Saturday, January 17, 2009


“Top Dog, I am in the house and the game is on.  We can burn the candle at both ends.  First, I’ll set up shop here.  We’ll need 4 or 5 pigeons.” 

A pigeon is a person who gets food stamps or some kind government check but is in need of booze or drugs.  I would front them what they wanted and put them on my books.  When their check came in at the end of the month, damn near all of it would go to me.  During this time, food stamps were distributed in books.  Each book would contain stamps of different monetary values, totaling about $120.  I would buy entire books at about 50 cents on the dollar.  I knew some older ladies who would buy these food stamps from me at or near cost.  You can avoid paying taxes on your groceries when using food stamps, so these women trusted me and saw this as a deal.  I would use the rest of the food stamps to buy groceries for us, like pork chops, steaks, and hamburgers.  I would also buy large boxes of chicken quarters and bread.  I’d take the cash I made from the old women to buy cases of cheap beer and liquor.  On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, people knew to come by the rooming house to get a hot chicken sandwich and some cheap drinks.  Jewel would be cooking up the chicken, Top Dog would sell the drinks and I’d be inside cooking up coke and bagging it.  We would always close shop around midnight.  Lots of people would come to us because I would sell to them on credit.  I knew how much everyone got paid and I would never credit them more than they would make.  I’d collect as soon as they got their checks and I never had any problems getting my money.  Some people like to go to a place where everybody knows your name, but here at the Honeycomb Hideout nobody gave a fuck what your name was, as long you had your dead presidents at the end of the week or the first of the month. 

On a typical Friday or Saturday we’d make around $500-$800.  We made a little less on Sundays, because I absolutely would not sell coke on Sundays.  I was just getting back in town and I thought I was doing some kind of justice by not selling on Sunday, but in reality I was hiding out from the law…and myself.

In no time at all, I had made enough money to set up shop in New Jersey.  I would have to go up there and wait for 3 or 4 days until Mr. Speaker contacted me with a new job.  Before I went, I wanted to make sure I had enough money to give the appearance that I was doing well.  I didn’t want my former employer and coworkers to know how low my life had become.  But of course, I couldn’t bullshit Speaker; he knew. 

Nonetheless, I was able to get my same job back with the same benefits and all.  I was moving cars from city to city during the week, while Top Dog was handling business at the Honeycomb Hideout.  I was always tired.  Everything was foggy.  I would sometimes get to my destination, not remembering a damn thing from the trip there.  Not because I was high, but my mind was someplace else.  I’d throw 80’s soft rock into the CD player, and listen to Kenny Loggins, George Michaels, the Eagles and of course Rick James as I drove from state to state in a trance.  Even though I would be on the road for 10 to 12 hours a day, it was as if time stood still.

I was making money, but I was still lonely.  Why did I keep Shy Shy around?  What was I running to or running from?   I wanted to go home.  But where was my home? 

Some weekends I would drive out to the country to visit my family.  I would always go alone and never bring any of my business with me.  Money never really did me any good, but maybe it would help my brothers and sisters.  But I knew I would have to tell a lie, because I could not tell them where or how I was getting this money.  Not only was I ashamed but I also wanted to protect them in case anything went wrong.  As far as they knew, I was working out of town for a contractor. 

It was good to go home.  This was my place to escape.  I would take long walks through the woods and reflect on what I was doing.  Could I build a paradise like Mr. Speaker from a run down rooming house?  Or did I really want this life at all?   

Back at the office it was business as usual.  Top Dog and I would always have these heart to heart talks.  Sometime it was good business strategies, and sometimes it was intellectual bullshit.  The money of course was good, but he kept reminding me that my black ass was still hotter than a two dollar pistol. 

“Ricky, you need to think about getting the hell out of here and starting a new life.  You know you can always go underground in Florida or Jamaica.”

I took a long sigh and said, “Yes, I knew this day would come.  Instead of Florida or Jamaica I was thinking about going out west.  Maybe something like Oklahoma where the land is wide open.”

“What about your job with Speaker?”

“I’m thinking about getting out of all this shit, man, and just sitting back on my ass for a while.  And the best I can really do for Shy is to get out of her life and leave her some money to go to college or something.”

“Hell Dog, you’re not a cowboy or a buffalo soldier!”

“Fuck that shit.  I’ll be free.”

“How would I contact you out there?  Or how would you contact me”

I smiled and said, “Hell, I’ll send you up a smoke signal.  I think it would be best if I left in a couple of weeks.  I think it would be good for you to start thinking about leaving as well.  Let’s take the money and run.”

With his head hung low like an old mule, Top Dog said, “Yeah, I guess your right.  We’ll no longer be in the criminal business I guess.  We’ll become upright citizens.”

“Hell, it’ll be more boring than a Sunday night in Raleigh.” 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” said Eddie.  “Do you know who Gandhi was?”

“Some old white man from some damn where.  Fuck a Gandhi.”

“Rick, the man is dead.”

“Okay, I understand, but back to business.  In a couple of weeks I’ll be making reservations to head out west.  I’ll wrap things up with Mr. Speaker.  Maybe I’ll get a bonus for this and I’ll give some of this money to my family.  I will see if he can contact his people out west and maybe there I can go underground and start over again.  I want to live a normal life again.  But hell, what is normal?”

“Have you saved enough to live out there for a while?” 

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.  I’ll move from reservation to reservation until things cool down.  I can always come back and visit my family.  Eddie, I don’t know if they have a statute of limitations, but let’s keep it real.  If I am caught, the most they can give me is two or three years.  They can lock me up, but they can’t eat me.”

But in my heart I knew that this lifestyle had already eaten away a big part of who I really was; a simple country boy caught in a game of cat and mouse.   


billhrsn said...

Could sure use some help for my friend Daniel who stays at the shelter. How does a man with no address, no phone, no license, and a record get a job and his own room? I'll keep up with your stories, and hope I can help.

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