Curt's cocaine dalliances mushroomed into an addiction, an addiction that was manipulated by club owners who had completely foregone money to pay him with only cocaine, an alluring white powder that he had begun to cut, bag, and sell for himself. Believing that he could flip the snow crystals for a greater fortune than the promoters were paying for his DJing, he allowed his greed to exceed his discretion and skill. In fact, Curt was a lousy drug dealer. His measurements were off, and either his mix was too potent or overstepped upon. In an odd way, he was lucky he was arrested before he was killed—that is, if more than two decades worth of hard time could be considered luck.
Curt hung up his headphones, interlocked his fingers, turned them outward, and stretched for the ceiling. The stretch was accompanied by a yawn that would make a lion take notice. He hadn't slept in two days; yet, he looked at his watch, while figuring he would be early for the ten a.m. meeting with his parole officer.
Fifteen minutes later, he was heading down the stairs dreadfully contemplating his parole meeting. The thought made a bitter bile rise to his mouth, but he held it back. He made it to the stoop, looked around as if gauging the weather, pulled his hat over his ears, and lifted his collar over his neck. It was going to be a cold walk, somewhat comparable to the snowy hikes of his dreams.
As he stepped from the stoop to the sidewalk, he looked toward the tapping sound coming from the window. His landlord waved and lip-synced a question about his scarf. He smiled, not really giving a damn about the scarf, but smiling because he considered Mercedes to be one of the few people who genuinely cared. In this uncaring world, genuine love from another was an oasis of hope. Or given his frozen dreams, genuine love was a godsend. Mercedes had genuine love for him. Not romantic, although Mercedes still turned a number of heads, including his, but sincere, almost as if they were siblings with their Caribbean roots fortifying their familial bond.
As he walked, his thoughts were bittersweet with a lot more bitterness than sweetness. The little sweetness stemmed from the fact that this was his last parole meeting, signaling the official end of his penal burden and a doorway to what was supposed to be freedom. Bitter, because his new parole officer was a world class asshole. Curt's original parole officer was an indifferent asshole, but their mutual disdain accorded a mutually agreed upon "let's get this over with" feel to all their interactions. This new PO was a condescending know- it-all who felt because he was familiar with a few rap songs on the radio that he understood the complexity of hip-hop culture and even Black people.
At the last meeting, while reviewing Curt's sources of income, the PO remarked, "You DJ with records? Who does that? Just program your iTunes and let the party go from there."
Curt winced at the comment while thinking, "Who the fuck is you to tell me how to DJ?"
Except the PO wouldn't let it go. He went on to explain how he provided music for his mother's pinochle parties, as if that compared to Curt's turntable artistry. Perhaps in his own way, the PO was intrigued by Curt. Maybe he believed himself to be friendly and offering sound advice. Curt was affirmed that when considering the PO who he had had previously and this new one, there was a great deal of truth in his mother's adage: "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know."
This last parole meeting with the pompous parole officer troubled Curt, as he rounded the corner. Up ahead and walking in his direction was a well-dressed white man talking on a phone. Curt was far from an expert on high-end fashion but could discern that the man's coat, scarf, and boots appeared expensive. Curt also took note of the man's loud phone conversation and heavily slicked hairstyle.
They made eye-contact while walking directly toward each other.
"Look, Karen. You tell Sam I said have the report on my desk in ten minutes or else start looking for another place to work," the man shouted into the phone, while gesturing wildly with his free hand.
YOU ARE READING
Four Floors (excerpt)Short Story
This excerpt is taken from the first time collaboration between authors Ran Walker and Sabin Prentis. The original collection of short stories explores the lives of four people who occupy a brownstone in a heavily gentrified neighborhood in the city...