My brother and I cut out teeth on the mean streets of Denver. We lived in neighborhoods with winos and beggars, sometimes with an aunt in the housing projects on the west side. The low life we experienced didn’t bother us much. It was all we knew. I went to a kid’s house when I was eight-years-old. His mom bought five loaves of bread for a dollar. She kept them on top of the fridge. That boy and his siblings could have bread anytime they felt like it. There was butter and sugar to put on it too. They were welcome to that as well. I had heard about rich folks but had never seen anything like that. My brother, a year younger than me, had been stripped down recently and beaten bloody by our father for sneaking a slice of bread. He bent over and grabbed his ankles, bit his lip, and refused the tears welling up and trying to push themselves out. The belt cracked and cut his skinny butt flesh until he fell down and was allowed to crawl away. Momma wiped up the blood. She was a good woman in a hard life. My brother’s Harley broke down the other day. I took some tools and helped him get ‘er runnin’. I’m glad he’s out of prison again. I followed him to my house and picked up my Hawg. I’d like to say we raised a little hell just like in the old days but it just isn’t so. Prison takes things from a man. He replaces them with other things. He ain’t never gonna be whipped no more.
There aren’t many brick streets left but he finds one in the lower part of town. His feet complain but remember the boy who owned them first. He would walk the street down, place his feet one brick each
and no crack break your Momma’s back.
The brown people look the same to him sitting in the shade of the projects, having chased the morning sun to the other side of the building, caught in mortar brick angles. “Whachoo lookin’ at white boy?”
“C’mere, give us a smoke.”
He smiles at their stiff fingers, confident that the vertical brick shade will continue to hold them prisoner
while he walks the bricks away. As he does, imagines while stepping on most each and every crack
breakin’ Momma’s back.
The black leather of his machine, unforgiving it burns his leg as he pumps to prime the carb and kicks
that ratchet sound followed by a deep thunder confirmation. There was a time when he would have answered theirs with a finger of his own.
He bump-bump rolls across the cracks. It doesn’t feel like he… Funny thing when you’re a kid, without knowing you grow away, go back and maybe one more time visit old haunts… makes you wonder if you were ever there in the first place.
He stops in front of the house where his father died in the yard, pauses to light a cigar. The row houses have been plastered over as if to hide the bricks of his father’s death. Children in the window stick out their tongues. He drops the clutch and rides away.