The Corner Store

by E. Amado Williams

I have several nieces and nephews. I love those little characters. They are grown for their ages, yet not indoctrinated by ignorance of those my age. They love my magic: the ability to make them laugh without tickling their tummies; the way I can make them open up and talk just by looking them in their eyes at their level; my smile that says that I am listening. Dollar bills, leaving my wallet cold, warm faces that replace empty spots on my cheeks with kisses. My look-a-likes love their uncle. I hate where they spend the greenbacks that I bestow upon them.

The corner store, the dreaded catalyst for the demise of the Black community to some, source of unblemished delight to others, often recover the money that should never see the insides of grim surroundings. Garnished with men whose eyes reside up high dress tails and down low necklines, women dishing up secret skin like cups of soup to the homeless, and alcohol coating dry palettes, these stores shade our neighbourhoods with a desire for no respect. Virgin stares, given by youth only years from the womb, are graced with the sights of grown folk having unbridled passion with naked apathy.

Project aristocrats gather to relish neglect. Mothers, bent over and tired, scurry to second jobs. Fathers tip-toe behind alleys, shooing cats while making their way to another woman's space. Children are scared to go to school. They have to venture past the corner. The store waits for them, welcomes them, and begs for their innocence. There is candy of all sorts. Bubble gum. Peppermint. Lollipops. Flavoured sugar. Beer. Drugs. A casket is closed. It's a single tear and a faint. The child, be he or she from five to fifty-five years old, is not coming back. Death was certain. It was waiting by the bag of chips.

The drive across town is long. I drive my nieces and nephews far from the grasp of "corner" activity. Faces are pale. Hair is doesn’t require straightening. Language is proper. My people are minority. It saddens me. Making a temporary escape from a "familiar" to parts that lack the rich flavours of Africa -- simply to avoid the wiles of the corner store -- does not broaden the smile that my mother and father gave to me. It protects my small family members for the moment, but the store is still on the corner when we return.

I am shocked to see the nectars of the gods on full display, all previewed and desired by even those who cannot count the money required to pay for such yields. Low lying clouds, resulting from lighted sticks that aren't filtered properly, causes squints. Verbal pollution beats eardrums with rapture; resting on the impressionable; increasing the filth lexicon; decreasing the vocabulary. Foolishness and lack of education is free. Loss of life is at discount prices. Youth is stolen.

Does driving my loved ones from that which they can walk to paint a portrait of my community being defiled; whereas, depicting white neighbourhoods as perfect? Are my eyes blinded by the disappointment of what I see in my own backyard? Am I really explaining right from wrong to my younger blood by taking them to the suburbs? Confusion and I blend at times -- lost, expecting an answer, hoping for a change. I still pray for a business that doesn't sell destruction to our youth, along with pop, chips, and moon pies. That day will come soon, right? Right?

The Corner Store by E. Amado Williams

© Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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