Pro­tect­ing the Pit

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Ter­rance Man­ning, Jr.

My broth­ers and I were at the top of the yard when we heard the sound of gravel and dirt crunch­ing be­neath the tires of some old, rusted-out pickup as it bar­reled down our drive­way. It was mid-sum­mer, mid-af­ter­noon, and early enough that we knew it wasn’t Dad, who worked late those sum­mer evenings weld­ing at the shop. Mom was in­side sleep­ing, and since she never had vis­i­tors, we grabbed our spears—the tall, hand-carved sticks we’d sharp­ened with kitchen knives by the shed out back—and stam­peded down the hill to­ward the strangers in the truck. We were naked, as al­ways. And we were dirty, scream­ing “get the fuck off our prop­erty,” as we charged, rais­ing our spears above our heads and growl­ing and flip­ping the fin­ger. It was 1990, and I was four. Chris and Jonny were five and three. We beat on the side of the truck. “Leave, moth­er­fuck­ers!” The men peered through the wind­shield as if they’d ac­ci­den­tally driven to some strange cor­ner of the earth where chil­dren be­came war­riors and fought naked with sticks. The driver rolled his win­dow down a lit­tle. He had a thick, dark mus­tache like our dad, a mul­let that dis­ap­peared into the back of his brown-and-yel­low flan­nel. He smiled un­der his gi­ant avi­a­tor sun­glasses. “Where’s your old man, lit­tle dudes?” But we didn’t an­swer; we as­saulted his truck. We kicked and punched the doors. We wound our spears back like bats and smacked the hood. The men only laughed. They didn’t stop, ei­ther. Not even when the engine sput­tered and clunked into re­verse, and the truck roared back­ward down the drive. Or as we chased naked through a cloud of dust scream­ing “run, pussies” un­til they dis­ap­peared around the bend and reemerged a mo­ment later across the Duquesne Bridge.

We were liv­ing on the south­east side of Pitts­burgh, in Mckeesport. The city was a panoramic sprawl down the Youghiogheny and Monon­ga­hela Rivers, past the steel-mill sheds, the trol­ley tracks, and the open-faced boiler of the hos­pi­tal. There were burned-out houses and aban­doned man­sions from the for­ties, when steel was king in the city. Empty shells of build­ings, which were once the mighty Na­tional Tube, sat qui­etly along the river­banks, as if wait­ing, al­ways, to be great

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