NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 17

It is not the slow motion of the car door swinging to the uneven idle of the motor that catches his eye. Nor the slight movement of leaves and branches. Somebody is watching him. A silhouette sits at the back of the billboard. The slow dangle of a bare leg is the only motion. The mesh of beams looks like a web. The billboard is empty except for the lone figure. “Goddammit!” He snatches out the pistol. “Git down!” The shadows in the trees waver and merge like a field of tall reeds marching gently under the steady touch of the wind. Nillmon wipes his mouth with his sleeve. “Nigger, can’t you hear?” The figure, almost liquid in his giant movements, begins a slow descent, swinging across a shaft of sunlight like an acrobat. He drops to the ground and stands. A muscular black youth. Bands of fading light make imperfect angles and spears across his red shirt and black arms. “Who else is up there?” “My brother.” “All right, move!” The tall youth slides into motion on the path made by children. But he carefully steps around the beams, over a few rocks, and proceeds toward the road. “Black boy, I’m goin to see you put every piece of that glass back in place.” Nillmon watches the rear of the figure moving down the path, and he feels a rush of blood to his head when he thinks of the bullet going right through the dark head. “I didn’t break it,” the youth says without turning around or slowing his pace. “Nigger, you in trouble,” says Nillmon. They reach the car. The youth is looking straight ahead. “Aside from gettin your ass beat, and payin for that glass, you goin to jail. Git in.” The youth turns slowly — as if in some fearful trance — and is about to look squarely at the other man, but instead he rivets his eyes on the white man’s neck. “Boy, what’s your name?”Nillmon asks. Cowbells sound up the road. The youth shifts his weight, wets his lips, and looks off. Far, far down the road, cows gather at a fence and a voice yells, a dog barks, and then the cattle neck into the crossing, and some are mooing. “Fon.” “Goddamnit, Fon what?” The sun has almost fallen. The shadow of the car bounces nervously. Then it stops. “Alfonso.” Nillmon squeezes the pistol butt. This boy ain’t no halfwit. Nillmon knows he is going to break him now. The nigger is trying to act bad. Maybe he’d break him later.Maybe Gus and Ed would want a piece of him. He looks at the youth and he can’t decide whether he is bad or not. He hates to see a fool-headed nigger get it. No fun in it. He sees a thin line of smoke coming from the back seat of his car. Sniffing and leaning, he sees that his back seat, where the black stone landed, is smoldering. “Set fire to it, too, eh?” He moves toward Fon. He swings his foot upward, aiming for Fon’s rear. Seeming to anticipate the move, Fon, without moving his legs, twists his back and avoids the blow, which strikes the air. “Nobody threw that rock from there,” Fon says. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Then he snaps his neck back toward the road for a second look. Nillmon attempts to approach the figure. The youth is standing with the weight of his body on one leg.Nillmon stops in front of him and searches for signs of resistance. The youth holds his head level, but his eyes glare outward, always away from the eyes of the white man, as if they were protecting some secret. Nillmon searches the billboard and trees. The nigger is a half-wit. 15 He smothers a strange impulse to laugh and spits down the incline, jerking his eyes toward the road, over the levee cotton and through the trees.