I slept, I slept, and then I slept some more.
And it was GOOOOOD.
I'd driven the girl home after getting her out of the fire and she'd "thanked" me in her own special way, learning all about her.... girl could talk! Her name was Denise, and it turned out she only lived a street over from Grove. She'd been hanging with the Ballas because she said she "like danger", but she'd found herself in too deep when some motherfucker went and set fire to the house with her in it, and I'd saved her... and she knew alllll about me. I wasn't too surprised, Sweet a legend because of the things he done in the past - the big job that put Grove Street on top in Los Santos during the 80s, the way he stared down Tenpenny, held the gangs together - and as a result, everyone knew me and Brian too.
I dropped her off and promised her I'd call her in a few days, and she gave me another kiss to make sure I didn't forget it, and then I drove home and staggered up the stairs into the house, up to the bedroom and barely had my shoes off before I dropped to the mattress and was out like a light.
One day and two nights passed, close to 36 hours, and I slept through each and every one. I remember getting up to piss and pulling my pants off because of the heat, but other than that there was nothing but sweet, blissful sleep, undisturbed by phone calls (that I heard) or dreams (that I remembered). I woke up feeling incredible, reborn, a new fucking man, and even though it was thundering outside and rain coming down in sheets, I felt like I was on the beach in the sun, all that weight that had been bearing down on me gone.
I was fucking hungry and fried up some eggs with some toast, poured myself a hot coffee and settled down on the couch, flipping on the television and laughing my ass off watching Fresh Prince, laughing too hard in fact, enjoying the jokes more than I should have, because I just felt so fucking good. I was just thinking of giving Denise a call when the phone rang, and my grin got wider, thinking it was one of those karma/kismet things, that was her calling me.
"Wassup, baby," I say, lowering my voice, making it husky and sexy for her.
"Oh CJ, our love can never be, baby," laugh Smoke on the other end, and I blushed, but laughed too, in too good a mood to let myself freak out,"How the fuck you been, gangsta? Ain't heard from you in a couple of days."
"Man I been sleeping, catching up," I grin,"What up with you? All good in the hood? Tenpenny ain't been giving you any more shit, has he?"
"Things getting better by the day, baby, thanks to you," he say.
"Ahhh shit, Smoke, I jus-"
"Don't belittle yourself, my friend," he interrupt,"No offence to your brother, and no offence to me since I been helping him run things, but things turned around since you got back from Liberty. We been pushing back the Ballas, improving our name around Los Santos again, getting back to the glory days. You and Ryder lifting those straps from the Army.... shit man, Ryder can think of shit like that all day, take someone like you to actually pull it off."
Suddenly he stop, and when he start speaking again, his voice low, like he scared of being overheard,"Speaking of which.... I think maybe I found a way to offload the excess from that job, and I want a man who can get things done backing me up, you up for some business tomorrow?"
Smoke was excited, you could tell, and I a little overwhelmed by all his words being thrown at me.... but shit, I in a good mood, and Smoke was always looking out for improving Grove Street, and he a homie... so...,"Yeah, shit yeah homie, I'll see you tomorrow, noon?"
"Sound about perfect," laugh Smoke,"CJ, you are the glue that holds Grove Street together; I don't know what we do without you."
"Hey come on now, man, you making me blush," I laugh, which was true, and the fat man just chuckle.
"Oh hey," he say suddenly,"You still "managing" Loc?"
"I don't know, that nigga a friend but he kind of a user, too, y'know?" I reply back, feeling a slight dent in my good mood, remembering Scipio.
"Yeah... well maybe you should pop around and see him, a little birdie tell me that he planning on upping his rep by "violating his parole", whatever that mean. Maybe you should make sure he doesn't do something TOO stupid."
"Hard to do with Loc," I grin,"I see you tomorrow, Smoke."
I hung up and looked up in time to see Jazz getting tossed out the mansion by Uncle Phil, and I grinned and shook my head. Sometimes I feel like doing that to Loc, but he's still a homie after all is said and done. I stood up and headed for the door, thinking to myself that even Loc couldn't have gotten in too much trouble in two days without me.
"Hey, hey, whassup, Loc?" I ask, slapping hands, moving under the awning of the Burger Shot to get out of the rain.
"Technician ain't gangsta, that's wassup!" he say, shoulders up like a cat trying to make himself look bigger... then suddenly he brighten, grin on his face,"Listen, Carl, if I'm going back to a cell, I wanna have a big party first... this may be my last chance to get heard!"
"Okay," I said, nodding my head,"So what's the plan?"
"Well I'm gonna slide back over to Grove Street, and get those sounds bombastic-fantastic!"
"Alright," I say, thinking he was gonna need a long time to do that,"So what you want me to do?"
"I want you to get ready for the party!" he say, like it should be obvious,"....then get some girls, man!"
He started to walk away, then turn around with a huge grin on his face and throw his arms up,"Get some real fly girls, you know what I'm saying?"
It felt like my good mood was contagious, seeing Loc turn from pissed off and huffy to laughing and talking about girls, and in my current mood a party felt like just the thing, even if it meant having to hear him sing. He twisted in the rain, throwing his arms wide and I just KNEW he knew it was a dramatic pose, made him look GANGSTA!
He headed away, a fucked up smart brother blowing his chance to go to college so he could be a rich and famous "Gangsta Rapper" when he didn't have any talent for it. But at the heart of it all, he my friend, and a guy just looking to have a good time, and I was down for that, more than down.
It was time to party!
A few hours later I was standing inside PROLaps checking out some new shoes in the mirror when my phone rang, and I slid it out of my pocket to hear music blasting, and Loc on the other end.
"Hey CJ, word up, G!" he yell,"The party is jumping! We got a gang of crazy ass bitches in the house! You comin' over, homie?"
The thought of crazy ass bitches was pretty tempting, but while I'd been picking up some new clothes, I'd started thinking about Denise and how I still hadn't called her. Party would probably be ruined by Loc trying to rhyme anyway, so I'd started thinking maybe I should blow it off and call up Denise, take her out to dinner or something.
"I don't know man, I had some plans tonig-" I started, but Loc cut me off.
"But we had a big disaster! I won't be rappin', my mic's broken!"
"OH, okay," I say, thinking about those "crazy ass bitches","I'm gonna come over right now then!"
I bought the clothes I'd picked out and stepped outside with a grin. It faded for a minute when I saw a flash of green, seeing someone duck down an alley across the road like they didn't want to be seen. For just a second I felt my hackles raise, then I calmed myself, reminding myself I felt pretty good but would probably need a couple more nights good sleep before I got over the last week without any. I'd probably still be seeing things out the corner of my eyes for the next day or so, no need to get paranoid. I grinned again, heading for the Greenwood, feeling light on my feet.
A party, crazy ass bitches, fly new clothes and Loc's mic was broken... man, my day couldn't get any better!
"All the homies in the back, man," say Ryder, blocking his ears from Loc's terrible voice. The fool wasn't even using the rhymes I stole from Madd Dogg, rapping his own shit instead,"Away from this whack music."
"Man, I'm furious," I say, shaking my head, looking at all the girls dancing around Loc, none of them seeming to care about his voice, just shaking to the beat of the DJ's music.
"C'mon," say Ryder, and lead me outside to where the homies were, leaving Loc behind with the crazy ass bitches and his music and his shitty rhymes.
"Damn, man, his lyrics is horrible!" shout Ryder as we stepped out of Loc's stoop out onto Grove Street.
"Don't blame me, I gave him good lyrics," I mutter under my breath,"Not my fault if the nigga don't use them."
"That dude needs some work, man," I say louder, not wanting to brag to Ryder about my hit on Madd Dogg's place.
"Hells yeah!" agree Ryder, and Sweet look up, hearing him and seeing me. He broke off from the group of homies he shooting the shit with and came over towards us.
Man that so like Ryder, me and Sweet having a nice brother to brother moment and he gotta make it about him. I hadn't seen Sweet in a few days, he was looking to shoot the shit with me and give me some brotherly grief, and Ryder up and gets in our faces in case we forget he exists.
I heard an odd squeaking noise and turned my head, seeing something turning the corner fast, coming out of the shadows. I reached for my waist where I was holding a piece and saw Sweet doing the same, then we both relaxed as we saw it was Leon, a skinny ass homie who couldn't gain weight to save his life, either fat or muscle. He was riding his bike and sweating like a motherfucker, heading straight for us, leaping off the bike and letting it fly to the side as he run and stumble up to us.
"Leon, wha-" start Sweet, but Leon already talking, a mile a minute.
"HEY! A Ballas posse is about to run up!" he shout, panicking,"They headed up here right now!"
The other homies had headed over towards us, and when they heard what Leon had to say, they all started talking amongst themselves, excited. I turned to look at Sweet, wondering what he had to say, Ballas posse driving down into HIS street.
He was smiling.
"HEY CJ, strap up!" yell Ryder,"IT'S GROVE STREET!"
I nodded and rushed across the street to the house, moving into the kitchen and grabbing out the AK, hearing Sweet yelling orders to the other homies, him and Ryder getting them strapped up from the stash Ryder had kept from the army, I came back out holding the AK, checking out our own posse, seven of us including me.... a good sized group, but we could use more.
"I'll go get Smoke and some Grove boys!" yell Ryder, running across the street and sliding into his car, reversing out and rolling down his window,"Hold them motherfuckers off, I'll be back with the motherfucking cavalry!"
"Okay," nodded Sweet, loving this, Grove Street back in the game enough that the Ballas were rolling deep to put us down before we could do the same to them,"Get some cars, block the road! The rest of y'all get heated!"
"TAKE COVER BEHIND CARS, FENCES, TREES, WHATEVER YOU CAN!" shout Sweet, stomping up and down across the street like a General, the party still going on in Locs, people inside having no idea what was about to go down,"WHEN THE BALLAS COME, REMEMBER THEY ON OUR TURF, ON OUR BLOCK, AND THAT THEY CALLING YOU ALL BUSTAS BY DOING THAT! YOU GONNA STAND FOR THAT!?!"
"HELL NO!" shout the homies back.
"DON'T TELL ME!" shout Sweet, pointing up the street where the sound of racing car engines could be heard growing louder against the backdrop of the city,"SHOW THEM!"
And then Grove Street went to war.
Our "roadblock" was covered in bullets, the ground was chipped up and there were splatters of blood along the road, with a couple of homies laying clutching wounds, but no one was dead. I looked around as the Ballas who hadn't been hit grabbed their fallen homies and dragged them away up the road, some of them screaming in pain, others too damn quiet... they the ones that wouldn't see dawn, even though it was quickly coming. I could hear sirens in the distance, but no police car or ambulance would come to Grove Street, any more than they'd go to Kane's street or Cesar's or any other gangleaders. This was our turf, our piece, and as far as they were concerned, we could kill ourselves over it as much as we liked.
"WE WON!" shouted Leon, throwing his arm up.
"Something ain't right," say Sweet, who had stood tall blasting at the Ballas the entire fight, daring them to try and take him down, and none of them had succeeded,"They back off too easy."
"TOO EASY!?!" shout Leon, looking around him at the shattered windows of the cars, the pools of blood and trails of the shit leading up into the darkness where the wounded Ballas been dragged away,"This was a fucking bloodbath!"
"They came rolling into Grove Street to try and take out the Johnson Brothers, finish what they started when they shot Momma," say Sweet, shaking his head,"They wouldn't pull out that easy, there's got to be mo.... THERE! HEY HEY, LOOK UP, MORE OF THEM ON THE BRIDGE!"
I looked up overhead and saw the bridge that crossed over Grove Street, the kind of thing that you just forget is there when you live with it all your life. Ballas were climbing over the rail to get a shot at us from above, where the cars wouldn't provide protection. Not a bad plan, except for one thing.
We'd seen them.
"CARL!" shouted Sweet as the last Balla feel and hit the ground with a thud, and for a wild second all I could think of was Letterman dropping watermelon from the top of the Ed Sullivan Theatre,"COVER THE ALLEY!"
I turned and saw more coming... holy shit, the Ballas meant business, which meant we'd started to make an impact on them, and more importantly on their drug business. Now it was do or die time, and I didn't intend to be the one dying.
It all went quiet, shells hitting the ground, guns going quiet, and the only sound was the thumping of the party inside, and somehow they still none the wiser, maybe thinking that the sound of screaming, cars and bullets were part of Loc's show. We all stood around - those of us who could still stand - staring, waiting, waiting for the next wave of Ballas to come and join the dead bodies that those who had escaped hadn't been able to pull away. We waited.... but they never came.
And then Sweet lifted his gun above his head and let out a scream, a roar, and we all turned to stare at him as he screamed into the air, then lowered his head and looked around at all of us, a huge grin on his face, eyes wide and happy like I hadn't seen in a long time.
"GROVE IS KING!" he shouted, then grabbed me by the shoulders,"GROVE STREET IS BACK!"
The homies started cheering and shouting the same thing, and I wanted to join in, but something held me back.
"Sweet," I say,"I ain't never seen the Ballas roll that deep before."
"Yeah," grin Sweet, putting his arm around my shoulder and leading me towards Loc's,"They heard Carl Johnson was running with his brother again!"
I grinned, but then we heard a car engine, and we both turned to grab at our pieces, the other homies doing the same.... then relaxed when we saw it was Ryder's car, him driving and Smoke sitting in the back, holding a big shotgun.
"The motherfucking cavalry!" laughed Sweet as Ryder and Smoke pulled up and looked around at the dead bodies, surprised.
"Holy shit it's a motherfucking bloodbath!" say Ryder, pulling his sunglasses down to look around, then pulling them back up when the rising sun hurt his eyes.
"Ryder came and got me, we drove around and rang around trying to find Grove Street homies, but no one home, no one answer," say Sweet, stepping down out the back and rubbing his glasses with his shirt,"Makes me wonder how true to the hood they really are, when the chips are down, you gotta know who you can count on."
"And you two came along even though there only two of you," grin Sweet, fucking high not just on our victory, but that the war happened at all, knowing that meant we mattered again, that Grove Street was on the radar,"Doesn't matter that we wiped up them motherfucking Ballas by ourselves, you didn't know that, you still came."
"Grove Street 4 Life!" shout Ryder.
"Grove Street 4 Life!" shout the homies.
"Grove Street 4 Life," nod Smoke, but quiet, looking around the at the dead Ballas, at the homies only standing because they had someone to lean on,"Someone gotta take care of these bodies, get our walking wounded to a friendly hospital.... Carl you wanna do some heavy lifting, baby?"
I listened to the music still coming from inside the house, Loc off the mic now... but I didn't really feel like partying no more,"Yeah yeah, c'mon man, let's dump these bodies, get our homies looked at, then I gotta grab some sleep, I only just caught up and I don't mean to fall behind again."
"Come on, let's get back to the party," grin Sweet to Ryder.
"Shit man," grin Ryder,"Once Loc got off the mic, then the party got started."
Me and Smoke started loading up the Ballas' bodies, knowing that even though police wouldn't come to Grove Street, we couldn't just leave the bodies here, and we had to dump them before traffic started moving and we got spotted.
"You mind pushing back our business till the afternoon?" I ask Smoke as we heave the bodies up into the back of Ryder's truck,"I gotta sleep after this."
"Fo' sure, baby," say Smoke, sweating heavily from lifting,"It'll keep till then."
Me and the fat man went on about loading up the Ballas' bodies, and I thought to myself that I'd just survived a war.
Later that afternoon, I'd find out what being in a war was really like.