With Shelley out of the way, it might be possible for me to pick up a friend or two. I had gained some celebrity at our High School through osmosis because she was the main drug supplier. But when word got out that she had been shot up full of Thorozine and shuffled off to eat mashed potatoes, a quiet scream rang in the school’s halls, quads and grassy pot fields. No one gave a shit about me; except to ask when Shelley might be returning. Freshman year at our new school had started with promise, but now I just went to class.
Just when I thought life was over and I would never have any friends, Mo, her hoodlum, junkie boyfriend was waiting for me in the parking lot.
"Hey! Come here."
I had a secret crush on Mo. He was short in stature, with black button, puppy-dog eyes and a mop of chocolate brown hair that swept across his long eyelashes. He even smelled like a chocolate bar. Mo was also an outlaw. Chances were that he was out on bail. He did all sorts of felonious activity like armed robbery and beating up cops, kept a handgun tucked in each of his clunky boots and sported a “mom” tattoo on his shoulder though he lived with his deaf grandmother.
I climbed into the Chevy, and sat on the smooth leather seat. It was an older car, but the leather was kept clean, even glossy. It crackled with age. Mo shoved in a cassette and we listened to Led Zeppelin. Given Robert Plant was tacked up on my bedroom wall, this was an indication and Mo and I were meant to be together. He had chosen the wrong sister is all.
“You want to make some money?”
“No one will buy drugs from me, Mo. They already think I’m a narc.”
“That’s why you’re going make me rich."
Then he squeezed my thigh, sending a sexual jolt through my virginal body. I imagined my life with Mo, living in his grannies dusty basement, making cheese plates while listening to our favorite rock music, and serving cokes to all the junkies as they nodded out on the floor.
Mo was considered a lifer, in that he was in prison more than out. I could handle his personal affairs after school, and hire dumb girls to sell his drugs until Shelley returned. It's possible she no longer cared about Mo anyway.
“Shelley used to sell 50 reds a day. Sometimes a hundred. She had a real knack. In one week she also sold 1000 Quaaludes at Cobo Hall.”
With this remark, I felt like I might cry. I wasn’t Shelley. I would never be Shelley. I wasn’t tough or brave or savvy. I wasn't a sales person, I wasn’t sassy or fun. I wasn’t anything.
Mo peeled out of the parking lot and I figured he was taking me somewhere to give me a crash course in drug dealing. Then he pulled up to a Bank of America. We were about a mile from the townhouse I lived with my mother. In fact, she banked there.
Mo handed me what looked like signed payroll checks from a company called Concrete and Mortar Construction.
“If they ask you anything, just say you work there as a receptionist. You have some fake I.D.?”
Everyone had fake I.D. That is just something you do in Detroit when you turn 14. In fact, it was Mo that provided it to me and my friends. We used it mostly to sit in skuzzy bars and watch old people dance to bad covers of Layla. Legal drinking age is 18 in Michigan.
He wrote my name in the “pay to the order” part of the illegal checks, then winked at me. I was feeling hopeful. I would later discover he had a whole operation pumping out these checks from his oblivious grandmother's garage. I would also learn his father was in jail, also a lifer, and was the brains behind the operation. After being hauled off to the State penitentiary for murder, Father Mo had been guiding his son since age 12 the practical and profitable ways of street living.
I cashed the check without a hitch and left with four one hundred dollar bills.
My teller was a pretty lady with long blondish hair, probably called dirty blonde and it matched her cheery blouse. A grown up girl, with a regular job. Probably with nice parents, maybe a nice boyfriend. I was so full of envy I had forgotten what I was doing there.
“Can you endorse the backs, please?”
“Oh. Right.” I signed my name on the checks, like I did this all the time. She was eyeballing my fake I.D. I experienced a brand new kind of fear. One that sits in the pit of your stomach like a rotting animal crawling to get out. She looked at me and smiled.
“You like you’re job?”
I was momentarily stunned, but fell back on what I did best. Lie.
“Sure. It’s mostly just answering phones. It’s temporary until I get into a college. Then I want to study medicine or ceramics.”
“Wow. Good for you. ”
Then she lowered her voice.
“This place is soooooo boring. But I just got an apartment and have to pay the bills. I really want to go back to school, though. But I’m pregnant.” She pulled back so I could see her bulge.
She counted the the four crisp bills. I had never seen a one hundred dollar bill, forget four. I tried to act nonchalant but when I collected my bounty my hands were shaky. All I could think about was the amount of groceries I could buy for the house. I stiffened my body like this might help and it did.
I wanted to run, but didn’t want to look suspicious. I kept my eyes focused on that front door and imagine myself on the other side, but I couldn’t quite feel my legs so had no idea how fast I was going.
That's when I saw flashing lights.