"You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That's assault, not leadership." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Garbage Bag

In her meticulous manner, Carla had wrapped Jerry’s big kitchen knife in stiff layers of cardboard, generously wound with black tape. Whatever torn wrappers, putrid chicken bones, dented old cans, sticky wet tissues and other debris may have filled the bag; they were merely the packing material to conceal the evidence. 

I gaged my pace to go quickly, but not frantically. But even in the desolate 4 a.m. street, I felt conspicuous carrying a garbage bag — this garbage bag. The side streets in this part of town were long corridors, connecting the Avenues. When I got to the next Avenue, I casually rested my burden among a group of similar-looking garbage bags, making mine as anonymous as the rest. 

Helping to cover up a crime is obviously is a bad choice. But respectable people do not always understand that the other choices may have been worse. When Jackie brought us the knife the previous night, what were we to do? 

Larry Betsch and his friend Tony had been at Jackie’s house the previous night, hoping to buy heroin. When Jerry told them that he did not have any drugs to sell, Betsch called him a Nigger. Jerry lived by strict rules… not the rules of conventional society. He pimped his wife, but he had strict guidelines for the manner in which she turned tricks. 

One rule was inviolable: Jerry would not tolerate the “N” word.  One day his six-year-old daughter Dawn got into a tiff with another kid in the schoolyard. “My daddy is a big black Nigger,” she had said, “and he’s gonna get you!” Jerry was mortified when it got back to him, and he had a serious talk with Dawn.

“Get out of my house,” ordered Jerry. But Betsch would not leave, and called him “Nigger” a few more times. A lot of Black people we knew used the “N” word, and some white people seem to think this gives them license. If Betsch thought that, he miscalculated. Jerry jumped into action.

“He grabbed a kitchen knife, and hit him, and hit him, again and again,” said Jackie, sitting in our kitchen after handing Carla the knife. At first I did not get what she meant by “hit him,” but soon it became apparent that she meant, “stabbed.” 

Jackie described how Jerry had “hit” both of them; and how, as they staggered out the front door, Tony had turned to Betsch and said, “help me!,” and Betsch replied, “I can’t help you!” It is amazing how many times someone can get stabbed with a 10 inch knife, yet stagger away and live: but where we lived it seemed to happen a lot. 

Walking on in the morning chill, I hoped that in another 3 hours, the evidence would be lost in the belly of a garbage truck, never to be found by the police. For days I waited for a knock on the door by detectives wanting to question me, but the knock never came. 

This was not the first time since, having become involved with junkies, whores, muggers, and other petty criminals, that I was amazed at how easily a risky situation can resolve itself inconsequentially. 

Being an accessory to Jerry’s crime was the third time that I sweated, but ended up getting away with a felony.


Copyright 2016, Steven K-Brooks


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