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violence and guilt

I am on next year's book, rewriting busily. Actually, I am staring busily at the screen, and out the window, and pacing busily over to the piano, playing a hymn while trying to sight-sing the bass part, then returning to the computer to mutter busily to myself as I rerereread a sentence that isn't working. I should be looking at page proofs of Into The Ravine, which goes off the printers on Friday, but the deadline is too far in the distance. Wednesday night should be about right for the fear-induced adrenaline rush. While staring at my rewrite I got to thinking about my jog in Central Park a couple days ago. I witnessed a mugging attempt that was disturbing in several ways. (Did you know that mugger is the Hindu word for a crocodile? I found out from Mr Kipling. Most of my general knowledge comes from reading mystery stories, but I have some popular classical fiction in there too.) Puffing towards a hairpin downhill turn I heard a gigantic voice shouting, Get out of here! I rounded the bend to see a big guy astride his bike, bellowing at two other guys wrestling for control of another bike. One of the guys was wearing bike gear; the other a shirt and pants. It was 8:30 in the morning. Joggers started to slow down and take in the scene. The shirt and pants guy backed away as the first bike guy continued to bellow (one of those leather-lunged voices you hear at a ball game). Keep going! he yelled. Don't take people's bikes! By the time I came up to the scene, the shirt-and-pants guy had dropped off the roadway, climbed down some rocks and run into a building maybe 50 yards away. Lots of adrenaline in the air, lots of comment, and many questions. I kept jogging. I was passed by a couple of other bikers, one of whom I overheard say, I've always hated that bend. Looking down, off the side of the road, I saw a guy come out of the building the alleged (I never saw any of this) mugger had run to, and say to someone I couldn't see, No one came in here. Violence is always upsetting. I ran on feeling ridiculous. Was it really a mugging? What kind of idiot would try to steal a bike in the middle of a crowded Saturday morning? He had looked and moved guiltily -- but innocence can appear guilty. (Half-finished cupcake in hand, I greet my daughter's frown with an extremely guilty smile. Was I not supposed to take one? I honestly didn't know.) I tried to think of another scenario. Maybe the biker had fallen, and the non-mugger tried to help him up. And he'd run because he didn't see how he could explain himself to leather lungs and the crowd. Cause no one would believe him. Cause he was black, and most of the crowd was white or beige. No one commented on the colour issue -- I overheard no slurs at all. But the fact made me sad. My noticing it made me sad. And I couldn't help remembering that the guy coming out of the building saying that no one had come in there -- when clearly someone had come in there -- was black too. An accomplice or credulous bystander? Or, saddest of all, was he motivated by the race-sympathy that says, Innocent or guilty, no one is going to believe you.


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