Past Time

David stepped confidently to home base. He had a good feeling about this one. He was the best baseball player in the neighborhood, and by his own estimation, probably all of Detroit. He surveyed the field and imagined himself running the bases after smacking the ball over the fence. First base was the porch, second base the gnarled tree stump, third base, the corner of the garage. He saw himself strutting, talking shit, pumping his fists as he tagged the fence that designated “home plate."

Lucky and Rashad were in the “outfield” waiting for James to pitch the ball, waiting for David to smash it over the fence.

Lucky’s big brother, Z, was the neighborhood weed man. He was always standing in the street or sitting on his porch watching the cars drive up.

Rashad was starting to hang out with Z. His real goal was to be a rapper. He hoped that Z would have his back and front him money for studio expenses. Worse case, he could start selling himself, just enough to make the money he needed to get started in the rap game.

James was going to go to the NBA. He looked up to his big brother Pookie, who was a high school superstar and almost made it big. Colleges have so many rules about grades and tests. Just enough to keep real niggas out of the running. James knew he’d have to go straight from high school to the pros.

Leroi was kind of weird. He sucked at sports, and would always leave early to go inside and read. He usually was a placeholder until someone else came along. If there was an odd number he wouldn’t get picked, or if he was adamant about it, he’d be the substitute.

Bam Bam had the best video games. He usually was gone on weekends, visiting his father or other family members.

That’s just the challenge of being the best. Sometimes you have to carry the weight of the whole team. Especially when you pick second. Bam Bam was on second base, one orange and blue Patrick Ewing propped against the old stump. Leroi was on deck, somewhere in his own world. Bam Bam got into a crouch like a sprinter on his mark. James released the pitch and David smacked the white off the ball. Ball soared over the fence and landed on the neighbor’s balcony

    —You hit it, you get it.

The unanimous, automatic reply.

Ding Dong.

    —Hello, Mister Flavor. We hit our ball up onto your house. We’re very sorry.

    —I’m Major Flavor. My momma named me Major. It’s not a title it’s my name. There were seven of us: Kernel, Sergeant, Commander, Governor, and my two sisters Emmanuelle and Domestique. Of course and me, Major, the oldest of the whole bunch.

Sound of running water, louder than a fountain, sounding like an ocean’s waves were crashing onto the shore

    —Why don’t you get a job, you’re a young healthy boy? They have good jobs down at the factory. When I was 19 I bought my first house from working the overtime shift.

    —We just wanted to get our baseball. We hit it upstairs onto that little porch.

    —You don’t want to be like those lazy friends of yours. All my buddies and me worked at the Stamping Plant, the Truck Plant, the Axle Shop, Gear and Assembly. Don’t you want to get that check every week instead of just sitting around and listening to hippity hop?

    —I didn’t come here to go down memory lane, sir. I just wanted to get our ball.

    —Gawd, I haven’t been up there in years. Go head, it’s at the room at the top of the stairs. Come here a second boy. Let me tell you how they’re trying to take away my livelihood. I’ve given twenty years to the company and now they say they’re shutting down. What’s an old man to do?

A single candle giving off an intense flame.

Thousands of pictures on the walls of this little room. Many were black and white and had an ancient fade to them. Most looked like they were from another time and place. He thought he recognized Martin Luther King in a thoughtful pose. David looked down and saw a collection of empty liquor bottles. Five or six rum bottles and about a dozen that he did not recognize. He unlocked the door to the balcony and grabbed the ball.

As he backed out of the room, he saw a familiar picture: Lil Boo when he won the high school speech contest. He was wearing a dazzling multicolored Coogi sweater and tilted his head with a smirk like he knew the real story about where the prize money came from. A few minutes later, he’d be shaking hands with the principal and a City Council woman. A few minutes after that he’d be in his uniform, smoking a Zig Zag behind the KFC where he worked after school. This was the picture they put on the cover of the funeral program. David grabbed his older brother’s photograph and jammed it into his pants pockets.

    —Umm, I got the ball. I’m going to go now.

He backed out of the room, stretched his hand backwards to find the door, the railing for the stairway, some semblance of exit.

The candle flickered.

    —All Negroes have a love/hate relationship with the white man’s money. Don’t become a wage slave. Get your own money. Be your own boss. By the way, I saw your brother swimming the other day, and your mother’s father, and a man named Kwame. They all appeared to be flailing their arms, but they smiled like they loved being in the waters.

David ran from the room. He ran down the stairs, from Mr. Flavor’s house, his arms swinging, holding tightly to the baseball. David ran all the way back home. Never looking back.

William Copeland has been published in Drumvoices Revue, the Listen zine, and Museum Of Contemporary Arts Detroit’s Telegraph. He has written two poetry collections, Detroit Sun (chapbook) and New Haven Green. His science fiction poetry has received recognition by the Science Fiction Poetry Association and the Odd Contest. Also a spoken word poet, performance artist, and cultural organizer he has flowed throughout the Midwest with the Long Hairz Collective and is featured on their CDs Dreadlocks and Pony Tales and Burning.