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Guess who's back?
Nasir Lassiter pulled into an open spot in front of The "U," the University Homes Apartments, and put the silver Aston Martin in park. He took a deep breath and exhaled. He'd been away for far too long. Nasir looked around and felt a chill roll down his spine. He couldn't count the number of times he had dreamed about this day. It had been five long years since his feet touched these grounds.
With the exception of a few minor adjustments here and there, The "U" hadn't changed much since he'd been gone. The housing department finally paid someone to paint the doors the ugliest blue they could find and a short gate was put up, a blatant barrier constructed to separate the ghettofied residents of The "U" from the good-paying students across Fair Street who attended Clark Atlanta University, Spelman, and Morehouse College. A knock on Nasir's car window disturbed his survey of the surroundings.
"Ay, man, lemme hold a li'l something?"
"Nah," Nasir said, staring at the projects that raised him.
"Nasir?" the vagrant said, leaning in for a closer look. "Is that you?"
"Yeah." Nasir got out of the car.
"Boy, what you doing back here?"
Nasir smiled. "I know I know you but I forgot your name."
The old man folded his arms, an offended look on his face.
Nasir smiled and tried to place a name with the face. "Man, it escapes me."
"It escapes ya,huh? Well, just think of the best-looking specimen the good Lawd ever created," the man said, closing his eyes and showing what he probably considered his good side, which really wasn't all that good.
"Monroe," Nasir said. He reached out and took the old man's hand and damn near choked on the funk. "Damn, Monroe"--Nasir frowned, holding his breath--"I see you still boycotting the bathtub."
"And I see you still got jokes. I was gonna let you just give me five dollars but since you wanna be Richard Pryor, make it ten. And where you get this fancy ride from?"
Nasir reached into his pocket, pulled out a few dollars, and handed Monroe a five. "Here ya go, handsome."
Monroe quickly snatched the bill and slid it in his pocket, then nodded. "Thank ya, baby boy. Welcome home."
As if the streets could smell the return of their prodigal son, folks started showing up from nowhere and crowding around Nasir. He was backed against his car as little kids and adults alike rushed up to him asking all kinds of questions.
"Hey, Nasir, you remember me?"
"You seen yo momma yet?"
"Damn you fine!"
"You still play basketball?"
Nasir couldn't explain the joy he felt to be back among his people. Someone handed him a baby and told him the boy was named after him.
"Forget LeBron James, you our hero 'round here," the lady who handed him the child said.
A loud scream came from behind the crowd and a large woman ran toward them with a raggedy smile and her hair in pink and yellow rollers.
"Nasirrrrrr," she yelled, stopping her momentum by slamming right into the shiny car he was driving.
"You all right?" Nasir tried to hold back his laughter.
"Get your damn hands offa me and give me a hug. Don't act like you don't remember me."
"Crystal, if I lived to be a hundred and fifty, I couldn't forget you. I've tried, trust me." Nasir smiled and stretched his long arms as wide as they would go for an embrace.
"You still got that smart-ass mouth," Crystal said, hugging Nasir.
"And I see yours is still filthy," Nasir said, stepping back to get a better view of her. "Girl, what have you been eating?"
"People," Monroe said in the rear of the crowd.
"Shut up, Monroe, and go wash. You smell like you dead," Crystal barked.
"Don't pay her no attention, Nasir, she gets like that when she's hungry."
Nasir tried to hold in his laughter.
"What you laughing at?" Crystal snapped.
"I got four kids."
"Four? My God, you've been busy," Nasir said, surprised that Crystal was even into men. As long as he'd known her, she dressed and carried herself with more masculinity than most of the men in his neighborhood. If there was ever a woman who could make the argument that people could be born gay it was Crystal.
"Nah. Got quadruplets. You believe that? It ought to be against the law for poor folks to have that many damn kids at one time," Crystal said. "But they my babies. With they bad asses."
"Bad! Those li'l fuckers are possessed," Monroe said. "You might as well take they li'l asses down to the jail right now and save somebody from getting knocked crossed they head. And I don't know how they got like that 'cuz we all know they mammy is a positive role model and all. Smoking, drinking, cussing like Jesus ain't coming back."
"Say one more thing and you gonna wish Jesus was already here," Crystal said.
"Girl, you look good," Nasir said, trying to save Monroe from a guaranteed beat down.
"Don't come back here lying now," Monroe said, shaking in disgust. "You know doggone well ain't nuttin' look good on her big ass."
"Monroe, I already warned you now. I'mma knock them two rotten teeth out of your mouth if you keep on."
"Make your move, Sasquatch," Monroe challenged, getting in his boxer's stance.
Nasir couldn't hold in his laughter. Even Crystal smiled and shook her head at the neighborhood drunk.
Man, it was good to be home.
"What's up, playboy?" a voice called from the street.
Suddenly, everyone got real quiet.
Savion Jackson sat behind the wheel of a navy blue 1964 Impala hitting switches that caused the car to bounce up and down.
Standing there looking at the man who set his life on a collision course with hell sent Nasir's mind back to the night that changed him forever.
* * *
Five years ago, the rain came down in mothball-like sizes as Nasir hustled his way down Martin Luther King Drive toward his girlfriend Ayana's apartment. When he arrived he found Ayana sitting on the sofa with a sad face.
"Hey," Nasir said as he walked over to her. "Is everything all right?"
"No," Ayana said, shaking her head.
Nasir sat down beside her and placed his arm around her but she pulled away.
"I'm pregnant," she spat.
Shocked, Nasir shook his head to make sure he heard her correctly.
"Say that again?" he asked.
"I'm pregnant and I . . ."
"Hey, that's a good thing. Why do you look so disappointed?" Nasir smiled from ear to ear. He couldn't control his joy.
"Because I don't want a baby."
"Ayana," Nasir said, touching her leg cautiously.
"No! I told you how I felt about this a long time ago. So you can save the sweet talk. It's not happening. I'm getting an abortion."
"Wait a minute. This is my child too."
"But it's my body and therefore it's my choice."
"You gotta be kidding me. How could you be so selfish?"
"Selfish? I was beaten, raped, and treated like I was the scum of this earth for as far back as I can remember just for being born. So you can think what you will but I will not bring a child into this world."
"Baby, I understand all of that but none of those things will happen to our child."
"How do you know?"
"Do I look like some deadbeat to you?"
"Nasir, we're wasting our time. I'm getting an abortion."
"So why did you even bother to tell me about it then? If you already had your mind made up?"
"I just thought you should know."
"Maybe we can talk about it later."
"There's nothing else to say."
"So it's like that huh?"
Nasir stared at his girl in disbelief. He grabbed his book bag and stormed out of the apartment.
He took off running to avoid the pelting rain when a beat-up Chevrolet pulled up beside him.
"Playboy," Savion called.
Nasir stopped. Something told him to keep running but his reputation in The "U" had been taking a hit. Even though he didn't actually live in University Homes, he claimed them and lately some of his people started to accuse him of forgetting where he came from. They were calling him bourgeois and said he preferred the company of those rich white folks at Georgia Tech. So, against his better judgment, he climbed into the backseat of Savion's car. The passenger seat was already taken by a shady-looking character Nasir had never seen before.
"Man, what you doing out in this weather? You gonna fuck around and catch pneumonia, then how we gonna go to the NBA?"
Nasir smiled. For as long as he could remember it was always we with Savion. As elementary schoolkids whenever Nasir made some athletic team, Savion would run into Nasir's house screaming, "Mrs. Lassiter, WE made the team."
When Nasir scored fifty-five points against a rival high school, Savion walked around telling anyone who would listen, "We hit them hoes up for a double nickel last night," and when Nasir shunned the offers of the University of Maryland, Georgetown, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest to shoot threes at the hometown Georgia Tech, Savion had T-shirts printed up for the residents of The "U" saying, We Staying Home.
Savion pulled into a gas station off Martin Luther King Drive in the West End section of Atlanta.
"Bring me a Gatorade," Nasir said right before he noticed a beautiful woman pumping gas at a nearby pump. Since his selfish girlfriend Ayana practically sealed their fate as a couple with all of her abortion talk, it was time to start looking for a replacement. And that five-foot-nine, curvy piece of work was just the one to help get the search started.
As soon as the car stopped Nasir hopped out and walked over.
"How you doing?"
The young lady ignored him.
"Hello," he said, waving his hand.
Still no response.
"What's up with the sisters? Does it cost anything to speak?"
For his efforts all he got was teeth sucked and a pair of rolled eyes.
"Well f--" Nasir started.
"Well what? Fuck you bitch?" the woman challenged.
Nasir stopped and stared at her. "Now was that necessary? I wasn't about to call you out of your name. But I guess that's what you think of yourself if that's the first thing that came to mind."
"No, that's the first thing that comes out y'all ignorant niggas' mouths when you get dissed," she said, hands firmly planted on her hips.
"First of all I'm not a nigga and second, why are you dissing me? Have I done anything to you?"
"Leave me alone," she snapped.
"Gladly," Nasir said, turning to leave. He paused, then stopped and turned back around. "You know you are a very pretty lady but that attitude makes you ugly real quick."
"Whatever," the lady said, then her eyes widened as a hint of recognition crossed her face. "Oh my God. Are you Nasir Lassiter?"
Nasir kept walking.
"Wait a second."
"I am so sorry," she said, putting her hand up over her mouth. "You are like my son's favorite basketball player. You did a camp at his school and you signed a poster for him. He talks about you all the time."
"Tell your son I said hello."
"I will but will you sign something for me? He's not going to believe I met you."
"Let me ask you a question," Nasir said, pissed.
"Where do you see black people ten, twenty years from now? Being that we seem to have plummeted to the point of not even being capable of speaking to one another without some drama?"
"I'm sorry about that," she said, slightly embarrassed. "I was having a bad da--"
"Was that a gun?" she asked.
"All day long," Nasir said, looking in the direction of the blast and ducking down.
"Get in the car! Get in the car!" Savion yelled as he ran from the store with his thug of a friend hot on his heels.
"Nasir, get yo ass in this car!" Savion snapped.
Nasir didn't move. He couldn't. Savion frowned and tossed a blood-soaked bottle of Gatorade at him right before he screeched out of the parking lot. Just before the hooptie turned onto the MLK, Nasir saw his book bag fly out of the passenger window.
Nasir found his legs and turned to the woman but she was already in her car and speeding out of the parking lot. He watched as the silver BMW screeched away and burned her license plate into his memory, 1dIva4u.
Nasir heard the familiar wail of police sirens and although he wanted to wait and explain what happened, his instincts told him to run. He picked up his book bag and ran like his life depended on it. He didn't make it fifty yards before Atlanta's finest had him thrown across the hood of a police car.<<P>Continues...
Excerpted from Something to Die For
by Travis Hunter Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 18, 2007
I have read his work before, and this story was somewhat disappointing. I liked the action of the book, but the story line was poorly developed and I wasn't really pleased. I always appreciate that he includes relevant issues from the Black community in his writings, but the story seemed rushed. Not his best work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 15, 2007
Posted November 6, 2006
Something To Do For is a rare type of novel. First of all, it's artless. The storyline however is explosive, it kept me glued but at some moments I found myself getting detached. I just wonder for who was Hunter writing this book? Who was his intended audience. I won't suggest you go and buy it but if you ever come across it, read it and judge it for yourself.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 6, 2006
Pros: I wonder how many people will pay more attention to the love story and sleep on a lot of the social issues that Travis pointed out. I appreciated how he took fiction to sneak in so many topics that Black America faces today: racial profiling, crooked cops (whether they're on your side or not), the innocent imprisoned, the aftershock of being released from jail, rape, sexuality questioned in jail, black-on-black crime, kidnapping, foster care, pimps, drug dealing, depression, drug using, and so forth. He hit on a lot of topics, but tried to not beat readers over the head with it, by throwing in humor from characters like Monroe, Sammy (who reminds me of my boys from my childhood stomping grounds), Blackhead (I LOVE Blackhead--the midget comment had me on the ground), and Edna (why do I know so many GROSS women like her?). I know Allen's story was supposed to be sad, but I just about cried reading Sammy's version, because I can imagine sitting on my parent's front porch listening to the fools around there talk about people like him. Besides all of the social issues, it's a story about a man fresh out of jail who finds out that after ignoring his family on the inside, he's come back to a whole different world...some great things, some bad things, and some things he can't rest until he fixes. Cons: Priest blew me when he said he didn't know 'someone' was still alive. How can you have your ear to the street and not know something like that? Nobody's THAT undercover, not with that type of person.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 31, 2010
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