Coming up in the inner city, Kwame and Romeo Braxton never had anyone except their Nana and each other. So when big brother Kwame caught two years for doing nothing but keeping the wrong kind of friends, their lives were turned upside down. And things are about to get shaken up one more time. . .
Romeo is seventeen and the star quarterback for the Tucker Tigers. He gets all the attention he can handle from the honeysand the big-time college football programs. Deciding where to take a scholarship should be Romeo's biggest problem, but these days it's the last thing on his mind. . .
Not only is Kwame finally getting out of jail, their absentee mother Pearl is back on the scene, and Rome's girl Ngiai says she's ready to get serious. Oh, and a couple of thugs beat Pearl nearly to death and wrecked Nana's crib.
With everything in their lives out of control, Kwame and Rome are at a serious crossroads. Now they'll have to decide who's really got their backs, and what kind of future they're ready to step up to. . .
"Gritty, realistic, and unforgettable, Travis Hunter knows the urban teen scene." Ni-Ni Simone, author of Teenage Love Affair
About the Author
Travis Hunter is the founder of the Hearts of Men Foundation, through which he mentors underprivileged children. He is also the author of eight novels for adults: The Hearts of Men, Married But Still Looking, Trouble Man, A One Woman Man, Something to Die For, A Family Sin, and Dark Child. Hunter graduated from Georgia State University with a bachelor’s in Psychology and is a veteran of the U.S. Army. Hunter lives in a suburb of Atlanta with his son Rashaad.
Read an Excerpt
TWO The Hard Way
By TRAVIS HUNTER
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Travis Hunter
All right reserved.
"You ever cheated on Ngiai?" my best friend, Amir, asked me as we walked home from school on a wooded path toward our home in the busted-in and burned-out subsidized projects. Atlanta's Village Apartments had been my home for the last ten years of my life, and although it was a pretty rough spot, I liked it.
"Who is that?" I smiled.
"Whatever. You a player but you ain't stupid."
"I don't cheat. I'm a good boy," I said.
"Man," Amir said, shaking his head. "How you function with all those girls up in your face all the time?"
"The same way you function with none in your face. I just keep it moving."
"What? You crazy. I got more than my share of the honeys, player. I just keep my business to myself," Amir said.
"Yeah, that's not all you keep to yourself. But you should embrace your virginity and stop being ashamed of it."
"You crazy. I lost my virginity a long time ago, lil buddy," Amir bragged his lie.
"Yeah, but Fancy and her four sisters don't count," I said, wiggling my fingers in his face.
"Whatever, homie," he said, smacking my hand down. "Like I said, I keep mine's to myself. I'm respectful of the woman I spend my private time with. Don't need to run around here telling you low-self-esteem-having clowns 'bout my business."
"Yeah, okay," I said.
"What the ...," Amir said, stopping in his tracks as we noticed the path to our apartments was cut off by a six-foot-high wrought-iron fence.
"I guess we're moving on up, Amir," I said, running my fingers along the black iron. "I always wanted to live in a gated community."
Amir folded his arms. His face wore a disgusted scowl. He was quiet and his breathing was measured. He seemed to be analyzing the situation we had before us. One of the men working on the gate nodded at me and I nodded back.
"Don't be speaking to no Mexicans, Romeo," Amir snapped. He huffed a frustrated breath, then found his stride along the fence line. "Those people are the worst of the worst. The white man tells them to put up a fence locking black folks in and they jump on the job. No standards. Anything for a buck," Amir said. "You don't see what's going on?"
Amir kept me laughing. He was a walking worrywart who believed the government was secretly conspiring to eliminate the black man from the face of the earth. Maybe that was the reason his hair was turning gray at the tender age of seventeen. He claimed his dad was a political prisoner, but in reality he was just a prisoner who got caught selling drugs.
"Nah, why don't you tell me what's going on, Reverend Al Sharpton Jr.?" I said.
"This is nothing more than the government's way of preparing us for incarceration. My daddy sent me a book, and he said the only reason they call where we live the 'projects' is because the powers that be are doing a project on how to eliminate our black butts."
"Your daddy's a genius, dude. You are so lucky that he imparts such deep wisdom on the world," I said sarcastically. "That's why they keep him locked up, man. He's too smart to unleash on the world."
"Okay, see, you think this is a game. You're one of those dum-dums who can't call a spade a spade. I can't believe you can't see what's going on, Romeo. They tryna condition us to being surrounded by fences. And what does a prison have? A bunch of doggone gates." He looked at me like I was the dumbest person ever to take a breath. "That's what's wrong with black people. We don't think."
"So now you got a problem with black people too?"
His eyes almost popped out of his head. "My biggest problem is with black people. We the worst of the worst."
"I thought you just said Mexicans were the worst of the worst."
"Hell ... neither one of us are worth a red cent. But I'll tell you what-black people are the only group of people on this earth who just don't care how we look on TV. We're just happy to be on TV. Master want me to play a pimp and degrade my sisters ... Okay." He mocked a wide-eyed minstrel character. "They be like, 'You ain't even gotta pay me that much-just put me on TV so people can think I'm somebody and I'll beat that ho to death.'"
I laughed as I always did when Amir went off on one of his race tangents.
"Now, I will say one thing about Mexicans," he said. "They will work."
"Black people work too," I defended. "This country was built on the backs of black people."
"Man, that was three hundred years ago. And we ain't done jack since. I guess we're resting."
"What about Barack Obama?"
"Man, whatever. One man out of two million and you want me to jump up and clap."
"Shut up, Amir," I said.
"I'm just saying," Amir said, sticking his middle finger up at a big poster of a fancy-dressed real estate mogul whose face was plastered on the side of a MARTA bus station. "We done lost all of our pride, man. There's nothing sacred in the black community anymore."
"Why do you stick your finger up at that picture every day?" I asked.
"Do you know who that is?"
"Nope," I said.
"Damn, Rome. You gotta get a little more involved in something other than rap videos and SportsCenter. That's the fool who owns all of these apartment complexes around here. Mr. Slumlord himself. He's riding around in Bentleys and we living in the hood. I don't have a problem with him getting paid, but I do have a problem if he's getting paid from keeping us poor."
"Now, in all of your extensive research, how did you find out that keeping us in the hood makes him rich?"
Amir shook his head again. "It's a good thing you can throw a football, because you 'bout one stupid little boy."
"Enlighten me, Dr. Know-It-All."
Amir shook his head. "Lord, I swear my people are going to perish due to stupidity. The government pays big money to people who take on section eight and subsidize housing. Damn Democrats."
"So you are a Republican, Amir?"
"Not really, I'm Amir. The government is full of crap."
"Shut up, Amir."
"That man on that poster is no different than those slave catchers who used to chase down other blacks for the plantation owner."
"You can find a way to compare everything to slavery," I said, growing tired of Amir's Black Panther moment.
"Okay, name one thing that we as black folks can't find a joke about."
I searched my brain but couldn't come up with anything.
"I'm telling you, Rome. You can think about it until your black face turns blue, but you ain't coming up with nothing. We laugh about everything, a hee hee hee. Even slavery. I bet you won't find a Jewish person laughing about the Holocaust."
"How you gonna judge an entire race based on a few clowns?" I said, getting pulled back in again.
My boy Amir was a character, and I loved getting him riled up. All five-foot-two inches of him. He had a caramel-brown complexion and a big gray patch of hair in the middle of his head. He gave me that Boo Boo the Fool look again.
"We allow those clowns to prosper. We celebrate these fools and make 'em spokespeople for the black community. Have you ever seen the Ying Yang Twins? What about Gucci Mane?"
I had to laugh at that one.
"And that's who we have representing us. I rest my case," he said, throwing his hands up in the air.
"You know, Amir, you should've been born in the fifties or sixties so you could really have something to complain about."
"Oh, you think it's all gravy now, Mr. Dumb Football Player? Racism worse now than it was in the sixties, only now they don't wear white sheets-they wear suits. That's because they're the CEOs of the record labels and television stations. That includes the black CEOs too. If they really gave a hoot about helping blacks, then they wouldn't go and find the most ignorantiest people they can find and put them on TV for little kids to look up to. I swear, I wish I could go on a Nat Turner spree and get away with it."
"Ignorantiest? That's not even a word. And you got the nerve to call me dumb."
"It's these public schools, man," Amir said, shaking his head. "But you know what I mean."
Our low-level political debate came to a halt when we saw a few of the project natives standing around a fancy car belonging to a neighborhood hustler name Pete "Wicked" Sams.
Wicked had a few of the locals' undivided attention as he told tall tales of his life as an outlaw. He stopped mid-sentence when he saw me.
"Romey Rome," Wicked called, waving his arm for me to come over and join him. "Holla at me."
"What's up, Wicked?" I said, throwing my hand up in the air and not missing a stride. I knew better. Wicked would have me out there with him all day long talking about what he used to do on the football field. The more he told the story, the better a player he became, and I had heard it so much that by now, to hear him tell it, he was better than every player in the NFL.
"Come here, boy," Wicked called out, which was more like a command.
"I'm in a hurry, man," I said, slowing a little.
"You in too much of a hurry that you can't come and holla at your boy?" Wicked said, playing the guilt card.
Amir shot me a look and shook his head.
"Man, let me go and holla at this fool for a minute," I said, finally relenting.
"You go right ahead. I ain't about to sit up here all day listening to some fool who calls himself Wicked," Amir said. "I'm going home to handle some business."
"A'ight, man. I'll see you later," I said.
"Rock on, black man," Amir said, throwing up his peace sign as he hurried to his building.
"Where the militant midget running off to?" Wicked asked me as I walked over to him and gave him a fraternity-brother-like hug.
"Home, I guess," I said, shaking a few more hands.
"So are you sitting on the bench, or you getting in the game?"
"Don't even try me like that," I said. "How's life treating you, Pete?"
"Beating me down, but hey," Wicked said, rubbing his ample stomach. "I'm eating good."
"I see," I said, eyeing the Buddha-like thing hanging on the front of his body. "You look like you're about six months pregnant."
A few of the flunkies laughed but quickly zipped their lips when Wicked jerked his head in their direction.
"What you do last game?" Wicked asked, turning back to me.
"Threw for two hundred and ran for a hundred but we lost, so it didn't matter."
"Damn, boy, you the high school all world, ain't cha?"
"Nah, just doing me," I said.
"Keep doing what you doing. I be hearing about cha. You got a lil buzz going round. You know I blew my career up hanging out here in these damn streets. I'm telling you, Rome, I used to be a beast." Wicked's eyes widened with excitement.
Here we go, I thought to myself.
"Ray Lewis ain't had nothing on me, boy. I used to break bones. Crack! I'm talking about giving coaches straight up sleepless nights tryna figure out how to block me. Had lil quarterbacks like you in straight panics. Rome, I would've broke you up, boy."
"You too slow, Wicked," I said, shaking my head. "You wouldn't stand a chance."
"You crazy. Ask your brother 'bout me, boy. Matter of fact, come by the crib. I got tapes to prove my word ain't a lie."
"Whatever. I don't wanna see any tapes. If you were all that, then why ain't you in the league?"
"See, my problem was I wanted that fast money." Wicked spread his arms and nodded toward his black 745 BMW. "Ain't doing too bad but if I could do it all again, I might've paid for this ride with different dollars."
"It's not too late," I said.
"Look at you. Mr. Opportunistic. Always looking on the bright side."
"You mean optimistic."
"That's what I said."
"No, you said opportunistic."
Wicked turned to one of his flunkies. "What did I say?"
"You said it right," said Mark, a tall skinny kid whose only job on earth was to be Wicked's yes-man.
"Whatever," I said. "How are you gonna ask somebody who failed pre-K to answer a question about a word with more than one syllable?"
"Who you talking to?" Mark said, puffing out his little birdlike chest and yanking the chain of his vicious-looking pit bull.
"You," I said, not in the least bit concerned with him or his dog.
"Mark, shut yo mouth, boy. We can't have Romeo out here hurting up his hands on the likes of you," Wicked said, pushing his flunky away.
"I ain't worried about his hands. I'ma let this damn dog go on him."
"I'm petrified," I said. "Oh, my bad. That's three syllables. I meant to say, I'm scared."
"Come on, Rome." Wicked went into his boxer's stance. "I'm tired of you and all your mouth."
I still didn't move. Pete was my older brother Kwame's friend, so he looked at me as if I was his little brother. That was the only reason I could get away with talking to him the way I did. Anyone else would be picking up a few teeth right about now.
"Boy, how old is you now?" Wicked asked.
"And you what?" Wicked stood in front of me and placed his hand at his head to measure who was the tallest. "Six feet."
"Six-one," I said, standing up. "You know my brother might be coming home in a few days. His parole hearing's tomorrow."
"Aw, man." Wicked swatted away my concern with his chubby hand. "That lil crack charge ain't 'bout nuttin'. Ain't no might about it-he coming home. And you tell him I said come holla at me the minute he touches town."
"I can't wait for him to get out of that place. He's been gone too long," I said, thinking about how much I missed the guy who was far more than a big brother to me. He was also the only father figure I'd ever had. Everything I knew, I learned it from Kwame.
"Two years." Wicked frowned up his face. "Man, that ain't jack. I can do that without a snack."
"Two years is a long time."
"For you maybe, but not for my dog. See you ... Big Nana sheltered you too much. Wouldn't let you cuss, made you do your homework, and had you up in piano lessons like you was gonna be a black Rocketeer or somebody," Wicked said, drawing laughter from his cronies.
"There you go. I'm outta here," I said, reaching out to tap his fist with mine.
"A'ight. Tell Kwame I said come holla at a player when he gets himself settled," Wicked said, touching his heart.
"Okay," I said, walking away and frowning at the ludicrous thought of my brother putting himself back into the same situation that got him arrested in the first place. I wasn't sure what led to his arrest, because everyone kept the details from me, but I was almost one hundred percent sure Wicked had something to do with it.
"Rome." Wicked stood and shuffled his three-hundred-pound frame over to me. "Hold up, boy. You always rushing off somewhere." He placed a roll of money in my palm.
"What's this for?"
"Just a lil something something. Make sure Kwame knows I gave you that. If ... When he gets home, give him some of it and tell him I said we need to talk."
I nodded and we shared another brotherly hug.
Living in the Village Apartments, aka "The V," gave you an edge, a hardness that was essential if you were going to survive the everyday rigors of life in subsidized housing. But it was also a trap waiting to close its jaws around you at the slightest slipup. I made my way through the breezeways between the buildings and stopped when I saw General Mack, our neighborhood nutcase and shell-shocked war veteran, marching a line of five-year-olds as if they were in basic training.
"Hut two, three, four. Pick ya legs up, soldier. Hey, pay attention, boy. You gonna mess around and get yourself shot," he sang with all seriousness.
"Good Lord. That man is nuttier than a fruitcake," I said, shaking my head at the spectacle before me. The kids seemed to be having fun, so all I could do was laugh before heading upstairs to the apartment I shared with my nana.
"Nana," I called out the second I crossed the threshold into our small, two-bedroom apartment.
"Boy, please hush all that fuss," Nana said with a frown. Beatrice "Nana" Braxton was as beautiful as the day was long. Heavyset, with gray hair that came down to the small of her back and sweet as a peach cobbler. The woman we all called Nana was sitting at her sewing machine making a quilt when she stopped what she was doing to chastise me.
I took a whiff of the air and knew right away that we had company. An old green army jacket was draped over the arm of the sofa. My eyes darted around the room, looking for the one person I could go the rest of my life without seeing. I found her walking out of the bathroom, rubbing her hands on a pair of dirty cargo pants.
"Hey, Romeo," she said, brushing imaginary lint from an equally dirty denim shirt.
I nodded but didn't utter a word.
"You can't speak to your momma?" Nana said, pulling herself to her feet with a grunt. She walked over to me and placed a hand on the small of my back. "Go on and give your momma a hug," she said with a nudge.
"I spoke," I said, not moving toward the haggard-looking woman with whom I shared my big brown eyes, pointy nose, and full lips.
"I know I'm old, but I didn't know I was hard of hearing," Nana said.
Reluctantly, I walked over to my scraggly-looking mother and gave her a halfhearted hug. The stench coming from her body almost choked the life out of me. She smelled like something had crawled up inside of her and died.
Excerpted from TWO The Hard Way by TRAVIS HUNTER Copyright © 2010 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Two brothers Kwame and Romeo were what you'd expect to brothers to be, close. The fact that they were abandoned by their mother and had to be raised by their grandmother the bond between them were even stronger. Growing up in the inner city, where trouble seemed to be around every corner, Kwame was arrested and went to prison for something he didn't do and that not only tore Romeo apart, but he also got to see firsthand, just how the system worked. Faced with that disappointment of his older brother Kwame going to jail didn't stop Romeo from doing his best at what he loved to do and becoming the star quarterback for his high school football team. After the Kwame's release from prison, things start to look up for the two brothers. They reconnected with their mom Pearl and it seemed things were going to be alright until tragedy strikes again and their mom is brutally attack by some local thugs. Truth begins to unfold and they discover some secrets about their family and they also find out who is truly with them and against them. Overall all this was an easy read. It had some moments when I was anxious to get to the plot, but for the most part it was worth the wait. It had a lot of funny moments, because these were teens, so you laugh a lot. It did end with a feeling there will be more, but who knows. I did enjoy reading Two the Hard Way! Anna Black AAMBC Book Reviewer
Dont read this you like stoopid books
This book sucked. Do not buy it.