Chapter One: Keep Your Spot to Yourself

As soon as I pull into my driveway, I see Brutus coming.

“Yo, Huey!” he says, starting to cross the street.

Oh, shit. Brutus will talk your fucking head off if you let him.

He’s an OG, maybe 60-65 years old, Blood affiliated. He’s bald, swole, has muscles on muscles, and is terrifying to look at. His body’s ripped, with tats crawling up his neck and face, but he walks with a limp.

He’s waiting for settlement money after getting hit by a city bus. He’s always bitching about it. He thinks his lawyers are fucking him on the deal and always wants to tell you all about it. You can lose an hour if you let him get started.

I step out of my ten year-old Toyota Corolla, a nothing car you wouldn’t notice. That’s the point: nobody looks at it twice. The minute I put my first fifty pounds in its trunk, that Toyota paid for itself.

I step out of the car and turn around.

“Brutus,” I say. “What’s up?”

“Nothing, blood, I just haven’t seen you. How you been?”

When Brutus talks, every third word out of his mouth is “blood.” It’s always, “Listen, blood, I’m telling you, blood…” A few times, I’ve had to actually cut him off with that. I don’t want there to be a misunderstanding, for me to get blessed in by mistake, like I’m a Blood too just by him saying it too many times.

Also, just to make an observation, Brutus does not wear a shirt 100% of the time he’s out of his house. He’s not wearing one now.

“Brutus, man,” I say,  “I don’t mean to be rude, but I just came back for a minute. I don’t have time for a conversation. What’s going on?”

“You got my text?”

I do have one phone I use, although rarely, and never for business.

Anybody who uses phones, they're going down. Phone tapping is the most basic technique cops use. What they're not on is the encryption. I haven't used phones since Obama’s first term. We were using Blackberries back then.

Having Brutus as a neighbor is a relationship that cuts both ways. He keeps an eye on my place. If he sees anyone creeping around he doesn’t recognize, he’ll text me. But it took a long time to get him to stop asking for weed on the phone. Now, if he wants something, he’ll text me an asterisk. Not much of an improvement, but a step in the right direction.

I look at my phone. There, a few days old, is an asterisk.

“Gonna take me a day,” I say.

“That’s cool, blood, that’s cool.”

He reaches over and slips fifty in my pocket. I don’t look down. The man is older than me, so I don’t like to count money in front of him. I don’t disrespect him like that. I don’t like that power dynamic.

“All right,” I say, eyes forward. “Let me get with these white boys. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

I could give him an ounce right then, but I want him thinking I’m broke, or near it. He thinks I’ve got a square job – which I do, I always do, that’s one of my rules, always have a job – and that I have some white friends I buy from. Close to the truth, but not quite.

In reality, in my house, just a dozen or so yards away, I’ve got a Tupperware cabinet that’s just full of weed. Out in the big West Coast city where I live, you buy what they call grower's pounds, and grower's pounds are always over a half an ounce to an ounce.

A traditional East Coast pound is 448 grams. A grower's pound might be 456, something like that. It's a heavy pound. But I just take the extras off all those grower's pounds, and that's what I give to him.

But I wait a day. I let Brutus go back to his house. I let night fall. I go out for a drive in the morning. I come back. I see him, like he often is, on his front steps, doing jailhouse pushups on a diagonal – feet on the sidewalk, hands on the stoop. I let him look up and see me pull into the driveway. He gets up off his porch again and starts limping over again with that same big smile on his face.

Now I hand him the ounce or whatever.

“Yo, blood, thank you, blood, thank you,” he says, and starts crying.

Brutus cries every time I see him, because he gets so emotional about how happy he is that I help him.

“That’s all right, Brutus.”

“No seriously, Huey, blood – look at me, dog, I’m tearing up.”

“It’s okay. We’ll talk later, all right?”

He waves, still sniffling, and drags his massive body back to his stoop.

And that’s every time I come home, too, because Brutus is always home, every single day. He’s got shit else to do. He used to sell crack, big time. He went to prison a while back, because he got caught with a couple ounces of it. But he convinced the prosecutor that he was a user and not a seller, so they reduced his time.

Brutus told me once that when he was coming up, his OG told him that it’s always better to look like a user than a dealer when caught. That’s a lesson I’ve remembered over the years. White friends when they get caught dealing pull this, and they get rehab. Brutus used it to get a reduced prison sentence.

Brutus has got a past. Armed robberies, home invasions. He’s a violent person, in other words, but not violent with me. That can be a good thing if I keep the relationship right. I think he smokes a little crack now. I can’t be sure. But he’s got teeth missing, and he sometimes just seems obliterated. Not good signs. He’s also got a girlfriend who looks pretty good from a distance, but look up close and she’s missing a few teeth, too. I think she’s the one got him smoking.

The only reason I give him weed is so he doesn’t starve. He doesn’t work, and on hard times. So I’d rather give him a couple of ounces every month, and have him happy and docile, instead of starving and looking.

I tell all this to illustrate a rule: Never let business partners know where you stay.

Brutus is the only person on earth who knows where I live.

There’s not much to be done about it. The guy lives across the street. He sees me. So I make the best of it. And again, played right, there are benefits to the relationship.

But nobody else knows. Not family members, not business partners, not girlfriends. Nobody.

I’ve been to where they all live. But nobody knows where I am.


Read the Author’s Note and Preface here.

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