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Sympathy From The Devil
Da'vante's girlfriend Violet might've been considered more Satanist then him, and she was the churchgoer. He didn't believe in Heaven or Hell, apart from the moods of the people around him; nor did he care all that much. Violet was in an increasingly bad mood.
"I work two jobs and when I come home you don't clean." She said to him, unraveling the vacuum cord.
"Its a carpet, you don't have to clean it that often." Da'vante explained. "'Specially since the cat is dead."
"There's still his hair all over the place." Amidst the dead feline's hair, Violet pointed to one of Tupac's whiskers.
Da'vante didn't say anything at first, and instead booted up his computer. "Well then you pick it up then."
Violet went red, "There's a bunch of fucking dishes you could've put in the dishwasher."
"I'll do it later. After I come back from the gym"
"The only place you do anything, I'm surprised you ain’t been fired yet."
"They're probably thinking about it." Da'vante joked with a straight face and a mouse click.
* * *
This time Violet was more pissed off than usual. "They just called you up on the phone."
"Who?" The young man asked, he wanted to sit down.
"Your boss. Idiot. I can't believe you skipped work again."
There was a flair in Da'vante's voice, "Carlos told me I didn't have to go in today!"
"Well Carlos ain't your boss!" Violet said as their was a knock at the door. It was her mom. Violet's mom La'Shawnda was a tall woman, chunky and often wearing dresses. She was exuberantly religious. It just so happened that Da'vante was wearing his black '666' t-shirt..
"So your just going to leave?" Da'vante asked.
Violet went for the door with her arms full, but it was unlocked, and La'Shawnda burst into the room anyway. The older woman immediately eyed Da'vante's fashion choices.
"You need to repent." La'Shawnda's thick voice came through.
"I don't know how to do that." Da'vante cheekily smiled.
Violet had stopped near the door and went mute, waiting for her mother.
La'Shawnda took a heavy breath, shaking her head. "Take that shirt off boy."
"I'm not your hoe!" Da'vante said, and finally sat down on the couch, resting his legs.
La'Shawnda temporarily turned her attention to her daughter, "She's too good for you. I told you Violet, you can do better."
The middle-aged woman looked back at Da'vante. "We'll be praying for you if its not too late."
Da'vante looked into Violet's eyes and spoke in a serious tone, "If you leave this time I'm not taking you back."
La'Shawnda struggled to pick up as much of Violet's bags as possible in order to avoid making a second trip up the stairs and into the apartment. The trip looked unavoidable.
"Go to hell you selfish prick." Violet said before storming out the door.
"Gladly." Da'vante replied, the thought of buying a pizza from the local convenience store crossing his mind.
* * *
Da'vante got a bottle of Mountain Dew Voltage, a medium box of pizza, and a bag of mozzarella-filled breadsticks.
The clerk ringing up the food was a middle-aged man with a mustache. He looked stoned and had a big smile on his face. "You seem like a stand-up guy, so I'll tell you what, I won't I.D. you for the dew."
Da'vante smirked, "I guess I'll take a lottery ticket. Bandit's Cave."
"Alright." The clerk grabbed the ticket and put it on the counter. "I'll need to see an I.D. for that though."
The Satanist scratched off the ticket and looked at it blankly.
"Did you win anything?" The ridiculously happy-looking clerk asked.
A woman in her late twenties with a mess of short hair came out of the backroom. She was sleepless, shirtless, and barefoot, "Hey Johnny, I'm hungry."
The smile seemed to wipe off the clerk's face as he turned around to see the women in her bra, "Get back in there! Put some clothes back on!"
As Da'vante took his things he saw in irony that a police car was parked outside. One of the officers was pumping gas and looked like he had been in the Marines by his haircut.
* * *
* * *
When Da'vante got home he checked the lottery ticket over and over again. He had won something, a lot of money. His first inclination was to party with it, to go out and have fun. He was sunk on his old couch and hesitating because of the events that had happened that day and how they weighed on him, and the sting of Violet's consistent bashing on him about how selfish he was.
In the present and cluttering fog of his loneliness, he remembered the scraggly stranger panhandling on the street, old enough to be his dead father. Or the black woman with the full grocery cart who some people in Viridian called 'The Ghost.' And the old, talkative veteran who lived on the northern park bench during the days..
An idea had dropped into his head. Da'vante could create his own Luciferian form of outreach, shorter-lived and more expansive than the local influence of Christianity.
Da'vante got a paper and pen and sat over the coffee table. He sat over the blank page and realized he could do nothing without further surveying the neighborhood. If everything wasn't perfect, nothing would be. He wanted to avoid trouble, he would need some sort of security system; and after pining over it, it seemed he could pay others within the group to do that-- if they seemed sound, and if this idea would even work.
He'd pulled out another slice of pizza from the box on the left of the table, giving a gawk to the glow of a half-muted television. He would still outmatch the services in the community, provide food and clothing.. but as for shelter he knew he would have to do more research.
After eating with his pop almost gone, Da'vante got up and put on his old red hoodie. It was dark out, and though the night was quiet, he vowed in his meticulous passion that these quiet nights would be numbered. He slipped on his shoes and an old hoodie, it was time to study the contours of the city he lived in.
* * *
Da'vante went towards the first place he had thought of, Viridian Park, the northernmost park of the two or three parks within the city. The park went off into woods with trails and these woods seemed like one ideal place to host a party for one, two, maybe three nights.
It was almost pitch black apart from trees and grass swaying in the line of lighted metal. The peace of the night was disturbed by a figure.
A taller stranger came out of the dark in a black hoodie with the side of a red skull printed on either side of the hood; a crimson ribcage was printed on the front of the jacket. The stranger held up a handgun in Da'vante's face, "Give me your fucking money!"
Da'vante went tense, he didn't say anything, just pulled out his wallet and all of the cash inside of it.
"Show me the insides of the fucking wallet." The stranger had on a white ski-mask with blue eyes peering out, his firearm tilted sideways in Da'vante's face.
After Da'vante showed his empty wallet, the robber backed away with the gun still on him, and then sprinted into the darkness.
"Fuck." Da'vante mumbled, standing there shaken.
He decided not to call the police, because it would only hold the risk of drawing more attention to the park.
Luckily, Da'vante had left the lottery ticket at home.
* * *
Da'vante got up later than usual, shielding his face. Twelve-o-clock sunlight broke through from the side of his bedroom window where the blinds had been torn off. The light annoyed him, along with its detailed exposition of tea or coffee carpet stains from two, or three years ago. He looked at the old cabinet and older trinkets inside his closet next to the empty space where Violet's things would have been, and the empty space he half took up in his bed, overtly lit.
* * *
Da'vante went back near the party store he went to the most often, like usual, the old man was there, but without a cup.
"What is your name old man?" The satanist asked.
"Roger.. Roger Valentine." The homeless man stood up, offering his hand.
"My name is Da'vante Till." Da'vante shook his hand, the grip was firm. "How are you?"
"Could be better, could be worse." Roger said in a deep voice.
"Well, you seem sane, I like that." Da'vante grinned, showing his teeth.
"You don't seem as much of a troublemaker as you do from a distance.." Roger put his hands up, "Just a joke."
"I have a proposition for you."
"What?" Roger asked as mostly old cars went by them, under the afternoon, cloud-blockaded sun.
"Lunch with a troublemaker." Da'vante said.
* * *
Da'vante and Roger went to a local restaurant with a gloomy parlor feel and hit or miss food. The light from the now rainy day came through the windows and cut down some of the darkness across the tables. The two took a seat next to a water-spotted window and we're spotted by a thin Caucasian waitress with an average face.
"How did you end up where you are now, man?" Da'vante asked.
"Well, I had been to college, I have a Master's degree in engineering. With the economy the way it is, and being turned down for being overqualified, it just hasn't been enough."
"The economy or rich white people?" Da'vante asked sarcastically, raising his hand to his chin, while the waitress came over with the menus. Her nametag said 'Becky'.
"What would you like to drink?" Becky asked, pulling out a notepad simultaneously and holding a pencil to it in some automatic fashion, ready to write. She had already put a pitcher of water down on the table.
"Do you have any of that Mountain Dew Voltage?" Da'vante asked.
"No. Just regular Mountain Dew."
"Damn.." Da'vante mumbled. "Alright I'll have a dew."
"I'll have a Pepsi." Roger said, with a polite nod to the waitress.
"Have you decided what you want to eat?" Becky asked.
"The three beef flour tacos." Da'vante said, looking over to Roger. "Is that fine with you?"
"Yes." Roger nodded almost as though it was some kind of nervous academic twitch, and then spoke again in his deep voice. "I'll have what he's having."
"So, I brang you over here cause I came into money. And I wanna know more about the homeless community.. to help them out."
"I see. Well I can probably help you there. What do you intend to do with the money.. if you don't mind me asking?"
"I want to party with you guys."
Roger laughed. "Whew, I don't know if I'm the guy to talk to about that. I hope you don't take offense."
"Its not just that, I'm going to help people out. I just want to have a good time with the money too."
Roger spoke out loud to himself at the same time Da'vante talked, "I mean I guess I could use a drink.. or maybe a bottle of wine."
"Yeah, I know where we could set this up.. if your down."
"…" Roger stiffened a little and seemed hesitant, thinking the whole thing was coming out of the mouth of a wild 20-something, which it was. He swallowed the piece of chicken he was chewing on.
"I just broke up with my girlfriend man. How do you wanna spend the rest of the Summer?" Da'vante asked while the rain came down outside from a grey sky.
The question seemed to break up Roger's indecision. "Well, I guess a night of drinking won't hurt me, if that's what you want to do."
* * *
It was dark in the woods save the fires burning in a few rusting barrels with newspapers and the flammable bits from the guts of dumpsters. There was beer and liquor on a picnic table. A table which, like two of the barrels, hadn't been out there before. And hot dogs and chips, and a woman named Margeret talking about how she used to cook in the midst of all this food; two men listening to her apart from Da'vante and Roger; Ryan, the man more ragged then the other in jeans and a t-shirt, especially enjoyed teasing and mocking her. The other man, Frank, was dressed like he came out of the South.
"I bet you used to cook a lot of stuff, when you were younger, a century ago." Ryan laughed and took a hit of a joint for the fourth time.
Da'vante looked over to Ryan, "Its puff, puff, pass man."
Ryan was drunk, the bottom of his eyes clouded with grey and blue bags; he passed the joint with a slur, "Its not much of a party, no offense."
His words stung Da'vante's pride, but he didn't say anything and instead silently started sifting for solutions.
"Oh come on Ryan, that's just asshole-ish." The other guy at the table, Frank, chimed in; Da'vante noticed he had on a flannel shirt, blue jeans, and cowboy boots that fit a Southern draw in his voice.
After a few more minutes of banter, Da'vante decided to ask him, "You want more people?"
"And more drugs." Ryan squeaked, itching the bottom of his chin.
"Sounds like a recipe for trouble with the police." Roger said calmly.
Da'vante mulled it over, "If I get you the shit you want, its on you. I'd have nothing to do with it."
"Oh dear. Your not really going to buy this man drugs?" Margeret was shocked.
Roger took a liberal sip of his beer.
"I can get more people, at least for tomorrow. College kids. If that's okay with all of you. I'd still like more homeless people to hang out."
"I can get more people but more people could mean trouble." Frank said.
"I will get some form of security. It'll be fine."
* * *
It was a new day, Da'vante was talking on his cell phone with his friend JT who was in college for his second time, the first time he had dropped out. Da'vante was also getting voicemails from Ryan, and promised to take him into a bad part of the neighborhood to talk to a dealer.
"Hey man whatsup?"
"Yo man, this Da'vante?"
"Aww man, whatch you up to?"
"Gonna have a party tonight." Da'vante said. "And I want as many people as you got. I want some big mother-fuckers for security, if you run out of big then get crazy.."
"And I want an ounce of Chron or name brand. Whatever you can get."
"Just an ounce? I can get you a ton of people."
"I already got one, what did you think man, I was only having eggs and bacon for breakfast?"
"Ha haa! I got you man." JT's voice materialized a little louder than what the phone speaker could handle while Da'vante took a glance at the book 'Satan Speaks!'. It lied on his bedroom floor with a grinning cartoon face of the devil, near the bed like an alcoholic's bible.
* * *
It was a Summer night with a perfect temperature, and Da'vante was standing in the middle of the same woods he had moderately drank in yesterday. Tents were being set up most of which Da'vante bought, there were three makeshift beer-pong tables, and some sort of roulette game involving cards and booze on the picnic table. One of the beer pong tables had been singed to black by a high-proof alcohol that was poured on fire, beer was used to put it out. Da'vante noticed there was a shortage of tables, but leaving felt like a risk, so there was nothing he could do.
The cops coming at some point seemed unavoidable.
"The cops coming at some point seems unavoidable." Roger said.
Da'vante looked around. There was probably over a hundred late teenagers and twenty-year-olds, and odd older people siphoning into the fire-lit woods. JT emerged from some of the crowd, he was as black as Da'vante but thinner, almost never wearing black, with white shoes on his feet.
"Hey man we need to get some music set up. Do you have any outlets out here?" Da'vante's friend asked.
Da'vante rubbed the back of his neck, "Shit. We could use someone's car. Find someone with a good audio system and drive their car out here. Someone can jump them later."
"Alright, I'll get on it." JT took a swig of tequila from a fifth.
"Hey man where these people parking? The park closes."
"Most of them are walking. I think other ones are parking in a lot somewhere, might be a church." JT replied.
A scrawny white kid had brought what looked like his homework with him, and a girl larger than him was with him and looking for booze. Da'vante heard the nerdy fellow talking to her, "I dunno, everything about this is sketchy."
JT could tell his friend was stressing out and put his hand on Da'vante's shoulder, "Just forget it man. Its not a problem right now. Let's smoke some green."
There was a leathery old man who might've been foreign, sitting on a bucket in the darkness of the woods. Da'vante watched as a frat boy with dreadlocks and bulky, overpriced headphones around his neck offered to pour the senior citizen a mixer. The last of the homeless man's teeth were rotting out and his trembling hand seemed tied to the air of his own eccentric excitement, "Oh I love the Dew!"
Da'vante looked over to Roger who had his hand in a chip bag, "Roger are you down?"
"..I don't know. I think I'll just wait here." Roger replied.
"Fucking c'mon Roger, it won't kill you!"
"Yeah man lets get our green on." JT chimed in. "Smoke some trees."
After the three of them had sat down and smoked a blunt, and about five to eight minutes of silence, Da'vante looked over to Roger.. "Like I said. Get at me the day after tomorrow and we'll try to get everyone together who needs the help.. and I'll get you guys a shower, some clothes, and lunch or somethin'."
"Definitely, tomorrow." Roger replied.
Ryan was hiding away somewhere with a handful of other people, some length away from the light where he could shoot up the heroin Da'vante bought him without being bothered. Nobody else knew about it. But Roger had a clue.
Eventually someone with a nice car drove up and started blasting their I-pod while the amount of people had shot up to over 150, though most of the music was overplayed mainstream stuff from the radio.
A little ways away there were a couple stocky white guys holding red plastic cups and looking up at a tree. It was unknown whether they were from the college or not. One of them talked to his shorter friend in glasses, "Flags would be too much work. For now we could just use towels."
"Yeah but we'd have to go get the stuff."
"I know. That's why I haven't drank much."
"What should we call it?" The one with glasses asked.
"Well.." The slightly taller man said. "Its a drinking game that involves climbing trees.. So we should call it.. Tree Climber."
Over an hour had passed. Da'vante was feeling blurry but had sought out his friend JT. "What happened to the weed I had you give out?"
"Its gone." JT said, looking up at a husky, white guy climbing a tree.
Da'vante checked his cell-phone, "Fuck. Its only Midnight and I just spent over 400 dollars on weed."
JT laughed loudly, slapped him on the back, and walked away.
There were a handful of people sprawled out on the ground, some just drunk and some in sleeping bags. Others were talking or playing drinking games, but most were watching and the raving over the drinking game going on between two men in two climbable, and similar trees which were not so distanced that they couldn't both be seen.
The two men playing had just both drank a can of beer from a bucket in a race, and the next buckets had been poured; the two men used their homemade pulleys to start the third round of the game with towels dangling further above them.
Roger was standing between the trees as the referee who would count to three and then yell 'go'.
Before Roger could, the blue and red of two police cars came barreling into the park, and the cheers of college students and the fewer homeless changed to chatter and panic. People sprawled out and ran; Da'vante was among them, catching glimpse of some silhouetted strangers on the ground as he wove through the trees.
* * *
The next morning Da'vante got in breakfast and a workout, and then went over to meet Roger at a bench near where they had first met. Roger stood up quickly with concern in his face and made his way over to the passenger seat.
"Why did you do it?" Roger asked.
"Da'vante, Ryan is dead. Its in the paper." There was a solemness in Roger's voice, cars passing by them, a random horn blurting out in the distance, the car radio turned down but still on.
"Shit.. I didn't think this was going to happen."
"You need to at least maybe stop and think, set limits! I know your young, but don't buy anymore drugs. Nothing good is going to come out of it."
Da'vante had anger flash across his face at the idea of being told what to do, he turned his radio up and took off down the road.
"Da'vante.." Roger said, the anger subsiding from the young man's face as he realized he was being brash. "Where are we going?"
"To look for The Ghost.." Da'vante said, in some unnerving perpetual state of shock. "The woman that everyone calls The Ghost."
"Promise me that you won't buy anyone else anymore drugs."
"I promise.. I promise that I won't buy anything other than weed."
It took what seemed like ten minutes for Roger to speak again, "Frank was extremely angry, and he wants to have a talk with you soon. I honestly don't think he just wants to talk."
"Yeah, neither do I." Da'vante replied, taking a left turn.
"Be careful Da'vante."
* * *
Da'vante had been with Roger scanning Viridian for over an hour when he saw the woman in her sixties or seventies called 'The Ghost' walking slowly along the parking lot. He drove towards her. As he got closer he saw that she was humped over, long gray hair covering her face, and a cart with blankets and water-soaked boxes.
"Hello?" The young man said.
The Ghost raised her bony hand and pushed some of her braids from her face; barely turning her head with a deathly soft-spoken muffle, "..hello."
"I'm Da'vante, and this is Roger. People are always calling you The Ghost. Do you have a name?"
"Oh, I'm so old, it doesn't matter. Just call me that."
"Alright, that's cool. Can I ask how you got the name?"
"I witnessed my share of gang fights.. been in two newspaper pictures. Me and my cart." The Ghost said with a spark of pride. Her dirty braids dangled over dark, pronounced cheekbones. "Pictures of taped-off crime scenes.. one was a homicide."
Da'vante and Roger didn't know what to say, while the wide-open parking-lot to an out-of-business grocery store only offered silence and wind.
"Anyways, that's how I got the name, The Ghost." She had a slight smile, but it was on all the time, and could've been as genuine as a poker-face.
Da'vante got a phone call on his cell. It was JT, "Hey man, I got a new place for you to party."
* * *
After Da'vante had taken the call, "Do you know of anyone that might need some food or clothes?"
"There could be more people at the park. Then again the local Christian shelter is handling a lot of people." The Ghost said from the backseat.
"Hmm." Da'vante had already planned to go to the park. "What about the veteran who's usually there?"
"He is a nice guy, but I don't know if he is all there." Roger said.
"I don't have to drive him anywhere, but I at least want to talk to him, see if he wants to party."
"Your only young once." The Ghost said, nodding her head and smiling.
When Da'vante got to the park he was met with the noise of kids and parents, and strangers talking around the smell of the active grill, but the homeless veteran wasn't there. It was a sporadic occurance that the old man would show up anyways, the bench he usually sat on could sometimes be taken by someone else, though this time it was empty.
"Do you think he could be at another bench?" Roger asked.
"Its worth a look." Da'vante weaved around the pavement and greenery, deeper into the park to see.
"Oh--p, there." Roger said.
"Oh there he is." The Ghost said in unison with Roger, pointing at the window.
Da'vante parked and the three of them got out.
He was an old Mexican man with a gut, sitting on a park bench watching far-off birds. He quickly took notice of the car, the people staring at him.
The man had a bad smell and he was unwrapping cheap candy and throwing it at the birds. He looked up at Da'vante with scraggly facial hair and chucked something that looked like taffy. "They never land around me."
"Hi." Da'vante and the veteran shook hands. "My name is Da'vante Till. This is Roger and Mrs. G."
"Just miss." The Ghost soft-spokenly said.
"I'm Joel Consuela."
"I'm.. community outreach." Da'vante lied. "I am planning on having a party."
"I like the jib of your drift."
"I couldn't get a hold of you earlier, and I was just wondering if you wanted to come around this time."
"Yeah, yeah." Joel sputtered, throwing a piece of taffy he could've found in a Viridian dumpster.
"It won't be tonight, but I'll give you a heads up when. If you need anything in the meantime. Blankets, booze, some clothes.."
"Booze huh? My kind of community outreach." He rasped. "Yeah, yeah, I could use some liquor, clothes, and a blanket or two."
"I'll bring you some stuff."
"Yeah?" Some of the people grilling under the pavilon watched the two talk.
"Pack of Marlboro's, if you could."
"..yeah. I'll be back in like an hour, at most." Da'vante started walking back to his car and the turned around suddenly with a yell, "Hey man, what's your clothing size?"
"I'm a Medium. Look for a crystal ball on the tags." Joel said.
"That's Joel." Roger said when they were in the car. "You can't tell if he's crazy or not."
* * *
Da'vante looked over the two-story frat house with a grin, "Lookin' a little dilapidated."
"Its good on the inside." One of the frat boys said, quick to defend the place. Quiet houses all surrounded the group while campus buildings towered in the distance.
Ricky bummed a smoke off of JT; Ricky was a hefty guy with a mixed racial descent, who went with JT to Viridian College.
Ricky took a puff, "With it being Fall and college starting up we were already thinking of having a big party."
"Fuck man. Summer's over. Its cold!" JT said before looking over to Da'vante. "You wanna cig D?"
"You know I only smoke trees." Da'vante replied.
JT nodded at an actual tree, "There you go man here's a lighter."
When JT, Ricky, and a couple others were done smoking and talking, they all went into what was originally a living room.
JT broke out in laughter, "Nice, Ricky."
Ricky picked up the incriminating evidence laying on the table and the group walked into the kitchen.
"Its good yall got your kitchen off to the side because I'mma get my smoke on and be one hungry nigga." JT said to Ricky.
"Shit man." Da'vante had a light bulb go off above his head. "This is a pretty big kitchen for a frat house."
"I know." Ricky said. "I'm a pretty big guy."
"You guys got anyone who can cook?" Da'vante asked.
"Yeah we know some people like that." Rick replied.
"We can run the party from the kitchen. We can block it off, have someone guarding it, and run the music from here."
"I got some chill shit to drop on ya." Ricky said. "One of my boys was telling about it the other day and we've been blasting it ever since. Have him run the music."
"It can't be any worse than what was playing the other night." Da'vante rubbed his eyes.
"Fuck you man they had my song on." JT jabbed Da'vante in the rib.
"Ow." Da'vante flung back. "Bitch!"
* * *
Roger and The Ghost had Da'vante drop them off at a bench in uptown Viridian. The dusk was closing in with the sky's blues darkening, business signs lighted, and a breeze coming through the stretching gap of cars and buildings. It was the tail end of Summer.
Roger had a paper but had been reading for some time while the old woman sat preoccupied in a people-watching trance. The educated man folded the paper and lied it down next to him on the bench, keeping his hand on it.
"So why is a young man like yourself out here?" The Ghost asked, seeing that Roger was done reading, and eating out of a small bag of chips Da'vante bought her.
Roger laughed before he went solemn, "I had to make a choice between my family and my career."
"That's a tough choice." The Ghost said in her usual almost introverted tone.
"Mm-hmm." Roger had taken to looking around at the strangers going about their business.
"How did you meet that young man?" The old woman asked before their was a crunch.
"I saw him on the street. I rarely ask people for money, it feels wrong. But I watch them walk by. He came up to me."
"What do you think of him?"
"Well.. Da'vante is impulsive, but his heart is in the right place."
"Too bad some of the more Christian folks wouldn't see it that way."
"He's no villain. Maybe an anti-hero."
"Anyone can look like a villain to us." The Ghost said. Roger noticed that her smile had faded for once. He thought it rare. And a silence formed between the two adults as the night kicked in, and they looked off at the strangers, theaters, and bars.
* * *
The frat house was packed and the party was a few hours in.
JT look over glossy-eyed at the guy who was probably checking some social networking site while playing music behind his laptop, "What's this radibro?"
"I ain't no radibro. This is Chillwave." The guy behind the laptop said with a grin, grabbing his craft beer to take a sip.
"Listen you keep up the jams." JT said.
"Why--" The DJ interrupted JT mid-sentence. "Why are you smoking inside?"
"What?" JT said. He looked down with his vision flashing in a blur and noticed that he had a cigarette down to its end. "Ohhh shit man.."
Da'vante pulled up a red milk crate and sat next to Joel and Roger; Roger was on the bench on a porch full of smokers, trying to get some fresh air while the cigarette and cheap cigar smoke kept him fanning the air with his hand.
"My niece. I seen this girl who I thought was my niece. She said she didn't think she was my daughter, and was scared. So I walked away. But she had 'Live. Laugh. Love.' written on her t-shirt, with a heart.. a sideways heart on it." The veteran laughed. "I was thinking, you should get a shirt that says Live. Laugh. Satanism."
Da'vante laughed and shook his head, not sure what to say.
JT came through the door out into the early Autumn air. A few minutes later a tall and scrawny black guy with a scruffy beard had walked up on the porch. He was drunk, smelling of weed, booze, cologne, and body odor. His beady eyes popped out from his face and his demeanor seemed like anger as a whiskey cocktail swished out of his cup. "All your generation cares about is partying. You don't want to make nothing out of yourself. But lemme tell you somethin'."
JT stood on the porch with nothing to say and barely able to stand while the drunk man squeezed his shoulder and shook him, "I'll drink to that!"
"Yolo!" Joel yelled. The bearded man toasted with Joel, and a guy and girl from the college followed, until most of the porch was saying cheers save two Freshmen girls, one of them puking her guts out from the ledge.
Some guy came up near the porch with a thin mess of hair, blue eyes, and a skeleton hoodie. Da'vante stood up at the sight of him and blocked the door.
"Yo how much is it to get a cup?" The blue eyed guy acted like he didn't know who Da'vante was.
One of the frat boys who lived at the house came up to Da'vante, "Who is this guy?"
Da'vante lost it, "It'll cost all the money in your wallet and your hoodie mother-fucker."
The frat boy went to the door, "Hey Ricky! We got a problem!"
Ricky made his way through the crowd quickly and came outside.
"Look man." The guy in the hoodie started, looking like he was high on some hard drugs. "I'm sorry, I don't want no trouble."
"What the hell is going on Da'vante?" Joel asked.
"I'll take care of it." Da'vante said.
The robber pulled out his wallet and handed Da'vante a fifty, "Its more than I took from you."
"And the fucking hoodie." Da'vante said, grabbing him by the hoodie.
"Look I need to pocket something, I'll take it off.. I just need to go on the side of the house.. man.."
"Fuck." Da'vante let go of his robber, "Fine."
"What is going on Da'vante?" Ricky yelled.
The Satanist went over and yelled over the music into Ricky's ear, "Everything's cool. Have someone call the cops when you want, tell them that guy's a dealer and probably has drugs on him. He fucking deserves it."
Ricky nodded, "Like I said yesterday, the cops will probably come in an hour or two and break up the party."
"Get him a cup."
The robber came back in a white undershirt and baggy jeans, his black and red hoodie in his hands. "Here.. take it."
Da'vante slipped the hoodie on, it was comfortable. He pulled out some rolling papers and handed them back to the stoned thief, "You forgot this."
"Thanks man." The dazed guy said. He got his cup and ventured into the house party, robbed by his victim.
"Hey." JT said out of nowhere. "What you drinking Da'vante?"
"Alright cool man, I'm gonna go puke..."
* * *
Da'vante went back inside to a pretty packed house with people drinking, eating, and dancing. Some frat boy holding a beer came up to him, " Look bro I'm glad your free, but that don't mean I wanna see a bbc."
"This is my party." Da'vante said, grabbing the guy's beer. The frat boy got a look of anger on his face, but didn't act, unsure of whether or not the young black man in the skeleton hoodie was telling the truth. Da'vante took a sip and handed the stranger's beer back, "And I don't rap."
As the Satanist went to get some food a pale girl came up to him. She had short brown hair in a ponytail
"Hey. Drink this."
"Alright.. just as long as you didn't spike it." Da'vante smiled, taking the cup.
"I did not." she said sheepishly.
"What's your name?"
"Cassie." There was a slur when she said it. "What's yours?"
"Will you dance with me Da'vaan?"
"I don't know, you might puke on me."
"I get anything I want, and I want, you, to dance with me." She said.
"Alright then." Da'vante said.
Cassie hit him jokingly and then wrapped her arms around him.
About five minutes later there was a commotion in the crowd. The cops had arrived. Da'vante noticed one of them.
Da'vante tensed up, "Do you have anyone who can walk you home?"
"No." Cassie slurred.
"Fuck. Okay." Da'vante could see a police officer talking with Ricky who looked pretty stressed. The young black man took Cassie's hand. "Come with me."
They went into the kitchen off to the side. One of the guys who was cooking was talking to another guy while Da'vante opened the window. The guy who had been cooking looked over, "Woah what are you doing dude?"
Da'vante didn't say anything but instead lifted Cassie out of the first floor's window. Than he crawled out of it.
"We'll cut through these people's yard up here and circle around the block to my car." "Wait.. Are you..? Good to drive?" Cassie looked out of it and leaned on Da'vante for balanced.
Once they got out on the road Da'vante had to ask, "How much did you have to drink?" "Four bottles and two cocktails.. or wait.. three.." Cassie slurred. "Three cocktails." Suddenly the girl stopped still leaning on Da'vante, who put his hand over his nose while she started puking.
* * *
"Please allow me to introduce myself.." Da'vante's phone was ringing. He picked it up off the table and saw that the name said JT.
"Hey man Ricky is pissed."
"What happened last night?" Da'vante asked. The sun coming through the window blinds of his bedroom and making his head pound.
"You with a girl?"
Cassie could hear JT through the phone, leaned in and pulled the phone over which was grafted to Da'vante's hand.
"Yes." She said, before stumbling out of the bed to look for the bathroom.
"Why is he pissed?" Da'vante asked. "Because I bailed from the cops?"
"Where is your bathroom?" Cassie asked, grabbing her clothes.
"Hold on one sec.. Uh.. first left on the right."
"What?" JT replied. "Yeah man because they were saying stuff about some of people were mentally ill or alcoholics and him and some of his boys got a grinding."
"I'm sorry man. Uh god.." Da'vante felt a little hungover.
"Yeah some homeless guy tried to touch this girl but we didn't know about it."
"You hungover?" JT asked.
"Yeah when I got home.. I took some shots."
"So I take it we can't have anymore parties over there with the homeless.."
"Yeah. Plus I mean it smelled like pot in that house and that usually don't happen. Cause I take care of my business at my place of business, you know." JT laughed.
"When are you not smoking?"
"Hey man you want to smoke right now, I can be over in like fifteen minutes."
"Why are your window blinds missing?" Cassie asked, pointing to the window. "Lucifer tore off some of my blinds." Da'vante replied.
"Lucifer?" Cassie laughed.
"Yeah, he's buried under the ground at my parent's house." The Satanist said. "He was a good dog."
* * *
Roger knocked at Da'vante's apartment door almost gently. By the second time he knocked, Da'vante answered it, with bloodshot eyes and thick wafts of air freshener.
"Hello Da'vante, how are you?"
"Can I come in?"
Da'vante opened the door pointed to the couch, JT was sitting there watching television with a bunch of food and a 'steamroller' on a coffee table.
Da'vante went over and pulled up his computer chair for Roger. The middle-aged man sat down and started to talk, "Da'vante, its been fun and I'm grateful for everything you've done for me, but I'm thinking of leaving Viridian and trying to find work."
"One more party Roger. Just one more." The Satanist pleaded.
Roger had the look of being on the spot with a crackling 'uh' before his reply, "One more party is fine."
"I can still help you out too, bro." Da'vante said. "If you need to use my computer you can. It'll take me a couple weeks to get the building ready, for the final party.. so if you want to help I'll throw you grub."
"Sure.." Roger sat down and JT offered him a hit, which he declined.
"I was thinking of getting lunch at the church. They'll serve you if you all want to come, even though your not homeless.. and I'm not trying to convert you." Roger chuckled nervously. "I'm not a believer myself."
"Today is Sunday, isn't it?" Da'vante asked.
"Yes." Roger replied.
"Today is Sunday." Cassie said standing behind the couch and leaning on the coffee-stained side.
Da'vante leaned back, "Ha ha, why not."
"Hey we can't leave till I show you this video." JT said, getting up. "Turn on your computer."
"Your not going to do anything crazy are you?" The unemployed engineer asked.
"Nah.." Da'vante smiled. "We ain't doing nothing crazy."
* * *
The four entered the church and went towards the smells of food, down into the church basement. It was warm in the basement so Da'vante pulled off his hoodie, revealing a black shirt with Jesus's face plus an eyepatch and a cigarette, with a comic caption that read: "I don't give a fuck about your crusade, or your president."
A skinny girl in her mid-teens with glasses and a Bible Camp t-shirt was sitting at the same table and gawking at Da'vante. After a few minutes, she spoke up, "Excuse me but don't you think that shirt is a little inappropriate?"
"Not to me, I'm a Satanist." Da'vante said.
"I thought you were a Rastafarian." JT joked.
"Why would you want to worship Satan? Don't you know your going to hell?" The girl asked.
"I don't believe in Satan or hell." The satanist replied. "I believe that out of all of the things that Christians have called evil, I should get the chance to choose what I believe is good or evil." "Da'vante.." Roger intervened.
The girl's parents were giving angry, concerned looks like they were watching a terrorist attack.
"I have so much homework to do." Cassie said, trying to break the awkwardness of the situation.
The teenage girl's parents had been whispering back and forth. Her mom told her to get up and that they were going to go sit somewhere else.
"So where's the next party?" JT asked.
"I'll drive you there." Da'vante grinned.
* * *
When Roger, Da'vante, JT and Cassie were leaving the church they heard a man shouting at the top of his lungs.
"I don't care if your a freshman in college. Your underage!" The man slammed the driver-side door to his SUV but the windows were still halfway down. "If your out drinking and climbing up trees your going to break your neck!"
The girl in the back seat said something that was hard to hear.
"I don't care if your living on campus! You need to be studying." Her father replied as they took off.
Roger and the four young adults had made their way to Da'vante's car.
"Dude.. that game got created in our presence." JT said, almost as if his high wasn't mostly gone. He held up his palm, and high-fived Da'vante.
* * *
Da'vante drove up into the parking-lot of his new real-estate with Roger in the passenger seat, Joel in the back, and JT tailing behind.
"Holy bro-chill.." The old mexican said before flicking a cigarette butt out of the window.
Roger laughed before he got out of the car, "I should of known.. You bought an abandoned church."
"It won't be white by the end of the week." Da'vante replied as he looked at the texts on his phone.
JT met them up in front of the building, and then they all went inside.
"Pretty spacious." Roger said.
Joel was eyeing JT and Da'vante for an awkwardly prolonged period of time. Eventually, he finally spoke, "Man, you two are like brothers."
Da'vante gave him a look but there wasn't a reply.
"My brother is a Mongol, or Mongolian, I can't remember which." Joel rubbed the back of his neck.
JT smirked and pulled out a Newport, "Your a crazy guy, Joel. Have a cig."
"First we'll take the pews outside, prime them white, and paint them black."
Roger seemed honestly curious, "Why do you need to prime them?"
"So the foam machines don't ruin them." Da'vante said. "The pews we don't need we'll get rid of."
JT had his hand under his chin, "Sounds good to me."
"Ricky should be here any second, but two of us can start moving them out. And one of us can start painting."
"How many are you planning to keep?" Roger asked, the light glaring off of his spectacles. "As many as we can fit around the walls. We'll fill arrest of the room with black foam." Da'vante grinned.
"The food, the foam, promotion, remodeling.. the sound system.. Do you really think we can do all this shit in a week?" JT said.
* * *
Da'vante and Roger went back to Da'vante's apartment to make some calls for their last party. Da'vante was in his room and had just got off the phone. While Roger was about to head into the bathroom and stopped, seeing something ghetto-looking on the dresser.
"What exactly is that?" Roger asked.
Da'vante looked over at the pop bottle cut-up on one end, with dryer sheets held over it with a rubber band. "Oh, that's a terminator."
"I take it, it has something to do with pot?"
"It keeps pot from smelling like pot. Wouldn't be good at a party though, because its too small.." Da'vante had an idea come over him.
"Oh" Roger asked.
Da'vante had a deviousness in his voice, "..you'd need a bigger container, to conceal a terminator at a party."
"I take it you just had an idea."
Da'vante picked up the terminator and hid it away in his dresser, "We're going to need a lot of dryer sheets."
"So we're off to the store then?"
Da'vante picked up his phone, "After I call JT. It'd be cheaper to borrow someone else's power drill."
"Your not thinking of just having a bunch of people walking around with joints in that church? That place is going to have the cops check on it, and probably more than once." Roger warned.
"Of course not." Da'vante replied. "We're staying on good terms with the cops. Not like the woods."
"And the frat house." Roger chuckled.
"Yeah.. yeah.. at least I got a sweet hoodie out of it."
Roger scratched his nose, "Will the foam machines be ready in time?"
"Yeah. And tonight I'll be putting up flyers on the campuses and businesses around Viridian."
* * *
The rain poured over cracked cement and dead leaves, the black of the steeple contrasted by a wash of dull gray and dark blue. The weekend had finally come around; it was a chilly Saturday in Autumn.
"There are times in life that are special." The Ghost said, holding a closed umbrella in her hand, apathetic or accepting to the sheets of rain that hit her matted hair. "This looks like a special time for you, Da'vante."
"We did start out in the woods." Roger smiled.
The next thing The Ghost said was the most striking and out of order to Da'vante and Roger, coming from her raggedy figure doused in black and gray, and lined with bits of turquoise and blue in the gloomy dusk: "This world is your dark playground."
It took awhile for Da'vante to reply, to which he almost meekly said, "Everyone has more fun at night."
Roger noticed a weathered woman in her early thirties driving up from the road, who parked with a cautious crawl; and had with her, a slightly younger, and more fashion-centric woman in the passenger seat. He tapped Da'vante on the shoulder to alert him of who had arrived.
The Ghost turned around, "Who.. who is that?"
Da'vante's voice went almost as quiet as the old woman's before he walked towards the black church, "Those are your daughters."
* * *
The neon-lit church was starting to get loaded with people. Black foam with the hint of colors bouncing off of it was steadily rising towards the level of the pews. Ricky and some of the people in his fraternity were being paid well to act as security and keep the foam machines running smoothly; the machines were all on the end of the stage where a pulpit used to be. Even though Da'vante had a good buzz, he kept his eyes around the room, thus far only one person had messed with plastic sheeting that he and his crew had coated over the floors and walls five days earlier to prevent water damage.
"Can I get a beer?" Cassie asked egotistically.
"Jeez, 'please?'" Da'vante replied.
Cassie rolled her eyes.
"I'll be nice but you'll have to pay me back later." JT said and handed her a beer.
"I always get what I want because I work for it until I get it. Just like I got you." She was as giddy as she was smug.
Da'vante looked at Casssie and smiled, "You sure it wasn't just luck?"
"If you work hard enough for something you'll eventually get it."
"I'm not entitled to anything besides what chance gives me." Da'vante took a sip of odd whiskey.
"You felt entitled to be around me, and I happened to feel the same. That's entitlement. Listen to your heart, there's no luck in that. You get whatever you work for." She sipped her beer, feeling that she had won the argument.
"There are no entitlements in darkness." The satanist said.
There was a familiar toothless old man, who might've been foreign, dancing with a bottle of Pepsi in his hand, "Ooh, ooh, ooh. I love the dew!"
Da'vante decided to go up on stage and make a speech before he was incoherent. "Thanks for entrusting me to DJ for your party." The guy who had been at the frat house said. His face was completely masked. "No offense, but most college students have a bad taste in music. All this Top 40 bullshit."
Some underground Punk rock blared in the background.
"Its not offendin' me. You got good taste. And getting that sound system hooked up was a bitch. Anyways, I need the mic now for a sec."
The DJ complied, lowering the music while Da'vante took the mic. "Hey everybody. This is my last party. Six days ago we worked our asses off on this church. Two days ago we brought a ladder in here, and we took the deed to the church, which we framed in bulletproof glass, and we screwed it into the ceiling above me. It legally belongs to the homeless people of Viridian. After tonight, this building is yours, to live in. I've made sure the local police know this, they'll make sure it stays yours! Stay safe, and lets all get wasted!"
People cheered as Da'vante took a shot of odd whiskey left the stage.
"Jeez Da'vante, how many fifths of Fireball did you buy?" Roger looked through the cooler. "There was six in there!" Da'vante said, looking around, Cassie had ran off and was talking to one of her female friends..
"Well now there's three." Roger replied.
"Apparently I'm not the only sadistic drinker around here."
One of Ricky's boys was leading a guy out of the foam, outdoors, for puking his guts out. "This foam is getting pretty tall." JT said, before turning his attention to some drunk frat boy yelling at the top of his lungs, because he was lying in the foam and someone had stepped on his hand.
Roger took a sip of beer, "You know, you know I've just had an idea for a drinking game."
JT pulled out a cigarette, "Alright old man, what the hell are you thinking."
"Its like Hide and Seek. Hide In The Foam. Whoever Da'vante finds first has to take a shot."
The scrawny smoker seemed hesitant, "No offense Roj, but you got a little more mass than me, if someone steps on me.."
"Just stay under a pew. No going downstairs or outside." Roger said. There were already people hiding in the foam, some of them looking drunk enough that security had to check on them. "Someone brought fireworks!" Some college girl yelled.
"Hey not in here bro!" Ricky shouted.
"Hey I want sparklers!" Joel guffawed.
"The sparklers are cool Ricky, just the sparklers." Da'vante yelled to Ricky trying not to laugh.
Roger looked at Da'vante, "You can count slow to twenty five."
"Nah man, that's way too long, fuck that shit. Count to ten slow." JT replied.
The Ghost appeared with her daughters close by, "I'll help you look."
"..we'll find middle ground." Da'vante said. He and The Ghost faced the stage, he took a shot. Then they counted slow to fifteen while Roger and JT found pews to hide under, burying themselves in foam.
A somewhat nerdy college student came up to Joel.
"Hey, I'm lost.. where's the bathroom?" The student asked.
"Maybe you were born to be lost.." Joel cupped his hand over his cigarette and lit it. Suddenly one of doors opened, and Frank somehow made it into the church building with a bowie knife tightly gripped in his hand. He moved drunk and angry, with cheap liquor on his breath. Random college students looked at the homeless man with surprise as he lunged after Da'vante before security realized it. Da'vante only noticed Frank as he slipped on the foam and fell right in front of the young man.
Security quickly came to pick up the knife from the lake of foam and drag him out. "What the fuck man." Da'vante said, realizing he had just almost been stabbed. He pulled out his cell but Ricky beat him to it. "I'll call the cops."
Da'vante slapped Ricky's shoulder, "I'm sorry this happened man. When I started organizing these I made a mistake.."
"Its cool." There was no time to talk about what just happened, people were panicking and Frank had to be taken outside to cool off.
"Its down the stairs," Joel pointed with a puff. "You gotta step over a barrier so you don't track in foam."
Da'vante combed the sides of the church, under the pews. But it was The Ghost who ended up finding Roger.
"I guess it works in my favor," Roger said. "More Fireball!"
Da'vante cracked up laughing.
When JT came out of hiding he went up to Da'vante, "Yo, I think I need to take a piss before the cops get here."
"Unlike you I actually need to take a piss." Da'vante replied with a cheeky tone.
"I'll get your stuff and meet you out back." JT said, using the front exit.
Da'vante grabbed a beer and went downstairs, passing by the kitchen and a cute girl who was bringing up food.
"Mmm, smells good." Da'vante said. He made his way through the backdoor to the church's fenced-in backyard, lined with five or six outhouses. JT met up with the kid in the skeleton hoodie and handed over a bag with a pipe, eye drops, and some spray-on deodorant in it.
"I'm gonna miss you man. Going on vacation without me." JT said.
"We're about to go on vacation in the world's largest terminators." Da'vante laughed as rain sprinkled down.
JT shut the door to one of the outhouses, "Occupied!"
"Hail Satan!" Da'vante put the skull up, and shut a plastic door that had an inverted pentagram spray painted-on it.
* * *
It was the second day after the final party, and the sunlight had all passed. Cassie made her way past city lights through the Autumn night, towards Da'vante's light-brown apartment building.
When she arrived at the door she knocked, and knocked. And then banged on the door, "Da'vante!"
An older black man who was bald came out of his apartment in the same hall and stopped. "Hey lady, your aware he just moved today?"
"Oh. I see."
The man made his retreat down the steps, towards the shadows outside.
With nobody in the hall, tears started streaming down Cassie's eyes. She stood there for a second, alone and not sure what to do. She looked out at the dirty, opaque windows, remembering Da'vante's last words to her, 'There are no entitlements in darkness.'
* * *
The breakroom only had a few people in it when Roger walked in. The older and wiser man walked over to the fridge and pulled out a brown paper sack with his lunch neatly packed inside. Then he went to sit down alone and dug in. Somewhere between his meal, his phone started vibrating, and he wiped the potato chip grease off of his hands and answered.
There was a troublemaker's voice on the other line.
"Da'vante? Where are you..?" There was a brief pause while Roger listened; and then out of nowhere the middle-aged man suddenly chuckled with some affirmative question, "Your protesting on Wall-Street?"