“HE’s ALIVE!” the angry girl screams and jumps around in a pair of flip-flops.  “Yeah, y’alllll!  Dey ain’t gon’ chalk one up today.”

His thoughts abruptly cease, and he strains his ears to hear the nearby voices:

“Did they kill him?”

Another female gasps, “Is he dead?”

“Gurlll, I think so.”

“This is so wrong!” a third girl shouts.

“Uhmmp!” the first girl huffs and smacks her lips in unabashed anger.  “These cops out ch’ere is shady.”

Suddenly R.J. opens his eyes, lifts his head, and proceeds to crane his neck to look around at the growing crowd that’s now screaming out:

“Somebody call a ambulance!” someone yells.

At that point R.J. is about to move his lips to dispute the Officer’s claim; however, his lightbulb pops on the instant the two Officer’s begin to drag him out of the car, and he allows his body to go limp.

Through one slightly open eye, he sees the tinted sky along the horizon tilt, flash a tree top, then a house across the street, prior to the side of his face roughly meeting the cracked asphalt surface of the street.

R.J. lies there with his eyes closed, listening, waiting.  Then waiting some more.  Why me? He somberly ponders, Imma’ good dude. I’m not in the streets.  I do the right things-   

R.J.’s world becomes swathed in utter darkness and momentary silence, until a constant ringing gradually builds in his head.  Slowly, he begins to hear voices from a far off distance, but he cannot comprehend where they are coming from or what they’re saying.  It’s as if he’s in some sort of long hallway that stretches on forever.

“Fuck, Hent, ya gotta kill him now,” one voice says through the fog around R.J. that’s so thick it muffles not only the voice, but his ability to understand where he is. 

At first it takes a moment for the second voice to respond.  Then it does.  

“He’s already dead,” Henton murmurs dispiritedly. 

“Shut up!” the officer snarls thru clenched teeth.  “Ya got a weapon?”  Taking control of the situation, he reached to pat R.J.’s waist area with his left hand.  “Any drugs? Money?”

Money? R.J. shakes his head and closes his eyes in a silent

prayer as the Officer’s hand ventures down between his legs.


BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! the sound of gunfire fills the car.

“I just left my aunt’s house,” R.J. offers in the most proper manner he can muster.  “Is everything okay, Officer?”

            “Hmmm,” he replies dully, pauses for a few heartbeats, then places a hand on his firearm.  “I need you to turn off the car and step out of the vehicle, Sir.”

            “Officer,” R.J. peers pleadingly up into the man’s blue eyes.  “My paperwork is in order, why do you want me to get out of the car?”

            Following the brief exchange, the white officer’s skin turns beet-red as his lips bunch belligerently.  He silently watches the black kid.  Guilefully watches his eyes.  His hands.  He knows all-to-well how dangerous a stop like this can become. 

            “Hey!” During the long, wordless stare-off, the second officer has eased up on the passenger side of the sedan where he’s now yanked open the car door.

            Even though most of R.J.’s extended family live in so-called Rough Hoods throughout the city; he’s simply a good kid from the suburbs who’s never looked down the barrel of a gun. 

            “Shiiiiit!” he screeches in near panic, shifting the car into drive as the officer hops into the passenger seat.

            “DON’T FUCKING MOVE!” Henton barks, leveling his firearm dead-center on the kid.  “Both hands on the wheel.  Do it now!”

“I-I-I,” he stammers.  “I haven’t done anything-“

Henton used his forearm to wipe sweat from his protruding

 brow as Detrich swung around the computer to show whom the black Lexus sedan was registered to.  "Hmm," he tilted his head to the side and thought, I know that name.

            CLICK! CA-LAACCKK!  Detrich flashed a sinister grin as he chambered a round into his Glock 17.

            “That kid’s too young to be him.”  Henton said, jabbing his index finger against the screen.  “And I know for a fact he’s still doing time at a Federal Prison Camp out in Ohio.”

            “I don’t care,” he gritted and leaned to the side to holster his weapon.  “That kid’s dealing.”

            Henton gave his taller partner the once over.  “That is a really nice car he’s rolling around in.  Ya think he’s our guy’s kid?”

            Detrich’s deep-set eyes narrowed shrewdly, then he shrugged.  “I got a mortgage and a car note due.”

            “I’m wit’chu.”  Henton husks as he rushes to catch up to his partner who’s already exiting the car. 

            “Hent,” Detrich turns to lean back inside the car, “disable your mic and the dash-cam.”

            “Fuck, man!” he growled in his failing attempt to turn off the camera.  This fucker never works right for me.

            Meantime at the driver’s side of the Lexus, Officer Detrich casually looks over R.J.’s license and registration.  “So, ah, what’cha doing’ down here?”

After about an hour of hanging-out, R.J. said his goodbyes and promised to show for the Pratt family's Sunday afternoon cookout before pulling away from the curb.

            "Shit!" R.J. lamented at the sight of the patrol car that appeared following no more than 2 minutes of driving.  He held his composure, nodded cordially in the direction of the white officers, then proceeded to hit his turn-signal to make the left turn when -

            WHOOP! WHOOP!  The cops pulled him over, no more than 3 blocks from his aunt's house.

            You got to be kidding me, R.J. sighed and looked up a moment, as if trying to figure out why this was happening-- while along the sky's horizon softly swirling hues of fiery-oranges and airy pastel lavenders mingled--signaling dusk turning to night. 

            Meanwhile inside the patrol car, Officer Detrich turned to his thickly built, gung ho, spike-haired partner who was always eager to show how tough he was.  "Bingo! I got us one."

           "Don't get it fucked up," He flashed a crooked cocky grin to rival his legendary father's.  "I'll whoopa nigga  ass bout lil sis."

            Though R.J.'s father had been a feared Ghetto Superstar once upon a time, he himself had ascended to his own stardom via basketball instead of selling cocaine. 

                                                                                       * * *


curvesome young beauty.

            "Where Camille?" she asked with a sassy roll of her neck.     "In da'crib," Shawn replied, before adding, "And we don't speak dat Puerto Rican down here.  We black people."  He mocked as she vanished inside the house without so much as a look back.  He turned to R.J. and said, "She too damn young to be that fuckin' evil."

            R.J. nodded in agreement and scratched at his freshly cut one and a 1/2 against the grain haircut.  "Just make sure none of these thirsty 'ass dudes be tryin' to get at her."

            Shawn chuckled a little, "C'mon ... what'chu gon' do, college boy?"

How dis nigga a star on da' hoop court? He shorter than me.  The taller of the two sulked inwardly as he eyed R.J. from head-to-toe.  Pshhh!

            "Ball PLAYAAA!"  Shawn boasted, and good-naturedly clasped his cousin on the shoulder.  "Niggaz down here stay on some hatin' shit," he eyed one of his boys in particular, "But can't none of 'em fuck wit' that vertical, huh?"

            “Con permiso (Excuse me)!"  Selena brushed by them on the front steps, towing the overnight-bag she'd retrieved from the trunk.

            "Yo," Shawn glared down at his boys on the sidewalk, who all quickly looked away as if they weren't just eyeballing the

R.J., a handsome college freshman with the smooth chocolate complexion of a male model was all athlete, and at 5'11" he had the kind of muscular build that drove the co-eds crazy.  "Selena,"  he side-eyed his 15 year-old sister as he maneuvered the dark colored Lexus sedan down N. Euclid Avenue.  "Don't be havin' fools all up in your face."

            The French Vanilla-colored girl in the passenger seat rolled her hazel eyes, smacked her glossy lips, then turned to her window in a pout. 

            Selena hated when her brother tried to dictate to her-- and that was exactly why she loved spending time at her cousin Camille's home. 

            R.J. parked in front of a nice split-level condo tucked away in a mostly quiet section of East Liberty, and got out of the car.  He greeted his cousin Shawn with a half-hug and fistbumped a few of the local homies, while Selena stood near the car, arms crossed, tapping her foot with a You betta' come get my bag out of this trunk, look on her beautiful face. 

            "Sup, R.J.?" two more guys came from down the block and welcomed him.   

DWYB: Driving While Young and Black
by: Ray Childress