When Barry was young, he was fit; he ran, he laughed, he played the fife and his back was rigid and strong as a bayonet.
One day, a bully knocked him down and split his lip.
Barry rose to his feet, wiping spit from his bleeding tongue and, as he was taught, offered his other cheek.
The bully punched him harder on the turned cheek and the bully kicked him in the knee and twisted his arm and shoved him down a rocky embankment down into the river below where Barry landed, broken, and bruised in the water with a jellified spine.
As the bully bounded down the mountain with a hammer in one hand and a pitchfork in the other for a final meting in the river, Barry sank into the water and pulled himself into the depths.
There was no sound.
There was no light.
There was only Barry there — alone and bleeding and dying to fight back — and he felt his Black skin shimmering in the glazing cold and he knew then that if he ever wanted to breathe to live again, he’d have to find a way, any way, to break the bullies and honor the loyal while dog paddling down a lonely river in the rain.
He rose from the water with a gasp and surprised the bully.
Barry grabbed the pitchfork and plunged its steely tines deep into the belly of the bully; gassy expletives mixed with excrement and whiskey shot into the night air and rained satisfaction down on Barry as he pushed the corpse down into the deep water to sink forever.