Saturday, January 20, 2018

FAIR TRADE


Below is the first one of my short stories to ever be published. The time feels right to present it here at A LINE A DAY as my first #ShortStorySunday entry of 2018. Now that so many of my tales have been presented here, I'll need to write some new ones soon to avoid running out of material. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to let me know if you do since writers are fueled by compliments.  😍





                                        
                      FAIR TRADE



       A short story by ROY L. PICKERING JR.




The plan was perfect.  Simple and effective, so dependable in outcome you could set your watch to it.  The four adolescents had pulled this off numerous times previously, always without a hitch.

Rodney had the most mature sounding voice of the group, so it was always he who placed the call.  Always to a Chinese take-out restaurant for a variety of important reasons.  Reason number one was that the delivery guy was typically smallish, frail seeming, and quite clearly scared to death of black people.  At least when he was surrounded by four of them.  Reason number two, they never arrived in a car, always on a beat up old bicycle, so they never tried to run for it.  The third and fourth reasons were that all four of them liked Chinese food (who doesn't?) and there were about half a million Chinese restaurants in the area.  This might seem odd to some, since very few Chinese people lived in the neighborhood so far as they could tell, but the four young men didn't spend much time contemplating the enigma.  They tended to accept things as they were without excessive questioning.

"What's taking this guy so long?" asked Cognac, who was named after the beverage responsible for his conception.  His running joke was that if other parents in the neighborhood used the same method of name giving as his parents, there would be a whole lot of Malt Liquors running around.  Cognac was in love with gold.  It adorned his fingers, wrists, neck, ears and one tooth.  His nickname, as if someone named Cognac needed a nickname, was Glitter.

"If he doesn't show up in the next two minutes, I say we don't tip him."  As usual, Coletrane's joke cracked up none other than Coletrane.  His laughter was a sight to see due to a great quantity of loose flesh that bounced and jiggled in every which direction.  He claimed to not really be fat, merely too short for his weight.  Coletrane planned to correct this situation by having a growth spurt to go along with his newly grown chest hairs.  What he failed to realize was that in order to be of average weight, he would need to shoot up to about seven feet.

If somehow this did happen, he still wouldn't be much taller than Jerome, who seemed to grow about a foot per month. Jerome held a basketball in hand, his trademark.  It had been signed by three current members of the New York Knicks. The game of hoops was the most important thing in his life.  It was his school, his church, his lover, his mother and his child.  Jerome could recite from memory the statistics of just about any player in the NBA.

Rodney's memory was equally impressive, only with a different subject matter.  Roaming around in his head were the lyrics for pretty much every rap song ever recorded, as well as close to one hundred songs he had composed.  The customized headphones around his neck were as constant as a tattoo.

The four friends killed time by bragging about the numerous girls who were allegedly into them, and recycling insults at each other.  All in the name of fun.  Any moment now their latest victim would arrive, supplying them with much needed (or certainly wanted) cash, an antidote for their boredom, and some never to be taken for granted free food.

"Here he comes."

The delivery man approaching appeared to be about a thousand years old.  He looked too antiquated to walk ten consecutive steps, much less be peddling a bike laden with food uphill.  As soon as he hopped off the bike (yes hopped, the man was startlingly agile) and started looking for the fictional address Rodney had given to lure him, the four young thieves made their move.  Their move was simply to surround the delivery man.  Nine times out of ten, food, money and the bike were willingly offered without them having to say a word or make a single threatening gesture.  Their mere presence was sufficient.  They never actually wanted the bicycles, being that they were always pieces of crap, and often the most difficult part of the crime was convincing the delivery man of this fact.  Occasionally they had to be a bit more menacing to convince the guy to forfeit his goods.  Once Rodney had pulled his knife, which was how they learned that he carried one on him, but that was as dramatic as it had ever gotten.

Coletrane didn't look particularly menacing on this day.  His mother dead and father in whatever unknown location he happened to be, he had been raised by his grandparents on his mother's side and taught to respect the elderly.  Coletrane didn't have the nerve to threaten someone who made his grandparents look like teenagers, but he didn't want to appear cowardly to his friends.  He walked up to the delivery man along with the others, but instead of staring into the man’s eyes as was custom, looked sheepishly down at the ground.

The four of them waited patiently for the old man to realize he was in the same shoes that Custer had found himself in, probably during this guy's childhood.

"Food for you?"

"Hell yeah, food for us," Jerome growled.

"Twenty two fifty."

"How about for free and we let your old ass live?" said Rodney.

"Twenty two fifty."

"How about one ass whipping?" asked Cognac.  "Or you can just hand over that food and the money in your pocket and we'll call it even."

"You boys should be shamed of yourselves."

"Who you calling boy?" asked Jerome, who towered ridiculously over the little, fearless old man.

"You boys need a spanking.  Your mammas raised you better."

"Now I know you ain't talking 'bout my mother," Rodney said, taking a step forward with intent to intimidate.

"Give me money or we make trade."

"What?  You senile or something, Grandpa?  Hand over my mother fucking Moo Shu now."  Rodney was clearly getting agitated, and he had a nasty temper that could ignite quickly when situations unfolded unexpectedly.

"Money or trade," the delivery man insisted.

"Fine," said Cognac.  "We'll trade you those bags and whatever cash you have on you for your life.  Sound good to you?"

"No good."

"You ain't 'fraid to die, fool?"

"I ninety seven years old.  Sometime I think death scared of me.  Twenty two fifty or trade."

"Trade what?" asked Cognac.

"I take one of your gold chains, your headphones, your basketball, and ...  What you have for me round boy?"

"Let's just let the old guy go," said Coletrane, still studiously examining his sneakers. 

"I'm getting tired of this bullshit," said Rodney.  "This is a robbery, not a negotiation."  Rodney tried to grab a bag of food from off the delivery man's bicycle but his hand never reached its destination.  The old guy quickly and firmly slapped it away.

"Not a smart move, Gramps.  Now I'm gonna have to jack you up."

"Let's just leave the man be," Coletrane said.

Rodney raised his fist and started walking towards the old man.  "No, I don't think ..."

Suddenly Rodney was laying on the ground in fetal position, statement left incomplete, his hands between his legs covering the vulnerable area he had just been kicked in.  That alone was ample cause for amazement on the parts of the three would be robbers who remained standing.  What really shocked them though was the old man removing the headphones from around Rodney's neck.

"This pay your share."  The delivery man turned towards Jerome.  "Now you."

Jerome was unsure of himself, that much was apparent by the look on his face.  Cognac and Coletrane half expected him to run off.  Instead he started to bounce his basketball.

"You want it, take it."

Jerome was an excellent ball handler for his height, for any height in fact.  On the basketball court he was unstoppable.  He would come racing down the floor dribbling the ball with the dexterity of a Harlem Globetrotter, then go soaring over his lesser opponents in Michael Jordan-like manner and slam the ball through the hoop with Shaq-like authority.  He was a shoo in for a college scholarship and would probably end up being one of the rare success stories from their neighborhood.

Cognac and Coletrane watched Jerome expertly dribble the ball at a dizzying speed, through his legs, around his back.  They were rather surprised to see the old man assume a defensive position.  They were stupefied when he cleanly stole the ball from Jerome.

The old man tucked the ball under his arm.  "This pay your share."

A dejected Jerome hung his head in embarrassment but did not protest.  Anyone who could humble him in the game of basketball deserved no disrespect.  As much as he cherished that ball, he knew that sometimes in life you have to pay what you owe.

The old man turned towards Cognac, but before he could even say a word he was being handed a gold necklace.  Cognac had seen enough to convince him that it was preferable to glitter a few karats less brightly than to deny this old man his due.

"This pay your share."

The delivery man placed his newly acquired goods on the ground next to his bicycle.  Then he turned towards Coletrane who was still determined to avoid the man's gaze.

"What you have for me?"

Coletrane remained silent, his shame at harassing such an elderly, although quite spirited man placing a heavy burden on his tongue.

"You no deaf or dumb, so you answer me.  What you have?"

Coletrane raised his arms helplessly.  "I don't got anything.  What you see is what I have."

The delivery man stepped towards the rotund lad and lifted his chin so that their eyes may meet.

"What you tried to do to me was wrong.  You should know better.  You should never do anything that don't make your mamma proud."

"My mother's dead."

"She still watching.  My mamma watch me.  Your mamma watch you.  You understand?"

Coletrane did understand and nodded to convey this.

"Good.  Now you pay me your share."

Coletrane bowed his head in shame again.  Not because of his guilty conscience, but because he felt that he did owe the old man something, but he really had nothing to give.  From the corner of his eye he noticed Rodney quietly rising to his feet and extracting a switchblade from the back pocket of his jeans.

Rodney sprung forward, the blade of his knife pointed towards the small of the delivery man's back.  Coletrane had come to believe that the old guy possessed supernatural abilities learned in some Tibetan monastery.  What other explanation could there be for the stunts he had pulled?  But he didn't seem to notice a thing as the end of his existence grew violently near.  So it was up to Coletrane to brush past the man, deflect the path of Rodney's outstretched hand with its deadly attachment, and knock his friend unconscious with an elbow to the head.

When Coletrane turned around he saw the delivery man taking the bags of food from off his bicycle.  He walked over to Coletrane and lay the bags at his feet.  The old man glanced down at the prone body of Rodney, then turned his attention back to the boy who had saved his life.

"This pay your share."

The ancient delivery man went back to his bicycle, hopped on, and rode off into the proverbial and literal sunset.  Coletrane, Cognac and Jerome watched him in wonder until he was gone from view, then proceeded to retrieve and devour the food.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Questionable Attire











I don't know. I don't even much care, really. I remain capable of seeing a black kid reading a book & not thinking of monkeys, and of seeing a white kid hanging from a branch & thinking "look at that 'little non-literal monkey' having a blast". No insult intended towards either kid.


 In this case I mostly see the point of those who are pissed at the ad because it's too hard to believe H&M didn't know better, that they didn't realize the nerves that would be hit. Certainly there are a fair number of people who see these things before someone presses send for it to go live. Not a single person at H&M voiced concern over how the photo would be perceived, particularly in this day and age, with amateur self-appointed PC police carefully scanning social media for any misstep? They had to know people would take offense and raise a fuss over this. Either they didn't care (highly unlikely) or they were courting the obvious response it would elicit. Bad publicity is better than no publicity? Like I said, I don't pretend to know H&M's motives nor do I much care. It's all too deju vu. I've seen this movie quite a few times before. The end is not going to take me by surprise AT ALL.






Here's a suggestion - Here's another.



And now for the "ending" that could be seen coming a mile away...


Amazes me how quickly the power of social media can make a company apologize and plead for mercy, yet when it came to getting the right person elected president a year ago, it was powerless. Minor accomplishments got folks puffing out chests while the achievements that most matter stay undone.










Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Recap





I began the year by giving my two cents on the subject of diversity in book publishing. We need to hear from a greater range of voices in literature. We need to amplify those of us who are telling stories in #OurOwnVoices. What we probably don't need to do is get angry and shout down every white author / white character. Diversity means everybody, including those who are currently over-represented.  But some more of those who are under-represented sure would be nice.







I made my very first book trailer! I think it's awesome. I don't know if many people outside of my household like it too. I have no idea if it's helped me to sell a single copy of Matters of Convenience. But I'm still prouder and more pleased by it than I have reasonable right to be. Go me!





A post shared by Roy Pickering (@roylpickering_author) on


Technically it was at the end of 2016 (a few days before Christmas) that my family acquired a dog. The one and only SHADOW!!!  He was a ceaseless source of amusement and affection throughout 2017. I don't know if everyone should have a dog, but certainly every WRITER should have a dog. As it turns out, I got the BEST one.







I wrote installments #1 and #2 in the Ava Appelsawse book series. One of my resolutions for 2018 is to get going on #3 while my wife completes illustrations for the first book. Publication date TBD.







Speaking of my wife, I saw how much she was enjoying Instagram so decided to join up too. I set up an account. I got hacked. I set up a replacement account. That one got hacked as well. I seriously considered surrendering but decided to give it one more shot. The third try has proven to be the charm. I still have plenty of exploring to do on there, but one treasure I did discover in 2017 was Bookstagram.







I partially embraced my inner nerd in 2017 and attended a Comic Con for the first time. It was a fantastic experience, definitely one to be repeated. Perhaps in 2018 I'll go full nerd and attend in high quality, budget bending costume. I think I'd make an awesome Black Panther.






I urged people to buy more books, particularly of the ink printed on paper variety. This is something I'll do every year until you guys are buying so many books (perhaps even some of mine) that I no longer feel the need. Until that magical moment happens, here's yet another reminder from me to BUY BOOKS.






Statues were toppled. I found this to be a good thing because those particular statues were testaments to bigotry and segregation and race based oppression and hatred. Surely a person can reside below the Mason Dixon line and be a proud southerner on account of something other than being on the losing side of the Civil War. The good guys won it for a righteous cause. Hanging on to confederate symbols of the battle to retain slavery is not a good look.





Mother Nature lost her mind and did a great deal of damage as hurricanes (and earthquakes and wildfires and...) followed each other in rapid succession. Among the devastated places was my beloved birthplace of St. Thomas, USVI. Also nearby Puerto Rico. Unfortunately we currently have a president who does not seem to realize that the people who live there are fellow Americans. He certainly doesn't believe that man caused climate change is a reality to be dealt with. Too much of 2017 was unfortunately spent being angered and sickened by Trump's behavior. But being furious all the time isn't good for the soul. Sometimes you gotta do whatever is required to generate a sense of calm even as the world is falling apart around you.






One of the ridiculously unfortunate aftereffects of the absurd election of Donald Trump (in addition to irritating Jemele Hill so much that she got herself suspended) was the normalization of Nazis by members of the media who have apparently lost their damn minds in pursuit of click bait. So I felt compelled to shout out to people in the back row who somehow missed why we fought World War II and seemingly have never seen an Indiana Jones movie or any of the countless other films and TV shows which clearly showcase that the Nazis are the bad guys.





As I began my year in blogging by writing about the diversity (or lack thereof) in book publishing, so I ended 2017 writing about Sensitivity Readers. It's a topic that inspires much passion on both sides of the debate. I wonder what a sensitivity reader might have said pre-publication of Patches of Grey, or in advance of the release of Matters of Convenience. Will manuscripts for The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse pass before the eyes of a sensitivity reader before being given a thumbs up? Probably not. But that's just a guess on my part for it's in the future, something that I along with all of you know nothing with certainty about.






Thursday, December 28, 2017

You need a book with SENSITIVITY












Becoming an editor may have ended up being very frustrating to me. I want to create my own characters/stories/worlds - not help other people do it. Yes, it's hard to find black editors & lit agents. But it's also damn hard just to find readers. And still I strive...




Of course, it's one thing to feel that the existence of sensitivity readers (which if nothing else, perhaps we can all agree is a rather terrible job title?) is an example of Political Correctness gone too far rather than seeing it as an unfortunate necessity in an excessively lily white industry.  It's another to go as far as Tucker Carlson did. Not that his snide point is entirely without merit.










Sunday, November 26, 2017

Normal Next Door Nazis?





































Readers Accuse Us of Normalizing a Nazi Sympathizer; We Respond https://nyti.ms/2i87fcm





Normalizing monsters seems to be all the rage these days.


Tough call, but if given no choice I'd rather read about Charles Manson being anti-pollution than about the charm of some random Nazi's tattoos and taste in TV shows. Fortunately I do have a choice and so elected to read neither.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

BOOKSTAGRAM



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Matters of Convenience by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Matters of Convenience

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends December 25, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway














From what I can see - authors, readers, bloggers, photographers, bibliophiles, etc. are all making a wonderful go of it. Apparently print needed to be near death for us to truly appreciate the beauty of ink on paper. What a time to be alive!





Thursday, September 14, 2017

TRUMP VS HILL



Based on very recent tweets, Donald Trump is not done feuding with Hillary Clinton. But if Trump vs. Hillary wasn't enough to satisfy him, now we have Trump vs. Hill. That would be Jemele Hill, ESPN commentator. Pretty easy to pick sides in this one. Granted, Jemele Hill's area of expertise is sports - not politics. But as someone who is also a human being, Jemele is allowed to have opinions on the Clown in Chief. I suppose that in being a public figure who is a spokesperson for her employer, there are some limitations on how she chooses to express personal non-sports opinions, no matter how accurate they are. Politics is neither sports nor entertainment, despite what we often see on TV. But sometimes no matter who you work for, you just have to get something off your chest. And ESPN, a network that is supposed to be about sports and nothing but sports, has certainly spent some of its valuable air time delving into non-sports areas. They even once decided to dedicate an entire show to this subject...






If we were able to make it through that well intentioned effort from the most peculiar of messengers then surely our patriotism can take the hit of Jemele Hill calling it like it is about the man who has taken the US presidency hostage.




































Trump supporters who claim not to be bigots need to closely examine his words and deeds along with their own hearts. If they don't/won't, Michael Jackson was clearly right.