Monday, March 16, 2009

The King and I

One of the most unpleasant parts of my job is talking with the grieving family members of dead people. I did it again today with the mother of a graduating high school senior who fatally shot himself after thinking he'd hit and killed a pedestrian while driving around the block.

And once again, I was reminded that there' s nothing in this world like a mother's grief. Seeking the inspiration to do right by Andrew Altringer and his despondent mom, I've been mulling over this passage from August Wilson's King Hedley II:
What she got? A heartache that don’t never go away. She up there now sitting down in her living room. She got to sit down cause she can’t stand up. She sitting down trying to figure it out. Trying to figure out what happened. One minute her house is full of life. The next minute it’s full of death. She was waiting for him to come home and they bring her a corpse. Say, “Come down and make the identification. Is this your son?” Got a tag on his toe say “John Doe.” They got to put a number on it. John Doe number four. She got the dinner on the table. Say, “Junior like fried chicken.” She got some of that. Say, “Junior like string beans.” She got some of that. She don’t know Junior ain’t eating no more. He got a pile of clothes she washing up. She don’t know Junior don’t need no more clothes. She look in the closet. Junior ain’t got no suit. She got to go buy him a suit. He can’t try it on. She got to guess the size. Somebody come up and tell her, “Miss So-and-So, your boy got shot.” She know before they say it. Her knees start to get weak. She shaking her head. She don’t want to hear it. Somebody call the police. They come and pick him up off the sidewalk. Dead nigger on Bryn Mawr Road.
More than anything, I try not to overlook anyone's humanity in search of a headline. Sometimes, to be frank, it's tough.

4 comments:

Bougie Applebum said...

dang. now that's deep. i feel ya on this one.

blackink said...

Much thanks. It's tough. I'm working through it right now. I can't wait until this is over, for real.

maria said...

beautiful.
the cop beat is TOUGH, man. when kids die, esp. remember it well. i once wrote a story about a guy who got in a car wreck. another guy stopped to help. he was hit by a car...they both died.

i remember talking to families. trying to get a picture of the dead person. hated it, for sure.

thanks for that peak into your work. you've a mighty, tender heart. and literary, too!

blackink said...

Maria, amen. One thing about the cops beat is that you learn about all the different ways that humans are awful to one another. Even the stories that never make it into the paper. It can be a beatdown, if you let it consume you.

And much thanks for the kind words.