by Camille A. Collins
Manfred took the path that crossed in front of the National Museum, flipping up his collar to cover his ears. It wasn’t that cold. He was a Chicagoan, he knew cold. It was just that in haste he’d forgotten his cap and now a draft crept up his back that made him shiver.
He spat a taut syllable of laughter, remembering Charlene the night before. Fifty-five years old and intoxicatingly beautiful; pathos and misery marking her face, evidence of her lust for sweets, liquor and fries resting on her hips―she was worn, berated by life, yet still comely.
Charlene was a great…what would have been the term? Man would have needed a wife in order for Charlene to classify as a mistress; they weren’t what you’d call committed. Girlfriend, confidante, Man figured Charlene fell somewhere in between.
“Remember me in your prayers,” she’d said, as she rose gracefully from the bed, shrugging into a cheap slip in a depressingly garish shade of red.
Man laughed. “Lord knows, if I was a holy roller I wouldn’t be here in the first place.”
“That don’t mean you can’t pray. I need all the help I can get. And that reminds me,” she bent now to lace the front of her faux leather boot, “I gave you them numbers in good faith. Don’t go sharing them with people what hasn’t paid or been authorized…”
This really tickled him. Man rolled onto his side, clutching his belly, beset by silent giggles. Charlene’s serious posturing―as though she were some CIA operative is what got him; she was all business and discretion. But somehow, she’d come through.
He’d been skeptical the first time he dialed the number, but as far as he could tell it was legit.
“Good evening, Mr. Thomas please.” He’d been taken aback, expecting voice mail, or that endless, unanswered, ring, ring.
“Mr. Clarence Thomas?”
“Yes?” A snap of annoyance.
Man abruptly disconnected the call on the cell phone he’d registered in his dead brother’s name. He’d been caught off guard. What’s more, he was almost chagrined by the relative ease with which he’d gained access. What was the world coming to, when you could buy the phone number of a Supreme Court Justice off a doting waitress for a couple hundred bucks? Which is not to say Man didn’t realize he’d been ripped off, it was just that he was sweet on Charlene and had easily capitulated, not wanting to haggle her price.
“Damn me!” He hissed. He’d forgotten to say Justice. “Justice Clarence Thomas,” he’d meant. Clarence Thomas the bus driver, pharmacist or school principal was not who he was after. The most accessible audio of Thomas in the public domain was pretty outdated; from the days of the Anita Hill controversy that broke open during his confirmation hearings. Judging from the brief snippet the man on the phone had uttered, he sounded a good deal like the Thomas he’d listened to again and again on those tapes, but the tapes were dated twenty years, and how could Man be sure?
He could have tested the waters on Clarence Thomas the bus driver, but he would have felt too embarrassed.
He smiled again, remembering Charlene. She’d never once asked why he wanted the numbers. Charlene was cool like that.
Man hadn’t expected to feel lonesome at the steps of the court building. He sucked a draught of cold air into his lungs, accepting the solitude. He realized then that he would have been more comfortable in daytime, with people shuffling about. Isolation made his thoughts perverse. He considered peeing on the front steps, or hollering Jonathan’s name into the frost; an anguished libation sent up into the bleak, black nighttime. Regardless, he was convinced some guard would emerge to chase him away eventually.
The surrounding streets were dead quiet. A light snow had begun to fall, masking the old one that had lain dirty and iced over for days. The groaning slabs of white marble were unshakable, and Man realized his plan had already met a dead end. He should not have gone down there. He alone was too meager a force to confront anything. Yet, he loathed the very notion of wasted time.
He had an idea of how to dispense some of his tension, but he was hesitant realizing the discomfort that would come of it, for he’d forgotten his cap, and he shivered at the thought of insurgent snowflakes sneaking under his collar. No matter, he decided. Gritting his teeth, he lunged into the snow. Flapping arms and legs, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, he cut a perfect snow angel right there at the nation’s highest court, and thought, so there, so there.
Though he walked a direct path down New York Avenue afterwards, Man felt as though he’d spent a lifetime in a circuitous preamble, never able to push into the initial chapter of anything. He cupped his cold hands around a bowl of chili he’d scraped from a tin and warmed in the small microwave that stood atop the bureau in his studio apartment and switched on the TV. A re-broadcast of the ten o’clock news was on, which meant dinner with his ladylove. Newscaster Amala Nasif was what you might call a millennial American, for it was impossible to tell whether she was Middle Eastern, Black, Pacific Islander or some alluring mix of all three. Like one of those expensive teas, popular nowadays, where no one flavor overpowers the other―a little Darjeeling, vanilla, orange blossom―Man knew that whatever Amala’s blend, it was smooth, delicious, lovely.
Amala Nasif was the type of girl he never would’ve gotten in real life, whereas Jonathan would never have settled for anyone less striking. Sure, it would have been amazing to capture Amala’s imagination, even for a fleeting instant. Imagine how gratifying, her bursting out of that CBS van, ripping her stockings in a rush to get his story on tape. But a John Hinckley type stunt was out of the question. Man didn’t have the gut, the nerve for felony crime. If he’d had the chance, he would have pursued her the old-fashioned way. The elegant presentation of a single, wholly unique flower: scarlet rhododendron or silver orchid, and a few lines of poetry—some James Monroe Whitfield perhaps. Man could tell that along with inspirational beauty, Amala was also cerebrally endowed. He pictured her alone in a café in contemplation of a rubaiyat of the Masnavi.
Man was pretty sure Amala was the sort of girl who would’ve been sympathetic to the ordeals of a Black man, rendered poetically by the pen of a master such as Whitfield. 1In vain thou bid’st me strike the lyre, and sing a song of mirth and glee, or kindling with poetic fire, attempt some higher minstrelsy; in vain, in vain! For every thought that issues from this throbbing brain, is from its first conception fraught, with gloom and darkness, woe and pain.
The seamless ease with which each part of the scheme unfolded was illusory. How deftly had Charlene procured the number before he’d gone and botched the call? Now, here was his impossible reflection in mirrored glass. Decked out in his uncle’s old suit, he’d patted a handful of talc at either temple to make gray, fitted himself with old glasses from Good Will, and magic; just as that skateboard kid had said after looking him up and over when he’d sat that afternoon in Lincoln park in full regalia.
“Whoa. You almost had me there, dude. Seriously, it’s un-fucking-canny.”
Of course, that hadn’t been the first time.
To stay calm, Man convinced himself he was getting stares and double takes as he strode down 15th Street because it was early February and he hadn’t bothered with an overcoat. Each step forward seemingly propelled him deeper into some numbing state, which in his detachment he dubbed euphoria. As he neared the court building, his eyes were trained, not on the monuments that loomed before him, but on some intangible slice of manna he’d yet to earn.
Faster, faster, he was as lithe as Fred Astaire. And with the velocity of his steps his soul sparkled in a sort of naive bliss, whereas his mind had all but fallen blank. As such, the satisfaction of impulse, more than detail or planning, became the primary objective.
At some point, one must acknowledge who they really are, he thought. Man realized that though he was a childless, single man, he was prone to great passions some simply did not understand. Marsha Wilcox’s cranky voice still split his ear twenty years after she’d quit speaking to him. “Something just ain’t right bout a man with his nose always pressed up on the glass of other folks’ lives. You act like you happy just living through other people, not living.” Chastened by Marsha’s tongue, Man never ran into her and her new boyfriend down by the lakeside Sunday afternoons ever again. It was only because she’d left him so abruptly that he felt compelled to mark her steps, grasping at the traces of her perfume, wondering why.
Now ardor sent him lurching a second time, because despite every difference that made them polar opposites, Jonathan had reciprocated every bit of his devotion and then some. Jonathan who was smooth; a boss, a lady killer, still looked up to him as though he were too much a fool to realize his older brother was an utter social failure.
“You his man alright,” mother used to say, “bout the only daddy he got in this world.”
Man tore up that pavement in tight leather lace ups because memories of fooling around in the pantry, surreptitiously replacing that tar-tasting Alaga syrup Mama liked with Log Cabin stolen from the corner store, was sweeter than the syrup itself. Because, in two feet of tepid bathwater they were both Jacques Cousteau, until Jonathan timed a fart to coincide with Man’s exploration of the Great Barrier Reef, that sent him tripping out the bath, sloshing a tidal wave of water as he went, the two of them laughing a muted, mouth-gaping laughter that made their sides ache.
Up the steps of the court building Man continued his ballet. Leaving off the coat was not a design, just an oversight borne of nerves, but it ended up perfectly because now he glided inside, feeling as close to elegant as he ever would, whereas with a coat he surely would have begun to perspire.
Man swept into the building at the northwest door. This was his first mistake. He felt the gaze of the young, white guard settle on his face first. Then they locked eyes, and this contact jolted the young man further, spurring him to motion.
“Mr. Thomas?” The young guard appeared befuddled. Swiftly, two other guards, swept in closely on either side.
“Justice Thomas? Everything alright Sir?”
The fact that Man wasn’t carrying any I.D. only served to complicate the situation. It didn’t matter to him whether Justice Thomas typically entered the court through the southwest doors along with everyone else; it had never been about detail, but about passion, movement. As the police questioned him at length, Man savored what little success he’d known. For several blocks during the whirl of rush hour, he’d made countless individuals think twice. Again and again he’d recognized the, Wait, what? expression on people’s faces, then the requisite, head shaking denial that immediately follows. Naw, couldn’t be. Wouldn’t he have an armed guard, a limousine or something?
Though he had not specified for himself any precise aim upon entering the courthouse, he was surprised by the swelling rage he felt when the guards surrounded him so quickly. He had hoped to go further. Oak paneled offices, embossed stationary, tomes upon tomes lining tall shelves; he imagined the very fury in his eyes sufficient to spark the entire mess into flames.
He hadn’t pictured himself kicking over the trash can, wrestling with the guards until guns were drawn and the Metropolitan PD called in to file a report. All along he’d pretended he wasn’t angry in order to keep his head for as long as possible, to maintain that pure white expanse of nothingness; a long buffet draped in white, the delicacies—rewards for good behavior—yet to be laid out.
Nose always pressed up on the glass of other folks’ lives…But it wasn’t like that. “How do you think I feel?” Man was startled by the voice that rose and echoed inside the courthouse foyer. It was petulant, injured; the voice of one at the door of an irretraceable passage. Elegance had been fleeting. He was soaked around the neck. A wolfish odor rose from the pits of his arms. How do you think I feel? The shattered sounding voice cried out again.
Man might have been a great many things, but he was no fool. A high-tech lynching seemed a pretty lucky way to go. What about unwarranted searches falling perfectly into the hand of an inequitable cop, angry with your gorgeous, winsome brother for stealing away his girl? For Jonathan had lived with his eye trained on that same, intangible reward of heaven that Man had; as if skulking around cop bars with an attitude wasn’t baiting suicide.
Man had heard the scuffle from inside. Framed inside the windowpane of the drafty Chicago apartment on 79th and Stony, he’d looked down at the alleyway. Only later he’d learn that the burly black one was plain clothes, but Jonathan must have known it all along.
Though Man witnessed every move, it seemed the entire scene unfolded like some abstract modern dance he couldn’t follow. First there were words he couldn’t decipher, only the posture of Jonathan and the black cop; neck muscles tensed, bared teeth, and silent words shooting back and forth like bullets. Then in one swift, graceful maneuver, Jonathan had been thrown over the back of the unmarked car, cuffed and frisked, his face pressed so hard against it Man feared his pretty features would leave an indentation. In poorly rehearsed triumph, the black officer lifted the bag of rock, waving it like a little parade flag, as if to say, ah, ha!
With heightened emotions, volume increased.
“Come on baby, this is how you ended up alienating yourself from Shauna in the first place. The proto-masculine, killer cop shtick. Makes you come off like an asshole. Abuse of power just isn’t sexy my man.”
Man stood frozen, tensed inside that windowpane thinking, Shut up, Jonathan! Just shut up!
“Some fools never learn.” The burly black officer shook his head, before tagging Jonathan in the face with a mouthful of spit. “Something tells me though, the lesson will sink in this time. You shut your damn mouth now and wait and dispense all that wisdom to your new buddies inside.”
They should have stopped at handcuffs and the rough manipulation of his body. There was no excuse for the fierce stomping and wailing; Jonathan’s face had fallen, placid and expressionless behind a mask of blood—and still he was so beautiful.
Man wept and wailed like a little boy and beat with his fists against the fastened window, knowing that to descend the stairs in a panic to take up for his baby brother would probably get them both killed. He knew no greater impotence, no greater devastation, than standing frozen within that frame, watching as the two officers threw Jonathan’s limp body into the back of the car and drove away.
“My baby,” Mother shook her head reflectively, a cautious smile tracing her lips. “My wild in the streets child. Lord, I don’t know how he gets by!” She chuckled softly.
“You mean you don’t know how he manages not to get caught?” Man loved Jonathan, maybe even secretly idolized him, but to see his own mother, a woman who pretty much lived by the good word, a woman for whom the refrain “for who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?,” fell as easily from her lips as the tears she shed every time rent was due and her funds insufficient, taken in by Jonathan’s game like all the other wide-eyed chicks hoping for a shot, brought both a searing furor and the dread of his own insurmountable defeat.
Was Mother’s faded smile prompted by the memory of the time her living room was strewn with flowers; roses, lilies, Matsumoto asters, orchids and God knows what? A bacchanal of flora fit for a king’s consort, occupying worn sofa seats with tufts of stuffing exposed, the scuffed coffee table with the uneven legs, and every inch of worn, dirt darkened carpet—muscled out of the possession of some hapless florist? (Man didn’t even want to contemplate it). Or had it been on account of the time he hired a Rolls Royce, replete with a uniformed driver, to whisk mother to one of the city’s storied hotels for a feast of surf and turf, molten chocolate cake and champagne—every last dime paid for by the hustling executive assistants, teachers, cashiers, strippers and nurses who, without the benefit of any promise, happily handed over their stacks, Jonathan’s diamantine smile, magnetism, and deity-like charisma their only recompense? Jonathan got away with it because he was smart enough to distance himself from his transgressions, buffered by his victims, and never leaving a paper trail. Like Mama, he was righteous in his treason, taking most of his risks for her, (stealing from Shaunta to charm Amanda, or keep Ebony on lock), while otherwise exercising pious personal restraint; spoiling himself with the odd watch or whip, sure, and not much else. On paper he was still pristine as a baby, so that it was his votes, his dissents that branded Jonathan—and it would always be Man who, no matter how indirectly, would be responsible for what came next.
“Man, please come get me man.” The voice was so weak, timid sounding, as if a mouse were making a prank call. He wasn’t crying, was he? Not Jonathan. Man was loath to believe it. A grown man’s tears were worse than blood.
Ineffective behind glass, Man was quick to action when the phone rang at three a.m. Because Jonathan had no priors, he was released on bond. Man crawled beneath the iron bed frame to retrieve his stash, emptying mayonnaise jars and Quaker oat containers until he had enough.
New sunlight yawned and stretched its rays out over the city as the cab pulled up to the apartment. It had been almost impossible to help Jonathan up the stairs, because no matter where Man tried to hold him, he winced and moaned in pain. Man sweated with the effort of carefully removing his clothes. Every opened button revealed a fresh horror. Purple-black bruises, busted skin, and dime sized burns that appeared to have come from a cigar. Man knew there were broken bones, possibly internal injuries.
“You got to let me take you in Jonathan, so we can make sure you’re not bleeding on the inside,” Man implored belatedly, desperate now to redeem the bankruptcy of his wooden stance inside that window frame.
“Naw, man.” Jonathan insisted. “It’s gone do what it’s gone do.” After numerous pleas Manfred resigned then to lay his precious brother down, in pierced flesh and broken bones―and hope.
“Don’t worry, Man. I’ll be alright. I can feel it.” His little brother moaned.
Jonathan survived that night and others to come, but he wasn’t destined to make old bones. The first two years after he died, Man found solace in the public library. Every day he sifted through law journals, books and internet sites, slowly building a bridge between the cause of Jonathan’s demise and that which he most loathed―which essentially were one in the same.
The evidence was all there. If his stance on Fourth Amendment rights wasn’t so strongly in favor of law enforcement, the police never would’ve been able to search Jonathan without a warrant; planting those rocks on him in the alley right behind his own home. If it weren’t for the Justice’s ruling in Desdemona vs. Illinois, which permitted random searches on parolees, Jonathan wouldn’t have ended up right back inside after his eighteen-month sentence, because the very same cops, still thirsty with vendetta, wouldn’t have been able to pick him off the streets at random. Never mind that in the second instance, Jonathan was partially culpable. He’d started selling weed, and was carrying the second time Tweedledum and Tweedledee came around to remind him of their abiding adoration. Still, a little marijuana doesn’t spell death for most people, but Man could tell as he sat at the back of the courtroom during the second trial, that the thin, ravenous young man, with pretty cornrows in his hair and a distractingly dimpled smile that appeared far too often given the gravity of the matter at hand, wasn’t likely to survive a second go inside Cook County.
Man received the call from the warden, the epilogue to his baby brother’s strange, irrevocable fate having finally been written. He almost felt relief when the blade finally dropped because he no longer had to go on fearing the inevitable blow. Man was devastated but not surprised that Jonathan found himself in a conflict with a surly inmate on a life sentence that a neon smile and Casanova swerve were insufficient to resolve. For that was Jonathan, vital and alive, brimming with fervor for the moment at hand; a gorgeous supernova who’d blazed through three decades like a streak of fire, and it seemed to Man Jonathan was life, for he’d never seen anyone so torrid, so hell bent on living.
A library card alone cannot erase the stain of blood. The emission of grand, heaving sobs behind the door of a cold bathroom while a brother’s blood washes down the drain is, in effect, useless. Man knew that if he were to ever make peace with Jonathan’s fate, and Mother’s demise of a broken heart shortly thereafter, he’d have to succeed in the one thing in which he’d always failed. Nose pressed up on glass. He’d have to move from the sedentary throne of a library chair into some type of action.
Three days after the incident at the courthouse, Man picked up that cell phone with a trembling hand and redialed the number. The voice on the other end was as startling the second time as it had been the first.
“I…I don’t have Michael Jackson money, for to bleach out my face…”
“Excuse me? Who’s speaking?”
“Manfred. I’m a man…”
“Well, it seems you’ve got the wrong…”
“No!” Man screamed. “Please sir, you’re a public servant. You can give a moment. You owe me that! Please don’t hang up, just hear me.”
“Very well, I’ll count ten.”
“See beforehand, I was caught up in appearance and such. But now I realize it’s an internal thing. An infestation on the inside, running all through my blood…”
Thomas emitted a long sigh. Man scrambled to finish his thoughts, worried he would hang up any second.
“Fact is. I don’t know how to come to terms with it. Even if nobody can taste the poison or see the doubt clogged up all on the inside, I know they’re there. How’s a man supposed to reconcile himself to such ugly stuff?”
Man panted with the effort of speaking so fast. Spitting out his final word in a fury, he couldn’t believe the phone line remained connected. He heard a rustling on the other end, a sort of quiet chortle, which let him know Thomas was still there.
Finally, that vaguely familiar voice filled the phone line.
“There’s a difference between a treatment and a cure. Sometimes our best hope is for it to be tamed temporarily, kept under control for a time. We learn to live with that which we cannot decimate entirely.”
The moments spread expansively like hours, and Man ambled towards the precipice, realizing he had nothing left to lose.
“With all due respect, can we take you for example, sir? Even if all the inner stuff is hidden, ‘tamed’ as you say, how can you stand it? How can you bear to just sit by, rotting to the core, looking on in shadow like a dissolute voyeur?” Man had planned it, writing down his words very carefully. Now he spoke his question eloquently, never having shown greater courage in all his life.
“Wait a damn minute. Are you saying what I think you are?”
Man fell silent, his innate reflexes; freezing, stopping, speechlessness, rose and hovered like a great beast; eyeing him menacingly until he retreated in fear.
Thomas was quiet for several beats, but Man could hear him breathing.
“I, I….” Thomas grasped at elusive words, but he kept on, determined it seemed to exorcise his own latent fears.
“I’m not a coquette or celebrated beauty—and I don’t enjoy the luxury of a mask. I realized early on that if I’m going to bear this existence, I can’t afford to draw unnecessary attention to myself. There’s great freedom in towing the line. I savor the hours at the crest of dawn and at nighttime, when I find rest under cover of gloaming, blue-black skies. Moreover, did it ever occur to you, that this is me at my best? What would you have me say about the internal deficiencies of broken action figurines? Do you think I have any better notion than you why the arms and legs inevitably snap off after moderate play? Or for that matter how better to re-fashion the ending of the doomed, dark tale we’ve always known? It certainly doesn’t lend itself to a casual game of whodunit, that’s for sure.”
Justice Thomas paused to cough, and Man was suddenly struck by his power and ordinariness, both.
“And what of you Robin Hood?” Thomas teased, “which route to freedom have you cleared for these people, cursed, enslaved by generations of an incestuous folly of their own making?”
“But you… you’re in a position to repair those arms and legs…” Man offered tentatively.
“I’m in a position to live, and that’s just what I do. I live. And what of you, what’s your vocation?”
“Me? I attended a trade school, sir. I’m trained in electrical wiring and auto mechanics. But can we please go back to the question of the internalized sickness?
Is it us? Our fault? I mean, do you think it’s wise to be so dismissive? Don’t you feel people’s best efforts deserve consideration, even if they fall short? I…”
But Thomas cut in abruptly before Man could complete his thought.
“Satan isn’t at my back as much as that famed plantation that is all plantations. I feel perfectly haunted at times. But I’ve suffered enough of your taunting. My soul may be fit for that blazing, prophesied lake, but I’m not an effigy—I’m a man. I’m exactly who you think I am, and yet you have the gall to stand in judgement. See to it that you relegate yourself to the dark corners of obscurity where you belong and let me have my peace. I’ve earned it as much as any ventriloquist’s dummy deserves the luxury of his own wooden box. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my wife is keeping supper.”
“But that doesn’t tell the whole story! You hardly even touched it! You speak of gloaming shadows at dawn, but what about a conscience?!” Man shouted desperately, but he was too late, Thomas was already gone. Man was left alone then to absorb the brute honesty of his words, his utter abdication of conscience, and the click of the broken phone line that abruptly severed their connection. Thomas’ anger alone was a powerful force. Man doubled over, his breath stopped by the breadth of his anger towards the man, so that he was overcome by an intense, choking gurgle, as if blood, Jonathan’s, had crested inside his throat. Tears streamed in place of words, and instantly he was overwhelmed, crumpling in shattered bones onto the floor.
In the very timbre of his voice that second time, Man knew he’d received his long-awaited answer. It was all fine and well for that other, opposing yet identical part of himself, leashed unto the world like some imprudent beast, to think himself a trickster. To hope people believed he’d wrestled every ugly, internal thing to the ground, had mastered and tamed them―but both he and Man knew otherwise.
Man realized then, that in this particular scheme, the physical and intangible, theoretical and realistic, were of equal importance. Whereas a mediocre commitment might be adequate for some, Man could not continue to tread through the waste of his own failure, and found himself desperate to escape the prison housed beneath his own flesh.
Two deep gashes crisscrossed beautifully along either wrist, and he’d rise to find that pristine buffet laden with goodies. Together with Mama and Jonathan, he’d spend eternity noshing indescribable manna.
Reality wasn’t quite so lovely. The custodian, Alvin, found his body days later. Shock made him repetitive. “First thing I did was roll him over, and his face was gone. Just eaten away. Most horrific thing I ever seen. God love me if I ever get another decent night’s sleep the rest of my life.” For months after, Alvin repeated this again and again to anyone who’d listen.
Man missed Amala Nasif on the steps of the Supreme Court, murmuring his name. “It was then, that guards opened fire. Tension has run high here all week. Though not widely reported, there was a security breach at the Supreme Court building exactly one week to the day of this horrible tragedy.” Amala moved deftly, sleek as a supermodel showing couture, step by step down the front of the courthouse as she taped her dramatic broadcast.
“Police describe Manfred Earnest as a regular civilian with one highly unusual characteristic; according to numerous eyewitness reports, Earnest bore an uncanny resemblance to Justice Thomas—such that it was nearly impossible to tell them apart.” Amala delivered each word impeccably.
“Though his motive was never clear, Earnest was taken into police custody last Tuesday for impersonating Thomas and attempting to enter a non-public area of the Court. Manfred Earnest was eventually released without charge. Today, it seems this twisted tale of mistaken identity was precipitated by Justice Thomas’s irregular use of the northwest entrance. On high alert and anxious to thwart a second breach, guards sprayed Thomas with gunfire after he became incensed at the suggestion that he show I.D.”
A mist hung heavy that morning, its gnarled and twisting shapes creating a triplet form. Curved into the visage of a man, a near tangible fog slumped on one knee, proffering a hand to his would-be-bride. His voice, a formidable gust of wind, cried thus: 2“When other children passed the hours in mirth, and play, and childish glee…I sought the wild and rugged glen, where nature, in her sternest mood, far from the busy haunts of men, frowned in the darksome solitude…To scan the old historic page, it was not where the wise and good, the Bard, the Statesman, or the Sage, had drawn in lines of living light, lessons of virtue, truth and right; but that which told of secret league, where deep conspiracies were rife, and where, through foul and dark intrigue, were sowed the seeds of deadly strife.”
Camille A. Collins has been the recipient of the Short Fiction Prize from the South Carolina Arts Commission, and her writing has appeared in The Twisted Vine, a literary journal of Western New Mexico University. Her debut novel The Exene Chronicles was published in 2018 by Brain Mill Press. She has a story in the forthcoming anthology, Black Punk Now, out from Soft Skull Press in September 2023. She likes writing about music and has contributed artist features and reviews to Afropunk, BUST and other publications.
Image: Bhargav Panchal/Unsplash
1,2 Excerpts from The Misanthropist by James Monroe Whitfield