You’ll say these boys was a victim of the culture. That they was done in by music, movies, TV. You’ll call it senseless. You weren’t there. You couldn’t smell the electric air as them big dark clouds piled up in the sky along battle lines drawn by God Hisself. You couldn’t see the nervous look on the tallest boy’s face as I braked my dirt bike and turned to see who shouted at me.
I need glasses, but I ain’t wearing none today because I broke my last pair on my bedroom floor.
“Nigga, you squint like Clint Eastwood,” my niece Yvonne said when we was just chatting away after church a couple Sundays ago. “You didn’t look like no convict til you lost them specs.”
* * *
“We Hollygrove, nigga,” the littlest boy said. His blue and yellow polo shirt was all rumpled up like he slept in it. Today Wednesday, so he ain’t been to school—Ain’t a single one in town lets the kids go without uniforms. “We stay rollin’ niggas like you.”
“Y’all need to get the hell on back to Hollygrove, then.” I said. I smiled a little when I said it, so they’d know I didn’t mean no harm.
“The fuck you said, old man?” The little one said. “Slim-Jim Beef-Jerky-lookin muhfucka.”
“‘Slim Jim.’” I laughed. “That’s good.”
The tall one shook his head and cracked a smile, grateful for the joke. “Ain’t nobody bootin’ up.”
“What y’all doing in Central City?” I said.
“Messiyah owe me twelve dollars,” the fat one said. He didn’t say it angry, neither. He he spoke like we was just talking, but in a different conversation.
My cousin Lamont stabbed my Mamaw to death one day, just all of a sudden. You couldn’t conversate with Lamont. His mind was never just in the one place. You’d be talking to him bout girls or music or cars, and he’d say something ain’t had nothing to do with it. Like, “That nigga Charlie done did me dirty.” And next thing you know, Charlie had his hand broke in the door of his uncle’s Caddy and couldn’t tell nobody how it happened.
This boy was like that. Out to lunch. I didn’t even know he was strapped. I just knew his fat ass was dangerous, and he was liable to be dangerous at somebody, ya feel me? So I headed on round the corner where Geeno was hanging with his lady. He had my piece in the back of his Benz.
* * *
People talk about remorse. Gotta have remorse. Otherwise you a monster ain’t got no soul. Look at my eyes. I’m sorry. I’m sorry as it gets. What I been through in my life taught me not to let on too much what’s going on inside me, dig?
The tall one and the other one? They got caught up in it. They mighta been nice kids. I ain’t sorry bout the fat one, though. That kid woulda hurt somebody sooner or later. Bad. You ain’t never gonna find out now, cause I aired the muthafucka out. You a detective, though. You done looked killers in the eye. You lookin me in my eye right now.
Baby, I’m for real for real. I know I’m going back Inside, but I’m telling you. I am telling. You.
That’s all I got to say. I know my rights.
Alex Jennings lives in Central City New Orleans. He knows his rights.