Part 5: Behind The Scenes - Collectibles
I was sitting on the stoop of Momma's house, my house now, about noon when Sweet step out his door. He looked right at me, then walk on up and stop, looking me over, up and down, before speaking.
"We gotta talk, huh?"
"Yeah, yeah," I said,"We gotta talk."
We got up and walked back inside his house.
"I got a call from Rocky," he said, sitting down at his table,"Hard to understand him, mouth all fucked up like it was, told me what went down at the Gym today.... talk to me, nigga."
"His name ain't Rocky," I said.
"Well shit CJ, I know that," he say, voice loud, in charge, Grove Street OG,"Now talk, nigga."
"It started a month ago," I said,"After we took out them Ballas at Cluckin Bell, and I drove Smoke home. Remember? You gave me a call?"
"Tell you you too skinny, yeah," nodded Sweet.
"So I take yo' advice," I say, going on,"I went to the Gym..."
I stepped into the Gym and looked around, mostly empty, few fighters going at it in the ring. There was an old scrawny guy throwing fists at a bag in the corner, looking me over as he went, body moving almost by itself without needing him to run it. I figure he run the place, didn't recognize him from five years ago. Ol' Gus musta sold up or died or something, so I stepped up towards him, and saw in the way he moved he getting ready to throw down with me... ancient dude, musta been nearly 50, shit... was I gonna have to bitchslap an old man? And then he ask me the question.
"Motherfucker what you talking about?" I yelled when I hear the fighters in the ring laughing,"I could kick yo' ass! You know who I am?"
"I know your brother, boy," he say, in that chewy way these old niggas have of talking, like they swallowing a cup of spit with they words,"He knows respect, he also knows how to keep himself in shape, not a skinny sack of shit... now fuck off."
Well I wasn't going to smack down some old man for giving me lip, but I wasn't going to stand for that shit either, so I moved over to the weights to show him that you didn't need to be jacked up to have strength.....
I could hear the snickering from the fighters and I was getting pissed, but there was two of them - guys used to getting smacked around for a living - and I wasn't dumb, so I just took the anger and put it into the weights, getting onto the benchpress and forcing myself through the pain, lifting till my arms couldn't take it no more.
I sat up and stretched my arms out, and the fighter came over, looking me up and down.
"Yo what the fuck happened to Ol' Gus?" I asked.
"Boy, yo' momma would wash yo' mouth out with soap she could hear you speak," he say back, but not sounding angry,"Gus retired down to Vice City, sold up to me... you know who I am? Maurice "Rocky" Taylor, I fought the best in my time, boy, Curry, Starling, McCrory, Brown... came back here to teach people how to fight... real fighting, not this bullshit throwing punches shit... keep working out, boy, come back in a week, I'll show you how to fight like a man."
"Yeah yeah, maybe," I said, leaving the Gym.
I was going to come back all right, and when that old bastard let me into the ring, I was going to kick his ass all over it..... skinny? Fuck him.
"I know you didn't spend a month working out and learning to box, CJ," Sweet say, tossing me a beer from the fridge,"So why don't you cut the shit - I know some of what you been up to, but I don't know why.... start talking."
"Next day," I told him, looking down at the table, embarrassed as fuck,"I tried to find a job."
"You can ride a bike, huh?" asked Mr Roboi, peeking out at me from behind thick glasses, little oriental man in a dusty market selling weird-ass shit alongside cokes and twinkies... stuff with handwritten labels, most of it not in English,"You fast? Huh man? Big black man, learn to run, learn to ride quick, run from police, huh?"
"Shit man, I told you already I can ride," I was getting angry now,"Don't fuck with me, little man, have I got the job or not?"
"You black guys got the big balls," the little fucking stereotype said, like something out them old cartoons,"Don't take no shit, huh? Fuck shit up people get in you face... I like, you got trial... you deliver package, get stuff done in 30 minute, okay, got people expecting."
"Shit man, it's nearly midnight," I complained, I'd ridden by Roboi's on the way back to Grove after a late night workout and spotted the help wanted sign.
"Guess you no want job, huh black man? Huh?" he say, nasty little grin on his face,"Plenty others want work, Mexicans want work all the time, work for food sometimes, any time of night."
"Fuck you man, I'll deliver your packages, where they got to go?"
"Easy job for you, up road at Conference Center, Verona Beach, Pershing Square," he told me, pulling out three white packages, heavy ass shit,"Get back quick, you got job, black man."
"This ain't drugs or shit, is it?" I asked.
"No drugs, no shit, no you business," Roboi say, sounding pissed now,"I no hire you to ask question, hire you to ride you black ass round town, get going black man!"
"Not bad, black man," Roboi tell me when I get back,"You come back tomorrow night, I give you more packages, you deliver on time, you get good money, buy fried chicken and watermelon, huh?"
"Fuck you man, give me my money," I say, pissed off but kind of liking the asshole as well.
"This trial, you like intern," laughed Roboi,"Fuck YOU black man, you want money, come back tomorrow and do work."
"Maaaan," I complained, but headed out, figuring it was no use complaining, if I wanted to go legit.. or near to it at least.... I'd have to learn to eat a little shit on the way.
"Fuck that," Sweet say, looking pissed, but not saying anything about me wanting to go legit,"You went back to that asshole?"
"I went back each night for three nights in a row," I told him,"Delivered packages to the Conference Center, Market, Temple, Idlewood, Verdant Bluffs, Pershing Square, Verona Beach, the boardwalk and the lighthouse at Santa Maria beach, Vinewood, East Beach, shit... even Playa Del Seville. Motherfucker paid up each night, good money under the table, making me think it was drugs he was selling after all, so one day I opened a package to see."
"What was it?" Sweet asked.
"Fucking cock-pills man!" I laughed,"Chinese Herbal remedies and shit, powdered rhino dick and elephant balls n'shit... Roboi selling stuff to fools with little peckers wanting big dicks."
Sweet laughing, drinking his beer, then looked at me closely, asking,"So what happened?"
"Shit, what you think?" I said,"Ballas."
"Fools always like to come at a nigga in numbers," Sweet said,"You deal with it?"
"I dealt with it," I said.
"Trouble was, that's where the trouble began."
"You tell me you name CJ!" Roboi tell me when I get back, sounding like he making an accusation,"You Johnson! Grove Street Motherfucker! Carl Johnson!"
"My name IS CJ," I tell him,"Stands for Carl Johnson, what the fuck got into you?"
"You fuck Ballas ass, word get back to me!" Roboi complained,"I pay Ballas for protection!"
Oh shit, motherfucker been pulled into the life because of me? I could see why he was pissed.
"Calm down, man, it don't have to be a thing..." I started, but he going a mile a minute, stomping around inside his store.
"Fuck Ballas ass real good, make them look like bitch-men! You no tell me you Grove Street! Ballas think I with Grove now, you play me Johnson motherfucker! You no my courier no more!" he yelled, shoving a package into my hands
"Now hang on a second!" I started, then stopped, looking at the package, if he didn't want me to be his courier no more.... why give me a package? And say I "played" him.... and then I opened the package and it all made sense.
"2000 all I can afford, 500 more than I give to Ballas... you come each month, I give," he yell,"You keep Grove Street Motherfuckers away from store, keep Ballas away, keep drugs away, I find lousy Mexican to be courier, make him think he have chance to fuck daughter, he work for pennies, give him food, he pay me! Fuck you, black man, you fuck me!"
"Yeah I.... okay yeah, $2000 a month I can deal with that," I told him, walking out the store with the package tucked under my arm.
Shit, couldn't a nigga go legit in this town?
Sweet didn't say anything, nothing about the fact I was talking about going legit, nothing about the fact Grove Street was supposed to be getting 2k coming in a month, just sat looking at me, so I kept on talking.
"The next day, I went....
....back to the Gym.
"You packing some muscle on that frame now, boy," chew-swallowed "Rocky" to me as I approached,"What you say? Wanna learn some moves from the master?"
"Yeah, yeah I like that," I told him, still pissed at Roboi and wanting to take it out on someone. This bald motherfucker dis me in front of everyone, now he was about to learn that this "skinny sack of shit" could fight.
I stepped into the ring, no gloves, no gear, just me in my clothes and the old fool ducking and weaving about like some drunk old man , forgetting his best days were past him, in the ring with a younger, better model.... and it was time for me to prove it.
Some fool rang the bell and he came in towards me, arms up to guard him like this was a boxing match, and I stepped up and let it all out, all my anger over this shitty situation I was in. Anger at Moms for dying, Tenpenny for throwing me into his shit, Sweet for wanting me back in the game, Roboi for thinking I was anything other than a nigga trying to make a living, and this old fool for fucking with me. I laid into him. Hard.
"Yeah bitch, how you like that? HUH!?!" I yelled as I laid into him,"HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW!?! HUH!?! HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW!?!"
And that's when he started laughing.
"You young bucks, come in swinging, throwing blows with yo' arms, got no power behind them, speed ain't worth shit if you fighting someone can take a punch," "Rocky" told me, standing over me as I tried to clear my head, head completely fucked,"I fought Cubans, boy.... you ever fought a Cuban? Fuckers don't stay down, fight on with bodies turned to hamburger, and Mexicans are just crazy motherfuckers got they brains cooked growing up, too stubborn to accept a beating. You wanna fight motherfuckers on the street wearing they caps sidewards, that shit you threw at me might fly.... you wanna fight motherfuckers who done time and understand pain... they eat you up and shit you out, boy... so what you gonna do? You gonna crawl outta here like a whipped dog.... or you gonna get back up like a man?"
I got back up.
"Okay that's a start," Rocky grinned,"Boy, you got speed and you got untapped talent.... I'm gonna make you wish you was never born... but when we done, you gonna be a fighter."
I spent the next two days laid up, my body fucked up in a kind of pain I ain't never felt before. Rocky showed me moves that I picked up quick enough, and how to throw a punch with my body and not my arm.... but he also put me through my paces in the Gym, made me work my body past limits till I felt like puking... then pushing me further till I DID puke. He told me to take the days off, then come back and go through it all again, and I spent those days laid up in bed feeling like I'd never walk again.
"But once I was up and moving again, I set out to do what I'd fucked with Roboi... get a legit job... or at least the closest thing to it."
"Oh CJ, tell me you didn't," moaned Sweet.
"Yeah I did...." I said, head down,"I jacked a gypsy cab."
"And how that work out for you?" he say, leaning back in his chair,"You my brother, CJ, but goddamn, your driving is weak."
"It uh.... it didn't work out so well," I admitted.
"Nearly three weeks of my life," I said, leaning back in my own chair,"Get up in the morning, head to the Gym, work out, train with Rocky, then drive the taxi around Los Santos. Almost like a legit job, except the cab was stolen, unlicensed and I kept having run-ins wi-"
"With what, nigga?" grunted Sweet after I cut myself off.
"Nah man, nevermind," I insisted, not wanting to talk about it. He just looked at me for a few seconds, so I kept talking,"You the one told me go to the Gym and get a "gangsta's physique", and I figure that was why you wasn't questioning how come I wasn't popping around, hanging with the homies. Maybe you figured I bunking with some girl too, and wanted to give me space.... you ain't questioned me saying I wanted to go legit, Sweet."
"Tell me how come you don't ride a cab no more, CJ," he said back to me, putting it back on me,"What went wrong?"
"You know my driving weak... but it was getting better," I explained,"And I was starting to think that man... yeah... maybe I could make a go at this... maybe I could go legit, and then, well... well..."
"Well, shit," said Sweet for me, and I grinned.
"Yeah.... well, shit."
This crazy ass Latino motherfucker just went off his fucking nut, and it wasn't even (mostly) my fault that we'd hit. Ran we into a fucking telephone pole, rammed me again and again, then started riding around me screaming shit at me. I just stood there in shock at first, motherfucker just crazy... and then I looked at the cab, stolen yeah but I'd started thinking of it as mine... and I snapped... MOTHERFUCKER WRECKED MY WHIP!
"HUH!?! HUH!?!" I screamed at him,"MY WHIP, MOTHERFUCKER! YOU WANT TO FUCKING THROW DOWN!?!"
"Holy shit, nigger crazy!" cried the Latino, scrambling up and running away as I stalked after him. That's when I turned to look at his passenger, little white dude who saw me coming and tried to drive the car away, smacking into the side of my cab as he did so. I pulled the door open, cracker so scared he hadn't locked it and tossed him outside, and he was up in a second and running, while cars beeped and honked they horns all about me.
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" I yelled, standing in the middle of the road by the freeway onramp, a black man in jeans and an undershirt by a crashed car who'd just tried to beat the shit out of some fat Latino and a white guy... fuck... a white guy attacked by a nigga? 5.0 would be on their way.
"CAN'T A NIGGA GET PAID!" I screamed, so pissed I wanted to punch the Cadrona,"CAN'T A NIGGA BE LEGIT WITHOUT THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD GETTING IN THE WAY!!?!"
I started moving, darting between the traffic to get clear, disappear into the streets that I'd spent three weeks getting to know again, more familiar with alleys and side-streets than any 5.0 could ever hope to be... and that's when I passed the fire truck.
"Oh CJ, tell me you didn't," Sweet repeated himself.
"A motherfucking firetruck," I grinned. We still hadn't got to the core of what I needed to talk to him about, about the shit that had gone down with Rocky, my "run-ins", why I wanted out the game.... but at the moment, I could tell he didn't give a shit about that. He'd let me talk my own way to my point, not giving a shit about the courier job or working as a cabbie... but this? Shit man, a motherfucking firetruck?
The story was about to get good.