*Author's Note: This is a story that will happen: It's not a matter of if it will happen;
                                         only when it will happen.*


                                                                -1-
                                                         BROTHERS

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have been very good at
imitating them.
— James Baldwin (1924-1987). Nobody Knows My Name: Notes of a Native
Son, 3, 1961.

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime. — Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) Politics, 2, 6, tr.
Benjamin Jowett, 1885

Robert 'Bad Bobby' Wilson was 16-years old and lived with his grandmother in a public
housing complex, close to downtown Tampa. He never knew his father and his mother was a
drug addict and prostitute who only came around when she needed money. He ran with the
"Baddest Boyz in Town," a juvenile street gang that made its headquarters in a rundown
abandoned building not far from the public housing units where most of them lived. Some of
the boys were still sporadically attending school but most of them had dropped out. All of
them had police rap-sheets, most starting in third or fourth grade. Wilson had been in the
gang since he was just 8-years old and had a rap sheet that already showed twenty-one
arrests mostly for carjacking but also for strong-arm robbery, like the time when he had
stolen a boy's Miami Heat starter jacket. There were six boys in the abandoned building this
sunny afternoon in the spring of 2012.      

'Yo Bad Boy wuz-zup wid jew bruddah …?'

Bad Bobby shot a nervous glance towards the speaker, Ronald "Ron-Jo"n Johnson and
frowned, until Ron-Jon smiled showing a row of gold-teeth causing Wilson to smile. 'Yo' grillz
shinin' Ron-Jon.'

'I knows it mufuh ho' shine it up good fo' me, I get 'ah do yo'hs too. She my baby Mama, aftah
all blood.'

Bad Bobby opened his mouth to reply when he noticed another gang member's shoes. They
were customized with the name Jeremy Lin stitched onto the tongue-top. They were the much
heralded Nike Zoom Hyperfuse Low iD's and were the original blue and orange that
everyone knew started at $130 bucks and went up. 'Man, lookit dem kicks man, shee-it they's
Z's fo' sure Rappa?'

Barry "Rappa-Snappa" Sanders smiled. 'Yo' know iz blu-ahud.'

'Hey Snappa get in,' another gang member called over, as his girlfriend began snapping
pictures of the gang members that were there. Rappa-Snappa and Bad Bobby joined their
brothers as they all held up their first and last fingers in between their fists, the Baddest Boyz
in Town's sign and a sign that would cause serious physical damage to anyone who was not a
member who used it — or even tried to use it. 'Hey bloo-ah-ud, less go downtown jack some
wheels; 'mon Dawg?'

Bad Bobby never liked car-jacking but he knew better than to turn away from one of his
brothers in the gang — the only real family that any of them had — they all either had absent-
tee fathers — who were in prison or gone — or they had never even known their fathers at
all. They had all grown up mimicking the only role models that they had: older brothers, older
gang members or fathers that were in and out of prison so much they hardly ever saw them.



                                                                  -2-
                                                            The Piece

The right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed. — Constitution of the United States.
Bill of Rights Second Amendment, 15 December 1791

Bad Bobby got into Ron-Jon's wheels, a rebuilt 1969 Ford Torino, with a rebuilt 390 cubic-
inch engine and a shiny, black metal-flaked body. They hadn't gone more than a few blocks
when Ron-Jon pulled over in front of another dilapidated building. 'W'as-zup Ronnie …?'

'Dawg, I needs tah look in nah candy sto' here man — see about a piece — Ester stole my
heat man.'

'Man she ah bag-bride man,' Bad Bobby said, knowing he was talking about Ron-Jon's mother.

'Man, I knows dat she still my Mama what I'm suppose' do man? Beeitch almost shot me wif it,
shee-it.'

'Why yo' didn't just take it back man?'

'Man yo' wasn't dere Homes, mufuhs had biscuits 'un boulders layin' all ovah dah room;
playahs from dah other side ah town eyeballin' me man, shee-it. I bees lucky to get outta dere
alive man. Mufuh ho's so high dey don't know up from down,' Ron-Jon said, getting out of the
car.

'Yeah-uh too bad 'bout yo' Mama man she …'

'Man she be a bag-bride allah her who' life man, shee-it you mo' my fambly than 'at beeitch,'
Ron-Jon said, knowing that the consanguinity of his mother meant nothing to him because
she never had had anything to do with him and he had been born inside a jail-cell, than
immediately removed to the stewardship of the State until a court awarded his grandmother
custody.

They walked through a deserted building and down a hallway to a room at the end. Ron-Jon
knocked twice and the door opened a crack then widened when the occupant saw who it was.
'Hey man, 'mon in Dawg,' came the voice, as the door opened wide and both boys strolled in.
They saw rows and rows of guns and drugs. On one side of the room there was a dozen large
sheets of plywood, nailed down on top of what looked like some old sawhorses or wooden
barrels. On top of them were guns, drugs, drug paraphernalia and ammunition for most of
the weapons displayed. On the other side was a large bar-styled desk with a bored-looking
young girl sitting behind it on a high stool and a cash register in front of her. She was
smoking a cigarette and Ron-Jon elbowed his partner and rasped: 'Bee-itch gots a fry-daddy
in nah mouf.'

'I sees dat geek-joint man, they sellin' shit too, look-it man?' Bad Bobby looked at the ocean of
drugs and guns displayed for anyone who was allowed inside, usually gang members or drug-
dealers. They walked to the table of guns and Ron-Jon looked through them when one of five
men standing around the room came over to the table.

'Hey bra-ah, you wants some heat, take a look at diz fo'tee-fo', bad mufuh.'

'How much man …?'

'Shee-it fo dah Bad Boyz, jus' fo' bucks.'

Ron-Jon scowled at Bad Bobby, who just shook his head.

'Man we ain't got but two fo' a piece,' Ron Jon spat and the man frowned.

'Shee-it, yo' wants a Sat'day Night Special huh? Here yah go den.'

Ron-Jon took the handgun the man handed him. It was a .357 snub-nose but it looked like it
had been in a warzone; the barrel and cylinders were badly scratched and scraped and there
was no handle just a ton of grey masking tape and black plastic electrical-tape wound around
where the handle should have been. 'It's a three-fify seven broah, it gots a handull too jest
taped ovah man and the serial numbahs gone too. It's clean man.'

'How much …?'

'Two bucks Blood,' the man said.

'Shee-it, buck and half,' Ron-Jon replied.

'Okay man but only cause you wid dah Bad Boyz,' the man replied and held out his fist, which
Ron-Jon bumped with his and pulled out two hundred-dollar bills.

'I need a box ah ammo too man?'

'Shee-it that's a buck bro-ah, fifty slugs, hollow points.'

Ron-Jon scowled. 'Damn man I could buy me a pair ah engraved Z's for two bucks man and
now you wants a buck for fifty slugs — c'mon man — cheaper downtown.'

'I throw it in for fifty bluuh-ud give up the two bucks you got it,' the man said, sticking his fist
towards Ron-Jon and giving him a golden smile, with every tooth in his mouth gold-plated
and the left front one having a silver star engraved on it. 'Take it ovah to Velma Dawg,' he
said and Ron-Jon strolled over and handed the cashier the two hundreds, which she gazed at
idly.

'Oh how I jus' luv-vahs Bengee Frank-leon,' she hissed and Ron-Jon smiled.

'Yeah, well daz nice, he probably likes you too.'

She smiled at Ron-Jon showing a mouthful of gold-rimmed teeth. She had a tiny ring in the
side of her left nostril and she wore hooped ear-rings that hung down almost to her
shoulders. 'You wants any candy baby; we gots Casper the Ghost and plenty ah Oooh-Zees to
smoke it in, case you ain't got one but you could share mine if you wants, bay-bee?,

Ron-Jon sneered. 'Shee-it ho' I take a different Uzi from what yo' talkin' bout but you ain't got
none here,' he said but then the man who had sold him the snub-nose Magnum walked over.

'We getting 'em in nex' week bluuh-ud you come by next Toosdee we have you some huh?'

Ron-Jon nodded and shook his head as he and Bad Bobby walked out of the apartment and
into the hallway. But it didn't really shock either boy; after all they had been raised in the
ghetto and well-knew that you could easily get any weapon or drug you wanted there. It
seemed like the only thing you couldn't find in the ghetto was an honest cop or even any
human being in a position of authority that would do anything at all to make any changes. To
both Ron-Jon and Bad Bobby the line in the song "Across 110th Street" was a true one and it
was sung in a soulful relevance by Womack:
the family on the other side of town would catch
hell without a ghetto around, in every city you find the same thing going down, Harlem is the
capital of every ghetto town
, and they knew it oh so well whenever they passed all the honest,
hard-working men standing on all the corners and at all the convenience stores, waiting for
any kind of work,  who were actually real people with real families who they knew were just
trying to support those families in a Capitalistic society that needed to have a poor side of
town where the wealthy side of town could capitalize on their lack of money to use them for
the cheap labor jobs that come with every profit-motivated project — whether the project
was publicly or privately funded didn't matter, for the hustlers — entrepreneurs, they called
themselves  — were always there to get theirs, and theirs was always the same; a
disproportionate share of the wealth to be made from something that they may or may not
have originally even had anything at all to do with. And then that line where Womack sang:
Just 'cross 110th Street you can find it all in the street … yes, you can, and they sure knew that
that was the truth, as they had just walked in and bought a .357 Magnum handgun and 50
bullets, and it was probably a handgun that had once killed somebody. They didn't know
about Harlem — they had never been there — but their ghetto in Tampa sure sounded like
the one he sang about because everything in the song was true to them as they experienced
those very things Womack sang about every single day of their lives.

                                                             ****

They drove downtown and cruised past the University of Florida and then down towards the
ocean when Ron-Jon spied a lone Mercedes-Benz parked alone under a large oak tree. He
pulled over quickly and stared at the car. He looked in his rear-view mirror and then opened
his window. 'Man Bad, lookit dat Benz man. Yo' got yo' bar-un-shit.?' But, then, Ron-Jon saw
three people walking their way and when the man reached in his pocket and brought out a
set of keys and opened the driver-side door, Ron-Jon scowled and pulled away from the curb.
'Shee-it,' he said and pulled against the curb a couple of blocks away. 'Bad Bo' lookit dat man,'
Ron-Jon said and Bad Bobby saw a young kid, maybe 15 or 16 walking down the street by
himself. He saw Ron-Jon was staring at him.

'Wha' Ron …? He wid dah Crips?'

'Naw stoo-pid … shee-it, lookit 'is kicks Dawg.'

'Man, he got some Zooms on man.'

'Yeah man, less get 'em, shee-it he weak,' Ron-Jon barked out.

Bad Bobby looked at the boy, who was a bit bigger than he was with an even darker skin
color than his. He was walking down the sidewalk with a headphone attached to a small, red
MP-3 player. 'He looks like a playah tah me Ronnie …?'

Ron-Jon scowled, 'He ain't no playah blood, hand me my piece in the glove man.'

Bad Bobby opened the glove-compartment and took out the snub-nosed .357 magnum
revolver with the taped handle and handed it to Ron-Jon, who opened his car-door and
scowled at Bad Bobby. 'C'mon man less get diz sissy.'

Bad Bobby got out and watched as Ron-Jon leaned up against the wall of a brick building, as
the kid wearing the Nikes walked towards him.

He motioned to Bad Bobby with his head and jumped on the kid, sticking the .357 in the guy's
stomach. Bad Bobby watched, in slow motion — as he would later testify — as Ron-Jon
pointed at the guy's shoes and then was shoved back against the brick wall, even as Bad
Bobby ran to help Ron-Jon. The kid was so strong that he had turned Ron-Jon's wrist almost
in a 180-degree arc and that was when it went off. The bullet entered Ron-Jon's chest just
above his ribs. Ron-Jon fell to the ground but still had the .357 and he managed to aim and
pull the trigger, three times, hitting the kid all three times, in the chest. Bad Bobby helped Ron-
Jon up but Ron-Jon just scowled.

'I'm good — get the Lin's man — get the kicks.'

Bad Bobby stared for a second at his homeboy — his friend — his brother. They had grown
up in the same rat-infested, cockroach-lined building together; they had played together since
they were 3-years old; they both had older brothers in prison and neither had ever known
their own fathers. They had both been suspended and then expelled from school in the ninth
grade for gang activities on the school grounds and they both had rap-sheets as long as their
arms. He bent down and quickly removed the kid's shoes. He stopped for just and instant and
stared at the boy's face; it was one of intelligence, sharp, high-boned features with a wide
nose and small scars around his left eyebrow. He looked like a tough kid and a thought
quickly slid in and then out of Bad Bobby's subconscious: "it could have been him."  



                                                                  -3-
                                                          Judgement


If you share your friend's crime, you make it your own. —  Pubilillius Syrus, Sententioe. No. 10.

There is a tendency to judge a race, a nation or any distinct group by its least worthy members.
—Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements,
18, 1951

You cannot judge a Man till you know his whole Story. —  Thomas Fuller (1654-1734). Comp.,
gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, 5876, 1732


Ron-Jon was driven by Bad Bobby straight to the emergency room where he died after
less than an hour, at 6:30 p.m., just three minutes after the boy he had shot who had been
brought in just minutes after he was. Both boys had bullets in them that had severed arteries
and the front seat of Ron-Jon's car looked like someone had dumped a bucket of red paint on
the seat. The police were already at the same hospital and when a call came in about the
shooting, which was done in front of a hotel's cameras, they arrested Robert Wilson, whose
face the majority of the street-cops already knew when he showed up at the same hospital
that the victim had been taken to. When they booked him, 16-year-old Bad Bobby Wilson still
had on the Nike Zooms.

It was a cut and dry case and the public defender made a deal whereby Bad Bobby Wilson
would be spared the death penalty when the grandmother of the victim agreed to it and Bad
Bobby was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

The murdered boy's name was Reginald Moore and he lived in the same public housing
complex as Bad Bobby Wilson and Ron-Jon did. He was being raised by his grandmother and
had lost his father to a stray drug-dealer's bullet. He knew about gangs because his
grandmother had made him aware of them from the first day that he could understand what
she was talking about and told him if he ever joined a gang she would cry until she died.
Reggie Moore never joined a gang, although he took more than one beating to avoid it. He
loved his grandmother. He was 16-years old and was born on September 18, 1995, in the
same hospital as his killer Ronald 'Ron-Jon' Johnson who had been born just the previous
month.  Bad Bobby Wilson was born in the very same public hospital also, and on the same
day as Reginald Moore, just three minutes after Moore.


                                                              Epilogue


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana (1863-
1952) The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, 1. 12, 1905-1906

Dwell on the past and you'll lose an eye. Forget the past and you'll lose both eyes. — Saying
(Russian). In Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, preface to The Gulag Archipelago 1918-2008: An
Experiment in Literary Investigation, tr. Thomas P. Whitney, 1973


Meghan McGhee sat still as the last-minute make-up girl patted her cheeks with blush and
then the director signaled the 10-second countdown and the make-up attendant hurried out
of the studio and McGhee turned towards the camera and showed all of her capped teeth —
the ones that had cost her $15,000 dollars — a week's pay for her — and turned towards the
cameras, where she tilted her head just slightly to the left because she well-knew that this was
her best side; and she should know her best side; after all she had paid a month's salary for
her third face lift, which, at age 40 she just knew she must have in order to compete with the
other news anchors on the National news media chain, almost all of whom — just like her —
had begun their careers in beauty pageants as pre-Kindergartners and had then progressed
to acting classes and then on to their college and university days, where they would study the
ways of the world and their path to becoming successful; painful days that taught them what
really mattered in their battle to the top of the heap. And Meghan well-knew what really
mattered, as she turned her full,  pinkish puffy lips — that she had paid five large for —
towards the camera and then stared at the monitor, at the words she was about to read: 'And
to this just in from Jessica Sanborn, who is on scene in the EastTremont neighborhood of the
Bronx and is live now reporting from East Tremont Avenue and to Jessica, ah-um-er-ah,
Jessica, ah there she is, Jessica Sanborn reporting from …

'Yes, Meghan, this is Jessica Sanborn here on scene just overlooking the Cross-Bronx
Expressway on East Tremont Avenue where fifteen-year old Jose Gonzalez lies face-down in a
bloody-pool of his own vomit — choked to death — strangled with a plastic clothes-line and
in custody, as you can see as our cameras sweep the police-lined crime-scene — where you
can plainly see the taped-out area where the crime occurred — is sixteen-year old Raheem
Morris who was captured several blocks from the murder wearing the pair of  Nike Zoom
Hyperfuse Low iD's basketball sneakers that were taken from Gonzalez's feet just minutes
before. This theft of a pair of basketball shoes being the reason for this murder brings to
mind the almost identical murder that occurred down in Tampa, Florida just last week and we
must now say that we have gone back into the media's archival-footage and have come up
with reports of numerous similar killings in recent history: for example, on May the second of
1989 when fifteen-year old Michael Thomas was strangled to death by James Martin, a
basketball player-friend of his, who took Thomas's Air Jordan's and left him in the woods
nearby Meade Senior High School, in Anne Arundel County in Maryland and then there was
sixteen-year old Johnny Bates who was shot to death in Houston in 1989 by seventeen-year
old Demetrick Walker after Bates refused to turn over his Air Jordan high tops and then
again, in 1992 there was Chris Demby, a tenth-grader in Philadelphia who was shot and killed
for his Air Jordan's and then in November of 2011, the quarterback for Detroit's Kettering
High School, Raheem Wells, was murdered, by six teen-agers who stole his Nike Air Jordan's
and then there was fourteen-year old Dewitt Duckett who was shot to death in the hallway of
Harlem Park Junior High School in … '

© Keith G Laufenberg


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In The Ghetto
Keith G Laufenberg