Domino Effect

By Tressa Sanders – “Domino Effect was created while participating in a writing exercise where a writer looks at a picture then writes a story using the picture. I used four pictures instead of one. This version of this story can not be reproduced unless you obtain permission for the photographer of these images.”

My grandmother used to say, “When one domino falls, eventually so will the rest”. At the time I thought she was just talkin’. You know how old people are. They always goin on bout somethin’.

Mudda use to sit on the bed in her one room shack ranting about this and that. Preachin’. Nobody don’t want to hear that shit all the time. What did she know? She never even been out in the world. One day I just up and told her that. She looked at me in disgust like I didn’t know what I was talking about.

“But Mudda, you sit here in this shack or out on the steps by yo self, day in and day out.

Sometimes you get the notion to sit out by Macios in front of that wall and watch the world go by. Nobody don’t speak when they see you sittin there cause they all know you got that sorrow in your heart and they don’t want to hear that shit. Just like I don’t want to hear that shit.”

“That’s just what yo mamma used to tell me. And like yo mamma, you can’t see a lesson when it’s being given to you. You gots to learn the hard way or never at all.”

“What lesson you think you givin people when you tell them bout the baby them clans killed right out yo womb? Or when you tell people bout watchin yo daddy rape yo sistahs? Or when you talk bout your mamma hanged from that poplar tree for stealin food for yall to eat?”

A tear rolled down Muddas leathery face and her eyes swung slowly down in defeat and weariness. I thought to myself at the time, “Lesson? hmph. The only lesson I’m learnin is that no body gives a damn bout yo life’s woes so you betta off keepin’ it to yo self”.

When Mudda died, she died alone. I wasn’t trying to stay round no place like Suga Hill. Wasn’t nothin’ sweet about it. I didn’t care bout how Mudda would get on without me. I was her only grandchile. My own mamma ran off with that man, Luther B from Blue City. He use to come round flashin his smile and his money. Oh he wasn’t rich but when you as po as us, somebody with twenty dollars seem like a millionare to you. At least when you just a kid anyway. He didn’t like Mudda. Talkin bout she bring the rest of us down with her sorrows. He was right about that. After a while it occurred to me that he didn’t like me neither. He used to want to take my mamma everywhere but didn’t want me to come. My mamma never even had a problem with that. She never said she didn’t love me but she just always seemed like it didn’t matter if I was there or not. She sometimes used the same tired ole shit bout how I looked just like my daddy and maybe to her that was an excuse to not want to deal with no chile.

The folks in Suga Hill say my mamma planned to kill my daddy but the law and the courts say she was defendin herself. She told them he was crackin her head tryin to open it up and kill her so she had to stab him wit that butcher knife. They said he was dead afta the third time she stabbed him. But she stabbed him some twenty seven times. But they said she was in shock. I have seen something in my mamma’s eyes. When she got mad at me, she seemed sometimes glad I did somethin’ wrong so she could beat the tar out of me. I saw a smirk on her face sometimes as she brought the extension chord down cross my back. I wasn’t sad to see her go when she left. She left me with Mudda who protested and threatened to send me to a home. My mamma didn’t give a damn bout that. But Mudda couldn’t send me away. She was lonely. Who would she moan and groan to if I left? So she kept me round. I didn’t even care bout her. I didn’t care bout nobody. Nobody cared bout me. Mudda was so old and she could hardly do for herself. I would just let her soil herself instead of helpin her to the bathroom. She would cry sometimes cause she had no dignity left. She was stuck with a nine year old grandson who didn’t even care bout her. I would sometimes see her fall down when she misplaced her cane and I would stand over her and laugh. Wouldn’t even help her up. It was only a matter of time before I would just leave and let her die alone and unloved.

I stopped going to school after my mamma left. Hell, who was going to make me go? I hated school anyway. I hung out with them Bronson boys two shacks down. There was six of them aged nine to fifteen and everybody within 100 miles was scared of them. They didn’t have mercy on nobody. They didn’t care if you was eight or eighty, if you had something they wanted, they was gone get it from you. One time I was wit them when they wanted that gold pocket watch from Busta Joe round Greenville. It didn’t even work and they knew it. But he had somethin’ they thought he shouldn’t have. No one supposed to have nothing more valuable than what they had. Busta Joe was this sixty year old man worked for the railroad all his life. He lived in a shack just like ours but over in Greenville. He didn’t really have more than we had, but he had that watch. His daddy won it in a card game and gave it to Busta when he died. Bout the only thing Busta had that was worth anything cept his life. Them Bronson boys and me took em both.

When Busta wasn’t workin, he would go to the Porta Bar for a drink and some cards. It was easy to find him stumblin long the road in the early mornin. That’s when we was waitin for him in the dark. I was taken by surprise in the rush of the moment. The Bronson boys rushed on him before I could even know it was time to get down. They didn’t even have to beat him over the head with that tire iron that many times. But they did cause that’s what they like to do. I saw then it wasn’t even bout the watch. They beat him like he was payin’ for all that they were ever angry bout in life. Then I felt my own rage and didn’t feel the need to control it that night. I got my turn with the iron. I didn’t care no more bout Busta than I did Mudda so it was not surprise that it was not hard for me to pummel his body with that tire iron. That was the beginnin’ of the end for me.

After they found Busta Joe’s body, the police was at everybody’s door askin bout it. After they came to my door and left, Mudda said she knew it was me who did it. I let her know then she could end up the same way if she keep talkin’. That night I packed what little I had and slid away in the dark. I never looked back.

I ended up in New York City. A big change from Suga Hill in Alabama. But I hit the ground runnin when I got there. I didn’t waste no time hustlin’ and it wasn’t nothin for me to get paid and take care of myself. When I was fourteen, I got a gun when I robbed this man’s house. I even shot him with it. I laughed about it. Imagine that getting shot with our own gun in your own house. But after I got the gun, I entered into a whole new playin field. Now instead of house burglaries and petty theft, I could graduate to all out armed robbery.

The stakes got higher when I decided to enter into the drug life. Hell it seemed like the natural thing to do. I met this cat name Ceebo who sold heroin in the Bronx. He was this wild muthafucka who just sometime stand on the roof top and shoot at people on the street. How I met Ceebo is when some cats was holdin him up tryin to take his money and drugs. They beat him down in the alley and stayed round to humiliate him. When I saw them, they was pissin on him and laughin. At the time, I didn’t know what was goin on when I saw them in the alley. From where I was standin, it looked like a little girl to me. I’m not sure why I even gave a damn if it was but I did and I pulled my gun on them cats. They was so scared they ran from the ally with their dicks still hangin out they pants. When I pulled Ceebo up, I had to look closely but I could see Ceebo was a boy. It was hard to tell even up close though. His face looked like a girls and his hair was long and wavy and looked taken care of. Plus he was small for fourteen and looked a bit frail. I could tell it was hard for Ceebo to thank me but when someone see’s you getting pissed on, you have to say somethin’. Ever since then, you never see us apart. I stayed with him in this abandoned building. He tought me everything I needed to know bout drugs. He hooked me up with his boss who hooked me up with a job. Cept my job wasn’t sellin heroin. It was my job to protect Ceebo while he was dealin and pop folks who needed to be popped for the boss. It wasn’t no thing for me, I can’t even remember a time when I would have gave a damn about killin somebody. I wasn’t poppin someone like no every day or nothing but I had more than my share of blood on my hands. Then one day the boss asked me to pop somebody. Looking back now, I was all too eager to murder that day and I don’t know why.

“I want you to pop Ceebo” I watched the words come out of his crusty lips like they was razor blades. I could feel the muscles in my face turn to jelly. I must not have heard the name right. I laughed a bit.

“S’cuse me, what was the name again?” I laughed a little more.

“Ceebo, Nigga you heard me!” and I knew he was serious. His face was hard as stone and I had to mimic that.

“What I’m poppin Ceebo for? He yo best man out there?” I asked actin like I was hard when inside I was holdin back the tears.

“My BEST MAN been stealin from me. End of story. You don’t want to do it? I can get somebody else on it but don’t expect you won’t have a bullet with your name on it” He scowled. I knew if I didn’t agree to do it, I’d be dead before I finished tellin him so.

“Yeah I’ll do it. That’s what I do, right?” I loaded up my gun right in front of him so he would know I meant business and walked out but not before sayin “He’ll be dead before midnight”.

I waited round the corner for Ceebo. I could see him walking from down the road. I was thinkin about just poppin him right when he close to me without saying shit. But I couldn’t do that to him. I had thought for a second bout not doin it. But what would happen if I didn’t was worse to me than dealin with killin him. I knew how to deal with killin somebody. But I didn’t know how to deal with worryin bout gettin killed. I thought about if he said he didn’t do it. I would kill him anyway. No matter what he said, he was getting killed anyway.

My heart was racin the closer he got. I waited patiently, and when he rounded the corner, he ran into the barrel of my gun. He just laughed. The times I’d pointed my gun at him before, we had been jokin. Little did he know just how serious I was right now.

“What you doin sneakin up on a mothafucka like that?” he laughed again.

“Are you stealin from Mac?” He could see the coldness in my eyes and his face fell low. He backed up a little and leaned against the wall.

“It was for us. So we could get out of here, man. Like we used to talk about?” I wasn’t expectin that. I guess what I wasn’t expectin was for him to care about me. We hung out all the time but I never thought about him caring bout me. Now he was tellin me he stole from Mac cause he wanted to take us away from all this. And I know it’s true. We had spent many nights talkin’ bout gettin outa here. Goin to live some place quiet. We had both talked bout where we came from and I had to admit I may not have survived his life at all. But here I am with my gun on him for trying to make what we talked about possible.

That didn’t stop me from shootin him. That’s what he gets for trying to save someone that can’t be saved and caring bout someone that don’t want to be cared about.

After that, I hadn’t dealt with it as well as I thought I could. I started usin heroin, junk, horse, black tar, brown sugar, smack. Once it got back to Mac that I was usin, he said I was no longer needed. He said he wouldn’t have no junkies workin’ for him. Shit I didn’t care, it left more time for me to shoot up. I robbed to pay for my heroin and there was nothin’ better in the world than heroin. All I wanted to do was shoot up. I never loved anything in my life except heroin. It’s the only thing that ever made me feel good. My addiction started some five years ago the same night I popped Ceebo. I took the heroin he was carrying. I felt at that point I could do anything. I had obviously already decided it was the beginnin of the end for me and that there was no way I’d live a life different than what I was livin at the moment. At fourteen, I had already decided to suffer for the rest of my life. When I started usin heroin, I was only making sure of it. I did whatever I had to do to get what I needed. I robbed people, stores, whoever, whenever. I even started prostitutin when robbin just wasn’t enough. It didn’t matter who with. Lonely women, businessmen, anyone who could pay me enough for even just one hit.

When I started prostitutin, that’s when I saw my mother again. Turned out she had become a rather well known prostitute round town. They called her Bittersweet. She came to me cause she heard there was a new boy round and he was gettin pretty popular. She couldn’t have that. She didn’t even recognize me. Hell since the last time she saw me I was only eight or nine years old. At the time I saw her, I was sixteen. She approached me in an ally after I’d just been done with Lester, a regular. I was shocked to see her. I knew it was her right away. She looked pretty much the same but just slightly different. More worn down and instead of how her hate only came out at certain times, it seemed like it was more part of who she is all the time.

“Bittersweet don’t like no new nigga on her street!” she rhymed like some old hoe from a 70’s movie.

“what happened to Luther B?” I asked. He was the man from Blue City she ran off with when I was little.

“How you know bout Luther B? She scowled like I had just aired her dirty laundry.

“How can I forget the man that saved me from you?” I snapped back.

“Earl? is that you?” she said, her voice gettin surprisingly tender. She walked over to me and studied my face in the dim light. “I didn’t even recognize you! You’ve grown so much. How ole you now? Seventeen? Eighteen?”

“I’m sixteen.” I started walking away from her. I didn’t get all choked up from seeing her again. I felt less for her than I did for Mudda, Busta Joe, and anyone else I’ve known. I left her in the alley calling my name and beggin me to come back and reaquaint myself with her. That was three years ago. Last I heard, Bittersweet was found in a dumpster with her throat slashed. Sometimes I wished I’d done it. I just picked up my shit from this new dealer I been goin to lately. Ooooh I can’t wait to try this. I damn near ran back to my place. It wasn’t much, pretty much livin in an abandoned buildin with some other junkies. I picked up a needle off the floor in the hallway. I can’t stand when people throw away good needles. I plopped down on my bed which was nothin but a metal cot covered with newspapers. I was so excited about this hit that I was shakin.

I looked over my body trying to decide which vein I should use. Most of the veins where I usually shoot up in have collapsed. I am forced to unwrap the puss soaked bandage around my foot, uncovering sores that refuse to heal. I search for a vein I think will be ok. Ahhhhhhhh joy. I sit feelin the effects. Nothin mattered anymore. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t eaten in a few days. Couldn’t keep anything down anyway. It didn’t matter that my body had withered away and is fallin apart before my eyes. It didn’t matter that my teeth had rotted out and my body was covered in sores. It didn’t matter that I had become one of the fallen.

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