Okay, I'm back with a novel that is very special to me, so I hope you enjoy it. I have been attempting and attempting to write this story for the past five years and just never seemed to be able to bridge all the gaps and complete it. It was a challenge I took on yet again and I was able to meet this challenge. I hope you enjoy. As I wrote the story, I felt like I was fighting, crying for and loving Chance like he was a person in my world. There is something very endearing about a person who is not only able to endure the unthinkable but in enduring, continues to fight, and climb his way out. That's what I call a thug: You came from nothing and were able to build and have the ability to push through and survive no matter what.
Special thanks, hugs, and smiles go to my loved ones, Adara, Bralynn, Mom, Crystal, Terry, Mikayla, and Madison. Omari, Jabrez, Devin, and Mu-Mu, La'naya, and Tammy. And of course my fat, blue-eyed son, Bralynn, who took long naps and watched
Yo Gabba Gabba
so your mommy could get this story done. (sigh) Such a blessing to be a new mommy again and have my firstborn, Adara, who is the reason why I am what and who I am, experiencing it with me!
Thanks to all my friends, Christina W, Roxetta, Rob, Candis, Kimberly, Sewiaa, Stephanie, Linda, Cheryl, Christina T, you pushed me to write this story! Carla, Ronisha RIP, Tina, Lenzie, Valerie Hoyt, Tara, Pearlean, Maxine, Jennifer, Barbara, Henrietta, VI, Kim, Kyle, Phillipo, Latonya, Leigh, Vanilla, Yvonne, Dena, Daphne, Sandra T, Sandra V, Marilyn, Ivy, Mondell, Daphne, Lenzie, and Lydia.
Thanks to my fellow author buddies, Mondell Pope, Rickey Teemes II, Papa Sak, Aleta Williams. Thanks, Carl, for your continued faith in me. Thanks to Kevin a good yet sarcastic editor. Thanks to Natalie for always answering my e-mails.
Thanks to Fashion Trend . . . Lori, you don't just sell cute clothes, you push my books voluntarily and I appreciate it!
Sorry if I forget anyone. Charge it to my mind, not my heart; my son is throwing milk at me from his sippy cup as we speak. I'll get you in the next book. Accept this for now.
Thanks to all my fans for your continued support. A friend of mine who works at a bookstore (no names) told me that one of their customers said that whatever I write they are going to get. I was like, wow, hearing that made me really feel valued as an author.
To all men locked behind bars for a crime you are innocent of, stay in prayer and remain hopeful you'll be set free. Like Chance said, keep making noise until the powers that be let you out.
Blood leaked from a gash on my lip. But it didn't stop the beating the four police officers continued to give me. One minute I was getting out of my shower after hearing a banging on the door. The next minute, four police rushed into my bathroom and I was getting fucked up. I was now lying on the floor while they all delivered punches and kicks to my head and body.
I placed my hands around my head to block some of the blows. But it didn't make a difference. They kept going.
“You fucking cop killer!” one of them yelled, stomping his black boot into my face.
I winced from the pain as he continued to slam it down on my face. When he finally retracted his foot, I cracked one of my eyelids open to get a peek at his badge. Swarovski was his name. Another cop took his baton and started hitting me in my back with it, all the while Swarovski continued to bring his foot down with the weight on his entire body onto my face.
I grunted from the pain. Being a black man from the projects, you couldn't escape getting beat by racist police, but I had never experienced a beating like this before. And most of all, I didn't know why they were attacking me or even why they were in my house.
And it only got worse.
Swarovski flipped me over on my back.
The others momentarily paused their assault.
Swarovski took the other officer's baton and jabbed me in my stomach with so much force I started breathing harshly. He then took the baton, wrapped it around my neck, and started choking me.
I grabbed his hands, hoping I could stop his assault. Because, yeah, I didn't stop the cops from beating my ass but I was gonna try and stop them from killing me!
“Get your fucking hands off of me!” His grip on the baton on my neck tightened.
Snot flew from my nose and I felt like I was going to vomit, but he continued.
I felt myself getting weak and going out. My hands started flapping at my sides and I knew in that moment I was going to die.
Spit flew from his mouth as he continued to call me names. The baton came down one more good time, hitting me in the back of my neck. My body started feeling weak, fuzzy, the way I felt just the night before when I popped an Ambien so I could get some rest.
And like the Ambien put me out, so did that blow.
Now I'm here? Two days after getting my ass whipped, I sat in front of the judge and had a hard time standing to my feet, when the prosecutor laid out my crime: Murder of Devin Johnson, a police officer. A man I had never seen or heard of before. I damn near shitted on myself when I heard the charge and how much time the DA was asking for. All my fucking time: Lifeâplain and simple.
Without even glancing my way, the judge looked over his glasses and asked my lawyer, “How does the defendant plead?”
I stood with my public defender, angry as fuck and scared.
“The defendant pleads not guilty, your Honor.”
I nodded and tried to keep calm, when inside I was dying. I ran the risk of losing everything I had: My mom, my job, my home, my girlâeverything. And it pissed me the fuck off, and more importantly what pissed me off even more was that I didn't do shit.
How in the fuck did I get here?
Three Days AgoâMarch 2003
I turned my Suburban down my street bumping Too Short. I then pulled into my driveway. I had just bought that bad boy. It was on point too. It was black and fully loaded with a couple of TVs, iPod, and leather seats. My ride was a grown and sexy ride. And it was sitting on some twenty-four-inch rims that were shining on a daily. It was a gift to myself for all the hard work I had been putting in. And when I say
, no, I'm not talking about anything illegal. I did the shit the legal way. I'm not going to say I was never tempted to get in the game. Growing up in the Springdales, illegal shit was all around me and so was the opportunity to get involved in it. But I saw way too many niggas getting arrested over bullshit and too many niggas getting killed over bullshit. I was cool.
Even though my sorry-ass daddy, Curtis Redding, lived in the Springdales, he didn't live with my mother and me and he didn't help her take care of me. In fact, he didn't even claim me. And if it wasn't enough that my mama had to make a life for us alone, she had to deal with a lot of unnecessary bullshit from my daddy. He was so uninvolved my mama gave me her last name. He refused to claim me and his various women always harassed and would even jump on my mama 'cause she had something they just didn't have: me. Funny. The person he didn't give a fuck about. But the one thing my daddy did teach me, indirectly, was that your dirt always catches up with you. Case in point, my daddy ended up with full-blown AIDS, I was ten when he died. Sticking your dick in a hole just because it is open is not always a good thing. I didn't care too much when he died and I told my mother that he got what he deserved. But she always told me that it is always better to forgive, if not for anybody else, for yourself.
After seeing my mom go through all of that, the last thing I wanted to do was cause her any trouble.
So by the time I was seventeen I finished high school a year early by skipping a whole year. At the age of twenty I graduated from ITT Tech with a bachelor's degree in computer science. I knew the computer like the back of my hand, and could do any and everything to it.
A few months after graduating from college, I landed a job as a computer analyst at Microsoft, making sixty thousand dollars a year. Within my first year of employment, I bought my first home. It wasn't anything special, just a two-bedroom. But it was enough for me to move my mama out of the projects and enough for her to stop working like a slave. But she still managed to hold onto one of her jobs, being an in-home care aide for some elderly white woman named Ellen. Time and time again I told her to quit and that there was no need for her to work. But she always said that working for her wasn't like a job because they were so close.
I'm sure to most men living with their mother would probably cramp their style, but not me. I wouldn't have it any other way. My mom was why I was everything that I was. I wanted her to be comfortable and have peace of mind. She was the most supportive person in my small inner circle. And I wasn't done accomplishing stuff. I still had a ways to go. The thing about me is this: I didn't wait for anyone to give me shit. What I wanted I worked hard and got it. I was now in the process of getting a loan to open up my own business. And I knew the rules to being successful: no felonies and no bad credit.
I downed the last bottle of my Vitamin Water and put my truck in park. I had just left the gym. I had done cardio for forty-five minutes and lifted weights for an hour. It was my usual schedule when I left my job.
I hopped out of the car just as my cell phone started ringing. I pulled it out of the pocket of my sweats and glanced at the number. It was my baby Toi calling.
“Yeah, baby?” I said. I walked over to the passenger's side of my car and grabbed my gym bag.
“Hello?” was all she said.
I smiled. Toiâshe was everything a brotha could ask for. She was fine, with that small waist and an onion-shaped booty, mocha brown skin, juicy lips, smoky bedroom eyes. She was sweet, could cook, and even hold down a job. The only flaw was she was too high-maintenance, which for a man can sometimes be expensive, but she was worth it. The other problem I had with her is that she wanted me to kick my mama out and move her ass right on in. It wasn't enough that I had also moved her out of the projects and into her own pad. That shit wasn't cheap. I had to work a day of overtime a week to do so.
When she said nothing further, I asked, “What's going on, baby?”
“Not much. Just wondering if I could swing by,” she said.
“Yeah. Ma probably cooking now.”
“I meant for later. Is your mom gonna be there?”
“She lives here; what do you think?”
“But it's your house.”
“What does that have to do with anything? It's my mom. She ain't tripping off you, why you tripping off of her?”
She sucked her teeth.
“If you talking about later, I can swing by your house, baby.”
“Chance, we been together for over three years. I love you. Don't you love me?”
I sighed. Oh, lord, here she go. “Toi, I wouldn't have said it if I didn't.”
“Then why aren't you treating me like you do?”
“How am I not? I take you out, I'm faithful. I'm damn near paying all your bills. The only bills you pay are your cell phone and your car insurance.”
“I want to move in.”
“You're not myâ”
She hung up before I could finish.
I chuckled. I closed the passenger-side door and slung my gym bag over my shoulder. I knew what this was about. Yeah, I loved Toi even when she had her attitude, because she sure as hell could jump ghetto when she wanted to. I had learned to adjust to it. But what she wanted at that time I just didn't. Yeah, I grew up in the projects, where guys went from girl to girl and had multiple babies, like my boy Calhoun, real name Travis, who had two kids he rarely saw because he was always roaming the streets, chasing dirty money and pussy or in jail. Time and time again, I pondered over both his and my situation. Calhoun grew up on the west side of Long Beach, CA too, but not in the Springdales. He had a mom and dad. You couldn't get more normal than his family. Calhoun's dad worked a nine-to-five as a school superintendent. His mother stopped teaching to stay at home and raise Calhoun. Despite the upbringing Calhoun had, he joined a gang, smoked weed like it was going out of style, and sometimes sherm. Calhoun's father tried to be that ideal father to him, the kind of father I had always craved. Calhoun never listened. He dropped out of high school in tenth grade and had been in and out of jail for things like selling drugs to beating up his baby mamas, and refusing to pay child support. He was an all-around fuckup. A few years ago, he talked his parents into paying off his child-support debt and when they loaned him the money, instead of paying off the debt he went and bought two bricks of cocaine that somebody robbed his dumb ass for.
I, on the other hand, had bigger plans for my life. I didn't have a problem settling down, I just wanted to make sure I was financially set. While I was sure Toi was the one, I was willing to marry her once everything in my life was in the order I wanted it in. The last thing I wanted was to bring a baby into the world and not be able to give him everything that meant quality time as well as a stable, functional home. I wanted to be a father in every sense of the word
That was something I didn't have growing up. The last thing I wanted was to have to struggle and for my child to see me struggle. If Toi would just be a little more patient, I saw myself proposing to her in another year. By that time my business should be a go. I had been taking additional business classes and learned how to draft my own business plan. My plan was to open up a computer repair store.
I spied Calhoun sitting on my porch, puffing on something as I turned walked toward my house.
I sniffed and knew it was some weed.
He hopped off my porch and walked up to me.
I ignored him as he raised his free fist to give me a pound.
“What I tell you about smoking that shit near or at my house?”
“My bad. You wanna hit it before I put it out, dawg?”
“No.” My job tested us for weed religiously. And the last thing I needed was to get caught up. And the funny part was it seemed that they always randomly tested all the brothas.
He smirked and wet the tip of his joint with his tongue and slipped it behind his right ear, and asked, “Aye man, what you getting into tonight?” For the life of me I couldn't understand why Calhoun of all the things chose to be a gangsta. Yeah, he was a big dude like me, with the same height, complexion, and build. Some people would say that he could pass as my brother. But I was a lot more handsome and the nigga hated on me about it and was always calling me a pretty boy. I couldn't help it cause all his front teeth were gone from all the times niggas done knocked him out for running his mouth. Or he looked aged past his years from dope and that street life. They say that's what a wild life will do to you.
“Sleep.” I jogged up my steps. I had worked a sixteen-hour shift the day before and came right back at my normal time which was around 3:00
. I was tired. But I never turned down overtime. Now all I wanted to do was get something good to eat, pop an Ambien, and get some sleep. I could hang out Saturday. It was only Friday. And when I did hang it wasn't going to be with Calhoun unless his ass was sober and not on any type of crime sprees.
I had loyalty to Calhoun only because we pretty much grew up together. When we were younger, he was always in the Springdales visiting his cousin Paul, who was two years year older than us but in a wheelchair. Paul and his mom lived right next door to me. Paul's mother was Calhoun's dad's younger sister. So Paul was always running with me and Calhoun, always trying to keep up in his wheelchair. And yeah, Paul couldn't walk but he could roll with the punches. We did all kinds of shit together, stuff that you would expect young boys to do but with a little more edge to it. If boys our age were pulling up girls' skirts, Calhoun and I were smacking their asses after Paul rolled by in his wheelchair and pulled their skirts or dresses up. When niggas was stealing candy from the store, we thought smarter: We would sell candy for the Boy Scouts and then lie and say some bigger dudes robbed us. But instead we took the money and bought skateboards. When niggas our age played hide and go get it, we were actually getting the pussy while Paul was the lookout. A couple times, we even talked the girls into letting Paul stick a finger in their young pussy. See, Paul couldn't fuck, something wasn't right down there and he sure as fuck didn't want to talk about it. Sometimes I wondered if he even had a dick; I was always too scared to ask. But he was satisfied with us getting some.
We ran the lot we lived in and ran the other niggas our age off. They answered to us. And yeah, Paul was in a wheelchair but he was definitely with the business. Whenever we had a disagreement, we fought it out amongst each other, Paul included. To be fair, depending on which one of us had the problem, if it was with Paul, we got on our knees so that we were the same height as his wheelchair and we got down. Whoever the winner was what they said was how it was going to be. Truthfully we all got down. I beat Calhoun's ass, Paul and I tied, and Paul packed Calhoun out. Calhoun didn't come around for a few days after Paul gave him a whipping. But when he did get over it and came back around, it was just like it used to be. Our relationship had its benefits. Calhoun couldn't fight worth a damn so when he got into it with boys in the Springdales, I was always there to jump in and pack the dude Calhoun was fighting out. Paul would lean over his wheelchair and throw a couple punches in too. When I didn't have decent shoes and clothes because my mama struggled with money, Calhoun would hook me up. Paul's mama got Social Security for him so he always looked fresh. And Paul was nothing nice in his wheelchair, he could pop wheelies and do the same tricks we did. One day we built a skateboard ramp and Paul wasn't even scared to jump off that shit!