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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 streets. 





Ruby in the Red Hoodie

Ryan Priest

 

                  

          "Don't 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?

          "It 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.

          "Slob 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."

          But 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 after that.

          I 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.

          In 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.

          I 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.

          It'd 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.

          Open 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.

          I 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, 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.

          "You ain't need to look at me." I say as I keep going but I knows he following me.

          "Wait up, girl. Bring that sweet ass back here," he say and when I don't stop, I hear him growl, "Damnit!"

          "What you want, Walter? I gots to get this crack to my grandmama."

          "Old 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.

          "I 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 it."

          "Baby 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."

          "Fuck 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."

          "Man, 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.

          "Motherfucker, 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!"

          "Bitch, 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?"

          I'm 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.

          BEEP BEEP

          First 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?"

          "Nothing."

          "Nothing."

          Walter be backing off now, I still be checking his eyes.

          "You, 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.

          Walter 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.

          Since 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?

          I 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.

          "Grandmama 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.

          "Hello..." Came a very fake sounding voice on the other side of the door. "You bring the stuff?"

          "Grandmama, that you? Open the door, quit trippin."

          "I'm 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.

          "Grandmama, why your hand so fucking big?"

          "So 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.

          I can feel nasty, fevered hands all groping me and grabbing me in the darkness. Whoever doing it smell like fucking vomit and fish sticks.

          "Man, what you doing!?"

          "Where 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?

          "Grandmama! Where my grandmama be at!?"

          "Just gimme the rock!" His pants is still bloody from before.

          I 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.

          Tony 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.

          "Bitch, I warned you!" He yell at me.

          "Man, get your own rock." Tony yell at him.

          "a, 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.

          "Fine, 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.

          "Yo, 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.

          "What we gonna do child?!" Grandmama bursts out the bathroom, cracky as hell. “Po-po going to be showing up after them shots.”

          "Don't 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.

          "What do I tell them he looked like."

          "Just 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.

The End

Ryan Priest is an African American former screenwriter who has traded the violent streets of LA for the colorful Rocky Mountains. www.RyanPriest.net 

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