Friday, August 7

Day 6: Vexodus Schmexodous


From the other side of the river,
their counselors waved at us,
shrugging their shoulders.

The kids were going bonkers.
So we asked them about it.
I mean, DUH, they groaned.
It was as hot as a Florida river swamp
in June at high noon. 
Which, to be fair, it was.
They pointed everywhere, making a face.
They had to wake up and go CANOEING every day.
talk in a GROUP about how to BETTER THEMSELVES,
for crying out loud.
This was not the real thing,
they said to us.
This was not IT.
Fine, fine. 
There was a kid, though,
who was NOT OK. 

Patty and I were called in
to remove Anthony, who was throwing all the group’s food in the river, inciting a riot, et cetera,
The Usual. 
Patty tried to separate him,
get him in our school minivan.
But Anthony turned to the other kids 
and he said Look at this, boys
he's trying to get me to go home,
but we're ALL going home, right?
And the kids whoop and yell, saying Hells Yes,
we're ready to get out of this nest,
this fucking heat,
who do they think they are,
trying to feed us powdered milk.
We want our mother.
Fuck you, they said, you don’t 
have power of attorney over us.

Patty and I look at each other.
All the children will not be going home.
A conflict of interest. But Patty thought
if we just removed Anthony, cut out the bad spot,
we might save the apple. The rest would stay.
So she said to me,
Go to the minivan, get in, get it started.
I’ll be right up with Anthony.

I went up to the van’s hiding spot,
hopped in the driver’s seat, and wait.
It's really quite peaceful. 
A little ways from camp,
just a thin trail in the woods...
Too thin, even, to turn a car around.

Patty came running, jumped in,
a concerned look on her face. 
And Patty survived cancer,  so
it really made an impression on me when she said
I kicked the minivan into reverse, and put my foot

The forest flew at us backwards,
tossing trees into the rear view.
The huge, motherly hips of our minivan
slipped through.
We reached the road. 
Patty said to stop gunning it.
So we stopped.
We waited to see
if they’ll
even come this far out.

And then they did. 
Anthony cresting, fuming 
a hot, melting grin
They hit the black-burnt road, 
and they turn to face Us, 
their air-conditioned answer. 

But we cannot take everyone. So
Patty reached into the slot on her belt,
Quick-drew her phone,
and dialled (of course)
The Sheriff. Who else?
"FOUR BLACK MALES," she said,
giving them a name.
They're a layin' in the road,
They're obstructin' traffic,
They're incitin' a riot. 

approached the car,
jumping in the way like children
which, to be fair, they were.
They sat on our hood.
They joked about flipping the van.
Forty minutes 
dripped by.

Finally, the sheriff arrived.
He opened his door, and scanned.
He looked at us all.
He said, so what?
Everyone said, 
He didn't move.
This is Hog Country, he said.
We got people around here that
Don't Like Black Kids.
Anthony walked up to the officer,
and said, we want to go home.
The officer stepped back, and looked
squarely at him.
Now, he said, Are You Gonna
Get In That Car,
Or Do We Have A Problem?
Anthony sighed, and said,
Okay, okay.
So it was done. 
The sheriff got
back into his vehicle.
Anthony got
in the van.
The counselors came out of the woods,
where they'd been watching,
to collect the other kids.
Everyone got back in a canoe, 
and ate some more milk.
We drove away. 

Patty and I meet Anthony’s parents
as planned, in the parking lot
on the interstate.
He walks to them, 
and I recall just the hush
of cars. 
The parents sign for him. It's over.
Patty and I say nothing. Goodbye. 
We turn away. From a distance,
I watch as Anthony’s parents 
shove him in the car, 
and then use the backs of their hands
To welcome him home.
We pull out.

Patty says, the group
will need more food.
Also, their first aid kit
is at the bottom of the river.
I ask her if we as a base camp
are experiencing a normal amount of misconduct
from the students, you know,
for the heat, for Florida,
for whatever. And she says, 
some years
are just like this.

I nodded thoughtfully, said OK,
and left the country 
by plane 

No comments: