North Carolina 1960
    Dianne McKnight
What I couldnít understand at twelve was the word "Public" in front of the word "Restroom;" I thought it meant "pubic," so it seemed strange to be that plain about it. And why do people have public hair on their private parts?

The other sign read White Only and I understood that all right. That was the reason for the movie playing at the Center Theater where we werenít allowed. So I would go and sit on the curb in front of the Center and look at the big poster they always put up for the movie there. I would imagine what the movie was about and make up a story.

I remember the poster for I Passed for White. It showed a pretty woman in a stylish dress kneeling and crying in front of an angry man. He was about to beat her up.

That poster scared me, but the woman didnít look scared as much as shocked. And I knew what hurt her more than the blows about to come was the way he had loved her before.

And now to be so hardhearted. He kills her with his fists.

Trying to pass for white is a really bad thing to do. But she turns proud and righteous at the end, her eyes like coals about to catch fire. And I understand that.

Here in 1960 in North Carolina, ten of us in a tar paper shotgun, hungry and with toothaches, me sitting on the curb looking at this poster, needing to pee and no where to go -- yeah, I understand.

Dianne McKnight's flash fiction and non-fiction appears in Issue 32 of Doorknobs and Body Paint and the Winter 2003-2004 issue of flashquake. Recent awards include the 2003 Bloom's Day Prize, the Hayward Faultline Prize, and others. She lives in Vermont.


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