A Black Boy’s Worst Nightmare

YOU’RE STANDING IN THE WOODS ALONE with plenty of fireflies and broken tree branches all around you. Your palms are in a fist but you’re unsure if you can take them. You’re nervous; the sweat underneath your armpits are trickling down the sides of your body. The breeze and the sun have retired themselves. It’s only the moon, a quiet river downstream, and a handful of night critters that are out tonight, watching you and these pack of human wolves taunting and provoking you.

Your dark skin is trying to disappear underneath the night’s blanket, but they are still catching glimpses of you because of the fireflies. That river, although nowhere near you, is glowing from all the stars reflecting on it. The fishes below, some resting, while others are hunting, have no clue what kind of situation that you’re in. If they did, you think they would rescue you? Goddam these fireflies floating and buzzing all around you—if it wasn’t for them you would have ran for that river without the human wolves noticing you!

Look at them, staring at you with their wild-looking eyes, ripped, and stained clothes. Their teeth are sharp, jagged, yellow and rotten. You take a step back, wondering if you should run—but it’s no good because they got you surrounded. “Boy, we got you! You can stop running now!” one of them screamed, while the others were huffing and puffing, jumping up and down and high-fiving each other in excitement. “You crossed the tracks without our permission, boy! Now we gotta teach you a lesson!”

How did you even end up here? Not too long ago, and just a little past dusk, you were on your grandmother’s farm, helping her with her garden and all her beautiful vegetables. You dug up some weeds, re-toiled the soil, and even watered your favorite vegetables—like, the squash, broccolis, yellow bell peppers, and perennial red tomatoes, with her wheelbarrow.

“Listen, Billy,” one of them, who appears to be the pack leader, whispered into the ears of another carrying a pitchfork. “We can hardly see this son-of-a-bitch right now, but as soon as those Goddam fireflies light him up we’re gonna strike! We’re gonna tie him up with that strong rope of yours; peel off his skin, gauge his eyes out, cut off his testicles, dump his body down that river and then send his skin, eyes, and testicles to his grandmother.”

The one with the pitchfork nodded his head and then turned and whispered the news to another who looked just like him and, who too, was also carrying a pitchfork. “Listen, Joe just said that when those Goddam fireflies light that son-of-bitch up, then we’ll strike. We’re gonna tie him up with that strong rope of yours; peel off his skin, gauge his eyes out, cut off his testicles, dump his body down that river and then send his skin, eyes, and testicles to his grandmother. ”

The one with the pitchfork and who just received the fresh news nodded his head and then turned and whispered the same news to another one who looked just like him. “Hey, listen here, Billy just told me that Joe told him that as soon as those Goddam fireflies light that son-of-a-bitch up, we’re gonna strike. We’re gonna tie him up with that strong rope of yours; peel off his skin, gauge his eyes out, cut off his testicles, dump his body down that river and then send his skin, eyes, and testicles to his grandmother. Now tell Ray and have him tell Roger and then have Roger tell Scooter and then have Scooter tell everyone else! Don’t screw this up you moron!”

You watched, hopelessly as they whispered into each other’s ears. And as each one of them got the news, they smiled with excitement, displaying their rotten, sharp, jagged, yellow teeth. But how come they don’t just shout whatever it was that they were planning out loud? What are they going to do that is so bad that it needed to be whispered? The last guy is now receiving the news, and his face just lit up. If you had any plans, you better do it now!

The fireflies lit up and then they lit out. The fireflies lit up and then they lit out. The fireflies lit up and then they lit out. If only these fireflies knew how important your survival is to them right now, they would work to rescue you from these Goddam human wolves! Maybe you can ask them—-I mean, under normal circumstances, they would never communicate with you, but because this situation is a little unique, they might reconsider? Come on, it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Okay, fireflies, my plan is to wait for when you guys lit out to run for that river downstream—can you help me out on this one? No response. The fireflies continued to lit up and then lit out. Come on, fireflies! just stay lit out for a while longer than usual so I can escape to that river downstream! Please?!

Look at them with their pitchforks and one rope, salivating and fidgety. They look so moronic but scary at the same time. If I don’t make a move right now I’m not gonna make it. We’re gonna get you, boy, the pack leader was saying to himself. We’re gonna teach you a lesson for crossing the tracks today. Just you wait, boy—as soon as those fireflies lit up we’re gonna get you!

“Ready, gang?!” the pack leader shouted, as the fireflies lit out and were only a few seconds away from lit’n up again. “We’re gonna get this son-of-a-bitch just like we talked about! Make sure you’re ready! Here….we….go…”

The fireflies lit up again. “Go get ’em, gang!” the pack leader shouted with saliva coming out of his mouth and with his pitchfork raised in the air. But before they could reach me, I had already disappeared.

“Goddam it!” the pack leader shouted with so much anger—-his voice reverberating throughout the woods. “You morons, we lost him! He was just right here! We waited too long!…..instead of whispering like a bunch of idiots, we should’ve just grabbed him!”

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