Lethal Lottery (Trayvon 2.0)

I’ve blogged about the tragic death of Trayvon Martin and the criminalization of black males. The tragedy still weighs heavily on my mind, especially in light of the smear campaign launched against the slain teen. Author and colleague Alicia McCalla came up with the brilliant idea of writing a science fiction response to the killing of Trayvon Martin. The following short story is my tribute to Trayvon and hunted black boys everywhere.

It was a deadly time to be 18, black and male. All across the country, these young outlaws were being killed. They yanked them from their cars and lynched them in Texas, stormed their homes and gassed them in Philadelphia and lay in wait for them outside of barber shops in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Lamar Martin was blessed with a baby face that belied his 17 years. He was short with plump cheeks and big ears, and his soft black eyes that witnessed daily carnage still bore a hopeful sheen. His friends, the two or three who remained, called him Junior even though his father’s name was Carl.

Lamar huddled beneath his hoodie as he hurried to the apartment he and his mother shared. It was almost time for dinner, and she was probably standing by the living room window, scanning the street until he returned. His eyes stung as he thought of the man he barely remembered. Lamar was a toddler when his father was killed. Carl had been holed up in a Methodist church on Manchester with twenty other teens when he was gunned down. Lamar didn’t think of his father often, but his looming execution date made him realize how stark indeed was the absence of maleness in his life.

One less person to mourn me, Lamar thought, running a hand over the scar on his forehead. There were no grandfathers, uncles or older male cousins for him to look up to. Most of the teens in his community became fathers at a young age. It wasn’t uncommon to see 13-year-old boys cradling wailing infants, even though they could ill afford babies and were still children themselves. But they wanted to leave some fleshy footprint before they were killed, some reminder that they had once rough-housed and loved and dreamed in this world.

A single gunshot blast shattered Lamar’s reverie, and he quickened his steps. Although gunfire rang through his neighborhood nightly, a frenzied curfew bell, he could never get used to it. Out of instinct, he tightened his hood, making sure the mass of keloids on his forehead wasn’t visible. Like every other black male in the country, he was branded, a grisly rite of passage. On his 17th birthday, as mandated by law, his mother was forced to take him down to the Office of Records. Lamar winced as he remembered the glowing red rod that seared his birth date into his forehead. 2.26.17. Instead of a driver’s license, instead of a party, he was inducted into a lethal lottery. His 18th birthday was still two weeks away, but some white men hunted black boys for sport as their execution date neared. The hunters knew they wouldn’t be prosecuted because it was hardly considered a crime to kill an animal bound for the slaughter.

“We could move to a sanctuary city in Europe or Africa,” his mother often said, wringing her hands as she always did at the thought of his pending death. But there was no money for a transcontinental relocation. She didn’t even own a passport and neither did Lamar. They’d never traveled outside a 30-mile radius of their Inglewood home. He’d heard tales of some teens who’d run off and formed communities in the woods in places like Palmdale and the San Bernardino Mountains. He wanted to run as well, but only if his mother would come with him. He couldn’t desert her. She was only 33, and there’d been too much loss in her young life already.

He looked up and saw her standing in the window of their second-story apartment. Her eyes were always worried now. Her grief was a physical thing that loomed in the hallways and crouched in the corners of their home, blotting out the light. Now she raised her hand and gave a faint smile, relieved that he had made it back from the store. Lamar returned the smile. Most black mothers he knew, those with living sons, were fearful of their own front door. They knew the sidewalks beyond were landmined, the street corners were booby trapped. Lamar fingered the package of candy in the jacket of his hoodie. He’d never celebrated his 17th birthday, but they would have a party tonight. A sugar high was just what he needed, filled with iced tea and candy. Consuming those sugary snacks would be enough, would provide all the sweetness that was denied him in the world.

“Boy.”

The voice startled Lamar, and he left off fiddling with his snacks. He didn’t turn toward the source of that word, as much of a slur as the word “nigger.” Instead, he glanced back up at his mother. Her hand was still raised in greeting, but a pleading look replaced the relief in her eyes.

“Boy.” This time Lamar heard footfalls behind him. He was only a few yards from his apartment building, but his legs refused to run. He had done nothing wrong, had broken no laws.

I still have two weeks. Two weeks of living. Two weeks of freedom, but how free was he when he had to walk the streets with a hood shielding his face? They still broke you in the end. He thought of his father huddled at the altar of Grimes A.M.E. Church, beneath the sculpture of a sightless Jesus, his blood drenching the wine-red carpet of the sanctuary. But there was no sanctuary, not when you walked around with your sin spelled out in the blackened flesh of your forehead.

“What are you doing here, boy?”

Lamar lowered his hood, and turned to face the hunter.

For Trayvon Martin (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012)

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14 Comments

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14 Responses to Lethal Lottery (Trayvon 2.0)

  1. Seet

    Extremely touching piece in light of the current atmosphere surrounding Trayvon Martin’s murder. Thanks for memorializing him so eloquently.

    • marty

      Travon Martin was well on his way to becoming a fill blown thug. He is dead because of the black thug culture he was raised aroud. #1 Travon martin was caught at school with 12 pieces of womens jewelery and a large flathead screwdriver. He said the jewelery was not his but he did not say who it belonged to. He denied ownership of the jewelery because it was stolen, the large flathead screwdriver is a breakin tool. Travon had bragged on a tweet about swinging at a school bus driver thus proving he had violent tendencies. He was suspended for being late , he was suspended for a babby with marijauna resisdue. So travon was in the early stages of thuggery, he was a thief, violent and using drugs at 17. it was travon violent response to Zimmermans questions that got him killed. Its really as simple as that. Yet the media has portrayed travon as a sweet innocent kid. Travon was taught by BLACK CULTURE to respond with violence and thats what got him killed.

      • I’m not here for bigots, Marty. You can talk until you’re blue under your white sheet, but nothing you say can make me believe an unarmed black teen’s murder was justified. You bigots never seem to realize that WHITE THUG CULTURE, you know the kind that has wiped out entire civilizations and has committed rape and plunder for centuries in pursuit of power and wealth, trumps so-called “black thug culture.” Even if Trayvon was involved in the alleged acts you speak of, did George Zimmerman know this? You have been banned. Go back to the cave you came from. This is a safe space for black women. Neanderthals need not apply.

  2. Nicole, all I can say is wow! That was heart wrenching and important. I’m glad you added your creative science fiction. So powerful. I’d like to add your intro and direct link to my blog. Let me know if that’s ok. So many writers have shared their voices. I’m in awe.

  3. Thanks for reading, Seet!

    Alicia — thanks for your comment. Absolutely. Feel free to link it. Thanks again for inspiring us to find creative outlets for our outrage at the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

  4. Alma Luz Villanueva

    This story reminds me of ‘The Janes’…the hunting of the precious treasure within the despised/envied ‘other’… beautifully written, conveyed, Nicole. As the ‘new Jim Crow’ is also a reality- the LARGE numbers of young men of color in filling the (lucrative) prison systems in our country, as well as poor, white young men but smaller numbers. I think of how mothers, and fathers, of young men of color must train their sons to breathe, walk, live while brown, black, and how it often doesn’t ultimately protect them, as with Trayvon, that 17 year old dreamer. Horrible, wonderful story, Nicole, brava…

  5. Alma Luz Villanueva

    My 2nd try to post a comment, so will be briefer- This is wonderful, Nicole, reminds me of ‘The Janes,’ that hunting of the treasure within the despised, envied ‘other.’ Trayvon’s murder at 17, that dreaming boy/man, of course reminds me of my own sons at that age…his eyes still filled with wonder. And I love that people of ALL color are coming together over this, yes, murder- that racial profiling isn’t being ignored as usual, as is now going on in Arizona in earnest, the insane book banning as well. Again, BRAVA, this is what the best use of a writer’s vision. Almaluz

  6. Coley

    You are fictively devastating. You honor and give power to this moment with this story. The last line destroyed me: Lamar lowered his hoodie and turned to face the hunter.

  7. Gracias for your comments, Alma. It’s interesting that you mentioned my short story “The Janes,” because it was under your mentorship that I began to view speculative fiction as a way of giving voice to the oppressed in subversive ways. As someone commented on HuffPo, Trayvon’s spirit still walks the earth seeking justice. Every article we post about this injustice, every blog we write in remembrance of him, our spirit stands in solidarity with his.

    xo,
    N

  8. Thanks, Coley, my sister scribe! It was a hard story to write, and it saddens me to think that so many black boys are being hunted. Truth is stranger than fiction.

  9. Marcsu Sconiers

    Nicole… Cuz, this is awesome. Hunger Games has nothing on this. WOW.. I was all into this short. I remember as a child, my parent would always preface my punishment by telling me they loved me and that is why I’m being punished, but they would also add, “because if I don’t whip you, the white man will”. Never understood that until I was 20 something year old young black man, and even though I was not doing anything wrong, respectable, responsible, a positive contributor to society, I was not seen that way in their eyes. Story has a tinge of truth to it Nicole….

  10. Marcsu Sconiers

    When can we get more?

  11. Jondrea Smith

    Hey Nicole;

    Man, this one strikes a chord with me. Not only in light of recent events, but when compared to my own life growing up in Mississippi. Sometimes it felt like eighteen was the end of one sentence, and the beginning of another. Up until eighteen, I was a boy, to be scorned, chided, ‘put in his place,’ and abused at the whim of a system that cares nothing for him. After eighteen, I was a man to be carefully watched, speculated about, and most of all feared to the point of irrationality.

    Trayvon, and the recent police shootings here in New Orleans, have dredged up all sorts of sentiments regarding race, fear of the Black male, and the sheer insanity of the place in which we find ourselves in this society. I’m large, unmistakeably male, and unequivocally Black, and everyday it seems that I have to deal with what that means. Articulation, personality, intelligence are all prefaced with the most visible label: ‘Big Black Man.’ It’s weird knowing that I could end up getting hurt by somebody’s phobia.

    Another thing I think needs to be addressed within the Black community is the search for the ‘acceptable victim.’ One of the most unnecessary debates surrounding the Martin case in my opinion was the one surrounding whether or not Trayvon may have done something to warrant his attacker’s reaction. Or if his style of dress, teenage indiscretions, or stature (6’3″ 150 is a big dude now, apparently) somehow precipitated his demise. That saddened me because I had to pause to wonder whether there would’ve been an outcry if Trayvon had looked like….well…me.

    I love the short story, and I’m actually working on a piece that takes it in a whole other direction. It’s basically an “Of the coming of John: 2012 Edition.” I’ll share it when I think I’m done with it. Keep it up and I look forward to more.

    Jondrea

  12. This is brilliant. And riveting. Bravo Sister!

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