One Thin Dime

FRom my never to be published autoboigraphy
As soon as I walked into my Mama’s Piedmont Courts apartment, I could see that the first issue on her agenda was to get the meal on the stove.
“Boy, I’m glad yo’ trifling ass home. I need you to go to the store. Pick up some shit for supper.” My Mama, a short, brown-skinned woman, pulled out a few wrinkled dollar bills from her purse. “Get me some butter, some milk and a loaf of bread.”
“I was getting ready to lay down, Ma. I’m tired.”
“Tired? Of what, being good for nuthin’ just like that no-account Pa of yours?”
“Gimme the money, Ma, so I can go.”
“I bet if one of your nappy-headed friends asked you to go somewhere with them, you’d break your fool neck to go and tell that Geno nigga who live down there beside Leroy and Nelly them to stop coming up heah asking for you.”
“What you tell him, Ma. Geno my partner.”
“I tole’ his mannish ass that if he be wanting to speak with you, he can catch yo’ ass out in the streets where the both of y’all love to be. What y’all find so good about not having your black asses at home when it gets good and dark?” Mama put her hands on her hips. “I just be praying that one day I don’t wake up to find out that the devil done wrote your name in blood and done spilled it on the corner.”
“What you want, Ma? Butter, bread, cheese.”
“Boy, I ain’t said shit ‘bout no damn cheese. You better not come waltzing your narrow ass back up in this house with no damn cheese. Nigga, I said milk.”
“Close enough,” I teased, “both of ‘em come from a cow.”
Making sure that my gangster brim was broke down at just the right angle, I put even more pep in my step. Striding down the block, I crossed McRae Street like I was the President of all the niggas in the world and stopped just long enough in front of Captain Bad’s house to see if any of his fine sistas were going to come out to greet me. When none did, I took two more steps, sidestepping a pile of dog shit on the pavement next to the house where Big BoBo stayed. Turning up my nose in disgust at the shit, I passed the last apartment at the end of the row where I could hear music coming from the open window in Cissy’s apartment. Standing in the narrow space between the apartments, I assumed my Mama had mentioned Geno for a reason which was reason enough for me to knock on Geno’s door. I knew Geno’s Mama was still at work.
“Man, you a sight for sore eyes,” Geno rasped excitedly. “Come on in the crib.”
I glanced quickly around the living room trying to see what it was that had my friend so excited. I didn’t see shit.
“Guess what I found this morning?”
“Some motherfucking money, I hope, that you willing to split fifty-fifty with me. I’d do the same for you, my nigga, if the shoe was on the other motherfucking foot.”
“Ain’t no ends.”
My face fell. “Shit, if it ain’t no ends……Reefer?”
“A bitch we can run a train on?”
“Naw, again, nigga.”
“Then whatever it is, you can keep it.” I headed for the door. “Gotta go to the store for my Mama.”
“Ta-Da!” Geno yanked a shiny pistol, a .38, from behind his back. He flashed it with pride. “This bitch heah will bring you all the money a nigga will ever need.”
The shiny flash of the gun stopped me dead in my tracks because—just like that—I sensed I was on the verge of my second coming. The other door, on who I just was, had barely closed, and now here another one was opening. Strangely, I saw no glitch in going from a wannabe author to a soon-to-be, hope-to-die stick-up kid. Damn, life was strange. Already, I felt like the boss of all bosses.
“You see this heah piece,” Geno said, holding the weapon up for inspection, “is the white man’s kyrptonite. Stick it in his face and he’ll piss in his pants.” Geno preached like a travelling evangelist. “Ain’t a ho in the world with pussy good enough to make you mo’ money than this heah roscoe will. A real nigga don’t want no slo’ money nohow. He wants sho’ money.” He thumped me in the chest with the gun. “You always said you wanted to be sumptin’. Now, you got yo’ chance.”
“Let me hold it.” There was awe and reverence in my voice. “No motherfucka in the world could have tole’ me just yesterday that I would be trading my pen for a pistol.”
Geno smiled. “Ain’t life a bitch?” He lovingly handed the .38 over to me. “Keep it for a while. I want you to feel the power it’s gonna give you. Better than busting a nut and you know how good pussy is……don’t you?”
I brushed off the remark and took the gun. I stuffed it carefully inside the waistband of my polyester slacks and suddenly had a slight problem with my original plans. Fuck going to the neighborhood store up on the block. I was now going to the store up on the hill where them other niggas lived. I prayed that one of them fucked with me today.
In my mind, I had already accepted the fact that I was the “shoot first, ask questions later” type nigga, and I would have it no other way. No today, nohow.
Working the long hill up 11th Street like it was a asphalt runway, I pulled his shirt down further over the gun. I wanted it noticed, not seen. Walking into the store, I was slightly mad that no one had confronted me about being in the wrong neighborhood. Damn!
Dumping the requested food items on the counter, I smirked at the grocer. “Where all them bad-assed niggas who live ‘round heah at?”
Paying more attention to the price of the items on the counter than to anything I had said, the grocer frowned. “You one dime short.”
“You don’t have enough money to pay for that stuff. You ten cents short?”
“You mean you can’t let me go with a funky-assed ten cents? The people at Trade & Save over where I stay wouldn’t holla ‘bout one thin dime.”
“Too bad this ain’t Trade & Save ‘cause I want every penny of what my products cost. Now, if you ain’t got the dime, you gonna have to decide what you gonna put back.” When the man saw the look in my eyes, he held up his hand to stop a second round of begging. “Ain’t nuthin’ I can do for you. I’m sorry.”
I couldn’t help but ask. “One thin dime, man?”
The man turned his back to me. “You need to make your choice fast. I need to go to the bathroom in the back.”
Despite the power of the gun, I felt too small to reach for it. I knew I should have pistol-whipped the man, then took all the money in the cash register—-but I didn’t. Instead, I chose to leave the butter and walked out of the store with only the milk and bread. Maybe I should have gone to the corner store after all.
When Igot home and explained to my Mama what had happened, she shook her head in disgust. “One thin dime,” she chuckled. “One thin dime.” She wagged her finger in my face. “What kind of man, are you? If I had needed a dime to save my life, you wouldn’t have had it.” She slumped down in a chair at the kitchen table. “You didn’t even have ten cents.” She lifted up her wrinkled hands to the ceiling. “Thank you, Jesus, that my life didn’t depend on that one thin dime.” Finishing up her prayer, she cursed her only son. Dammit, nigga, you ain’t even have one thin dime.”
Stumbling up the stairs to my room, I fell across the bed and cried like a bitch. After i had wiped my eyes, I vowed to never be broke again.