A look at Indy’s food systems and gentrification through the lens of magical realism by our staff writer, Maurice Broaddus, in the latest issue of Uncanny Magazine. Here are excerpts of his story and an interview with him:
The Ache of Home
The Indy Metro bus came to a shuddering halt and deposited Celeste Burroughs at her stop. A plastic shelter enclosed a bench printed with the words “Embrace Mortality.” Celeste looped the cord of her earbuds around her thumb then unwound it, careful not to pull the cord free from her pocket, where it trailed, not plugged into any device. Listening to music in public violated her sense of personal boundaries. The inserted earbuds were her shield against the catcalls and unwanted attempts at conversation both on the bus and on her walk home.
The bus stop was right across from the construction site of a new park. She jumped at the shrill drone of a drill and the metallic clatter of pieces falling to the ground. She feared the men suspected she could hear just fine. Cordoned off behind a fence, not wanting the intrusion of the neighborhood, hard scrabble men—sun-baked red and wearing fluorescent green T-shirts and hard hats—eyed her like prairie dogs catching a scent. Politicians decided that they needed to pour $5M into constructing a dog park and skate-park, though no one she knew in the neighborhood demanded either. She reminded herself that such amenities weren’t for them. They were for the future residents once the city pushed the current ones out.
Despite dressing in a smart, though unflattering, business suit which covered her from neck to knee, despite the earbuds being in plain sight, despite both a purse and a bag slung over an obviously exhausted body, the men mistook her stride for interest and the braying started. Celeste shrugged her purse higher on her shoulder and walked briskly.
Feeling the call of the Green Space, as she called it, Celeste slowed down. Her mind reached out along what she thought of as the life lines. If she tried had enough, was quiet enough, she could hear the whispers of the plants.
An interview by the brilliant Julia Rios:
Uncanny Magazine: You’re a community organizer and you’ve lived most of your life in Indianapolis. “Ache of Home” touches on both of those things. How much of your personal experience comes through in the story?
Maurice Broaddus: This is my everyday. I was sitting out doing a writing exercise near my neighborhood, watching a construction crew put in a dog and skate park. I know, like the folks in the neighborhood knew, that they’d been marked for “revitalization” so it’d only be a matter of time before they’d be pushed out.
I work with a group called The Learning Tree, an organized group of neighbors. I thought about my friend Scooter, this massive dude who many would be quick to dismiss as a “thug.” Those folks miss his story of being a devoted dad, a caretaker of the neighborhood, with the soul of a poet. I think about my friend Taisha and all of the gardeners in the neighborhood, working together to fight against this massive food access situation.