Authors: Allison van Diepen
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For Elizabeth van Diepen,
a.k.a. “G.” The coolest grandma ever.
My heartfelt thanks:
To Michelle Nagler at Simon Pulse for her
unflagging enthusiasm and faith in this book.
To my family for their love and support.
To my former students at Sheepshead Bay High
School in Brooklyn for a lifetime of inspiration.
And to Dan Hooker, my extraordinary agent, who
passed away several months after the sale of this book.
Thank you for helping me realize my dream.
hat are you gonna be when you grow up?” That’s what most kids got asked.
Mom always asked me what I
gonna be, and you know what she wanted me to say?
A dealer, stealer, free-wheeler, player, hater, a downright dog—that’s what my dad was.
When I came home from school, Mom was on the couch watching
. As usual.
“How was school, baby?”
“Good.” No way I was gonna tell her I got kicked out. Really
ass-to-the-curb kicked out this time. Starting tomorrow, I was supposed to show up at some alternative school.
“You working hard?”
“Yeah.” Sweet, clueless Mom never noticed that I hadn’t carried a book bag since the ninth grade.
“There’s beef patties in the oven.”
I checked the clock: 3:37 p.m. She’d be getting up from the sofa in about three minutes, getting ready for fifteen, and out the door in twenty.
When the commercial came on, Mom went to her room. I attacked the patties, only stopping to add more ketchup. A few minutes later, she came back into the kitchen in her grocery store uniform, her name tag already pinned on like she was proud or something. “You working tonight?” she asked me.
“Yeah.” I gave up my cheek for a kiss while guzzling o.j., and she threw on her coat and hurried out the door.
Mom thought I worked at the Flatbush Sports Club on Atlantic Avenue. I ain’t worked there a day in my life—but the manager owed me. He was one of my customers.
Time to get down to this brother’s
I took out my cell and speed-dialed Sonny.
“Ty! What the fuck’s going on? Why’d you turn off your cell?”
“Mind your business. What’s going on?”
“I need your help, son. Tonight we got us some deliveries.”
“Already got some.”
“Well, I got more for you.”
I wrote the stuff in my phone.
“Hold up,” I said, “who’s this Schultz guy?”
“A new customer I met last week. Told him we was getting a shipment with the hottest shit this side of Bogotá. He gonna drop five Gs!”
“You ain’t kidding. How’d he find out about us?”
“In the fucking yellow pages.”
“Seriously, Sonny, who told him?”
“Who? Shit, like he was gonna tell me! What, you think his friend wants a finder’s fee or something?”
“Listen, if you so confident about him,
make the delivery.”
“Can’t, I promised Desarae we’d see a late movie. Schultz wants the stuff at ten.”
“I’m not making this delivery unless you gimme some reason to think he ain’t a cop.”
“Ty, this guy ain’t 5-0. Don’t you think I can sniff out a cop by now?”
“I ain’t risking my neck on your sense of smell, Sonny. Tell Michael Brown to make the delivery.”
That little brother’d win the award for the most eager young hustler in Flatbush.
Fourteen years old.
“A’ight, I’ll tell Michael,” Sonny said. “He can drop some stuff off at the Wilkes place too.”
That was what I liked about Sonny. He talked the shit, but when push came to shove, he always backed down. He knew the game was in my blood.
Cursing, I grabbed the phone beside my bed. “Yo.”
“Is this Tyrone Johnson?” A white woman’s voice.
“He ain’t here. Who’s this?”
“This is Ms. Bregman calling from the Les Chancellor Institute of Career Opportunities. Tyrone was expected here at nine o’clock this morning, but he hasn’t arrived.”
“He’s at a meeting of the YDDA.”
Young Drug Dealers of America. Ha-ha.
“It’s a co-op placement. You know. Sheepshead Bay High
School arranged it. Hasn’t your school been told that he ain’t transferring no more?”
“Uh, no.” Papers shuffling. “I was under the impression—”
“I know, ma’am, you just doing your job. But my younger brother is being watched over by an excellent team at Sheepshead, like Mr. Otto, the school psychologist and Mr. Edelstone in Guidance. I think he’s better off there. I worry about the sorta kids he’ll meet at Les Chancellor.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize that was a concern. At any rate, I’ll be in touch with Sheepshead to confirm that he’s not transferring.”
“I’m sure they sent you a fax about it yesterday. Finding that might save you some phone tag. Have a good day.”
“You, too, Ty.”
I blinked. Did she just say
? Or did she say,
You, too, bye
Ah, I was just being paranoid. Women always bought the shit I sold them. She was going to spend five minutes looking for the fax, not find it, and then call the house of the next kid who didn’t show up, and not follow up on me until next month, if ever.
So much for all that
no child left behind
shit. I counted on being left behind, and left alone.
Seeing my cell blinking, I got out of bed, adjusted my balls, and reached for the phone.
Both from Sonny.
“Ty, have you seen Michael Brown? He was supposed to drop the money off an hour ago. This is making me real nervous. What the hell are you doing? You in bed or something?”
“Man, oh man, thank God you didn’t make the delivery! You won’t believe the shit that’s gone down! Michael got locked up. You were so damn right about Schultz! I stopped by Michael’s project to see if anybody’d peeped him, and they told me that the po-po was just there talking to his mom. Scary shit! Whatever, Michael ain’t got no record, so he’ll be in juvey a few months, it’s no biggie. He won’t talk. He knows our deal. Holla at you later.”
I put down my phone.
My instincts came through.
Too bad about Michael Brown.
Well, Michael knew what he was getting into. I’d warned him myself. Anyway, we gave our runners a good deal: If you do time and keep your trap shut, we’ll pay you ten Gs when you get out. It was fair. And my conscience was clear.
I took a shower, then put on a UFC DVD as I was eating breakfast. I loved this shit. Ultimate Fighting was real, unlike most of the garbage on TV, and man, was it bloody. Anderson Silva was one of the
best fighters, and it wasn’t because he was a big guy. No, he just had the right moves.
I got my height (all six feet two inches) from my dad, and I was getting more muscular every day. I took Creatine and ate protein bars all the time. Of course, you gotta work out, too. I go to the gym at least five times a week.
I looked at my genuine Rolex. I put it on every day after my shower, before I even put on my clothes. It reminded me that time is money.
Time management is everything. If a brother wanna get ahead, he gotta use every minute to better himself. Everything I did made me better—tougher, stronger, richer, smarter—or I didn’t do it.
Take high school. A waste of time. Nobody there taught me what I needed to survive on the streets.
I learned all the math I needed by the seventh grade, and a calculator helped me with the rest.
History class didn’t teach me nothing I couldn’t learn by watching movies like
Gym class didn’t show me sports skills I couldn’t learn on the court or on TV.
My point? By the time I was fourteen, I knew school wasn’t gonna be nothing but a place of business.
heepshead Bay High.
Population: thirty-eight hundred students, two hundred staff, and eleven security guards.
Location: Avenue X, between Bedford and Batchelder. Big as Yankee Stadium, the school takes up a whole city block.
As I walked through the metal detectors, one of the guards stopped me. “What you doing here, Johnson? Heard you got transferred.”
“Yeah. I gotta clear out my locker.”
He waved me in.
I got there just before the bell rang to end sixth period. I went
to a back stairway going from the basement to the gym. Lots of kids passed me, some actually trying not to be late for their next class. When I saw my employee, I grabbed her arm. “How you doing, Clarissa?”
“Hey!” She gave me a hug, squashing her big titties against my chest. The chick was dripping with perfume. “What’s popping, Ty?”
“Me, if you keep doing that.” I looked her up and down with a grin. She loved that. Clarissa Sanchez been trying to get with me for years.
With those pouty lips and that diamond stud in her nose, she was a hottie. But hooking up with an employee was too risky. Piss her off, and next thing you know she was snitching to the po-po.
“Did you hear about Michael Brown getting locked up for making a delivery to an undercover cop?” she said, like she was the shit because she knew what the whole neighborhood knew by now.
“What you say his name was?”
“Should I know him?”
“No, he just a kid, no one even knew he was dealing. Serves him right for tryna be big-time.”
Clarissa had no idea that Michael Brown was on my payroll. Hell, she didn’t even know that I had a partner named Sonny or that I had another hustler in this school.
“Listen, Clarissa, you got enough stuff to last the week?”
“Yeah, but I’m working on a couple new customers. If I need more, I’ll let you know.”
“I’ll find you next Friday night at The Cellar for the cash.”
“Right. I’ll be there with my new man. He’s twenty-five.”
“Stop, you making me jealous.” I patted her ass. “Get to class, sexy lady.”
“See ya, Ty.”
I watched her swing her ass as she went upstairs. I walked away, shaking my head.
* * *
I found my next contact ten minutes later on the basketball court. I took off my shirt and joined the game, working up a good sweat. The hoops lost their nets years ago, but it didn’t matter. I liked the solid sound of the ball bouncing off the backboard and dropping through the basket without the catch of the net.