When We Fight

Show me your trash and I’ll tell you who you are, any good hospital janitor will tell you. Tallent Neal is damn good. Your dark poop stuck under the toilet rim speaks to me so loud that I can’t hear a word you say. That’s what flushed through my mind when sunlight glinted off a disposable lighter cap and the metallic stripe on a grape flavored Swisher Sweets cigarillo wrapper in the curb gutter, along with clumps of tobacco, and a crumpled 7-Eleven receipt, no doubt left by some smoked-out zombie. My cheek muscles jumped and out of habit, I bent to pick up trash just as Xochi De León said, “Smile for the camera Mr. Neal.” She was the Hue and Cry newspaper reporter.

I stuffed the litter into my pocket, smoothed back coiled salt and pepper Bozo hair, sucked in my belly, popped the top buttons of my custodian’s shirt, and propped my back against the Davis Middle School’s security fence; cold steel bars that towered over me with an outward curve and terminated with triple-pointed spear tips as black as Snoop Dog’s lungs. The bars were not unlike those at Men’s Central Jail where I’d once did a bullet, a whole Goddam year.

A pandemonium of thick, leathery, dark green oleander leaves with scented yellow flower clusters peeked through the pickets at the corner of Matthisen and Spruce Streets. A stone’s toss north, Queen Egypt, Chattom, and other rebels waited on Rosecrans Avenue.

The media came to Compton only when there was a murder, political corruption, or when they were curious about some rapper’s poetic couplet. But this was different. Xochi was covering our protest against marijuana storefront dispensaries.

I forced the corner of my mouth up as far as I could. “I-I am s-smiling,” I said, my face frozen from Parkinson’s acquired from Paraquat tainted marijuana in the 70s. Click. Xochi caught my best anti-drug scowl. I’d been clean and sober for thirty years. Old habits and temptation never fully leave you though. It’s like a smoldering ember on a wood shingled roof waiting for that right gust of wind. That’s why total abstinence from drugs is the only way. My truth would spare others the down side to weeds laughter.

Xochi wore no makeup. Her face was the color and shape of a marmalade plum, hair short, dark, and roughed-dried, a yellow pencil rose from it like a hairpin. What did she know? She looked fresh out of college and had probably partied high on drugs like college kids do. She looked all around and behind her and said, “Compton has a dangerous reputation.”

“I know,” I said. “Rappers sold shit sandwiches and the world, they ate it.” My throat started to close up. “——before, we had in all ways loved us. Now, we have targets on our backs. Do I look like a monster to you? Do I?

Xochi’s head hitched slightly then she swallowed. “Let’s get this done,” she said. “I don’t have all day.”

My shoulder squeaked like a rusted door hinge when I raised a sign stick that read, THINK CLEAR!

“Why’d you organize the protest Mr. Neal?” Xochi said.

“We’re being lied to about weed. Dope p-problems grow like bad bacteria when left unattended,” I said. I spell-checked my sign. “I want it to stop——one unemptied trash can mean the job is incomplete,” I said. Truth is weed once retarded my reaction. I hallucinated and failed a four-way stop sign. My road dog crashed through the windshield. I’d go back and change that if I could.

Atop a streetlight pole, from some remote location, the sheriff monitored us, and all activity along Rosecrans. I didn’t bother with a permit and deputies could break up our party at any time if we left the sidewalk like when Alvarado Park May Day protesters overflowed onto city streets. LAPD drove motorcycles through the crowd, and then used their batons and rubber bullets on them. My heart pounded against my rib cage. It would be my fault if that happened.

Their camera lens whirred and moved when we made our way toward protesters that called themselves Weed Rebels. Some strayed into the street and caused light morning traffic to slow while waiting on the grassy median that divided four east-west traffic lanes on Rosecrans.

“When we fight, we win.” Councilwoman Ethel Last Word Vickers’ voice rose above the murmurs of about two dozen rebels mingling below the surveillance camera. Why was she there?  Politicians only come to skin and grin before the camera.

Rebels put the finishing touches on protest signs, sneered down the block at drunks sitting on discarded furniture and crates in front of a new 7-Eleven that was built beyond an empty lot and a tiny shotgun house, or they pointed to the line that snaked around the cannabis storefront in an abandoned church. Several doors down from the old church cars crept like pill bugs in and out of a 24/7 drive-through smoke shop, an apartment building, a house, and auto parts store was in between. An occasional car passed and honked support for the protesters. Others slowed, rose down their windows and shouted, FUCK Y’ALL. Somewhere within the avenue’s discombobulated zoning scheme a dog barked and a rooster crowed.

A thick woman, Vickers’ skin was deep brown, hair gold. She wore a white summer dress and clutched a white purse that, when she talked, she crazily waved around as if she were going to throw it at you. Her stiletto heels clacked against the sidewalk when she approached us from the median. She thrust a sign at passing vehicles that said, No Mas Drogas. My blood pressure rose and I coughed a couple of times. She butted between us, faced Xochi and said, “Dealers suck,” her voice choked with tears. She held up her purse as if to block someone from dumping on more worry.

***

Antsy protesters met us on the corner at Rosecrans next to one of the clandestine storefronts, a faded sand colored building. On it was a mural of forest pine trees set against an amber backdrop. One sliding door and three rectangular windows were covered with thick steel plates. On one end was a pale-white side entry door behind a rickety wrought iron driveway gate. Across the street was Greater Love, the former church, a one-story building with three large white wooden crosses embedded in its dull gray stucco facing.

The Weed Rebels eyeballed Xochi. She pressed her elbows into her side which made her look smaller, studied something on her cell phone and said, “The majority of California’s voters favored recreational marijuana use. Why do you think Compton residents voted against it?”

“It’s dr-drug dealing,” I said, “made legal, like p-prescription opiates. Superfly. First Youngblood Priest showed us how to snort cocaine. It got worse when Ronnie Reagan dropped the crack bomb on us.” My skin crawled. “Now Trump has his finger on the button.”

Trump. The rebels hoisted their signs and erupted, “Not my president——Not my president——Not my president!”

Vickers waved her white purse like a symphony conductor and snarled, “ten years ago we passed an ordinance to outlaw medical weed dispensaries.” Her back was to me. “We didn’t want it then, don’t want it now,” she said.

I shifted from foot to foot as the number of rebels grew and began to block eastbound traffic. What if riot gear clad deputies descended on them? My gut quivered. Some among them over her shoulder gave Vickers a silent look and narrowed their eyes.

She didn’t mention how her tax crazed money-grubbing fellow Democrat’s supported the recreational-use ballot measure. Since then, cash-only fly-by-night operations spawned like a cockroach infestation and for the past few months, were out of control.

“First weed, next gentrifuckation,” I said. “We’re pushing back. Resisting.”

Xochi jumped when rebels behind her shouted, “No gentrifuckation——No gentrifuckation——No gentrifuckation!”

She white-knuckled her phone recorder and pushed it toward my mouth. “Some would say that yours is a lost cause Mr. Neal.”

“I don’t need to prove nothing to you,” I said, elbowed around Vickers, threw up a fist like John Carlos and Tommie Smith did in 68 and said, “When we fight, we win.”

Xochi frowned. The protesters raised knuckles and chanted, “When we fight, we win——When we fight, we win——When we fight, we win!”

“I followed the crowd as a kid,” I said to Xochi, “——I used to chug cheap wine, smoked cigarettes and marijuana by thirteen, and celebrated my fifteenth birthday high on LSD, downers, and weed, on a rocket to nowhere,” I told her. “For some reason, it all felt right, normal,” I said.

A voice boomed over the rebels, “Give thanks and praises to the most Hi, Emperor Haile Selassie the first.” The crowd parted, my chest tightened. It was Winfrey’s Caribbean accent. Bad news. Why’d he show up now? A Compton native who’d visited Jamaica and returned Rastafarian, Winfrey said, Lamb’s bread is a sacrament for the use of man——a cool meditation, mon.” He was a 1960s Black Panther. Short in stature, he wore a red, gold, and green tam with long Dreadlocks sewn onto the sweatband. His flat nose and pitted-black skin made him look fierce, and to anyone listening, he’d tell the story of how he and fellow Panthers fought SWAT back in the day. “I was in the 1969 shootout against LAPD’s first SWAT team. We kicked their asses all over 41st and Central——fuck the pigs,” he’d say. He was once uncompromising, hated police and they hated him back. But when it came to weed, all skin-folk ain’t kinfolk.

“You helped us get porta-potties in public parks from the City dude but this fight ain’t for you,” I said. “That is, unless you’re gonna put the weed away.”

He’d been drinking and slurred, “Nah mon. Me never do dat,” Winfrey said. “Herb never hurt nobody mon. Whoa. You usta puff collie herb, now you ǵainst it. What ya know mon?”

Motherfucka tried to pull my cover. “That was years ago,” I shouted at Winfrey, heartbeat pounding loud in my ears. I did a little breath-of-fire yoga to calm myself.

“Get the fuck on you fake assed Rasta!” A protester yelled. “Go fuck with LAPD. Go back to Jamaica,” they said.

Winfrey dragged his palms down his legs and tried to facedown the crowd.

“You can’t even get a job,” a rebel said. “Your old piss’ll test dirty.”

When the crowd closed in, he rocked slightly and raised his hand to ward them off.

“Bumba clot!” Winfrey said. He gazed red eyes up to the churring spy camera and to draw ire, gave it the finger. He held the gesture for us as he squeezed through and away from the protesters. He stopped, fired a spliff. “Ras clot! Make we leave ya,” he said and stumbled toward the new 7-Eleven.

Xochi scribbled onto a notepad and asked, “Is there any upside to marijuana cultivation and sale in Compton Mr. Neal?”

“Hell no. It’s a scheme by entrepreneurs and their political puppets to make money off poor people. They want to market it,Straight outta Compton.’” I squeezed the sign stick.

“Fuck that,” a protester said.

I said, “If cannabis benefited Compton, we’d already be rich. A lot of people went to prison behind it. It’s a trick-bag.”

Queen Egypt stepped out from the rebels. Her royal blue gele was knotted at her temple and covered her hair and ears which left her periwinkle earrings and pinched face exposed. “Trick-bag is right,” she said. “Husband’s been in prison ten years for weed.” She took several quick breaths. “My son wants to open a dispensary one day.” A scrawny kid about fourteen with big eyes in a black wave cap snatched his wrist away from her and, with his Vans, kicked at a breeze blown cigarillo wrapper and traced sidewalk cracks. “Something’s wrong with this picture,” She said.

I crouched to the boy’s eye level and said, “Respect your mama.” The boy yawned. His name was Cory.

Xochi ignored the boy and said, “But Mr.Neal, you seem to have turned out okay——kinda.”

I said, “With help I was able to t-turn away from dependence and from the thefts, robberies, c-crimes to support it——in and out of jail.” My arm twitched. “——always leashed to probation, parole.”

The boy muttered under his breath. “Whatever,” he said. Cory’s daddy was in prison for what’s no longer a crime.

“So, how’d you clean up, Mr. Neal?” Xochi said.

I threw the big-eyed boy a sidelong glance. He shrugged and placed his hands in his pockets. “What do you know about running a business?” I said to him.

His voice hardened, “Nothing. I don’t know nothing about it.”

“Have you ever s-sold anything before? Lemonade?”

“Chocolate turtles in the fourth grade,” he said.

“H-how’d it go?”

“Kinda hard. Mom sold it for me.”

“T-then you might have a clue. Weed is different because people that need it will come to you like a magnet. You could make a lot of money off the weakness of others——if it’s only about money.”

“What else is it about? I want bling like everybody else.”

“Even if others are harmed? D-do you really want to profit off the pain of people that look like you?” I glanced at his mother. “Your mama raised you better than that. I can tell.”

Cory squished his big eyes together. “What else can I do?” He said.

I lightly touched Cory’s shoulder and said, “Learn business if that’s your interest. There’s a world for you. You might have to look, work hard to find it and do it. L-love yourself first.”

The rebels didn’t miss the beat and said, “Love yourself——Love yourself——Love yourself first!”

“You can do better,” I said. “We have always loved each other, Cory. You don’t need drugs for that. Let the white boys have it.

Queen went dewy-eyed, she cupped her face and wept, several rebels sniffled. Of course Vickers chimed in, “Don’t worry about anything——instead pray about everything,” she said to Cory and handed his mama her business card.

I turned Cory to face me and said, “Make the library and a dictionary app your new BFF. Tell God your needs and remember to thank him for his answers,” I told him. I returned to Xochi. The rebels held their signs and leaned in.

“How’d I clean up? Paraquat poison still burns my blood. Th-That’s another thing——now cattle are out the barn, they’re out, dope is legal if you’re over t-twenty-one,” I said. Three felony strikes would get Cory’s daddy twenty-five years. I said to Xochi, “Decriminalization is good but instead of jail time, my brothers camp around smoke shops.” I was on a roll. “Th-There’re way more drug storefronts in Compton th-than are places for people to kick drugs, if they choose——” My fingers pill-rolled. “I-I was l-lucky. There were recovery homes——a village to love and support me. One day at a time.” I clasped both hands together around the sign stick. “Recovery is hard,” I said. “But everything will be alright if I do one day at a time——one day at a time,” I said.

The protesters repeated, “One day at a time——One day at a time——One day at a time!”

“Holla!” Vickers said.

Several passing drivers honked, another cussed us.

***

A woman in a floppy orange hat, copper skin bunched around her eyes, pushed a stroller with a toddler with cornrows into the group of protesters who milled around the weed storefront with their signs. The toddler wore a black t-shirt with a green marijuana leaf inside a circle with a red line through it. The woman bared her teeth and yelled, “We didn’t vote for this shit. Shut it down. Shut it down.”

The protesters sprung alive and bellowed, “Shut it down——Shut it down——Shut it down!”

We marched past the mural and approached the side entry door. Behind the driveway gate a security guard stood on trash strewn barren dirt, arms folded across his pudgy chest. In wraparound sunglasses, blue polo shirt with black collar and epaulettes, his pot-belly hid his belt. Guzman was sewn on a fabric plate above where a pocket might have been on a real uniform shirt. On his upper arm was a patch like California’s state bear, only his looked more like Yogi. He hitched his head, smirked, and sat in shade under a tree that grew just above the slanted roof; its spindly branches weighted like Christmas ornaments with red Chinese globes the size of soccer balls.

When the rebels reached the gate Guzman jumped from his high chair and shuffled back. He checked that the side door was locked, clutched a Taser attached to his belt, and then fastened the gate latch to keep protesters out.

Next to me was Chattom, a retired prison guard who was third runner-up in the Mr. Olympia contest. He wore a gold rope chain with a crucifix of a body builder on it. Chattom’s muscled thighs and calves tested his cargo pants. He spoke to Xochi through his teeth, “Read this.” He passed around a petition, and handed out leaflets about Compton’s unsolved murders. “The list includes the unexplained ones killed by deputies too. Murder is murder,” he said.

A wispy androgynous soul stepped from behind the driveway gate in a dark gray baseball cap. Across the crown was a green caduceus, a short rod entwined by two snakes, and topped by a pair of wings. “I’m Tosh,” the person said.

The pungent odor of hydroponics shadowed Tosh even though this person had no red cast to the white of their eyes as deadheads under the influence usually did, pupils weren’t dilated. The scent was powerful but not unfamiliar and reminded me of the far weaker bunk weed that I once copped. Who was this Tosh? I declined Tosh’s fist bump.

Weed Rebels whispered, some shook their heads disapprovingly and ogled as if Tosh, much too little to take on a hostile crowd, had just beamed down from space.

The moment was long and uncomfortable before Xochi asked, “What pronoun do you prefer?”

“They or them,” Tosh said all bubbly. They wore a lavender T-shirt; a sad lap dog surrounded by roses stared out from it. They reached for and read the petition and said, “It’s my dispensary and don’t understand your protest.” Tosh folded the petition and stuffed it in their jeans pocket and seemed to carefully consider what to say next. “We care about customers and don’t sell to children. We require ID——must be twenty-one,” Tosh said.

The protesters shouted, “Get the fuck outta of Compton. Get the fuck out now!” they said.

Xochi clicked on her cell phone recorder.

“We’ve seen kids make b-lines from school to your d-doors,” I said to Tosh.

“We turn them away and they cross the street,” Tosh said.

Ever the interloper, with each word Vickers cast and reeled back her purse as if she was fishing. “We have enough problems and don’t need more drugs in Compton. I’ll have the health department investigate.” She lowered her sign. “Do you assess the quality of the dope?”

“Is high quality, healthy.” Tosh bounced on their toes. “We don’t sell to people without a doctor’s recommendation. Across the street, maybe they do.”

I cut off Vickers and said, “You use p-pesticides on your products? Herbicides? Right?”

“No. Our growers don’t use anything——maybe ladybugs,” Tosh said. “It’s organic.”

“Sheesh,” a rebel scoffed. His face was puffy, nose crooked as if he’d lost a few rounds in the ring. He lisped, “Maybe we thould eat the thit,” he said, “Tal vez deberíamos comer la mierda.” He put his hands to his throat and mimicked a gag reflex.

The rebels derided Tosh, “It’s organic——It’s organic——It’s organic——Let’s eat the shit!”

Xochi said, “Organic? Get this straight——your product contains no mycobutinal or other pesticides?”  She wrote something in her pad. “If you don’t grow it yourself, how do you know?”

“That’s what they tell us,” Tosh said.

“Psssh——whaaat?” I tasted bullshit, my body temperature rose. “Th-that mycobutinal is like malathion p-pesticide and Paraquat——systemic——stays in tissues for years.” I went for the gut. “That stuff’s a slow death——like antibiotics fed to cows and pigs that’s in hamburgers and b-barbeque.”

Xochi stopped writing and said, “Surely your suppliers certify that the product doesn’t contain fungicides?”

“Well,” Tosh crossed then uncrossed their arms. “——it’s shipped from Seattle. I think its sun grown.”

“Really?” Vickers said. Her purse jutted back and forth in Tosh’s face like a toilet plunger. “You think? I think you’re full of it. You think we’re stupid. I think you’re wrong and need to get your ratchet ass up out of here. Think on that.”

Good shit for a politician. The protesters didn’t let it pass and said, “Ratchet ass——Ratchet ass——Ratchet ass!”

I dropped the cardboard sign when its weight became too much. I’d not let Vickers have the last word, bogart my protest. “Weed smoke causes cancer. Do you warn them?”

Tosh fidgeted and didn’t answer, their head rolled like Linda Blair’s did in the Exorcist.

The Weed Rebels huddled tight and taunted Guzman, “Burn ‘em down——” they shook the weakened gate and repeated, “Burn ‘em down.”

“We need a molotov,” a woman laughed with an edge. “Turn this bitch into one big blunt.”

Guzman gripped the doorknob but the side door was locked from inside. Tosh squeezed their tiny frame between the gate and the protesters. The red globes on the spindly tree danced on a slight breeze like slanting rain. A hint of chemicals drifted in. Drivers in passing cars continued to honk, some cursed. The sheriff’s camera focused steady. A news helicopter rumbled overhead. I spit out excess saliva.

“We don’t cause problems and our customers mostly have medical issues,” Tosh said, the crowd was bigger thanks to social media.

Pressed against the fence next to Tosh was a sweaty, wooden guy with facial scars and eyelids that quivered, ratty auburn hair, and rumpled clothes. He separated hairs on his head and pointed to a stitched scalp gash. He said to the rebels, “I need pot for epilepsy.” His tongue was coated silver. “I took shrapnel when our convoy hit a roadside IED in Afghanistan,” he said rubbing at the injury.

Vickers’ purse stilled at her side. “Thank you for your service,” she said. Next her purse sprung into action, “But, you’ll have to find your medicine somewhere else——not in Compton,” she said.

The rebels weighed in, “Thank you——Thank you——Thank you——But not in Compton!”

Gash Head clinched his jaw, he tried but backed against the fence, he couldn’t retreat and the rebels didn’t budge. His eyes darted from place to place. “It’s there in the box soldier,” he said. He muttered under his breath, “They got it on film. Get out, get out——Holy shit. It’s in the road. FUCK. Did you see that?” He snatched at his clothing as if it itched and then, from his pocket pulled a cigarillo from a red package with a watermelon on it. His hands trembled. He used his pocket knife to slice along the glue seam on the smoke, dumped its content and filled it with weed. He snapped open his Zippo, sparked the blunt, and inhaled deep. I coughed when he blew a cloud of butane infected smoke into my and Chattom’s face.

Chattom leaned back and said, “You don’t live in Compton, dude.” Whack! He slapped the back of Gash’s head, plucked the smoke from his lips, and with his heel squished it into the sidewalk. “Shit stinks,” he said. “Secondhand smoke kills.”

Gash Head’s face flushed, “Awww mannn,” he said. He elbowed out from the protesters, bent down hands on knees, and breathed hard. Tosh gawked and Guzman’s lips formed a straight line.

What the f—? I took a deep breath and turned to Tosh. “I don’t care what your argument is.” I lifted the THINK sign stick to my shoulder. “I gatewayed from Mary J and cheap wine to harder stuff.”

The crowd stopped pushing, quieted, and listened.

“That’s your experience. Everyone doesn’t go there.”

“How do you know? You ever ask your customers what they lace weed with? What they Snort, shoot, or drink?”

“Medicinal marijuana, especially the old ones,” Tosh said.

Vickers chiseled in and pointed her purse down the street to where OG’s tethered to hooch congregated on crates outside of 7-Eleven. “They’re lost in the wilderness,” she said. “They waved the white flag, gave up the fight in order to get their drunk on.”

Tosh’s pitch rose, “People have rights. A choice to do what they want to.” Tosh glanced quickly at Vickers, Guzman, and then looked away.

I said, “And we have a right to feel safe, where children can p-play, women can walk at night. People high on drugs do stupid shit and sabotage th-that right in our city. Freedom’s not free.”

Chattom cupped his hands over his mouth and waved leaflets over his head. “Kill dealers,” he said. “Smite them all in the name of the Lord.”

“Smite them——Smite them——Smite them!”——the protesters said.

Guzman looked amused. He leaned one hand on his chair.

“Are you blaming all of those problems on marijuana?” Tosh asked.

“Yep. Th-that and all that comes with it.”

“That’s just old fashioned prohibitionist reefer madness,” Tosh said. “Fake news.”

“Fake?” My mouth soured. “We must c-control what goes on within our city——just l-like any other c-community.” My fingers pill rolled again. “D-Drug problems affect us different than in Beverly Hills, Palos Verdes Estates, or wh-wherever you come from——Trump wants to take our Obamacare. Then what?——we ain’t got no Betty Ford down here. Just Say ‘No’ is bullshit.” Edginess replaced my shoulder pain. “You suck the money out of Compton and leave us cranberry-eyed in a fog, unable to think on how we can do better.” I slammed the sign to the pavement. “I’m keepiń it real,” I said.

“WORD,” a protester said. “I’m one hundred with that.”

Vickers’ purse got busy when she said to me, “You need your own church.”

Xochi smiled, her face softened, but her tone didn’t. “Do you remind your customers that it’s illegal to smoke marijuana in public?” she asked. “It’s allowed only on private property——not parks, not sidewalks.”

“Not everyone gives a damn about other people,” Tosh said, nodding their head to where Gash rocked back and forth on the periphery.

I——”, before I could finish Vickers horned in.

“See,” Vickers said, purse fully engaged, sign moving up then down. “How does Compton benefit from your dispensary? You bring in a lot of outsiders who cop and hop. Smoke shops, 7-Eleven’s, weed dispensaries, and empty churches are what we’re left with.”

“We do our part,” Tosh said. “Just look across the street.”

People twice the number of the protesters streamed through metal doors into the converted church. “They sell Green Hornet to little kids.”

“What’s that?” Xochi asked.

“Pure THC made like Gummy Bears,” Tosh said, voice shaking. “Their Fifty-One-Fifty Bar is nothing but THC and sugar.”

The councilwoman’s nostrils flared, “Oh, HELL NAWL——its genocide. Let’s block the doors,” she said.

She turned and headed across the street but the rebels did not follow her. “What should we do Neal” one said. I hesitated, my breath caught in my chest. Another rebel said, “Who’s calling the shots?” Vickers did what politicians always did in Compton. She tried to hijack the revolt. I rolled my neck and said, “CHARGE.”

“Let’s riot,” a rebel said over rowdy voices.

Chattom stopped car traffic and we rebels waved signs, shouted profanities, and crossed against the traffic light. From behind someone tossed a McCafé® Latte that splashed against a cross on the re-purposed church. A coughed racked my chest.

In front of the church Tosh explained how their grasses contain high levels of Cannabidiol, which to them has medical benefits. “CBD doesn’t get you high but is good for pain, acne, and PTSD,” they said.

“Humph. Do you mean Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder?” I asked. Misfits had given Compton a bad reputation. Many people there had been pained, discriminated against, disenfranchised. But even in my time, admittedly, marijuana reduced anxiety. Couldn’t study, do homework, or job interviews, but could chill-out, scarf junk food, and trip on meaningless shit. Pain shot through my shoulder when I pressed my fist to my lips. Could a medical case be made for cancer patients and those with severe pain? What about epileptics like Gash Head? Maybe Tosh had a point but why then sell anything other than CBD? Winfrey’s so-called religious beliefs? But just to get sprung, or twisted? FUCK NO. We can do better than stay high all the time. I said, “PTSD?——a lot of Comptonians have that aw-awright.”

The customer line that had snaked around Greater Love vanished when set upon by Weed Rebels. The workers packed a SUV with boxes and hurried away.

One storefront down.

***

We were back across the street. Rebel’s had grown larger and louder.

Xochi faced Tosh and said, “Assuming that your business is legally organized as a non-profit collective——” She pushed her recorder close to Tosh’s lips. “Does your business have a state seller’s permit?”

Tosh buried their face in their Smartphone. The lap dog’s eyes on their T-shirt seemed to droop.

Rebels shook and rattled the gate that Guzman snorted and paced behind.

“Do you have a b-business license?” I knew full well that Compton did not issue marijuana business licenses. Chattom stood silent.

Crash!, the gate slammed the sidewalk. Guzman held up both palms and backed away. Protesters reached for him, a shrill voice said, “Yeah muthafucka——what you gonna do now?”

Guzman put down his head and straightened his arm like OJ did on the USC gridiron, “No mas!” He barreled over the orange hatted woman and her toddler. Eeeow! The kid screamed like a child would who just scraped face-first across concrete. Guzman rushed onto Rosecrans with Chattom in pursuit. He ran east on the median toward Paramount which was the next city. Winfrey and Gash Head looked confused and took refuge in the empty lot between the shuttered storefront and 7-Eleven.

Tires screeched followed by the smell of burnt rubber. A van packed with dispensary supplies, equipment, and the scent of hydroponics careened out of the driveway where Guzman had posted, Tosh was behind the wheel.

“HIP, HIP, HOORAY,” the Weed Rebels cheered, high-fived and posed for Xochi’s group photo, and for the surveillance camera above.

“Here’s my byline,” Xochi said when she turned her note pad to me, ‘When they fight, they win: Compton smokes out weed storefronts.’

I pointed my pill-rolling fingers at the sheet of paper and asked, “Why Xochi?”

She said, “I’ve never used and turned against drugs when by brother Juan Carlos killed himself in Guatemala.” Her voice cracked. “A river of drugs flowed through there to the U.S. We lived in a place called Dump City when he started smoking marijuana, moved on to sniffing glue, and later crack cocaine.”

My stomach knotted.

Vickers squeezed her body between us and said, “Two down, sixty more to go. Where to tomorrow?”

     A cluster of yellow marigolds poked through a crack in the concrete at the base of the streetlight. A sheriff’s cruiser slowed, its tires stirred a Dutch Masters chocolate flavor cigarillo wrapper from the asphalt that I instinctively reached for.

 

***

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. © 2017 Deniggerlator Publishing.

 

Fried Popsicles for Sale

Hi my name is Ron. I’m a 35 year recovering alcoholic and other drug user, and I’m one of thirty-seven thousand Compton voters that didn’t sign the reeferendum to legalize weed dealing. You didn’t ask me for it but I’m adding my voice to the hemp discussion.

Once upon a time stinky weed attacked my lungs, malt liquor burned my throat, and cheap sugary wine fogged my head and were gateways to drug hell for me. Mine was a life of self-deceit; lies; thievery, and petty crime.

I flunked out of Compton College after two semesters of Bid whist but tried again two years later. That’s when I discovered that education works best when not high. With help, encouragement, and support from a community of people, I graduated.

MY OPINION: Weed is for white guys that are surrounded with more social cover to shield them or help them deal with the consequences of alcohol and other drug use. There are always consequences.

Maybe they work for their daddy’s business or for employers that don’t drug test and have health insurance. Maybe they have houses, clubs, or other places to smoke and aren’t leashed to smoke shops, liquor stores, or public parks to become police target practice.

MY POINT: Compton needs people who think clear; who can help figure out real solutions to our real problems when it should be obvious that neither Democrats nor Republicans have any answers for us except for those few who shout, Black Lives Matter!

YOU SMOKER: try to completely stop for 21 days if you don’t think weed is a noose around your head.

It might not be so easy and you might need a rock to hold onto when you’re praying to God, or the devil, in the middle of Hurricane Drug.

Where will you go if you try to stop and find it hard? When the voices in your head say, “Ron don’t know what he’s talking about. That stuff happened to him. It won’t happen to me. HE. WAS. STUPID.”

You get a cannabidiol (CBD) pass if you have cancer-related pain, drug-resistant epilepsy, or multiple sclerosis. Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder? NOT.

So, you were one of seventy-nine hundred Comptonian’s (Oh snap!——I see a science fiction story——They Came Outta Comptonia) that signed the petition to regulate and tax weed in Compton, because you thought it would promote health, safety and welfare of people in Compton; create quality jobs in Compton that offer living wages, healthcare and create employment opportunities; and on and on, in Compton. I’ve got to ask; WHAT WERE YOU SMOKING?

In 2013 sheriff deputy unions took away your choice with Measure I when they convinced you to modify the municipal code with:  All police powers as prescribed by Federal and State law that can be carried out by a Municipal Police Department shall be provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for the City of Compton. The city shall annually budget funds to cover the cost for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department services.

You got played.

After that you voted for Measure P, an ordinance to; add a one percent sales tax to fund repairing local streets, sidewalks and enhancing pedestrian street lighting…the measure would provide funding for more public safety personnel including sheriffs, firefighters and paramedics, expand youth job training, gang and drug prevention programs, economic development, improve local parks and stabilize basic services throughout the City.

You got lalalalala.

Granted, many that you elected to the dais have not delivered on any of these promises either and they seem comfortable under control of outside puppeteers. Do you really believe that legal weed dealing will do anything more for Compton than what liquor stores and 7-Eleven’s already do? Other than get-high, if bud had any benefits for Compton, wouldn’t the city already have them?

If you believe what’s in the petition will come true, I have fried popsicles to sell you.

Since you want dispensaries on one corner, smoke shops on the other, liquor stores and a few churches in the middle, I propose that Compton also set up alcohol and other drug recovery drop-in facilities in between for when you finally accept that your best solution to your problems starts with a clear functional brain.

Compton schools must do more with drug education. Build Boys and Girls Club’s (even YAL’s will do) in each council district that will give young people exposure to different life options outside of the city to help mitigate the adverse effect of de facto segregation. Let Gerald Pickens run baseball in Compton.

Do you really believe open cultivation and sales of weed is the solution to Compton’s problems? If so, my fried popsicle truck is parked outside.

Step right up and take a lick.

 

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