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Authors: Marcus Burke

Team Seven (5 page)

BOOK: Team Seven
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Before the day of the brawl I didn’t think they knew who I was. When I passed them on the corner they’d say, “What up, lil’ man?” or nod their heads, but I never stopped and talked to any of them. Since Pop and Uncle Elroy ain’t around much anymore, them Squad Six boys are my new favorite group to spy on. It’s a lot easier than peeping on Pop and Uncle Elroy too. I don’t have to crouch down staying still and quiet in an uncomfortable position.

Unlike Pop and Uncle Elroy the Squad Six boys hang out in the daytime too. When I get home from school, they’re always holding court on the corner. I toss my backpack on the porch, pull my Red Sox cap low, up my hoodie’s hood and that’s all the disguise I need to watch and listen to the corner comfortably as I dribble my basketball up and down our walkway.

Monday though Thursday, Reggie, D-roc, Buggy, and Sticks are always out there, while big Haitian Claude and Tony are still in high school. Friday through Sunday all the Squad Six boys are chilling on the corner, freestyling, talking shit, blasting music. They smoke vitals like Pop and Uncle Elroy. I smell the smoke drifting off the corner, but their vitals look different. They’re not skinny and white, they’re thick as a finger and brown, sometimes green. They call them blunts. Ma calls it frying their brains, they call it getting high. It sounds better.

Ever since Christmas morning when Reggie came over to wish Ma a merry Christmas, she seems to be okay with the Squad Six boys. She used to evil-eye them as they’d wave to
us as we drove past, but now she waves back, sometimes even smiles. I know all their names from hearing them on the corner. I’ve always been curious about them, and a little scared of them too. I saw what they did to Pop on Christmas Eve, he shouldn’t have hit Ma, they weren’t wrong, but they still made me sort of nervous. Sticks lives in the house on the corner. It’s built up high, his front yard elevated by the wall that wraps around the corner. That’s where they all chill, it has Squad Six spray painted all over it.

I think Sticks was the reason Ma started not liking them in the first place. Sticks is the quietest one in the Squad and besides Reggie he’s by far the craziest. The first time I ever saw Sticks in action I was walking home from Mattapan station with Ma. As we rounded the corner of Verndale onto Lothrop, all the Squad Six boys were outside, shirts off and ready to fight a bunch of guys from another neighborhood.

Ma grabbed my arm and we crossed the street and kept walking toward our house. I heard some yelling and stomping up on Sticks’s front porch, and the guys I didn’t recognize started scattering away from the corner. I looked up and saw Sticks with a big butcher knife in his hand and big Haitian Claude standing in front of him holding him back. I paused to look at the commotion.

“Let’s go!” Ma tugged my shirt toward our house, my neck twisted around like an owl trying to see.

When we got to our gate Ma squeezed the back of my neck and pinched me as she brushed past walking up to the front porch.

“Bring yourself on! Ain’t nothing over there to see. What, you think them boys are cool or something? They’re fools, you’re a cut above the rest. Boy, you better get with it.”

I didn’t answer her. She held the front door open for me as I slowly walked up the walkway trying to sneak some glances at the corner.

“Get in the damn house. Now, Andre!”

Ma looked at me like I’d pulled a knife on her as I slowly slinked up onto the porch. She grabbed my shirt and pushed me through the doorway, stepped inside behind me and slammed the door.

The best days to watch the corner were the days when a freestyle battle broke out. All of them Squad Six boys could rap but only D-roc and Reggie could compete verbally; the rest of the crew didn’t seem to take it as seriously. Them two are the only ones that freestyle off the top of the dome. The next best thing to watching them battle is hearing them do verbal exercises. Buggy or Claude point to things around the way or say random words and Reggie and D-roc weave the words or things into their rap without skipping a beat, almost like it’s scripted.

Watching them battle freestyle was like being on the blacktop playing a pickup game at Kelly Park, it didn’t matter who was who and from where, reputation, pride, and ego were always on the line. Reggie’s better at freestyling than D-roc. D-roc’s voice is deep, and he got a wild style like Busta Rhymes, but his delivery is more like ODB with the voice of DMX, and sometimes I don’t know what the hell he’s saying but it goes along with the beat good. Reggie doesn’t have to do all that, he’s smoother, raps slower, hardly ever loses the beat. He don’t come off as the book-reading type, but I can tell he’s the smartest one in the crew. When he battles, he uses every
and anything within his eyeshot as material to use against his opponent.

Last time I saw Reggie battle-rap was a couple weeks before Christmas when he destroyed some older dude I’d never seen before. The dude pulled up on the corner in a white Honda Accord, bass vibrating all through his trunk as he blasted his new single, he was hype on it too. He hopped out of the car smiling.

“Check my new single,” he crowed as he paced back and forth in front of all of them, “Tell me my shit ain’t hot.” He bounced his shoulders and kept saying, “My shit’s so dope. Hate if ya want to. My shit’s dope.”

He was yelling it over the music, looking for someone to agree with him, but they wouldn’t. They wouldn’t even look him in the face. They all looked around the block like he wasn’t even there, but if I could hear him, they could too. No one responded until Reggie ashed his Newport and flicked it on the hood of the dude’s car and said, “Man, turn this bullshit off. Polluting the good air on a Friday and shit. Scram with that bullshit, go ’head, man.”

Reggie waved, abruptly dismissing the dude and his new single.

All them Squad Six boys busted out laughing, they howled so loud I couldn’t hear what was being said, but the dude was moving his hands fast as he spoke to Reggie and Reggie waved his hands around in the dude’s face a lot faster. They stopped arguing and the Squad Six boys circled up around the two of them and I knew it was officially battle time. Reggie versus White Honda Guy. Sticks started beat-boxing, and I stopped bouncing my basketball so I could hear them better.

From the jump it was clear, White Honda Guy was spitting
written raps, none of the stuff he was saying had anything to do with Reggie. He kept talking about the same things, how he had money, how all the bitches loved him, how many guns he owned, and all the ways he knew how to kill niggas. It was a bunch of recycled garbage, a nigga trying to sound like the niggas already on the radio.

Reggie turned his back on White Honda Guy while he was rapping. Once the dude finished, Reggie turned back around and started frying him, they went three rounds and Reggie won them all. In the middle of Reggie’s last rap Sticks said, “Finish him.”

Like the voice in
Mortal Kombat
just before you win and the competitor’s standing helplessly beaten into a trance, Reggie’s last couple bars were the fatality. He pointed at the dude and said,

Pull up on the block looking like a fake thug,

Fat gorilla-black nigga, rocking fake Lugz,

Dirty-ass hoodie, oh boy, yous a scrub!

You can fool Milton, niggas, but you can’t fool us

Said your single’s trash, now your face screwed up

Yup, ya hubcaps they got rust, and you shoulda been known: no one’s fuckin’ wit’ us.

Reggie laughed and paused to take the last drag from his Newport and he flicked that one on the hood of the dude’s car too. They stood there looking at the two cigarette butts on the hood of the car, and then Reggie started back in on him.

You still here, you silly-bitch?

Take yo ass home and go write some new shit.

Get gone, playa.

Sticks started waving his arms back and forth. “It’s over.” He laughed, pleading with White Honda Guy, “No more, please, it’s over. It’s only gonna get worse for you.”

Sticks held his sides laughing, and big Haitian Claude agreed. “Is ova, mehn, is ova, mehn,” he said through his thick accent.

I watched from the walkway inside of the fence, dying laughing too. White Honda Guy was tall and stocky, his skin was shiny jet black, but by the end of the battle he looked about four inches shorter, a couple shades lighter, with his big muscles deflated. He stomped into his car, slammed the door, and yelled, “Y’all got jokes? I’ma see y’all niggas.” He turned up his single and burned rubber as he peeled off.

Reggie yelled back, “Yeah, ’ight! Fuck outta here, nigga, we’ll see you first. Niggas ain’t hard to find.”

They all kept laughing. I didn’t think much of it, wasn’t the first battle I saw a dude storm off the block all salty because Reggie chewed him up. Them Squad Six boys didn’t seem worried about it either. I remember as soon as the dude pulled off they jumped right back into arguing about whether or not America will ever have a black president. Reggie, Tony, and Sticks think it just won’t happen, D-roc, Buggy, and Claude think it will, just not while they’re alive.

Them Squad Six boys argue about almost everything, it’s just how they are, sometimes they argue just to realize they’re all saying the same things. They’re always cracking jokes on each other, they’re like brothers. They grumble, fuss, fight, and cuss each other out but at the end of the day, when shit gets real, they’re down for the cause like four flat tires.

A week passed and I was dribbling my basketball in our walkway after school as the sky began graying over, clearing out the blue, making room for the moon. We hadn’t had our first snow of the year yet, but it was still wear-your-long-johns cold outside. I could hardly feel my fingers dribbling the ball. The only reason I stayed out there was because Reggie and D-roc were trying to get big Haitian Claude to freestyle and I really wanted to hear it, but it all got put on hold when that same white Honda Accord pulled up to the corner, with that same big blue-black ogre-looking dude driving. A black Honda Prelude trailed behind him too. They were five-deep in each car, all hoodied up, rocking black skullcaps.

They sped up to the block and tossed the cars in park right in front of the green mailbox where them Squad Six boys were posting on the wall. No words were exchanged. The car doors flew open, and Reggie, Tony, and Claude rushed the white Accord and D-roc, Buggy, and Sticks broke toward the black Prelude. Them Squad Six boys were outnumbered by two at each car, but D-roc, Buggy, and Sticks didn’t even let all of the dudes get out of the car. Sticks kicked off his Timberlands and started beating the skinny Spanish-looking cat that drove over the head with his boot as he tried to get out of the car. The dude fell back and Sticks pulled his shirt over his head, snatched him to his feet, and gave him one more boot-bash and he dropped back, arms out like he was being baptized at church. D-roc and Buggy handled the other four dudes in the car. They’re twins, they were the stars of the football team at Milton High. I used to go to their games and they love to fight. Everyone thought they were going to get full rides to play in college but for whatever reason they didn’t. Same way Reggie never went off to play college basketball. Anyway,
Buggy was knocking one dude’s head off the trunk of the car as he yelled, “Y’all just gon’ run up on our block like niggas is bitches? You think shit’s sweet?” He was like a mother giving an ass whooping, yelling “Huh?” every time he hit somebody.

D-roc was tap-dancing on a guy he’d floored on the other side of the Prelude. Them Squad Six boys weren’t as big as the dudes that came in the cars, they just seemed way more pissed off that these cats had the nerve to try and ambush our block. D-roc, Buggy, and Sticks whooped them dudes until the driver stood up and limped back into the car with blood running from his nose. The dude that came in the passenger seat was still inside, two of the three from the backseat were back in the car too. The driver started it up, and the last guy broke away from D-roc and Buggy and hopped into the door of the car, legs dangling out of the Prelude as it sped off, almost crashing into a parked car and a telephone pole, leaving the white Honda crew stranded in enemy territory.

Buggy and D-roc chased after the Prelude as it swerved down Verndale Road. Sticks started running up the block, away from my crib toward Churchill Street, where Reggie, Tony, and big Haitian Claude were brawling. Reggie and White Honda Guy were tangled up, seesawing back and forth. Reggie shifted and snatched him into a headlock and started hammering his fist into the side of dude’s head like he was playing the bongo. Claude and Tony were holding their own against the other four dudes until Sticks ran up and started swinging his Timberland again, clearing out the scene.

Reggie lost his balance right as Buggy and D-roc came jogging back around the corner onto Lothrop. Reggie yelled “Oww!” and his broad tree-trunk legs went up in the air and his body followed as the dude slammed him into Mrs. Unger’s
ornate bushes. White Honda Guy started sprinting up the street right toward where I stood in my walkway.

Reggie was on the ground holding his crotch. He yelled, “Faggot-ass nigga, squeezed my nuts.”

BOOK: Team Seven
10.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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