Part 6: Behind The Scenes - Repetition
"MY MOTHERFUCKING CAR IS ON FIRE!" screamed the cabbie, standing next to his Gypsy ride.
"YO HAIR ON FIRE, FOOL!" laughed Cody as I blasted the water cannon onto the engine, smothering the flames like he show me.
"SHIT SHIT SHITSHITSHIT!" cried the cabbie, beating at his own head,"PUT ME OUT! PUT ME OUT!"
"CJ, son," grinned Cody at me, and I grin back,"You heard the man."
"Ahahaha," laughed Cody,"That shit never gets old, CJ!"
It had been a crazy 24 hours, 24 hours since I went a little crazy and jacked a Fire Truck. Stalling and jerking the truck forward in little hops and starts, trying to figure the gears, trying to make sense of the controls marked with shit like "Pressure" and "Flow Control" when I felt the end of a gun against my head and my balls draw up high in my belly, hearing the man who had been sleeping in the compartment behind the driver seat say,"And just what the fuck you think you doing with my truck, boy?"
"It cool, it cool," I said, lifting my hands up, trying to figure a way to get that gun off my head, figure a way to turn it around on the motherfucker who got a jump on me.
Coming up blank.
"It ain't cool, boy," the man say, and I knew that voice, who the fuck was that? That voice.... motherfucker!
"Cody? That you, nigga?"
"How the fuck you know me?" he asked, sound confused and angry,"And don't call me nigger, I ain't picking cotton and you ain't a cracker.... CJ? CJ that you boy?"
"Motherfucker, CODY!" I laughed, turning in the seat, gun sliding off the back of my head as I looked up at the mean, lean 60 year old staring down at me,"You still alive, ni- you still alive, man!?!"
"Too mean for death, too good looking to die," grinned Cody, then frowned,"CJ, why the fuck you jacking my truck?"
When I was growing up, Moms always took us to Church on Sundays, and Cody was always there. He wasn't no preacher, wasn't no holy man at all... but he was a 40 year old single black man who always had a job and had a smooth tongue.... so the motherfucker literally was a motherfucker. He musta banged 70-80% of the single mothers in Ganton during the 70s, and never had to worry about food because women was constantly cooking him food... good fucking food too, not the shit they fed their kids. Got on well with all the Dads that were still about - which wasn't many - too, wasn't the kind of nigga to go after another man's woman - if someone was dating, he wasn't interested. Good with kids, always telling stories about the 50s and 60s and some of the crazy shit that went down - gangs of the past, OGs with class who didn't slang base. Every boy growing up wanted to be Cody, every girl wanted him to be their Daddy, every woman wanted him for a lover and every man wanted to be his friend.
Now he wanted to know why I was jacking his truck.
So I told him, told him everything about Moms pushing me out to Liberty City; coming back when she died; finding myself getting dragged back into the life; the beating Rocky gave me; my attempts to go legit; Roboi; the cab; the fat Latin fuck who ruined it... and how I just snapped, saw the truck and decided fuck it, I was going to be useful to society no matter fucking what.
He'd set himself down in the passenger seat listening, and when I finished he just sat staring, still holding his piece... and then the radio crackled and squawked, and a voice said there was a car on fire up in Red County.
"Volunteer 7 responding," Cody said, pulling down a mouthpiece from the roof and talking into it, and getting a response back.
He just sat and stared at me for a few seconds, and I stared back, and then finally he spoke.
"What you waiting for boy? We got a fire to put out."
Cody spent the next day showing me the ropes, how to handle the weight of the truck on corners, how to operate the water cannon, but most of all how to handle fire. Nigga was an artist with flames, telling me that any white firefighter would tell you that fire was chaos, out of control, going where it wanted when it wanted and how. But for him, fire was like jazz, like the blues, if you didn't know then it seemed out of control, dangerous, unpredictable. But there was grace to it, a rhythm, and if you could find that and sync to it, you could dance with fire, handle its path, control its movement.
"My apartment block got burned down," Cody explain,"That's why I moved out of Ganton and into East Los Santos. I always worked, kept myself in shape, so I was good for money what with social security coming in as well. Some fool set the fire, some arsonist, and I found myself caught up in it, had to go back to help some of the older ladies was trying to get out. That's when I got the bug, boy.... not like most do, the arsonists who are scared and turned on all at the same time. No, I got the bug to dance with fire, but not to burn. I got the bug to control and put it down... felt a passion like I hadn't felt since I was a young man. So I became a volunteer, worked my way up, showing I was still
fit enough to play a young man's game. But it is a young man's game, CJ, that why they put me on this truck, letting me deal with fools set their cars alight by accident or by design, fools what burn themselves up trying to light a barbeque or steal a car and set it alight trying to see how to load her up with gas..... but I got to work with the fire close up, and dance with it, and control it, and kill it."
The way he talk get ME fired up as well, wanting to learn like they could never get me to in school. So I listened, and I learned, and he had me drive him around and we used the water cannon to put out fires on cars and the fools that was supposed to be driving them. Cody handle the paperwork, I handle the driving and the heavy lifting, and I starting to finally feel good about myself, that maybe I had found legit work after all.
And that's when it all went to shit.
"That's enough for the day, boy," Cody tell me as I put the flames of the car on the highway just outside of Los Santos,"I find if I leave it too late heading home, I end up pulling over and sleeping in the little bunk... against regulations, that's how you stumbled onto me last night, remember?"
"Yeah, yeah," I said, then asked,"Cody, how I go about doing this for legit, man? How I become a proper fireman, get paid?"
"Shit son," smiled Cody, looking sad,"You ain't gonna be a fireman."
"What the fuck?" I say, confused, and he just look sadder, like his dog just died.
"They let me run a volunteer truck because I'm a stubborn old black man who can do the jobs real firemen feel are beneath them, CJ, but they'd never let you near a firetruck, either as a volunteer or "legit"."
"Well why the fuck not?"
"You're Carl Johnson, boy," sigh Cody,"You a known associate of a criminal element. You Grove Street, maybe not an OG but near enough, brother to Sweet, been fucking with the Ballas since back in the day. I don't know if you got a record or not, I don't recall you ever being picked up by the police back when you a kid, but you can bet your black ass you are down as a known associate.... and they don't let people with any kind of criminal background become firemen, same as with cops, supposed to be the same as with politicians."
"But I... I," I say, not sure what to say,"That ain't fair!"
"CJ," sigh Cody, looking at me sad,"You a black man in Los Santos.... what the fuck made you expect fair?"
"Shit," say Sweet, finishing his beer,"Cold motherfucker."
"Nah, just setting me straight," I say, taking a drink of mine,"He was right, no way they would let me volunteer, let alone get a job, and it was stupid of me to think otherwise. I'd trying going legit the best I could, tried being a courier, a cabbie.... if I couldn't do those, what the fuck make me think I could be a fireman?"
"That was this morning, huh?" asked Sweet,"And I expect you went to the Gym straight after to work out yo' anger?"
"Yeah, yeah," I say, lowering my head into my hands,"That's where Rocky was waiting for me."
"Boy where the fuck you been!?!" demand Rocky when I step through the Gym door,"You was set for sparring last night, boy, I thought you had some discipline!"
"Step off, Rocky," I say, walking by him angry, wanting to take it out on the bags,"I don't wanna go int-"
"STEP OFF!?! YOU TELL ME TO STEP OFF IN MY OWN GYM!?!" he yell,"Boy, get yo' ass in that ring, I think it's time I reminded you who you talking to!"
I stopped and turned and looked at him, and it happen, that same shit that happen when I got four Ballas surrounding me, coming at me with bad intentions. That ice-cold OG shit, taking control.
"Yeah, let's get into the ring," I said,"Maybe I need a reminder."
Inside the ring I stood staring at him, and he was moving about just like last time... only this time I knew what I was looking at, and when he came in at me.... I came back just as hard. This time I had my guard up to block his shots, this time I knew when to look for his lefts and rights, this time when I threw blows, they came from my body and not my arm.
This time, Rocky wasn't laughing.
He try to come back, try to throw down on me, but this time I was ice-cold, this time I moved to intercept, turn his own blows against him so he hurting his arm hitting blows too early. All that training, all that pain, I'd learned to take it, and now it wasn't some dumb young nigga against a tough old man. It was a tough young nigga against a tough old man.
And he went down.
"Shi... shit CJ," he moan, lying there on his back as his boys around the ring stare, shocked to see him down,"You go-"
"Who said we were done?" I said, and saw his eyes go wide as I dropped towards him. I wasn't ice-cold now.
I was red-hot.
"He called me up a few minutes before I came out and saw you," Sweet said at last,"Told you I could barely understand him, after what you did to his mouth, his face... shit, his whole body. He tell me you worked him over like a pro."
"Yeah... I feel like shit, but how can I go back and apologize," I say, leaning back in the chair and putting my arm over my eyes,"I fucked him up in front of everybody."
"Apologize? APOLOGIZE?" yelled Sweet, and I realize he was laughing, so I sat up and look at him, big grin on his face.
"What the fuck's with you?" I asked.
"Apologize? Shit CJ, he called to tell me how PROUD he was of you! Said none of his students ever had the balls to step up to him and go that extra distance.... you graduated, nigga, "Rocky" say you straight up badass now."
"What the fuck is wrong with this town," I say, not believing it,"Every nigga crazy!"
"Nah, what's crazy is this bullshit you spouting about wanting to go legit," he say back.
"What the fuck man!" I say, jumping up out of my chair... and Sweet out of his, right in my face, not backing down, not scared even after hearing how I pounded the shit out of a trained professional - Sweet wasn't scared of nothing.
"Yeah, I like that fire, bro," he say, grinning,"And I done all ready told you, I KNOW you ain't spent the last month being Roboi's bitch, crashing a stolen cab or tooting about in a fire truck like Captain Nigga Fantastic... so why don't you cut the shit and tell me what else you been doing while trying to "go legit".
"I don't know what the fuck you talking about, man," I say, angry, looking down at the table, and he slap me over the back of the head.
"The FUCK you don't, tell me what you been doing, CJ!"
"I been... I been putting up our tag," I admitted,"Spreading Grove Street 4 Life around Los Santos."
"And why the fuck would a legit nigga be doing that?" Sweet asked, pushing me with his words, making me come face to face with it.
"Because... because it wrong man!" I say at last,"Riding around, seeing Ballas tags and Aztecas tags and knowing it was turf used to be Grove Street's.... I couldn't let it stand man, it a fucking insult!"
"Yeah, yeah that's right," he say, nodding, stepping back a little and giving me space,"And how you go about it, huh? You sneak in at night all dressed up like a ninja and get in and out like a cracka on his wedding night?"
"Hell no!" I say, puffing up, offended at the idea,"I see a tag, I get out my whip, or off my bike, or stop walking, and I pull out my spray and I step up and put that shit up. What's the point of spraying over a tag with Grove Street 4 Life if I too scared to do it in the open?"
"Yeah I hear you," smiled Sweet, and his smile a little scary, man, sending a chill down my spine,"And you did get seen, didn't you? Because that's how word got back to me... and not just seen by those fools representing Grove Street, was it?"
No, I had to admit, not just them.
"And how you deal with that shit, CJ?" he ask me, up in my face again,"You run like a bitch? Leaving behind your respect and making spraying over our tag useless, because everyone knows you just fronting, you just a busta?"
"HELL NO!" I shouted,"I ain't no busta! Any of those fools stepped to me, I stepped back."
"And that, CJ," he say, shoving his finger into my chest so hard it hurt,"Is why you a Grove Street OG. That why you back in the game whether you want to admit it or not. Go legit? Shit man, banging in yo' blood, and Momma dead, you can't pain her no more by going with what you was born to do.... I let five years in Liberty City ride because of Brian.... but that shit is done now, CJ."
He stared at me hard, and I stared back, and at last he smile, saying,"You back representing Grove Street, brother."