The kid cut him off as he’d left the liquor store with a short dog of T-bird and some salami-cheese twin-packs shellacked in a shrinkwrap sarcophagus. “Say man, say.” There he was, with hisnonexistent little nose wide and flat, barely a nub like undescended testicles, his face shiny black like a 1967 hearse Cadillac and his teeth a single markless slab like the marble lintel on an unused fireplace.
Jack veered around him without looking like he’d altered course too much and didn’t even look down at the rib-height top of the kid’s doo-rag.
Undeterred, the kid puppy-dogged Jack all the way to the Crown Vic. “Man, don’t dog me out, I got a business question, you know what I’m saying? You lookin’? Come on, man, you lookin’? Ain’t no white man come down this hood ain’t lookin’. Say, bro, I’m not tryna hear no silence here, hear me? I’m sayin’ I can help you out, just tell me wha’s yo shit, aw come on, now, talk to me.”
With his back to the kid, Jack stood still at the passenger door. Chauncey, behind the wheel, stared straight ahead at the gated storefront of the abandoned gun shop, his elbow out the window as if it were an antenna trying to drag in even the signal of a breeze in this mattress-heavy heat.
Jack held up a “wait a sec” finger and the kid obeyed and waited while Jack got in. Chauncey flipped the key a notch and Jack whirred down his window. Both stared straight through the windshield of the Crown Vic, but the kid knew his cue and began his pitch.
“Like I was saying, just tell me what you need, my good man. You too, chief. Pleasures of the flesh, I got the finest, awaiting your every command and desire, male female, all races, creeds and colors.” Neither man moved. “Or, pleasures of the mind, that too. I can drop a rock on you make you see god and putcha on a firstname basis with Jesus Christ. Anything and everything, I’m your man, I’m your genie in the bottle, just tell me your three wishes and I’ll name you a price we can all get right with.”
By now Jack had the money out. He held it in one hand below the window level, but the kid got a good look at it. All hundreds, folded around a black elastic scrunchie.
Jack slowly slid his thumb across the top bill and his fingers across the bottom so that the cecils fanned out like a green peacock with all the feathers named Franklin. With both men looking straight ahead but hearing the kid actually lick his lips, Jack methodically spread and furled the feathers.
Jack said in a low, clear voice, “Kind of party I’m looking to have? We’re gonna need some serious inventory.”
“You a po-po?” the kid said finally.
“Serious powdered inventory.”
“I said you the po-lice, nigga. I’m dumb but I ain’t stupid. Shee-it, how mofuckin’ dumb you thinks I is?”
Jack flicked open the glove compartment, casually pitched the little wad onto a half-dime of clearly quality weed and a bigger wad of cash the size of Chauncey’s fist, and kneed the lid closed before turning a little to Chauncey and saying, “You know anybody might be serious?”
The kid shrugged, slapped his palms, russet pink and bubblegum soft, on the windowsill of the Crown Vic and said with an even brighter grin, “I’m the man can handle it.”
Jack pressed his meaty forearm over the kid’s knuckles, looked directly ahead and said, “You’re neither.”
“Neither what? Man, talk sense, I’m tryna make a living, I thought youse was seri&emdash;”
“What we’re gonna do,” Jack said looking directly at the kid, “is give you a finder’s fee.” He lifted the fifth of wine with a twentydollar bill folded around the outside of the sack.
“Man, I don’t drink that. Shit’ll rot your eye-balls off. And finder’s fee is right, I find more’n that AJ onna muthafuckin’ street, you know what I’m saying?”
Jack turned to look back out the windshield. He lifted his right arm off the kid’s hands and left-handed the twenty-wrapped wine out the passenger window until the kid took it. They heard the locks pop.
Climbing into the back seat, the kid said, “Left out of the lot, two blocks up, alley on the right behind the Fatburger.” They heard him crack the screwtop seal and slug one back before Chauncey had the Crown Vic purring into life.
“Bottom them greenass stairs,” were the kid’s next words. “Less you want us all to go in,” he challenged.
Jack said, “Anyone we don’t like comes down, we do business closer to the party room. Three minutes, we’re gone either way.”
“Man, cain’t nobody put together no party of this magnitude in no three&emdash;”
“Now it’s two,” Jack told him, meeting the kid’s eyes in the side mirror.
“Yes sir, you da man,” the kid chuckled dubiously.
After less than two minutes, Chauncey put the Crown Vic in gear and nudged it down the alley.
“Hold up hold up hold up.” Halfway down the steps, the kid sent the rickety railing swinging as he vaulted over it and dove elbow first across the back seat. “Man, you niggas don’t give a man no time,” the kid panted.
“Close the door,” Jack told the visor.
“Yes sir, Mr. white man boss man sir. How’s you knowd we was up there waiting to see if you’d really leave? My man Taz-dev said ain’t no way in hell you’d go, how’d you know?”
Jack whipped around with his arm behind his own seat and confronted the kid with, “What I don’t know is where we’re going, back there, up ahead, what?”
“Okay, sure, okay, be cool my man, we’re going there right now. First I had to calm T-dev down, explain what two wiggers in a cop car doin’ knowin’ where he stay at, and me bringin’ ‘em to ‘im. I told him youse was cool, and youse money even cooler, and cooler than cool is ice cold, baby.”
“Keep adding hot air to the heat, my ice gonna melt away big time. Where are we going?”
Chauncey turned right out of the alley.
“Hold up, my man, Mr. don’t talk for shit. DeLancey street back other way.”
“My boy here sees a hole in the traffic, he gets in it. Good way to stay alive in this neighborhood.”
“Shit, ain’t no neighbors in this hood. DLSK all the way, baby, thug life for life, you know what I’m saying?”
“Actually, I don’t,” Jack said. “You can DLSK me all you want, but I find out it means something diss, I’ll smack the black right off you.”
Glaring, the kid said, “Trick, don’t worry about DLSK. You’re lucky, you ain’t never know what it means. Turn left. Now left again. We’re taking me back to my post, then I’ll point you in the direction you wanna go. And ya might wanna get some air conditioning up in this bitch.”
Chauncey’s hands never left the steering wheel.
With lights and traffic and waiting to turn left back into the liquor store parking lot, there were a few minutes of silence.
Finally, the kid said, “DeLancey Street Street Kings.” More silence. With no gap in the traffic, the kid muttered, “Tha’s DLSK. Since you asked.”
Jack chuckled to himself. He was about to tell the kid he was missing an S when Chauncey saw a hole in the traffic and scooted across it.
“Well get in it, then,” the kid said appreciatively.
They couldn’t find a parking spot in the small lot, so Chauncey left the Crown Vic athwart the trunks of three cars and waited while the kid climbed out.
He resumed his pose of palms on Jack’s windowsill and said, “Back towards Fatburger. Big Sumu-Somoan-looking nigga gonna waddle his fat ass up and get in at the light. He gon’ have all the powdered inventory you want for your cracker ass. I told him how much your little chump-change shirtpocket wad is, and your punkass glove box shit, and he added up how much blow you gonna know in just a little while.”
“We’re talking one guy,” Jack stated distinctly. “We’re lookin’ to trade cash for stash, not lead for dead.”
“Man, T-dev don’ do no ambush, muthafucka. Nigga the size of three men, maybe, but that ain’ da way he do biz-nazz, nigga. No, he one guy, but he way too big to be gettin’ in any gunplay. Couldn’t find no cover fast enough. Hell, ever’body else, that fool is cover.”
“Cause we can run a red light if we don’t like the looks of things.”
The kid smiled indulgently and stepped back. “It was a distinct and delightful pleasure doing business with you gentlemen.” He nodded and flashed the biggest grin yet. He leaned back in again and tried to smile. “And I hope I never see your ass again, no how no where. And have a nice day.” He pushed off the Crown Vic, leaving palm smears on top of the door. He slapped the roof twice and backed away. He gave them a little two finger wave, chest high. Then he kissed the two fingertips and left them with a peace sign.
At the first stoplight, Jack unbuckled his seatbelt. “Well, Chance,” Jack said, “You want shotgun?”
Chauncey laughed. “Come on, Jack. It’s two blocks away.”
Jack said, “You’re right.” He looked back through the rear window. “Kid’s not watching, I’ll take it.”
At the light, a huge, sweaty black man in an even huger and sweatier dashiki rose like centuries of lava accretion from the bus stop bench. His head went momentarily back in surprise when he saw the situation, and then he got in the passenger seat.
“Buckle up, Taz-dev,” Jack told him from the back seat. “They’re ticketing everyone with the new law, drivers and passengers.”
“We’re just going someplace quiet,” T-dev gargled, his chins flapping more in the breeze than from any motion of his mouth. He proceeded to buckle the seatbelt. He had difficulty getting it out far enough. Jack helped unreel some slack.
“But yes, last thing anybody needs is any probable cause,” T-dev said.
The seatbelt sank into his swampy chest.
Jack’s right hand grabbed a fistful of seatbelt near T-dev’s right ear, and his left hand shoved the blunted end of the shotgun beneath the huge belly and burrowed it insistently into his crotch.
“Hey, what the&emdash;?”
“Now now, nigger, just don’t be too noisy now,” Jack snarled.
T-dev’s gravelly gargle climbed an octave with each “cool” as he shrieked, “Hey man, be cool, now, be cool be cool be cool.”
Jack wiggled his fist a little to get better traction on the seat belt, yanking it taut against T-dev’s fat throat.
“Oh, I’m cool, T-dev. I’m very cool. Question is, can you be cool? Because that’s what you need to be right now, is cool. Cool and quiet.”
“Man, w’as yo shit? What the fuck you&emdash;?”
Jack quieted him with a shotgun nudge.
“I got a barrel for each ball, and I don’t care about your dick. Now you gonna be quiet?”
“Fuck your skanky mamma, white boyyeeee&emdash;okay, okay, I’m cool, I’m&emdash;just mellow the fuck out, right? We cool, right?”
“I know I am.” Jack’s smug grin was in every word. “But I’m having a little difficulty believing you are.” T-dev scowled out the window. “We’re going for a nice ride in the country.”
“You want the shit? You can have it. Yours. Just drop me off next to a bus stop, and none of this ever happened.”
“Oh, that’s a given. The drugs, I mean. Not sure about the bus stop yet.”
“Half a key, good shit, the best. My finest product, ain’t cut for shit, man, just bus me up, I’m good.”
“Now why would you want a stinky, rattling old bus when you can go for a nice country ride in this fine automobile, a brand new Ford Crown Victoria, the flagship of the fleet?”
“The fuck you want, man?” T-dev demanded.
Jack repeated, “A barrel for each ball, and I don’t care about your dick. Now what I do care about is my buddy here’s new upholstery. So what he’s gonna do is find a nice, quiet, non-bumpy road for us to drive down. The suspension on the Crown Victoria is a little tight, so we don’t want any bumps to maybe accidentally&emdash;”
“I get it, man,” T-dev said, dropping the back of his creased, floppy neck onto the head rest. He muttered to the soft grey upholstered ceiling. “White ofay melodramatic mother fucker.”
Chauncey almost laughed.
T-dev flopped his head forward again and snapped, “Yeah you laugh, Sasquatch. Ya big ol’ creepy-ass goon.”
Jack yanked the seatbelt again.
After a few minutes, T-dev huffed a sigh and said, “So that’s the deal, then, we just gon’ be all silent and shit while Bigfoot here finds a road ain’t bumpy enough for you?”
When no answer came, T-dev sighed again and said, “Man, my momma was right. White folks is crazy.”
After Chauncey exited and they became the only thing besides the heat refractions moving on a desolate two-laner, T-dev spoke up again. “You ain’t scarin’ me, witcho gotta be all silent and intimidatin’ and shit. Man with the gun ain’t gotta say shit, tha’s a given, and man behind the wheel don’t need to say less’n shit, so here I sits. I hope you intimidate my ass so much I piss and shit all over your goddamn new uphols’ry, sheee-it.”
Chauncey cruised to a smooth, brakeless stop beneath a shade tree three-quarters of a mile from any other life.
“Playtime’s over, Dev,” Jack said. “Hands on the dash. Lock ‘em down. And don’t break it. Your hands alone gotta weigh more than the tires on this car.”
“Don’t you mean the tires on the Ford Crown Victoria, the flagship of the mother fucking fleet?”
Jack chuckled. “Like I say, T, you’re a funny guy. But playtime’s over.”
“When you muthafuckin’ say I’m funny?”
“And you’re missing an S,” Jack informed him.
“Missin’ a…? Man, you folks ain’t just crazy, you ain’t make no sense.”
“And yet your hands went right to that dash, didn’t they? Where is it?”
T-dev twisted his neck. “It’s right here under my fucking hands, like you done told me.”
Jack rolled his eyes, removed the shotgun from T-Dev’s shady crotch and barrel-slapped the waterbed thigh. “The dope, asshole.”
“Oh, my bad.”
“What happened to you, Taz? You used to be funny.”
T-dev hung his head and shook it. “Now you funny too. I told J-raz today got interesting when he showed up with you. Now it’s past interesting and into just plain fucking weird, man.”
“Not as weird as some fat fucking pimp wannabe with no more johnson, T. That’s gonna be weird.”
“Yeah,” T-dev sighed, “but I’s so fat ain’t nobody even seen my shit for three years, not even me. Won’t even notice it’s gone, man, and neither will I. Now let’s go ahead and do this so you can take me home. Drugs in that bag on the armrest, man. You coulda drove off ‘fore I even got all the way in.” With silence and no movement from Jack, T-dev taunted, “Don’t tell me you didn’t see me put it down back at Fatburger. Cause all that’d do is let me know the level of competence I’m dealing with.”
The shotgun painfully prodded T-dev’s spleen. “Outside,” Jack commanded quietly.
“Aw no. My hands locked down on this motherfucker. Cain’t even unbuckle my seatbelt in case a cop comes by with some probable cause.”
“I don’t care that much about the upholstery.”
“I’ma do this real slow,” T-dev said. “My luck be the only fatass nigga in histry get shot goin’ down a bumpy road sitting still.”
They got out of the car.
“Nobody said you were dumb,” Jack confirmed.
“No, but they will when they hear how I managed to get myself all caught up in this kind of shit.”
“Keep talking, maybe your posse’s almost as greedy as you and they’ll come rescue you.”
“And nobody’s gonna track you down and wreak motherfucking payback on your ass, either. You’re totally safe, and this was a brilliant move and I’m way too smart to make any threats long as you got a barrel for each ball. Now who’s doin’ the talkin’ and only posse you got is your goony-boy there.”
“Take your pants off.”
“My pan&emdash;? For frisking? Man, you the man wit’ the gun, any gun I have in that gym bag Sasquatch goin’ through. You better watch it. He gon’ take your shit. Drive off leave us both high and dry. You better watch your happy home.”
Jack visibly cocked both hammers and raised the giant, sawedoff circles that were almost as big as the saucers T-dev’s eyes had now become.
“Again, real slow,” T-dev said.
Jack cradled the shotgun while T-dev proceeded to toe off his shoes and then step out of his sweatpants.
“I ain’t gonna have to squeal like a pig in a minute here, am I?”
Jack raised his eyebrows.
“Cause I’d just as soon you pull them triggers,” T-dev continued.
“Everything in that pile you started, then your hands on that tree along with your eyes.”
“Honest, I’ll tell you right now, massa, my name Toby, ain’ no Kunta Kinte.”
Jack said nothing.
Naked, T-dev waddled over to the tree, saying, “I know, I know, and don’t break it, my hands alone gotta weigh more than the tires on yo’ car.”
“Flagship of the fleet, T-dev.”
“That’s right. It sure is that. Okay, hands and eyes both on the tree. And I’m gonna leave ‘em there til you tells me dif. But you wanna pig squeal, you gonna have to kill me.”
Jack shoved T-dev’s cheek into the treebark with the shotgun behind his ear.
“Why the fuck don’t you have a lighter in that gym bag?” Jack screamed.
“Cause I don’t smoke, nigga! I’m motherfuckin’ asthmatic.”
Jack smacked the underside of the barrels against T-dev’s head. Without removing his palms from the tree, T-dev said, “Look, I’ll bring the blow, you got to supply your own crack-pipe.”
“Just throw’m in the trunk,” Chauncey said. They heard the automatic latch release.
“Fuck this shit,” T-dev said, and began to trot off.
“T-dev, calm down,” Jack said contemptuously.
“Fuck you and your trunk,” T-dev called over his jiggling shoulder.
“Dammit,” Jack sighed, and began the fast walk to overtake the fleeing tugboat pimp.
He circled in front of T-dev, stiff-armed a palm into the soupy chest and aimed down the shotgun at T-dev’s face.
“Go ahead on,” T-dev said defiantly, “Make your punkass joke ‘bout how I won’t even fit in no trunk.”
They stood there, looking at each other.
T-dev explained, “I’m hot. I’m sweaty. I’m motherfucking naked, and I’m about to die. Leave me somethin’. I ain’t gettin’ in no trunk.”
Jack chewed his anger while he went through the frustration of picking his words.
“We were gonna set your clothes on fire and drive off and leave you here. But you don’t smoke. So&emdash;Sasquatch&emdash; said put them in the trunk. Them. Not you. Them.”
In the silence, they could hear a bead of sweat crackle in the hairs as it slid through the cheeks of T-dev’s ass.
“Man, just fuckin’ shoot me.”
Jacked spray-laughed and lowered the gun.
“I won’t shoot you.”
T-dev nodded. “Now that I think about it, I believe you. Know why?”
“Because I have a gun?”
“Because you almost said his name, but you didn’t want me to hear it. So I live through this, humiliating as this shit is.”
“Because I’m getting a cramp in my shoulder,” Jack chuckled.
T-dev glared at him. “I’m supposed to do what now? Bond with you on that shit, all buddy-buddy, forget you wanna commit suicide for some crazy whiteboy reason and pick me to do it with so I slap a death warrant on your ass, but I forget all that and we fall out laughing it off because you got a cramp? Man, I don’t know if you’re crazy or stupid or both or what, but any which way you dice these carrots, you don’t know shit. You’re not a cop. You’re not a gangsta. You’re not even a gangsta wannabe. You ain’t never been to my world and you won’t ever know what’s going on down there.”
Jack blinked and began to raise the shotgun again.
“Man fuck that gun. Fuck you, and fuck Sasquatch and fuck your motherfuckin’ flag motherfuckin’ ship of the mother fucking fleet.”
Jack looked at him, and then smiled slowly. His eyes narrowed as T-dev’s widened. Through his snaky grin, Jack said, “His name is&emdash;”
“JEEZUZ god and mother of Christ don’t tell me,” T-dev yelped and clamped his meaty paws over his tiny ears and doubled over. “No!”
After a few seconds, Jack realized he was crying.
“No,” T-dev moaned. “No, man, no.” He rose up.
Jack winced when he saw the big drops fall from the feminine-length lashes.
“I’m begging you,” T-dev said. “Man to man. Shoot me. Motherfucking shoot me. Shoot me rape me, shove that fucking shotgun up my fat greasy asscrack and fucking kill me, I’ll suck your dick, I’ll drink your piss or eat my own shit, just make a move and fucking tell me what you fucking want, man.” He broke into abject, heaving sobs, “Just tell me. What do you want?”
Jack’s eyes snapped into narrow, unfeeling slits. T-dev stood up as best he could to receive a death he could not retreat or cower from anymore, because whatever was to happen next was the real deal.
“Here’s what’s gonna happen.” Jack took the gym bag from Chauncey without even looking behind him. “You’re gonna make your way as best you can, naked, back into town. No clothes, no water, no nothing but a severely felonious amount of drugs. Way more than that lookout shill, what’s his name, J-rock?”
“What the fuck ever. A minor. He gets popped he can’t do any adult time, even caught dealing. Which makes you a punkass coward.”
“I’m fat too. And a sleazy drug dealer and pimp gangsta motherfucker. My dick’s small and my turds stink and I don’t care because I shit on my fellow man and I’ll cook my smelly ass in hell like a fucking Butterball turkey. Anymore fucking creative motherfucking names you got to call me, or can I start walking?”
Jack sneered. “Such a long way you’ve come. Two minutes ago you were gonna suck my dick. Well here’s what I want. You still listening?”
T-dev glared, then lowered his head and heaved a sigh.
“I suggest you find the nearest cop and get whatever cop you’ve been snitching to.” He slashed a look at T-dev’s rising face. “That’s right, I don’t know shit, but I know you can’t always buy your protection, sometimes you gotta let the farmer catch a few fish if you’re gonna be the alligator.”
“And you’re a poet. Well fuck me,” T-dev snarled.
“I suggest you find that cop because now you’re gonna need his protection for real. You’re not king of DeLancey Street. The Kings are just a punkass subsidiary. Real action gets handed down from the lifers doing multiple concurrents in prison, and you just disappeared with half a key of their dope.”
“I won’t have no trouble being believed.”
“Yeah, Jay-raz’ll back you up. Two white guys nobody’s ever seen before come rollin’ up in a Crown Vic and haul your fat ass out in the country just so they could look at your wiener and then left you to trudge your fat ass back into town and didn’t take the dope. How many friends you got when that gets out?”
“Fine. Play it that way. How many friends up top gonna front you after this? How far up in the Kings you gonna rise? Or maybe they’ll see you did such a fine job you should join them at corporate?”
“I done half a nickel on d-block.”
“For dealing, sure.”
“Hell yes for dealing.”
“And you’da done the other half, except you found a farmer to feed the fish to, and a snitch jacket never rubs off. How much could you do once that crew even thinks you survived out here that way?”
T-dev looked like he was going to spit, then changed his mind.
“Get to the point, it’s a long walk.”
Jack smiled. “It’s a long walk past a school. That’s a sex offense, and no cop in the world will wanna go to bat for you on that. Again, your friends on d-block hear that, you’ll be the celly on his belly.” Holding the shotgun as backup, Jack reached his left hand and jiggled one of T-dev’s breasts. “And with a set of man-boobs this fine, they’ll trade you for a deck of Kools per session easy.”
“Jesus, man, why you so hard?”
“Because you’re a sleazy-ass dope dealer who tries to hide behind children.”
“Me’n every other pimp out there.”
“Starting today, just every other pimp. You’re retired.”
“Or else what? You’ll kill me? We’ve already seen how that plays out.”
Jack whipped into blasting stance.
“Go ahead,” T-dev said calmly. “You just spent ten minutes pointing out all the reason it’d be doing me a favor. See there, you just shit in your nest, because now I have nothing to lose, and nothing but three kinds of living hell if you don’t kill me. So go ahead, Mr. Shotgun. Only do something quick, because I sunburn easily. Good thing my ‘wiener’ is in a permanent shade, huh?” He jiggled his belly at Jack with both hands.
Jack looked at T-dev.
“That’s what I thought,” T-dev said.
Jack smiled and draped the top of the shotgun back across his right shoulder. “Keep thinking. You’ll figure it out.”
“Already done that,” T-dev said. He turned to go.
“Hey, Taz-dev?” Chauncey called.
T-dev turned at the unfamiliar voice and automatically raised his hands to catch the object thrown.
“You forgot your drugs.”
T-dev tucked the object daintily against his hip. He said, “When I brought it, it was in a gym bag.”
Jack and Chauncey shook their heads and got in the car.
They were laughing as they turned around and drove past T-dev.T-dev shook his head. “Took my mother fucking gym bag, you believe that shit?”
In the Crown Vic, Jack mopped his face with his shirt tail and said, “No, turn it all the way up.” He cranked all the air conditioning knobs to their full level.
The Crown Vic took the entrance ramp back onto the highway and effortlessly merged into the traffic streaming out of town at seventy-five miles an hour. Chauncey gave a police-looking nod and wave to the actual policeman doing seventy as they him passed on the right.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As with anyone wishing to write well, Curtis James McConnell first held a hundred jobs, including standup comic, croupier, secret shopper and phone actor. He has also been to all fifty United States.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
ABOUT THE RAG
The Rag is the home for literary guts and steel. We are an electronic publication hell-bent on true grit and uncompromising action. We call this “literary entertainment.” We publish new fiction monthly on our website www.raglitmag.com. You can read online, or free downloads are available in PDF, Kindle and ePub formats.