44. Corner Boy

(Like a gabby drunk at the neighborhood tavern napping occasionally between rounds, our story pulls its head off the bar, removes a few coins from its forehead, and resumes from where it left off last time, with Mr. Trombone in Chicago’s Cabrini-Greene public housing project. -Consular Officer Gerard K. Dirkins)

I went over the calculations again in my head. It’s not that they were very complicated but there was nothing else to do, the job was so tedious.

Two dollars a pill is what we took in, but Dr. White (see previous post) got $1.50 of that, so percentage-wise we got, and I paused here (so much of comedy is timing) . . . “screwed,” I finished to a make-believe rim shot and warm waves of imagined laughter, then smiled to myself creepily for like the millionth time on my lonely street corner.

It was such a boring job, slinging dope, though Dr. White told us we shouldn’t call it that, slinging dope, that we should call it apportioning pharmaceutical comestibles, and when we asked her what that meant, she just got angry and told us to get our black asses back out on the street and keep slinging dope, even though my ass was just sort of beige and she had just told us that what we were doing was not slinging dope.

I was going to ask about this, but Jodel, whose ass probably was black since that’s what the rest of him was, cut me short with a glare and shake of his head, which Dr. White saw from the corner of her eye and then threatened to call Jodel’s probation officer, even though Jodel didn’t have a probation officer and was actually on the dean’s list at the nearby city college, whose tuition he was paying with what he earned from slinging dope or comestibles or whatever.

But the woman did work for the city, and there was no telling what she was capable of, so we went ahead and got our variously colored asses back out on the street, leaving Dr. White alone in her city psychiatrist office where she continued to count pills and put rubber bands around fat stacks of one-dollar bills, and once back out on the street I continued to make calculations and little jokes in my head to pass the time, and was smiling to myself in such a creepy way that the kid in the Volvo almost pulled away, but then didn’t and instead went ahead and slipped the ten-dollar bill he was holding through the narrow opening at the top of the driver’s side window. I took his money and held up five fingers to the little kid down the block. The stubbly chinned hipster pulled up to collect his five pills of Prozac from the kid before swinging the Volvo back towards Lake Shore Drive.

Prozac, or Caucasian crack

“You want fries with that?” I said to myself in a mechanical, Taco Bell, plastic clown-head voice, then smiled my creepy lonely smile again until I felt the barrel of a gun against the back of my head.

“I don’t want to shoot you,” the owner of the gun said.

“Then please do not,” I said encouragingly.

“If you were selling crack cocaine, I would kill you right here,” he said.

“And right you’d be. It’s a terrible drug, that crack. It’s killing our community, brother.”

“This isn’t your community and you’re not my brother, beige-assed punk,” he said, displaying an astonishingly accurate assessment of the situation.

“Nevertheless,” I persevered, hoping to find in friendly dialogue and common ground a way of not being shot in the head, “crack cocaine is a horrible scourge. No one with any conscience should be selling that poison.”

I sell crack cocaine,” he said.

“And it’s a wonderful service you provide,” I hastened to add, deftly changing direction in what I calculated was one final opportunity to keep my brains on the inside of my head, “supplying such a colorful distraction for our brothers and sisters out here grappling with the harsh reality of their everyday lives, and at the same time delivering relief to those already addicted . . . er, I mean, dependent . . . er, that is . . . ” and there followed an exceedingly uncomfortable pause. “Accustomed,” I finally screamed, “so terribly accustomed to your product.”

“Again, you are not my brother,” he reminded me.

“But are we not all brothers beneath the skin?”

“Do you know anybody without skin?” he asked.

I didn’t.

“You have to stop selling Prozac in our neighborhood,” he said. “People are mixing it with our crack.”

“Oh, dear. Is it making them sick?”

“They’re junkies.”

“You’ve lost me.”

“They’re already sick.”

He paused to let that sink in. It didn’t.

“Sales are down,” he continued. “You’re selling hamburger helper out here, so our customers are buying less of our hamburger.”

I giggled to myself.

“What’s so funny?” he asked.

“I’m not selling hamburger helper,” I told him. “I’m selling Prozac.”

“How is it possible that white people are running this country?” the gun wielder sighed.

“We killed all the Indians.”

“Rhetorical,” he kind of shouted at me. “That was a rhetorical question.”

“Sounded like a regular one,” I protested, which made him sigh again.

“It was a metaphor. I’m not selling hamburger. I’m selling crack. You’re not selling hamburger helper, but people are using your Prozac like hamburger helper to cut our crack with.”

Hamburger Helper. Used by famlies to cut hamburger with.

“Oh, I see,” I said, and smiled so that he would change the topic.

You’re even cutting into our drive-through sales.”

“Drive-through?”

“The Volvo that just came through. They used to come in from Schaumburg and Wilmette for our various cocaine-based products. Now, some of them are making that long drive for Prozac, even though nearly every one of them is either a child or a patient or a child of a patient of a psychiatrist, with easy access to Prozac and a host of other antidepressants that white people use to cope with the burden of preferential treatment. Still, somehow they figure Prozac from Cabrini-Greene is something special, or ‘wack,’ as the youngsters say.”

“Geez, I had no idea.” I told the guy.

“First, you bring crack into the neighborhood . . .”

“I just got here,” I interrupted, “from Japan. It’s a long story.” I sighed. “See, I was feeling unfulfilled here, and I thought . . .”

“If you tell me any more about why you went to Japan, I will shoot you right in the middle of your head.”

“Okay. Well I did just get here, and I promise I don’t have any crack.”

“Not you, honky,” he said, “You honkies. The honkies in the government, the FBI, the CIA. The whole white power structure conspired to cook up this crack epidemic, its production and distribution in black neighborhoods throughout the nation, with the intent of destabilizing and eventually killing off the black population.”

“Okay,” I kind of snickered, “that seems a bit far-fetched to me.”

“Tell me who your boss is,” he said.

“A corpulent woman with skin the color of a marshmallow who is paid by the government and provided with an unlimited supply of psychotropic drugs to be given to the local population with virtually no oversight.”

“Her name?” he asked.

“That would be Dr. White.”

I heard him pull the hammer back.

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