Authors: Odie Hawkins
“Bop, you should be down in the 'hood now; home, these motherfuckers is loadin' up on shit!”
Skateboard tried to lure him down into it with promises.â¦ “I promise you this, man, if you tripped through here right now, you could pick up VCRs, booze, anything you want. I promise you mo' shit than you ever had.â¦”
He was tempted but didn't feel compelled.
This is a fucking set-up. Once the fire dies down, niggers is gon' pay for this and I'm gon' be in Ghana, West Africa
He stutter-stepped back into the living room. The analysts were analyzing the analysts, the pundits were punditing, the sociologists were sotiologizing, the urbanologists were making money, people were being interviewed.
A young black man with his Raiders cap on sideways summed it up: “If you have to ask me why this happened 'cause you really don't know, then my daddy was right, white folks is a bunch o' dumb motherfuckers!”
Holloway House Originals by Odie Hawkins:
and Other States of Mind
Chester L. Simmons aka
The Great Lawd Buddha
Chili: Memoirs of a
Portrait of Simone
Scars and Memories
Sweet Peter Deeder
The Busting Out of
An Ordinary Man
The Life and Times of
Chester L. Simmons
Clyde Johnson, better known as “Bop Daddy” to the hundreds of gang bangers he used to lead and hang out with, stared at the scenes on the television fascinated.
Where's the police?
The television reporter circling Florence and Normandie in the channel 7 newscopter echoed Bop's thought question. “Where are the police? The police are nowhere to be seen. Motorists are being pulled from their vehicles by roving groups of young black men and beaten. A truck driver is sprawled on the ground next to his vehicle; he has been brutally beaten and stomped.
“Several other motorists driving through this intersection of Florence and Normandie in the heart of South Central Los Angeles have been assaulted by young blacks. There appears to be a racially motivated pattern to these attacks. This is Bob Murphy, reporting to you from the channel 7 newscopter. Now back to the studio. Joann, Fred?”
Bop flicked past channels 9 through 13 and back to channels 2, 5, and 9 and finally back to channel 7 again.
Where's the police?
“The police have not arrived on the scene as of yet, and it is a well-known fact that Chief Daryl Gates set aside a million-dollar overtime contingency fund for just such an emergency as this. Where are the police?”
Bop stood with his fists on his hips, mesmerized by the sight of the roving groups of mostly young black men and women, shifting from one side of the street to the other.
The liquor store on the northwest corner of the intersection was being looted. Bop backed away from the television, turned the corner to go into the kitchen for a Beck's beer.
Uhh ooohh â¦, them young niggers done got hold of that fire water now.â¦
He propped himself up in his uncle David's chair, sipping his beer, alternating his urges.â¦
Damn, I bet Skateboard, Bone, Big Fool, and the rest of 'em are down there or they're trying to get down there. Wish I was there
He leaned forward to stare at the figures racing around on the wide screen. Color TV makes everything look like fun.
No police howwww! They could shut this shit down right now if they wanted to. Wonder why they're not putting the muscle on?
The Watts Riot was taking place, May, 1992; the earlier Watts “riot” had been revolt, this was clearly a riot happening. Bop leaned back in his chair, sipped his beer, and stared out of the sliding picture window to his left.
Torrance, 228th Street, California. The low stand of mint next to the cactus was a deep green (he had dried some and mixed it with his marijuana a few times), the figs were ripe, the tangerines and oranges were sweetening on the trees. It was a sunny day.
Six months ago I would've been right down there in the middle of all that craziness
He sipped his beer and checked the wall clock. Uncle David and Aunt Lulu would be pulling in in a couple of hours, loaded with goodies. He looked around the living room for something to do.
There wasn't a helluva lot of housework to do with three neat adults on the premises (especially the way Aunt Lulu could take a broom, a mop, and a dishrag once a week), which gave Bop days of watching the soaps, the talk shows, and the news.
Sweet people, Uncle David and Aunt Lulu.
“Now let's get something straight right off the bat. I'm your uncle, you Marvina's boy, bless her soul, and I want to see that you have the best that you can have in this life. You twenty-one years already an' you ain't done shit with your life but fuck it up.â¦”
“Dave, don't talk to the boy like that, he.â¦”
“It's OK, Aunt Lulu, he's right. I need to hear this. Go 'head, Unc, tell it like it is.”
Uncle David was famous for the “overkill speech.”
“All right now, like I was sayin', you ain't done shit with your life so far but fuck it up. You was effing it up in Chicago when you was nine or ten and you ain't done a helluva lot better since your ass got out here.”
Uncle David could get to the core of things faster than most people. Bop flashed on the image of himself.â¦ “effing up” in Chicago, playing hooky, stealing, getting caught, worrying momma to death with all kinds of negative shit.
Yeahh, Unc, you're right
“You got out here, where a nigger at least has a decent chance, and you kept on effing up. You wanted to box but you didn't want to train, so them li'l wetbacks wiped the ring up with your ass. You thought you wanted to be a big-time pimp-drug dealer, but the cops outsmarted you 'cause they got computers 'n shit.
“Now then, I'm gon' tell you something you may already know; the only game in town is moneyâM-O-N-E-Yâand if you don't have any, your own momma don't like you.
“Now then, there's only a few ways to get money. You can work for it, like me and your Aunt Lu. You can inherit, which ain't nobody done in our family so far, or you can steal it.
“The best way is to work for it. You know why? If you sit around on your ass waitin' for somebody to die, they may not leave you shit anyway. And if you think you smart enough to get 'way with stealin' it, well, just take a look at the prisons. You've had your share of that, I hope.
“Betch' every one of those dudes thought they could get away with stealin', but they didn't, so now they doin' time.
“Much as I dislike to say it, the best way to get the money is to work for it. When you work for it, people can't accuse you for doin' nothing wrong.”
Bop smiled at the memory of his Uncle's speech, of the memory of Aunt Lu's head tilted back on the sofa, glasses on the tip of her nose, sound asleep.
Where's the police?
He gulped the last quarter of the beer and leaned forward to circle the channels again.
The South Central Los Angeles reaction to the Rodney King verdict (of not guilty for the four white cops accused of beating a black man senseless) was heating up.
Bop watched the flames shooting out of a car that had wandered into the riot zone.
Uhhhh ooohh, here we go â¦, the fire.â¦
He strolled into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, and quickly pulled another Beck's from the box. He forced himself to ignore the pies, ham, packages of salami, leftover buckets of fried chicken, potato salad, half gallons of ice cream. He was trying to keep his weight down to 165.
“I work for my livin' 'n I like po'k chops. Don't we, Lu?”
They worked hard (a mailman and a grammar school teacherâ“they know as much about sin in the fourth grade as they'll ever know, these days”). They had offered him the opportunity to live with them for a few months, to “pull his act together.”
“Now, Bop, you got to understand, we love you. You're the only nephew your uncle has out here in California and we want to see you make something out of yourself.”
“I hope you're takin' Aunt Lulu to heart 'cause we're too old to be tryin' to track you down at night and make sure you're not usin' dope or sellin' dope or stealin' or runnin' around with the rest of them crazy fools in Watts. You either decide you're gonna pull it together here, go to school, get a job or whatever, or move on. You understand what I'm sayin' to you?”
“I read you loud 'n clear, Unc, loud 'n clear.”
The telephone ringing jarred him, janged his hand on the beer bottle.
“Heyyy, Bop? That you?” Bone's heavy grained voice came at him.
“Who in the fuck you callin'?”
Bone cracked up; he was a freak for Bop's offbeat sense of humor. He gave him a few moments of laughter.
Sounds like he's clearing his fuckin' throat when he laughs
“Well, c'mon, motherfucker, speak.”
It took Bone a few more seconds of hacking, coughing, laughing before he could answer. “Mannn, you still outta your skull, you know that?!”
“Yeahh, I know, Bone, what's happenin'?”
“Uhhh, what about this shit goin' down, man; what we gon' do â¦?”
“Fuck, you mean, what we gon' do?”
“Well, you know what I mean, what the Bricks gon' do?”
“You called the wrong brother, home. I cut the Bricks loose six months ago, remember?”
“Awww c'mon, Bop, let's cut the bullshit, man; you the top Brick!”
“Bone, listen to me close, man, listen to me close; I
the top Brick. Dig it? I
He gently replaced the receiver in its wall cradle and stood in place, sipping his brew, feeling half an urge to call Bone back, one of the top level Bricks he had “made,” and feeling half disgusted.
Why can't these motherfuckers think of nothing to do on their own: why does someone always have to be telling them what to do?
“Bop, couple thangs you got to understand. Most people are just milling around like sheep, waiting for someone to lead them somewhere. They're natural followers, most people.”
“Awww c'mon, Chester, I don't believe that.”
“If it wasn't true you wouldn't be doing time in here for leading a gang through South Central Los Angeles, inciting a riot.”
“I was framed; I didn't do nothing.”
“Sure you did, you led one hundred and fifty-three young brothers in a protest march from Century and Main to Imperial Bloulevard.”
“Somebody had to do it, man.”
“Why did it have to be you?”
The car pulled into the driveway; Uncle David and Aunt Lu were home. The riot was four hours old and had spread from Florence and Normandie to Manchester and Vermont. And points in between.
Uncle David and Aunt Lulu had a precision honed schedule; he left the Beverly Hills post office at 2:30
, picked his wife up at the Progressive School on Pico and Overland Boulevard at 3:15
, andâon the days when they didn't stop for fresh supplies of top-grade steaks, farm-raised catfish, steak-sized pork chops, top-of-the-line poultry, cake, pies, and other goodiesâthey were easing into the driveway by ten to four.
“Ain't too much a po' man can do 'cept eat good. I ain't never heard of a dollar bill that filled up a man's gut or stopped him from feeling thirsty.”
Uncle David had an answer for most of the questions that the world seemed to want answers for.
“If you want to get somewhere or do something, the first thing you have to do is git up off your ass and move!”
Bop peeked out of the window, his third Beck's in hand, and smiled as he watched his uncle and aunt get out of the car.
They were massive people; Uncle David at six foot one, carried a 285 pound Sumo wrestler's belly in front of him. Aunt Lulu matched her man's bulk with her own five foot eight, two hundred well-packed pounds. She was, as the saying put it, full up front and ample behind.
And they had to lean back in the late model car, get their thick legs on the ground, and then edge out of the vehicle. He had seen both of them struggle to ease from behind the wheel at least three or four times. On one occasion he thought he'd have to help Aunt Lulu wedge free, but she made it without his help.
They were fifty-one and forty-nine (Aunt Lu sometimes fudged back to forty-six), solid, quiet-moving people who paid their dues, didn't take any guff from anybody, and were determined to live what they called “the good life.”
“Everybody has to do what they think is right.”