A Battle With Injustice In Words
Something happens, and your body tells you it’s wrong and you swallow the language that wants to come out. The child smacked in the mall food court, the mentally challenged man harassed by teens, the homeless woman not allowed to use a restaurant bathroom: How many times have you eaten your words?
Justice depends on our confronting that horned, bulging-eyed, vein-riddled, blood-glutted creature that lives inside us, the punishment we would have received as children if we’d called things as we saw them.
When I was 10, some neighbor kids who were always getting the belt from their drunken parents moved far across the city. I was close to the oldest, 10-year-old Patricia. They had welts and green bruises across their torsos. They were used to it. When the little ones were pushed to the ground, they giggled.
One evening a few months after they moved, they arrived, all of them exhilarated and full of stories of their multiple bus connections. They had escaped. It was astonishing. Kiki showed us his empty pocket where someone on the 81 had stolen his money. William checked out my dresser and somehow got a drip of stinging perfume in his eye, but he only laughed. Michael kept poking me in the side like he had when they lived up the hill. Patricia asked my father if they could stay with us.
My parents went into their room to talk about it. We played and joked around. Patricia and I held hands.
Then they were taken home. It was the only option, my enormous, booming father said. He would call social services.
I have never stopped imagining what happened after the kids were returned. Facebook, Google, those “I promise to find your loved one” online detectives: I don’t even remember their last name. It’s just a story, hanging out in the ether.
There are chances to do what’s right. Kids don’t necessarily have those chances, but adults do. We are together in this.
This piece, written by Susan Lindsay, is a response to the following prompt: Write about a situation in which you battled injustice.
There’s a song about how it never rains in Southern California. Not a good song, but one of those you can’t get out of your head.
I moved to L.A. when I was 20 years old with my boyfriend, Mike. He was 10 years older than me, and the relationship was made lopsided because of this age difference. I was the student — the babe in the woods; he was the always-right guy, and, as it turns out, the nearly always-angry guy.
It did rain that night, and Southern Californians were not prepared for the slick roads and low visibility, driving with their usual arrogance and aggression. Driving downtown in Mike’s beloved steel blue VW Karmann Ghia, we topped a hill too fast and went into a long skid going down, slamming into the rear of a cab that was stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk.
My head broke the windshield. Mike was unhurt and jumped out in horror to view the damage. I got out slowly, hand pressed against my bruised and bleeding forehead. Then another car came over that same rise and skidded into the back of the Karmann Ghia, turning his vintage sweetheart into a compressed accordion. “My car! My car!” he wailed.
In the drippy, dreary rain he dealt with the police, the other drivers and the tow truck while I stood under an awning, invisible and unnoticed. The tow truck driver took us home to our little Santa Monica apartment. The whole way there, Mike was ranting about how it was everyone else’s fault, how people were going to pay, and then went into another whine about his goddamned car.
Fumbling with the keys to the door of the apartment, a small baby kitten from next door came mewing at the steps, clamoring to get in with us, winding her little kitten body in and around our legs. Gentle nudging would not deter her, and her kitty meows were surprisingly loud.
Mike picked up the kitten and pitched her some 40 feet into the next yard, like someone would hurl a baseball. I watched that baby kitten go flying silent into the dark. My fists clenched, my mouth opened, and a low growl came out. I brought my fist back and hit him right in the face as hard as I could. It was as though my arm and fist acted independently, and I was as surprised as he was.
It felt good to see the fast-reddening stain come up on his cheek, to lock his eyes in mine, to say to him without words what had been cooking on my back burner for months.
Write 400 words about an injustice. Use the words pierce, driftwood, and scatter in your piece. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It may be featured in a future issue of TFW.