[33—Double Jeopardy]


I watched hit go and stood there shivering. 

I was cold and drunk, but I had the presence of mind to feel violated.  You just shouldn't mislead people like that.

What about you, a voice deep in my head asked.  I'm not responsible for other people's assumptions.

The cops were searching all around now, there was even a helicopter with a spotlight.  I moved away from the fence and took shelter behind an elaborate marble cenotaph.

"Forgive me," I said to the soldiers whom it honored.  "But I need protection.  I hope you'll understand."

It occurred to me that what I had just done was no different from prayer.  I'd never prayed before.

"And if you could see to it that Topher and Tammy make it back to me safely, I'd appreciate it."

"Amen," I added, because it felt appropriate here.

I sat and waited, cold, cramped and shivering.  I watched the moon for a half hour and still no T&T.

Di-dit di-dit di-dit.  It was the alarm on my pendant watch. 


I needed to meet my sister soon.

Should I go for her, or wait here for them? 

Topher knew what the score was, and Tammy was pretty street-wise, so I decided in favor of Gina. They'd just have to play it by ear.

There was no way to leave them a note, so I just left.

It took me twenty minute to walk to Shoffer's and Gina was waiting by the door in her Raggedy-Anne costume, worried as hell.

"Where have you been, Dani?  I've been so worried.  Where is Tammy?"

"We got split up.  Listen, Gina, the police came and busted the party up.  I got out but Topher went back to get Tammy."

I decided not to tell her about Christy.

"That's terrible, Dani, but we gotta get back soon.  Mommy and Daddy are probably already home."

"Okay, we'll get going."  I was trying to pull myself together.  "Where is your other costume?  And your candy?"

"Let's just go home, Dani...I wanna go home."

It was too late for the bus, so we had to walk, another forty minutes.  We stopped at a 24-hour drugstore and bought candy and bags to put it in, then headed home.  It would look suspicious if we came home empty handed.

"Are you okay," Gina asked me when were crossing a busy street.

"Yeah, why?"

"Because you're staggering.  And you're talking funny."

"I had a bit to drink."

"Dani, are you drunk?  Are you crazy?  Mom and Dad will kill us both if they find out."

"You won't get in trouble, little sis.  It was my idea; I was responsible, and I let you go out by yourself.  I am the one who went to a party and drank the beers."

She was still looking apprehensive.

"Good thing nothing happened to you, or I'd be in really big trouble."

She remained suspiciously silent on that point.

I started eating a bunch of candy, hoping the sugar would help sober me up and cover my sour breath.

When we got home, the car was parked in the drive, and the porch light was on.

Mother was up.

"How did it go?  You were out awfully late...good haul?"

"Yes," we both said, our mouths full of sweets.  We held up the bags as proof.

"Good.  Now get to bed, you've got to get up in the morning.  And be quiet, Robbie is asleep."

That was it?  No debriefing, no exit interview?  Maybe we would both live till tomorrow.

"Oh, Dani," Mother asked before we could put away our coats.  "Could I talk to you for a minute?"


"What is it, Momma?"

"I know you've got court in the morning..."

Oh, shit.  I'd forgotten.  I'd been so busy planning my escapade, I'd neglected my preparations.  I meant to make the time.

"...and I wanted you to know that we are both proud of you, honey.  I'm sorry Mitchell can't be there, but Old Man Boss gave me the week off.  I'll be with you the whole time."

"Thanks, Mom."

I didn't want to have this conversation.  My head was reeling and my breath stank of sour mash.  The candy had all rushed to my veins and now I felt loquacious.  But I was afraid if I talked to her, I'd puke on her too.

"Are you okay, Dani?   You look peaked."

The room felt like it was spinning.

"I'm okay...I just...candy.  I ate too much candy and I'm feeling a bit nauseous."

"Well, you'll be better in the morning.  We can talk after I get Gina and Robbie off to school.  We're on the 9:30 docket."

"Okay," I said weakly.

"Now get some sleep.  I'll see you in the morning."  She kissed me on the forehead and went off to bed.


I went up to my room, but instead of going to bed, I changed clothes into a dark sweat-suit and put my pajamas and slippers in a pillow case.

Then I went back downstairs and snuck out of the house.

Nobody was there when I got the cemetery.  Even the cops were gone.  I went to where we had the party.

There was nobody there, but plenty of signs we had been.  There were beer cans and broken bottles and lots of police tape.

The strobes and stereo had been left by the fleeing members of the BLT.  The batteries had run down and the strobes blinked weakly and now Dianna Ross sounded like Isaac Hayes.

But no sign of Tammy or Topher.

I went back to Shoffer's and found Hit's motorcycle parked in front.

"Tammy," I cried in relief.  "Are you okay?"

She looked frightful.  Besides being dressed like a bindle-stiff, she was covered in something dark, like motor oil or shoe polish.  Most of it had been wiped off of her hands and face; she looked like a white coal miner after a long day at work.

Topher was not very happy either.

"What happened?"

"I tried to be smott."

"Smott?  Is that like 'smart'?"

"Kinda," she smiled.  "But not really."

I turned to Topher.

"What happened?"

"After I left you in the cemetery, I went back in, but the cops were everywhere.  They arrested Tilly, and Bobbi, and JJ.  I don't know who else. 

"So I went back into the cellar and hid.  I found Tammy there, passed out."

"So how did you get past them?  Or did you have to wait till they left?"

"The door was left ajar, so we just snuck out.  Al Jolson here moves like a commando."

"Al Jolson?"  This ought to be good.

Tammy looked ashamed.

"Dani," Topher asked me, still giving Tammy an unkind look, "did you know she planned to come in black-face?"


That explained the dark stuff on her skin.  Her cheeks flushed bright red.

"Tammy, are you crazy?"


"What were you thinking?"

"That it wouldn't be a big deal.  I am black in a way."

"No, you're not," Topher pointed out pointedly.

"And who the hell are you to tell me who I am?  Listen, bruthah, just because you black, don't make you no nigga'."

He looked like he'd been slapped.

"And I tell you another thing, y'all grew up in this white-bread suburb, where life is cozy and you go to the library and the YMCA.  I grew up across the river, in the corn-pone ghetto. 

"I see people free-basing every other day, and can tell if an eight-ball is light by lookin' at it.  I know a girl same age as Dani's sista' hoein' it out onna street.

"And I know that life is all about dirty money, and that people like my uncle are willing to do anything to get it.

"So don't you sit there and tell me that I ain't black cause you're darker than me.  Maybe you should come to East St. Lou with me and we'll see who comes back."

What can you say to that?  I didn't say anything.



  1. I can understand feeling out of place, and taking your identity from your surroundings..But Tammy is in for a world of trouble if she doesn't learn the difference between being able to identify with blacks, and actually being black.

    1. I agree to a point; many people make that mistake and end up in 'a world of trouble'.

      However, there a difference between 'taking your identity from your surroundings' and being culturally black. I have a sister who grew up in the same household as I did, but is just that.

      The demarcation, I think, is whether or not the culture in question accepts your identity. I think Tammy falls somewhere very close to to that line.