Night Train

From the Story Arc: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Next Story in the Arc: A Wolf In the Fold by Heavy Brother (Wednesday, July 20, 2005)

(posted Wednesday, July 20, 2005)

Ultimately, it did the Panther Party little good to create a Black Man’s metahuman. As courageous, powerful, and community-minded as Heavy Brother was, he worked within a context established by the white community; he could not do otherwise. The crimes battled by masked heroes were, in most cases, the aftermath of a greater and intrinsic crime: slavery of man by man, based on race, capital, or creed.

The argument that Heavy Brother effected the most change by disappearing cannot be discounted, cynical it may be. We regret the loss of the man, but move farther in this world without the crutch of an iconographic symbol.

“Damn. A crutch,” Heavy Brother said. The essay, a later entry in Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, went on to call for a broader Black identity within current sociological structures. Gone was the militant fire Heavy Brother remembered in Cleaver’s pen when they fought side by side in Oakland, thirty-six years in the past. He strayed back to reread the two paragraphs, which cut him out of Black Panther history in a single, clean stroke. The next page displayed a black and white photo of him giving the upraised fist of the black militant movement. At his side, the Lioness, her afro like a black mane. Despite the grainy, dark picture, they looked like an African royal couple, which, for a time, they had been.

He leaned back on the black leather couch, a gift from a female admirer, and stared at the ceiling. Cleaver’s book read like a family reunion, catching up on stories of family members long out of touch. Some dead at the hands of Oakland police, some fallen into drug abuse, and the rest laying down their arms and resuming a normal life. Militancy takes a toll on a man’s soul, or a woman’s heart: Lioness died of cardiac failure in 1991.

Increasingly since his cryogenic capsule was unearthed, Heavy Brother felt like a B-movie actor in a diner. Everyone who recognized him couched their whispered confirmations in ironic chuckles. In all his life, he had never felt so isolated. Those from the Panthers who he’d respected the most were dead or in mainstream politics.

The susurrus of the running shower ended. Oksana, known on the streets and to CCCP as Commie Cowgirl, came into the living room in a fluffy white towel (another gift), drying her hair. She stopped when she saw Heavy Brother in contemplation.

“Anthony? What is being trouble, pardner?” The Russian girl plopped down next to him and straightened his silk robe. “Did you want shower also?”

“Later, baby,” he said, laying the book on the wicker coffee table.

“Is nice of you to see me tonight. I know you are busy man.” She stretched, forcing the towel to struggle to stay hitched. “The Heavy Brother, sturdiest cowpoke in town.” On the streets, she hid her face behind a red bandana with little hammer and sickle designs. Oksana’s pixie-like features reminded him that the Russian people had both European and Asian blood, despite her pale blonde hair. More than once she’d fended off the advances of unwitting Americans with what she liked to call “dva-fisted gumption,” which he knew was just a euphemism for beating the snot out of anything that annoyed her. Her lithe frame hid remarkable physical strength, revealed only to her hapless foes or the caressing hands of a lover.

“We had a tough patrol,” Heavy Brother said. “You deserved a little break.”

She kissed him lightly on the lips. “Spasibo for mighty fine little break, comrade stallion,” she said with a giggle.

He grunted. “Glad you dug it, my foxy Russian sister, but the Brother had some… problems. Next time, I’ll be in the groove.”

Oksana gave him a quizzical look. “Was nyet problems from where I was. Shto?”

Heavy Brother grimaced. “The Brother has his ways. Remember the first time you came to my pad?”

“Oh, da,” she said with a wicked grin. “I was werry happy to find good man to bed down with. Amerikantskii men are either too fat or too self-absorbed.”

He patted her haunch. “That is because the Brother is a strong advocate of radical feminism. All respect is due to our queens.” She giggled at the formality of the phrase. “I am serious. Anyway, the Brother brings something more to the bed than an appreciation of a woman’s needs.”

Heavy Brother put a hand on Oksana’s back, mentally switching his perceptions to see the strands of gravity around them. With effort, he parted some of those strands.

Oksana gasped. “I feel lighter, like being thrown from saddle. You are doing this?”

“Dig, baby. I gave you a taste of the Night Train that night.” The strands of gravity snapped back into place. He sighed. “Not tonight, though. Couldn’t manage it.”

“Was fine, tonight. You are horosho lover.” Oksana set her jaw in just the way Heavy Brother feared she would. “Best I have found so far in Paragon City,” she assured him.

“Thanks, my sister.” He accepted her hug like a pair of handcuffs.

“You are feeling better now?”

No, he thought, but it ain’t your fault. “Hell yes,” he said. “Let’s get a little sleep.”

Mischief twinkled in her eyes. “I am wanting to buy ticket for Night Train, if is boarding.”

“Next time.” He felt bone-weary all of a sudden, but he shucked her chin anyway. “The Brother promises.”