fiction by Jason Edwards
I was sitting at home, watching a taped re-run of the 2010 VMAs, and I found I was thirsty. I got up from the couch, didn’t bother turning off the TV as I’d seen this tape a hundred times before (it was starting to show signs of wear, of stretching, blue and red and green lines across the picture in places. I bet if Nicki Minaj were to work with one of those hipster producers, they’d love the effect). At my front door, I eschewed the leopard print high-heels for some flippity-floppies, and left my rented domicile. I didn’t bother locking the door. Yolo.
The 7-11 is only a block from my house, and I do sport mad swag, but I didn’t fear any uncouth comments from the neighborhood denizens. My weave was perched, purple and gold glitter, expertly atop my crown. My jean jacket hugged my curves like Drake hugs lyrics. My strut did things to my butt that marshaled respect, not cat-calls. And so it was: I arrived at the goal of my brief sortie, and I entered the place, twerking like a coaster.
Behind the counter, a down digga Crucian name of Raja Mahn. On the PA, Waka Flocka, which meant Raja’s boss, a racist, was gone for the day. Not that I cared. Racists don’t step to when I break the scene. But I always feel bad for Raja, off the boat and working for a wheat thin. Then again, bad job better than no job, as the float-brothers say, and it’s not like Raja can work a pole, trap a baby daddy and get some government, buy him formula and blank video tapes. More power to him, and for solidarity I raised a left fist as I made my way to the 4-Loko. Raja never stares at me ass. Maybe he sweet.
Grabbed the can, really, and spun on my toes (purple and gold glitter, polish to match my ebony tiara) and considered beef jerky. Does it have pork in it? Should a queen of my demeanor eat of the pig? My mother ate of the pig, and looked what happened to her. Flat broke, don’t know who her children’s father is, I should say are, riding the bus every place and so damn skinny she was always knees and elbows. Naw, I said to myself in my quiet voice. I chose Slim Jims instead.
I went up to counter, forgetting for a second my flippity-floppies and walked on my toes like I was in da club and pretending to be Tay-Tay so I can get some baby drank. My own fault. I was already thinking about the 4-Loko coursing down my throat, grape and that alcohol bite, heady fumes cascading up and down my sinuses, rendering a sister cloudy and not unhappy with her brief pinprick of an existence in the universe’s vast eternal nothingness. As if. As if I was down at AppleJacks with Gucci Mane all in my lobes and Raja my standby, purchasing overpriced potables for me to guzzle before I gargle. As if, as I said.
Mahn rang me up, shy-like, but I already had my pickles and limes in hand to pay. And then he said, in that island voice “We now take EBT” And he pointed at the front door, where there was probably a new sticker sign saying the same thing.
In a perfect world, the PA would have screeched to a stop, like a piano player in one of those old Oaters freezing when the uncouth gentleman larger than his horse stomps through the saloon doors. EBT. Electronic Benefit Transfer. Fancy for foodstamps. This big-ass adam’s apple havin’ dark as 97 cent cacao bein’ Goodwill bought FUBU-wearin’ for the man workin’ lips like a coupla tuptus boy motherfucker thinks I’m on the welfare? I didn’t know whether to laugh in his rat-zombie face or swing my hand around like Jackson Tyson Jordan Game 6 and slap that black off his pan. Break a nail if I did.
Instead, I went Socrates on him. I said “How’s EBT going to pay for alcohol, brother?”
He just blinked a few times. “Alcohol?” he said.
I held up the 4-Loko. “What do you think this is, baby ap-ser-in?” I can cop a hood accent when I need to.
Raja looked baffled. “But this is not alcohol. Children come in here all of the time and buy this.”
I just shook my head, counting out coins for my drank and my jims. “Methinks you’re the victim of some faulty logic there, Smullyan. The crime’s not in the buying. It’s in the selling.” Slapped my change down on the counter and turned to the door. Didn’t care if it was exact. Home slice can keep the pennies.
“Smullyan?” he said, as I was leaving.
“Less digga mo’ periodicals, rain man,” I said, and left.
Strutted my stuff down my block and to my place. Nice day, so I sat on the stoop steps and sipped my simple spirited libation. I could hear my TV through the window, three floors up, VMA tape still playing, a commercial for Pepsi or Fritos or Chrysler or something—I can never tell that trailer park shit apart. This was the point on the tape where I usually turn it off, because the next part was where that stimple maphro wins the award for video of the year. In a meat dress (and you know there’s of the pig on it).
But I let it play, sitting there, the sun bouncing around brownstones and even the one tree half a block away still standing. A few rats walked by, didn’t say a word. A car drove past, with nary an acceleration or deceleration and its bass wasn’t too loud to drown out my thoughts: poor Raja. Maybe he sweet, maybe not. Maybe he thought he was being nice, offering up the EBT, maybe that boss told him to tell everyone. And I maybe I should have been more angrier at him, but if he’s selling Sparks to babies, he’s got more to worry about than using foul vocabulary in front of a queen.
Sometimes you just got to let folks be. Isn’t anyone who can harm you that you didn’t hand the weapons to yourself. One of the Martins said that.