Choices

On an August day in 1988 I walked home from my summer job at the Farish Street YMCA. I was fifteen and a freshman in the Lanier High School band. Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt I moved along the sidewalk of Monument Street quick and unresponsive to the honking horns and catcalls from the fluid noon traffic. A man in torn blue jeans walked towards me with a brown bag in hand.  He brought the bag to his lips then howled when he returned it to his side. He looked at me then said,” GOOD STUFF!”

I kept moving without a word. The man’s slurred words and stench of alcohol stayed with me like a wad of gum on the bottom a shoe. Two guys stood in New Deal Super Market’s parking lot yelling at each other. My steps quickened beating the pavement like a steady drum. 

The drunk and the two men in the parking lot were long gone when I noticed the blue and white truck. I was a few steps from turning off Monument when the driver slowed. The passenger window was down.

“You sho’s is fine,” he said. 

Ignoring him, I left busy Monument Street headed toward Palmyra Street. The street was quiet and deserted. Thankful for the trees shading the street, I walked in peace and silence humming music we’d cover in band rehearsal later that afternoon. The low rumble of an engine behind me drew my attention. The blue and white truck was beside me.

“Come on, baby,” the driver said “Let me have a taste.”

I continued walking. 

“Why you actin’ like that?” he said. “You could let a brotha’ hit that.”

I walked faster. He followed.

“So, you gone’ be like that, huh?” He stopped the truck, put it in park then got out. I tried to run. He grabbed me. I was too stunned to scream. Empty yards and silent porches surrounded us. No traffic anywhere in sight. 

“Leave me alone!” I said as we struggled. His breath heavy as he pulled me toward the truck. My fear gave way to anger. I yanked away from him. My arms moving quick, making contact with his upper torso. He grabbed my shirt, spun me around then in one quick motion, he snatched my glasses from my face. 

Though I was a visually impaired teen, I went to school with sighted children, read regular print and endured bullying and rude insults about my eyes. I stood on the empty street humiliated and scared. Because of my blindness, I wore special glasses which were very expensive. My choices were fight a grown man who stood next to the open door of his running truck or face my parents who couldn’t afford to buy new glasses. 

“If you want ‘em, come get ‘em.” He dangled the glasses just above my reach then threw in the front seat of his truck.

In a wave of clarity, I remembered my mom rented a house at this end of Palmyra when I was two years old. The owners, who currently lived in it were nice people. They’re probably at work.

 My fear gave way to terror as I screamed and screamed like I’d never screamed before.  I couldn’t remember which house they lived in, but I ran toward the first white house I saw. The driver was on my heels.

“Shut your fuckin’ mouth!”

As I entered a dirt yard stumbling over tree roots screaming and crying, a screen door slammed, then a woman’s voice rang out.

“Johnny!” 

I was at the right house! The lady was calling for her husband Johnny Griffin. The driver turned and ran back to is truck. Mrs. Griffin ran toward me. Her husband ran down the steps in the yard.

“Did he hurt her?”

“He… he got my glasses!” I said. 

“Son of a bitch!” Johnny said and ran toward the truck.

Mrs. Griffin took me into the house as the truck sped away. She sat on the sofa holding me as I cried. The front door slammed, and Johnny’s heavy foot steps were on the front room floor. 

“Call her parents,” he said. 

Mrs. Griffin dialed the phone on the coffee table in front of us. “A man tried to hurt Katrina,” Mrs. Griffin said into the phone when my mother answered. She told my mother I was safe then hung up. We all froze when we heard the truck engine again. Johnny stormed out of the room and returned with his gun. The squeal of the truck’s brakes sent chills down my spine. Johnny was out of the door. The truck sped off again.

“Godamned son of a bitch!” Johnny said as he returned to the front room holding my glasses. “The ass hole threw her glasses in the yard.”

“We’ve got to go back to work,” Mama said after we made it home. Daddy paced the floor stopping long enough to light a cigarette. “Don’t you leave this house.”

“But I have band practice,” I said.

“Are you crazy?” my daddy said. “That man coulda’ killed you.”

“I can’t stay locked in the house forever.”

“Don’t you leave this house!” Mama said. She and Daddy returned to the car.

Once they were gone, I took a deep breath then walked the six blocks to band practice.  

-Katrina Byrd 

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Katrina Byrd, a writer/playwright, is a 2018 MFA graduate of Mississippi University for Women. Byrd’s short plays appeared in several theatres including Vicksburg Theatre Guild, MOLJOAA Performing Arts Company and Bay St. Louis Little Theatre. Featured in literary magazines across the country, her fiction centers on strong female characters who overcome insurmountable obstacles. You can find Byrd’s fiction pieces in The Disappointed House Wife Literary MagazineBlack Magnolia’s Literary Magazine, and Kaliedoscope Literary Magazine. Due to an internship funded by the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation, Byrd, who is visually impaired since birth, served as a Book reviewer /JaneFriedman.com. At AWP18, Byrd interned with freelance writer and entrepreneur, Jane Friedman providing content for The Business of Being A Writer Blog. Byrd is a 2018 Mississippi Arts Commission Artist Minigrant recipient. The $500 award aids in travel expenses to AWP19. Connect with Katrina.