The man lying in the bed doesn’t look anything like my Uncle Joe. His head is all swelled up, and a long, bloody cut runs from his forehead, over his eye, and down to his chin. There’s another cut over his nose, a deep gash across his forehead, and a couple more roost on his chin. Mother comes up behind me with a fresh washcloth and scares the tar outta me.
“What happened to him?”
“Punk Squares and Hammit Bashem beat ’em with knucks and a tar tool,” she says.
“Don’t rightly know fer sure.”
“When’s he gonna get better?” I whisper.
“Ain’t sure he is, Cono.” I don’t really want to know why Punk and Hammit beat up my Uncle Joe. I’m afraid to.
Three days later, after plenty of moaning, my Uncle Joe dies. Earlier that morning, when he took his last breath, Aunt Nolie covered him with a Blanket and cried, “He didn’t deserve this.” She wipes her nose and eyes with the back of her hand. Except for his cuts and bruises, Uncle Joe was whiter than a bed sheet.
Now some men in a big black car come to take away my stiff-as-a-board uncle.
Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, my father’s story