The Stick Up by John Oliver Killens, 1967
The magic trick:
Injecting race into an otherwise simple scenario
There’s a lot going on here for such a simple story. Essentially, it’s just about a guy walking through Central Park. A homeless man asks him for some spare change. But consider that the man walking through the park is African-American. Given the time this was written, that spins the entire story on its head. Hell, even now, that would still cast the reader’s perceptions in a particular light. And that’s quite a trick on Killens’s part.
I felt good. I think the park had something to do with it. Trees, grass, bushes – everything in brand-new togs of shining green. The warm yellow sunlight sifting down through the trees, making my face feel alive and healthy and casting shadows on the paved walks and the unpaved walks and the wooden benches. Slight breezes tickling my nostrils, caressing my face, bringing with them a good clean odor of things new and live and dripping with greenness. Such a good feeling made me uneasy.
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