Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

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Tales of the Out & the Gone


Controversial literary legend Amiri Baraka’s new short story collection—an Essence Magazine best-seller—will shock and awe.

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Excerpt from Tales of the Out & the Gone


Goodson readied himself for his big day. Up a little early, shower, read the Measure (local paper), glance at the Times. Checked specifically the word on the goings-on. Namely, the President of the United States coming to town. And he had the biggest front on it, since he was mayor. The Mayor. (A quick look in the mirror confirmed that it was him thinking about him, and check, any photos handy? Luckily—or as usual—they was right there.)

Touch down: 6 p.m. Streets clear all the way to the hotel. Motorcade convoy. Five hundred overtime cops. Quick call to Chambers.

“Roger? Yeh, how’s it look? Uh-huh. Uh-huh. OK. Yeh. What about the Ray thing, is that set up? The ACLU? Oh yeh? Fuck ’em. I don’t give a shit about their rights, nor those people they got frontin’ for them. Yeh . . . Ha ha ha . . . Yeh. OK, check you at noon, huh? OK.”

Yesterday, ate, worked a usual day. No, that was his day off. He slept most of the day. Called the office, called Roger. Checked all the preparations. Rode by the hotel where the president would speak. A banquet. Goddamn, a Republican banquet. Thousand dollars a plate. Goddamn Republicans raising a quick million in Finland Station. Be here four hours, tops. He’d talked to the president a couple of times. He had called him Tim. “How are ya, Tim? How’s everything in Finland Station? You’re doing quite a job, Tim. Quite a job. Ever think about getting on the team all the way? I mean, leave the jackasses and join the big elephants?”

“I’m on the team now, Mr. President.” (Couldn’t call him Jer . . .) “Just a different wing of the old bird.”

“Wrong wing.” They laughed. Plastic cover somewhere, at a press conference just before a press conference. A group of black leaders. A group of mayors from all over. A lunch. Different salads, white wine. Tim burped, caught it in his hands. Fuckin Ray wrote a story about Tim, “Burping for His People.” Fuck him. I’m the . . . Yesterday. No, the day before. Up early, ran around the lake the right way. Seeing these people going uphill the other way, struggling up them hills. Tim went the right way where it was mostly downgrades. This goddamn Sloane there, coming down the wrong way. The goddamn Checker cab made them get the hell off the road. Tim was running around the lake with two policemen riding in front of him in a big Checker cab, rather than the Cadillac that came with the office. The Cadillac would’ve drawn a little too much fire. This way, a Checker, that’s offbeat and looks a little humble, dig?

At City Hall, a lot of Muslims got jobs now too. We give them jobs to be cool with everybody. A little here, a little there. “Just fire Sloane’s people wherever you see ’em. Anybody you think is hooked up at all with that Revolutionary Congress, burn ’em! Nowhere, no way!” Tim was screaming at Ethan Montgomery one morning.

“These R.C. people are never on time, never there.”

Some of them were demonstrating against Tim the same morning in front of City Hall.

“Then they want to come in here and get paid. I ain’t going for that. Burn them niggers.”

S.O. Hares, the first black President of the City Council, meets Tim. Gray sideburns tinted red, slightly. (Could dig it if you checked close.) Burned russet wire sunglasses. Light-brown and dark-brown big checked jacket and pebble texture rust pants.

“Hey, your boy is burning the hell outta you, Mr. Mayor.” He laughs. “Half a one of them goddamn poverty programs is out there too. Ha ha ha.” Hares would run next year, the bastard. Next year. He had the Dons to put up the money for him. See, it’s a fight between the different groups. But Tim knew he had it made, ’cause he had the biggest group. Gratitude Insurance controlled the whole state. Every major institution and corporation in the state had to check off with or was controlled or heavily influenced by Gratitude. And they had invested early in Tim.

“Me and the people at Grat., Laird Conroy and the rest of the folks, we very tight. But you understand, they’re the real controls. What power do I have?” (The rap would change according to who it was.) “The real power is with the economic boys. Laird Conroy is the man.” Up in the white marble tower, with Gratitude spelled out in blue steady lights‹the first thing the airplanes see.

“The Negro that runs with the Republicans can’t get up too tough a head of steam, because Rocky and them know these mostly nigger voters ain’t going for no Republican‹black or not. But then you got the Cosa Nostra, with S.O. trying to push their luck. If S.O. looks too good, he’ll get busted straight out for sticky fingers or a morals charge.”

Tim saw Maureen that early evening and they went to New York right after she got off work, for two Gibsons apiece and some pretzels. He was “working late” again. She was a librarian and a real positive step up from Ruthie. Ruthie cried and swelled up in her yellow bulk. But his wife Madeline was hip to Ruthie, and had been for a few years. Ruthie was on the board of everything and was his assistant campaign manager. She was a good campaigner, and pushed the campaign heavy all the time. Talked to a lot of people, sold a lot of tickets, set up a lot of coffee klatches at people’s houses. Ruthie knew a lot of people. Plus she was especially in charge of “prone candidate orientation,” but had now swelled up to damn near 300 pounds. Big and yellow with flat sticky red lips. She had her boards and titles and a couple of good salaries. What would she need now with Tim? So Tim reasoned, and now slid with Maureen. She woke him up to the Times Book Review’s List of Best Sellers. Jaws. Ragtime. CIA: Coup in America, the true story of John Kennedy’s murder. He got a chance to deal with a couple of pages now and then. Jaws was a better movie than book. So would the rest be. Be better as TV programs.

He never missed Roger K. Smith or the Channel 13 weekly news review. It’s a heck of a lot of work running a big city. Especially one like Finland Station, with a half-million people‹almost 400,000 of them black or Puerto Rican. With a bunch of big mouths floating around on the edge of that, playing like leaders, always stirring some bullshit up.

Like this president thing. The man’s just coming here to speak, raise some funds for the Republican Party. So we gotta have a whole lot of demonstrations and bullshit like that, just to build one of these people’s names. Tim marched in picket lines. He knew when stuff was on the up and up and when it was BS. This was BS. Why? Because the president wasn’t going to do anything. There was nothing that could be accomplished by demonstrating in front of the hotel where the president was. What’s that gonna do? It ain’t gonna get nobody no jobs. I’ll fix these simple niggers tho, they won’t even see the president. And he won’t see them either—I’ll fix them.

Tim made this statement in the newspaper, and immediately the ACLU and some other bleeding-hearts called him up to protest, saying that they would sue if he violated the democratic rights of the R.C. By the time that stuff even gets to where somebody will look at it, everything will be got up and gone. Ha.

By 12:00, the staff meeting began. Reports. The police ready. Five hundred overtime. Cost of $30,000 to the city. “Do the newspapers have that?”

“They got it, alright, and are blowing it all over. And our friends are at it on the radio. The R.C., your friend Sloane, and the others. Putting down the whole business.”

“Yeh, but what the hell we gonna do? The president comes—he gotta get security. And the city gotta pay for it. It’s a hell of a thing, him a Republican and this city full of black Democrats.”

“Most of them not no Democrats, neither,” shot in Augie Bond, the drunk PR man.