#049: 1994

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]

Just above the mountains to the east, the sun had almost gone down enough to see clearly. Driving home this way was always hell at this time of the day. He adjusted his sunglasses a little, and tried to pull the sunshade down enough to block the rest of the sun so he could see ahead of him. The driver cursed silently after realizing he couldn’t quite block it. No big thing for him, he was used to driving home facing the glaring ball of light.

Traffic was bad like usual. The road he was on was soon to be 6 lanes providing efficient passage between areas of town. Right now, it was only two lanes wide. Cars backed up almost a mile behind him, and he imagined there were another mile of cars in front of him. That was the routine though, looking around, he recognized a few vehicles since he saw them each night when he went home. Life seemed to be at a perfect standstill right now since the cars had stopped moving five minutes ago. Probably another small wreck causing hundreds of people to sit in the 90 degree weather.

On days like this, Nick liked to drop by the local video rental place and grab a movie to watch that night. Not much else to do since all he did was work, sleep, and drive to and from. It was a good thirty, maybe forty minutes before he reached the rental place. Pulling into a parking place, he inched up and parked a few inches from a BMW in front of him. Nick quickly rolled up the window, jumped out, and locked the door. It always felt good to stretch his legs after a long ride from work.

Nick was pretty tall. About 6’4″ or so, and weighed around 190 pounds. Although he wasn’t muscular really, he was quite strong, and could use his leverage quite well. He had studied a few forms of fighting in his past, but he relied on common sense these days in a fight. His quiet demeanor, and his constant vigilance on things around him made him good when he did fight. ‘Reserved’ is how he was described on most occasions, but that usually meant ‘He knows what is going on’. Nick didn’t miss much.

The place was busy. Quite busy in fact. Must be a Friday night he thought. No other night would be this busy. Days meant little to Nick since he worked day after day, the same shift. Once a month he took a day off to catch up on stuff around his pad and run errands. Walking in, he passed the CDs and tapes, and went into the rental section. A small sigh and he headed toward the new releases even though it looked as if most of the movies had been rented. Such was life when you worked ’til 6:30 each night.

A small grin crossed his face and he reached toward a new action flick that had the potential of being pretty good. Leaning over to get it, he bumped the man next to him. He mentally damned himself for not watching out, knowing what this would lead to. Nick muttered a quick apology and turned to look at who he had bumped. Great, just who he wanted to have problems with tonight, a Dane. The Dane’s were one of the hundred local ‘gangs’ that claimed control of this area, although none of the gangs had more than 15 members.

The Dane turned a little more and shoved Nick backwards mouthing off to him. Nick nodded once and apologized again. It usually ended up in a fight, but Nick always gave a chance at avoiding it when he could. An employee came over and pointed outside, so the Dane pushed Nick toward the door. As they walked out, Nick studied the boy in front of him. He couldn’t have been more than 17 years old, and he carried one knife in his back pocket, and another in boot. Nick didn’t see any other weapons so he went on outside.

If the boy had been carrying a gun, that would have been a different story. Of course, he couldn’t have been or the detectors at the store entrance would have picked it up when he entered. Over 98% of the stores in the country were now equipped with the devices. Any gun or large knife would be detected and store personnel would be alerted. This usually meant that the person was escorted out or asked to leave his weapons in his car. Law was passed 5 months ago, allowing any fight between consenting adults, and that was it. Police had no right to interfere with a struggle between two willing people. So that was the way it was these days, if you had a gripe with someone, you shut the hell up, or fight if you thought it was warranted. It was common place to fight and was accepted in all walks of life
now, from the homeless, to the yuppies in the rich areas.

The Dane left the front door and walked out into the parking lot, and turned to face his opponent. Nick walked out, removed his jacket and nodded once before he took a defensive stance. Seconds later the boy pulled his first knife out of his back pocket. Before it had come in front of the boy, Nick had determined that it was a butterfly knife, and that the kid didn’t know shit about knife fighting. That would make this all the quicker though. With a quick kick in front of him, Nick hit the boys wrist and both watched as the knife flew 20 feet behind him and skidded under a car.

Mumbling to himself, the Dane quickly pulled his boot knife and promised Nick a quick but painful death. Almost bored with the whole incident, Nick decided to let the boy make the first move this time. It was only seconds before the knife came diving in at Nick’s heart, almost deathly slow. A fast block with his left arm sent the boy’s arm out wide, and another quick movement with his right cause the Dane to reel back, blood gushing from his nose. Another clumsy attack came, and a stinging blow to the left eye resulted. A third swipe came in chest level, and resulted in a flurry of movement from Nick. Not even Nick knew how many hits landed, but 6.3 seconds later, the Dane was sprawled out on the asphalt bleeding from several places on his face and sporting two broken arms.

Picking up his jacket and the boot knife, he nodded once more to the fallen Dane, and went back inside to get the movie he had reached for. Lets see, that made two fights for the day, and nine for the week. Each fight picked by the other person, each fight ended by Nick. In the trunk of his car was a book box full of miscellaneous weapons he had picked up from his fights. He was lucky he hadn’t run into any guns in just over two weeks. It was considered cowardly, even from a gang’s standpoint, to use a gun to kill a rival. No challenge, no honor, no previous experience required when pulling a trigger.

It was just after 7:00 when Nick arrived at his pad. His ‘pad’ consisted of a two room apartment with a closet and a bathroom. Despite the small space he lived in, it was furnished quite nicely. He had never wanted more room, just more things in his room to make life a little better.

He grabbed a root beer from the fridge, and a chocolate bar, and sat down on the cough to watch the show. He kicked his shoes off, and propped them up on a stack of magazines and hit play. Nick watched the movie in silence, and at the end though about the movie a little.

Standing up, Nick hit the rewind on the remote and picked up his empty bottle and wrapper from a Little Debbie snack. He deposited them in the trash and headed into his bedroom to change out of his work clothes. It was almost 10:00 but the night was barely starting in his eyes. He was quite active during the late night, and had adjusted his sleeping schedule to accommodate that.

After the past few nights, and little sleep, he decided that he would finish a couple of things, and then crash early. After all, he had to work in the morning. After a quick trip to the car, he came back in his place with the box of weapons he had accumulated. He set the box down next to the ‘puter and turned it on. Loading a program, he started typing in the weapons he had collected and sorted them. An hour passed quickly and he wrapped things up. Tomorrow he would go to a pawn shop and stand to earn a little over three thousand for the various weapons. From the serial numbers, he laughed to himself as the computer made him aware that he had picked up one of the guns for the 8th time this year. Such was gang warfare.

The wrist watch on the table beeped three times and Nick snapped awake. Glancing over at the clock nearby he laid back down and caught his breath. Two hours to get ready and get to work, no problem. Shit, shower, shave, and dress. He walked out into the general room and powered up the ‘puter. No new mail this morning, not that he had expected any, but he always checked in case a bill came in or something.

50 minutes this time, he swore that he had been driving the speed limit, but if that were true, he would have been here 20 minutes from now. Oh well. No enforcers had pulled him over so it wasn’t a big deal. Nick climbed out and locked his door and headed into the store he worked at. Half an hour of bullshit paperwork, half an hour of cleaning up and he pulled the front gate open to allow customers in, not that there were any waiting or anything. Slowly, other stores around his pulled their gates opened, and the mall began to come to life.

Lessee, bad rentals last night meant Friday night, meaning this was Saturday probably. If so, that was fine by him. That just meant the day would go by quickly since all the gang-bangers would be out of school and hanging out in the mall. This wasn’t the most popular clothing store for most people, but it catered to teenagers mostly. That was where the money was. Nick also knew the area so he made sure never to order red merchandise. That alone would start a fight in the store sometimes. This was a ‘Crip’ mall, and all smart managers kept red out of their store.

Of course, this early in the morning only the elderly mall walkers were out, and a few serious shoppers, but no one worth paying attention to. It was always well past noon before the real customers began shopping. Nick began to change a nearby display, taking off the popular striped shirt that had sold so well, and replaced it with a new blue striped, hooded sweatshirt. Size 40 Guess pants below it, and the display was done. Those two pieces of clothing in the window guaranteed him a little over 800 dollars in sales alone.

Time passed quickly while doing little things here and there. An occasional sale here, a friend or two there and it was noon. Jo-el came in just before noon to help out with the noon rush that was sure to come. More and more people began coming through the door to look for new clothes. Each ‘Crip’ that entered the store left with a bag and the outfit that had been displayed in the window. It was always easy selling to the gang-bangers. They weren’t that bright, and very open to suggestion.

The afternoon passed quickly and it was almost time for Nick to take a break when two guys walked through the door. The Detectors indicated neither were carrying guns, but that wasn’t what bothered Nick. As one turned to the other, Nick caught a glimpse of a red shirt under the jacket of one of the guys. Cursing to himself, he signaled to Jo-el to let him handle these guys. Maybe they wouldn’t say anything today, maybe they would just look around and then leave….who the fuck was he kidding?

Before he could greet them, one turned to the display, made a quick gesture with his hand indicating the gang he hung with, and pushed the display over. Not a good idea. Before the display hit the ground, 3 ‘Crips’ had moved in behind Nick and 2 more stopped at the entrance to the store, both waiting there in case they were needed. Nick held up his hand motioning for everyone to stop. Gang signs flashed once more and everyone knew where everyone else stood…almost. Both groups looked to Nick wondering if he would choose sides.

Nick warned all of them to back up and stay cool and then motioned with his left hand while countering it with his right. A simple gesture but it told everyone nearby that he didn’t give a shit either way, and that he didn’t hang with either gang. He played it safe in times like this, making sure you weren’t aligned helped keep your store in one piece. The ‘Blood’ in front of him began bitching about the display and warned Nick that if he should align with the ‘Crips’, he wouldn’t see next week.

What a bland threat. ‘Bloods’ had no imagination. Either way, Nick made sure that word got around he didn’t align with any group. He just worked there.

The rest of the day passed without incident, and sales had been really good. Like usual, after a really good day he offered to buy drinks for his workers after they were done cleaning the place. This put everyone in a good mood so the work went all the faster.

The group of four climbed in Nick’s car, and they took off toward Club Crash for beer and maybe dancing. Jo-el climbed in the front seat, with Corey and Amber in the back. It was no secret that Corey like Amber so everyone else always gave him the chance to be with her. Of course, that never really helped since Corey wasn’t that outgoing.

Music boomed out into the parking lot as they pulled up, each pulling out IDs and some money to get in the place. This was the spot to be at on Saturday nights, and the music was always good. The group of four waited in the line and slowly approached the building. Val, the door guard nodded to Nick and motioned to put away his ID. A few greetings and small talk and the four were through the door without losing a dime. Nick had the right friends it seemed.

Nick smiled as he walked in, and that was rare. His workers smiled in return knowing that Nick was enjoying himself if he smiled like that. A couple of beers later, and they were all dancing. Jo-el and Nick danced together, silently celebrating being number one in the district for the first time. Since both managed the store, a nice bonus would be included on their next paycheck for the sales they had had earlier today. As soon as the two had hit the dance floor, Amber grabbed Corey’s hand and pulled him up to dance. Corey smiled.

Things were going great tonight, and everyone was having a good time. Doubt lingered in the back of Nick’s mind though, as he knew that something would happen before the night was over. It always did, and tonight was no exception.

Obumbratta finished up, and the Dj began to mix in the next song when it happened. Nick felt two hands pull him back and watched as someone stepped in front of him to dance with Jo-el. Regardless of what happened, it always happened to Nick. Disregarding any polite conversation or formalities, a kidney punch and a kick to the heel brought the guy down. A gesture to a bouncer, and the guy was out of the club before he realized what happened. With a breath of relief, Jo-el continued dancing, glad that the whole thing was over. Nick knew better. So did Corey.

Both of them had been coming here on Saturday nights for three months now. Both knew the people, and both knew what to expect. Corey just kept out of it when at all possible. Nick looked around for the friends of the guy that just got thrown out. He knew they were around. No doubt one of them had sent the guy to do exactly what he did to gauge Nick’s response. Minutes passed and Nick calmed down and began to dance again.

TimeBomb began and all of them danced faster. Nick liked this song in particular and he had often borrowed the CD with this song from Corey. One little incident wasn’t enough to take the smile away from his face so he danced until he was tired. One by one they walked off the dance floor to the table, and ordered a new drink. It was always a good sensation dancing like that only to come back to a cool beer afterwards.

Leaving the club laughing and talking about the good time, Nick glanced over and noticed the worried expression on Corey’s face. Nick didn’t have to look over to know what was up, but he did anyway. Five guys sat on or around Nick’s car, all waiting for him. It wasn’t until 30 feet away that Nick saw the guy that had been thrown out. Lewd comments and obscene gestures accompanied threats toward the small group.

Nick removed his jacket and handed it to Jo-el. He warned her to stand back and that it would only take a few minutes. Moving away from the car the group circled Nick and made sure to cut him off from any help from Corey. That was fine by all of them. The first guy moved in on Nick and threw a few wild punches, all of which missed horribly. Two resounding cracks later, blood covered the guys face and Nick’s fists. Nick pivoted to the next one and gestured that it was his turn.

Both fighters took a defensive stance, and immediately, Nick knew that this boy had been schooled in Karate. Both prepared themselves mentally and began a volley of punches and kicks at each other. Few landed, and what did land was just small hits or grazes, none of which mattered to either. For two minutes the fighting continued, and as Nick began to re-approach, a figure behind him moved slightly and produced a knife from his pocket.

One step toward Nick, and he fell face down, hitting the ground with an audible thump. Corey stepped back and prepared another hit if needed. One hit to the base of the neck, and weapons were kept out of the fight. Jo-el sighed and leaned back against the car waiting for the whole thing to be over with. She had watched Nick fight, and knew that these gangbangers weren’t going to touch him at all.

Minutes passed and Nick finished his opponent with a snap kick to the chin and two jabs to the nose. Barely winded, Nick turned to the next. Not a second passed before the guy made the sign that the fight was over. Nick nodded, took his jacket, and they moved over to the car. Instead of helping their friends, the remaining two just shook their heads and walked on. Such was gang loyalty.

It was almost 2 in the morning before they got back to the mall parking lot. Nick pulled up to the three cars of his friends and parked. Climbing out, Nick left his door open and began talking with everyone. No work tomorrow so no hurry in getting home. Standing around in the almost empty parking lot, talking under the stars had become a weekly thing as much as the dancing. The fresh air did them all good. A rather uneventful day for a Saturday, but Nick knew that everything would begin again on Monday when he opened the store. It always did….

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