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Little Fists

Little Fists

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Published by Phillybrarian
short story about violence, pacifism, and racism
short story about violence, pacifism, and racism

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Published by: Phillybrarian on Jul 15, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/06/2012

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Peter Lehu163 Oak StreetBinghamton, NY 13905Word Count: 3777Little FistsHarvey Ludwig's right eye was purple and puffy. A vein of dried blood streaked down his fleshy cheek.He sat on a stump in Mr. Cinjun's front yard. There was no grass, just dusty red clay and a few spindly rose bushes. Little else would grow in the summer heat in Georgia. A fence made of sticks and thick ropesurrounded the sparse yard and a tiny, paint-chipped house. Mr. Cinjun was there too."Harvey, you got to fight back, man!"Mr. Cinjun dabbed Harvey's eye with a rag of peroxide. The morning sun glinted off of Harvey's moistface. Harvey sat still and stared ahead, only his hands moved, cupping and uncupping."I tried," said Harvey. His voice was deep like a man's but unsure like a child's."Well you didn't try hard enough. You're a big man, Harvey! Nobody should be able to bruise you up likethis.""I tried."Harvey Ludwig was a big man. When he sat, his knees rose above his waist. His expansive belly rested inhis lap. Even sitting on the stump, he looked down at Mr. Cinjun. But then again, Mr. Cinjun was a verysmall man. He stood no taller than five feet and had a shrew-like face crowned with a ring of hair like amonk. He had to lean over Harvey to reach the welts on his wide forehead."You got to stick up for yourself, man. Those trash ain't any better than you," said Mr. Cinjun in a voice
 
that was also quite shrew-like."But, Mr. Cinjun, I tried."Mr. Cinjun lived in the white part of town. On account of his small size and his rodent-like appearance, hedidn't get the respect he deserved among the whites. Mr. Cinjun worked for the Tyresville Mining Companywhere they had a special smaller wheelbarrow for him. After work, he couldn't get a drink at the bar without being made a fool by the other men-- snickers as he walked in, an elbow rested on his head. He couldn't finda wife either. But Mr. Cinjun had a liking for himself so he looked for respect elsewhere. He had found someon the black side of town. Even though he had as much color as a plucked chicken, Daisey Ludwig knew thatMr. Cinjun was a respectable person. Mr. Cinjun had volunteered to watch over her son for parts of the week.Mrs. Ludwig had gotten older and couldn't move so well. She needed help looking after Harvey."Come inside, Harvey, we got to get you washed up. You can't be going to church looking like this. It'sdisrespectful.""It's okay, Mr. Cinjun.""No, it ain't Harvey."On Sunday mornings, Harvey would walk down the dirt path to the river and then he would follow theriver to James Street where Mr. Cinjun lived. He and Mr. Cinjun would drive to church in a red pick-up."I reckon I'm going to have to pick you up from your mama's house from now on.""But I like to walk, Mr. Cinjun.""And you like to got walloped too?"Mr. Cinjun took Harvey inside his white house which was little more like a shack. It originally had tworooms but Mr. Cinjun had made a third by building a wall out of oil cans that were beginning to rust. The place was scattered with mouse turds and empty bean cans. In the corner that stood for the kitchen, Mr.Cinjun tried to scrub the blood stains out of Harvey's collared, Sunday shirt. He wrapped a rag aroundHarvey's forehead to cover where the shovel had hit. Then he rested an undersized hat on Harvey's head tocover the bandage."I reckon, Harvey, I ain't got the size you got but I would put up a heck of a fight.""It's okay, Mr. Cinjun, I'm okay." Harvey looked like more of a man in the wide-brimmed hat.
 
"It ain't okay, Harvey."Every Sunday, they would go to the Holy Mother Church, the Negro church, because Harvey wasn'tallowed at St. Mary's with its white steeple and stained glass. Holy Mother was made of logs and had a flatroof. Flies buzzed around the sacraments and the parishioners fanned themselves with their missals. WhenMr. Cinjun walked in with Harvey he got some looks on account of his white skin but most of the parishioners knew he was a respectable man for looking after Harvey.During mass the chairs creaked and the babies cried. Harvey stared out at the preacher and the big woodencross behind the altar. He listened to the readings because he liked stories and he tried to understand thesermon. Mr. Cinjun didn't bother to listen. He didn't need to pray because he knew God was already happywith him for bringing Harvey. Instead, Mr. Cinjun thought about women and cold drinks and counted theknots in the wood of the ceiling. Eventually he dozed off to the rhythm of the preacher's deep voice. When itwas time to stand and kneel Harvey didn't bother to wake him. The songs woke up Mr. Cinjun instead and hesang, his nasal voice standing out among the black chorus. Harvey sung sounds instead of words. When hetook communion, the pastor stood on tiptoe to slip the Eucharist into Harvey's mouth. Mr. Cinjun receivedhis wafer in cupped hands."Oh, Harvey! Did them white devils get you again?"To Daisey Ludwig, Mr. Cinjun was the exception. All her life, white folk had given her nothing buttrouble. They had found Harvey's father face down in the river eighteen years ago and she was sure thewhites had something to do with it. And now they were beating on her son.Mr. Cinjun took off his hat and Harvey ducked as they entered Mrs. Ludwig's house. It wasn't much bigger or neater than Mr. Cinjun's. In the main room there was a basin, a small, black stove, and a table. Mrs.Ludwig sat in a deep, sagging armchair. She wore a loose green smock and rolls of fat peeked out the armholes."I'm okay, Mama." Harvey kissed his mother on the cheek."Mornin', Mrs. Ludwig," said Mr. Cinjun, "I reckon it ain't safe for Harvey down on James Street. I'm

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