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  • Writer's pictureSam Baker

8 minutes 46 seconds

June 4, 2020. 7:26 am.

I am setting my writing timer to 8 minutes 46 seconds. well to be accurate- 8:40 since my the timer I use sets in 10 second intervals.

That is the amount of time that the policeman, with his left hand in his pocket, kept his left knee on George Floyd's neck. It stopped George Floyd's breathing. The officer kept his knee in position long enough so there was no chance of resuscitation. The left hand in his pocket was casual- like he was waiting for a latte at Starbucks. Or waiting for an oil change at a service station on his day off.

George Floyd's last words were

…i am dying

tell my kids i love them


The sun has almost cleared the bank of mesquite trees to the east . The light is still soft- flat. Two mockingbirds fly together. Quick short bursts of flight- like they are sparring- or courting- or playing. It may be that these spring days are filled with delight. They sing They sing. Then they sing some more. I don't know if they are joyous but they bring joy to me. Joy to the world.

make a joyful noise!

The land by the river is rich with things for them to eat. It is a bug rich envirnoment . Top choice bugs. A sky full of moths. Everything tasty to a mockingbird. This fertile land is their buffet. They drop to the ground then jump start up synchronized like swimmers coming from beneath the surface of a pool. Together. Singing. Rejoicing.

The sun illuminates the far river rocks. Granite, white beautiful uneven. Then backfills east to the base of the obscuring tree-line.

The sound of the water over stone is a constant. Rapids. The volume of sound ebbs and flows with surge and retreat. This water flowing down this kazillion year old water passage has come from miles away. Springs hidden away in the earth flowing as they have for a thousand years. They were here for the people who left the beautifully cut arrowhead I found. My neighbor said it was five thousand years old. The have come. They have gone.

When I was younger I was on a train blown up by terrorist. It killed the people I sat with. Quick. Violently. The bomb was a few feet from me. From my head. The blast wave flattened my lungs.

It was like a broad hammer. One blow. Then my lungs were flat as plywood.

I won’t go into details. But the moment I could not inhale- when my lungs were flat- crushed by the dynamite wave-

It was terrifying beyond words. It was a terror that scorched every cell. Every cell knew I was dying and every cell was screaming in fear. Terrifying is not a strong enough word. I have looked for decades for the right word. It has not been made.

Dying for lack of breath. And I knew I was dying.

I passed into another place before i knew that i had begun to breathe again. But that is another story.

I will keep looking for the right word.

George Floyd knew what it felt like. To not breathe. He knew what it was like to know he was dying. He knew. He called to his deceased mother.

Mamma. he said. Then he died.

8 minutes. 40 seconds.

Time's up.


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