By: Saharsh Satheesh
It was quite a cloudy day in Greenville. The thick storm clouds cluttered around the sun, obstructing even the slightest ray of sunlight. The dreaded rain season had started just days ago. Subsequently, the occasional patches of grass were damper than ever, the archaic buildings began to deteriorate even faster, and the environment as a whole felt gloomy. Even the tattered walls of buildings didn’t serve it justice. As I walked down the road, the occasional car would pass by, and the even rarer stranger would stagger past. I was in the rundown part of town. Gangs would congregate in every alley, and even the police were afraid to intervene.
Eventually, when I was passing through Sumner Avenue, as I was contemplating where I would stay, where I would eat, and who would help me, I spotted a skinny man leaning on the glass door of a restaurant, smoking away at his pipe. He was quite scrawny, even for me, and was wearing thin khakis and a white shirt, despite the weather being below 30. As he continued smoking, I noticed his dark charcoal eyes focusing onto me. I scanned my surroundings, just in case I would need to holler for help. Unfortunately, no one else had decided to stay outside while the rain poured.
The man riffled his hand through his slick, wet hair and lazily asked, “Say, where are you from? Need someth’n to eat? Where’s ya’ momma at?”
I darted my eyes to the wet concrete and began walking faster. The man shifted his weight to his right foot and stopped leaning on the glass door. My mom, before she had died, had told me to take care of myself and to trust my guts. This man gave off a wicked aura, and I knew, for sure, that his stone, black heart was smoked with malicious intent.
He took a step in my direction, and I sprinted as fast as I could, although I didn’t go far. My right foot jabbed a pothole, and my bindlestiff skidded across the concrete. The man narcotically hobbled over to me, taking his time as he enjoyed each puff of his cigarette. When he finally reached me, he picked up my bindlestick with one hand, gripped my left hand with his other hand, and yanked me off of the floor. I twitched violently and tried to signal for help but to no avail. The man pulled me inside the restaurant and sat me down at the barstool. Right before I had lost all hope, I spotted a police car cruising the roads. The policeman stopped outside the restaurant and stepped out of his car with an umbrella. Upon realizing the rain had momentarily paused, the policeman placed his umbrella back in the car. Sunlight gleamed on his red, puffy face as he strolled towards the doors of the restaurant.
The police officer exhaled heavily, took off his cap, and placed it on the coat hanger. He gagged at the smell of cigarettes and was just about to turn and leave when he realized that I was alone with a seemingly drunk man. As the police officer approached closer, I lit up with ecstasy when I realized that his holster possessed fear. The officer glided over to the stool next to me and plopped down with a “thud”. The presence of the policeman overwhelmed me with alarming safety. The man, however, was not fazed.
He staggered for a few minutes behind the counter before finally asking the police officer, “Wha’ d’ ya want?”
The policeman suspiciously squinted at the man before turning to me.
He bent over, looked me in eye, and whispered, “Boy, do you know this man?”
I hesitated and took a look at the man, who was grinning as he chugged at his cigarette. I remembered what my mom had told me: to trust my gut feeling. Tears welled in my eyes as the memory of her being shot replayed in my head. She had been a great mom, and it wasn’t her fault things ended up like it did.
I faced the policeman and slowly shook my head. The policeman asked the man a few more questions before jolting up from his seat and grabbing the man’s hands. He handcuffed him before gesturing me out of the dreaded place. I grabbed the policeman’s cap on the way out and stood by his vehicle. I glanced at the street to see a few cars passing by. In one of the cars, a family was singing the well-known song, “Birth of the Boogie.”
The policeman, at last, tossed the man into his car and was about to climb in, when he realized that he forgot his cap. I hoisted his cap into the air before placing it in his hand. The policeman smiled warmly at me and ruffled my hair before taking the cap and placing it on my head.
“A snug fit,” he exclaimed. I smiled from ear to ear with delight. He reached into his car, pulled out his umbrella and handed it to me.
“There ya’ go boy,” the policeman continued. “In life, there’ll be rainy days. But just know this: the sunny days ain’t too far behind.”
And with that, the policeman climbed into his car and drove off into the streets of Greenville. I grinned to myself as I reminisced about the event. I took a look at the umbrella. A name was faintly written on the handle: Herman Corn. I smiled as I imprinted that name into my head.
It would be 34 years before I learned that Officer Herman Corn had died in an automobile accident that very same day.
I took a step into a puddle, sloshing the water at my feet. The sun smiled down upon me and my new cap, as I skipped down the already drying sidewalk. I opened my umbrella, although it was now sunny, and continued my childish pursuit.
Saharsh Satheesh is a poet from the glorious state of Tennessee. He enjoys crafting poetry, especially that inspired by nature. Some of his poetry can also be found in Undivided Magazine; Headline Poetry & Press; and others. When he is not writing, he loves to read and play chess.