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Ballin’: Part 1

Ballin’: Part 1
By Dominic Brogsdale

 “Ballin’” is slang for living in affluence/wealth or to have it going on with money, cars, hoes, clothes, style, body, and pimping. It also refers to when one does something of great magnitude or pulls off an amazing accomplishment.

 One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
 Proverbs 13:7

 Sixteen-year old Major was getting ready for another day of school. He yawned and wiped the crusted discharge from his eyes.  He looked at his clock and said to himself, “It's 6:45. I have plenty of time to get ready."

 Major let out a big sigh of frustration. He plopped back on his bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to figure out other ways to make money. He thought about selling marijuana. He mused aloud, “If I sold a dime bag—that’s about a half of gram of weed—which is about ten dollars a bag. If I get me a big bag, I could break it up into a bunch of small dime bags and make a lot money much faster than cutting grass. I could even supply the wraps with it and charge an extra ten dollars. Maybe some Zig Zags or some Swisher Sweets?”

  He pondered on it and came to another thought and said to himself, “Or I could sell one-eighth of an ounce, which comes out to three and a half grams. That’s about twenty dollars on the low end, but I’d have to find someone with some real top-notch cannabis to sell it for fifty dollars a pop. One of those would last most people about a week, but only a couple days for a heavy user. I could also sell some Zig Zags and Swisher Sweets on the side to make some more money.”

 He considered other options along the same vein and murmured under his breath, “Or I could sell a quarter ounce, which is about seven grams. I could also sell that for about twenty dollars or about sixty dollars for high quality bud. Then again, I could take it to an ounce, which is twenty-eight grams. I could really make a killing off that: I could make eighty to a hundred and sixty dollars or even more off that, especially if my weed is top notch.”

 Major nodded and continued speaking aloud, “Today, I am officially committing my life to being a drug dealer!”

 He paused and let out another sigh of frustration. “Dang … what will my mom think? What will my dad think? What about some of my teachers trying to help me … and there’s no guarantee I’ll end up like Frank Lucas, Nicky Barnes, Ricky ’Freeway’ Ross, Manuel Noriega, or William Leonard Pickard. Those dudes were big-time, but they all had to start off small before they made it big time.”
 He put his right hand over his mouth and started rubbing the woolly peach fuzz underneath his chin. He thought, “I know my mom said not to worry about her, but she’s working three jobs. I hate seeing her stressed out, the constant, tired look on her face, and struggling to make bills. If I sell drugs, I’ll be causing her more stress.”

 He paused and reflected some more, “But what if I did it quietly or a little bit at a time, and saved up here and there?”

 His gaze landed on the basketball in the center of the floor. He bit his bottom lip and, getting out of bed and walking to it, kicked it against the wall as hard as he could. It bounced off and hit the window, causing a crack in the glass.

He said under his breath, “Shit, Mom is gonna kill me if she sees this.”

 He grabbed some newspaper and a roll of duct tape and covered the whole window. Since he didn’t have curtains, he hung a bedsheet over the curtain rod.

Still talking to himself, he said, “She’s not gonna see this. I’ll get some curtains this weekend and tell her there was too much light in my room or something. I dunno!”

 He got back on his bed and started beatboxing with his mouth, saying over and over, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do?”
He walked over to the bureau and grabbed the notebook containing all his financial information. It listed his income and expenses:

$800 from cutting grass

Nice thrift store shirts, clearance rack on Tuesday 10: shirts for $25

Plato’s Closet Nikes or outlet store Nikes for $50 at most

$5 to eat out for 5 days at school: $25 (just in case there’s not enough from food stamps)

Money for Mom if she’s short on bills: $100

Gas for the whip (car): $50

Me money, just-in-case money: $50

Leaves me with $500 to put aside.

 Major pulled out $800 in cash he’d hidden inside his boxers and whispered as he set aside the corresponding amounts to confirm his calculations, "Twenty-five dollars for the shirts, $50 for the Nikes, $25 for the food, $100 for Mom, $50 for the whip, and $50 just in case I need it."

 Major recounted what remained and said, "Five hundred dollars even."
 He carried the $500 to his closet, moved a pile of clothes, and lifted a wooden floorboard to reveal a hidden space filled with $20, $10, and $1 bills. He added the cash and closed it with a piece of wood, murmuring, "I'll count you later and take you to the bank."

 After putting the floorboard back into place and shoving the pile of clothes over it, Major returned to the drawer and grabbed some lose coins. He swept them into his hands and threw them in one of the three milk gallons filled with coins he kept. Before closing the drawer, he looked at the books also stashed inside it: Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki; You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero; The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich by David Bach; AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip by Jean Chatzy and Micheal F. Roizen; How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won't Get from Your Financial Advisor by Ernie J. Zelinski; and, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

 Among the books was a piece of paper with scribbled notes that read: "Study Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and anybody who makes BREAD! "

Also scrawled on the paper was, "Curtis ‘Wall Street’ Carrol: we from the same hood!” He folded it up and tucked it inside the pages of Rich Dad Poor Dad.

He grabbed the clothes he had laid out for the day: a pair of faded black jeans, faded black tee shirt, and some beat-up, black Air Force Ones. After dressing, he went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and brushed his hair, then returned to his room to collect got his cell phone. He paused to look at the walls. Posters of Jay-Z, Sean Puffy Combs, Percy Miller, Brian (Baby) Williams and Nipsey Hussle hung on the wall. He tapped all three of them and said, "Show me how to make this bread. I'm watching y’all! Rest up, Nip"

He put his hands together as if he were praying, bowed, and went downstairs where he saw a note on the table that read:

May May,
I’ll be working a double all week. I’m glad they fired Hector, so I can get this money! They’re talking about evicting us again! I should have some money on the food stamp card soon, and you can save your money and pack your lunch. I'll get some pizza rolls and a case of Sprite you like. Thanks for helping Mama with the bills. Lord knows I'm tryin!

Love you, May May

BTW: Your daddy will be here to pick you up this weekend.

Major nodded his head and said, "Cool, I got you, Ma!"

 He ran back upstairs, pulled $100 from his closet, ran back downstairs, and put the cash on the kitchen table. He looked in the refrigerator and saw two end slices of bread and some peanut butter. He took the bread out, spread the peanut butter on, and chewed down as fast as he could. When finished, he went to the sink, turned on the spigot. Nothing came out.

 With a mouth full of bread and peanut butter, he mumbled, “Dang, no water. Bill probably needs paid."

 Major swallowed the last dry mouthful of his breakfast, then took his book bag off the couch. Locking the door behind him, he walked down the front stoop, tapped the hood of his rusty, blue 1970 Chevrolet, and said, “See you later, baby!”

 As he walked to school, he used his cell phone to access YouTube and started listening to "How to Invest Like Warren Buffett.”
 His phone vibrated. He looked at the screen to see a call from his father, Major, Sr. He picked up and said,

  “What’s up, Pops?”

  Major, Sr. replied with his usual cheery tone, “How you doing, son?”

  Major let out a deep sigh and said, “Man … you know!”

  Major, Sr. sensed his son’s frustration. “Come on, son, talk to me?”

 Major let out another deep sigh and said, “Man, Dad, I’m tired of trying to read all these books, watching these videos online, looking at all these mutual funds and stock markets to earn some extra cash. Mom’s struggling: she’s barely making rent, and they talking about evicting her again. This shit is frustrating. I’m seriously thinking about selling drugs, pimping, robbing, or something to come up on some quick cash. I’m tired of cutting grass and working these little odd jobs to get a little bit of money!”

 Major, Sr.’s stern voice resonated across the connection. “First of all, watch your mouth when you talk to me! I know you’re frustrated, but don’t use foul language. I’m still your father, do you understand?
 Major sighed.  “Yes, sir.”

 Major, Sr. then said, “Listen, I know it’s hard. As a man, son, I owe you an apology. I made some poor choices, having three kids by three different women. How do you think I feel paying child support for all three of y’all? You think the court is showing me any mercy?”

 Major breathed heavily through his nose said, “No, sir.”

 Major’s father asked, “Have I not been there for you?”

 Major sighed and admitted the truth, “You have.”

 Major, Sr. said, “Hell, look at me. I’m thirty years old with three kids by three different women. I have two roommates and work overtime to keep up with the child support payments and be able to keep food on the table. Now I’m about to ask you a question.”

 Major, Sr. paused as his son listened with a growing sense of gloom. After a few seconds, he asked, “Do you want to live like me when you’re thirty years old?”

 Major thought about what his father said.

“Hello, son, are you there?”

  “I hear you, Dad. But my friends got the newest clothes, the hottest chains, the hottest shoes—and I’m stuck wearing these hand-me-downs from the thrift store, Plato’s closest, and my cousins clothes! It ain’t fair.”

 Major, Sr. said, “Let me ask you something else: what do you see your mama and I wear every day for at least sixty to eighty hours of the week?”

Major said, “Mom wears her grocery store uniform and you wear your construction uniform.”

 Major Sr. then said, “Now let me ask you this: what do think you’re gonna be wearing when you’re my age? How old are you now, fourteen?”

 Major smiled. “Come on, Dad, I’m sixteen!”

 Major Sr. laughed, then said, “Oh, yeah, you a young man now. My fault, young man. But you gonna be wearing the same thing yo mama is wearing and the same thing I’m wearing—and tell me what that is, son?”

Major answered, “A uniform.”

 Major, Sr.’s confidence reverberated in his son’s ear as he barked, “No, son, a muthafuckin suit!”

 Major smiled and nodded as his father continued, “That’s right, son, you gonna do better and be better than us! Do you think I like working construction?”

 Major shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, from the story you be telling me.”

 Major’s father shouted, “Hell no, son! I tell you those stories because they funny and I work with a bunch of idiots who still got that prison mentality and make dumb decisions. I hate this shit! I do! I have to find work in the winter, and it’s hot as hell outside in the summer. I’m working sunup to sundown, and sometimes I have to work night shifts, too. Like a slave, do you seriously think I like messing around with these rocks and pebbles all day?”

Major laughed and said, “No!”

  “Exactly! You don’t wanna do this shit. My boss has an engineering degree or Legos degree … I dunno, some shit like that! But anyway, his high and mighty ass sits in the cool air, and he tells us peasants what to do.”

 Major said, “Dang, that sucks.”

 Major Sr. said, “Yeah … now which job do you wanna do?”

 Major replied, “Sit in that office and give orders.”

 Major senior cheered him on, “Damn straight, son, and guess how much he make?”

 Major turned his upper lip up and guessed, “Forty thousand?”

 A harsh huff of laughter blasted from the older man’s mouth. “Boy, are you serious? Try six figures, son!”

 Major said under his breath, “Damn!”

 With a chuckle, Major, Sr. said, “I’ll let that damn slide! But, man, son, he invited us to his eight-bedroom house with the pool in the back. They had every meat you could think of: pig, cow, a baby seal, hippo, a muthafuckin unicorn!”

 Major laughed at his father’s exaggeration and said, “A seal, hippo, and a unicorn?”

 Major senior said, “You know what I mean, son. That’s how you wanna be living, in peace with nothing to worry about! That man got so much money, he gave each of us a five-hundred-dollar check on Christmas for our hard work!”

 Major eyebrows raised and remarked, “Now that man right there is ballin’.”

 Major Sr.’s voice took on a serious tone. “Yes, son, ballin’, no worries, no nothing!”

Major couldn’t help but ask, “What about the big-time drug dealers? They got a lot of money. They tell folks what to do. And they don’t have to work so hard.”

 Major, Sr. said, “Okay, what about them?”

 “They was ballin’, too.”

Major senior said, “Yes and no.”

 “What do you mean, Pops?”

With a sigh, Major, Sr. replied, “I’m not even gonna explain it to you.”

 Aggravated, the boy demanded, “Why not?”

 “Because I want you to study the difference between someone who got their money through education and one who got it out the streets, then ask yourself which life do you want to live?”
Major paused and thought about the dealers in school and some of the lives of major drug dealers. He said, “I’ll take that chance, if it helps Mom.”

 His father sighed with disappointment that Major felt. His tone deep and serious, he replied, “Okay, son, go head and take that chance; but when you end up in prison for the rest of your life, do me a favor?”

 “What’s that?”

 “Don’t call me. As a matter of fact, I won’t even be at your funeral, because your eyes will be closed or you’ll be dust sitting in a vase!”

 Major paused and said, “Dang, Pops, that’s cold. It’s like that?”

 Major, Sr. said, “Nah, son, that’s life. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya! See you this weekend. We gonna take a little drive around the ’hood and have you meet some of my old partners and see how they living. Have a good day at school, son. Get that education!”

 Major, Sr. hung up. Major looked at his phone and muttered to himself, “Why’s Pops always hang up on me like that when he trying give me a life lesson or something … whatever?“

 When he arrived at school, he saw some friends who joked around with him. They were in the twelfth grade. Delroy, Umar, Mancel, Maurice, and Yusef gathered in the hallway.
Major lifted his head and called out, "What's good, y’all?"

Delroy smiled and replied, "What's good, you grass cuttin’, snow plowin’-ass nigga?"

They all laughed.

Umar asked, “How many lawns you cut this weekend, nigga?"

Major answered with a smile, “Shit, twenty lawns!"

Umar then asked, “How much you make?"

Major smiled and said, “I can't tell you that, G."
Umar looked around and pulled out a wad of a hundred-dollar bills.  “I bet you didn’t make this much, nigga!"

 Everyone started to laugh, except Major, who could not help but envy Umar his ready wealth.
Yusuf said, “All that grass you cut, I bet you made like $260."

 Major smiled, knowing he’d earned far more than that, and said, “I made enough."
Yusuf said, “Shit, you making slave wages out there, my nigga. I can get you on the plug B!"
“Nah, I’m good. I’m cool on that fast life!" Major replied.

Mancel chimed in, “Aww, stop being a bitch. Ain't shit you can do with that little-ass money you making, cuz!"

Major shrugged his shoulders. “I'll manage."

Maurice looked Major square in the face. “Bro, let me ask you a question."

Major met his gaze and said, “What's up?"

His smile vanished, Maurice pointed at his shoes. “What the fuck are those?"
They started to laugh hysterically.

 Although he blushed with embarrassment, Major smiled and answered, “Shoes that hold no monetary value. Ain’t no one gonna shoot me for these shoes.”

Maurice said, “Let me guess, you got them off the clearance rack?”

Major smiled, not showing that he was tired of the ribbing. He replied, “Yup!”

 Wide-eyed, Maurice grinned and saw his opportunity. “Bro, why don't you buy yourself something nice with all that hard work you be doing?”

 Major shook his head and stunned his friends by dismissing everything they held dear. “It ain’t worth it.”

 Exuding cocky assurance, Delroy boasted, “Man, I stay fresh out here! I got the fresh Jordan Ones, these $400 Gucci pants, the Gucci shirt, and I’m out here flossing B.”

 Yusef added, “Hell yeah, bro, you see them new Nikes coming out?”

 Delroy nodded. “Oh, yeah, them Air Maxes!”

 Yusef smiled and shared his friend’s enthusiasm. “Yeah, nigga! Them shit go hard!”

 Mancel expressed his heart’s desire: “I want them Lebrons, bro, that just came out.”

 Yusef smacked his teeth and said, “Man, them bitches is ugly, bro; them Kobes nice, though!”

“Fuck them Lebrons and them Kobes,” Delroy scoffed. “I’m Jordans all day!”
Glancing down at Major’s shoes, Maurice sneered, “Listen, y’all, as long as I’m not wearing them beat-up-ass, clearance rack, been-wore-a-thousand-time shoes that Major wearing, then I’m good!”
They laughed again.

 Major glanced at the clock on the wall. He flashed a smile at them and said, “Y’all crazy. I got class, though!”

 They returned his smile, and Delroy said, “You know we be fuckin’ wit’ you, right?”

 Major nodded and replied, “It's all good!”

 Maurice turned a sober face to Major. “We gonna fix your attire, B!”

 Major looked at the ground and thought about his mother’s financial difficulties. Looking back at his friends, he said, “I’m thinking about getting on. Ya’ll got some green ya’ll can put me on?”

 Delroy, Umar, Mancel, Maurice, and Yusef all looked at each other.

 “Oh, so you really about that life now?” Delroy asked.

 “So, you tired of working for them slave wages?” That came from Umar.
Delroy reached in his pocket, looking back and forth in the hallway for any nosy teachers or students in the hallway who might rat him out. Pulling a bag from his pocket, he whispered, “We gonna give you this little dime bag. If you can sell this, then we gonna let you know who the plug is. Our plug like a little hard worker like you in the squad!”

Major looked up and down the hallway, nervous as he accepted two dime bags of weed through a smooth handshake.

“You look scared,” Yusef commented.

Major shrugged and denied the accusation, “Nah, I ain’t scared.”

Maurice said, “We don’t deal wit’ no bitch-asses. You can’t sell that dime by tomorrow, you gonna be back to makin’ dimes!”

They laughed and Major joined in, saying, “I got this. Later!”

He headed to his first class, study hall. Entering the classroom, he greeted his teacher. “Good morning, Miss Covington."

 Miss Covington smiled with pleasure and replied, "Well, good morning, Mr. Major. How are you, sir?"

Major answered with a smile, “I’m good, thank you!”

After the last student took his seat, Miss Covington addressed the class: “Okay, class, if you have homework, pull it out.”

 She walked to a desk where an adolescent slept, his head covered by his shirt. To wake him, Miss Covington smacked her hand on the desk. In a stern voice, she said, “Mr. Darnell Bridges, you need to get up, sir! No sleeping in my classroom, please."

 Darnell’s mouth opened wide in a loud sarcastic yawn, then drawled, “Fuck you, bitch.”
Miss Covington frowned and kept that stern tone. “Oh, no, you need to leave, because I’m not dealing with you today again!"

Darnell pushed his papers off the desk and stormed out the classroom. The teacher sprayed the students with a hard glare and asked, “Anybody else wanna act a fool today?”
The whole class was quiet.

 With a no-nonsense nod and no smile, Miss Covington said, “Okay, thank you. Now, you can do your homework, or I'll help on the computer to get some scholarships for college. So, either stay at your desk or walk over to a computer. Thank you!”

Major headed to a computer, sat down, and started looking up scholarships. Miss Covington approached him with a big smile and pat on his back.

"Good morning, Major, let me help you."

Major returned her smile and thanked her. Still smiling, she whispered, “How much money you got now in scholarships, young man?”

“I’m up to $66,000,” he whispered.

 Miss Covington told him to look at her. He turned in his chair and did as she bade him, meeting her gaze. He saw approval and wisdom in the woman’s eyes as she said, “You’re doing good, young man. Keep cutting the grass and shoveling the snow and saving your money. Keep you grades up and don’t let these other kids drag you down, whether it be drugs and alcohol or anything that’s not good for your overall wellbeing. Stay on the path you’re on, and I’ll help you the best I can along the way. You understand?”

 After school, Major walked to his locker and said to himself with a sense of nervousness, “Ima do this.”

 He kept looking up and down the hallway to see if anyone was looking at him. He felt the two dime bags in his pockets. Suddenly his friend Norrece came up behind him, put both hands on his shoulders, pressed down, and yelled out, “Police!”

 Major jumped, balled his fist, and slammed it against the locker. He took a deep breath and said, “Don’t run up on me like that, B!”

 Norrece frowned and said, “Damn, what’s wrong with you?”

 Major calmed himself and replied, “Nothing, man!”

 Norrece replied, “I’m known you since pee wee years, man. I got four years on you. I know my li’l homie, what’s up?”

 Major took a deep breath. Looking left and right, he reached in his pockets and rubbed his hands together with the dime bags. He pulled them partially out. Norrece looked down to see the two dime bags. Major stuffed them back in his pocket.

 Norrece looked Major square in the face and said, “Come on, man.”

 Major sighed and said, “Man, I don’t have no choice. I don’t know what to do.”

 Norrece said in a joking manner, “Come on, brah!”

 Major whispered, his tone serious, “My mom’s and I struggling, man, cutting the grass and cutting these bills in half. Dawg and my mom’s about to get evicted.”

 Norrece repeated himself, his tone becoming serious, “Come on, man!”
Major turned around and grabbed his black hoodie from his locker. “Whatever, man, you ain’t listening!”

 Norrece turned Major around by his shoulders, got in his face, looked him in the eyes. He said, “You wanna ruin your life?”

 Major took a big swallow, looked at the floor, and said, “What other choices do I have?”
Norrece stared at him and repeated himself. Spit flew into Major’s face. “How about I say it again: do you wanna ruin your fucking life?”

 Major’s expression darkened with anger. Norrece held his hands in front of his young friend’s face and started counting. Beginning with his right thumb, he said, “Will, drive-by; Henny, home invasion; Carter, kidnapped and never found; Big L, massive heart attack; Little Goose, multiple stabbing, then put in jail.”

 He paused and added, “Better yet, they cut his head off.”

 Major blinked. Norrece continued, “E-dolla, robbed and shot in his own home; Angel, robbed, raped, and burned; Daniela, disappeared; Valentina, cut up and put in acid all before the age of …”

 Major stopped him and said, “I get it. Drug dealing was involved with all of them.”

 Norrece got closer in his face and snarled, “Obviously, you don’t! You doing the lawn care. I told you how to get these free scholarships, and save yo money up, and you about to throw it away on two baby-ass dime bags? Or a part-time career in the drug game. This ain’t you, you better than this!”
Major breathed heavily and said nothing.

 Norrece gritted his teeth and said, “Do I need to keep going down that list and remind you that they was in high school, just like us?”

 Major stared at the ground and said nothing. Norrece tried to reach into Major’s pocket to remove the bags of weed. Major gently pushed him away, looked him in the eye, and whispered, “Don’t touch me. You ain’t my pops or my mom!”

 Norrece returned his stare and held it for a long moment, then said, “I’m a better friend than whoever handed you them dime bags!”

 He picked up his book bag, bumped Major on the shoulder hard, and walked off. Major put his hoodie on, flipped the hood over his head, and headed out the school. He walked through the neighborhood with his hand in his pocket, nervous and not knowing what to do. He went home first, walked up the steps, and put one of the dime bags in a hole beneath a brick on the porch. He thought, “Should I call someone to get a sale?”

 Then he thought, “Nah … they might trace the call … I think.”

 He started walking, still looking nervously around for police officers or wondering if someone was going to rob him. At a bus stop, he saw three teenagers smoking a blunt and passing it around. Major looked around, then looked at them. Pulling the hood farther over his face, he asked, “Ya’ll smoke?”

 They looked at him, their eyes red. They smiled, then started to giggle. One of them demanded, “What the hell you looking at?”

 They all started to laugh and cough. Major kept looking over his shoulder and took the dime bag from his pocket. Holding it out, he said, “I got a dime bag here for twenty dollars.”

 Two of the boys stood up. They looked at each other, then looked at Major. One walked towards him and said, “Let me see.”

 Major opened his hand and said, “Let me see the twenty dollars.”

 One of the boys reached for his pocket, then suddenly punched Major in the jaw. Major fell back. The other two boys started punching him in his torso and stomach. Outnumbered, he could do nothing more than curl into himself with his arms clasped over his head. One of his assailants pushed him into the glass window and Major fell onto the concrete.

 One of the boys shouted, “Whoop his ass and take his shit!”

 Major held on to the dime bag as two of the boys started kicking him in the stomach.


 The sound of police sirens startled all of them. One of Major’s assailants turned toward the sound to see a patrol car driving towards them. One of the boys tried to pry the dime bag out of Major’s hands. Another shouted, “Oh shit, five-oh!”

 They scattered in different directions, leaving Major on the ground, coughing and gasping for air. The patrol car pulled alongside the curb and stopped. Two police officers, one white and the other black, exited the car and approached him. The black officer saw the dime bag of weed and said, “Look what we have here!”

 The white officer helped Major to his feet and said in a friendly manner, “So, what where you doing out here, bud? Why do you have this in your hand?”

 The white officer took his dime bag. Major leaned against the glass and didn’t answer. As he gasped for breath, he looked them in their eyes and did not respond. The black officer grabbed Major by the hoodie, turned him around, slammed him against the glass, and said, “Get your fucking hands up against the glass and spread your legs!”

 Major started to cry. The black officer said, “Too late to cry now.”

 The white officer gently pushed his partner back and ordered Major to turn around. Major sniffled and tears streamed down his face.

 The white officer stared at Major and asked, “What’s your name, kid?”

 Sniffling, Major answered, “Major, sir.”

 The black officer got in Major’s face and demanded, “Are you being a smartass?”

 Terrified, Major replied, “No, sir.”

 The white officer, with his hands propped on his waist, stared at him and said, “I’ve been out here for ten years, and I know a good kid when I see one.”

 Major swallowed a big ball of saliva and returned that officer’s gaze. The white officer did not blink. Instead his face lost all expression and he ordered the boy, “Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”

 Defeat made Major’s shoulders droop. He turned around, too slowly for the black cop’s preference. That officer pushed heavily against the glass and patted him down hard. Major yelped and sniffled at the pinch of pain. More tears started to run down his face, and the black officer whispered in his ear, “It’s too late to wash your muthafuckin’ ass now.”

He grabbed Major by his arm and said, “Bring yo ass!”

 Onlookers who noticed the commotion had gathered and stared at Major. The boy put his head down as he headed towards the police car. The black officer opened the door and palmed his hands hard into Major’s skull as he shoved the boy into the back seat.

 Major took a deep sigh and muttered, “One-time offense. All drug dealers go through this once, right?”

 The white officer, who was chewing gum, asked, “What’s your name?”

 Major cautioned himself, “Don’t speak, be tough.”

 On the passenger side of the patrol car, the black officer pounded on the black cage, looked at Major, and said sternly, “When he speaks, you answer. What’s your name, boy?”

 Major couldn’t hold back the tears. He sobbed the answer, “Major.”

The black officer yelled again, “What’s your name, boy?”

 Major whimpered, “Major Andrew Washington, sir!”

 The white officer, typing into the computer, asked calmly, “How old are you? What’s your address? And what school do you go to?”

 Crying again, he answered, “I’m sixteen, I live at 1618 Makeit street, and I attend Eastside High School.”

 The white officer typed in the information and said, “Let’s take a trip to the precinct. Since you’re a tough guy, you can hang with the other tough guys there.”

 Major frowned, then he started tearing up more, because he needed money, but he was scare and didn’t know what to do. Major whimpered again, and the black officer snapped, “Shut up!”

 About ten minutes later, they arrived at the precinct. The black officer opened Major’s door, snatched the hood off his head, and said, “Let everyone see how tough you are, crybaby!”

 Major started crying again as both officers grabbed him underneath his arms and walked him towards the door. Without warning, the white officer told his partner, “Let’s take him back to the car.”
They escorted Major back the car, shoved him inside, and drove off.

 Major didn’t know what was going on, but he didn’t ask any questions either. He kept his head down. He eyes blurred with tears that dripped onto his jeans. The car stopped. Major shivered, dreading whatever came next. Both officers got out of the car. Major looked up and saw that they were in front of his house. The black officer pulled Major out the car and unlocked the handcuffs. 

The white officer folded his arms and asked, “Kid, what’s your grade point average?”

 Still sniffling, Major replied, “Three-point-eight, sir.”

 The white officer’s mirrored sunglasses hid his eyes. He snapped his chewing his gum. After a heavy moment of silence, he nodded and said, “Listen here, kid, you got off lucky today. I don’t ever wanna see you out here again. If I see you out here, it better be for school or something constructive, not dealing, you understand?”

 Major nodded and said, “Yes, sir!”

 The white officer held his gaze and added, “I didn’t put you in our system; but, if I catch you out here next time, I will, do you understand?”

 Major nodded and said, “Yes, sir!”

 The white officer asked, “Boy, do you have any more drugs on you?”

 Major could not help but glance at his front porch. He looked back at the officer and said, “No, sir!”
The white officer held his gaze for a moment longer. Without another word, he turned and walked back to the patrol car. The black officer leveled a mean stare at the boy, then leaned down and got directly in Major’s face. Looking him in his eyes, he hissed, “If it was up to me, I would have locked your little black ass up.”

 Major looked down. The black officer went back to the car and joined his partner. They drove off.
Heaving a shaky sigh of relief, Major wiped his runny nose on the back of his left sleeve and his tears with the back of his right sleeve. He walked up the porch, retrieved the remaining dime bag, and entered his home. It was around 7:00 p.m. He walked in the front door and he flipped the light switch. Nothing happened. He rapidly flipped it up and down and said to himself, “Damn, the electricity must be off again.”

 He grabbed a nearby candle and a Bic lighter and walked over to the note on the kitchen table that his mom left him. He looked at it.

 “Oh, yeah, Mom’s working a double. She won’t be home ’til one or two in the morning and then back at it again at seven a.m.”

 He walked upstairs to his room and plopped down on his bed, shaking his book bag off his back. He stared at the floor in the dim candlelight and let out a deep sigh. He didn’t know what to do. He was conflicted. Should he sell drugs for the quick cash needed to help himself and his mother or continue earning money by mowing lawns in the summer and shoveling snow in the winter? He reached into his pocket pulled out the dime bag of weed. He set it on his dresser next to the candle. Back on the bed, he lay down on his side and stared at the weed as though lost in a trance, trying to decide what he was going to do.

 In decent families there is almost always a real concern with and a certain amount of hope for the future. Such attitudes are often expressed in a drive to work “to have something” or “to build a good life,” while at the same time trying to “make do with what you have.” This means working hard, saving money for material things, and raising children—any “child you touch” —to try to make something out of themselves. Decent families tend to accept mainstream values more fully than street families, and they attempt to instill them in children. Probably the most meaningful description of the mission of the decent family, as seen by members and outside alike, is to instill “backbone” and a sense of responsibility in its younger members. In their efforts towards this goal, decent parents are much more able and willing than street-oriented ones to ally themselves with outside institutions such as schools and churches. They value hard work and self-reliance and are willing to sacrifice for their children: they harbor hopes for a better future for their children, if not for themselves.

 Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City by Elijah Anderson (pp. 37-38)


Anderson, E. (2000). Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. doi:0393320782

Dictionary, U. (n.d.). Retrieved from
The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). Zondervan.


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