“My mom sent me to the store with a food stamp
For a pack of cigarettes and a book at the newsstand (here)
Two dudes ran up, jumped out of a blue van
I looked down at the ground and picked up a huge branch
I swung it at the first dude, the other one with him
So he tried to rush, I swept his legs pinned him and bit him
He came back with six or seven dudes screaming “Get Him!”
Eminem * ‘Food Stamp’
Detroit – Ten years earlier:
Kevin Woods saunters with effortless swag, quickly crisscrossing the potholes of Seven Mile, bobbing his starter row of mini-twists head in sync to Kanye West booming on his bubulous Sony headphones. Even though he’s on foot he shines in his black Adidas hoodie, velvet sweats, thick white gold chain with classic black and white shell toes. Kevin is in a zone rapping and air drumming along with Mr. West, “I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny, and what I do? Act more stupidly, bought more jewelry, more Louie V, my Mama couldn’t get through to me…”
“A yo K- Swizzle!” A familiar voice booms from down the street by the gun shop, it’s his boy Zach walking towards him on the opposite side of the street with homie Quinton.
“A yo homies!” Kevin yells back as Quinton gives him the finger salute, Kevin replies the same. They make motions to head towards each other.
“This dude…” Kevin snickers to himself watching Zach lose his sagging pants while attempting to cross the street.
A blue van encroaches behind the distracted Kevin as he watches Zach stumbling on his pants cuffs.
Kevin snickers “Ahh you can’t even walk N…” The van startles him, cuts him off as two dudes jump out. “What the?” Rushing towards him Kevin backpedals and grabs a nearby tree branch, he swings at the first dude than the second. Ducking and rolling the man springs back up and rushes again, he swings at his legs tripping him and pinning him on the ground. Dude is still swinging as Kevin finds himself biting him to subdue him. The man screams as his boy pushes Kevin off.
“Yo Kev what the heck! Yo!” Quinton and Zach are rushing up as the unknown men scramble into the van. They are barely inside the van as the driver steps on the gas spurting up gravel to escape. Quinton exchanges a few blows with an attacker dangling outside the sliding van door before they bounce out into the street and gets away.
“We’ll be back Woods!” The man yells out as they disappear in traffic.
Quinton brushes himself off angrily as he scowls at traffic, “For real yo, you know these fools? I’m gonna get my boy Jaquan and bust a cap in somebody!”
“Kev, who the hell was that man? You in some type of trouble or something?” Zach huffs surveying the scene of the crime.
“No, no, I have no idea, seriously yo, that was some illness for real. All I know is Mama gave me the food stamp card to run to the corner store to get some milk, eggs, cheese and a crosswords puzzle book man, then I saw you dudes and bam it was a wrap.”
“You really had no idea? Man that didn’t seem like a random jump nah mean. They knew your name.”
“That’s that bull man, I’m getting my homies, we taking these fools out!”
“Quinton chill no need to escalate it man, we need to strategize and figure out things, I don’t like this yo, I don’t like this crap at all!”
They head into the corner store as Kevin seeks out the requested items, Quinton continues bouncing around full of hyped up energy.
“And since when does the Woods family need food stamps anyways?”
“Since the auto plant shut down and everything around it, Zeke’s business has been dry! Thought you knew!”
“Shut the front door, Woods family even feeling the effects of the Detroit shut down! I remember the heyday of Zeke’s; bros were packed wall to wall waiting for that fried fish, collard greens, okra, chicken fried steak, pork ribs…”
“Black eyed peas, cornbread, gizzards, ham hocks, sweet potatoes…”
“You two are bringing back serious memories. I miss those days, restaurant is struggling. Dad is over Casstown having to pick up cheaper meat now!”
“Man, I’m getting hungry! What were those ones, Ox jaws or something?”
“Pigs feet” Quinton laughs, finally mellowing out.
“Yeech, I’m good on that and Chitterlings.” Zach scrunches his nose.
“Cause you a redhead freckled face fool, you grew up on some escargot or something. Don’t know nothin bout that down home food.” Quinton jabs Zach.
“The swine rejects is what Master fed the slaves, establishing a new tradition injected into our DNA.” Quinton makes a face at the serious Kevin.
“Oh hell no, isn’t that snails or something?”
“You tell me!”
“Bro, I grew up on Ramen noodles, mayo sandwiches and Kool-Aid just like ya’ll. Trailer parks don’t have any escargot or whatever the hell that is!”
“Hmmm and that government cheese whew! Obama needs to bring back that service right to the house, the cheese, the bread, milk, eggs, cereal. Loved getting that joint’s right at the door!” Quinton rubs his stomach.
“Fool, cause you was too lazy to run to the corner store to buy it!” Kevin jabs him as they laugh.
“Hey though, that government cheese was the whip! Last forever, cut a bit of mold off, keep eating!” Zach injects.
“That doesn’t even sound right, probably was some type of experiment on us, probably injected with pesticides or something. Gotta eat the right foods that mother nature intended for us, fresh, organic, from the earth, not all that preservatives, msg, stuff you can’t pronounce.” Kevin gets serious on them.
“There you go with that conspiracy bull again Kevin, lighten up homie. Like they would do something like that to us!”
Kevin and Zach both stare at Quinton deadpan. He shrugs, “What?”
Tires squeal startling them as they exit the store, the van is back.
Kevin shakes his head, “Are you kidding me?”
Quinton moves towards the van fists up, “Bring it!”
The sliding door pops open and six or seven guys leap out, “Get him!”
“Awe hell no!” Quinton backs into Kevin and Zach as the men rush them, they turn and run. Men race behind them as the van squeals tires and follows in pursuit. Quinton races behind a house, “Come on!”
The boys leap over a fence as sirens ring out in the neighborhood. Kevin’s heart falls into his stomach as he hears a large commotion erupting from the next block. The small trio scramble through brush and backyards avoiding Seven Mile.
“Yo man, I’m pisst, just bought these K-Swiss.” Quinton grumbles as they peer over another fence. “I’ll just have to throw these out, grass stains are murderous.”
“Seriously though? What size you wear man? I’ll take them!” Zach pleads.
“Guys… back to the present? We have cops and unknown assailants battling it out and we don’t know which way to go.” Kevin shakes his head.
“Bruh, you have unknown assailants tracking you down like an Eminem song. Not us, you. We innocent accomplices. Dudes in a blue van, what the…” Zach pulls out a blunt listening to Quinton rattle on before pausing. “Bruh, did you really just pull out a blunt?”
“Dude, this was getting old, we just ran like a mile or something down Seven mile. I got some type of sticky plant things on my socks, think I cut my leg, I’m tired, hungry, time for a smoke.”
Quinton shakes his head before reaching out, “Bruh, don’t be stingy.”
“You two are unbelieveable.”
“Hey, what you boys doing in my lawn crushing my baby’s flowers?” A booming voice rings out with the click of a gun.
Ezekiel Sr. is loading his van from the supply store, it’s almost completely full as the sun is starting to set casting shadows. He’s wedging a carton of flour into the cramped space when something startles him scurrying about in the parking lot. He looks around, shakes it off and keeps packing. It rolls underneath a car.
“What the? Who’s there, what is that?”
He hears something like a child snickering. He looks under the cars, down the lot, doesn’t see anything. He goes back to packing.
There is a laugh in the shadows. He looks around, “Who’s there? Show yourself!” He grumbles and slams the door. “Damn kids.”
He pulls out his keys when something flashes by the lone tree behind the lot. Squinting he peers towards the tree as something seems to be standing beside it. It moves, laughs at him. It seems to be a little man, taunting, mocking him
“Who are you, what do you want?”
The little man stands a bit more erect, he seems to have horns and long fingernails. His little arm shakes, he rears a pointy nail towards Ezekiel. He speaks but is barely audible.
“Hey man, I don’t know what you’re on but I don’t want any trouble. I’m going to go now.” Ezekiel heads for his door when a huge rock dents into his door. He wheels around at the little imp, he seems bigger. “Hey, what’s the deal man! Who’s going to pay for that?”
“Loser” The imp mutters.
“What you call me?”
“Loser!” He throws another rock bashing through the window of the van.
“Damn it!” Ezekiel slings a rock back as the imp laughs, his eyes glow. Ezekiah ends up throwing his keys.
“Dad!” Ezekiel practically swings on Kevin.
“Kevin, what, what the heck, don’t do that. Where did you come from? Why are you here?”
“Mr. Woods, they after us, I don’t know what’s happening, we…” Zach pants, gasps.
“Slow down son, what is happening?”
“Dad, I don’t know who they are but somebody came at us. They called me out, tried to rush me, came twice. Second time they came back with more people.”
“Wait son, who is they? What did you do?”
“Nothing, I don’t know dad. Think it has something to do with the restaurant, seriously.”
Ezekiel looks at him curiously, remembers his keys and the encounter. Looks back towards the back of the lot.
“Mr. Woods, what’s wrong, what are you looking at?” Quinton asks.
“I don’t know, it’s not there now. I need to find my keys, help me find them and I’ll take you boys home and figure this out.”
“Dad, what happened to your window? Seriously, do we have the insurance for that?”
“Long story. Let’s get the hell out of here. Come on guys.” They start to head towards the back of the lot. Tires squeal and they turn to face blinding lights of a vehicle. It’s the blue van. The doors open as they stand behind Ezekiel Sr.
“Well, well, the Woods clan and esteemed guests. Glad can gather everybody together in this fine location.”
“Lyam Winkelman, my goodness, what do you want?” Ezekiel groans.
“That Lydell’s dad?” Kevin whispers to his dad, Ezekiel nods and gives him the hand.
“Big Zeke, got your little man with you. Where’s that punk little Zeke? You know the Woods clan owes me huge for what he did.”
“Listen Lyam, drop it, you have no evidence. This is ridiculous! We owe you nothing!”
“Dad, what, what is he talking about?”
“Oh, you don’t know, Uncle Kevin?”
“Lyam, drop it. Listen, you and me know each other from the ol’ Ford assembly lines, working side by side, day in and day out. We was on the same picket lines, working with the unions. Our children grew up together. Bro, we was family man. Why are you doing this?”
Lyam steps forward, Lydell and two other men flanking him. Lyam coughs up phlegm, covers his mouth with a handkerchief. He spits on the ground. Lydell whispers in his ear and Lyam shakes his head, “Screw that, listen Woods, $50k or everybody knows the foulness of your promising scholar discretions. We’re going to be back every damn day causing havoc on everybody in your family until you pay. Zeke’s Kitchen is done. I own it now.”
“Dad what the hell is he talking about?” Kevin jerks forward, Lyam’s men get in front. Quinton and Zach push forward.
“Boys calm down, we’re not adding to Detroit’s violence tonight. Mr. Winkleman and I will get this matter taken care of like gentlemen.”
“We’ll handle it by the Woods clan paying for Jr. sowing his seeds in my niece and running like a bitch damn it!”
“Sow his seed? Dad? What is he insinuating?”
“Ohh Lil Zeke got a kid?” Zach blurts out. Quinton jabs him in the gut.
“Not valid Zachary, he’s talking out the side of his neck. Lyam lies…”
Lydell has to practically hold his father back “Truth big Zeke! You ignore the truth! You…”
“I don’t want to hear this crap Lyam, boys let’s go!”
Ezekiel attempts to get the boys towards the van, Lyam coughs and spits, “Fact is you ignored your boy was jealous his own flesh and blood sister Maureen was in love with my niece Ria! You didn’t approve, he didn’t approve! He got the girls drunk, once Mo was asleep he gave Ria the business! Took her virginity Zeke! Took her virginity!” Lyam is hoarse yelling.
Kevin spots his father’s eyes tearing up, unsure what to say or do to help. They are all in a state of confusion as the elder Winkleman has dropped a megaton bomb on them. Ezekiel leans against the van, gasping for air. Kevin goes to his aid, “Dad, what’s wrong?”
“Yo, this is jacked up Kev.” Quinton is gripping his fists.
“Took her virginity Zekey! You hear me? That lovechild is on your hands sir! Your responsibility and I’m here to make you pay! I bet that bottle of scotch was yours too. The great Ezekiel Woods Sr. about to fold!”
Ezekiel is half crying, gasping for air as Kevin comforts him clumsily. Quinton grabs Zach and heads back towards them. He looks towards his son, “Your brother is a good son, he made a mistake. He knows it’s never right to take advantage of a woman, never son. He’s been paying for it ever since, why he got into law. To make a difference, help people. He’s just getting started, he should not have to pay like this. All of you have been the best, why I worked so hard.” Kevin takes his hand and he squeezes it.
“You can sugarcoat it all you want Zeke, that’s considered date rape and you didn’t handle it!” Lyam is bellowing over the boys getting hyped up.
“Date rape? Didn’t some model accuse the Cos of that? That didn’t go anywhere. He got away with it, lil Zeke can.” Zach quips.
Everybody goes silent and looks at him in shock and dismay.
Kevin hits his friend in the jaw himself. “Damn Kev! What the hell?”
“See Zekey! Your own child is disgusted! Face the facts old man, your offspring, your pride and joy buried you! You’re finished! Your restaurant is done! I own you! Mark my words!”
“I don’t like them disrespecting you Mr. Woods! Got me messed up!” Quinton pushes between the men, the taller man punches him hard in the stomach. Quinton groans and doubles over. Gathering his strength Quinton punches at the man, Lydell punches at Quinton, Zach pushes him as a fight ensues.
“Boys! Boys! Stop it! Stop it!” The elder Woods crackles trying to step forward weakly to them. Lyam grins wide watching the quarl ensue. Sirens are heard in the background.
Zach hits the ground with a swollen lip as Kevin tries to head into the melee, Ezekiel grabs his arm. “No son…not your fight.” He looks past Kevin, towards the lone tree at the back of the lot, his eyes go wide like he sees a ghost.
“Dad, dad! What are you looking at?” Kevin attempts to hold his father up who slumps against the van, his face frozen.
“…Nain Rouge…Nain Rouge.” He mutters barely audible.
Ezekiel looks up towards his son and mouths out “I Love you” before slumping behind the vehicle.
“Dad! No no!” His father is unresponsive.
“What the hell?” Quinton rushes back to them as Lyam snickers, motions for his son and men to leave.
“Time to move boys. He gets what he deserves.”
“Hey Kev, I’ll be back to holla at you and lil Zeke.” Lydell winks at them before they start their van and high tell it out of there before Detroit police arrive.
Kevin sobs on his lifeless father as Quinton punches the side of the van. Zach looks in shock nursing his lip, “Hey any of you hear someone laughing? That’s jacked up.”
Police and an ambulance arrive as the boys watch over the lifeless Ezekiel Woods Sr.
Kwame Woods sobs as he holds his mother’s hand in the hospital bed. The only sounds are the quiet hum of the equipment keeping her alive.
“Listen to the rhyme, it’s a black date fact
Percentile rate of date rape is fat
This is all true to the reason of the skeezing
You got the right picking but you’re in the wrong season
If you’re in the wrong season, that means you gotta break
Especially if a squad tries to cry out rape”