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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

EPISODE FOUR - HOW A SHARK GETS DOWN

EAST HARLEM, NY 1983

At Breakfast time Sister Modesta, sits pensively in her office peeling a banana and trying to figure out where little Ronaldo might be. Aside from his excessive absences he's always a well-mannered and seemingly intelligent boy in both a practical and intellectual sense.

The kid turns up six months earlier and his English is shaky. In a month’s time he masters the concepts of nouns, verbs and gerunds and is reading at a fourth-grade level when called upon. He also has a raw, uncanny knack for mathematics.

He just pops up one day with a benevolent police officer, an Irish Flatfoot who came up himself at Father Divine. Word is the officer caught three slugs in the face from a junkie he was trying to help. Pity, the sister thought recalling the day the policeman dropped Ronaldo off.

Ronaldo has scruffy black curls, puppy dog brown eyes, a button nose and compact lips and he has a little baby fat, a small potbelly. But the rest of him is a stick, the Sister remembers, envisioning him in her mind so she can perhaps describe him to police. He smiles a lot and brings joy and mystery to the place because he hardly speaks -- English or Spanish -- unless spoken to.

The priests marvel at his retention skills and he is most of the sisters’ favorite including Sister Modesta, who now sits contemplating whether to call the police and report him as a a runaway.

Where could he possibly be?

It's the beginning of the summer so school is out and most of kids play stickball in the streets all day and those who are old enough got summer jobs. So naturally Ronaldo isn't missing school and would never willfully do so, the sister believed, because he likes learning. So what’s he up to?

He's out in those streets learning, that's what he's up to. His disappearances start three days earlier when he sets out on his daily summer routine of walking around exploring Harlem’s streets where he receives strange looks from older kids and adoring stares from adults.

He seems to fear no one and smile at everyone. Even the most hardened of criminals can’t help but smile back and he is beloved by prostitutes who gave him money sometimes and take him to breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on what time of day they see him.

His day always starts at five in the morning, waking up and stealthily walking out of the room. He slides down the banister of the long staircase, a stunt that makes only a small hissing sound as he descends at breakneck speed. And then he ducks out of his favorite side window into a vacant lot and out of a hole in the fence.

His first stop is the Puerto Rican guy who stood in front of a newsstand. The candy is always free with a purchase of a Spiderman comic book. He likes the blind superhero Daredevil better though and often watches as the kids back at Father Divine argue about whether Marvel heroes could whoop ass against those distributed by DC comics.

He's the tiebreaker.

“Marbel,” says Ronaldo softly, having not mastered the English “v” yet. Then he lays back on the pillow, remaining quiet for the rest of the evening.

At the newsstand he snakes extra comic books when the guy isn’t looking, never feeling bad about it because it goes for a good cause.

Back at the orphanage he distributes his spoils to the other boys without saying a word.

Johnson likes the hulk.

“Thanks kiddo!”

Jackson takes Spiderman.

“Cool!”

Preston is a Batman guy.

“Solid.”

And Black Brown, when he admitted that comic books weren’t for “sissies,” goes "ol’ school" with Superman.

“That’s what I’m talkin’ bout.”

At the newsstand he always asks for a bag to carry the excess candy and the comic books.

Before he goes back, he reads all of the comic books while sitting on steps that go down to an old man’s basement home near the newsstand. The man is always gone between eight and one. Ronaldo is out of there by noon and on his way to the hot dog vendor on the corner.

His weekly allowance is five dollars so with four dollars left, he purchases two fifty-cent hot dogs, having subsisted off candy since the morning time.

The zesty frankfurter, ketchup and spicy mustard spoke to his taste buds while he listened to the rhythmic singing of the Hot Dog vendor. It was a corny ditty that sounded like a commercial gospel song. His melodic voice compensated for the lyrics. Ronaldo likes hearing it.

“Hawt Dawg, get you fresh all beef Hot Dog, Hebrew National, so fashionable, a tasty treat, so good to eat It’s Koshur’ you can fill that belly up fo’sure.”

Across from the Hot Dog vendor is a place Ronaldo has not noticed before, a store front with what looked to Ronaldo like a red, white and blue striped candy cane.

Grown men who leaned up against its windows smoking cigarettes are making melodramatic gestures and talking loud.

They were words he hears Lil’ black use under his breath but these men seemed to be more casual with the words and probably wouldn’t clam up in front of any nun.

The boy walks across the street and over into the store thinking maybe he’d have one of those red, white and blue candy canes. He smiled at the men standing outside to which they reply “What’s up lil man.”

No candy, only a pungent sweet smell, something fresh, like cologne, the same type of cologne his countrymen put on when they go out from the safehouse in Miami to meet women.

There was hair all over the floor and the men talk loud about everything from sports, to the goings on of the neighborhood , to Marvin Gaye’s death, to politics.

“Now come on Ray,” one man says. “Walter Mondale ain’t got a snowball’s chance in hell. These white people love them some Ronald Reagan.”

“The reason Mondale won’t win is that he chose a woman as a running mate,” another posits.

“That’s what I’m talkin’ bout. Not to mention Mondale just ain’t a good candidate,” yells another.

Ronaldo listens intently sitting on a chair near the door below a large window with big red letters that read: Ray’s Barbershop.

Although there was no candy, this would be a good opportunity to kick it with men, real men. He is accustomed to being with grown ups and coming from the Dominican Republic at an early age with a group of starry-eyed men who got on a cargo skiff bound for Pensacola, Florida..

A deep, smooth voice captures his attention.

“You niggas is something else,” said a man laid back in the barber chair receiving a shave from Ray, the man talking to another who, Ronaldo had surmised, was waiting for a haircut. That’s what a barbershop is, he figures out, proud of himself for deducing the obvious.

“Aww sheet, infinite wisdom from the shark man,” Ray, a short brown and balding man exclaims running the fine-edged razor down the side of “shark man’s” face.

The man in the chair continues to chat as he gets a towel wrapped around his face.

“I’m sayin,’ niggas is always runnin’ roun’ talkin’ bout’ voting. Like voting gone change some shit for ya’ll black asses.”

“Ah shit,” says the man waiting on line. “That’s that hustla talking. Real black men concerned about the movement don’t talk like that brotha.”

“Look, brotha, I’m all for improvement but votin’ ain’t gone do it!”

“But Sharkie, listen to what you're saying, people died fo…”

“For what?” The “shark man,” beams softly as his chair sits up and the towel came off revealing a handsome and clean but sinisterly-dark face.

“Nigga I’m from Mississippi. They was down there organizing and organizing and organizing. Tell me something. If you vote in November will that keep a cop from busting you head open when you come out the polls?”

“Man you talkin’ nonsense.”

“Am I? Voting don’t do a damn thing but put the lesser of two honkey evils in power. They ain’t thinkin’ bout ya’ll, bout us. Whatever we need to do, we should do it for ourselves.”

“That’s that Marcus Garvey, Malcom X shit right there,” Ray says proudly.

“Yeah whatever,” the skeptical man says getting up and then passing “the shark man.” to sit down in the chair. He then lifts his head to let the barber gown fall down on onto his torso.

Meanwhile Ronaldo becomes enthralled with what the man had said about “doing it for ourselves.” Ronaldo wonders, could this be the same Sharkie who was the biggest pimp, best nine-ball player and richest numbers man this side of Lennox Ave, that Black Brown and Preston always holler about?

It was.

The man they call “shark” is a well-dressed man with a flawless peach suit over a white shirt white tie and tops it off white straw fedora hat.
On his feet are peach-colored alligator skin shoes or “gators,” that Ronaldo had heard Lil’ Black speak of. “That’s what all the real niggaz wear,” he would say.

And here Sharkie is in the flesh, the hustlas's hustla and Ronaldo's introduction to the game, though he doesn't know it yet. He's like a kid in a candy store, or is it a Barber Shop?

TO BE CONTINUED!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

EPISODE THREE - DOING THE BID

Moses Prison, Upstate New York 1997

Ticonderoga, NY (CPI)— After an arrogant courtroom display reminiscent of mythic crime bosses, Ronaldo Dominguez, reputed drug lord, turned business prodigy, has not uttered a word in the seven months he has served here at the Robert Moses Federal Detention Center, prison officials said.

His last words "look into Rafael Batista," refers to the Spanish businessman who has recently come under scrutiny for money laundering and racketeering activities. Federal prosecutors are using the RICO act as a foundation for building a case against Mr. Batista.

Meanwhile Mr. Dominguez, given the street moniker, "El Joven," is facing myriad Federal charges including conspiriacy, money laundering, and interstate and international drug trafficking. On a state level, the Nevada attorney general's office has requested that Dominguez be extradited to face multiple murder and conspiriacy to committ murder charges in aiding and abedding known hit men Ernesto "Chico" Sanchez and Cesear H. Ramos in the murders of several businessmen on the day of what is now being called the Reno Massacre.

Dominguez, Ramos and Sanchez have all been connnected to a New Year's shootout in Atlantic City, part of a 1995 drug war that spilled onto the streets of New York leaving 20 men dead by the end of that year.

Dominguez faces life on all charges state and federal.

Critics say the case will be hard to prove as there are no witnesses to cooberate any of the government's claims.

Anybody who has ever been involved with Dominguez has been killed, said prosecuting U.S. Attorney Dave Acheson, "It's going to be difficult to try but we have a few things up our sleeves."

Late Autumn sun rays reflect off the newly fallen snow outside Robert Moses Prison nestled deep in the Catskills in upstate New York. This ain't really a prison, Ronaldo thinks as he sits watching the white light that shines through his barless window.

It's an experimental big house called the Super-mini, the opposite of Super-Max -- minimum security for hardcore maximum offenders. Some pshchologists and enterprising businessmen are sick enough to figure, why not give these lowlifes a glimpse of paradise, make 'em crazier, treat 'em like actual humans so they can want to be better or as one political person put it, "live until they die with the steak dangling right in front of their noses."

So Ronaldo's looking at view of a lake and mountains out of what is actually more like a dorm room. That's fucked up. Abuelita, the old lady down on 135th street ain't got no window, he thinks to himself, but get a murder beef and you can look at swans all day.

The events leading up to his imprisonment in a place more like a desolate and obscure country club than a correctional facility, have nearly driven him to psychosis. Maybe those headshrinkers and talking heads are on to something. He never thought — not even in this slap- on-the-wrist-prison — he'd see the day where he would be locked up. He'd always envisioned himself as a martyr like the fictional Tony Montana or real-life figures such as Benjamin Siegel, Albert Anatasia even. He didn't even part his lips since he first checked in, not one spoken word of Spanish or English for seven months. Inmates josh with him about the circus he makes of court proceedings.

Like he did then, he now refers to any judge as a Chistoso or a joke. At his arraignments he turns to the prosecuting attorneys and clutches his testicles. Nothing matters to him anymore and in many ways he wants it all over with—to die. He even wrestles with the thought of giving everything up, telling the his whole story from start to finish, becoming immortal.

But who is he supposed to be snitching on? Everyone is dead. And while he hates Batista with a passion, he hates even more being put in the position to have to point a finger. Like Black Brown always says, "Real Niggas don't Snitch."

Sometimes, during restless nights, he recalls the Taino shaman in the dark and sinister cenote who once warns him that there would be "blood in his future." Each time he awakes screaming, still wondering if his original ecounter had been a dream itself. At the time it seemed so real. He remembers taking the "blood in future" prediction into consideration and also remembers underestimating the prophecy's validity because of its surreal overtones. He thinks that it's too simple, of course there is blood in my future, I'm livin' the life that I choose to live.

Maybe this is why his master plan to get the cash, kill and destroy is a failure.

Now he sit up nights when he gets no sleep at all looking through the darkness -- the small movements illluminated by the prison tower light -- at the deer galloping in the distance and the soaring eagles and hawks on a late night sojurn for prey.

As the seasons change he longs to be free spiritually—physically dead. He never allows the prison guards or cops to take the talisman from his neck, sometimes at his peril. He gets his ass whooped a lot. No one wants to put up with shit from a cat who can talk but doesn't. He hides, the medallion in his mouth and rectum when called for -- for the day when it was taken away he would surely die, he believes.

But even in this state of dimentia, he still secretly pays prison guards to bring him books and cigars. Some loyal soldiers still in the 'hood handle these transactions for him but they're stealing too, his power is diminished, money dwindling. Maybe ain't no such thing as loyalty after all..

He hardly leaves his domicile even when allowed to but sometimes he talks to the prison chaplin for 3 hours a day about the Bible, mostly in sporadic Spanish. His words are vague and incoherent as if they come from a raving mad man. He's easily angered when the chaplin makes faces that reflect confusion and bewilderment. For instance, the chaplin reads a verse and it's okay for a while. But in time, Joven goes on a tyraid about his love Juanita, Father Tony from the orphanage, Chico, carjacking and religious wars—things that have no relation or pertinence to any other thing he talks about.

Organized gibberish, like his memories.

Still the chaplin marvels at the young man's uncanny understanding of theology and wonders where the boy went wrong. In the end though, there is never any connection to anything, no insight to be gleaned from Ronaldo's rambling and even the chaplin can't convey to the psychiatrists, FBI, or prosecutors what Ronaldo Dominguez is actually thinking.

TO BE CONTINUED!

EPISODE TWO - OH, THERE'S RONALDO

RENO NEVADA 1996

The young man slowly scoops the Reno Gazette Journal off the room service cart. He's astonished by the headline in the international news section, but hardly surprised. He sits down casually on the bed scratching his head and yawning, reading and smirking at each sentence.

Santo Domingo (CPI)-- A bomb at the corporate headquarters of Santa Maria Sugar Exports LP exploded here yesterday at dawn killing 30 peopl

including Federal agents, U.S. Marines and local law enforcement who were attempting to find and capture reputed Dominican drug lord Ronaldo Dominguez.

Officials say Dominguez and his accomplices rigged the entrance to the villa with explosives moments before the soldiers and agents kicked down the large two front doors of this 25,000 square-foot mansion that sits on a 365- acres sugar cane field.¶
Twenty- year-old Dominguez, who as vice president- the youngest executive in Santa Maria history- alledgedly used the company as a front for an $800 million Cocaine and Heorin empire.

The Drug Enforcement Agency, colloborating with local authorities and an elite group of U.S. Marines were acting on a tip that Dominguez was running a drug network that supplied more than 12 states, mostly along the U.S. gulf coast.

After the smoke cleared, Dominguez was nowhere to be found.

"I promise swift justice," said Dominican President, Julio Cabral yesterday after hearing news of the bombing. "These drug traffickers are the new enemy in a brutal war against terror and we are confident that we will track him down and right this wrong. Meanwhile my heart goes out today to the families of the fallen." ¶
Ten DEA agents, 8 local police, 2 civilians and the ten marines. were all killed by the blast…..

As he reads on, a wicked smiles forces itself across his lips, ironic and dark, drab and hollow, sorrowful -- gallows humor.

Then the smile disappears. He clutches the paper like it was a person's neck.

Chief Executive Officer Felix Caldoron, a renoun businessman was found shot dead with his remains charred. And Enriquillo Ortiz, a Dominican national wanted for questioning about a New York shooting on Valentine's Day last year, was also found dead from multiple gunshot wounds and severe burns.

During the raid, the marines shot dozens of farmers who were believed to be in colusion with the drug lord as well as members of an elusive leftist guerilla group called Los Soldados Negros or The Black Soldiers who are reputed to be mercenaries for drug lords.

Santa Maria, is a subsidiary of the international conglomerate La Hoya Intl Corp., which is currently being audited by the Securities and Exchange Commission and as well as the International Monetary Fund for alleged money laundering activities. La Hoya executives had no comment on the incident or the ongoing investigations.
Meanwhile the search for Dominguez continues. Authorities thus far have found no evidence.

His calm somber mood quickly catapults into fury as he hurles the newspaper across the room, gives his face a hard wipe and heads toward the bathroom.

He's a slim brown man with a precise muscle tone. Around his neck is a platinum necklace with a small medallion in the shape of an Egyptian Ankh—-the symbol for fertility and eternal life. He got it years ago, dipped it in platinum when he started getting major paper. It first belonged to mother, whom he never met, and they'd have to pry it off his dead neck.

Ronaldo clutches the pendant in his hand and takes a long hard look in the mirror. His hair, jet black with tight curls.

Despite his handsome countenance, he detests what he sees. Shower time.

He enjoys the boiling hot water for 20 minutes wishing he could stay there forever. He hops out, grabs a towel - straight to the mini bar - and breaks the seal on a mini-Bacardi bottle. Hot to the chest. Now for the ritual.

Wiping his mouth, he pulls an olive green designer suit out of the closet with his other hand, puts it up against his naked frame and grins without showing teeth. Two sheer black silk socks, a pressed shirt, satin underwear and a $400 tie later, he's ready.

Looking at the perfectly tailored suit he takes out a shinier-than-life .25 caliber revolver with an ivory handle and places it strategically in a small velcro hoster with a plastic lining above his ankle. Thanks to the fine Italian taper his weapon isn't visible. He thinks to himself, that the pants hang "oh so gangsta,"

"El Joven" Spanish for the young man, is what they call him in the streets. The women love him, the dudes secretly worship him. Little kids in his old neighborhood, even to this day still play with toy guns, pretending to be him. The old ladies won't give him up to the police because they thought him to be second grandson. The old men, just play dominos, chug Red Stripe and watch him silently, he has their respect.

But Rafeal Batista, is another story. The Chairman of La Hoya International Corp. wants him dead.

He turns on the TV for a second opinion while snacking on an hours-old breakfast roll from the room service cart. He lounges, propped up by his elbow, CNN cuts from the Presidential Primaries to what he wants to see, as if magically, part of a script or something. The report shows bloody, burned bodies being carted away from a smoldering villa by the sea. "Use to be my villa" is what's going through his head now. He aims at the television with the remote shoots at it like it's a bitter enemy and turns it off getting up to leave.

As he comes out the door, a maid navigating a cleaning cart down the hall smiles at him seductively. Being the person he is, he smiles back charasmatically. She blushes uncontrollably.

Walking pass an adjacent room he pounds on the door without stopping.

"Ceasar! Levantate! Get your punk ass up! let's go!"

He takes the elevator to the lobby floor. The door opens and he strolls out passing a barrage of slot machines, transcends the vestibule heading out to the hotel driveway and looks out into a brisk and misty red horizon. yet another morning he finds himself alive and breathing...

"Reno ain't such a bad place," he muses, feeling something poking him from behind and interrupting his vision of a sublime Sierra landscape. "Chico, damn would you quit playing it's too early for that shit. Is Ceasar coming?"

"Yeah he'll be here man. I caught you slippin', right," Chico snickers.

"Yeah whatever," Joven replies, still looking out at the scenery in deep thought.

Just then a groggy and yawning Ceasar walks up behind them.

"What are you looking at man?" Ceasar asks with his mouth still wide open and arms outstretched. "It's too damn early to be up man. You act like you ain't never seen the damn sun before. But damn," he continues shielding his eyes from the light. “I can't remember it ever being this bright,"

Ceasar stares at Chico maliciously and then joins Joven in gazing at the red sun, which is creeping up over the mountains, making the arrid plains and the street in front of them appear orange.

They pay no attention to yawning bell-hops and college kids coming in from cars after partying through the night.

"NCAA tournament," Joven says without deviating from the view.

"Oh," retorts Ceasar scratching his bald head.

Chico brandishes a giant cigar and lights up walking out to the pavement, sitting down on the curb watching the cars pull into the driveway.

"Where the hell is Black Brown," Joven says without looking at anybody.

"Calm down man," exclaimed Ceasar. "He called me right after yo' stupid ass banged on my door. He said he'd be here a little late. He got pulled over, he said."

Joven frowns. "What?"

Ceasar flails his arms in defense. "It ain't no big deal Papi. You got Nevada red neck cops and this pimp looking black dude in a brand new benz playin' Rick James, you're gonna get pulled over. He said he stuck a benji under his fake drivers license and they said, thank you very much like Elvis or some shit, that nigga's a fool,"
Chico shakes his head in disgust, suddenly he's looking at the mountain, perhaps trying to ciphon Ronaldo's thoughts.

Ceasar and Ronaldo giggle about Black Brown, Rick James and bribing cops for a minute, then the laughing subsides when the reality of what they're about to do sets in.

They're headed to the board meeting, on a suicide mission to kill Rafeal Batista and possibly die themsleves in the process.

Ceasar seems worried, out of it, "What about Don Ortega?"

Joven replies, "What about him?"

Now Ronaldo is thinking that it doesn't matter if his father is there or not. "if he stand in the way, it's either him or me"

That's what he wants to say but he pauses, he's too busy thinking about Chico's treachery, wondering if Chico knows that he knows or more importanly, if Chico knows, that Joven knows Chico knows.

Shit is complicated.

TO BE CONTINUED!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

EPISODE ONE - WHERE'S RONALDO?

EAST HARLEM, NY 1983:

"Johnson?"

"Here."

"Jackson?"

"Present."

"Preston?"

"Check."

"Brown?."

"In the hayouse sista.!"

"Cut it out Brown!"

Sister Modesta creaps along the dusty wood floors of the Father Divine orphanage with a wooden pointer in one hand smacking the palm of her other hand to the point where there was a blush mark caused by the blows.

Her eyes are distrustful of the brown boys before her, some of them shaking in fear in front of their beds for the pre-breakfast bed and space check.

Sister Modesta is a cantankerous woman in her late 60s who crosses herself when ever she catches herself cursing at one of the kids.

The youngsters stand at attention they know they can catch a wrap across their knuckles for no reason at all.

Slowly and methodically she glides, preceding more like a detective than the resident director of orphan boarding services.

The boys' eyes follow her every move. Some of them make faces at her, others are stoic.

The biggest fear is not a hand tapping or an ass whoopin' but that she won't take them downstairs when the social workers, adoption people and colored balloons come for the monthly Father Divine "People Fair," which is only days away.

No matter how mischievous any of the boys could be all of them always eventually complied with her wishes.

That is, all except one.

Without looking up from her list she mouths, "Dominguez,"

And again, this time more annoyed, "Dominguez?." bed

The gaze in each others eyes, some shrugging, some mad that they would suffer the consequences of his insolence and others laughing silently at yet another bed check that Ronaldo Dominguez was missing on purposely.

Her teeth grit, she slams her pointer to the ground and grunts,

"Dominguez!"

She realizes she's losing her composure and picks her pointer up slowly.

"Oohhh shoot."

She crosses herself and inspects the boys' stoic visages.

"Ok boys, this is the third day in a row that Dominguez has failed to be present for the check, the third day he's come up missing."

Ronaldo is the youngest boy in the orphanage, an aged seven year old who moves and operates more like he was a teenager. He never says much. He spends most of his time reading the standard issue Bible and sneaking in comic books that he sells to the rest of the boys who then hide them under their mattresses at night.

"I'm only going to ask you incorrigible young ruffians one time. You know what, forget it. I'm not even going to ask, you know what the question is."

Silence - the type of quietness that fills the room with the sound of car horns and loud conversations coming from outside.

"Ok, then. Nobody eats until somebody speaks."

Groans.

"Shut up, you people, particularly our missing little friend, are causing Satan to ruin the peace in this house. No one is special! We are a group, a team a family. There's no "I" in any of those words,"

Jimmy Brown thinks he's hardcore. He's got a smart mouth, he like Ronaldo knows how to push her buttons.

"Any of those words except for fam..,"

"Brown, be quiet this instant. Unless… you know the whereabouts of Mr. Dominguez."

Now Brown's got jokes. "He went house shopping."

Loud laughter permeates the rectangular room.

"Oh now it's funny. It won't be so funny when your little stomachs are churning from hunger. Because you know, lunch can be skipped too and there are a lot of chores to be done. Oh and I can sure speak to Sister Sedaris in our education department and she can think of some academic exercises to stimulate your little brains. ."

More sighing and groaning.

"Why are you guys protecting one little crumb snatcher?"

Johnny Preston, like Dominquez, is too clever to be in the social welfare system.

"Uh sister…" he says. "No disrespect but has it occurred to you that none of us know where he is?"

"One of you, if not all of you, know where he is. Now I'm serious I'll call the charities and grocery stores and impose a food embargo on this place."

"What's a embargo?" mutters Johnson.

"Some stupid shit," answers Brown.

"Have something to say do we Mr. Brown?"

"Yeah, Sis, for me personally. Even if I knew I wouldn't tell you. Cuz' real niggaz don't snitch."

The hole hall erupts in an instigative chorus. "oooooooooh,"

Brown puffs out his chest. He's 14 and always one outbust away from getting bounced out. He likes it that way.
Beyond rehabilitation, according the Parish shrink, a lost cause. They don't give a fuck, I don't give a fuck, that's his credo.

Ain't got no mother, she's gone. Gone, gone, a car accident, Happened, right next to him on their way up from the South for a better life.
His father's still alive and kicking, a hustler from Brooklyn called Black Brown. Black for his dark skin and Brown for his surname. Black is serving life in Attica for a crime that no one in Harlem believes he did it. 'Lil' Black Brown' now has a chip on his shoulder, bitter because of his fortune and because he didn't inherit pops' menacing presence. Yellow as a bananna is what they call him. He hates it when they say, "what's up Lil white."

"I hope he don't come back," he screams, kicking and posturing as trainee priests remove him from the sleeping quarters.

Again a dead calm, an eerie state of soundlessness. The sister sighs heavily and finally Jackson, who like James Preston has the name Jimmy, spoke up. He goes by Jackson because nobody wants the same name as another unwanted, degenerate boy of color, which they all are. Jackson is the shrewed, sensible one.

"Honestly sister and I think I speak for the rest of the guys when I say that we have-honest to God – no idea where lil' Ronaldo is. But if my guess serves me right. He'll return in the late afternoon."

"He's a seven year old boy. Where could he have gone," the sister exclaimed, no longer angry but now worried and saddened.

The boys are taken aback at seeing a soft side of Sister Mo and suddenly it rubs off as they too become somewhat saddened themselves as they witness the long look on her face.

Now the quietness is uncomfortable.

"You boys get ready for breakfast," she snaps dismissively, more worried than ever.

The boys exit in a single file line for the slow quiet march to the Parish mess hall where they almost never just eat, but instead throw food at the girls who live on the other end of the building and come to the same hall to eat. Sista Mo' is in a bad mood though and they ancticipated a somber breakfast because of that. Short leash today.
"
Preston leans forward and whispers to Jackson, "You think he's alright?"

Jackson pats the ten-year old Preston on the head, smiling and then taking him in a headlock.

"I know he's alright, let's get some breakfast."

TO BE CONTINUED!