The following tale is the result of a request by Megan Goodmundson to write a made up story about how the items pictured above ended up on the sidewalk of North Minneapolis resident Daniel Field, and to include certain elements in the plot.
"I likes to come here an' see the chickens," she said, sliding down lower in the big black leather captain's chair of E Dawg's completely restored 1980s Chevy shaggin wagon, all shiny gold on the outside, dark leather and shag on the inside, sound system that could knock birds out of the air.
"What fuckin' chickens you talkin' 'bout, whatchew squawkin' 'bout, girl girl tilt-a-wirl? Everybody ride you, me right beside you..." E Dawg replied. He was replying in rap a lot these days, so when he got in front of a crowd he could spit that shit hard.
She was sliding down lower because...
...E Dawg kept trying to snake his hand under her ragged Northface hoodie to fondle her breasts, full yet shallow breasts, like a three-high stack of pancakes. She was trying to dig down deep in the seat so the fondling couldn't be seen through the windows of the van, even though the windows were deeply, illegally tinted. Two little Hmong children were playing with some kind of little dog and some shiny plastic toys, the toys were so new she could actually catch the smell of the plastic when a hot summer breeze blew through the open window on E Dawg's side of the van.
She didn't want the children to see. Something had to be young and innocent around here. It was too late for her, she reasoned, but not too late for them.
Every time E Dawg spoke he made hand gestures. Every time he was done speaking the right hand would find its way toward her breasts and keep working off a little of her sweatshirt, as she grew progressively more tired of stopping E Dawg's advances. What else was there to do while sitting in the van all day? Couldn't smoke weed. Couldn't play the radio loud. That might attract attention. But hell if E Dawg was getting a freebie, she thought, especially the way he'd pissed her off today.
The window was open so E Dawg could deal. Potential buyers spoke with E Dawg through the window if he didn't know them very well, or if he knew them a little too well. More trusted buyers would be greeted out in the street where hugs and convo would be exchanged, money would flow in the midst of an elaborate handshake and...
...when the buyer was pulling away, E Dawg would get in the van and make lip movements saying how much they'd purchased, but no sounds. If sounds came out, it would be something unrelated to the deal. E Dawg always acted like there was a microphone in the van, or pointed at the van.
She'd get out, walk to the stash car a block away where Ray Ray and Bone Catz sat, get the goodies in her palm while pretending to slap away Bone Catz's hand, and then she'd meet up with the buyer a street or two away. The buyer would cat call and she'd act like she'd just met them, come up to the window, slip them the shit. The handwork was smooth as a magic show. E Dawg was like a conjurer dealing crack instead of cards, and she was the beautiful assistant on the stage.
If the buyers were in the mood for a blow job, she could accomplish that, too. They'd go to an alley behind one of slumlord Morris Klock's buildings, she'd kneel on the pavement where it didn't reek of piss and do them in the doorway of their car. She would never get inside a vehicle with its doors closed. And nothing below the waist. Anything she got from tricking was all hers. Usually there was another deal in progress by the time she got back. Hell, sometimes the buyers were circling the block. But if it got too busy, too noticeable, E Dawg would drive to another location.
She'd met E Dawg by blowing him for $40 at the bus station where he was hanging around, looking for lost girls. She'd come to Minneapolis from Chicago by Greyhound. Before that she was from Indiana. Things were too hot in Chicago, and before that too awful in Indiana with what was left of her family. So little was left of her family that by the time she was thirteen, she was living with people she wasn't even related to anymore by blood. Which apparently made it her fault for getting molested all the time.
She'd been silent too long. E Dawg was glaring at her. When he spoke, he didn't even bother to do it in rhyme.
"Bitch, I AXED YOU, what fuckin' chickens?"
She looked at him, carefully. He was angry. Angry at her moodiness all day.
But today she wasn't pretty, and that made her moody. Today she was dressed down because E Dawg had knocked on the door way too early and she didn't have time to get dressed. He'd promised she could change when they took their weed break, but she was still pouting about it, pouting "in excess, like a princess, I guess" as E Dawg had phrased it.
"He feed them bread?" E Dawg asked.
"Loaves of it," she answered, nodding.
"How the hell he feed them bread, Shaniqua?" E Dawg asked. He hardly ever used her name. Sometimes she thought he forgot it. Why was he using her name today?
"Maybe get it from a dumpster I guess," she answered.
"That stupid as he-ell," he snorted. "Look at that gay muh fucka. Look he house! That a nice house. You think he go in a dumpster and get bread? Hell no."
"How he be feeding them like that, then, every day I see?" she argued.
"Hell, he got that much money. He buy it day old, I 'spect."
E Dawg lit a cigarette thoughtfully. She said nothing.
"How the hell he gonna find all that bread in a dumpster all the time?" E Dawg argued. "Ain't gunna be nothing in no dumpster but flies an' rats an' shit."
Shaniqua (that was the name she was using in Minneapolis) looked at E Dawg carefully. E Dawg didn't know anything about anything, except life on the streets. But her family in rural Indiana constantly dumpster dived behind grocery stores. Her father was too proud to use food stamps, and then he was so proud he died rather than seek medical help he couldn't afford. He was from Jamaica, her father. He said in America you could live like a king off what was thrown away. And the sides of a dumpster were so high, and made of steel. Birds could get in, sure. But not rats. Not unless it had a rusted hole in the bottom, or got poked the wrong way by the prongs of a garbage truck.
E Dawg didn't want to talk about anything but the streets. He once saw her reading a book about an art museum in New York. He angrily slapped it out of her hands. But he did say, in a kindly tone later, she could read a book about "bidness." Where was she going to find a book about business, she wondered? There were books at the Goodwill, but E Dawg wouldn't be seen buying anything there. Image was everything with E Dawg. Sometimes he slept in his van, but he'd use air freshener so it wouldn't have that "slept in" smell. Entering a book store would also blow his thug image. So how would Shaniqua ever get a book?
Like a fairy godmother granting her wish, the gay man walked to a corner of his yard with a pile of books, which he set carefully on the lawn. He returned with a wooden pole, pointed upon one end, which he began hammering into a corner of his lawn. Somebody else, a white woman, walked up holding what looked like a bird house. But it wasn't a bird house. It was like a little box with a glass door, and as the gay man finished his pole pounding (Shaniqua giggled at the thought) the woman affixed the little house to the top of the pole. The man reached down and placed the books inside.
"Library is open!" They yelled in unison, toward everybody and nobody.
E Dawg blinked.
"He yellin' to us?" he asked.
"They not yellin' to us," she answered.
"Who they yellin' to?" E Dawg asked.
"The universe," she answered, with a Mona Lisa smile.
"THE--?" he spouted, rolling his eyes. He exhaled a long blast of smoke. "Fuckin' gay ass folks, fuckin' white folks crazy, but now YOU crazy, Shaniqua."
He'd used her name again. What the fuck?
"But I mean like a good crazy," he added. "Like a smart crazy."
Oh oh, she thought.
"They giving them books away, huh?" E Dawg said. "Hell, I know you want one of them books. I don't care if you get one. Go get a book about art, all I care."
Oh oh, she thought again.
"I sorry I slapped that book out of your hand," E Dawg explained. "I been thinkin' on that, and thinkin' on that. Why did I do that?" His hands became expressive. "Why did I slap that book? Why I give you that look? Something in me was feeling all shook--"
This, she thought, was not good.
He turned toward her, gave her soft Romeo eyes like that first day at the bus station, even though she'd looked at him then and said, "Oh, hell, you is a pimp. Come on, pimp, I just got off that Greyhound but don' think I don' know what you is about. But, hell, maybe we can do bidness."
So she'd never fallen into the routine of many working girls. Never given her pimp the pussy while selling her mouth to customers, as though the pimp was special and loved her but to survive he rented out and managed the services of her mouth. It was all about business for her, not love. She could put on and pretend a little, to help E Dawg with his image, but between the two of them, he wasn't even getting a free blow job.
Increasingly, though, E Dawg was trying to change the power balance in the relationship. Ordering her around in little ways. Committing sudden acts of physical aggression she couldn't counter, like the time he slapped away the book. Trying to cop little feels.
"Go get you one them books," he said, invitingly.
"I don't need your permission," she said, as she opened the van door.
About an hour later, during their weed break, she paged through a book about the Hatfield and McCoy family feud. The cover said, "As depicted on the History Channel hit mini series."
"Ooooh," Shaniqua said. "Kevin Costner. I likes him."
E Dawg laughingly said, "Black people kill one nuther all time, ain't nobody gone write a book or get Denzel Washington star in a movie 'bout it and shit."
Shaniqua thought for a moment.
"What about American Gangster?" she asked. "That was a true movie."
E Dawg's mouth became a firm line, but then he said, "See? That's the kind of crazy smart shit I startin' to like 'bout you. I feel like, damn, you smart. We could take--" he paused. Old habit. Microphones everywhere. "--things, you know, we could take things to the next level."
And now he did the soft Romeo eyes.
"We could take EVERYTHING to the next level."
She smiled a Mona Lisa smile. It was time to leave him. She would leave him tonight. She would get on the bus and go to Los Angeles. Minneapolis was only supposed to be a stop on the way. It was time to stop stopping here.
E Dawg began to spin a wild verbal web of his schemes and dreams, but always pausing to make sure nothing definite was said, only implied, caught, hinted at, alluded to.
Generally, he wanted to increase his stable of girls. Drug territory was precious, supply lines were tightly controlled, and there was little room to move up unless somebody died or was incarcerated. But nobody tried to stop a guy from pimping, if he could get the girls somewhere. It was important, however, to have a madam to manage the girls. Like a middle manager, between the pimp and the stable. This was the role he saw Shaniqua slipping into.
Of course, once you had the girls, once you had the customers, the customers would want weed, too, right? Thus you'd have your own base of drug customers, without the need to control physical territory, except for a hotel room that could be changed up every few days.
"It's all internet these days," E Dawg said. "Words written on light, that's right, sayin' who got them girls tonight--"
She rocked a little to the beat, unconsciously, already plotting how she would sneak to the bus station. The key was to buy a ticket and be gone before he could figure out she had left.
The weed was good shit. Who knew when she'd get weed this good again? Best smoke a lot of it, particularly since E Dawg was in such a good mood and this would be the last weed she ever got off him. As usual, they would buy post-weed munchies on the way back to work. If an ice cream truck went by, he would buy her one of those ice creams she liked, the ones that looked like cartoon characters.
Convinced Shaniqua was on board with his career goals, E Dawg purchased her one of the more expensive Chinese takeout lunches at Yuan Yuan, with the shrimp she loved. He was making the Romeo eyes constantly, now. She figured it was only a matter of a day or two before she woke up with E Dawg on top of her, shushing her protests and pulling down his shorts. He'd repeatedly asserted that as her pimp, it was his right. So it was only a matter of time.
She'd locked herself in the bathroom to change. In the past, E Dawg always made a big stink about her changing in the bathroom. When would he be allowed to LOOK at her? His friends already thought he was FUCKING her, he howled, so when would he be allowed to LOOK at her?
Today he made no protest at all. It was definitely time to hit the road.
She looked around the bathroom, pink marble tile.
She'd never see this pretty bathroom again. But she had to be careful not to act as though she was leaving forever, not to glance back sentimentally, or that would tip off E Dawg. The room was at E Dawg's grandmother's house. The upstairs of the house was outside Grandma's practical control, however. It would take poor Grandma all day to climb the stairs, and she'd most likely die at the top. To lessen Grandma's control even further, E Dawg would clamor out the window and jump off the back porch roof. It was important for E Dawg to stake out one of the upstairs bedrooms as his, or one of his cousins would grab it. That's why he'd stashed her there, and claimed she was having his baby.
But after three months, the lie about the baby was wearing thin.
Contemplating throwing her hoodie and gym shorts in the laundry chute, Shaniqua had a sudden inspiration. She would tell E Dawg she wanted to work out at the gym. Conscious of his image and needing a place to shower when he had to avoid cops hovering around Grandma's, E Dawg had a gym membership.
She grabbed the shorts and sweatshirt. "What about another pair of panties?" she thought.
Ideally, she'd pack a lot of clothing for a trip, but anything extra would tip off E Dawg. She could surely get away with one extra pair of panties, though. And a towel for the gym. She grabbed the biggest towel she could find in the bathroom. She'd have to wad that up for a pillow on the bus, maybe even use it like a blanket. Two towels, then. She'd say one was for her hair.
She had a thought about throwing all kinds of toiletries in her purse. But that would tip off E Dawg. He wouldn't notice a few extra condoms, though. She grabbed a dozen.
Oh, hell, this made her nervous. She exhaled. She looked at herself in the mirror.
"You are the best actor in the world," she told herself. "You are going to be a star in Hollywood."
E Dawg was holding her Hatfield and McCoy book when she came out. He looked at the towels and figured she was going to the gym. He shrugged, as though saying, "Yeah, I give you permission to go to the gym." And then he handed her the book.
"Din' want you to forget this," he whispered.
She kissed him. He fondled her breast. She let him. He was proud as a peacock when he came out to the van with the Chinese food. But at the corner, business was slow. There had been a shooting about a mile away, in territory they didn't dare enter, and everybody was over there watching the spectacle at the murder scene. She began to page through her book, looking at the pictures.
"Baby," E Dawg said. He'd never called her that before. "You sit there reading a book, an it gonna look like we camped here."
She didn't dare say anything about the tinted windows, the fact the book was below the level of the dash, the fact they WERE camped here, the fact all the police were a mile away.
"I suppose I could look at the chickens," she replied, sweetly.
"Naw," he said. "You go in the back and read."
Wordlessly, she obeyed.
"Read about them inbred cracker mo' fuckers in Georgia," he added, and she didn't bother to correct the geography.
The first several pages about the feud were boring. Mention was made about people getting killed, but the author wasn't getting to the actual detailed killing quite yet. There was a lot of stuff about land ownership, timber rights, and how such things were determined in those days. She yawned. She flipped to the glossy part in the middle with pictures of movie stars dressed up like hillbillies.
And then Kevin Costner was pulling down her panties, and she was letting him. All around, fog shrouded green hills of Kentucky looked like an American version of the Garden of Eden. Small and solemn Hmong children were shaking a tree, trying to make plastic apples fall down, but some aggressive chickens were scaring the Hmong children away from the apples.
A blood curdling scream awoke her. E Dawg was straddling her knees and her bottom half was completely exposed. E Dawg was looking at her flaccid penis, eyes wide in horror.
Shaniqua, who was born William Howard Devins of Indianapolis, Indiana some 23 years before, threw hands to face.
"Oh, please, E Dawg!" Shaniqua cried, but E Dawg was half moving, half falling away toward the rear of the van, violently wretching. Shaniqua saw E Dawg grabbing toward something.
Nobody knows where I am, Shaniqua thought in that split second. Nobody knows who I am. Nobody would miss me if I disappeared off the face of the earth. Nothing would remain to say I was here, I lived, I thought, I felt, I existed...
The tire iron caved in the back of Shaniqua's skull as she made a move to scramble toward the front of the van. Then E Dawg kept hitting and smashing, until blood and brain matter covered the inside of the van, but the windows were so dark the splashes of blood may as well have been smudgy paw prints from a pit bull. An eyeball shot from the remains of Shaniqua's skull and dangled on the optic nerve. The horrific sight made E Dawg freeze.
He dropped the tire iron and looked at his bloodied hands. Oh shit. Oh shit.
E Dawg tried to think about some of that CSI forensics stuff he'd watched, sometimes, flipping through channels while stoned. Oh, hell. How to cover this up? He started toward the front seat but then thought no, no, I am all bloody.
He took her skirt and wiped blood off himself. There was a bottle of Evian water in the van. He wet the skirt and tried to clean his arms and his face. He got out of his pants, his shorts. Oh, hell, now he was buck ass naked.
Think, Jerome, THINK, he thought.
Nobody would realize he was driving buck ass naked. It was a hot summer day. He could look like he was driving without a shirt on. He'd go out in the country, find some corn field or some such shit, BURY EVERYTHING.
Where would he get a shovel? Well, figure THAT out later. Maybe he should CALL somebody? He'd already sent Chicken Bonz home, and Ray Ray hadn't shown up after lunch, anyway, but if he called them right now...
No. Bad idea. If they knew about this, they'd have total power over him. Best to handle things himself, even if it was harder without help.
He stepped over Shaniqua's corpse. Blood on his foot. Can't worry about that now. He settled into the driver's seat. There was her clothing, wadded up on the floor. No, not HER. Shaniqua was a man, damn. The memory of his first sight of that penis made him think how it must have felt to see the serpent in the Garden of Eden, oh hell, crazy old Bible stories told by his grandma. Well, now he was Cain killing his brother because Shaniqua sure as hell wasn't his SISTER.
Oh, shit, God knew. GOD KNEW ABOUT THIS BULLSHIT. God probably ignored most of the shit Jerome did all day, most of the shit most people did all day, but MURDER was sure to be something God woke up from his heavenly weed break and took NOTICE of, if God smoked weed at all, grandma said God didn't when Jerome asked as a child but Jerome figured God was God, God could do what the hell He wanted, and who didn't want to smoke weed?
What if he just turned himself in? What if he just called 911 right now and said, "I did this, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
No. No way. Even prison for murder wouldn't be as bad as everybody KNOWING. If a cop stopped him on the road, he was going to....
Oh, hell. A gun. He needed to get to Grandma's and find a gun. He could clean up there, too, get clean clothes. Nobody would touch the van if he locked it up on the street, and he could run his butt naked ass inside QUICK. Inside Grandma's house he could think about evidence, how to cover it up, get some CLOTHES.
Wait. What about Shaniqua's black gym shorts? Wouldn't those work?
He picked up the shorts. There were panties wadded up inside the shorts. The horror in the pit of his stomach hit him again. He vomited between the seats while his left hand frantically worked the electric window controls, trying to get some air. The window on the passenger side came down. Seeing the open window, E Dawg hurled the gym shorts and panties out the window, all the way to the sidewalk over the grassy boulevard.
"Bah-GACCKKKKKK!!!!!" one of the chickens in the gay dude's yard made a loud squawk, maybe thinking the flying black shorts were a fucking owl or some Nature Channel shit. And what was he THINKING? Throwing evidence out the window?
GO GET IT BACK! he thought.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING? another part of him thought. FUCKING LEAVE IT.
He fired up the van. As the gasoline ignited on the spark plugs, something hard welled up inside of him.
I have killed a man, he thought. I am a stone cold killer, and I have to deal with this, coldly, calmly, like a man. The fact a transvestite sucked my penis will not effect my image as long as nobody finds out.
His shaking hands lit a cigarette. He exhaled. Exhaling again, he felt a feeling like laughter welling up in his chest.
I am a murderer, he thought, and here I sit free. Oh, sure, the murder is fresh, but the fact is I have not been caught. Oh, thank g--
Don't think about God. Remove God from your thoughts. If you think about God, you have to give yourself up, and you can't give yourself up.
What a smart motherfucker I am, he thought, to get those tinted windows and keep paying the tickets. Those tinted windows are going to save my life tonight. Funny how a little, tiny thing can save your life.
He adjusted the volume on the CD player downward BEFORE turning it on. It was one of Shaniqua's DVD's. The theme from Titanic, for god's sake.
You're here, there's nothing I fear...
He ejected the CD. He tossed it on the floor with Shaniqua's sweatshirt.
Maybe a lake, he thought. No, wait, dead people in the water always seem to float up and attract law enforcement. What about burning the body? Well, where would he do THAT without attracting attention? Maybe just burn the whole van? Oh, that's not going to work, either.
But all the blood and brain-soaked carpet inside? THAT would have to go away.
He needed a place to WORK on things, with TOOLS and shit. Now he understood why murderers got caught. It wasn't like you planned this stuff in advance. Already he'd made a mistake throwing that clothing out the window. What would the gay dude think when he walked around, picking up litter?
E Dawg whispered a little rap.
Never in a million years, would he understand, all my fears. Never in a hundred million years, could that dude know, all my tears. Tryin' be a pimp, tryin' be the man, almost put my life in a garbage can. Almost sunk my life, like the Titanic, now I look around, and I'm frantic...
No, wait. Not like that.
Revise the lyrics. Don't talk about being FEARFUL and shit.
E Dawg shifted the van into drive, but held down the brake. He looked out into the street, oh so careful, driving like an old lady.
He couldn't afford to have an accident.