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Memorial Day Weekend

By Harry Banks

 

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    Howard was at work, sitting in his cubicle, going through a stack of purchase orders that he still had yet to call in. Being a purchasing assistant, he was always given the tasks that none of the purchasing coordinators or buyers wanted to do, and the placing of orders was one of the tasks that everybody hated. While Howard and the other five purchasing assistants spent most of the work day on the phone, tediously placing orders, the purchasing coordinators handled multiple tasks, such as resolving invoice discrepancies with accounting, returning goods to vendors, and entering data into the computer system to create purchase orders.

    The buyers were the ones who got all the gravy. Their base pay was $38,000 a year, but they also received bonuses and incentives depending on how much money they could save the company by purchasing items for the lowest price. They spent most of the day out in the field, away from the stuffy office, negotiating prices and contracts with various vendors.

    Howard’s job as a purchasing assistant was boring, but he couldn’t complain, because with the raise that he got at the beginning of the year, he was making $12 an hour. With no wife or kids to support, that was good money for him.

    Just as he was about to count the purchase orders to see exactly how many he had to call in in the three hours that remained of his work day, he heard Valerie ask him, “Hey Howard, what are you doing for Memorial Day weekend?” She had been standing outside of his cubicle, watching him for about ten seconds, but he had no idea that she was there. She had her purse and backpack with her, which meant that either she was leaving early, or had an afternoon appointment with a sales representative and had no intentions of returning to the office when the appointment was over. Valerie, being a buyer, had like that.

    It was a pleasant surprise, because when Howard looked up at her he couldn’t help but smile. “Um…Nothing, I don’t have any plans.”

    Valerie put her backpack on the floor, walked into Howard’s cubicle, and sat on his desk, crossing her legs. “Well there’s a cookout that a friend of Lisa is having. He told her that she could bring a few friends if she wants to, so you and I are invited.”

    Howard swiveled his chair around so that his whole body could face Valerie. “Yeah, I’ll be glad to go. What day are they having it?”

    “Saturday, around five ‘o clock.”

    “It sounds like fun.”

    Valerie smiled, the gleam in her brown eyes hinting at mischief. “There are going to be a lot of girls there too,” she said, adding sweetly, “So maybe you should go.”

    “You know I’m going to be there,” said Howard, “I’m not passing up on no barbeque.”

    Valerie took a nail file out of her purse, and began filing her healthy nails. She had obviously made her fine self comfortable in Howard’s desk, and Howard liked that. That light complexion that was tinged with an orange hue, the straight brown hair, the long nose that was curved slightly at the bridge, the juicy lips, the warm brown eyes that never showed any coldness even when Valerie was mad or upset- Howard didn’t mind Valerie bothering him at his desk at all, and was feasting on her presence. Although Valerie was only a good friend who was just being nice, Howard secretly yearned her, just as he did Lisa. But he kept all that on the down low, for he didn’t want to ruin good friendships by letting his male urges get in the way.

    Still filing her nails, Valerie asked, “How is the Tonya situation going?”

    “Well it’s been over a month, so I’m getting use to not being with her anymore,” said Howard.

    Valerie put her nail file back into her purse, took out some lipstick and a small mirror, and looked at Howard. “Well, Howard, I know I’ve said this before, but she is young,” she said, adding, “And a bit immature.” Valerie looked away from Howard briefly, then looked at him again, saying, “Just another fast, around-the-way girl.”

    Howard regarded what Valerie said, and thought about what Tonya had become. A two-faced, lying, freak. Valerie is right, he thought. That thing I had with Tonya wasn’t really all that.

    Valerie looked into her compact mirror, and began re-applying her lipstick. When she was done, she put her works back into her purse, and snickered. Howard laughed also, because he knew exactly what Valerie was laughing about. Lisa was on the other side of the office in her cubicle, getting loud with somebody on the phone. She was trying to explain to an accounts payable clerk that since she was only a purchasing coordinator, she didn’t have the authority to go into the computer system to change a price of an item without the prior consent of the head buyer or the purchasing manager. Apparently the accounts payable clerk was having a difficult time understanding that, and insisted that Lisa change the price of the item, which angered Lisa. It was common knowledge in the entire company that the accounts payable clerks were a bunch of simps, and Howard and Valerie thought it was hilarious listening to Lisa deal with one of them. When they heard Lisa hang up on the accounts payable clerk by slamming her phone down, they were in stitches.

    Still laughing, Valerie asked, “So, Howard, how is your little chocolate Chinese monkey doing?” Valerie referred to Derek as a chocolate Chinese monkey because of his Asian-like eyes, and short, stocky build. Also contributing to his monkey looks were his lack of a mustache, bushy sideburns, very large teeth, and wide mouth.

    “Derek? He’s doing fine I suppose,” said Howard, “Other than seeing him here at work, I haven’t hung out with him in about a week.”

    Valerie hopped off of Howard’s desk. “Well, it’s time for me to get out of here Howard,” she said, walking out of his cubicle, and picking up her backpack, “I’ll see you later, okay? And don’t forget about Saturday.”

    “I won’t,” said Howard. “Can Derek roll with us?” He really wanted Derek to go, because he needed Derek there for comedy relief just in case the other people there ended up being stiffs.

    “No,” said Valerie. To give her answer finality she turned away from Howard, and was out of the office in a matter of seconds. Howard laughed to himself because he knew what Valerie’s answer was going to be even before he asked her. 

 

 

    On Memorial Day, at the dinner table inside a $625k home in Olathe, Kansas, a suburban town located 25 miles southwest of Kansas City, a black girl in her early 20s was saying, “These steaks are good Daddy. You’re going to have to give me your recipe soon.”

    Pete Spottswood looked at his oldest daughter, and smiled. “Thanks Victoria, but you know the deal. You’re not getting any recipes until you find someone to share them with. If you know what I mean.”

    “That’s right,” said Cheryl, Pete’s wife.

    Victoria frowned at both of her parents. “Don’t worry people. I’ll get married when I’m in my thirties. I’m only twenty-three now.”

    Pete and Cheryl both laughed at their daughter. They loved playing that game with her. “We know,” said Cheryl, “We’re just playing.”

    Victoria’s sister, Alicia finally spoke up for the first time during supper, saying, “Victoria, it’s four o’ clock now. Dillard’s closes early today. So if we’re going to hit that sale we need to leave now.”

    Victoria looked at her old Swatch watch. “Oh shit,” she said, getting up from the table, “Well, people, I don’t mean to be rude, but me and Alicia need to go to Dillard’s before they close at five. Can we be excused?”

    “Of course you can,” said Pete, “Just do me a favor.” He reached into his wallet, took out an American Express credit card, and handed it to Victoria. “I need the BMW filled up if you wouldn’t mind. The keys are upstairs on my nightstand.”

    Victoria smiled. “No problem Daddy,” she said, putting the plastic money into her pocket. She always enjoyed driving his BMW. It beat driving her own little Toyota Supra any day.

    Alicia got up from the table also. “Okay sis, let’s get to Oak Park Mall before it’s too late.”

    “Okay, I’m ready,” said Victoria. Both girls picked their plates and glasses up from the table, and took them into the kitchen. Just before walking out the kitchen door, Victoria called out to her parents, “We’ll see you guys in a couple of hours.” Then Alicia called out, “Yeah, we’ll see ya.” Within sixty seconds the girls were inside their father’s BMW 725i, heading down the street.

    Back at the dinner table, Cheryl was staring at her husband. There was an issue between them that needed to be resolved, but Pete kept avoiding the conflict.

    “So, Pete, what time are we going to leave to go take that money to your brother Earl?” asked Cheryl.

    “He wants me to meet him at his house at nine ‘o clock, so I’ll leave here at about eight-fifteen or so.”

    “I can’t let you go up there by yourself Pete, you know that Wyandotte County is a dangerous area.”

    Pete was getting pissed off now. “Dangerous my ass,” he said, “I grew up there. I should be able to go up there anytime I feel like it without having to be hassled by some young punk carrying a gun.”

    “Well, I agree with all that, but I won’t be able to rest easy if you go up there by yourself.”

    Pete couldn’t help but smile at his wife’s concern for him. “Cheryl, I don’t like it, but if you want to go on this trip with me you can. Besides, I could use the company.”

    The worried look on Cheryl’s dark-brown face turned into a smile. “That’s better,” she said. “Now I have one question. Where exactly in Wyandotte County is your brother Earl staying now?”

    A look that only could be described as nostalgia appeared on Pete’s lean face. “Get this,” he said, “He’s living with some friends in a house right across the street from the house that we grew up in.” He paused, savoring the moment of memories. Then he continued, “A big brick house right off Quindaro Boulevard. That’s where we grew up.”

 

 

    Four hours later, Willy Young, a borderline psychotic with an oversized head, was prowling the side streets and back alleys of the Quindaro area, looking for a group of teenagers who were riding around in a raggedy 1968 Grand Prix with the headlights off.

He had his Glock 17L pistol with him, and was mad mad angry because the group of young gang bangers in the Grand Prix had just punked him.

    Earlier, Willy was walking down Quindaro Boulevard, minding his own business. He was strutting down the sidewalk with his chest sticking out, as though he was looking for a fight, daring somebody to try and start something with him. But Willy wasn’t looking for any trouble of any kind. It was simply in his genes to display suck cockiness when he walked. The teenagers in the Grand Prix, however, didn’t see it that way. They wanted to mess with him since he looked like such a tough guy walking menacingly down the sidewalk. The driver of the Grand Prix was asked to pull over by a young man riding in the back who had an UZI. The driver pulled the car over to the curb about forty yards in front of Willy. The young man sitting in the back seat on the passenger side waited until Willy was about ten yards from the car, then leaned out the window with his UZI pointed at Willy. “Break yo’self bitch! Break yo’self!” Willy stopped in his tracks, and was scared shitless, because he thought for sure that he was going to be yet another victim of senseless violence. But when the young man with the UZI laughed and pulled himself back through the window as the car sped away, Willy was relieved. The relief soon turned to white-hot anger when he thought of having an UZI pulled on him by a total stranger. He was so angry that he turned around and walked in the other direction, heading for his little shack to get his own weapon. He wasn’t going to let those punks get away with what they just did. He knew what they were up to, and knew that he’d see them again before the night was over. When I see those bitch muthafuckas I’m just gonna start shootin’, he thought. I don’t care who’s around. I really don’t give a fuck.

 

 

    “Are you alright, Anthony?”

    That question was asked by Michael Thurmond, a husky teenager who had a head that was shaped like an upside-down pear, and a body that was shaped like a potato. The UZI was laying in his lap, and he was high off marijuana, chillin’, riding in the backseat of a 1968 Grand Prix, enjoying the night of initiating his classmate Anthony White into the gang.

    “Yeah, I’m okay,” Anthony replied nervously, as a loaded AK-47 weighed heavily on his lap. The truth was, he wasn’t okay, because he was going to have to do something that night that he didn’t really want to do.

    Anthony was really a lonely young man, a nerd who joined the gang because of the social benefits. The girls, the partys, the marijuana. Something had been missing in Anthony’s life, and he felt that he found it when he started hanging out with his classmate and long-time friend Michael Thurmond and his gang of friends.

    One day, when Anthony was walking home from Wyandotte Central, the school that he attended, he was approached by Michael. “Hey, man,” said Michael, “You ought to come on over to my house later on so we can go to this party. There are gonna be a lot of freaks there ya know?”

    Anthony, flabbergasted that he was actually invited to a party, said, “Cool, I’ll be there.”   

    Even though it was a school night Anthony’s mother let him go to the party, because he had been such an excellent student and a trouble-free son. Anthony was to find out that it wasn’t really a party, at least not the kind of party that he had envisioned. The so-called party took place in a large garage located in the outskirts of Kansas City, Kansas, near the Fairfax industrial district. It was mainly a gathering of about thirty young men, most of them wearing black. The smell of marijuana and the sound of old early 70s soul music was in the air. Many brown hands held 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor. There were also several females there, but they were not teenagers like the young men who were at the party. All of the women were fine, and seemed to be in their late twenties. Michael introduced Anthony around, and got him drunk. Anthony enjoyed himself thoroughly, and ended up hanging out with Michael and his gang more often. His grades began to slip a little, but he found himself smoking the best weed and having sex with women who were more than willing. The girls, the parties, the marijuana. Anthony was na´ve enough to believe that all of those things came without a price.

    Now he found himself riding in the back seat of a raggedy gangmobile with an AK-47 in his lap.

    Earlier in the evening, when he was hanging out and smoking weed in the basement of one of the gang member’s grandmother’s house, he was enjoying himself, finally happy that he was being accepted. But when his friend Michael offered him the loaded AK-47, and said, “Here, Anthony. This is part of initiation. You’re gonna have to smoke somebody tonight”, he realized exactly what kind of gang he was involved with.

    His knee-jerk reaction to Michael’s request was, “Naw man, I can’t.” There were twelve gang members in the basement, and the room had been filled with the buzz of their laughter and banter, but when Anthony uttered the words “I can’t”, everybody suddenly became silent. There was a grimness in the room, which seemed to go well with the sinister sounds of the very slowed-down funky worm-driven gansta rap music coming out of the stereo speakers. Michael just tossed the weapon onto Anthony’s lap, and sat down in a nearby chair. He was only a soldier, and it wasn’t his job to force Anthony to do something that he really didn’t have the heart for. He left that task to Snoopy G, the leader of the gang. Two years before, Snoopy G left a Crip gang in Wichita, Kansas so that he could start a gang of his own in the place that he was raised, Kansas City, Kansas. At 20 years old, he was the eldest member of the gang. He was tall, dark, strong-willed, and had the talent of getting people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do.

    He approached Anthony, the bleakness in his black eyes making Anthony swallow hard. “What do you mean you can’t?” asked Snoopy G. “For two months we been letting you smoke the best weed with us, invited you to our parties, hooked you up with the best pussy in Wyandotte County.” Snoopy G paused long enough to let a smile brighten his dark-chocolate face, then continued, “Anthony, my man, remember that twenty-seven year old, light-skinned bitch from last week?”

    Anthony grinned big. “Ohhh yeah, Brenda, I remember her for real.”

    The look of coldness replaced the sunny smile on Snoopy G’s face in an instant. “For two months we hook you up with nice, old freaks like Brenda, and you can’t even do us a favor in return?” It was a yes or no question, but Anthony didn’t know what to say. He was afraid of what would happen to him if he refused again, so he agreed to go along with it. Maybe I can just shoot the victim in the leg or something like that, he thought.

    “Okay,” he said nervously, “I’ll do it.”

    The sunshine returned to Snoopy G’s face. “My man,” he said proudly, “I knew you had it in you.” Snoopy G turned to June Bugg, a tall, skinny boy who was sitting in a far corner of the basement, smoking a blunt. “Yo, June Bugg, come here right quick,” he ordered, digging in the pocket of his brown Dickies for a set of car keys, “I want you to do the driving.” June Bugg extinguished his blunt, got up, and walked over to Snoopy G. Snoopy G handed the car keys to June Bugg, and turned to Michael. “We need you to roll with us Michael,” he said. “You got the UZI?”

    Michael replied, “Yeah man, it’s in the trunk.”

    Snoopy G put a black skull cap on his head, although it was too warm outside for it. “Alright then, cool,” he said, the grimness in his eyes contrasting starkly with the big smile that his mouth had formed, “Let’s go.”

    Anthony, Michael, June Bugg, and Snoopy G began walking up the stairs.

    While walking up the long flight of stairs, Anthony was thinking of high school graduation being just four days away. He thought about his upcoming August departure to Columbia, Missouri to enroll in college, and figured that the summer of gang banging would go by fast. This shit will be over in a few months when I leave for college, he thought. Then these niggas will never see my ass again.     

    When Snoopy G was halfway up the stairs, he called out to the other nine members of his gang, “We’ll see the rest of y’all fellas later. Be at the garage at midnight.” He didn’t even hang around to listen to their responses.  He ran up the rest of the stairs to join Anthony, Michael, and June Bugg, who were waiting in the kitchen for him. When he got to the kitchen, he got a black trash bag from under the sink, and handed it to Anthony so that he could wrap the AK-47 in it. With the exception of Snoopy G briefing Anthony on what they were going to do and how it was to be done, not a word was said as the four young men walked out the back door, and around the house to the 1968 Grand Prix that was parked in the front.

   

 

    For no reason other than having nothing better to do, Howard and Derek were riding down Quindaro Boulevard with a couple of friends of Derek.

    Light-skinned, curly-haired Larry was at the wheel of his brand-new Maxima, while Howard and Derek sat in the back. Larry’s cousin Jeff, who had the same aristocratic features that he did, was riding in the passenger seat, getting on everybody’s nerves with his wack-ass freestyle raps. Every ten minutes, Jeff would bust a rhyme that would be so embarrassingly stupid that it would make Howard cringe, and cause Derek to shake his head with his hands covering his face. Larry would simply say something to Jeff like, “Man just shut the fuck up!” But none of that would deter Jeff and his dreams of becoming the first rapper from Alexandria, Virginia to become famous. Coming up with senseless material like, I’m Jeffy B/You know me/I ain’t no punk/Everyday I shoot myself a nigga/Then go and eat some lunch, Jeff would really think that he was hip-hop, when in fact he’d get laughed out of any freestyle battle.

    All four young men in the car were really bored out of their minds, and was basically  savoring the last moments of Memorial Day weekend before the inevitable return to their jobs on Tuesday morning. Nobody in the car actually lived anywhere near the Quindaro area, so what they were doing was “slumming”, checking out the people, places, and things in the hood.

    Noticing the hard stares of young men and women who were walking and standing along the street, Larry said, “Damn man, a nigga can’t drive down the street in a nice car without niggas lookin’ all hard in his shit.”

    Jeff chuckled. “Well, you know their just checkin’ you out,” he said, “A white-lookin’ black man driving through their hood in a brand-new Maxima with Johnson County plates? Shit, nigga, they think you a baller.”

    “Both of y’all perpetratin’,” said Derek, laughing, “Tryin’ to talk all hard. Nigga this and nigga that.” He paused briefly, nudging Howard with his elbow, then continued, “Neither one of y’all was like that when we were in high school. Hell, even when we was in college, y’all were still nerds, tryin’ to be like Theo Huxtable (and shit).”

    Neither one of the tall, skinny young men in the front of the car said anything, because they knew that Derek was telling the truth. But it was cool with them because their nerdy past didn’t matter. What mattered to Larry and Jeff was the here and now, and as pretentious as they were, they were going to play that hardcore gangsta image to the hilt. Howard knew that they were frontin’, but he didn’t mind being around them that evening, because he needed something to laugh at.

    “What were you like back in the day, in Virginia?” he asked Derek.

    Derek smiled at the opportunity to reminisce and set the record straight. “Howard, my nigga,” he began proudly, “Check this out man. When y’all niggas was rockin’ jheri curls, flat tops, Kangols, gold chains, and Fila gear, I was wearing khakis that hung so low that you could see my boxer shorts. Ya’ll was spending seventy and eighty dollars on Air Jordans and British Knights while I was bouncin’ around in my ten-dollar Chuck Taylors.” Derek paused for a minute, because he was really enjoying his moment of reflection. “Yeah,” he began, “Back in 1983 I was laughed out of a dance that we were having in the gym because I wore a pair of Levis that were eight sizes too big, a sock hat, and a tank top that was way too long, but look at niggas now. Look what they wearin’ now.”

    “Is all that shit Derek just said true?” Howard asked no one in particular.

    “Yeah, it’s true,” said Larry, “We thought he was crazy dressing that way.”

    Jeff put his two cents in, saying, “But in the eleventh grade when he started ridin’ to school on that lowrider Schwinn bicycle with the gold rims and white walls on the tires, we knew he was that shit, and wanted to be…” Interrupting Jeff, Howard said to Derek, “Lowrider bicycle? Damn, I thought that was just a New York thing.”

    “Nah,” said Derek, “My metal shop teacher showed me how to hook that shit up, that’s all.” Changing the subject to two fine young ladies that he wanted to go out with, Derek said to Howard, “Yo, Howard. What’s up on Lisa and Valerie? They fine than a muthafucka.”

    Howard laughed, because Derek asked him that same question several times a week, knowing that they couldn’t stand him.

    “Stop laughin’,” said Derek, laughing himself, “It ain’t funny. Shit, I know both of them givin’ you the pussy.” Derek laughed hard, while Howard only smiled at his nonsense. With laughter still in his voice, Derek added, “You be up in Valerie’s condo and Lisa’s apartment knockin’ it out, huh.”

    “Nigga please,” said Howard, “I’m just friends with both of those girls. If you would act differently around them, they’d treat you with respect too.”

    Derek, ever the clown, said, “Fuck respect. I just wanna get under they skirt.” Everybody, including Howard laughed at that one. But the two men up front laughed a little too hard, which annoyed Howard.

    Jeff turned around to face Howard with a bright smile on his face that made him look like Leave It To Beaver’s Eddie Haskell. “Damn, man if these bitches are as fine as Derek say they are, why don’t you get us in good with them.”

    Howard couldn’t hold back. “They wouldn’t have anything to do with either one of y’all nerd muthafuckas anyway,” he said, “You can believe that.” A look of hurt appeared on Jeff’s face, and he turned back around. He and Larry had just been insulted, but neither one of them had the balls to stand up to Howard.

    Jeff and Larry had been getting on Howard’s nerves all evening with their wannabe gangsta-ism and he tolerated it, but when Jeff referred to his best friends Lisa and Valerie as bitches, he had to give the fake gangstas a piece of his mind. Derek snickered, and laughed quietly to himself when Howard told his old friends off.

    They rode in silence for a little while. Howard apparently broke the spirit of the two riding in the front, because neither one of them made a sound or a gesture. The only thing that could be heard was Digable Planet’s first album that was playing in the tape deck. But the volume was too low for Howard’s taste.

    “Turn that mutherfuckin’ shit up, man,” he ordered.

    Jeff turned the volume up instantly, because he knew that if he or his cousin did anything else to offend Derek’s powerfully-built friend, they’d be victims of a beatdown.

    Larry stopped the car at a red light on 12th Street.

    “Make a left when the light turns green, punk!” said Howard. He couldn’t help but laugh. He was enjoying taking charge, and being an asshole in somebody else’s car. Derek laughed hard, muffling the sound of his laughter by covering his mouth. He was enjoying this, watching his new friend Howard punk his two old friends who thought they were so “real”.

    When the light turned green, Larry pressed on the accelerator, and made the left turn. “Where are we supposed to be going?” he snapped.

    “I don’t know,” said Derek, that smirk still on his face.

    “Bitch, you gettin’ a little attitude?” Howard asked Larry.

    Larry had enough of being punked in his own car. He’d spent too much time learning street talk and street mannerisms to go out like this. “Big man, you can just get yo’ muthafuckin’ ass out of my car,” he said. Although he tried to sound like a hard ass, his voice was shaky and weak, which caused Howard and Derek to laugh. But Jeff didn’t join in on the laughter because he was so scared that Howard was going to beat the shit out of his cousin.

    Suddenly, Howard stopped laughing. “Well, Larry my man, you ain’t puttin’ me out of this car without gettin’ your skinny ass kicked. Is a broken collar bone worth me being put out of your nice ride?” The earnestness and seriousness in Howard’s voice let Larry know that he meant business. Larry said nothing more in protest.

    Traveling north, they came upon a stretch of 12th Street that seemed deserted and dark. Not a soul was around in the enveloping darkness. There were many shacks that tried to pass as houses along the street, and they all had yards that had seen better days.

    Someone was driving an approaching vehicle that had the headlights turned off. It was about forty yards away, and was going eerily slow. Howard and Derek knew what was up, and knew for damn sure that whoever was in the car was up to no good.

    When the 1968 Grand Prix was twenty yards away from Larry’s car, Jeff said, “Man, flash your brights at those punk-ass muthafuckas.” Larry was just about to flash his high beams until cries of “NO!” and “DON’T!” came from the mouths of Derek and Howard, as the raggedy old Grand Prix drove past the Maxima.

    Puzzled, Jeff turned around to face Derek. “Why not? You see that they…” Howard and Derek both interrupted him at the same time, Howard saying, “Y’all need to take y’all country asses back to Virginia. I swear, y’all try to act all hard, but don’t know shit!”, and Derek saying, “You tryin’ to get us killed up in here?”

    Both of the light-skinned boys in the front were still confused, and had no idea of what was going on. “Derek, tell me why I couldn’t flash my high beams at those fools,” asked Larry.

    “It’s a gang, man,” said Derek, “When they initiate a new member into the gang, they ride around with they headlights turned off. Then when someone stupid enough flashes they lights at them, the chase is on. The gangmobile chases the driver of the car who flashed them, and when they get close enough they just start blastin’. And, I’m not talkin’ about no pistols either. These fools use UZIs just to make sure they kill yo’ ass.”

    Chills of fear went up and down the spines of Jeff and Larry. “Oh shit,” they said in unison.

    Driving past a cemetery, Larry had no idea of where they were headed to in the night. In a friendly manner he asked Howard where they were headed. Howard told him to make a right at the next street. A few minutes later, he was told to make a right on 10th Street. As they passed Parkwood Elementary School, a nostalgic Howard said, “Yo, fellas that’s my old school there. These are my old stompin’ grounds.”

    Larry sighed. He had no control over the flippancy that was a big part of his personality. To Howard he said, “You have us driving all over the fuckin’ town just so you can show us where you went to school?”

    Howard smacked Jeff hard on the back of his neck, making him see stars. “Ow!” said Jeff, turning around to face Howard, while pressing his body against the dashboard as far away from him as possible. “Why did you do that? I didn’t do anything.” Derek began laughing at him again.

    Howard looked coldly at Jeff. “That’s for not checkin’ yo’ ho,” he said, “Everytime that bitch Larry says some stupid shit I’m gonna slap you around. So you better talk to him.”

    Jeff turned back around, and situated himself in the seat, as Larry sighed and stopped the car at a red light on 10th & Quindaro. Derek was still laughing quietly, while thinking, Damn, Larry and Jeff ain’t nothin’ but some punks.

    When the light turned green, Larry pressed his foot on the accelerator, and was contemplating calling it a night and heading back to Derek’s apartment out on 82nd Street so that he could get rid of him and his wise-ass friend Howard. But the sudden WHOOOP of a police siren of a black and white cruiser that seemed to come out of nowhere put a hold on Larry’s plans. The cruiser was directly behind the Maxima, so Larry pulled over.

    “Oh shit,” Howard, Derek, and Jeff said at about the same time.

    Larry was pissed, not at the police officers, but at Derek and Howard. Earlier that evening, he and Jeff went over to Derek’s apartment to hang out and talk shit with him. Neither Larry or Jeff had any idea that they would end up spending the evening getting punked by the big, dark chocolate-complexioned ruffneck who was riding in the back seat. Now, as far as Larry was concerned, being in Howard’s company was getting old, and the first thing he was going to do after the police officers checked them out was take the fastest route to Derek’s house, drop Derek and Howard off, and hopefully never see Howard again. 

    Both police officers got out of their cruiser, and approached the Maxima, one officer going to the driver’s side, the other going to the passenger side.

    Several miles away, Pete and Cheryl Spottswood were in a Chevy Suburban, heading north on I-635. Pete was behind the wheel, trying to decide which exit to take. State Avenue, Parallel Parkway, or 38th Street. It really didn’t matter to him a whole lot though. All he was concerned about was getting the entire trip over with. As far as he knew from what he’d read in local newspapers and what he saw on local news broadcasts, Wyandotte County was a very dangerous area, and he really didn’t want to be in it. That is why he didn’t want his wife Cheryl going with him on this trip in the first place. Things sure have changed a lot around here since we left in 1987, he thought, as he pulled the SUV from the middle lane to the left lane and passed the slowpoke in the Nissan Stanza who had been slowing him down.

    Cheryl didn’t know it, but Pete had his .357 Magnum sitting under his seat. Because the chances of being accosted were great, he brought it for their own protection, but he knew that Cheryl would have a fit if she found out that he brought the gun along. That is why he asked her to find their checkbook that he had purposely hidden. He needed Cheryl to waste a few extra minutes looking for the checkbook so that he could have time to sneak the weapon out to the SUV.

    After Pete passed Indian Springs Mall, he pulled the Chevy Suburban back into the middle lane, then the right lane so that he could take the upcoming 38th Street exit.

    After exiting I-635 and driving up 38th Street, Pete stopped at a red light on Leavenworth Road. The light seemed to stay red forever, as Pete and his wife Cheryl were both lost in their own thoughts.

    When the light finally turned green, Pete made a right on Leavenworth Road, which instantly turned into Brown Avenue. The run-down houses, greasy spoons, liquor stores, abandoned service stations, small salvage yards, and sleazy bars along Brown Avenue made Pete and Cheryl realize how blessed they were that they no longer lived in that neighborhood. They lived in that area in the late 1970s, but things had obviously taken a turn for the worse since those halcyon days.

    Stopping at another red light on 27th Street, they noticed lone crackheads and winos walking about, hustlers leaning against walls, and groups of teenagers hanging out on corners. When the light turned green, Pete made the right on 27th Street, and drove down it.    

    Noticing a fist fight between what appeared to be one man vs. three women in the parking lot of Church House Chicken, and a shoving match between a burly middle-aged black man and his young skinny white girlfriend outside of a liquor store, Cheryl said, “Damn Pete, when we lived around here it was kinda bad sometimes, but not this bad.”

    “I heard that,” said Pete, nodding his head in agreement. He couldn’t help but laugh at the man who seemed to be having a hard time holding his own against the three women. 

    Pete was able to make the green light on Quindaro Boulevard, and made a left turn.

    As they began heading east on Quindaro, Cheryl finally spoke what was on her mind. “Pete,” she began, trying not to sound bitchy, “I know I said this a million times before, but this has got to stop. We can’t keep just giving your brothers and sisters money just because they think they need it. Excluding Earl, they all have decent jobs and work hard, so why can’t they manage their own? Just because we finally made it, they assume that just because you’re the oldest that you can loan them money like you’re a bank or something. And your sisters are the worst ones.”

    Pete was so pissed off at what Cheryl said, that he had to pull the SUV over to the side of the street to calm down. He looked over at his wife. “Cheryl, first of all, we haven’t made shit! Sure, I own one of the best construction companies in Kansas City, and you’re a damn good attorney for one of the most exclusive law firms in the country. But we still have to work for the money.  If, and that’s a big if, we ever do get that first million in the bank, then we can say we made it, but not now. Not when we are both putting in sixty hours a week at our jobs.

    “And as far as loaning my family money, I don’t see any problem with that. With the exception of Earl, the other ones all have jobs and their own families to support, but if they need money from me I’ll loan it to them. They always pay me back. You know they do, so why are you complaining?

    “Don’t forget about how they all pitched in to baby sit Victoria and Alicia when you were in law school and I was commuting back and forth to Lawrence, Kansas to get my engineering degree.”

    By now Cheryl had gotten the point that her husband was trying to get across, and was tired of hearing him preach. “Okay, Pete,” she said, finally turning to face him, “I gotcha.”

    “Good,” said Pete, pulling the car back into the flow of traffic.

    At the other end of Quindaro Boulevard, heading west in the 1968 Grand Prix, Snoopy G, Michael, and June Bugg were all taking turns at trying to keep Anthony calm, letting him know that things were going to be alright. He had been shaking like a leaf the entire time because he realized that if he killed somebody and got caught, he could end up going to prison for life. All night long in the car, Anthony would hear somebody say something like, “It’s going to be okay, man, just relax”, but so thick was he in fear, that the reassuring words of the three gang bangers that he was riding with would go in one ear and out the other.

    Leaning against the wall of Quivirian State Bank on 18th & Quindaro, Willy Young, the young man who had the UZI pulled on him by Michael earlier, was glad that there was absolutely no one around at the moment. No witnesses, he thought. He had his Glock 17L pistol in the huge back pocket of his baggy jeans, and was waiting for those punks in the old Grand Prix to roll up so that he could start blastin’ on them, and hoped that no one would be around to see it.

    On 15th & Quindaro, Pete stopped at a red light. As a group of about twenty teenage boys crossed the street, he felt under his seat to make sure his gun was still in place, while Cheryl made sure her door was locked. When the light turned green, Pete proceeded on his way to his brother Earl’s house. He didn’t notice the approaching 1968 Grand Prix with the headlights turned off, but Cheryl did. She reached over Pete and around the steering wheel, and flashed the brights at the Grand Prix, saying, “Those damned fools.” But Pete was shocked at what she just did. This woman doesn’t know shit, he thought. He was about to cuss her out, but before he could, he noticed the Grand Prix making a U-turn, coming after them. He pressed on the accelerator to pick up speed, but Cheryl still had no idea of what was going on. I swear, if I get out of this alive, I’m going to sit my wife and daughters down and tell them how much I truly love them, he thought, while at the same time wondering where the hell the cops could be. 

    Inside the Grand Prix, a perspiring Anthony heard somebody say, “It’s on now, so get your gun ready”, and another person say, “You know what you have to do now baby, so when we catch up with them just pull the fuckin’ trigger! The safety is off, so you can just start firing, but don’t start firing until we get about one car’s length behind them!”. Anthony was too lost in the murkiness of fear to tell who said which sentence, but he really didn’t care. He just wanted to get out of the mess. For the first time since he’d been hanging with Michael’s gang, he realized what a world of shit he was in. He knew that if he pulled the trigger he’d be in trouble, and if he didn’t pull the trigger he’d be in even more trouble. So, as June Bugg neared the white Chevy Suburban, Anthony reluctantly picked up the AK-47, and aimed it out the window.

    Looking through his rearview mirror, Pete saw the barrel of an AK-47 aimed at them. His heart began beating fast, and his long, lean body was overcome by waves of fear. When he pressed his foot on the gas pedal, making the needle of the speedometer point to 50 mph, Cheryl asked him why he was driving so fast.

    “I guess I might as well tell you this now,” he said, slowing down just enough to make a right turn on 9th Street,  “Remember when you flashed the brights at that old Grand Prix that had the headlights turned off back there? Well, that’s what they wanted. They are pursuing us now Cheryl. They’re a wannabe Crip or Blood gang, and when you flashed the brights at them, that started their initiation process. If they get close enough to us they’ll begin firing their automatic…” Before Pete could finish what he was saying, Cheryl screamed, “OHHH MY GOD, LET’S GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”

    Checking in his rearview mirror, Pete noticed that the Grand Prix was about forty yards away from them. He knew that all he had to do was stay well ahead of them, and he could make it back to the highway in no time, even if it meant running every red light that stood in the way. While Cheryl kept turning around every few moments to see how far the Grand Prix was behind them, Pete made a left turn on Walker Avenue, sped expertly down it, and made a left on 7th Street.

    With 7th Street being wider, Pete was able to gun the SUV towards Quindaro Boulevard.

Running a couple of red lights, the Chevy Suburban was soon about two-hundred yards away from the old raggedy Pontiac Grand Prix that seemed to be having a hard time keeping up the chase. “You’re doing good honey,” said Cheryl, now a little calmer, “When we make this left we should be home free.”

    Inside the Grand Prix, a relieved Anthony and a frustrated Michael were listening to Snoopy G saying, “Shit! We lost ‘em. June Bugg is the accelerator giving you trouble again?”

    “Yeah man,” said June Bugg, pressing the gas pedal to the floor as hard as he could.

    Snoopy G punched the dashboard. “That damned Ray,” he said, chuckling, “That’s what you get when you let an alcoholic work on your shit. I’m gonna have to fire his ass.”

    Once Pete made the left turn on Quindaro, he and his wife knew that they were safe. The gangmobile was nowhere to be seen, and sighs of relief were breathed.

    “Damn, baby that was close,” said Pete, as he drove 40 mph down The Q.

    “I know,” said Cheryl. “But let me ask something. How is Earl going to get the money now? ‘Cause I know we’re not going back towards his house.”

    “Well, I have a new policy now,” said Pete, as they passed the 18th Street intersection, “From now on, whenever my family needs money they’ll have to come to Olathe to get it. And as for Earl and the money I was supposed to give him tonight, I’ll wire it to him in the morning, because I’m not coming around here no more.”

    “Amen,” said Cheryl.

    Pete and Cheryl had already made it to 38th Street, heading for the on ramp to I-635 by the time the 1968 Grand Prix reached the intersection of 18th & Quindaro. It was stopped at a red light, but nobody inside it noticed the psychotic-looking young man leaning against the wall of Quivirian State Bank. Oh yeah, thought Willy, as he reached into his back pocket for his Glock L17. There those fools are, and I’m ready for them this time.

    The light turned green, and June Bugg pressed hard on the gas pedal, making the car jerk forward.

    Willy noticed that all the windows on the car were down, which made it easier for him to do what he needed to do. As the car approached, he jogged down the sidewalk towards it with his Glock L17 drawn. The only people in the car who noticed him were Snoopy G and Michael, but Snoopy G was unarmed, and by the time Michael picked up his UZI, it was too late. Being only five yards away from the car, Willy had the advantage, and fired two slugs at Michael’s dome, hitting him in the jaw and the temple. Satisfied with the hit, Willy took off running around the corner of the bank, heading for a nearby wooded area.

    The impact of the bullets from Willy’s Glock caused the entire right side of Michael’s head to explode, hundreds of pieces of brain, flesh, and bone littering the interior of the car, while blood covered the back windshield. Michael’s headless body was still holding the UZI in its lap. Anthony looked at the corpse and screamed and panicked, opening the door and jumping out of the car, spraining both of his ankles in the process. Snoopy G turned around in his seat, and screamed and screamed at the horrific sight that he saw. What use to be his friend’s head was now a sickening, formless mass of flesh, blood, and jagged bone. After finally realizing what happened, June Bugg panicked, and pressed hard on the gas pedal, making the needle of the speedometer point to 65. Snoopy G’s screams caused June Bugg to lose control of the car, and it went over to the wrong side of the street, hit a curb, and rolled over a few times until it slammed into the tank of a fuel truck that was parked in the parking lot of a gas station. The violent explosion seemed to rock the whole block, as Snoopy G and June Bugg were sent to their deaths instantly. 

    Having just gotten done with being hassled by a couple of cops who pulled them over for no reason, Howard, Derek, Larry, and Jeff were rolling once again when they heard the loud explosion.

    “Gooood Night!” said Howard, “Did y’all hear that?”

    “Hell yeah,” said Derek, “But it ain’t nothin’. You got niggas these days throwin’ sticks of dynamite, laughin’. That’s all that was.”

    “Yup,” said Jeff, pretending like he knew what Derek was talking about.

    With that, Larry made a right turn on Parallel Parkway. He wasn’t concerned about the explosion or who caused it. His concern was to drop Derek and his friend Howard off so that he could get away from Howard. He hated to admit it to himself, but he was afraid of Howard, and never wanted to see him again.

 

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