Dec 11, 2007

Final audio post.

This officially shuts the door on this year's NaNoWriMo for me. Included: stuff I listened to while writing, where the book was going, and plans for next year. Here you go. 17 minutes, 15 meg. w00t.

Nov 30, 2007


Every now and again, Ang asks me about the future. Will we ever have Jetsons-style cars? Will she need to know another language to get a job? I mean, I worry about the future, too. I mean, no one knows what's gonna happen, right? It just becomes like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but a really bad one, and you can't go backwards to the page beforehand because you fucked up and ended up at an ending that sucked.

Ang has a good imagination, and she thinks we'll have the Jetson cars. In her world, she'd know all of these languages and be served hand and foot by random buff dudes of every color. Of course, she'll be mega-rich, and jetseet and hip. I always laugh at these stories, asking her to remember her dear older brother who just wants a million or two, you know, chump change to the Queen of the World. She promises me, all serious and shit, that she'll look out for me. I'm glad of that; a lot of people don't have someone who has their back like that.

B and me talk about shit like that, too, you know. He figures he can go to college to be the engineer he wants to be, and maybe play football if he isn't hurt by then. Chris will go to college too, I think, because she's too smart not to. A lot of kids may go to community college or learn how to fix a car or something, something to pay the rent and buy some brew and maybe a hit of weed every weekend. Kinda like the sitcom dudes who never seem to go to work, but have money, live in a nice spot, and have mad chicks come by.

Me? No idea. I don't think the space cars are coming, and I can't vote yet, so it's not like I can make a difference in elections and shit yet. Hell, even if I could vote, what's one person in a crowd? If one person out of 50 went to college, I suppose that's good for that one person, but what about the other 49? If 49 people don't like something, but 51 do, what happens to the 49 that lost? I just don't know about that politics shit, man.

Collegewise, I think I can go. I mean, I'm not stupid, and my grades are decent. I like the writing thing, and maybe I can work in Hollywood. I could write poems, or stories. I could be one of those cats who has a day jobs as a waiter and keeps talking about the book I'm writing or some shit. That's just funny to think about.

And what about the women situation? I think there's a couple of girls at school who like me, so that's cool. One of these days I'ma try to hit one out the park, but the baby thing scares the fuck out of me. And there's Christine, which is a huge problem in itself.

Maybe, before we get to all that, I can get a rocket car.

Nov 24, 2007


What amazes me about school lunch is how damned nasty they are. Most of the time, someone sneaks off campus and gets some McDonalds or something, but since we're not supposed to leave campus, we don't do that very often. So most of us pack a sammich or something and get chips and shit from the lunchroom. No one said this was supposed to be filling or good for you, but Pops always tells me to do what I can now. "It catches up to you, believe me," he says. He usually emphasizes the point by patting his stomach, which is motivation enough.

B's gotten to eating lunch with the football players. He's one of them, but they have no idea that he reads and writes and likes numbers. All they know is that he's a damned good tight end, so they spend lunchtime trying to figure him out. He's funny enough, he wants to get laid as bad as they do, but he's not quite one of them yet, and they can't figure out how. I laugh to myself and think that he's playing the part of Nerd Undercover, which usually earns me a punch in the shoulder.

When the football players aren't around, though, he hung with me. We would sit in a corner of the lunchroom, speaking wordlessly about the parade of young female flesh being paraded in front of us. When we did talk, it was about usual shit, like school, or his mom's new boyfriend, or me watching Ang grow up. He didn't talk about football with me, even though he knew I liked it and liked playing it, but I supposed that he was living football, and my outsider ass was just on the sidelines watching. I suppose he didn't want to drown me in football talk, which was fine with me, because once he started, he was really hard to stop.

I had told him about my visit to Christine's place, and he oohed and ahed in the appropriate places. He laughed at my uncomfortableness, and wondered out loud what it was that caused Chris to avoid me after she had dumped dude. Was she going to tell me about it ever? Was it some big secret? I had no idea, and for once, B didn't either.

Before first class, Christine found me and asked to see my book. My mind was preoccupied and I hadn't even woken up properly, so I absentmindedly handed them over. Two manilla folders full of notes and drawings and outlines and photocopied pages from "Write a Novel, You Dumb Ass!" type books written by world famous authors who were already comfy on top of their literary mountains and speaking to the peons at their feet. It's bulk had replaced my books, as I ended up leaving those at home and bumming a book off of someone in class. Hell, it was odd I even had books to take home. In Mrs. Mick's class, we didn't have enough books to go around, and she would fume about budget cuts or so-and-so government person who talked a good game on education but fucked teachers over. You know, that kind of stuff.

When I had the chance to wake up, I realized what I had done and almost cursed out loud in the class I was in. The word "FUCK!" was headed out my mouth, and then I realized that I was first, cursing, and also cursing out loud, and what came out was something like a sneeze with an F in front of it. I played it off when Mr. Mick looked back at me over his collection of beakers and shit and said nothing. He was a science teacher who was married to Mrs. Mick, but his budget cuts didn't let him do shit. I felt for him, because we were supposed to be able to do shit ourselves, like mix chemicals and dissect frogs and go on field trips, but apparently there was no money, so we read shit and did problems out of this huge-ass science books they had MAYBE ten copies of for an entire junior class. Mr. Mick laughed a lot, though, and was funny as hell, and it was his class I usually worked on the Grant book. But now, with Christine "borrowing" it, I actually had to pay attention.

I survived that, and was engaged in a heated discussion with B about something fucking stupid when Chris showed up. Neither of us noticed her until she slid her tray down to our lonely end of the table. Comic books? Who was a better sucky act, MC Hammer or Master P? Whatever it was, everything ceased as we stopped and looked at her.

"Damn. Were y'all waiting on me or something? I ain't trying to interrupt y'all nerd talk, so go ahead. I'm hungry as hell anyway, so let me eat." With that, she stuffed her mouth full of french fry and ignored us.

Fuck it. If she wasn't coming out with it, I wasn't gonna press it. I had to get my shit back, though, but I figured she'd spend the morning reading it, so maybe she could help me along. I turned my attention to the shitty opinion B was trying to get across. Whatever it was, it sucked and was wrong.

Chris would look at me every now and again, an outsider but in our circle. I felt her glance in my peripheral and ignored her. B kept looking at her, ready for the time where he could excuse himself and be out of our conversation. Hell, if she didn't wanna talk, I wasn't gonna make her, but I damned sure wanted to know where her head was at. I also needed my work back, at least.

I came to a pause in whatever it was, and she came right in, no pretense, no leading into it. "Wanna know why I didn't talk to you for so long?"

B looked at her, and looked at me. I don't think he wanted to be there; he had always figured that we needed to quit bullshitting nd just get together, but he didn't want to be in the middle of it, since he was my boy and he thought Chris was cool.

I, in the middle of my retort to whatever dumb shit B had said six seconds earlier,never turned to her. "That's on you. You wanna tell me?" I then fixed my face into the coldest ice grill I could possibly muster to this girl who, I was quickly realizing, I would go to the ends of the world for.

She saw my look and I guess it was effective, because she starting babbling. Just pouring shit out, just talking. It was a faucet moment, where the handle was turned and there was no stopper in the basin.

"I'm sorry, but when you came to my house and my grandmama said that she liked how you carried yourself and how she could see you were a gentleman and I was trying to figure out how you got over there since we're WAY across time, and you kept asking me what was going on and I couldn't tell you right then because i needed to talk to you, and I was reading what you'd written so far and I liked it but I wanted to talk to you so bad about what was going on but you were at my house and didn't even know i was home" - I glanced at B, who gave me a half smile - "you seemed to care, and the guy you're writing about cares too, and we get along so well and Autry and me didn't get along so well and I wanted to ask you about things, you know, get a guys point of view, but I needed to figure out what was wrong and if something was wrong with me or I had high standards that couldn't nobody meet." She took a breath. I had no words, and B's mouth was slightly open. She looked at me, at him, and back at me.

"I just needed to think, that's all." SHe sighed and shrugged. I was just trying to figure things out."

I shrugged my shoulders as nonchalantly as I could. "That's all good," I said to the table between us. "I was just trying to figure what was up and why you hadn't said anything."

She smiled. Why'd you come out to my house, though, she wondered out loud. You didn't know I was home, and it's a long bus ride, and you have to transfer and walk a while. What were you trying to do? What could you have expected to say? I've told you about Grandma before, how old school she is. You couldn't hug me or anything, and you really couldn't talk to me. We sat there passing notes like we were twelve or something." She laughed, and then noticed my face, which I guess looked confused. What's wrong? she asked.

I didn't know why I went out there. I got B to play his part, and I took my ass out across the city to see someone I could have really seen at school. But maybe I had some other reasoning to do it. It couldn't be that I was just checking on her. Could it? All I could do in response to her question was shrug.

For a while, we three sat. I don't know how they felt, but I felt uncomfortable. My man was watching me shrivel in the presence of a chick I keep telling to anyone who would listen that I was just friends with. B busied himself by looking away. Chris kept looking at me.

She sighed, and reached into her bag. "Ah, well. I have your book, though." She pulled out the two manilla folders. Don't think I lost anything.

"What did you think?" B asked. God bless you, man. I wasn't in condition to ask much of anything. My mind was jittery and confused and hyperactive. She looked at me and started in.

She liked it, more or less. Of course I had some spelling errors, and some sentences didn't make a lot of sense, but she liked it. She knew about my quest to set the pace in English class, and liked that idea. The more big words, the better, but I had to be careful to use them where they made sense. She liked that he was a brother who wasn't on some pimp or hustler bullshit. She didn't like the new urban fiction either.

"All these chicks are on some gold diggin crap," she said angrily, waving her arms around. "They're waiting for some dude to save them, when they're shallow as all get out. If I was a dude, I wouldn't be trying to holla. It's sad that they don't have parents or got kids or whatever, but why they gotta be chicks you just can't root for?" She looked at us for support. B nodded affirmation, I managed a "uhm hmm."

So, what happens next, she asked. I shrugged. I honestly had not thought that far. I mean, it's obvious he likes her, right? And it's obvious she likes him, right? What the fuck else should they do? As much as I hate the nice, neat endings, I had grown tired of the gauntlet of bad relationships dudes and chicks go through in the books we had read.

"Maybe they fall back in love," I offered.

Nov 22, 2007


"That was the most obvious call for help I've ever heard. And I saved it."

Grant looked across the table at Tia and smiled despite himself. Tia saw the grin and grinned wider. He was so cute when he was vulnerable, she thought.

Grant was uncomfortable, but her smile made him relax. Somewhere, he thought, this is absolutely insane. This was the woman he, at one point, imagined getting married to. For all the stories his boys told, none of them involved being on good terms with your ex. Of course, his friends, with few exceptions, viewed relationships as little wars, battlefields they resigned themselves to destroying. Using every last piece of ordinance, all the heavy artillery they could muster, and pulling no stops, most of his boys judged a woman by her mere ability to survive the bull they threw at her. If, after all the buildings had fell, if she still stood, they deemed her worthy.

Needless to say, his friends didn't have a lot of good, fulfilling relationships.

Tia had been through her share of relationships, good and bad, and had an amazingly developed sense of relationships that few people reached during their lifetimes. She saw relationships as not "win-lose" propositions, but ways to find out about herself. With the high roller, big baller types, she tested her resolve to see if a life of luxury and occasional freaky sexcapade fit her. She hustled and scrounged with a starving artist type to see if she could get along with someone perpetually poor but so creatively rich. And she tried Grant, but he was not what she thought he was.

Grant dug hanging out with Tia, even before the light-bulb in his head went off and he suggested they date, for the sake of a "new experience." She had gone to an all-wolmens college, passed the paper bag test, was desired in all manner by anyone who saw beyond her nearsighted, ten pounds overweight body type. "I don't mind not being a 10," she would say. "I DO mind being a 0 when I decide to fuck someone, though."

She thought Grant was safe, a high-roller type who liked to flash the jewelry around and impress buddies with a ten on his arm and sporting a swath of confidence deep enough to drown a giraffe. She knew the personality type, and she wanted confirmation of the shallowness of the type so she could mark it off in her internal list and move on.

But Grant surprised her. The most expensive thing he owned and wasn't paying off was a a John Coltrane box set. He owned a couple of watches that only looked expensive, and his suits were hooked up by an old friend who had a stake in a family-owned clothing store. Grant loved ties, but hated suit jackets. Tia, shocked by what she had found, looked into his closet, expecting to at the very LEAST, find forty pairs of leather shoes, but was greeted by the sight of eight pairs of shoes, two basketball pairs, a casual, some construction boots, and four pairs of leather shoes which were well-taken care of.

Grant was aware that she was comparing him to someone else, but knew from watching his boys flounder in the shallow pool of relationships, knew that trying to compete with a previous boyfriend, or, even worse, her dad, would be an abject failure. He learned that he could just be himself and, if she didn't like that, so it goes.

So they connected on that level; he not giving a damn, she wondering why he didn't give a damn. From there, she went from what his story was and him wondering why she gave a damn. They didn't expect the other to be what they were, and they spent the next two years happily jousting, daring each other further, pushing, poking, and prodding. Of course, the sex was hot, the friendship seemed to have lent itself to surprise presents, to long evenings talking about everything.

Their friendship blossomed into a love that Grant had never felt before. He could talk to her about anything. He knew her lies and dislikes. He hadn't run out of things he wanted to try on her when they were alone. He started to look forward to talking to her during the day, of having dinner and singing along to random songs in their music library. That's what made the break-up so hard.

Tia knew she loved him. He cared for her, seemed ready to stand up for her, and stand up with her. It was perfect. Almost too perfect. But now she had this effect on him, would he hold onto that feeling if she wasn't around"? Could she, all of a sudden, pop back into his life and cause him to fall head over heels again? They had grown from friends; their first dates weren't even called dates. They went to movies, walked around the city, talked on the phone for long periods . He had cheated, she laughed to herself. He snuck in through the "friend" way. She wanted a suitor to come in through the front door, sweep her off her feet with pre-planned dates.

Of course, her girlfriends thought this was absolutely stupid, but Tia held on to her fantasies of being wooed the old-fashioned way. Grant, meanwhile, unaware that he had come through the friend" door, had to adjust to being back in the damned Friend Room.

So he tested her, and called after leaving Dwayne, leaving a message that he wanted to try out a new restaurant and did she want to come along? It was the first time he had contacted her since they broke up; she was trying to show him that exes can indeed be friends; in fact, she was still friends with her exes? Grant knew that those exes stayed friends because of their belief that they would get back into her pants, and they stayed exes because of their transparency.

Grant figured out a long time ago that she had her own ways and means of doing things, and it amused him to hear her talk about such things as exes being friends, because she seemed to live in a world much different than the reality he lived in. In his world, women who explored sexual pleasure were hoes and sluts; it was natural for Tia to spring some new technique or situation on an unsuspecting lover who, truth be told, thought missionary was just fine. In his world, creative people were usually trampled by businesspeople with their minds on their money and their money on their minds, but Tia was a highly respected and nicely compensated graphic designer. He figured he'd ask her about this presentation he had over his head, too. Now they were at dinner, his cunning having brought her out, her desire to show him that her reality was better pushing her to take the call and arrange via text message the time to meet. And now they were at the restaurant, and she snickered, having found a chink in his armor.

"Wasn't hard for you to meet me, was it?" Tia's girlfriends called it "fighting fire with hot sauce," but she agreed to meet him. She had already said they were over; what she wouldn't let out of the bag was the fact that, maybe, possibly, they could be together again. At some later date, of course. Stupid "friend" door.

Grant shifted in his seat, still not completely free of his nervousness. "No, I guess not." Sitting across from her was murder. His boy Marion had let him know what he thought, and Grant thought thought his last piece of advice pertinent, even if Marion's track record with the opposite sex resembled that of a mule running in horse races. "Dude, once you make em scream, you can't be friends no more. You just can't." Grant shifted in his seat again, certain aspects of his physique remembering those times. Dammit, woman.

They talked of current events, of sports, of conditions with owning a condo and how their jobs were going. Gradually, Grant relaxed. This was like the good ol days. It didn't seem forced, he reasoned. Maybe I could be friends.

Tia was across the table seething, however. She had to catch herself more than once, wondering how she was going to stand it. Because of all the effect she had on Grant, she was aware that he had made a mark on her as well. They WERE friends, she reasoned; why couldn't they take that next step? But that next step was deadly, she'd seen.

While pondering all of this, and getting more and more drawn into each other, Grant finally remembered one of the things he wanted to ask her.

"I got this presentation due soon, and I'm trying to do something good with it. It's for a non-profit, and I think they're doing good work. I went to the art museum, but I just can't get into it like you do." He smiled hopefully, waiting for a response to his thinly-veiled compliment.

Tia laughed quietly over her dessert. Molten chocolate cake congealed just a bit more as she answered. "How about you come up with some ideas, and we'll work together on it? I want that to be YOUR idea, not mine." Realizing the double meaning of her words, she clammed up. Why did I just say that? she thought. Maybe he noticed, she thought.

Grant, whose mind had already been moving onto possibilities he could bring for considerations, didn't catch it at all. He indulged in more iced tea while Tia studied him carefully , to see if he heard her or noticed her awkward and abrupt quiet. He gave no indication either way. He finished his sip, a long, drawn-out swallow, and looked at her. She cocked an eyebrow.

"Can friends really collaborate?" He meant to draw her out, to let him know that he was hip to this game, and that he wanted to know the rules beforehand. Of course mere friends could collaborate, but they were more than friends at one point. Like Marion said, he'd made her scream more than once, dammit. That should count for something. What did she want? What was she going for? Is there another dude? Was it something I did? Doesn't she know it's killing me to be sitting here and resist the urge to invite her back to my place, or to kiss her, to tell her I miss her?

She looked at him, and hoped that he saw that she really didn't know. But her voice was strong and firm.

"I suppose we'll find out."

Nov 18, 2007


Grant looked at the abstract art before him and laughed out loud, must to the mystification of other museum patrons. Come ON, he thought. I'm not the smartest person, but this doesn't evoke any emotion whatsoever. It's a lot of colors and lines and splotches. This is why people don't like modern art, he reasoned. There's always a feeling that someone is getting over on someone else, and if you're not hip, something's wrong with YOU. This emperor has no clothes, and it's not funny; it's just pretty sad.

Grant caught himself rambling, and laughed out loud again. A security guard across the floor looked at him and started his way. Grant got the feeling that this space was just for those who appreciated and understood this crap. Grant took leave of the space.

He walked through the rest of the museum, glancing at the world-class collections of ancient armor, of fabrics, of woodcrafts. He completely bypassed the photography exhibit, in deference to his desire not to get caught up in a particular section. Besides. he reasoned, I could always come back. As he thought of things he jotted them down on a small notebook. Random things filtered into his mind, as his brain synapses fired with random and varied minutiae: send so-and-so a birthday card, get milk, I haven't had Twinkies in a long time.

He was hoping that a breakthrough in this new presentation would come to him. That's why he was here. He figured that being around artsy stuff would rigger that in him, and he would use that to his advantage. He had the words already written down; what he'd say, what he'd emphasize, and what each slide would say, but he needed a theme, something to draw it together.

He was still thinking about it when he stopped by the museum gift shops. Huge books of collected photographs of exhibit past and present filled the brightly lit room, and he could tell the art students, the kids who were learning to be creative in a wold that put dollar signs on their creativity, leaf through these vast collections. Postcards, posters, and wrapping paper dominated an area of the space where older ladies looked for things to get grandkids and send to adult children. Heavy, bronze-cast replicas of sculpture acted as bookends. Grant looked at these and made a note to get a set for his niece, who was showing some signs of being an artsy type.

He left the gift shop and looked at his watch. He still had half an hour before his boy was meeting him for a light lunch and a couple of drinks, and he had nowhere else to be at the moment, so he sat outside on the museum steps and watched the people going by. The lunchroom was across the street, so it would take no time to get there, and Grant was in no hurry.

After smiling at roughly six cute babies, saying good afternoon to about twenty people (and getting a response from four of them), and witnessing two near-misses between bike messengers and pedestrians, Grant decided to move along.

Lunch was cool. His man Dwayne was a corporate VP who somehow hadn't gotten the memo that, somewhere in his ascent up the ladder came some perks, like taking a lunch that lasted longer than 59 minutes. This guy still acts like he's a junior exec, Grant thought.

Dwayne, truth be told, envied Grant and his job, although he was too proud to say it and had worked too hard to acknowledge it. Acutely aware of the token status of his employment, Dwayne was still harshly aware that his successes merely kept the wolves at bay, that he was expected to screw up somehow. He kept disappointing them, though.

With all this on his shoulders, Dwayne couldn't stay in a relationship, and lunch was spent with Grant listening while Dwayne had the same problems as before. No matter how understanding they were, the women always walked out when he had to choose them or the job. Grant listened impassionately, chewing each bite of salad fifteen times before swallowing.

After checking his watch for the sixteenth time, after talking for 43 minutes of his self-alloted hour, Dwayne asked what was up with Grant's world. "What's up with Mr. Big Shot Consultant?" he asked, half-kidding.

Grant shrugged. "You know how it goes. Keep cranking out the work, keep getting paid. The checks don't change much, but the people signing my timesheets do." Grant took another sip of his below-standard iced tea. Mental note, he thought. Everyone else's iced tea sucks.

Dwayne looked at his watch again. He had a seven minute walk back to the office, and it was getting about that time.

Grant sighed and figured he needed to end this charade quickly. He'd wanted to bounce some ideas off a creative soul, to be able to laugh with someone, not laugh at Dwayne's ass and his eventual marriage to some chick who amused herself while he was at work and would half-listen while he complained about this job he didn't like and no one seemed to appreciate him doing.

She came into mind. Grant shook his head to get her out of it, but that was no use. To make it worse, Dwayne had asked him his thoughts about possibly quitting his job, of jumping into consultancy like Grant was. "It seems to be doing you well," Dwayne offered, hoping that his friend could give him that kick in the ass, that bit of encouragement, that push to seek employment outside this racially-charged atmosphere at work that Dwayne's internals were not prepared to deal with.

But Grant, not really hearing the question, nor noting the tone, was in the middle of getting Her, his ex, out of his head, and Dwayne, mistaking that shake of the head as an answer to his inquiry, fell silent. Grant walked him a few blocks, both engulfed in silence amongst the busy traffic of the major thoroughfare. Grant shook his hand as they parted and wished him luck on the woman thing. Dwayne shook his firmly, already gearing up for the return to the office. Both men's adrenaline amped up; Dwayne's for the problems of work, Grant's for the problem of Her that wasn't really a problem, but an oncoming rash of nervousness.

Grant went down a block or so, dodging the crowds that rushed past him. He found a doorway that afforded some cover and took out his cell phone. He still had her on speed dial, oddly enough. He had wondered if he'd take her off in the days since they split, but that would be contrary to their "grown and mature" resolution. They'd still be friends, she had demanded, and he figured that was better than the unease that kept him from talking to any other exes.

So he dialed. The phone rang once, twice, three times. Voicemail. Grant exhaled. His adrenal glands slowed their production, and his blood pressure went down. He wouldn't have to talk to her, not directly, anyway. He could leave a message and put the ball in her court. We'll see how far she wants to take this "friend" thing, if she was lying or just saying that to make me feel better.

I hope she calls though, he said out loud.

Nov 17, 2007


When the going gets tough, well, we do stupid shit sometimes.

I had to get over to see Christine, now that I knew she wasn't with the football player any more. I didn't wanna stalk her at school, but I figured I'd make it over to her house, which was across the city.

THing is, in the back of my mind, I thought this was a bad idea. How? Let me count the ways. First off, she lives across town. FAR. I don't have a car or anything, and B can only use his mom's car if she's not using it, which isn't very often. To get over to my house, Chris has to make the long haul on public transport, which is a bitch all in itself. Now, I'd have to do it. Dammit. Well, fuck it; I have to do what I have to do.

Secondly, I had no idea if she was HOME. I didn't know if she was in some afterschool thing. She might haver gotten dragged to something with her grandmother. I had to figure out if she was home, because the last damned thing i wanted to do was make this long-ass trek over there only to find out she wasn't home. But I couldn't call.

You amy wonder why I just didn't call to talk to her, and that is a great question. On the surface, that makes a lot of sense. But a lot of things are in the way. I've never been able to really talk to her, because her grandma runs the house with an iron fist, and doesn't allow Chris to get on the phone and talk. Chris has a cell phone, but she usually calls from over her girlfriend's house and calls me from there. Her grandmom is old school that way, so we worked around it.

So, I had to figure out if she was home, THEN work out how I was going to talk to her. I enlisted B in this scheme, and my man wasn't too happy about it.
"Just call her, man! Gotdamn! Don't put me in this shit!" B had gotten some positive press thrown his way in practice, so his ego was largely unchecked. "This ain't no love triangle I'm trying to get in on!"
I told him to shut the fuck up and help me. The plan was to cal over there and act like a teacher. Ask to see if she's available. Chris was a homebody - she'd run around all day, but once she was home, she stayed there. So he'd call and say that he was calling from the school and he was looking for Christine and would she be available? If Chris picked up the phone, which she did most of the time, I knew she'd stay home. If her grandmom answered, that line of questioning would at least establish that she was home, for Grandma would probably say that she was in dispose or something, that she would pass along the message.
B reluctantly agreed, and told me he'd call me back to tell me what was up. I rechecked the bus route, and packed up the chapters of this book I had written. I wanted to get her opinion, wanted to see where else I could go, and what I could make this into.
I had a black dude trying t do good, in total opposition to the books the kids at school were getting used to. The pouty sista who watches her mom shoot up drugs. The teen mother who watches her babydaddy get shot up. I didn't wanna write that shit; I wanted to write something that was more adult, and I could have a lot of people read without having to ask for fucking slang translation. Was that something these writers couldn't do? I read some interviews, where they say they're writing for their people. What if their people didn't feel like reading that shit?

B called me back almost immediately. "FUCK, man! You bout to get me in trouble! Chris picked up, and wanted to know who this was! We hadn't worked out who I was supposed to be! I hung up real quick, and she called my number back! I ain't gonna have her calling the police on me! Because I'm gonna blame you! I ain't jeopardizing my career for you!"

"Hold the fuck up." This was the first time he'd said anything about "a career". These football dudes must be pinning a lot of their hopes on him, and I made a mental note to address his big head later. "So, she's home. Thanks. I appreciate it." I hung up before he could complain more about his police visit and the black helicopters and the tinfoil hate he'd have to make now that the government wouldn't enter his thought. B sorts of runs thoughts together, which is funny sometimes to watch, like a kitten screwing around with a ball of yarn and getting so caught and tangled that you'd have to rescue it from itself.

I packed up and moved out. The trip over so much eventful as it was long. I had music with me, and a couple of hip=hop magazines and, when i got bored, I'd listen to the music and stare out the window at the people living their lives to my soundtrack.

When I got to Chris' house, I froze. Fuck. I hadn't figured out how I'm actually going to talk to Chris, since her grandmom didn't trust anyone with a dick. I could wing it, but my present efforts at winging ANYTHING was in my bag, unfinished and unpolished.

I rung the doorbell and stepped back. The front door was wrought iron screen, like it you take a sheet of steel and poke small holes in it and put it on a door. The person inside can see outside okay, and the person outside couldn't see shit inside but dark figures. I was going to ring again when I heard the footfalls of something...very...large.

The inner door opened, and I got the feeling that there was a very large presence on the other side of the wrought iron door. I imagined that was Chris' grandma. I had never met her, only knew her through what Chris had told me about her. I had no idea I was gonna come a steel sheet away from Jabba the fucking Hut, though.

The presence paused. I tried to look as enthusiastic and unthreatening as possible. "Hi," I started. "I'm looking for Christine? We have a project to work on together, and I wanted to work on it with her." I listened to myself talking, almost like an out-of-body experience, and thought, fuck, that's the best excise I can come up with? Really? Shut the fuck up, my other self said. I'm doing the best I can here.

The presence paused and didn't move. Fuck. I didn't expect this. Why do folks make it so hard to do? I got honorable intentions, i swear. I'm just trying to do some good shit here, and your grandadughter and I are cool, and I want to talk to her and laugh a bit and clear up whatever in the hell it is is going on between us. Gotdammit, I miss her, and want to know what the fuck is going on!

That was my inner voice. My outer voice stumbled with, "Um, is she home?"

The bulk shifted, as the currents around the door shifted, and I, being very hypersensitive, noticed them enough to be uncomfy with them. I realized it was backing up,a nd I had immediate thoughts of the sound a garbage truck makes when it's back up, and laughed involuntarily. I cleared my throat to disguise the laugh and tried to look hopeful and unthreatening and small. Beep. Beep. Beep. I thought.

"Who is it, Grandma?" Chris' voice came from within the house, distant and muffled. How big WAS this place?
Her footfalls came quicker, softer. The bulk, still saying nothing, moved to meet her halfway. Low voices came from within the house. About twenty seconds later, a smaller mass came to the door. With a rusty protest, the doorknob turned, and Chris stepped out.

She hadn't changed any that I could see, but this was more that I'd seen of her in weeks. I wanted to hug her, but she motioned me sit on the small porch and mouthed that he grandma was watching. On cue, I felt the ground move, and heard the protests of a chair right inside the front hallway. She was going to sit down and WTACH us on the porch. This shit was wild.

We sat on the granite porch, and she took on another personality, one I quickly figured was for the benefit of her grandmom, watching us through hundreds of little holes drilled in a steel door. "Hi. I heard that we have a project to work on." She smiled at me for that.

"Um, yeah." I fumbled, trying to get a handle on what exactly my role was. "I''ve already tried to write some of it, and I'm stuck. I figured that I could come over and we could work on it, and you can see what I have, and we can go from there."
Her eyes had questions in them, and I smiled to relax her. She seemed a bit standoffish, but I didn't know it was because I had shown up out of nowhere or because her guardian was sitting close by. I was acutely aware that these old school folks didn't play, and she had the power to cut things off if I erred. I had to play it cool and platonic. I could do that, i thought.

"Yeah. Since I live right around the corner" -- she had to smile at that - "I figured I could just run over and get your opinion on some things. I produced a pen and notepad, along with the few chapters I'd managed to crank out. "If you have any suggestions, please write them out here so i can make changes." I handed her everything and smiled.

"Why come to me?" she teased. "I do okay in English, but my thing is math and science stuff. " I could imagine the huge grin on Grandma Jabba, as Chris made no secret of the wish that she be an engineer someday. That was half the reason they were so protective of her, I guess.

"But you know more about how to make the stories work, since you read a lot." We were doing a great job of auditioning her for a talent show, and her grandmother was probably eating it all up. This young man, she probably thought, knows that my granddaughter is something special! Chris rolled her eyes at the compliment and mouthed, "You suck." I smiled and shrugged.

"Okay, let's take a look." Christine took up the story and took the pen in hand and readied the paper. "You want me to note grammar errors?" Nodding my assent, she looked at my story for two seconds and, turning the notebook so I could see it, wrote "what are you doing here?"

The next twenty minutes was essentially a note-passing exercise with this writing review to cover it up. The gist of it was that I wondered where she'd been. She said that she'd have to explain it at school. I asked how she was, if she was okay. She says she was. She was very interested to hear how I decided to come over, and I told her that I'd tell her that later, when she explained what the hell was going on.

She read the book, but it was more of a diversion, an excuse for me to be there while we passed notes, holding the notebook so we could see what was being written. All the while, the hair on the back of my neck would remember that we were being watched, and it would perk up. That was creepy.

After she had glanced through it, she asked me what the ending was going to be. "I have no idea," I responded. "Depends on what he ends up getting into in the meantime."

She looked at me funny, and rose to go back inside. "Yeah. You just never know what these hero types get into. I'll see you at school."

Nov 15, 2007


Grant rubbed his eyes and looked at the computer time. The place in the was blank, and he remembered why. He had purposefully disabled the clock display He sighed and went back to Powerpoint.

All the things hat he hated was working against him now. The time. Powerpoint. sleep deprivation And where no warm hand telling him to go to bed, to get some sleep, a voice heavy with sleep and of love. He sighed. I'll just proofread this last couple of slides and hit the sack,.

Having done that, he splashed water in his face to get rid of that slimy feeling, and, setting himself into the king size bed, he had to remind himself that she wasn't there anymore and couldn't. in fact, use that side of the bed He set his alarm and dropped off to sleep with visions of stupid Powerpoint slides in his head

The next morning, some five hours later, he readied himself for this crappy presentation. He knew his isht, and he knew that this was simply another part to the song and dance he knew all the steps to by now. He had his own way of these things: he didn't use bullet points, he used a lot of illustrations, he never red the slide, and he always talked to the audience like they could read. He hated when he got read to, like this as some second grade story hour.

To help wake him up, he turned the stereo up to blast some heavy metal. His soundproof walls gave him some sense of security from his neighbors. He liked AC/DC, didn't think Metallica had made anything decent since the mid 90s, and didn't really like most of the work cranked out by the new cats. He waited until the bells stopped raging and the rocking started on "Hell's Bells" before he started rocking out and waking up.

The presentation went as usual. The usual white faces just kinda blurred after a while; some old white guy thanking him afterwards for giving his perspective on a marketing concept, maybe a splash of color who didn't now if he was friend or foe, and, inevitably, a white woman who didn't even see him. She was usually the first one out of the meeting when it ended, so he never got a sense of where their heads were.

Afterwards, he was free to do as he liked, so he figured that now would be as good a time as any to go back home and collect himself. He took another shower (presentations made him feel icky, for some reason), and blasted more metal until lunchtime, where he fixed himself some baked chicken breasts with pasta.

With work out of his mind, the void in was immediately consumed with her. Dammit, he thought, and wondered if he'd let his mind wander on the topic or not. He could always just go somewhere, but he couldn't think of anywhere he wanted to go right away. Most of his boys were at work and wouldn't be able to pull themselves away for lunch just yet. His mom, retired, was probably home, if today wasn't Go to Church for Eight Hours Day, so he could probably call her to see how she was. His Mom live down SOuth now, a mysterious place to him, a city boy through and through, and he had noticed that she was increasingly becoming pretty dependent on the church for pretty much any semblance of community she left when she was living in the city.

Actually, what he should be doing is getting prepared for another presentation in another couple of days - one he’d actually have to think for. It was for a small non-profit, an audience he found that had high gals but often not enough funding. Dealing with corporate clients gets you into a rut, he figured. You could pretty much say the same bullshit, have the same clip art, and there would be people there who would nod like you were delivering the Gettysburg Address. That was the way of corporate.

But the way of these small non-profits was unlike that, and like it at the same time. He’d been in a couple of meetings were the principals simply asked to be spoken to in plain terms, that no amount of stupid buzzwords would obscure that he was, in fact, bullshitting. He had to tell them point blank, that what they wanted and what they were gonna pay for were two separate entities, but this is what he could do. That was earlier in his career, of course. Now he wouldn't think of forming sentences that were, well, negative. He didn’t get that account, but he was fired in the most positively life-affirming way possible:

“We regret that we are unable to hire your firm for our continued business. It is not because of the depth of work, not the speed of execution, but we became acutely aware of the disconnect between that we can pay and the quality of the service we would ultimately demand of you. Your account executive, a Mr. Grant Arrington, made it abundantly clear in that endeavor.” His boss didn't know whether to congratulate him or cuss him out.

Since then, Grant had built himself into a great consultant, a brain for hire, as the old man at the party had said. Not only could he be paraded around as the token, but inevitably, his knowledge and mastery of what he was asked to do shined through, and those who thought of him as simply an ornament were first surprised, then pleased that they knew one of them who spoke proper English and could handle complicated matters, like their need to "reach out" to the minority community.

Grant had learned to deal with it. He couldn't help what he was. He knew that people saw the color of his skin before he opened his mouth. When he decided to talk, he had traversed a totally new battlefield, where his mere presence was such a shock that he comfortably present even the dumbest of ideas before they regained their senses and could object.

This non-profit was something different, though. In his experience, the non-profits he dealt with were just smaller fiefdoms, a mini-corporation in structure. Even though the small size of the organization prohibited the rampant acts of stupidity he saw in the huge boardrooms , he could still walk in and point out the archetypes. The lifetimer, the veteran of many small organizations and concerns, who usually hated the bullshit. The do-gooder, usually a younger person who saw their job as a way to help people who didn't give a damn about being helped, the lord and master, usually a failed executive of some type who had managed to hook in and hold every vestige of power with the anxious clutch of a small child concerned that everyone wanted to play with the toy only the possessed.

He tolerated them all; he usually came in, introduced himself, gauged their reactions to him and what he was there to say, worked with them as he planned, developed, and executed the plan he came in with, and left. Not a lot of time to cultivate many relationships besides the professional. His Rolodex was full of business cards; his little black book, not so much.

He didn't mind that so much when he was busy, but it sucked when he wasn''t, therefore he tried to make himself as busy as possible. Sensible and practical, he had seen greater men than he climb inside the bottle and stay there. He got his physical needs fulfilled; he took care of himself and had an air of going places that women liked. But the love thing? Not now.

On his way out to the art museum to waste a few hours while one of his acquaintances finished up some business and could meet him for drinks, he went back into the bedroom. Grabbing his sunglasses ofd the nightstand, he looked at his disheveled bed and the still freshmade side that he still hadn't found it in himself to reclaim in the wonderings of his sleep.

"Dammit," he thought, and left.

Nov 14, 2007


I couldn't take it anymore. Maybe it'll get clearer later, but right now I needed Christine around. I wasn't on no romance shit; I just missed her. I don't think I've been this bad before, mainly because she hasn't been not around this long.

Over summers, she'd go back down to be with her family down South, and she'd come back, accent sharper than ever, skin darker brown, a few pounds lighter. We'd write once or twice, but she'd usually call me when she got back to prep for the new school year. But this shit was different.

I mean, i was trying something BIG, you know? A fucking BOOK, yo. I mean, I'd never written a book. I didn't have a fucking journal, and I never put down more than a couple hundred words for some school project or another. I needed help, and while B was my boy, he was the kind of cat who would say that he wanted to be an engineer in college. Good at math, but cool enough not to be TOO nerdy. And saying he wanted to be an engineer got mad adults oohing and ahing over him. But he was at practice a lot nowadays, but I did happen to get some info from him.

Chris' dude was on the team, too, and I pushed B to give me the lowdown on this cat. I figured she wasn't giving me any information, so i need to find out for myself. B almost endangered himself when he casually mentioned that this "retrieval of information" might mean something more, but I had to threaten him with s messy and unexpected death if he made it bigger than it was. She was my friend, and I hadn't heard from her in a while. I knew she was alive, so it wasn't that kinda thing, but why in the fuck was she not talking to me? And she had switched shit around, so I couldn't even accidentally run into her in the hallway any more. I mean, what the FUCK?

B was a first year player,s o he had to go through some bullshit hazing thing so he'd "fit in." I figured that since he was a junior and he'd undoubtedly be starting this year, that they'd stop fucking with him, but I was wrong. What he could tell me about cat was little, and raised more questions than I got answers for.

They weren't sure where to put this dude. He was tall and gangly, and fast. We all figured he'd be an awesome wide receiver, but the kid had hands of stone. Absolute fucking stone. Couldn't catch shit. So they were trying to figure that out. The kid seemed to be embarrassed by the fact they all expected him to play wideout, so he kept quiet and slumped over when he talked. From what B could tell, he didn't talk a lot at all. B said he never mentioned Christine, or even having a girlfriend. Now, Chris wasn't lying about being with dude; that couldn't be. He'd have to say SOMETHING about having a girlfriend, wouldn't he?
Because the kid didn't talk a whole lot, B could only watch him and guess. And all I could do is digest what B told me and try to figure out if the kid's quietness covered up his thing with Chris, or he didn't talk to B because everyone knew he was my boy, or what the fuck was going on. The suspense was fucking killing me. I wanted to know how my friend felt, and I was hurt that she hadn;'t talked to me about any of this shit. I thought we was people! I decided to bite the bullet. I needed her help, and I needed her to be around to bounce ideas off of, to be around.

If someone accused me of liking her more than a friend, I might not even retaliate. Immediately, anyway. I wanted my friend back. I needed to know what the hell was going on. This shit wasn't logical at all.


Mom wanted me to come along with her to the store after she got home from work one weekday. It was the normal, run-in and run-out type run, but I guess she wanted me along to talk to.

Mom worked as an admin assistant at a PR firm downtown. She worked eight hours, then spent another couple fixing other people’s fuckups. She’d come home, organize some stuff for the next day , and go to sleep. Pops said that she wasn’t physically tired, but things that happened weighed on her mind and she was dead tired when she got home.

I visited Mom at work a couple of times, on those “Take Your Kids to Work” times. I tried to help do what I could, but so many young women running around distracted me. I ran copies, found pictures for a Powerpoint, and helped move boxes while Mom sat at her desk and was harassed by these young women who, even though they looked nice, were dumb as fuck.

“Can you copy these for me? The client has to have them by the time they leave in three minutes. Thanks!” And they’d run off, stacking 20 disorganized sheets of paper on her desk. In the time they spent getting over to her desk, they coulda copied it they own gotdamned selves.

Mom looked at me and sighed. SHe didn’t say anything, but she didn’t have to. I was glad I was there instead of Ang; she was younger and didn’t get that some things you wanted to say but couldn’t, especially if the people you wanted to tell off controlled whether you got paid or not. Disrespect was rampant, but what really got me was their sense that someone owed these chicks something.

There weren’t a lot of guys who worked there, but most of the women were young, fresh from college, and pretty fucking stupid. They seemed to think Mom existed to do their shit while they were doing the hard work of calling a client between checking on their yippy dog and texting a girlfriend about how drunk they planned to get that weekend.

I didn’t understand that, but maybe I wasn’t supposed to. And after they had all gone, Mom would sigh, kick her shoes off, and try to take care of the stuff she couldn’t get to during the day. I would go get her some water, and we would sit and talk and laugh in an empty office. I really got to see the bullshit she had to deal with, and I appreciated her effort a shitload more than these chippy bitches who would leave before five.

There was some big project she was involved in at work, so I hadn’t seen her while fully awake in a while. So when she got off work in time to go to the store, I figured the project was done with and, as usual, she probably did most of the work.

I jumped into the car with Mom; Ang wanted to hang out with Pops as he started dinner. We drove along making small talk; how was school, how are classes, staying out of trouble.

When we got to the store, the questioning intensified. Was I seeing any trouble? Did I think Ang was in a bad element? Was I in a gang?

I politely and calmly deflected her questions: as far as I know, everything was good. I wasn’t in any trouble. Ang wasn’t either, and neither of us were really planning to get into any. I'd done this at some point with both Mom and Dad, because they weren't around a lot. They seemed to figure that they weren't around a lot while we grew up, and when they were home at the same time we were, they peppered us with questions.

Every time Mom would ask a question, I'd answer it and ask her something; about her day, about what brand of cereal we were going to buy, but she was too slick for that. Her and Dad both did that. SOmetimes they'd act like you weren't saying anything, the other times they answered your questions and responded back quickly with questions of their own. I hated that. Don't you understand I don't wanna answer that question?

After a nice parlaying of the question "Do you know a lot of boys your age having sex?" with "Man, that's a big bag of maxi-pads," Mom hit me with "Because I don't want you to go and get some girl pregnant."

I wheeled around, and I think I saw my mom flinch. "I'm not trying to get no girl pregnant!" I said angrily in a voice just below a whisper. "Why would you think I would?"

I didn't think you would, she answered, but that's what kids are doing nowadays, I hear. I don't want you getting into something over your head. I tell Ang that, too. Keep your legs closed! I say. Boys with pants down around they ass, ain't trying to be nuthin. At least pull your pants up! And so many girls running around with babies! Just kids themselves! She sighed and turned her attention to me.

I had known a couple of chicks who'd gotten pregnant, usually by smooth-talking dudes who were too stupid to use a condom and too insecure to shut the fuck up about the episode after it happened. These chicks were virgins, and the ordeal fucking destroyed them. One girl moved away, the other just dropped out of school.

What killed me was the fact that the cats who got them pregnant alternatively prided themselves on "getting them draws" and talking shit about the girls they insisted were hos for falling for their bullshit. I'd like to think people, in their minds, called them out for the their bullshit, but fuck, where else could these kids feel like they were men? They daddies did everything from military shit to being in jail, but I guess they didn't reach the duds to let them know what being a man was. Being a man to me was taking care of your shit. Rent, wife, kids, all of that kinda shit.

But Mom was asking me, and I looked at her dead in her eye and told her I wasn't doing anything to get girls pregnant. And I was telling the truth. I wanted to do everything BUT, though. I wasn't a home-run hitter anyway; I could just play the Tony Gwynn role and get singles and doubles and the occasional triple, you know? Because I wasn't about to be a babydaddy; fuck THAT.

I supposed I calmed her fears, so we turned our attention to shopping. I told her about B going out for football, and Christine's new love, and the book I wanted to write. She asked what it was about, and I told her I didn't rightly know. "It's about a brother who's not a hustler or anything. That's all I know." I didn't know if dude was going to be a hero, or a regular joe, but I knew he wasn't gonna be a pimp or a hustler, and he didn't carry around a gun and act all hard. Maybe he had regular problems. Maybe he didn't get the girl at the end. Whatever he did, I'd write it, and it would sit on the shelves next to these bullshit urban fiction joints with these hoochie chicks with they titties hanging out, waiting on Captain Save A Hoe to come take em out the ghetto. I was getting out the ghetto for sure, but if I was in the ghetto those books talked about , I'd want to get the fuck out, too.

Meanwhile, I wondered what else I needed to do to get out of this rut. I'm gonna pretend the red Kool-Aid part didn't happen. For him. Personally, I grabbed a couple of packets and threw em in the cart.

Nov 9, 2007


Odd that school was where shit was normal and fucking logical. Five days a week, I morphed into a routine. Sure, I fucking hated going, but I didn’t have to deal with Chris, I didn’t have to deal with B, I can just do my thing.

This high school is huge and dank and old as shit. Voices echo off the walls, which are cinderblock and cheap-ass aluminum siding. Rows and rows of classrooms, a gym, a huge ass field. I suppose it’s not unlike those schools in any high school movie, appearance-wise. A bit of space, cramped classrooms, a shitty library, and plenty of places to hide out and smoke weed or make out or whatever.

Under the surface, I suppose, is where the rep comes in. I think I’ve mentioned before that a lot of the kids that go here aren’t really the richest kids in the world. Some of them are pretty balanced, in spite of what’s going on at home. Some are dicks who aren’t gonna make it to graduation. Some are fucking psycho, some are the nicest people I’ve ever met. Some gangbang and do volunteer work on the weekends, a couple are straight-A kids who torture small animals. I don’t think this kinda shit is any different than most any other school, but somehow we got to be the “urban, inner-city, run-down” school where teachers go home and drink their sorrow and pain away as yet another generation of Americans go astray despite their best efforts.

I won’t lie, some of these kids are fucking nuts. Kids get jumped. Girls get pregnant. Shit is rough, no doubt. But isn't this same shit happening in the burbs, too?

Math and science are pretty much the same bullshit class, really. SOme people get numbers really well; I am not one of them. There are some that get this shit right off the top, and it’s sad to watch them cower when tests are being passed out and graded and shit, because the teachers are so used to fuckups, almost WAITING for people not to be able to square some numbers, that some kid who scores 80 percent or something get a LOUD ASS proclamation of how good they did. Instead of writing some shit on the paper, like “good job, I didn’t think your dumb ass was understanding this shit, but you proved me wrong!”, they have to proclaim this in front of forty motherfuckers who think octagons are just funny looking squares. Do adults ever fucking think?

And science is a whole nother bucket of shit. I’m down with the types of rocks, how the respiratory system works, how dams work, what happens when water gets heated, you know, shit like that. I’m even down for dissection and the kids with no toughness at all get notes from home that basically say “My kid’s a pussy and can’t watch froggies being cut open,” which makes them a target for ridicule.

What I can’t stand is the science fair and how the kids who go and do well are held up as examples to the rest of us as smart kids and shit, like we’re stupid, while we’re thinking, hey, that fuck copied my tests for two years, or, that bitch was making out with my boy when she was supposed to be in the library, and she let him get to second base and he just about passed out telling us about it.

Before you start thinking that we’d find it easier if no one was pointed out as special, well, that’s true. Mom says that people who get attention at work due to good work can get promotions and more money, depending on who’s looking, but you can’t get a promotion in high school. All that attention gives you is a big ass “THIS KID’S SMARTER THAN YOU” target, and most people can’t take that.

That’s why my theory worked. Stay with the crowd for the first part of the year. The dumb ones haven’t eaten through their new pencils yet; the smart ones haven’t cracked open the new pens. Over the year, though, everything balanced. The dumb started lagging, the smart kids got ahead. Sad for the kids who worked hard but were into other things, like gangs or ball or whatever, but all the smart kids normally had to do was go home after school, or find ways to avoid going home, like staying in the library until the school closed.

My theory had worked, for the most part. It also helped that I got lucky; if there was more than one smart kid, then it wasn’t so bad. If there was more than two or three, you could band up and shit would be cool. I was lucky enough to have B or Chris in one or more of these classes; they both liked math, and B was great at science, so it also helped that my dumb ass got to bask in the shit they did, as we often got paired up.

For the artsy shit, though, I was pretty good, I thought. I did a little singing, drew a little bit, and faked my way through making clay sculpture at a extra-credit class at the local community college. But what I loved was English.

I may have already talked about Mrs. Mick, who was my English teacher last year. She was one of the few teachers that didn’t draw attention to your work unless you asked for it. Some kid who just figured out English a year or two ago would dig being held up as an example of good writing if they hit on that magic combo of subject and predicate agreement that made sense and was pretty decent. But she always made you think you could do better.

We didn’t read a lot of specific authors before this class. I imagine that there are people who write for magazines and shit that kids at other schools read, that write with their own styles and shit. I have no clue how in the hell that could be; the magazines I read don’t really have authors, just random-ass stories. She gave us time to look at the old dead white dudes and what they did and what their style was. That may have gone over the heads of some other kids, but I ate that shit up. That shit was fun! Some of the old dead white guys were clearly overrated. But what she did, which I gotta give her mad points for, was giving us the writings of black and brown people when it wasn’t even “Minority Month.” Unfortunately, that caused the entire class to go to our school library and start a run on copies of Richard Wright and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

And because no one thought that we’d give a shit about books and reading, they had no copies. Poor Ms. Ingot, carekeeper for a pile of 20 old-ass, dusty-ass books, did the best she could. When I was in there to read or hang out with B or CHris, she liked the fact that I liked to read. It was sad asking her for books, though.

“Ms. Ingot, do you have [insert book name]?” She’d shake her head.

Our library’s centerpiece was thirty year old National Geographic magazines, complete with the naked African natives. The pages were fucking weatherbeaten, creased and, if the weather was just right, felt a bit moist. Needless to say, I kept away from those. After all, I could get to the Internet.

The books weren’t much better. Graffiti from the 70s and 80s were scratched into them. Due date stamps from 1994. I think that Ms. Ingot took it personally, I gotta think that it would suck for anyone to be responsible for such a pile of crap. She had class enough to run a brand new library who got new books every few weeks, where happy ass kids would come in, ask for a book, and she would happily show them how to use the Dewey Decimal system and find it for their own. Fuck, that would be awesome.

All the stuff I ever wrote for Mrs. Mick sucked, but she had this way of letting me know it sucked, but I could always make it better. I would write all sorts of dumb shit, but she’d always look at it and write little notes on it and shit. I was never exposed as a wannabe writer, but she helped me in simple, small ways. I appreciated that.

But I needed her help to do this big story I had planned. Maybe she could help get me out of my red Kool-Aid funk. Lord knows this year’s teacher, old man Novacs, wasn't gonna help much. I made myself a mental note to ask B what his brother knew what was coming next. Maybe it was Stephen King novel “fun” time...


I was stuck, and I knew it. I had hit the red Kool-Aid reef and ran aground. I had to start naming things. I had to start getting into specifics, and I had to make sure everything worked.

B was out of town again, and still no word from Chris, who, from what I heard on the school gossip net, had completely involved herself with her man. That seemed to be heading somewhere serious. Usually, she would have checked in to see how things were, which would have given me a chance to ask how things were with her. But no. And I couldn’t call her because, well, it kinda wasn’t my business.

We operated on a very simple principle; we shared. A lot. I told her shit that B woulda smacked me for sharing. She shared things that, well, quite frankly, got me aroused. But we were both confused, and it seemed like a good idea to have someone in the other camp who could report on what was going on and just what the fuck people were thinking.

But it wasn’t my place to ask; I could really just wait til she came to me, and who knows when that would be. Until she did, though, I still had to work on this thing, and we last left it marooned on the Isle of Red Kool-Aid. Dammit.

Writing longhand in my room, with a mix CD that B had made to cheer me up before he left, I didn’t hear Ang come in and sit on my bed. She had been bothered by some things at school, and since I was at school for afterschool shit most of the time on weekdays and hanging with B on the weekends, I hadn’t really been home to talk to. And there really wasn’t much else for me to do, so I listened to my little sister.

Ang’s problem was that she was often too smart for the room, but the teachers and administrators had no idea how to deal with that. Remember, we were supposed to be hood kids; wild, energetic, unable to be controlled. Oh, and stupid. She had girlfriends who knew firsthand how to suck a dick. She had one friend who had been pregnant and moved away. She had friends in gangs, little sisters of cats I went to class with. It seemed that we were just hood kids who couldn’t do much right.

And she wanted to do right. So she asked me about some shit that was going on with her at school. The usual junior high school shit: so-and-so doesn’t like me, so-and-so keeps talking shit, you know. It felt good to actually know some answers for once.

With our parents working so much, neither of us really got the chance to talk to them. They were working so hard to give us a chance that we didn’t have much of a chance to really know them very well. I can’t say we raised ourselves, some some friends of ours did, but we kinda took what little we had and ran with it.

Me and Ang talked for half an hour, then joked and laughed about other things; TV shows, her crush on some random R&B dude, then she asked about my friends. She hadn’t seen B and Christine around lately, and I hadn’t mentioned them, either. Were they okay?

B was okay. He’d been taking trips out of town to visit family on weekends, and really wasn’t around after school much, now that he figured that he should finally see what the fuss was about and try out for the football team. Hell, he ought to be a great weapon, and I hope he doesn’t get hurt.

As I waxed poetic about B and his slow ass, Ang looked at me funny. She cocked her head and when I noticed it and asked her why she was looking at me like that, she looked away.

“She doesn’t like you anymore?”

I laughed. “I don’t think she doesn’t like...wait, that made no sense. I think she still likes me, yeah. She’s just busy. She’s hanging out with this dude and kicking it pretty hard, so she’s not around like she used to.” Chris would come hang out with me once in a while, catching bus after bus and train after train to come crosstown. We’d go to a movie or to the mall, eat lunch, talk smack. We would talk on the phone a lot, and I think Ang figured that out.

She nodded. “You okay with that? I mean, she was your best friend.”

I laughed. “No, I’m cool. Things change. It’s all good.” Then why in the hell was my stomach all queasy?

She nodded again. “Cool. I’m glad.”

She glanced at the clock, and started up. “Karate movie on in a couple minutes. Wanna watch?”

“Sure,” I said. “Popcorn?”


Grant relaxed in his condo as the weekend began. Tastefully adorned with a few art pieces and painted subdued shades of green and blue, it was the place Grant wished to be after one of those long work trips, and now he was home, he basked in the glow of what was his.

Bookshelves were lined with books, sagging under the weight of thousands and thousands of pages. He had a couch and a loveseat arranged around a stereo speaker system, with a separate video game/DVD watching area nearby. Fully carpeted, there were very few things Grant liked to do more than take off the tight, Italian leather shoes and let his bare feet sink into the carpet. Feeling like a kid again, he wiggled his toes.

He had woken up that morning, still a bit sleepy from going out with his buddies the night before, but he needed to clean up the house and do some running around. He had grumpily accepted the loud exhortations of his alarm and gotten up early. Well, earlier than he would have normally, but early nonetheless.

He dusted and vacuumed, moreso from habit than need, and poured himself some red Kool-Aid.

Nov 8, 2007


I wrote it, but wasn’t so sure of it. My man Grant was gonna be a suave-ass ladies man, but not a dick. What was his job? What was his motivation? And how did I know he wasn’t gonna be a dick? I could just as easily write him to be a pussy magnet, but that would kinda suck. I couldn’t even FAKE that part.

For his credit, B peppered me with ideas and suggestions, since it was kinda his fault I got motivated to do this shit anyway.
“He should be a pimp, you know, but not an asshole with the ladies,” B offered, echoing my thoughts. “Pretty sick of muthafuckas picking up mad women. I shouldn’t have to read that shit. And they’re PRETTY muthafuckas, too. Can’t cat have a gap in his teeth or something? B could not be stopped now, standing up and orchestrating his hate. “Mentally, he should be on top of his game, but he has problems, right? The muthafucka’s HUMAN! He gets turned down, he feels bad about shit, he doesn’t always do the right thing. And PLEASE, can this nigga PLEASE stop finding these fine ass women?” I so didn’t want to step in front of the B-More Express as he thundered on. “I mean, where do they MAKE these chicks? And everywhere he go, they don’t just fucking POP UP. Let him meet a lot of 5s, and some 6s, and less 7 and 8s, and two or three 9s and 10s who are so bitchy NO ONE likes them. You know the deal.”

Sensing that he felt he voiced his concern, I asked about Grant’s character, beyond the teeth thing.

I mean, he’s gotta be someone I can read and not be pissed off at, you know? He goes through some shit, and rolls with the punches. He’s good, and the bad guys keep fucking with him. Maybe he’s trying to get his money right, and people keep fucking with him. Maybe he’s trying to get a promotion, and they’re coming at him with bullshit. Maybe he got some issues with the fam, like a momma who’s sick or a druggie sister. You know? I just don’t want dude to flip a switch and have shit just work out. Make him WORK for that shit! He doesn’t die or anything, but fuck, I’m sick of reading this shit where Dylan Arrington the Fourth has some problem and Daddy fucking fishes him out of it. Fuck that. And fuck Dylan Arrington the Fourth, nahmean?”

B paused for breath. A light bulb went off in my head. “Why don’t you write a story, then? You got all these ideas, my nigga. You can write a story just as well as I can.”

B looked at me and grinned. “You’re the motherfucker trying to separate from the pack, son. I’ll just be helping you along. Kinda like the jockey, but I ain’t riding you.” B cracked up over the double entendre. I stared at him until he was done.

He saw my serious look and straightened up. “What? C’mon, man. You’ve already put shit down on paper, I haven’t. You’re more into this than me. All I got is the shit I HATE reading. And you hate that shit too. I know you do. So, you got a chance to write some shit that’s not like the shit you and me hate reading.”

He had a point. They called the shit “urban fiction,” which meant that some hood people wrote it. Mostly black and Latino characters, mainly women, went through hell and high water through 150 or so pages, only to be rescued by some random dude in a white Caddy. And the shit was ignorant as fuck. Hood chicks, no momma, no daddy, living by their wits and shit. The storylines were different, but they were the same; amidst the bombed out background of a Compton, or Brooklyn, or Chicago, some chick would get fucked with, literally and figuratively. Gangstas would kill each other. Family members would kill each other. Police would kill all of the above. Out of this, this chick would find true love after fucking with these no-account fucks for thousands of words. I mean, these bitches would be striking out for eight innings; having babies, fighting with they baby daddies, fighting the bitch-ass manager at they low-pay job, crying and shit, and then, with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, they hit on something and land everything. Fuck that.

I didn’t wanna write “urban fiction.” I’d have a black guy in it, for sure, but I couldn’t have everything going his way or going against him then all of a sudden shit starts clicking and working and he gets the fly job, the fly girl, the cancer miraculously goes away, the tides recede, and everyone sings Kumbaya.

But B was right. I was in this now. I’d have to change up some things, but editing could be done later. And I’d need help on some things. I wondered how Christine would like what I’d written, but I hadn’t really talked to her since her date with Football Dude. I made a mental note to check up on him later on; I didn’t even know cat’s name, but I do know that he had Chris’ attention. She would do this whenever she went out with a dude, usually not talking to me while she and him “got to know each other better.” Afterwards, she would regale me with stories of the unfortunate dudes. Some of them schemed to get the draws and were obvious about it. Some played the nice role for a while, but as soon as she dangled the bait, they went for it. A couple were actual gentlemen about it and came out of it all as friends. It was my suspicion they had other, easier options to get some, but they appreciated Chris for what she was, funny, smart, and not taking any shit.

She’d never gone quiet for this long, though. Maybe dude was cool. Maybe she was still testing him out. It usually didn’t take this long, though.

And why did I care so much?

Nov 6, 2007


He was finely attired, suit finely tailored, tie of the finest silk. Genuine leather shoes, newly polished. gleamed in the incandescent lighting of the red carpet. Perfectly coifed, he remembered his barber’s admonishment before he had left the shop earlier that morning for a good-luck cut and shave. “Boy, don’t do anything stupid, and remember, very few things in life are done well when you’re in a hurry.” He smiled again at the double entendre and took another sip of his drink.

This was high profile, dress to impress, the kind of time and place he had been preparing for all of his life. Millions of dollars won and lost over a few words, a sideways glance, the right thing said and done. This wasn’t Vegas or Atlantic City, this was a spot between points, richer than both of those, where gaudy lights and the laughter of backwoods simpletons and urban hipsters spoiled the atmosphere of danger and interfered with the smell of money. Of legitimate money. Of money charmed out of the pockets and paychecks of Joe Everyman and Josephine Everywoman by huge advertising campaigns. Hey, beats taxes.

He moved amongst movers and shakers, the invisible man. He smiled at drunk white women who laughed too loud at crappy jokes. He smiled at old white men who were mostly concerned with giving their wealth to worthy sons or keeping it from unworthy ones. He smiled at the minorities, the women, some of whom dismissed him as yet another token, some of whom fixed their internal radar on him - who was he? who did he know? - and deemed him a threat. He seemed friendly, amiable, and non-threatening, but the fact remained was that he was a black guy, and no amount of perfectly cut suit and air of ease would really hide that.

He was prepared, though. He had made sure that he would be. He had started too low in the pecking order, but he had seen what it took. He had watched some approach the sun fast, all aglow with energy and stick-to-it-tiveness, only to burn to a crisp. He had watched some approach with the same caution he had employed, only to live out their own Icarus-style execution: not finding out until too late that the wax on their wings was melting and they were heading right into a furnace they could not pull themselves away from.

He was different. He was sure of it.

He had refilled his drink when a white guy, slightly inebriated, noticed him amidst the background and decided to amble over. After all, he liked everyone! And who was this guy, anyway? He hadn’t come with a chick, hadn’t involved himself too long with anyone so he could be pegged to a particular benefactor. All the black guys who ran things were old as hell, and they seemed to shy away from attention from anyone who wasn’t female or as old as they were.

Two minutes later, he stumbled away from the encounter not knowing more than his addled brain could process. The black guy was cool, he thought. Seemed cool, laughed at his lame joke, agreed that there were many “dimepieces” in the room that night. The black dude had appropriately furrowed his brow when told of the uncertain job prospects at his ad agency, of the bitch in HR at that PR firm that didn’t like go-getters. He left as the black dude excused himself to get another drink, did he want one? Naw, bro, I’m cool.

The black guy laughed to himself. Good Lord, he thought. There are schools all over this great country that churn kids like that out like it was nothing. If he’d have shown up here tipsy off that sauce, a brother who came through his own school, the Hard Knocks one, would have deposited him in the parking lot with less effort than he used to take out the trash. He couldn’t let this whole thing end that way.

But he had to get into the swing of things, talk to some of these people, be of them, get into their heads: yep, integrate. He turned the smile to its brightest level, known to appease some, put on guard more, and to render the weaker sex, well, weak. He stepped to the first small group he could find; a haughty-looking, tall sister, a very, very old (and rich) white man, and a middle aged white woman, speaking very briskly of hedge funds and the stupid poor people and their subprime mortgages. He dropped into the conversation quickly and easily. The sister imperceptibly moved away from him, the white couple (as he found they were) moved closer. He spoke calmly and with knowledge that couldn’t be faked, and listened with rapt attention the Reaganomic values the older man expoused and laughed politely when the woman, clearly more liberal in her economic policy, meekly rebutted.

They spoke for almost half an hour, an eternity at a party like this, where the point was to meet and speak to as many people as possible, in the hopes that someone would remember someone else’s name months later after a totally inconsequential meeting tonight. People peeked into their conversation, but could not supplant the black guy.

He had to excuse himself at last - nature was calling, and does not take no for an answer - and was gently held by the arm by the old man. “Young man,” he began, “we never caught your name or where you’re working.”

The young man smiled, showing off perfect teeth. “I just got into town,” he said. “Kind of doing the consultant role.” The old man nodded; a mind for hire.

“Oh, my name? Call me Grant.”

Nov 5, 2007


“Eff you,” Christine whispered, looking at me over the pages of War and Peace. She was hiding some random goth comic book behind it, reading of some random vampire or pasty white chick who solves crimes and shit. We were in Study Hall, also known as Shut the Fuck Up and Don’t Bug the Adults time.

I cocked my eyebrows as best I could. I had offended her sensibilities by daring to share the information that a cat on the football team had made it known that he was in hot pursuit of her affections. On top of that, I insinuated, he was out to get them draws. Jokingly, I had merely added my opinion that she had better get up on that.

Chris knew shit about me I simply couldn’t tell B. I was probably a bigger geek than even I allowed. she called me “chivalrous,” which I had to look up and find that it was basically the knight-in-shining-Nikes shit I am with Ang. She could compliment me and call me on my bullshit. couldn’t understand how we couldn’t say fuck it and just start going together, but we couldn’t take that step.

In the environment we were in, fellas and chicks couldn’t just be friends. That was impossible, because, inevitably a dick would pop out, a tittie would get sucked, and it was game over. Friendship dissolved. And once friends started doing the girlfriend/boyfriend thing, shit would change for the worse. Random people would come out of the woodwork and claim infidelity. One or the other would act out in public and get chin-checked by the other, anxious to maintain some sense of mastery. That’s what the relationship shit eventually ended up being, trying to exert power over someone else. It wasn’t hard to see that a lot of motherfuckers with shitty home lives treated their relationships like shit. Of course, there were exceptions, but that shit was long odds.

I didn’t want a relationship with Chris like that; only thing we weren’t really doing was fucking, really. She came to me about shit, I came to her about shit I didn’t think B would be that interested in, like this big project I was gonna spring on Novacs later this year and the trials and tribulations of illogical womenfolk. I suppose I was blessed with a good relationship with three women who were logical: Mom, Ang, and Christine. They were all good listeners, and weren’t emotional and shit. One thing I couldn’t stand: emotional-ass muthafuckas. Yeesh.

Don’t be mad at me, I said. I’m just reporting. You just may wanna get your game tight, is all. This cat got plans that involve your unmentionables, and you may wanna be ready.

She returned my cocked eyebrow look. And what say you got in where my unmentionables go?

I threw up my hands in exaggerated disgust, drawing the attention of the teacher assigned to watch us. I looked at her and shrugged. Her eyes went back to her book.

I appreciate your concern, but I think I’ll be fine, she said, flipping a page in War and Peace to make the farce look good. My draws are safe until a rough and tough character charms me out of em. Meanwhile, I hear that you got freshmen catching feelings. Sup with all of that?

She got that right. Mrs. Mick had me help out a freshman seminar-welcome kinda thing in her English class, and I guess I was a hit. I heard about it later on the school gossip line, and had no idea, except for one chica who stared at me the whole damned time. Like I said, I’m not an ugly motherfucker, so I can at least feel good about that. Thing is, these chicks were a year older than Ang, and I just couldn’t bring myself to go there.

It ain’t nuttin, I said, puffing up and assuming the cape of being the MUTHAFUCKIN MAN, I just be chilling. I ain’t even do nothin.

You are so full of it, she shook her head and laughed. A bit of perfume made its way over to me. Perfume? Chris never put perfume on. So I asked her about it.

So? She stopped her reading and focused her full attention on me. With the high beams on me, I withered. Nothing, I muttered, going back to my writing.

I felt the heat of her glare on the top of my head and dared not look up. What had I done? We talked about shit like this all of the time. She laughed at the inept attempts of dudes trying to get with her, and laughed herself silly at her female compatriots whose issues made it impossible to do much more than get a nut off. We were tight like that, but I had apparently stepped on a mine in what I thought was clear territory.

She sighed and pushed her chair back, taking her War and Peace with her, and headed back to the stacks. Against my wishes, I watched her ass move. She was well put together, and ass is ass, and hers was nice. I stopped myself before my brain could transmit to my dick how nice the ass was. I was almost successful.

I was subtly readjusting when she came back, looking at me funny. My discomfort may have been showing on my face, but I guess she thought it was because of my obviously inappropriate line of questioning a minute before, not my fight to get my nether regions in a comfy position.

Look, I’m sorry, she whispered, moving her seat over to me at the large round table, pockmarked with etched graffiti. I should have told you that we’re supposed to go to a movie after school. I didn’t want you to worry or anything.

Worry? I took on the offended persona, while my inside voice was screaming. What was she keeping this shit secret for? I’m just concerned. I ain’t trying to get all up in your business. Hell, I continued, fearing what was coming, I don’t care if you’re gonna fuck him, just be cool.

Her eyebrow twitched, I swear it did.

But, I continued, I hope he has enough sense not to fuck up a good thing. I scanned my memory of dealing with dude, a skill position player with college aspirations. He was good enough to make it, but not good enough to be a superstar or anything. He seemed cool, and now, it seemed, he was gonna win the Christine lottery. But how did I feel about it?

Chris was in my fucking mind. Again. “How do you feel about it?”

Fuck, woman, I was flustered. I don’t know. Do what you feel. You’re my homegirl. I got no claim to you. I don’t wanna see you hurt if dude decides to be a dick, that’s all. Did I really feel that way? I didn't wanna see her hurt, because I don’t exactly have the army to go after dude and break his shit if he did some ill shit.

She stared at me a long time, hours, ages, eons. I don't know what she was looking for, and I don’t know if she found it. She eventually got up without a word, got her shit, and left. The teacher looked up from her book, watched Chris leave, and locked eyes with me. I shrugged.

I looked back down at my notebook, where I’d been idly writing shit for the past half hour or so. None of what I saw made any damned sense. While I was trying to decipher a particularly stupid sentence, the door opened again, and Christine walked in and strode right at me. The teacher peeked over her book; the rest of the room watched as she came back over to where I was. The last time she had that look on her face, she decked a chick who had the ovaries to call her fat to her face. I had done nothing to warrant an in-public ass-whuppin, had I?

She came right up to me, leaned over, and amidst the cloud of perfume, kissed me on the forehead with a loud smack. The room tittered. She straightened back up, turned around, and promptly went out the way she came in. The teacher watched her go.

I swear she smiled at me before she put her nose back in her book.


As the saying goes, I love women, hate bitches and hoes. And I think that’s pretty accurate. It’s not a woman-focused thing; most of the bitches I know are guys. I totally get the “all women aren’t bitches or hoes” thing, although I slip sometimes. It’s just a name, but names can mean a lot of ill shit. I try not to say “nigga” as much as I used to, but that shit slips, too.

Anyway, Christine is a woman. No getting around it, no arguing, no need to question. I don’t remember right off when her birthday was, but she just acted older. She was a bigger chick, but carried it well. She knew how big she was, and didn’t seem to mind it. She and I had been friends since she showed up in the middle of freshman year.

I don’t remember details, but I think we were assigned to group projects on some busywork the teacher had wanted us to do just to shut the hell up, and we just hit it off. Her mom had moved there from wherever they were from, just getting away from the place where her grandma had died down South. She had ruled the roost, she remembered, and to have to move so quick was a shock, especially to where they had settled up here, where people talked funny and said “cold” when they meant good and called everyone “joe.” And her accent didn’t help. Dark and rich with Southern red clay and moonshine and cotton picking and all of the rest of that stereotypical shit.

Every couple of years, we’d go visit Mom’s people in Alabama or Pops’ in Georgia, and their accents KILLED me. They talked slow, dropped Gs...I mean, the shit was comedy. And here comes a big girl from down there who has that same attitude, the same accent, and she’s cool as hell. We got along immediately, even without the usual sexual tension, because we weren’t each other’s type. She said she liked her dudes more dangerous; I liked my women skinnier. Nothing personal on either level; just what we liked. And no, I wasn’t scared to like her because of how big she was. She wasn’t sloppy or anything, like those chicks you see on the internet or in them bargain bin porn joints with fat everywhere, thinking they sexy to SOMEONE. Not that I’ve seen those, of course, but B, the perv of us two, told me about them.

Dude, shit just hangin EVERYWHERE. And these dudes are LOVING it, my nigga! BANG BANG BANG...cats aint even no good strokes in, and she just fuckin lying there. Shit is COMEDY, dog. And they buss one off on titties too big to even hold up. B is choking laughing, and I’m laughing mostly because not only is shit funny, but he has a laugh that you can laugh at.

Me and Chris grew to be tight, and, to be honest, me and B had to reach an understanding. We were fucking around, throwing the ball around in the street in front of his house. We had set up the route running drill - do a five yard out, give me a post from the right hash, et-cetera - and he treaded very non-lightly into sensitive territory.

“You like Christine, right?” he asked over overthrowing me yet again.
Sure, why? I asked.
I mean, do you LIKE her like her? He seemed pensive, like I was gonna smack him or something.
I don’t think I LIKE her like her, no. I was confused. Where is this going?
Because y’all be chillin a lot together and shit, and I was trying to figure out what to tell people when they asked me. B had assumed the ready position to the left for the deep out.
As he ran, my mind raced. Why in the fuck was he asking me this? Was he jealous? Was he trying to try to step to Chris? Was he mad? Did I leave him hanging sometime? Is he gonna pull out the Bros before Hoes bullshit?
I put the ball on the numbers and he showed off the hands that got the football coaches drooling. A kid who could move, with size and soft hands was a weapon. He trotted back, looking worried.
Why do you ask? I had to know. I wanted this all in the open. My man was not going to be forward with it, though.
Folks been asking, that’s all. He palmed the ball and signaled he was ready to throw it to me. I wasn’t having it.
Folks? As in, you? Then the thought of his stocky ass and Chrtistine’s ampleness in confined space made me queasy and laugh in quick succession.
Nah, it ain’t even like that, nigga. He sounded defensive. You be chillin with her a lot, that’s all. And I’m ya boy; just wanna know what’s up. I aint trying to get with her or nothing; I’m cool with her and shit, but I mean, that’s yo homegirl. But, you know. He seemed lost, or trying to get out some shit, so I assumed my ready position on the right and went out for the pass. I’d give him some time to think on shit.
Now, I’m not the fastest muthafucka in the world, but I can motor, and the deep post I ran was perfection. Thing is, as soon as I got out of my break towards the middle of the street, he had anticipated me being a bit faster than I actually was and the ball was where I was going to be in about two seconds, just two seconds too early. I glanced back at B, who looked disgusted with his throw. I collected the ball and jogged back.

I’m just saying, he started, as he lined up for a hitch route, that y’all spend an awful lot of time together. Folks get ideas, and not me, nigga, so get that out ya head. Y’all so tight that dudes who may wanna get up on it think they gotta go through you or something.
B was a lot of things, but he wasn't stupid, so I pressed him on what he meant.

Y’all do so much together that folks notice more when you’re not together than when you are, nahmean? And I aint trying to be third wheel and shit. That shit ain’t cool. He said that, looking me dead in my eye.

He had me there. Chris and I had formed a devastating creative duo. She had rhyme skills, which was surprising for a Southerner that didn’t tend towards bounce songs. She wrote a journal every day, and showed me a couple of pages from when she was moving and what she was feeling. Ang didn’t keep a journal, else I probably would have gone to any length to try to peep in that motherfucker. You mean, women write about feelings and shit? With girls the mysterious, illogical ones, any clue as to what the fuck they were thinking was welcome to me, fuck privacy. Ang was only logical NOW; I figured that it was only a matter of time before she became

Cmon, yo. I tried to say exactly what I meant, and it was hard to do. You my dog. Chris is my homegirl, no doubt. But she and me got this thing where we’re thinking the same thing sometimes. It’s weird how that shit works - I paused to get out of the way of an oncoming car, B following me to the curb with a wrinkled forehead - but it works. You aint no third wheel. We all cool, right? I mean, you and me chillin now, right? It’s not like I got a girl and me and her just kickin it ALL the damn time. I still check for your dumb ass.

The car gone, we resumed our pitch and catch. Before he got set, he looked at me.

“Don’t know what I was thinking. Chris wouldn’t wanna fuck you anyway.” He smirked.

I yelled “HIKE!” and threw the ball into his solid middle as he ran out four or five steps and turned around. A sure three yard pickup, as long as no one was sitting between the QB and him. All he had to do was to absorb it. On my end, though, it didn’t help that I had absolutely GUNNED the thing. I don’t really know why; I just did.

“Fuck you.” I said, smiling as the ball bounced away.


The going thought is that school sucks. A pretty popular thought, really. I can understand why it would be, if you were a social outcast, too popular for no fucking reason, or too nerdy to interact with anyone. Me personally, I don’t fuck with anyone and I don’t let anyone fuck with me.

We’re not deep in the hood, but we’re deep enough where the hood cats come to our school before they flunk out and go back to the streets to do whatever in the hell they do. A lot of the kids have parents at work most of the time and who still seem to give a shit. A couple of em wanna go to college. A few wanna work on cars, some wanna be nurses...just a big difference in what everyone wants to do and what they think they can do.

Teacher-wise, they care...and they don’t. I’m sure they go back to their houses wherever they are and pop them a drink and forget all about us. While they’re here, though, some seem interested, some seem scared, and I have no idea why. We’re not in the hood, and we don’t have a lot of hood problems, but maybe our rep is bad in the teachers’ lounge. I dunno.

Me and B went through the usual first week of school stuff; the reunions, catching up on gossip. This chick got a scholarship to college, two others got pregnant. One dude got killed, seven joined this or that gang. Quite a few kids’ folks lost their job and had to go one welfare, a couple kids’ parents got promoted or something and moved out of the hood. You know, shit like that.

What I enjoyed most about school, besides the girls who, when we left em in June, come back in September with fat asses and mommy-bags. I loved to talk shit with the fellas who thought they knew something. I used to look up to some of these dudes, now I was becoming the man. Of course, not playing ball or being exactly that popular didn’t make me the muthafucking Man, but, in the circles I moved in, I thought people were cool with me, and that’s all I needed.

Luckily, my clique wasn’t all about keeping it real, as I was viewed as a sellout nigga by more than one group of kids, usually the wannabes. I didn't bust gats, didn't bang bitches (although I really, really wanted to), and didn’t start shit for no reason. I read comic books. I listened to rap, but listened to the R&B shit that got women hot (and actually LIKED some of it). I wrote shit down. Actually, that’s what prevented me from getting jumped by the wannabes; I’d fucking DESTROY them in a battle. They couldn’t get beyond the usual pitch-bitch-switch-rich rhyme structure, which amused me. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to read? I didn’t want to read Shakespeare or that old dead white dude shit more than anyone else, but everyone acted as if it was surprising we read fucking ANYTHING thicker than a XXL or King magazine. Hell, no one READS them shits, especially King. The womenfolks in there makes it like a black man’s Playboy, without the articles. And I read Playboy for the articles, on the real.

But I’d read, and look words up, and figure out what they mean. It wasn’t that big a deal to me, but a lot of dudes gave me shit about doing that. I didn’t get it. Why not learn some shit? Mom and Pops, when they were around, encouraged me to get my learn on. I ain’t the smartest dude around, but damn. SOme of these dudes are just fucking stupid.

I’ve met some smart bangers - smart as they can be, considering the career choices they’ve made - and they’ve been cool with me and how I get down. In case I do an album, I have two or three artists lined up to do the cover, a couple people nice with the beats, and maybe one or two guests who don’t sound like gangsta rap clones. Who knows, I might need their kind of help one day. Mom loves to recollect the story in the Bible of when Jesus was hanging with the hoes, the thieves, all the bad muthafuckas, because he didn’t see them as less than anyone else. They were still people, and I think Mom is a realist about what me and Ang and B and my other friends see out here while she’s at work.

But what kills me about this is that the folks in charge, the teachers, the administration, all the big-time adults, act like it’s such a big deal when someone is reading, or gets a scholarship, or wins some award, like its really amazing. Now, if one of these wannabe bangers won some shit, I say we should have a fucking parade, dumb as these fucks act, but most of the rest of us is doing our thing. SOme get caught up in bullshit, some just sink to the bottom; that’s just the way shit goes. But it almost seems like they’re expecting all of us to fuck up, you know? Then, a couple “get away” and manage to do some good shit, and every adult breathes a sigh of relief.

Speaking of a sigh of relief, I have one at lunch the first week of school when I notice a commotion at the entrance to the lunchroom. B, who had been running his yap, notices first and actually stands on the table to see across the cavernous assembly hall/lunchroom. There are people pushing and shoving and pointing and laughing, and I can’t see without getting up on a table myself, but, as I told B later, I have home training, which gets me a pop in my shoulder and a fuck you. B says that she was like a pulling guard, a large object that had been urged to move by some force and couldn’t stop without plowing a few people underfoot. That large object plowed through the mass of humanity and rolled to a stop at our table.

“WHAT!” Christine Hughes bellowed, and smiled at me.