by Kēnya J. Claytor
This story is a departure from “The Chronicles” because I need to share it with the world. The hope is that my family’s rise from this senseless act of violence can somehow help others to do the same.
Bordering the city limits of Boston is the birthplace of our 35th POTUS, John F. Kennedy– Brookline, Massachusetts. It’s a quaint little city, with some parts reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell scene. And, if it wasn’t for the ailing Green Line public transportation system that runs directly through the center of the city and past all things Red Sox, you would think that it was indeed a small town. Well, hidden deep in Brookline’s historic streets, backyards, and alleys lies a dark secret. People who live outside of Brookline have heard these tales and chalk them up to nothing more than folklore, legend, or myth. But the residents, especially the older ones, know the tales to be true and speak of them with a palpable fear.
Brookline is riddled with gangs. Yes, that’s right! The city that once reared a United States President now harbors community-disrupting gangs. These gangs are comprised usually of unassuming creatures of habit who go about their everyday lives without incident and without bringing attention to themselves or harm to others. But, one season a year, this band of misfits becomes more reckless in their behavior, bolder in their actions, and more threatening to the residents of this normally peaceful, village-esque community. I, too, being a non-resident, was naive in my assumptions on the subject and poked fun at the scared townsfolk. But that would all change in the fall of 2012 when my family’s path would cross with one of these gangs, and our lives would be changed forever.
It was a crisp winter day. Early December mornings are always peaceful and picturesque along the streets of Brookline. At this time in 2012, they were lined with Christmas lights and decorations, snow lightly covering the cars and sidewalks. My father is a wonderful man. A huge push-over for his daughters, grandchildren, and girlfriend. He loves jazz, sushi, and mimosas (preferably all together on the beach of some Caribbean island). He is a creature of habit, his daily morning walk being one of them. He loves the quiet streets and uncluttered sidewalks that the early mornings afford him. It’s his chance to center himself and get ready for the day. He is a resident of Brookline. So, the morning it happened, armed with only his Walkman and winter gear, my father headed out to perform his morning ritual. He left as one man, but would return someone else.
“There was an ominous feeling in the air that morning.” You know it’s never going to end well when it starts like that.
My father dismissed the ominous feeling as winter finally settling in for the season. Other than that momentary feeling, there was nothing else out of the ordinary. Twenty minutes into his journey, walking down a side street, he saw a small disturbance thirty feet in the distance. Immediately, he recognized this “unsavory group” (those are his words, not mine) as the infamous gang of legend. Not wanting to bring attention to himself, he quickened the pace of his walk. Soon, he would turn onto the main street where he wouldn’t be so secluded. This was one time he would be glad to see a few more people on the street. As he neared the corner, my father turned back to ensure he had put a safe distance between him and those undesirable creatures. The entire lot of them had stopped what they were doing and were suddenly following after him. He could hear them grumbling as they moved towards him.
Within seconds, the gap had closed significantly between the flock of degenerates and my sweet, passive father; it was as if they had galloped towards him. In fear for his safety, he broke into a light jog (he’s in great shape for a man turning 70 this month). Now I’m not saying that other people deserve to be terrorized by this gang of cackling fools, but my father is one of the most unassuming people you’d ever meet. And when it comes to gangs, he poses no threat to them whatsoever. In some ways, people might say he’s an ally to them because he has defended their struggles publicly as the result of factors outside of their control. When my father noticed he was still being followed, he began to run, and the gang members began running full-speed after him. My endearing, vegetarian, pacifist father was now engaged in a heated game of predator versus prey, and he was not the one doing the hunting.
With nowhere to go and seemingly no rescue in sight, my father ducked down an alleyway to try and shake them off. For a moment, he thought he was free. A crippling fear ran through his body when he realized the gang members were fast approaching, their cackling and yelping getting louder as they approached. Soon later, the man who taught me how to ride a bicycle and throw a punch, the first man I ever loved, was being tormented by the lowest of bullies. As the screams of these predators grew angrier, my father found the alley closing-in around him. It wasn’t long before he was also screaming.
What happened next can only be attributed to divine intervention. Whether it was the guttural yells of the assailants or the desperate cries of the helpless victim, something got the attention of an angel. This angel, in a Volkswagen Passat hatchback, sprang into action to rescue my father from the claws of danger. My father, cornered in the back of the alleyway, screamed a blood-curdling scream worthy of a Alfred Hitchcock thriller. The gang, feeding off the fear, bore down on him like the hunters. As years of oppression, profiling, and exploitation finally come to an ugly and vicious head, these ruffians were ready to pounce on a man that had, in fact, spent a good part of his adult life supporting them in their struggle through positivity.
The Passat came barreling backwards down the alley with its horn blaring. The gang yelped and squawked as they scrambled to get out of the way. They looked like a flock of frightened birds as they scattered in all directions. Then, the hatchback’s trunk popped open.
“Get in, quick! Hurry before they come back!” screamed the angel.
My father jumped into the trunk of the car which was already being thrown into drive for a speedy getaway.
“I’m in! Go, go, please, go!” my father yelled.
The tires of the car screeched as they sped off towards the nearest police station.
My father never really subscribed to the legend of the gang, but he is a firm believer now. Filling out the police report, the officer behind the desk assured my father that everything was being done to catch the gang of cowards. It being the holiday season, there had been a usual seasonal increase in the gang’s presence, but they rarely attacked people minding their own business. My father is very lucky. I can’t tell you how relieved my sisters and I were. Hearing that your elderly parent has been accosted is troubling enough without the added element of a hate crime being the motivation. Yes, I’m calling it a hate crime. My father was targeted, bullied, and physically threatened simply because he looks like the type of person who might interfere with them. But that’s how much they know. My father was stereotyped. The official police report does not mention anything about it being a hate crime, but it does mention that the offenders are still on the loose, armed, and dangerous.
Police in Brookline have since started taking action to prevent these gangs from terrorizing citizens. You can help prevent these crimes. Please share this story.