Chapter 1 MISFITZ ARISE!
“swish,” the net made that sound which had become so familiar to the players on the Hilltop team. “I believe that’s 21 points and game champs, or should I say chumps! Man! I thought you Hilltop ladies had some game but you guys ain’t got spit! Why don’t you fellows call us when you learn how to play basketball, ha, ha, ha?” The player who had just put in the final basket and the final nail in the Hilltop Knights coffin was having a wonderful time at the expense of the losing team.
“In fact why don’t you check and see if yo mommas are available next week!” The members of the Knights began consoling each other with high fives and words of encouragement as they walked from the playground basketball court. They had just lost their first game of the season to their rivals the East Side Barons by a score of forty-seven to ten. This was a summer league of four teams made up of past and present gang members attempting to stay out of trouble. The league was the brainchild of Tyrell “Peanut” Bradford who also served as Public Relations Director, coach and backup point guard for the Hilltop Knights and was currently getting an earful from the team captain Kai “Smoke” Davis for his inaccurate scouting report of the Barons. “Peanut I thought you said our team could “play,” in fact you said we had enough game to beat any team in the league, I should call the basketball cops!” The tall, angry young man yelled at his much shorter companion. “Man you said we could take these dudes with no legs, what you forgot to mention was that they had game and we didn’t! Forty-seven to ten is not a game, man that’s a butt whoopin’ and I ain’t had one of them since I was five!”
The shorter young man and the object of this blast thought for a second and answered, “Man, Kareem told me these guys couldn’t beat their own grandmommas’”. “What Kareem didn’t tell you was that their grandmommas’ was the Lakers,” Kai shot back. “It wasn’t bad enough that they stomped a mud hole in us, but they also rubbed our noses in it. Next time you hook us up with a game Peanut, consult me first!” Peanut straightened up his body, looked in his friend’s eyes and sarcastically exclaimed, “Cool, I’ll take the heat for this game but remember, the leader and best player on our team only scored two points which really didn’t help the cause!” Peanut broke out laughing and started running down the street away from his much bigger teammate and friend who was trying hard to restrain himself from laughing
As they ran down 5th street, they met up with their “runnin” buddies hanging out in front of Hilltop Music Store. This was the hangout for generations of youth from the Hilltop area of the city. Mr. Johnson who owned the store had been on that corner for some forty-five years and had seen just about everything from babies being born to gang shoot outs. He remained there because of his love for kids and as long as they were in his sight he could always lend a hand. He knew most of the kids from birth and even knew when most of their parents were born. Kids would occasionally go into his store and ask his advice about situations or even borrow money if they could prove that there was an emergency. He always seemed to have what they were looking for. He had loudspeakers set up in front of the store and would preview the newest music releases to attract the kids and increase sales.
“Yo Captain Kai and the Peanut, what in the world happened to y’all this morning?” The rather obese bearded man laughed out loud. This was Kareem, the neighborhood loud mouth and instigator. “Somebody told me y’all got smoked by the Eastside; please say it ain’t so homey!” Kai whispered to Peanut as they approached the group, “Let him talk man and don’t say anything, I’ll try to change the subject or he’ll be riding our butts all day.” Kai walked over and stood in front of the instigator, speaking in a loud clear voice he said, “never mind all that Kareem just give me the money you owe me, and don’t EVEN stand there looking like you don’t know what I’m talking about!” The burly young man reached into the pocket of his Cleveland Cavs jacket and pulled out a wrinkledten-dollar bill. “Aw man here’s ten, cool?” “Cool, Kai replied don’t forget the other ten and don’t be so stupid next time, you should know better than to bet against my Celtics man!”
Kareem shot back, “aw man if Lebron hadn’t been in foul trouble the ȱ woulda took the Celts.” Now the topic of conversation had changed to the prior night’s NBA games with everyone on the corner stating their opinions at the same time. Kai looked over at Peanut and winked, Peanut smiled approvingly. Kai and Peanut eased their way from the crowd and walked into the music store and gave up a traditional, “Hey Mr. Johnson” which was the same greeting they had given him since they were children coming to the music store with their parents. Kai had even worked at the store after school during high school and from time to time when Mr. Johnson was in a pinch he would fill in.
The boys headed over quickly to the Rap section to see if there were any new releases or sales on some of the older cds. Mr. Johnson was assisting a middle-aged Hispanic woman but as usual he always found a way to acknowledge the presence of two of his favorite “children”. “Hey boys!” he replied with the big warm smile and tone of voice that the boys had come to know and respect for such a long time. Mr. Johnson had quite a past. He was a musician and there were pictures of him hanging all around the store with the various celebrities that he’d come in contact with over the years. There was even one with him and Dr. Martin Luther King at the March on Washington with the date August 28, 1963 written in pencil across the bottom. There was also a picture of him and President Carter and another one with him and Sammy Davis Jr. The picture that always impressed the kids though, was the one with he and Muhammad Ali, everybody loved to hear Mr. Johnson talk about the “Greatest of All Time”.
“If your son doesn’t like it, you can bring it back and we’ll give you a credit slip ma’am.” Mr. Johnson finished up with the lady. Willie Ezekiel Johnson was a pillar in this neighborhood. His reputation stretched far beyond the confines of his music store. He was always known to be courteous and caring. It was not unlike him to hear about a child being sick and go to their home with chicken soup or when there was a death in the neighborhood he would bring food and offer to help in any way possible. The people in the area knew he was a good man and it was a rarity to hear a mean or offensive word about Mr. Johnson from anyone. It was once said that he never had an enemy. He was a deacon at St. Michael’s Baptist Church and had been for years. Church members called him, “The Angel of Mercy.”
“What was all that fuss about outside boys, all that yellin’ and stuff?” Mr. Johnson displayed that all too familiar look of concern. “Aw that was just Kareem shooting off his mouth again Mr. J. Peanut and I were uh… talking about last night’s Celt’s game and he had to come over and prove his ignorance to us once again. We don’t pay any attention to him, if you ignore him he usually goes away.” “All right then, but remember I warned you boys about Kareem before. That boy is trouble with a capital T. He spends most of his time over there on Blue Hill Avenue sellin them rocks, you know that crack stuff.” “We know Mr. J. we don’t run with Kareem, we just tolerate him.” “Just remember boys, you can be guilty by association.”
For a 76 year-old man Willie Johnson did not miss a trick. He knew what was going on everywhere with everyone. The phone rang; Mr. Johnson excused himself and went back to the checkout counter. Kai and Peanut took one more glance at the cd rack and walked back outside to see what the “boys” were talking about now.
The pretty young blonde rolled to the side of the bed and stared deeply into space. This was a very familiar situation. The only difference in this setting was the face of the young man. 14 Before turning to see if she at least knew this one, she let out a gentle sigh and said, “Please God, please let this be someone I at least know!” As she cautiously lifted her semi-conscious body from the bed, she slowly peeked over at the seemingly lifeless body whose head was buried beneath the bed sheets. She slowly reached out and gently pulled the blanket from the face and knew instantly she was in trouble. She gasped, jumped from the bed and ran into the nearby bathroom grabbing clothes as she went.
Once inside she looked into the mirror over the sink and ranted, “Oh no, not Todd Allen, oh God please anyone but Todd Allen!” As she got the final word out, a soft knock came to the door. “Hey Ms. Goodbody, come back to bed!” The sound of the man’s voice caused her to cringe as she responded nervously, “just a sec, er, minute!” She thought to herself, Ok, now stay calm there’s got to be a way out of this. Her eyes slowly scanned the bathroom hoping to find a skylight or small window but reality set in; she knew this building well having spent many a day and night there visiting her sister’s family. How could I do a thing like this to Rita, my own sister? Tears began to fill her eyes. I wish I were dead, oh God what am I going to do? Todd got out of bed and walked into the living room.
“Hey sexy come on out we still got some goodies left for our partying pleasure."
“How can he do that?” It must be nine or ten in the morning. I wonder if Rita knows that he’s like this. She sunk to the floor trying to piece together the events of the night before. Ok, now Sara picked me up at home about 7:30. We went to the Nest, I saw Carlos, we had a few drinks, I confronted him about that sleaze Mindy and he said they weren’t an item. Todd was there I asked him about Rita and T.J. but that’s all I can remember about him. She then attempted to trace her steps from that point. She didn’t remember leaving the club or who she left with. Somehow though she wound up at her sister Rita’s house with Todd having no idea that Rita had gone to Florida. Rita was on assignment in Florida covering Prince Harry’s appearance at Disneyworld.
Rita was a reporter for the Boston Herald and was frequently on assignment all over the world. Rita also took along their four-year-old son T.J. at company expense of course. Oh no, T.J., she realized how crazy she was about her only nephew and how painful the thought of never seeing him again would be. She slowly slipped into her clothes, stalling for time. As she did so she opened the door slowly, thinking it had been a little while since she heard from Todd. Maybe he went back to sleep. Maybe he left, went to the donut shop or something. She opened the door enough to look around the room, no Todd she thought. From the adjoining room she could hear the theme song from the Price is Right coming from the television. She lifted her shoulders, straightened herself, gained her composure and said. “I’m going to keep my dignity and explain to him that this was a mistake and it can never happen again!”
She marched into the living room and saw Todd staring blankly at the television with a little plastic bag filled with a powdery substance on a wooden coffee table in front of him. There was a mirror on the table, which had traces of the powdery substance on it. Todd continued to look at the television with sort of a dumb smile on his face. She walked over to him, lowered herself to one knee, looked him in the eyes and said, “Todd, we need to talk.” Todd continued to stare into oblivion, a small trickle of blood appearing in his left nostril. She repeated, “Todd! We need to talk about last night, look at me Todd!” As she spoke she reached out and shook him by the shoulder causing him to fall forward and bang his head on the wooden coffee table in front of him. Todd’s body fell face first to the floor causing the startled young woman to jump to her feet. She glanced down at the seemingly lifeless body and noticed a small amount of blood pooling beneath his head. She grabbed his wrist to see if there was any pulse, not feeling any, she stood and pondered her next move. Remembering all the police stories she had watched over the years, she figured it was probably smarter to not touch anything and just get as far away from the apartment as possible.
She walked back into the bed and bathroom and checked for clothing. She even wiped down the mirrors and sinks in the bathroom to eliminate fingerprints never realizing that her prints were probably all over the house anyway from past visits. Moments later she ran from the apartment convinced she had thoroughly covered her tracks. However, in her hurry, she left without one of the diamond earrings her sister had given her for her last birthday. At some point during the previous night the earring had wound up on the living room floor and when Todd’s body fell, it landed on top of it. It was in the shape of the letter K for the first initial of her name. She ran to the elevator and while checking herself to make sure her clothing was intact noticed that the earring missing. She turned to go back to the apartment but heard a woman’s voice approaching. Coming around the corner towards the elevator was a little old woman and her small dog. She quickly decided that rather than letting the old woman get a good look at her, she would take the stairs, all eleven stories down to the street.
Katie Curran was in another jam.
Excerpted from "Misfitz" by Timmy Chattman. Copyright © 0 by Timmy Chattman. 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 solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.