I'd been extremely skeptical but I had to admit, from what I’d seen in the movies anyways, it looked like crack.
Jose’ took the bar of Ivory soap, chunked it up just so, hit it with some yellow food coloring and voila’-Pookie himself would’ve offered to suck your dick for a sample. Times were lean. We’d spent all my money, pay day was a week away, Jose’ hadn’t been able to re-up his stash, shit was tight. We didn’t even have bammer for us to smoke. When he said he had a plan to score some quick cash, I had no idea it involved dealing faux crack rock. No arguments though, I’d gotten used to craziness every time I came to see him, anything different would’ve been safe and boring.
“You sure Ol’girl gon’ be any good to us?” Danny asked while giving me the stink eye. “The bitch almost got you popped the last time you tried to get her to do some shit.”
He was referring to the incident that happened a couple weeks before when I’d taken Jose’ to the store for some toilet paper. I’d parked in front of the crappy little Korean owned shop on busy ass Michigan Avenue without the slightest inkling that moments later, he’d jump back in the car, arms full of stolen shit. I didn’t pull out fast enough like he demanded, the angry Asian store clerk made it to the car, furiously banging on his window, forcing him to relinquish his ghetto pirate’s booty. The Funyuns, the toilet paper, the Pepsi AND the bathtub stopper. Who steals a fucking .59 bathtub stopper? He was ridiculous.
“O.k., first off- I told you to stop calling me a bitch.” I was pissed. “Second-maybe he should’ve told me what he was going to do so I could’ve been prepared. The shit caught me off guard, traffic was crazy. I’m not just gonna shoot out and cut some body off, I’m a courteous driver you Dick!”
A loud laugh from Jose’ ensured that I’d won so Danny shut the fuck up, that’s how things worked.
I talked a big game but really, it freaked me out beyond belief. I’d hoped that I’d failed so miserably that he’d never put me in the situation again. This was different though, not really stealing so much as scamming people who were scummier than us. I’d drive, Jose’ would run his spiel on the crack heads and just in case any drama jumped off, Danny would be in the backseat armed to the teeth with a fully –loaded-super soaker. They both agreed anything more would be overkill. Blasts of Ice cold water to the face would prove more than effective to a January crack head in Detroit. There was also the shared belief that it would be hilarious.
“Ding! I think we got another winner.” Jose’ removed the cinnamon toothpick from his mouth, using it to gesture like a maestro conducting a bleak symphony. She was a shivering ghost of a woman, rail thin, sloshing around in icy grey soup on the corner.
So far we’d had moderate success with two takers. The moment the swap went down, I punched it (that was key) and everything went smooth as silk. We we’re up 40 bucks, at least enough to get us high, buy some gas and McDonald’s but it still wasn’t enough to satiate Jose’s greedy nature. There were three bags left which meant three more chances to make money, three more chances for some crazy shit to pop off.
Ultimately, the latter was always more important to him.
“You holdin’?” she whispered through crusty, candy corn teeth.
“I got you girl” Jose’ assured, hand opening just enough to flash the product. “Twenty bones.”
Our potential customer let out a defeated exhale before stepping back from his window. As she began searching frantically in the pockets of her useless faux rabbit jacket, I finally acquired the nerve to get a good look at her. Probably in her thirties, looked to be in her fifties, dirty yellow hair, spindly spider legs almost completely blue from exposure, I assumed the pleather mini skirt was just for sex appeal. Her finger nails the most vibrant thing about her, bright red, not a chip, the only visible part of the person she used to be that remained on life support.
“Nah man, nah…I ain’t got no money..But …but…” she scrambled finally finding what she’d been digging for, unfurling a sorry bag of weed... “I got this bud, it’s worth it, we can trade.”
Jose’ snatched the cloudy, worn sandwich bag from her trembling hand, eye ballin’ the fuck out of it.
“Are you fuckin’ serious bitch? This ain’t even bam-bam, this shit look like fuckin’ grass clippin’s! I ain’t givin’ you shit for this!” Jose’ yelled before chucking her offering back at her wretched face.
Danny and I exchanged confused glances. I could tell he felt the same. What the hell was Jose’ doing? Getting all indignant on this chick for trying to undercut us on fake crack was nutty, made no sense. This was the moment when I finally realized how low “making sense” fell on his list of priorities. Pride was paramount to Jose’ and how dare some stupid crack head think she was gonna “get over” on HIM.
“No please! Please!” she begged, faded blue eyes welling with tears “I haven’t had nuthin’ since Tuesday, man…I’m hurtin’.”
It’s easy to think of crack heads as simple, interchangeable hood characters until you get up close and witness how real their pain is. I connected with her desperation, her driving desire to implode, we were just taking different paths, hers being more concentrated and immediate, mine abstract but still very much in motion.
“C’mon man…just give it to her Dawg…let’s move on. Shit.” Danny kicked his two cents in from the back, fed up.
Jose’ sat there silently contemplating the possibility of losing nothing, the bogus mental struggle twisting his mouth into a grimace.
“O.k., gimme that bullshit.” He conceded.
Like I said, our M.O. up until that point had been successful- simultaneous exchange- peel out-smoothness.
Jose’s discord gave way to complacency this go around though, giving our patron some lag time to get a good luck at her purchase before I could stomp on the gas. Turned out she was craftier than he’d given her credit for and knew almost immediately that we’d fucked her.
“Nigga this ain’t crack!!!”
Her scream stabbed my eardrums as I tenderly punched the gas, crappy 4 cylinder Ford straining under the pressure of mediocre necessity. The Tempo did 0-60 mph in 3 minutes flat, the perfect choice for a getaway car if you’re not all that concerned about getting away.
This time she was the one throwing baggies of bullshit at Jose’s face before forcing her bony arm inside the door jam, latching on like a hungry, nursing baby being swindled of a tit.
“I want my craaaack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” she squalled, running alongside, keeping up with us.
“Fuckin’ GOOO!!!” Jose demanded while he tried to pry her hands free and push her to the ground.
I was doing about 10mph, to go any faster may have caused her injury, something I knew I couldn’t live with. My conscience had cracks, it wasn’t gone.
“Suck on this bitch!!!”
Danny’s zeal was nothing short of “Die Hard-ian” as he snaked the barrel between the seats, finally getting to unload round after round of freezing tap water from the pump action Super Soaker into the mug of a disgruntled customer. He’d waited patiently all day just for a chance at this but to his dismay, it was having an adverse effect. Each blast to the head only seemed to enrage her even more, add to her strength, like she was some sort of Crack Hulk. To all of our surprise, instead of letting go, she chose Jose’s throat as a better anchor, choking the fuck out of him while still keeping pace with a moving vehicle. If there were a crack Olympics, our girl would’ve taken the gold.
Through choked out gasps, Jose’ continued to plead with me to speed up. All of Danny’s ammo was spent, he’d taken to slapping her while Jose’ (not having enough room to do much else) punched at her chest. I didn’t know what to do since either way; our mark was going to get hurt. As Jose’ fished his hand between my console, searching for the mag-lite flashlight, I could only assume that smacking her upside the skull with heavy metal would inflict more damage than what would happen if shook her loose. The choice was clear.
Making sincere eye contact with Crack Hulk for the first time, we had a moment where it was just us, two girls, sticking together in the quest to ruin ourselves. We wouldn’t be denied and I would help her avoid the most painful outcome because I cared.
Silently I mouthed to her “I’m sorry”. I convinced myself that she nodded. She didn’t.
Then- I floored it.
She kept up till almost 30 mph (incredibly impressive) before tripping into a crocodile death roll down the middle of the street. Jose’ and Danny exploded into laughter as we sat at the stop sign, watching her get to her feet, dusting off the snow, recovering from a terrible dismount.
Both of Crack Hulk’s middle fingers jutted in the air HARD, probably hoping if she executed those double birds with enough ferocity, we’d feel her red nails piercing our assholes. I felt them all over.
“Ha-ha! Look at her dawg! Ohhh...she mad!” Danny exclaimed.
“She mad?” Jose’ mockingly questioned. “Look at this fuckin’ sack of crap! Bitch is lucky I don’t take the wheel from Steph, go back and run her ass over!”
They both died.
Failing to see the comedy Jose’ and Danny had found in the state of affairs, I refrained from the giggle fest. The comprehension that every time I thought I’d sunk as low as I could, I hadn’t, was fucking up my swirling brain. There were so many layers of “Shit Bag” still yet to achieve if I just kept coming back. It wasn’t the goal, it was just happening and it was getting easier every time I hit a new level in the game.