Sandoval glances at his watch, and I despise him for his insensitivity. He has places to go, things to see, a life to live. Im stuck here, in this orange jumpsuit, staring at these four walls until the State decides its time to end my miserable life.
If you change your mind, start with your childhood, he says. Itll create sympathy in the reader.
Ill leave the carving of the stone tablets to Moses.
He rises and offers a half wave, a resigned move, like he topples his king at the end of a brutal chess match. His footsteps echo out of hearing range, and silence returns to my cell. I go to my bed, lie on my back, and face the ceiling. The paint is gray and without cracks, and the light in the center burns with mild intensity. I stare until spots float before my eyes, get up and sit at the desk in the corner. I have decided to give my attorneythat bloodsucker with the ingratiating smilewhat he wants. I pick up my pencil and begin the first chapter.
Lucy was born with a genetic illness. She died when she was seven, a skinny little girl with knobbed knees and a bucktoothed smile. We loved each other like life itself.
I write for three hours, scratch out every sentence but the first three, scrawl a three-word ending.
Screw you, God.
Does the in-between matter? I was sixteen when she died, and I spent my adolescent nights thinking about God and the fairness of the world. I had a choice and knew it. I could believe or deny his existence. I chose to believe.
It is impossible to hate something that does not exist.
So, I will not write about my sister in this autobiography, I will not commercialize the name of Lucy K. Oliver. I will begin on a day when I received an offer I couldnt refuse. Should I have turned it down? Maybe yes, maybe no. I only know one thing for sure.
There are no innocents in this story.
Copyright © 2011 by T.J. Forrester. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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