I raised my eyebrows at Angie and she smiled softly, both of us remembering her voice in the chapel the night before. “This is my life?” Lot of people taking stock of their lives these days. Judging by Devin and Angie, I wasn’t sure how bright that was.
Somebody down the end of the bar said, “Look at that fucking nigger run, though.”
Roy said, “Of course he can run, moron. Been hightailing it from the po-lice since he was two. Probably thinks that’s a stolen radio under his arm, ‘stead of a football.”
Lots of laughter from the group. Wits, one and all.
Devin was watching them now, hollow eyes staring from behind the stream of smoke that flowed from his cigarette. He took a drag from it, the fat forgotten ash tipping forward and dropping to the bar. He didn’t seem to notice, even though half of it hit his arm. He downed the rest of his pint and stared at the group and I had the feeling there was going to be some property damage.
He stubbed out his cigarette halfway and stood up. I reached out my hand, stopping three inches from his chest. “Devin.”
He pushed it away like it was a subway turnstile and walked down the bar.
Angie turned on her seat, followed him with her eyes. “Eventful morning.”
Devin had reached the other end of the bar. One by one, the men sensed him and turned around. He stood with his legs spread slightly, planted on the rubber tile, his arms hanging loosely by his sides. His hands made small circular motions.
Tommy said, “C’mon, Sarge. Not my place.”
Devin said, “C’mere, Roy,” very quietly.
Roy climbed off the bar. “Me?”
Roy stepped through his friends, pulling the shirt down over his belly. The second he let go of it, it rolled back up like a disobedient shade. Roy said, “Yeah?”
Devin’s hand was back down by his side before most of us realized he’d used it. Roy’s head snapped back and his legs buckled and he was quite suddenly on the floor with a shattered nose and blood jetting above his face in a small fountain.
Devin looked down at him, kicked his foot lightly. “Roy,” he said. He kicked the foot again, a little harder. “Roy, I’m talking to you.”
Roy moaned something and tried to raise his head, his hands filling with blood.
Devin said, “A nigger friend of mine asked me to give you that. He said you’d understand.”
He walked back down the bar and took his seat again. He made another pint disappear and lit another cigarette. “So, whatta you think?” he said. “Is Roy concerned now?”
We left the bar about an hour later. Roy’s friends had already taken him out, presumably to the emergency room at City. They gave Angie and me their hard-guy stares as they dragged Roy past, but they avoided Devin’s flat gaze as if he were the Antichrist.
Devin tossed an extra twenty on the bar for Tommy’s lost business. Tommy said, “You’re a real pisser, Sarge. You gonna come in, put money down for every other fucking day they don’t come back?”
Devin grumbled, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and did a drunken shuffle toward the door.
Angie and I caught up with him on the street. I said, “Let me give you a ride home, Dev.”
Devin shuffled his way into the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. He said, “Thanks anyway, Kenzie, but I got to stay in practice.”
I said, “For what?”
“Case I ever drink and drive again. I’ll want to remember how I managed this time.” He turned, walking backward, and I waited for him to tip.
He reached his rusted Camaro, got his keys out of his pocket.
I said, “Devin,” and stepped toward him, reaching for the keys.
His hand closed around my shirt, the knuckles pressing into my Adam’s apple, and he walked me back a few feet, his eyes swimming with ghosts. He said, “Kenzie, Kenzie,” and pushed me back against a car. He tapped my cheek lightly with his other hand. He’s got big hands, Devin. Like steaks with fingers. “Kenzie,” he said again and his eyes grew hard. He shook his head from side to side slowly. “I’ll drive. OK?” He let go of my collar and brushed at the wrinkles he’d left behind in my shirt. He gave me a smile that had no soul. “You’re all right,” he said. He turned back to his car and nodded at Angie. “Take care of yourself, Stone Fox.” He opened the door and climbed in the car. It took two turns of the ignition for the engine to turn over, then the exhaust pipe banged off the small exit ramp and the car dropped into the street. He weaved into traffic, cut off a Volvo, and turned a corner.
I raised my eyebrows and whistled softly. Angie shrugged.
We drove downtown and got the Vobeast out of the parking lot for a little less than it would have cost me to put a kid through med school. Angie drove it, following me to the garage where I returned the Porsche to its happy home and climbed in with her. She slid across the seat and I chugged the rolling scrap metal onto Cambridge.
We drove through downtown, past where Cambridge becomes Tremont, past the place where Jenna went down like a rag doll in the morning sunlight, past the remains of the old Combat Zone, dying a slow but sure death at the hands of development and the X-rated video boom. Why jack off in a scuzzy movie theater when you can jack off in the comfort of your own scuzzy home?
We drove through South Boston Southie to everyone who isn’t a tourist or a newscaster past strings of drab three-deckers, packed like a line of Port-o’-Potties at a rock concert. Southie amazes me. A good percentage of it is poor, overcrowded, relentlessly unkempt. The D Street housing projects are as bad as anything you’ll find in the Bronx dirty, poorly lit, teeming with angry, crew-cut punks who roam its streets with bloodlust and baseball bats. During a St. Patrick’s Day parade a few years ago, a very Irish kid with a shamrock on his T-shirt wandered in there. He ran into a pack of other Irish kids who also had shamrocks on their T-shirts. Only difference between his T-shirt and theirs was that his said “Dorchester” in green over the shamrock and theirs said “Southie.” The D Street kids solved the difference by tossing the kid off a roof.
We were driving up Broadway, past the babies in curlers pushing babies in carriages, past the double- and triple-parked cars and the “Niggers Stay Out” spray-painted on a store grate. Broken glass glittered from the darkness of filthy curbs and trash blew from under cars into the street. I thought of how I could step from this car and poll twenty people here, ask them why they hated “the niggers” so bad, and maybe half would probably tell me, “’Cause they got no fucking pride in their communities, man.” So what if Broadway in Southie was identical to Dudley in Roxbury, if slightly lighter?