by Tim Gilmore, 6/17/2012
In a banged-up and rusted-out 1970s house trailer owned by a convicted murderer beneath oak trees at the dead end of Third Avenue in a subdivision called Riverhills Park near where Lem Turner Road crosses the Trout River, Chris Roberts had holed himself up while a SWAT team blocked off surrounding roads and surrounded the trailer with guns and bullhorns. The cops told the neighbors to wait at The Pig, a barbecue restaurant on Lem Turner Road, having tracked Roberts to the house trailer four days after he leaned from a car window and shot an untargeted 59 year-old man in his apartment off Philips Highway on the Southside. They had already charged the 19 year-old driver of the car, Jane Mary Austen, with murder. Finally, Roberts, with his long stringy red hair, a tiny shabby mustache, illegible tattooed messages all over his neck and chest, and tattoos of teardrops on both cheeks as long as his nose, walked out of the trailer and surrendered. Nearby residents quickly responded: the government should launch a forced sterilization program, Roberts was a yellow-bellied Socialist liberal, the police should have shot him full of holes, everybody in the jails should be fried tomorrow morning, and this is what you get with a black president. That night, the air cooled and stilled, the trailer sat empty except for a few rats, a barred owl swooped down and grabbed a rat from the roof in its talons, the moon formed a crescent behind the oak trees, and in the ruins of the day in the ruins of the place, a deep beauty that no one noticed showed behind and through and up from under the pitiable and sordid setting of this crude little show.