Honorary Earthling

by Nisi Shawl

Yes, they are cute, very cute. And you better believe they know it, too. Who’s in charge? Yes, that’s Corgis for you. Aren’t we lucky Seattle lets dogs ride the bus? I don’t think they’d understand if someone were to tell them they couldn’t. Probably they would blame me.

Thank you, but you don’t need to move anything—well, thank you! I surely do appreciate a chance to sit down. Mighty white of you, as they used to say….

Go ahead; they won’t bite. There you—Now, Cookie! You don’t mind? Okay, if you’re sure—I have heard that dog spit’s hygienic, that it can kill most germs. You’re sure? Awww, looky there! Pattycake, she’s usually a bit more standoffish, but she likes you, too. Evidently. Well all righty then!

That’s probably why. It may sound silly, but I’ll bet they can smell them on you, which makes you pretty interesting to their noses. How long since you were with—Years? Light years? Oh, you’re making a funny! I bet you wish you’d brought them along, especially now you’ve found out that Metro’s set up so they could be riding all around town right with you.

Oh, it’s an excellent system! I’ve lived here most of my life, but I often ride the bus in other towns, when I’m visiting relatives or on a vacation. We have the nicest, most polite bus conductors.

No, of course you didn’t have to pay when you got on. When you’re coming out of the Ride Free Area, you pay as you’re getting out of the bus. Some people say it’s so complicated, but that’s how I remember it. Oh, are you? Nothing much out here, this late at night, but if those are your directions. Well, certainly, I don’t mind holding it for you while you find your change, but let me just switch Cookie’s and Pattycake’s leads to the other hand—There.

This is it? Here, I’ll pull the cord for—Ma’am? Where’d she—Ma’am, you forgot your paper!

Yes, Driver, that was me. But I didn’t want this stop—No, nor the next one. I was doing it for that other lady. Well, you must have; she was sitting up here right next to me.



The Vanishing Hitchhiker

Legend: A man bidding his unusual hitchhiker goodbye discovers that she has disappeared. He later learns his mysterious passenger died in that exact location a year earlier.

Variations: Sometimes the ghost is identified through a personal item left behind in the car, or the sweater or coat the driver lent his spectral passenger is found draped over her tombstone. Very rarely, the passenger is identified as an extraterrestrial or a visitor from the future by an obscure joke or pun, or by some otherworldly artifact.


Findeverthinyouneeded? Oh. Guess you did. What you tryna say? You change your mind? Okay. Okay, maybe I can answer your—No, I don’t. No, I didn’t. I—I didn’t realize that. You positive they’s only on the things for black folks? No, I don’t use none a these products myself. Yeah, I do get a discount, but see, but my Big Mama, she’s a beautician, so she give me the good stuff, salon formula and all like that.

Well, yeah, I agree. I mean, obviously. I mean, what, white people don’t steal nothin? Sure. Ridiculous. Right. Either they oughta put them security tags on everything, for whites and blacks, or on nothin at all. Uh-huh. I’ll tell ‘im.

No he ain’t. ‘Cause it’s a Sunday. Sunday night, he got better things to do than hang around in here. Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like that. Wartells’ all right.

I will. Only, you know. How it is. Yeah, you know.

Be about half an hour. No, I ain’t doin nothin after. Goin home; kids gonna be expectin me. Uhhh, no, I rather not. I—Nothin against gays—my younger sister one—but—

Oh. Sorry.

Sorry. I just sorta assumed….Anyway, that’s the genuine gospel truth bout my kids waitin up for me. Little Shinel, she think I can help do her trigonometry.

You could? Well, maybe, then, if you don’t have nothin else better to do. And you don’t mind waitin? There some chairs for people on the wall by the pharmacy….

…Ready? I’ma start turnin out the lights now. Ready? Where you—you still in here? Hey?


Last Days

The Week in Review

Sunday, September 20 The week kicks off with a Close Encounter of the Clueful Kind. Hot Tipper Jacquetta writes that while finishing her shift at Wartell’s on Broadway she was approached by a “ghost woman” who looked “just like me.” The spectral twin raised a special spectral fuss about black hair care products tagged with security devices while equivalent products for white folks were apparently available to anyone who felt like a little shoplifting. The ghost woman then offered to help Jacquetta’s daughter Shinel with her math homework, but disappeared before the harried Wartell’s worker could lock up and take her twin home to make good on the offer. “She vanished without a trace,” Jacquetta informed Last Days, “and I was by the one door the whole time. She couldn’t have sneaked out past me—Not possible. It’s really weird.” Even weirder: later in the week Shinel will ace her trig test, scoring 95 of a possible 100.


‘Course I stopped for you. I could tell you were all right. I could just tell. I’m a good judge of character. Car break down? Yeah. Mighta happened to anyone.

You have to watch out, though, around here. Some of the ones that live in this neighborhood, I don’t even like to think myself of what they get up to, let alone talk about it. Vainness thy name is woman. Dyein their hair’s the least of it. They put holes in themselves, holes right through their bodies in places Jesus never meant ‘em to go. How do I—please. I mean, come on, they make certain, they come on out and tell you about it, seems as if they want you to, you know….

Thanks. 97 Toyota. They made some pretty good vans. Had to paint it white myself. Yeah, I fixed it up nice. Messy back there now, though, can’t let you see it. No, don’t—no, I said—I’m not hiding anything, I—

Sure. Next offramp. We’ll get some gas, a bite to eat, stretch our legs a bit, you can lay down a while on—I got a mattress, but I need to kinda straighten things up a minute first—

Meanwhile, what say we listen to some tunes? That box on the floor between us has my tapes. You dig Pink Floyd? The radio works all right but the only thing they have is that rap on most stations. No, the knob next to—no, that’s the flashers—Damn! The police are right behind us! Turn it off! You just push the same button you—Right there! Right—No, push it! It ain’t supposed to come off like that. Try stickin i—Hellfire! They’re gonna want us to pull over. I gotta—Gimme that! You—where’d you—Hey! Where’d you go—Where’d he—Oh my God! My God! My—





Two dirty white high top sneakers stagger unsteadily along the road’s shoulder. Tracked by camera for several steps, they soon exit frame to right.


Medium long shot of wrecked white Toyota van lying on its side, presumably on same highway.


(No visuals – sirens only)



Tight focus on wrecked van reflecting flashing lights. Pull back to reveal police and plainclothes examining interior.

OFFICER TOBIAS peers over flashlight beam.


Nope, no sign of any passenger. Maybe they got away same as the driver?


(From off screen) Only one set of tracks, and not much blood….

Sounds of hammering, screech of wrenching metal.


Awww, no, ugh, god, I—

Sounds of retching, groans, splattering.


What? Alvarez, you okay?

Looking up from his examination of the van’s forward compartment, Tobias walks quickly to the van’s rear. Camera follows. Head and shoulders shot of him as he views sight that made Alvarez lose her lunch, but we don’t see what he does.

Hey, Rice, honey, you wanted blood? Back here.

Rice appears in frame.


Oh Jeezus. Jeezus.

Several short flashes of seminude female form colored in various reds from lights and spilled blood, splayed unnaturally on side-slumped mattress.

No way an accident did this.


Well, it’s not a secret now how come the driver fled the scene….


China. Shooting a documentary on global warming and adaptations in aquatic insects….Yes, quite interesting, actually. Because we seem to be living in one of those moments, those junctures in punctuated evolution when the paradigm doesn’t just shift, it leaps some chasm formerly supposed to be unbridgeable, or at least only by long eons. And yet—you know, I believe I’ve come to expect the unexpected. An open mind and all that.

Well, my grandmother, for instance. She was an exceptional woman. Only had a grade-school education, formally speaking, but a special mind, great powers of memorization. Yet, what could she, a black woman, do with mental gifts like that? Whereas I graduated from one Ivy League university and I teach, I’m a tenured professor here at another. Yes, and a black man is president of the United States, let’s not forget that.

My point being, who could have foreseen such a set of circumstances? Not she. On the other hand, she never entirely ruled them out. Open-minded. It only shows you.

So, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself, then? New here, I take it—I flatter myself that I know all the other academic brothers in this neck of the woods. What’s your area? Rather not say? This is a small town; no privacy to speak of, so you might as well—

Really? Cultural anthropology as opposed to forensic or anything like that, I take it. Of course. What was your thesis, then?

Not precisely original—Oh, I don’t mean to be rude. Sorry, I shouldn’t let my mouth run ahead of my thoughts that way. I don’t usually—my excuse, I guess, is that you somehow make me feel as if I could say anything. Almost like talking to myself; that’s how I’d put it if anyone pressed me.

What I meant was, the idea that mimicry is pedagogical is merely an outgrowth of the whole “learning-by-doing” philosophy everyone was embracing during the 70s. And its roots are even further in the past, apprenticeships and so on—But you’re right, it’s always possible to place a new spin on an old idea, and it’s certainly not my field….

Oh, “ontology of embeddedness,” I like that. Bet your advisors did, too.

Well, it’s been a pleasure, but this is my block here, and—Oh, I’ll be fine. Don’t let the cane fool you. Besides, I’m sure the shuttle driver is perfectly capable of helping me, and after all, it’s what she’s paid for. Well, if you insist….

Yes, just the two, that black one with the wheels and the duffle bag with the dragon embroidered on the side….Anywhere there on the porch will do, thanks.

Hey! Wait! Hey! Can you believe that? She simply drove off and left you here! Must think because we’re both African American we live in the same house, like we’re related or—Racism, pure racism. All it is. Can’t say it’s anything else. Well.

Well, now what? Why don’t you come on in, use my phone, call a cab? No, no trouble. Honestly.

It—it seems to be stuck. No, this is the right key, turns in the lock. It’s the damn door. Pardon my French. Frame must’ve warped in the heat—I’ve been away all summer and, well, I apologize. I don’t know what to say, I’m so embarrassed. I was only attempting to help you and—but I’m sorry. No, you don’t need to stay any longer, though how you’re going to get home, I have no idea—and your luggage—Well, you could try it. If you want a running start, I’ll—let me stand back here and—all right. Have at it!

Thank goodness! I don’t mind telling you, it’s been a long day. A long trip. I’ve really, really been looking forward to sitting down in my kitchen with a nice cold beer. Come on in. You’re welcome to share.



No comment needed, but be my guest

Posted by: Great Joukoujou

Category: Angry at the Police

September 27, 2009


A man’s home is his castle. Unless you’re black.

If you haven’t heard about this one yet, [link]here’s a fairly objective account[end link]. Basically, Harvard Professor Harold Woolrich was arrested for breaking into his own home. Chip, as his friends call him, is 60 years old and walks with a cane, but they had the nerve to handcuff the man. And lock him in a cell.

Like the Cambridge cops would do that to any white professor.

Tags: Woolrich arrest, Harold Woolrich, racial profiling


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Lady Dane: Sometimes I am ashamed of my people.

browbomber: Man, I heard of driving while black, but this is the first time I know of someone got arrested for drinking a beer in their own kitchen while black. What next, watching Saturday morning cartoons while black? They gonna start draggin off little black boys and girls?

Priorities: Profiling is okay when it’s scary neegrows with imaginary friends.

Parallax: Right, what was that about that second beer sitting across the table from him? And the neighbor who called the cops in the first place, she said there were two African American men breaking and entering. Scarier in groups than by theyselves.

FanFan: Lucky they didn’t put him in a straight jacket.

currious: [link]Charges have been dropped[end link]. Not that this isn’t still completely appalling.

FanFan: Specially since the idiot that arrested Chip [link]refuses to apologize[end link]!

Parallax: Yeah, the cop claims Chip was tryin to weasel out of the charges by pleadin insanity.

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‘Course I stopped for you. That’s one of the best parts of having a car:  getting to give people rides. Not so long since I was out there thumbing myself. Don’t you think it’s kinda dangerous for a woman at night all by herself? Yeah, and I did have some close calls.

A musician. That’s what all the equipment back there is about: keyboard—a Clavinet, actually; bass guitar—

Oh, you mean, “What am I?” Adopted. Not sure.

That right? You kidding? You too? That’s crazy!

Well, I do sort of see a resemblance, now you mention it. Have you ever figured out what your background is? Absolutely no clue, but, well I used to have all these wild theories. Indians: Sioux? Kiowa? Cree? Or I always wondered about maybe some of the Alaska tribes. Or Chinese, Japanese….

Wow. What were the chances we’d run into each other this way, I’d see you hitching and pick you up? Just, wow.

We might even have the same parents. Hey, you ever, you know, gotten into music? Singing, or you play an instrument maybe? That box down by your feet has a bunch of harmonicas in it, if you wanna—Well even if you haven’t before, they’re fairly easy to get the hang of.

Take your pick. Okay, hand me one, I’ll show you a couple tricks. Aw, come on, you gotta at least try. Put it in your mouth like this—right—and breathe. In is one note and out is another—each of those little holes—Good!

Awright, here we go. I’ll lead, and you follow and copy me:

“You get a line, I’ll get a pole, honey;

You get a line, I’ll get a pole, babe;”

Nice! You catch on fast! Next chorus we’ll have to institute us some harmonies.

“You get a line, I’ll get a pole;

We’ll go down to the crawdad hole;

Honey, sugar baby mine.”

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