by Jeffrey Murrell

Chapter 1
The Car

"Give it up, bitch! Get out!"
Oh, the power of brandishing a gun!
It's the respect he didn't get when he was young.
"Not ma baby! Don't take ma baby!"
was the plea as he yanked her out
and flung her to her knees
in the hot, dirty street.
And as the tires screeched,
he tossed the child out in its safety seat,
strapped in helplessly.
It rolled several times; its mother screamed,
but he was already long gone.
"Bitch! Why she couldn't respect me?
I was de big man wit' de gun!
Ho don't know when a brother's serious!"
he grumbled, boot to pedal,
on Jackson Avenue, heading west,
heading for Interstate 10.
The car was littered with wrappers and trash.
He found a pack of cigarettes, and lit one.
"Ho's always gonna be in dem projects!
She gonna always be livin' in St. Thomas!
She don't need no car!
An' dis place don't need anudda' nigga'!"
He turned right on St. Charles,
up to Lee Circle with his gun,
east on I-10 in her car,
with nothing to do now but run.
Great big city, shining and twinkling,
a big dirty, stinking whore
on a great big river, so filthy and reeking
with the trash of twenty other cities or more.
"Man! Dar ain't no woircer place dat sucks!"
he cursed, analyzing his bad luck,
as he slowed to a crawl in a traffic jam,
so typical of the place--so stuck.
He smoked up another cigarette,
rolling up the windows so he wouldn't get wet
as more heavy rain started to pour.
But he got just as damp from the beads of sweat
that dripped down his head and his arms.
"Come on! Why dey don't move?" he continued to fret
as he waited thirty minutes more,
guided around road repairs,
men in bright vests waiving orange flags
until he saw the exit sign for
And down he wound off the beaten path,
and onto one with annoying stop lights,
used car lots and cheap camper parks
where hookers work overtime.
But the scum and the litter eventually gave way
to pretty marinas and houses with gates
with expensive names like "Venetian Isles."
"What would it been like ta come up here?"
he wondered as he drifted on by.
Much better than in the St. Thomas projects
anyone with half a brain would guess;
anyone, like this young man, this pessimist
who turned to guns and violence
just to gain a little respect
from all those people who put him down,
mostly whites, but some blacks, too, he's found
to be almost just as unnice,
and just as likely to call him "boy."
Well, too bad for them when he's got his Tech-9,
Nothing's better at stopping that noise!
And, oh! Wouldn't these folks just shit
if they knew this gansta was in their midst.
That's what they're all afraid of,
that the blacks will all start moving in
and spoil their suburban Camelots,
especially all the trashy white ones who live
way back there off the road in their tacky fishing camps
along the lake, with stupid little names
on their mail boxes, like "Our Paradise,"
and "Bob and Sissy's Slice of the Pie!"
But those homes all disappeared soon enough for him.
The road narrowed and wound around
through open marshlands and over a bridge
then across another, and another still.
Then the giant old clunker he stole
gave a sharp lurch and began to slow
until the engine's purr became mute,
and brought the car gliding along its cruise
at the mercy of dying force vectors.
He pumped the gas again and again,
then's when he saw that there was no more left.
So the vehicle slowly skimmed to a halt
along the side of that long lazy road,
with only the waiving tall marsh grass around,
and a few wispy cypress trees with egrets in their canopies,
"Damn! Stupid ho didn't even put no gas in her ride!"
He kicked open the door and grabbed his Tech-9,
lit up another cigarette and headed out on foot,
passing a burned-out old service station and motel
to finally come upon a long narrow bridge
spanning a muddy green bayou.
And down in the water, anchored just off the tree line
were a few floating fisherman camps
with motor boats hooked up along their sides.
He slid down the side of the bridge,
snaked a dirt trail down to the nearest one.
The air was still and heavy; no one stirred in it.
He stepped out on to the floating platform,
slid around the walls of the box
to spy the motorboat tied up with tackle and oars.
"I'm gonna take me dat boat, git on down dis bayou!"
But, then he thought, why stop with the boat?
He'd take what there was inside the house, too!
He crept around front where it faced the water,
the screen door ajar--he listened for movement,
but no sound transgressed the lazy, thick air.
Cautiously, he stuck the gun muzzle inside,
then swung it open quickly to find
two men suddenly startled up on their feet!
They had been napping there on cots,
after a long day of fishing, tired and hot,
and having only a measly catch--
a couple of crabs, maybe a dozen crawfish.
"What'choo got in here ta take, huh?
Gimme yo' wallets! Gimme dem rings!"
The two men did not hesitate.
They stripped the few coins they had from their pockets,
gave him their wedding rings and watches.
"Where de keys fo' dat boat?"
"Ain't no keys--you jist pull de rope . . . "
"Y'all better not be dissin' me!"
"No, we swear! Ain't no keys!"
He snarled a laugh, like at some cruel joke,
then aimed and shot them both in the knees!