This short is based on a visual, sort of a daydream, that has been with me since I was about 12 years old:

      I caught up with him between the outer fence and the inner fence, just as he started to climb.  He turned on me, not a greasy black hair of his head out of place.  Mine was still a little slicked back, but I could feel that cow lick flopping around.  His smile told me he could see it, too, and was just about to make another smart ass joke.   That’s ok, I’ll have my knife in your gut before you open your mouth.  Let’s see what you have to say, then, sucker.    I flipped open my switch blade right while he was opening his, but I was faster.

I stuck him in the ribs just as he was starting his lunge.  He really must have thought he was going to feint and duck me.  Then his foot had slipped on a rock, and left him open.  That look of surprise on his face was priceless.

My own little bit of luck didn’t last too long, though.  I felt the bite of his blade stabbing up through the gap in my leather jacket, and I knew then that I had fucked up, too.  He’d caught me with his upper cut, just as he was starting to pass out.  The light was already going out of his eyes, but that wet warm feeling spreading faster than the pain in my chest told me that I’d not be too far behind him.  Usually they say that after a knife fight, one goes to the hospital and one goes to the morgue, but it looked like it would be both of us on the slab, this time.

I fell down right where he did, looking straight into his still open but lifeless eyes, and I knew then that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.  A mistake I was bound to pay for, and pretty damned soon.

They  say that some people believe we come back in the next life as punishment for things we did back in this life.  I tried to pray for forgiveness, but my last thoughts were stuck on that next lifetime:

With my luck, I’ll probably be reborn as a girl.

Or even worse … a colored girl.

Action Items:  

1.) How have you imagined a past or future lifetime, if ever?

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Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil

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42 thoughts on “Punishment

    1. Actually, I did. I was homeless several times as a child, from the first time when we got evicted, and I stayed with a friend of my fathers for several months in 9th grade, and then for 14 months I was entirely homeless in what would have been my 10th grade year. Then, we were evicted again around the middle of my senior year, but fortunately for me, I had a scholarship to a month long exchange during that time, so that those months were easier to endure, living with a friend of my father’s in exchange for doing dishes at 1am, after I got home from my p/t job (which was not enough for her, she said, to cover her expenses of having me sleep on a cot in the living room).
      So, as I believe I’ve said before:
      Poverty and homelessness are not essential to who a person is, but rather, are temporary states of being. Although I did come back homeless, “I got better” once I was an adult, and didn’t have to hand over my earnings to my “guardians” once I graduated high school.

      Liked by 5 people

            1. Well, I appreciate your enthusiasm, though I’m not sure how much I have really achieved, and I truely hope that I will be done, soon, because I am simply tired. But there is still work to be done, and one who serves, as an officer or as a member of society, is not allowed to give up until the task is done.

              Liked by 3 people

            2. Good point. The problem is that it is hard to take a break when the little time that I have with fresh air in my room, I always feel compelled to try to make up for the work that the smokey air has prevented me from getting done.
              Hugs, ay!
              Sending Safe Air Hugs your way

              Liked by 2 people

            3. It’s very slow going given that most apartment, and even room renters, want income, not trusting savings, for some reason. I’m also having trouble finding the energy to focus, since my throat hurts (and my ear, now, also) more and more often from smoke that no one else seems to smell. I feel tired even when I wake up, so I’m having trouble forming contact letters for places. I have contacted a smoke-free complex but they have no openings at the moment (no word yet on their income requirements). I’d wanted to finish these two books before retraining back into Unix, but I may have to reconsider, which is just draining me even more. A hotel is starting to sound like a good idea, but of course that would drain my savings much faster, and possibly to no good use, if I can’t find the right place to talk to. I really wish that I were Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, so that I could just donate my retirement funds and live in a convent.

              Liked by 1 person

          1. Although, come to think of it, my labels actually helped me do that. I labelled myself a cadet, since I was in uniform 3 days out of the week, in Jr. ROTC and in Civil Air Patrol. I was labelled a “scholar athlete” by my school, for being on the practically non-existent girls track team (and never had a track meet, that I recall), and the Honor Society, while also working at the People’s Drug Store (so I was also labelled a part time kid).
            But I generally thought of myself as a future officer. No labels, really.

            Liked by 4 people

    1. Interesting: horrifying, how?

      (I remember telling one of my father’s stories, which always seemed funny, until I saw the looks of horror on my friends’ faces, and they told me that that story, always a laugh in my family, was not funny. That tells me that I need to be corrected from my ‘perspective of origin’ since things were a bit upside down when I was growing up, so please forgive me for being thick-headed. I really need to see what should bother me…)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The violence, the image of being on a slab in the morgue, the chilling ending, and the part at the beginning that this is based on a daydream since childhood. I also got the impression that the man the narrator is fighting with is someone previously trusted (I think it’s the “he turned on me” detail), which adds another layer.

        I don’t mean to discourage you from sharing or telling this story, as I think the writing is excellent! It definitely has a dark edge.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. No, this doesn’t discourage me at all: dark is my normal, and I think that the more people understand of the darkness in others, and where it comes from, the more we can do to help others, especially children, and prevent the worst of this later. But I need to understand how not to drive people away, as seems to be happening with my follower numbers at the moment. I also need to understand things that simply don’t occur to me, like the fact that that slab and that knife fight are really dark to most people, while they struck me as simply normal. That means that I may write too much ‘dark,’ when I need to throw in a break to lighten it up a bit, for most readers. This is something that I cannot know how to judge on my own, given that I apparently “see the world through glasses that have been painted black!”

          So, I really appreciate your honesty.
          I need that.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. So everything with writing depends on your goals. As a vignette, fiction, creative non-fiction (Though I hope this is fiction!) – essentially any form of writing intended as art, it’s excellent as is. The dark chilling aspects work perfectly. Not every story has to have a happy ending. Many stories unfortunately, do not have a happy ending.

            I actually don’t see you as someone who “sees the world through glasses that have been painted black”. I feel like you have an impressive amount of optimism, as you’ve done quite a bit to envision a future which isn’t so dismal and more importantly, think through a reasonably comprehensive strategy for achieving said vision.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Well, I’m not sure if a recurring dream/nightmare counts as fiction, and I’m not even sure what, if any, my intention was in writing it: I’ve gotten several requests for shorts, so between that, and this annoying internal pressure to write them, some days I feel like a horror writer without the publisher or agent to justify the writing, but I keep being told that telling my story will help others, so I write it in order to practice/learn the craft of writing, in the hopes that I can in fact be of service, by putting my “overactive imagination” to some hopefully good use.
              And thank you!
              I really appreciate the fact that you appreciate my Wondering Wednesday work on Baby Acres/Floors!
              I’m finally starting to edit the rough draft (ok, I only finished chapter 10, and so far have not written chapter 11, the final chapter, as I generally leave the summary and transitions and conclusions for last)!!
              That gives me a solid reason to keep going.

              Liked by 2 people

            2. By “I hope it’s fiction”, I meant that I hope this isn’t something you’ve experienced. To have this as a recurring nightmare is a form of experience, for which I am sorry to hear. Hugs, if wanted.

              Sometimes, you’ve got to write what that that internal pressure is telling you to do.

              Liked by 3 people

            3. Fair enough.

              I’ve experienced fights, but never with weapons (except sparring in class, but that didn’t count), and no deaths resulted, so in that sense, no, I’ve not experienced this scene. But it has always felt so real to me that I’ve always taken it for granted that in some way, I had experienced it. I think it is part of what propelled my actions in an upcoming short that I hope to have ready for next weekend, which I will probably call “Brolly Lady” if I keep the current working title.
              I guess I’ll have to write that story about “the Puerto Rican girls dying to beat” me for the person who likes to say that, too, in a fuller scene.


    1. Thank you, Dr. G.
      I am working on a few longer pieces, but these are part of what Tammy keeps telling me to share, and I really hope that they help others understand why it is so urgent to protect kids by putting a real safety net under all of society.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Jeez, how the sub- or unconscious attempts to explain the reality of the nightmare one consciously (day time awake type of) lives or has lived. Your story implies a belief in karma, a concept I’m not sure I can accept.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And I do not accept the idea of karma. This recurring whatever first began after I went to live with someone who made me say a prayer to ‘change my ways’ while finding an excuse to beat the stuffing out of me every single day, no matter what I did or did not do. Yes, that was the arm that reached down in Floating. So, I believe that this image came from those constant harangues about my “don’t give a damn attitude” and the venomous hatred for my mother spewing from every adult in that ‘family’ at the time. It was clear to me, even then, at least on a subconscious level, that I merely represented my mother, for all of those hurting people. Only one of whom had been actively hurt by my mother, but the one actively hurting me apparently felt sufficiently threatened by my mother, or jealous, as some have also said, to take it out on me, while telling me what a horrible person my mother, whom I am fairly certain she never met, was. Even given that she may have been factually correct in at least part of what she said about my mother, told by others and surmised or run through her own filter, I never understood why she seemed to think that I was that same person. Now, after reading Harry Potter and Hunger Games 0, I can see that conflating a parent, or parents, with the child, happens pretty frequently, which must be why the Bible prohibits punishing kids for the sins of the fathers, and vice versa. When I first read those verses years ago, I wondered why that would be needed, as it seemed obvious, but now, I understand.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sho! A mouthful. Will need some considering before I answer proper. I know, in my case (as well as the two sisters) my mother took her anger out on us in response to what was done to her as a child. The stories I heard of how she was treated by her mother was hair raising. Our generation have that bit more access to information and therapeutic devices than they had.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. My mother was the daughter of one of the most respected colored doctors in DC, and claimed to have “turned down 3 French scholarships to marry your father and have you.” So, yes, we do have more tools and info. nowadays, but she had no excuse. Had she chosen to tell either of her parents what was happening to her (see Jaw…), or even merely accepted a place at Howard, where my Grandfather was an honors and active alumnus, of course, she could have had a very different life. If the choice was unbearable (she did graduate from HS, though dad had to threaten my grandmother with a possible pregnancy to get permission for mom to marry him), then she could have gotten access to birth control, in 1968, as it was then available. Particularly after her life was in danger after losing a child early on before I was conceived. Both my parents tell me that she had to go to extreme lengths, with dad’s full support, to even get me just to the 6 months and 15 oz at which I was born, with the dubious priviledge of spending my first 3 months in an incubator. They chose to do this knowing that they were bringing a life into this world under dubious circumstances, knowing that they both had issues to work out, and knowing that they both wanted me for their own selfish reasons, not for love. My mother was an exceptionally beautiful woman, and a prize for my father, an Alpha Male. Both of his parents graduated from Howard, so he certainly could have gone, rather than joining the Air Force at 17 to get out of an abusive household. Even after that, though, he could have made different choices. He had more tools than the average black man, and so did my mother. Yes, they were hated for their light skin. Yes, they were hated by the white folks for being High Yellow, or in my dad’s case, looking Puerto Rican, but they had more opportunity than the vast majority of colored folks back then, and they should have been part of that Talented Tenth that I have always been told to honor and live up to. I did this, or try to do this, under more difficult circumstances than either of them lived through, so what was their excuse? Not tools, not lack of information, but simple selfish greed. Not for money, but for pride and prestige. I feel the bite of being always the outsider, neither loved by my own people, for being High Yellow, nor being accepted by White people, nor even by Latinos, or Puerto Ricans, but I strive, as we have always striven, to do right, and to serve. That is what I was taught by my adoptive great grandmother, by some of my teachers, and by history. Those with greater opportunities had less excuse, and bear greater culpability, regardless of the pain they suffered.

          Every human being knows that it is wrong to inflict pain upon a child.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. By 1968, Howard University was apparently one of the centers for Stokely Carmichael, and the hatred of light skinned black people and white people, which may have been significant barrier for a light skinned person who was emotionally fragile to attend Howard University even if her father had been an alumnus.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Good point: so going to Howard might not have been a useful choice, as I found out for myself at Morgan State Univ. But, then, by 1968, Birth Control was still a better option. Especially when four doctors tell you it’s a better idea by far than risking both mother and child on a very high risk pregnancy.

              Liked by 1 person

            1. Welcome to my world. Thank God I had had Grandma Marie in my life before being dragged up north, even that little influence until the age of 3. That, and those few summers with her in Elementary school made all the difference.

              This is why I’ve spent so much time working to understand human behavior, and socio-pathic behavior in particular.

              Many safe air hugs to you in return, and much human love.

              Liked by 1 person

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