Category Archives: fiction

The Teacher – Part 2

THE TEACHER – PART 2

 

She held my hand as I drove down the main street.  Her mahogany brown eyes shifted to a light brown color as the sunlight shone into her face through the passenger side window.  “Seriously baby,” she flicked her hands through her hair as she stared curiously into the visor’s mirror.  “Do you like it?  I think she cut it waay too short.  I mean, look at it.”

She turned her head to the side.  I glanced at her with my face scrunched up like an old man sucking on a lemon, “well… now that you mention it…”

She pouted, “see, I knew it!  Ugh!”  Her arms folded over her chest like a napkin as she poked her bottom lip out.  Her pulchritude was unmatched, even in her childish display.  “Turn around!  We are going back!”

I stifled my laugh as she sat in her seat.  Her eyes narrowed in my direction.  I couldn’t keep up the charade any longer as I blurted out a sea of laughter like waves crashing into the shore.  “Baby, you know I am only kidding.  Your hair is lovely, sweetheart.  I like the short haircut.  You’ve got like…” I quickly looked in her direction, then refocused on the road, “a Halle Berry type thing going on.  And you know how much I love Halle.”

“Gee, thanks.  I’m glad that my haircut reminds me of my husband’s crush.”

“Baby,” I said, smiling as I reached for her hand, “if Halle were on the side of the road right now, I wouldn’t stop for one second.”  She pushed her lips to the side of her mouth as if to show that she didn’t believe me.  “Alright.  Maybe I would ask what was wrong, but that’s it.”

“Yeah, that better be it.”

I looked in the rearview mirror.  My son sat in his toddler seat as he flew a toy airplane through the air, blowing his lips to mimic the sound of a jet engine.  “Jr, who are we picking?  Mommy or Halle?”

“Mommy!” he shouted forth with a snaggle-toothed smile.  His mother’s feminine features dominated his young, bright face.  With each blink, long eyelashes fluttered like butterfly wings on the edge of his eyelids.  A tiny cluster of beauty marks gathered together on his right cheek, and the natural arch of his brows looked as though they were professionally done.  The only features he received from me was my broad, flat nose and full lips.  He had my attitude wrapped up in the softness of his mother’s countenance; and for that, he would know how to get away with murder.

“See,” I said confidently, “there are two votes for mommy.  None for Halle.”

“Yeah, you two will say anything while I am in the car with you.”

“You know what?”  I wrestled the phone out of my pocket, “that’s it.  I’m going to snap a picture of you right now and–”

She laughed as I pulled my phone out and aimed it in her direction.  “Baby, keep your eyes on the road!  You are going to wreck!”  She lightheartedly pushed my phone away from her.

My son increased the volume of his jet engines, “vroooom, vroom!”

“Babe!  Stop, now.  You need to keep your eyes ahead!”

I glanced out the windshield.  “Baby, there is not a car anywhere near us, and besides, I have eyes all over my head.  Now, let me take this picture so I can post it on Facebook and let everyone else be the judge between you and Halle.”

“No!  Listen, I’ll take your word for it!  I won!  I look better than Halle, ok?  No pictures needed.  Now, would you please keep your eye on the road?  Please?”

I winked at her, then slid my phone in the compartment between the two front seats.  “Alright.  As long as I got my point across.”  We eased to a stop at a red light.  She grabbed my hand and leaned across my seat.  Moments later, I felt her lips brush against my flesh like a soft spring breeze.  “I love you, Mr. Jones.”

“I love you more, Mrs. Jones.”

The light just beyond us flickered from red to green.  I glanced at Junior in the backseat.  His airplane flew high in his right hand while he grabbed another fighter jet with the other.  “Baby,” my wife said as I slid my foot onto the gas.  Her hand moved to her belly at the same time, patiently, as if time was controlled by her motion.  “I think I am pregnant.”

I chuckled as our car inched into the intersection slowly like we were pulling a ton of bricks behind us.  “Well,” I looked in her direction.  Just beyond her window, an SUV headed straight for us like a flaming dart from the pit of hell.  My eyes widened as if I was trying to see the whole world at once.  My words caught in my throat like a piece of meat going down the windpipe.  I reached for her arm, knowing that I had to pull her away from the point of contact.  “My God!”

I yelled out, but before she could react, the SUV plowed into her side of the vehicle.  Instantly, I blacked out.

———-

I woke up in sweltering, pitch-black darkness.  Sweat mingled blood dripped from my brow as my chin brushed against the top of my chest.  My hands were tied behind my back, and I could feel the wires slicing through my wrists.  My body weight shifted the position of the uneven chair I sat in.  “Rise and shine.”  His voice was deep and fragile as the heart of man.  His wooden cane knocked against the concrete floor as he stepped closer to me.  “Take that off his head.”

Moments later, one of his soldiers removed the dark hood from over my skull.  I squinted my eyes as the high voltage light bulbs lit the room a fluorescent white as if I was on the outskirts of heaven.  But I knew this was nothing like heaven and every bit like hell.  On the ground to the right, blood splatter decorated the concrete like exploded paintballs.  Various soldiers lined the walls, dressed in fatigues with their fingers sitting on triggers of automatic rifles aimed directly at me.  Black masks covered their faces as if they were scared to show me who they were.

Suddenly, a cold, hard fist smashed into my cheek with the weight of a bag of bricks.  Two more shots connected to my jaw in rapid succession.  The contact shot my face to the left and sent a spring of blood bubbling in my mouth like a fountain.  I spat out a thick glob of blood-soaked saliva.  It dripped slowly from my mouth like a molasses chain watch before it burst onto the cement.  I used my tongue to taste the residue.  It let me know that I was still alive.

“So, here we are.  This is what happens to degenerate leaders, Mr. Isaiah Jones?”  The man with the wooden cane planted himself in a silver folding chair that was positioned right in front of me.  With my head down, I slowly lifted my eyes towards him.

I spoke with every bit of resilience that I possessed.  I had been in situations like this before, and there wasn’t a time that I hadn’t made it out.  “Where is Seven?”

“Seven?”  He laughed.  “He wants to know where Seven is at.  His precious protégé.  The one that would rather die with you than fight with us.”  He clapped his hands once.  “Look up,” he said, smacking my thigh with his cane.  I gradually shifted my attention to the right.  The bright light beamed down onto me like I was center stage.  I waited a few moments until my eyes adjusted.

A thick glass window showed the inside of the adjacent room.  I squinted my eyes to get a better look.  I saw the faint image of a body swaying back and forth like strange fruit from a pole.  My cheekbones gyrated inside of my mouth.  My fist tightened like knots.  “Seven?” he laughed.  “Yeah, we had to teach that boy a lesson.  Turns out, he wasn’t as much of a killer as you expected.”  He leaned closer towards me.  The scent of Cuban cigars nicked at my muzzle.  “Guess you didn’t train him as good as you thought.”

The Teacher – Part 1

The Teacher – Part 1

 

His face was hard and cold like brick walls in the winter time.  I could tell he wanted to cry, but his soul had his tears frozen in their ducts.  A thick, luminous ray of moonlight shot through the window and highlighted the faint scar that ran from the bottom of his eye to the corner of his lips.  It protruded just above his skin like a caterpillar crawling along a tree branch.  My mind drifted away as it transfigured my younger face onto his body.  He had too much of his life ahead of him.

We sat on the couch; our knees brushed against each other like a paintbrush on a canvas.  His passionate gaze burned like a fiery meteor leaving a dragon tail across the night sky on its way to annihilate the earth.  His jawbones gyrated inside of his mouth like factory gears, displaying traits of the machine I trained him to be.  His fingers interlocked patiently, forming a semi-circle on his lap.  “You know you can leave,” I said, piercing through the silence between us.

My suggestion seemed to inflame him even more.  “I’m not going anywhere.”  I made a trap door beneath the couch in the living room.  It led through a burrowed tunnel, three miles east of my home amid tall, forest trees.  It would spit him out on the edge of Lake Tiache’ where he could hop into a speedboat and get away undetected as if he was never with me.  But he was stubborn.  He was my best soldier, and he said that he would go to the grave with me if it were necessary.  It was the type of loyalty that Jesus didn’t see in the hours before his arrest.

I exhaled.  The wind left my lungs with a thick sense of anticipation just as tiny flickers of light blinked outside like a swarm of fireflies.  Their black foot helicopter was silent, but I still knew it was just miles away.  Leaves crunched as men scurried around the sides of my house.  I had trained myself for times like this.  I could hear the slightest shift in the movement outside if I sat in complete silence, and right now, I was clothed in it.  They were trained better than that, I thought to myself.  It had to be their nervousness.  There wasn’t a man coming for me that I hadn’t taught how to kill.  Flawlessly.

I fixed my eyes on the young man beside me; his nostrils flared like tiny umbrellas.  His eyes widened like dinner plates as he tilted his brow forward as if it was weighted down.  His interlocked hands slowly released and formed boulder-like fists at the end of his arms.  His veins puffed up in his forearms as if he had just taken a shot of heroin.  Adrenaline worked the same.  “Everything is going to be fine,” I said as we waited in silence.  “Just don’t breathe the air.”

He didn’t respond.  Out of all my soldiers, he was the one who stayed glued to me like a disciple.  It wasn’t long that I realized he had slid me into the place that his father had never touched.  There was a bond between us, and although we never spoke the words, love flowed through us like rivers of forgiveness.  “I will kill them all,” he said in a voice that would have shaken the smile from a stone-faced statue.  His passion soaked words marched around the house like Goliaths in full armor.

I could’ve run.  All of this could’ve been avoided, but I was tired of running just to escape, only to have to run again.  I was tired of fighting, using my self-control to strike the men I trained, but not kill them.  If I wanted to, I could have ended their lives.  Every one of them that came for me.  Specs of dust fluttered along the moon’s glow, leading to a picture of my wife.  Her buoyant smile is what kept me afloat during the times I was too tired to pick myself up off the ground.  I couldn’t wait to hold her again, but I knew there was too much work left undone for me to meet her.

My five-year-old son sat beside her.  His snaggle-toothed smile was the most beautiful blemish I’d ever seen.  Fifteen years had passed since the accident, and the surgical scar on my chest was the painful reminder of the day I found out they were both gone.  The lone picture in the front room was all I had left of them.  The memories locked inside of my mind kept me from needing tangible reminders of how much they meant to me.

The footsteps outside moved in closer.  Shadows scurried past the windows like demons as the propellers sliced through the wind like a hot knife through butter.  I heard it all.  Every last thing.  The sounds on the roof proved that these troops lacked discipline.  Their anxiety got the best of them.  The meekness of my heart allowed me to remove all the traps and triggers that would have ripped the first string of men into pieces.

“They don’t have to die,” I suggested.

“They do.  They will die.  Each and every last one of them will die for this treachery.  I will make sure of it.”

His dark skin shone from his body like an oil-polluted African river full of blood diamonds.  I wanted to temper his aggression, but there was no need.  He knew that he could attack, but he could not kill.  Not them.  Not his brothers.  “Are you ready?” I asked while the men outside took their positions.  “They are coming in.”

“I’m ready.”

“Remember what I said.  Just don’t breathe the air and everything will be ok.”

Breeze Rawlons((The Beginning)) Pt 1.

Bumpy and Hush had been close friends since High School.  They were sort of outcasts to the rest of the school because of their appearance, so they gradually transitioned into loners.  Bumpy got his name because of the inexorable amount of acne that was plastered on both of his cheeks and his forehead.  It was a bizarre sight to look at, and you were bound to lose your appetite if he sat near you at the lunch table.

Hush was a step up from him appearance wise, though.  He had Alopecia Areata, and because of that, he wasn’t able to grow any facial hair.  The spot where his eyebrows were meant to be were completely bald, and he didn’t have an ounce of hair above his lip like most of the other boys in our grade.  But that wasn’t it; the reason everybody called him, “Hush,” was because he wasn’t able to bring his voice above a whisper.  Nobody why he spoke with such a low volume and as far as we could tell, it wasn’t due to another medical condition.  It was just that he hated talking too loud.

I watched them from a distance, and they always kept to themselves and accepted the fact that they were outcasts.  In my opinion, between the two of them, Bumpy had the hardest time with it.  He was much more of an extrovert than his counterpart, but Hush?  He had no complaints about it at all.  It fit his demeanor entirely.  Quiet.  Sneaky.  Always thinking.  I would’ve given a week’s worth of lunch food to know what was going through his mind, but by the way he looked at everyone, it didn’t seem like it was anything that could’ve been spoken out loud.  His glare, the way his cheekbones gyrated whenever somebody disrespected him.  He just had an eerie vibe about him; a reclusive personality mixed with a short temper and that was never a good combination.   It was blatantly clear that he was headed for a life of crime.  Sometimes, that life has a way of choosing you, no matter what your will is.

I glanced down at the murder scene; one man was beaten senseless to the point that he was hardly recognizable.  His face was smashed in and bloodied; cheekbones were broken as well as every other bone that would have kept his countenance in place.  His fingers were chopped off, making it much more challenging to identify the victim.  This was all at the hands of Hush, and I knew it, even though there was no evidence pointing to him, I knew his calling card.  Once he wanted to get rid of you, his aim was to get rid of you and make it seem as if you never existed.  That way, whenever we were fortunate enough to find a body, there was nearly no way to identify who he was for sure.  He even went as far as knocking each and every last one of his victim’s teeth out to keep us from checking it against dental records.

I glanced down at the bloody, pulp of flesh smeared into the ground as another detective bent down next to me.  “They really did a number on this guy, aye?”

I took a puff of my cigarette and blew the smoke into the night air.  It fluttered around us like a cloud before it disappeared, “Yeah.  No doubt about it.”

“Any clues?”

“None.  None that I can think of.”

“Sheesh.  This is the third body we have found like this in the past two weeks.  I’ll tell you what, we better find something here, or else, heads in the department will start rolling.  After that, it will be better if one of us are one of these dead men that are popping up around the city.”

He tapped me on my shoulder and then stood up to walk back towards the other police officers.  I blew another cloud of smoke into the air as I looked up to the sky.  Damnit, Hush – I said to myself – what are you up to now?

The Irony

“No, man!  I am telling you right now that these youth are runnin’ roun’ here don’t know how to act!  They walk around with… with their pants hangin halfway down their behinds, showing off their underwear and all that, then wonder why the police are always harrassin’ them and whatnot.  They don’t have no respect!”

“Yeah, that sho’ is right,” his friend chimed in as their car approached a yellow light.  “They are so brainwashed by that old music and everything else that they don’t even know it.  They do whatever the music says.  They do whatever those old, no-good videos tell them.  Sellin’ drugs and um, disrespectin’ women and everything.  It is a cryin’ shame the way they can’t think for themselves.”

“You sho’ is right, Hank,” the driver said as he slid his foot onto the break, “It’s like.  They can’t think for themselves.  They are mindless robots, and it is a crying shame that this is what we have come to as a people.”

It was nearly two o’clock in the morning, without another car in sight as their vehicle slowed to a stop when the light turned red.  The three men inside the car were all in their mid-fifties.  Grey hairs coated their beards like silver wires as they reflected on how dumb and brainwashed this generation was, while they waited for a green light to tell them when to go.

#BlackStar

Strange Fruit in the Concrete Jungle

Hello,
I hope you all have been enjoying the short stories that I have been posting.  I started out doing them once a week, but as my Ghostwriting career took off, I began to find it more difficult to continue writing weekly stories in addition to the other contracts that I picked up.  However, another project that has taken up a lot of my time is my upcoming novel, “Strange Fruit in the Concrete Jungle.”  Oh, you didn’t know that I was writing a novel?  Well, let me fill you in on the plot!
Ehhis is young man who moves from a small, racist town in Idlewild, Texas to Harlem, NY in 1921. He has aspirations of presenting an unheard of form of art to the citizens of Harlem, Spoken-Word. But his dreams of becoming an entertainer are quickly interrupted when he witnesses a murder within the first few months of his move to Harlem.  Against the advice of one of his good friends, he speaks to the police and is prepared to testify in court.  If he testifies against the killer, it will expose a string of corrupt cops and city officials and their ties to a viscous, black crime mob terrorizing Harlem. The powers that be are not prepared to let that happen so they seek to handle it the best way they can; eliminate Ehhis.  Not knowing who to trust and where to go, Ehhis becomes a target of one of the most dangerous crime families in Harlem as he stubbornly continues pursuing his dreams as an entertainer. In a narrative that captures the essence of 1920’s Harlem with breathtaking descriptions and painstaking imagery of the Renaissance, it will make you feel as if you are right there with the characters. Journey with Ehhis through his triumphs and downfalls in this epic story of ambition and determination. It will leave you speechless and inspire you to always keep going, no matter what is ahead of you.
Check out the trailer below!
This is the website where you can get additional information on the novel.
There are a couple of snippets of the book inside of this blog and if you want to check them out, just look for the book the cover when you scroll through my blog posts.  I have enjoyed every moment of this process, from starting out in three notebooks (Yes, I wrote the ENTIRE first draft of the novel by hand and it is over 111k words), transferring it to the computer, creating in-depth characters and studying the time period so I would be sure to have everything close to how it really was in the 1920’s.  I have even written a movie script to go along with the novel!  I have put a lot of time and effort into this project and I am thoroughly excited about its release!  I am currently on my third edit of the book and it is going well, but I am reaching the point that I realize I cannot do it all on my own.
NOW THIS IS WHERE YOU ALL COME IN!
I appreciate all of your support, “likes”, and comments so please take a minute and check out the Kickstarter page for my upcoming novel, “Strange Fruit in the Concrete Jungle.” My backers receive an array of packages, ranging from physical signed copies of the novel and Special Edition E-Book bundles, to your name being placed in the books acknowledgements!
Check out the page and see what is going on with this ground-breaking novel that captures the essence of the renaissance! Thank you in advance! Peace.

Allen “Breeze” Rawlons

“Hey Daddy, when can I drive?”

I looked in the rearview mirror to get a better look at my son.  His light brown eyes illuminated as the sun beamed down onto his mahogany complexion.  He sat in his car seat, his feet dangling halfway to the floor.  It was almost time for him to sit on the regular seat like the big kids but he still had a few more months to go, and I didn’t want to rush it.  If I could have it my way, he would stay the same age for as long as I could keep him there like Peter Pan.

“When you get old enough, son.”

“But Daddy, I am old enough.  I can see over the steering wheel.”

“It takes more than seeing over the steering wheel to know how to drive.  You’ll get there, trust me.  Just enjoy the ride for now.”

He sighed and glanced out the window as I smiled to myself.  He was a splitting image of me when I was his age.  My mother would sit down and show pictures of me in my younger days, and if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve sworn that the boy in the picture was the same kid in the car seat behind me.  Just as I was about to speak to him again, the phone buzzed in my lap.  I immediately became disgruntled when I saw the name flash across the face of my screen.

My ex-wife barely gave me any breathing room whenever I had my son.  My visitation rights were cut down because of my job.  Being a police officer took up the majority of my time, and it was mainly the reason why she felt she needed a divorce.  Her insecurities built up over time and for the longest, she just felt like there was another woman.  Somebody, I was cheating on her with and she was partially right.  It wasn’t a physical act that was brewing but more of an emotional one.  She checked out of the marriage, and it forced me to fill the voids in other ways.  In my mind, physically cheating was worse than doing so emotionally, so I chose the lesser of two evils.  In retrospect, emotional adultery was worse, and once those doors opened, there was no way to close them.  I read her text when I came to a stop light.

“Where are you at with my son?”

“This is my time with him.  Why are you worried about it?  I’ll have him home when he is supposed to be home.”

“You better not have him around no other women.  I swear to God, Allen.”

“Look.  This is my time with my boy, aight?  You can interrogate him later on about the other bs, but right now, I am busy.”

The light turned green as I set the phone in my lap and pulled off.  I looked back at A.J. as he picked up one of his toy cars and drove it across his lap.  In his other hand, he made another car crash into it.  “Boom!” he said as he banged the cars into each other repeatedly.  Just then, the phone buzzed in my lap again.  I tried to do things to get my mind off the fact that Lauren seemingly harassed me anytime I had A.J. with me.  She had the ability to send me from one to one-hundred in record time at any given moment.  I looked straight ahead, doing everything in my power not to look at her text but I couldn’t resist.  If it was something disrespectful, I had to fire back.  I couldn’t let it sit and wait until later because then; she would feel like she won whatever childish dispute was going on between us.  The road was clear ahead of me, so I reached down and grabbed the phone as my son kept replaying the same accident over and over.

“Interrogate him?  You should be the one interrogated for posing as a man!  You’re not a man!  A.J. will be ashamed once he knows who his father really is!”

She sent a cold chill down my spine.  She knew what buttons to press to piss me off.  My son kept playing with his cars in the back seat, yelling out “Boom!” every few seconds as I drove.  I looked up to make sure the road was clear and with that, I put one thumb on the screen and began firing off my response.  “Boom!  Boom!”  Just after I pressed send, I looked up, but it was too late.  An SUV was coming at us full speed on the same side that my son was seated.  My mouth dropped open, and before I could say a word, the truck smacked into the side of our car and flipped us over like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind.  When we came to a stop, our car was flipped over on the hood as blood trickled down from my forehead and onto the ceiling which was now the floor.

“A.J.?”

I called out to him in a faint voice, struggling to hold onto my consciousness.  I slowly turned my head back to him as he was suspended in the air and the only thing that was keeping him from hitting the bottom were the straps of his car seat.  His side of the car was caved in as blood dripped from his head.  The window beside him had completely shattered, and as I reached back to him, I finally lost consciousness.

“Um, sir?  Are you ready to order?”

I looked up at her as she stood at my table with a pen and a pad of paper in her hand.  She was young and attractive.  She seemed like she was either a single parent reaching to make ends meet or a College student doing what she had to so that she could keep some money in her pocket.  Her hair was tied up in a ponytail, and there were a few loose strands that fell over her forehead.  She pushed them to the side as she smiled, waiting for me to order.

“Yes.  Just um, give me the blackened salmon, please.  Mashed potatoes and corn.”

“Alright, sir.  Will that be all?”

I looked at the menu while simultaneously stealing glances of her pulchritude.  I was good at hiding my eyes with the brim of my hat.

“I wouldn’t mind taking your number.”

She took my menu away from me and winked,

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that… but if I were single, I would.  I would, and I wouldn’t think twice about it.”

She turned and walked away.  She could have been just trying to let me down easily because she didn’t have to add to her reason but at this point in my life, I didn’t care.  The rejection wasn’t something I was afraid of.  There was either going to be a yes or a no and either way; I would live with it.  My son, though?  He wouldn’t have that chance and even though the accident happened five years ago, my mind still replayed it like it was something that just occurred.  I leaned back as the patrons continued to flood into the restaurant.  It was more of a bar than anything else, but there was an area where you could sit and dine and across the room, there were a wet bar and a dancefloor for those who wanted to cut a rug.  The atmosphere around me was a bit cloudy, but I didn’t mind.  It added to the peculiarity of my personality.  Unclear.  Foggy.  Ambiguous.  Enigmatic.  I reveled when people used those words to describe me.  It meant that I came off to them exactly how I wanted to.

After my son’s death, I developed tunnel vision.  The psychiatrists I was referred to stated that the path I was headed down was unhealthy.  “Mr. Eddison, you are powering straight towards a profound and dark depression.  You cannot keep shutting people out and holding onto the bitterness that lives inside of you.  It is going to make you rotten from the inside out and cut your life in half.”  I sat up on the awkward couch that I was forced to lie on, “The more I let people in, the more bitter I become and by the way things are going in this world, it would be better to be dead than deal with the nuances of this life.  I’m fine where I am and quite frankly, Dr. Slowerwizt-” he interrupted me,

“That’s Showerwitz.”

“Whatever.  You are wasting your time with me.  You could be using this slot to help someone who wants your help than to be with me and continue to allow me to patronize you and your profession.  I have been sending barbs at you all day, but I guess you can’t catch on to my sarcasm.  Common sense is not something they teach you.  You have to be born with it.”

The sessions never went well, and finally, my lieutenant let me off the hook so I could do my job.  I went from a regular patrol officer to a detective in eight years on the force.  I loved my job, and it was only because I could get lost in it and forget about the things that were happening in my life.  My wife made the divorce final just one year after my son’s death.  Soon after that, she packed up and moved across the country to California.  I blamed her for his death, but it wasn’t her fault.  It wasn’t her fault at all; I just couldn’t find the strength to shoulder the blame on my own.  I am a man, but I have my flaws, and that was one of them.  I could face anything in life except going to the grave and apologizing to my son for ending his life well before it should have.  I sighed and took my hat off just as the pretty waitress brought my food to the table.

“How does everything look?”

I winked at her, not once glancing at my food,

“Things couldn’t look any better.”

She smiled and walked away as she switched back and forth.  She made her case, but now, I just thought she was working for a bigger tip.  Life had made my cynical even though most would say that it was one of the effects of bitterness.  To hell with them all.  I popped the napkin open and stretched it across my lap and no sooner, he walked in.  I put my hat back on to cover my eye sight as I watched him walk to his table.  A pretty boy.  Tall, chocolate and deep, wavy hair that most men would kill to have.  He wore a fitted shirt that showed off his physique as two women draped on each side of him.  He was a player and women knew that.  They knew it, but when you have looks and money, none of that matters.  Most women will put up with your flaws when you have it made like that and the more money you have, the more they will put up with.  It was like clockwork.  He was the guy, though.  He was the one that the agency had their eye on.  He had a slew of women at his disposal and periodically, a few would come up missing with him being the last person they were with.  None of us could get a hook into him, though.  The women that were with him kept their mouths shut at all costs.  It was like trying to pry open the mouth of a hungry alligator while his dinner was locked inside.  Nothing was coming out.

I watched him walk over to his VIP booth that overlooked the first floor of the restaurant.  His haughty gaze brushed over the patrons below him as if we were all his peasants and he was the king of the city.  In his mind, he was, but that was far from the truth.  This was my city and the only people that didn’t know it was the ones that hadn’t been crushed by my hands.  I took a sip of wine just as he looked in my direction.  Right now, he was a man that was seemingly able to side-step the grim reaper, but I had my sights on him, and he knew it.  He puckered his lips at me and then smiled.  Taunting.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was at his house asking him questions about the last missing woman.  Just behind him, another female stood with her arms folded over her chest, pushing her breasts up on top of her arms.  He turned around to see where my eyes were fixated,

“Oh, yeah, she is nice, isn’t she?  For the right price,” he leaned in towards me, “You can have her for the night.”

“Not interested.”

“Your eyes make you out to be a liar.”

“Your lips make you out to be one as well.”

His smile immediately wiped away and from that point, he refused to answer anything without his lawyer present.  We didn’t have concrete evidence about anything so we couldn’t go any further.  Ever since then, three more girls had come up missing, and all were with the same MO.  From that point on, he had become the only light in my tunnel vision.

I took a bite of salmon, and before I knew it, the same woman that stood behind him at his house stood in front of me.  She licked her lips and took it upon herself to pull a chair out, “I hope you don’t mind if I join you.”  She said it in a way that said she would be shocked if I said that I did mind.  I was torn on the decision myself.  She was easy on the eyes, full bodied and pretty.  Not movie star pretty, but she was pretty.

“So, what brings you here… alone?”

“My Camaro.”

She smiled,

“Cute.  Real cute.  How about you join us on the top floor.  Mike asked me to extend the offer.”

I took another bite of salmon,

“I’ll pass.”

“Oh, come now.  You can’t possibly be happy sitting here alone.”

“I’m quite content.”

Under the table, I felt her hand brush over my thigh.  My eyes peered up at her slowly as she smiled,

“For me?  I mean, listen, he sent me down here to extend the offer.  I will look like a failure if I can’t do something as small as bringing you back with me.  I mean,” she leaned forward, “WE, would appreciate it if you came with us.”

I couldn’t avoid what she was flaunting.  It was a weakness of mine that I spent time after time praying to God for forgiveness about.  I hadn’t visited a church in months, and that wasn’t the main reason that I gave in, but it had a lot to do with it.  I took another bite as she pleaded with me earnestly and after she had batted her eyes a few times, her long eyelashes fluttering like butterfly wings, I gave in.  It wasn’t because of her pleading; it was more so that I wanted another shot at Mike.  He was too comfortable, and I hated that.  I hated that more than anything else.

Upstairs, the suite was decked out.  Champaign on every table, the lights were low, women scantily clad.  If I were in my younger days, I would’ve indulged myself but I was much older now and besides that, it just wasn’t my thing anymore.  I couldn’t care less about getting drunk and reckless.  Mike extended has hand to me when I made it up there, “Detective Rawlons.  Good to see you again.”  I shook his hand firmly, my lips tight, jawbones gyrating inside my mouth.  “What is this about?”  He laughed, “Oh, come on, Detective.  I thought we would be on good terms now.  I mean, after all, you guys did come back with a search warrant and the whole nine, but you guys couldn’t find anything.  Now,” he leaned towards me, “You guys did trash a few wings of my home but hey, those were materialistic things.  They can be replaced and have been, but I’m willing to let bygones be bygones here.  I mean, I’m even the one inviting you up here with me.  I’ve buried the hatchet, and I think we can have a good relationship.”  He put his arm around me, but I swiftly smacked it off.  “I am not your friend, nor will I ever be.  You understand that now and there won’t be any need for you to invite me up next time.  You still have the stench of kidnapped bodies and missing women on you, and if it is the last thing I do, I will sniff it out.”

Mike glared at me and for a moment, I believed he was going to swing at me.  I wanted him to.  I was looking for a reason to put my fist to his jaw and send him crashing to the ground.  He was a few inches taller than me and as he peered in my direction, nostrils flaring, he decided against it and suddenly, a smile appeared across his face.  I was disappointed that he didn’t take his shot.  “Well, Detective, you are going to have a long road ahead of you, following a scent that is not even there.”  I squinted my eyes and looked around the room at the women that perused the VIP area.  Some walked around gauntly while others were smiling as if they were just happy to be around.  I made eye contact with her.  She sucked on her cigarette and blew the smoke out, then quickly turned away from me.  I knew who she was because I never forget a face.  I turned to Mike, “Thanks for bringing me up.  I’m sure we will bump heads later.”  He laughed, “Alright, Detective.  You can keep chasing ghosts and pass up on all these beautiful women.  I’ll tell you what, though, I will not make another offer for you to leave the slums and dine with a king.”  I stopped in my tracks as I walked away from him, wanting to turn back around and empty my clip into his chest.  He continued, “And if I catch you on my property again, harassing me with that nonsense, you will regret it.  I will make sure of it.” I took the cigar out of my pocket and relit it, leaving a cloud of smoke behind me as I left the VIP room.

My home was in shambles.  I hadn’t cleaned in over a month, but I didn’t see a need to.  I was barely home, and things seemed to be easier to find whenever I didn’t put them up somewhere.  I grabbed a cup of room temperature water from the table and took a few swallows of it.  Only God knew how long it had been there, but I didn’t care.  It wasn’t a time for me to be picky about it.  I pulled out my phone and flipped through the contact list until I got to his name.

“Donald.  I think we got a way in.  I saw Sherrie there, and she looks like she is mixed up with Mike.”

“Jesus, Allen, you’ve gotta leave that guy alone.  We’ve been embarrassed twice already by trying to put that guy’s name in some place that it doesn’t belong.”

“That’s bull, Don, and you know it.  We both know that Mike had somethin’ to do with-”

“Listen, Breeze, I hear you.  I hear you loud and clear, but it is not about what we know, it is what we can prove.  We can’t take some hair-brained case to the prosecution.  She will laugh us out of the office, and I know she will tell Lieutenant Branderson.  You know she will.”

“Alright, Don.”

He sighed,

“Listen, man, I’m sorry, alright?  I’m sorry, and you know I usually have your back on these things.  I had it when nobody else did.  I’m the one that went to his house with you when we didn’t even have a warrant, but enough is enough.  If he is guilty, it’ll show.  We just have to wait.”

“Yeah.  And in the meantime, those girls are going further and further into the sea of forgetfulness.”

There was a brief silence between us.  I knew he had already made his line in the sand, and he wasn’t going to cross it, so it would be up to me to find those girls.  I don’t know why it drove me to this point, but if I had to guess, it was because I know what a missing child can do to a family.  I’d seen first-hand how A.J.’s death ripped whatever strands were left of my marriage apart.  Not only my marriage but my reclusiveness had even driven me away from my family.  Instead of pulling everyone close together, it pushed me away.  As the silence lingered between us like a thick, morning fog, I hung up my phone and placed it on the crowded table.  What did I have to lose, I thought to myself as I picked up the glass of water and took another swallow.  The warm water slid down my throat like backwash as I looked around my apartment.  Nothing was hanging on the wall except a picture of A.J., his broad smile jetted across his face, exposing the missing front tooth that had fallen out just days before he was set to take his school pictures.  “It’s alright, man, the little girls will love your smile.  Just tell them you got into a fight and they won’t think twice of it.”  I remembered giving him that little pep talk the day before he was set to take the pictures.  I walked up to it and removed it from the glass so I could fold it and shove it into my pocket.  I wanted to make sure I had it with me because, for some reason, I knew I wasn’t going to be home.  Not for a while.

Strange Fruit in the Concrete Jungle – Snippet

I walked inside to inquire about where the help was needed.  An old man stood behind the register.  His round belly extended out further than it should have.  His suspenders went down his sides instead of his stomach; no belt would have a chance of reaching around his waist.  There were a few patrons in the store.  A tall, slender man stood in line with a carton of milk in his hand.  I took my place in line right behind him.  The store looked much different from the mom and pops stores in Idlewild.  No ceiling fans and no screen doors that popped when it crashed to a close.  It was very foreign to me.  A young woman walked past me and headed to the register where the over-sized man stood.  We made brief eye contacted.  I tipped the front of my hat towards her, and she smiled.  The man behind the counter noticed our interaction and slapped his hand on the table,

“Josephine! Stop flirtin’ with every man that walk through here and get behind this register before I find somebody more qualified to do this here work!”

She continued smiling at me as she walked towards the register, seemingly paying no attention to the old man’s threat.  The old man waddled from behind the counter.  I figured he was the one I needed to talk with.  I followed him towards the back of the store.

“Excuse me Mr.”

He kept walking as if he didn’t hear me.  I spoke a little louder as I stepped closer to him.  Still no response.  He was near his office when I finally reached out and grabbed him by his shoulder.

“Pardon me, suh.”

He spun around; his belly just inches from where I stood.  He had lit a cigarette on the way to his office, and it dangled out of his mouth as he spoke.  His voice was raspy, and his words seemed to all come out at once.  It sounded as if he was gargling his words,

“What can I do for ya?”

I took my hat off and held it in my hands,

“Well, Suh, I noticed you had a ‘help wanted’ sign outside your store.  I was hoping it was something here that I could help out with.”

“Ummhmm,” he said, looking me up and down.

He blew smoke from his cigarette into the air.  His goatee was almost entirely gray.  He was bald, except around the sides.  He had to have been close to 45 years old, but not more than 50.  He touched my biceps and shoulders.  I stood there, confused as to what he was doing.

“Where ya’ from?” he said, “ya’ talk like you ain’t from around these parts,” I responded as he continued checking me out, “I’m from Idlewild, TX suh.”  He spoke as soon as I finished talking like he knew when my sentence would end,

“Idlewild, huh? You say Idlewild?  So you come way up here to work for a mom-and-pop store?”

“No suh, I just need work for-”

He cut me off as I spoke,

“Pick up this here box,” he pointed to the bottom shelf, “and put it up here,” he pointed to the top shelf.  I placed my hat on the shelf and did what he asked.  “Ummmhmmm,” he said as the cigarette dangled out of his mouth.  I spoke up,

“I just need something to-” he cut me off again, “This is only gonna’ be temporary until my son gets outta’ jail.  When can you start?”  His words were too mumbled for me to understand him, “Suh?” I asked.  He took the cigarette out of his mouth and held it in his hands.  “I said when can you start? Are you hard a hearin’, too?” I could only make out a few words, but I guessed at what he said, hoping I was right, “I can start today.”  I guessed right.  “Hold on right here,” he mumbled as he placed the cigarette back in his mouth and walked back into his office.  I glanced around the mom-and-pop store.  It was larger than any store in Idlewild.  Josephine walked past the aisle I stood in, sweeping up the front of the market. Her dress stopped just below her knees.  Her hair was cut in a bobbed shape.  She wasn’t the prettiest woman, but by far, she wasn’t the ugliest.  It wasn’t her appearance that intrigued me, though; it was her aura.  She started down my aisle but quickly reversed her steps moments later when Leroy headed back in my direction.

“Here ya’ go,” he said, handing me an all-black apron, “You wear this when you come in tomorrow.  Your responsibilities will be to help keep the place clean. Sweeping, mopping and cleaning the restrooms. Stock the shelves, take out the trash and run errands for me when I need it.   Be here at 7 am.  Not 7:01, not 7:02, 7 am sharp.  If you are late, I dock ya’ pay for that day.”

“Thank you, suh,” I said as I held the apron in my hand.  He began walking away but turned around abruptly to say his last words, “And one last thing.  Do NOT mess with that girl here.  That girl right up front sweepin’ up.  You see that girl”, he grabbed my shoulders and pointed at her, then looked me in the eyes, “OFF. LIMITS. You hear me?”

“Yes suh, I hear you,”

I put my hat back on, and he released me so that I could head out of the store.  She smiled at me again when I walked out.  “Josephine!” the man yelled, “What I tell you, huh!?  Finish sweepin’ and then come round’ back here and sort these papers out!”  I had a feeling she would be trouble.

 

Chapter 3

 

It was 1 am when the phone rang.  I was too tired to get up to answer.  It was 2:20 am when I heard aggressive knocks at my door.  I lifted my head up, taking a moment to recollect myself as the knocks turned into bangs.  My bare feet slid lazily across the cool, wooden floor as I crept to the door.  “Who is it?” I asked in a raspy voice.  She yelled, “Ehhis, open up this door! Who else is comin’ over here before the rooster crows?!”  I was tempted to leave her outside, but I knew she would do nothing but bang louder until I opened up.  I opened the door, and she pushed her way past me before I could get a good look at her.  “Where is that Hussie at!?” She yelled as she frantically searched the apartment, “I know she’s in here! Where is she at!?”

She walked antagonistically through the apartment in a nightgown with a scarf over her head, opening and closing closet doors and cabinets in the pantry.  She looked under the bed and behind furniture.  I shook my head, walked lazily back to my bed and crept under the covers.  She turned on the lamp in my room moments later and stood at the foot of my bed. “Ehhis, where you been all day, huh?  I been calling you and calling you and you haven’t answered.  I even came by earlier today.  Now WHERE have you been negro?”  Her anger and foolishness were momentarily hidden by her beauty.  It had the innate ability to calm me down in heated moments.  I answered her peacefully, “I was out looking for work.”   She relaxed her stance, taking her hands off of her hips, “Oh,” she said, her voice beginning to soften.  I spoke, “I don’t do it as much as I should on account of all my time going to you.”  She sat down on the bed as I scooted my way into an upright position,

“Oh, so you’re gonna’ blame the fact that you don’t have a job on me?”

“Not entirely,” I said, “Besides, I found some work.”

She smiled,

“Well, I’ll say!”

I always thought it was incredible that she could go from extreme anger to happiness as quick a flip of the switch.

“Where bout, Ehhis?  Spill the beans.”

“At a mom-and-pop store a few blocks from here.”

“Well, when do you start?”

“Tomorrow.  7am”

She looked at my chain watch.

“Well, you need to be sleeping then!  It’s nearly 3 am!”

I shook my head in amazement at the range of emotions she exhibited in the last 10 minutes.  From rage to happiness, to concern. I spoke to her, “I was sleepin’ peacefully till’ you came in here with all that ruckus.”  She gently guided me back down on the bed and tucked me in.  Moments later, she turned off the light and was tucked in next to me on the other side.  “Ehhis, I’m sorry for acting a fool.  Sometimes, I just think the worst in situations like that.  I know you a good man, but that alone makes me think every woman in Harlem wants a piece of you.  I mean, not just that you’re a good person, but you’re quite a handsome fellow as well.  I’m just scared of losing you.”

The warmth of her body was comforting as she scooted closer to me and placed her arm on my stomach.  I responded as she readjusted herself.  “Yeah, but even with that, I have to be willing to go along with them if I was to cheat.  It’s all on me.”  She sighed, “I know Ehhis, I’m sorry, though, ok?  I’ma do better by you, I promise.  Now, let’s get some shut-eye.  You gotta’ get you some rest.  7 am ain’t slowin’ down on account of my craziness.”

My alarm went off at 6 am, and I slapped the clock on my nightstand to silence.  The abrupt movement caused my lady to re-adjust herself in the bed.  The room was sweltering.  A dry, humid air rested in the room on account of the window that was left open all night.  I looked at her.  She was still peacefully asleep, her face slightly glistening from sweat.  Her scarf had come off in the middle of the night and exposed the silky appearance of the hair that flowed from her head.  I gently moved the hair off her forehead and kissed her.  The sweat clung to my lips as I walked away from her.  She was a heavy sleeper.  I got out of bed, searched the closet for clothes and headed to the bathroom.  By the time I was cleaned up, the clock had read 6:44 am.  I walked back into the room.  She had kicked the covers onto the floor and was sprawled out on her back.  She only had on her undergarments.  Her thick thighs were exposed, resting peacefully on the top of the mattress.  Her breasts sat up perfectly inside her bra like they were wide awake, waiting to be released from their prison.  I walked over to her, running an ice cube across her forehead.  She opened her hazel eyes slowly.  I kissed her on the lips, and she smiled,

“Have a good day at work.”

I smiled and left.  The walk went quicker than I thought it would.  The street was quiet.  Much quieter than I had ever heard it.  Crickets chirped loud until the moment I got closer to them.  Street lights were flickering off.  A few men with factory clothes on came out of their apartments and headed down the same sidewalk with lunchboxes in their hands.  I looked down a little further, and a group of men with the same outfits stood at the bus stop.  We exchanged silent pleasantries as I walked past.  I got to the mom-and-pop store and tried to push the door open.  It was locked.  I cupped my hand to the glass door and peeked in, trying to see inside.  Seconds later, the store’s owner appeared seemingly out of nowhere and tapped the window.  Startled, I jumped back.  He peered at me from the other side of the glass, lip curled up like a Rottweiler, shaking his head with a cigarette hanging out his mouth.  He finally opened the door,

“Hey, you only five minutes early,” All of his words running together.  I looked at my chain watch, “Yes, suh.  You said sev-”, He cut me off,

“I know what I said. It’s 6:55, you may as well be late.”

“I’m sorr-,”

He cut me off again,

“Jus’ follow me,” he said as he tossed an apron into my chest.

I tied it around my waist and headed to the back of the store with him.  The girl I saw yesterday stood behind the counter as I walked past her.  She smiled as I bowed my head to her behind the owner’s back.  In the rear of the store, he barked out directions to me.

“Take these a here boxes and empty em’ out.  Everything in these boxes right here”, he pointed, “Go in aisle 5 and 6.  These a here boxes go in aisle 7 and 8.”  The cigarette hung onto the edge of his lips with each word.  He seemed like the type of person that preferred an early morning cigarette over a cup of coffee.

“Yes, suh,” I responded to him as he stood, waiting for me to get to work.

“Now, I needa’ run a couple of errands.  You have this done fore’ I get back, hear?”

“Yes Suh”

He waddled away from me, but not before he tossed me a box cutter.  The slim, silver case was cold in my hands.  It felt like I had officially begun my first job.  I started stacking the shelves with everything from peanut butter and crackers to paper towels and dish detergent.  I rehearsed poems in my head as I worked,

“This old gray haired man said he was sellin’ his soul because he was poor/and the pastor in church asked for so much offering that he thought he had to buy his way into heaven/he thought that heaven was only for rich men-“

“Scuse me,” She interrupted my train of thought.  I sliced another box open with the cutter as my silence made a response for me.  She spoke again, “I just figured you needed a towel or something.  It can get kinda’ warm in this establishment and you are building up quite a sweat back here.”  The sleeves of my white, collared shirt were rolled up midway on my forearm.  I wiped the sweat from my head with it.  “No ma’am, I can make it.  That was a mighty kind gesture, though.”  She seemed bashful, lowering her head towards the ground as she smiled.  She looked young, but could’ve passed for any age between 16 and 25.  Her body was fully grown, but it was her personality that threw me off.  “I don’t mean to pry,” she said, “but were you back here talkin’ to yourself before I showed up?”  I looked at her, picked up a box and carried it over to a shelf, “No ma’am.” I was terse with her.  The owner told me to stay away from her, and I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers.  She followed me to the shelf.  “Well, do you have an imaginary friend of some sort?”  I took a few things out of the box and neatly stacked them on the ledge, “no ma’am.”

There was an awkward silence between us as I wiped my forehead of sweat and unloaded the final objects from the box and headed back to the rear of the store.  She followed me again.  I prayed that someone would walk into the store so she would have to attend to them.  I hated to imagine what would happen if the owner came back into the store and saw us chit chatting after his explicit warning to me.  I took the box cutter and sliced open the next box.

“Listen,” she said, “I don’t know if you shy or just rude.  I’m hoping you just a shy country boy in a new city.  How do I know you from the country? Cuz yo’ tongue is the laziest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.  Now, before I jump to the conclusion, I want to ask you.  Did my Uncle say anything to you to have you actin this a way towards me?”

The way she spoke to me led me to believe that she was much more mature that what she initially seemed.  She was a lot more aggressive and straight forward than I pegged her to be.  I took another box and headed back towards the shelf.  She followed me around like a little sister.  I spoke as I placed more items on the ledge,

“He just said that I need to keep my distance from you, you know.  And I don’t wanna’ disobey his orders.  I don’t wanna’ get fired on account of speakin’ with you.”  She let out a laugh from the pit of her belly, “Shoot, that old hound said that?  I tell ya’, that man is so over-protective of me.  Ever since my dad passed a few years back, he’s been this bodyguard type of old man for me.  Well, at least that’s what he thinks he is.  If he had his way, I’d die old and alone.  In his eyes, no man is right for me.  They all cheaters and dogs.  I just say that’s karma for him, ya’ know?  He must’ve been some kinda’ womanizer in his day.”

I let out a chuckle.  I couldn’t imagine him being a womanizer.  I believed his appearance hit its peak when he was born, and it went downhill from there.  She continued, “I am a 24-year-old woman,” she put her hands on her hips as if she was posing for a photograph, “he can’t keep me away from men for forever,” I smiled,

“I understand, but as I say, ma’am, I just don’t wanna’ be the cause’ of no trouble round’ here and end up losin’ the first real job I ever had.”

“Honey, don’t worry bout’ that.  As long as I like ya’, you’re gonna’ be here.  I am the apple of his eye and believe it or not,” She held up her pinky, “I got Uncle Leroy wrapped around this pretty little finger of mine.”  I placed more items on the shelf.

“Now, is you gonna’ tell me what you was sayin’ before I came back here or will I just have to introduce myself to your imaginary friend?”

I laughed.

“It was poetry, ma’am.”

“Poetry?” I headed towards the back to get another box, and she was right there with me with each step, “Yes, Poetry.  Why did you respond that way?”

“Because, I’ve…never actually met a poet before.  Can I hear something?”

I cut the box open and wiped more sweat from my brow, “Not right now.  I’m a Lil’ busy.” I picked the box up and carried it to the aisle.“Oh, come on.  You were just back here sayin’ one to yo’ imaginary friend just a few moments ago.”  I stacked the ledge,

“That’s mighty funny of ya.’”

“Well, let me hear it!”

“Maybe another time.”

She twirled her hair playfully as she leaned against the shelf.

“Fine, I won’t push anymore.  It’s a spot that just opened up over on 125th.  They play jazz music there.  Maybe we can check it out.  I used to date a guy that does security for them and reckon we still on good terms.  Maybe I can get us in for no charge.  It might spark some creativity in you, or you could make some umm… poetry connections or something.”

She finally had gotten my full attention.  I thought her suggestion wasn’t a bad idea.  I could check out the place and maybe it would lead to more opportunities.  Besides, I never thought of how my poetry would sound behind something like a live band.  My imagination began flowing as soon as she mentioned jazz music and the excitement burst out of my mouth in the form of an unexpected question,

“How would we get there?”

“I can drive Uncle Leroy’s car.  The band plays on Thursday nights, so clear ya’ schedule next week.”

“Will do.”

“Just remember,” she said with raised eyebrows, “you owe me.  But, instead of money, you can pay me in poetry.  And I’d like my payment upfront.”

I smiled, “Ok, I guess I can give it to you now.”  She clapped her hands as a big smile jetted across her face.  Just as I began saying the poem, the bell rung on top of the front door of the store.  It was the day’s first customer.  She slapped her hands together,

“You lucky scoundrel!”

I laughed as she headed towards the front of the store.  My words followed her down the aisle as she scurried away, “You’ll get your payment, I promise!”  She turned back towards me as she continued walking, “Oh, I know I will! I’m not the least bit worried about that!”  I couldn’t tell if she was flirting or if she was just a friendly person, but if I had to choose, it would be the latter.  I smiled to myself when she was out of sight.  After I had wiped more sweat from my head, I yelled towards the front of the store, “Oh, and I could use one of them towels now, ma’am! Please.”  She yelled back, “Ok!”  There was a brief pause; then she yelled again, “And stop calling me ma’am like I’m 50-leven years old!  My name is Josephine!”