‘Ray-Ray’s Picture Box’ by James McBride

Ray-Ray’s Picture Box by James McBride, 2017

The magic trick:

A child character’s innocence highlighting the sins of a neighborhood

Perhaps I was just really tired when I read this one, but it nearly made me cry. McBride goes for it, and I dare you to resist the tug on your heartstrings.

Ray-Ray is the key. He’s as sympathetic as a Dickens child. His innocence only serves to highlight the selfish antics happening around him in the neighborhood. His fate only serves to highlight the injustice of the world.

And that’s quite a trick on McBride’s part.

The selection:

“He just can’t remember,” Bunny said. “You know how Ray-Ray is.”

Dex stood there and blowed out his cheeks and waited a minute, thinking it over. He knew Ray-Ray don’t lie. I lost of lot of respect for Bunny around that time. Then Bunny stepped to Ray-Ray and said, “Ray-Ray, you just don’t remember. I gave it back to you, remember?” Ray-Ray looked mixed up. He shook his head and shifted from one foot to the other, while Bunny was sticking to his lie. Dex stood there a long time while Ray-Ray shifted from foot to the other, nervous, looking at the sky. Dex weren’t no punk, everybody knowed it, but Bunny was the leader of our group and fighting him was like treason almost. He directed everything. He had the best house. The most money. The best parents. His father had a good job wearing a suit and tie working in the downtown. Bunny was mighty big on our block. He was the roughest. Goat was bigger and faster, but Goat don’t fight. Goat wouldn’t hurt a fly. Bunny, on the other hand, when he was mad, he was dangerous.

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