Me and Bobbie and Jr. Lee were just hangin’ out, bein’ cool and sipping Slurpees outside the 7-Eleven Store. What else is there to do on a hot summer night in this chump town when nothin’s goin’ on?
While we were standin’ there talkin’, Babe Boy came by in his ride. It ain’t nothin’ special, just a jacked up lookin’ old Cadillac, but hey, it’s a ride. Anyway, that crazy fool come flyin’ into the 7-Eleven parkin’ lot all wild, his boys’ hangin’ out the windows. Me and Jr. Lee jumped out the way. But Bobbie, she didn’t move a lick.
Babe Boy screeched to a halt right next to her and asked if she wanted to go for a ride. She gave him one of those, “you talkin’ to me looks”, then turned away like he wasn’t even there. She’s cool like that and don’t take no shit.
“Girl, you gonna do me like that?” said Babe Boy leaning halfway out the window.
Then, lookin’ like he’s pleadin’ he asked her about goin’ riding again. Bobbie? She leaned down, looked in the car and said, “I ain’t goin’ for no ride with no grinnin’ weasel looking fools.”
Well, that pissed Babe Boy off. He tore out of the lot, yelling and cursing and calling Bobbie damn near everything he could think of. And Bobbie? She act like she don’t hear nothin’.
Jr. Lee and I bust out laughing. I grabbed a rock, ran to the edge of the lot, and threw it after Babe Boy’s car. It missed. I knew it would. He was too far away, but it felt good to throw it. Jr. Lee, all 5, 5 and 125 lbs of him was practically on the ground, laughin’. He wears a high-top fade so he can claim to be taller than he is.
I headed back over to where Bobbie had sat down on the store’s front step. She sucked down the last of her Slurpee, reached in her shirt pocket and pulled out a bent Marlboro. After straightening it, she lit it with a BIC lighter. As I sat down beside her, she took a puff and handed it to me. I don’t really like smoking. It’s nasty - makes your hair and breath stink, but with nothin’ goin’ on, might as well. So I took a puff.
Jr. Lee came over and sat down on the other side of Bobbie. He picked up his Slurpee and started sucking real loud. Just because it’s named Slurpee doesn’t mean you gotta make a bunch of noise. Bobbie shook her head and rolled her eyes. I handed the cigarette back to her and she inhaled, then blew out a long trail of blue-white smoke.
After he finished makin’ noise Jr. Lee rested his chin in his palms like he was doin’ some deep thinking. I stole a glance at Bobbie. Her thick black braid was lying against her back. That got me thinkin’ how nice it would feel to touch it.
Right then Slick came around the corner dribbling his ball. Slick’s all right, even if he is a jock. He’s the basketball champion of the world. Ain’t nobody ever seen him lose a game of one on one. Slick’s smooth. Even his moves have moves. He can buzz down the court, juke you, then launch into the air for like eternity before slammin’ the ball through the hoop. Since most folks are right-handed and he’s a lefty, tryin’ to block his shot is awkward. Slick may not be fast but he’s quick. Quick’s good. I’d rather be quick than fast. You hear people say, “he’s quick-witted” or “he picks things up quickly.” Don’t nobody say, “he’s fast witted.”
Slick snapped off a pass. I caught it and fired the ball back. Then he strolled over and gave me a fist bump. Jr. Lee went to give him one and Slick looked at him like he was out of his mind. Then he broke out a smile and laughed.
“Nah, Jr. Lee,” he said. “You know I’m just messin’ with you. I wouldn’t leave my boy hangin’.” He fist-bumped Jr. Lee.
Slick asked what was happening and Bobbie said, “Nothin’.”
Jr. Lee began rattling on about Babe Boy tryin’ to get Bobbie to go riding with him and his boys. Slick stood there nodding while bouncing his ball. He told us he’d been by the park and some dudes was playin’ ball there – if we were interested. Not me. I don’t play no ball at the park. Them dudes think it’s the NBA. You miss a shot and they’re all over your case.
Jr. Lee asked Slick if he was gonna play for the school come fall. Slick said the coach was a jerk and he wasn’t gonna play for no jerk coach who liked rinky-dink basketball and wouldn’t let him play his game. Then he said he was going home to catch Mike in the playoffs and left.
Jr. Lee said it was too bad Slick wouldn’t play for the school ‘cause without him, they were gonna get their butts whipped. But I’m with Slick. Who wants to play with a sorry bunch of clowns?
Jr. Lee continued yakking and Bobbie, smoking. After a while, Damon and his twin brother Eric showed up. They’re high yellow, but Damon’s cool. Eric, he ain’t nothin’ but a sorry ass tag along. Damon slapped me five and I asked him what was goin’ on. He said he’d been heading to Janine’s house for a party, but ran into some of the gang and they said the cops had shown up and run everybody off. Jr. Lee said that’s what happens when black folks live in white folks neighborhoods.
“As soon as black folks start having a good time, they call the cops,” he said, shaking his head. “White folks are strange.”
Bobbie, who’d been real quiet, stubbed out her cigarette. She looked at Eric and asked him what he was lookin’ at. Eyes droppin’ to the blacktop, he pawed at it and said, “Nothin’.” Jr. Lee burst out laughin’. Damon looked at Eric, frowned, and shook his head. He sat down next to me so we were all sittin’ there together, except Eric. He was standin’, rubbing his Cons against the blacktop, lookin’ a fool.
For a while, no one said nothin’. The only sound was Jr. Lee’s hummin’. Then Damon suggested we all go to Ruta Mae’s. There’s always action at her place. One time, when I was peeking under her bedroom window shade, she and some dude was gettin’ it on!
I was about to say I’d go, but… well, Bobbie never went over to Ruta Mae’s. In the past, she’d made it clear she wasn’t interested in listening to or watching Ruta Mae. So, I told Damon I was fine just hangin’ out outside the 7-Eleven. He said he’d be at Ruta Mae’s if I changed my mind. Then he and Eric left. That Eric’s like a puppy following his master.
Bobbie stood up and started pacing. She said that someday she was gonna get out of this boring town and be somewhere exciting.
She said, “I’m gonna be famous.”
“Ain’t no one famous ever come from here,” said Jr. Lee.
“I’ll be the first,” she replied with a firm nod.
Jr. Lee said he was gonna be a dentist and make lots of money. Made sense to me. He’d have a captive audience that had to listen to him talk all day. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to be but getting out of this boring town sure sounded good to me.
Then, I spotted Frankie comin’ our way. That sucker’s trouble. When we were in grade school, the boy had a lazy eye so everyone made fun of him. Now he acts bad. Them white boys think he’s the baddest dude on the planet, but that’s bull. He called Eric a faggot one day and Damon kicked his ass. Frankie swore he’d get even, but he ain’t even tried. He knows he don’t wanna mess with Damon.
Frankie stopped dead in front of me. “Yo, Jr. Lee, man, it’s hot,” he said. “Let me hold a dollar so I can get me something to drink.”
“What you think your broke ass gonna buy to drink with a dollar?” asked Bobbie.
“I got some change right here.” Frankie drew his hand from his pocket and opened his palm revealing some coins.
Jr. Lee looked at Bobbie. She shrugged and told him to do what he wanted. Jr. Lee handed Frankie a dollar which he then pocketed along with his change. Frankie asked what was going on. Bobbie said nothin’. Jr. Lee’s mouth was off and running. He told Frankie about Babe Boy and his boys, Slick and the dudes playin’ ball in the park, the cops crashing Janine’s party, and Damon and Eric going to Ruta Mae’s.
As Jr. Lee blabbed on, Frankie pulled out a penknife and pretended to clean under his fingernails. When Jr. Lee came up for air, Frankie said he’d been at Billy Jackson’s house and some of the gang was over there in the woods drinkin’ wine they’d stole’ from Billy’s grandfather’s cupboard. He also said Kitty was drunk and making out with all the guys. Jr. Lee, bein’ one of those mind mouth people, said Kitty was Frankie’s ole lady. Bad move.
Frankie grabbed Jr. Lee in a headlock, yanked him to his feet, and put the knife blade to his throat. Jr. Lee’s eyes were buggin’ and he looked like he was gonna piss his pants. Bobbie walked over to Frankie and told him to let Jr. Lee be. Frankie stared at her for a moment, snapped the knife shut, then put it in his pocket. He told Jr. Lee he was a pipsqueak and that he was lucky Bobbie had been there or he would’ve stabbed him. Jr. Lee was just standing there, his lips quivering. Frankie said he was going back to Billy Jackson to get himself some more wine and left. I told Jr. Lee he ought to know better than to provoke ignorant suckers like Frankie.
We sat for a while talkin’, just killing time. Finally, with it getting late we figured we might as well head home. Jr. Lee and I headed off in one direction and Bobbie in the other. I looked back at her over my shoulder. Her braid was gently swinging with every step she took.
Jr. Lee launched into another of his monologues just as Bobbie turned and yelled she’d meet us again tomorrow night. I waved to her while Jr. Lee continued talkin’ a blue streak. I wasn’t listenin’ to a word he was sayin’. I was already thinkin’ about tomorrow night.
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