The Irvine cops picked up Sherod
while he was riding Jimmy’s bike
to school. He’d snuck up into the scrub hills
above our complex to work on the fort
we were building with wood from a deserted
rancher’s shack. By the time he came down
to the bus stop, we were the diesel exhaust
that ferried us to our daydreaming hours.
Jimmy’s bike stood in the communal racks.
We all knew the combination to its lock
and took the Huffy as needed. Sherod’s need—
to be at Rancho Middle before his father
found out he’d never made it—his need
was one too many. Jimmy’s father,
out the door to work, saw his son’s bike
gone again, reported it stolen to the cops.
A morning patrol found the bike
underneath a black boy not in school
and hauling ass down Culver Drive.
I did not understand what adult machinations
led to my parents driving that afternoon, with me,
to the Irvine police station. My father
had emigrated from England in the 70s
and was hipped to the American scene as soon
as he started dating my mother. He got out
of our Chevette, looked back at his black wife,
his too-brown son, and said, Stay put, you two.
If he pulled that white savior bullshit now,
we’d have words. But I didn’t have that term
white savior then. Even if I’d known it,
I don’t think I would have used it that day.
Would have cared to use it. My friend was in jail
and headed to juvie, that scare story—whaled on
by high school monsters twice our size—tormenting
our nights and keeping our days straight and narrow.
I didn’t care what my father said inside the station,
with what English boys’ school curtness he said it,
with what iron-backed code of whiteness. Didn’t care
and was happy when he strode out with Sherod
trailing behind him. Sherod, who did not speak
on the ride back to our apartments, who watched rows
of eucalyptus blur by on University Avenue, who
the next morning we avoided at the bus stop,
who did not try to join us, who stood with his back
toward the bike racks, toward Jimmy’s bike, fastened
there again, with new lock, with double loop of new chain.
Copyright © 2018 Iain Haley Pollock
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.