California Penal Code 484 & 488

The Irvine cops
picked up Sherod
while he was riding Jimmy’s bike
to school. He’d snuck up into the scrub, coyote hills
above our complex to work on the fort
we were building with wood from a deserted
rancher’s shack. By the time he came down
to the bus stop, we were the diesel exhaust
that ferried us to our daydreaming school hours.

Jimmy’s bike stood in the communal racks,
and we all knew the combination to its lock,
took the Huffy as needed. Sherod’s need—
to be at Rancho Middle before his father
found out he’d never made it—his need
was one too many. Jimmy’s father, out the door
to work, saw his son’s bike gone again and reported it
stolen to the cops. A morning patrol found the bike
underneath a black boy not in school
and hauling ass down Culver Drive.

I did not understand what circumstances,
what adult machinations led to my parents
driving that afternoon, with me,
to the Irvine police station. My father
had immigrated from England in the 70’s
and was hipped to the American scene as soon
as he started dating my mother.
He got out of our Chevette, looked back
at his black wife, his too-brown son,
and said, Stay put, you two.

If he pulled that white savior bullshit now,
we’d have words. But I didn’t have that term
white savior then. Even if I’d known it,
I don’t think I would have used it that day.
Would have cared to use it. My friend was in jail
and headed to juvy for all I knew, that scare story—
getting whaled on by high school kids twice our size—
that tormented our nights and kept our days straight
and narrow. I didn’t care what my father said
inside the station, with what Lancaster Royal
Grammar School curtness, with what iron-backed code
of whiteness he said it. Didn’t care and was happy
when he strode out of the station with Sherod

trailing behind him. Sherod, who did not speak
on the ride back to the complex, who watched rows
of eucalyptus blur by on University Avenue, whom
the next morning we avoided at the bus stop,
who did not try to join us, who stood with his back
toward the bike racks, toward Jimmy’s bike, fastened
there again, with new lock, with double loop of new chain.

 

 

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