Pick of the Week » Roger Porter

This week’s pick goes to Roger Porter for his reading of a short story entitled “The African Dead” at the third installment of Anger Management. Porter has a gift for combining sarcasm and insight into a compelling delivery that captures a sense of hopelessness—itself a fascinating statement of irony considering his decision to write. Although he said this was something of an older piece, it has many elements that you can find in his first collection of stories, The Souls of Hood Folk, which is really quite the achievement and vastly more valuable than the 8 dollar tag on it.

Full text:

I do not want to go to this funeral. I bought the candles for the memorial and I make sure they stay lit. I made the poster. R.I.P. Lamar Brown: see ya soon, bra. I put the pictures on there and stapled my own money to it. I got the whole hood together and I bought the Hennessey, Remy, and the Patron. I collected all the bottles. I placed them at the memorial. I even scrubbed his blood off the sidewalk, but I aint tryin to go to that funeral.

It’s the same thing all the time: bitches the dude didn’t even like hollerin and screamin, all the homies there hella mad and embarrassed because everybody could see them cryin. And then there’s the preacher. He’ll stand behind his pulpit with his robe on under his designer suit, looking over the microphone looking down on all of us. He’ll say something about how the youth of today have lost their way. We need to come to church on Sunday, pay our tithes and put more money in his pocket. He’ll say: “This isn’t a sad day this is a celebration of life. This is a homecoming. Remember that nothing in this world is done without reason. God has a plan. He called this boy home to be with his father. Please try to understand that his soul was saved. I baptized him myself. This is a celebration.”

And at this point the boy’s mother will break down and begin sobbing and yell at the top of her lungs “Why. Why God why? Why’d you have to take my baby?” And we’ll have to hold her up to keep her from falling to the floor. I look up and stare into the preacher who has sweat all over his face, and he ain’t sweating because he’s hot. He’s sweating because he will not stop shouting and because he’s fat. I look at him standing above us, still preaching like he don’t hear this woman’s voice, and he’ll just keep talking about a celebration, like that’s all he know how to do. I’ll look at him and I’ll think Celebration? What the fuck is there to celebrate, a teenager in a casket and you talk about a celebration?

Then the preacher will announce that he will sit down just long enough for people to give their echoes of remembrance. And a lady of the church will set up a microphone down low where we are because we can’t use the preacher’s microphone and we can’t stand anywhere near his pulpit—no one can unless they are coming up to put a glass of water on the podium. So this man is finally about to let us talk, but before he does he will say, “Out of respect for the family of the dead, please only share positive memories that are uplifting. We all know that times are hard enough for them as it is.” That’s what the man who doesn’t even know the dead will say. That’s what the man who doesn’t even know the family of the dead will say. All he knows is that this is his church  and that we are all in it. He’ll sit down and wipe his forehead and his fat cheeks with a handkerchief. I”ll think about saying something but I won’t. I never do. I’ll just tell myself that I hate this shit. I hate everything about it. I don’t want to go to this funeral, but I know I have to.

This coming week » Tonight, head to Viracocha. Guinevere Q’s Variety Show is always impressive. I’m a big fan of Sharon Coleman, and you can catch her Wednesday if you’re in the Ebay, or if you’re in SF check out the SF Writers Community‘s monthly reading event. And on Friday, Joseph Lease and Steffi Drewes are reading at the CCA Writer’s Studio.

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