"Hello morning this is Roboi Food Mart, how I help you?"
"Hey yo, Mr. Roboi!" I laughed, surprised by how happy I was to hear his voice,"It's CJ - Carl Johnson! Whassup?"
"Hey black man!" he said back, surprised,"No see you for awhile, what you up?"
What me up?
"Uh... I'm in Fierro, San Fierro, working on opening a garage up here," I told him,"Listen man, I'm calling because you got a package waiting there for a friend of mine, I wanted to get you to ship it to us."
"Yeah okay, okay black man," he said, and I could picture him nodding, standing there all scrawny in his yellowing undershirt in the Los Santos heat, holding that grimy fucking pencil he kept behind his ear and that nasty ass notepad he was always scrawling in,"You want me to pay for ship myself or take out your payments?"
Take out my paym... holy shit, it hadn't even occurred to me.... the 2k a month he'd promised to Grove Street, that I'd collected once before the shit went down... he was still putting it together for us?
"Oh hey uhh... no one come to pick up, man?" I asked.
"No, no seen no one in weeks," Roboi told me, not picking up on the big mistake he'd just made,"But gangs no come around, you keep up your end of deal, so I keep up mine. Streets nice and quiet right now, but feels like storm coming... I keep my shop, you keep your money, keep gangsters away from Roboi's.... but no one picked up."
"Yeah yeah, that's my bad," I said, thinking fast,"I was supposed to organize that before I came out to Fierro, stupid me... hey look, pay the shipping out of what you got put aside, then send the rest with the package, and just keep on sending it each month till you hear otherwise from me, okay?"
"Yeah yeah, okay black man," he told me,"Where I sending?"
"The Hippy Shopper at Garcia and Hashbury, in San Fierro," I told him,"Label it Mr. Johnson, they got a box number set aside for me here."
I was standing in the Hippy Shopper right then, actually. Zero had told me about this place, they ran - alongside a bunch of clothing, "natural medicines" and lava lamps - an anonymous mailing service that had been popular with hippies and college students in the 60s and 70s, then nerds and something called hackers in the 80s and 90s. One of those "hackers" had set it up so the Hippy Shopper got free, untraceable long distance calling, meaning I could call Roboi for free and not worry about Tenpenny finding out somehow.
"Okay, what name it under?" asked Roboi,"This package?"
"Cesar," I told him,"Cesar Vialpando."
I left the Hippy Shopper feeling pretty good, I had another source of paper coming in, to add to the garage. Before I knew it, we was going to be making money hand over fist, but I wasn't done yet, I had another plan to bring in some more cash and I was REAAALLY going to enjoy this.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing back here," Cecil asked as I walked up to the front of the Vank Hoff Hotel dressed in my valet uniform,"Thith is unacceptable."
"I couldn't stay away, the exciting world of valet called to me," I rapped back, then frowned at him,"I'm here to make money, what the fuck you think I'm here for?"
"You're not a valet," he said as one of his little monkeys went and grabbed a car, driving it out and around towards the parking garage,"Thean thaid thomeone thocked him arou-"
"Wait what, fawnfatfomfockfffff-fff-fffff?" I interrupted.
"Thut up, get out of here before I call the copth."
"Oh you gonna make a SCENE!?!" I shouted the last word,"RIGHT OUT HERE IN FRONT OF THE HOTEL!?!"
"Thut up, tthhhhh, ttthhhhhhhh!" he shushed me,"Our guethtth are impor-"
"Oh our guests?" I laughed,"Cracker, you just a monkey in a red vest, you ain't the hotel. Now chill, I'm just here to park some cars and make some money."
"You can't park carth, you're not a va-"
"I'm wearing the suit, ain't I?" I laughed, and then before he could say anything, a voice crackled over the radio by the keystand.
"White Primo pick-up from the storage garage, EH6320k," said the voice, Mr. Simonson I was guessing,"Room 543."
I snatched up the keys labeled for 543 before Cecil had a chance to say anything and started moving, surprising Cecil who just stood watching me.
"Hey! HE... hey!" he called, not wanting to get too loud, not wanting to make a scene, just standing watching me as I rounded the corner and headed down into the garage with the keys, just barely able to make out him saying,"...an't DO that!"
But I did.
"There you go, sir, have a nice day, sir," I told the owner, being a good house nigger.
"Thanks, boy," said the owner, not even looking at me, probably not even noticing I was black and what he'd just said would get him beat down any other day of the week. He slipped me a 20 spot and I moved back towards Cecil, Mr. Simonson standing next to him looking pissed.
"There he ith, Mithter Thimonthon," Cecil said,"He doethn't work here, he hit Thean!"
"Is this ri-" started Simonson, but I cut him off.
"Where is Sean? Where is Steve?" I asked,"Hell, Steve was taking a car to park it when I got here, I had time to shoot the shit with Cecil here, go pick up a car, bring it back and I STILL ain't seen Steve get back... hell, I didn't even complain about not getting a tip just now."
"He DID get a tip, Mithter Thimonthon!" yelled Cecil, excited,"He go-"
"No," I said, taking the twenty out of my pocket and sliding it into Simonson's,"I didn't."
Simonson just stood there staring at me, Cecil staring at me, me just standing there smiling.
"For fuck's sake, Cecil, show some hustle!" he shouted at last, turning on Cecil,"Maybe a little competition will be good for you, stop you taking 20 minute breaks... where the hell IS Steve, anyway?"
"I don't give a shit, just park cars, for God's sake!" he ranted, stomping away, leaving us behind. Steve chose that moment to come walking around the corner, smoking a cigarette, and Cecil instantly turned his hurt feelings and disbelief on him.
"Where the hell have you been, athhole!" he shouted,"I can't cover for your lazy ath by mythelf!"
As Steve babbled trying to explain himself, another car pulled up, and I just grabbed the keys from the driver and drove past Cecil, staring at me with wide eyes. I parked the car, rushed back up to the front where Steve and Cecil were standing waiting for another car just pulling in.
"Let me get that for you, sir," I said, stepping up in front of Cecil, catching him by surprise,"Have a good day, sir."
The driver didn't even look twice at any of us, and I turned and grinned back at Cecil,"Snooze you lose, homie... I can do this all night."
"I doubt that, "homie"," he sniffed back, which made me grin wider.
"It's a bet," I laughed,"It's a fucking bet."
I hopped into the car and shifted into gear, driving away as Cecil shouted after me, forgetting to be discrete,"WHAT BET? WHAT BET!?!"
As I came running back up from the parking garage I tilted my head, hearing a noise only someone who'd grown up in the ghetto could properly translate - screeching brakes and sirens, sounding like they were getting louder, and the rain starting to come down in what was going to be a short but strong shower. I turned and looked towards the entrance, and saw a car turning slowly into the entrance, and knew if I really tried I could get there first.
I didn't try.
"Oh tho thorry," chuckled Cecil as Steve got to the car and took the keys,"It wath thupid to think you could keep grabbing carth out from under uth."
"Better luck next time, boooy!" laughed Steve, jumping the car forward.... just as a police car came skidding over the hill chasing some idiot trying to lose him, and rammed right into the side of the car.
"THEVE! THEVE! ARE YOU ALRIGHT!?!" shouted Cecil, running over to him. Steve sat dazed, the window broken out, the front bumper ruined. Cecil checked him, saw he was alright and then...,"YOU THUPID IDIOT YOU CRATHED THE CAR!"
"What in the hell is going on here?" asked Mr. Simonson, stepping out.
"Showing too much hustle, Mr. Simonson," I said with a grin, taking the keys from a amused looking cracker who'd just pulled up,"Accidents happen that way, slow and steady, that wins the race."
For hours I did it, it was easy, just a quick run from the garage back to the front of the hotel, then a cool drive back down to the garage, I didn't even break a sweat. By the time the next shift finally arrived and Mr. Simonson came out to check on our tips and take his cut, I'd parked over thirty cars against they... well, 2, 3 at most.
"Okay boys, cut time," he grunted,"Sean, how much in tips you get today?"
"Five bucks," he said, looking depressed. Simonson shook his head and took the five off of him, then turned to Steve who just shook his head - nothing. He looked over at Cecil who handed him over a twenty with a pained look on his face, and Simonson shook his head again and handed him the five he'd taken from Sean.
"Well, new kid?" he asked, and I took out a thick roll of bills, over $1000 collected in tips in one shift.
"Nothing," I said, handing it all over to him,"I made nothing."
"You're a good kid," he said, sliding the monkey into his pocket,"Okay see you all tomorrow... maybe."
He moved over to start talking with the next shift of valets, and Cecil stormed over to me, face red, pissed off.
"Why?" he demanded.
"Huh?" I asked.
"You worked your ath off just tho NONE of uth would make any money? It doethn't make any thenth, what wath the point?"
"The point, Cecil," I told him, the smile on my face making it clear I wasn't being friendly,"Is that you're an asshole, you crossed me, and I'm not a nice guy. You said a good valet can make four figures a day, I tested that and you were right... not that I think you or any of your cracker buddies be able to do what I did. But I can do it, Cecil, I can do it every day if I have to, and Simonson won't say a word because it works out fine for him.... so unless you give me a reason not to....."
"How much?" he asked.
Now my grin was friendly.
I walked into Zero's with a grin on my face, happy with the way the day had gone so far. After dumping that weed on the DA I'd felt happy but in a nasty way, now after bringing in two new regular bits of cashflow, I was feeling a lot friendlier. I wanted to see Zero and thank him for turning me onto the Hippy Shopper, and also see if he needed a hand with Berkley. He was my tenant now, it only made sense for me to make sure his business did as well as it could.
"Did you hear about the DA caught with the marijuana in his car?" Tommy "Nightmare" Smith was asking on The Dust over the store's stereo system as I stepped inside,"Geez man, what an asshole, imagine keeping that much for your own personal stash."
"You don't know the half of it, Tommy," I said, then looked around frowning. The store had been locked so I'd let myself in with my key, figuring that Zero was eating some noodles and fucking around on that "BBS" shit of his.... but I didn't see or hear anyone.
"Oh shit, son, you got some titty mags in there?" I laughed, walking into the back room where his voice had come from... but he wasn't there.
"Come on, homie, where are you?" I yelled, if this was some fucking nerd bullshi-
Oh no... you have GOT to be shitting me.
"I shall probably turn to prostitution now," he sighed as I placed him down,"Where I will be found dead, and broken."
He turned around, bending and rubbing at his ass, making little sniffing sounds that weren't crying, but him pretending to cry to make it sound better.... Jesus, nerds.
"I am a 28 year old man," he sniffed,"Whose landlord just helped him down from a hook, from which I had been hanging from my underwear, contemplating my inadequacy, for nearly two hours."
I had finally stopped laughing and managed to get the big sloppy ass grin off of my face, and I tried to keep my voice serious as I told him,"Look, you gotta get even, homie."
I looked around his little break-room, looking for something we could hit Berkley with, but all there was, was the closet, a table, printer and his silly little computer,"What kind of weapons you got?"
"Uhh... I've got a prototype of a miniature plane," he said after a moment, thinking about it. Shit, just a plane? Well we'd just have to make do.
"Well with that plane, we gonna go humiliate Berkley," I told him, serious now, Zero was my homie now as well as my tenant, and anybody who fucked with him, fucked with me.
Zero just stared at me like he didn't believe it, that after all the years of growing up bullied and made fun of, now he had someone who not only wasn't going to just stand and laugh at him... but was going to fight for him. Nerds needed to learn the code of the streets, man.
"OK," he said, a little unsure, then he grinned, delighted as he limped out following me, the two of us ready to take the war to Berkley,"COOL!"