Skeetah Cote was perhaps the funniest, most unique kid I knew. And it came with a price. And I moved further away from what I long established was his own ticking time bomb of non sense. And it was tough. He was the poor kid in a rich town. He was forever over compensating and getting caught for dumb shit. And his actions after Santo’s death had warranted some courage on his end approaching this manioc Monday morning ion the throng of my senior year of high school. After all I’d always love him. But like Lando said to Han in cloud city, “got problems of my own.” And when he went down he was taking anyone around him with. A chip on the shoulder can accelerate the “I don’t give a fuck” mode to undesirable levels.
My boy C’s torture was almost as bad as my sisters accident. And I could now see, plainly, the other side to all of this. And it was a good play. And it felt right. But the past, what a mother fucker the past can be. It never goes away. And at some point always has to be dealt with. And better decision making lessened such ills. Among the many revelations of that week was I’d gone too far, too reckless with it all. I’d taken basic precautions I felt any idiot would do. And after three and a half years I’d established I was one pretty smart kid watching so many fall off and get caught on the dumbest off shit with serious repercussions. Kids are so fucking dumb.
But I’d had too much past involved with too many things. And I could never say no. I’d experience the stress that creates jumpers. And breathe it out and pray breathe it out and pray. I’d pray for guidance and better decision making. I’d pray for my sister, Des’ brother in prison, Joe’s brother in prison, Lamont’s brother in prison, I’d pray for my grandfather and my sister. I’d pray for my parents and my crew. I’d pray for the composure to say no, to not let these circumstances catch me an addiction. I’d pray for Hank, Black, black people in general, the poor. And I’d pray for me. I’d pray for me because that’s what my mom told me I should pray for. And god dam it I did. I didn’t want to ruin my life. I wanted to be something, something inspiring, something big. And like so often in life my realizations may have come a dollar short, day late.
And so it was with great hesitation I agreed to a five minute meeting with Skeet who I knew was in some shit trying to avoid. My “script” had gone fire alarm tilt and being in the center of just about all it, I was running for the witness protection program. Basketball kept me strong but we had lost again, fuck! We’d won a fourth and fifth straight and then lost on the road. Madison Minutemen never lost forever in our league and now twice which equaled the regular season loss total of my prior two years. It destroyed us despite the fact our crowds never wavered. We were good. We were in the hunt we were Madison however our Achilles heel was clearly our center. And was now exposed. We’d struggle with teams sporting 6-5 plus centers. I’d put up sold #’s starting every game along with Magic our mothers found happiness and the increasing number of college coaches courting our hardwood prowess.
And then there was this…
Monday morning (1/10/94) and before the first bell of the day rings, Skeetah tells me, “Dude, I need a five minute meeting pronto.” Skeet had one of the most memorable voices in Madison. And he said dude after every adjective. Skeetah had got really bad really quickly in just the past month. That alone was saying something.
In the thick of my universe I pretended not to notice his sharp decline. He was in ACE with me hanging with ACE kids every school night drinking with low-level drug dealers from other towns. “Ok come over here.” And we scurry into a corner his face was pale white. I didn’t want to do it. I knew it. I didn’t know the details but I knew. He was in a lot of trouble. And these were my days. It wasn’t regular. “Dude, dude, I fucked up bad this time.” Unable to fathom what that entails coming from him I say “yeah” unenthusiastically. “Yeah dude, you think I’m fucking joking?” I was now pissed. “Skeetah what happened you mindless fuck! Tell me and I can try to help.” “I don’t know dude.” I settled him down, “tell me what happened.” “OK, dude, every night, I mean kid I’ve getting housed dude every night. I mean fucking shit housed, dude” “OK Steve great, get to the point.” “OK, well every night before I go home there’s this house, a rich house and I’ve chucked a rock threw the window, you know before I go home a nightcap dude.” “Yeah you know what I’m talking about, well anyway dude, oh Jesus. OK well me and Stanger our coming back loaded from Gallows” “I hate that kid.” Gallow was a dirty ACE kid who didn’t brush his teeth a real butthead northeast redneck from money. The ACE staff had OK’d me wrestling him anytime I felt. “I know dude, but anyway, it was real bad out there last night dude, I mean I was wasted.” “Yeah bad storm, OK, so what happened, you broke another window.” “Yeah but dude not any window, the only one left, all week I’ve hit this house. Anyway I get out of the car, and run up to the last window half cock eyed and smash the last window, but dude, the son was waiting up for me kid! Je e e e e e e e e sus!” “What?” “Yeah dude, so I turn to jet and slip dude on his front step kid.” “Sooooooooo what happened?” Now he’s got me hooked. “I mean I got up dude but he was hot on my tail kid, I was screaming Stanga, Stanga start that shit. So I dive into shotgun dude, Stanga’s trying to get us in gear and the fucking guy, the son, he jumped on the hood of the car as where trying to get out of there. So Stanga finally gets us into first and” “Wait, what were you doing?” “What was I doing?” “Yeah.” “What do you think I was doing?” “I don’t know” “I was blasting him with the windshield wipa fluid!” “Oh yeah of course.” “Yeah so anyway we get to third and bang we finally got traction dude it’s snowing like a blizzard, and this maniacs still hanging on the hood wipa fluid and Stanga’s swearving, so Stanga just out of the blue hits the brakes and the guy goes flying off the hood.” “And then what?” I ask mortified “I don’t know he hit a pole and we left him there in the side of the road layen there.” “Jesus fucking Christ Skeetah Cote “What the fuck am I going to do Carl? Should I run?” It was a crazy question and one that had been asked of me last year in ACE by another student in a crazy situation. My circuits crashed. We all had to come clean. “I mean dude this guy might be dead for Christ sakes, I just went through this with Brooke, with the guy in the apartment, thank god, but that is a ridiculous story.” He looked down disappointed, “I know dude.” I saw a tear. It shook me. “Dude.” And before it could get any further I hugged him. “Shhh, listen, we’ll all live, listen closely buddy, it was smart you came to me, this is your move.” I wanted to get him a hide out. “Honestly, I’d go up and tell the Big Guy, better than running, and he likes you, he’s the only one that could help you. ” And it was true the Big Guy had helped ACE kids in the courts when they had come clean. I’d seen it, he knew the judges and the PO’s running ACE all of those years he definitely had connections at Concord court. “Plus man, you’re a wreck lately, what the fuck happened to you?” “I don’t know dude, your right, I gotta come clean.” He’d been drinking at school and been suicidal in general. And in our lives myself and my sisters he was one of many. “Tell the Big Guy, the son will ID your car which is already on their list. They’ll hear a blue Acura and you’ll be the first one they come looking to talk with.” “Dude are you fucking kidding me!” “Be honest with the Big Guy, cry and show immense remorse, question everything, I’ve been doing it for years, this will make you less fucked.” “Your right dude, I love you kid.” “I love you too man, handle that, crazy shit, just do it and slow it down for a second take the lumps, the Big Guy has love for you, Coach Sullivan too. I know.”
And I went through my next two mainstream majors with Magic happy to be there. Every announcement or distraction I thought was about me. Finally fourth period I was up in ACE for the next couple of hours. I was anxious to get up there support Skeetah and see how he did. Walking down the long ACE corridor I heard laughing, which stopped as soon as everyone saw me. Steve wasn’t present. The before lunch crowd was silent. The Big Guy was shaking his head about to blow. It became relatively obvious my dude had not followed my instructions. “I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. Speech maker.” My face goes Red Sox, “what?” This was a nightmare, “What happened? Did Steve come up here and tell you guys anything?” Everyone cracks up. Coach Sullivan falls over, my eye brows invert, “Where is he right nhow?” And then the Big Guy without hesitation looked me dead in the eye and dropped a classic to howls, “He’s singing like a Canary.” “What?” “Down at the police station right now.” “HOLY shit, I’m sorry shoot, scoot, shit, man, dam you know what I mean, what did he tell you?” I fired off in rapid succession. He re capped what happened. Everyone in the room couldn’t be happier because this was the Big Guy at his best. I wasn’t overtly enthusiastic to listen to a song I missed on rewind but then again I had no choice.
The Big Guy began his warm up the crowd says, “can you believe that just happened in Consumer Education Coach Gibbs?” And then looks at me “so what do you know?” It was my coach and teacher and he had asked for an answer. He’d ask to spill my cookies. “Well I know that Steve, um, had a guy jump on his car after he threw a rock through this guys house window last night, he’d been throwing rocks through this guys windows all week starting Monday. I guess last night the son stayed up.” And now I was in my element alive feeding what would become an all time ACE story. “So you boy Skeet rocked the window the kid flew out of the house, Eh he was yelling Stanga Stanga get us out of here!” I bust my ACE respected Steve Lee impersonation. He slammed the breaks and this guy flew off the car, I told him to come up here and confess to the whole thing, I said it was over. You were the only one that could help him. He was crying, did he not do that?”
There’s a moment of silence before a thunderous laugh. The Big Guy screams, “that’s what happened! “Yeah what happened up here?” I ask now hyper with a smile on my face. “Well for starters, “ The Big Guy picks up, “He didn’t do that.” “You mean didn’t confess to that like he promised he would.” Chuckles “No.” He then dips his chin and without speaking shakes it once again back and forth slowly, “he didn’t do that?” “No, and then, were sitten in consumer ed talking about Belmont and the police squad cars and a detective come driving in to the parking lot. And I notice it, and jokingly, at first, (winks at Sully) I ask Steve, and Jason and Lagrel, if it’s for them, I mean this is ACE.” Digesting I say, “yeah” And then I look back out, and the police are parked right around Steve’s car, and IU say.” Pausing for effect and changing his tone, “Hey Steve, isn’t that your car. And you know him he’s saying, no dude, no dude, that ain’t my car (in the famed Stevie Lee voice screech). You know so I’m trying to get back to class” The Big Guy along with everyone else starts laughing again so I let out a chortle as the Big Guy continues, “But I can’t! I like can’t stop turning my head back out the window, it’s like a Soap Opera (everyone’s laughing) all of a sudden the detective pulls up in a red Cadillac” the master story teller continues, “And this guy is in like a suit looken at this car!” I laugh a bit more hardy as the Big Guy says, “And I look at him and say, hey Steve, I mean are you sure that’s not your car, the blue one? It looks like your car. And you know him, he’s saying no dude no dude.” I finally say, “wow” “Anyway, then another car comes and we’re like all looking out the window Steve is sitting in the back and I say, (changes his tone) Hey Steve, I don’t know if it’s your car or not but they are opening it up? Finally he capitulates and in a state of fear and denial says, “it looks like it coach.” And emphatically shaking his head with certainty adds, “but it ain’t mine.”
“Ok well why do you think their looking through it, and you know him, he was like I have no idea dude, right Sully?” The Big Guy validates, “Cahl, “ He starts chorling, “a hundred percent accurate. Dude!” I’m mesmerized, “So then what happened?” The Big Guy laughs, “And then he’s like just sweating waiting for the bell, I ask him again, hey Steve, what did you do last night? Theirs like a detective picking your lock” “Nothing but I was with Stanger.” “And then he left. Just walked out.” My hearts in my stomach for what seemed like the umpteenth time during my high school career. Feeling it very appropriate and deadly curious I harmonize an, “ahhhhhh” before picking up, “Well” “And how do you know about it?” “Because!” I speak louder than usual “I hope your not involved in this” and before I can retort, “you should probably run too.” A light chuckle amongst the faithful, “Hey, first of all. This was big and I had nothing to do with this.” THIS WAS ace, THE STAGE FOR SO MUCH OF MY HIGH SCHOOL HAPPINESS. I repeat, “nothing and secondly, it’s an unbelievable story,”
Everyone in ACE was giddy cause on those grounds it was all about the story. It’s where my skill was crafted most carefully, tactfully learning the fine art of telling an unbelievable story from the master daily in his den. “Spill it.” The Big Guy decrees just as anxious as everyone to hear this after that. “OK first off Steve approaches me before first block, shook.” Everyone is laughing already and I knew from jump it was an instant classic. In the halls of ace, the delinquents, coaches, couches and basketball they had seen their fair terrain of legendary material. Some much of it spun from the Big Guy’s cosmic imagination. “How shook?” Big Guy needs an instant context. “The worst I’ve ever seen, and not to sensationalize, but when you hear this story, the kid is white as a ghost and sweating.” “Did he kill someone?” Coach Sullivan asks an appropriate question, “No,” then remembering “actually maybe.” “What?!” Coach Gibbs and Steve Thompson jump as ACE had always had the craziest stories. “Well I don’t know but basically he comes up to me like he’s about to run, you know?” And as educators in their classes and in this program you knew exactly what that meant. “Wow” “yeah so the guy jumps on the hood, Stanger is trying to get the car in gear in the blizzard and I ask Steve what he was doing at that point (doing his famous voice) YO Carl WHAT THE FUCK YOU THINK I WAS DOING? I WAS FUCKING BLASTING HIM WITH THE WIPA FLUID, BLASTEN EM WITH THE WIPA FLUID!”
This sent the timeless ACE staff of teachers, students and coaches into full throttle hysterics. Everyone at once was attempting to say, “Blasten em with the wipa fluid.” And knowing when to pause for effect while telling a story, I do, but not too long to dry up the honed attention my voice is casting upon the hoops hardened lot. “So he finally gets this thing into third, punches it and right as he does slams on the brakes and the guy goes flying off into a tree, they looked back, he didn’t move and then took off leaving him there. And that’s it, you know, I heard that this morning and told him at this point on that triple probation and everything else he’d have to come clean. We all know now he didn’t.” A few minutes of content silence pass before the master of my then universe the Big Guy utters perhaps his most famous phrase. In his trademark dead panned uninhibited tone he said only, “Singen like a Canary.” “Excuse me?” I had no idea what this very bright man was talking about, I questioned his timing. “Um coach what’d you mean? Singing like a Canary?” And the Big Guy had heard enough at this point, “ yup I’d go down there and tell Stanger, Steve is down at the police station right now giving him up.” “What?” I’m almost mad. “Yup, you heard me, I’d be worried about you too.” What!” Now I’m pissed, “I wasn’t with him.” “So what? Are you sayen you’ve never done anything illegal with Chris your whole life.” “Yes, maybe, no, what’s your point?” “He’s making deals singing like a Canary” “hey if you stole something from Candy Castle with him in the 6th grade, you’ll probably get a call.” The color flushed from my face the Big Guy made a good point who knew who he’d give up to save his ass at this point.
Stunned “I get to go.” And the staff laughs again appreciative of their front row seats for our everyday soap opera. Walking down the ACE hall into the main buildings general population I can faintly hear Big Guy whaling, “Eh Stanger is the first guy you gotta find, eh Sully, he’s given everyone up for anything, singen like a Canary.” Their laughter is all’s I can hear as I race to find Stanger. I hate it when the Big Guy says stuff like he’s been saying. First Hank and now Skeet shot they both fell off. One came from no money and the other hailed from more money than anyone knew what to do with. Therefore, money doesn’t make things right. It doesn’t build character and it doesn’t make or break children. I had much on my mind and memory that morning but one thing was clear I had to find Stanger. I’d surprisingly had quite an a affection for Stanger now that I had thought on it coming out of the ACE program after Skeet’s jolting non confession on my personal scream sheet. Chris had fished Stanger from relative unknown high school obscurity and landed him in a spot light he was ready to accommodate in any fashion to keep his shine. I could look past the fact that his race up the social ladder of a game I now controlled was due to the very aspects that helped me and my small band of rebels destroy in the first place. It didn’t matter to me anymore, I’d seen Astori for what it was, and now in crunch time I was racing to preserve myself. Stanger was straight up, but he was caught up, and the fact that he lived in housing far below the regular way means of Astori also guided me to his cause that morning. The bottom line was that I had known Steve Lee allot longer than he and in far more intimate way as it pertained to tight situations with your ass on the line. The Big Guy was right, Steve as always was out for himself, and I didn’t blame him, his life is a roller coaster. I’d never forget my mom cleaning those bathrooms with a bad back for peanuts. Finally a little before noon I spot Stanger chilling in G house rough house, “Stanger!” I call out a few feet in front of him. Stanger a straight shady soldier gave me always the respect I’d now grown accustomed too.
“Mr. Paradise, what’s up baby, how you living kid, I know you good, right, right.” A pound and hug. “You know what’s up, what are you doing right now.” Dispensing with the pleasantries I needed to get right to the point. “Nothing just hanging out. What’s up, you want to go smoke a little something-something?” His face reveals that devious glow of a smile that protrudes off adolescent lips when they know they are forever doing things they are not supposed to be doing. “Fuck that shit.” The last thing I needed at this point was more of an anxiety attack which under these circumstances some cheap weed would definitely spring. “Nah, get your car, I know about last night.” “What, what do you mean kid?” “Stanger I know, look Steve told me, his car has been towed, I told him to confess up in ACE to Coach Farias, he didn’t, he’s at the police station right now, I gotta talk to you.” And that was enough for him. “OK, let’s go, I’ll yank the Jetta around right now. We’ll hit up the Mc. D’s in Waltham.” “Bet.”
And the quick jaunt to our favorite fast food hut was much more relaxed THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE, Stanger was at relative ease. He kept saying, “Man that sucks for him, I have no idea why he was doing that. I mean I had nothing to do with it. If they towed his car, he’s probably going to get screwed.” He just didn’t get it. One of the perks of juvenile delinquency was an early appreciation of how cops worked and you’d better become familiar with if you hoped to survive in a shady world. First and foremost as learned Freshman year on the bike path with Henry was guilt by association. And if there was one thing that the Big Guy in our struggles of what I needed to do to get out and at least give myself the opportunity to be successful was simply this: it’s all about the company that you keep. He saw my unabated and sometimes blind faith I gave to my friends. After so many of these stories to him this was my biggest problem above all else. “Stanger, you ever heard about Guilt by Association?” “Yeah, maybe, I don’t know, but I didn’t do anything, I didn’t even know he was going to do it, I was trying to get a lift home.” “that’s what I’m saying son. It doesn’t matter! You were there that makes you apart of it.” “Yeah but who would know that? He knows I’m on probation. It was him being crazy” “That’s what I’m telling you Stanger, Coach Farias told me he’s at the Police Station right now singing like a Canary.” “Carl, thanks for the heads up.” He says putting his now trademark sunglasses back on, Steve would never do that to me. He’s my best friend and I had nothing to do with that shit bro. You sure you don’t want to get high?” “yeah I’m sure, a-ight, well put it this way, I’m worried he’s going to drop dimes on me, you know the police have all sorts of open investigations, on going shit, I’m just saying if I’m freaking out on some stale shit, you should watch your back..” Stanger just laughs as we shut the door and get out of the car. “You a paranoid mutha fucka Carl dam!” He said with a big smile and genuine laugh of an old friend. “I love you kid, you know that, you’re a legend, but the day I get in trouble for minding my business just sitting in a car, I’m not sweating that.” And walking back into the main hall as a bell rings instantaneously populating our “main” area, familiar faces emerge. Spotting Magic and Monster I inch just far away from Stanger to see what I don’t want to see. What appears to me a sea of blue uniforms walking straight towards us diligently.
I think to myself before ducking down behind Monster and my girl E Double. “Dude what the fuck did you do bro?” Monster knows it’s always something and doesn’t break the human body shield / cover he’s now become a small part of. I was officially paranoid. “Oh shit dude cops are coming, Carl sweety, are you OK.” E Double asks, “Yeah, just stand just like that for a second here. I’m fine” “What’s going on?” I ask as I hear Monster laugh, “Holy shit, Stanger!” he screams as Stanger looks back and see’s the cops. He’s immune from the anxiety that put me on his needs and simply nods and smiles to the approaching officers. Quickly in front of a great deal of high school students in the main hall of the main BUILDING HE WAS THROWN AGAINST THE WALL AND HANDCUFFED. He’s screaming, “I didn’t do anything!” And is efficiently whisked away. I quickly spring up and a floored Monster asks, “Dude what the fuck was that?” “Yo I’ll explain LATER, ACTUALLY COME WITH ME YO upstairs.” “Let’s go!” He follows me as a jolt towards the ACE program, bursting in as the pizzas arrive for lunch everyone stops. “What’s the latest?” The Big Guy asks “They just cuffed Stanger.” I take a deep breath before finishing. “In the main hall, in front of everyone.” My panic is lost on all most importantly a now really confused Monster as they all begin laughing hysterically. “It’s not funny!” I protest. The Big Guy would volley back his mantra on this one in his most deliberate of tones. “Singing like a Canary.” Fuck. “Hey Monster!” the Big Guy bellows, “Hey you better run for it, your boy Steve Lee is down at the police station cutting deals, tell the Young Guns to run for the hills! If you stole a penny chocolate from Candy castle four years ago he’s giving you up right now.” Coach Sullivan was laughing so hard it appeared this could be the funniest story he’s ever heard. “That’s one.” He spits laugh to drive his point ruffling his lips and making a noise like a starting moped. “Hey Cahl it’ll be a miracle if you get out of here.” “Thanks coach.” “Hey I hope your not next.” I needed the final bell to ring.
Next Chap pre view
January 24th, 1994 Miserable Season My senior year and basketball was almost over. We were good but not great, we had lost four games already and the Globe had yet to tank us anywhere close in the coveted scholastic top twenty. 12-4, not too bad, but for us, not even close to where we thought we’d be. And we were close to mailing it in. Butting heads with the Big Guy all season long we were babies. We cut corners and now without Santo and Stretch our weaknesses as individual players were highlighted and expose. I couldn’t go right, Magic couldn’t score and Goldy couldn’t play any defense. But mostly it was sad, and it wasn’t sad because Stretch’s knee buckled or Santo passed away. Something that I once cared about more than anything in the world, my rock, Rollie I was now indifferent towards. We would still qualify for the state tournament but in Madison and for this once thought of “special” class it had been for all of us a very disappointing season. The best teams continually smoked us. I was tired.
It sucks so badly. It sucks that the good teams inhale us. It sucks that I have to shake their hands after the game. It sucks that I have to be around the Big Guy all day after a loss. It sucks that we’re not being profiled in papers. It sucks that Paul got ripped, Carmine got ganked and it sucks about Stretch, Stretch and what happened to my mother as a kid, fuckers.
All of my own turmoil has seeped into our miserable senior year season. Stretch had become sullen not even making it to road games making only an occasional appearance at our home games to support our once magical goal of winning the state title. The Big Guy was equally frustrated and seemed willing to break us for greater lessons he believed were out there. Last week he benched Magic in favor of an untested freshman just to fuck with him. He’d threaten us each all year with players he’d admonish and ultimately weren’t that good. He believed the Young Guns living in the capitol city of excuse land would use the plethora of unfortunate happenings as an excuse to not strive for greatness. And it wasn’t true. Sometimes the added “push” rather than a much needed “pat” backfires. Mike, the point guard the Big Guy named Magic in the fourth grade, was benched for a freshmen that probably looked up to him. It was crushing thing to do to your senior point guard. Mike because he tried out and made the Metro Bay State gold medal hoop team that past summer was getting more college attention that any of us. And the benching mind fucked him and suddenly a kid that shot over 100K free throws at Hayden over the past eight years couldn’t make half. It was astonishing, the mental, Magic shooting 43% from the free throw line, really? On the floor we all lived in fear. The Big Guy would tell us, “you can shoot anytime you want, from anywhere, but if it doesn’t go in, I might take you out.” For some reason, as a shooter, and without our frontcourt our shots were selfish. We were going backwards.
almost there :) .......