My short story, “The Muralist”, is up on Expanded Horizons. I wanted to practice “voice” when I first started writing this story–the word choice, the pacing, the tone, rhythm of the story. It’s a ghost story told in the point of view of a homeless man and it’s set in Bed-Stuy Do or Die (literally). There are plenty murals on the side of corner bodegas all over Brooklyn. I pass one every day in Fort Greene. It has the person’s sunrising and sunsettting, name, followed by R.I.P., of course. And I’m always fascinated by the eyes. That person’s likeness was once a real face on a live body. And those eyes are there watching–day and night, rain or shine.
And another major question that came up for me while writing this was what happens to all those shooting victims? Not the bodies, but their souls. What happenes when Death snatches us from reality and pulls us down into that underworld in-between place? I tried to answer this with “The Muralist”.
A few days ago, a 17-year-old boy named Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by a neighborhood watchman.
Here is an excerpt of “The Muralist”:
by Ibi Zoboi
Man, let me tell you about the nighttime. A blank canvas. A lame brick wall. Except for the walking dead who traveled with their own colors. It was work to be able to see them. A stroke of my paintbrush fingers in midair would reveal the aura of the closest one. A few more strokes, and the fully formed spook would appear. Crazy-ass nighttime. Like Whodini said. Except it ain’t the freaks. It’s the spooks. Soon as dusk settled like dirt over the city resting its filthy head for some Zs, the spooks came out against the city’s perpetual bright lights. Flashing all that color like strobe lights at the club. Like that stupid spinning disco ball that’ll make you throw all your shit up if you stared at it too long after you’ve had too much to drink.
“That’s my spot! Get out my spot!” I yelled as I limped my way over to a bed for the night.
Just when it was still light enough outside, I roamed the streets of Brooklyn looking for a makeshift shrine of seven day candles, flowers, and crying folk. That’s where it was quiet. The spooks didn’t come close to where a Newdead was about to make its way into the Cracks. Too much confusion. So these were the only corners in the city I could lay my head right at night.
But the crying folk wouldn’t leave. Some fool gunned down somebody’s son right next to a corner bodega. Always something about the crossroads. You make a deal with the devil, do your dirt, and there was always four directions you could choose to run towards.