From the Vault-Short Fiction (Installment 5 of 5)

The fifth and final blast from the past is very short and completely different from the others. It was written in Los Angeles in 1991. I will give more context to it at the end.

The Shell Hardens

By: Shane Phipps (written 3/4/91)


It came out again last night; that thing that no one believes in. It came out and grabbed my brother from me as we walked along the sidewalk on our way home from the movies.

We, like the others, had talked about the mythical beast which was rumored to stalk the streets at night, but we preferred to subscribe to the popular belief–that the thing didn’t exist.

Oh, we all agreed that it had once existed, long ago and far away, but had long since died out, now a thing to be put on display in a museum somewhere along side a dinosaur skeleton.

But last night, the thing came back and, call it what you will, when the car slowly pulls up then screams off, and your brother lies there at your feet, moaning and bleeding, the past becomes the present and the future means precious little. Then you believe again in so called “ancient history.”

Racism lives, even thrives, in its convenient extinction.

The writing on the rock that hit my brother read, LEAVE N*****RS!

And the shell hardens.


About this piece:

This little story was written the day after the police beating of Rodney King. Being in LA at the time was a surreal experience for a kid, like me, who grew up in an all white small town in Indiana. I’d had no real direct experience being in a climate of extreme racial tension until this time in my life. I guess this little piece was my reflective response to it. 


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