Bekka and Terry lit cigarettes and walked up the street towards the beach. When they arrived at the parking lot, Terry said, "Walk kinda slow, so motherfuckers can see us. They'll try and collar us, let us know what the fuck they got for sale."
Sure enough, as they approached the sidewalk bordering the beach side of the lot, a guy sort of drifted up out of nowhere, matching their pace and saying, "Need shit? Need shit?"
"Just weed," Terry replied. "You holdin'?"
"Just shit. This hour, that's what the market is for." The guy angled off and disappeared.
They began strolling slowly along the wide cement beach path, towards the area the beach was named for, Dog Beach. It was a section where dog owners could walk their dogs without a leach, allowing them to run and mingle freely. Even with the ocean breeze, there was a pervading odor of dog shit. As they went under a light, a wino leaning against the light post said, "You ladies gotta smoke you kin spare?"
Bekka looked and realized she knew the man. He was known as Drummer, and was an old friend of Dawn the fluffer. Dawn had lived in her car for a year in this neighborhood, and her and Drummer had been friends. Drummer was a homeless alcoholic easily in his sixties, but Dawn said he was sharper and more observant than people gave him credit for. Drummer knew everything happening in that neighborhood.
Bekka tugged Terry's sleeve and aimed at the wino. "Good morning, Drummer. How are you doing? Do you remember me? We met months ago, through a mutual friend."
Drummer squinted at Bekka in concentration. Then he cackled loudly and said in a screechy rasp, "Hey, yer the porn lady! Yer a fan a Bettie Page, like me! Yeah, you was with Little Bit one day. Damn and shit, you know what happened to that little girl? She just fell off the face of the earth, ain't seen her around in forever."
Smiling, Bekka said, "You will be happy to know Dawn is alive and quite well. She is living and working up in North County, in fact she works at my studio. She is living with a boyfriend in Encinitas, is happy and healthy, and still has her Oldsmobile. I'll let her know I saw you, shall I tell her you are well?"
It was a confirmation Bekka wanted to come from Drummer, as he looked like hell. His face was blotchy and red from booze and exposure to the elements. There was a tear in his Greek fisherman's hat. All his clothing was ragged and filthy, his old sneakers missing their laces. And he was practically a walking museum of unpleasant odors. When he opened his mouth to speak, what teeth remained were mottled yellow and brown. He told Bekka, "Tell that girl my leg still buggin' me, but they ain't planting me anytime soon. I ain't checkin' out until I see how the game ends, y'know? So I guess she got that job she was talking about. Damn and shit, good for her. She's too damn sweet to spend her life out here. I always done worried about her. Never wanted nothing too bad to happen to her, y'know? Glad she's managed to git her shit together, livin' yer whole life on the streets ain't no damn picnic. Give that girl a hug fer me, 'kay?"
Bekka smiled and said she would. Terry had two packs of Camels in the pockets of her flannel, one unopened, the other containing six or seven cigarettes. She pulled out the open pack and handed them to Drummer, saying, "Here, keep 'em. I got a fresh pack."
Drummer now squinted at Terry, processing her. He said, "I thank you kindly, honey. I seen you around. Yeah, you live on Muir near Bacon, right? Hang out with them Mongol biker fellers, an' got a big muttersickle of yer own now. You was dealing dope, but quit. What's yer name, honey?"
Bekka looked over at Terry and realized her eyes had a flinty quality. Terry said, "I'm Terry. So, how the fuck do you know so much shit about me?"
Drummer's own eyes got a slightly cunning look. He said, "Damn and shit, I ain't got nothin' better to do all damn day except walk around, so that's what I do. It's funny, I'm like the postman. Me and him, you'd think we was made out of window glass, ever'body just looks straight at us but don't see a thing. Ain't nobody payin' attention to some damn old juicer like me, I'm too slow fer crime and too ugly fer marriage. You and me have probably walked past each other thirty times since you moved into that place. You didn't notice me. But damn and shit, I ain't got nothin' better to do with my brains except notice things. Don't worry, it ain't like I been followin' you around or anything. But I see the same streets every day, so I notice when shit's done changed, y'know?"
The light suddenly dawned on Terry. She said, "Holy fuckin' shit, dude, you're the fuckin' eyes and ears of this neighborhood, huh? I just realized that. And yeah, now that I think about it, I've seen you around too, here and on the main drag and all the fuck over the place. Dude, I promise I ain't never gonna ignore you again. That's a shitty fuckin' way of treating people."
"Don't worry about it, and thank you, Terry," Drummer screeched with a smile. "Tell ya what, if I hear of any mean heavy shit that's gonna go down, I'll buzz yer apartment an' give you a heads up." He turned to Bekka and said, "If ya can, tell Little Bit I'd love to see her, and hear how she's doing. If she don't mind, I'd love if she came to visit. I always done worried about her, bein' young and female and small and a real sweetie." Drummer paused and chewed his lip. "People think us street trash don't have a worry in the world. Maybe we ain't got bills er kids er nothin', but us hoo-mans, we seem to like havin' something to worry about, even if it ain't really none of our damn business. I always worried about Little Bit. She was a sweetie, and I never wanted nothing bad to happen to her. Didn't matter I wouldn't be able to do anything about it, but..... Damn and shit. I cared about that little girl, even if she never knew it. Ya stop caring, ya stop worrying, you done gave up, and I ain't givin' up, I wanna see how the game ends."
"We'll be sure she comes down to check in," said Bekka. "You cared about her, didn't you?"
Drummer looked away, then said in a low voice, "Had to. Ain't nobody else did. She was good to me, her and me would shoot the shit for hours on some days. She'd gimme a hug, that little girl was willing to hug me, an' I know I ain't the cleanest bastard. Hell, she had a thing going with some rich bastard from Point Loma. She weren't no whore, it was just one guy who'd pay her to jerk his stick a few times a week, a sawbuck each time. So she'd, y'know, take care of things with him, then come get me and buy us both sammiches from the deli, and buy me a pint of vodka. I ain't done nothing to deserve that, but she'd do it anyway.
"Damn and shit, there was one time I was able to help her, at least. A bunch of them college boys were havin' a bonfire on the beach, drinkin' beer and whoopin' it up. By ten or so they was all pretty blitzed. Little Bit and me had been planted at a picnic table, like we always were, and Little Bit decided to see if she could talk them boys out of a hot dog fer each of us, and maybe a beer for me. She was gone for a little while, I figgered it must have been nice for her to talk to folk her age, and clean cut ones at that. She got us our dogs and beer, and stayed put. I axed her about 'em, and she said they were all from one of them frat houses. She was laughing at them, they kept trying to talk her into hanging around and drink beer with them, she said it was obvious they just wanted to git her drunk. Little Bit's no dummy, she knew what they was thinkin'.
"'Round midnight the party broke up, and them boys started heading out. Some of them was just sorta hanging around in the parking lot, though. Little Bit said she was gonna head for her car to lie down fer a while. That damn girl almost never slept, she ran on that damn crank alla time, once tole me she hated sleep, when she slept the devil would chase her. I had a billet behind the dumpster of the hardware store at the time, and started heading that way. I was at the far end of the lot when I heard a scream, and no doubt it was a woman. Little Bit was the first thing to run through my mind, so I started headin' back to where her car was.
"Damn and shit, but I was glad I did. I got close enough and saw there was three of them frat boys at her car. A back door was open, and it looked like them boys was all trying to get in at once. I reached in a trash can and grabbed a couple empty beer bottles, figgerin' I could clobber anyone who needed clobberin' if it came down to it. It did. I guess Little Bit had opened up a bit too much when she'd talked to them earlier, had not only told them she lived in her car, but which one. She was inside and kicking them, and they was tryin' to pull her out.
"Well hell, I had a bottle in each hand, and I was mightily pissed off, so I just started laying into the heads of them boys, Both bottles broke quick enough, but shit, that just meant I had somethin' sharp in each hand, so I started slashing at 'em. Okay, now their attention is all on me, so I yelled for Little Bit to run like hell and not stop. Then them boys were on me. Kicked the shit outta me. I was laid up in the hospital fer two weeks, just all busted up all over.
"I guess about after ten minutes Little Bit sorta snuck back and saw them frat boys were gone. She found me by her car, and rang for the law. For once Johnny Law was on the ball, they took her statement and actually worked on it. She remembered the name of their frat, and said that yeah, she'd recognize 'em if she saw 'em again." Drummer paused to cackle. "Damn and shit, I'd done a hell of a lot more damage with them broken bottles than I realized. All three boys had gone to the ER so they could all get stitched back together again. Sounds mean, but it made my damn day when I heard that. All three went to the pokey fer assault and attempted rape. Her an' me hadda keep going to the courthouse downtown when they was on trial, which sorta put a crimp in how we was livin', we couldn't panhandle because we was in court."
Drummer's eyes suddenly got wet, and his voice became even rougher. "That little girl..... Damn and shit, she came to see me in the hospital every damn day I was there. She'd scare up enough change fer the bus and a newspaper, and sit with me fer hours, readin' the paper out loud to me and just sorta bein' there, y'know? Since she was with me, she couldn't scare up no food or money for herself, but she came anyway. I'd give her my lunch, 'cos I'd already had breakfast and was gonna get dinner, so I weren't worried about grub. She felt real bad I was busted up, she felt it was her fault. I tole her to stop thinking like that, it was them damn frat boys who put me at the croaker's, and I'd just done what any man oughtta in that situation. What any man should do. When they kicked me loose, Little Bit had got enough gas in her car to come get me. She tole me she had a present fer me when we got back to the beach. Sure as shit, she'd got a hold of a twelve pack of Hamm's somehow. We hiked down the jetty, then sat and drank through the whole twelver She tole me she was afraid I was gonna die from that ass-kicking. I tole her, 'Look girl, I'll only allow a feller who's smart to kill me, and them boys were as dumb as rocks.'" Drummer paused, then said in a quiet voice, "I miss that little girl. I wanna see her again."
"I will see to it you do," said Bekka. "And I will tell her to leave her boyfriend at home, you will have her full attention." Bekka paused, then said, "Tell me Drummer, given how you live, what would be the most useful thing you could own right now?"
"A full bottle," chuckled Drummer. He scratched at his cheek, then said, "Bus pass. One of them 'all you can ride' passes that last a month. That would make my damn life more simple."
"How would it help?"
"With a bus pass, I could go to the rescue mission every day, and get a good meal, if nothin' else. They also got clothes fer free, and they keep the doors open all damn day and night when it's pissin' down." A pause. "I could also maybe start going to AA again. I been street trash fer a long damn time, but I ain't always drunk. I had stretches as long as eighteen months without no booze. Then how I live would just start to ride me too hard, so I'd crawl back in the bottle."
"There's no fuckin' local AA meetings?" asked Terry. "One you can walk to?"
Drummer scowled and said, "Nearest AA get-together is in Point Loma, twice a week. If I gave myself enough time, I could walk, but I ain't goin' to that meeting."
Bekka asked, "Why not?"
"It's a meeting fulla people from damn Point Loma, that's why. Everybody drove their Cadillacs and Bentleys to get there. Ain't no other bums, like me. Okay, AA is supposed to be all inclusive, but shit, yer supposed to talk about problems you're having. Ain't no one there would understand my problems, and I wouldn't understand theirs. Downtown you can find meetings every day, and at all different hours too. Shit, you can find them damn meetings just by lookin' for where everybody's anchored their shopping carts. I can get along at those meetings, it's a buncha bums like me. Ain't nobody lookin' at me funny."
"Okay, that makes sense," pondered Bekka. "I guess the tenor of a meeing would be determined by the class and status of the people showing up...."
"Yeah, a meeting in fuckin' Logan Heights ain't no fuckin' good for you if you don't speak Spanish," chuckled Terry.
"There's an all homo meeting in Hillcrest, but I understand they kinda set it up that way on purpose. A homo is gonna have problems normal people wouldn't understand," said Drummer. He reached in his coat and pulled out a half-full pint of Popov vodka. "So you two out tweakin' around like everybody else right now? Wanna snort?"
"Yeah, we're spun, but we're also trying to walk off some of the fuckin' scotch we drank earlier. Bekka and I feel like smoking a bit of weed, we figured we could find a dime bag around here."
"Alla dealers are probably holdin' some reefer, but their quality is all different, so smell it before laying your money down. By my last count, there was six of them hombres around tonight. In fact....." Drummer squinted into the middle distance, racking his brain. "If yer willing to pay for it, there's two hombres holding that Humboldt reefer. A hippie named Leon, and there's a colored kid what calls himself Velvet. Uh.... Leon is wearing a baggy Army fatigue jacket, and Velvet is in a red track suit and them overpriced sneakers. Little bastard was bragging that he popped $160 fer them shoes. Shit, I paid less than that fer my first car. Try and find them, they got the good reefer right now."
"Thanks for the intel," said Terry. "Hey man, do you know which apartment is mine?"
"Nope. Know yer building, not yer unit. Why?"
"Look, when the weather starts turning to shit, you can crash and hang out at my place, use my fuckin' shower, shit like that. That sound cool?"
"A very kind offer, missy," cackled Drummer. "I'll stash a set of clean duds fer those occasions, an' I'll lay off the booze while I'm there, too. Thank you kindly."
Everyone said their goodnnights, and the girls continued walking up the path. As they walked, Terry said, "Okay, I'm just running my fuckin' mouth right now, but.... I'll make a deal with that dude. If he gets sober and doesn't stink, I'll let him crash at my place permanently, I got an extra room. If he gets back on the sauce, I won't put him to the curb, but I'll make it clear I'm gonna give him a ration of shit for it, and not stop until he either dries back out again or gets the fuck out. So I guess he did try to get fuckin' sober, but couldn't stick with it. I can understand that. Jesus fuckin' Christ, when you're as down and out as him, it's real fuckin' hard to get out of the hole. Look at how Dawn was living. That dude probably got sober and stayed sober for a while, but his life still fuckin' sucked, and he figured, fuck it, at least when he drank he didn't mind his fuckin' situation so much, you know?"
"Yes...." said Bekka. "If you offer him that deal, his life will improve just by being sober. He'll have a roof over his head, and even a roommate, someone around to talk to. And a shower. Yeah, him being more acquainted with a shower would be a good thing."
A minute later, they came across someone loafing on a bench at the side of the path. It was a black guy who looked like he was about fifteen years old, in a red track suit. He grinned at the girls, displaying a dazzling array of gold-capped teeth. "Good evening, ladies," he said.
"You Velvet?" asked Terry. "We wanna parlay."
The smile got even wider, and the black kid replied, "I'm sorry, have we met?"
"That dude Drummer tipped us off to you, said look for a young brother wearing all red. So are you Velvet?"
The kid didn't respond for the moment. Finally he said, "That's me. So the wino pointed you at me? What are you interested in?"
Bekka responded, "Drummer says you are one of two people out tonight holding decent weed, high octane stuff from Humboldt. I'd like to smell what you'd be selling us."
Velvet gazed at the girls, rubbing his chin. Then he picked up an attache case that was sitting at the side of the bench, zipped it open, and extracted a packet of green plant material. He held it out to Bekka, saying, "Mendocino, not Humboldt. The strain is AK-47, and its genotype is healthy. Yes, that there is a small weight for its price, you are paying for quality, not quantity. And prices are not negotiable, not even for famous pornographic actresses."
Bekka gave a wide grin to Velvet, then popped the seal and sniffed. It was legitimate, honest and high quality. She re-sealed it and said, "Twenty?"
"On the nose, Ms. Page. I hope your night has been pleasant so far."
She extracted a twenty from her purse and handed it over, saying, "Our night has had both very high and very low points to it. That's why I'm in the mood to spark a bowl at this hour. Nice bouquet on this, by the way...."
A voice to one said shouted, "Hey coon!" All three of them turned towards the shout, to see two skinheads quickly approaching them. One of them said, "Don't you hear good, coon? We told you to go the fuck back to Encanto, this is our beat, and we ain't letting some fuckin' spook chisel in on us." Turning to the girls, he said, "You doing business with a nigger? What the fuck is wrong with you? We got all the good shit around here, you see us for what you need."
Terry glanced over at Bekka, and saw she had installed her mafioso face. Bekka glanced at Terry, and recognized the small grin on her face as the one she wore when mentally preparing to bounce somebody on the ground like a racquet ball. Terry caught a small movement at Bekka's waist, and realized she was undoing the buttons on the lower half of her blouse.
With the same icy glare Don Ventimiglia employed, Bekka said, "Our information was that this gentleman had what we wanted. Not you. In fact, he had exactly what I was in the market for, and I am happy with our transaction. There is nothing to discuss. Good night, gentlemen."
The other skinhead said to Velvet, "Hey Rastus, give these broads their money back. They'll buy from us. What were you bitches looking for?"
"Good weed," said Terry. "You got good weed? Not that it matters, we ain't about to welsh on a deal we already closed."
The first skinhead stuck a hand in his bomber jacket, felt around, and pulled out a small bag. "Fuckin' choice stuff here. Twenty."
Bekka slipped the bag from his hand and popped the seal, taking a whiff. She closed the seal and threw it back at the skinhead, saying, "Mexican, and not very good Mexican. I wouldn't use it as mulch. I will repeat, there is nothing to discuss, so your presence is not needed. Good night."
The second skinhead dropped his jaw, and he said, "Hey, you're that porno bitch, Becky something. Look, you need to score, talk to us. We got meth, China White, Smiley Ecstasy...."
With a voice full of false brightness, Bekka said, "You have Smiley? I would like to see it, how much are you asking?"
"Thirty each. Here." He handed over a small plastic seal containing a single pill.
Bekka looked at the pill through the plastic, then opened the seal and dumped the pill on the ground, where she crushed it with her creeper. She said, "I'm sorry, but I don't pay thirty dollars for baby aspirin. You are both beginning to annoy me, go away now. And leave this man alone, he is conducting his business in an honest manner here. Unless the city has franchised dealing at Dog Beach, and he didn't buy in, he is free to go where he pleases. You two are free to leave, and you shall."
Both skinheads were staring bug-eyed at Bekka, flapping their lips but unable to speak. One finally yelled, "What the fuck? You fuckin' cunt!"
With her small smile, Terry said, "You dudes seem all worked up and shit. What's the hubbub, bub?"
"You cunts wreck some of our stash, you're hanging around with a nigger, and you don't know your fuckin' place. I don't give a fuck that you're bitches, you better start running now, 'cos I'm gonna fuckin' drop you both, then I'll peddle your asses on El Cajon Boulevard to pay for that Smiley."
Bekka's smile was a bit wider, and her eyes were open a touch more. She said, "Don't double down on that pill. Remember, lying is a sin, and judgement can sometimes come very swiftly. This man's name is Velvet, not 'nigger' or 'coon.' And you have done nothing to earn my respect, only my contempt. I am tired of saying this: go away, now."
Terry stole a glance at Velvet. He seemed to have adapted the same defenses as deer: no movement, no sound, and the threat won't notice you. He caught Terry's glance and cocked an eyebrow in question. Terry winked back. He didn't feel any more assured.
The second skinhead seemed to have remembered Velvet's presence, and said, "Hey coon, it's your lucky night. You got a chance to run, we're gonna take care of these two dumb cunts first. I'll take the porn bitch."
"No you won't," said Terry as the skinhead stepped towards Bekka. Terry got between the two of them, blocking she skinhead. He went to shove her out of the way. Terry grabbed his arm, pulled him forward, and kicked his legs out from under him, putting the skinhead on the ground face-first. She stepped back and said, "Ms. Page is not greeting fans at the moment, she wishes to be left alone."
The skinhead launched himself off the ground at Terry with a roar. He'd left himself wide open, so Terry drove a fist into his left eye. He shrieked and put a hand to his face. Terry hammered him in the stomach, then grabbed him by the belt and collar and threw him into the sand. The first skinhead pulled out a Buck knife and opened it, saying, "You're getting cut, bitch."
The Colt Defender carried, identical to Bekka's, was not a large gun, but still had a decent aount of weight and mass to work as a sap. Terry drew her Colt, flipped it to grab the barrel, and smashed the butt into the side of the approaching skinhead's face. He hollered and stopped moving forward. Terry then drove the butt into the top of his head with all her might. The skinhead hit the cement, out like a light.
Staggering back onto the path, the second skinhead considered what he was seeing. The two girls couldn't have looked less flustered if they were in line at the DMV. The biker bitch was just standing there, not even breathing hard, and with a smile normally issued to Secret Service agents. The porn bitch seemed to be glaring at the scene, as though gathering strength to fire lasers out of her eyes. And his Aryan brother was unconscious on the ground. Velvet still hadn't moved a muscle. There was something very wrong with this scene, he couldn't begin to process that the biker bitch had dropped his friend and tossed him around like a bean bag.
Panic began to set in, and he was considering running away. Bekka seemed to have caught this thought, and said, "Take your friend with you, don't leave your trash on the walkway. A fireman carry will be easiest. Where is home for you two?"
"Down by SDSU...."
"I will assume you drove here. Drive home, and find a different stretch of walkway to hawk your shitty drugs, one far away from Ocean Beach. You are both dishonest, rude, simple-minded, racist, and violent. Judging by the little Nazi fetishes you both decorated your bomber jackets with, I will assume your idealization of a failed political concept betrays your inability to grasp complex problems, and prefer the anonymity of being in a mob instead of holding an independent view, on anything. There has been a truce among regular Dog Park dealers for months now, and your presence would threaten that truce, for no other reason than the situation doesn't need two assholes running around being shitty to people. For the last time, go away. And never return. If you do, I will find out, and your lives will become very messy. Pick him up, go to your car, and leave. Now."
Bekka said all this in the same measured manner as Spock from "Star Trek." The skinhead hadn't really followed what Bekka had said, she'd used too many words at once, and some of them were polysyllabic. He did grasp that the two skins were being told to fuck off, essentially. There was something about the whole scene that was telling him, Do not pursue this. Leave it alone. You will be happier. Keeping an eye on the two girls and ignoring Velvet, he got his comrade over a shoulder and began hiking up the path, away from the parking lot. Bekka figured they'd parked at Robb Field for some reason, and hiked down.
"Good evening, Wonder Woman. Good evening, Dyna Girl," said a voice behind the girls. They pivoted to see Velvet giving one of his golden grins. He was in the exact same position he'd been in before the arrival of the skinheads, and looked about as perturbed as an iceberg. He continued, "I will say, despite my worries for my health and business, I was enthralled by this vignette. Do you two. often bait, then run off, anonymous hooligans?"
"We don't seek them out, if that's what you're asking," replied Bekka. "The two of us have been in enough tense situations that we don't rattle easily. Beside, we're well insured. Terry, should we show him our insurance cards?"
"What the fuck, why not," answered Terry. The two of them pulled their guns, keeping them pointed at the ground. Velvet eyeballed the weapons, raising his brow slightly. The girls made the guns disappear again and smiled at Velvet. He smiled a bit wider and nodded his head.
"Seen them motherfuckers around before?" Terry asked,, lighting a Camel.
"On a few occasions," replied Velvet. "To be frank, I am confused by their presence. It has been my observation that the white nationalists like them greatly prefer traveling iin packs, for just two to be out in public, for any reason, is an anomaly. But yes, those two have asserted that I need to relocate. Their suggestion is rooted in their racialist mindset, not economics. I did adjust both my precise location and hours of operation, and have not run across them for several weeks. I believe you have inflicted a degree of mental trauma in at least one of them, they would never expect a woman to assert herself like you two did." Velvet paused to chuckle briefly. "Your attitude and your actions made you look like feminine versions of Charles Bronson, and you didn't even need to display your pistols. They are very, very confused at the moment."
"Hopefully they'll take my instructions to heart, and shift their hustle to Mission Beach or Old Town," said Bekka. By the way, this is Terry Patton, and my real name is Bekka Schneider. Becky Page is only my stage name."
"You engage in quite a bit more adventure than one would expect, given your stature. I doubt your studio would approve of your presence here at all, much less at this hour and under your circumstances. Do you live locally?"
"I do, and Bekka is up in Encinitas," said Terry. "We're friends, and I'm also her personal bodyguard, I keep the motherfuckers off of her when she's out in public. This was some different shit, usually I'm just bouncing around fuckin' psycho fans who wanna get too close."
With his gold grin, Velvet replied, "Yes, you would seem to have both the temperament and skills to perform the duties. Ms. Page--- excuse me, Bekka --- may I offer you and Terry something to eat from Roberto's? Do you have a car with you?"
"We walked," Terry answered. "I live on Muir Street near Bacon. Our cars are there, we've both got BACs well above legal right now. No sense in tempting the fates ;just to travel three fuckin' blocks."
"Thank you for your gracious offer, Velvet. I would be delighted to join you. Is your car in the lot?"
"I don't have a car," Velvet replied. "To be honest, there was a bit of self-interest involved when I asked about your car, it would save us a rather long walk."
"We'll just head back up my street and jump in one of our rides," said Terry. "To be on the safe side, you can drive."
Velvet kept his grin in place but now studied the cement in front of him. He said, "Uh.... I'm, afraid I am not licensed."
Terry squinted at Velvet and said, "Dude.... How the fuck old are you?"
Still watching the ground, Velvet answered after a pause, "I am fourteen years of age. That revelation invariably begs questions about my current business, school, and home life. Please, allow me to save us time by simply stating that there have been.... disrupting influences in my young life, which forced me into non-traditional methods of living and earning an income. I will elaborate, to an extent, while we eat. Does that sound fair?"
The girls assented to this, and the three began walking south, towards home. Drummer was no longer under the street light when they went past. Bekka gave Velvet her Cliff Notes explanation about Becky Page, her career, Inana Productions, her husband Lenny, and the realities of the adult film industry. Due to his youth, Velvet had no preconceived notions about the business, so there were few bubbles for Bekka to burst. They got back on the block and headed for the Nova, Velvet elaborating that while not licensed, he did know how to competently drive a car, and would do so. When they stopped at the Nova, his eyes went wide.
"Yes.... Yes, this is a vehicle very alien to my social tribe," he commented. "Just how quick is it?"
"Not as fast as it looks," said Terry. "The fuckin' blower is real, but it's pushing on a 350 motor, not the 427. It's actually a former movie stunt vehicle, so it only had to look fast. But it ain't no slouch, either."
Velvet drove them to Roberto's, showing confidence and skill while at the wheel. Bekka commented on his competence, and Velvet said he had first driven a car at the age of ten, and alluded to the circumstance of this event not being very good. Bekka gently pressed for details, to which Velvet replied, "Just one of many events in my life which put me on a track into my current lifestyle. If you will pardon the cliché, I am wise beyond my years. Again, I will elaborate while we eat."
He did. Velvet explained he was a native of Louisiana, his family arriving in East San Diego when he was seven. At the age of nine, his father went to prison for manslaughter, and his mother had simply run away from hove after that happened. Velvet was farmed out to relatives and family friends in the area, none of whom had any interest in his presence. The various homes were involved in criminal activity or crippling drug abuse. It was in two of these homes he had learned the drug trade. Velvet had simply disappeared from the rolls of the San Diego school district, no one could be bothered to enroll him. His current residence was a crippled motor home in the driveway of a cousin's house. He didn't mind, explaining that while never actually shunted into the backyard of a home, he was usually either on a sofa or sharing a room with another kid, who wasn't happy with the sudden loss of privacy, and would express their contempt for this interloper. "By some miracle of fates, my ego and sense of worth have not been completely destroyed. It's difficult to constantly be reminded that you are an unwanted obligation, your presence in a household brings no value. Somehow, I was able to cogitate at a young age that the poor treatment and abuse I suffered were due to the lifestyles of those I was around, I had done nothing to deserve the poor treatment. Truly, I did try to adapt to the tenor of my various residences, not make waves, but the contempt for me was still there. I was another mouth to feed, another child underfoot. At each new residence, I would put forth the effort to incorporate with my surroundings, but after a couple weeks give up, and simply stay away from the house as much as possible. I spent a lot of time in public libraries, reading. A child in a library is not an anomaly, regardless of the time of day. I suppose just through osmosis, my literacy thrived.... Although my math skills leave much to be desired."
"I've noticed you have a complexity in your speech, a formality. Where did that come from?" asked Bekka.
Velvet paused and stared at the table. He finally said, "It is an affectation on my part, but one which I have engaged in for so long it comes naturally to me." Another pause. "Simply, at the age of ten I decided I did not want so sound like another gang-banging, ghetto-ass street nigger, as every other person I was around did. That patois, based in the regional accents from Alabama and Louisiana, hangs a sign on a person, especially in a place with the social mindset of San Diego. My extended family will never improve themselves. They can't. Since they sound and act like niggers, they will always be treated like niggers in this area. And they will be mystified why their lot in life seems so bleak. These people are all at least three generations removed from the South, why and how does the patois live on? While my formal education is rudimentary, few will call me out on it, because they are given to reason to.
"Really, I have no lofty goals at this point. I do not want to deal drugs all my life, that is something I do because I'd learned the trade just by being around it, in an intimate manner. I wish to continue to save money. By the time I turn eighteen, I want to have completed the high school equivalency test, which will be enough to enroll in community college courses. By that time, I will hopefully have decided on a real career, one that I can study for through a community college. While this may sound cynical, I could care less about having a career which I find stimulating or otherwise a sense of personal accomplishment. I wish to be employable, have training which will keep me in a job anywhere I go in this country. I am full up on adventure in my life, I truly desire a life which is rather dull and predictable. This is not some sort of aspiration towards somehow becoming white, middle class, and boring. It's a reflection of what my youth was like. I paid my dues already. No more adventure for me, I wish to be around people who have never fired a gun in their lives and who have more in their pantries than ramen and packets of catsup from McDonald's. The greatest personal conflict in my life will be whether to buy a Toyota or a Honda. I will prove that environment does not dictate one's fate, unless you let it. And my extended family will have no clue as to how I reached adulthood without an arrest record or a child born out of wedlock. And to hell with them."
Terry stared at Velvet from across the table and then said, "Believe it or not, I can totally dig you. I been a scooter tramp since I was thirteen. What the fuck, I was nineteen before I ever got laid while sober, that's how classy I was fuckin' living. After all the runs and brawls and rallies and raids, after all the dope and beer, after all the hundreds of fuckin' hours riding on putts, it finally struck me, holy fuckin' shit, there ain't no reason I can't do something with my life. Nowhere is it written that outlaws aren't allowed to have any worth and meaning in their lives. It's just that most outlaws are too fuckin' lazy. And I say that after having been around outlaw motherfuckers for literally half my life.
"Okay, you said your extended family will always be just niggers, because they can't imagine being anything else. Fuckin' scooter trash will always be losers, and sorta for the same reasons. Outlaws can't think of ways to get ahead that don't involve risking a lot of years in prison if they're caught. Fuck that shit. Right now I'm doing good, I got a gig at Becky's studio two days a week, and I'm her bodyguard three or four days. Shit, they're paying mw $500 a ;day for each gig. But, fuck, ain't nobody gonna want a fifty year old fluff girl, and Becky won't always need a guard, so I gotta fuckin have something to fall back on. I fuckin' don't know what yet, but I ain't gonna be a fuckin' parts puller at Kragen when I'm sixty."
"You have great loyalty to your social tribe, yet still feel contempt for them," Velvet observed. "I truly empathize. I am young, male, and black. As you see, I dress in a fairly fashionable manner for my culture and peer group. I will tell a secret: I would rather be in a suit at the moment. But such dress would make me very noticeable, both in Ocean Beach and East San Diego. I am far safer looking like just another b-boy.... An irony, as I loathe hip-hop, I am a fairly rabid jazz fan, especially Charlie Parker and John Coltrane."
"You'd like my husband," grinned Bekka. "He's a twenty-three year old punk rocker, but loves Coltrane, which confuses some of his friends. Here's a guy wearing studded leather with spiked hair, and he's blasting 'A Love Supreme' out of his car stereo."
"Actually, there is logic in that," Velvet replied. "A punk rocker would find the seeming chaos of much of Coltrane's catalog appealing. Tell me, given his current success and economic status, does he have any animosity or contempt for his own social tribe?"
"No.... Or if he does, he hasn't said anything, and Lenny doesn't hide his feelings. He doesn't live the lifestyle any more, but that's just because he's a bit older now for that scene." Bekka paused to consider her words. "You said you don't care for your local family, and you hate hip-hop. Do you feel alienated from what would loosely be called 'black culture?'"
Velvet frowned and rubbed his chin. "Yes and no. It's a bit strange, I believe I would be happier if I'd been born two or three decades earlier.... Which is more irony, as that would have meant living in the pre-civil rights era. But I like jazz, not hip-hop, and especially not rap. Ugh. I always got along with the older men wherever I lived, they'd sit on the porch, playing dominoes, and listening to Miles Davis or Ramsey Lewis. They had seen a lot in their lives, they witnessed the removal of the 'Whites Only/Coloreds Only' signs above restrooms. Their opinion was that if you want money, you work hard, not pull a hustle. My own generation and peer group all wish to be rich, but have no idea how to make success happen. Well, they do, but their dreams and plans are totally unrealistic. The only economic role models or success stories blacks have are either athletes or rappers. Those are not careers with a lot of job openings. The gang bangers will pimp or sling dope, so they see fast money.... But it is not big money, not on the scale needed to live the lives they think they want. And between arrest and violence, they wouldn't be able to enjoy any money they somehow had saved.
"As I mentioned, my own aspirations are modest. I wish to live quietly, and be comfortable. I don't need a Mercedes and Cristal to be comfortable, and certainly don't need an address in Rancho Santa Fe.... Even if I could find a realtor there who would sell to a black man at all. I strangely aspire to be something not nearly enough blacks want to be, which is middle class.
"That said, there are things I will not do to achieve my goals. First off, I refuse to work for either the post office or the DMV. Both of these civil service rings of hell are destinations for many blacks seeking steady jobs with pensions. Fair enough, but the work is too dull even for me, and you have either the state or federal government as your boss. I will admit there is a bit of statement being made by my current endeavor as a drug dealer, I consider drug laws to be punitive and ineffective, and should be abolished. Let the Libertarians run things for a while, and see how things work out. The point is, I would chafe being under the employ of a government.
"But to return to your question, yes, there is alienation, but it feels generational, not cultural. I suppose my biggest contempt for 'black America' would be a collective lack of realistic economic aspiration. I could walk into Encanto or East San Diego and ask a hundred black men who Warren Buffett is, and maybe two will be able to give any answer at all.... Although I do find it comforting that I could go to Mira Mesa, knock on the door of the black residents and ask the same question, and receive an acceptable response. Basically, my personal issues with black American culture are based in economics, not style."
Terry said, "Hey man, wanna come hang out with us? We're going back to my place to kick back and smoke some of that weed. We won't lie, we're fuckin' spun right now, so we ain't gonna crash out until noon, probably. We got some Johnnie Walker left, plus some coke and dope...."
Velvet gave a crooked smile and said, "I will accept some Johnnie Walker, thank you, and let the rest be. Yes, I can deal with not loitering on a beach at night for a little while. Thank you, ma'am. Shall we?"