Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Watch

                He fan full speed down the sidewalk, avoiding pedestrians along the way.  He knew they were trailing him but he didn’t want to glance behind him.  One second with his eyes not in front of him and he could’ve crashed into anything, anybody.  The sidewalks were littered with fruit stands, paperboys and people hustling their gifts just to make a quick buck.  He ran past a man with a makeshift drum set, dodging the people who were standing around admiring his talent.  Somehow, someway, there was always a small bit of space between people as they stood around and he was elusive enough to spot it and take advantage of it without losing any speed.  He would’ve made an excellent running back for his school’s football team had he chosen that route, but the path he was on would lead him further away from that life and into one of uncertainty.  He came to an alley and quickly ran into it.  Peeking his head around the corner, he looked down the long city block hoping that his trailers were not close.  There were none in sight.  He took a deep breath, turned his back against the wall and slid down to the ground.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out the watch.  “Man, what is so special about this thing?” he asked himself as he examined it.  The Skeleton watch was elegantly designed and weighty due to it being pure gold.  He turned it over and noticed an engraving on the back of it.  P.H. Elliot.  He flipped it back over and looked at the face of it, shook his head and put it back in his pocket.  After making sure the coast was still clear behind him, he got up, threw on his hoodie and began walking down the city block.  He had a friend’s house that was not too far from where he was now.  He dropped his pocket change into the saxophonist’s jar and headed down the block.  The street where his friend lived was just up the block on 14th and Auer, one of the City’s roughest neighborhoods.  He was a regular in the area so he was well known by everyone.  He walked with his hands in his pockets, occasionally looking behind him to see if anybody was trailing.  Suddenly, he heard panting behind him and steps moving at a rapid pace.  He didn’t even have to turn around to know what it was.  He ran as quickly as he could to the nearest car as the dog barked, in fast pursuit of his victim.  The boy hopped on the trunk of an old Nissan Sentra that was on its last legs.  The dog barked viscously as it circled the car, waiting for his victim to slip so he could sink his teeth into him.  The boy stood on top of the car looking around frantically for its owner.  Finally, he came out of the house, “Pepper!  Pepper, get over here, now!” he yelled from his front porch.  The dog quickly turned away and ran towards its owner.  The young boy slowly crept down from the top of the car, “thank you Mr. Johnson” he said as the dog reached the porch.  “Sorry about that, Allen” he said, “this dog just always finds its way out of that yard.”  Allen placed both his feet on the ground, “Don’t worry about it” he said as Mr. Johnson closed the door.  “If you fix that raggedy old fence maybe yo’ dog wouldn’t find its way out, idiot” he said as soon as he knew Mr. Johnson wouldn’t hear him.

 He looked around the neighborhood as his friend stood outside on his porch.  He began laughing when Allen walked closer to his house, “maaaaaaan, I saw the WHOLE thing!  I thought Pepper was finally finna’ get you!” he said.  “Shut up, man!” Allen responded “I swear that dog always seem to get loose whenever I come around.  I ain’t never seen Pepper chase nobody else but me.”  He walked up on the porch and shook Derrick’s hand.  “I don’t know, I think Pepper just like that dark meat.  He don’t chase nobody else on this block like that”, Derrick said as he laughed.  They sat down on the porch as a pack of birds flew from one tree into the next.  Seconds later, two squirrels scampered down the tree as if they were running for their lives.  Allen could relate to them.  “So, what’s up?  What you come over here for?” Derrick said as he pulled out his cell phone.  “I got it” Allen said.  Derrick continued looking at his phone as he responded, “Got what?”  Allen pulled the watch out of his pocket and sat it on his lap.  The gold shined bright as it reflected the light of the sun.  It took Derrick a few moments before he realized it was there.
“You got… a watch?  So what?” Derrick said.
“Not just a watch, fool.  THE watch.”
“THE watch?  What you mean?”
Allen looked at Derrick as he turned his attention back to his phone,
“Man, if you put that phone down, you might understand what I’m sayin’”
“Oh, my bad man.  Theresa textin’ and she tellin’ me how much she miss me, you know what I’m sayin?  I GOTTA entertain that!  You know she fine!”
Allen smacked Derrick in the back of his head, “Fool, pay attention!”  He handed him the watch as Derrick examined it.  “I still don’t see what’s so special about….” He paused.  His eyes bucked opened as he looked on the back of it.  He saw the engraving and looked back at Allen.  “No….you….didn’t!  How?! How did you get this!?  Did they just give it to you!?!  I know they didn’t give it to you!” he responded hysterically.  “Nah, they didn’t” Allen said as he leaned back in his seat, “I stole it.”
Derrick looked at him with a blank expression before he fixed his gaze upon the trees that the birds were fluttering around in.  Internally he was reflecting on Allen’s words, taking them in with utter disbelief.  He finally broke his silence, “Maaaan, you’re funny.  You’re really funny and you had me for a minute!” he said, hitting Allen on his arm, “I was sittin’ here really believing you though because you had the straight face and everything!  I mean, you didn’t laugh, you didn’t even crack a smile” he looked at Allen, “you’re good man, you really are.  You should try actin’ because, I swear man, Denzel?  Will?  They ain’t got NOTHIN’ on you, boy!” he said as he laughed out loud.  Allen sat and looked at Derrick with bewilderment, still not cracking a smile.  Derrick’s laughter slowly turned to seriousness and the smile fell from his face like raindrops in April.  “Why… why you not laughin’, man?” he asked Allen with a somber look on his face.
“Because” Allen said, “I’m not joking.”  There was a pause between them.  Derrick looked into the tree again as the birds flocked in unison and flew out of the neighborhood as if they knew what was coming.  A car drove down the street, stopping at every other house as they looked for an address.  Two children walked past their house, one of them dribbling a basketball through his legs without a break.
“What?!” Derrick said as he jumped up from his seat and threw the watch into Allen’s lap, “What you mean you’re not joking!?”
Allen stood up, “I stole it!  How else was I going to get it!?  Did you think they were going to just hand it to me!?”
“Man, naw!  But you stole it?!” his eyes wide as he looked up and down the street, “Man, you gotta’ get away from here!  Them boys are gonna’ track you down and find out you here and I swear man, my Mama is gon’ kill me if they kill me!  Especially if they shoot her window up! You see those drapes?!” he pointed to the window of his house, “my mama JUST got them put up!  Naw bro, you gotta’ go.”
“Are you serious?” Allen said.
“Man, I’m DEAD serious.”
Allen shook his head, put his hoody on and began walking down the steps.  Before he completely left, Derrick yelled out, “Say man, we still cool though, right?”  Allen just turned and walked away with his hands in his pockets as Derrick yelled from his porch, “Say man, if they kill you tough, can I come through and get your PS4?”  Allen ignored him as Derrick’s voice became faint the further he walked away, “Come on man” he said as his voice diminished, “you bein’ selfish right now!” 

Allen turned the corner and in moments, he was back on the main street.  When he was out of sight, Derrick picked up his cell phone and made a call.  “He got it.  He was here, but he left.  He just turned down the block.  If yall hurry up, yall can catch him.”  Allen stood on the corner waiting for the bus to arrive.  He could’ve walked to his house if he absolutely had to but it would’ve been at least a 30 minute walk.  Walking outside for that long would more than likely end up being a wrong move.  The bus finally arrived.  He dropped his bus fare in the machine and headed to the back of the bus.  The passengers looked uninviting.  There were seats open next to them but the scowls on their faces were clearly warnings not to sit by them.  He walked slowly past them, grabbing onto seats for balance as the bus pulled off.  There was a lonely seat open in the back corner that he nestled down into.  He put his hand into his pocket, running it over the watch that Derrick went ballistic over.  “I thought I could count on him” he said to himself, shaking his head.  The bus made its next stop.  Three men came up the stairs, dropping their fare into the machine and heading to the back seats.  They were halfway back before Allen looked into their direction.  He knew them immediately.  Their black jackets gave them away.  He sat up in his seat and tried to exit the bus through the side door, but they blocked it before he could reach.  The passengers in the back looked between Allen and the three men.  One of them spoke, “Look man, we know you got it.  We know it.  Just give it back and we’ll ummm…. We’ll forget all about this little incident” he said as the other two stood, holding onto seats to keep balance as the bus pulled off.  Allen took a few steps backwards.  “I don’t have it” he said, “I ditched it before I got on the bus.”  One of the men laughed, “Ok.  So, you won’t mind if we search you then, would you?”
“Search me?  Are yall the police or something?” Allen asked.
One of the men spoke up, “We are the ones the police call when they need help.”
“Sooo… are yall the FBI then?”
“We are the ones the FBI call when they need help.”
Allen was confused as he looked between all three of the men.  He spoke again, “So, what that make yall then?  Illuminati?”
“We’re the ones-” the third man cut him off, “Shut up! Stop entertaining this fool!”  He turned to look at Allen, “So, we’re going to search you.  If you don’t have it, just let us know where you ditched it and we’re good.”  Allen agreed to it.  One of the men approached him as Allen put his hands up, showing no signs of resistance.  As soon as he began to reach into his pocket, Allen grabbed his hand, twisted it around and kicked him back into the other two men.  He then backed up and took his fighting stance.  They weren’t going to get the watch without a fight.  The passengers in the back seats quickly got up and flooded to the front.  “Ok” the injured man said as he rubbed his hand, “so, I guess you’re going to make this hard on yourself.”  Allen said nothing.  He wiped the tip of his nose with his thumb and balanced himself in the aisle.  The other two men rushed him, one throwing a punch.  Allen ducked under his arm and clocked the man square on his cheek, knocking him into the adjacent seat.  The other man charged him right afterwards and immediately stepped into a viscous roundhouse, knocking him backwards onto the ground.  The man that fell into the seat got up and lunged towards him, trying to catch him off guard.  Allen grabbed one of his arms and twisted it behind his back, “move and I’ll snap it in two” he said as he held his arm in place.  The bus driver stopped after he noticed the commotion, “Hey!  Hey!  Yall need to carry that off this bus!” he said.  The assailant thought Allen wasn’t paying attention and tried to get loose.  Wrong move.  Allen snapped his arm in two.  The man yelled from agony as he fell to the ground, his arm dangling.  The break could be heard all the way in the front of the bus.  The other two charged him at once.  Allen jumped on top of a seat and grabbed onto a pole, spinning around both of the men and kicking one into the other.  They both fell over the attacker with the broken arm as Allen pried the doors open and escaped off the bus.  He ran full speed down the block, tapping his pocket to make sure the watch was still there.  He looked back to see if they were trailing him when he got tripped and fell to the ground.  His head smacked into the cement and he was instantly grabbed by one man and a black scully was pulled over his head.  He was thrown into a van and they sped off.  As he sat in the van he tried to move, but the man that grabbed him up was too strong.  The man laughed, “Are you trying to get free?” he said.  His voice was deep enough to vibrate Allen’s chest.  Another man answered, “It’s like a chipmunk trying to escape a bear hug.  You might want to stop trying, young fella.  It’s useless.”  Allen stopped as they searched his pocket, pulling out the watch.  “Here it is” one of the men said, “Here it is.  Boss is going to give us all raises cause’ of this one.”  He put it back in Allen’s pocket.  “We’ll let the boss do the honors of taking it from him.” 

They snatched off his hat while he sat in a chair inside an abandoned warehouse.  Two men held pistols aimed at his head, one on his left and the other on his right.  Allen shook his head, completely unintimidated by the weapons.  He had faced worse situations than this before and found a way to get out unscathed.  The three men he fought on the bus were across the room staring at him, silently hoping they would get one more shot at Allen.  He smirked as he looked at the man with a cast around his broken arm.  Moments later, he walked in.  He stood much taller than everybody else in the room.  Every man inside the warehouse acknowledged his presence as he walked by them.  He handed his coat to one of the men as he took it and draped it over his arm.  He fixed his cufflinks and stood in front of Allen.  Smiling.  “So” he said, “you’ve seem to have given my men some kinda’ fight.”  Allen shrugged his shoulders, staring right back at the man.  He wasn’t intimidated like everyone else.  “My watch, please” the man said.  Allen folded his arms across his chest.  He wasn’t budging.  The man that carried Allen in spoke up in a deep, sonorous voice, “You heard the man, give him the watch.”  Allen sucked his teeth as he pulled the watch out of his pocket, “is your name P.H. Elliot?” he asked, staring right back into the man’s eyes.  The man laughed, “Actually” he said, “It is.”  Just then, Derrick walked into the room.  Allen stood up but the man who carried him into the room pushed him back down into his chair.  “You touch me again” Allen said, “and you’ll lose that arm.  Just ask your friend.”  Allen nodded towards the man in the corner with the cast on his arm as the goliath-sized man chuckled in amusement.
“My man” Derrick said, “welcome to-”
Allen cut him off, “Man, what are you doin’ here?”
“Easy, fam” he said, “you made it.  You’re in the organization.”
Allen was confused as he looked around the room.  The boss reached his hand out to congratulate him.  He spoke as his hand remained extended, “It was all a test.  We wanted to see what you did with somebody else’s time.  You valued it.  You didn’t let it go to waste.  You appreciated what it was worth.  You are the type of person this organization needs.”  Allen was still a bit apprehensive.  Derrick spoke up, “Its ok, man.  I’m in it.  I knew all along what was going on.  But aye man” he looked towards the three men Allen fought on the bus, “You didn’t have to break the homie’s arm.  That was just uncalled for!”  Allen looked at Derrick, then at the three men, “Sorry, fam.  No hard feelings, right?” he said as he handed the watch to the leader. Derrick walked over to him and shook his hand.  Now, they were officially brothers.



He was laying on his back, looking up to a blue sky littered with puffy clouds and oblivious to what was going on around him. He knew it could possibly end this way, but nobody ever plans for it. Nobody ever really thinks it will be them until the time comes. He lifted his hand up and positioned one of the clouds in-between his thumb and pointer finger.  He pretended to move it across the sky while explosions went off around him, BOOM, BOOM! His imagination was strong enough to erase everything that was happening and place him somewhere else.

He passed the cloud to his 4 year old daughter as she laid next to him in their backyard. “Hey dad, do you think we will ever be able to really touch these one day?” she asked. Her long, blonde hair was sprawled out in different directions as she laid on top of the grass. He smiled, “You know, one day, I think we will be able to. You know, anything is possible.” She looked at him and smiled, then turned back to the cloud she was moving across the sky with her finger. “Ok you two, it’s time for dinner” her mother called out to them from the back door.  He stood up, extending his hand to his daughter. She reached out for it and he lifted her up and threw her in the air in one swift motion. “Ahhhhh!, daddy!” she cried with joy as she was being tossed in the air. Her mother stood at the back door, watching them and smiling herself, fighting back tears. She knew he would be leaving soon and moments like this had to be savored. She let them continue on as she went back into the kitchen. She crammed all of her cooking lessons in with her grandmother a few months before she got married. She grew up on soul food but never took the time to learn how to make the dishes. She heard one of their conversations in her head as she began preparing the plates of dinner for her family,

“One of the best ways to hold on to your man is good food and good sex”, her grandmother said. “Granny!” she exclaimed, “That’s just… ugh! You could’ve left that last part out!”  Her grandmother looked at her with wrinkled eyebrows, “What? Girl, you better grow up! How you think you got here? How you think I got your mother here?”  She shook her head as she responded, “I know Granny but dang, I don’t wanna even have those thoughts in my head about you” She smiled, “ummm, hmmm, well baby, I’m just tellin’ you what I know, I’m just tellin’ you what I know.”

It had been a few months since her grandmother passed away but she held on tight to every memory they had together. She loaded up her husband’s plate with generous portions of collard greens, dressing, sweet potatoes packed with marshmallows and pecans, macaroni and cheese and chitterlings ((known to most as “chitlins”)). She waited until her family was sleep to clean the chitlins the night before. The stench from them were strong enough to clear a house, but she withstood it, gagging a few times herself. A small sacrifice to make for her husband’s favorite food. Her daughter ran in the kitchen just as she was placing their plates on the table. “Mama, mama! Daddy turned into a zombie from Walking Dead and he trying to bite my arm off! Help me!” she said as she hid behind her mother. Her father walked lazily into the house, dragging his leg and groaning. He was playing the part flawlessly. Their daughter screamed again and pulled at her mother’s shirt. “Baby, can you stop scaring this little girl? You know she believes everything when it comes to you!” she said. He laughed and recollected himself. Their daughter relaxed and sat down at the table, picking up a fork and preparing to dig into the yamallows ((Sweet Potatoes are sometimes called, “yams”)). “Ummm, excuse me little missy, are we forgetting something?” her mother said. The little girl smiled, “sorry mommy” she said as she got up and ran to the bathroom. Her father walked over and grabbed his wife from behind and kissed her on the neck. He wrapped his arms around her tight as if it was the last time he was going to hug her. She melted. They had been married for three years but his job caused him to be away so much that it increased their love for each other when they were together. Shakespeare said it best, “absence makes the heart grow fond.” Their daughter ran back into the kitchen moments later, “Ok guys, my hands are washed and we can eat now.” She said it as if she was the reason the family couldn’t start eating.  She didn’t control the house but in a way, she was the glue that kept them together and they both knew it.  They smiled at her as they walked over to their plates at table. They joined hands as the man of the house led them in prayer. Their daughter peeked her eyes open as he prayed. She glanced at her father as he sat across from her. He had a low haircut and the face of a young boy. Earrings pierced the lobes on each of his ears and he had an old scar that was just above his jawbone. He was a rowdy teenager and he had gotten into a lot of fights. You would never be able to tell that just by looking at him. She squinted at her mother. She had her head bowed as long, black hair flowed from the top of her head down to her shoulders. She had given the thickness of her lips and flat nose directly to her daughter. She was a perfect mix between her two parents. Her father was finishing the prayer as she closed her eyes and reopened them again after he said, “Amen.”

It was family time. She didn’t completely know what her Dad did on his job but what she did know was that he was a hero. She hated when he was gone but she bragged to her friends at school about that fact. She looked up to him and he said he would always be there for her. “I love you, Daddy” she said before she took her first bite. He looked up, the warmth of her words fell right into his heart. “I love you too, stink.” She smiled back and bit into her yamallows.  To her, it was like having dessert before dinner.  It would be a semi-fight to get her to finish the rest of her food.  Her dad looked at her mother solemnly, then back to his daughter.  “You know, Stink, Dad has to go away for a little while again.”  She stopped eating and peered at him from across the table.  “But, why?  Why do you always have to go?”  He took a deep breath.  He explained himself to her the best way he could each time he left but it never seemed good enough for her.  “Stink, you know the things you get to do now? Like, go outside and play whenever you want to and go to daycare with your friends?  I have to help make sure you can still do that whenever you want.  Nothing is free.”  Suddenly, her yamallows lost their sweetness.  She hung her head low, attempting to hide the crocodile tears that were forming in her eyes.  Her mother grabbed her by her hand and pulled her closer .  Her Father left his plate untouched and joined them.  He bent down to her and she put her head on his chest.  She heard his heartbeat, BOOM, BOOM!  He held her tighter and squeezed their mother and she heard it again, BOOM, BOOM!

His family morphed into the blue sky he saw as he was laying on his back, hearing explosions going off all around him, BOOM, BOOM! The same cloud he was moving across the sky was gone. Soldiers were on the ground dead right beside him as explosions were going off continuously. He looked down at his legs, trying to move them but the feeling was gone. He reached for his dog tags and gripped them in his hand. On them, the names of the two women that mattered most in his life. He kissed them and one lonely tear fell out of his eye. He heard a foreign language being spoken by two men walking closer to him. This is a sacrifice that he was prepared for. To die for not only those he loved, but for everyone who lived.