No Loose Ends

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Contraband Tales

A Word from Ariceli

Who can know why things in life happen the way that they do? I have a guilty pleasure in bad TV, particularly the show The Bachelor. The cheesy music, fake drama, and manufactured romances all just do something amazing for me. Ironically, the idea that you could go on national TV and compete against 25 other people for what’s supposed to be the love of your life doesn’t strike me as strange. Far-fetched, sure; but people find love in libraries, break-rooms at work, the cereal aisles, at fundraisers; or, like in No Loose Ends, at the employment office. The key to lasting love, in my humble opinion, is finding someone who’s goals and ambition, maybe even just their energy level, is on par with yours. Travis Smith, from No Loose Ends fame, meets a sweet, witty, sexy Latina who is focused and motivated by forces he can’t understand (but is helplessly drawn to anyway).

Ariceli appears delicate, but has seen more and experienced scenes that have molded her into the driven machine that she can sometimes be. Little Able (her only child, and son of a slain gang member) is her life. While she wants a father-figure for her baby-boy, choosing another love that could be taken away gives her pause. But there I go blabbing again; here’s Ariceli in her own words:

I’m a Reno girl, whaa whaat! And that’s alright, I guess, but I felt myself slipping into the dead-end trap so many chicas out here fall in. It had been two years since Able Sr. (or Rabbit, as his homies called him) let those same homies take him out of our lives. I was back at home with Mamá and Papá giving Little Able (my baby) a bath; watching his Barney Rubble feet kick and splash while he had a Hot Wheels monster derby in the bubbles. He loved to crash his Hot Wheels with the big, red truck Travis bought him when he found out I had a son. I mixed the warm water with the same lavender baby-wash I used to use when Able was a tiny baby.

It felt like a trip in a time machine. I could see my beautiful baby boy, with his silky, jet-black hair and tight little fists, splashing water all over the sink. Rabbit used to have really nice hair, too. Before he decided to jump into “street life” fulltime, he was sweet; with thick, shiny hair, and his moustache was just filling in. We all hung out at this bus-stop close to a 7-Eleven in Sparks, NV, and used to smoke and get people to buy us beers. Then I got pregnant, and all that changed for me. Able changed, too; he hung more at “the spot”, and began talking his little homies into doing all kinds of mischief. He became the leader of their little crew; and then he came home bald. It was a bad sign.

We lived together in a cramped little apartment not too far from “the spot”, and Rabbit started bringing home all the stuff his little homies were stealing and robbing from people. I thought the police would get Rabbit before anyone else. Mamá came over a couple of times, and convinced me that I had to do more than sit around and give babies to a man like this. I listened, and started school when I was six months pregnant with Little Able. I knew it was only a matter of time until Rabbit got himself in trouble. One day, I had a test, and we finished early. So, I caught a ride home with Maria, a girl from my class. (I usually rode the bus, but after my little man started moving and kicking in there, bus rides were the worst.) I almost had her drop me off at the 7-Eleven because I was embarrassed of the ghetto-ass apartment complex we were living in; but, my feet were throbbing, so I had her take me all the way home. I could tell she felt sorry for me, but I was going to school to make a better life for me and my baby; I didn’t care about her pity.

But you’ll never guess what happened as I’m waddling up the stairs. Ok, so I’m short of breath and holding the raggedy bannister, and I hear the locks on my door open. I’m thinking, “Gracias Dios, Rabbit is coming to help me;” and, instead, he’s kissing some little tramp goodbye out of our house. They’re both all smiling and giggling, like puppy love, until he sees me and starts his bullshit explaining. I’m so tired, I can’t even scream. I just start crying and trying to get away from him.

“Ariceli, I’m sorry… Chula, let me explain…” Ugh! I still get so angry. I wasn’t going to bring my baby into that situation. My Papá, who wasn’t really an Able Sr. fan to begin with, was there in an instant and moved me back home so I could finish school and have my baby surrounded by love. My Mamá loved it! You would have thought she gave birth to my handsome man. She took him everywhere to show him off. Her new grandchild gave her new life. It was a blessing when I had to study and pour through research labs, but I took my baby back at bath-time. We played and sang silly songs while I scrubbed his toes and his armpits, and taught him English and Spanish.

I missed Able at first, but Papá forbade me from seeing him; no phones or visits. And when I took Little Able to meet his abuela Rosa (Able’s mother), Papá would stay in the living-room the whole time, watching novellas and making sure Able Sr. didn’t sneak in (somehow) to see me.

It was the night before finals, and I was giving Little Able his bath. Travis and I were only friends at the time, and the house-phone rang pretty late. I heard Papá’s heavy footsteps go to the phone. He was watching the news, like always, and hated people calling the house after dinnertime. I was singing the Apples and Bananas song with Able, but I tried to listen to see if Papá was going to go off on the telemarketer; he gets mad and starts cussing in English and Spanish. I couldn’t hear anything, so I toweled off Little Able and kissed his nose. I had just wrapped him up like a burrito, and used the loose flap to muss his hair, and Papá was in the bathroom’s doorframe with a grave look on his face. Then myMamá was by his side, and Able cheered for her.

¡Abuela! Abuelita,” he cheered. “Abuela likes to eat, eat, eat,…” he sang and clapped, and my parents smiled sadly at their grandchild. I looked at Papá for a sign.

     “Come here, mejo,” she said, and scraped Able up. “Your Mommy and Abuelo have to talk.”

My father told me the phone call he had just got was from one of Able Sr.’s uncles. He had been shot and killed by some youngsters from a rival gang. I felt sadness, but not because I was still in love, or wanted him; I cried for his mother. Then, as I really thought about it, it made me really sad for Little Able. Now he would never have the chance to know the other half of his history.

Travis has been the only man in Able’s life, besides my Papá. He loves my son, and you should see them together… Able loves him; which is why I’m so afraid. He thinks I don’t know. I don’t have every detail figured out, but I’ve seen enough to know there’s more going on than he’s telling me. His past, his loyalty to his family back in the Bay Area… he’s too easy going, too easy to talk to; too smart for his own good. And his eyes… When he looks at me, when those big brown eyes are focused just on me, I feel naked and open. He looks through my defenses, through my doubts, through my objections, and sees to my core. It feels like the air is sucked out of the room. My palms get sweaty, and my stomach dances at the thought of being touched.

He thinks he can keep it all inside, but nobody is that strong. I can tell by the way he holds me (soft, like I’m delicate, but squeezing me like he never wants to let go) that he needs me. When his strong hands are on my body, or his big, full nose nuzzles my neck, everything inside of me goes cuckoo. I love his lips when we kiss, or he’s talking about his plans. He always wears light, fresh smells; bright and clean, like he’s just showered. Sometimes, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to think he’s selling drugs or doing anything that could take him away from us; but how else could he afford to have all of this. I know he runs a tire stop; but there’s my house, his house, the cars, the cash he makes me put in that stupid shoe-box. I’m not stupid. One job can’t afford all of that.

Maybe he owns it, and just doesn’t want to tell me, but that doesn’t make sense. We met at the employment office about a year ago, both applying for jobs. In a year after prison, with his cousin’s help, he’s… well, let’s just say he’s done great for himself. I feel myself falling for this man; but do I listen to my body that craves his beautiful brown skin next to, on top of, and inside of me? Or the million sirens and alarms that keep telling me to be cautious, and maybe even consider running away? I want to be open to having a life with Travis, but there’s no way I’ll go down that road again; even for a man I love.

 

Ariceli

Real Hardships – Like Asia

What’s up, World?

So, while my hope is to give the streets (and the public, in general) a great book with an action- and comedy-packed storyline, one of my underlying goals is to give some insight into the mental states and psychology of men similar to Travis Smith, the main character of No Loose Ends (and, I guess, myself as well).

The hardships of prison only start with the loss of freedom. To the person that’s never really gotten into this kind of trouble, you’d probably say, “So what, it’s your own fault”; and I don’t dispute that we do create our own chaos. But after the blame game is done, the reality is that men are sequestered to same-sex populations for years on end, and stripped of their basic human dignities. Initially, we’re told to strip, squat, and cough under flashlights; no matter your crime, and at any guards’ request. We’re fed the minimal permissible amount of calories allowed by law, and further embarrassed daily because every manner of contact we have with the outside world is preceded by the scarlet waning that the person either writing or calling is in the custody of the Department of Corrections. The human injustices are boundless: from 50-500% price increases in basic necessities like food, hygienic products, and clothing; to premiums on local and long-distance calls, and outrageous connection fees so we can stay in contact with loved ones. It’s rough! And on top of the administrative wounds, you have the heartbreak of loved ones or family that reached their compassion and tolerance limits. I’m not assigning blame here, again, because I get it: when people won’t take the steps to fix their own lives, there is only so much patience you can spare to forgive their follies.

So, let me try something here. Going to prison brings an abrupt set of life changes, and significant others are ripped from relationships without warning. When it happens, the trauma is sometimes too much to overcome. Let’s face it: unless a man/ woman has proven himself/ herself as worth the time, energy, and sacrifices you’ll have to make in order to wait for him/ her, having a man/ woman that’s locked up is kind of a bad deal.

Now a great deal of women stand by their men, and we, the collective body of men still stuck in the gulag, appreciate and commend you ladies. I’ll say it right now, just in case your man hasn’t in a while: Thank you, ladies, for sticking around. But, there are a great many women that don’t; and, though it’s understandable that your lives shouldn’t be on hold while we are stuck paying the price for bad behaviors, learning that someone you love or care about doesn’t feel like you’re worth the wait doesn’t hurt any less. And the changes that occur in men (and women) that are abandoned in this situation are sometimes devastating, mostly critical, but always real.

Soapbox aside… lets get back to the fiction. Travis Smith (of No Loose Ends fame) has a beautiful cocoa brown-skinned girlfriend, when he’s forced to make a decision: either keep his cousin out of a jam, or let his childhood mentor burn for a drug case (which would be his 3rd strike and cost him the rest of his life behind bars). Travis chooses to take the case, and gets a light sentence because it’s his first offense. While in the big house, his girlfriendAsia sends him a letter not unlike real letters I’ve seen personally. And, though her letter is not saying it’s over, it’s one of those papercuts that cuts the heart like a machete chop.

Picture yourself in Travis’ shoes: alone in your bed area, smiling ear-to-ear as you hold magical words from the someone that still cares enough to write you. You open the letter from Asia and this is what she has to say:

Travis,

I had your last letter in my backpack for like two weeks before I read it. I knew it was gonna be some bullshit when you told me you got in trouble. You only had a few months left, and now it’s gonna be longer? I don’t know how long I can keep this up, T. I’m trying to understand your love for your cousin, but I’m just like… What am I supposed to do for another six months?

I hate school without you here. My dad has been acting funny-style with me since I told him about what happened. He won’t even give me my car because he knows I want to visit you. Now, I’m walking to class, stuck in the house, asking for rides; I gotta get a job or something.

Jayla, my girl from the Bay, told me she’s been getting money with this dude from Vegas since she left school. She’s traveling like crazy, and she asked me if I want to go toFlorida with her this month. Dude is some kind of talent manager or something. He’s booked her hella modeling jobs, and she just bought an ’09 Mustang. T, I’m tired of these boring-ass classes and just being stuck in the house all the time. What should I do?

I’m gonna take some pictures with Jayla if I go to Florida with them, so I’ll send you some shots of me in a bikini : ). (But you can’t be showing them off.) Don’t get in anymore trouble, T. You need to hurry up and get out of there. I’ll write you again soon.

Asia

Boston’s Story

What’s up, World?

This book experience is a mixed bag of up and down emotions. When I think I’ve got one thing figured out: there are 25 new tasks and obstacles to overcome and navigate around. But, I think that’s why they call it progress. These experiences fortify the lessons learned like a hammer strike alters and strengthens metal; life is a blacksmith, and we’re being sharpened like steel. Throw in some successes and love and we’re made into shiny display pieces like ninja swords or katanas. Take too many or too much of a beating and we end up as broken, discarded or severely damaged floor adornments. I’m grateful for the process, and pray all these hard shots get me a bit closer to being a Hanzo sword (SEE KILL BILL).

The next character from No Loose Ends I’d like to introduce to you is Chris “Iron Fists” Connoley. A freckly, red-headed Irishman. Slender dude, like Brad Pitt in Snatch; a rock-hard body from his training as an aspiring boxer, complete with a couple of battle scars from his times in the ring. He speaks with a thick New England accent, though his exposure to brothas is evident in his swag. He rocks T-shirts, fresh jeans and Adidas shell-toes; all white and only smudged if the love of his crew or Deborah, his high school sweetheart from Boston, is threatened. But, don’t take my word for it; I’ll let him holler at you:

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! Can you imagine a kid from Dorchester, one of the greasiest corners of Boston, makin’ a name for his-self in the Biggest Little City? It’s monumental, man!  Reno is one of the bedrocks of boxing; I mean, they have a courthouse named after Mills Lane here. So, I came out to Reno with a traveling promoter that was telling me he’d open some doors, make some introductions; you know, help me make it to the big time. It sounded better than what I had going in Boston. Plus, back home I couldn’t put two days of training together without Deborah (that’s my girlie) going all whackobird about me working a 9-5 and getting my bowtie and ruffled cumberbun ready to march down the aisle. I think it was the pressure of her family back home. See, me? I’m a nobody, orphan and an outcast. The only kids like me back home were brown and black, and that’s who I ran with. Deborah’s people were kinda well-to-do out there, so her sisters are getting hitched and her brothers all hated me; but they didn’t want it because I had knuckled up all my life. Shit, you would have too if you had red hair, freckles and lived in a boy’s home in West Boston till you was 16. So, I parlayed the punches to a bunch of amateur matches, but I didn’t think anything of it until Ira Goldberg came along. He was a sham artist and traveling fight promoter back home. He’s actually how I got out to Reno.

So, we’re throwing boxing exhibitions all ova. When I was green it didn’t matter; some fights that I won were rigged from the bellman to the card girls. But once I got good enough to know some of those early wins shoulda cleaned my clock, I approached Ira and he ran down the racket to me. So, I got on board because Ira cut me in on the fights; and when I dived like I was supposed to, I got a little extra envelope at the end of each night. None of these fights were sanctioned, so I didn’t trip on the wins and losses too much. I wanted to wipe the floor with a bunch of the bums I fought, but I had to bring something home to keep Deborah off my back. In the fights when there was lite action, I really got to mix it up. So, I get the notion that Ira shouldn’t be the only one winning; especially if I wanted to really make it one day. And a plan didn’t come together until we made it out to Reno.

Now Reno is its own kinda place. Water from the Truckee River and this big famous Blue Lake people go crazy ova only about an hour away. Casinos, but not quite like Vegas or Atlantic City. I met Contraband and J Dub up at the University at a frat party. These two guys, forget about it! They had some herb like I had never seen before and they were partying in a big way. Contra has this huge 2-story house on the outskirts of town, and they would throw parties that lasted for days. Back then he was with this sexy chocolate sista named Asia. And she danced and worked in Moundhouse in one of the ranches out there. So, a bunch of her girlfriends were strippers and escorts. So shit always got crazy when they came around. Some of da shit I seen…

While we were at the frat house, Contra had his eyes on this cool-looking chick, and J Dub was telling a bunch of youngsters one of his old country-ass stories. In the other room was these two mooks that decided they were tired of sharing their shine with the outsiders. Anyway, I took it as offensive; the frat-boys’ party was cracking because Contra and Dub was supplying the party favors, and these preppies start back biting ’em. So, I confront them. Bear in mind: I don’t know Contra or J Dub at the time; I’m just peeping the haterism on what looks like some cool cats. So, I’m all “Check this out, Bobby or Billy: dem brothas hooked your weak-ass party up, and ya’ll ova here all salty and being haters?” So, they were sounding like surfers “Bro, you need to mind your business.” So, I didn’t wait; I just took off, and both of these dudes were no match. They shoulda called me KFC, the way I was handin’ out two pieces. Extra spicy, you heard? The music stops, and these college types start freaking out. Well, Contra and J Dub are like the only brothas there and they’re carrying herb, so we all break out. I link with them, and we head out to Contra’s pad with some honeys Asia knows; and everything was everything.

Alright, so that’s how we met; and here’s the deal now: I have still been training and getting the occasional bout here and there; and Ira was working on a match between me and this corn-fed shit-kicker from Elko (or somewhere in BFE Nevada). After I started getting money with Contra, I brought Deborah out; and she’s still ridin’ my ASS! “Chris-ta-fa,” that’s how she calls me. “Chris-ta-fa, I know you don’t think you’re heading out with those thugs from the tire shop. Chris-ta-fa, all of my sisters are married and my mother wants a granddaughter. What we waiting for?”

I swear, sometimes she dreams about naggin’ me in her sleep; and the next morning is a sequel to the previous night’s bullshit. I’d like kids someday. I’d actually love them if I could get a chick like Con’s new girl. She’s got a little boy, and I like that little set up. His old chick was gone, or on the road or something, and he hooked up with this Mexican chick named Ariceli. But that’s his biz, you know? I’ve figured out that this fight with the Cowboy is gonna be a big deal. I overheard Ira with his people from back home, and he’s got a mint riding on me taking a dive; and I’ve been working on getting Contra to promote me because I’m gonna get old Ira cracked this weekend.

I went down to see this kid I’m fighting in some exhibition in Fernly or one of those “blink once” cities way out in the desert; and, I’m just gonna say this: when ya’ll see the playbill for this fight, gather all your shillings, all your gouda and provolone cheese and put it in the Irishman. This kid must have had half of Nevada there to cheer him on. There were Ford F-250’s with horse trailers, dulleys and Wrangler-wearin’ cowboys everywhere. Those people were whistling and yelling like it was bull-ridin’ at the rodeo; and the kid was a’ight, but he’s not ready, man. Anyway, I got the front money to bet on me. There’s a bookie that knows about my arrangement with Ira, and he’s got his own axe to grind with Ira for something back in the days. And I haven’t convinced Contra to get into the fight game yet, but I’m sure after he sees the cash involved he’ll be on it.

So my plan is this: keep everything the same with Ira, you know? Train, spar or whateva; and on the side I gotta get Con and Dub on-board, and get some more cheese to put on my exit plan. If Ira wants to get crazy after I sell Contra on the idea, at least I’ll have some back-up in place. Yeah, it’s gonna be a beast. It’s monumental, man.

Well, stay tuned-in. Shit gets real in No Loose Ends, and I’m happy to be able to give you a sneak peek. It’s ya boy Biggidy Boston Chris Connoley with the Iron Fists. One.

J Dub’s Story

Hello, World!

I started this blog because I’ve found an amazing relief from all of my ills in writing. I can be whinny, creative, even informative if the right topic comes across my mind’s eye. But, I also want to open a window and expose anyone who cares to pay attention to my writing to all the many facets of light and dark that are part of me. My first book No Loose Ends is about to be out, and I want to try something different with this blog post. The story is about Travis Smith, his dealings in a new city (Reno, NV), and the folks he comes in contact with; but the story is only through his eyes. What I thought I’d do for you folks leading up to the book’s release is to let you get to know some of the other characters of No Loose Ends.

I’m not sure if this has been done before, but I think of it like this: We are all the main star in our own movies. So, for a few ticks, I’d like to turn the cameras on Jasper Dubois; or J. Dub, as he’s known and affectionately referred to. My mind roams free when it comes to writing, and J. Dub took the form of a light-skinned Louisiana Creole-type brother. If I had to describe him, I’d say about 6 ft. tall, 195-210 lbs., nice build, wavy hair, hazel-eyed pretty boy type; with a country/ Cajun accent and a habit of sucking and shining his gold incisor before brandishing it in his sneaky, slant-eyed smile. Old school chick magnet in the Al B. Sure, El DeBarge, Mario Van Pebbles mold; or Chris Brown or Kid Ink with wavy hair by today’s standards. There will be plenty of time for my rants, and I’ve got a lot cooking, but I’ll turn the spotlight over to Contraband’s (Travis Smith’s) road dog…. Mr. Jasper Dubois.

Hey now, world. What’s happening? I’m glad ya’ll all been checkin’ out Contraband Tales, but let me tell you one thing: one of the craziest takes in my 36 years on dis rock was how I meet Contraband. I hail from Oakdale, Louisiana, where my mama whooped my ass with a ping-pong paddle ’til I was 14. Back home, the days is long and humid, and about as close to a scene outta Huckleberry Finn as you can get for black folks. Think Eve’s Bayou, with flat-screen T.V.’s and the occasional caddy on big rims, and dat’s Oakdale. I met my pops when I was 17, down by Spuds; dat’s a waterin’ hole where you have a few cold ones and shoot some pool. We look like each other so much, Jasper Sr. (or Jazzy, dey call him) and I, dat his new girlfriend mistake my back for his and start grindin’ on me while he was on da john one night. He come out pissed off and ready to fight, and it’s like looking into a mirror.

We get to know each udda fine enough, and he turn me on to a couple of odd jobs and the ins-and-outs of doin’ dirty werk. Most folk bond ova playin’ catch and fishing trips. Me and Jazzy got to know each other ova pool shots, and in-between heists and armed robberies. I catch my first pinch because most of Papi’s girlfriends either couldn’t tell, or chose to test drive the newer edition of the Dubois line. Jazzy always played it off like he didn’t care if I bedded his bitties; but I think he must have felt some real feelings for Gale. She was a college girl from Baton Rouge with family from ’round Oakdale. She had deep dimples and a great…. Uh….. smile.

Anyway, Jazzy come home early on a day Gale had called me ova to take a look at a loose handle, or broken door knob, and I ended up usin’ a lot more den my tool-kit to check her pipes, you know? And he didn’t make a fuss at the time, but I can see it in his face he’s sick about it. Well, few days passed and he tell me ’bout dis job of long money for short werk, and I’m eager to make up for beddin’ his main girl. So, I buy into this scheme about robbin’ a jeweler. Dis Jew-boy s’posed to have $80,000 worth of watches and loose stones in a briefcase cuffed to his wrist, with one bodyguard and a route we staked out for two weeks. I jump out with the mask on, and Jazzy s’posed to surprise them from the back; so we get the drop on ’em you know? Problem is, Jazzy never show up. The bodyguard reached for a gun, and I shoot him in the leg and try to run off before he kills me. The son-of-a-bitch Jew dealer is some kind of Quick-draw McGraw, and puts a bullet in my ass as I’m running away. Dey come cuff me in the hospital as the doctor is pulling a .45 slug outta my butt-cheek. I got 8 years for Jazzy’s jealous ass, and I high-tailed it to the West Coast when I gets outta prison. Shit, dat was a good one, but me and old Contraband meet in Reno. They got one of the shittiest county jails I dun been to; mostly cause dey wanna make you change your ways or whatever, but you know how dis shit go. Now, dis one wasn’t too long ago. I was in one of the big new pods on the hill up at Parr Blvd. And if you ever watched one of dem prison shows, it look like dat. A big pet store with sad faces pressed against the windows and movin’ around in tiny tanks.

Well, dey let us out to shower, use the phone, and watch TV and shit like that. And each race usually has their own TV. Dat way the Mexicans can watch dem soap operas, we can watch B.E.T. or sports, and the white boys can watch motorcross or Seinfeld or whatever.

So, something happened to one of the TV’s where it was down or maybe the cops were playin’ games, but it basically came down to English and Spanish TV. Now, the Mexicans was pretty deep in this one pod; it was about 40 of them to about 50 blacks and whites combined. Bottom line is, dey was gone keep watchin’ dey soap operas and soccer and we had to figure out some kind of system for the Americans in the room. 

It started out cool enough, they watched the tube early morning while the brothas slept in, then we’d get it from The Young & The Restless till 106 & Park was off. But the shit hit the fan during the C.M.A.’s and a playoff conflict. We wanted to see LeBron in Prime Time, and they had Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift on the brain. Now der was dis tall brother kinda speakin’ for us and trying to work out some kind of deal so we could switch between da two shows during the commercials or sumthin’; but there was a couple of grimy bikers and an old skinhead dat seemed to want it to be an issue, and it don’t take much to stir no pot in jail. They all had the look of seasoned prison dudes. All black tattoos, buff chests and skinny legs. The bikers were soldiers, maybe Aryans or Neo Nazis.  We used to rock-and-roll wit dem all da time back home. But this brother was younger, he look maybe 21-22. Big kid, like he play ball or should be, you know?

He not cussin’ and usin’ a bunch of bullshit talk. He really tryin’ to work out the problem, and most of these cowboys is going along. The skinhead got his arms crossed, and the bikers are leadin’ the charge in the other direction. Eventually, the cops say fuck us all, and turn the TV’s off. But with no resolution, and no playoffs, we all go to bed salty, like Auntie Pam’s gumbo.

Few days later, it’s early in da morning and business as usual; brothas is sleepin’ in, white boys watchin’ Good Morning America and the police are walking around. These two young brothas is up at the ass-crack of dawn for some reason and playin’ dominoes. The table slams wake me up, so I get dressed and come out to wash up. They havin’ a blast and doin’ the dozens on each other. It was some good “yo mama” jokes and secrets about dey baby-mamas exposed, dat’s fa sho’. But it was loud, and kinda outta line for 9:00 am; plus, dem youngens ain’t have no filter for using the N-word. It’s N this and N dat; again, kinda much for the early morning hours. So I got my face ova the sink, and I hear a white voice scoldin’ the youngens and saying the N-word with the same venom of a Mississippi water moccasin. I step out, and it’s the skinhead going at the youngens, swastikas and lightning bolts ablaze. They are outnumbered, but giving it back as much as he’s barking. I jump in the fray and make the white boys back up. The commotion catches the cops attention and they start makin’ they way towards us. We go in separate directions, but there is plenty of eye contact saying we gon’ revisit the issue fa sho’. The white boys go one way, and I take a seat with the youngens and we run over the episode as some other brothas wake up and come over.

There’s a point where we all head back to our cells, and then the police let us out for lunch-time. Word has spread from cell to cell; and, when the doors crack open for lunch-time, it’s like the “ding-ding” at a boxing match. In the main area of the pod, one of the youngens swings at the nearest white person his size; a biker takes a swing at an older brother; and bodies, food and plastic trays start flying everywhere. The police are on the radio screamin’ for back-up; and the radio is crackling with static, emergency codes and panicked voices. The tall brother that was trying to make peace is in the mix with the youngens and wrestling and throwing punches at the same time.

I go looking for the skinhead because he struck me as the pull-a-weapon-type. No need to let one of these kids gets stabbed because he decided to play dirty. Sure enough, I catch him in a corner of the mop closet about to grab something, but I get clunked in the back of the head by a big white boy with a broom handle. I turn around and mix it up with this guy, and he drops the broom after a couple of jabs and hooks I learnt from ole Jazzy back in Oakdale. He’s on the ground, not moving, and the police are shouting; but it’s only two of them in the unit, so they can’t get in the mix until back-up arrives. Outside the windows, we can see the goon squad all dressed in riot gear, with dey guns drawn, making their way down the hall. This scene was wild with people yelling and an alarm going off. Fists was flying, and I see the youngens doin’ the most, beating up a couple of punks with tattoos. The tall brother is getting the better of a biker with a long beard. He can’t see it but this skinhead has something metal in his hand and making his way over to do some damage; I know the dirty dog was a weasel when I seen him.

I grab the mop ringer from the closet and move across the room as fast as I could as the gooners break into the room. There screamin’ at us “Get on the ground, get on the ground”, and I hear pops from gas canisters and bean-bag guns. The skinhead has his shiv ready and is about to poke the tall brotha, and I stop him dead in his tracks with a crack from dat mop ringer. He hits the ground, den I get hit with a bean bag that folds me over at the waist. Smoke fills the room, and we’re choking and coughing and getting handcuffed and drug out with our eyes and noses and running.

It’s (how dey say out west?) all bad. So they hose us down and give each of us a cell in the hole; where there’s only a 24-hour light and a Bible, that’s it. I’m down here for a couple of days steaming angry and bored out of my mind. Then, randomly I hear this big laugh from a cell somewhere outside; like a grizzly bear was being tickled pink or something. I’m so starved for attention or anything to do, I call out to the laughing bear.

 “What’s so damn funny?” The laughing continues and actually gets a bit louder, like the brotha was having a real loony tunes moment over der. So I yell out to him, “Hey Slim, is that you?” He stop laughing a bit and yell back “Yeah! Who’s that?” I say “This is J Dub, who dat?” He holler back “What’s up, J Dub, dis Contraband, you alright?” I yell at him “Yeah, I’m good. What’s so damn funny over there?” He yell back “I can still hear that crack when you took off on that white boy.” At dat moment I could hear the rattle of the extra-strength plastic and metal smacking against that boy’s back while he was trying to stick up da young brudda, and I start laughing too. We keep each other cool till we both get outta dat Parr Blvd., and we been friends ever since.

I hope ya’ll enjoy dis No Loose Ends; and if you get anything from this story, know that sometimes help comes from strange places; and when you way down in ya deepest holes, still try to find something to laugh about.