photo by Neil Moralee

Walking Backwards

watching the back of his bald head from down the street became the odds making game in the barbershop for the afternoon. wagers of when he would eventually fall and split that melon open, started at 5 bills. for Terrence, all bets were already off.

“hey cuz! you a’ight?” that was Elton. his cousin. backing his car into the brushless carwash. stripping the filth of acid rain and post snow sludge from his all black people mover.

Terrance stayed focused on his steps. backward. one behind the other. loose laces. the frigid wind of the winter afternoon blowing in his face. these obstacles did nothing to deter his chosen form of travel. the block knew something was different. wrong. but decided to observe, rather than interrupt.

“I will be, El!” Terrance hollered back. Elton shrugged. rolled up his window. elbow grease and shoulder power. worried, sure. but not enough to leave his routine at the moment. he might give Aunt D a call later.

between the dollar mart and what used to be a psychic’s hole in the wall — that now was nothing but a burnt out neon palm with an all-seeing and all-knowing eye — was the crack in the sidewalk that was number 4,567 on the city’s list of things to fix with tax payer dollars. number one on that list was the mayors retreating hairline, but I ain’t one to gossip, so you ain’t heard that from me.

that crack was to be the deciding factor between winning or losing your 5 beans in the barbershop’s pool. every man in that barbershop had come face to face with the pavement at the hands of that crack. in broad daylight. sober. it didn’t matter. it had your number. they named it Cracklin’. and Cracklin’ was unstoppable.

except for this day. Terrance stopped short at the edge of the canyon of Cracklin’. took one giant step back in an unsteady lunge and cleared the beast in one go. a sure bet. Campbell and Wilson who had long odds on Terrance making it, collected their winnings and split the pot. they cleared $45 a piece. part of that stack would be invested in a brown bag covered bottle of numb sauce. tonight would prove to be forgettable.

Elton had a passenger in his van. his sister Ella. short. fine. fair. her relationship with Terrance’s side of the family tree flowed deeper than the root. for her the show was over. she saw enough of her cousin to finally take action. she slipped between the lazy traffic, dodging late model japanese luxury cars that appeared to have no place in particular to go.

Ella slipped her arm through the crook of his elbow until they locked limbs, bringing his reversal to a halt.

“T”. whispering. “what’s wrong?”

Terrance stared into space, avoiding her eyes he knew would be fixed on his. a few breaths passed in and out.

“Mama. Mama passed.”

Ella stopped breathing, squinted her eyes searching for understanding.

“sorry.” breathed Ella. “but why you out here…”

“she gone. i want her back. gotta rewind. gotta rewind.”