Thursday, September 3, 2009


Over the weekend he sleeps well. He reads the Bible and some essays by James Baldwin. On Sunday he goes to early morning mass, which is held in the spacious gymnasium. When he gets back, he reads “The Grapes of Wrath,” in its entirety. He laughs out loud and throws it across the room when he finishes. Depression, recession, inflation, deflation none of it matters, he thinks, the rich stay rich and everyone else doesn’t.

He does however admire poor farmers and tries to infuse their work ethic into his own but it never works. He’s always believed that there was no such thing as an honest living.

That night as he pulls the covers up over his shoulders he continues to chuckle. He himself is still rich with money stashed away with the help of a well-known Harlem financier, Reginald Jones.

Jones is the son of “Galloping” George Jones a legend who played basketball with the early New York Rens. Now he’s a pastor of one of Harlems biggest churches. The elder Jones’ other son was a criminal lawyer, Clayton who had defended the likes of Black Brown, Sharkie and other Harlem racketeers. He is also Joven’s lawyer. A strange paradox that family is, Joven thought, but I’m still worth just over $20 million. They’ll take care of me.

Joven still had bodegas in old ladies’ names, Ice cream trucks and a restaurant venture particularly dear to his heart called the El Casa De Bistec Dominicana (Clueless tourists are impressed with the name, which simply means “Dominican Steakhouse.”) Not to mention $3 million cash in a safe deposit box at the Chemical Bank in lower Manhattan under the name J. LeFlure. He had given the key to a trusted leutinent to do deals, one who operated in the shadows as a criminal and in the light as a law clerk.

Then there was the Nigerian crude oil and the money given to finance tribal warlords over there.

The biggest of his fortune was selling his share of the Santa Maria Sugar Exports Co. to Richard Ricano for $15 million American. But the bank of Santo Domingo seized that and was working with the U.S. government to split it.

Then they’re the prison guards, even Stokes — who grudingly dirves his new Corvette and pays the mortgage on his new fishing cabin upstate with Joven’s money — are bought off for the next six months.

But as his eyes begin to get heavy, he knows that, despite the loot he no longer has any friends-if he ever did-just associates who would help when called upon. That’s how it is, he says out loud before dozing off.

The next morning the glare from the sun, which reflected off the nearly frozen lake, awakens him.

He has missed breakfast but he knows old man Mancuso would have some snacks for him. The old half-Italian, half-Irishman thought of Joven as a son.

Rubbing his eyes, he calls for Stokes to walk him to the dayroom to which he had never been.

When he arrives he smiles ear to ear seeing that there is a pool table, video games and a large television in front of a large plush couch.

“Hey you, come get some of these canolis,” said old man Mancuso smiling with his eyes barely open.

Mancuso is a family friend of the Ricanos, the most legitimate family ever to be hassled by the feds in the history of La Cosa Nostra.

The other old Italians sitting at the table say little to him. It was obvious they aren’t thrilled with this young “black kid” sitting with them. It’s unheard of. In prison or anywhere else.
But Ronaldo devours the canoli and a glass of milk taking his seat at Mancuso’s side.

Mancuso went into stories about Richard Ricano as a business administration teacher at Brooklyn Tech.

He did it part-time as his full-time job was chief executive of an up-and-coming managed health care company called ETHOS.

“Son of a….there’s little Ricky right there,” Mancuso wheezed pointing with a decrepit hand at the television.

Joven’s neck twists in that direction and sure enough the good-looking Ricano was standing in a hospital surrounded by little black and white children for a television commercial:

“The word ETHOS is latin for culture or way of life and is a derivative of ethics,” said the voice over.

Then Ricano smiles into the camera and speaks as a politician would.

“Here at ETHOS care we believe in an ethical and structured healthcare system. A system that best serves diverse communities like the ones right here in the Big Apple.”

At this point, Ricano picks up a black boy and holds the hand of a white girl walking forward toward the camera.

“ETHOS because even health care has a culture of its own.”

Corny Music. Cue “Ethos” Logo.

The tables erupt in laughter and Joven just smiles and shakes his head wondering what would have become of him if he had chose another road in life.

Everybody’s attention is now turned toward CNN world news.

There was a small segment on unrest in the Dominican Republic.

The fighting began when authorities allegedly executed a young priest and his brother a labor leader.
Emilio Guerrero, a Catholic priest and his brother Humberto, leader of the local sugar famers alliance were shot to death by firing squad yesterday for there reputed collusion with a militant rebel group funded by drug money, Los Soldados Negros or the black soldiers.
Joven got up from the table and lit a cigarillo in disgust. Father Emilio had been a source of comfort on the Island and now Joven’s corrupt enemies were taking out their frustrations on the people close to him.

Mancuso saw the frustration on the boy’s face and looked to console him.
“What is that cherries? Say, Say Ronny, uh, we play cards every now and then. Uh 21, you wanna play sometime.”
Joven surveys the stone faces of the other men and then replies, “Sure, why not.”

Once again it’s time for his psychiatric appointment. He’d always avoided them but after he got back from the dayroom he was informed by the warden that the visits would be mandatory from here on out.

He is also informed that he had been referred to a black shrink from Wayne State University named Dr. Milner.

John Milner, from the inner-city of Detroit, he found out. He thought this would be a good match but much to his chagrin, the black doctor proved to be more patronizing than any of the white ones.

Milner had a pipe, thick glasses, a blazer with suede elbow pads, a bow-tie and an oxford accent to boot.

Joven looks him over and smirks.

What could he possibly know about me?


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