Flashing red and blue lights race through the dark city streets in-route fueling hope to quell the towering blaze. The lights cast ominous shadows as they bounce inside previous burnt out shells of the cities former glorious neighborhoods. Waffling black smoke dances in the strobe-lights creeping up to the full moon.
Zeke’s Kitchen was burning.
Local residents wander out of their homes dumbfounded, flabbergasted in pajamas and robes as they soak up the scene. Standing, starring, perplexed, in disbelief of what they are witnessing.
An elderly woman, a Zeke’s patron for over thirty years pulls her shawl over her neck. She stands near a younger family. The younger boy notices a single tear on her cheek.
She takes a deep breath, exhales, “Smells like waffles.”
“I smell sweet potato pie, or maybe its candied yams. Its no matter.” Another man inhales.
A woman slows down in her car, “Oh my goodness, I can taste the cheesiest mac and cheese. I want some.”
Tyrone Hill stumbles out of his hole, he drops a liquor bottle and falls to his knees, he places his hat over his chest. Taking a deep breath he starts to sing,
“The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Or also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, saying “How do you do?”
They’re really saying, I love you
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more and I’ll never know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful life…”
The swelling crowd stays quiet listening to the stirring but odd a capella rendition.
“Mmmmm collard greens, black eyed peas. Oh, I’m weak fellas.” Fire chief Brian Scott emblazoned on his coat groans stepping out of his cab. “Let’s put this blaze out now men! Save the food!”
“Man, this was the food we had at my wedding you D’jayed at Chief. We have to save this joint! This isn’t one of the left behinds.” His second in command sighs as he attaches the hoses.
“Let’s use the good equipment, we can’t hold back for this one no matter the costs. The city council can kiss my butt! Let’s go!”
“We’ll just add it to the bankruptcy!”
They smile and both show their wristbands of “Eat@Zekes nodding in agreement before rushing towards the blaze with their team.
The shameless food cart operators arrive actually opening their business for the growing crowd.
Embers dance and spiral into the night sky floating upwards as the city mourns another lost icon. Somewhere a little devilish imp chuckles and skips away into the mist gleefully.
Silvia bumps between people in the crowded theatre making her way to her seat. Her cell is buzzing consistently but she can’t answer it quick enough. Utopia and Sasha await in their aisle. Utopia sits distant, distraught, quiet as Sasha attempts to cheer her up.
“Utopia, really, what’s up? You’ve been quiet since we picked you up. What happened since the last time we talked?”
Utopia shrugs, “Don’t worry about it. Enjoy the show, Black Milk is on next.”
Silvia squeezes by, her phone still erupting. “Is Mo back?”
“Get your cell, nothing more annoying than somebody ignoring important information.” Utopia snarls.
“Girl, what’s eating you? I’ll get it dang.”
“She got something up her butt, I don’t know, she’s been like this all evening.”
“Stop riding my back Sasha, jeez. Sil, why did you and Mo want to come here so badly for anyway? You – you’re more a Maxwell, Kem type and Maureen is ol’ school.”
“You are foul tonight lil’ Miss. And I’m down with Black Milk, Slum, Dilla, Apollo and Guilty, Common, Lupe, Kid Cudi. In fact, we may be meeting a special member of Kommandoz tonight.”
“Oh really, how you figure? You a groupie now or something? I know you’re not being a thot, mama would awake from her coma.”
“Hey watch it young miss. Mama is not in any coma. What’s your deal?” Maureen arrives with drinks. Silvia finally answers her cell.
Sasha shakes her head as she takes her drink, “Some message she received today got her all in her feelings.”
“Watch the show, lights are dimming.” Utopia bites.
Silvia drops her cell in the dark. The girls look at her concerned as she shakes. Black Milk is starting his show but they don’t hear him. The bass vibrates through them, flipping their stomachs.
Maureen grabs her arm, “Sil, what’s the deal?”
Trembling Silvia picks the cell back up, covers her ear, “What, say that again? I don’t understand, I was just there. I just checked up on the restaurant made sure everything was okay after the protest. We was just there.”
Maureen looks into her eye pleading, “Silvia, what is happening? I can barely hear anything.”
Silvia puts up her finger, “This was after everybody had left? Somebody got shot running away from the scene? Do they know who it was? This is too much.”
Sasha and Utopia look on concerned now, “What the what is happening Silvia?”
Silvia sighs, shuts off her cell, rubs her face before turning to them, tears continue to flow, “Zeke’s is on fire. Our restaurant is on fire.” The eccentric hard bass snaps back in as the four of them are lost in their own world.
Detroit City Distillery
Theodore and Marty Simon cheer with a bottle of Detroit City Vodka along with City Commissioner Marisol Banter at a secluded booth in the corner. Outside a familiar BMW arrives.
Ezekiel walks past a live newsreel of the restaurant burning as he joins his partners. “Adidos partners, heard we have a breakthrough with the development deal. Ms. Banter good to see you again.” Ezekiel kisses her hand and winks at her.
“Likewise” She blushes, the men look as if there is more to the wink and the smile.
“Word has it your mother is out of the Woods.” Theodore quips as Ezekiel squints his eyes at him. Marty shakes his head.
“My mother is still in a doctor induced coma mind you Mr. Simon, I have no need and no mood for your lackadaisical stabs at humor especially where it concerns my family.” Ezekiel stares Theodore right in the eye making his elder partner squirm.
The waitress brings Ezekiel a glass as Theodore stutters an uncomfortable apology, “Well, no need to get snotty ol’ boy. Was genuinely concerned about your mother is all. No harm.”
“No worries Theodore ol’ boy.” Ezekiel gives him a smirk as they raise their glasses in toast.
Marty sighs a sigh of relief, elated to avoid a potential heated meltdown, “To new development and new beginnings, Ezekiel without your knowledge and research this project wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Kudos my esteemed partner, you’ve done Detroit proud.”
Ezekiel swishes the local concoction and grins, “Thank you Marty, I’m just a small pawn in the game. Just looking to elevate our small fledgling partnership with our quality clients.” He raises his glass towards Ms. Banter, she smiles.
“To you and yours Zekey.” The Simon brothers eye each other curiously mouthing ‘Zekey?’ She continues, “The city is grateful your firm has been instrumental in clearing up red tape and opening up new opportunities. Its such necessary baby steps to bring back the city.” They tap and sip, she brushes his foot with his. “And bringing back fond memories.” She smiles at him. “Speaking of which isn’t Mo in town? Hows that working out for you?” She pauses as she senses his losing interest, she adds, “Does she know she’s here?” He snaps his head glaring at her, nostrils flaring.
Theodore perks up, “Well, Zekey boy, you ready to meet our silent partner? Tonight’s the night we’ve talked about. He just informed me he’s here.”
“Theodore, we’ve been partners now seven years, you may call me Mr. Woods.”
Theodore slants his eyes not expecting that response, he glances over at Marisol who shrugs nonchalantly. Marty raises his glass, “Been a long time coming Ezekiel but since the recent victory of our success our silent partner agreed to finally meet with us tonight. He’s been very instrumental in acquiring data and more importantly the funding to assist the partners purchasing parcels and making the project come to life!”
Ezekiel finally breaks his gaze at Theodore and Marisol, wipes his mouth with a napkin and looks around, “Okay, I’m game, been curious about this connection for months. We needed funding, he came through. Who can we thank for this?”
“Me fool, P.I.M.P. I told you I was going to collect on that old blood arrangement one day. You welcome.” Lydell Winkleman leans on his cane directly behind him smirking.
Ezekiel almost spits out his vodka. He sits up glaring at Lydell then his partners, “Surely you’re kidding me? This is some type of prank? Am I on punked?”
Theo and Marty look perplexed, “Ezekiel, Mr. Winkleman comes highly recommended, an astute businessman. Was able to make many negotiations right for us.”
“And of course he insisted on keeping it in secrecy.” Ezekiel shakes his head.
“Zekey ol’ boy, said you two went to school together. Played on the same teams. Figured you’d be okay.” Theo quips making the situation worse.
“Ezekiel, you know Lydell has worked with the planning commission, he’s very instrumental in the city’s redevelopment. I am surprised of your tone.” Marisol looks on seriously.
“This is absurd. Obviously my partners blinders are strong. This poses a serious dilemma! What seriously did you foresee the outcome of this collaboration?”
Lydell brushes his pointy goatee, smirks as he glances over to the television and back, “Payback’s a bitch isn’t it Zekey? Oh gentrification doesn’t necessarily have to be an evil word, but in the hands of the hood’s chosen son its going to be quite ugly isn’t it?”
Marisol follows Lydell’s gaze to the breaking news events, she gasps. “Oh my goodness, Ezekiel isn’t that your mother’s restaurant?”
Ezekiel breaks his gaze from Lydell, his eyes resting on the live news report from the burning restaurant. Mouth agape, he is truly shook, wobbly, he was standing, he now has to sit. Lydell cackles in the background ominously.
The hip-hop band Kommandoz are going through an energetic set that includes ukuleles, rattle shakers, sombras, rattlers, bonjo’s and more as the the eclectic group wraps up their set. The large ensemble rocks together in unison bringing their unique sound to life behind the energetic front men rapping to the groove.
Finishing off the set with one of their early reggae hybrid classics ‘Believer’; the vibe is relaxed, calm, the lights are dimmed, fans have their lighters and cell phones held high.
Silvia and Maureen push their way towards the front eager to see if their intel about their long lost brother was correct. Kevin Woods was already seen as the outcast of the family over ten years ago, running in and out of trouble, hanging with the wrong crowd, dropping out of high school, catching minor felonies, he was on his way to becoming a statistic, another lost fallen solider succumbing to the pressures of the mean streets. Zeke Sr. had already shown him the front door disappointed in his young seed’s choices. Mama always let him through the back door to get a sandwich or cop a nap.
Things went to the head the night Zeke Sr. left this earth. As he was all the way across the city in Casstown getting supplies for his restaurant, he was filling his truck with product when allegedly he was jumped by juvenile delinquents. Four young black teenagers were seen fleeing the scene as Zeke laid on the hard pavement clutching his heart. While not proven shot or stabbed; alas he passed that evening.
One young mans pants were so low he lost them behind a bush as he scaled a fence. His school badge was in his pockets along with a 38’ revolver tucked in his waistband. That teenager was Kevin’s best friend Kohn. Shortly after Kevin was called into to be questioned he vanished from the Motor City. Ezekiel Jr., his own older brother, declared his guilt and put a restraining order against him to ever return to his family home. He even assisted the investigators in his search and recovery, not for the fam’s sake, for his persecution. Nobody has heard from him since.
Mama and his sisters have tried in vain to locate him, to update him that charges had been dropped, that he was cleared of any wrong doing. They have failed continuously. Now, a decade later Mama lies in the hospital, possibly on her death bed, the family reunited around her side, the fate of their beloved restaurant up in smoke. All of sisters Silvia’s and Maureen’s research, along with the surprise twist of Kevin Jr. living in their home city, has lead them to this hip-hop show at the Fox Theatre.
As Silvia and Maureen flank the beefy security guard blocking the stage, their eyes gaze past the front men prancing back and forth, the plethora of musicians jamming their instruments, the smoke and dimness of the arena, to the lone drummer backing up the band in the back. In the press this mans name is Kwame Da’Man, with a long strand of natty dreads bouncing over his eyes, a heavy chinstrap goatee complete with beaded point, tattooed out, older, filled out, in shape, he looked good. This was not the same baby faced, naive, didn’t know a drumstick from a guitar pic Kevin they had last saw years ago with so much trouble on his mind. But, their gut instincts all pointed that this indeed was Kevin.
As the song fades and the group raises their fists in triumph they shout out, “Yo Detroit, get ready for your native sons “Slum Village!” The crowd jumps into an uproar as T3, Illa J, the Young RJ are joined by honorary member Elizhi to break into rhyme.
Elizhi calls out “Yo, What’s up Detroit!’ Much to the crowds delight. “We want to start off the show giving mad props to a community institution and a favorite drop off stop of mine to get the one and only Collard Greens Pizza.” The crowd whoops and holla’s knowing what restaurant he’s referring too. “Zeke’s Kitchen Ya’ll.” And they applaud in respect.
“Me and the boys were going to stop by Zeke’s tonight after Dilla’s Delight’s to bash.” People yell out ‘Dilla’ after mentioning the beloved supreme producer. “Instead we found a standoff amongst a protest.” The crowd goes silent as several concur they were there. “It ended peacefully thanks to a divine intervention by God, thank goodness after so many similar recently haven’t.” The crowd claps. “Regrettably afterwards somebody caught the store on fire.” The crowd gasps and there are people crying. “We going to rock this set to our beloved hometown, Zeke’s Kitchen and Mama’s speedy recovery that she’ll be back to build. We need our Soul, we need our soul food!” They clap again in a roar as the backing band picks up the groove.
As the members of Slum Village start to rock they notice a small but significant side-note happening to the left. As their tour-mate, Kommandoz drummer Kwame stares dumbfounded, his eyes watery, his sticks drops, he’s blindsided staring face to face with his equally teary eyed lost family.
A channel 7 news reporter interviews the oddest person on the street outside Zeke’s as Tyrone sings in the background. Akee, the gas station manager next door smiles in the camera hawking fake gold from his store, “Yo, I hear explosion and felt the heat singe my goatee, I swear I smelt my favorite gizzards from Zeke’s burning! I rushed out smelling burnt gizzards and my mouth dropped… It’s a shame, a tragic shame…”