We got off the bus at the stop I thought would be a little away from the address. I have to say that the bus ride did me good. I am calmer than when we started this thing. The stop we got off on was right in front of a liquor store. The area around the store was full of people like I had hoped. We could just blend in without standing out to much.
Lil’ Jay followed my lead as walked around to the side street and behind store.
I stopped in the back to give Lil’ Jay an update.
“So if either one of us feels the ‘sitch’ is off they will say, “Ain’t this about nothin’?” you got that? Then we both get the heck outta there and meet inside this store. How does that sound?” I asked.
Lil’ Jay nodded his head yes.
“No, say the phrase so I know that you know” I said.
“Ain’t that about nothin’!” Lil’ Jay said all serious
Naw, dig it, “Ain’t this about nothin’?” I said trying not to sound frustrated in the least.
He tried again, “Ain’t this about nothin’” and we meet inside this store.
“Righteous!!” I said and slapped him five.
So we are on our way to the pickup address, I had it memorized. Since Lil’ Jay said he had never been here, I start to talk about the area. I told him that if all went well we could walk back down the main strip so he could get an idea why I thought this place was cool. He smiled but I knew he was nervous. Truth be told I was to.
Down this street,
Through this alley,
Across this way
And there is the address across the street. I took one last look at Lil’ Jay and started across the street. The house looked like all the others. No broken windows or fancy cars out front. I don’t know what I thought it was going to look like. Through the gate and there were a few little kids toys on the porch. For a second I wanted to re-check the address and then I thought NO I am sure enough, this is it. I knocked on the door casual like and both of us stepped to each side of the door and then smiled and each other. To many cop shows I guess.
The door opened slowly and it was a girl who looked like she was about my age. Two brown braids, braces, freckles and a little girl’s pink and green shirt and shorts. She squinted like she usually wore glasses.
“Hey I’m Ted can speak to a Mr. Marcus Claiborne?” I asked calmly.
She squinted again and then turned to yell “Daddy, SOMEONE LITTLE KIDS AT THE DOOR FOR YOU!” Then turned and walked away.
I knew Lil’ Jay took offence at being called a little kid even though he was. I bumped his shoulder to calm him. He was about to step into the door but I grabbed his arm and shook my head no.
Just then I looked up and there was a dirty surfer type guy in front of us with a small smile perched on his face. I immediately got a bad feeling in my stomach about him. I get those and sometimes I follow them.
“What can I do for you two young men?” He said
“Mr. Cheetah sent us to pick up something for him,” I said.
[I was trying to look strong, sure and 3 years older than I was.]
“Oh is that right? What did Mr. Cheetah send you to pick up?” He said, same little smile, still perched.
“He didn’t tell us, we are just here to pick it up and be on our way,” I said.
[I often wonder why some people like to play games they don’t need to. This guy was trying to be funny.]
[I was sure that both Lil’ Jay and I had our hands in our pockets on our knives for all the good that would do.]
“Did Mr. Cheetah give you something for me?” He said looking from me to Lil’ Jay
“Are you Mr. Marcus Claiborne?” I asked directly
“Yes that is me and you must be Teddy. Dave said you were a smart one.”
[I hate it when people call me Teddy] I bristled a little and so did Lil’ Jay on my behalf, I guess.
[I am also smart enough to know that he might be smarter than he looks. So I made a note of that.]
“It’s Ted, if you please Sir. I go by Ted.” I said calmly still.
“Solid Dude, Ted it is.”
[As Marcus Claiborne turned and waved us in, he said,
“Dave said he was sending two of his best men.”
When he turned I saw that he had a huge Bowie knife on the belt of his jeans. DAMN!
As we walked in I saw another guy sitting on the couch, surf shorts, no shirt, no shoes and dirty feet.
I was aware of the tension and was sure that Lil’ Jay was to.
“So what did Mr. Cheetah give you for me?” Marcus said
I fished the envelope out of my pants and I saw Lil’ Jay’s eyes widen. He must not have seen Mr. Cheetah slip me the sealed envelope that I guessed was full of cash. I handed it to Mr. Claiborne and he handed it to his man. Mr. Dirty-feet cut into the envelope with an identical knife to the one Mr. Claiborne had and started counting the money. Mr. Claiborne picked up the phone and Lil’ Jay and I both looked at each other.
“It’s cool dudes, I don’t keep the stuff here. I have to make a call and it will be here in two clicks,” said Mr. Claiborne.
“That’s cool,” I said.
Mr. Dirty-feet finished counting and smiled that it was all there.
“Solid!” said Mr. Claiborne
And I relaxed a little.
Mr. Claiborne made his phone call.
“The whole thing-
“OK see you later- click
And we waited……
“So you guys are new, have you been working for Mr. Cheetah very long?” said Mr. Claiborne
“A little while,” I said before Lil’ Jay could jump in.
“Hey Dude, Why do they call him Mr. Cheetah, anyways?” said Mr. Dirty-feet.
I looked at Lil’ Jay with no smile for the answer.
“I don’t know we just work for him,” said Lil’ Jay.
[Good one Jay I thought.]
“Dude have you ever seen his teeth? There’re filed all jagged and scary like he’s going to eat the shit out of you,” Mr. Claiborne said.
“No Shit!” Mr. Dirty-feet said.
They looked our way for conformation and we just stared back at them.
Mr. Claiborne was just about to ask us to confirm his truth when there was a coded knock at the door.
-3 knocks, 2 knocks and then wait and 1 knock-
We both jumped out of our skin.
They both laughed.
Mr. Claiborne told Mr. Dirty-feet to get the door and he did.
Two young guys came in looking sad and dejected. In my birth family we call these kinds of kids PWT (Poor White Trash). Not something that I tend to say but looking at these kids I can see why the phrase was invented.
They said nothing and handed a backpack to Mr. Claiborne and he handed it to Mr. Dirty-feet, who opened the backpack and pulled out a large white package and threw it on a scale I hadn’t noticed on a side table. He suddenly frowned and made some finger signs at Mr. Claiborne.
Who then glared at the two kids? They looked even more crumpled than I thought a person could look.
Mr. Claiborne grabbed one of the guys closest to him and I pushed Lil’ Jay against the back of the couch and we both pulled out our knives.
Mr. Claiborne yelled at the kid hanging from his fist-
“Where is the rest of my shit Jessie?!?”
“Uhhh this is what Caz gave us Mr. Claiborne, I’m sorry,” said Jack, the littlest one in the room.
Mr. Claiborne tossed him towards a chair and grabbed the other kid who looked like he was heading for the front door.
“Where the Hell do you think you’re going Jessie!” said Mr. Claiborne.
“No-No- No-where Mr. Claiborne,” Jessie stuttered.
“Jessie where is the rest of my Shit!” Mr. Claiborne screamed.
“I-I-I don’t know I ‘m just delivering it for Caz,” Jessie managed to get out.
Mr. Claiborne looked over his shoulder and Mr. Dirty-feet was already on the phone.
We were both wide eyed and ready.
Mr. Claiborne looked at us and apologized for the mix up and it had nothing to do with us and it would be worked out very soon.
I just nodded and we each put our little knives away. I was still eyeing Mr. Claiborne’s Bowie knife on his belt.
Mr. Dirty-feet hung up the phone and spoke quietly with Mr. Claiborne.
Mr. Claiborne turned to Jack the younger one and said, “Tell Caz and Manny they Fuckin’ owe me.”
-Now get the Hell out of here!”
They both cut for the door.
Where the hell do you think you’re going Jessie? Mr. Claiborne snapped.
Jessie looked like a deer caught in the headlight.
Jessie looked at Mr. Claiborne with pleading eyes but he was dead to that.
He told Jack to go and deliver his message.
Jack left but we could see he didn’t want to leave Jesse there.
When the door closed we all stared at Mr. Claiborne.
“So Jessie where is my shit?”
“I don’t know Mr. Claiborne, that’s all we were given. We didn’t stop anyweres.” Jesse squeak
“Cliff just talked to Manny who said he watched Caz weigh it before they gave it to you and Jack and now it only weighs 8 lbs. Where are the other two pounds? Mr. Claiborne snapped
Jessie started to cry and Mr. Claiborne back-handed him like a pimp with a lazy hooker.
Cliff (aka Mr. Dirty-feet) went through Jessie’s pockets. The normal kids stuff; a pocket knife, a bus transfer, some coins and sand. No Coke, No money.
If they sold two pounds of coke, why would they still show up? Maybe Jack had the money or they stashed it already. But really how stupid would you have to be to steal on a delivery. I bet it’s these guys Manny and Caz shorted Mr. Claiborne and are blaming it on the kids. I started to say something but thought better of it.
Just then Mr. Claiborne yelled in Jessie’s face so loud, so close it made his tears and hair blow back.
I was pretty scared and I could tell that Lil’ Jay was because his eye looked like Alfalfa from the Our Gang re-runs. All he needed was and little curly Q and a scared sound effect.
We both pulled our legs up on the sofa we were sitting on.
Mr. Claiborne walked over to Cliff and snatched the phone out of his hand. Cliff looked shocked but if he couldn’t tell that Mr. Claiborne was mad he was blind.
From our end of the phone all we heard was: Uh-huh, Uh-huh, really? Are you sure? You checked it right? I have no choice. And the finally – OK then Fuck it… I have to do what I have to do. Come on over now and bring plastic.
We three kids were transfixed on Mr. Claiborne right now. [Plastic!!! Ah man this about to get real.]
Then I thought like I did when my cousins got into trouble in front of me. THAT’S THEM, NOT ME, WHY AM I SCARED?
I took a deep breath and looked at Jessie, he looked like he was trying to melt into the floor.
Mr. Claiborne hung up the phone and looked surprisingly calm when he walked over to us.
I felt my real age of 13 at this time; I hope I wasn’t showing it to.
“I’m really sorry guys, this is not the way I do business usually” [He shot daggers at Jessie who was sitting on the floor].
“These things happen,” I said with a weak smile.
“Not to me, well not more than once,” Mr. Claiborne said.
Cliff had rewrapped the coke and put it back in the pack and was handing it to us with the envelope.
I took both and handed the coke and the backpack to Lil’ Jay who held it soft like a baby. I looked into the envelope and saw a lot of money. I looked at Mr. Claiborne like, what am I supposed to do with this?
“I was thinking that you could give the cash for the two pounds back to Da- Uh Mr. Cheetah and tell him they’re on the house for the mix up. Also I’ll have the rest of it over to him before midnight,” said Mr. Claiborne.
Mr. Claiborne and Cliff looked at us all apologetically.
I just wanted to get Lil’ Jay and myself outta there. I could feel something about to go down.
“OK I’ll tell him,” I said.
We started to get up.
Mr. Claiborne said, “Hey Ted and – He looked at little Lil’ Jay.
I pushed him behind me and said YES.
“You guys have been so good about this I want to give you guys a little something.”
“It’s cool Mr. Cheetah takes care of us.” I said quickly.
“But maybe a note to Mr. Cheetah so he will understand and not think of us like um…
“Oh sure, hey Cliff could you write an IOU for the two pounds?” Mr. Claiborne said so easily.
Cliff jotted a note and I read the IOU. Good enough.
We were on our way past Jessie towards the door.
“Hey dude really!” said Mr. Claiborne
I turned and he jammed some bills in my hand.
I didn’t want anything from this crazy fool. Well maybe if he asked I would take Jessie with us.
As Lil’ Jay opened the door and Mr. Claiborne ushered us out. I could see Jessie jump up and race for the door. Mr. Claiborne caught him with an elbow to the face. He fell back and bounced on the floor and then back to his feet. He decided to try again, this time Mr. Claiborne whipped out his Bowie knife and stuck it in Jessie’s stomach.
Damn!!! It looked like Jessie just deflated like a balloon.
I felt someone gripping my left arm and I turn saw Lil’ Jay looking pale as a ghost.
Then Mr. Claiborne pulled up and Jessie just opened up like and paper bag full of guts and stuff. They started to spill out.
“Hey now Jessie don’t fall apart on me so fast,” said Mr. Claiborne.
We were shocked beyond words. I had seen a dead body or two but nothing like this craziness. He just gutted that poor little kid like a fish. No thought just gutted.
Mr. Claiborne turned to us all bloody hands-
“OK guys later days, I have to take care of this. Don’t forget to tell Mr. Cheetah I’ll get the stuff to him by midnight.”
Mr. Claiborne closed the door.
I looked at Lil’ Jay and we took off running.
I made a right then and left and a right and a left and was at the Boardwalk.
I stopped and tried to recover but Lil’ Jay kept running and jumped up on the brick wall and called earl…then fell over same wall on to the sand.
I ran over there to see if he was OK and if he fell in his own vomit. That would be messed up.
As I look over the wall Lil’ Jay was laying on the sand about 6 inches from the contents of his little stomach. I climbed the wall and jumped down on the side away from the nastiness. When I landed I looked at Lil’ Jay and we started laughing so hard we both had tears on our faces…
Finally Lil’ Jay said, “This is a cool place” which of course made us laugh all over again.
So I finally pulled myself together and asked Lil’ Jay if he was OK he said he was cool.
“What about the coke?” I asked “Did you fall on the bag, do we have to reclose it?”
“I don’t think so. Check it out.” He handed me the backpack.
I looked around and saw no one, looked to the wall to make double sure. I opened the pack and turned over the contents and saw no leak. I put the money in with it and zipped it up and cinched it tight.
“Do you want to carry it or you want me to?” I asked my partner.
“You can unless you don’t want to.”
“Yeah I can take it, I’m cool.” But hey what did that psycho Claiborne give us?
I reached in my pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. My Cheetah money was in my sock already. I counted it and it was four hundred and twenty dollars, cool. I split it with Lil’ Jay, half and half. He took a fifty dollar bill and handed back to me.
“What is this for Jay?” I asked.
“You have kept me from makin’ mistakes all day. I appreciate it,” he said.
I was touched. I took the money (no fool).
Needless to say Mr. Cheetah was pissed when we showed and told him. I was hopping Mr. Claiborne was going to call so Mr. Cheetah would know most of it already, but no. I also gave him the IOU. I looked pained. I was a little scared so I even told him that Mr. Claiborne gave us money to get out. When we told Mr. Cheetah about Jessie he actually looked shocked. We passed the backpack with the money and coke to Mr. Cheetah’s man Python. (that is what he is called) Python handed us each a bill folded in half. I thought it was like two fifties but when Lil’ Jay eyes widened I looked and it was a two one hundred dollar bills. I cocked my head to one side like a confused dog.
“But Mr. Cheetah you already paid us one hundred before, why the extra?”
“This is for your trouble. It’s your first job and it was supposed to be easy and this son of a bitch surfer punk kills a kid right in front of you. That was not part of the bargain. See I can be fair.” [and he looks right at me and smiles. Oh my God they are filed.] This is not how I do business either. We’ll take care of the rest. That is a thank you for your trouble. Take it easy fellas and Mr. Cheetah slaps us bath five then Python bumps us both of the shoulder and ask us both are we OK we nod our heads and they jump in Mr. Cheetah’s big Mercedes and they are off. I tell Lil’ Jay that I’ll catch him later I’m going to put my cash away, it’s makin’ me nervous.
“OK takes again”…and he hugs me and slaps me five and runs down the street toward his apartment.
I can’t keep doing this I’d rather turn tricks than watch a kid die and make five hundred and sixty dollars…
This life is weird…
Hey what’s that in the gutter? A rolled twenty coolness, it’s raining money. Maybe this is a bad omen.
Yes life is real weird.