So it was 6pm and I was hangin’ with Lil’ Jay and we decided to chill at Dinky dog. Everyone came through there and it was almost always a good (entertaining) time. We had only been there for like a half when Dave Cheetah asked if we wanted to make a few dollars. I said, “Why”, because I was often cautious when someone like Mr. Cheetah offered anything. First name: Dave. Last name: unknown to anyone I knew. He went by Cheetah and it fit him perfectly, slim, tall, quick easy movements with big eyes and sharp looking teeth. He gave me a look that said you ask too many questions.
Lil’ Jay was like, “Hey what do you need us to do and how much we talkin’ about?”
To myself I was like, “Maybe, maybe not”.
Mr. Cheetah said he needed something delivered and something brought back, that’s all.
I said “No” because I still had $40.00 in my pocket from a trick last night, so I wasn’t as hungry as Lil’ Jay.
Lil’ Jay said, “I will do it no doubt”.
Mr. Cheetah said, “If Ted isn’t in then I will find someone else”.
I know Mr. Cheetah likes the way I try to be cautious and never just walk into a ‘sitch without thinking it through.
“Ted is a thinker it will keep him alive longer than the other hard head kids around here”.
“Ted, can I talk to you over here a second?” said Lil’ Jay.
I said, “Sure enough.”
I knew what this meant; he would try and talk me into to it. We walked to the side of Dinky dogs out of Mr. Cheetah’s legendary hearing range. Jay was the first to speak. [His eyes were serious and begging at the same time.]
“Hey man why are you trying to block my fetia?” said Lil’ Jay.
I looked at him a long time judging how real I could be at this given time. Jay is a friend but he is not really in my family.
So I chose my words carefully;
“Why do you want this so bad? Mr. Cheetah is known for being the real deal and looking out for himself and his own. I don’t care how smooth he puts it, we are not really part his own. He has nothing against us, well that I know of. Talk to me dude. Like what’s the burn here?” I asked.
“My sister Jasmine might be PG, but she’s not sure, so don’t tell anyone, for sure not Darn-it. She says it’s Darn-it’s baby if she is? [Lil’ Jay’s sister was not in the Hoe game, so she could be surer than the other girls we knew.]
Lil’ Jay sounded like it was all on him.
Just then Mr. Cheetah cleared his throat. He was two feet away. Both Jay and I jumped and turned around. I let Mr. Cheetah know I would be down but only if we played it smart. People who needed something acted differently than people who just wanted it. Lil’ Jay said cool and looked a little more relieved, but only a little. Mr. Dave Cheetah was known for using young guys to do his leg work, Colt said it kept his hands cleaner and most young guys had no record so they got off with just probation or a stern warning. I am always leery of doing a spur of the moment job for anyone. Mr. Dave Cheetah often said good things to other people about me, so it was probably cool.
“Mr. Cheetah how much are you paying?” asked Lil’ Jay.
He was begging like broke down hooker. OK, so his family needed money but dang, taking just any job might get him hung out if he’s not careful. So I said in my most respectful tone;
“Mr. Cheetah, I need to inquire to what is the deal that you would like me and my man Lil’ Jay to handle for you?” I said trying to sound confident.
He got a big smile on his face.
“I should watch you more closely, if you keep that up, this whole area would be yours to control” said the dangerous Mr. Cheetah.
I said, “That’s just the thing Mr. Dave Cheetah, I don’t want to control these streets. I just want my part of the world and before we lose sight of tonight’s mission, how much will we be receiving for this delivery of yours?”
Being my Mother’s son, at least I would know how to speak.
His smile widened and helped us remember why his nickname fit him so well. That smile made you think of bits of your organs stuck in his teeth. Lil’ Jay said later he got a chill right then and almost changed his mind about the whole thing. I agreed.
“How does two Hun and half total smell ($250.00)?” Smiled Mr. Cheetah
I said, “Two Huns each smells better to me ($400.00).”
He laughed and reached for his wallet and pulled two crisp Huns from the imported leather and handed one to each of us.
“You better stick with this man he will keep food on your table and shoes on your feet” said the predatory cat.
Jay said, “I plan to.”
[I thought to myself really now?!? Since when did I become a team with Lil’ Jay?]
Before I would let Lil’ Jay take the money from the ever more notorious street monster, I still wanted to know what the job entailed.
I put up my hand between us and the money.
“Thank you, Mr. Cheetah but what exactly do you need from us? Please put it down sharply, Sir.”
That freakin’ smile again- shiver
As requested he laid out a simple “run, drop and scoop (you’ll see).
As we booked towards the predetermined address in Venice, I said to Lil’ Jay;
“You know I got your back dude. I just wanted to make sure Mr. Cheetah wasn’t sending us into some mess,” I said seriously.
“I got yours to dude” said Lil’ Jay with a serious look right back.
“Righteous!!” I said trying to lighten the mood.
We slapped five.
“But we will not be doing this all the time. This is not what I’m all about” I said looking down the street.
[Lil’ Jay looked hurt for a second, then recovered]
“Well you already made me $75.00 more than I was going to get Dude. So anytime you want to partner up I’m down.”
Lil’ Jay was happy again.
It wasn’t really a question if I and Jay would watch out for each other on this little job. We tried to be cool like that. But ‘for reals though’ I didn’t want to become one of Mr. Cheetah’s runners. That could complicate my life and end me for sure. We’ll just get through this one and deal with the rest later.
We were on our way to a place that I am more than a little unsure about.
Here is the first part of the plan: Catch the Wilton bus to Pico, the Pico bus to the Venice area. The Pico bully bus was the best way to go and it ran frequently and all the way to Venice Beach.
Lil’ Jay was cool with that.
We walked over to the corner of Santa Monica and Wilton to wait for our bus. As we stood against the wall trying to look cool as 13 and 12 year olds could, I went over what we had to do in my head before I talked Lil’ Jay’s ear off about it. It was a well known fact that I talked a lot and more when I was unsure or nervous about something. I haven’t learned how to cover all my feeling like a lot of the kids out here had. Some of them are only a little older than me and they seem cold inside most of the time.
Our first bus came and we got on and went to the back. I am still working on becoming cool under pressure. It’s a quality that I really liked in others. It is hard to do, but being 13, I feel I have time to work it out. Lil’ Jay was quiet and alert like people could tell we were up to something. I knew they couldn’t. I knew that most people didn’t look around that much and they wanted to be left alone. Most ‘Normies’ didn’t want to know the person next to them had a knife or a gun unless they were going to do them harm. I see the butt-ends of guns and the tops of knives on people or in their bags all the time but I’m different than most, I want to know what’s going on and who is doing what, just in case. I’ve always been that way even when there was nothing to fear. Someone rang for our stop and we got off the bus with the rest of the riders. I gestured across the street to the stop going towards the beach on Pico. I’ve ridden that bus a bunch of times to Venice beach.
We were lucky the #42 express to Venice arrived as soon as we stepped up to the bench. We boarded and went to the back corner.
“Lil’ Jay have you ever been to Venice to chill?” I asked.
“No what’s it like, all Surfer’s and Muscle-heads?? He said.
“Those dudes are there but it’s cool. On the weekend it’s full of all kinds of people from all over. When it’s hot there are all kinds of chicks in bikinis just walking around.” I said thinking he probably liked that kind of thing.
“Maybe we can go there sometime?” said Lil’ Jay.
Lil’ Jay smiled for a quick second and then back to his mask.
“Maybe but you know I won’t be checkin’ out no females, I’ll leave that to you.”
[We both laugh to release the nervous energy]
We have a long ride a head of us, so I sat back and tried to think about all the possible outcomes that could come our way. From the best to the worst, I can’t lie I am a little worried, but I’m almost always a little worried. So I can handle it.
To be continued