Written by Paul Beatty
The Sellout, 2015
At first blush, his purchase of the proverbial farm seems the more metaphorical of the two transactions. But as even the most cursory of those early annual inspections by the California Department of Food and Agriculture bore out, to call 205 Bernard Avenue, that two-acre, just-this-side-of-lunar-surface fertile parcel of land in the most infamous ghetto in Los Angeles County with its hollowed-out 1973 Winnebago Chieftain motor home for a barn, a dilapidated-overcrowded-Section-8-henhouse-topped-by-a-weathervane-so-rusted-in-place-that-the-Santa-Ana-winds-El-Niño-andthe-’ 83-tornado-couldn’t-move-it, medfly-infested-twotree-lemon-grove, three horses, four pigs, a two-legged goat with shopping-cart wheels for back hooves, twelve stray cats, one cow herd of livestock, and the ever-present cumulonimbus cloud of flies that circled the inflatable "fishing" pond of liquefied swamp gas and fermented rat shit that I pulled out of foreclosure on the very same day my dad decided to tell the undercover police officer Edward Orosco to "move his piece o’ shit Ford Crown Victoria and stop blocking the goddamn intersection!" with funds borrowed against what the courts would later determine to be a $2 million settlement for gross miscarriage of justice, to call that unsubsidized tract of inner-city Afro-agrarian ineptitude a "farm" would be to push the limits of literality. Had me and Pops founded Jamestown instead of the Pilgrims, the Indians would have looked at our wilted, meandering, labyrinthlike rows of maize and kumquats and said, "Today’s corn planting seminar is canceled, because you niggers ain’t going to make it."
© 2015 Paul Beatty; New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux