Pone made it back to the heart of the city; he needed to make one more stop before heading home.
Unfortunately, he was greeted by city traffic. While stuck in traffic, he studied the citizens.
Same-o-same-o, the good, the bad, and the ugly; those who had the look of doing well and those
who were catching hell. There were also those he knew were doing well, but had the face of catching
hell. Homeless people decorated the transit leaning against the walls and sleeping on benches. The
traffic started making progress; Pone decided to let down the window to allow cool air to calm the heat
in the car. He quickly regretted it after he inhaled a strong stench of urine and feces. The
window went back up, and he turned off the heater. Pone shook his head and wondered with all the
money city made with four professional sports franchises, parades, minority festivals, and events,
you would think they could set up Porta Jon’s for the homeless. But the world does not revolve around
people caring for one another unless something is given back in return. The traffic was still moving at a
snails pace, and Pone’s attention was turned to the working class. Blue and white collar, hard hats, and
suits you can take your pick of description of who you wanted to talk about. Pone smiled thinking if
they were to play a pick-up game of basketball, who would be shirts and skins? Like democrats and
republicans arguing who was better than the other, after all they were still people. People, take your
pick of the good, bad, ugly, tall, short, fat, skinny, rich, and poor would serve as a start of a topic
for any conversation. The ignorance of people talking about other people was that some who did
the talking most likely believe that they were immune to the same treatment, boy were they wrong
because everybody gets talk about. Pone raised an eye-brow thinking about it because it was a fact.
The traffic picked up a bit, and Pone cruised onto 500 West Fifth where he found his target.
All five-eight and two-hundred and fifteen pounds of muscle. The man Pone considered a father
figure, the love of Sheila Green’s life who blames himself for the loss of her life; Wisdom Jones.
A former cold-bloodied killer now working as a retired parking enforcement agent. Pone put
the Yaris in violation parking in a taxi zone that the taxis never used. Unfortunately, the sign
posted made it clear that the spaces were for taxis only. There were five cars in violation including
A middle-aged couple walked by eyeballing Wisdom as he made his way down the line. They
kept on walking, which was smart since the parking war shows were mostly staged. He made it to the
Yaris giving it a stern look and sighed. Pone got out of the car.
Wisdom laughed. “Boy . . . Lucille at the junk-yard?”
“I’ll mention that to Otis.”
“So she is at the junk-yard.” Wisdom studied the Yaris and frowned. “You had a job?”
“No old man . . . just needed to be discreet.”
“That early morning drive-by incident I read about in the paper . . . you were involved weren’t you?”
Wisdom knew when Pone called him old man that meant he had done something that wasn’t good.
Wisdom raised Pone, Birdie, and Jade, and despite all the other kids in home that Sheila Green took
care of, for some reason the three of them got his attention. Pone never asked Wisdom why out of all
the children at the home he felt dedicated to them. Even when they found out what he did for a living it
was no questions asked, they just accepted it. When Sheila took a bullet that was meant for Wisdom,
things went a little south between him and the girls, but Pone knew how much Sheila loved Wisdom
and realized love can be blind, and Sheila made her choice being with Wisdom even though she
knew he lived a dangerous life and for that she became a victim. Birdie and Jade still spoke to Wisdom,
but the daughter and father tone had disappeared. He didn’t blame them because he was at a lost and
took full blame for Sheila’s death. He took on several jobs afterwards almost causing him his own life.
Wisdom got sloppy, and J. Paul respected him so much that he decided to retire his stud to the
unappreciative life of a parking enforcer which some ass holes disrespect calling them meter maids.
Wisdom took the humbling job not only because he could no longer focus after the death of the love of
his life, but mainly because he had his fill of killing.
“Yaris is a good small car,” said Wisdom. Parking enforcement cars were white Toyota Yaris, but
unlike the wild west cowboys wearing white hats which mostly meant good and black hats bad, the
public saw the little white cars with parking enforcement etched on the rear as public enemy number
“You know the old saying . . . don’t let your eyes get too big for your stomach,” said Wisdom.
“Only if you’ve gone for seconds and can’t clean your your plate.”
“I heard what’s going down this weekend.”
“The meeting Sunday at Nadine.”
“Sunday is sacred, but why Nadine?” asked Wisdom.
“It’s like a church for gangsters,”
“This ain’t no time for jokes, boy.”
“No joke, but the truth old man.”
Wisdom shook his head. “Don’t know why that girl cater to lowlife and thugs.”
Wisdom referred to Birdie as that girl only when he was angry and thought she could do better
for herself. He called Jade baby girl which made her smile. Wisdom didn’t want any of them to be near
the gangster life and yet here was Birdie college educated and all housing cold-bloodied killers every
night. He didn’t mind her naming the club to honor Shelia using her middle name, but being around
killers everyday was like playing Russian roulette.
“Hey . . . you know I”m kind of in the same profession.”
“And I hate it,”
Pone studied Wisdom. He couldn’t put a finger on it, but something didn’t seem right though for a
fifty-eight-year-old he still had an athletic built. Wisdom exercised regularly watching what he ate and
drank a lot of water. He had a flat stomach, and firm physique that even the young ladies admired.
Wisdom rubbed the small of his back. Pone was about to ask what was wrong when a voice from a
passing car shouted, “GET A REAL JOB YOU OLD ASS HOLE!” Wisdom responded back saying,
“Tell that to your mama,”
Pone nodded and smile. He leaned on the Yaris. “She’s a grown woman and the way her men pat you
down makes you feel like you’ve been probed. No need for a Prostate exam.”
“I promised Shelia to keep y’all away from that type of life.” Wisdom eyes welled up. “I failed, and
that’s why she’s dead.”
“You need to stop blaming yourself.”
Wisdom snorted. “How’s baby girl?”
Wisdom saying baby girl seemed to have lighten the mood since he knew Jade liked it when
he called her that.
“About to graduate with honors and hopefully grad school,”said Pone.
“What do you mean hopefully?” asked Wisdom.
“She wants to be a singer like big sister.”
“Oh hell no and not in that club,”
“Jade’s a grown woman,”
Wisdom took a deep breath and stared for a moment. The few years he’s worked as a parking enforcer
had taken it’s toll on him, the daily verbal abuse felt like a ton of bricks sitting on his shoulders and he
was standing in quicksand and was sinking lower and lower each day. The only thing lifting
his spirits was that Jade would get her degree and stay as far away from the gangster life as possible.
And now hearing that she wants to sing and most likely at the club, he felt himself sinking deeper into
“Are you at least trying to discourage her?”
“Sure I’ll have a few words with her, but she might listen to you if you spoke to her.”
“Only after you talk to her first,”
“Consider it done,”
Wisdom shook his head. “You and Mona got degrees and they’re collecting dust.”
“She’s putting her business degree to use,” said Pone.
“No degrees for killing people,” remarked Wisdom.
“Well, doctors . . . maybe not on purpose and judges putting people on death row.”
“Don’t be a smart ass, boy.” Wisdom pursed his lips. “Troubleshooter, . . .”
“Better than being a hired killer.”
“Red’s an angel. It’s them damn siblings I’m concerned about.”
“My connection to with Red gives me immunity.”
“A prisoner just like me.”
“What are you talking about, old man? You’re retired and working for the city.”
“Shit. Dealing with these crazy ass people crying over a twenty-five dollar citations. Too dumb to
know it got nothing to do with their driver’s license or car insurance. Telling you about your
background and if they knew mine they’d shit in their pants. Got the nerve to tell you how much
money you make, that you got a GED … shit.”
Pone felt Wisdom’s frustration, the gangster life was not glamorous. To retire from the profession
meant dying or being under the thumb. Wisdom was under the thumb of the Brigand Band family. J.
Paul was dead and gone, but he was merciful to the point of not killing past their prime killers, but
giving them an option. Death or a job where they could keep an eye on you and that meant working for
the city. Many tried to leave Retro, but failed in the process. Wisdom was a killer, but just because you
make a living killing people does not mean that a killer wants to die.
It was silent for a while, Pone thought of Wisdom’s wisdom (no pun intended). He left the Army as a
corporal. He told Pone not to go into the military unless he has to because all that shit about being all
you can be is that they want you to be nothing but a dog of the military. Pone once heard a homeless
man bragging about his days in the Marine Corps. The military was just like college, it gave you an
opportunity, but no guaranteed success. A part of the military gave Wisdom the talent and skill to kill,
and he passed it on to Pone. Wisdom hated himself for it ever since.
“Was the world a better place?” asked Pone.
“I ain’t gonna lie, before that damn rock passed by, the world was still violent, and people were
doing what they always do,” Wisdom perused his lips. “Combination of the past and present has made
Pone shrugged. “Good thing we have the science nerds to simplify things.”
Wisdom stretched. “Time to get back to pissing people off.” He paused. “Look it’s been awhile, but
how about coming over for dinner tonight and talk? I’ll make your favorites.”
Wisdom had a talent for cooking, he said that he learned because an old girlfriend before he met
Sheila wanted to hang out with her sisters instead of cooking him dinner. She told him that he was
a grown man. Wisdom took that to heart and taught himself to be a wizard in the kitchen. He cooked so
well that he kicked his old girlfriend to the curb. He’d joke that if a man can cook and clean, then a
woman had better watch out. Wisdom’s specialties were Shepherd’s pie and ghoulash Pone’s favorites
when he was a kid.
Pone nodded. “Between the usual time of eight and nine o’clock. Better get home and try counting
sheep,” Pone studied Wisdom. “Spit it out, old man.”
“The other night on the west side . . . had to be done?”
“They came after me and killed a kid. No second chances. You taught me that.”
Wisdom nodded and went back to writing citations. Pone got inside the Yaris and eased on down
Wisdom lived in a modest light green two story home. The house didn’t have a white picket fence,
but a varnish tall wooden fence kept things private in the back yard. In other words, the front was open
to the public, but the back said mind your business. The yard’s front and back looked like a Mister
Rogers neighborhood. The lawns were neatly cut along with trimmed hedges, one oak tree in the
middle of the front yard and there in the back were a couple of rose bushes that enhanced the landscape
during the limited spring and summer. The neighbors didn’t know anything about Wisdom’s
background and accepted him as a neighbor living a simple life.
Pone parked on the side of the street and strode up to the door. He pushed the bell then entered.
“Make yourself at home,” said Wisdom from the kitchen.
It’s been a while since Pone set foot in Wisdom’s house. He and Wisdom would talk too much
about the past. The past being Shelia Green and that was a conversation that weighed both their
hearts down and Pone felt the need to stay away because neither he or Wisdom needed the past
to be burden on their lives since no matter how much they talked about her she wasn’t going to walk
through that door.
Pots and pans clanged and the aroma of spices brought him back to the present. Pone
smiled, it had been some time since he had either of Wisdom’s Shepherd’s pie and ghoulash. The old
man was making both dishes and some type vegetable to boot. Pone saw the table set for three. He
would wait until it was time to eat to ask or see the dinner guest. He strolled around the room
looking at pictures of himself, Birdie, and Jade as kids. Pictures of Sheila Green by herself both
young and old and two pictures she took with Wisdom., they looked so young and happy. Other
pictures decorated the cream color walls: Wisdom’s siblings and parents in dramatic black and white.
He didn’t talk much; as part of a killers code you separate yourself from loved ones to protect them.
His parents were dead, but as far as his siblings Pone didn’t know. Pone shook his head about the
lifestyle of making blood money. Nine to five jobs no thank you, but at least you had a better chance of
living to see another day. Most jobs have perks, but who would considered killing people a perk for
for more money than some people see in a life-time. Pone never felt good about taking out people who
were bad and perhaps deserve to die. People good, bad, and ugly, it didn’t matter because killing
fell under the Bible as a sin. Pone had committed a lot of sins and heaven wouldn’t be rolling out
the red carpet for the likes of him. The only comfort he had now was that he worked for Red as
her personal troubleshooter. The door bell rang, and Pone felt relieved when he heard it. Now
he’d find out who would be the mystery dinner guest. Pone opened the door.
“Hey, Chub … “ said Birdie. Her surprised expression rivaled his own. She stepped inside taking
off her tan jacket and wore a red blouse underneath, skinny leg blue jean, and brown slip on loafers.
She wore her hair pulled back leaving a tail between her shoulder blades. Pone recognized her smile,
which usually ended up with a question.
Pone glanced back at the table. “So you’re the extra mouth.”
Birdie gave him a playful slap on his jaw. “You got a way with words. When did he invite you?”
“A spur of the moment invitation. You?”
“Likewise. You don’t think anything’s wrong do you?”
Pone shrugged. “We use to do this a lot.”
“It’s been awhile, Chub.”
Pone nodded. They all had busy lives, he running around town for Red responding to her every
call, Birdie running her club, and keeping Tony in the loop, and Wisdom dealing with a humbling life
as a working class civilian working an unappreciative job that required him taking insults on a daily
basis. They used to get together for dinner a lot when Shelia was alive, but after her death, the dinner
get together became like the fading scent of a new car. It became a month and later months until an
after thought. Wisdom broke that cycle and both Pone and Birdie shared the look of what’s going on.
Wisdom sprung from the kitchen carrying a bowl of steaming greens. “What y’all standing there
looking like you lost something, sit on down before the food gets cold.”
Food covered the mahogany rectangle table. Wisdom chose to go with his famous Shepherd’s
pie and later said because the macaroni to make the ghoulash would have been too much starch,
both Birdie and Pone didn’t seem to mind the choice Wisdom made as they tore into the Shepherd’s
pie. The creamy buttery mash potatoes with sharp cheddar cheese baked into it covered the ground
chicken, sweet peas, corn, carrots, and onions saute` in butter. Two steaming bowls featured green
beans and mustard greens with diced red onions on top. A pitcher of both water and sweet Lipton iced
tea to wash down every morsel. Wisdom’s desert Apple Crumble topped off the meal with a scoop of
vanilla ice cream. All three ended up rubbing their belly from the small feast. Wisdom cleared the table
with Birdie’s help while Pone sat at the table manipulating a tooth-pick with his mouth.
Wisdom and Birdie joined Pone back at the table. Pone gave Birdie a look.
“Wisdom thank you for a delicious meal,” said Birdie.
Wisdom cleared his throat. “How’s baby girl doing?”
Pone sighed. “I already told you,”
“She’s going to make us all proud. Even thinking about going to grad school,” said Birdie.
Wisdom nodded. “That’s what I’m talking about, instead of singing at that club.”
Birdie straightened in her chair. “What do you mean that club?”
“I worry about the company you keep. You’re sitting on a powder keg with the who’s
who rogue’s gallery.”
“That company I keep as you so put it has made me very successful and nobody gets
inside with-out a thorough body search.”
“You got a college degree, you should be married by now ready to start a family of your
own. Tony is a good man and … “
“Should have known something was behind this dinner, but I wanted to give you the
benefit of a doubt, I’m a grown woman and so far I’m doing a damn good job living my
life how I want, the way I want and certainly don’t need any advice from you.”
“You got to think about the future.” wisdom shook his head. “I’m proud of you, but
don’t make the mistake of waiting on something too long and then when you want it,
it’s gone. Tony gonna get tired of hanging around and find somebody else.” Wisdom
drank some water. “I’m sure he’s had enough of the criminal element.”
Birdie laughed. “What do you want me to do? Tell them oh no you’ve killed too many
people and your kind is not welcome here. You know how many establishments in this city
or any other place that are not aware they are entertaining killers.”
“But you do, and you keep on doing it.”
“She’s in too deep to get away from it now,” said Pone.
“And you … “ Wisdom wore the look of disappointment. “You still killing people.”
Birdie sat back and folded her arms then stretched her eyes nodding to Pone. If this was a
tag team wrestling match then he had just been tagged to enter the ring.
“My situation is complicated, but different.” responded Pone.
“Talk to Red. She understands … have her find you something else.”
“Do I look like a pencil pusher? I’m not a desk jockey and forger about the white
picket fence fantasy. Besides, did it ever occur to you that I like what I do? I’m not a
“Yeah, yeah … a damn troubleshooter.”
Pone stood taking the tooth-pick out of his mouth. He snapped it between his fingers
tossing it across the room. “I sure as hell don’t plan on being a valet to the city.”
Wisdom sighed. “You’re still young enough to put your degree to work.”
Birdie rose from her seat. “Lets … “
Pone held up his hand to silence Birdie. He glared at Wisdom. “Yeah, I got the face for
news anchor of the year, but I got where I am because I had to man up.”
“Chubby don’t,” said Birdie.
Wisdom stood face to face with Pone. “Go ahead and say it, you been waiting all these
years. Hell I blame myself every day, but you go on ahead and get it off your chest, boy.”
“I was a boy who had to do a man’s job because you weren’t man enough to honor … “
Pone could have easily stopped the punch. Wisdom had slowed considerably because of
his age. Pone figured he’d give him that one since he deflated the old man’s ego by bringing
up Sheila’s death. The room went silent. Pone nodded and headed for the door. Birdie sat
in her chair looking toward the floor.
Pone made it outside, he stood on the step inhaling the cold air to clear his head. Pone made
a beeline to Lucille. Before he could take another step, a fatherly voice stopped him in his
“Chubby,” said Wisdom.
Out of respect, Pone slowly turned and walked up to face Wisdom.
“Did you invite us here to criticize our life choices?” asked Pone.
“That wasn’t the plan. It’s been a long time, and I got sentimental, so sue me.”
Pone smiled. “Remember that fable you told me when I was a boy?”
Wisdom snorted. “You said it was your favorite.”
“It made a lot of sense. I was trying to be friends with that bully.′
Wisdom nodded. “Stanley Oakley.”
“No matter what I did to be nice he’d still pick a fight with me, and you sat me down to
explain why he and some people do the things they do.”
Pone glanced around the yard highlighted by the moonlight. “You said the scorpion was the
star, and the costars were some-times a turtle, otter, beaver, frog, and a snake.”
Wisdom folded his arms to keep warm. “Which was you favorite costar?”
“The beaver, but I favored the scorpion and thought he was too cool to be used as
an example for Stanley Oakley.”
Wisdom and Pone laughed.
“You paired the scorpion with the turtle.” said Pone.
“Only because you use to be in a shell when you were younger.”
“Yeah, but you broke me out of it. Anyway, you said the scorpion wanted to get
across the river, but couldn’t swim. A turtle came by, and he asked him for a ride across
the river. The turtle said no because he feared the scorpion would sting him half way
across. The scorpion laughed and said that was absurd since they both would drown.
The turtle nodded thinking the scorpion wouldn’t be crazy enough to put his own life
in danger, so he agreed to give him a ride across the river. As the scorpion sat on the
turtle’s back, sure enough half way across the river, he stung him. As the turtle and
scorpion begin to sink beneath the water, the turtle asked him why he had done such a
foolish thing and the scorpion said, “It’s my nature.”
Wisdom shook his head. “You are not … “
“Killing those boys made me the scorpion. I’ll see you around old man. No more dinners,
Wisdom walked back inside to the warmth of his house. Birdie placed a gentle hand on
“What did you do?” She asked.
“I said good-bye.”