by Elaine Barnard
I’m a black man on a white cul-de-sac. Neighbors should be neighborly but they’re not. They should bring newcomers cake and coffee but they don’t. Well, maybe they did but I never got any when I moved in a year ago. No Welcome Wagon for me. Not that I missed it. Coffee and cake have never been my thing. However, I did expect my neighbors to wave instead of ignoring me like I didn’t really live here, like I was an interloper or maybe worse, invisible.
I’m a single guy. If I had kids the barrier would have to break down. Kids are color blind until their parents teach them otherwise. So I guess I looked suspicious to begin with. I noticed the young mothers whisking their kids indoors as soon as I opened my garage. I’d wave and maybe say, “Hi, how are you?” or something equally inane. They looked embarrassed, flustered, unable to do anything but rush inside or walk faster.
I don’t wear a beard or moustache, no tattoos or anything that makes me look dangerous. I scrub my face every morning to give it that baby shine I still have even though I’m nearing thirty. But now with this pandemic I wear a mask when I’m jogging to protect myself from the virus. This has caused an even greater problem. I try to buy groceries and the manager alerts Security. Didn’t black
bandits always wear masks in the movies, on television or in comics? So they are wary of me, stopping me outside before allowing me to enter. I lower my mask, “Look,” I say, “I just want some salsa, guacamole and a few chips.”
Security eyes me. “Wait here,” he says. I wait. Droplets of sweat dampen the mask.
Security returns. “Sorry, but them bean eaters were here earlier. Bought the place out. Not even a tortilla to sell ya.”
As I turn to leave a masked blonde emerges. Her kids munch big bags of chips and salsa. I keep my six foot distance. Next time I’ll phone in early for groceries. They promise to deliver.
About the author
Elaine Barnard's collection of stories, The Emperor of Nuts: Intersections Across Cultures was recently published by New Meridian Arts and noted as a unique book on the Snowflakes in a Blizzard website. Last year she won first place in the Strands International Flash Fiction competition.She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best small Fiction. She was a finalist for Best of the Net. She received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine and her BA from the University of Washington, Seattle
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