Taken from This World

Johnny just couldn’t do it. All he had to do was go over and shake the kid’s hand and say
welcome and things that happened might not have happened at all. Sure. Who are we kidding?

But, he just couldn’t do it. He wanted to, but it was sink or swim and he was not going to drown
with the new black kid. No fucking way Jose.

In his formidable years, which was pretty much the kitchen table rants from daddy, were cascaded
with Jew Bastard this, Black nigger Bastard that, chink gook, even if they made good food, Bastards! His dad didn’t even know where the Middle East was, but they were Bastards too!

The only connection he had with anything abstract was a movie he saw about a Scottish guy
who won the shot-put competition in the Olympics called “Wee Gordy”. As a kid, Gordy was
scrawny and scared of his own shadow and wee Johnny could more than relate.

Johnny didn’t even like music. He was afraid of it, like an old illiterate slave afraid to learn to
read and write.

He never picked up anything good from school, Church, or his family. He thought every now
and then that he was different from them.

Then he thought, how could he not be. He came from them and theirs.

He wasn’t popular at school and he wasn’t unpopular. He was nothing. Until the big man in high
school named Buck, started going out with one of his sisters. Johnny didn’t do well in school.
Johnny’s teachers weren’t surprised. “Look at the rest of them” they said, regarding his family.

They had them all before. He would be last until they see their off spring in Kindergarten.
Perhaps they could take it all out on them?

One of his teachers was a Klan brother of his dads. Johnny was not supposed to let on he knew.
But one day he asked the teacher, in front of the class, if he used bleach to wash his super hero
Klan costume. Everyone knew what he meant, and everyone didn’t think it was funny because
all the kids’ fathers were in The Klan.

It was one of the few things they took seriously.

Johnny was in for a big ass whipping for that until his sister’s boyfriend Buck cooled it down.

Buck then herded Johnny to the boy’s room.

When they walked in Buck told the boys in there to beat it and they did, leaving Buck and
Johnny alone and as soon as the door closed after the last one out, Buck slapped Johnny so hard
in the face that Johnny though his cheek would fly to the sky and become a cloud. Where in
Dixie did that come from? Not the slap, but the thought. How poetic, he thought, and he never
even said that word before, poetic, let alone think it.

“You stupid Nigger loving piece of white trash”, Buck stated. “There’s gonna be a party at the
new niggers house and it’s gonna be a hot one. And Guess what pukehead? Johnny did not
answer that riddle with any of the guesses he had in mind, but hey, they were all going to be wrong anyways, so why not let Buck tell him. And he did. “You’re brining the matches”!

Buck was on the football team. He was a receiver, and he received well. Well enough to draw the
attention of college recruiters. And if that dream will not come thru, he will go into the family
business. The world could always use another broken dream and another farmer.

A while ago while watching others read comic books, Johnny thought that even if he didn’t go
for comic books, like they did, he could come up with a super hero in ten minutes that would
hold their attention and maybe he could have some attention too.

“Tornado Head” would be the superheroes name, and he would command the power and respect,
that Johnny never knew.

Johnny called for Tornado Head to come and get him out of this one, but, Tornado head, like
always, never showed up.

You can count on me, Johnny told Buck.
“Good, you can carry the cross too, we’re gonna light up their yard with”, Buck declared.

Later that night, Johnny started to hear that voice again. Not the nut one, but the one you call
your conscious, or something like that. The voice was saying that right and wrong moral
compass crap again. The voice was saying “Do Gods will, as you see fit”. Johnny wanted to tell
the voice to shut the fuck up and mind your own Goddamn business but it was, and he was, the
voices business.

A little girl, the black’s sister was practicing at the piano in the house of the new kid, it was his younger sister. His mother sat there listening to the symphony of the future while the new kid was showing her some shirts.

“What do think Ma, red or blue”? He held up high the two shirts. “Their only gonna see one color boy”, his ma
said, he said, “They will see the colors I show them”. “Well, if it isn’t Martin Luther
King Jr. the Fourth, or is it The Fifth”, said ma. “Its perpetual ma. That means forever’’, he
schooled her”. “They don’t want you”, She said. “I want me”, He said back. She
smiled. She was always breaking his ass with her negativity, but really, who could blame her?

The black kid’s Grandfather was in the basement, working the fire under the copper kettle of homemade
Moonshine he was making not under the Moon, but under his roof, with the crude exhaust pipe hanging out the basement window. His one- time- full time job was now part time and he still made some money from it selling some to a select group of white guys who would drink it up before they flew around at night in their white as white can be robes and hoods.

The fire under the still was perfect, the new kid fell asleep studying and another day and night
were in the books.

Or so they thought.

Buck led the group of his ‘Young bucks’ towards the new kid’s house like a General in The Civil War, he stayed a step ahead.
That’s what they did in the movies he saw, and as he choreographed and fortified himself with Moonshine
from the new ‘s Grandfather’s still. Johnny told the group of five that the term, ‘You’re fired’,
comes from the old days in Scotland, where when you did something real terrible, the rest of the
village would burn your house down. They would ‘fire’, you and yours. The group didn’t give a
Buck turned to Johnny after the story and said, “These Niggers did do something terrible, they
were born”!

Buck surveyed his Army and said, “Anybody got a problem firing up these Niggers”? Survey said,
no. They walked on faster and louder, while Johnny, carrying the cross and matches, walked
quieter and slower.

Ole Grand dad was putting the fire under the copper kettle filled with alcohol out, and instead of
pouring water on it, he poured kerosene on it by mistake.

He had been drinking.

“ God damnit”, he screamed, as the flames burst so high that they were kissing the ceiling. Those
two became fast friends and the friendship of the fire started to make the rounds thru the rest of
the house that would soon be a house no more, but a Hell pit.

Ma smelled the smoke and panicked and ran down to the basement. This wasn’t the first time
Grand Pa fucked up. All was lost she sensed, and turned, and ran back to her children. Before she could get to them, she fainted at the bottom of the stairs.

Her son was running towards her and that is all she remembered. He took her out and laid her on
the front lawn and then he ran back in.

Buck and Johnny and lynch mob Jr. turned around the bend and saw the house on fire. They
stood there. Like arsonists returning to the scene of the crime to bathe in the flames.

The new kid ran for Gramps and when he found him and dragged him up the basement stairs and laid him next to his daughter on the lawn and again ran in. He remembered he had a
sister, and ran to his mother’s bedroom where the two of them slept, so he could have his own
room, and the world to himself to study in concentration and silence.

He tried to open the door the door knob was too hot, so he kicked in the door after a warning to his sister, he
hoped was still breathing on the other side.

He didn’t see her in the room as he called out for her, and the only sound that he heard, was a house on fire.

She must be outside he thought. She must be. He said to himself and Jesus Christ. He reluctantly ran out of
the house.

Buck, the football High School hero wide, receiver, was so counting on
ordering Johnny to light the house up but now, he didn’t have to.

Maybe them Miller boys beat them to it and got there earlier. But no, they would be here
laughing, and they were not present, and, no cross was burning on the lawn, just the Niggers’ house,
and the creatures inside.

Out of nowhere, ma, who woke up on the front lawn where she was deposited charged Buck and the boys. The new kid had to pull her off as he tried to
explain it wasn’t them who stated the fire.

The new kid’s pants were smoldering and one of Buck’s boys’ shook his beer bottle and hosed
him with it.

He laughed as he then threw the bottle at the new kid’s head.

He was the only one laughing. The action was so out of place, even for a junior Klan rally that
the rest of the gang stood still at the sheer cruelty of the scene.

Then, they all heard the screams of the new kid’s sister coming from the house.

After the beer bottle cascaded off the side of the new kid’s head, and dropping him to the ground, he tried getting up, to complete his last unfinished mission, but he couldn’t. He collapsed. Yeah, he was through for the night as far as more rescuing was concerned.

Johnny dropped the cross of the Klu Klux Klan and Jesus Christ.

Johnny then ran into the house, but he didn’t. His mind was somewhere it had never been before, and his body followed.

Buck followed Johnny, yelling something about Johnny messing up his situation with his
secretly pregnant sister. .

Buck ran thru the fire and smoke behind Johnny trying to tackle him as Johnny ran towards the
crying, screaming sounds.

They were coming from behind a closed door up the forever long stairway, leading upstairs.

As they got up there, the floor gave out and Johnny hurdled over the crevice, leaving Buck behind on the other side.

Johnny yelled to the screams to get back from the door, then, he kicked it in, out, and, sideways.

The power amazed him as he wrapped up the new kid’s thank Christ small and light litter sister, like in a canvas bowling bag with his shirt and turned to the hallway, but it was not there anymore. He looked to the windows but saw that they had security bars on them. Security bars on top upper floor? Well who could blame them he thought.

Buck was still on the other side of the new “Grand Canyon” that was once the hallway floor.

Johnny thought about Kilts, and Scotland, and The Olympics, and his only favorite movie “Wee
Gordy” and the shot-put, bagpipes were playing in his burning head.

He saw the floor was gone.

Johnny Shot putted the kid to Buck, the star receiver, and he caught the pressure pass as Johnny
went down with that part of the house thinking that he was going to Hell and Heaven at the same
time, but, for that one evening he did the right thing, and, everything bad was taken from his fucked- up world and his fucked- up head.

And Johnny was there to see it, and be it.

Alan Berger has written and directed two films on Netflix. Has had over forty short stories and poems published since 2018. He shares an apartment in West Hollywood with a cat named ‘Iron”.