“Shit,” said Jobie.

“Was that your mom?” said Jobie’s girlfriend, who was Skyping with Jobie. The girlfriend was at least topless; she was smokin’ hot.

Jobie’s mom was a workhorse. She was the single mom who worked three jobs and was dedicated to nothing other than raising her children so that no one could deny they were good people. She ran her home with an iron hand and felt that her sacrifices deserved a prompt response to any request she might have, no matter how trivial. In her world, none of her demands were trivial.


“You better see what she wants. You got pants on, dontcha?”

Approaching footsteps prompted Jobie to turn the laptop around and lower the screen.

“You Spikin’ to that naked, ten-dollar whore of a girlfriend of yours again?”

“It’s Skypin’, mom, and Jasmine is not a whore,” said Jobie.

“Ha! You show me a girl in this neighborhood who’s not a whore and I’ll show you an undercover cop who’s whorin’ herself out to the police. Do you get naked when she’s showin’ her wares on that damned laptop of yours?”

“Momma, we don’t…”

“Don’t tell me no lies, boy, God don’t like that horseshit. If you want to keep secrets, you best learn to keep yer damned door shut. Now tell her good night, I got sumpin’ for you to do.”

“Okay, in a minute, I just gotta …”

“Is there a learnin’ disability here or are you just deaf? I said I got sumpin’ for you to do.”

Jobie began shutting down the laptop.

“Wait, open that thing up, lemme see.”

Jobie reluctantly opened the laptop; Jasmine hadn’t bothered to find a shirt. She sat there calm and composed.

“…Damn, she’s pretty. Jobie, how did you get such a pretty girlfriend?”

“Mrs. White, I’m the lucky one. Your son is so polite and respectful and funny and protective, I feel like a real lucky girl.”

“Hmmm…hmmm. Let’s find out who you are. Who wrote ‘faith, love, and charity’ in the Bible?”

“Paul,” said Jasmine.

“Okay, who’d he send that letter to?”

“…the Ephesians?”

“Pretty close. Of the three, which is the most important?”

“Charity. Because faith without works is dead. Gotta put your money where your mouth is,” said Jasmine.

Mrs. White looked at her son and then back at the screen. “Jasmine, are you sure you’re not too good for him?”

“I’m sure.”

“…Well, if you say so. And I suppose if had boobies like that, I’d be showin’ off, too. Sorry, baby, I shouldn’t have called you a ten-dollar whore. That wasn’t right.”

“It’s okay, you got a son to protect.”

“Be a good deal easier if it was just one. ‘Night Jasmine, he won’t be gone long.”

“’Night ma’am.”

Then, to her son, “Man’s known by the company he keeps. Looks like you doin’ pretty good.”

“Thanks, Mama.”

“Now look, I’ve had the day from Hades. The riots, stupid, sissy boy politicians; I even got fussed at at my morning job. Jobie, Mama needs some cigarettes, baby. Go down to Mr. Chen’s and get me four packs. Here’s $50 and you can keep all forty-two cents of the change.”

“Your morning job? Is everything alright?”

“I just fussed right back. You know how many people want me to work for them? I got no trouble finding jobs. The only thing I can’t find is extra hours in the day, my peace of mind, and some new knees. Oh yeah, and cigarettes.”

“It’s kinda late; are you sure this can’t wait ‘til tomorrow?”

“You still got sunshine outside and Jasmine in your laptop for later. Nuthin’s gonna happen for a couple of hours. Those peace-loving rioters are as predictable as gravity. Now, go and get your mama some smokes.”

Jobie hated getting cigarettes. He’d do anything for his mama, even to the point of going down to Mr. Chen’s and buying overpriced carcinogens for her. He hated watching this lovable combination of Mary Baker Eddy, Clara Barton, and Attila the Hun smoke her life away. His mama deserved better.

As he crossed the threshold of his house and ventured into a world that smelled of recently burned buildings, his spider-sense kicked in. He wasn’t going to allow random thoughts or loud music take away from the second or two he might have to steel himself against danger. He understood from his athletic endeavors that the way to remain aware was relaxation. He often thought about a day a few years earlier when he’d been watching the Olympics with one of his coaches and laughed at the men in the 100-meter finals.

“What’s wrong with that guy, Mr. Thibodeau? His mouth is hanging open, his jaw’s bouncin’ around, he looks stupid.”

“Jobie, that just shows how relaxed that man is.”

“How can you be relaxed and run that fast?”

“You’ll never run that fast without being relaxed. Tightening up messes up everything. Talking, running, listening, singing, I mean real singing, not that screeching or mumbling you hear nowadays. Everything falls to shit if you ain’t relaxed. Listen to Leontine Price or William Marshall or Marian Anderson. Those are people who sang with saggy, relaxed jaws, because your jaw don’t help you do much more than eat. It’s got practically no place at all in anything else you do except eat. You tie up energy in your jaw and right away everything else begins to tighten up. You learn to relax your jaw like that and everything else BEGINS to fall into place. Takes years to get it right unless you’re born that way. And William Marshall is a cryin’ shame. A great singer and actor like him only gets remembered for a couple of dumbass Dracula movies. I don’t like thinkin’ nobody keeps us down but sometimes…well, I just call ‘em like I see ‘em.”

Jobie recalled the day, smiled a sad smile and relaxed his jaw. He could feel his shoulders and chest drop. He knew that most guys would feel naked without this tension in their bodies, but he understood that this was the relaxation that allowed him to find open spots in the secondary or spin away from or hurdle would-be tacklers. This was the confidence and relaxation that he took with him everywhere he went. He was wise enough to be thankful to have Mr. Thibodeau in his life. It was a shame he didn’t teach math or history.

When Jobie walked, he stood out from the crowd. His head was up and on a swivel; the relaxed swing of the arms, the unforced but brisk stride made him look and feel like royalty. But sometimes, sticking out can be an unwise thing to do. He arrived at Mr. Chen’s shop.

“Jobie!!! Good to see you, but you should be home. The vampires will soon be here,” said Mr. Chen.

“What are you going to do when the vampires come, Mr. Chen?”

“Same thing I always do. I gonna sit here with my shotgun, my samurai sword, and my .44 magnum. Feel rucky, punk?”

“.44’s have a real kick to them; can you really handle that thing?”

“Make Clint Eastwood look like a wuss.”

“You’re a maniac, Mr. Chen.”

“Maybe so, but my shop still in one piece. Marlboro hardpack, how many you want?”

“I don’t want any, but my mom wants four.”

“Your mom is nice lady and she don’t take no shit. I like her. You think she’ll ever get married again?”

“You offering?”

“Healthy man like me get lonely, know what I mean?”

Mr. Chen was in his late sixties, stooped, and always a little peaked and frail-looking. If he was a healthy man, he disguised it well.

Jobie chuckled as the thought of him trying to get it on with his mama flashed through his mind. “Yeah Mr. Chen, I know what you mean.”

“42 cents your change, don’t spend it all in one place.”

“I love this little store. You can get just about anything here you can imagine, and free financial advice, too. That tip about wooden nickels has saved me a lot of grief.”

Mr. Chen smiled and laughed. “You good boy Jobie, you’ll be a good man someday.”

Jobie turned to leave the store and took four steps out the door when he heard a squeal of wheels from an old gray Corolla. He was in exactly the wrong place. Had he taken one more or less step he would have been able to find cover behind or in front of him.

Jobie never tightened up. In a flash, he saw the car parked in front of Mr. Chen’s shop was too far away for him to hide behind. He spun and began his sprint into Mr. Chen’s. The gunman was quick and accurate. He got six shots off. One nicked Jobie’s spinal cord, one navigated its way through Jobie’s thorax and hit his heart, and the other four would simply shatter some glass and increase the cost of Mr. Chen’s insurance.

Jobie’s momentum and the energy of bullets carried him back into the middle of Mr. Chen’s shop where he lay face up. The only coherent thought the young man had was, so this is what it’s like to die.

Jobie smiled his last smile as Mr. Chen ran out of his store screaming, “You muddafuckahs!!” and brandishing his .44. Jobie heard two blasts from the hand cannon and the screech of tires as the Corolla took off for safer environs.

“Shit man, we got the wrong dude,” said the only person in the Corolla not doing something dangerous.

“Fuck dat! Who else goes walking around like he’s King Shit?” said the driver.

As the Corolla rounded the corner to avoid Mr. Chen’s deadly thunder, the driver saw the intended target. He was also a tall, elegant former athlete with an unmistakably relaxed stride. Unlike Jobie, who had done nothing to harm the assailants, the target had managed to relieve the guys who were chasing him of several hundred dollars.

“Aw damn, you was right, there’s that sonofabitch.”

Mr. Thibodeau had an excellent understanding of who would profit from his words of wisdom and who would forget them as soon as their eardrum stopped vibrating. This target had heard the coach’s words but had not applied the lessons as thoroughly as Mr. Thibodeau would have wanted. Mr. T never intended for that young man to mess with drugs or drug pushers.

The targeted young man was alerted by the shots fired and sprinted toward the line of cars next to the sidewalk. Upon hearing ”there’s that sonofabitch,” he didn’t panic either. He bent down and started running away from the Corolla. He stopped behind a parked van and waited for the Corolla to pass and then sprinted back the way he came and down an alley. He was gone.

Jobie would be gone soon, too. Mr. Chen rushed back into his shop and grabbed a couple of bags of powdered sugar and arranged a pillow for Jobie before calling 911. Jobie could now see the television in the front corner of the store. It was a modest distraction from feeling his life drain out of his body.

The news was on. The council woman who’d just recently had an $85,000 makeover to her kitchen was on the news. She was able to explain that the $16,000 that was being spent on every child in the city school system was obviously not sufficient to meet the needs of the children and that the city needed billions more.

Another city council member, fresh from his one of his bi-annual trips to Italy, was complaining about the lack of policing in the city and then attempted to explain why letting rioters burn and loot at will was the only way to control violence.

A report about the mismanagement of grant money for education prompted an auditor to complain that if this didn’t stop, the feds would stop sending money. She seemed to have little concern for the paucity of academic competence students were able to display.

A reporter stood in front of a burning building and expressed some relief that the demonstration was, at least, peaceful. Not a single word was spoken about the futures and fortunes of that part of the city were going up in smoke. The people perpetrating this madness were supposed to be concerned about disadvantaged people, yet they sought to do them further harm.

Did the Democrats care? Would the Republicans care? Did the black leaders who were egging this mayhem on and choking the hopes and dreams of the people they supposedly championed care? Who would take the time to love these people trapped in the worst part of town? Craven, stupid people seem to be drawn to public service like flies to shit. Where was the superman who could clean this up? And if he decided to come out of the shadows, would he survive the challenge? Some had tried before and were made public spectacles, lied about, shamed, and eventually ushered from the stage in various states of disrepair.

The ambulance made a valiant effort to get to the crime scene. The roadblocks and debris made for a difficult trip to Mr. Chen’s. The EMTs rushed into the little corner store.

“You gotta help him. He good boy, a fine boy, his mama bust her ass to raise him. Too much promise and hard work here. Gotta do something,” urged Mr. Chen.

The skilled, hardworking, honest EMTs looked at the blood loss and the flickering light in Jobie’s eyes and knew there was nothing that could be done even if he was entering surgery now.

“DO SOMETHING!” screamed Mr. Chen.

“There’s nothing anyone can do. We see way too much of this. If there was something we could do, we would, but he’s gone.”

There would be no memorials or demonstrations for Jobie White. He was a victim of a street crime, not a police shooting. His mama would cry and rant for the news cameras and a handful of racists would ponder the question: how long will it take for us to run out of them if they keep shooting themselves at this rate. Does anyone love these people?

There is evil in our midst.