TYRONE JOHNSON, SELF-MADE MAN
What are you gonna be when you grow up?” That’s what most kids got asked.
Mom always asked me what I wasn’t gonna be, and you know what she wanted me to say?
A dealer, stealer, free-wheeler, player, hater, a downright dog—that’s what my dad was.
When I came home from school, Mom was on the couch watching Dr. Phil. As usual.
“How was school, baby?”
“Good.” No way I was gonna tell her I got kicked out. Really
ass-to-the-curb kicked out this time. Starting tomorrow, I was supposed to show up at some alternative school.
“You working hard?”
“Yeah.” Sweet, clueless Mom never noticed that I hadn’t carried a book bag since the ninth grade.
“There’s beef patties in the oven.”
I checked the clock: 3:37 p.m. She’d be getting up from the sofa in about three minutes, getting ready for fifteen, and out the door in twenty.
When the commercial came on, Mom went to her room. I attacked the patties, only stopping to add more ketchup. A few minutes later, she came back into the kitchen in her grocery store uniform, her name tag already pinned on like she was proud or something. “You working tonight?” she asked me.
“Yeah.” I gave up my cheek for a kiss while guzzling o.j., and she threw on her coat and hurried out the door.
Mom thought I worked at the Flatbush Sports Club on Atlantic Avenue. I ain’t worked there a day in my life—but the manager owed me. He was one of my customers.
Time to get down to this brother’s real bread-and-butter.
I took out my cell and speed-dialed Sonny.
“Ty! What the fuck’s going on? Why’d you turn off your cell?”
“Mind your business. What’s going on?”
“I need your help, son. Tonight we got us some deliveries.”
“Already got some.”
“Well, I got more for you.”
I wrote the stuff in my phone.
“Hold up,” I said, “who’s this Schultz guy?”
“A new customer I met last week. Told him we was getting a shipment with the hottest shit this side of Bogotá. He gonna drop five Gs!”
“You ain’t kidding. How’d he find out about us?”
“In the fucking yellow pages.”
“Seriously, Sonny, who told him?”
“Who? Shit, like he was gonna tell me! What, you think his friend wants a finder’s fee or something?”
“Listen, if you so confident about him, you make the delivery.”
“Can’t, I promised Desarae we’d see a late movie. Schultz wants the stuff at ten.”
“I’m not making this delivery unless you gimme some reason to think he ain’t a cop.”
“Ty, this guy ain’t 5-0. Don’t you think I can sniff out a cop by now?”
“I ain’t risking my neck on your sense of smell, Sonny. Tell Michael Brown to make the delivery.”
That little brother’d win the award for the most eager young hustler in Flatbush.
Fourteen years old.
“A’ight, I’ll tell Michael,” Sonny said. “He can drop some stuff off at the Wilkes place too.”
That was what I liked about Sonny. He talked the shit, but when push came to shove, he always backed down. He knew the game was in my blood.