Monday, January 26, 2015

Nancy Scott


I'd been sent to interview the kid,
ask him why he'd stolen eight steaks
from the cafeteria freezer.

Run-down school, flaking paint, black
mold, cops patrolling the corridors—
my guess, the kid was hungry.

No one in the office could find the kid's
class schedule or remembered seeing him.
He was found hunkered in the john.

"I shouldn't a done it, but they looked so good,"
he said. "We get fed crap in the cafeteria
while they eat steak. Seem right to you?"

It didn't, but I was trying to remain neutral.

"You take all the steaks?" I asked.
"Just what we could carry," he replied.
"Wasn't the freezer locked?"

"Me and Julian used a tire iron to break the lock.
We didn't know what we'd find in the freezer.
We was just hungry."

"How did you get a tire iron past the cops?"
"Easy. We got into a fight outside
while another kid sneaked in the tire iron.

"At closing bell, me and Julian hid
in a broom closet, then opened the freezer,
took the steaks and ran out a side door in the gym."

"How did you get caught?"
"The kid who brought the tire iron ratted us out
'cause we forgot to give him a steak."

"What do your parents think about this?"
"They don't know 'cause I live with my gran,"
the kid said. "She’s really old and don't know

half the stuff that goes on.
When she went to church, I cooked
a steak and ate it. Gave the rest away."

"Was it worth it?"
"Yes, ma'am,” he said. "I never ate no steak before."

I filed my report. I wanted to know why
there were steaks in the freezer.
I couldn't do anything for the kid.

He got suspended for two weeks and the cops
arrested him. You just knew
they wanted to hang a felony on him.

I hope the kid is all right.

Nancy reads "The Great Steak Heist at Trenton High":

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Nancy confesses: "Twenty-five years ago, I worked for the State of New Jersey in a child abuse and neglect unit. I was sent to investigate this event for possible child neglect. I remember it clearly against the backdrop of what's happening to black teenage boys in America today. Back then, with two teenage sons who are black, I had that conversation about how they should act if they encountered the police. Nothing has changed."

NANCY SCOTT is managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets' Cooperative in New Jersey. She is the author of seven books of poetry. The eighth, The Lanky Fisherman or Why the Winter Wind Howls over Mersey Lake (a chapbook of retold fairy tales) is forthcoming from Aldrich Press in late 2014. She is also an artist. Her poetry and artwork can be found at

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