February 18th, 2010 | By Sonnie Johnson
Once upon a time in a Fairy Tale land called Chicago, there lived a little boy named Tre. Tre lived with his mother in a two bedroom apartment in a run down housing complex. His father was a police officer killed in the line of duty.
Tre loved everything about seeing his father in a uniform. The pride he took in making sure his clothes were clean and pressed made Tre want to do the same. The time he spent talking to the every person he met on the street had opened Tre’s heart and allowed him to open his ears. But nothing compared to what Tre’s father gave him outside of his uniform.
Tre’s father loved Science. He was always in their little garage doing experiments with John, the boy next door. Tre was to small at the time to help with any of the experiments but he loved sitting and watching as his father tried, failed, and tried again. After his father died, John would often come over and continue the experiments.
As one year, then two passed, John stopped coming around as much and with his mother working two jobs and volunteering at the Church, Tre was often lonely. But he didn’t care, he had science and this year he planned on taking top place in the City’s Science Fair. Tre’s father experimented with weapons, so he took that science and applied it to race cars. He invented a new way to send his toys airborne.
His mother was so excited for him, she went and bought him a $200 toy race car. While she never would’ve spent that kind of money on a regular toy, she knew how important this was for his education and ever more, his confidence. Tre completed his project and invited John to see. John was amazed at Tre’s ability to infuse his father’s technology into something so cool. Tre knew his father would be proud.
Finally, it was time to turn in his project. That morning his mother prayed over him and kissed his head for good luck. Tre felt like he was on top of the world. He passed a group of neighborhood boys on the street who took and instant interest in his car. Tre wanted to be like his father, so he stopped and took the time to explain his project. Maybe he could get one of these guys interested in science.
Not so lucky. The boys began kicking and stomping the car until it was crushed into a myriad of pieces. Tre stood and watched with little reaction. The boys laughed and joked as Tre watched all his hard work destroyed. Tre wanted to cry but he knew his father wouldn’t cry. He wanted to fight back but he knew his father wouldn’t fight back. And as he was thinking about his father, he felt sorry for the boys. They probably never had a father to teach them right and wrong. So, he did nothing and continued on his way to school.
When the teacher asked for his project, he turned in all his research and explained about his car. The teacher wanted him to point out which boys wrecked the car but Tre refused. He had his father’s memory and the knowledge he had succeeded in an experiment, that was enough for him. The teacher, that one in a million teacher, decided it wasn’t enough for her. She called Tre’s mom and told her about the situation.
Tre took the long way home to avoid the boys and when he opened the door, there sat his Mom, his teacher, and John. Tre was confused.
“What happened today?” His mother’s tone struck fear in him.
“Some boys crashed my car.” Tre stated back, squaring his shoulders like his father taught him.
“What boys?” John shouted back.
Tre felt torn apart inside. His father would find a way to help those boys, not get them in trouble. What was he to do? “I’m not telling. My Dad…..”
“Your Dad was a police officer. His job was to make sure kids like you got to school safely and without being bullied. Do you think your father would’ve let this slide?” Tre’s mother tried to contain herself.
“I think my father would’ve thought of another way to deal with it. He would try, fail, and then he would try again. But he would never stop trying.” Tre started to tear up.
The three sat and watched as Tre grew up in front of their eyes. “We get it. We know what your father was and how he thought. We know that you miss him like crazy but your life can’t be based on the past. You are not helping those boys by forgiving their misbehaving. You are only giving them the confidence to escalate their attacks. You like the fact that your father tried and failed. They have to fail, too. Someone has to stand up to them. That’s what you’re father did every time he put on that blue suit.” That one in a Million teacher chimed in.
“And what about your dreams? You can’t spend your life tip toeing around these fools. I know them. I get hassled everyday because I joined the Science Club, but I have a job this summer in the burbs’ at a manufacturing plant. If they think they hate me now, just wait til I roll up next year in my new ride.” John inserted with a pop of his collar. “If you let them, they will suck all the drive and passion out of you.”
“Both of those are really good points. But while you’re remembering your past and your father and dreaming about your future, don’t look over lessons being learned right now. We could move to the burbs’. Hell, I work to two jobs, money isn’t the issue. Your father and I grew up in this neighbor. We remember when the playgrounds were clean and the people were nice. I stay because this is not what your father and I wished for this community.” His mother began to cry.
Tre’s mind wondered as he processed all the information. It was immensely important he make his father proud, equally important he make a better life for his future family, and even though he didn’t have memories of a clean playground, he wanted to one day see it come into existence.
“O.K. So what do I do next?” Tre asked.
“First, you come up with another car by the end of the week for your project. I got you an extension.” His now Favorite Teacher spoke first.
“I’ve cleared it with my school and some of the clubs are going to miss second period to walk you and your other classmates to school.” His Confidant John spoke next.
“And you are going to tell me which boys crushed the $200 toy I bought. Then you are going to trust your mother to do the right thing.” She wiped her tears and returned to her normal state.
The end of the week came and Tre had successfully turned a $25 thrift store car, bought with his own money, into a projectile sports car. His mother prayed over him and kissed his head for good luck. Tre’s heart was still a little heavy. When he exited his building, John and one of the boys who stomped his car were standing out front. Tre instantly hid his car behind his back.
“You ain’t gotta do that, lil man. I’m sorry I ruined your car. We were just having fun, we didn’t realize how important it was to you.” The boy stuck out his hand for a pound.
Tre was not feeling so gracious. He knew his father would accept and he knew accepting could prevent future incidents, but his mother’s word rang loud in his head. “It doesn’t matter if it was important or not. Wrong is wrong and you were Wrong. I love science. One day when you realize you’ve wasted the time you should’ve spent finding out what you love and you turn to selling drugs, you can come to my little garage and I’ll show you the science behind it. Including how your stomping my car is a direct result of its usage in our community.” Tre could feel his emotions rising.
“Whoa, little man. Calm down.” The boy could see Tre puffing out his chest.
“I’m serious. It took away my dad and I’m guessing it took away yours, in some shape, form, or fashion. If the only thing you can find in this world to love is bringing other people down, then I will make it hard for you to live in this community. I’m here now and my mother wants to see a clean playground and before I leave this Earth she will see a clean playground.” Tre stood proud with his car on display.
Tre finished first place in the Science Fair and was approached by John’s manufacturing company to put his cars into production. Tre made two requests. One, the plant had to be built on a bus line. It had to provide jobs for the people in his community. And second, the company had to build a park close to Tre’s run down housing complex. And Tre vowed to keep it clean.