I leaned next to Mama’s tub of Black-Eyed-Susans. She called them her garden because they stood out as the only growing greenery for blocks. I peered past them at Tony climbing shirtless up the back apartment wall. I didn’t like the terrible look on his face. The sun baked his sharp cheeks brown, but he still shone ten shades brighter than William who worked his saw back and forth through some piece of scrap wood for his racing machine.
Tony’s Mama, a white lady, never left her dark hole of an apartment because the neighborhood kids would point and say, “Look at that pasty cracker!” and laugh real loud. But then Tony’s Daddy, Big Booker, would fill the doorjamb wiping his hands menacingly and kids would scatter to beat hell. Tony hated all the kids for meanness, his Mama for whiteness, his Daddy for blackness and himself for nothingness, so he always make trouble.
That trouble lurked behind his light eyes as he climbed and it scared me. I knew William didn’t know the hurt silently climbing above him, but I couldn’t yell to him. He wouldn’t let me help with his racing machine either and a quiet resentment closed my angry mouth. I let Tony work out my unspoken aggression and just watched.
It happened quick and I knew Tony didn’t plan it too good. He grabbed the last board of awning frame and wrenched down with both hands. Thirty years of dry rot gave less resistance than Tony anticipated. He tumbled down onto the wheels of the future racer, broke the axle and broke open his chin. The board from the awning fell harmlessly two feet from William and he looked up quickly at the clatter.
William gave no sign he even saw the malice behind what Tony done and James and Little ‘T’ started laughing hysterically. William straightened his spine and surveyed the damage. “You stupid – clumsy – cracker head negro.” To this Little ‘T’ flipped backwards off his perch in violent convulsions of laughter. William didn’t even crack a grin as he covered Tony with his dark shadow before he beat ‘im good with his knobby knuckles.