Part 14: Behind The Scenes - Lost Lines
"Yo Carl," Tenpenny say as he and Pulaski walk on by me, like strutting fucking roosters, like they had every reason to be there, like they own the world,"See you around..."
He let it hang in the air like that, threatening me without saying anything, walking away without looking at me, Pulaski saying something to him that make him laugh, leaving me standing on Smoke's porch feeling stupid and angry and embarrassed. Fuck they doing over here anyway? Punk-ass police.
"Those nosey motherfuckers won't leave me alone!" say Smoke's voice from behind me, giving me another fright, making me feel like an asshole all over again,"Think I'm "Mr Big", or something.... but I don't tell them shit."
He grin at me, throwing his arms up wide like he going to hug me, then dropping them back down,"For me, it's all about my homeboy, Carl."
I nodded, turning to watch as they drove off, using an unmarked patrol car today, heading on up the street without a fucking care in the world. Fuck, I hated them, I hated them both, but Tenpenny most of all.
"What you after today, baby?" ask Smoke,"Come for some sage advice from "Mr Big"?"
"I..." I start, thinking about how I was planning to pick Smoke's brain about Tenpenny, figure out what he up to. Thinking about all that, and then saying,"..nothing man, just came to hang with my homie."
That the worst thing about Tenpenny, he makes you paranoid, cut you off even from the people you love the most.
But if Smoke pick up on how I feel, he didn't show it, he had other things on his mind, like usual. He lean in close to me, eyes looking all about,"Yo, the gang's real important, CJ, you know that! You down to represent, baby?"
"You know I always down, Smoke," I say, wanting to do something to help him now, make me feel better about myself for letting Tenpenny get to me.
"Look, my cousin is coming into town from Mexico," Smoke tell me,"I gots to go scoop her up."
"Okay," I say, nodding, and he slap me on the shoulder with that big grin on his face, and headed for the car, leaving me standing behind for a second.
"Man, fuck you, Tenpenny," I say, shaking my head, and then headed over to the car.
He give me directions to a pick-up in Las Flores, and we drove along quietly for a few minutes, listening to Bounce FM, Smoke grinning and singing along to Kool & the Gang, singing,"HEY HEY HEY!" and sounding more like Fat Albert.
"What you want me to roll with you for anyway?" I ask at last.
"No reason," he say with a grin, bopping his hand along to the music,"I just wanted to get in the car pool lane."
"Oh yeah?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah man, just cool out homie," he grin, looking laid back like Tenpenny being around hadn't affected him - shit, maybe it hadn't?"Just chill."
We passed a Gym and I thought about Rocky, who I still hadn't had the balls to go around and see since the beating I gave him. I couldn't let it lie though, Smoke had a cousin.... from Mexico?
"Your cousin's coming here? From Mexico?"
"Yeah, me an' her go way back," grin Smoke, looking far away for a second, voice quiet,"Way back."
"Ah Smoke," I say, unable to to help it, grinning myself, Smoke an infectious motherfucker,"You full a shit."
"Don't be prejudiced again in my presence, Carl," he say, sounding like a teacher giving a lesson,"Everybody is my cousin."
And then we pulled up outside where we supposed to pick up Smoke's cousin.... oh Smoke, you lying motherfucker!
"Okay, my cousin Mary's in there," Smoke say with a grin, looking over at the two Vagos,"Sweet sticky bud fresh off the plantation.... let me do the talking, baby."
"Oh for sure, homie," I say, rolling my eyes and leaning back in my seat as Smoke lean forward to look out the window, ready to lay on the charm.
"....I want that grass? Comprende?" he try, the two Vagos turning to look at each other, considering they response careful.
"What?" I say, pissed. Sure we rolling up on their turf, sure Smoke basically being an asshole to they face... but you do NOT say that to a Grove Street OG! I started to move, but Smoke place his hand on my chest, shaking his head.
"Relax, baby," he smile,"I got this."
He lean back forward, and turn on the "charm" all over again.
The two Vagos look at each other again, motherfuckers got some kind of mental shit going on, knowing what each other thinking. The one that told Smoke to fuck off before spoke again, turning on his own charm.
The two Vagos slapped hands, grinning, and walked away from they spot, turning they backs on us, like we weren't nothing.
Well, we'd see about that.
"Yeah, fuck yeah, Smoke!" I laughed,"Grove Street!"
Smoke laid the boot in again to the Vago, who wasn't so fucking mouthy now, then looked up at the cowardly motherfucker running away from his homie, leaving him behind - what kind of asshole left their homie in the lurch like that?
A dead motherfucking coward.
"STAY ON HIM, CJ!" shout Smoke as we chased after the coward,"STAY ON THE MOTHERFUCKER!"
I didn't know that Smoke wasn't with me, all my shit focused on running down this cowardly motherfucker. He hauled ass to a wire fence and rolled over the top, heading into the backyard of a block of houses, hoping to lose me in an area he knew and I didn't. I wasn't sure why, but it was suddenly the most important thing in the world for me to catch that motherfucker, teach him for disrespecting Grove Street like that. Who the fuck Tenpenny think he.... who the fuck this Latino motherfucker thing he was, dissing us like that?
I kicked out at his ankles, tripping him so he fell forward, face smashing hard into the tree he'd been about to run around. He shouted out and twisted around, nose gushing blood, and I smashed my fist into his face, knocking him off his feet in the way Rocky had shown me. He hit the grass and started trying to crawl away, and I slammed my foot against his back, smacking him back into the ground. Blood was everywhere, pooled up in the grass underneath him, making him look like I'd torn his fucking chest open, and he just lay there, panting and saying the same thing over and over again, busted up face fucking up his words,"Pleab, pleab, pleab, no, pleab, dobt kill be, pleab, pleab."
I stood over his body, looking down at him. Him and his homie had dissed us and dissed Grove Street, and he'd run away and left his homie to take the punishment. But did that mean he deserve to die? Hadn't beating him up taught him his lesson? Or would he just get better and come after us again to prove he not the bitch I just made him into. Fact was, I didn't think he had the balls to ever come after me again, he fronted but when the chips were down he ran. But there was one other fact too, something you had to learn early if you going to be bangin'.
I wasn't a nice guy.
I walked down the street and saw Smoke coming the other way in the car, fucking joker honking his horn and waving at me. He pulled up beside me and I hopped in, letting him drive for a change, just leaning back and trying to let the tension out.
"What happen to the Vato, CJ?" he asked.
"I made his Momma sad," I say back, and he just nod and go back to driving, car quiet except for Cameo singing about it being like Candy.
"Yo CJ," he say at last,"You real tense lately, baby, like you got something on your mind... you know you can speak to ol' Smoke, right?"
"Yeah Smoke, yeah, I know...." I say, suddenly tired, more tired than I could ever remember,"Shit just getting heavy at the moment now, y'know, I.... Smoke.... why Tenpenny in your house?"
Smoke just laugh, quietly, like he don't find anything funny,"Not everybody can be like your brother, baby, in fact nobody can, you know what I saying?"
"Move the fuck out of the way, boy," Tenpenny say, my eyes wide as I watch, everybody know that Officer Tenpenny go where he want, when he want. Even a little kid like me knew tha-
"This ain't your house, and you don't have a warrant," say Sweet, and I hear Moms give out a little moan from behind me, holding me and Brian close against her,"You ain't coming in."
"Boy, if yo-"
"Yo, CJ?" ask Smoke, and I realized I'd fallen asleep in the car, dozed off and started remembering shit that went down a long time ago,"Shit nigga, my jokes aren't that tired, are they?"
"Sorry man, sorry," I say.
"Hey it cool," grin Smoke,"Like I saying, Tenpenny invite himself in, poking his nose about, wanting to know what going on with Grove Street, acting like he on official C.R.A.S.H. bidness... but we both know he looking for a hook, looking to get in our game, that motherfucker got his fingers in all the pies he can. Grove Street been down on its luck, but we on our way back up, he looking to cash in to that.... you a big part of that, Carl, I envy you man, you a leader."
"Me?" I say, surprised,"Shit, I'm just a soldier, Sweet's the leader, Sweet's the man... and you the brains, Smoke. Ryder think he some kind of genius, but he just a soldier like me... we Captains, maybe, but not leaders."
"Yeah, I wonder..." say Smoke, then pull up into Grove Street, outside of Ryder's house,"Speaking of that stoned motherfucker, take some of this shit into him... shit, CJ, have a smoke yourself, stop worrying about Tenpenny, leave that to me and Sweet."
He handed me some of the weed he'd taken from the Vagos, then gave me a big grin,"You say I'm a leader, CJ? Well that's an order then, relax nigga, get your Smoke on Smoke, chill the fuck out with Ryder and stop worrying."
"Yeah... yeah okay," I say at last, taking the weed and grinning,"Maybe that just what I need, eh?"
"Nigga, that's JUST what you need," grin Smoke,"I'll catch you later, baby."
I got out the car and smiled, stretching and heading up to Ryder's door, ready to just kick back and relax for a change.
Later that day, I was at war with the motherfucking US Army.