In today’s New Voices, we are thrilled to present Chuck Nwoke’s “Shootout in Prospect Park,” an absurdist and hyperreal examination of the protests against racial violence and police brutality at the height of the coronavirus quarantine over the summer. Nwoke’s short story is incisive and concise and urgent, and we don’t want to keep you from it any longer. Dig in below.
Dude had seen too many movies, played too many video games, and lit up the ground around me as I ran uphill and dove and tumbled over the bikes, taking cover behind them. A bullet ricocheted off a bike and struck the white guy. When all the shots had fired, it was as if Dude had suddenly snapped out of a white-hot blackout rage. “Oh, shit, my bad!” he yelled. Scared he’d mistakenly killed a white person, a far worse crime to him than killing me, he tossed his gun and took off running.
I was sitting in the park minding my own business when a woman in front of me got up and asked if I would watch her things.
“No problem,” I said, thinking nothing of it, and she left her bike, bag and sneakers and went down the hill with her phone and yoga mat into the flat open field to do yoga.
I was stoned and on my third beer. I brought six. Police continuously lynching Black people brought me out of quarantine and into the streets with the world to protest. After my third protest in a day, I left the crowd when the drum circle started and white twenty-somethings started dancing like they were at Coachella. No justice, so fuck that peace.
Yoga-watching from the hill, I sensed somebody hovering. There was a dude next to me. He resembled a young Bizzy Bone, light-skinned with his hair pressed and in a bun. Scoping the terrain, he pulled his surgical facemask up from his chin and rolled up to the yogi’s things I was watching. He lifted the bike up to see how heavy it was, then casually proceeded to jack it.
“Excuse me,” I said, getting his attention. “That’s not yours.”
Dude played me for that new nigga—bougie, college-educated and paying too much for coffee and rent—and ignored me.
“Nigga, shut ya bitchass up!”
How the situation escalated to me being a “bitchass” so fast, I had no idea, but I wasn’t taking his disrespect. “Leave that shit alone,” I warned and called for the yogi but she couldn’t hear me through her earbuds.