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November 28, 2018

The Lesson

by Brian Michael Miga


Ten years ago the neighborhood was referred to as a ghetto, by many.  Today, portions of certain streets had become gentrified.
            I was staying with my good friends who bought their home in the Oakland market, banking that the neighborhood improvement would continue.  As I needed some vitamins and gatorade, I walked the three blocks to the CVS drugstore.
            I grabbed my items and queued behind a lady at the checkout.  We both looked up, watching in disbelief when somebody with a booming voice started threatening and haranguing.   A tall man, about age 40, in disheveled clothing was yelling at an unarmed security guard: "I cut you up.  Next time, I cut you up.  Don't look at me; don't ever look at me!  I cut your balls off in a second."  The guard, skinny as a rail and perhaps still a teenager, was clearly intimidated.
            The guard said not a word and looked out, stony-faced.  Three boys, perhaps 7, 9, & 11, watched…and learned.
           After glaring and staring at the guard, the man and his troupe left.  All  the boys were smiling.  They were admiring the performance.
            The lady ahead of me approached the guard.  I followed.  She was concerned:  "Are you all right?  What was that all about?  What a horrible man!"
            "He's a teef.  He steals and I see, but what can I do?  He will kill me."  The guard dropped his head into his hands.
            I left the store, somewhat shaken, and saw the man and the youngsters lounging against a fence.  A young lady was walking by them.  The man appeared to be saying something to the woman.  He tried to grab her arm but she brushed him off and hurried past them. The boys were calling out to her as she went on her way.
           I crossed the street and walked away from them.  It appeared to me the lesson was continuing; I didn't want to be the focus of his tutelage.