The young man woke up that morning and felt there was something very different going on. His head was lying on the pillow at a weird angle as if something was underneath. He drowsily reached under and found that his head was in the way. He snapped immediately and tried to turn to his right, only it was as if his head was being held in place. That startled him and he rolled hard, which nearly wrenched his neck. He painfully struggled to a sitting position on the side of his bed, and it was as if there was a weight tied to his head.
He staggered erect and tottered over to his dresser that dominated the bedroom in the small apartment he shared with his parents and younger sister in East Harlem. He stared through blurry eyes into the mirror and was shocked by what he saw. Somehow his face had been transformed into what looked like an African mask. His forehead had grown to twice its size as did his cheeks and jaw. His eyes had narrowed to long insect-like slits, his skin had turned coal black, and his nose was a dull yellow that matched the stripes running upwards, left and right from it. This was not going to be a good day.
There was a street fair going on outside on 137th Street, and he had volunteered to participate along with some of his friends. They had been working on skits for a while, combining hip hop rhyming with comedy routines, and interjecting street-wise messages meant as community advice for the kiddies. It was going to be visionary and innovative, but now he wasn’t sure how much he would be able to contribute.
He opened his closet and had to dig out a button-down shirt because no pullover would fit over this big head. His first concern was over his parents. His Dad had been out of work, and he assured them he would start work next week rather than have his Mom apply for food stamps. It was a major crisis in having to seek public assistance, and if he backed down his Mom would have no choice. He would have to figure something out, but right now there was a show that must go on.
“LaDainian, are you coming to breakfast?” his sister tapped on his door. “Mama made grits the way you like them.”
“No, I’m running late for the show,” he called out. “Tell her to save me a plate, I’ll nuke ‘em when I get in.”
“Oh, okay. I’ll come on down and check you all out when I get done with the laundry.”
He waited until she walked away before peeking out, then made a rush for the door. He raced down the stairs and ran right into his friends in the vestibule.
“What the HELL?”
“Okay. I’m sure you’ve heard of Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx.”