The sun was beating down on us as we sat on the warm sand of the beach. The girls in their bikinis, all shining skin from the heat, they looked gorgeous. Especially Nika. Oh Nika, man, she was so beautiful and had laid most of the guys in our group, or so they said. I wanted to lose my virginity to her. Nika was with Tweener right now. He was a cool guy, in his own way. The conversation had moved on to drugs, a very common subject in the slum that we lived in. I zoned out, it never much appealed to me except a good toke, something I shared with Nika. Tweener was into coke, there were many dealers in our home to go to but you never wanted to piss one off by getting business for another so you had to choose wisely and then stay in favour with the others. Some were more dangerous.
“LJ, get your ass up and get in the water!” Tweener called. I got up and stood with the rest of the guys and we ran down the beach into the water, sinking under as we lost our feet. We came back up laughing and splashing each other. Tweener jumped on me and dunked me under and one of the other guys swam under him and pulled on his leg. We came to the surface laughing.
If you are thinking this was our life. That this was our happy life playing around on the beach, typical youngsters, you would be wrong. You would be very wrong. We were young but we lead very different lives to most teenagers in most countries. We would all be lucky to live to twenty five. So like I said, you would be very wrong.
I’ll start the story from the top, with John Abruzzi. He was one of the toughest dealers on our streets. My father and uncle worked for him, so this earned them a deal of respect in the neighbourhood. Gangsters to be feared of course but most of the young kids in our area aspired to be one of Abruzzi’s men. They would run drugs through the streets to the customers and bring him back the money. It didn’t mean they were on his payroll, he would just give the ten year old a joint for free.
Also police rarely came to us in our slums and the ones who did were usually on John’s payroll. He had them in his back pocket and they would always turn a blind eye as long as he paid up. If someone screamed and a cop was around, he would usually just ignore it. No one in our neighbourhood could be saved by the police except the drug dealers, gangsters. It made no sense whatsoever but that was the harsh reality. I preferred to avoid the gangster status, I did not want to get shot. I did not want to run errands for any of the lords in case I made a mistake and stepped passed the line, dealing on the wrong turf or something stupid like that. I kept out of it, I kept friendly with them all, but I stayed out of their businesses.
I said before that my father and uncle both worked for John, my uncle somewhat reluctantly, he was not made for gang life. He was no gangster but he was forced to become one when his father, my grandfather was beating his mother senseless, he went to John and asked for a gun. He changed his mind quickly and asked John to kill his father instead. John took a group and the job was done. Michael was in debt to John, he was forced into gang life. He was forced to become a gangster.
Another of John’s men, he was known as T Bag, he was a reluctant servant. He always thought he could do better and was always challenging John’s authority, it surprised me how he was still breathing, maybe John was going soft. I always thought T Bag was a little insane and he always eyed me inappropriately. Everyone knew he liked boys just as much as girls and one of the adolescent boys always seemed to follow him closely. They were like best friends or more, it was not always clear. T Bag was always trying to take on more responsibility and more control of John’s situations but John was always holding him back. Part of me thought T Bag was biding his time, waiting for the opportunity to arise when he could take over. And when that happened it would unleash a full civil war among our neighbourhood. It would be a blood bath and that filled me with fear.
This leads me to the next part of the story.