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‘Wan Zee Stuff?’
Backpacking Harm City by Night
[written on 12/4/19]
A few days ago, loopy from my anti-seizure medication, I was backpacking after dark, from one safe house to another.
Not a soul crossed my path.
With the 60-pound tactical pack, the duster, the bush hat, the two pair of pants, the eye-patch and the polypropylene walking stick looking like the Devil’s own pimp cane, I cut a certainly homeless image across the sidewalks, side streets and alleys of Baltimore County.
Police no longer patrol side streets here.
Police stick to the main drag with rare infrequence and go on bully calls, packing up five to ten-deep even for a domestic violence dispatch.
Two blocks before the cut an ebon warrior, a local set enforcer I have passed many times in the afternoon, as he patrols alleys and streets in his blue hoody with pocketed hands, walked in front of me, towards the cut.
I kept a quaint distance, trying not to imbibe his sweet blunt aroma as he toked on the weed-stuffed swisher cigar and not wanting to spook him as I believe this man packs a gun, being the eldest of the 12-thug set that owns The Oaks, three of whom have tried to way-lay me at various times over the past three years. I am now a known and tolerated marginal quantity and do not wish to start a beef, so I keep back 60 paces and do not cross to the cut when he does, but wait across the street.
The cut is the end dog-leg of an alley that runs parallel with Putty Hill Boulevard next to Immaculate Heart of Mary School, the school I attended for first grade about 1970 until being moved to public school for sped classes. Where the alley turns the corner to run parallel with the secondary street, there is a staircase, seven steps, I think, with a railing, leading up to the parking lot. I do not ascend the concrete stars until the ebon warrior in his bluish-grey hoody is in the lot. He should be further along, but has slowed down.
A small, slight [not fat-headed] Latino speaks to him and he waves him off as he crosses the street.
I get to the street behind him and the Latino crosses 10 paces off to my left and then circles behind me and says, in a sinister hiss, “Wan Zee Stuff?”
I notice another man, could be his twin, hiding behind a tree across the street looking at me and cannot keep them both in peripheral vision with just one eye, so I slide my hand down the staff to make of it a counter-weighted club and keep an eye on him, trusting to my right ear to hear his cohort.
“Wan Zee Stuff?” he inquires.
I snarl and get ready to back hand him as he steps near.
“Wan Zee Stuff?” he says, in a way that indicated I might be retarded or deaf, so I slowly nod my head side to side and he shows me the open hand of peace and slides off behind me and to my right, down the way, his cohort sliding like a leopard from behind the oak tree and quickly slinking across the dark street, meeting the inquirer 30 paces off to my right.
I cross, keyed up for action and notice that a pickup truck, a small white, Nissan, is shadowing me to my right. I slide down alleys and across streets and come out five blocks off and notice that the Nissan is waiting, two men inside, watching me.
I stop in the middle of a four-way, shoulder the staff like a club and walk down the middle of the street towards the Nissan and it pulls off. I then dart down a dark and crooked alley to my destination.
The ghetto hawk was chopping air overhead and sirens haunted the distance.
The next night, still believing I had been approached for a robbery, I crossed Putty Hill towards the cut, and saw a slight figure standing above the stars and then fading into the alley below.
Ready to fight, I stalked across to the alley bank and saw no slight Latino—he having wafted into the dark below—but rather a hunched, sniffling and weeping paleface drug addict, a man of 25 years, six feet and 200 pounds, sitting on the stairs amongst the sweet smell of reefer.
I walked down the bank next to the railing and said, “Good evening.”
He looked up at me with eyes red in the beam of the distant street light and cries, “Sorry sir, didn’ mean ta be in yer way.”
I said, “Have a nice night,” and as I walked on understood that the sly approach the night before was not a violent caper, but an attempted customer service encounter, for there, crying and toking behind me was a paleface who did, “Wan Zee Stuff.”
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