My life in the sunshine, everybody loves the sunshine, folks get down in the sunshine, folks get brown in the sunshine. Just bees and things and flowers. Feel what I feel, feel what I’m feeling in the sunshine. Do what I do, do what I’m doing in the sunshine.
– Roy Ayers
Poetic vibes ooze through Freddy Styles earbuds as he rounds another bend jogging on Belle Isle pre-dawn early morning Detroit. A light drizzle sprinkles his face as suddenly the fog lifts and rays of sunshine peek through over the horizon, bounding across the waves of lake Michigan from the Canadian border. Freddy takes a moment to soak in the majestic sunrise. He continues on his fitness quest.
Back in the city, Freddy keeps pace through the streets. The 73 year old is in better shape than many of the younger people he passes by. He bounces up the concrete stairs to the walkway above I-75 and crosses to the other side.
“Freddy! Que pasa mane!” Jose, a local vendor setting up his clothing cart is familiar with Freddy’s route. Freddy waves and keeps stepping.
“Yo Freddy my mans! You ready to get that platinum necklace for your lady ol’ G?” Another vendor setting up holla’s out.
“I hear ya Stephen! Maybe next week when you find something not sprayed on!”
“Ah, why you call me out like that homie!”
“Maybe when you show me your official vendors license!”
Stephen waves his arms in defeat as Freddy disappears into the adjoining neighborhood.
Making his way back into his east side borough, Freddy keeps an eye out for problems. Being a member of the neighborhood watch, he takes it seriously vandals who want to destroy the remaining structures standing. With so many foreclosures and abandonment of neighborhood homes, it’s just a shell of its former glory. Homeless, squatters, drug dealers, prostitutes and other vagrants take up shelter causing more issues or many are lost to thieves and arsonists scrounging for anything worth value.
Is a bittersweet irony the once glorious Motor City succumbed to bankruptcy such as the auto makers before them that built it.
Freddy has long been considered the rock of his neighborhood, running the community center, coaching baseball, a deacon at the church, an astute businessman. His immediate tight knit neighborhood reflects this as he rounds the corner from several burnt out homes to a tree laced, clean, kept up paradise. Most of the homes on his block are still occupied, hold a decent value and everybody looks out for each other.
He breathes a sigh of relief, no new ‘for sale‘ signs. It was oddly quiet this morning, even for it still being fairly early.
His instincts kicked in, something was amiss. He was almost at his house when something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. His across the street neighbor Gladys Wright was away for the week visiting relatives in St. Louis, so why was her kitchen window ajar?
Freddy flicks off the music and snaps a shot of the window. He steps forward to inspect further, his finger ready to call his detective contact Enrique Gonzales on speed dial. He hears something crash in her basement, he dials.
“It’s Freddy, have some trespassers over at Ms. Wrights, I’m standing watch outside.”
“Freddy, I’ll have somebody on their way, now you just stand watch man, don’t get in the way of police business!”
“Enrique, would I do that?”
He snickers, “Um, we’re talking about Mr. Freddy Styles here, just stay down brother, we on the way.”
“Copy that.” He hangs up the phone and moves towards the window as he hears chattering.
Two masked men emerge out of the window carrying bags of electronics and jewelry. The first one stumbles and catches his footing. The other struggles to get out with the heavy sack.
“Hey man, catch this.”
“Hold on fool, I almost fell yo.”
“Don’t ruin that stuff negro, we bout to get paid!”
Freddy is recording the entire conversation, the first man suddenly notices him as the second finally gets out.
“You two aren’t gonna get paid anything in prison!”
“The hell? Where’d you come from ol’ man?” The second one glares at him as the other sprints.
“Yo let’s roll!” The second one starts after him, “I’m not getting caught fo’sho!”
Freddy frowns, “Jaquan? Jaquan Mendelson? That you? Boy, what the Sam hill?”
They stop in their tracks before jumping the fence, the second gasps, “What? How’d the old man make you fool?”
Jaquan shakes his head, continues up the fence.
“Boy, I know your mama! Your dad died in prison, do you want to follow in his footsteps? Boy, don’t repeat his tragic mistake. I’m going to have to call your mama.”
Jaquan pauses, “Wait, don’t do that.”
“Crap fool, I’mma have to take out this ol’ man! What the hell!” The second thug pulls out a switchblade. He steps towards Freddy who doesn’t flinch.
Sirens are heard in the distance as Jaquan starts to panic, “Did you already call the cops?!”
Freddy nods as he looks for her number, “Oh yes boy, and I’m looking for your mother’s number.”
“Damn yo! I’mma bust grandpa’s head wide open!” The boy lunges at Freddy, he blocks the attack and grabs and twists the boys arms behind his back before putting him into a chokehold. The boy is in shock, squirming.
“Dang it young man, made me mess up my search.”
“Freddy, hey man, don’t call my mama, she gone yo.”
The boy struggling in the hold gasps, looks at them both.
“What you mean gone?”
Jaquan pulls off his mask, sighs as he licks his lips.
“Boy, I asked you a question, what you mean she’s gone?”
The boy keeps struggling with Freddy’s hold. “The hell?! Why you two just chatting? J, bust this ol’ man! I don’t give a f…”
Freddy quickly squeezes the boy neck knocking him out, “Oh shut it young man, talk to much!”
“Did you kill him?”
“Naw, he just sleep. He’ll be all right. Do you want to be all right?”
Jaquan shrugs, not sure what to say as the sirens come closer.
“Boy, do you want to chat to my friends coming or talk to me?”
“Man, what we gonna talk bout man?”
“A better future for you. Can be a moron with your buddy here or maybe let me help guide you on a better plan.”
“All right man, don’t be no funny stuff. I’ll see what you talkin’ bout fo’sho.”
“Cool then, come on hurry up.”
Freddy drops the bags and knife on the boy’s chest as he rolls over and snores. They quickly walk across the street to Freddy’s as cop cars come flying around the corner.
Freddy opens the door as Jaquan hesitates, “Son, I’m not a crazy serial killer, get your fool butt in there so we can figure this out.”
They go inside as the police arrive. They spot the snoring boy holding the bags and surround him.
They watch the arrest as other curious neighbors arrive to spectate. Police lift the handcuffed boy to the cruiser. They take off his mask as he looks around bewildered, drool on his lips.
“Hey, where am I? I was on my way to get ice cream.”
“Yeah right kid, in the car you go.”
“Wait, I want to order pistachio.” The boy murmurs as they hold his head into the vehicle.
Enrique arrives, notices the boys confusion, “What’s wrong with him?”
The arresting officer shrugs, “I don’t know, it’s how we found him.”
Enrique looks over at Freddy’s house, shakes his head, but then smiles and nods. Freddy nods back in his bay window.
“I want ice cream!” The boy yells in the cruiser.
Freddy shakes his head and walks away from the window, “So sit down boy, what’s this mess about your mama? I know I haven’t seen her in church for good over a month or two.”
“She gone sir.” Jaquan sinks into the seat.
“Gone? She on a trip? She pass away? I can’t help you I don’t know what you’re talking about. Lay it out kid.”
Jaquan acts out cooking and ingesting crack cocaine. Freddy huffs and sits down in shock, “She used to be doing so well, she was what, the auto financier down at Mel’s Auto Sales? Was at church every week, what happened?”
Jaquan sighs, looks out the window, “Life.”
They sit in silence for a moment, watching the cops investigate across the street.
“You want a soda boy?” Jaquan nods yes as Freddy goes to his refrigerator. He brings back two colas.
“Real sad to hear about your mother. Isn’t there a younger child at the house?”
Jaquan nods, “My little brother, Jory.” He casually turns music on his phone, Flatbush Zombies “Friday.”
Freddy wipes his face, looks at Jaquan bewildered before banging his cola on the table, “Turn that crap off boy! What the hell are you gonna do? Thievery isn’t the answer, you’re not a moron, you know better. What, go sell some poison on the streets? Same poison killing your moms? This Detroit kid, they gonna eat your young ass alive and you gonna end up in prison just your pops! Or worse, in an unmarked grave. Is that what you want? Or you gonna do something about it?”
Jaquan looks perplexed, “I dunno man, I dunno.”
“Is that your final answer? Really? Boy you have your diploma, a G.E.D? Something?”
“No, nothing man, I dropped out eleventh grade.”
“You just ready to be another statistic kiddo, shame, shame. And what’s going to happen to Jory in all this mess? Big brother is setting a perfect example for him by being a hot mess. Good job kid, his fate rests on your shoulders you dig what I’m saying?”
Jaquan sighs, shuffles in his seat as he takes another drink.
“Boy are you listening?!” Freddy stands up practically lurching at him, Jaquan spills the soda.
“Yeah man, yes sir, yes!” Jaquan looks at him in amazement.
“Boy, a job would be your first step. Got to step up and be a man.”
Freddy makes a call, Pooky answers, “Zeke’s Kitchen, come eat at Zeke’s and get a half off coupon for your next visit.”
“Pook, don’t you guys need a dishwasher?”
“Freddy! What’s up man. Um, yeah, we lost one in all the chaos with Mama.”
“I have a young man ready to come down and wash.” Jaquan looks at him puzzled.
“What? Half these kids hate washing dishes, they run for the hills. Who you got man? They going to stay?”
“Oh yes, he’s going to stay, he knows whats good for him. I have Jaquan Mendelson ready to go, when you need him?”
“Jaquan? That the same kid who, what the heck, Freddy man, he done tried to rob the store…”
“And Mama bailed him out and offered him the job then, Pook, trust, she’ll okay this and the kids will be okay, I need you to okay this now. I ever do you wrong bud?
“Well I, no, but…”
“But nothing Pooky, when you need him, he ready.”
Pooky groans, realizes this is a no-win battle, “Ugh, okay tell the boy he can come by 4pm. He better be on time, I’m going to be watching him!”
“4pm tonight, done deal, he’ll be there!”
Freddy clicks off the phone, stares Jaquan down shifting in his seat. “Okay, I don’t suggest just anybody, this my name on the line. I need you to show me your skills.”
Freddy gets up and runs the hot water in his sink, pours the soap. Jaquan watches. Freddy looks at him, “Boy, the sink is not going to bite you, get your butt over here!”
Jaquan jumps up, “Yes sir, I didn’t understand.”
“Boy, you have a lot to learn. I’m sorry son that you’re in this situation, it’s not entirely your fault, but you have a lot of responsibility thrust on your shoulders right now. I’ll talk to the ladies at the church and see if we could set up some type of intervention for your mother. You should be concentrating on education and your future. Right now, lil’ bro needs you. So you need to wash a dish.”
Freddy holds the dirty plate to Jaquan who stares at it before finally accepting. He washes, shows it to Freddy. “Missed a spot son, let’s do it again.” They continue until he gets it right.
“Slayed are those who fell victim to the pipe, a drug controlled substance contained in a vial, set up by the devil as he looks and he smiles, good at the game of tricknology, but I have knowledge of myself, you’re not fooling me.”
Freddy sits in front of Mama’s bed, dressed in a brown corduroy suit, he places a white rose on her chest.
“Ms. Tyla Monroe, girl I remember when you first showed up off that Greyhound from Ohio. OMG, was the prettiest little thing I’d ever seen, I about passed out. Those lips were to die for. I thought I had me a nice new lil’ girlfriend. And then my dear friend Ezekiel Sr. stepped up and stole your heart. You two were inseparable ever since and I was none the happier for my good friends. We’ve all been through a lot, the marches and the riots, the weddings, the births, the funerals, this last decade its been worse than ever around here but your love of life has persevered. Its been a wild ride Ms. Tyla, life wouldn’t have been the same over the last fifty years without you, definitely wouldn’t have been none the better.”
Freddy reaches and holds her hand for a moment, her thumb twitches, touches him back. Freddy smiles.
He continues, “Why I remember that one time when those skunks showed up behind the restaurant and you scooped them up before they could do anything…”
“Life can be only what you make it, when you’re feeling down you should never fake it, say whats on your mind and you’ll find in time, that all of the negative energy will all decease.”
Mary J. Blige
Trivia! Music lovers, besides being relevant, what do my music references in this month’s chapter all have in common? Message me for hints! 🙂