Waddell Clifford had gotten his government check earlier in the day. After he cashed it he hung around the temp labor offices looking for work but there wasn't anything available. One of his street buddies asked if he wanted a hit off some dynamite blow but Waddell declined.
Why is it that pushers act like they got your best interests at heart? Like they was some kinda lifelong friend or something? Always smiling in your face while handing out poison? he asked himself.
The offer was tempting, especially since he had $143.23 in his pocket. But he had made a promise a long time ago. In Viet Nam he made a pact with God that if he got out alive of a fierce firefight with the “Cong” he would turn his life around.
He waved the pusher off.
Fuckit, he said and as he turned into the wind. The Sun was going down and the desolate streets of North Philly would become another kind of jungle after nightfall. But first, he wanted some Chinese food. He headed towards the take-out joint.
If he had gone straight home he would not have found himself in such an embarrassing predicament. A12-year old thug had the drop on him. He was being robbed at gunpoint.
Brandishing a .22 the youngster said, Give me some money, oldhead! Empty your fuckin' pockets.
Waddell reluctantly handed over his money and the youthful robber ran off into the night. Waddell did not try to run after him. Although he had been a high school track star in his youth, his scarred legs were not capable of running anymore. The surgery to remove shrapnel from both legs had made his movements slow and deliberate. Cursing under his breath, Waddell went home to his second story flat.
Under the bed was his old suitcase. And in it was his baby. A chrome plated Smith and Wesson .38. He loaded it with the bullets from his bureau drawer and stepped back into the harsh streets of the hood.
He was on a search and destroy mission. Disrespect cannot be tolerated, he reasoned.
I am gonna' kill that little motherfucka'! That little bastard gonna’ pay for disrespectin’ me.
Waddell spent hours walking the dark streets of North Philly. The night air was cold and blustery. The wind was just as Lou Rawls described in a popular tune, like a giant razor blade blowing down the street!
His light jacket did little to shield him from the biting cold. And it did not adequately conceal the .38 that was firmly tucked in his waistband. But Waddell didn’t care. He was determined to get some blood that night. He wanted a particular young blood that had taken his money.
His legs ached. And he was getting tired. His anger was starting to subside. ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’, my ass, he muttered to himself, My ass is freezing!
He continued to walk a barren landscape of abandoned houses, vacant lots and discarded automobiles that had been stripped for parts. The ground was littered with brick dust and broken glass. The air smelled of deteriorating mortar, broken wine bottles and urine. The neighborhood’s condition was the result of government policy run amuck. The Redevelopment Authority had leveled acres of stately brownstone rowhouses to make way for urban gentrification in the seventies. Its bulldozers wiped out flourishing black neighborhoods and left large segments of the city derelict.
And the riots of 1964 didn’t help matters either.
Columbia Avenue was a thriving Mecca of commerce during Waddell’s youth. But now those businesses were gone, the storefronts were boarded up and the four-mile strip was dead. Damn Niggahs scared the shit out of the Jewish merchants! And they had nothing to replace the businesses that left! Damn niggahs! he muttered.
Frustrated and tired, he was about to turn around and go back to his warm apartment when he saw a flash of color that he knew all too well. It was a green and silver Eagles’ football team jacket. This is what the youthful holdup man wore earlier in the evening.
Waddell’s anger resurrected itself. The back of his neck burned with rage.
Waddell was tired of the all the insults and disrespect. He was tired of living a life of broken promises and unfulfilled dreams. He was tired of all the bullshit.
Hey! Motherfucka! Where’s my money? he yelled.
The jacket’s occupant turned quickly, menacingly. Waddell fired one round with deadly precision. His bullet found its target, the child’s heart. Blood exploded from the chest and cascaded down to the cold ground.
Quickly, Waddell searched the body for his money.
It was only then that he realized the mistake that he had made. In the dim light of the street lamp he saw that he had killed the wrong boy. What he mistook as a gun in the child’s hand was a bunch of rolled up comic books.
Waddell wailed and fell to his knees. The child's blood flowed into the sewer.
Life was unfair. It was too cruel. Waddell placed the barrel of his .38 in his mouth and fired.
©2006 Richard C. James