Another ‘Two Roads’ extract

A novel and a novella

The police car comes out of nowhere. Takes out his front wheel. Frank flies up and over the bars, thinking this is going to hurt, and it does. The ground hits him hard, he feels his shirt tear as he slides along, gravel working its way in. But before he can really even register the pain, the shock, thinking [Frank also in a moment of empathy and thinking about the dick driving the police car] what the fuck are you doing? – he’s seen the police car and it looks almost like they’d done it deliberately – he has a knee in his back and a gun pressed to his head and a voice saying: ‘You’re under arrest, boy.’

Malleable

Also from Malleable

Life, Frank Goodman decides, is good. Frank has a new girlfriend too – Penny Abaroa, Ash’s best friend – and she’s just kissed him goodbye. He is peddling away from Norman’s house after getting a call on his cell. And while Frank pedals he starts to enumerate all his blessings: he has good friends, he is, he figures, going to get into MIT (who wouldn’t want someone with his math abilities?) and he is on his way to pick up another book he’d bought on-line.

About the only thing wrong with the whole set up – Frank thinks as he whizzes down Luther King Drive, all gravity and hardly a need to pedal – is that he’s had to borrow Norman’s sister’s bicycle to get to the Post Office.

Frank’s bicycle has been stolen. In Frank’s eyes, on Norman’s sister’s bike, he looks a bit like a black panther athlete forced onto some clown’s device and somehow additionally dressed, metaphorically anyway, in pink leotards. (Frank has a poster of the 1968 Mexico Olympics’ most famous moment up on his wall and that is how he sees himself: all grace and lean speed and not taking lip from anyone. He’s deluded but aren’t we all.) 

The police car comes out of nowhere. Takes out his front wheel. Frank flies up and over the bars, thinking this is going to hurt, and it does. The ground hits him hard, he feels his shirt tear as he slides along, gravel working its way in. But before he can really even register the pain, the shock, thinking [Frank also in a moment of empathy and thinking about the dick driving the police car] what the fuck are you doing? –he’s seen the police car and it looks almost like they’d done it deliberately – he has a knee in his back and a gun pressed to his head and a voice saying: ‘You’re under arrest, boy.’

“What for? You arsehole, you ran into me.”

He hears the gun cock and the voice say, “What did you say, ma’fukk?”

Frank wonders a number of things, simultaneously: do people with a gun at their head hear the gun go off (but who could you tell)? what is going on here? this is Burris and stuff like this doesn’t happen, who’ll know he is gone? what will his folks say? doesn’t his chest hurt, and my, isn’t the sun lovely and warm, and, what on earth do I say?

Nothing.

* * *

Norman didn’t know what to say either. He hasn’t said a word since they’ve arrived at the police station.

He’s with Frank’s Dad, who’s come down the station after a lot of phone calls. Frank’s Dad has asked Norman to come with him to pick up Frank, for a bit of peer support, Frank’s Dad says. Frank is really rattled. 

Norman thinks, well, I’m not much good at peer support.

The chief of police is with Mr. Goodman and Frank and Norman now, holding Mr. Goodman chummily by his arm, smiling, apologising, smiling, tut-tutting… all in a rush, the party moving through and towards the station exit, the chief saying we’ll offer compensation, no doubt about it, again, I can’t explain how this happened, a new bike certainly…  Mistaken identity; your boy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“You mean that’s how you’d handle the real criminal if you had him? Run him down with a car and put a gun to his head?”

“Now, now, Mr. Goodman. I can understand your anger but the crime we’re talking here is assault with a deadly weapon, and a police officer has been shot by the perpetrator… You can understand my officers being a little forthright.”

“I can and – I can’t,” Mr. Goodman says. “I need to think about it some more. I must say I really don’t understand what is going on. It’s like we’re in a bad dream from somewhere else. Has this got anything to do with colour?”

Norman always seems to forget to say to anyone who doesn’t know him that Frank is an African American. He’s just Frank.

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