Fredo and Etienne sell drugs in Miami, but not the man made kind. It's a lucrative business, but everything comes at a price...
After a short guitar rift, the radio starts singing, “I don’t practice Santeria. I ain’t got no crystal ball...”
Etienne lowers the volume, “Fuck you Fredo!”
I give him a smile, “What? I thought you liked Sublime.”
He throws his hand up in frustration. “Fuck you and your stupid iTunes Radio.”
Still smiling, “Hey! You can talk shit about me all you like, but don’t be disrespecting our music lords!”
Etienne rolls his eyes at me, “Man fuck you Fredo, just keep your eyes forward god damn it.”
I tighten my grip on the steering wheel of my old 300ZX. I’m barely five years this car’s senior. Some junkie sold it to me for an ounce of Lengua Dulce; one of many highly addicting drugs I sell. You take it orally like a tablet and hold it under your tongue. The effects usually kick in after five minutes or so, after that people are usually bushy tailed and doe-eyed, euphoric and for some reason excessively horny. Most of my Lengua Dulce clients are those rich kinky fucks down in Brickell. What is it with rich people and orgies? Whatever, they pay top price.
So why did I take this old car for a drug that good? Sentimental value I guess. Back in New York City my old man had one. I was just a little shit back then, but I never forgot the car. Also I might talk shit about it, but the junkie took good care of this baby. It’s impeccable. I mean a few outside nicks here and there, but the engine sounds brand new. He had it rebuilt by hands with tempered materials. The junkie had the twin turbos replaced with larger ones. An extra line of injectors a bigger air intake. The works.
But I’m not here to talk about my new car. Etienne and I are currently parked by Coral Gables Senior High school waiting for a client. Normally he doesn’t come with me to these trade offs, but for some reason he was insistent. The client ordered a shitload of product. A grab-bag of magical uppers and downers, I’m talking about substances that’ll make a stroll through hell a day at an amusement park. I haven’t moved this much product in a while so I’m more nervous than usual. I try not to look at Etienne. He’s got a joint between his lips—probably trying to keep cool. He says “Fredo, Kòman ou yé la-a?”
“I’m fine. I just want to get out of here. Cops around these parts aren’t too nice to those of us without money.”
Etienne starts laughing as he goes into a raging cough attack. At first I’m thinking he thought of something funny. Until he says “Who you lying to Fredo? I’ve seen how much money you got. You choose to look poor.”
“Hey! I didn’t always have money. I just know how to keep it safe.”
“Whatever. You just like to pretend to be broke.”
“It ain’t pretend if I mean it.”
A flashlight flickers by the school’s gate. That’s the signal. I kill the engine and get out the car. Etienne struggles with the seatbelt and lowered vehicle. He shouts at me, “Tann Mwen! Wait for me pendejo!”
I shout back, “Daté rápido coño!”
He jumps out and slams my door—if he breaks something I swear to god—Etienne jogs over to me holding the duffle-bag full of goodies. We get to the gate and there’s a rent-a-cop standing there with a damn golf cart behind him. I don’t bother sizing him up, the guy looks like he’s on a liquid fat diet. I just say, “Show me the money.”
Porky Pig nods, several of his chins jiggle. He slides a briefcase through the gate and says, “500 large. Where’s my bag?”
Etienne moves forward and pushes the duffle-bag through the gate. I grab a cigarette from my pocket and light it while asking, “So how does a school security guard get his hands on this much money on a minimum wage job?”
He’s digging through the bag, making sure we didn’t rip him off. “You sell magical drugs, I sell the regular kind. This shit is better than anything a regular human can make.”
Etienne says, “Yo, we better not catch you selling our shit at jacked prices mou’fucka.”
Shit, why didn’t I think of that? I reach forward and grab Porky by his bacon greased collar. His chins hit the metal before his face, “You heard my partner, you slimy fuck. I catch my goods out in the hands of someone I ain’t sell it to and I swear to god a heart attack will be the least of your fucking worries.”
He looks at us and shakes his head, “No! That’s not why I bought this stuff. I’m retiring to central Florida and I’ll need something to keep it interesting.”
I blow some smoke in his face and release him. I head back to the car, Etienne follows after. We get inside and I gun the car down Coral Way. We’re heading west when Etienne turns on the radio. Sublime’s Wrong Way is playing.
Etienne changes the music from the iPod I left connected. “You listen to too much white people music.”
Between gears I say, “I’m a fancy mother fucker. Let’s throw down to some Mozart.”
Etienne shakes his head, “Nah nigga, fuck you and your classical shit. We bumping to some hard shit.”
Wu Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M. blows out the speakers. Etienne grins bopping his head to the track. “Yeah boy!”
He looks over at me just as we make a left on Red Road. “That was some gangster shit you did back there Fredo.”
I shake my head, “I’m not a gangster Etienne, I’m a drug dealer. There’s a difference.”
Bring Da Ruckus plays next.
“Even so nigga, that shit was hard.”
“Stop calling me nigga. You know damn well I’m not black.”
He laughs, “I thought you light skinned dudes like that ‘blackfirmation.’”
I give him a shrug, “It gives people the wrong idea of me.”
“Fuck them Fredo, you my nigga.”
I hang a right on Miller. Etienne smiles, he knows where we’re going. Somewhere passed 94th Avenue I park the car into a plaza. We hop out and make our way to one of the hookah shops we hang out at. At the door we’re greeted by Fatima. A tiny, hijab wearing firecracker from Algeria. Today she’s wearing a brightly colored one that brings out the green in her eyes. Fatima says, “I was wondering when you two would show up! Everyone’s been waiting!”
The shop is quiet, with caramel colored walls. Imported seats and tall hookahs are all around. The wooden floor is spotless, Mahmoud has really outdone himself. By the back corner I see everyone. Three tall hookahs and two open spots for Etienne and I.
The first to say hi to us is Elizabeth—long red hair, a contagious smile and a level of loyalty so pure even dogs get jealous. Rudy and Amanda come next and bear hug the both of us. Then finally Tim comes around and fist bumps us. We all take our seats and it’s all smoke and giggles for the rest of the night.
Later, much later, it’s just Etienne and I. Most of the shop’s patrons are gone and the Middle Eastern music has been lowered. I’m taking a hit from the hookah when I hear the store’s front door open and close. The unforgettable sound of heels across a wooden floor slowly filter into the shop. Etienne gives me a look—I’ve got my back to the door, I don’t know who just walked in.
Fatima notices who it is and goes to the back of the shop. Suddenly I’ve got this feeling bad feeling in my stomach. Or is that in my balls?
The clacking stops behind me and a voice whispers into my ear, “Que hubo parce?”
Oh fuck me.
I turn around and there she is. Sycamore. In a short black cocktail dress with black heels and circular glasses, you wouldn’t know what her profession is. She keeps her piece inside some weird penguin backpack she’s got. Sycamore is leaning forward with her red tainted lips close to my face. Her dark brown eyes are strong and confident. You ever been scared and horny?
Shit. Not now boner.
Trying to keep my confidence as I say to her, “Que lo que, mi amor?”
That makes her smile, “Come, have a cigarette with me.”
She glances at Etienne, “Quédate ahí.”
He doesn’t move.
I follow her outside and she offers me a lit cigarette. I say, “You know I don’t usually smoke stokes.”
“Then why take one?”
“When a pretty woman offers you a cigarette, you take it.”
She smiles again, this time with teeth. “You’re such a charmer Alfredo. You Dominican boys and your flirting. One day that’s going to be the death of you.”
I take a pull, “So, are you here on business?”
She shrugs, “I could be, if you make me a better offer.”
She’s quick. I mean I’m no slouch, but she’s fucking quick. I’ve got my head against the wall and a knife to my throat. Shit I think I dropped my cigarette. “I’m not into this rough stuff Sycamore but I like where your head’s at.”
She doesn’t smile this time. This woman is as cold as the steel to my throat. She says, “Someone put a hit on you, why?”
That’s new. She grabs my collar and pushes my head against the wall, “Habla hijo de puta! Who wants you dead and why?”
“I don’t know!”
She stares me down to see if I’m lying, then lowers the knife. She flattens down her dress and says, “You need to find out. Not all of those in my profession are as nice as me.”
Sycamore is a Colombian hit-woman. Also on my naughty list, no Christmas present for her. “Good night Alfredo.”
She turns and leaves me against the wall. That damn penguin backpack taunts me as she walks away. As she gets in her Mercedes she blows me a kiss, then drives off.
God damn it. Not now boner.