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Ballin’ Part 2

Ballin’ : Part 2

                                                                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.

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
Proverbs 14:23

 Fifteen years after Major’s single, failed attempt to bolster his savings through drug dealing, his alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. He yawned, blinked the sleep from his eyes, and said, "Curtains open, lights on dim."

 He stood up and stretched, looking at the sunrise and the lake in his back yard. He walked towards the window looked out the window and murmured, "Thank you, God!" 

 He went to his work desk and looked at the stack of papers waiting for his attention. Speaking under his breath to avoid waking his wife, he said, "Let’s see, need to pay taxes on the construction company, need more supplies for the cleaners at one, two, three—no—four buildings, check my stocks for restaurants here, invest in some new mutual funds that look like they can make me some more money, double my rent at the KeyBank building office space so I don’t have to think about it, look into buying and flipping these homes, and give some money to inner city charity."

 He let out a big sigh and gave himself a pep talk: "Let’s get it!"

 Major entered the bathroom where he brushed his teeth, smoothed on his favorite mahogany woods lotion from Bath and Body Works and put his Brut deodorant on. Minty fresh and smelling good, he pulled out a blue suit jacket of fine Italian wool by Dormeuil Vanquish II. He strapped on his gold Rolex watch, checked his pockets, raised his eyebrows, and reminded himself:
"Fifty one hundred-dollar bills!"

 Returning to his desk, he wrote in red ink, "Honey Dip, I appreciate everything you do for me. I couldn't have gotten here without you! Thank you. Let’s keep this going TOGETHER/FOREVER! Buy you something nice ... better yet, buy you something sexy!" He drew a heart and winking face icon, then laid the paper on the bed and fanned the bills on top of it. Bending down, he kissed his wife on the cheek.

 Her sleep disturbed by the tender touch, she gave him a sleepy smiled and murmured, "Have a good day, bae."

 Major replied, "You, too. I’m working late tonight, so let’s do dinner Saturday ... no excuses on my end!"

 She yawned. "Okay, bae!"

 "Lights off, close curtains, fireplace on." With his quietly spoken command, sophisticated technology returned the room to restful darkness so his wife could sleep.

 He heard the rustle of fabric as she sat up in their warm bed. She spoke: “Wait, bae, you got a second?”

 With a smirk on his face and oozing confidence, Major replied, “I’m CEO, bae, I got plenty of time.”
Ignoring the cash and his note on the pillow, she walked to the shiny maple desk, opened the drawer, pulled out of stack of papers, and let out a sigh. “Bae, these are the finances for different charity events and organizations. Which ones do you want to give to? Which ones would you like to look further into?”

 Major voiced a command to turn the lights on again and moved to stand next to his wife. He rubbed a hand across her hip, grabbed the papers, and caressed the woolly hair on his chin. “Hm, let me see. Here, I want to look into the cancer charity fund and the drug and alcohol charity fund; but, for now, let’s start with the children for education charity fund.”

 Staring at him, she blinked several times.

“What?” Major demanded.

 She tilted her head back in frustration and snatched the papers from his hand. “Why are you always going back and forth with the charity stuff?”

 Major tapped her on the hip. “Because I want to make sure the money goes directly to the people and not in the pockets of the fat cats behind the scenes.”

 She continued staring at him, blinking, and stacked the papers together. She bound them with a rubber band, licked her thumb, and flicked them like a deck of cards. Putting them in the drawer, she drawled, “Whatever.”

 She returned to bed, wrapping the covers around her body. Closing her eyes, she bade him in a chipper voice, “Have a good day, honey!”

 Major stalked after her. He pulled the covers off her, rolled her onto her back, and pinned her hands down. He climbed over her, locked her gaze with his. She grinned, a silent goad. He bent his head towards her ear and licked it, whispering, “Don’t ‘whatever’ me and jump in the bed.”
She wriggled, not really struggling against his hold. She smiled and giggled. “Stop playing, you got work.”

 Major nibbled at her ear and made his way down her neck, giving her sweet smooches. As he worked his way slowly back up to her ear, he slid his left hand down the side of her body and grabbed her underneath.

 “I’m CEO, I go when I want to,” he softly whispered in her ear.

 Her eyes rolled back and she bit her bottom lip, letting out a soft moan. “Hm, babe, don’t stop!”
Major released her and stood, brushing lint off his suit. Glancing at his watch, he headed for the door. “Look at the time! I have to go. I have an important meeting today. I left you a card and some money. 
 Love you, bye!”

 His wife growled at being aroused and then abandoned. She flopped like a fish and shouted, “I can’t stand you, you play too much!”

 Major walked back to his wife, kissed her on the cheek, and said, “Love you.”

She didn’t respond. He flipped her over.

 “Ahh,” she said, smiling into the pillow.

 He lifted her silk nightie and delivered a smack to her buttocks. She squealed.

 “Love you. I have that big meeting today. We’ll play later.”

 She rolled over and watched him walk away. “Love you, bae. Be careful, that meeting sounds dangerous. Let me know how it goes.”

 Rushing off, he called over his shoulder, “I will. I left something for you in the nightstand!”

 Major headed downstairs and paused to look out the window to the driveway where his Ferrari Pininfarina Sergio was parked. Major smiled at the vehicle’s sleek beauty. He never got tired of looking at that car. Major quickly assembled the ingredients for his breakfast: a cup of oatmeal, a banana, almond milk, and peanut butter. Blending the mess into a thick shake, he gulped it down as he went to his car, grabbing his keys off the wall on the way.

 Once inside the car, he continued the reading habit begun as a teenager, saying loudly, "History of Money by Jack Weatherford” He put his sunglasses on and listened to the audiobook as he drove into town. Arriving at the parking garage at the KeyBank building downtown, he parked in a spot with his name painted on it. As he entered the elevator, he saw one of the building’s real estate investors.

 "Hey-hey, Mr. Major, my man!" the man hailed him with a smile and wave.

Smiling, Major replied, "How are you doing, Mr. Jeff?"

 "Great, my man. You wanna meet up later today still, and I’ll show you the ropes on investing a little bit?"

 Major replied with enthusiasm, "Yes, sir, I have you marked in my calendar for three o’clock today."

"All right!” Jeff cheered. He reached out to adjust Major’s collar and popped it up. "Nice suit, man. You always dress business savvy."

 Jeff looked him in the eye, pointing his index finger at him, and said when the elevator stopped and he stepped out, "That’s what gets you the sale. See you at three, my friend."

 Major’s wide smile did not dim as the elevator doors closed behind Jeff, because he knew Jeff was one of the best real estate investors in the city and he finally had a chance to speak to him about learning a new trade. The elevator stopped at the 20th floor. Major entered his corporate office suite and said with a smile, "Hello, Miss Williams, how are you doing this morning?"

 A heavy-set, cheerful black woman, the secretary greeted him with a smile and replied, "I’m good, thank you and thank you so much for that bonus. That really helped me and my kids. Thank you so much!"

 Major expressed his appreciation for the hardworking woman. "Thank you for being on time, helping me with my schedule, having my suits ready, texting and emailing me friendly reminders, and a whole lot of other things. I'd be all over the place if it weren’t for you."

 "It's a pleasure, sir, thank you. That was very generous of you!"

 Major accepted her sincere gratitude and started walking towards his office. Memory jogged him again and he stopped. Turning around, he added to the list of things his secretary did for him: "And you sent flowers to my mother and that check and flowers to my high school teacher, Miss Covington."

"I did, sir."

 Major grinned. "And that’s why you deserve a bonus!"

 Miss Williams giggled, then replied, "Thank you, sir." 

 Major put his hands on his hips and looked at Miss Williams. “How’s your son doing, by the way?”
She tilted her head back in disappointment and let out a silent sigh. “Well, he’s not doing too well in school. I think he’s dealing drugs, and …” she paused and turned her lip up “… I think he has little girls at the house, if you know what I mean!”

Major’s eyes narrowed. “How old is he again?”

 “Eighteen,” she answered.

 Major looked at the ceiling and took a deep breath. “How about you bring him in one day and I’ll talk to him?”

 Miss Williams’ eyes gleamed with gratitude. “That would be wonderful! He needs a positive male role model in his life.”

 Major pursed his lips, paused, then said, “Yeah, I was at that stage in my life once.”

 Hearing the regret and shame in his admission, Miss Williams lowered her eyes and rubbed her chin.
“You, Mr. Major, did bad things?” She shook her head, looked at him, and continued, “I can’t see you doing anything like that. May I ask what you did, if you don’t mind?”

 Major averted his gaze to the plush red carpet and his shiny shoes, then he looked Miss Williams in the eyes. “Well, I sold drugs once and got caught. The cops let me go. Then I was stupid and did it again two more times. I ran from the cops and they didn’t catch me!” He smiled at the memory, raising his gaze to the ceiling. “The cops who caught me the first time were the same cops who almost got me the second and third times.”

 Miss Williams eyes got wide. She paused for several seconds, then blinked and said, “You, Mr. Major, sold drugs?”

She continued staring at him and he averted his eyes in shame. A moment later, she let out a loud laugh, then covered her mouth. “Sorry, sir, I don’t mean to laugh. You’re just so proper and polite, I would have never guessed!”

 Major stretched his arms out and smiled. “Yep, that was me. I was stupid.”

 “What made you change, if you don’t mind me asking?”

 Major lost himself in memory and the words came slowly. “That third run from the cops, my life, my career, my moms, my pops, and some of my teachers …” he paused and let out a sigh of regret “… if those cops would have caught me, I would have been done for!”

Curious, Miss William leaned forward. “What do you mean?”

 Major, still in the past, said, “Well, the cops said if they caught me again, I was going to jail.”

 “Well, how did they know it was you?” the secretary inquired with a frown.

 “Probably because I had a hat and a hoodie on and ran like the Road Runner when they saw me.”
Miss Williams raised her eyebrows and pursed her full lips. “How did you feel at those times when you were running and didn’t get caught?”

 Major pulled at his beard and shrugged his shoulders, still lost in the nether regions of time. “I was scared, didn’t know what was gonna happen if I got caught. I knew well enough it wasn’t gonna be good.”

 She tilted her head to the side in deep thought, then asked, “So, Mr. Major, why did you do it a second and a third time?”

 He shrugged again and pointed his index finger at her. “Let me ask you question.”

 She nodded, put her elbows on the table, and clenched her hands together. “Okay, go head, sir.”
“Does your son work?”

 “No, but he’s looking, or at least he says he is,” she answered.

 “Is his father around, or anyone to give him money?”

 Her hands balled tight, the knuckles turning pale with the force of her grip. “No, he’s in prison, and if my son ain’t careful, he’ll be in prison for dealing just like his sorry daddy!”

 He shot his index finger out again. “Okay, you’re a single mom with a son and two daughters, living on one income, am I right?”

 She raised her eyebrows. “You’re right.”

 “So, how do you think your son feels with no money and no job at 18, watching his mother struggle to make ends meet?”

 Miss Williams let out a deep, bitter sigh and rubbed her forehead. “You’re right!”

 Major put his hands in his pockets. “Another question?”

 Miss Williams sighed and gave in to the inevitable. “Go head, sir.”

 Major cleared his throat and paced the floor. “Would you rather make …” he paused, looking at the ceiling, again tugging at his beard, “eight-fifty-five times eighty hours a week, which is about or almost seven hundred dollars,” he whispered as he gathered his thoughts. “Okay, seven hundred dollars every two weeks, dealing with stress, ghetto co-workers at a fast food restaurant, and let’s not forget Uncle Sam getting his cut. You got bills, food, and other expenses, or you could earn one hundred dollars for a crack rock and make the same amount with only seven customers? In one day, in a couple of hours!”

 Miss Williams stared at the carpet, reflecting on the hypothetical situation. “But, why would you want to put yourself through that situation? Because there’s people that dealing, too, and you messing with they territory! You won’t get killed working at McDonald’s, but if you’re dealing, you either going to jail or they’ll kill you eventually.”

 Major shrugged his shoulders, his hands still in his pockets. “Hey … he loves you, peer pressure, he needs money: there’s all kind of reasons as to why a kid does it.” He paused, stared at her. “But to answer your question, I was working three or four different jobs and felt like I was getting nowhere. My mom was working doubles to make ends meet, and my pops was getting done in by child support. I needed the fast money, although it was risky.”

 Miss Williams let out a big sigh. She tapped her fingernails on the desk, trying to grasp it all. “It must be a man thing; y’all must love danger.”

 Major raised his eyebrows and resumed pacing. “I don’t mean to be offensive, but I’ll never understand why some women continue to choose men who are no good for them. They leave one, go to another one that has the same type of poor character, and have a bunch of different baby daddies.”
Miss Williams pursed her lips and tilted her head. “So, what do you really mean, sir?”

 He shook his head. “Nothing. Just saying … you’re trying to understand why young men do some of the things we do, and some us men are trying to understand why women do some of the things they do.”

 She sighed, met his gaze, put her fingers together, and cracked, “I’ll say it like this, sir: some women like the thrill. That type of man is unpredictable and spontaneous. Some of them didn’t have their fathers around, yes. Some women are stupid and don’t realize it until it’s too late or they’re a lot older. A lot of young women just need healing and maybe a counselor or someone to talk to.”
Major nodded slowly. “I understand and, yet, I don’t understand.”

 Miss Williams smiled, pulled her pen, and started writing on the big calendar on the desk. “Sir, it was good talking with you. I would love to bring my son in, but you have a meeting soon. Do you need back-up security?”

 Lips pursed again, Major walking to the window, stared at the cotton clouds and light blue sky, the big, beautiful buildings filling the landscape, and the cars that looked like Skittles rolling down the highway. “No, I want to do this, man to man.”

 Miss Williams swiveled her chair around to face him. “Are you sure, sir? It’s five against one, and it could go south fast.”

 With his hand braced against the wall as he continued to stare outside, he replied, “I’ll be okay. Thanks for the concern, though.”

She raised her eyebrows, turned back around, and responded, “Okay, sir.”

Major turned around, smiled, and said, “Good talk. Find an opening in the evening and I’ll talk to the young man.”

 She smiled. “Thank you, sir. I’m glad you stopped doing what you were doing the third time.”

Major put his hands in his pockets, looked up at the ceiling, and squinted his eye like someone looking into the distance. He decided to come clean. “Well, I did it one more time in college. I felt bad thinking about what drugs did to people and how ashamed my parents would have been of me. It wasn’t worth the money. That’s when I quit for good.”

 Miss. Williams gave him a blank stare of astonishment. “Really, sir? Really?”

Major bit his bottom lip and admitted, “Yeah.”

He continued walking to his office, calling behind him, “Keep up the good work!”

 Miss Williams rolled her eyes and shook her head.

Major entered his office and shut the door. He smiled again: Miss Williams had anticipated his arrival with uncanny accuracy and left him a cup of coffee on his desk next to a stack of papers. Taking an appreciative sip of the dark, rich brew, he sighed. It had gone tepid during their conversation. Rather than summon his hardworking secretary to bring him another cup, he reheated it the small microwave oven in the small kitchenette adjacent to his office. Returning to his desk, he glanced at the stack of papers awaiting his attention and murmured, "The price of being CEO: making corporate decisions, managing overall operations and resources, for the company, and so on and so forth."

 He let out another big sigh and reminded himself, "That’s what I went to school for!"
The phone rang and he answered it.

 His secretary’s voice informed him, “Your first appointment this morning is in an hour. Would you like me to call a ride for you?”

 Major smiled at her thoughtfulness and replied, "No, ma'am, it’s only a couple blocks up the street. I’ll walk!"

 “Very good, sir,” Miss Williams said.

 Major hung up. Looking at the pile of papers, he tackled what he could in the time he had before leaving for his appointment. When that time came, he promised himself he would deal with the rest of it later. The secretary reminded him half an hour before his appointment. He finished what he was doing and, leaving the office, turned to Miss Williams and said, "And that’s why you got a bonus!"

She giggled and continued typing at her computer.

 Major took the elevator to the lobby floor. Passing by the security guard at the front desk, the man said, "Mr. Major, thanks for buying my lunch the other day."

 Major looked at him and said, "Thanks for watching over our building: no building, no office, no job. I appreciate you keeping us safe!"

 The security guard smiled as Major went through the revolving door. As Major walked down Main Street, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called his mother. She picked up the call on the third ring.

 "Hello, my Major man!" Her cheerful voice conveyed joy.

 Major covered his other ear to muffle the loud noise of traffic and said, "How you are doing, Mom? Just giving you my morning phone call."

 He heard the smile in her voice as she replied, "I got your beautiful flowers, thank you, son. I love them, you made my day!"

 Remembering how hard his mother had worked when he was a child, Major took pride in giving her even the smallest gifts.

 She continued their usual morning call with her usual question, "How's work, son?"

 In a cocky tone of voice, he replied, "Work is work. I’m the biggest boss that you see thus far."

 Major's mother laughed and said, "Boy, you so silly!"

 She then asked, "How's your wife treating you?"

 Major said, "I love her just as much as I love you!"

 Major's mother said, "Aww, that's good. I’m glad you have a good woman that’s helping you and not using you for your money!"

Major grinned and agreed. "Yeah, I can't lie, she's good to me. I love her!" 

"That's good, better than the disrespectful girlfriend you had in college!"

 Major again agreed, commenting, "Yup, that’s why she’s single and bitter now!"

 "I know that’s right, son. You don’t need anyone bringing you down!"

 Major’s cell phone beeped. He looked at it and the information read, “Pops.” He put the phone back to his ear. “Mom, let me call you back. Pops is calling.”

  “Oh, Lord, your crazy-ass daddy,” his mother groaned. “Okay, call me back. Love you, proud of you!”

 Dodging people as he walked down the sidewalk, he replied, “You, too.” He clicked the phone over and cleared his throat. “What up, Pops?”

 His father’s deep voice resonated with joy. “Yo, what up son? How’s ya day going?”

 He smiled with the sun beaming on him and wind blowing against his face.

 “Good, good. Me and the wifey talked about the charity work, which I need to talk to you about later.” He paused, teeth shining as his grin broadened. “I gave wifey a little bit of the business this morning, if you know what I’m saying!”

 His father’s laugh boomed across the connection. “Aw shit, son, will I have me another grandbaby soon? You the only one who doesn’t have a kid! Our business needs to be called the Three Black Bears Construction and Cleaning!”

 Major laughed at his father’s absurdity. “We working at it, but anyway drove the Ferrari down today, spoke with Miss Williams

 His father interrupted, “Man, son, how’s that Miss Williams, wit’ her old sexy fat ass?”
Major chuckled and said, “Dad, you can’t mix business with pleasure: don’t mess with honeys where you make the moneys.”

 “Who told you that, son?”

 Major grinned again. “Don’t front, Pops. You know you been telling me that for years.”

 Acting as if he didn’t know, his father said, “Oh yeah, man, that’s how I had your younger brother, fuckin’ with the secretary at the job. But she was a good piece of ass, I tell ya, boy.”

 Major shook his head. “Pop, how you be giving me advice, and you don’t follow it yourself?”

 His father let loose a gusty sigh. “I got a problem, son. I love women. I should probably see a counselor, talk to Jesus, God, or something. But damn, son, I love black, white, peach, caramel, mocha, charcoal, crispy black from the darkest region of Africa, Indians, IndiaI don’t give a damn where a bitch come from. I don’t care if she come from outer space. I’ll take me a space bitch. I can’t help myself, son!”

 Trying to catch his breath and slapping his hand on his thigh, “Man, Dad, you crazy as hell!”

 His father continued, turning the focus on Major. “Man, son, I don’t know how the hell you went to college with all those women. You was committed to that crazy bitch, never fucked around, and you just got ass and all-shape-sized titties everywhere! How the hell did you stay focused? If I was in college, I would have repopulated the whole planet! Tell me yo secrets, son.”

 Major laughed. “Man, Pops, to be honest with you, you be sounding crazy. But I took your advice and didn’t mess around with a lot of women and I didn’t drink. I saw you struggle with all the kids you gotand kept having!”

“Son, my hat is off to you. At least someone listened to me. I don’t know why you trusted me with one of these construction sites, because I’ve been a sorry-ass daddy.”

“Yeah, Pops, but you’re still responsible, and you still took care of us growing up and you picked us up and brought us all together Besides, you got the ins and outs of construction, and I couldn’t have gotten this far without you.”

Major father, sniffled. “Thanks, son, that means a lot. I won’t let you down on this account, but let me ask you a personal question?”

 “What’s that?” he asked, turning serious. There was a long pause over the phone, Major’s eyes narrowed. “Yo, Pops, hello, can you hear me?”

His father cleared his throat before responding. “Yeah, son, here’s the question.”

Hearing the serious tone in his father’s voice, Major’s smile faded. “Okay, what’s up?”

His father throat cleared again, “Son … did you beat ya meat every damned day in college? I just don’t understand how you did it!”

Major stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, looked up at the sun, and burst out laughing. He coughed and hacked, holding his stomach.

“Don’t answer that, son, I don’t need to know. But, anyhow, I’m glad an old man’s advice could help you and, well … the example of my life. You got you a good woman helping you out, and that’s all you need!” he said. He paused, “Seriously, though, you got that meeting today, don’t you?”

 Catching his breath, Major said, “Yeah, I’m walking there now!”

There was dead silence. Suddenly, his father blurted, “Fuckin’ niggas!”

Major cheeks puffed and he sighed. “Yeah, Pops, but I wanted to help them.”

 “I know, son, but you can’t help everybody. Remember, I told you that! I warned you about them, too.”

 Major sighed again. “I know, Pop. They got felonies, baby mama drama, and all types of wild shit going on.”

“I know, son, and I’m one to talk; but, them fools keep messing up. You gave them chance after chance, after chance, and they didn’t want to listen. They didn’t try to help you back then, and they ain’t helping you now after you tried to help them. There’s only so much helping you can do before you cut them off. Don’t be codependent!”

 Major looked down at the sidewalk. “Codependent? What’s that mean?”

 After a second’s pause, both men said in sync, “Look it up.”

Major followed up with a sarcastic retort, “I know. I know, Pops.”

 Major’s father made a sound a balloon would make, releasing air, then muttered, “Muthafuckin’ niggas.”

 “Pop, would you stop saying that, please? We gotta stop calling people that.”

 His father’s voice rumbled loudly as if a mysterious being spoke from the clouds, “Hell to the no, I won’t stop saying that, because that what the fuck they is, sorry-ass, good-for-nothing, no-good, sorry muthafuckin-ass niggas! Shit, I’m not changing my stance on that, son. You gave them the easiest cleaning site, you bailed them out of jail; they stole from you, kept stealing from you, calling off over and over again, came up with all kind of sorry-ass excuses on why they can’t come to work. You kept giving them chances, and one them had the nerve to disrespect you! So, hell no, son, you should have let me come today. I would have cussed they asses out! Ungrateful, sorry-ass muthafuckas!”

 After his father’s rant, the line turned silent until Major quietly admitted, “Yeah.”

The softly spoken word inspired the older man to resume ranting some more. “Ima say it like Chris Rock: there’s black people and then there’s niggas. Great stand-up comedy, but he speaking facts.” 
He paused, then asked, “You got extra security?”

Staring at the concrete, Major lied, “Yeah, I do, Pop.”

There was a long pause. “Okay, I hope so, son. I been around for some years now and I’m telling you! You college educated, but I’m street educated and I know, smell, and see a no-good bunch of niggas when I see one! Watch what I tell you soon as you give them paper!”

 “I hear you, Pops,” Major said, his voice subdued.

 Major’s father continued to lecture. “Pick your head up, son. You CEO, you own construction sites, you have contracts to clean different sites, you have real estate, and you own small mom-and-pop restaurants!” His father cleared his throat, then continued, “You are a millionaire!” He paused to clear his throat again. “Let me say that more clearly, son, you are a multi-millionaire! Handle your business firmly like you always do and move forward. I respect the fact that you’re doing it yourself and not having someone else doing it!”

 Major took a deep breath and stopped walking, having arrived at his destination. “I feel like this is the manly thing to do. Love you, Pops. I gotta go.”

 “All right, son, let me know how it goes and make sure you got security and audio up or something, because I know they gonna be on some nigga shit!”

 Major swallowed. “Thanks, Pops, I will. I gotta go!”

 On the other end of the line, his father grumbled in the background, “No good, ungrateful-ass, sorry-ass, muthafuckin niggas!”

 Major stood in front of one of his cleaning sites. He walked in the building’s front door and greeted the security guard, “Good afternoon, do you have those termination papers?”

 The security guard opened the file cabinet and pulled out a stack of papers and a television remote. “Here you go, Mr. Major.”

Major nodded as he accepted them. “Is everything on standby, just in case?”

The man looked around the building. “Yes, sir, we have extra security guards on site, cameras are up, and two police officers on standby, just in case.”

  “Thank you, I appreciate it,” Major said.

The security officer nodded and said, “Yes, sir.”

Major looked at two of the police officers, one white and one black, as he headed towards the back room. He held up two fingers and nodded at them.

 “Two words,” he said under his breath. The officers nodded, their arms crossed and their expressions serious. One chewed on bubble gum.

 Taking a deep breath and puffing out his chest, Major entered the room and circled the round table where five men sat with blatant disregard for good posture and polite manners.  

 “Gentlemen: Delroy, Umar, Mancel, Maurice, Yusef,” he greeted them walking to the empty sixth chair. He took a seat and cleared his throat. “You gentlemen know why we’re here, right?”

Major concealed his surprise that all of them bothered to show up.

 Delroy slumped back in his chair and yawned. Voice dripping sarcasm, he asked, “What, man, tell us?”

 Major exhaled through his nostrils. “Listen, y’all, I don’t want make this hard. That’s why I’m here and not your supervisors. I’m not supposed to be here, but I thought it would be the most manly thing to do, as well as avoid any criminal prosecution. I’m going to hand you your termination papers, and then everyone will leave quietly.”

 Umar, with his feet on the table and his hair looking like he got struck by lightning, shrugged his shoulders. “Shit. Well say what it is you have to say.”

 Mancel leaned forward, face twisting in a menacing expression. “Yeah, nigga, spit it out!”

Major exhaled again and carefully kept his expression neutral. “First of all, Deloy, get your feet off the table, please. Secondly, please don’t make this harder than it has to be. I’ve been trying to help you, but you guys won’t comply.” He held up the remote and turned on the TV in the room. As the video played, he said, “I have you guys on camera stealing televisions in the middle of the night!”

 Maurice’s heels clunked on the table top. He yawned, smacked his lips, and drawled, “That ain’t us. Whoever that is, that ain’t us! They got masks on!”

Major’s jaw dropped in disbelief. “Are you serious?” He fast-forwarded the tape and stopped it.

 “There.” He fast-forwarded it again. “There.” He fast-forwarded it yet again and pointed at Yusef on the screen. “And there! You guys took TVs, took your masks off to smoke weed, and stole more TVs. You put them in the back of your cars—the video shows your license plates. I could take this to court! Seriously!”

 Delroy stood, pulled his sagging pants up, and stared Major in the eye like tiger stalking its prey. “Oh, so you tryna put us niggas back in jail?”

Major put his hands flat on the table and stared back at him. “No, I’m not trying to put you back in jail. That’s why I’m here. All of you have felonies. I tried to get you guys back on your feet so you can take care of your families and get off the street!” Major looked at them in disbelief. “We have you guys stealing all the time, even though I told you not to take anything that’s not yours; but things kept coming up missing on your guys’ shift! Come on, y’all!”

 Mancel also rose to his feet and pulled his drooping pants up. His cold stare raked up and down Major. Lip curling in a sneer, he said, “Oh, so you think you better than us now, muthafucka? You was out there dealing just like we was. You ain’t no better than us. Get the fuck outta here!”

Major tilted his head. “Really, you gonna try and guilt-trip me? I was sixteen and did it three times and then stopped.” Major thought about the one time he did it in college, but didn’t mention that. 
“You guys stayed in the game, got caught, stayed in it, kept getting caught, had a bunch of kids all over the place, in and out of jail. I would see you guys here and there through the years, and y’all kept getting in trouble!” Major smacked his hand on the table with each word. “You guys reached out to me, and I tried over and over again to help y’all!”

Delroy shoved the leather chair into the table. The others followed suit.

“Fuck out here. Little muthafucka think he better than us because he own a little shit now!” Delroy mumbled under his breath.

Major overheard it.
“Come on, bro, I don’t think that at all. I worked for all this. Y’all used to clown me in high school because I worked so much and didn’t keep up with the latest fashions! Come on, bro, I worked three jobs all year around, I drove a car that broke down on me all the time, I spent hours upon hours typing papers to receive scholarships for college. I didn’t have kids with a bunch of women, my moms was working doubles, and my pops picked me up on weekends, but he didn’t give me any money ’cause he was paying child support. We all from the same ’hood. I’m not better than none of y’all,” Major tried to plead with them.

 Delroy turned around and pointed his finger towards the ground. His bared his teeth like an angry animal. “But you just gonna kick us to the curb, knowing we need this muthafuckin job and shit!”
Major waved his hands. “We’re done. I’m not gonna repeat myself. You guys kept stealing from me and my clients. I gave y’all more than most people that started, and you guys crossed the lines with the TVs. So, just leave. I wish y’all the best. I’m not gonna take any of this to court; I’m letting it go!”

They looked at him like a pack of hungry hyenas.

 Maurice snarled, “Who the fuck you talking to, muthafucka?”

Mancel dismissed  Major with cold contempt. “Yeah, as far as I’m concerned, you still a little muthafucka off the block. You ain’t shit!”

Major pinched the bridge of his nose. “Please leave. I don’t wanna have to call security. I’m trying to make this as easy as possible!”

Umar smacked his lips and looked at Delroy, Mancel, Mauruce, Yusef, and finally Major. “Oh, so now this bitch-ass muthafucka work with these rent-a-cop muthafuckas and these punk ass cops!”

Major closed his eyes and said aloud, “One, two …”

 Delroy charged toward Major and jumped on the table. Stunned by Delroy’s sudden movement, Major didn’t yell out the code word for the police before Delroy hurled himself off the table and shoved Major against the blinds. The enraged man took a strong right swing and missed. Major bit his bottom lip, grabbed his assailant’s torso, and tackled him against the adjacent cabinets.

“What’s up, muthafucka? Don’t let this suit fool you!” he snapped as he tussled with Delroy.
A lifetime of poor nutrition and an absence of self-discipline had Delroy struggling to hold his own against Major. However, Delroy fought dirty and delivered awkward punches to Major’s kidneys. Umar, Mancel, Maurice, Yusef saw their friend begin to fail against Major and joined in the fight, punching and kicking Major with abandon.

 “What’s good, you stuck up, snooty muthafucka!” Delroy grunted.

Having heard the ruckus through the closed door, the cops and hired security guards ran in and pinned Delroy, Umar, Mancel, Maurice, and Yusef against the wood cabinets. Major crawled across the carpet to the other side of the room, gasping for breath and pressing his arm against the sharp pain in his left side. He wondered if his ribs were broken.

Delroy shouted as he struggled with the cops, “Fuck off me, pig! Arrest that bitch-ass muthafucka in the corner that got his ass beat. He was in the streets, too, don’t let him fool you!”

 Wrenching Delroy’s arms back and cuffing him, one officer said, “Ah, shut the hell up!”

Spittle flew from Delroy’s lips as he yelled at Major, “Fuck yo money, nigga! Ima burn yo buildings down like 9/11!”

The police officer walked him out the door. “You’re not gonna do shit, so would you shut the fuck up! You fucking idiot, the man clearly tried to help your dumb asses!”

 The other policemen frog-marched the rest of them out.

While hired security watched over the five men until police transport arrived, the two police officers helped Major stand.

“You okay?” one asked.

 Major, holding his side and wincing as he took a deep breath, answered, “Yeah, I’ll be okay. Just a couple bumps.”

 The white cop looked at him, silently noting the torn fabric of Major’s shirt and suit, the sweat beading on his forehead, and the way he held himself. He asked, “Why didn’t you say the magic words?”

Major blinked and thought about Delroy jumping across the table. He shrugged his shoulders. “Everything happened so fast. I never thought he would jump on the table like that. I was trying to give them a chance to leave, but …”

 The white cop raised his eyebrows, chewing on his gum. He smiled and said, “Well, I commend you. It’s not how I’d recommend dealing with felons; but I understand you had a personal relationship with them, and you did what you could. Man, most CEOs would cower away in their offices.” The cop paused, looked Major up and down, and asked, “You sure you don't need anything, any medical assistance?”

 Major shook his head. “I’m good, thank you. I appreciate you asking.”

The white cop nodded. “All right, I’m gonna check on things out there. If you need me, let me know.”

 He walked away to help the security guards usher the five subdued men from the building.
The black cop pursed his lips and placed his hands on his hips. “Looks like you got roughed up a little bit.”

 Major let out a deep breath and winced again. Damn, that hurts! “Yeah, I’m all right though. I held my own.”

 The black cop flexed biceps that strained the fabric of his shirt. He stared at Major dead in the eyes and said, “Let me ask you something, was that you we chased fifteen years ago the second and third times?”

Major looked away, a sheepish smile settling on his face.  “Might have been.”

 The black cop smiled, eyes twinkling. “I thought so. You lucky yo daddy told me to keep an eye on you, ’cause I could’ve caught yo little ass.”

 Caught off guard, Major looked as if he’d sucked on a lemon. Meeting the cop’s gaze, he blurted, “You know my pops?”

 The black cop smiled, showing pearly white teeth. “Yup, me an’ your old man go way back, since elementary school days.” He looked back, checking the door then returning his gaze to Major.

 Major blinked in shock and murmured, “I used to see you hover around my home all the time!”

The black cop explained, “Your pops called me when you told him you was thinking about dealing drugs. I worked in the area, and he told me to give you hell! But, now look at you, Mr. CEO!”

 Major eyebrows went up. “Well, you giving me hell scared the shit out of me.” He looked at the physique of the officer who towered above him, a mountain of muscle. “After that third time with y’all running after me, I was done! You wasn’t about to tackle me!” Major smiled, fascinated with the black cop’s physique. “You ain’t bulk, you hulkblack hulk!”

Major squinted his eyes and demanded, “Describe my pops if you know him so well.”

 The black cop leaned over, put his large hand on his shoulder, and got two inches away from his ear. “He got kids all over the place, and he can’t let go of a piece of ass to save his life.” He let out a big hearty laugh, breath smelling like fresh wintergreen.

 Major’s head dropped, he shook it, then looked at the cop with wide, bright eyes. “That’s pops to a T!”

 The cop’s white teeth glistened. “He’s a good man though. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have this job.”

Major grinned. “That’s interesting to know, and, yeah, he is a good man. He’s just a …” Major snapped his fingers as he thought “… what’s that name in psychology for people that go around having sex all the time?” He kept snapping his fingers and it clicked. “Sex addict, that’s what my pops is.”

 The black cop folded his arms and looked out the open door. “He’s something. Despite his issues, he took care of all of y’all, just for the simple fact he asked me to keep an eye on you and kept in touch with you all these years. Most fathers in a situation like yours don’t do that.”

 Major lowered his head.
“Yeah,” he said softly and blinked back sudden wetness. He pretended to sneeze and wiped his eyes so the black cop wouldn’t see him tear up.

 The cop grinned, his expression indicating without words that Major’s subterfuge didn’t fool him. “Bless you.”

Major wiped his eyes and sniffled. “Thank you, it’s a little chilly in here.”

The black cop extended his hand to Major and Major extended his. They both exchanged warm hugs.
“I’m proud of you, young man. Keep up the good work! Thanks for hiring an old man on special duty.” the black cop said in a low voice.

Major smiled, nodded, and said, “Thanks for getting on my ass as a kid. I needed that.”

“Not a thing,” the cop replied and started to walk away. “Don’t worry about them fools. As the old saying goes: As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly! If they messed up once and they got out because you gave them a chance, they gonna mess up again. We’ll take care of them”

 Major stood in the cold, silent room, wishing he could help his childhood buddies and reflecting on his father during the years. He sniffled, warm tears trickling down his cheek. He looked through the blinds as warm sunshine streamed through the window onto his face. He wiped his eyes. He took a deep breath and his left side hurt, but not with that same sharp pain as he felt earlier. Just bruised, not broken. Leaving the room, he waved at the security guard manning the front desk and headed outside, tugging at his suit jacket in an effort to conceal the worst of the damage to his designer clothing. Italian silk didn’t hold up well under a beating. Walking quickly up the sidewalk, he pulled his cell phone out and dialed his secretary. She picked upon the first ring.

“Miss Williams, cancel all my appointments today, please.”

 “Yes, sir, I can do that for you. Is everything okay?”

 “Everything is fine, thank you.” He ended the call and spoke into his phone, “Call honey-dip.”

The phone rang three times.

“Hey, bae,” his wife’s soft voice answered.

Speeding through the pedestrian crowd, he ordered, “Wear something sexy, we going out!”
Major’s wife giggled. Her voice turning husky, she replied, “I love it when you talk to me like that!”

Without entering the building where his office was located, Major went straight to the parking garage, still talking on the phone. “See you in about an hour. Love you. Bye!”

He looked at his Ferrari and squinted as he read the license plate: BALLIN. He saw a smudge on it, kneeled with a grunt of discomfort, wet his thumb, and tried to wipe it off.

“Hard mud,” he murmured. “I’ll take it to my car cleaning company and have them clean it up!”

 He hopped in his car, wincing as his sore ribs protested. After buckling himself in, he put on his Chopard sunglasses and spoke to his car, “Play Tupac, ‘Still Ballin.’”
The car’s engine awoke with a throaty roar and he drove off.

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. 

Dictionary, U. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). Zondervan.


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