Chapter 8 A Day at the Club
He mulled over his shoe options. Manny could either rock a pair of yellowish Reebok Classics, which in earlier stages were actually bright white, or the pair of black Chuck Taylor’s that Aunt El had surprised him with the day before he left because she thought he would “like something new to help him fit in with their rich asses.” They were, at least, new to him. The brown church shoes that curled up at the toe as soon as he took them off, were out of the question. He went with the lesser of three evils and chose the Chucks. He paired them with cargo shorts and a not so vibrant blue tank top. He let his dreadlocks hang free. Manny cringed unsatisfied with the makeshift outfit that reflected in the full-length mirror. He hadn’t used the fifty dollars yet, being that his outing with Hines ended before his appetite began, but Manny wasn’t sure if he was free to do as he wished with the money or not. Mrs. Lemon never told him if was supposed to give her receipts or change or anything like that. It was too early in the game to be messing up the churches money.
“Unh-unh,” He said aloud and pulled off the tank top. He looked at his other shirt options spread out on the bed. Faded colors and peeling appliques were one of the few things Manny had in abundance. He wanted to just call Mrs. Lemon and tell her he had become sick. Tell her wouldn’t be able to meet and greet down at the country club today. Maybe it was something he had eaten at the welcome party or better yet, something he had seen.
Fuck it, he thought grabbing a plain white T-shirt.
Manny hoped to see Khia today. Even though he didn’t feel like he looked like a million bucks, his longing to see here again outweighed his fear of showing up and not fitting in.
At the Westerlynne Ridge Country Club, Manny sat at a bench attached to a little picnic style table . He scanned over the spacious area. Nearby, there was an intense game of three on three basketball being played by a crew of boys who looked to be around Manny’s age. Many of the older men were playing golf out on the course, on even grass . The majority of the people at the club today, however were in the pool. Some doing laps, some wading. The tennis court wasn’t being occupied, at all. Manny thought about going and getting winners in the next basketball game.
A few young ladies sat at the pavilion, opposite Manny, gossiping and giggling. They all wore bathing suits and were sitting on their towels. A thick girl with a head full of wet curls, sitting with her legs crossed, smiled and waved. Manny waved back.
“Why are you sitting by yourself? Come over here with us, Emmanuel,” said the one with skin like a toasted almond who was wearing nothing but a bikini and a smile that stretched from ear to ear. Her two thick cornrows hung down past her shoulders. Manny went over and sat down, directly across from the curly head. She seemed to be the most welcoming.
Cornrows began, “So we were wondering,” The three girls looked at each other impishly and snickered. Manny coolly laughed along.
“So, you into Khia, or nah” a smooth husky voice asked. She must’ve only recently moved in because she still had a hood twang.
“Oh, my God, Sasha. You have no chill,” The thick girl with wet curls said.
Sasha was a skinny thing. Pale skinned girl with long features. She rocked a golden colored afro to match a gorgeous set of hazel eyes.
“Shut up, Dominique,” Sasha pointed playfully at the curly headed girl across form Manny. Dominique smiled and shook her head. Sasha went on, “We seen you at the party tee-hee-heein’ all up in her face.” Sasha looked over Manny, awaiting a response.
“Yea, I’m feeling her,” Manny said smiling back. The creases at his cheeks growing deeper.
The girls “awwwed” simultaneously like they were watching the kissing scene from their favorite chic-flick. Sasha placed a hand on her chest to indicate where his comment had touched her.
“Where is she?” Manny asked.
“I don’t know what she’s up to today,” Dominique answered before the others could. The other girls let her tell it. There faces said, If there was anyone to ask, it was her.
“She hasn’t called me back yet,” Dominique added. Her curls were starting to dry in the sun’s heat.
“Oh, okay,” Manny said, nonchalantly, although he was itching to lay eyes on Khia again. He would’ve loved for her to be sitting here, too. In a two-piece, chocolate skin dripping wet, her shiny hair sticking to her face.
Not-as-pretty girls watched as Manny tried to play off his disappointment and wished they had someone as engrossed in them as he was with Khia. They were used too it, however. Khia was always picked first. That light skin/dark skin shit went out the window with her. Her beauty spoke beyond skin color. She was every man’s preference. In high school, even the white boys were fiending for her. It wasn’t just her perfect complexion, or the satin mane that fell to the middle of her back, but the air she walked in was different. Confidence, sass, pride and a bit of mystery surrounded her. They bounced in her walk. Spilled of her lips when she spoke. Got you drunk, hungover and needing more. Her presence commanded the respect and attention of a king. Mediocre men knew not to even step. Manny surely wouldn’t have tried his weight if she hadn’t have did that dance for him. If it hadn’t been for that Drake song.
He had unknowingly turned all the girls at the pavilion to mush on the inside. Living vicariously through their gorgeous friend, they were cheering him on and hoping he would get to see who he was obviously here for. Cornrows sat with her chin in her hands, eyes dreaming. Dominique was smiling, as if the love connection was already said and done.
“She might swing by,” Sasha said. Her hazel eyes peered into Manny’s, trying to read him. Diagnose him. He was love-sick and she felt a little sorry for him.
The boys on the court must have sensed another alpha in their territory because all six of them were headed to the table, looking like lions ready to pounce.
“Hey Dominique,” The boy holding the basketball said. He was an average height, plain looking young man. Like his entire team, he wore basketball shorts and fresh J’s. Manny checked his own gear over, praying that he was being too harsh on himself and looked better than he thought.
“Hey Chance,” Dominique said wryly not looking at the boy.
“Damn, so that’s the only body you see sitting here?” Sasha asked rolling her eyes, causing them to glitter in the sunlight.
The boy looked around the table. His expression said he couldn’t find anyone else of significance.
“Ugh, your so rude,” Sasha said scrunching her nose up like she had gotten a whiff of dog poop.
Another boy, taller than Chance but not as sturdy, offered out his hand to Manny. Manny went to shake it but he must’ve been too slow because the boys hand was already pulled back up to his naked chest.
The guys laughed and gave each other dap to confirm an unspoken one-up.
Sasha and Dominique sat unamused. Cornrows laughed.
The tall slim boy popped down next to Cornrows and kissed her on the lips.
“Corey, that was unnecessary” Dominique said disgusted.
Corey looked at Dominque and frowned at her unsolicited opinion. He looked at Chance and new better than to speak on it.
“Aww, we were just joking with him,” Chance said grabbing at Dominique’s hand.
“Don’t touch me,” Dominique threatened to smack the smirk off Chance’s stupid face. He looked at her annoyed and then carried the same face over to Manny.
“So why are you sitting over here with the ladies, Emmanuel. You didn’t see us down there playing ball. You’re not afraid of a little three on three, are you?” Chance asked.
“I ain’t scared of shit?” Manny responded standing up.
“Good and from the looks of it you’re already prepared.” Chance pointed at Manny’s shoes. Manny prayed the boy was finished.
“Look like my boy here, got those shoes handed down to him from Chuck Taylor himself.”
Now, the only one who didn’t laugh was Dominique and Manny who both looked ready to throw up. Dominique from hearing too much of Chance’s voice and Manny from being in the situation he had feared most.
“Like, I said before, I ain’t scared of shit,” Manny lied. He wasn’t scared of corny ass Chance or his weak cohorts, but he was terrified of this exact moment. Being looked over, measured and evaluated, and then deduced not good enough. It took everything in Manny to not make Chance pay with a black eye and busted lip, however, he was outnumbered and even more importantly, here as only a guest. He couldn’t slip up and lose his internship. He could, at least, handle himself well on the court.
“Bet you won’t be talking this shit after I beat your ass on the court…,” Manny paused and then pointed at the shoes that had gotten him in this mess. “with these Chucks Taylors’ on, Carlton,” He spat.
Chance winced at the comparison. Then he quickly wiped away the fear of being beat in front of Dominique and replaced it with a contemptuous smile. He winked at his pack and they followed him down to the court.
“First team to 10. You have to win by two,” Chance shouted. Each regular shot would be one point and each deep shot, would be worth two points to make it tougher to get to 10 points. Sasha and Cornrows were sitting on the benches on the outside of the court. Dominique had parted ways. She had been saved by a phone call. Manny didn’t get so lucky.
Chance picked Corey and another boy hovering around 6’3. Manny looked at the leftovers. A boy who stood 4’11, on his tippy toes and weighed about 200lbs, not soaking wet, was already stretching it out on the court. A gangly 6’1 character with the form of a praying mantis just stood smiling snidely, rubbing his hands. The last one looked normal enough, at least compared to the other two. He stood 5’11 with an athletic build. Manny chose him first and then supposed it was best to at least use the praying mantis for his height. The bowling ball rolled over and sat with Sasha and Cornrows.
Chance looked at Manny and shouted, “Make it, take it. Your shot.” Manny grabbed the basketball ball and watched his shot fall like water. Swoosh, into the net. His team would get to have the ball first.
“Check-up,” Manny shouted. He rocketed the pass to 5’11, who took the shot. A beautiful, well-planned structured shot that made basketball look like art.
Chance and his team all moved out the way. Chance screamed out, “Self-guarded!” Then him and his boys busted out laughing. The ball kept flying until it was over the backboard.
“What the fuck was that?” Manny yelled at 5’11.
“I don’t even like basketball. I’m a beast at rugby tho,” 5’11 quipped back, as if anyone cared.
Then why the fuck are you out here on the court! Manny thought.
Corey ran to the top of the three-point line.
“Check ball,” he yelled out. Chance maneuvered himself around a clueless 5’11 to grab the pocket pass from Corey. He cut to the basket for an easy layup.
“What the fuck are ya’ll doing,” Manny screamed at his teammates. Clearly, 5’11 and Praying Mantis could care less about playing defense.
“That’s one point,” Chance laughed. “This is going to be easy,” Corey said and shook his head. Then he yelled, “Check ball.” Manny struggled to defend all three of his opponents. However, whoever he wasn’t guarding, was scoring. Sooner than later, Chance’s team had won the game with the six-foot-three kid dunking and hanging from the rim for the final point.
Manny was tired and furious and if he was honest, he could add hurt and embarrassed to the list. The long walk to the limo, with Chance and his boys laughing behind him, added insult to injury. He had to get these lames back but he also had to keep a good report with the powers that be in Westerlynne. Manny had something in mind.
Ritz was standing, away from the limo, against a small dogwood tree, enjoying a cigar. Manny took out his cell phone and rang Hines.
“Before we head out this bitch pretending to be Batman and Robin, I need to know where I’m gon play a part in all of this and what I’m gon get for it?” Manny blurted into the phone.
Hines didn’t seem surprised and for once his mood was unwavering. He was as chill as he was when he dropped Manny off the day before.
“I was just thinking about you Youngin’. I’m glad you called. I can pay you $100,000 cash by tomorrow morning, if you will be my eyes and ears in the street. If we are successful at stopping the hit on me and my family, I will pay you another $400,000. That’s a half million dollars, Youngin. What do you say to that?”
Truth is, Detective Hines had Manny at $100, 000. Tomorrow. Cash. Manny was sold. The rest was just icing on an already eaten cake. Manny held back the urge to shout “Hell Yea, It’s Going!” and simply stated, “Cool.”
“Alright, Robin it’s me and you. I’ll get you a vest and gun by no later than tomorrow evening. I’ll only call you when I need you. After tomorrow we won’t be seen outside of Westerlynne together. Got it?” Hines asked
Gun? Thought Manny.
“Got it” he replied.
“Alright. Let me go. I gotta get to the bank.”
Copyright © 2017 by Aja Brown Crowder