Thursday, February 7, 2013

"John T. Williams" Essay Published in Raven Chronicles!

Hi Everyone,

My essay about my experience with the John T. Williams shooting in Seattle is out now, available in the current publication of Raven Chronicles.  The theme of the issue is "Sense of Place."  The publication can be purchased directly from them online or, in the Seattle area, from bookstores such as Elliott Bay.  Here is an excerpt from my essay.  I hope you enjoy it and purchase this wonderful publication that supports local authors.

Excerpt from "Memorial: For John T. Williams"

A body lay on the sidewalk, out of place, in the way of their taping like a wetland in the middle of prime real estate.  Policemen traipsed around it, quick to redirect traffic.  “What happened I asked?”  The woman with the window office answered e-mails while relaying what she’d seen.  “It looked like he was sitting against the wall,” she thumbed over her shoulder, “Then there was a scuffle and he was on the ground.” 
Buildings like mine loomed on all sides, with people behind tinted glass looking down.  That street corner became the center of the universe.  The people in my office worried about how they’d get home.  One of them was parked in that lot.  I didn’t see any reporters.  It had just happened.  I decided to e-mail the news stations to let them know.  But, of course they already knew.  They wanted an eye witness.  “Did you see what happened?”  No, I said, just what my coworker saw.  They called me anyway, and told me to wait on the line, then I was on the radio, patched through to the sound of a helicopter where I heard my name followed by the words: eye witness.  “What happened?”
I told them, “He was sitting against the wall of the lot.  The cops showed up, there was a fight where the police rushed him, and then he was on the ground.”  The reporter described the scene, unable to verify this “wall” I mentioned.  I wanted to say, “He was sitting on the sidewalk.  The wall is only two feet high,” but they said Thank You and I was back with someone in the newsroom verifying the spelling of my name. 
Cop cars flashed, parked sideways at the ends of the two crossing streets to keep traffic out.  The body still hadn’t been moved.  An ambulance hadn’t arrived.  Spectators gathered on the opposite corner with cameras as the frenzy to find out what happened plugged the airwaves.  Online, madly typed reports splashed across the screen, every five minutes a new one was rewritten and posted with ever-inflating evidence based on further and further speculation.  There was one shot, there were five, the man attacked the cop, he was crossing the street, he was sitting down, he had a knife.  Like ripped bank notes, pieces flew through the air as we tried to tape them back together with nothing but our tongues.  I saw a man on the ground.  He was given a wide berth.
This park I frequent is hidden from my workplace, in an urban neighborhood where I know none of my coworkers will come.  The homeless happily populate a section of the park as if they’re under a contract to stay in that area.  The police are a rarity, letting them be.  The rest of the park is utilized by children in the playground.  People play Frisbee in the large central grassy ring during their lunch, sometimes soccer, sometimes yoga.  People bring their dogs, others lay out and nap or read books or study.  I sit at a table by the playground with my lunch, unable to eat.  It’s early yet.  The lunch crowd hasn’t begun to filter in.  I wanted to take the flier off the telephone pole and keep it with me, because I can’t forget the face that looks back at me from the brightly colored flier, the background blue and red, his photo done up in black and white.  There’s a laundry list of organizations rallying this Thursday to march from that corner to City Hall just around the corner to urge for accountability.  By now the reports have stabilized with the information that the man was a local Native wood carver, often drunk, primarily homeless, deaf in one ear, shot to death by an officer who told him to put his knife away.  Wood carving knives are legal on the streets of Seattle one article is quick to note.  His name was John T. Williams.  He sold small wooden totems to stores like Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront.
Through a small v-shaped opening in the foliage to my left I can see a man, curly tendrils of white hair sticking out from a grubby black baseball cap and worn black jeans, skin red and blanched like algae, standing with a crutch.  The seagulls have continued to circle past my head, but they’re not eyeballing my food.  They’re swarming the pieces of bread he has in his plastic bag.  He watches them circle, commenting to his friend who I cannot see that these seagulls aren’t very fat.  He dumps the bag out, giving it a good shake, smiling as he watches the seagulls swoop to the ground.  He puts his crutch under his arm and moves off as they squabble over the biggest pieces.  I leave, my lunch still in its bag. 
When Thursday comes, I block out my calendar between two and four. From the window, I can see people have already gathered. I leave the print job I’m doing and walk out. In my pocket, I feel the lighter and the little tea candle inside the votive holder. The sky is gray and threatening more rain. Drums have started.  Candles are lit and more flowers have been piled atop the cracking white-painted cement of the wall where he’d been sitting. People have left apples, and a slice of apple pie. I move to the center of the parking lot, the one the police circled with yellow tape.

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