A Woman’s Touch Softens The Hard Hands Of A Badman [Short Story]
Above is the audio version to my short story A Women's Touch Soften's The Hard Hands Of A Badman. For the text version please scroll down.
4TY is my youth organisation that works creatively with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially those placed in care or involved in youth offending, using the medium of arts and media. To find out more about the project please click here.
He sat alone, shrouded in darkness save for the headlights of car lamps as they brought temporary light to the insides of his black Fiesta. The puffs of grey smoke which opened up into patterns of spiraling ghosts kept the interior as fog.
He held paper lit at its end like the fiery red of a dragon's breath to his fat lips sculpted in a shape, reminiscent of his mother's. Taking a long slow pull of his fire starter he turned up the words on the stereo to the voice of J Hus saying "even when we never had a penny, yo we always had spirit, they can bun my flesh, but they can’t touch my spirit, they want take way my freedom but how they gonna take my spirit...."
He slid back down deeper into the black fabric of the ripped seats and his brain felt as if it was traveling from here to the Himalayas. Like he had the answer to the meaning of life, now knowing the true religion, and it all was as simple as two plus two.
His answer to life's equation was broken as a nonbeliever knocked on his window, with eyes wide like the highlights from kohl eyeliner. The cloud from his mind dissipated, his overriding programming of survival of the fittest, set into motion. He was ready for action and greeted the regular stranger, Blocka with
"I keep on telling you not to beat on my windows like that G."
The response back was quicker "And I keep on telling you not to talk to me like that B."
Unwittingly, the ego of man had entered them into a standoff that was tense; each one unwilling to surrender his position. Jerry quietly stretched his fingers towards a man-made black knight sharpened to a tip, with the sole intention of checking lost kings.
"Aight listen, you want this work or you want me to take it elsewhere?"
The bigger older man looked at him harshly, "I hear all that B, but I ain't having no yout talk to me..."
Jerry cut him off, "I ain't no yout G, I'm a ask you for the last time, you want this work or not."
Blocka had thoughts of robbing this slick-mouthed child for his night's wage wrapped in plastic. In days gone past, few would have dared talk to him with such open disrespect; as in that era, he'd been the main contender in a roadside coliseum for urban gladiators, pitching any adversary in a shower of public blood spray.
Though at the time, few realised that Blocka's fearlessness for life originated from being a naive teen of 13 and introduced to a white widow that sapped life under the pretense of fool's gold. He fell weak to the demon, needing a fix to lace the insides of his nose white every few weeks. As time went on, the need for the beast only increased, making him reckless and wild. Even the wicked at some point though, have to succumb to Father Time, and the effects of the white demon were long lasting. So that a body once strong and vital, was now weak from multiplying cancerous cell.
Blocka weighed up the cost for his scheme of a robbery. He wasn't sure if it was worth it, as though Jerry was still a kid, he was also a youth well known for using his tool in suffering no fool.
Knowledge of this helped him come to the best decision. Blocka rifled through his pocket for a crumpled £20 note and handed it to Jerry,
"All I'm saying B is in my day, we had more respect."
Jerry handed him the white sin wrapped in plastic, the toxic delight that Blocka's body craved for. Jerry wondered how a guy like him had ever allowed himself to get into the position of being a crack head Nitty, especially considering the reputation he'd been told the older man used to have. All he knew was he wouldn't allow for himself to ever fall victim to a man-made drug. To be a Nitty was to be a victim and in his world, even the Lord knew, he was no victim.
He took a long last pull of his own potent flavours, staring at the older man coldly as he blew out a snail of grey smoke.
"This ain't back in the day my G ."
He rolled up his window and Blocka stepped from him, as if never there. He stomped down on the clutch, smashing the gear lever into first, as he aimed to wheel spin off to another drug dealer scene. He failed miserably, the black Fiesta losing life as it sputtered to a stop. Heat radiated from his inner being as he thought how his friends would laugh if they caught him stalling like that, on big Coldharbour Lane.
He went to restart the ignition but paused when he saw a girl in black slowly move closer to his rear mirror view. Her face was oval and her complexion golden, as if the last great Gods of Egyptian kings past had presented the world with one final gift before departing forever from the minds of a nation growing in atheism and capitalism, disguised as spiritual flight.
Jerry opened his mouth wide, a flycatcher would have had nothing on him, he was firmly caught within the trap of her dissarming beauty. Though as she got closer what really got him was her hazel eyes, which spoke sonnets of a sad song. He knew those eyes well, as it was the same ones he'd witnessed within his own mother before her life was cut tragically short. Though six years on, he still felt like a part of him had died with her. Some might say his pursuit for women was in fact a pursuit for completion of what he’d lost, but any talk of that to him and he'd run them from him, dismissing them as Neeks.
Lost in space, he noticed a single tear drop from the edge of the girl's black-tipped eyelid. He didn't know why, but he had the urge to approach her, not as a random chick, but on some ‘big man’ ting. Though when she walked past, he remained still, his usual shield of confidence was lost and all he could do was watch as the black Velour tracksuit which contained her charms slowly swayed by.
‘Waste man’, he inwardly scolded himself.
Cursing again, he kissed his teeth as he noticed her grace wasn't lost to the other night lurkers of late night Brixton. One particularly brave dweller went one step further from the whistles of a few men making half-assed attempts at getting her attention. He noticed his regular Blocka in amongst the crowd of hyenas.
"Yo come here, let me chat to you for a second."
Moving with purpose, she responded tactfully, "I've got a man."
"Forget your waste man, you need a real G, like me."
She politely smiled again and carried on walking.
He shouted in her direction, "Ah forget you anyway, you're ugly."
As she walked off unfazed, she gave him the middle finger without looking around.
A small peal of laughter erupted with a few high pitched giggles from the older patrons.
"You gonna take that?"
"How you having girls chat to you like that?!"
"You need to set pace on her."
Fuel for a flame had been ignited and a male ego dented by foolish pride can be prone to recklessness.
Attempting to reclaim stripes he thought he'd lost and with no further talk, the guy leaped and with an NBA hangtime, landed square with his foot in the girl's back. She fell to the floor in a shocked, crumpled heap, eyes even wider as she looked back still-stunned, at her puffa jacket wearing assailant.
Before Jerry even allowed himself to think or to consider the risks, he pumped the gear into first, speeding with a screech as he near enough mounted the pavement next to the girl and her perpetrator. Seeing the tinted banger viciously mounting the curb, Puffa coat's friends dispersed like rats scrambling for shelter from daylight movement. Only two of the guy's friends remained, one of them being the ever watchful Blocka whose eyes were now slanted in concentration at the young teen. An arena with a crowd was set, the puffa wearing perpetrator versus the younger Jerry.
Puffa coat screamed "What you want, you lickle dick head?!?"
Jerry's response was wordless, he showcased his zombie killer, a long-bladed black knife. The light from the moon darting in amongst the dark clouds of a Brixton night caused slithers of white flashes to ripple across the sleek black monstrosity.
Puffa coat searched the eyes of the young Jerry and what was reflected back was a glimpse of a land of hell. Not a hell run by the twisted form of a pin faced demon, but a hell witnessed by a boy of just 14 who'd already seen an eternity of suffering and was happy to have someone join him.
Puffa coat had no wish in being tortured in this dysfunctional teen’s version of purgatory.
"I'm a see you around little boy," he talked with menace at Jerry "..but just know the next time I see you, it's on for you." Puffa coat backed off quickly, trousers low sagging. Jerry thought to run after him and tear a new meaning of road life into his backside, but he stopped when he caught her gaze upon him. Weary hazel eyes peered at him cautiously. His heart chakra sung a love song and his lower chakra spun to its beat.
Gracefully she rolled over, dusting her hands off but never taking her eyes off him. With his hand free from the zombie killer, he extended it to help. She looked at it, then looked back to him, taking it hesitantly. He clasped her hand softly, giving her support to rise up and believe that there is still some good left in humanity.
"Thank you" she said
"Don't worry about it” he replied, "they're Neeks."
"All the same, thank you."
A tiny stream rolled down her cheeks, the quiet thunder to her eventual torrent of tears.
Taken aback by this raw honesty, he didn't know what to say or do as she leaned into him and an innate concern came over him. They found a way to hold each other in the way lovers new do.
"Yo B, we need to get out of here, before them guys come back."
She answered with a nod and allowed him to lead her towards his car before he carefully took off, driving towards a destination now unknown.
The mood in the slow patrolling car was quiet, save for the stereo playing the smooth words of "Gal I know you from somewhere, Baby…Really I'm lying, you know I just want your number baby..." He leaned back low in his chair reclined all the way back, gripping the steering wheel with one hand.
He took a quick fleeting glance at the girl sat next to him, who stared out of her window, lost in her own world. The darting streetlights allowed him to see a reflection of a pretty face marked with stress. Flashing lights reflected back turbulence a mirror of his mothers. Maybe it was that same maternal energy he was drawn too, as he'd been more than willing to risk his life for a stranger, who now together didn't feel so strange.
Somehow he always managed to get himself into the maddest predicaments, especially when it involved girls. Though for him the minds of girls were still a mystery as his experience of women had been chaotic, to say the least. He still remembered the times of his mother bursting into his room as a child, raging at the inner demons she claimed possessed him, screaming out her need to release him, before breaking down into a crying mumbling mess. His confusion would always be magnified the next morning when he'd ask what she meant by saying he was possessed by demons. With a smile plastered on her lips, she'd give him a kiss and say she didn't know what he was talking about. He'd grown to learn denial is a true friend to no one and her denial spawned the seed of his doubt in not just her, but in trust for mankind.
Growing up though, he loved his mother. He often found her stressful as sometimes he just didn't know what mum he'd be faced with come morning time. Would it be the radiant mother who with a flash of a brilliant smile could bring the fun of a summer’s day to even the gloomiest of rooms? Or would it be the irate woman in a wicked mood, darkened from spending time within the company of an abundance of foul men.
Relief for him would come from the extra loving arms of his grandmother. While hugging him closely she’d tell him that his mother harbored a lot of pain growing up, and though she's an adult, she's still a human with lots of hurt inside.
He would protectively tell his grandma “I'll beat up anyone who hurts my mum!” His grandmother would simply reply "I know, I know, but some battles can't be won with fists, some battles can only be won with love and there's no greater love than that of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ."
He looked again to the reflection of the face sat next to him, guess it was like his grandmother said, not all battles could be won by fists.
His heart chakra compelled him to break the silence with "You ok?"
She let a few moments pass before answering,
"Na, not really."
He wanted to comfort her, to give her some kind of peace that was clear from her eyes she long needed, but what did he know about bringing peace to a woman when he himself lived such a hectic lifestyle? A sudden police siren whizzing past and his heart’s instant reaction of fight or flight beating, reminded him of just how crazy his lifestyle was.
Relaxing back down after the passing of the sirens, his young mind thought fast, "Well it could always be worse" he spoke in reference to the police car speeding past. She turned to him with a lip turned up at its side in disgust, her hazel eyes rolled in a display that showed she wasn't nearly impressed with what he just said.
"What do you a little boy, know about my life!" she spoke with young flames sparked in a way that only the sharp tongue of a woman can deliver, a potent word bomb. He landed on the bomb squarely, unprepared in how to leap to safety from the missile. Feeling embarrassed and disrespected, flames sparked from a bruised male ego as he expelled words of "Who you talking to you dumb girl, I put my neck out saving you! "
"Wait, who you calling dumb?" she turned full body, looking him directly in his eye "You must have got me twisted as being one of them type of girls! You know what, let me out."
Under usual circumstances, he would have kicked her out quicker than a kid can break a 10 pound note into small change in a toy shop, but how she’s previously conducted herself with such grace while just being in the midst of a mini storm made him know she was someone he wanted in his life. He subdued his rage.
"Look, I'm sorry" he said. "Let me just get you to a safer place, this part of Brixton ain't no place for a girl to be walking by herself late night."
"What do you care?" she asked harshly
"Enough that I was willing to risk my life." he answered softly
She looked at him letting out a long sigh, as words spoken softly have the effects of dampening even the wildest of fires.
"What's your name?" she asked.
"Jerry," he replied "…and what's yours?"
Before he could ask more questions to get a greater understanding into who she was and what she represented, his phone sung out with an old school Nokia tone. He looked at it pissed and answered it, vexed.
"Listen I answer the phone how I want."
"Listen this is getting long for man, what do you want?"
"Aight I got that, where are you?"
"Aight I see you in five."
He looked to his passenger Simone as she searched his eyes, ready to be clued in, he plugged her into the data of his night.
"I just need to make a quick stop off, but I promise I'll drop you back to where ever you want after."
"Cool." She replied before relaxing into the tattered fabric of the head-rest. He turned 180 in a half doughnut skid and a car behind honked in disapproval. He kissed his teeth more as an ego display than anything, but in reality he was now cheerful, as he'd managed to capture a rare beauty hidden in amongst the grime of inner city life and he wanted to take his time with it.
"So I take it you’re one of them road guys then?"
"Na babes, I'm a trapstar." Confidence oozed from him as he said this.
"And who you trapping for then?"
"No one, man does his own ting."
"Doesn't your mum ask what you're up to late at night? If I had a son, I'd never allow him to be out so late."
"Well my mum ain't around, and you can talk, look how late you're out." He spoke the first part with more sharpness then he intended.
"I'm sorry to hear that about your mum. My mum just kicked me out, so that's why I'm out late." she paused "I was really upset before I met you, but now I feel better, I feel like it'll all work out," she paused again "for both of us."
He took in her last words deeply, his young brain frazzled from living this relentless survival of the fittest existence, had to ask out loud.
"How do you know?"
She gave him a smile that warmed his warring spirit "I just do and you'll be good too."
He pulled up on Fiveways road, bringing the car to a stop next to the curb. Street lamps lit the interior of the car with a dull glow. Outside he noticed a black cat with glittering green eyes, watching an unseen adversary.
The short-lived harmony of the car was broken by the large figure approaching the Fiesta with a limp and Jerry reset the programming of his mind to one ready for whatever. Blocka approached the drivers' side and Jerry's hand drifted towards his own weaponry. In the distance the black cat hissed, showcasing sharp claws and an even sharper temper.
Blocka as cool as ice said, "Wha gwarn?"
Jerry replied back chilled "Cool."
"I wanna apologise for earlier," Blocka continued "sometimes I just get too caught up in my feelings, forgetting my days are done and it's now time for you young G's."
"It's cool, don't worry about it."
"Na I got to let you know G, I respect how you move; no talk, just straight crud."
Life experience from the roads kicked in and his spider senses tingled in the pre-modern part of his hippocampus. Something wasn't right. The black cat with teeth bared, ran towards an opponent. Gut feelings or intuition gifted as the last connection between us and what we refer to as the living God told him, ‘check your passenger side wing mirror.’
To his surprise, on the left side, he saw a tall figure creeping, hunched over as he silently made his way towards the car. Jerry’s inbuilt survival mechanism kicked in and reaching for the dashboard, he pressed a button and the car doors locked shut. Realising Jerry was on to them, Blocka threw a vicious punch through the open window that had Jerry rocked. Simone screamed in anguish leaning towards him as dizziness dulled his over-thinking, sharp mind. Next to the passenger side window was his previous adversary, Mr Puffa coat himself, but he'd now upgraded to holding a sharp weapon as long as the arm of a preschool child. He could tell by the expression on Puffa coat’s face that he was here to deliver no lesson on algebra, but was here to try school him on anatomy, with full intentions of Jerry being the unwilling test subject.
Puffa coat’s long sharp weapon made crisscrossed lines of destruction upon the plane of glass, as he struck the car window repeatedly with a knife.
Reflected in the same window the young girl watched frozen in horror at the vicious movements of the now distorted face of Puffa coat bunched up in fury, as he sought revenge for the earlier dent to his ego.
He heard Blocka scream, "yeah I warned you young buck about trying to take me for a eeidiot!"
Hearing these words, a fog descended over Jerry, enveloping him. Bringing him back to primitive feelings of when he was just a boy, raised in a place where suffering would come at the hands of some of the many men his mother had brought into their world. Back then he’d been unable to protect himself or his mother. But what he was able to do was make a promise to himself that when he was big and strong, no one would ever be able to put their hands on them again.
Present day Jerry picked up his zombie killer with aims of creating bloodied red lines in the flesh of man. Blocka went to punch, the zombie killer missed ripping the fist off by inches. Blocka backed off, as he saw things had just stepped up in intensity, he called to his Puffa coat wearing friend, Shots "Come sort this fool!" Shots moved from the passenger side window and towards the driver's side.
Jerry consumed in his destruction to all mankind aura, lost his sense of fear and went to open his car door to confront all those who would dare defy his might.
"No." Simone said to him softly "Please let's just go." She placed her hand a top of the hand carrying the zombie killer. The fog lifted.
A woman's touch has the power to bring light to darkness seeded within the hearts of lost men. The purifying touch worked its magic, Jerry dropped pride, then the zombie killer. He pressed down hard on the clutch and wheel spun off in first.
Street lamps moved past in a speed of triple X and nighttime whizzed past at a pace that seemed to be an attempt of bringing forth quicker a new day.
"Slow down Mr."
Jerry eased off the accelerator, guilt gripped his voice box for what felt an eternity.
"I, I, I'm sorry," he managed to stammer out, before taking another long pause "I never wanted to get you caught up in this rubbish."
She took his hand without looking before giving it a tender squeeze. Pleasingly, she allowed the touch to linger, and the heart of the boy grew softer.
"Look I'm a make it right." He reached inside his tracksuit bottoms, pulling out a bunch of purple coloured queens heads. The sins of the past paid for the debts of the present. He went on, "Where I know you been kicked out, take this cash and stay in a hotel for a few days, I know it's not much, but it's something."
Simone looked to the wad of cash, then to Jerry, "Na you keep that B, I'm good"
"I’m'a try go home and talk with my mum, these last few hours have had me thinking."
Jerry let a moment pass before sighing, "Yeah man hears that, might be for the best, well at least let me drop you off home."
She gave him a look, he flashed a laugh.
"What man's serious, I'm not trying nothing!"
"Alright," she gave another suspicious look "I'll direct you."
The black Fiesta darted through the buzzing streets of Brixton like a seamstress pushing thread through a needle with years of experience. The streets were quieter save for a few souls venturing out for mischief and those shuffling towards home from jobs that had their whole being tired. Working day, working night to pay rent that barely covered their growing debt, the real legacy of the Tories austerity.
Upon her command, he pulled up to a large house three stories high, covered by shadows created by a street lamp. He looked up and could see paint chipped window sills and cracked brickwork, the house had seen better days. Though he didn't really care, as sights like this were familiar and he too could do with seeing better days.
"Alright I'm here, thanks for everything."
"It's cool." He took a pause "so what..."
"So what?" she replied with a smile
"So what, you have Snap?"
"Yeah I have Snap," she said with fake attitude
"So what, can I get it?"
She paused resting her finger on her chin “Hmmmm… na I'm playing, yeah it's simma sims."
"Cool, I'll shout you."
She leaned in close, bringing him into a warming hug that ended with a kiss on his cheek.
"You do that," she replied, before opening the passenger's side and swaying out his ride as if a film heroine from a dark fantasy. He watched the script of her movie longer, wondering how it'll all play out. Watching as she reached the front door, producing a key from her pocket and inserting into the lock with a twist. The white front door opened and from the other side stepped into the dull light from street lamps a figure he could only assume was her mother.
Mother rushed to her child with hugs of "I'm sorry" the young girl with eyes now closed hugged back. The mother looked briefly from her child and into the windows of his ride. His eyes and her eyes met, familiarity bred contempt. The client who bought bags of his white dust now looked at him with disgust.
His heart suddenly beat rapidly, Simone turned to him and waved casually; not noticing the now narrowed eyes her mother directed at him. He waved a quick bye before darting from the scene with the same speed that a jet breaks the sound barrier. All the while wondering, why he had to have the worse of luck, of all mothers it could have been, hers had to be a user, not just any user, but one he personally sold too.
He kissed his teeth, shaking his head slowly, wondering if it was all even worth it. But his thoughts of this were cut, with memories of how her hazel eyes light up from when she smiled. Though it would be tough, he knew he was willing to break down any barrier to be with her, even the barrier of dealing with her crack user mother.
He entered his care home late, at the same time a black cat with green eyes settled for warmth underneath a black car.