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2008

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Behind The Lines

Steve DeFrance

He lies on his side, eyes open – watching.
They don’t focus – his gray eyes just watch you.
Hugging the legs of an L.A. bus bench, his arms
are tangled around the iron in an unnatural way.
Naked legs thrust out onto the sidewalk.
Most people walk around. A few step over.
The bench back above him is an advertisement.
(maybe for him a bomb shelter).It has a picture
of a fat black man. He looks well fed.
Above him in red letters are the words:
ATTORNEY LARRY H. PARKER GOT ME TEN MILLION.
In small letters a disclaimer. It states each case is unique.

And as in life, there are no guarantees.

A bus hisses & thunders to a stop.
An Indian or Pakistan woman
is lowered off in a wheel chair.
Her chair can't roll over the man.
He blocks her sidewalk. She screams.
Brown & black faces gather to poke
& punch the guy. He groans.

A Los Angeles police car shows up. Two cops.
A white female, a black male.
Politically correct.
Suspicion  swells—the crowd stops chattering & scatters. 
Half don't have identity papers. Others are inherently
afraid of any police.

The police guy's very short, the female's unusually tall.
I imagine them as lovers.
The cops sit the guy up. He starts coughing.
Suddenly he pukes on the female officer's leg.

They stand him up against the wall
at Washington & Grand.
traffic's tangling around them,
for a minute I thought they might shoot him.

Suddenly the man stands to attention and says:
"Is this Baghdad? Am I under arrest? What are the charges? 
I am corporal Jones serial# 2yusmc…”
The small cop says, “It’s OK, soldier.
Almost gently—he touches his shoulder.
“There are no charges.”

The female reads his rights & with rubber gloves
leads him toward the police unit.
They drive off without conviction.
They'll leave him somewhere behind the lines—
where no one cares too much,
maybe Chinatown.