Crossing Gilgood Road
Liam Broadus felt the sun beaming down on his dark, brown skin. Lying face down, he could smell the aroma of the baked red, clay dirt. This was no way to spend his first summer residing in Georgia.
His back was stinging as he felt several hard, shoes stomping him. There was a wet, salty taste from the blood that was dripping into his mouth. He tried to hoist himself up from the ground but it was useless. A loud whack was vibrating in his ears, as he realized he had been struck on his head with a baseball bat.
Liam could hear cars honking and voices yelling. He felt the heat of bodies encircling his helpless body. He squirmed and gasped for air as people fought to get a peek at the body on the ground.
There he was, sixteen years old, lying in the dirt with his clothes tattered and blood-soaked. If only he had listened to his father who had warned him about crossing Gilgood Road at night; especially when he was alone.
Suddenly, Liam felt himself being pulled to his feet. He saw that it was a white, woman who was helping him. He was surprised because the boys that had attacked him were white.
“Come on, let’s go,” she said grasping his hand. As they began walking down the long, dirt road, she questioned him. He was surprised to find that she knew him by name and also lived in the same subdivision.
“Liam, what happened out there?”
Liam rubbed his throbbing head and ran his tongue around his blood encrusted bottom lip. “They just jumped me. Hey, how did you know my name?”
“I’m your neighbor, Mrs. Cornwall.” She was a tiny, elderly woman with wrinkled, liver-spotted skin. The sparse hair on her head was as white as snow.
“This is my house, “Liam stated, once they reached his immaculately kept, red brick house. Blood still dripped from the head wound. Mrs. Cornwall handed him a tissue from her purse.
“Maybe, you need a doctor, “she suggested.
Liam just thanked her and hurried into the house. His heart thumped anxiously as he prayed that his father wasn’t home. He could be unreasonable especially about white folks.
Liam’s father, Ernest Broadus had moved his family from inner city Philadelphia. Many run-ins with white policeman had caused his family many problems. There, Liam’s grandparents had been Black Panthers and the Broadus name had remained on the FBI’s most wanted list even until now.
“Don’t tell me you got beat up for crossing Gilgood Road?” His father attacked immediately. “And who is that white woman standing by my gate?”
“That’s our neighbor, Mrs. Cornwall. She stopped the fight.” His father didn’t seem to care so much what happened. He was more concerned that the boys were white and Liam was afraid what he might do.
“You know those white hooligans think they own that street. They’ve just been dying to get their hands on the first black kid who dared to defy them.”
It was true . Liam got a firsthand look at racism. He had just been on his way to the library and Gilgood Road was a short cut. Those boys had attacked him and called him bad names.
“Who gave you permission to cross Gilgood, tar baby?” The leader of the gang had shouted at the top of his lungs. Liam had tried to run but to no avail.
“Stay away from that white woman, Mrs. Cornflake or whatever her name is,” Liam’s father shouted. “They’re all alike.” He grabbed a six-pack of beer from the refrigerator and disappeared into the den. The next morning, before Liam had even gotten out of bed, his father began his ranting. “You get the names of those boys. We will be pressing charges.”
A few days passed and the prior days’ incident had faded into the background because Liam’s father suddenly became ill . His father needed a new liver. He had been on the donor’s list in Philadelphia but in Georgia he was at the bottom of the list. Liam’s mother, Willa rushed his father to the hospital.
Taking a chance once more, Liam crossed Gilgood Road. This time he dared to ask his predators if they knew anything about transplants. They were appalled.
“You must be stupid if you think we’re going to help you,” the youngest of the gang exclaimed.
“My father needs a new liver. If you get yourselves tested, I may be able to convince my father not to go to the police.”
“You think you can blackmail us?”
“I’m only trying to help my father.”
Word got out all around their neighborhood but unfortunately there were no matches. Liam even made some signs asking for people to donate but to no avail. He decided to visit Mrs. Cornwall that same day but to his dismay, she had passed away. If only he had defied his father and gone to see her, he would’ve gotten the chance to thank her.
When Liam arrived at the hospital, he had a lump in his throat. He had to face the possibility of his father’s death but no one could‘ve prepared him for this surprise. His father was sitting in bed looking better than ever. Suddenly, both his parents began to cry. They pointed to a letter that read; “Crossing Gilgood Road brought us together and for that I am blessed. I have donated my liver to your father. Love always, Mrs. Cornwall.”