"You got your way, look at the results. Look at
the status of Negroes! Do you call that progress?" Marcus Garvey
boomed; his baritone voice roiled through the air.
The barrel chested manís fiery spirit beamed
through his eyes. W. E. DuBois removed his spectacles in a
deliberate manner and wiped them carefully. Booker T. Washington
and Malcolm X looked on with rapted attention, while Martin
Luther King paced back and forth behind DuBois.
"What else could you call it but
progress-Marcus?" DuBois asked with a frustrated sigh. He looked
around in his usual casual detached professional manner then
continued, "From slaves to CEOs of multimillion dollar
corporations in 6 generations. There has been an unprecedented
growth in the Negro middle class. The wages of educated Negro
women now approach parity with that of educated white women.
Marcus the statistics donít lie; these are the plain facts."
Garvey sat up in his chair.
"Youíre damned right statistics donít lie. The
Negro family has been all but destroyed. Seventy percent of our
children are being raised by a single mother. Thereís no
semblance of a Black community, instead, theyíre virtual war
zones." Garveyís eyes seemed to grow larger in his head. "Black
on black violence is at an all time high; 60% of our youths drop
out of high school, 1 in 13 Negroes is in prison, and 25% of
Negro youth ages 13-35 are either in prison, in jail, on parole,
or on probation."
Garveyís large chest heaved as he took in a deep
breath. Booker T. stared at DuBois who turned his back to Garvey
and faced Martin.
Unperturbed by the slight, Garvey continued,
"Black culture has eroded, our values have decayed. Today, we
voluntarily call each other niggers, and our young women strive
to be sex objects instead of queens. World wide, Negro suffering
and abject poverty is at an all time high. AIDS, malaria,
starvation, and under-education decimate our people globally.
Those are the concrete results of your philosophy of
assimilation and integration. You are certainly right,
statistics donít lie. Those are the facts."
Martin Luther King looked at DuBois with an
expression that said, Ďyou canít let that go unchallenged,í
while Booker T and Malcolm X eyed each other. DuBois hesitated;
Martin jumped in:
"We marched on Washington in 1968 and Civil
Rights are now the law of the land, a fulfillment of Dr. DuBoisí
vision. As a result, we have more negro millionaires than
anytime in history." He surveyed his exclusive audience. "There
are more Negro doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians, business
owners, engineers; you name it, than anytime in history. Our
vote is guaranteed. We are the power brokers who decide who wins
or lose, Democrat or Republican, in every election. And weíre
now accepted as integral to and an indispensable part of the
Martin Luther Kingís characteristic preacherís
cadence gave his words extra impetus.
Marcus Garvey stood up. All eyes shifted upward
with the rise of the ponderous figure. He began to pace the
floor then stopped suddenly in mid-stride and drew a deep
"The problem is- -you both focus on individual
achievements. Was that the agenda of your assimilationist
philosophy, to produce a Negro aristocracy-talented tenth, I
believe you referred to it as?" Garvey glared at DuBois, "To
create a Negro elite divorced from the aspirations of the nation
of 1 billion Africans at home and 200 million abroad."
He stared at DuBois and Martin standing shoulder
to shoulder facing him like offensive linemen and laughed. His
rotund belly shook with the laughter.
Garvey continued, "Can you call it progress when
a few exceptional Africans move into the masterís house if, in
so doing, they sacrifice their ties to the kinfolk left
suffering in the fields? What good is integration, solely to
become an agent, facilitator, or apologist for white supremacy?
It makes no sense. Individual profit is worthless if it amounts
to a collective loss."
"That is the essence of Western
philosophy-Capitalism, I above we. Individual accomplishments
reigns supreme, thatís the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant way,"
Malcolm X interjected.
DuBois was infuriated. His face reddened and his
eyeglasses fogged up.
"P-P-Personal re-respon-sibili-lity," he
stammered as his tongue stumbled over his anger. He paused,
regained composure, then continued, "Personal responsibility is
whatís called for if
opportunity is available to you. Our people must
be held personally accountable, each man rise according to his
ability, and, as Martin puts it, be judged; not by the color of
his skin, but by the content of his character."
"Thatís right brother," Martin concurred.
Booker T smiled at the rhetorical theatrics and
"Iíve always advocated hard work and
industriousness. Marcus you canít deny, if there is opportunity
then itís the individualís responsibility to seize it," Booker T
Garvey shifted the weight on his legs nimbly
like an elephant then wheeled his colossal body around with
surprising agility and grace to face the group. In a slow
calculated manner, with a voice that matched his size, he said,
"Opportunity without preparation," Garvey focused on DuBoisí
beady eyes, now enlarged saucers behind the bifocals,
"Emancipation without reparation and integration without
equalization ended in the collective degradation, the
stagnation, and the regression of negroes in the United States.
Your statistics notwithstanding, in the 1930ís negroes-"
"Weíre called African-Americans today," Malcolm
"Negroes, Blacks- -makes no difference to me,"
Garvey said, "as long as Our race remains the footstool of the
white race, stuck in an intractable inferior position socially,
economically, and politically. But since you insist, Iíll
accommodate the moniker of your fancy. The 1930ís
African-Americans owned more businesses per capita than they do
today. We had culture, identity, and purpose then."
"We have that now," Martin Luther King
Garvey rolled his eyes in exasperation then
continued, "Look at us now with all the so-called individual
accomplishments; We live in ghettoes where crime, violence,
drugs, and gang warfare is accepted as the norm. This has to
For the first time in the great and majestic
history of Us Africans, Our rock and salvation, the Black woman,
has been corrupted and is losing her way. This has to change."
Garvey switched his weight from leg to leg as if
it carried his argument and commandeered every eye with his
"Gentlemen, Our race is at a cross-road. (left
leg) The time is now or never. (right leg) Either we change
course and restore African values and the African culture, (left
leg) or continue down
the present path of assured extinction as a
people. (right leg) Zedek, the time is now. (left leg) Our
people need you. (right leg) Zedek!"
Zedek turned on his side.
Zedek jumped up out his sleep and found his
neighbor Richie shaking him and calling his name. He wiped drool
from his face, still dazed.
"You said to wake you up for the Black Heritage
rehearsals. Itís almost that time," Richie said.
Zedek collected his senses.
"Oh man, I fell asleep that quick?"
"Yep, snoring too," Richie added with a broad
The 6í 4" dread stretched his limbs and yawned
like a cat.
"Ugghh!! ManÖI just had a crazy vision," Zedek
said as he cleaned the rest of the dribble from his face. He
blinked and smiled at the big gap in Richieís broad smile.
"That mustíve been some vision, had you knocked
out," Richie said, watching the old dreadís senses crawl back
into place. "Turn to CNN they got El Rashon."
Zedek, short for Melchezzedek, stretched one
more time then reached over and turned on the television.
"This is Charlene Brown reporting for the News
Network Hour. CNN sources at the Pentagon have confirmed that
Habeeb El Rashon and 4 other terrorists were killed in a missile
strike in Basra, Iraq, 3 days ago. Sources in the WIA say,
acting on actionable information, 2 Hellfire missiles fired from
a Predator drone destroyed a safe house where a high level Al
Qaeda meeting was in progress. Confirmed dead are the second
most wanted terrorist, El Rashon, 2 lieutenants from his
organization, and an unknown British terrorist. The Pentagon
says this is a major blow to the Al Qaeda in Iraq organization.
President Bushe praised the missile strike and will hold a press
conference on the White House lawn at 1 oíclock."
Zedekís grey eyebrows arched upwards in response
to the news and he sat up straight. Wisps of rope like grey
locks tumbled from his shoulders to the bed.
Richie took a seat on the footlocker in the
corner of the small cell. He never got over the fact, that to
him, Zedek looked exactly how he pictured an Old Testament
prophet. His white dread locks,
white side-burns, and white goatee matted into
one long dread lock, reminded Richie of Moses or Elijah.
The prophet aura was enhanced by Zedekís
intelligence and penetrating olive green eyes that sparkled in
contrast to his blue-black skin. He was Richieís mentor for the
last 5 years.
"So, they finally assassinated El Rashon," Zedek
commented, more to the air than to Richie.
"A terrorist assassinated, sounds strange
doesnít it? Usually, itís the terrorist assassinating somebody,"
Richie mused, massaging his neck muscles. "Man, Iím sore from
those pull ups and dips yesterday."
"One manís terrorist is anotherís freedom
fighter," Zedek countered. "Todayís favorite political tactic is
to label any poor man leading armed resistance against
super-powers or multi-national corporations exploiting him or
his natural resources a terrorist." Zedek changed the channel to
C-Span II. The old fire brand from Mississippi, Senator
Jefferies, was in the well of the senate staring down the C-Span
audience with his accusatory eyes, pointing his accusatory
forefinger, denouncing terrorism and terrorists-at home and
abroad. He said:
"Mr. President, we cannot, must not let up in
this war against terrorism. Not for a dayÖ(the accusatory
forefinger accused the camera)Önot for a minuteÖ(the forefinger
found its mark again), not for a second (the forefinger made its
final indictment then relented).
Senator Jeffries thumped the podium with his
"The United States must strike them where ever
they may be found in the world even if weíve to act
unilaterally. We must be ready to strike pre-emptively. When it
comes to protecting our national interests and the safety of the
American people, there must be no hesitation to strike."
Zedek watched the 65 year old, Uncle Sam look a
like, body shake with anger and hatred as he delivered his
"You see that, Richie?" Zedek said.
"What? Another politician grand standing to get
elected, telling the public what they want to hear. I pay them
no attention; they all are just performers to me," Richie
"Well bro, you make a serious mistake there,"
Zedek said and turned off the television. "They are more than
performers. You should listen to these politicians and take them
Richie squirmed a bit and leaned forward placing
his forearm on his knee.
"To me, all they do is tell lies to get
elected," Richie said in a smooth baritone that pleased the ears
no matter what it said.
"Thereís a lot of truth in what you say;
however, you should listen to politicians and take them
seriously. Not because what they say is true, but because what
they say becomes the law, and the law affects you directly."
Zedek explained that ultimately power lies with
the politician. He said the common man needed to either control
the political process or think ahead of government to make it in
life: And one way to do so is by listening to what the
politicians say, for it foretold by months and years the laws to
"Those who ignore politicians eventually become
their victims," Zedek said.
Richie shrugged his shoulders. As far as he was
concerned, politicians only did what the people allowed them to
do and could never be trusted.
Zedek told Richie about his vision of Marcus
Garvey, W. E. DuBois, and the other Black icons debating the
present state of Black people.
"Iím telling you, it was as real as can be,"
"But what does it mean?" Richie asked.
"Either Iíve been studying too hard for the
Black Heritage presentation, or itís a call to action."
Richie checked his watch.
"If youíre going to catch rehearsals, itís that
time," he said.
Zedek looked at the pile of books on his desk.
"You know what? Iíll miss this one and make up
for it another time," he said.
He bent over the desk, selected 2 books from
among the pile, then stood up. His 6í 4" frame filled the cell.
"Youíre rolling soon; Take these," Zedek said,
handing Richie the books. "I want you to read them one more time
before you go."
Richie took the well worn books and looked them
over. Their edges were frayed and pages dog eared from frequent
"The Autobiography of Marcus Garvey and
Chancellor Williamsí Destruction of Black Civilization. I
shouldíve guessed," Richie said.
"Well, what do you expect? These are the
Blackmanís bibles. You get out in 3 months. If thereís one thing
I want you to do is take the wisdom in them with you," Zedek
said as he straightened the pile of books.
"If I guessed, I bet you had me read over 1,000
books in the last 5 years," Richie said.
"Outside of school, how many books do you think
the average man, from Phd to pauper, reads in his lifetime?"
"I donít know, a couple thousand?"
"Nooo. Not by a long shot, less than 200, and
the number shrinks by 20 every generation," Zedek said. "Itís a
shame, because reading is the best route to knowledge and
understanding. Thatís the way the brain is designed."
"So why donít more people read and read more
often?" Richie asked.
"I donít know; readingís a dying art. I guess it
has to do with TV, video games, and the Internet; however,
reading isnít the goal," Zedek said, gesticulating with his
"Then whatís the goal?" Richie asked.
"The goal is to convert knowledge into wisdom by
applying it to life. Knowledge is a responsibility and
obligation. He who knows and does not do, does not know," Zedek
He finished straightening out the books then
wrapped his long dreads into a turban.
"What do you plan to do when you get to
Richie leaned back and pressed his back muscles
into the wall to help relieve the soreness.
"First, Iíve to locate my mother. She has my
money. Then, I hope to live up to the principles of ONE."
"Is your mom still in Waltham Park?"
"I donít know," Richie answered.
Zedek sat on the small stool attached to the
desk and scrutinized his protťgť.
"Garvey said the time is now. Richie is my only
"Richie, thereís nothing more I can do. You read
all the books. Youíve the ability. All you need to do is apply
what you know. At 29, I was no where near your level of
consciousness," Zedek said.
Richie was riveted by the verdant gaze. He
reflected on his mental growth over the last 5 years and
affirmed Zedekís statement with a nod. He had come a long way,
from major drug dealer, leader of the infamous Yardies posse,
[read Yardies 1] to disciple of ONE. Back then, his position in
life, like many Black youths, trapped him in the socio-economic
triangle of death: low expectation, under-education, and lack of
opportunities. From that perspective, his only hope was to Ďget
rich or die tryingí Ė a creed he lived to the fullest, but that
was his past.
"Do you remember what I said to you when we
first met?" Zedek asked.
"Yeah. I was in the infirmary."
"What did I say?"
"You said I had the aura, that I was a
descendant of the maroons."
"Yep, and what did I call you?" Zedek asked.
"Nemesis," Richie recalled with an impish smile
that exposed his missing front tooth. He looked down at the
floor as the impish smile spread to his eyes.
"Do you know why I called you Nemesis?"
"Yeah, I figured it out. I looked it up in the
dictionary. It means Greek goddess of revenge andÖyou knowÖ"
Richieís demeanor changed. "I donít like people getting away
with stuff," he said, feeling a bit self-conscious though
remnants of the smile still lingered on his face.
"You got to control that or itíll trip you up,"
Zedek said in a serious tone then stared off into space. A look
of sadness crept into his eyes. "Richie you must learn to
Richie felt an urgent earnestness in Zedekís
plea. He never heard him sound like that before and knew Zedek
referred to the incident in the prison riot.
Zedek stared at Richie.
"Donít let past events determine your futureÖBad
things can happen to anyone in prison. If one survives them they
become stronger if they move on and leave it behind. A man can
never right every wrong done him in life," Zedek said and paused
to see if Richie was paying attention. He continued, "To try
growth and development as a human being. To
forgive is to empower oneself by taking control of the past."
Richie kept his eyes on the floor. He knew Zedek
was waiting on a response and managed a feeble, "I Ė Iíll work
"Some things in a manís life he must resolve on
his own and in his own time," Zedek thought.
He knew he was in sensitive territory, so he
picked up the Gleaner off the desk and changed the subject.
"Iím still trying to track down your son but
keep running into dead ends. Tawanaís mother moved. No one knows
her whereabouts, or Tawanaís, or Eís for that matter," Zedek
said, scanning the Jamaican newspaper.
"I didnít think theyíd still be in South Philly.
It feels weird to know youíve a son but never seen him," Richie
said as thoughts of his baby mother Tawana returned. He lost
contact with her shortly after his arrest. He remembered his
last conversation with her. Eight months pregnant, she was
detained by Customs officers at Philadelphia International
airport in possession of $500,000, and he told her not to worry,
for it was only money.
A headline caught Zedekís attention. It read
ĎThe Invincibles kill 15 people in drug turf warfare.í
Highlighted was the statistic ĎRecord 927 murders since January
Zedekís mind drifted like a cloud. He worried
about the conditions Richie would face in Jamaica upon
deportation Ė crime was at an all time high and violence
spreading everywhere. He hitched his mind and returned to the
"I can just imagine how you feel. Donít worry,
between Geego and I, weíll find him. How old is he now-5, 6?"
"Five. I man cannot wait to hold and cherish my
seed. I canít wait," Richie muttered. The memories of his
fatherless childhood re-surfaced. As an ode to his father, at
age 7, he pleged, when he came of age, to be active and involved
in the lives of his children since his father-who died in a car
crash-never got the chance.
Zedek laid the newspaper on the desk. He was in
a pensive mood as he contemplated Richieís fugitive status in
Jamaica-wanted for murder.
"Is the situation with your police files in
Jamaica taken care of yet?" he asked.
Richie, lost in a daydream, was doodling
imaginary circles on the footlocker with his index finger. Zedek
is enquiry snapped his mind back from its exploration of the
"Geegoís on top of it. He said everything will
be taken care of before I leave," Richie answered.
"Make sure to stay on him until you get
confirmation. We canít afford to have that situation dangling
over your head when you get deported," Zedek said.
Charmane accepted Sophiaís invitation to sleep
over with only a vague idea where she lived. Sheíd heard of the
Water House section of Kingston but never been there before.
Sheltered by an upper-class upbringing, Charmane never ventured
out the suburbs of Cherry Gardens unless it was in the comfort
of her motherís 530i BMW or her fatherís chauffeured Cadillac
Today, she told her mother her first real lie
that sheíd be sleeping over with her cousin Kendra-a thing she
did regularly. Now, in the heart of Water House walking along
Balcom Drive, second thoughts crept in. The area was better
known as Fire House to its residents due to the rampant
"Sophia, why you never tell me is so your
neighborhood bad. We couldíve gone to my house," 15 year old
Charmane said, glancing left, right, and everywhere.
"I donít see it as bad. This is where I grow up.
Your momís too strick; she cramps my style, and we canít enjoy
ourselves over there," Sophia replied. She stopped to wave to 2
women standing in a door way then continued, "She peeks over our
shoulders like we is babies, and I got to be all prim and proper
because sheís always saying Ďladies donít do this and ladies not
supposed to do that.í She makes me tense, always looking down
her nose at me."
"Sophia, you know she means no harm. Sheís only
trying to be friendly," Charmane said, clutching Sophiaís waist
They turned down a dirt track labeled Cider
Lane. Charmane was shocked by the clutter of deformed and
distorted shacks perpetrating to be homes-shacks constructed of
discarded lumber, cardboard, and sheets of corrugated zinc. It
was a cosmopolitan collection of second, third, and fourth hand
materials. Each piece that made up these hovels seemed misplaced
or unsound and bespoke of past lives, of being reincarnated over
and over again. This gave each house a unique appearance and
individual character. The whole lot looked like a collection of
vagrants fresh from Salvation Armyís clothing bank, attired in a
kaleidoscope of mis-matched clothes, bunched in a crooked line
at the soup kitchen.
The smell of suffering was everywhere-stale,
musty, and stifling. Every breath was callous and unforgiving
and with it a dream died. To Charmaneís surprise, there were
of children with cherubic faces. Unlike their
adult counterparts, life had yet to steal their joy. The adultsí
deadened eyes tracked her every move, and she was deafened by
their silent pain. She began to feel guilty, as if, some how she
was to blame for their conditions.
Charmane was struck by the unperturbed demeanor
of the people. It seemed like nothing bothered nor surprised
them, as if, from birth they were pulled, stretched, and twisted
by fate until it molded a certain resignation into their
souls-the resignation to suffer without complaint.
Sophia waved to a group of men standing on the
corner by a light pole smoking weed and drinking beer. Charmane
stiffened. She held her head straight as possible. She could
feel their eyes pry through her. Her firsthand light skin and
long brunette hair stood out like a sore thumb among the
background of recycled humanity.
Sophia caught a glint of Bunny Primeís
sunglasses, half concealed by the light pole, then saw the
sparkle of his gold teeth when he cocked his head back and
raised a bottle of Red Stripe beer to his lips with a wry smile
drawn across his face.
"I wonder what that foolís doing outside this
time of the day," she thought.
Sophia knew Bunny Prime, the don of Water House
younger brother and enforcer, only came out at night when
gangsters and criminals owned the streets: a midday sighting
usually spelt mischief. She pushed the flimsy wooden gate at the
end of the lane and entered the yard with Charmane joined to her
waist like a Siamese twin. The yard was bigger and more isolated
than the rest. It wasnít boxed in by shacks on both sides and
exhibited evidence of attempted brick and mortar constructions
here and there.
Charmane couldnít get over her shock at the
dilapidated condition of the neighborhood. Everything about it
told a story of struggle, transience, and tragedy. Were it not
for her own eyes, she wouldnít believe places like this existed
in Jamaica. What shocked her even more was the amount of people,
children, dogs, and other creatures that milled in and out the
shanties. How could people live like this she wondered, certain
the ramshackle constructions did little if anything to keep
nature at bay.
"Masco whoís that red bone with Sophia?" Bunny
Masco looked up from his squatting position. The
sun bore down on him. He squinted his eyes at the lanky figure
in sunglasses who posed the question.
"I man donít know. Never seen that one before.
Must be one of her school friends."
Bunny Prime shifted weight from his crooked left
leg-a leg made so after being introduced to a .357 Magnum-unto
his good leg, then adjusted the chrome .38 Smith and Wesson in
"Since Sophia get the scholarship to Immaculate
High, we hardly see her," Promise added from the sideline. Ever
self-conscious about his appearance, he fingered the knife scar
emblazoned on his right cheek that made smiley faces when he
"Sheís the first person in the neighborhood to
go to a high society school uptown. That girlís going to be
somebody one day," Masco commented as he emptied his Heineken
and threw the bottle toward the gully. It landed with a crash
"Her big sister had brains too. If she never got
"The one Bunny Prime and them no stop fuck off
the young gal them," Masco interjected, cutting Promise off in
mid sentence to offer his explanation for the extra-ordinary
high rate of teenage pregnancies in the neighborhood.
Gold toothed, Bunny Prime smiled in silence as a
steady stream of weed and crack smoke flowed from his nostrils.
With his brain stoked with chemicals, his mind wandered: his
feet soon followed.
Charmane found the inside of Sophiaís tenement
surprisingly cozy. Sophiaís aunt was on her way to work
when they entered. She introduced herself quickly, told the
girls to keep the place clean, and was out the door.
"Well, weíre here," Sophia said, "Girl have a
seat, you donít have to stand there like a statue"
"Charmane, youíre not uptown. Sit down anywhere
you want without all the formal bullshit. I know the place isnít
furnished with the mahogany and leather furniture youíre used
to, but feel at home; this is how we do it in the ghetto,"
Charmane sat down timidly in an old worn sofa
and took in the ambience of poverty. She was self-conscious of
her actions and
reactions, desperate to avoid embarrassing
herself or her new friend. She thought about how hard it mustíve
been on Sophia when she imposed upon her and invited her home
soon after they met. Charmane now realized how embarrassed and
out of place Sophia must have felt to be suddenly dragged into
the lap of luxury and teased with the comforts of a rich
"She mustíve been insulted and thought I was
flaunting my good fortune in her face."
However, Sophia never complained. She knew she
didnít belong, and from an early age understood an impenetrable
glass wall separated rich from poor. The poor had a right to see
the luxuries on the other side of this wall but hold no right to
experience it. Sophia knew, notwithstanding their genuine
friendship, the law of birthright stood preeminent and took it
in all in stride. This was life.
Though Charmaneís friendship with Sophia was
authentic, she liking her unpretentious manner from day one,
Charmane felt guilt for not having paid more attention to or
considering Sophiaís feelings. She matter-of-factly assumed,
since they attended the same prestigious high school, their
lives were more or less equivalent and invited her uptown. Now,
exposed to the other side of life, the real side, Charmane
believed her innocent oversight traumatized Sophia who never
once complained. This heightened her respect and affection for
Charmane found herself beginning to relax and
feel comfortable. The informal, easygoing, laid back attitude of
the ghetto was a different experience for her; there was a
certain charm about it. With much more latitude and increased
freedom, it made her normal lifestyle seem rather stifling.
"Charmane, you must be thirsty. Do you want
something to drink?" Sophia asked.
"Sure, I thought youíd never ask. Girl, my
throat is parched," Charmane responded with a laugh.
"You can stay there and die of thirst following
your highty tighty etiquette. What if I didnít ask? If youíre
thirsty, say youíre thirsty. Who cares about grace or proper
manners when theyíre in need," Sophia said with a smile.
Charmane blushed, buried her face in her hand,
"Thatís what I donít understand with the prim
and prom thing, it breeds helplessness," Sophia added, imitating
a dignified flair.
"Okay, okay. You donít have to rub it in. I get
it. Iíll have a Pepsi or Ginger ale please," Charmane said,
"Mademoiselle, Iím sorry to inform you that I
cannot comply with your request. In the ghetto, we natives lack
certain conveniences of modernity- -like a refrigerator. In
order to fulfill your request madam, Iíll have to go fetch it
from the neighborhood store," Sophia said with a knee deep
Charmane, caught between astonishment and
laughter, stared wide-eyed at her.
"Is it possible to live without a refrigerator,"
she thought and was at a loss for words.
Sophia found the expression on Charmaneís face
funny and bust out laughing. Charmane followed suit without
"Charmane, Iím kidding- -in a wayĖbut I really
got to get the soda from the store. Itís just a few houses
down," Sophia said. "Without a standard electricity grid, we
steal electricity from the main power line, and if everyone
plugged in major appliances, it would blow the circuit for
everybody and most likely burn down the lane."
Charmane was still lost for words; however, she
was certain she wasnít ready to venture back outside at this
moment. Sophia read her mind.
"Itís nothing; weíre used to it," Sophia said as
she walked to the door. "Make yourself comfortable dear, Iíll be
back soon. A tape player with the latest Mavado album is on the
table in my bedroom." Charmane only managed a nod. "Girl trust
me, youíre in for a wild experience. One youíll never forget.
Just wait until it gets dark; thatís when the ghetto really
comes alive. Lock the door behind me."
With that Sophia was out the door. Charmane got
up and secured the bolt on the flimsy wooden door. The
contraption was something she never saw before. Now, by herself,
she surveyed the quaint dwelling closely. The walls were covered
with a motley of magazine pictures that doubled as
wallpaper-pictures of movie stars, entertainers, expensive cars,
and jewelry. In it, Charmane saw a wall of wishful thinking; one
which captured the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that kept
children of poverty motivated to succeed.
There was an intimacy and warmth to the place
not found in the suburbs that touched Charmane deeply. It was as
sufferings connected people through their
humanity, in contrast to selfish luxury and high living which
connected them through vanity.
Charmane headed towards Sophiaís bedroom,
partitioned off from the living/dining room by a white sheet
hanging from the ceiling. She pushed the sheet aside, stepped
in, and was flung to the ground. She let out a scream, hit the
ground with a thud, and was dazed. Her attacker grabbed her by
the scruff of the neck and slammed her onto a mattress on the
floor. Charmane began to flail, thrash, scratch, and kick.
She tried to scream again, but the coarse hands
around her neck stifled her voice. She swung wildly and blindly
in the direction where she estimated her attackerís face to be
and hit something that went flying.
Charmane felt her panties slide down her legs
and kicked as hard as she could. Her shoe heel connected with a
The attacker let her go. She struggled to get to
her feet, adjust her eyes to the dark room, and run at the same
time. She managed a few steps and crashed into a dresser drawer
or cabinet of some kind. Toiletries flew everywhere. Charmane
managed a scream that was cut short by a hard blow behind the
ears. She collapsed.
Her attacker laid on top of her and pushed her
dress up. His breath was heavy, laden with stale beer, and the
stench of male musk filled the air. Charmaneís eyes adjusted to
the dark allowing her to see the face of her attacker. It was
grotesque, straight out of a horror flick. The left side looked
like he was the victim of a fire: badly scared. The skin looked
like the melted wax on the side of a candle, frozen in motion.
The left eye was an opaque white ball like that
of a cooked fish. The lower eyelid was melted away and the white
eyeball on the verge of falling out the socket. A snarl revealed
a mouth full of gold.
The only thing Charmane could focus on was the
ghastly eyeball about to fall on her. Her head began to throb.
She felt a finger slide into her vagina and fingers pressing
against her lips. She opened her mouth, engulfed one, and bit
down with all her might.
A loud explosion followed and Charmane was no
more. The attacker ripped off her panties and had his way with
"What a nice red bone. Is a pity she never
behave herself," the attacker muttered upon completion. He
retrieved his sunglasses and limped out the back way he came in,
nursing his bruised pinky finger.
Two patrol cars, heading towards the bank, flew
pass the Land Cruiser. Billy Boy made a casual turn unto Spanish
Town Road then sped up. The Land Cruiser darted in and out to
avoid obstacles in the road. Richie looked back. The police cars
were racing towards them.
Billy Boy had a good head start. With the
the road he knew the police cruisers couldnít
cover ground too quickly. When he passed the worse of the
obstacles, Billy Boy opened up the booster vacuum, and the Land
Cruiser took off down the highway like an Indy race car. He
wanted to get to the turn-off on Old Harbour Road with enough
distance to crawl unto the cobble stone track and disappear
before the police saw where they went.
He got there as planned, slowed down, and eased
the Land Cruiser into the field of wild cane and trees. The Land
Cruiser disappeared as it drowned in the dense over-growth of
greenery. Everything went dark.
Razor edged blades of grass grabbed at the
windows and sides of the car. Pele was terrified. He gripped the
edge of his seat, gritted his teeth, and braced himself for some
catastrophe. Dave Ninja didnít know what to think. He only hoped
Billy Boy knew what he was doing turning off into the middle of
the bushes like that. The police cruisers whizzed by the
entrance to the cobble track to chase a phantom.
In the back seat, Scrap was peeved. All manners
of emotions ran through him. He was mad, embarrassed, and felt
disrespected. He thought Richie was either a fool or insane.
Scrap couldnít comprehend what just took place.
"If we come to rob, we rob. Who ever heard of a
robber leaving valuables behind, and then to give back what I
already had? Madness! I shouldíve shot him. If it wasnít for
Dave Ninja and Pele, I wouldíve shot him; heís a mad man," Scrap
reasoned to himself as he twirled the gold watch he kept around
his wrist. "We didnít even take the money that was in their
wallets," he thought as he swallowed his disgust.
The Land Cruiser looked like it was being
swallowed whole by a giant green Anaconda as it crept down the
ancient track. With the high beams on, Billy Boy could barely
see 2 feet ahead; however, he was familiar with the route. The
eerie silence in the
cabin dawned on him. He felt tension in the air,
so he turned on the CD. Bob Marleyís Buffalo Soldier came on to
ease the tension.
"Yes Iím a Buffalo Soldier, Iím dread locks
Yes Iím a Buffalo soldier, Iím a dread locks
Stolen from Africa and brought to America.
Fighting from arrival fighting for survival,
Woi, yoi, yoiÖWoi, yoi-yoi, yoi," Marley wailed.
One hour later Billy Boy pulled up between 2
Sour Sop trees. The men got out the Land Cruiser looking worn
from the slow bumpy ride. They stretched their legs; a long hike
still laid ahead.
"Which way now?" Dave Ninja asked eager to get
back to Thebes. He passed a duffle bag to Pele.
"Continue straight ahead through the Sour Sop
trees and youíll run into a path by the stream. It takes you
straight back to Thebes," Billy Boy said.
Dave Ninja and Pele, trailed by Scrap, took off
following Billy Boyís directions.
Richie looked around at the thick bushes and
wondered how Billy Boy managed to get this far before especially
"Where does the track go," Richie asked.
I donít know but it turns left a little farther
up, but the forest has invaded the track and you canít drive any
"So what about the Land Cruiser?" Richie asked.
Billy Boy locked the doors.
"Iíll return and drive it back down the hill."
Richie and Billy Boy fell in behind Dave Ninja
and the others. They rounded a steep corner where they had to
grab on to the trees for support. Richie noticed a glint of gold
on Scrapís wrist.
"Hold up! Scrap, where you get that watch?"
Dave Ninja and Pele stopped and turned around to
face Scrap. Scrap looked like a deer caught in headlights. His
mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water but no words
"Do you think I was joking when I said give
every piece of jewelry back?"
Scrapís mouth opened and closed some more.
"Ah-ah- -I mean. You know..."
Billy Boy was frozen with fear. Dave Ninja
instinctively brought his AK-47 to a ready position. Pele was
thinking of something to say when the Desert Eagle exploded.
backwards and rolled down the hillside. His body
came to rest at the foot of a guava tree.
"When the general gives an order thatís unclear
and the troops disobey, itís his fault. But when the general
gives an order that is clear and the troops understand but
disobey that is mutiny," Richie looked around with a scowl on
his face, "Honor is the number one principle of the Young Black
Uprising. Bury him where he lies," Richie said and walked off.
The bank robbery was plastered all over the
Evening News. Anchor woman, Claudette Bartolomue of Jamaica
Broadcasting Corporation (JBC), the islandís major television
station, reported: "In a brazen midday bank heist, 5 robbers
strong armed Barclays bank in the Spanish Town Mall and stole 10
million dollars. Witnesses say the men were very organized and
communicated with each other using dog barks. The police have
dubbed this gang of robbers the African Wild Dogs.
In a strange turn of events, police are having a
difficult time getting witnesses to identify these bandits. It
seems some patrons are so terrified of future retaliations they
have refused to cooperate with the police.
One teller told us the thieves called themselves
revolutionaries. Itís been rumored, the robbers shared proceeds
of the robbery with the bank patrons, and that may explain why
witnesses are reluctant to cooperate with the authorities. Weíve
not been able to confirm this allegation.
The robbers made off with the surveillance tape.
They were chased by the police, but bad road conditions helped
them to escape. They were last seen in a white SUV. Anyone with
information please contact 864-HOT-TIPS. Barclays bank is
offering a 100,000 dollar reward to anyone with information
leading to the capture of these robbers."
Police commissioner, Colin Cross, held an
emergency meeting to discuss the security assessment of the
island in the wake of hurricane Garvey. Samson and School Boy
Keith were in attendance and met in the lounge.
"What do you think about the Barcalys job?"
"Itís different. This is a new group. They gave
away money," School Boy Keith said.
"Thatís why witnesses arenít talking much. Even
the security guard canít remember details he should," Samson
"Yep, I donít know what to think. They called
themselves revolutionaries and said they work for poor people.
Thatís strange," School Boy Keith said.
"It doesnít sound good. I havenít heard anything
like that since Copper in the 70s. He fancied himself a Robin
Hood," Samson said.
"Thatís why we couldnít get close to him. The
people protected him. The only way we got to him was to use
Baskins, the Prime Ministerís hit man, who shot him in the
"Yep, that conspiracy was hidden well; to this
day people think the Caymanas Park police killed Copper," Samson
said. "So what are you hearing? Do you think Coolie Kirk had
anything to do with the robbery?"
"No. Not his style. Heís not a bank robber. I
had the boy in my sights a few months ago, but his stupid baby
mother saved his ass. I havenít heard of nor seen him since, but
come hell or high water, Iím going to get him even if Iíve to
kill every coolie on the island to get him. Iím gonna get him,"
School Boy Keith said, seething in anger.
"He might be dead or went to America," Samson
said, recalling why he never saw nor heard from Tek Life.
"Maybe," School Boy Keith said. Bigger issues
were on his mind concerning the robbery. "$200,000 US and me not
getting any of that? Just wait till I put my hands on whoeverís
responsible. Theyíd better have my cut waiting. Rob things in my
area and me donít get nothing. You must be mad," he thought and
rolled his eyes in consternation.
"Have you tracked down Tek Life yet?" School Boy
"No. Iím beginning to doubt he was on flight
221. I guess everybodyís right; heís dead, and itís all in my
head. Do you think I should see a psych about it?"
School Boy Keith bust out laughing. The start of the
conference was announced over the intercom. The men parted and
headed to the conference room.
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