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Storyteller

From “My Father’s Shadow”

Andre ran down Eastern Parkway, he ran until none of the buildings looked familiar to him, and then he stopped and stooped over breathing hard.
“Bouy, you run fas for so,” The shadow said. Andre looked around; there was a bodega on the corner of the street. Some older boys were standing at the door. They looked over at Andre and started walking towards him. Andre looked at the shadow; its eyes were suddenly bright red. The boys walked up to Andre, 
“You lost little man?” One of them asked. Andre did not respond.
“Whats wrong homeboy can’t you talk?” The grease from the boy’s hair ran down his forehead leaving dark spots on his denim shirt.
“Why are you in our hood, you trying to move in on our turf?” the boy said advancing,
“I is just teking a walk,” Andre said, The boy looked at his friends.
“You one of them island boys?”
“Yes,”
Where do you live young blood?”
“On Eastern Parkway,”
“You want to have some fun?”
“Don interfere wid me, I is a good fighter,” Andre said as he stpped back and raised his fists.  The boys laughed,
“Come on little man, you can hang with us,” the boy said and put his hands on Andre’s shoulder.
They walked past the bodega and down a side street.

They arrived at an abandoned apartment building and went inside. As they walked by open doors Andre saw people lying on broken beds or mattresses on the floor. A young man sat scratching himself as if a colony of ants were crawling all over him. Some shook violently, cursing as they did,
“Wah wrong wid dem?” Andre asked
“They want the white ghost,”
“Eh?” Andre asked,
“They want crack,” the boy said. Andre followed them into an empty apartment with other boys and girls walking around aimlessly. They stopped and looked at him. .
“Who dat?” one of the girls asked,
“This here is island boy,”
“He cute,” the girl said,
“Back off crack whore,” The boy said pushing the girl away, she fell to the ground,
“Screw you G-money,” the girl said,
“Want to have some fun island boy?’ He asked as they sat down in a corner and handed Andre a forty ounce from a cooler. Andre hesitated. The shadow eyes appeared next to him,
“Go on me bouy, tek it,” Amdre took the bottle and took a drink,
“Ewww, dats nasty,”
“Keep drinking shorty, it will make you feel nice,” G Money said and tilted the bottle up towards Andre’s mouth. Andre coughs,
“Don want anymore,”
“Come on bro drink up,” G-Money as his friends laughed and chorused his encouragement.
“Yeah man live a little,” one of the girls said
“Like dey say, live a liccle,” the shadow said. Andre closed his eyes and tilted the bottle,
“Chug chug chug,” the boys and girls shouted.
Later that night Andre stumbled around going from one dilapidated apartment to the next. Sad faces and blank stares looked at him,

“Go away!” A half naked woman screamed as she reached to put on her blouse. A man materialized in front of him,
“Get to fuck out of here,” he said and slammed the door in Andre’s face. Each apartment had people in it some sticking needles in their arms, some sniffed on lines of white powder. In one apartment two men got into a fight and the others pushed them off as they stumbled around the room. The strung out girl from before walked up grabbed his arm and pulled him into an apartment.  A mattress lay on the floor; someone had peeled the paint out off the walls, yellow light from a lamp created shadows across the room. She pushed him onto the mattress. Andre fell backwards the room spinning around him. The girl was pulling his pants down, Andre tried to resist but he was too drunk. He felt the cool air against his warm skin, and then he felt her warm mouth down there. A rat scurried across the floor and disappeared into a hole in the corner.He tried to push her head away, but his body felt like it was on fire and his heart slammed against his chest. Then the girl was on top of him moving. His head felt hot, then his body tensed up and every vein throbbed. The girl rolled off of him and he passed out.
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Storyteller

From “My Father’s Shadow” work in progress.

“Why you keep talking to youself bouy?” she asked her face contorted with anger.
“No reason,”
“Let us go, you go get the worse licks you ever had,” she said and grabbed his hand.
Andre sat on his bed, his butt was sore but he did not cry he was too angry.
“You O K?” the shadow asked
“Go away and never come back,”
“Hey I is you friend you know,”
“Friends don get friends in trouble,”
“Hey Wait a second, is me who help you wid de bully, is me who help you stand up to the priest, is me who is you only friend, is me who understand you,” the shadow said. Andre heard his mother talking outside his door. He crept to the door and pressed his ears against it, his mother as sobbing and one of her friends tried to console her.
“It go be O K Monica,” a voice said,
“Yes gul, god is good and he go find a way to save you bouy,” another woman said. He recognized the voice to be Miss Dora the Obeah woman,
“I pray every day every blessed day,” his mother said,
“It is time you have the priest bless him,” Another voice said.
“Dat’s dat nosey yanky woman from next door,” the shadow said,
“Shhhhh! Andre responded,
“Gurl, wah you need is a good Obeahman to tek de curse outa he you know, me uncle is a real good Obeahman,” Miss Dora said,
“I am telling you Monica, the church is the best way to deal with this,” the Yanky woman said. Andre moved away from the door.
“ohhh dey  go tek you to de Obeahman for sure dis time,” the shadow said. Andre paced in front of the bed.
“You fraid ah de Obeahman?” The shadow asked. Andre did not respond. He sat on the bed, and then got up again, this time he paced faster.
“I know, run away bouy, run befoe dey tek you to de Obeahman. He go mek you drink bitter tea, and de blood from a goat,” Andre stopped and looked at the shadow.
“He go turn you into a Zumbie and mek you he slave,” the shadow insisted, Andre sat on the bed again.
“He go mek Chango tek you soul, eat the guts of a donkey,”
“Dey don do dat,” Andre said,
“How you know, you ever go to a meeting eh?
“Wah I go do? Andre said as he sat on the bed again.
“I know, you could run away, run before the Obeahman get you,” the shado insisted
“Wey I go go?’
“Who care eh? Jus go bouy before you is de living dead,” Andre went to his dresser and started packing some cloths,
“You don have time for dat bouy, just go,” Andre dropped the pants he was holding, looked around then climbed out the window.
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Storyteller

Chase in the Hood from I am a Dirty Immigrant

The very first day I began working at the retail store, a group of shoplifters helped themselves to quite a bit of merchandise. I had forgotten to lock the doors and they entered and grabbed as much stuff as they could. I was at the other store when I heard a ruckus outside. I ran to the door and saw four young men running down the street, arms filled with cheap panties, over sized bras; I mean the street looked like the poor man’s Victoria Secret was having an auction. The off-duty policeman that worked with us was in hot pursuit. The store owner, a short arrogant sort, his short legs churning like a propeller, screamed profanities as he gave chase. The four young men ran past me, balancing boxes in their arms. Panties, pants, shoes and shirts fell to the streets. The owner stopped picking up his merchandise as he yelled at me to join the chase.

So here I was, running down a strange street in the middle of the ghetto, wondering what the hell I was doing. Now understand, there were no ghettos on my island, hell, there were no real bad areas. All I had on my mind were the horror stories about gang fights and murders. You can thank Hollywood for me expecting to be attacked by gangs. We got to the projects and the young men scattered in all directions. The off-duty cop yelled at me, commanding that I go after the two young men who turned right down a narrow street. I ran after them, but they disappeared into an abandoned building. I looked at the dilapidated structure, black holes where doors and windows once were, hollow reminders of lives long past. A dirty-looking man stumbled out of the main entrance, disturbed by the commotion. He was eating what looked like a sandwich. He looked at me like he saw a ghost. His mouth opened, food dropped out of his mouth and he pointed in the direction the young men went. I stopped. There was no way in hell I was going into that bloody place. I turned around just as the cop pulled out his revolver and disappeared into the projects. For a second, I thought about following, but I changed my mind. Not only did he have his service revolver, but he also had another gun stuck in his waistband. Now would it have killed him to share? I walked back to the main street just as the store owner ran up, all out of breath. “You got them?” he asked. I shook my head.

Where did they go?” I pointed to the abandoned building,

Well go get them!” I looked at him, shook my head and brushed past him. That man was crazy if he thought my big ass would go into that place.

There was one thing I noticed about The Melting Pot City: shoplifters were different from The Wild and Wonderful City shoplifters. When they got caught, they would destroy the loot instead of giving it back. I was standing at the door of the store when a fat lady ran out of the store next to mine. She was jingling and tingling. Small pots and pans fell out from between her legs. The woman looked like she was giving birth to cookware. Three burly men were in hot pursuit. To tell you the truth, they looked like cartoon characters. The Road Runner theme song resonated in my head. When they caught up with her, they proceeded to beat the hell out of her. Lotion, soap, perfume: you name it, it fell out of her dress. I mean, where the hell was she holding all that stuff? As I stood, astonished, the woman started stomping on the items. You should have seen the malicious look on her face. It seemed more like a political statement than shoplifting. At the time, rap music was more lyrically conscious. People felt they had to do something to make change. If they were not going to get their piece of the pie, then no one will. People without power will do anything to better their situation. It is not greed that drives poor people – it’s need.

Anyway, if any of the men got any of the items from her, she would grab it and destroy it. In The Wild and Wonderful City, they just gave the bloody items back. I had never seen anyone shoplift on the island. I don’t know if they were too afraid or just honest, but for the sake of humankind, I hope it was honesty.

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Storyteller

Almost Jacked in Brooklyn From I am a Dirty Immigrant

By the end of the summer she was so homesick she started singing country music and no she was not singing the song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” either. Keep in mind that this is that woman who hated country music. Ironic since I was the one who grew up listening to my mom sing country songs all the time. The one incident that pushed us out of The Melting Pot City was the day one of the stores was almost robbed. Both stores were on the same block, one an everyday retail store, and the other a Victoria’s Secret-like store: expensive as hell. Why they would put such a store in the ghetto baffled me. These people could not afford a bloody nightie for one hundred dollars. I was working in the retail store one day when the Colombian worker at the pantry store called me.

The cat is having its kittens – come over here right away.” I was confused. Hell, I had not seen one bloody cat in this city since I moved there; just rats as big as cats. She finally broke down and told me to get over there, so I hurried and went.

As soon as I got to the door I realized what was going on. I stuck my hand in my shirt like I was packing a pistol. My heart was pounding hard, my head spinning. Hell, I thought I was going to faint for sure. I heard about the crime in The Melting Pot City, but damn, the thought of guns took me back to a place in my head that I thought I left on the island. There were three teenagers in the store. One stood at the cash register: bloody kid did not look more than seventeen. A girl was in the middle of the store, her handbag open and her hand in it. Another boy stood at the door to the storeroom, peeping in.

I walked behind the counter and stood there, my skin tingling with fear. I had no gun, no knife, nothing to defend myself. That same helpless feeling as when the fighter jets were bombing the island engulfed me. After about ten minutes, they came up to the counter and bought some items. As they were leaving, the kid that stood at the door to the storeroom stopped and looked at me and opened a small sack revealing a pearl handled pistol. I looked at him; his eyes looked dead. “They lucky you came in bro or we would have jacked this bitch up.”

After they left I half expected a volley of gunfire to erupt around me. There was no marijuana to calm my fears here. I guess it was time for me to go back to good old Blue Grass city. Great; I can give the bible bangers another chance to convert me.

There was one statement that solidified my decision to leave The Melting Pot City. One of the ladies informed me that I should wait until the new semester for the high school started. She said the students had no regard for life. I thought, hell no. I did not survive all that I had just to end up dead in some rat infested store. Despite this, let me add this tidbit: some of the shoplifters did not steal from the store as they said they could not in good conscience rob from another brother. It seems they thought I owned the stores so they felt it was their civic duty not to rob from one of the only black-owned businesses on the block. Funny thing; I used to stand at the door and watch them steal from the stores owned by Koreans and Jews.

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Parts Dirty Immigrant Storyteller

Culture Shock, Not Mine From Im am A Dirty Immigrant

Anyway, The Melting Pot City was day as much as The Blue Grass City was night. It was The Coal Miner’s Daughter’s turn to face some culture shock. She was the only white person for blocks. Now let’s take into consideration that I was the first black person she had ever spoken to. Luckily for us, the people on our block thought she was Puerto Rican. She was tanned and had dark hair and eyes. That was fine with me because at the time, racial tensions were running a little high in the city. To my surprise, this great melting pot city was segmented into different ethnicities. I remember one night we got lost. Believe me, when you are new to the city, it’s no fun. The way we found out we were going in the wrong direction was when we saw a white kid walking down the street holding a boom box, his baseball hat backwards and his head bobbing awkwardly. We turned around right away and drove for a few blocks until we saw black faces.  

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Storyteller

A Portion from the work in Progress Father’s Shadow

Andre ran down Eastern Parkway, he ran until none of the buildings looked familiar to him, and then he stopped and stooped over breathing hard.

“Boi, you run fas for so,” The shadow said. Andre looked around; there was a bodega on the corner of the street. Some older boys were standing at the door. They looked over at Andre and started walking towards him. Andre looked at the shadow; its eyes were suddenly bright red. The boys walked up to Andre, 

“You lost little man?” One of them asked. Andre did not respond.

“Whats wrong homeboy can’t you talk?” The grease from the boy’s hair ran down his forehead leaving dark spots on his denim shirt.

“Why are you in our hood, you trying to move in on our turf?” the boy said advancing,

“I is just teking a walk,” Andre said, The boy looked at his friends.

“You one of them island boys?”

“Yes,”

Where do you live young blood?”

“On Eastern Parkway,”

“You want to have some fun?”

“Don interfere wid me, I is a good fighter,” Andre said as he stepped back and raised his fists.  The boys laughed,

“Come on little man, you can hang with us,” the boy said and put his hands on Andre’s shoulder. They walked past the bodega and down a side street.

They arrived at an abandoned apartment building and went inside. As they walked by open doors Andre saw people lying on broken beds or mattresses on the floor. A young man sat scratching himself as if a colony of ants were crawling all over him. Some shook violently, cursing as they did,

“Wah wrong wid dem?” Andre asked

“They want the white ghost,”

“Eh?” Andre asked,

“They want crack,” the boy said. Andre followed them into an empty apartment with other boys and girls walking around aimlessly. They stopped and looked at him. .

“Who dat?” one of the girls asked,

“This here is island boy,”

“He cute,” the girl said,

“Back off crack whore,” The boy said pushing the girl away, she fell to the ground,

“Screw you G-money,” the girl said,

“Want to have some fun island boy?’ He asked as they sat down in a corner. G-money opened a cooler, dug around in it, then handed Andre a forty ounce beer bottle. Andre hesitated. The shadow eyes appeared next to him,

“Go on me boi, tek it, me, I is a rum man meself, but tek it, it go make you feel real good” Amdre took the bottle and took a drink,

“Ewww, dats nasty, Andre said, The Shadow snickered, its red eyes bounced up ands down. ”

“Keep drinking shorty, it will make you feel nice,” G Money said and tilted the bottle up towards Andre’s mouth. Andre coughs,

“Don want anymore,”

“Come on bro drink up,” G-Money insisted, as his friends laughed and chorused his encouragement.

“Yeah man live a little,” one of the girls said

“Like dey say, live a liccle,” the shadow said. Andre closed his eyes and tilted the bottle,

“Chug chug chug,” the boys and girls shouted.

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Stories Storyteller

Green Leaf, the beat down.

When we were kids, there is this game we used to play called green leaf, the objective of the game is to always have a green leaf on you because if the person you are playing with walks up to you and said green leaf and you don’t have one, you will get the beating of your life, and you can’t fight back, you just have to stand there and take it. I know, I know stupid game, but that is what happens when its an all boys school. I had this fried named Desmond, he was evil when it came to the game. He would wait for weeks, and when you least expected, there he was, a big smile on his face. I would reach into my pocket, pull out a leaf, but after weeks in my pocket, it was a dead brown. I would get punched, pinched, slapped on the back of the head. I always avoided that boy.

Years later, I went to Wesley College, a Methodist high school. I did not know Desmond was going to be there, all I know is I am walking down the street when I heard, “Green leaf,”  I was stunned, I mean it was years. I took off, my skinny legs turning as fast as they could. Desmond gave chase, we ran through the streets, down alleys, through the market square. I ran down a side street and stopped, thank god I lost him. I walked out of the side street and turned back to the market square, hell, I was going to get on my bus and head home, but boy I was wrong, Desmond knew who my favorite mini bus driver and was waiting for me. He unleashed a hurricane of punches and kicks on me, my skinny body felt like it would break under the blows. He walked away smiling, strutting like he just got his first kiss.

Ten years later, I am walking down Utica Avenue in Brooklyn minding my own business when I head someone shout, “Green leaf,” at first I did not pay attention, that is until I heard footsteps coming towards me, they we hitting he ground heavy, and was more of a trot then a sprint. I looked over my shoulder and there he was, an older Desmond, the same bloody afro hairstyle only part of it was white. He was smiling real big. I did not stop to think, I took off running. So here we are, two grown men, running down a busy avenue one screaming “Green leaf!” The other dodging people trying to escape a beating. I got to an intersection and stopped, I mean what the hell was I running from, I am a grown man. Desmond caught up to me, but instead of the beating he usually meted out, he bent over, breathing hard, sweat rolling down his face, his shirt stuck to his back. He reaches out and tapped my shoulder, “Green lead,” he said in between trying to catch his breath. So now anytime I go back to Brooklyn, I was on the look out for Desmond, straining my ears over the noise hoping that I do not hear the dreaded words, “GREEN LEAF!!!!

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Stories Storyteller

The Rats of Brooklyn

Back in 1986, during the fist year of our marriage Bonnie and I moved to Brooklyn. Here we were, a girl from Inez, a small town in Kentucky, and me an island boy, trying to find our way around the city. One day we were driving down Utica avenue and decided to stop to get something to eat. We saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken and pulled in to the drive through. There was a line so we were waiting for it to move. We were stopped next to the dumpster. We heard rustling, like there were cats rummaging in there for food. so we both looked over. “Damn, New York have some stay cats.” I said. Bonnie leaned forward and squinted her eyes, “Those are not cats, those are some big ass freaking rats,” she said, I leaned forward, and to my disgust there was about fifteen gigantic rats perched on the roof of the dumpster. So Bonnie and I did what any red blooded country girl and sun soaked island boy would do, we tried to chase them off. Bonnie blew the horn, nothing, the rats were not even phased. I leaned out of the car and banged on the hood, nothing, the dreadful little beasts did not even blink. So Bonnie, brave as she was, stepped out of the car and shouted, thinking they would scatter. but about five of the rats turned and looked at her, you know that look that a man who have not eaten in days would give, you know one that says, “Don’t f….. with me or I will mess you up!” Bonnie got back into the car closed the door and locked it. Hell those damn New York rats acted like humans, we were not going to mess with no mutant rats. That was it, we drove out of the line and went and found us a good Roti shop.

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Parts Dirty Immigrant Storyteller

Attempted Robbery From the novel I am a Dirty Immigrant

By the end of the summer she was so homesick she started singing country music and no she was not singing the song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” either. Keep in mind that this is that woman who hated country music. Ironic since I was the one who grew up listening to my mom sing country songs all the time. The one incident that pushed us out of The Melting Pot City was the day one of the stores was almost robbed. Both stores were on the same block, one an everyday retail store, and the other a Victoria’s Secret-like store: expensive as hell. Why they would put such a store in the ghetto baffled me. These people could not afford a bloody nightie for one hundred dollars. I was working in the retail store one day when the Colombian worker at the pantry store called me.

The cat is having its kittens – come over here right away.”  I was confused. Hell, I had not seen one bloody cat in this city since I moved there; just rats as big as cats. She finally broke down and told me to get over there, so I hurried and went.

As soon as I got to the door I realized what was going on. I stuck my hand in my shirt like I was packing a pistol.  My heart was pounding hard, my head spinning. Hell, I thought I was going to faint for sure. I heard about the crime in The Melting Pot City, but damn, the thought of guns took me back to a place in my head that I thought I left on the island. There were three teenagers in the store. One stood at the cash register: bloody kid did not look more than seventeen. A girl was in the middle of the store, her handbag open and her hand in it. Another boy stood at the door to the storeroom, peeping in.

I walked behind the counter and stood there, my skin tingling with fear. I had no gun, no knife, nothing to defend myself.  That same helpless feeling as when the fighter jets were bombing the island engulfed me. After about ten minutes, they came up to the counter and bought some items. As they were leaving, the kid that stood at the door to the storeroom stopped and looked at me and opened a small sack revealing a pearl handled pistol. I looked at him; his eyes looked dead. “They lucky you came in bro or we would have jacked this bitch up.”

After they left I half expected a volley of gunfire to erupt around me. There was no marijuana to calm my fears here. I guess it was time for me to go back to good old Blue Grass city. Great; I can give the bible bangers another chance to convert me.

There was one statement that solidified my decision to leave The Melting Pot City. One of the ladies informed me that I should wait until the new semester for the high school started. She said the students had no regard for life. I thought, hell no. I did not survive all that I had just to end up dead in some rat infested store. Despite this, let me add this tidbit: some of the shoplifters did not steal from the store as they said they could not in good conscience rob from another brother. It seems they thought I owned the stores so they felt it was their civic duty not to rob from one of the only black-owned businesses on the block. Funny thing; I used to stand at the door and watch them steal from the stores owned by Koreans, Jews and other ethnicities.

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Parts Dirty Immigrant Storyteller

Ladies of the Night From the novel I am a Dirty Immigrant

There were lots of things about The Melting Pot City that fascinated me. For instance, the prostitutes. I had never seen that before so I took an interest in how and what they did. No, I did not indulge in their services. I am a people watcher. That is how I am able to write this fantastic book, right? We lived on Eastern Parkway between Utica and Rochester Avenues. Eastern Parkway was the biggest and busiest street I have ever lived on. I used to sit at the window and watch them, wondering why in the richest country in the world the women had to resort to this. They walked up and down the avenue in short dresses, uncomfortable high heel shoes and skirts so short you could see the beginning of their butt cheeks. Scores of cars with lonely men came and went. I mean, you should see them, looking around like cartoon characters, gripping their steering wheels, their eyes wide with lustful anticipation. I felt so sorry for these women. I wondered what they thought their life would be like. Were they victims of society or were they victims of cultural circumstances?

The most disturbing thing about this was that there was a pregnant woman out there. Car after car would pick her up. None of the men seemed concerned with her condition. I often wondered what sick bastard would take advantage of someone like that.  Our landlady would scream at them, calling them the worst names, as if they needed to feel any more degraded then they already were. My ex-wife and I felt compassion for them, so we let them sit on our car. They promised as long as they were there, no one would mess with it. That summer, with the constant complaints from the landlady, the cops chased them off. That very night, every car in a four block radius was broken into. Is it not sad how society, indoctrinated by judgmental ideologies, makes the people believe that these women were less than human? Truth is, their humanity was stripped by the same ideology that claimed to be virtuous. Just look at all the preachers and politicians who partake in the very same debauchery.