DeVon Sterling controlled all the reggie in Trent Court. Reggie for those of you unfamiliar with marijuana slang stands for regular, and it is the cheapest pot you can buy on the black market. In order to establish himself with this position Von, only his mother called him DeVon, had to make a few examples of people who tried selling reggie in his neighborhood by stabbing these people who dared to cross that line and considered him to be weak because of his continual smile and diminutive stature. He was barely five feet tall and weighed 100 lbs soaking wet. Trent Court was the type of neighborhood that had no problem keeping secrets. Trent Court was located behind Tryon Palace, directly beside downtown New Bern. Von only sold by the gram and each gram cost five dollars. Von also went the extra mile of removing the seeds from the weed. I was introduced to Von by a mutual friend named Benjamin Walker but went by the name Ralph and we knew each other from riding the bus together. I was the only white kid on the bus because my parent's did not send me off to Parrot Academy, a private school. All the other kids who lived in downtown New Bern went to Parrot. Both my parent's were self employed, my mother taught piano lessons and my father remodeled houses. We were neither poor nor wealthy because remodeling and teaching piano was dependent on the economy and my father could only afford to keep his license for four years because my sister got sick and the cost of cancer treatment bankrupted our household. I bought the marijuana to help with the leukemia treatments and for myself although the treatments eventually killed my sister. Because Ralph introduced me to Von I was never afraid of him and occasionally we would all drink Icehouses and smoked weed and I learned how Von came to control the reggie market and learned that Ralph controlled the crack market. I never once judged these men for how they made a living and I can't give you a good reason why. Ralph worked in a lumber yard and had to feed three kids and Von had two kids of his own. If I had to guess on the reason of my moral flexibility I would say I was lonely.
My sister's death left me jaded and I hated nearly everyone for a long time and the transition my family made from middle class to poverty did not help matters. My parents got a reverse mortgage to stay afloat. I got in a fight with five men at a bar for no reason other than their smugness and I lost but this fight only added to my anger at the world. I was never angry around Von nor Ralph and enjoyed hanging out and finishing each other's cigarettes, and enjoy the blunt Von would roll from his own supply. I also enjoyed the look of fear all of his customer's had on their face when they rolled up. Ralph was also skinny but he carried a glock on him that would put holes the size of golf balls inside his victims. Ralph never shot anyone in front of me but he would often bring the gun out if he was drunk enough and describe how effective his particular firearm was. One time I kept Ralph from using his firearm on a homeless woman because he was pissed drunk and the homeless woman stole his beer when he went to buy cigarettes from the gas station. Ralph kept trying to get me to go to the other side of Trent Court and I refused to move because I knew what Ralph intended.
“I will buy you a beer.” I said with tears in my eyes.
“That isn't the point, the point is she stole from me, she disrespected me. I can't allow that.” Ralph replied.
“Just go, let him do it!” the homeless woman interjected.
I stood there motionless until Von came outside his apartment and told the woman to leave.
I woke up the next morning hungover. I called Von to get a gram to remedy for my headache and to talk about last night.
“Ralph gets crazy at times.” he said as he palmed the gram into my hand.
“I would say so, Tony warned me about Ralph.”
“Oh yeah, how is Tony?”
Tony was my best friend growing up. We spent the night at each other's houses nearly every weekend. I knew Ralph from hanging out with Tony as a child and all three of us rode bus 223 together. In fifth grade a house was moved behind my parent's house in four sections and I hated the house because that formerly empty lot was where Tony and I would play tag and football so I decided to throw rocks at the windows of the new house of which most were already broken from the move. I got Tony to play the game with me and my mother caught us in the act and forbid me from seeing Tony again. We then went to different middle schools and never had a class together in highschool. After my sister's death however I ran into Tony managing a Taco Bell. Tony also sold midgrade and firearms.
“Tony is good. He still hangs out with John.”
John was a mutual friend that I never really liked. He had a sega and a large house in Fairfield Harbor and when he finally started smoking weed would always make a point of getting you high, although his blunts took thirty minutes for him to roll. I did like John in kindergarten however because everyone else made fun of him because he was obese. This is how our friendship started. I grew to dislike John because of his political opinions which he was vocal about and my older sister raised me to be liberal. John's father was a former marine and every time I came over I was forced to watch Fox news and hear John get excited about some liberal agenda. I was to much of a coward to tell his family my political beliefs. John also held racist beliefs which he would share with me in private despite hanging out with Tony. The reason why John and Tony hung out was because John bought multiple bags of midgrade from him, he did not like reggie. Midgrade is medium quality marijuana. Tony was fully aware of John's racism. He overlooked it because of the money he was making.
“Hey what's happening Salinger!”
Our conversation got interrupted by Von's next door neighbor C-Note. My name is Robert Salinger Evans but my parents always called me Salinger as did all my classmates because there were several Robs, Roberts, and Robbies in my school already.
“Von let me get the usual.”
“You got it.”
Von went inside while C-Note and I had small talk. We talked about everything except Ralph nearly shooting a woman twelve feet from where we were standing the night before. When Von came back outside it was never mentioned again either. Von rolled a blunt and C-Note gave me a beer and quickly it felt as if the night before never happened. C-Notes neighbor Ms.Jackson visited and gave Von a fifth of vodka and we passed the bottle between the three of us. Ms.Jackson did not want any alcohol because she would barter the alcohol for weed. Ms.Janet was the godmother of Trent Court, she was in her sixties and she arraigned cookouts and card games. She called me Salader and teased me because of my skin color. The sun began to set when C-Note noticed a group of children coming from the gas station a block away. When they reached the outskirts of Trent Court they got in a circle with two boys in the middle who began fighting. I did my best not to pay any attention however when suddenly C-Note yanked me down and I hit my head on the asphalt, hard, and I heard what sounded like firecrackers go off. The boy who had lost the fight ran inside his apartment and came back with a semi automatic and unloaded a clip into the back of the other boy's head.
“I knew that was coming.” said Von as he rose back to his feet,
Ms.Janet had the group disperse and got the shooter to leave in a car. Immediately after the shooter left the police arrived without sirens but with their lights flashing and Von told me I should leave. I walked downtown and went inside a bar where I had a conversation with a stranger and told him what I just saw because I was still in shock and needed attention I suppose and five minutes after that the police came to the bar and I got the attention I wish I never needed. The stranger had called the police when he went to the bathroom. I told them I saw nothing but I did tell them about the fight before hand. The next day I came back to Trent Court to visit Tony and recognized the shooter on my way walking there because of a fresh scar he had on his face. I was tempted but not stupid enough to tell him to lay low because the scar gave him away now that the cops had interrogated me. As I privately predicted the police raided his place and found drugs but no gun and could only keep him in jail for a few hours before he was bonded out. Tony bonded him out because he was his cousin. His name was Rakim. Luckily Ms. Janet made certain Rakim got rid of his gun the night before. I learned all the details in hindsight from visiting Tony that day.