His head nodded to the rhythm of the beat that Keenan snared out onto the desk in the classroom. The closer he got to homeroom, the more he began to feel it. The sub’s high pitched “quiet pleases” and “settle downs” were perfectly timed samples to the sick freestyle that had nonchalantly entered his mind.
As Raysean walked through the door, all eyes were on him. Keesha checked for his new J’s. Hatin’ Ass Jaquan peeked from the corner of his eyes. Red-boned Raeven smiled while whispering something into another girl’s ear and Keenan gave a hard pause on the beat just before Raysean gestured in his direction. “Nah, my nigga, bring that beat back.”
Raysean’s hands bobbed and shoulders swayed as he surfed it like hang ten.
I’m up before the sunrise
First to hit the block
Lil bad muhfucka
With a pocket full of rocks
And hit it quick
And lick the cash spot
Caution moving ready rock
Say you want it…stay on it
That hustling boy
It never stops….
I’m up before the sunrise
“Sir! Please have a seat.”
Raysean eyeballed the rosy-cheeked sub with Get the fuck out of my face, but instead decided to give her a pass. He sensed that she wasn’t challenging him, but was, instead, beyond frustrated. Raysean smirked, grabbed his crotch, and took the last available seat.
He promised his grandmother things wouldn’t get out of hand like they had in the past. Raysean planned to make the best of this year, even if it meant pretending to be not as smart as his teachers. From as far back as he could remember he always had a knack for retaining information. He could see, hear, or read anything once and it would be forever embedded into his memory.
His grandmother first noticed his gift when she had forgotten her grocery list one Saturday afternoon. That day, four year-old Raysean attentively watched his grandmother as he sat in the shopping cart. She fumbled through her purse in search of the menu for Pastor Crumlin’s twenty-fifth anniversary.
The mini notebook with all of the ingredients and supplies written on it was officially M.I.A. Grandmaw quickly found herself agitated while trying to redraft the list from memory onto the backside of an envelope. Raysean detected her defeat and began playfully singing the list aloud. His grandmother was so amazed that she asked him to sing it again, but slowly, so that she could jot it all down.
Grandmaw recalled verifying the items on the list with Mrs. Crumlin over the phone the week prior, while scolding Raysean and his sister for playing in her living room. She wondered how he could recite the list verbatim after only hearing it once from another room during horseplay. Grandmaw shared her testimony of how God was “right on time” with the church congregation the morning of the anniversary. Women wearing oversized hats jumped up and down and shouted, “Hallelujah!” The church attributed the miracle of memory to be a blessing delivered to God’s highly favored.
From then on, Raysean was Grandmaw’s human telephone book, lottery number generator, and personal calendar.
Ms. Rosy-cheeks sat down, rolled her eyes, and began roll call.
Hatin Ass Jaquan made a fart noise with his mouth and the crowded room erupted in laughter. Raysean eyeballed Jaquan as a reminder of his promise to him last year when he made fun of the heavyset timid girl that sat in front of them.
He fumed to himself, He been doing that stupid shit since the sixth grade. We in the ninth grade and he still petty. How you gon’ pick on somebody that don’t fight back? I already checked for his mark ass though. He can’t fight and his heart pump Kool-Aid. He know it and he know I know it, too. I can see it in his eyes, the way that they run from mines when I catch his peeking ass. Pussy nigga. I can see it in his body language, the way that he tries to swell up when I walk by him. I’ll mop him. I can’t wait for the day when that nigga forget who he talking to and I have to stomp a mudhole in him.”
Raysean had a reputation for being a badass and even a bully at times. He didn’t see himself that way, though. He had a strong sense of justice, often dubbing himself as a bully’s bully. He was average in stature, yet in moments of rage could be capable of extraordinary strength and skill.
Raysean was currently under probation supervision, because he broke his mother’s boyfriend’s arm during one of their many drunken disputes. Montez was over the family visit and was ready to leave. It didn’t matter to him that he was the father of Raysean’s little sisters. He had business “to take care of.”
A heated argument ensued and Grandma put Raysean’s mother, Nadia - and her boyfriend, Montez out of her house. Standing on her porch with her hands on her hips, Grandmaw reinforced her actions, “Ya’ll get away from here with all that damn drama! I don’t want all that mess around me or these kids! If you want to see yo babies, you betta act like you got some damn sense. Cause’ I ain’t wit’ all that. You betta ask some damn body!”
When Montez threatened to take his daughters with them, Raysean stomped out into the yard and violently snatched the wrist attached to the hand that was threatening to put him “in a child’s place”. Raysean simultaneously leaped up into the air, wrapped his legs around Montez’s arm and flipped him onto his back atop of the moist grass. Arching his back, Raysean hyperextended Montez’s arm while pinning his legs across his chest. The iron flavor from nearly biting through his own lip and the slight give were the only things that brought Raysean back to reality.
The officer that transported him to the Jefferson County Youth Correctional Facility observed a justified expression on Raysean’s face as he inspected him through the rear-view mirror of the squad car. Officer Thompson thought to himself, I hope this punk doesn’t slip through the cracks.
The officer had been the lead MMA instructor at “The G.O.A.T MMA Gym” for the past seven years. He had seen his fair share of injuries while employed there and Montez’s dislocated elbow was the worst arm bar injury that he had ever seen. One glance at Montez’s arm convinced Officer Thompson it had been broken by a professional. He had no choice except to charge Raysean with Assault with a deadly instrument. The deadly instrument – his body.
Assault I was amended down, because it turned out that Raysean had never taken martial arts, as the officer suspected. He learned the arm bar technique after observing it, just once, when it was flawlessly executed during a UFC title match.
Bbbbbbzzzzzddddzzzzzz. Raysean ran his fingers along his back pocket to feel for his smart phone and then pulled it out. It was buzzing, but the caller’s name wasn’t displayed. It was Keenan’s version of the made you look game, with an electronic twist. Keenan got a kick out of setting off Raysean’s cellphone and then yelling into his head. Telepathy was never something that Raysean could ever get used to. He preferred verbal conversations to cerebral shouts any day.
Keenan was excited about the newest trick added to his repertoire. He had been doing it to Raysean all summer - showing off his newest ability, telekinesis. Keenan discovered that he could move objects with his mind on the basketball court in an intense game of twenty-one duringsummer break. The score was 20-20 and it was Keenan’s ball.
Basketball was the one thing that Keenan was better at than Raysean and he charged down the cracked pavement with sheer determination to keep it that way.
Raysean reached in, stripped the ball from him and laid it up against the backboard. It bounced and wobbled around the rim as the boys bumped and spun out preparing for the rebound. The ball teetered too far in the wrong direction and Raysean let out a loud,”Aaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!” as he jumped up and slapped the side of it. The net whipped back and forth like Willow Smith’s hair.
“Yea, but look at all these scratches and shit all over me! You don’ stretched my shirt all out, Dawg! You weak!”
“Come on, Mane! I got scratches all over me toooo!”
Holding the ball above his head, Raysean displayed his battle wounds. Keenan sulked and imagined snatching the ball from his cousin’s grip. The ball instantly ripped through his fingers and shot in his direction like a pass from Lebron, nearly knocking Keenan to the ground when he caught it. Grinning and saucer-eyed, they looked at each other. They were thinking the same thing. Raysean spent the rest of that sweltering day watching Keenan hit all net from every angle of the court as their hoop dreams set in the golden horizon.
Ms. Rosy-cheeks broke the monotony by calling the next name.
Keenan launched a mental scream directly into his cousin’s head. “That was so fuckin sick!!!!” he said regarding their chemistry of rhythm and rhyming. Raysean flinched and turned his head towards the floor. His hands fought the urge to cradle his ears, knowing that his reaction would appear weird to his classmates.
However, Ms. Rosy-cheeks was much more obvious. The mug that she had been holding came crashing to the floor spilling a steamy vanilla-crème concoction all over it. The bell rang and students simultaneously burst into chatter while piling into the hallways from every classroom.
Keenan and Raysean were just about the last students to tip toe past Ms. Rosy-cheeks and her awkward hot mess, when she said, “Mr. Hughes and Mr. Lewis, I need to speak with you before you leave.”
Raysean stuttered his steps, but got an instant nudge in the back from Keenan to keep it moving.
“What, no encore?” Ms. Rosy-cheeks asked cockily without moving her lips. Keenan’s nudge was now a shove through a sea of students entering the room for their first period class with her. The boys swiftly swam against the current of haters and congratulators.
“Stop pushing me, Man!”
Keenan was so close to Raysean that they looked like conjoined twins. He was in full fight or flight mode, because up until that morning, Raysean was the only person that he shared the gift of telepathy with. But now Ms. Rosy-cheeks. Something about her—dark and deceptive, bold and determined, powerful and familiar.
“If you step on the back of my new shoes, Dawg!” Raysean warned his cousin.
“Why are you acting like you didn’t hear her! You kill me, Dawg, always tryna’ front like you hard…like don’t nothing get to you!”
“So, I’m frontin’ cuz I don’t freak out and get all scared of stuff like you do?”
Raysean made no apologies for his endless reserve of fearlessness. His gift of empathy promoted it. Knowing how a person felt unmasked them, leaving him only with the omniscience of their emotions in their purest form.
He could tell within seconds of meeting a person whether or not they were a threat to him. His conclusions were the results of lightening fast predictabilities equated from probability, possibility and empathy.
When Raysean found it difficult to exert his sentiments into words without being offensive to Keenan, he beamed it to him, instead. His auric essence extended out and merged with Keenan’s, allowing a potentially complicated conversation - to be energetically transferred in the most harmonious way.
He then felt his cousin’s energy instantly calm and settle.