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This page was last updated on 21/04/2006 16:37:39

 

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Trussed - an extract from the new book by Shiromi Pinto
21 April 2006

Trussed - cover

Next week Catalyst will be publishing an exclusive interview with author Shiromi Pinto. To whet your appetites we're delighted to have an extract from her new book, Trussed.

Regis ran his tongue over his teeth, feeling between the grooves for cookie crumbs. Shit, he thought. Just applying to be a security guard had made him feel like a criminal. They had taken his prints, like they took everyone’s, but later when he’d walked down the street with indigo-stained fingertips, he felt horribly conspicuous. People seemed to shrink from him. Maybe that happened every day. He couldn’t tell. That was the eighties, he mused. The shit was bad then. His size didn’t help either. He’d walk along South Fairfax Boulevard and white women would, unconsciously, squeeze their handbags against their hips. Occasionally he’d get hassled by the LAPD. Nothing serious, but consistent enough to light a slow rage in the pit of his stomach. And then there was Rodney King.

Regis had been lying on his living room floor doing stomach crunches while listening to the radio when the verdict was passed

Regis had been lying on his living room floor doing stomach crunches while listening to the radio when the verdict was passed. Holliday’s video footage hadn’t been enough for the jury. Koon, Powell, Wind and Briseno had all been let off. Regis had been incredulous. King wasn’t dead, of course, but he might as well have been.

A chill ran through Regis. When he was seven, Watts had caught alight. He’d overheard his parents talking about it in hushed voices: the beatings, the arrests, the bodies rolling like potatoes under the force of the hoses. Back then, it had been exciting to Regis, a welcome distraction, even. Only later did he realise that he had lost family to the chaos: his Aunt Sally, who used to look at him with stern eyes, and his older cousin Frank, who always carried around two playing cards with women in bikinis on them. When Regis had found out, the only thing he could think of was those cards. He imagined them floating endlessly through the streets of Watts, bearing the two blondes on their backs like lily pads carrying flowers.

Without thinking, Regis picked up the telephone. He hadn’t spoken to his cousin, Rudy, in years, had just about forgotten his South Central buddies. But something compelled him now to make contact.

He imagined them floating endlessly through the streets of Watts, bearing the two blondes on their backs like lily pads carrying flowers

‘They let those motherfuckers go. Shit, Reg.’ Rudy was close to tears. He didn’t bother with the wherefores and what-the-fucks. ‘There’s no justice for the black man, Reg. No justice at all.’

Regis, sitting in his Venice Beach apartment, shook his head. ‘Can’t argue with you there, Rude. It’s like Malcolm X never lived.’

Rudy was sobbing. ‘Denied … our … dignity.’ The words came out strangled.

Regis kept his voice low. ‘I know. I know–’

‘No … dignity.’

The phone went dead. And before he could fully digest his cousin’s words, LA went up in flames. The riots started in Westwood and spread like contagion across the county. Nowhere was off-limits; from Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley, fire and frustration rained down. Regis spent those five days rivetted to his couch. The television was on twenty-four hours a day, and after a while, Regis thought the video feed must have been on a loop. Looting, shooting, physical assault. It seemed endless, the faces generally black or Hispanic. And that infamous footage of the Korean storeowner brandishing a gun, firing, it seemed, willy-nilly. He saw that again and again. Then there was the black trader from South Central, crying, demanding to know why people were destroying his livelihood. And a looter, looking desperate, shaking his head saying, ‘God forgive us. We can’t help ourselves.’

almost catatonic with anger and disbelief, Regis felt like he was drowning

Lying there, almost catatonic with anger and disbelief, Regis felt like he was drowning. Perhaps the couch would just swallow him up, deliver him from this conflagration. Was this what Baldwin was talking about? Was this the Fire Next Time? Regis didn’t think so. From his perspective, the only people getting hurt in all this were his brothers and sisters. Black people tearing into black-owned businesses, destroying their own neighbourhoods, their own communities. Why didn’t they vent their rage in the Hills? Or in goddamn Malibu? This was a total fuck up. No revolution here, just a maelstrom of anger. A spontaneous combustion. An implosion.

Months after it was all over – after Crenshaw Square had been reduced to cinders and most of the area gutted – Regis drove down to South Central. He didn’t have the heart to go into Inglewood, and certainly no stomach for Crenshaw. Instead, he stopped his car at Florence and Normandie, and got out. It was a weekday afternoon. The sun was bright, sapping everything in its path of colour and depth. Regis scanned the intersection, taking in the surprisingly unscathed exterior of the Liquor Store. He crossed over to Art’s – a short, blue, homely looking shack – and ordered one of his Famous Chili Dogs. He took up a stool and stared out the small window. The gas station, the Liquor Store, Art’s – they were all still standing, survivors of the riots’ worst.

An old man was selling equally aged fruit by the side of the road. Everything was calm, lazy even

When Regis returned to the same spot years later, South Central had been deceptively peaceful. The houses, low to the ground, were small and in faded pastels. People – very few – moved slowly down the sidewalks, hair alive and springy. There were no gang bangers or knuckleheads loping about. An old man was selling equally aged fruit by the side of the road. Everything was calm, lazy even. But the Liquor Store still had its iron door, most places had bars on their windows, and despite an average of two churches per block (including the Universal Christian Miracle Centre not far from the intersection), there was no real evidence of grace.

Regis didn’t bother to stop in on anyone. His cousin, Rudy, had shrivelled up into a statistic, his life raked together with the other fifty-one claimed by the riots. His other friends and family, he could do without. By then, Regis had effected the desired transition. He had moved from Venice Beach to Burbank. He had a decent job, a Korean girlfriend and a surfer buddy. Life was sweet.

1 Comment
OMG!
lauren
07 July 2007


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Reviews

‘the defining feature of Pinto’s novel is the contrast of the hilarious and the devastating’ – bookmunch

‘Shiroma Pinto’s first novel is fast, blackly funny and so cool that it hurts’ – The Times

Links

Shiromi Pinto articles on openDemocracy.

Commission for Racial Equality

Publisher of Catalyst Magazine, the CRE works to create a just and integrated society, where diversity is valued.

openDemocracy

Independent political discussion and debate based on exchange and participation.

Prospect Magazine

A political magazine, Prospect also includes features on arts and culture, science, economics, history, social affairs and philosophy.

Runnymede Trust

The Runnymede Trust promotes a successful multi-ethnic Britain.

Institute of Race Relations

The Institute of Race Relations is a race relations thinktank.

EUMC

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Social policy research and development.

For more links, see our new links page.

Search Catalyst

Search For:


Promote Catalyst

If you are able to promote Catalyst in your workplace, university etc, please download our poster, a pdf which can be printed at A4 or A3 size.

Small print

Contributor and illustrator information

Articles published in Catalyst do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Commission for Racial Equality.

For advertising or editorial enquiries, please .

rss logo | What is RSS?

This page was last updated on 21/04/2006 16:37:39

 

© Commission for Racial Equality 2007

 

CRE 30 years logo