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Sentinel of Soul
Portland, Oregon 11/26/21: Or how to say ‘Fuck you, Hamslice’ Without a Word
An interlude to Jimmy
The entirety of Jimmy will be serialized on Substack in some 42 installments. Only a few interludes will appear on this site. Jimmy is a memoir of childhood from a clarity of age 2 to the muddled psychopathy of 12, written in the third-person. This morning something occurred that moved me to write a context interlude. Writing from little Jimmy’s perspective is both disturbing and weakening.
This morning, having been sick and seized up for two weeks, my host worried about my health and asking his pre-teens to “take it easy on Mister James,” I decided to head to the 7-11 for two keto drinks for me and two chocolate milks for the Yetisons while Dad got ready for work.
On went the black boots, the black hoody, the black hat, the black duster—the knife in its handy place, the duster unsnapped to grant ready access. Into the soggy, fog-crowded streets of Portland I went, beneath a war being fought by the defending crows against the offending gulls up from the Ocean with the crystal mist.
Portland is oh so safe, but this old mind is ever in a place unsafe. I was flinching from writing the next few chapters when Jimmy goes out into the world at age 5 to begin 7 years of beatings and bullying. The 7-11 is attached to a homeless shelter where pathetic Caucasian creatures, many female and some old for such a life, sleep rather than on the street.
There is a thing in Portland, called by this old crudd, “posting.” While most of the handful of African Americans that live here have sought refuge from violence at the hands of their own kind in bigger and badder cities across the nation, and are working folks here, there are some young men who will “post up” outside a 7-11 and intimidate the guilty ghosts, demand money in a way that does not even rise to a crime, but rather speaks of voluntary reparations given by the terrified ghost person. In a town of such sissy nature, who can blame a youth for doing this. Not me. If I had that kind of moxie as a boy I would not be some wretched writer scrawling about a picked-upon child’s lot, but maybe have a good job and a pretty wife, a house even—a criminal record at the very least to distinguish me from my limp-wristed kind.
As I walked across the lot an older homeless woman looked worried at the man standing sentinel at the 7-11 door. The young homeless woman—pretty still and in gypsy clothes and looking like 18-years of innocence, a woman who has smiled and waved to me and seems somewhat daft—pointed at me and at the sentinel.
This was once how really bad westerns were written for the screen.
A proud Bantu man of 30 years, 5’ 10”, 180 pounds of muscle, short-bearded, stone-faced, wearing a mostly empty backpack suggestive of the grifter rather than the drifter, stands grim sentinel an arm’s reach from the glass door.
Within the building the kind, polite, darker, African man—from the actual continent of martyrdom—looks very worriedly at the back of the sentinel. It is obvious that this man is not a customer and that he has been loitering and up to no good, as the African clerk within is obviously torn and pained, afraid of having to ask this man his business when he damn well knows that his business is intimidation.
Looking at the fitness of this man, 28-years my junior and my superior in every masculine way, I experienced loathing and disgust, that a fellow who seemed at a glance capable of mixing it up with any of the young fighters his age that I trained was engaging in 16-year-old hoodrat 101.
There is no way in my mind that I could beat this guy with my hands, doubtfully even defend myself against him. I recall years of walking and bussing back and forth to work by night as a 145-pound longhair, having men like this in twos and threes snarling threats at me, demanding my slim wallet, demanding my supplication, and getting through it by placing my hand on my knife and dying again in my mind’s self-hating eye, wanting only to take some woolly scalps to Hallowed Hell with me.
This fucker became in my mind’s eye, two hours ago this morning, one of those bigger, older, better men who had harried me back and forth to work as they took their ease on the Baltimore City streets, taxing the world of working stiffs like me. I grew colder and more dead inside.
He looked at me approach.
I stopped deliberately five strides from the door and he glanced at my boots and gave way, stepping aside from the door to make a courteous passage possible.
I stepped up three more strides to the side walk, four feet from him and stopped.
He looked up into my face.
He looked away, pocketed both his hands, turned his back, and walked around the corner.
The African clerk was so “Glad to see you sir!”
I took my time, wanting courage to gather out that door and around that corner.
Two keto drinks for me, and two chocolate milks for the boys, for $10.14. The African man looked worried out the door, the broad back of the wolfish sentinel returned to lean against his transparent hut of glass straw. He was so happy to see me again, happy to bag the milks and offered “a very good day!”
I stepped outside the door, looking down at the line where the concrete met the pavement, took off my mask and turned to face the sentinel as I looked up, hoping he would hit me so I could begin reeling his intestines from his guts.
He failed to meet my gaze, turned his back and walked away.
The African clerk fairly danced with glee, all but clicking his heels from behind his low unglassed counter.
I thought then about how messed up my life had been, about the fact that I’m a bum sleeping in a working man’s garage and concluded that it was that plump little wimp Jimmy’s fault. Because, at that moment, as the man who made the clerk sway with glee and the two homeless chicks clap their cold little hands and grin, I was all that Little Jimmy had ever wanted to be—someone that Bad People would decline to pick on. There had been no greater aspiration.
Yes, I am a hobo who makes far less than half the money of any of the dozen harried souls who works for the Extra-American owner of this 7-11 and the one over on Powell, where Mexican Mike finally quit from the stress of being the one-man 7-11 SWAT team.
But that feral, grinding, glosssy-hided Negro fears only one of us—this broken down white-trash with nothing but a misspent life left to loose.
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ncMar 15, 2022

no fear, the aurora that come off some men makes others give way or nod in respect.
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