Past Time

By Owólabi



a. Home
First base was the porch, second base the gnarled tree stump, third base, the corner of the garage. David saw himself strutting, talking shit, pumping his fists as he tagged the fence that designated “home plate.” 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. He imagined himself running the bases after smacking the ball over the fence.

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

As always, Lucky’s big brother, Z, was standing in the street or sitting on his porch watching cars drive up, seeing who wanted to buy weed.

Rashad was starting to hang out with Z. He hoped that Z would have his back and cover him for studio expenses it would take to cut the album that would launch his career as a rapper. Worst case, he could start selling himself, just enough to make the money he needed to get into 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.

Leroy 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.

Bam Bam was on second base, one orange and blue Patrick Ewing propped against the old stump. Leroy 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.

c. Mister Flavor’s House
Getting the ball should have been easy.
Ding Dong.
It wasn’t. It was a thang.
“Hello, Mister Flavor. We hit our ball up onto your house. We apologize.”
We had to go through the ‘name thang.’
“I’m Major Flavor. 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. My momma named me Major.”
sound of running water, louder than a fountain, sounding like an ocean’s waves were crashing onto the shore.
We had to through the ‘job thang.’
“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. Just need to get our ball.”
The ‘memory thang.’
“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 20 years to the company and now they say they’re shutting down. What’s an old man to do?”
The ‘memory thang.’
A single candle giving off an intense flame. Thousands of pictures on the walls of this little room. Many were black and white with an ancient fade. 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, about a dozen that he did not recognize.

He unlocked the door to the balcony and grabbed the ball. As he backed out the room, he saw a familiar sight. 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 the room, stretched his hand backwards to find the door, the railing for the stairway, some semblance of exit. The candle flickered.
The ‘memory thang.’ 
“All Negroes have a love/hate relationship with the white man’s money. Son, get your own money. Be your own boss. By the way, I saw your brother swimming the other day, and your mother’s father, Kwame flailing their arms, smiling like they loved the water.”

d.
David ran from the room, down the stairs, out the door, arms swinging, sweaty hands gripping the baseball.

David ran all the way home, never looking back.




Owólabi is an Afrikan cultural organizer. He is a divorced father of one, an Orisha priest of Sango, and a grassroots organizer with a passion for bringing liberation lessons of Detroit to global audiences. Also an essayist and a poet, he is a regular contributor to Geez and Riverwise magazines.

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