Friday, April 30, 2010
The Way of It
“C'mon, take it. I ain't got all night,” Dix said, and poked him in the ribs.
“I can't.” Little Joey kept his hands by his side. “Need more time to figure things.”
Dix laughed. “If you want this, there ain't more time.”
The boys were standing in the shadows of a dilapidated apartment building where Little Joey lived, in a space crowded with siblings and disorder. When his family first moved here from a homeless shelter, he celebrated the positive change to their circumstances. He was able to go to school regularly, and he even earned a little money helping the elderly neighbors in the building carry packages home from the convenience store. Once, after putting beer down on Old Pete's kitchen table, he took out some of his drawings from his backpack to show him, and grinned when Old Pete complimented his talent.
“Yep,” Little Joey said, “I wanna be an artist.”
It was not long, however, before his parents surrendered without a struggle to the familiar ways of drugs and inattentiveness, and his older brother joined a neighborhood gang.
Little Joey stopped going to school, preferring the company of the boys who congregated on the block for most of the day with not much on their schedules except for smoking and killing time until the evening.
“Boy, don't hang out with them losers,” Old Pete had warned. “I know it be hard, but you can get out. Go to school. Learn. Be somethin'.”
But two days ago his brother died in a drive by shooting, and the word on the street implicated a new member of a rival gang fulfilling a rite of initiation. Little Joey spoke about revenge, and the neighborhood boys sent Dix to recruit him to their ranks.
Now, confronted with the stark sight of the weapon in Dix's hand, Little Joey hesitated. He understood he was at a crossroad. One way led to an unknown place where he saw the details imperfectly, the other to a plot in a drama out of his control.
“What's keeping you? Dix asked. “You in or what, man?” .
Little Joey looked up at the windows of his building. His parents had not been home for several days. He saw the lights go out in Old Pete's apartment, then looked at Dix, who smiled and held out the gun again.
There really is no one, he thought.
“We take care of our own kind, yeah?” Dix said.
Little Joey nodded in reply.