The Raven #2: Bronx Stories

179th Street near East Tremont Ave.

War at the Chinese Store

It was a hot summer day. It was me, Alberto, Amanda and Declan. We were all having fun with the water gun. And then Alberto said, “I’m going to the Chinese store for some barbecued spare ribs with pork fried rice.” So while he was over there, we were chilling, and now, this is his story:

So he went in and asked about the spare ribs, and the Chinese guy said, “What are you? Are you a nigger?” Alberto got offended. So he said, “No, I’m not a nigger, I’m Puerto Rican.” So Alberto stood and asked the price of the spare ribs, and when he came back he told us what happened and we all got mad. And Declan was like, Let’s go over there cause I don’t think that’s right. Meanwhile I’m over there trying to ask the price of the barbecued spare ribs.

The man said to all of us, “Are y’all niggers?” And Declan said no, and we were all arguing. And then Alberto took the water gun and he squirted the Chinese man a lot, like a good forty-five seconds, while he was eating.

So everybody ran. And I should have stayed, but I didn’t, I ran with them. So instead of going to my house, we went to Declan’s house, he lives in the basement. We tried to open the door, but Declan left his keys at my house. So his mother was in the backyard and she didn’t hear the door banging.

The Chinese people found us, because of Alberto’s head, which stuck out from below the ground level, where the apartment was. We were all supposed to be hiding down there. The Chinese people came and tried to hit Alberto, but he and his sister got away. They went to their house. The whole block was private houses.

They said, “Jenee, come on! Jenee, come on!” but I couldn’t leave because Declan was in the corner, and the Chinese people were beating him up. They were kicking him and punching him. He was crying and screaming for help. There were four of them. We were nine or ten years old. He was screaming and crying, so I couldn’t leave.

I felt sorry for him, and I was scared, so I took my water gun and I started squirting the guy in the head. The people followed me, they chased me around the corner till I got back to the house and I couldn’t run anymore. One guy hit me in the head with his hand or his hat—which had a metal piece. Something hard. So he hit me and I started screaming. My mother’s friend who worked across the street in the bodega started screaming, “What are you doing, what are you doing?”

So the man was like, Oh no, there’s no problem, he was acting like nothing had happened.

My mom’s friend said, “Leave those kids alone.”

Then the man turned to us and said, “If I see you around the corner, I’m going to kill all four of y’all.”

My mom’s friend asked me if I was all right, and I said, “Yeah, I’m going to call my mom right now.”

Then me and Declan went to Amanda’s house. I called my mom and told her what happened. Everybody was calling their parents. My mom said she was on her way. She beeped her friend Jeff and Jeff beeped my uncle. My uncle thought it was somebody who lived on Stratford, one of his friends. Those people who live on Stratford, they like to fight. So he was ready to fight or whatever. So when he got over there, I told him what happened, and he said, “Jenee, stay in front of that house. Do not go nowhere.” But being hardheaded, I didn’t listen. I snuck up to the Chinese store and peeked in the window, where I thought they wouldn’t see me. And they didn’t see me at all.

My mommy asked what happened. So he pulled out his gun on my mother.

My mother was about to clock him in the head.

Then my uncle grabbed her. He knew my mommy was dangerous, yo. She fights like a dude. Her veins be popping out. My mommy be scaring me, yo. She looks just like me, but prettier. My mother is gorgeous, I love her to death, even though she gets on my nerves.

Anyway, so my uncle stopped her. My uncle comes up in the Chinese guy’s face and says something, I’m not sure what.

I guess the Chinese people were scared, because they closed that door.

My mommy called the cops from outside. I had to go next door to the salon so she wouldn’t see me. I wasn’t supposed to be there. When the cops came, I came out, and my mommy wasn’t mad at me for being there. When the cops came, they arrested my uncle.

My mommy said, what are you arresting my brother for? He’s not the one who did anything, it was the Chinese people. It was just like the TV show Cops.

She probably said it better than I can, she probably said some curses. She curses like six thousand words a minute. She’s tough. At that time she was the manager of the Diesel store on Fifty-ninth street. I used to get mad free clothes.

So they took the cuffs off my uncle. Mom said, “The guy in the store put the gun to my head.” The cop checked everywhere for the gun except the stove.

My mom said, Check the stove.

I couldn’t stand that cop, especially the black cop. My mom said he’s a black cop, he should understand where this is coming from because he’s the only black person. He was acting mad white, like we was ghetto. We’re not even from the ghetto. We live in a private house like everybody else. He was acting like we lived in the projects, always starting trouble. Back then it was mad drama there, drugs 24/7. But back to the story.

So my mom was like, Check the stove, but they didn’t.

”There’s no gun here,” they said, and that was the end of it.

Me, Declan, his mother Jackie, my mother, and my uncle Sal, his name is Saladin, we go up in the house and he says he’s gotta leave. So it’s just us four talking about it, and my mom calls our friend who’s a cop.

He says, You can still file a police report, does she have any marks on her?

So my mom is like, Hold on. She said, “Where’d he hit you at?”

I said right here, I had a black and blue mark.

And she got hysterical, she said, “Oh no, he did not hit my baby!”

Three hours later, at 11:00, my mom goes to the precinct over on 138th Street and tells them the story. I went, too. They said they couldn’t file a police report because they couldn’t see my black and blue. They couldn’t find any abuse on me and Declan.

My mom and Jackie—Jackie, she has an accent, she’s from Dominica—she’s saying look at my son, look at him—he has no physical marks, but he was emotionally hurt. He’s nine! So my mom was like, you don’t see that black-and-blue mark?

They said, “No ma'am, please calm down, be quiet.”

My mom said, “Don’t tell me to calm down, y’all are supposed to be the police.”

And this was a black guy too!

So my mommy had me go from where we opened the door, and the cops went all the way further back, and she went next to him. “You can’t see that black mark on her face?

And he said, “No, ma’am.”

And she said, “You must be blind, then!” Oh god, I am really starting to sound like my mom.

My mom was getting real fed up. She said, “I've gotta get outta here before I do something I’m gonna regret.” So we left.

That whole summer, we were scared. the Chinese store is right next to the grocery store—a bigger one. We had to walk the opposite way around the block, we had to take the long way, because we still had that picture that if the man saw us, he was gonna kill us.

He did the same thing to somebody else. He tried to smack this girl from the Stratford building on her face. Her father just got out of prison. The Chinese man got mad and stabbed her and blood came out. The Chinese man went to prison then for what he did to her, and that was finally the end of it.

The story was posted on 2004-06-01