by Catherine Parnell
The first time I got arrested I was standing with a group of fellow protestors outside the Pick n Pay where my parents shopped, where all the neighbors shopped, and they walked by me, one by one, as I held my sign in the air, singing We Shall Overcome alternating Spanish and English. My fourth grade teacher walked by, he stopped, turned around, and leaned into me. At that moment I was sure I’d forgotten to do my homework even thought I was six grades on from fourth, but in a weak voice he said, You were one of the good ones, and he walked into the store and I still don’t know what he meant but then people started throwing grapes at us, because that’s what we were protesting. Chavez said so, protest the grape pickers’ conditions and the indignities they suffer so we can eat purple and green juicy grapes. I shouted, They pee in the vineyards, they have no place to go, and sometimes they shit there too. That’s when the police officer stepped away from his black and white squad car and snapped cuffs on me. Under arrest was all I heard and without seeing him, I knew my father was there. His voice came out in a growl with tears, Take her, he said. See if you can knock some sense in her, and so the officer put me, just me, in the squad car and when we got to the station, he didn’t book me, just put me in a cell with a hooker who put her arm around me and that’s when I started crying, not because I was scared, but because my father gave me away. After that I looked at women and grapes differently, knew that juice was all it took to get in trouble. And when my fourth grade teacher showed up at the station and said to the sergeant, Enough, I looked at him and promised I will always do my homework. Just turn it in, he said. Turn it in.
Catherine Parnell is an editor, teacher and co-founder of MicroLit Almanac and Birch Bark Editing. Her publications include the memoir The Kingdom of His Will, as well as stories, essays and interviews in Cult, Orca, Grande Dame, West Trade Review, Tenderly, Cleaver, Free State Review, Barnhouse, The Brooklyn Rail, The Rumpus, The Southampton Review, The Baltimore Review, and other literary magazines.