TODAY SEEMS LIKE EVERY DAY
October 1973. Richmond, Virginia.
My friend Vernon and I volunteer to make a beer run. We take a shortcut down a West End street barely lit by those ridiculous colonial gas lamps. Both of us make a simultaneous decision to walk in the middle of the street, but it’s too late. Two guys jump out from their hiding spot, one’s aiming a gun at me. He barks put your wallet on the car! We empty our pockets of the combined $4 in change we collected for the beer. Your wallet!! I reach for it but plead to keep my driver’s license. He cocks the thing. I toss it on the car hood, put my hands back up. Tells us to turn around and count to ahundred. We take a stab at it, only getting to 3, turn around and they’re gone. I look across the street and see a man staring at us from his front door. When he sees me looking at him he quickly draws the shade and turns off the light. I sprint over, Vernon tailing me and bang on his door—I know you’re in there and you saw what happened, OPEN UP!! The light comes back on, he opens the door—he’s all sheepish; I ask him to call the police. Minutes later a scooter cop rolls up, followed by two squad cars, red lights spinning. We give a description to the scooter, it’s not much: two guys, young, wearing dark jackets and pants, maybe jeans, the one holding the gun takes the lead while the other hangs back in the tree shadows they came out from. Both Black. All the radios crackle at the same time they caught a suspect. Taking direction, Vernon gets in one car and I get in the other, the K-9 car. I’m in the back seat, the dog’s snarling, spitting, trying to chomp his way through the cage to get at me. I ask the cop to sit up front, he tells me civilians sit in the back, but don’t mind the dog, he only goes after criminals. I lean forward, trying to put him out of my mind and get away from his spittle. We roll about 5 blocks, finally turning into a supermarket parking lot. The cop points in the direction of a man completely surrounded by cop cars, and lit up by all their searchlights. Cop asks if this is one of the guys. This guy is light-skinned, got a beard and wearing an argyle sweater and gray slacks: doesn’t look anyway damn near the guy who held a gun on me. I give the cop my description of the stickup guy which doesn’t match this guy; he asks again if this is the guy. I say no. He pulls away a few blocks where they’ve pulled the same maneuver on another guy in another parking lot: well dressed and no where near fitting the description. I see Vernon in one of the cars, he’s pale and looks as scared as I am. Cop asks me if THIS is the guy. I say no. Cop asks me if I’m sure. I tell him. He says something into his radio and they all disperse. Cop rolls up to another car going the other way. They roll down their windows; the one cop asks if they got the guy. My cop thumbs at me and says he says no. The other cop says, shit, then, he pauses and says, but we almost got one didn’t we. Cop tells me he’s taking me back to the crime scene; I ask him if he could take me home. No, we’re not a taxicab service. We’re driving back, finally, as if he just noticed, he tells the dog to pipe down, which it does and in that cold silence he asks if I’m taking part in the streaking that was all the rage at the time. I tell him no. I lied. He ponders a bit, a small bit and comes back with I guess it would be a waste, you being so dark and all no one could see you, and laffs and it’s a big one, like, he got his own joke. By the time he drops me off at the spot, Vernon’s waiting. The scooter cop must’ve been waiting on me too because soon’s he sees me, he kickstarts his scooter and tells us to be careful out at night and think about carrying a gun next time before puttering away. Vernon and I are both bewildered and scared out of our wits. We stay to the middle of street, hugging each other as we walk towards his apartment looking ever which way. We got to this apartment, turned on all the lights and sat up in his livingroom until it was light enough for me to go home.