Deathrow – a short story (attempt) by Amanda Okafor
Some might say that the path I followed was inevitable, but I wasn’t a product of my environment. I was a product of myself.
I actually can’t believe I’m about to share this right now… ahhhhh!
OK, I was being haunted last night and couldn’t sleep, so I decided to start going through a few old e-mails of mine. I found this old story that I wrote for a Fiction writing class in University, and man, I cracked up because I failed at that class miserably.
No, I didn’t fail the course if that’s what you’re thinking. I just failed at story writing, because I had so many ideas and couldn’t figure out how to write a concise short story about anything. Then, it happened. For my final assignment I decided to perpetuate the blackest possible stereotype in an all white class (plus one Indian kid) filled with posh ass English Majors. I wrote about the life of being a gangster. *heaviestsigh LOL…but, it worked because I aced the assignment. That was probably because my professor thought it was like a real life cry for help growing up in N.E. Calgary.
Anyways, it’s quite rusty and filled with grammatical errors, but it’s a nice reminder that life is exciting when you go beyond your comfort zone. P.s. I’ll give out something sweet to whoever can catch all of the specific pop-culture/ Hip-Hop/ media references that I used to write this story. Enjoy.
May 16th 1990: The Death Penalty
Tick – tock – tick – tock.
How did I end up here?
Everyday I’d count through time; yet, every second, of every minute, of every hour stayed the same. How did I, like an animal, become secluded and confined in a 9 by 6 cage? Day after day, I’d stare at grey walls, a steel bed with white sheets, a toilet and a sink. Day after day, I’d stare through the metal that separated me from freedom. It was like I’d gone far back in time – Owned by a master, shackles on my feet. Told when to eat and when to sleep.
All one could do in a place like this is dream, so I’d trap myself and create my own world. It was the only way that I could escape the pain of being here day after day. I’d often create a woman. She would bear no name. Her scent would be like wet rose petals, rose petals the color of her plump lips. From her breast all the way down to her hips, her body would be the masterpiece of my fantasies. While her sweat dripped down from her skin onto mine, I’d rhythmically, thrust my love inside her utopia. I’d be mesmerized by the way she moved the arch in her back, and I’d squeeze her thighs as she released her desires onto me. I’d love her by the ocean on a cloudless day, under the stars or outside in the rain. She would bear fruit, a son that would take after his father –but, my thoughts would be interrupted by his footsteps, the presence of a guard that reeked of hate. Everyday I’d watch him wipe the disgust that dripped down his face, and I knew that for him, I was just another black man that he couldn’t wait to watch die.
I guess I should probably introduce myself. My name is Stanley Jordan, Three Knocks they called me. I was born and raised in Queens when crack invaded every hood in New York and killed people as fast as Local Street kings profited from it. Prostituting for crack wasn’t uncommon in my neighborhood either. The women that stood around corners of the street spoke about how they’d “go down for an eight-ball” through their chipped and brown teeth. As a young boy, I learned real fast what it like felt to be traumatized, and I learned real fast that there wasn’t anything royal about living in Queens.
My friends and I often skipped class to hang out in drug houses. We knew many of the dope dealers in the neighbourhood, because they were all uncles or brothers of a friend of a friend. The set up of in each of these houses were generally the same. In one room, they’d put naked ladies to work in the kitchen cooking up ‘food’. They weren’t allowed to tie their hair in buns, because the Dons suspected that they’d attempt to hide product in their hair. In another room, men sat and counted bills all day; then, there was what I called the cellar of Hell. They slaughtered, limb by limb, those that spoke more than they were supposed to, or those that missed important deadlines. For the things we saw we never tried to shed a tear, because we were taught young that fear was weakness, and weakness would get people killed.
The men we hung around were the closest we had to role models back then. Ask any young boy in my hood what he wanted to be when he grew up. He’d say, “I wanna be rich like Jimmy or Wallis”, and these guys he idolized were not real entrepreneurs. These were REAL MEN in the eyes of us boys, because we didn’t know better back then. Who was there to guide us when many of us didn’t have pops to scare the monsters from under the bed? For many of us, our pops’ were plagued by the monsters in their heads; I don’t think I ever seen my pops sober in my life. He’d kiss mine and mama’s eyes black with his fists, and his “I love you” ripped scars through mama’s precious skin. At age ten, I swore to never be like him. I swore I’d become a doctor or a lawyer, whatever it took to make mama smile. But it wasn’t that simple out here. We only made it out if we could dribble a basketball or rap. If not, our morals were sold as fast as the drugs we traded on different street corners in our hoods.
When the block wasn’t hot, or there were no cops to bust a drop, we entertained ourselves by fighting locals the community. The men we worked for would make us brawl, and they’d place bets on who would win. That’s where the name Three Knocks came in. At the age of 15, I could knock out guys bigger and badder than me with just three blows. Boom, boom, POW down another one goes.
It soon became an art, and I cherished and perfected every moment of it. Not only was I a good fighter, but I gained respect from REAL MEN. That was better than an erection for any 15 year old boy living in my neighbourhood.
My mother passed away from breast cancer seven years later. That same year, I merited the title, leader of the most notorious gang in Queens, New York. I spent many nights in and out of jail cells, but that wasn’t about to stop me from the movement. We were warriors of the night dressed in black. We hunted to attain money, power, respect, and we took it by any means necessary. They feared us because our bandannas wrapped around our necks, and our baseball caps faced the back. If it wasn’t that, they feared us for what hid in our jeans, because some of us killed with ease. I’d seen faces sliced off of skulls, bodies shredded like paper, but killing was never my thing. I’d just sit, watch and move on to the next block.
Everything changed when my brother T.J was gunned down by police officers. T.J. was that one kid that you could call the exception to story of the young black boy growing up in the ghetto. He avoided the streets, went to school and was actually trying to make something useful out of his life. But in this neighbourhood, officers see a young black man and they power trip with the trigger. The news of his death burned my insides. I became paranoid, buried all my pain in the weed. To kill or be killed became a regular part of my mentality.
The night leading to my death was a bone chilling one. I sat inside my car, palms sweating and tears forming in my eyes. At that point, I had enough of everything that I had been through over the years. I couldn’t think straight, my senses drowned in the purple haze. Death stomped around every corner of my mind, because my time had finally come, but I wasn’t going to take my life like a coward. Someone had to go down with me.
Parked outside Kel’s Liquore store, I got out of the car and walked straight inside and pointed the gun towards the owner’s face. I said my final three words to him.
Call the cops.
Within minutes, three cop cars arrived blowing their sirens and swarming around the store like bees. I ran outside with my eyes closed and blasted bullets at the officers. It was finished, and within seconds I was finally going to die.
February 13th, 2005: Redemption – Deliverance of sinners from the penalty of their sin.
Tick – tock – tick – tock.
How did I end up here? How and why did I survive through eight bullets?
Some might say I was lucky, but it took me years to realize that I had a purpose in this life. Some might say that the path I followed was inevitable, but I wasn’t a product of my environment. I was a product of myself. If I could turn back time, I would have probably done things a lot differently, but it was too late for all of that now. The only thing I had to figure out was how I could convince God to forgive me and how long it would take to feel the sting of death.
Tick – tock – tick…..tock.