Horse Race

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Awww, I knew this was gonna happen one day. Come out of the club at two a.m., swaying a little, and walk right into a gun being pointed shakily in my face. Shit.

"Just tell me who," I say to him.

"I'm gonna kill you."

"I got that part. You the one with the --"

"Shut up! I'm gonna KILL your ass!"

"Yo, just tell me who sent you before you pull the trigger! If I'm gonna die in this here goddamn alleyway, do me a favor and tell me WHY."

He's looking pretty scared. Can't keep his hand from rattling and he's blinking faster than the news ticker on Times Square. Drunk as I am, I can still see that.

"Ain't nobody sent me. I . . . I sent myself."

That takes me a second to process. So not T-Rag or Skewer Jackson. Aw man, I can't think straight. Who the fuck is this kid?

"And I did what to you, exactly?" I say. "I don't screw around in playpens." That was funny. I think I'm laughing a little.

At least I think that's me laughing. I'm not sure.

Damn, I'm trashed.

"You shot my dad."

"That don't help me none. Honest. I ain't got a clue whose rug-rat is whose."

He's thinking about it. His cheek is twitching like he can't decide. I'm wondering how old he is. Thirteen? Fourteen? Face don't look familiar. Who'd I shoot, damn it?

"Hutchins. Dally Hutchins." He lifts his arm and wipes his face with the sleeve of his black hoodie.

Hutchins. I'm wracking my brain now. Hutchins. . .

I guess he can see that scribbled on my face somewhere, because he starts wailing and jabbering.

"You shot him because he didn't have no $50 when he lost on a horse race. You shot my dad! Up in Harlem. Over a measly $50, man! And now, now I'm gonna shoot you. So you know what it's like, man. So that YOU know what it's like getting blasted for nothin' man, NOTHIN'. "

"What? $50 bet? Who do I look like, some fucking bookie? I don't play the ponies. You got the wrong man."

"I got the right man! I got the right man!" He's left off blinking and started scanning the dirty brick walls and shadowy dumpsters for hell-if-I-know-what.

"He used to work for you, you asshole! You shot him and you don't even remember! Dally "Dig It" Hutchins, man!"

Oh, that Hutchins.

Great. I'm gonna get iced by that shithead's kid. I'm kinda sorry now he ain't one of Skewer's rat-tat-tat boys. Wait a minute -- what damn horse race?

"Now hold up a minute. Rewind. Where'd you get that information from ? Your mamma?"

I see it was.

"Well, for the record, that 'measly $50' was more like $5,000. And your daddy smoked that money. Poof! Gone."

"Naw, naw that ain't the way! You lyin'. It was a bet, man. A bet! You shot him over a stupid horse racing bet!"

"What the hell, do I look like I'm gonna waste my money on some nag . . ." and suddenly the light bulb whams on and I get it. I get it and now I know I'm laughing.

"HORSE RACE! HORSE fucking RACE. That's a good one! Oooooohhhhweeeeee, that's a good one!" Oh, man, I think I'm gonna fall over.

"Shut up! Don't laugh, man! I'm gonna kill your ass. I'm gonna!"

Aw, shit. I think he's starting to cry.

I put up my hands and reposition my legs to steady myself. The alleyway is spinning just a little.

"Horse, boy. HER-O-IN. This is gonna hurt, but your daddy couldn't keep his hands off the stuff. Was using what he was supposed to be selling. Started digging too deep. Catch my drift? Couldn't pay his way out."

He's not saying anything. Just looking at me, crying.

"Your daddy was a junkie. What kinda pretty lies was he telling your mamma, huh? He was taking bets on the side or something? That's where the money was coming from?"

All of a sudden, the light bulb whams off and I don't feel like laughing anymore. I feel like lying down and sleeping for a hundred years. I wanna walk out of this alleyway, get in a taxi and go home. I'm getting too old for this bullshit. But, here we go. . .

"I'm . . . you STILL killed him. And I'm gonna --" he says.

"I'll tell you what you're gonna! You're gonna pull that trigger and I'm gonna die. Then you're gonna run, hoping nobody saw you. But somebody, somebody who knows me, is gonna come back here pretty soon and see my dead corpse lying on the pavement right here. With me so far?"

I wait for a second, make sure he's getting it. Makin' sure he's listening.

"...and they gonna start asking some questions. And you know what questions is? Questions is trouble. Questions is mean-ass brothers looking for you. Questions is cops. Questions is your black ass in jail for Murder One. I get that he was your daddy and all. . ."

He's breathing hard, but he's stopped scanning the walls and starting to focus.

"But he ain't worth it, son. He brought it on hisself. This ain't about me. It's about you, and him. That was then, this is now. Just turn around and go. I ain't gonna follow you. You just a kid. Go on. Git."

That was pretty good.

And I can tell he's thinking it over. I can see him gnawing on his lower lip. I can see the wheels working in his head.

But damn. . . I totally miss it when he pulls the trigger. 

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