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Hammer Came Down

Here's the deal with debts, fuckos. You gots to repay them.

But here's the caveat in the Gutter: exchange rates change over time, and pennies on the dollar can turn tit for tat really fucking fast.

Hammer Came Down by R.P. Lester




“Hey, man, where’s ’Los? New Orleans is a three-hour drive.”

Rayjean cut me a sneer from behind his Corona. Only black man I’d ever seen drink a Mexican beer. “Shut the fuck up, Whitey. Y’all gone be leavin’ soon enough, aiight?”

I’d just met Rayjean. I hated him within ten seconds. But I was doing this as a last-ditch effort to pay off some crushing debts. I played it cool and resisted the urge to jam the bottle straight up his ass.

It was noon. We’d been sitting at the Delta for over an hour, a fucking dive located in Pinpoint, Louisiana. It hunkered on the Southwest side, oblivious to the gentrification claiming most of its looming apartment buildings. For most watering holes in the Heart of Dixie, race dictated the demographic. But the Delta catered to everyone—black, white, brown, purple, didn’t matter. As well as the bar; the owner operated two adult movie stores and peddled biker speed on the side. To him, dollar bills were green no matter whose pockets they came from. Anyone who didn’t practice tolerance was escorted from the premises with a pistol-grip 20 gauge.

The creaky door opened and slammed, its hinges crumbling from years of swinging abuse. We looked up from our drinks and saw ’Los walk in with his usual bravado: overpriced blue jeans hanging below his ass, right hand clutching his dick like a grand prize, and a gait one can only learn on the prison yard.

When ’Los got to our stools, he slapped our palms in greeting, the smacks echoing through the room like the double-tap from a .22. “Whatup, my niggas?! Y’all ready to make that money or what?!” I tried to downplay his enthusiasm; regular handshakes and “Hello’s would’ve bolstered our discretion. But then again, shit, I’m just a really white whiteboy.

There’s a reason they called me “Pasty” around the old neighborhood.

*

The normal struggles of life in the ghetto were hard enough, but being the only white kid in a square mile of decrepit shotgun houses brought its own set of challenges. In contrast to my later achievements, the hopelessness of that place seems so distant, as if it were part of someone else’s history.

My parents were poor. Kelly Land was the only place that Pops could afford for his family. He worked at a plywood mill just off the interstate. Mama stayed home while he toiled in the misery. Brutal hours and a recurring cycle of nepotism had made Pops a bitter alcoholic, angry that some undeserving nephew or brother-in-law always made supervisor. He died of liver failure before my eleventh birthday. When I neared my 20s, I realized alcohol wasn’t as responsible as the mill. The fuckings he endured from that place had left him a broken man. After he passed, Mama got a part-time gig at a craft store and did her best to keep me straight.

’Los’s parents had been killed on their living room couch when he was five, victims of a .44 and a heroin deal gone south. Three shots apiece. His grandmother took him in so he wouldn’t go into foster care. We’d seen each other on the streets but didn’t hook up until I was thirteen. He showed me how to sell weed to the rich kids at school and sling rocks to the strawberries in the alleys. I used the money to offset the poverty at home; I was paying the light bill and filling the fridge better than Pops ever had.

Selling dope is dangerous in itself, but I was an almond in a box of raisins. When I was fifteen, some Barney had gotten wind of a cracker-kid running product in the neighborhood. I wasn’t that hard to find. They kicked in Mama’s door and found me with a pound of weed and a half-ounce of boulders. I pled guilty and received two years in the Renaissance Home. It was there that I discovered the joys of academia. I was a sponge, reading three books a week and getting decent grades in their classroom. Being away from the pitfalls of Kelly Land, I showed an aptitude for learning and stayed the course when I was released. I’d be a liar if I said it was easy, but with recommendations from teachers and a batch of student loans, I obtained a B.S. in Business from a state university.

I’d always been grateful for my second chance, but repaying those loans were breaking me.

’Los kept on slangin’, becoming a fat rat in a city of hungry mice. Though criminal life was behind me, we kept in touch, even when he spent three years in the clink. He resumed his old ways after release. 

When he offered me thirty grand to drive him and his old cellmate to score a shipment of coke in the Big Sleazy, I saw it as my first step out of the poor house. Still, Rayjean’s comment never sat right with me:

“Y’all gone be leavin’ soon enough.”

*

We’d taken my silver Camry. It wasn’t as noticeable as ’Los’s sparkle-blue Infiniti. With four keys of uncut sitting in the trunk, I’m glad we did. We neared Pinpoint around twilight. From the backseat, Rayjean asked me to pull over by a cane field to piss. I didn’t trust it. He stepped out and I reached under the seat to palm my .45.

The dashboard bloomed crimson when Rayjean shot ’Los through the passenger window.

I fell to the gravel and came up blasting. I caught one in the shoulder, but two hollow points sent Rayjean falling into the fresh sugarcane. He was still alive when I jammed my thumb into a bullet wound.

His words were soaked in blood. “Fuck you, devil. And fuck that bitch in the car. Wudn’t nothin’ but a punk anyway. ”

I shoved the muzzle against his tonsils. Smelled the stink of human tissue searing from hot metal.

And my hammer came down.


Real name is Russell Lester. Born and raised in Louisiana. For a long time, I did the wrong things, but I always kept writing in some fashion. Then I spent seven years in EMS, running 911 and watching everybody else do the wrong thing. Now all I do is write from Texas.