Five years I've been gone from Los Santos, doing my best to earn paper in Liberty City, working from one shitty job to the next and trying to stay righteous. Five years since Brian died, death sending me out of Los Santos, and now death bringing me back.
My name is Carl Johnson, but everyone call me CJ. I was born on Grove Street in Ganton, lived there most of my life till my brother Brian died and my Moms sent me out to Liberty City, get me out of the game, away from the gangs, away from Sweet most of all. Sweet was Grove Street to the core, my big brother in blood, but big brother to everyone representing Grove Street Family as well. Made sense to me to get out too, seeing Brian die convinced me that there be only one end on the gang road, and it an early grave... I don't want no part of that shit.
I stepped out of Los Santos International and hailed a cab, some illegal gypsy shit, unlicensed like hundreds others in the city. No official cab gonna stop for a black man in Los Santos, but that cool, there be two layers to Los Santos - legal and illegal, or to put it more bluntly, white and colored. Hispanic, black, Asian... we all learn to adapt to being second class citizens... shit, we don't want no part of that white world anyhow. I stepped into the cab and said Grove Street and that's all it took, cabbie knew the way, took one look at me and thought that even without colors I was representing Grove Street, no one else go there 'less they be representing or got a deathwish. I ain't going to correct him, tell him I ain't represented Grove Street in five years, why complicate things? That's the unspoken rule of Los Santos - don't complicate things.
Driving down the streets brought it all back to me, seeing landmarks I remembered as a kid, it was like riding a bike, settling back into the Los Santos groove, and I started to think maybe it wasn't so bad being back, maybe things would be different now. It had been five years after all, and....
Motherfucking C.R.A.S.H, man, and right away I knew shit hadn't changed, things was just the same as they always been. That fat pig Pulaski hauled me up and turned me around and there he was, the number one hardass cop in Los Santos, the corrupt asshole that ran "our" side of Los Santos.
I had run-ins with him as a kid, everybody know that Tenpenny is the biggest crook in Los Santos, and that he gets away with it because he's a cop, and because no one gives a shit if some niggas and spics be getting fucked over. He licks the white man's ass and then kicks the shit out of the people beneath him, take they money and kill anyone who get in his way. C.R.A.S.H stands for "Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums", but they just another gang, one with The Man behind them, thinking they handling the street when they really just using it. I said there were two sides to Los Santos, and Tenpenny operates in both, and how the fuck he know I was back in Los Santos anyway?
Sitting in the back of the patrol car, Tenpenny's little attack dog Pulaski tried to get a raise out of me. That fool ain't changed a bit in five years, just got fatter and meaner. He a racist fuck, and I never got how he don't see it strange that he a black man's bitch. The Latino in the front seat didn't know what the fuck, I could tell, he just some poor fuck that drew the short straw and got lumped in with Tenpenny and Pulaski, a couple of patrol cops that run the shady side of a shady city.
Tenpenny was straight into it, moving on like I ain't been out his grip for five years, like I ain't been living clean in Liberty City. Take my paper, show me a gun, tell me that some poor fool called Pendelbury be iced, and that I be the one that iced him. I didn't ice no one, I only just got off a plane, but in Los Santos, what Tenpenny say... is. He say I iced Pendelbury, that mean I iced Pendelbury, no matter what I did or where I was. Only thing I don't know is WHY he want me
to be the one that iced Pendelbury, and he wasn't in no mood to tell me.
Shit, this be Ballas territory, worst place in the world for someone from Grove Street to be. I ain't represented for five years, but like I say before, it don't matter. All it takes is one Balla to recognize me from back in the day, and Sweet and Kendl have two funerals to go to. I grabbed the bike and started rolling, my mind slipping back into track, my feet taking me down old familiar paths I ain't seen in five years, like I ain't never be gone, like I was always here. I rode down
the street between a patrol car and cycle, all smiles at the officers, officers all looking me up and down, wondering if it be worth they time to arrest me for being black - a crime in Los Santos, no matter what the affirmative action people say.
The light change to green and they rode on ignoring me, minds on the squawks coming from they radio, saying "Officer Down!", me knowing it be Pendelbury, the guy that I apparently iced despite being up in a plane when it happen. I turned left, thinking maybe everything going to be okay, I be getting near Ganton now, maybe I can just make it back to Moms, get to the funeral, grab some paper and get back to Liberty City, and put all this behind me.
It about half an hour later I pulled up outside the house, walked up them old familiar steps, my key still working, letting me in to a house I grew up in and ain't seen in five years. Stepping aside, it all came back - remembering roughhousing wit' Brian, Kendl yelling to Moms and getting us in trouble, Sweet watching it all happen with a grin on his face, Moms bringing us breakfast and lunch and dinner, watching TV and... shit, it all too much, I grabbed the framed photo of her and held it in my hands, sitting down at the table and staring, my Moms man, my Moms-
"YOU PICKED THE WRONG HOUSE, FOOL!"
"CJ, my dog!" grinned Big Smoke, grabbing me up in a bearhug, the fat man stronger than his body made him look. Sweet was my brother by blood, but Smoke my brother too, as good as. Him, me, Brian and Ryder from back in the day, four fools talking big, lying about the dope we smoked, the women we fucked and the shit we pulled,"Whassup? Hey baby, you okay, man?"
Smoke started talking the way only Smoke does, telling me the streets was cold, speaking from the Bible, saying that in the midst of life we are in death and all that good shit. What he didn't say was how Moms died, leaving that for Sweet to explain. We headed down to the cemetery, Smoke filling me in on some of the shit from the last five years, hearing that Grove Street Family fallen on hard times, other gangs taking our shit, disrespecting our tags, shifting yay the worst of all, right out there on our streets. Tell me about how Sweet trying to hold it all together, and all I can think of is a Captain on a sinking ship, refusing to get off. That how Sweet always was, stubborn motherfucker, once he fix his mind on something, there ain't no changing it.
It good to see Kendl again, but one look at Sweet's face and I knew he hadn't changed one bit, he still ain't forgiven me for leaving for Liberty City, even if it our Moms who made the decision. Almost right off he was into it, getting into me for missing the funeral, for not being around, and then he turn on Kendl when she start to leave, going to see someone called Cesar, her new man.
Kendl gone, Sweet just turned and left and I could feel Ryder and Smoke standing there, uncomfortable, not wanting to get involved in family shit. I looked down at Moms grave, sorry for so much, sorry I caused her heartache when I was alive, sorry I wasn't there when she die, sorry I miss her funeral, sorry that I didn't miss her or the family when I was gone all those years, and most of all sorry that I couldn't wait to leave.
We walked together back towards Smoke's car, Sweet ahead of us, Ryder trying to lighten the mood by giving me shit... or maybe he was just being an asshole, hard to tell with Ryder, he got the shit kicked out of him alot when he a kid, people not knowing if he was fronting or just cracking wise. Smoke was speaking up, trying to make peace like Smoke always did... and that's when I got to have my second meeting with Ballas for the day.
We grabbed the bikes some poor kids had left outside the Eldritch Theatre, meaning they probably take a whooping from they Moms when they got home. We had other things on our mind though, like staying alive and trying to outrun Ballas armed to the teeth and in a car. I shouted to Sweet as we rode, asking what was going on, the cemetery should have been on Family Turf, and he clued me in on the reality.
I was panting when we pulled back up outside the homes in Grove Street, Sweet's sitting next to Moms, house bought and paid for from a job he pulled back in the day, pulling off shit like no one had seen before, getting the money together to buy Moms her home and the house next door for himself. It was that shit that put Sweet at the head of Grove Street Family, made him a legend, but ever since he been trying to hold together the Family by himself, and that more than anything be why we on bad terms... he wanted my help to hold the Family together, and I run out as soon as I get the chance.
We said our goodbyes, Sweet letting down his guard a second, asking if I wanted to come chill with them. I wanted to say yes, but I was tired, man, and all the shit of the day was catching up on me, so I begged off and headed back inside the house, empty now, my Moms gone, and me soon to go too.
About this point you might expect me to say I got out because I was so smart and had so much potential, and my Moms didn't want to see that go to waste. But that would be bullshit, I ain't the Fresh Prince, I ain't some genius who just needed a chance.... if that's anyone, it Smoke, that motherfucker have brains. Me, I just like everybody else, with just one difference, something that made Sweet look to me to help with the Family, that made my Moms so scared for me, the same thing that helped me when I met up with those Ballas earlier in the day.
This Gangsta shit? I'm really fucking good at it.
And that scares me more than anything, and it's why I gotta get outta here before Sweet and Tenpenny and the Ballas pull me back in.