up here like That! To my house Fool?”

I heard a deep voice grumbling something about “Where is it Rose,” and I tried to drift back toward sleep when I heard a slap and a scuffle, pulling, shoes scrapping over pavement.

Rose’s voice rippling, a vicious “Nooo.” Like the hiss of an alley cat and I shot up and looked out the window as my sister wrestled with some large dark figure on the sidewalk below out in front of the house, it looked like a grizzly was mauling her. I leapt from bed and rumbled down the stairs, Jan saw me near the front door as she sat on the living room couch and said “what are you doing?”

“Rosie’s fighting!” I shouted as I sprinted out the door. I saw De Andre’s tall frame squeezing between the bumper and grill of my Ma’s maroon van and the car parked in front of it as Rose grasped at his black T-shirt sleeve, then they both disappeared into the street behind the van. I heard Rose say, “You fucked up Now! My brothas out here!” as I followed squeezing through the narrow space, when I got out there to the street they’d stopped. I couldn’t figure out what she meant by that because from the looks of it I was giving up somewhere around 60 pounds and 5 years to this guy.

I was standing there in the middle of the street naked except for the thin wool boxers I’d gone to bed in. De Andre looming tall a few feet away his eyes glowing wet, Adams Apple flexing, skin pitch black, the street light gleaming off his forehead that loomed tall above his wide shoulders as he stared bug eyed at Rose who stood beside me. Rose’s long brown frizzy hair splayed out wild and free like a wind gust had stole the rubber band for her pony tail; her torso heaving, glaring straight back at him. My heart was pattering as I grasped at Rose’s arm with both hands.

“Come on Rosie, let’s get in the house,” I said in a weak voice as her loose slippery arm tore from my grasp. She stepped directly to him, with two long strides. DeAndre stood his ground rigged, brittle, leaning back slightly, his thick bottom lip sagging out purple, chin tilted upward, almost prideful.

Suddenly her arm was outstretched at her side, swinging palm open, elastic, stretching out longer than it should have, her sturdy frame flowing and twisting like the hand was dragging the body with it, singing through the air, there was a thundering, clamping, collision as her light colored palm struck the base of his jaw with a crack that echoed through the narrow one way street from Paulina to Ashland. His neck stiffened as his 6 foot plus frame seemed to gain a couple inches in height, he rocked backward slightly and then suddenly his knee’s jerked violently, his legs and shoulders went limp and sagged downward as his squared up high-tops shuffled along the patched bumpy black-top for balance, legs trembling unsteady underneath him like two twigs about to break. I couldn’t fucking believe my eyes, she’d buckled that giant motherfucker’s knees with a SLAP!

I grasped at her, clutching her now around the wrist and thrashed her toward me. De Andre seemed to find his balance, “Ah, you’re brother ain’t do’n shit,” he mumbled and cocked his massive boney black fist and leaned into a right cross that slammed into Rose’s eye solid, sending her, arms swinging reaching out wild for balance as she let out a blaring scream, not of pain but of an animalistic, seething, wrath. It’s those kind of moments that show exactly who you are, reveal your bones, naked to all, and more importantly, to yourself.

I leapt at him as he stepped backward, chin raised, grinning. I swung a quick straight punch that just nicked his collar bone as he circled to the side then he pivoted and swung again with the right. I tossed my torso backward seeing that massive fist closing in like the grill of a semi truck, slowed down, and with my last bit of balance torked I my head to the side as the wind from, first his thick fist and then his full arm gusted past. He’d followed through, hoping, I guess, to dislodge my head from my shoulders.

As he swayed back for balance an electric pulse ignited in my chest and sent both my arms reaching out like to grab him in a bear hug but instead I brought my hands fingers spread and slammed them simultaneously around the soft tissue of his throat and instantly clasped and squeezed with all my strength. His eyes bulged wide like two mouths screaming. I bent my knees deeply and drove forward, my uncut toe nails scraping and digging into the blacktop and slammed him right into the side of my Ma’s parked van, so his head cracked against the thick glass of the tinted back side-window. The warped dark glass reflecting the block in crisp blacks and yellows all stretched and distorted like fun house mirrors.

I heard these pound footsteps as he squeezed his massive hands around my forearms enveloping them though his hands felt weak like they were just made of water wrapped with skin. His chapped grey lips gaping, two lines of frothy drool spanning the distance near the creases. Suddenly two fists boomed into his forehead, then another and another. It was both of my sisters. Rose, reaching, leaping over my back and Jan had emerged from the side with her short stout frame and bouncing pony tail, both slamming their loose wild fists into his face as his eyes started bobbing and bouncing like pin balls in their sockets and he began to go again, his knees collapsing like the floors of a building giving way, grasping at my forearms as I still pressed him with everything I had against the van’s side window and squeezed so hard that there was no chance his wind pipe was open. His wide neck seemed like it was made of several loose tubes and I felt like I was deflating them all. Rosie leapt over my back so wildly now that I lost balance and released my grip and De Andre stumbled and then rose to his full height again.

I’d decided I was gonna kill this motherfucker, I just didn’t know how yet. I thought of the bike chain I had hid under my bed with the half roll of duct tape wrapped around one end to make the handle. I leapt between the narrow space in front of the van and sprinted back toward the house and bounded the porch steps as Jan’s Fiancée Wayon burst through the screen door holding a kitchen stool upside down by one of the foot rungs, his yellowish brown skin and grey-green eyes gleaming out behind his circular rimmed spectacles. I slipped past him as his eyes bugged out looking behind me. I turned to see De Andre bear crawling up the steps of the porch, eyes gleaming yellow and black. I stopped and watched.

“Ahh hell naw NIGGA! Step-off!” Wayon shouted in his giant baritone voice that dwarfed his medium body frame as he slammed the circular wood seat of the stool directly into De Andre’s chest and sent him toppling down the front steps. The only thing that saved him was when he grabbed hold of the railing and his torso swung around and panged off the support bars.

I grinned and sprinted up the stairs to my room and dove my arm under my bed and instead of the bike chain, found a smooth rounded wood handle. I pulled it out to see a long heavy lead file, I didn’t even remember putting there. I grinned again and got to my feet, turned and saw my Dad standing in my door way in his V neck white T-shirt yellowed at the creases of his armpits and whitey tighties, his large belly puffed out, over his pale hairy legs, his eyes were fogged over and I knew he’d already took his heavy sleeping medication, he ripped the file from my grasp.

“That’s my file.” He said looking at it as he ground his teeth. “Where the hell’re you going with this?” he spat.

“There’s a guy fighting Rose out front!” I shouted as he grimaced and reached up and pulled a neon orange foam ear plug from one of his ears. “What?” he said glaring at me.

“Nowhere.” I said looking down.

“Well this is mine, you’re not going anywhere with this,” he said turning as he began rolling the ear plug in his finger tips as he walked back toward his room still grasping the file. He popped the ear plug back in as I walked back toward the steps behind him as Ma called out from the bedroom “What’s going on?”

I tried not to run then ran down the steps down the hall and into the Kitchen where Dave sat at the old wood table hands folded over one another resting atop the glossy oak plane. I ran up to the dark wood knife rack and blindly grabbed at the many protruding wood handles with each hand and pulling two out, I saw in my left was the cold steel grey blade of the full foot long butchers knife in the other was a steak knife with a symmetrical point like a dagger. I could still hear the shouts of the girls, the clatter of the scuffle out front. I sensed Dave’s footsteps behind me, I turned and saw him standing before me in the narrow passage into the hallway grinning through his full bristly unkempt beard.
“Where you going with those?” he said grinning maniacally.

“There’s a guy out there beating on Rose,” I roar urgently. ”Come on!”

He folded his arm over his chest, “You’re not going out there,” he said. “Those two got to learn,” he put a knowing emphasis on the ‘Learn’.

“What?” I spat disgusted.

He just stood there arms folded over his chest giggling with his imbecilic face creasing like some evil clown. I leaned back bending my knees slightly, gathering my weight and drove my shoulder into the center of his chest and he gave way like he’d been standing atop a patch of ice, arms and legs splayed out and landed flat on his back in one solid thud.

I leapt over him and ran down the hall as Ma stepped down to the landing at the base of the stairs near the front door, “Joseph! What’s happening!” She said as she tried to grab my shoulder, I tore past her and burst through the screen door and stopped on the porch. I spread my arms, blades in both hands and saw down on the side walk Wayon in his extra large Dago T, the stool now broken though he still held it’s mangled dangling parts by the end of one of the legs, with his other hand he held onto Jan’s wrist as she slapped her malformed fist into De Andre’s face for the last time as Rose pulled and finally ripped loose his shirt sleeve. I leapt the full flight of porch steps and ran right up to De Andre who had gotten hold of a handful of Rose’s wild light brown Caribbean hair as she tried to twist away from him. I dug the Butcher’s Knife into the base of his extended shoulder right where the muscle connects to the chest, it only went in a few inches but it must have stuck into the bone cause it ripped from my grasp as he twisted away and fell onto Jan’s front lawn screaming out. My mother’s voice rang clear like a siren over all of it freezing all of us in motion.
“Joseph!!!” She screamed and I turned and saw her bare foot in her simple ankle length white night gown, trying to step down the front stairs fast with her bad knee, then, losing her balance as she gripped the railing and then just sat on the steps. “Oh Joseph, what did you do?” She moaned her steel blue eyes pleading; mouth hanging open and I had such an instant sharp regret spear into my stomach that I almost cried out in pain. I lowered my head in shame and turned away from him as he shouted out. Jan now suddenly sobered, grabbed my hand, her small round face and button nose now sullen and started pulling me toward her Taurus parked down the block.

“You got your keys,” she said to Wayon.

He nodded.

“Come on,” she said as Wayon glanced down at the mangled stool like he was surprised to see it there then dropped it to the sidewalk and we all rushed to the car. When we got to the car I looked back as Rose hovered over De Andre, I could see her weeping as she touched his cheek with her hand as he lay on his back straining his neck upward and holding her arm. It had all turned so fast, so quick, I wanted to cry I’m not sure if it was out of regret, fear or rage. “That motherfucker punched her in face,” I spat looking at them, looking at Rose and knowing that she loved him “Come on Joe, we gotta getchu outa here man.” Wayon said and I got into the back seat of small car.



(This is an excerpt from a novel in progress called Bryn Mawr. The main Character Joe is 14 years old white kid living in Chicago. Joe has two older sisters who were adopted from the Dominican Republic as infants; they’re dark skinned Afro-Caribbean and tough as fuck.)
Bill Hillmann: Contact info,


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