This story is written in Black English. That's the official term
for the grammar, vernacular and slang which comes out of primarily black
American subcultures. We hear it every day but it's a spoken language, it has
no books and no magazines. When people who speak Black English write, they
write in American English like everyone else. I'm a black American and as you
can tell by this introduction, no I don't usually write or even speak in Black
English but please understand, the "bad grammar" and even
"vulgarity" in Black English is neither incorrect nor vulgar. Too
often Black English is viewed as some sort of botched attempt at "real"
English. Nope, couldn't be further from the truth. It's not a failure to speak
the queen's English, it exists as its own unique language, with its own rules,
a subtext steeped in tradition and a richness of colorful expression. So turn
off your grammarian's cap, put away the red pen and please allow me to take you
on a wild ride through Ruby's world, in her own words, the language of the
Ruby in the Red
let her out wit it." Mama boyfriend
Marcus was up in a real mood over some clothes. How you gonna be up my ass
about some clothes?
cold out daddy, she need her hoodie. She be taking her grandmother her
medicine." Mama sticks up for me. She know what that hoodie mean to me.
It's who I am, what I'm about. I'm Ruby wit da Red Hoodie and I got the logo
for my first demo already drawn.
ass red ain't but for trouble. Catches the eye, eyes you don't wanna have on
you. Cops, fiends, that old fiend Walter the Wolf gonna see you comin' a mile
away, out there in that red hoodie."
fuck Marcus, he ain't my daddy, I tell him, "My daddy upstate doing time,
you ain't hard like him so don't front." He knows to shut his black ass up
pull my hoodie over my head and I slam the door on the way out. I have places
to be, people counting on me to be solid.
the winter, it don't only get cold, it get dark early. People with sense stay
in where it warm and let the crackheads have the streets.
throw my bookbag around both shoulders, looking pretty for all the pigs, like a
good girl, working hard, yes sir, hittin’ those books, want that scholarship.
be easier to cut through alleys but ain't no one stupid enough to cut through
an alley alone at night. The shadows be alive with dope fiends, psychos just
outta jail and sex-mad johns willing to put it in anyone or anything.
streets have their own problems, though. I see nice Old Tony outside, pissing
against a wall but he be crying. I known Old Tony since before crack got him.
Years ago, when he was just a drunk with a steady job. He good people.
“Hey Tony, I on my
way to my grandmama’s, what wrong?” I ask him but as I get closer and I can see
he be pissing blood.
jump away and keep going. Everyone know crackhead blood be poison. Seven Eleven
be only a few blocks ahead and I’m almost there.
well, well, Ruby wit da Red Hoodie. Let me take a look at you." I hear my
name but I'm in front of the Seven Eleven and all those bright lights be up in
my face so I can't see. But I know who it is. It's Walter.
ain't need to look at me." I say as I keep going but I knows he following
up, girl. Bring that sweet ass back here," he say and when I don't stop, I
hear him growl, "Damnit!"
you want, Walter? I gots to get this crack to my grandmama."
bitch can wait, let me see you, let me see you, mmmmm." He snaps them
long, thin fingers with all them rings. Outside of the light, I can see his ass
now, his cheap-ass yellow Burlington Coat Factory suit and his broke-ass two
tones. Looking every bit the two-dollar pimp that he be.
ain't down for what you selling, Walter. I gots the good shit between my legs
and I ain't letting you take my wet palace out for sale. I'm saving it, it for
a special man, a real brother, who gonna treat me right and put a ring on
girl, you ain't got to give up your hole. Just put some lip on a zip or maybe
make friend-friend with the handyman. I even know a freak who only want to suck
your gross ass toe."
that. My girl LaTonya said you hooked her up with a toe sucker and he bit her
middle toe off. Now, bitch can't wear sandals during the summer. Get with your
crack whore Ranesha if you needs to feed your toe sucker."
Ranesha got locked the fuck up. Who knows when that crazy bitch be out. But
what about you, looking all good, trying to hide them big titties under that
sweatshirt. You like cash? You and me could make a lotta cash and all you gotta
do is have a little fun." Negro be all licking his lips and shit.
take your broke-ass kicks and your breath that be smelling of ratty-ass Swisher
Sweets and you back the fuck off. I gotta get to my grandmamas." I try to
step past him but I'm knocked back and thrown against the wall. "Get your
hands off me!"
shut the fuck up! Do you know why they call me the wolf? Cause I be raping
other fools in jail. If I can bust open another man, what the fuck you think I
do to you?"
reaching back slowly, reaching back to the duck tape I got on the bottom of my
bookbag, holding it all together. Fucking Walter be smelling me and shit.
your hear a pig and then you see them. Creeping up, scared to get out they car,
barking at you out they siren. "What's going on here?"
be backing off now, I still be checking his eyes.
you a calling your P.O?" The pig’s car asks. They put they spotlight on
Walter, lighting up his busted threads. I slide off.
better be thanking them cops that got him face down on the ground as they be
sticking their hands in his pockets, down his pants, checking him for weapons.
They saved his punk ass. I ain't to be trifled with. I'm already around the
corner when I hear them calling him in, checking for warrants. Have fun
shagging ass in jail but you ain't getting my coo-coo tonight.
grandmama got on the rock and they took away her house, she been living in a
project. Third floor, room 310. When I get to the building, I gots to make a
choice. Do I want to stand in piss, shit, spit and cum to ride the elevator up?
Or do I take the stairs and have to deal with whatever the fuck is living in
them, rats, junkies, perverts, people getting they freak on?
choose the elevator, go with the devil you know. I keep on my tip toes because
I don't wanna ruin my kicks and I don't want to drag no heebie-jeebies up into
Grandmama's. She on the rock and once someone start hitting that pipe, they
health the first thing to go.
it's me!" I yell as I knock on the door. If I don't announce it me, she
might get spooked, think it’s the pigs and then she flush something or swallow
something they ain’t want her to have.
Came a very fake sounding voice on the other side of the door. "You bring
that you? Open the door, quit trippin."
sick, just hand me the stuff, baby," says the voice I know ain't my
grandmama. The door creaks open just
enough that some scabby, burnt hand comes reaching out, snatching at the air
for grandmama's rocks.
why your hand so fucking big?"
I can grab little bitches like you!" The hand snatches my wrist and I feel
myself jerked inside like a drunk bitch out da club. All the lights be off but
that ain't nothing new. Grandmama don't pay no bills.
can feel nasty, fevered hands all groping me and grabbing me in the darkness.
Whoever doing it smell like fucking vomit and fish sticks.
what you doing!?"
is it? Where the rock?" He says. I push him away enough to see his face
and what the fuck, it's nice Old Tony, only he ain't nice no more. He's cracky
and he know I'm holding. He done run through them alleys to beat me here but
where the fuck is Grandmama?
Where my grandmama be at!?"
gimme the rock!" His pants is still bloody from before.
look across the apartment and see grandmama, beat up and tied up, and she be
looking pissed. She's all stuffed in the corner, one of her titties be hanging
out of her dress. That don't mean nothing though. Since crack, Grandmama don't
wear no underwears and her shit always be falling out.
lunges at me and we tussle. He's trying to grab my backpack but I ain’t having
it. The door suddenly flings wide open. Both Tony and I stop for a second to
see who the hell it be. Well, it's Walter the mother-fucking Wolf and his ass
comes tearing across the carpet and he belts me in the face so hard I stumble
back and trip over Grandmama.
I warned you!" He yell at me.
get your own rock." Tony yell at him.
I don't want your rock, I'm here to turn this dumb bitch out?" Walter says as
he pull his belt off and start
slapping his hand with it.
you take the pussy but I get the bag." Old Tony's face lights up like
Christmas, hearing that his ass is gonna get a little smoke.
you mother-fuckers want what's in my bag?" I ask, reaching into my bag.
Yeah, the crack's in there, but so the fuck is my .22 and I blast caps into
those mother-fuckers. I ain't no dumb bitch either, I know to aim for the eyes
cause a .22 ain't that big. I pump those fools full of lead and I let my
grandmama up. She snatches the backpack and runs into the bathroom for a
minute. I don't care, I got ice in my veins.
we gonna do child?!" Grandmama bursts out the bathroom, cracky as hell.
“Po-po going to be showing up after them shots.”
you worry, you tell them pigs that three men done broke in your house, pulled
your titty out your dress, and then got in an argument. The third man blasted
these two right here and took off. That's all you gotta say." I tell her,
wiping the gun off with my hoodie.
do I tell them he looked like."
say 'black', they ain't gonna ask for more." After kissing Grandmama goodbye,
I throw my
hood back over my head, drop the pistol off on Tony's dead face and head out
into the streets once more. This be my home and these mother fuckers better
recognize, I'm Ruby in the Mother-Fucking Red Hoodie.
Ryan Priest is an African
screenwriter who has traded the violent streets of LA for the colorful Rocky
Kevin D. Duncan was born 1958
in Alton, Illinois where he still resides. He has degrees in Political Science, Classics,
and Art & Design. He has been freelancing illustration and cartoons for
over 25 years. He has done editorial cartoons and editorial illustration for
local and regional newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
His award-winning work has appeared in numerous small
press zines, e-zines, and he has illustrated a few books.