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Atria BooksCopyright © 2003 Zane
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Chapter OneFriday, December 15th
"Chico, you better get your behind out that bed, boy!" Momma yelled through my bedroom door because she couldn't open it. I always kept it locked because I grew tired of her invading my room without a courtesy knock first. Besides, I was nineteen and that made me a man. Even though I was residing at her crib, a man is still a man. "Chico, do you hear me?"
"I hear you! Damn!" I yelled back at her.
I glanced at my alarm clock. Shit, it was after seven-thirty and I'd slept through the buzzer again.
"Chico, don't you dare curse me, boy! And you have the audacity to do it right here at Christmastime? Don't forget who brought your behind into this world. I brought you into it and -"
"I'll take you out," I said, finishing the tired ass sentence for her.
I hopped out of bed and yanked my door open. Momma took a step back like she'd seen a ghoul or goblin or something. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that I looked jacked up since I'd hung out the night before with Razor and Miceal. We'd kicked back watching a tape of the Felix Trinidad/Fernando Vargas fight. It was a great ass fight, too. Both of the brothers meant serious business. Talk about having heart; they had heart and then some. That tape is one of those things you can watch over and over again to get inspiration to do the damn thing with your own life. Too many people give up too quickly, but not the kid. I'm going to be somebody major and my word is my bond.
"You look horrendous," Momma told me like I wasn't aware of that already. "Chico, have you been drinking again?"
"What if I have? I'm over eighteen. Besides, like you said, it's Christmastime. It's a time for celebration."
"Last time I checked the drinking age in this country was twenty-one. You have no business breaking the law."
"Momma, it's a crying shame that I'm old enough to go to war and get my head blown off for this country but I can't go into a bar and order a beer. If downing a few with the boys is going to get me locked up, then so be it."
Momma smirked and then laughed. "Chico, you wouldn't last five minutes in jail."
I didn't like her implication that I was weak. I didn't like it at all.
Momma straightened up a couple of figures in a Nativity scene she had displayed on an antique table with three legs in the hall. I'd broken the fourth leg off - it was the first thing I could get my hands on - to chase off a bill collector who didn't understand that broke meant fucking broke. Thank goodness Momma had finally stopped mixing secular and religious decorations together. My friends would tease me mercilessly as a child when they'd visit and see a reindeer in the manger, elves chilling with the three wise men, or a statue of Santa seemingly in deep conversation with a statue of a black Jesus.
"God help me! What am I going to do with you? I didn't raise you to hang out at all hours of the night doing horrid things."
"Momma, drinking a beer or two isn't horrid. It's called being a man and relaxing. Going out and robbing banks and jacking cars is horrid. Do you really expect me to sit around acting like a punk while my boys do their thing? Huh? Do you?"
Momma stormed off down the hall toward the kitchen. "You need to start going back to church. That's what your behind needs to be doing. Reverend Stevens has been asking about you every week. I'm sick of making up excuses for your trifling behavior. I don't like nor appreciate having to form my mouth to speak lies to a man of the cloth."
"Then why don't you just tell him the truth?" I asked. "Tell him that I'm not in church because I have better things to do than put on pretenses like ninety percent of the other people there."
Momma looked like she wanted to slap me silly. Instead, she just turned her back to me.
I rolled my eyes at her back - I may be a man but I'm still not stupid enough to roll my eyes at her to her face - and headed into the bathroom. One glance in the mirror and I almost jumped myself. I looked like shit; literally. My curly, jet black hair was kinky as all get out and I was sporting a big ass pimple on my right cheek. That's the only thing I hate about being light-skinned - other than the fact that dark-skinned brothers have suddenly gone back in style. The slightest breakout and the entire world knows about it. I used to try to burst the pimples when I was in junior high but that was the absolute worst. The blotches on my face would run most of the sisters in the opposite direction when they spotted me and you could see the big ass marks they left behind a mile off.
I was attempting to take a dump in peace on my throne when Momma started banging on the door. She definitely had a door-banging fetish.
"Chico, you only have twenty minutes before you need to leave for work. Don't fool around and be late again. You need to keep that job; for both our sakes."
"Okay, Momma." I prairie-dogged a turd, hoping she would walk away so she couldn't hear me drop the bomb.
"I made you some breakfast. Brown sugar bacon, grits, and scrambled eggs. You have to make your own toast because I've gotta run. The elementary school kids are putting on a Christmas program at the nursing home and I promised your grandma I'd be there before it starts."
"Okay, Momma." I could hear her still standing outside the door. I knew what she was waiting on. "Thanks, Momma."
She finally made some moves and I was able to finish getting rid of the beer and buffalo wing mixture that was ripping up my stomach. I heard the front door slam a few minutes later while I was climbing into the shower. I didn't feel like going to work that day. Then again, I never did. The only thing righteous about working at Wolfe Industries was that Razor and Miceal worked there also. We had all gone down there six months prior and filled out the applications together. We had been there and done that fast-food gig and it was not the way to live. Shit, I got burned by the fry machine three times at Mickey D's and that crap hurt like all hell.
College was never an option for me. My grades weren't good enough for a scholarship, I was too lazy to play sports by the time I'd hit seventh grade, and Momma definitely couldn't afford tuition. I could've taken out a loan but I have some friends that will still be trying to pay their shit off when they're in their fifties. My grades were fucked up for all the wrong reasons. I was one of those kids who didn't feel challenged and so I didn't do the work; even though I'm smart as hell. As typical in the hood, my teachers didn't care enough to encourage me and I was rebellious against my mother. I wished that I could take it all back because I would have probably been in college on a full scholarship somewhere the hell away from D.C.
My daddy ran off with one of our neighbors when I was eight. She was married also but the sex between them must have been off the chain. Daddy walked away from a wife and one kid, but Dena - the whore in question - walked away from a husband and four kids. Her husband moved away in embarrassment. The entire neighborhood knew the deal but Momma said she wasn't leaving her space. She said people were going to talk whether we left or stayed. She was struggling with this gig as a customer service rep for Amtrak. The pay was mediocre and that was not a good thing. The cost of living in D.C. is so high that most people have to end up living with their parents until they're in their thirties or forties. Shit, sometimes even their fifties.
Miceal, Razor, and I were all hired on the spot at Wolfe and started clocking hours as soon as we passed the required drug testing. Apparently, they had a high turnaround of clerks in the mail room so they were anxious to fill the positions. Two hours after we started on a Monday, it was clear why the turnaround was so high. The supervisor of the mail room, Donald Coleman, thought he was the CEO, COO, or HNIC or something. You ever work with someone that stresses over their job so much that you can see the veins popping around in their head half of the day? That's the way Donald rolled. Damn shame, too, because none of the higher-ups even paid attention to him. I had seen him try to do some serious ass-kissing when the real CEO, Tomalis Wolfe, strutted past us in his two-thousand-dollar suits. Mr. Wolfe just kind of waved Donald off every time. I didn't blame him either. Not only did Donald have a fucked-up attitude, he was also in dire need of a bar of soap. No, make that four bars of soap. His ass was just that stank. I mean, damn, soap is about the cheapest thing in a store. Razor, Miceal, and I always talked about his body odor. When he came into the mail room, it was like that movie Backdraft. All the air seemed to be sucked out of the room and all you inhaled is stench.
After my shower, I hauled ass down to the bus stop with a bacon and egg sandwich wrapped in a napkin. When I got there, the K-4 had just taken off. It was two blocks away but the exhaust fumes still kicked into my nostrils.
Damn, I missed it again!
I plopped down on the bench and glanced at my watch. Being on time was no longer a possibility. That meant going through some Donald drama. I dug into my sandwich - cold already because the wind was kicking ass that day - and winced when I bit down on something hard. It turned out to be part of an eggshell. Momma couldn't even scramble an egg right. Shame on it!
When I got to the office building, there was a stream of black company cars lined up out front dropping off executives. Those lucky motherfuckers were living too large. Too bad they didn't send a sedan to pick me up every morning. Too many damn freaks on the bus and besides, I could've clocked mad babes chilling in a ride like that.
I was in the mailroom all of two seconds when I smelt Donald behind me.
"Chico, you're late again."
I turned around and stared him in his beady eyes. "I missed my bus. My bad, Donald."
"Your bad? Your bad? What kind of English is that?"
"My kind of English."
"Humph, must be Thug English because it's surely not the kind I was taught in school. You young fools better learn how to speak properly or you'll never get promoted around here."
I wanted to tell him that some of us actually took the time out in the morning to wash our asses but I just ignored him instead and walked toward my station where a ton of mail was waiting to be sorted. I spotted Miceal on the other side of the room trying to push up on this honie named Keisha. She was straight-up hurt in the face but had body for days. I wanted to warn Miceal that I'd heard she preferred to bump coochies but I decided to let him waste his time trying to get up in some puddy that wanted to be licked and not dicked.
The men's room door swung open and Razor walked out with bloodshot eyes. Alcohol had never been good to him.
"What's up, Chico?" Razor asked, slapping me a high five.
Razor was a caramel motherfucker, about six feet, making him a couple inches taller than me. He was what sisters called a "pretty boy" but he wasn't as pretty as Miceal. At six-six, Miceal was damn near a tree. He was dark-skinned with dimples and had a smile that lit up the room whenever he entered. It could be dark as shit in a club but you could always see his bright ass teeth. Women loved his ass.
"Everything is everything," I responded to Razor. "Can't wait until Christmas vacation because I can sure use a few days away from this bullshit."
Razor glared over at Donald for a second and nodded. "You ain't never lied. What I can't wait for is the Christmas party next week. I hear that joint is off the fucking chain."
I couldn't imagine a corporate party being all that but I had heard the same thing from many people so I was curious my damn self.
"Got a hangover from last night?" Razor asked.
"Hell no, I can handle mine." I slapped him gently across the cheek. "But your eyes are redder than a hoe's tampon. You can't handle your shit like me."
Razor chuckled. "Fool, I can outdrink you any day."
"Yeah, right, whatever."
My nose started tightening up, which meant Donald was within breathing distance. I glanced over my shoulder and he was standing there like he was Donald Trump instead of Donald Coleman, raised in a Southeast, D.C., tenement. He didn't think I knew all of his business, but I did. I made it a point to know everyone's business. This honie, Riwanda, had an aunt that used to date him. I couldn't believe that shit when I heard it. Donald getting some ass? I would've believed in the Tooth Fairy before I believed that, but apparently at least one sister was hard up enough to spread them for him.
Let me explain something before you start thinking I'm ragging on Donald for no reason. Donald was about five-four, weighed in at a hundred pounds soaking wet, and was darker than midnight but had the nerve to stick emerald green contacts into his eyes every morning. That was some sick shit! Then there was the body odor problem - I hate to keep harboring on that shit but I might have ended up getting asthma if he didn't discover his bathtub soon - and the yellow teeth problem.
Even with his less than desirable looks - to put it kindly - I could still deal with Donald but his attitude just ruined everything. He talked down to people, particularly his own people like me, and then expected us to look up to and respect him. Please, that was just not happening. Not then. Not ever.
I started my delivery rounds about ten. Like everything else in and about Wolfe Industries, the Christmas decorations throughout the building were at the top of the game. The secretarial pool was always my first stop. That was where all the honies about my age pecked away on keyboards for hours at a time, which was amazing considering most of them had these long ass, fake fingernails. They spent half of the damn day singing along with one of those fools that sings like he has to beg to get the drawers off a woman. Women love it when men seem hard up about fucking them; even when it's imaginary fucking in songs.
I was shocked when they changed it up on me. Someone had the James Brown Funky Christmas CD pumping through the air. Now that's what I was talking about. That CD was one of my all-time favorites but it was difficult to find because it was an import. At least one sister in the pool had good taste.
I loved the secretarial pool. Anastasia and Shakia - I called them the "Boobalicious Twins" - both had boob jobs a couple months ago. How in the hell they presumed they could take a week off on sick leave and return with double D's when they left with single A's and not have everyone notice the difference was beyond me.
Excerpted from Skyscraper by Zane Copyright © 2003 by Zane. Excerpted by permission.
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