by Dana Crum
This excerpt from my novel At the Cross was published in African Voices in 2001.
On one such evening he sat alone on a parked rusting Pontiac and, scowling, recalled what he'd accidentally stepped on on his way downstairs a few minutes ago. He'd heard a snap! and then a crunch! and had lifted his shoe only to see the thick, white guts of a cockroach splattered over the floor and over both his sneakers. The glossy, black-and-brown shell was cracked and flattened. The wiry antennae and thorny legs fluttered for a moment, then stopped altogether. Nauseous, he feverishly scraped his shoes against the floor to clean them. And now, outside, he gazed at the redbrick tenements, broken sidewalks and slanted dirt yards besieging him and longed for the waving arms of trees, nodding heads of flowers and lush pools of grass around his grandmother's small but clean, white-and-green house. He wondered what the friends he'd left in Birmingham were doing at that moment. Probably, they were riding their bikes down the street, every now and then one of them popping a wheelie while the rest sat crouched over their handlebars in the position their mothers warned would ruin their posture. Sidney was staring at the foot of the hill, wondering what they would do later on when he noticed, less than a second away, a football zipping toward him in a tight spiral. "Catch the ball, man!" someone shouted, and Sidney threw up his hands, his usually reliable hands, but the ball bounced off them and spun in the air before clattering to the ground like a clumsy bird.