Friday, September 4, 2009


Emerging from the priest’s former shell was Ronaldo Dominguez, the handsome young gangster from Spanish Harlem. His nickname was “El Joven,” Spanish for ‘the young man’ and he was thinking that whether double E knew it was him or not was irrelevant.

Somewhere along the line though the moniker got shortened to Joven, which simply means young. He was referred to as the “Voltron” head of the crew because he always read books and broke down drug transactions to their last cent. Moreover he was known for elaborate transport schemes, but never anything like this.

After turning his head sideways slowly in his disbelief, Hector pulled out a freshly rolled white-owl, green leaf blunt and cauterized the damp lacerations from spilling out tobacco with a lighter shaped like a gun. He flopped on the couch, bouncing up and down almost chocking with laughter as he put the bliggety to his lips.

“Chistoso famoso! Oh shit, hell ‘naw. Oh snap, that’s the illest ever shit son. Joven you’re an asshole.”

Enriquillo stretched himself across the couch and seemed to smother Hectors knees, while howling with glee.

“The Holy fuckin’ father. Ladies and gentlemen, the holy…aw man that’s classic. I was killin’ myself B. I mean dying, literally trying to keep from laughing the whole time.”

“You big bitch,” Hector said, getting up and pushing Enriquillo in the back but still chuckling. “You knew?”

“I’m saying B, get this shit off me man. Can you could you please help me get this off man, damn,” said a pensive and irritated Dominguez.

“You’re going to hell for real. Naw on the real, you’re going to hell. You’re playin’ with God,” Hector retorted, removing large pouches of Heroin from the religious cloak.

“Yo I thought ya’ll wasn’t never gonna shut up. Is Eddie all the way gone?”

“Yeah he’s gone.”

“So Eddie didn’t know Joven was dressed up?” Hector asked.

“Nope, well, I don’t know, who gives a fuck, sanction was on anyway ‘na-mean,” Joven said dismissively.

Hector and Enriquillo quickly unstrapped the remainder of the merchandise and took it upstairs to the scales, to measure the quantity of hundreds of decagrams of smack.

In addition, about 15 birds had been wrapped in tin foil and placed in form-fitting bags, embedded in hollow Bibles that “Father De la Rosa” had brought. That’s why he found the bricks comment by the cop so funny, they were bricks, kilos of that brown brown.

“Man this is wrong,” Hector said examining the Bibles. “No, really, this shit is really, really wrong, for real this shit is a really ill, but it’s really wrong.”

Enriquillo darted up the stairs and then just as quickly returned with a towel, a black short-sleeved Guayabera shirt and some white-linen slacks for Joven to change into.

Joven wiped himself down with the cool towel and sprayed on some cologne.

“What a damn day. Yo, kid, I almost got ate up by a dog, the cab driver ran up the fare on me, Trevor disrespected the holy father,” Joven explained, making quotes with his fingers when he said ‘holy father.’ “Where is our boy Trevor anyway?”

“He’s lampin B. He out front chillin in the whip, you know, hangin’ out in the ride.”

“Yeah, he in the car,” Hector chimed in.

The three men made their way upstairs in single file.

“Well let’s go holler at ‘em,” Joven turned around and said, flashing his million-dollar grin, his soft brown dimples contorting as he smiled.

“Mami, I’ll be back in a minute,” Enriquillo told his wife.

“Hurry, dinner has been ready. Regresa, come back soon,” Gigi commanded.

Enriquillo with lips like a duck, waving Gigi off, “C’mon with that ma’ I’ll be back in like five minutes.”

“Yeah this won’t take long at all,” Joven yelled back.

The gangsters exited the house to go to a corner spot on 221st and White Plain’s Road under the train platform. There on the corner under a dark portion of the platform was parked a late model Toyota Camry.

“What time is it?” Joven asked.

“Almost nine now,” Hector said, discreetly placing a silencer on his gun and keeping it concealed.

“Hurry up man my wife’s gonna kill me.”

“Open the trunk.”

There lay Trevor Davis, gagged, bound and bleeding from the forehead. He struggled and screamed but thanks to electrical tape almost no decipherable sound emerged from the trunk’s interior.

There were many pedestrians on the street, which is exactly what would make this an inconspicuous hit because they were busy and oblivious.

“You know Trevor,” Joven began, pretending as if he was bending down to dust off his Kenneth Cole loafers, “Eddie really misses his brother, he thought I was a priest man. His grief really fucked me up back there. He was cryin’ Trev.”

Trevor screamed louder and Enriquillo made the sympathy sound with his tongue and teeth then rubbed his index fingers together and said, “That’s a shame Trevor my man. The dude was crying.”

“Crying like a baby, man. You see, I didn’t know until Enriquillo told me last night on a phone call all the way in Nigeria, that you were the driver when Tino got killed that day and the crap game got robbed and my man Hector here got shot by your man. You played us duke, I ain’t even gone ask who the shooter was, we know who you run with, only thing left is math papa.”

Tears began to drop from Trevor’s terror-filled and now orange eyes as he screamed in protest through the tape, muffled but clearly pleading for his life or a bargain or cussing them because he knew it was a wrap, or whatever. It didn’t matter anyway. His distorted cries sounded like a wounded animal or more aptly one being plugged nature’s way animal-style.

“And on top of that, you disrespected a man of the cloth,” joked Joven turning around and shooting a glance at Hector, who smirked.

Joven playfully cleared his throat and did the voice. How cool was it that it just look liked three cats getting something out of the car.

“And now my son, one man’s vice is another man’s pleasure, one man’s suffering, another’s glee,” Joven said chuckling.

Trevor’s eyes bulged as if someone were squeezing the life out of him. Stupid ass looked like it had finally dawned on him that he had sat there slowly set up.

“Oh and Trevor you should have said your confession,” Enriquillo added pulling the trunk down and beginning to walk back toward his house. “Ya’ll can keep messin’ around but you ain’t got to live with my wife.”

“See you later Trev. Oh my bad, I won’t see you later will I,” Joven said running to catch up to Enriquillo. “I’m hungry man, wait up.”

Hector, meanwhile, slowly lifted the trunk just enough to see between the terrified eyes he was aiming at. Trevor’s eyes now clearly begged for his life. Hectored lowered his head into the trunk space pretending to look for something while placing the barrel of the silencer on Trevor’s forehead.

“You know what your boy said to me before he shot me, before he tried to kill me nigga,” Hector whispered viciously, his teeth grinding together, trying to conceal a murderous fury. “He said ‘say your grace bitch.’ Now, uhhh you may not ‘prescribe,’ as you say, to any religion but to who ever you believe in, you got five seconds to pray. Five bitch.”

Enriquillo and Joven were back home by now.

“So Joven why a priest? Isn’t that a little overboard? You know there are certain things you just don’t fuck with it, you just don’t play with.


“Man if I had a hundred dollars for every time some fake ass makeshift preacher in the Baptist, Methodist and believe it or not Catholic denomination, surfaced, I’d be rich and wouldn’t’ have to be sellin’ this shit. We’d all be kings, sittin’ love style off my money.”


“Yeah you got a point there but ain’t nobody perfect, God still don’t like that shit you just pulled. But then again there’s probably not a lot about this world that God does like. Anyway, Joveeee, are you ready for some of that Goya rice and those platanos? Ooh and those sweet potatoes.


“Yeah Reek some of that hot buttered bread and all that..”

“Hold up Yo. But what about Eddie thinking you was a priest and shit?”

“Man, I think he knew, I can’t be sure, I’m surprised he sat next to Trevor so cool, if you know, he has to know. Why was even here, nigga had a suit on, I don’t know what the deal was. Look, real talk B, all these people, these religious people need, is hope. That’s what they go to church for hope, hope that the after life is not as fucked up as it is on earth. You know, hope that God will make shit right. Father De la Rosa, I, gave Eddie hope. Besides, I think we all give Eddie a lot less credit than he deserves you nam’ sayin? All he got to do is make a call, look up on a computer or sumpin’ he’d know Father Tony died in the 80s my nigga.”

“Whatever man that’s still shady. A priest and one you knew at that?”

“I’ll come as a Flamenco dancer next time ‘aight.”

“Cool,” Enriquillo responded laughing.


The interior of the trunk lit up quick, light mauve in the summer air and precisely as the shots hit their mark. Hector wiped the specks of smeared blood from his face with his tank top then took it off , wiped his necklace and put it back around his neck.

“You won’t be needing this or these,” the bare-chested Hector said grabbing Two-thousand dollars in dirty, nappy rolled-up cash and two decks of heroin and stuffing them in his bloody shirt. Then he realized how stupid what he just did was and simply picked up Trevor’s back pack and slung it over his bare back with all of his contents in it, twin semis included. He closed the trunk and left the car parked next to the hydrant. It would be towed in a matter of hours. Then he realized how stupid he looked bare-chested with a back pack. Fuck it.

“What’s up y’all,” he said in jest to passers by who may or may not have witnessed the hit.

Back at the house, the long table was set with baked chicken stuffed with peppers, soaked sweet potatoes under pineapple and coconut shavings, a burgundy looking big steak fresh out a A.P. Green store somewhere up in White Plains, white and yellow rice, peppered steak, mustered greens and spicy yucca. Then there was a mushroom salad, iceberg and spinach leaves in a bag with homemade honey vinegar dressing. And for dessert, a sugar cane cake, syupy platanos, accompanied by dulce de leche ice cream and sweet sour cream for the platanos to be dipped in. Kids liked to do that.

Hector darted threw the door smiling.

“You not sexy,” said Enriquillo’s wife, thinking indeed that he was and always had been with his curly ass hair.

“Yeah, okay Chico Suave, go get a extra shirt in my room and throw that other shirt in the garbage,” Enriquillo added.

“Hey let me get this Yankee joint,” Hector yelled from upstairs.”

“Yeah whatever man.”

“Where’s father Tony?” pleaded Enriquillo’s son.

“Yeah where is the..father,” the little girl seconded.

Enriquillo smiled at Joven as if to say, “you wanna take this one?”

“Mi amor, he’s tired he had to go get some rest. But he told me to give you this.”

Joven produced twenty dollars for each of the kids.

“Hey that’ s hush money,” Hector joked coming into the room while putting on the shirt.

“Shut up Ceasar,” said Gigi. “Ok papito, mamita, wash up, we gonna say grace alright. But on the real, Reeky, Joven, Hector, where is father Tony?”

Gigi had been expecting him, she knew the deal but honestly thought the priest was staying for dinner.

The three men laughed hard until the kids returned.

“He won’t be joining us for dinner,” Reeky said nodding ‘no’ and grinning like an idiot.

“Alright whose gonna say the blessing?” inquired a cynically-puzzled but still jovial Gigi.

“Why don’t you do the honors Ronaldo,” Enriquillo said followed by a hyeana’s sigh.

“Yeah you’re good at that type of stuff,” Hector followed.

“Go to hell,” Joven returned with a whisper.

“You first,” Enriquillo retorted.

They both snickered and then Joven straightened up and closed his eyes, taking the kids by the hand on one side and Enriquillo on the other side.

“Everybody bow your heads.”



It was said that if cocoa bread, some arroz con pollo or a slice of pizza was sold anywhere from 149th and 3rd to E. 180th, you either were paying Espinosa to eat it or sell it, even if it was a penny on the dollar.

His only weakness though was his conspicuous wound that he wore like an ugly scar - the violent death of his “hermanito,” Tino at the hands of a rival faction, he though or maybe an enterpriser, earning stripes, shakin’ the trees, not giving a fuck about living anymore maybe.

Trevor studied the room and seemed to pout. He was an amateur middleweight boxer and storefront restaurant owner down in North Philly who supplemented his income with stolen cars and low-weight drugs. His eyes were indented with what seemed to be a permanent malice.

During the silence, Enriquillo, a man about six-foot-three, 290, had stolen to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a glass of rum, beginning to sip it but stopping short, looking gingerly at the priest for approval.

De la Rosa surveyed the room of ruffians and shrugged.

Enriquillo downed a shot and made a painful face as the hot rum went down the chute. Then he poured another one walking back toward the circle of chairs.

Hector, a ratty, rotten-salt smelling bodega owner in East Harlem and guns-slinging enforcer, sometimes freelance sometimes with a crew, shifted in his seat as his twin plastic Glock-26 sub compact pistols were beginning to stick to his back under the tank-top.

He then slumped in his seat and glanced at Enriquillo as if to say, “Yo, Enriquillo you fuckin’ genius why is a priest in your house?”

Espinosa simply stroked his chin and examined the priest from head to toe continually, the priest’s face was warm and disarming. Enriquillo broke the silence, slapping the priest on the knee gently.

He liked to touch peoples knee to let them know he was a lovable teddy bear who could still whoop that ass if need be.

“So..Father how was the trip?”

“Oh it was a long and tiresome trip, I spread God’s message in the small villages of China, taught the heavy laden in the mountains of Switzerland. And my favorite part of the trip was Africa, the last leg, Nigeria, lots of suffering. Souls yearning to transcend suffering.”

“Sounds deep father,” Hector interjected, marveling at the dedication of De la Rosa.

“Yes, deeper than the hollow souls of man. Some times I wonder is it all worth it.”

“Father,” said Espinosa silently, clearly reserving great grief. “Keep at it. You’re doing something most people are afraid to do. You’re standing up for what you believe in and sharing what you have learned with others. Some of us are, well beyond redemption, centered in the lives we’ve chosen!”

Expressway Eddie, as he was known, was a reader of Kant, Martin Luther, all the Greek classic mythologies. Took a whole bunch of Economics courses and computer classes at the learning annex, did a free internship with Banco Popular, a front for moving his bread but he learned a lot, already being a genius with numbers. Bought his way into an executive MBA workshop at Brown. On the streets eyes come out the side of his head, a dilettante as a poet, a suave salsa man light on his expensive feet and a God-given penchant for licking pussy among the young stable girls he kept every night, that was the business on the wire up in Mott Haven. Encouraged the young strippers and promiscuous hood things not to shower before a visit, especially in the summer. Didn’t fuck all that much, just love to see the young fresh and green nubiles writhe on sweat and stinky lemon-tinged sublimity, wash it down with some rum, sit on the sofa, listen to the click of the money counter in the next room, speed to the bathroom to jack-off into the toilet with the smell of snatch on his lips and the notion that he was a God among mere mortals — steeped in the concrete reality of hard choices that most people won’t, wouldn’t and can’t make. He nodded his approval to the man of God, why not?

“Thank you, most encouraging words. God bless you.”

For show, for theatrics or driven by something unknown to anybody in the room, Espinosa, a terribly proud man, broke all barriers, shunned all inhibitions and fell to one knee.

“ I’m glad to hear that,” Espinosa exclaimed with a heavy voice. “Listen I haven’t been to a confession in a long ti..”

“Man I’m steppin’ outside for a smoke,” Trevor growled indifferently.

Hector rose and smacked Trevor playfully upside the back of his head.

“No respect…. the man’s brother…. Come on man I’ll go with you.”

“Yeah, uh, Hector take him outta here,” Enriquillo seconded. “Father I’m going up stairs to see if wifey needs help settin’ the table. I’ll leave you and Eddie here for whatever is, well, you know…alright, alright?”

Espinosa slowly removed his shades and pressed hard against the corner of his eyes and sobbing, the kind of weeping that only betrays itself through one’s breathing, followed by the sniffle of the nose, seeming now to be concealing head throbbing but subdued fury as he stuttered.

“I want blood. I’ve mourned for a long time. You see, God took my brother home three years ago and it hurts bad man. I mean I know I deserve it. I’ve done evil things in this carcass that I got, bad things man and I know I’m paying for it and probably my own blood at some point, I don’t care, now but…”

He’s madder now. Espinosa’s grief became exacerbated by his own conjuring up of memories of the funeral, the closed casket, and their mother fainting. He buried his face in the cloak, while De la Rosa looked toward the ceiling and patted Espinosa on the back.

“Tino was it?”

The crying subsided and Espinosa looked up, bewildered.

“You knew him?”

“I knew of him, much like I know of you.”

Espinosa’s eyes narrowed with mild suspicion, he wasn’t one to be ‘known.’ Just recognized, worshipped, paid, waited on hand and foot. That’s how he stayed in business, he believed.

The priest stared back, as if surveying Espinosa’s doubtful intimations and without breaking verbal stride he continued.

“Martin, I hear, was a feisty little one, full of energy, scrappy but kind at heart, loved his family.”

The doubt disintegrated from Espinosa’s countenance.

“Father, it sounds like you really knew him,” Espinosa said backing away and sitting back on the chair. He took a deep breath and switched personalities. It was as if Espinosa wanted to convince himself and the priest that he hadn’t cried like a child.

He replaced his shades and rubbed his hands together.

“That boy was my heart, he got slaughtered like an animal. That guy that was just here, Hector, he was there with a dude named Ronaldo Dominguez, Joven they call him, when the… shot Ti-Ti down. They didn’t find out exactly who did it, I got my suspicions, I didn’t act rashly, a man of my ilk, really can’t. The bastar…excuse me, the killer – he had a fuc.. he had a mask on. The murderer shot Hector twice and then he faced off with Joven, uh that’s Ronaldo, they call him Joven, know him too?”

“Can’t say I do, but… Umm-hmm go on,” the priest mumbled intently.

“But little Joven stared ‘em down and I guess the robber, well, his cowardly ass didn’t want to shoot.”

Hector and Trevor entered again, stoned and snickering. Then the smiles rubbed off when they saw the priest.

“Gentleman,” the priest proclaimed as if initiating a sermon. “Evil is always present but put your trust in the almighty. It is he that knows your pain. He knows our sorrow. Do not worry my young friend about these killers, thieves, and these treacherous men. Vengeance belongs to God. Pray that justice will be done.”

“I do every day and every night,” Eddie said softly as Trevor cautiously took his seat, looking around cautiously - and Hector took his.

“Do you mind,” said Espinosa producing a cigarette.

The priest nodded approval.

“Check this out man, me got a wife and kid down Illy, they be expecting me you now man,” Trevor said nervously, impatiently, malevolently.

“How poor are they that have no patience,” Enriquillo remarked. “I think Shakespeare said that. So Trevor, I’m only going to tell you one more time. Shut the F.., be quiet man. Damn!”

Hector laughed softly, “Nigga what you know about Shakespeare?”

“I do read Boricua, just because you don’t, don’t mean I don’t.”


Trevor sat silently, bummed a cigarette from Espinosa and smoked on it with great haste before lunging forward to the priest.

“Look I’m sorry but my wife an…..”

“No offense taken, young soldier. Who wouldn’t want to return to a loving wife and innocent children? Family is the only solace in an unkind world?”

“You got that right,” concurred Enriquillo, rising up and opening a humidor. “Say father would you like a cherry cigar from the Dominican Republic?”

“Why yes I would.”

“Wait a minute, what kind of preacher smokes cigars,” Trevor asked skeptically.

“Son, you about to get on my motha fu.. You’re startin’ to irk me kid,” Hector said leaning toward the Jamaican.

“No, let me respond, it’s quite alright. My friend, one man’s vice is another’s pleasure. One man’s right, another’s wrong. One man’s sorrow, another man’s glee and so forth. I’m a human being. We’ve all sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The priest said that as if he had heard it said or said it about a million times.

Enriquillo emitted a single-syllabaled laugh. “Oh I’m sorry father go on.”

“No man is perfect, I’ve had a long trip and I’m sure the almighty won’t mind if I have a little token from a friend.”

“Ok whatever. Yo Reek can we please handle this business. I really have to go,” Trevor, almost pleading now.

“Father,” Enriquillo looked at the priest as if to get his approval once again. “I’m walking him upstairs to give him what he came for.”

“God go with you my son.”

Trevor really didn’t give a shit anymore, “Yeah alright.”

Enriquillo, crooked smile at his PR compadre, “Hector, you want to come with me and Trev, handle this real quick.”

“So it’s ready,” Trevor asked.

“Yeah ready as a virgin on the wedding night, oops Sorry father,” Enriquillo joked.

“Never mind son, handle your affairs I’ll rest my old bones.”

“Father,” said the since quiet Espinosa. “I’ve got to get going too.”

Espinosa kissed the priest on the hand as a parishioner would kiss the Pope’s ring.

“You have given my heart rest today father. I got a good feeling right now. For that I thank you. I still mourn but I feel a lot better. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for those comforting words.”

“I appreciate your gratitude but thank God, not I.”

“You have a church around here?”

“Uh yes.. but I’m am off on another mission soon. There’s much work to be done.”

Espinosa shook his head with skeptical but familiar approval and bounded up the stairs, thinking to himself there are a lot of phonies, however you sleep at night. Maybe he’s a real man of God, whoever that is.

The priest, meanwhile, could hear Enriquillo on the floor above. “Yo father, I’ll be down directly dinner is comin’ out the oven right now.”

“Wonderful,” said De la Rosa blowing the smoke out and loosening his cassock. His face was sweating profusely. He shifted his hat, which he had still not taken off, for better comfort. He then reached over and snuck a nip of rum from Enriquillo’s unfinished glass not realizing 20 minutes had passed.

Hearing the rumbling upstairs he sat back down quickly.

“That’s that,” Enriquillo said coming back down. “Everything went real smooth huh Caesar?,”

“Like butter kid,” replied Hector, following Enriquillo down and swinging playfully on the banister as his feet dropped to the basement floor.

“Now then father,” Enriquillo continued. “What’s your pleasure?”

“My pleasure, Enriquillo, is to remove these exceedingly hot clothes,” the priest said, his gruff old voice breaking with the beginnings of mild discomfort.

Hector, with a concerned and alarming look on his face, sat down quietly.

“Are you alright Father?”

“Oooh Father you’re sweatin’ something awful,” Enriquillo, said with a shrieking laughter. “If I didn’t know any better. I’d say it looks like you’re burning in fucking hell!”

Enriquillo couldn’t control is laughter anymore.

The priest looked bewildered, unbuttoning another button on his shirt and beginning to remove his cloak. He could feel the perspiration trickling, teasing the small hairs on his back. His mouth was dry. He looked at the two men irritated but kept disrobing.

Hector’s mouth sat open in utter dismay and horror.

“Enriquillo, that’s a priest man. How you gonna…”

Suddenly De la Rosa’s voice broke, he cougned and wiped his brow, the gravel receded, almost as if a ball of phlegm had been removed, giving way to a smoother, more fluid, younger.

The priest looked up, eyes narrow, removing what were now revealed and false teeth and rubbing his jaw as if he had just been hit.

He cleared his throat, extending his hands hurriedly, “Hey Hector shut the fuck up, Nigga, and help me get thisshit off. These clothes are hotter than a mothafucka!”

The priest peeled the fake beard off to reveal a youthful and sweaty face. Then, he removed the plastic wrinkles from his cheeks and eyes and ripped the wig from about his head!


Thursday, September 3, 2009


He’s running up the fare on a priest, De la Rosa told himself. He lowered his head to release a whisper of a laugh. Everyone man must make his living, he mused silently. Sometimes what’s right in the eyes of God isn’t convenient in the face of those with little faith.

Though he could have taken The Bronx River Parkway, the driver chose the White Plains exit from the Cross-Bronx, over which the rusty pillars, which held up the No. 6 train as it rumbled past, stood as an eye sore in light of the summer sunset.

After several lights and stops under the elevated platform for the two and five trains - a dilapidated iron bridge of sorts that that seemed to stretch for years – they arrived at a townhouse with a two-car port on 222nd street four blocks east of White Plains Road.

“That’ll be fifty bucks.”

A normal trip is less than thirty, the quiet contemplations of De la Rosa surmised.

“Here is one hundred,” De la Rosa said with a crooked smile.

The cab driver looked at him suspiciously and smiled, sympathetically shaking his head.

“Aww uh father, I can’t take your mo–”

“No, it’s your tip. Do you have a family.”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“Buy something, anything for their benefit and God and I will be satisfied and you, vindicated.”

“Yeah, uh sure, sure, vindeefication and that sort of stuff yeah, cool. Uh thanks God Ble..do you need some help with those.”

“I’ll be fine if you set them on the curb for me son.”

A small yellow light illuminated the interior of the two-story row house whose doors and windows were behind iron bars that existed to curb intrusion. The brick that comprised the structure was a sable burgundy.

The priest dragged his bags to the front of the door, looked both ways as if crossing the street and rang the doorbell next to the outer door whose bars were designed as black metallic vines.

“Who is it?” a feminine voice queried.

The priest cleared his throat.

“Please tell my host, dear, that Father Tony calls at his request, uh Father Tony is here, I mean.”

“Ok, Reeky!? Mira’ Reeky Padre Tony esta aqui’ Reek, he’s here! Reek, ay nin’come get the fu…I mean, sorry father, come get the friggin door, he’s got mad bags and everything, Sabes Que Hay muchas bolsas aya’ Come one Reeky, damn what you doin, I’m sorry sorry.”

“Yeah ok Gigi, I comin, you need to calm down, be easy, who did you say… Abre’ la puerta. Come on, open the door mami damn!”

After a series of rumblings and low talking, a large black man appeared at the door. He wore a New York Yankees cap tilted to the side revealing one of two slightly yellowing-redish sunset eyes. His large biceps bulged from his white-ribbed tank top “wife beater,” though he really only just through things at Gigi when angry, she meanwhile had a mean jab.

Big man turned the key to open the screen.

“Bienvenido!,” The man bellowed. “Father Tony! Woowwwww, Father De La Rosa, right? Welcome. I am honored by your presence in my home. Can I get your bags,” He continued after a tight embrace.

“That would be good, really good. Why certainly Enriquillo, why certainly.”

The priest entered Enriquillo Ortiz’s home, a place decked out with religious relics and candles juxtaposed with a large Dominican Republic flag on the far wall.

The furniture was simple: black leather wrap around couch with matching recliner in front of a large floor model television under which a small CD player resided.

Boring gray carpet and a tiled circular kitchen with dark brown cabinet doors adjacent to a rectanglular dining room table on the border of the living room rounded out the house.

“I’ll take this bags upstairs to the room and we’ll go down to the basement,” the husky Ortiz said to the priest.

“That’ll be fine my son, this one too. This last duffel bag holds my garments, I’ll keep it on my person.”

“Suit yourself. Yeah why don’t you just go ahead and step down into the basement now. I’ll join you in a minute.”

“I’m terribly famished.”

“Dinner’ll be ready soon father,” said Gigi, Enriquillo’s wife, a timid, petite and mocha-colored woman with dark eyes, and a pear shaped voluptuous body under a dress with large flowers that probably didn’t exist anywhere, she liked vacation gear, considering Reek hardly ever went back to DR and barely even left the BX.

The priest whirled around with a cat-like intuition to see Enriquillo Ortiz’s young son and daughter swarm on him playfully. He smiled and held them at bay.

“Hello, Hello. Precious children,” he remarked grinning and embracing them. “A little boy and a girl.”

From his dark pockets he produced two ten-dollar bills.

“I am Father Tony, no wait don’t jump. Here you go, spend it wisely,” he cautioned, handing the bill to the boy and messing up his hair while following suit with the girl, only patting her and kissing her instead.

“Wow, great,” said the boy.

The girl was younger so she merely mimicked the boy’s gratitude with the same words.

“Hey, oye’ Que Dices?!” Reeky yelled to the kids as he clip-clopped down wooden basement stairs.

“Thanks father Tony,” said the boy.

“Me too,” the girl followed.

“Don’t mention it.”

Enriquillo emerged again from the basement room gently herding the children into the kitchen.

“Ok ya’ll thanked him now leave him alone he’s had a long trip. Come on. Go to the kitchen. Alright, alright go get some food.”

Enriquillo quickly placed a kiss on each child’s head and turned quickly to the Father.

“Alright Papa Tone,” Enriquillo ejaculated loudly, chuckling skeptically and knowingly. “Come on down.”

Down they went into a finished wood-paneled and red-carpeted basement where three men sat talking, sitting on the edge of white fold-up chairs in front of a small television on which the New York Yankees played against the Kansas City Royals.

The TV, however, was merely on to be on, drowning out any conversations that needed drowning.

“Father this is my close friend Caesar Ramos, they call him Hector. This is Eduardo Espinosa and my friend from Philly.. Trevor Davis.”

Ramos, a dark cream colored Puerto Rican, nodded, his slanted eyes studying the priest as he ran his hands through prolific black curls. He sat back, legs agape, back slumped as the light struck his long platinum necklace that sat a top a crisp white “beater,” – he did occasionally playfully smack his live in girl Maricela – likened in design but tighter and more form-fitting than the one Enriquillo sported. Hector finally stood up fixing his baggy jeans and humbly shaking the priest’s hand.

“Hey, uh father, how you doin’? You good?”

“Quite good my son.”

In contrast, the older, polished more refined, fashionista, Eduardo wore a finely tailored black suit with a dark meanly starched business shirt with a gleaming white tapered collar, which looked so stiff and clean that it could cut day old bread. His loafers were of some reptile origin, the priest thought, and his watch, an all black Movado accented by a subtle diamond bezel surrounding its face.

He rose gracefully to greet the priest but failed to remove his dark but transparent glasses that hid melancholy and sleep-deprived eyes.

Trevor, a midnight black man, a west Indian, with McDonald’s-arch- yellow eyes, under a flawless razor-lined short haircut, merely nodded and opened his mouth to reveal white smoke that slithered like a phantom into his nose and then out of his mouth like the rising cloud from spilled powder, which obscured his black gold and yellow Team Jamaica mesh soccer jersey.

Again he slowly nodded, his facial tone revealing that a nod was about as much deference as he would give the priest.

Enriquillo quickly unfolded a chair and tapped its base motioning for the priest to sit down.

“Naw man,” chimed in Hector. “Let the father sit on the couch yo.”

“Aw yeah, my bad. Sorry father uh, sit down over here, move out the way man. “Yo Trevor get up man. Show some respect,” Reeky said in a rushed whisper.

Trevor leaned over so the priest could get by to sit down.

Closer inspection, sure enough, Trevor’s smoke was some pungent dirty black marijuana, quite stereotypical and stupid in someone else’s house in a city you don’t even live in, in the business that he was in.

The priest winced and frowned as he and Trevor stared at each other intensely for a shorter time than either of them realized.

Trevor turned away swiftly.

“So uh, Reeky, the business we were discussing,” demanded Trevor.

“Cool your jets, this is a man of God. And man put that blunt up esta loca huh? Uh, you gonna have to leave if you can’t show no respect. What’s wrong with you?”

“I’m don’t mean any disrespect father, but you mus’ understand that I don’t prescribe to your religion, Jesus is a man and I-and-I a man too” Trevor emphasized softly with no irony or intended offense.

“You’re far from a rasta Trev, don’t take a genius to know that. Put the fuckin’ blunt out. That’s enough,” Enriquillo interjected.

The priest sat back coolly turning his neck to both sides as if trying to loosen his joints.

“Trevor is it? Well, son, everyone at some point is disillusioned but the drugs, if you don’t mind.”

“Yeah. Alright but it’s because I’m in a man dem’ house and he ask it but not because….”

“Man Trevor, just put out the ‘la’ man damn! Oh..umm, I.. I’m sorry father,” said Hector correcting himself after directing Trevor to extinguish the weed.

“And there is no quote un-quote business, not while the father his here man what the hell is wrong with you?” Enriquillo, who liked to say “quote-un-quote” without using fingers — sounded official — pointed a volatile finger at Trevor and resumed.

Reeky tapped Trevor’s knee, “That’s why you don’t prosper man, you don’t know how to sit there, shut up and…on top of that you ain’t got no respect. Respect the man.”

Espinosa, like the priest, sat silent taking it all in. He was a drug dealer’s drug dealer, a gentlemen thug who abhorred being called a drug dealer.

If the Bronx could be had, it would belong to Espinosa. And even the illicit trade that he didn’t take part in still earned him a percentage and an undying loyalty, laced with both adulation and fear among shop merchants, livery drivers, dealers, hookers, bus drivers who wanted to hit the subterranean cock fights and high stakes dice games in the green fly-laden storage rooms and obscured loading bays in back of bodegas or whatever!



The HOLY Father – New York City, 1995

Could God have made a better day than this to fly? It was a silent prayer to himself, his eyes squinting against the half-smiling solar sphere’s iridescent light, attempting to catch a glimpse of the skyline below.

The DC-10 hovered as it circled around Manhattan, south of Brooklyn and finally made a loop to descend into JFK Airport from the east. The arrival process was fraught with baby blue - the sky- which seemed to blanket the horizon for miles.

His lips parted only slightly, making one of those toothless smiles. Meanwhile the dark blue surface of New York Harbor, in the distance to his left, glistened almost forcing him to take a deep breath.

Smooth landing.

Methodically, the aged man folded the Christian Science Monitor and put it under his seat before slowly unbuckling his seatbelt.

“This concludes our non-stop flight from Lagos en route to New York’s Kennedy Airport. We hope you enjoy your stay in New York City, USA or wherever your final destination may be. We will arrive at the gate shortly. Please keep your seatbelts fastened until the plane comes to a complete stop. Thank you for flying TransAfrica.”

He listened patiently for a moment then waved off the PA announcement while straightening his black hat, which sat perfectly atop his coarse white hair protruding from the hat’s brim on all sides.

He grunted as he reached up to get his two medium-sized carry-on bags.

“Let me get that for you reverend,” said a passing passenger with a kind smile.

“Thank you my son. By the way, that would be father. I am a priest within the Holy Roman Catholic Church.”

“Oh my mistake father. Here let me help you with those bags.”

“God Bless you,” the old priest retorted with gratitude.

Making his way off the plane and out of the gate, he wobbled down the short hall to the customs checkpoint just beyond the baggage claim.

“Father, Antonio De la Rosa?” The customs agent read aloud as he surveyed and stamped the priest’s Dominican Republic passport.

“He is I and I am him,” The priest said receiving his passport and then bestowing a firm two-handed - handshake upon the agent.

As he smiled the priest revealed unsightly teeth, some missing, some yellow. Yet the customs agent seemed to take delight in the father’s presence.

“Enjoy your stay father.”

“Thank you my son, may God bless you.”

On he went down the escalator to a short corridor that lead to ground transportation. As the escalator took him down, he clutched the wooden rosary around his neck, thanking providence for a safe journey.

Below him was a seemingly muted repetitious animal outburst of some kind, which soon deafening noise as he descended from the mezzanine level.

Interrupting his muted incantation was a vicious and barking German Shepherd with a small line of white foam forming around its black gums. It growled and hissed at him with great avarice, breaking loose from its leash and nipping gingerly at the priest’s ankles.

Father De la Rosa retreated with youthful agility, fanning the dog away with his bags.

“Down Elliot, heel boy,” pleaded a uniformed officer whose insignia on his uniform read: Port Authority NY/NJ.

“I’m..I apologize father,” he continued, clumsily recovering the animal. “He hasn’t eaten all day or gotten much exercise lately. Sometimes he gets feisty.”

“A police dog eh?” inquired De la Rosa rubbing his long beard in relief and removing his glasses to wipe his eyes and then the lenses with a handkerchief produced from the inside of his cloak. He then patted his brow.

“He’s an all-purpose - easy boy, easy – contraband detector. We’ve been acting on tips, on some big smugglers, diamonds, designer drugs, and other uh..well…contraband. Everyone’s been on edge including Elliot here. Isn’t that right boy?”

The dog persisted with short muffled groans and yelps.

“It’s quite alright young man. You named the dog Elliot. Is there some significance?”

The guard smiled, glad that someone – anyone - took an interest in him or his dog.

“He is named after Elliot Ness, you know the guy who caught Al Capone.”

“Ah yes.”

“Yeah, I used to watch untouchables as a kid and Robert Stack was my idol.”

“Indeed, interesting.”

“Uh, yeah, uh, can I help you with your bags? Do you have transportation?”

“I’m actually headed to the taxi stand.”

“Here father, allow me, easy boy. Shhh, come on boy, chill out, easy.”

“Thank you.”

“Whoa what you got here, bricks?”

The priest snickered.

“In a sense they are bricks, building a strong foundation for the soul, fifty hard-cover King James Version Bibles for the children of my parish and other lost souls.”

Father De la Rosa reached into one of the bags and brandished one of the large Bibles tapping it for emphasis and quickly replacing it as the dog’s barks grew loud again.

The sliding door opened to a sultry afternoon that made De la Rosa quite uncomfortable in his long cloak. Notwithstanding his discomfort, he made his way to the cab stand, watching as the dog continued to reproach him and wondering if his seven-day mission across Asia, parts of Europe and Africa, had really done him, his parish or the world any good.

“You run a church?” the guard asked, heaving - the conduit between the dog and the luggage - as he pulled the heavy duffel bags and their contents across the street to the taxi cab bay.

The priest answered clasping his hand, as if praying, while he continued to advance.

“No, God runs the church. I actually preside over a parish in the Bronx. Yeap, the Bible, some of the best stories ever told.”

The officer ignored his bantering.

“Here you go father uh….”

“Father Tony – De la Rosa.”

“Glad to have been of service Father De la…. Easy boy. Damn, easy chill the hell out,. Sheesh. Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus Christ indeed.”

“Oh I’m sorry father uh, see you later have a good trip.”

“Many thanks my son.” He was waving and almost got hit by a cab pulling up at about 15 miles per hour.

“What the fu…heyyyyy uh reverend where you goin’ today? Sorry about that.”

“No problem, you almost got me though. I’m headed for the Bronx.”

“Let me get the bags there. Whoa shi.. I mean shoot. These babies are heavy!” the driver said depositing the bags into the trunk.

A, smokeless, damp and flaccid cigarette dangled from the right corner of the cabby’s mouth. Recognizing the taste, he removed it quickly and threw it away as he opened the door for De la Rosa.

The driver, portly, unshaved and tanned, wore a Hawaiian style shirt over a yellowing v-neck T-shirt and khaki pants.

The priest, with enigmatic eyes, smooth bronze skin and full lips covered by a thick snow white beard, straightened up his cloak and settled in, exclaiming, “my long trips ends on 222nd and White Plains Road.

“Oh yeah in the Bronx, I’m from Crotona Pahhk. You gotta church up there or sumpin’ uh.. father? Say, why didn’t you order a town car, you know a livery? Can’t the church spring fo….”

“Questions, questions. Our greatest weapons against tyranny. To answer your first question: yes and it…, yes I do it’s also a home for boys. To answer your second: I’m not going there now. I intend to visit a dear friend and his family for dinner. It’s nice to have friends wouldn’t you agree?”

“Whatever you say pops.”

The priest frowned playfully diverting his attention to birds that soared in the trade winds that flowed toward the imposing twin towers of the World Trade Center, miles across the water in the distance, erected tall on the urban landscape.

“Ah New York, so good to be home. Congestion. So congested a city but no greater a culture and identity in all the world.”

“Got that right. This town’s got culture comin’ out the as…Oh excuse me uh reverend I mean father.”

“It’s quite alight. I’m not your judge. I am but a man.”

The driver stared with curiosity at the clergyman through the rearview mirror, his eyes narrowing with examination.

“Say, don’t you wanna maybe take off the hat and the cloak. It’s like 80 degrees and you’re sweatin’ pretty good there. What’s with the clothes, where’d you come from Ant-friggin-artica?! For Christ’s sake man you’re bakin’.”

“Everything is for Christ’s sake my friend,” De la Rosa said clearing his throat. Thank you for your concern but I’m quite content. It’s the heat that keeps me on my toes. Yes, on fire for God.”

They both laughed heartily.

Oddly, the priest thought, there isn’t much traffic.

The cab easily glided across the Van Wyck Expressway and past the tollbooth after the Whitestone Bridge.

The priest’s head turned with curiosity, as the driver took the road toward I-95, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, rather than the Bruckner Expressway, which was closer to where he was going!



Moses Prison, Upstate New York 1998

“Hit me,” Ronaldo the convict, El Joven, the gangster, says without even pondering what’s in his hands.

Dayroom as usual with the Italians, it was SuperMax, Federal, experimental, institutionalized country club. No dominoes, no grimy street cats with shanks ready to bang you, no Mexicans, no neo nazis. Just isolated celebrity crooks. Leo ”Eddie” Mancuso, a foot soldier turned car dealership owner, sucked on a wet cigarette with Vincent “Cheech” Taglia, a capo in the Ricano family next to him. Two other Italian wackos Ronaldo doesn’t know second Mancuso and Taglia like parrots but must be important otherwise they wouldn’t be in the V.I.P. room, the dayroom, playing the the fourth game of 21 for commissary or book money. That’s credits for purchasing goods and even services from the cafeteria, depot and yes a small Wal-Mart like convenience store in this post-modern paradise where they had those valour sweatsuits Mancuso and Taglia have on now. Ronaldo gets a kick out of it. These fat jerks don’t work out. He’s starting to pay attention before the men realized he’s casing them. Something ain’t right. That dark instinct, intiutions of someone who has been shot and shot at, who has shot back and shot other people, that foresight you can’t be taught.

Before the hit, he has two cards in his hand, an ace and a king. Perfect.

He looked at Leo whose face is redder than usual and whose body rocks back and forth uneasily. Right then it’s apparent that Leo is not paying attention to the game anymore than Joven is.

So he studies the old men for the same signs. The two who never speak their own mind are always dead give aways, drones, button pushers, killing at the drop of a hat.

Taglia, in contrast, is hard to pick apart though—giving credence to the term ‘poker face.’

Mancuso seems to be the only one actually concentrating. On what, who knows?

“I’m staying,” says Joven blowing out smoke and almost choking in the process.

“I’m stayin’ too,” Mancuso says with a look of triumph.

The three other men—Leo included—all signaled that they needed a hit.

Taglia is the dealer. Figures, thinks Ronaldo.

When the reality of what is going down hits Joven, his body becomes paralyzed and his sweat, which is forming beads right below his manicured hairline, turn chillingly cold.

In the casino, the dealer always lets a person win the first few hands as Mancuso has done. Then comes the complimentary drinks maybe even a soft hooker to route you on. No soft hookers here, just prison, just smiles. And then the losing streak, as the dealer expects it will, starts.

“What you guys got?” asks Taglia sternly.

The two old fat men and Leo’s hands all exceed the limit and they know it and Joven knows it.

Joven grins and slaps his cards on the table aggressively, more to ease his own mind then to show any machismo. Twenty-one Mothafuckas, he says, soon asking himself silently ‘why did I say that.’

Mancuso laughs so hard he almost choked.

“Two aces, and a king,” Mancuso bellowed while wheezing comical laugh. That’s, I believe 21 what’dya, how did you say it mothafuckas. I love this kid, can’t get much better than that Joeven!

Joeven. They used the “J,” mockingly, trying to bring the ghetto out.

“You’re on a roll,” Taglia shouts obviously leveling fake adulation.

Suddenly Joven feels depressed but cheers up when one of the old men asks him what makes him so special, meaning why was he worth all this attention.

Attention? You dumb sun-tanned old men, that’s a dead give away. You want to kill someone, you make them think there you’re best friend. The pencil on Joven’s ear - he’s the score keeper - is now the heaviest thing he’s ever worn. He’s thinking about putting it in someone’s neck.

“Yeah what’s your story, were you a fuckin’ boy in the hood or what,” Taglia, says while dealing again and eliciting laughs from everybody including Ronaldo.

What a fucked up game this is, he thinks, but he’d play storyteller so he can take command of the real game.

After lighting up another cigarette, Taglia gives even more away, “You know these things’ll kill ya,” the leather-faced, dark-eyed capo said.

“Yeah, someone who once pointed a gun at me told me the same thing. I was actually smokin’ a joint when they cocked that shit and put it to my head,” Ronaldo retorts non-chalantly.

Akward silence, water drips somewhere on a steel sink in some domicline down the hall, the buzz from the white lights above hums. No one looks at anyone.

Dead give away. Dead.

Just as suddenly, the table erupts in laughter and then grows silent when Joven starts in on how he came up as a youngster in the streets. Tells them about Sharkie, whom one of the strong silent types suprisingly knows, remembers the “dapper eggplant,” as a stand up guy, a hustler and master gambler.

One of the henchmen is suddenly impressed, “That’s your guy?”

The world never tires of these types of stories. That’s why Joven knew from age six he wanted to be an outlaw. He knows now though nothing can prepare him for moments like this. Smiling at people who want you dead.

The new silence halts his conversation but then a go ahead nod from Taglia and a gesture of the hands from Mancuso endorses his anecdote.

“Ronny D, this is your life,” Mancuso yelled out.

Another slip of the tongue. The old-school hitters would say, never gloat before the job, they hear you, smell you, see you from a mile off.

The table again roared in laughter. It wasn’t that funny. And everyone knows it.

Talking is the only thing that can prolong the inevitable now and Joven decides he won’t be a coward even though everything in him tells him to retire for the night, it’s the sensible thing. But then again, it would be his dead giveaway. They can’t know that he knows. He must give them room, space, let them believe he’s obvlious, let them gloat, let them feel secure.

So he takes a long drag of cancerous gray mist, it stings the throat. He looks down, then looks up. He stares up at the ceiling, leaning back and rattling off senseless gibberish about the poorest neighborhood in New York City. It was like he is trapped inside of a bad movie that only comes on once every two years at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.

So much of a cliché it’s pathetic. One of the white cylinders on the double-pronged rectangle above them blinks and flashes out. Now the only light in the room is the light directly over the card table.


In the near distance, he hears the echoes in the hall made by the quiet footsteps of guards. At midnight it was lights out. But the clock only says ten.


He would babble until the guards came instead of leaving, which would be a sure sign of extreme cowardice even though all the logic his mind could muster told him to do just that.

“So you wanna know about my barrio? About me? Oh barrio, yeah that’s neighborhood for the Spanish impaired,” he says to more laughter. “What’s you’re about to hear is a true story some of the names have been kept the fuckin’ same to keep it as real as humanly fuckin’ possible. This is for mature audiences only so I guess you guys gotta go right?”

Again, more artificial and patronizing laughter.

They are going to try to kill him. He knows it, he laughs and puffs, puffs and laughs and waits.




No circular driveways, no gangsters, no crooked executivesm - - just her, frozen in time, in the sun shine, a statue in the high desert planes.

Juanita Diamente Ortega is stunning, she is beautiful, she us crafty, she is sweet, she is naive, she is bait..She is his sister, she is his ex-girlfiend. She is idealistic, she is protective of her daddy. She is a worm on a hook for Joven to bite.

Joven knows this, he tells her as much, not exactly but passive agressively.

“You should go,” he said turning from her ,walking toward the elevator. “Get outta here please I’m begging you sweetheart, go, leave now.”

But she just stands there staring at him almost wanting to go but not wanting to leave without him.

“Why did you do this to us Ronaldo?”

He lets the elevator door close slowly like he thinks a gangster should, staring at his shoes, palm over palm, cool focused.

She knows better. Must have been the hot wind on her almond-brown neck that tells her he loves her.

She says, “Me too, Me too.” only in her mind, she puts on her designer shades and escorts her father into the main lobby.

On the elevator Joven bounces up and down on the balls of his feet, his head throbbing in ancticpation, his little gun stuck to his sweaty ankle.

Things are too far gone now.

Now he’s even more angry then before. Ortega and Batista know that they can always put him at a disadvantage by bringing her into the equation. How could he stand by and just let Batista pull the strings and make him and everyone he loves dance like a fool. Joven thought about his father. He doesn’t hate Orlando Ortega, surrogate and non-biological papa, not even now. Ortega is still a mentor and deep in the recesses of his hardened heart, he definitely still can’t shake his adoration for the lovely Juanita. Now it’s truly over, he convinces himself. At this juncture he believes he can’t live with himself if anything happens to the people he loves. And dammit something is going to happen. Nothing he can do about it.

By the time he gets off the elevator and walks down the hall, his hate for Batista intensifies. He suffocates with blind, raw hatred. He reaches for the double doors and fling them open. He laughs to himself that he took the elevator one flight up and it seemed like seventy stories on the way up. He laughs at all the stupid clueless men before him, some of whom will die simply because they associated themselves with crooked Batista. Some won’t know why they’re being killed. He stands there for a while, like a field general staring onto a smokey
battlefield. Then in a flash, all of the talking ceases in the Cigar-smoke filled room. He cautiously walks in. Every occupant is staring at him. Some look with contempt, while others are indifferent.

It’s clear though that they have a morbid respect for the young man for standing up to Batista. Joven cases the joint, whirls around subtly to see two muscle-bound guards who looked to be of Latin descent. Colombians? They’re certainly not regular security. He’s walking into a hit in a boardroom at a quarterly executive board meeting of the board of directors of a publicly-traded company in the United States of America. How ridiculous is his plan? How ludicrous is there’s? How dumb is the world for everyone to be in it and act as they do? As he surveys the room, he sees something, or the lack thereof that makes his blood boil.

No Batista!

First instinct just start blasting and go out in a hail of bullets on the six o’clock news or in the 24-hour madness that is cable news. He’d be in all the papers on all the TVs, they’d make a movie about him, He’d be an American-made self-made immortal gangster. Reality hit. He starts to walk out and just run. Yeah right, maybe in his mind. Maybe even grab Juanita if she is still downstairs take her away. Yeah right again. It’s either the police or the paneling. That’s what they say in the neighborhood about the thugs. You either get the law or your family gets to admire the fake facade, the pinstripe wood paneling adorning the walls of a funeral home that smelled like ammonia, rubbing alchohol and grief. It’s confirmed now — a set up. Play it cool like he always does.

“Gentlemen, where’s your fearless leader, surely he wouldn’t miss such a festive occasion.”

He walks authoritatively toward his seat and the head of the table where Batista should be were he present. To him, it’s their way of saying, “this is your last meeting enjoy it.” Behind the chair is a large plate glass window through which he looks out and sees a catering truck coming through the gate. The corner of his mouth went up slowly,slyly about $500,000 worth of his million-dollar grin. The “food” is on its way.

He quickly turns and sits down.

“Well gentlemen,” he grumbles, with a stern but disarming look on his face. “Where’s the big kahuna?”

“Come on what is this a real business meeting, come on, there’s security there, cops are outside there’s nowhere to go. Frankly I’m amazed you even showed up.”

That’s George Klien, the wily, knocked-kneed CEO of La Hoya Holdings, a gift from his dad. He runs nothing, he draws a paycheck. Batista is the chairman and the “chair,” “man.” But Klien tries to sell his importance anyway, blowing out smoke that’s floating over the long marble table.

Straight out of a comic book, is what Joven’s thinking.

“Frankly I’m surprised you guys let me in.”

The room erupts in nervous laughter.

Klien doesn’t like it. “This isn’t a meeting, you have something to say, you’ve come to turn yourself in, Rafael wouldn’t waste his time with a two-bit punk like you, this isn’t a venue for drug dealers. State your case so I can hit the golf course.” Again, more nervous laughter.

Klien is red with anger. “Everybody shut the hell up!”

Joven smirks. “Well what do you call Colombians? And all the other riff-raff — present company excluded of course — Mr Batista does business with. And for the record I love you too Mr. Klien”

Compressed snickers are palpable in the room now.

“Don’t play games with me little boy, I’d like to see you weasel your way out of this one. We got you by the balls and we’re ready to squeeze.”

“Oooh! don’t squeeze to hard honey.” Room erupts again. Some of these people just don’t know what the real deal is.

“Why you…” Klien starts standing up enraged by the young man’s comical condescendence.

“Enough of this nonsense,” bellowed Orterga with his baritone voice,stepping into the room in a more commanding manner than his son did minutes before. “Sit down please George, let the boy speak so we can all get on with more serious business and hit the golf couse.”

The room erupts in laughter, lambs and jackals being led to the gallows. They all stopped and stared at Juanita’s coke-bottle frame nestled in a deliciously-tailored pinstripe pants suit, her apple-shaped muscular behind that was so defined, people could see it from the front. She sits down and crossed her legs, ivory pumps soft to the touch of the sparse lighting as she swings back in forth in the swivel chair at the base of the table, just far enough away not to intimidate or distract the men but close enough to listen. Now that’s gangster.
Joven and Juanita must have said that in unison as they trade a glance. They must have because they cackle quietly like they’re back on a school yard, playing the dozens, sharing an inside joke.

Ortega, the elder, gives Joven a stone-faced stare and nodded his approval.

Where the hell is Batista, Joven continus thinking.

Screw it. “Yeah George, sit down and let me speak, you, you, Woody Allen look alike.”

“I’m not gonna take much more of this,” roars Klien whose face was red as a beet dipped in Strawberry jam.

Klien is about 5″2—generously—and he has a size complex. He wants to be important like his father, powerful like Batista and cool like Ortega. But everyone in the room knows why Klien is in this position. Nepotism, period, point-blank end of story. He is far from his father—far from gutsy and far from respected. Joven on the other hand, is just like his dad.

“Ok, whatever. First order of business, I’m offering my Santa Maria shares to the you for a generous price of…I”

Juanita’s shifting in the chair interrupted and disturbed him. She licks her lips,puts on lipstick even though it’s clear she already has some on. He discovers something then and there that he never could admit to himself or didnt’ want to . She’s more crafty in these matters - experience aside — than anyone in this room. But she’s still in over her head.

He continues to speak though and Orterga promptly cuts him off.

“Why should we want to hear anything you have to say? The whole world is looking for you right now. Why should we not turn you in? Why not turn yourself in?”

“So turn me in.” Ronaldo snaps. “I’m flipping like a Dolphin mothafuckas. Now watch the government audit your whole company and arrest everyone in this room after I turn fed’s evidence. If my memory serves me correct, I think the audit is already underway. You need the company back so you can clean it up real quick. Man do you really think I would have come here with no bargaining chips. I could have been long gone.”

“Shrewd move.” Ortega shrugged, knowing what he already knew, he’d always known. Ortega is tired, he’s just playing the game to play it.

“I was taught by the best,” Joven winks.

Juanita looks at him longingly, she wanted to touch him she wants his gentle carress. She suddenly wants to have sex for some strange reason. They’d never ever done it and now seemed like the most inappropriately hot time to do it. She put on her best show, he’s buying it but not biting, but not biting at all, she surmises. Most of all she wants him to be a different person and he can never be that.

Her eyes start to water, simply because she’s doing everything in her power not to let them water, kind of like laughing when you can’t in a room full of serious people. The pleas she makes to him with her eyes are futile.

“Now then, Mr. Klien, I trust that you have the paper work ready, $50 million will be transferred to Banco De Primero de Havana.”

The room full of board members frown at such a request, how could they ever justify such an expenditure to shareholders, to regulators, but they have to respect it. He had the leverage. They would all be in jail, if he lives. Give him the money now, kill him later, a couple of them find themselves thinking.

Klein pushes the documents to the head of the desk.

Joven looks the papers over noticing out of the corner of his eyes that caterers with white coats came in and that the guards had locked the door. Signing all the papers he winks at Ortega and chuckled at Klein who was itching to give the guards the order. His ankle hurt with a sweet sting from the sweat and pressure. The gun itched to be pulled and he would. He looks for a spot under the table. It’s a sham. There ain’t no $50 million, unless there is, or maybe they make the wire transfer and then kill him. The caterers are here. The food is
here. Everyone will soon be served. The guards fall in behind him, he can hear the buttons on their coats, coming a loose. It’s that damn quiet.

“These documents have been forwarded to George?”

The other George was his lawyer who was waiting in the Caymans. The fake name of a bank that doesn’t exist in Cuba, with a fake routing number would re-route the transfer to a phantom account if they actually are scared enough to do it. A cellphone rings. That’s the sign that they actually did it. Joven had some staff members place it in the conference room so that George could call and let him know the money is in fac there.

He almost dances. They actually did that shit.

He turns around toward the guards pantomiming like he’s about to box them.

“Back up fellas, may work with the chicks but now me,”

A single bead of sweat trickles down his spine, his tie is stuck to his neck, they’d turned the heat up in the room on his ass like they do in long meetings to get an edge on foes.

His throat sticks together, the guards step closer.

He spies a glass of water.

“Let me propose a toast,” he yells, frightened as a cat at a dog convention, holding up a glass of water. “To all you washed up assholes, bottoms up. Go to hell, from the bottom of my heart.”

That is the signal for them boys–Chico and them — to bring that drama on everyone in the room.

But, nothing happens.

The water bubbles up in his throat nearly choking him as it goes down. Were they all in on it?



Moses Prison, Upstate New York 1997

Ronaldo is headed to see Dr. Everett Milner, a black man from the inner-city of Detroit.

Joven thinks this will be a good match but much to his chagrin, the black doctor, when he sees him, proves to be more patronizing than any of the white ones.

Milner has a pipe, thick glasses, a blazer with suede elbow pads, a bow-tie and an oxford accent to boot. Ronaldo’s thougts: What could he possibly know about me?

“Good morning Mr. Dominguez,” grumbles Milner looking at a clipboard with past evaluations on it.

He find Milner’s tone insulting.

Why does he have to talk to me like I’m outta my mind or something, Joven thinks. Or like I’m a lost little kid stuck in a tree. “What’s up doc? You here to tell me what’s wrong with me. How fucked up I am?”

“No I’m here to help you understand, or at least try to understand from my standpoint, a professional vantage point, why you hate the world.”

Joven laughs uncontrollably.

“Is something funny?” Milner asked, clearly annoyed. “Is this attempt to re-direct your emotions maybe? Avoid the issue at hand so to speak.”

“Please your killing me,” Joven says, eyes watering with hilarity. “That Psycho babble jargon, good stuff doc, good stuff, you ever thought about taking that on the road.”

“Ok that’s quite enough,” Milner growls. “Now should I come back at another time or do you want to waste time. This is outside of my normal purvew, you’re a special case a sociopath, pyschopath, possibly Bi-Polar, possibly, well I’m here at the behest of the federal government, which I’m doing a joint research project. As much as it may trouble you to hear, you’re well a hamster.”

“Tell me something new man. Look probe away poindexter, I didn’t ask for this,” Joven says in a more serious tone. “Warden said I had to do it.”

“Okay fair enough but I undestand from your files…yes, I understand that you wanted counseling, you requested it. Is this true?”


“Then please let me help you. I’ve gone over your files vigorously, you’re an exceptional young man and I just want to get to the root of whatever it is that’s going on in there.”

Joven loosens up. Maybe he isn’t so bad after all.

Milner clears his throat. “The prison psychologist tells me that you feel paranoid. Why do you feel this way? Do you feel like you’re alone. Special, persecuted unlike any other person?”

“That psychologist was sexy don’t you think? I could hardly keep my eyes off her. The way she moved. Those lips when she said those big word, I must admit I was aroused. Seriously though I think she was paranoid, that she would end up butt naked on her hands and knees in my cell or something. Maybe taking it like a doggy, a sweet little psychologist doggy. Oh Joven Oh Joven!”

Ronaldo’s having fun now.

Milner’s annoyed, bumpy flight to the middle of nowhere for this? Kid must think he’s on television or something. Milner decides he’ll humor him. But he’ll do it methodically.

“I can’t help you if you don’t cooperate please answer my question.”

“Okay, lighten up. Maybe you need some ass or something. Anyway, yes it’s all around me. The world is a dangerous, beautiful and terrible place. Shit is real to me because it’s my reality.”

“I hear that you’re having trouble sleeping, a re-occuring dream perhaps?”

“Perhaps? Listen, you actually get paid for this bullshit? Do you even give a shit what I say?”

Joven is suddenly becoming impatient and angry. He starts rambling about the “president, the guards, the cartels, everybody is in on it! and so are you,” he says to Milner, pointing an accusatory finger.

“Mr. Dominguez please calm down.”

“Where are you from?” Joven asks in a sporadic voice, even though he knows the answer.

“What relevance does…..”

“Answer the motha fuckin’ question!”


“It looks like I’ll have to come back when you have calmed your nerves, guard, guard!”

“You’re not going anywhere,” Joven exclaims loudly, springing up, shutting the door and locking it.

Milner is terrified as he put his hands up to try to calm Ronaldo down. The doctor then returns slowly to his seat and activates a small cassette recorder.

Joven smirked and sat back down. All the world is a stage, he recalls, thinking suddenly of, what’s his name SHake-a-spear, for some dumb reason. He loves to ham it up, put on performances, just to mindscrew people. Dr. Milner is no exception.

Joven lights a cigarillo for effect more than anything else. He speaks:

“Not only do you think I’m crazy. You think I’m an idiot. Sit down man, the guards are at lunch. I’m not gonna hurt you. Now where are you from?”

“Detroit, I grew up in a rough neighborhood, dirt poor, maybe somewhat similar to your Harlem upbringing.”

“So then you somewhat understand my fear don’t you?”

“No not entirely. But I want to understand your fear. Do you want me to understand?”


“Okay then tell me about this re-occuring dream.”

“It’s this old man that’s…forget it. You should understand my fear but I’ll tell you why you don’t. You’re out of touch, your suede elbow pads are covering up your ashy black ass arms, your bowtie is cutting off oxygen to your dome. Look, when is the last time you’ve been back to your old neighborhood, Detroit?”

“I live in Detroit now, but this is not about me. Your smart enough to know that redirection and projection is a classic cry for help. I don’t have to tell you that. If you must know, I go back all the time, trying to understand the pathology, the souls of black folk as DuBois once wrote about. I’ll humor you. I work at Wayne State, I’m a medical physician and have a doctorate I live in Auburn Hills. That’s a little more information than you need to know but I’m trying to build a rapport with you. I want you to trust me as I trust you.”

“You don’t hardly trust me and it’s just like I figured. You ain’t been back to the real side of things. You ain’t been back to mingle with those who seldom conform to social norms.”

“Interesting. What do you mean Ronaldo? May I call you Ronaldo or do you prefer Joven as they called you on your block. Or maybe Mr. Dominguez perhaps.”

“Man whatever! Look at you, you’re a joke. Damn, you’re so out of touch with reality.”

Typical young brother, Milner thinks, smiling leaning back, like an amused father and lighting his pipe. He broke ranks with his profession, chuckling amusingly.

“Okay, I’ll tell you what I think, just as a man. Forget about the hardware on the walls for a second. It would seem to me that it is you who are out of touch young man. I see this all the time Ronaldo. And this may be news to you. It is not necessarily the fault of greater society or even myself that certain people tend to violate social norms and laws of this country’s municipalities. I’m no more to blame for your problems than you are for my idiocyncracies. Do you feel like a product of your environment? Maybe like the world owes you something because you came of age in the ghetto? It is you young man who may need to wake up and smell the coffee. Look at yourself. You’re too sharp to be locked up. And why do you make excuses for crooks, deviants with the same mental illnesses as yourself?”

Milner has him cold and they both know it.

Under normal circumstances Joven would have punched him dead in his mouth but he wants to be tactful and respect his professional opinion. He’s too proud to concede the truth in what Milner said though.

“Hmm sounds like you’re judging me. I thought your job was to offer an objective analysis. Yeah that’s right, a arroz-con-pollo nigger from Harlem said, ‘objective’ analysis.’ What’s wrong doc? Seems like you’re infusing personal opinion into this session. You know nothing about me what I’ve been through. As a matter of fact, you’re too old to understand the game. And you’re too brainwashed by that bullshit medical degree to empathize with a young man the same color as you.”

Dr Milner frowned, his texturized salt and pepper hair glistens in the light as he wipes his brow. He’s intrigued. This kid is likable for some odd reason.

“Son listen, I’m as real as one can get. I understand you perfectly. I fought my own people and others. Forty-years to get where I am now. And I won’t let anyone invalidate that. I worked hard son. Work! Something your generation has forgotten about. Your generation has it so easy. But you’d love for the world to think you have real problems.”

Broken record, the fed and all these other old as negroes tell him the same thing, Joven quips to himself.

Milner then takes off his glasses and wiped his eyes. He quickly gathers himself and clears his throat once more. Not revealing his empathy for the young man, he leans back and sees himself at a young age. Mad at the world and establishment, wanting to tear shit up. He turns now back to his notes, doodling.

A curious Joven looks over at the pad and then solemnly at Milner.

“You wrong about me,” Joven says in a soft genuine voice. “I did everything America says do. I was on the honor roll in high school, you believe that. I even went to a Junior College and got a two-year degree. I had the GPA to go to any four-year in the country.”

Suddenly he’s violently loud again, pounding his fist on the table for emphasis.

“But I made a choice!” I chose not to conform. I didn’t want to fake it in a fake university. I’m a realist. This is a artificial world so I don’t belong. Tell me, what education do you speak of doctor? Because I can’t think of any kind that would have been of more value than what I got in the fuckin’ world, the streets. I made a choice. Some choose to live like saints. No sex. No alcohol, very little material wealth. Fuck that! Are you blaming me because I wanted it all and did any and everything to get it. But you know what. God let me live so I could taste life and then suffer the consequences.”

Calmly he sits back, clearly winding down and clearly ending his soliloquy.

“Even you sir, must someday be judged. So who are you.”

Dr. Milner finishes writing, tears a sheet from the pad and stands up with a stern face.

“Here is a prescription to help you sleep and help you calm down. If my professional diagnosis is correct. You have what’s called a bi-polar disorder. You see, you’re under the dillusion that everyone is out to get you. Up one day, down the next. Let me tell you something and this is from a man who rioted in the streets like a mad man looking for justice. The only injustice that has been done you has been self-imposed. Your violent behavior and rebellious manner is a perfect indication of that. You know you’ve gone out of your way to perpetuate the very stereotypes that keep people of color down. And how dare you imply that you have been divinely inspired to be a criminal.”

Joven lights another cigarillo even though one is already burning on the ash tray in front of him. Obviously no one understands him. He sinned just like everyone else. He’d used the capitalist system against the capitalists, yet he was the one who was evil and a shame to his community. How could this be?

“Oh yeah, I forgot. You’re part of the talented tenth, ain’t that DuBois? You’ve underestimated me from the time you walked in, everybody has, that’s why I’m rich bitch!”

When he says ‘talented tenth,’ again for no reason in particular, Joven’s fingers make quotation marks.

“Man you’re just mad because I understand your profession and you can’t dazzle me with your jargon and make me fill bad about myself. You’re mad because I’ve been on the covers of magazines. You, like all the other jealous assholes, sellouts and establishment flunkies, are mad because at age 20 I got more money than a pro athlete without ever having played a damn thing. Look, I ain’t paranoid at all. It’s just reality. Real, reality. Not scientific, theoretical reality. How many can say they’ve done what I’ve done. I’m worth more dead than some
people would ever be alive, money or no money? Get the outta here with this bullshit man. I got all the time in the world and you’re still wasting it.”

Ronaldo looks down at the paper Milner handed him skeptically and then rolls his eyes cynically.

“Depakote, huh?” he says referring to the prescription. “Is this some kind of medicine. A drug to put me to sleep forever, make me oblivious to my own reality. Why not just give me some weed.”

Again he leans back, balls up the paper and hurled it, hitting Milner square between his eyes and knocking his glasses to the floor. Now Ronaldo was laughing with rage.

“You academics and pseudo scientists kill me. How can you say that I’m crazy.”

“I’m not saying you’re crazy,” Milner answersm still calm picking up his glasses and wiping them off.

This further angered Ronaldo and he now thinks the shrink is patronizing him. So he gets up and walks calmly toward Milner.

“Guard, Guard! Gu..,” Milner yells with futility.

But Joven covered his mouth and placed the index finger of his other hand on his own lips, “Shhhhhhh,” he whispred.

“It’s ludicrous to opress a group of people with lynchings, racism, poverty and turn the other way when it comes to letting drugs into our communities. Then you turn around and give that same group of people derivatives of those same illegal drugs that you made legal in order to silence independent thinkers and people you just can’t figure out and don’t want to. Then you make illegal drugs so profitable that desperate people don’t care about real work anymore that’s the truth. Me I just like the gangster life and that, too, is the truth.”

Joven backs off him and walks over to call the guard to open the door.

With a cigarillo hanging from the corner of his lips like Cagney or Edward G. Robinson or Bogie in Casablanca he chuckles at Milner.

“You’re nothing but a legal drug dealer, an educated pimp trying to sweet talk people into thinking their lives are fucked up. Doctor Milner, thanks but no thanks. I don’t need your kind of help.”

With a loud shriek the door swings open and Joven walked out.

Milner followed slowly.

Incredible, Dr. Milner thinks to himself. Stokes came up chewing on a sandwich. The guards really were out to lunch.

“Amazing,” Dr. Milner said sarcastically to Stokes while shaking his head. “Simply fascinating.”

“See you next time Doc,” Stokes said, trying to make up for the fact that he was away from his post.

“I won’t be back guard, I don’t think I can do anything with this kid,”




At the Father Divine Orphanage, the orphan boys stand giddily around Joven, looking upon him with adulation, watching Ronaldo in awe and benevolent envy. He’s withstood Sister Modesta’s dipstick, without crying. He’s defied the rules and chilled at the barbershop with the biggest numbers man, craftiest pool shark and slickest hustler in Harlem Sharkie. He’s
lived to tell about it. They look at him as members of a family would survey a decorated war hero coming home for Thanksgiving, his medals shiny, his jaw tightened, his face ruggedly hallowed by a world few in the room new. Brown anxiously reaches for Joven’s bag. “Let’s see what you got here,” Brown says, looking as if he was going to take the smaller boys money. But the boy stands firm, giving Brown a dastardly glare.

“Aw man, If I wanted that shit, I’d take it.” Ronaldo likes his style but would never trust Black Brown from that point on.

Three days later at about that same time Ronaldo finds himself in the office with a social worker, Sister Modesta and Father Tony De La Rosa, a Dominican like himself who ran the Orphanage.

“You’re a smart boy so I guess you know by now that this behavior will not be tolerated,” the priest said, his scruffy voice focusing on the word tolerated. “Tu Sabes? Dije, comprendes?” He said signifying do you know and understand in Spanish making sure his young countryman knew what he meant. Ronaldo nods. “We just want to know why you leave every morning and where you go that keeps you until the afternoon,” said Sister Modesta in a motherly tone. She acted so sweet when Father Tony was around, Ronaldo observes.

Father Tony coughed ferociously and sat down as if he would lose strength by remaining standing. He’s never without a small tattered black fedora hat and has a couple of teeth missing. He’s always talking about “the nature of man.” Brown says Father Tony is deep and when Brown was caught smoking a cigarette he gets off light. The sisters are astonished. It turns out the Father has an affinity for cigars and he merely tells the sisters that “one man’s pleasure is another’s vice.”

Sensing the tension in the room, the prissy social worker, a bleeding heart liberal child of the now defunct hippy sixties and disco seventies, tentatively smiles at Ronaldo.

“Yeah it’s like you’re going to a job or something. That’s what it sounds like,” the social worker adds.

“That what it is,” the boy says as if he’s watched gangster movies way too much. Which he does. The adults are all proud for some reason.

“Doing what son,” the father asks. Ronaldo smiles and says “shine boy,” with a majestic look on his face. The Father wheezes, laughs and coughed again, this time worse than
before. He;s sick. The prevailing rumor at Father Divine was that he had cancer.

“And where are you a shine boy?” Sister Modesta asks skeptically, doubting that a boy of that age could be doing anything else in the streets of Harlem but getting in trouble.

Ronaldo mumbles, “Ray’s.”

The father grins, “Ray’s eh.”

“Ah, ha, a dive. A place of moral decadence,” insists Sister Modesta.

“Isn’t that a barber shop about three blocks from here?” the social worker asks more innocently than she should have. Feeling out of place, the social worker then takes leave, stuffing a folder into a large baggy wicker purse, most likely to check the story out.

“I believe it is a Barber shop,” says the Father, who knows damn well it’ s a barbershop where poicy number bids, drug packages and informal prostitute purchase orders are dispensed. The father gets up and walks around the desk to embrace the boy’s shoulders. “A workman need not be ashamed. Your marks in school are favorable and you seem to have the
right idea.”

Sister Modesta, knowing perhaps more about the barbershop than even Father Tony — she frequently bet on baseball with Sharkie’s bookie underlings — is outraged. “But father we have rules, he can’t just go gallivanting off whenever he feels like it!”

“My sister in Christ is correct son. From now on you eat breakfast with the boys and girls like you’re supposed to and then go to this shine job if you still wish to pursue it.”

“He’s seven. He should be playing baseb..,” Sister Modesta caught herself, both out of respect for the father and for the fact that she invoked the game she frequently makes wagers on.

Father Tony sits down, soothing the sister by patting her on the knee. “Sister, he’s been instructed to follow the rules. But this isn’t a prison, we do permit these precious sons and daughters of ours to expand their horizons. They will, after all, some day be adults.”

“Father Tony I just don’t think….”

“How many of the boys on your floor came to this country from another one before the first grade, by themselves, with no parents?” Ronaldo shakes his head in concordance with the priest’s words, taunting the sister with playful eyes.

“But Father the point is…”

“The point is, how many?”

The sister lowers her head and rolled her eyes in defeat saying under her breath the word “none.”

“God go with you my son,” the father said.

The news is back in the room before Ronaldo even gets there and he’s greeted with the regular “shine boy,” teases and insults. He just waves them off and jumps into bed opening his Bible trying to find out if any of what the father said was contained therein. He falls asleep with a the Holy Bible on his chest and later on smells sweet, honey like perfume that stings the nose a little. Chanel No. 5. He knows and feels Sister Modesta tucking him in and placing the good book on one of the many nightstands adorning the room. With his eyes closed and ears open he hears her sniffling. She was crying. What he doesn’t know is why. He might think it’s because she loved him and maybe that’s true in a sense. But she’s frustrated. She doesn’t feel she’s making any difference at all. Father Tony’s dying, the sweet soft-skinned brown boy asleep below her is headed toward a life of crime as are most of the boys in the hall with him. She knows this. God is absent.

“Good to have you back beautiful child,” she whispers planting a kiss on his forehead.