Soothing Aloe Vera

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Chapter 4: Monday

Jomo walks away from the hospital in the rain. The leaves in the trees in the park haven’t fallen, haven’t even turned. He can walk through this all afternoon and night—he has nowhere to go until tomorrow. This is Stuyvesant Square and he’s not alone despite the weather. The stern peg-legged statue presides over the grounds and several figures on benches in the shadows. He walks west because he walked east yesterday. He comes under scaffolding. Above, residents converse hoarsely and move about, causing the supports to creak. An old man with a patchy gray beard and a guitar sits on the sidewalk, legs splayed. He smiles and Jomo thinks of his baba although the man doesn’t resemble him, nor did his baba play the guitar. He sings as though he’s far away.

Lost my job

Got rehired

Should be feelin

So inspired

There’s no reason

There’s no reason for these blues

Broke some bones

They mended

Drank a lot

That ended

There’s no reason

There’s no reason for these blues

Got a big brick house

And a honey

Got a dog and a cat

And a little money

There’s no reason

There’s no reason for these blues

Golden sun

Clear blue sky

My long-legged lady

Is droppin by

There’s no reason

There’s no reason for these blues

Don’t have to fight

Too much today

Cuz I live

In the U.S.A.

There’s no reason

There’s no reason for these blues

No reason, baby, he repeats from that distance, no reason, baby, as Jomo walks off under the scaffolding. His flasher vibrates, beeps and glows and Prep Boy’s head holos up.

Jomo: Oh. You.

Prep Boy: Yeah. Ready to talk business?

Jomo: I don’t know.

Prep Boy: You got a deal already?

Jomo: No, no. No. There was an accident. On the Brooklyn Bridge. My baby got caught up.

Prep Boy: Your girlfriend?

Jomo: Yeah, mm hmm. I pulled her away just in time. She’s recuperating. It’s gonna take some time. But she’ll be OK.

Prep Boy: You got her tattooed, right?

Jomo:

Prep Boy: On your back?

Jomo: She doesn’t look like that anymore.

Prep Boy: I’m sorry to hear that.

Jomo:

Prep Boy: Well, Lil Toot wants to do something with you, maybe. He thinks the world might be ready for Smirk USA.

Jomo:

Prep Boy: The beats are all wrong, but we can fix that.

Jomo:

Prep Boy: And your rhymes don’t work—too negative, too political. You can find stronger material.

Jomo:

Prep Boy: First, you gotta get some moves. But you gotta let them come organically, grass-roots like. You gotta go uptown and dance with the kids. Make them feel The Herky Jerk.

Jomo:

Prep Boy: Work it as long as it takes and when they’re feeling you, flash me. Then Lil Toot will meet with you. And it’ll be deal time for Smirk USA.

Jomo: All right. Yeah.


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