Chapter One Cleveland, Ohio 2005
The horn sounded at Alcon Foundry alerting the Iron Pourers that it was their time to perform their duties. Reign was sitting at a small dumpster separating the metal pieces from barrels of dirt. Once a new barrel was full, it would be melted down again. Shit! Reign said to himself. Reign found that sitting on a barrel by the back door catching a breeze was relaxing. Heat saturated the Foundry. Being around the furnace that melted iron at twenty-three hundred degrees was torture within itself. The temperature in the Foundry was already a sweltering ninety plus degrees. That meant standing near the furnace was one hundred and twenty degrees easy. There was a dirt mist that hung in the air and clung to your skin and the lungs. Should a person seek a career doing this then there will be a probability of having a bout with the Black Lung Disease. The only perk to manual Iron Pouring was that it kept him fit. Out of the six Iron Pourers, Reign was by the far the skinniest on the team. But after one hundred days on the job, he saw his frail frame come to form. His forearms were big for his size. Not to mention his shoulders and back being the biggest it’s ever been. It almost gave him a deformed look. He had a washboard stomach that would make any woman proud to be his lady. Reign dressed down in blue jeans, white tee, steel toe boots, and an old Cleveland Cavaliers ball hat. He had on a back brace for the three-hundred-pound pot of liquid metal. Ear plugs for the excessive noise in the Foundry, safety goggles, and a face mask for the dirt mist. For the Iron Pouring job, he had to put on a fireproof jacket and pants, (same as the firefighters), suede shin guards, a helmet with a tinted plastic face shield, and two pair of gloves with the rubber grip. Two people would carry out one pot at a time. One person would shank (carry one end with one hand) while the other person poured Iron into Dirt Molds supported by steel frames. Though it sounds easy iron pouring took more than just muscle. It took timing and a great deal of care. The steel was so hot that it was in liquid form. If not poured correctly, it would blow out the side of the joints of the Dirt Molds. Over half the Iron Pourers witness terrible accidents because timing and care were not used. Reign walked over to the lockers where the other burly Iron Pourers were and joined them in getting ready. The Iron Pourers didn’t take to Reign because of this shell he kept himself in. They thought that something was wrong with him. But the truth of the matter was he was like that all the time. A silent and soft-spoken person. His government name was Raymond Douglas. He got the name Reign from his late uncle Jack. No one respected Reign coming up in the hood. That was until he fought the neighborhood tough that everyone looked up to. The guy’s name was Antwon Hall. Antwon had his way in the hood by Fighting, Bullying, and Petty Extortion. He picked one too many fights with the young Raymond. One day Raymond gave him everything he was looking for. He beat Antwon with boxing skills that his uncle taught him in front of the whole school. For that everyone praised him. Reign’s reputation never tarnished from that day. The Iron Pouring job was given to him by a Temporary Agency. So, that meant he wasn’t on the clock yet. He had to wait one hundred and twenty days before they would give him a physical and give him a drug test. Reign didn’t know about the drug test. Had he known he would’ve stopped smoking Chronic a long time ago. “Yo Reign, you ready to do this or what?” asked an Iron Pourer name, Jimmy “Always ready.” Reign said slipping into his jacket. Out of all the Iron Pourers Jimmy was the coolest one. He was the one that tried to help him when he first got there. All the other iron pourers didn’t give two shits about Reign. They never expected him to last as long as he did, and his antisocial behavior only pushed them further away. “Well, that’s good because you’re with me today. You know that shit can burn you to the bone so don’t have no plans on dropping shit.” “I never do.” Reign replied as he put on his lid. After every Heat (emptying a furnace filled with melted Iron) the Iron Pourers would take a twenty-minute break. Nine times out of ten, you could find them in the lunchroom replenishing their bodies with Iced Tea. The other four Iron Pourers were William, Big Baby, Ike, and Wayne. The six were looked at as the Misfits of the Foundry and they relished it. Nobody wanted to pour Iron. That was too much like Russian Roulette to the other workers at Alcon “So, what’s up, Big Baby? You and Weezy going to the strip club with us tonight with your good trickin’ ass?” Ike asked popping a tab on his can of Tea. “I don’t know why you say that. I always seem to come up when I step in that bitch with you and Slot Machine Willie over there.” Big Baby stated while feeding quarters into the pop machine. All the men shared a hearty laugh behind Big Baby’s remark. Well, all except Reign. “Slot machine Willie? I know yo ass ain’t talking. We get paid on a Friday and yo punk ass is broke by Monday. Let me hold that twenty dollars you owe me before Sweetie down at Tremends gets it all in her G-String.” They erupted in laughter again. “Reign, why don’t you join us tonight at the strip spot?” Jimmy asked, wiping the sweat off his face with a paper towel. “Nah man I’m good. Strip clubs aren’t really my thing.” “Well what is your thing exactly?” Ike sarcastically asked. “It ain’t paying some freak to dance on me half naked while I’m fully clothed. What sense does that make? Then they charge you an arm and a leg for the drinks. See what I’m going to do, is shoot to the State store and get me a bottle and go to the house and chill with a broad. So, to answer your question Ike, that’s my thing, exactly.” Reign was upset. Sarcasm dripped off every word, and he was not trying to hide the disdain he had for Ike. The whole time he worked at Alcon that was the most he said since he been there. He silenced all. They thought Reign was a bit crazy coming sideways at Ike. “It sounds like you live a very lonely and sheltered life.” Ike stated. “Well, that may be so but I ain’t broke come Monday morning.” Reign responded looking at Big Baby. He silenced them again then they all busted out laughing. Well everyone except Ike. He really didn’t like the young man that came to work in an Escalade while he was pushing a late model Blazer. Though everyone was laughing Ike didn’t like that fact that it was at the expense of his close friend Big Baby. “Don’t get fucked up in here.” Ike spat hushing the laughter. “I ain’t worried about it.” Reign responded nonchalantly as he took a sip of his Brisk Iced Tea. “Nigga what!” Ike snapped getting up to check the young man he despised so much. Jimmy got up and cut him off. “Now Ike, you know you trippin’ right? Go back over there and sit down.” Jimmy demanded pointing at Ike’s prior seat. “Young nigga don’t get your mouth blew out.” said Ike pointing at Reign. “That’s enough.” said Jimmy. Reign just looked at Ike like something was wrong with him daring him to do something with his expression. “Well, I guess that’s my cue. It’s too many Testosterones floating around in here.” William said getting up from the table to leave. “Yeah, I feel you on that.” Big Baby added in step behind William. “So, what do you plan on doing tonight youngster?” Jimmy asked breaking the uncomfortable silence. “Man, I’m to my new house. I’m going to take a bath and break in some new Play Station games and toss back a few beers.” “Damn man, you got a new house on your salary?” Jimmy asked in a surprised manner. “Actually, the house was passed down to me from my Uncle. He died about six months ago. He was supposed to give it to me a while back, but I couldn’t leave the streets alone if you know what I mean. I’m doing everything legit now so that’s all I do. I go to work then I go home.” Reign stated proudly excited of his new turned around life. “Yeah, I feel that youngster. It ain’t shit out there in them streets. Come on let’s go back to work.” said Jimmy not wanting to leave him and Ike alone. The long hot Friday was over for the workers at Alcon. Everyone had their checks in their pockets and was getting in their rides to go to their destination. Other than the workers, the parking lot was filled with women coming to pick up their boyfriends and husbands. Reign had just come outside when he spotted Jimmy leaned over in the driver’s side window of a black Chevy Trailblazer. Reign spotted two dimes and a soft eight inside (three women). Big Baby and Ike stood close by waiting on a chance to shoot their shot with one of the fine females. They parked the Chevy truck in front of Reign’s Escalade blocking him in. Ike noticed that he was coming over to get in his truck and his temper started to flare up. The real reason was that he wanted to establish something with the pretty, long black silky hair, chocolate female that occupied the passenger seat. He knew once she saw Reign and his Escalade that his chances would be slim to none. Reign Pulled out his keys and hit the button on his alarm. “Security deactivated. Hello Reign.” his alarm system seductively sang. If they didn’t notice the tall brown-skinned guy with the waves, they did now. “Damn Jimmy, who is that?” asked the chocolate bombshell on the passenger side with lust dancing in her eyes. Jimmy looked back and saw his coworker coming. “Oh, that’s Reign.” “How come I never seen him before?” she asked getting out of the truck. Ike was really heated when she walked past him to get to Reign. Reign saw the look on Ike’s face and knew it would be trouble. “I don’t have time for this.” Reign sighed under his breath. “Excuse me. But what is your name and what do I have to do to get to know you better?” she asked licking her lips at Reign. Before seeing the look on Ike’s face, he was going to shoot the girl’s attempt down without a second thought. Reign knew Ike was feeling the girl. His face said it. He just didn’t feel like going there with his Alcon enemy. After seeing the thick curvaceous body, he changed his mind. She was built like the video vixen Love Barnett. “Shit, you can start by giving me your number or taking mines one.” Reign responded looking her over with lust in his eyes that he was trying to hide but failing miserably at. “Do you have a pen?” she asked. “I got one in my truck.” They made small conversation as they walked over to the SUV. “This Muthafucka.” said Ike under his breath. “Don’t start man. Fuck her and him.” Big Baby said trying to calm his friend down. He knew that Ike wanted to get at the thick chocolate dime. He also knew that his temper would get the better of him one day. As he watched it unfold, he hoped that it wouldn’t be today. “Reign, let me holla at you for a minute Fam.” “Man, I ain’t got shit to talk to you about.” Reign said holding out the ink pen to give to the woman. “Oh shit.” Jimmy whispered under his breath. Jimmy knew Ike all too well and knew what was next. “Bitch, we got a lot to talk about!” Ike retorted loudly. He knew what he wanted to do, and that was to beat Reign’s ass. That’s another reason he was so loud. Reign would not back down himself and calling him a bitch was only making the situation worse. When Big Baby saw how anxious Reign was to get at Ike, he stopped Jimmy from breaking it up. “Let them work man, let them work.” Jimmy knew Ike had skills, and he didn’t want to see Reign take an l (lose). Ike was a short and well-built brown skinned brotha. Coming up in high school he had won State Wrestling titles three consecutive years. To this day, he carried his skills well. Ike knew deep down inside this was going to be an easy victory. Besides Ike wanted to show off for the girl he wanted to holla at. Reign came from out of his truck and in front of the cars to start the battle with Ike. By this time a crowd started to form to watch. Some spectators wanted to see Ike take a beating. Other just wanted to see some action before they went home to their dull lives. “You’re gonna respect my Gangsta.” Ike demanded as he got into his fighting position. Reign just laughed “Fuck you and your Gangsta. You gotta give respect to earn it.” Ike’s speed was fast, taking Reign by surprise. He rushed Reign and caught a two-Piece combination. It staggered Ike a little, but he completed his mission and that was to grab a hold of Reign. Ike took Reign to the top and sent him crashing down onto the concrete. “Dammmnn!” was all that could be heard coming from the crowd. Ike made the mistake by not finishing the job. “Get yo bitch ass up nigga! I got more of them for dat ass!” Ike yelled as he threw two faint jabs into the air. Reign was hurt from the body slam and was slow to get up. Once he was on his feet, he tried to shake off the pain that racked his body. “Man Ike, that’s enough! Leave that lil’ brotha alone.” Jimmy pleaded while playing the “brotha” card hoping Ike would just leave it alone. Ike’s adrenalin was pumping now, and he had no plans on stopping. He rushed him again, but Reign sidestepped him and threw a two-piece combo. One went to his kidney and the next one hit him in his jaw. “Oh shit, that lil’ nigga got some work!” someone commented from the crowd of spectators. The combination buckled Ike which gave Reign an opportunity to regain his composure. The swift and precise blows took Ike by surprise. He was frustrated more than he was shocked. He turned around and rushed Reign again, but this time Reign was prepared. Reign threw a straight right then a body shot that had him doubled over then ended it with a knee that broke Ike’s nose. Blood came gushing out like a free- flowing faucet. “I got your number with your bitch ass. Those wrestling skills can’t do shit with these hands. You can save that shit for SmackDown. What? You thought shit was sweet since I’m skinny? Yo punk ass got another thing coming. If you can fight like you run your mouth, then you’ll be thorough.” Reign taunted. Ike stood there holding his nose stunned. It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. He thought to himself. Ike put his hands up and started to come at Reign again. Jimmy saw enough and pushed big Baby out of his way and grabbed Ike. “Ok man, that’s enough. This young brotha got you all out your square.” Reign dropped his guards and went back over to his truck. He took a quick glance back to make sure Ike wasn’t running up on him. “Call me.” The chocolate dime piece was holding up a folded piece of paper. “Tell your people to move their truck.” said Reign taking the piece of paper out of her hand as he passed. As the Chevy was being moved Reign hopped in his truck and picked up his remote. He scanned his CD’s until he came upon the one he was looking for. “Bitch Nigga” by Dr. Dre came out of the speakers. As the truck moved the rapper Mail Man was going through his verse when he looked at Ike and cranked the volume up. Reign smiled at him and pulled out the parking lot leaving a pissed off Ike behind. After Ike tried to wipe the blood from his nose, he approached the chocolate bombshell. “Excuse me but can I......“ “Boy bye!” she replied with a wave of her hand. Now that the fight was over Reign’s adrenalin was back to normal. He was feeling the pain from the body slam Ike administered. He winced as he tried to take a deep breath. “Bitch ass.” he said to the cabin of the Caddy as he grabbed at his side. Reign had the urge for a blunt and a beer for his ride home to put his mind at ease. The unexpected altercation had his nerves jumping. He went to a Mom and Pops store, on 57th and Detroit, called Sulleyman’s, to cash his check. He walked in the store wondering what his plans would be for the weekend. The statement he made to Ike earlier in the lunchroom was only half the truth. He would really go home and toss back a few beers and watch some movies. But it would not be with a girl. More than likely it was going to be by himself. Reign was retired from the street’s illegal drug trade. He flourished in this occupation and his clothes, jewelry, and his customized Caddy truck was proof. Before his street resignation, Reign had women like Russell Simmons had business ventures. Once they found out he wasn’t selling dope anymore they moved on to the next meal ticket. The ones that stuck around, he lost interest in. It was crazy, but it was like he found out the true value of what a woman should be once he entered the workforce. Since they didn’t meet his criteria, he moved them out of his life. The strenuous duties of his job combined with the heat of the Foundry left him with little to no energy to do much afterward. Sometimes going straight home wasn’t an option, it was a requirement. Seeing the thick woman in the parking lot and getting her number was something he was going to consider. He thought it would be nice to go home to a thick-bodied woman like her. Reign walked up to the courtesy window and pulled out his wallet. He removed his check and a small piece of paper with different figures on it. These were bills that needed to be paid. “I want to cash my check and I need these money orders also.” he said sliding the merchant his identification, check, and a small slip of paper. Reign walked over to the cooler and got a Double Deuce of Becks. He walked back over to the window. “Excuse me but can you add this beer and put a box of Swisher’s with that.” “No problem.” the merchant replied while punching figures into the register. After the transaction, he walked away with his needed items and two hundred and fifty dollars left over from his check. “If it wasn’t for you Uncle Jack.” he said to himself as he left the store. Jack was in his mid-fifties when he passed. He was one of those old-school players that found the streets as his Employer. Unlike his nephew, Reign, he was into more than just the drug business. His list of money-making ventures spanned from phony parole checks, credit card scams, numbers, knock-off designer clothes, flipping stolen cars, and a slew of illegal money-making tactics. Jack was always cool, calm, and collected despite throwing stones at the penitentiary. When he brought the house that Reign occupies, he started to change. He was trying to change his nephew as well. Jack would always tell Reign that he thought someone was watching him and that he didn’t feel safe. Reign didn’t know that but because of it he made a “Living Will and Testament”. A document stating that if something should happen to him Reign would inherit the house and its contents. Jack always wanted his nephew to work and to leave the streets alone. Shortly after his death, it didn’t take long for Reign to fulfill his uncle’s wishes. He was now employed at Alcon Foundry off 80th and Detroit as a temporary Iron Pourer. Despite all the money he made on the streets and the benefits that comes with that, he found more peace in punching the clock than running the streets chasing’ money.
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