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Oakland. 1989.

Feb. 24, 2021, 6:20 p.m. by James Leach ( 419 views)

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This is a short story about Huey. P Newton, the co-founder of the Black Panther for Self-Defense Party. Over almost a decade, the organisation sent shockwaves around America, arming themselves against police brutality, setting up free breakfast programmes for children, and teaching revolutionary political theory to people who had been failed by the mainstream educational system. After years of political repression, the Panther’s fell into disarray. Newton had been particularly targeted by the police and F.B.I, spending years in jail on charges for which he was eventually acquitted. Newton sadly became addicted to cocaine after the Panther’s lost ground, and was eventually murdered by a small-time drug dealer in Oakland, 1989.

I.

He sits there like afterbirth pulsing with a stolen heartbeat. Naked life roaming disused subways, hopping vacant trains through abandoned cities.

Through the windows, memory sleeps like stillborn princes in a tragic, royal lineage. The lights are off in all the cities of all the world. Old, dead friends stare from behind a fringe of blood. The nicotine halls of orphaned penitentiaries host disastrous parties under noxious yellow phosphorescence; he spots familiar eyes unsheathed from bodies staring after him, begging for recognition.

He sits there catalogue shopping his skin. Injection: slow.Intentional. Sexy. It washes over him like a Second Coming, and a million Jehovah’s perform a million miracles in a million webs of mind.

He is pike speared in antique seas, taking the hit in silent bliss./p>

She comes to find him staring at his shoes(he’s done this for several hours- he chugs through subway stations bathed in menstruation and stinking of iron. He tries to find the golden ticket returning to the existential entrance of the womb.) The woman thinks about riding him, but he’s like a rubber. Ultimately sexless. His skin is roadkill hide. His eyes are cancelled like dead stars.

The woman tries thieving his junk. This is when he moves. He rears a colt.45 and misses. She screams without noticing the bullet, drops the junk- runs, leaving him as a cursed river: static in the frigid darkness, wailing through Bible storms, screaming with mouthless ripples in the deaf California dusk.

He strokes his gun. Fingering its rigor mortis skin. Caressing it as a lover caresses his love, each touch an apology for a loss that has been endured; the fractured passion that must be held together; the things that were to be built that are rubble; the memory that sags like fat over perfect bodies.

He floats into time. Diffuses over intestate land. Spreads himself eagle-winged down into the republic of his room. He poses, frozen and silent in mugshot beauty, on a broken ebony clock.

II.

Once upon a time.

He drips through northern California like tropic blood through America’s million bathroom stalls, trespassing the Earth in vagabond pilgrimage, blowing biohazard smoke in the eyes of crooked nightwatchman and puncturing the Hollywood billboard with sudden breakneck velocity.

ENTER: THE PAST, DRESSED IN BLACK AND WHITE ON A STOLEN 30MM LENS.

WIDE SHOT. WEST OAKLAND, 1968. SEVENTH STREET. COMMUNITY PATROL. WALKIE-TALKIE IN HAND. DRIVE PAST A POLICE CAR AND PARK. THEY PICK UPGUNS.

VOICEOVER: “memory is like junk, everybody got some.”

The night saws the streets into concrete continents. Blackness hangs blindly in the distance. There is only West Oakland beneath the cameras; beneath the junk-haze light.

The cop has the black boy against the car.

‘He’s not hand-cuffed. Must be a traffic ticket violation.”

They saunter out their cars in long leather trench coats and black berets. A tall, slender black woman slides out of Slim Jenkin’s juke joint in a skin-tight crimped mustard cocktail dress, smoking a long Marlboro.

‘Well, I see you guys are rather spiffy.’

Some have long guns and some have handguns. The ones with handguns also have handfuls of the ‘Ten Point Programme’. The lights blink as Seventh Street leans in.

An old man emerges from a liquor store.

‘What the heck is this here? What they got, sticks in their hands?’

‘Them ain’t no sticks, Jimmy. Them goddamn guns, man,’ replies a thick voice from the dark (a shapeless director as omnipresent and translucent as air itself).

CLOSE UP OF THE COP. ANGER SCRAWLED ON HIS FACE. CUT TO A WIDESHOT OF THE STANDOFF.

He stares down the cop with that perfect face. The face that has the crowd in silent raptures. A jawline of rounded crag tracing the borders of a landscape of brown skin. Two eyes charging from their pens like Spanish Bulls- demanding, begging, gasping to be seen. This here man is destined for the screen whispers the crowd.

‘No one leaves. You have a right to stand here. We’ve checked the law. All citizens have a right to stand and observe these police officers who’ve been brutalising our people in the community.’

CUT TO THE COP. CONTRA ZOOM OF HIS SCRUNCHED FACE. THE MELODY OF A WESTERN FILM DANGLES OVERHEAD.

‘You have no right to observe me!’ says the cop.

‘No, a California Supreme Court ruling states that every citizen has a right to stand and observe a police officer carrying out their duty, as long as they stand a reasonable distance away. A reasonable distance in that particular ruling is constituted as eight to ten feet. I’m standing approximately twenty feet from you, and we’ll observe you, whether you like it or not.’

CHANGE IN MISE-EN-SCENE. WIDE PAN OF THE STANDOFF. NIGHT FLAKES AWAY LIKE FISH FROM BOILED BONES. THE DIRECTOR HOPS IN SOUNDLESS PANIC, CLAWING AT THE FINGERS OF SUN PUSHING THROUGH THE SKY. AN ABRUPT CUT TO THE CROWD SWOONINGOVER HIM.

‘Is that gun loaded?’

‘If I know it’s loaded, that’s good enough.’

Popcorn flies on cue. The laughs are abysmally loud. Oh bravo. Bravo, says the director.

‘Step back, you have no right whatsoever-‘

‘You cannot remove my property from me without due process, so step back. You cannot touch my weapon.’

The crowd silences. They follow his words as a dog follows entrails down a dust-track. But no one notices the train. The train racing through the sky and coming to a stop. All the while, the conductor muttering ‘tick, tock; tick, tock’.

CLOSE UP OF THE COP. HE SIGHS SIGNIFICANTLY. ADVANCES. ULTRA CLOSE UP OF HIS HANDS FINGERING THE HOLSTER OF HIS PISTOL.

CUT TO HIM. ULTRA CLOSE UP AS HE JACKS A ROUND IN THE CHAMBER. CUT ON THE ‘CLACK’. THE DIRECTOR TEETERS ON EJACULATION.

Calling for Oakland 1968. All passengers for Oakland 1968 boarding the train for Oakland 1989.

CLACK, CLACK, CLACK, CLACK, CLACK.

He fires. The director ejaculates. The cop falls. The gun explodes in columns of confetti. The crowd is symphonic bathing in golden sunrise, imagining it was his own brown hands touching them. Oh bravo. Bravo.

He boards the train on a red-carpet connecting ground to sky. It chugs, chugs, chugs in asthmatic gunshot imitation. He enters time like words enter books. Like man enters a woman. Like needles enter flesh in the junk-haze dawn…

III.

The gunshots were shocking. His dying, his having being killed, was a reminder that he was still alive. It made people stop in the street. CLACK. CLACK: two rogue heartbeats pulsing dislocated from vein and artery, the last lungless breathes, a final bodyless gasp of a life which grew without permission.

When he dies his limbs are passed across the country like an ancient funeral rite.

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-James Leach

-from Birmingham, England- and I’m a graduate of English Literature and Creative Writing.

-I’m big into travelling, rock climbing and football; and of course, books!


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