was running for my life. My pursuer was almost twice my size, and so
I was not about to stand and fight. Mind you, if he caught me, he
would not have had it all his way. Both of us were Clairwood ghetto
gang members. His gang had more members than mine. Notwithstanding,
pound for pound, every Clairwood ghetto gang member was equal to
every other one in capacity for mindless ruthless violence.
Notwithstanding, the most capable gangster is like every person in
that anger always makes us careless in our actions. He was consumed
by anger; in my flight, almost consumed by terror, I was thinking,
I was cornered, I knew a few tricks about dirty street fighting.
Here, I was following the first rule in ghetto fighting: if
outnumbered, run. There were no heroes in our Clairwood ghetto.
was many, many years ago in my childhood. I think I was about eleven
years old. In all the years, I never figured out why he was so intent
on catching me. I was empty-handed. I had not challenged or insulted
gangs met on the wild field at the end of the ghetto, by accident.
From the first sighting, my gang kept a safe distance. We did not
know they had planned to attack us from two sides. While we were on
guard against one side, some of them came at us from the other side.
It was not difficult for them to stay hidden until the last minute.
The field was overgrown with wild knee-high vegetation. Everybody
said the City was planning to make the field an extension of
Clairwood's existing graveyard, sooner or later.
about everybody in Clairwood made regular visits to that field
because of the wild blackberries. Free food. A gold mine for the poor
people living in Clairwood. If ever otherwise cut-throat hooligans
did a good deed, we ne'er-do-wells in Clairwood were heroes by
declaring we would kill anyone found damaging blackberry plants while
plucking the free food.
there were people in that field. Gangsters were there, too, to e and
to ensure the plants were undamaged.
there are rival gangs, violence is bound to erupt. Why that gang came
after us, I do not know. Many, many years in the future, when I had
become a righteously law abiding person, I opined an hypothesis;
criminals are similar to the Wild Dogs of Africa in that when the
herd naturally reaches a mysterious number, members are driven into
cannibalism within the herd.
was Maynard, our leader, who first sensed the trap. Just in time. He
had only time to shout, "Scatter!" That gave us about a one
second head start; that's all we needed in any crisis. There were
about five of us. A few days later I would learn that although the
other four successfully fought their way out, it was not without
serious battle injuries; to both gangs. When my gang had a head
start, we either won, or ran away, undefeated cowards.
ran straight for the edge of the cliff. Along one of its ends, the
field ended in a sudden vertical drop. None of us had cared to
explore that cliff. It was not intelligent for me to run toward the
cliff edge, because my pursuer would know I would not dare to leap
over the edge.
nearer we got to the cliff edge, the thicker the knee-length wild
vegetation got. That was to my advantage. I was smaller, and so I
could crash my way along faster. He was slowing down. I did not know
how near to the cliff I was getting. That was not safe. I had never
been to the edge of the cliff. The density of the vegetation had been
decided to guess I was close enough. I flung myself mightily to the
ground. The weeds prevented me from falling straight to the ground. I
somewhat expected that, and so I started crawling frantically when I
sensed I was horizontal. I had guessed accurately. Seconds into my
desperate crawl, I suddenly felt myself tilting head-first. I was
over the edge of the cliff. Only the vegetation was preventing me
from catapulting head-first down.
heard a scream from above, and a lot of crashing noises. Weeks later
I would find out that my pursuer had hurtled over the edge, and was
never seen again.
gripped vegetation, and slowly maneuvered my feet to be below me. I
was wearing my usual clothes: short pants and short sleeves. And no
shoes. As I twisted and turned myself, I was cut and scraped by
leaves, and sticks, and stung by insects. If not for the density of
the vegetation, my exertions would have caused me to catapult to the
bottom of the cliff.
inched down, carefully probing with my bare feet for firm ground. My
fear was growing with every inch of descending progress. The
vegetation got thicker and more impenetrable as I climbed lower. And
darker in more and more shadows. The sun was out. It was hot. Because
both its heat and light did not penetrate the thick vegetation more
than a few inches, while my back burned, the opposite side of me felt
cold and moist. I expected to be attacked by a wild animal. In the
middle of my increasing fear and hopelessness, my feet touched firm
stopped. I carefully explored with my toes to discern the extent of
the firm ground. When I guessed there was enough extent, I slowly
placed my entire foot down. I stepped backwards slowly, making full
use of support from the tall vegetation scraping against me all
around, bottom to top, side to side.
feet felt gravel stones. I stopped and dared to turn. I saw where I
was. Railway tracks! I knew where I was! My fear converted to joy so
fast, I vomited.
when we had the fare, we would catch a train to and from school about
five miles from home. This cliff was the high edge of a deep and long
gash in the hillside along the tracks.
the train reached this colossal hillside ugliness, we passengers
would rush to the windows. The engine drivers seemed to encourage us
by slowing down the train. The gash was about as long as a five-coach
train. When the engine was a steam engine, instead of
engine's hooter would sound a few times.
was so happy to have survived that cliff drop, I did not feel any of
the bruises and cuts on my body as I walked home. At home, I felt
them for the next few days.
tried but failed to persuade my gang to explore the gash, at least
from the lower end where the tracks were.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Story list and biography
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