Saturday, February 24, 2018
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RedemptionBookNewThe Redemption of Mr. Ben - Excerpts

* * * *

The front of the building was seasonally decorated with the usual Christmas lights and wreaths.  The crime area was cordoned off from the public with yellow tape with black lettering that said POLICE LINE – DO NOT CROSS. The detective smiled and shook his head when he noticed that one end of the police tape was secured to the building by one of the holiday wreaths.

After a two-hour investigation, all that was left of the bludgeoned victim was a crimson stained sidewalk.  That, too, would be gone tomorrow after the cleanup crew washed the blood down the sewer.

“Christmas time in the Motor City,” he mumbled as he pulled off his black, furry, winter hat to scratch the top of his baldhead.

* * * *

The bum leaned forward with his elbows on his knees; his arms limped inward between his legs, his eyes staring down at the pavement.

I can still remember that first day on the street.  I was sleeping under a piece of cardboard at the camp when I met Captain Bob.  He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes.  He told me where to get the free meals, where to sleep, and what areas to avoid.  It was fun at night sitting by the fire set in that old, rusty barrel, listening to the trains passing overhead.  And it was fun the next day, sitting in the shelter and enjoying that hot meal.  Seemed like a vacation to not have to worry about being responsible.  I was accepted.  No one cared I got fired.  No one cared I lost the key to that flophouse apartment.  No one cared I got drunk.  Man, I had to look out of place.  I had decent clothes then.

“Temporary setback,” I remember telling myself.  My ass!  Pretty soon I looked like a bum and stunk like a bum.  Even slept in dumpsters like a bum.  Even ate out of garbage cans like a bum.  It was easy to stay a bum, too.  Didn’t have to be responsible for nothing.  Just blame everyone else.  When did I give up?  I mean really give up, where I had no intentions of getting out of this ‘temporary setback.’  When did I stop trying and accept my fate?  When did I agree to become a bum?  Kinda like drowning.  You fight for so long before you pack it in and face the fact that you’re going down and you’re never coming up.  When did I lose all hope and quit fighting and tell myself it’s okay?  Problem was that I never even thought about quitting the booze.  Never entered my mind.  NOT ME!  HELL, NO!  BOOZE IS MY LIFE!  BOOZE IS…

The bum stopped and gazed into faces that looked his way with caution.  He was once again the crazy indigent that ranted aloud in a menacing manner.  The bum jumped up from the bench and walked across the walkway to the river’s concrete shore.  He meandered along the river’s edge, stopping occasionally to look out at the river and its violent water, too deep in thought to notice anyone or anything.

* * * *

The young, blond hooker locked the apartment door with 2A’  displayed.  She turned and walked down a flight of stairs and opened the door that led to Lafayette Boulevard.  She wore black, medium height pumps, bright white panty hose, a short black leather skirt, and a dark gray rabbit fur coat that stopped at her waist.  Her shiny blond hair was wrapped in a bun, accentuating the excessive makeup and bright red lipstick under a large pair of black shades.  She pulled a pack of Marlboros out of her left coat pocket, pushed a cigarette into her mouth, and returned the pack to its rightful place.  She grabbed a cheap Bic from her other pocket, lit her cigarette, and stored the lighter.  After exhaling deeply, the hooker pulled out the headphones from her iPod and inserted one of the headphones in her left ear.  She started to walk, softly singing a tune, her cigarette in her right hand, and her left hand in her coat pocket. 

“’Cause I got one hand in my pocket and the other one is flicking a cigarette.”

She smiled broadly as she sang.  Her merry demeanor, her bouncy walk, and her gentle tune triggered grins on several citizens as she passed them.

* * * *

“Don't tell me you think you can save him, too, Father,” quipped Petey.

“Well, maybe not just yet.  Maybe later when he’s ready to listen.  I can’t work miracles, you know.” 

“Yeah, if he doesn’t end up in jail or killed in a drive-by or something.”

“Drive-bys.  Damn.  Never had them back in the day,” said Saul. 

“I heard a comedian explain why we didn’t have drive-bys back in the sixties”, said Petey.  “Can you imagine jumping in the car with guns ready, spotting your target, and when you turn up the radio to blast some drive-by tunes, you hear, ‘Lollipop, lollipop.  Oh, lolli, lolli, lolli.  Lollipop, lollipop.  Oh, lolli, lolli, lolli?’  Kind of breaks the thug mood.”

The round table laughed.

* * * *

A blow to her back was followed with another warning from the pimp, “This ain’t a union shop, bitch.”

Another blow to her thigh accompanied by the pimp yelling, “No one punks out on Ji.”

“Get up, bitch,” he bellowed as he pulled the hooker up by her hair with his right hand, bringing her to her knees.

The hooker sobbed as she clutched both sides in pain.

Oh, God.  It hurts so much.  He’s going to kill me.  Don’t let my mom and dad find me at the morgue in this dirty town.  Please don’t let their baby die here.  Please, Jesus.  Please help me.  I’ll do anything.

* * * *

The young man coughed violently and blood spurted out of his mouth and onto the sidewalk, startling Ji.  His breaths were short and more labored.

“What the fuck, man?  You almost messed up my shoes.  Have a little respect,” Ji laughed at his humor.

Oh, fuck!  Look at all this blood now!  Jesus!

Ji sat without expression and watched his victim cough more violently, blood bubbling around his lips.

Oh, Jesus, getting dark.  Am I going blind?  It’s starting to really hurt.  Can’t breathe.  I’m sorry, mama.  Pray for me…

The young man’s eyes bugged out and his pupils wandered.  His body heaved.  He had breathed his last.

“Damn!  That was dope!” Ji said with a smirk as his head shook slowly back and forth.

He glanced at his watch.  It had taken just over ten minutes for his victim to expire.  With the show over, Ji stood up and surveyed the surrounding area.  When he was confident there was no one around, he disappeared down the alley, humming a rap tune and smiling


Interview with Bob Henige from the Warren Public Library




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