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From Chapter 10


Willy and Henry walked through Columbus Park. “I see a lot of potential in you, Kreiser,” Willy said. A mild fog gathered the light from the streetlights, leaving stretches of dark in between. Willy was small and skinny but had a hefty strut. His eyes were steady and straight under his bandanna. His arms swung slowly and bounced on every other step. He hacked and spit a bullet.

Henry spit too, but it sprayed.

Willy stopped and grabbed Henry’s arm. “That’s what’s wrong with you.”

“What?”

“Whatever you just did.”

“Spit?”

“That isn’t how you spit!” Willy let go of Henry’s arm.

“Oh. You’re gonna teach me how to spit now?”

“Yeah!”

“Yeah?”

“Come here into the light.” Willy walked over to stand below a streetlight. Henry followed. “You don’t spray your saliva all over the place,” Willy said. “You fuckin’ shoot it out. The purpose of spitting is to get the saliva out of your mouth and on the ground, not all over your chin.” Willy hacked some saliva and spat. It hit the ground like a bullet. “Like that.”

Henry tried the same. But again he sprayed.

“No! No. No. Use your head to give it momentum—like you’re head-butting somebody. And your mouth has to be shaped like the barrel of a gun shooting the bullet.”

Henry tried again. He knocked his head quickly when he spat, and he clenched his lips into the shape of cylinder, but the timing was off and the spit dribbled onto his chin. He wiped it with his sleeve and laughed. “Duh,” he said.

“Don’t laugh. What the fuck are you laughing for? I can’t believe you’re seventeen and nobody ever taught you this shit.”

“Ah, come on, man. We gonna take a walk or what?” Henry started walking again.

“This way.” Willy led him down Hamilton Avenue. Then they went down Hudson Street over to Tyler Street. They stopped at the corner, looking at a row of homes, most of which were boarded up. Tyler Street was especially dark and full of trash.

“What do you see here?” Willy asked.

“I see a bunch of shitty houses.”

“Exactly. And what else?”

“Uh… some trash?”

“No. See, you’re missing something. Like I was saying before, I see a lot of potential in you. But you’re not there yet. Got no precision in yo vision.”

A boy in a hooded sweatshirt moved in the dark behind them quickly, startling Henry. Willy spun around and pulled the boy aside in one quick movement. He yanked the boy’s hood even further down over his face, whispered something in his ear, and then pushed him back on his way. Willy sighed as he returned to Henry’s side.

“Who was that?” Henry asked.

“Let’s go,” Willy said, ignoring Henry’s question.

They went into the Trenton Train Station. They sat on fixed plastic chairs in front of the board listing arrivals and departures.

“You understand life is unfair, right?”

“Yeah. Really fucking unfair.”

“Right, and some people are born into a life where they have everything they need. And others are born into a world of shit.”

Henry nodded his head. He looked at the board. It was flipping through destinations and arrivals now: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami.

“So what is a person to do—I mean, a person who is born into the world of shit?”

“I don’t know.” Henry was still looking at the board.

Willy grabbed his arm. “Pay attention!”

Henry was startled and a little scared at the sudden aggression and anger in Willy’s eyes.

“People born into the shit have the right to take things from people born with everything. That’s how we rebalance.”

Henry shook his arm free. “Don’t touch my fucking arm. I wasn’t born with everything!”

“I know you weren’t, asshole. Esther told me your story.”

“She did?”

“Yeah,” Willy said. “It’s fucked up.”

“So, what’s your point?”

“It’s about your potential. You know when I first met you I was thinking this dude is a corny ass white dude from the suburbs. But in just a few months I see that you’ve come a long way.”

“Thanks.” Henry gave a half smile. “I think.”

“Yeah, I’m giving you a compliment. But also telling you; you have further to go.”

“I’m fine with where I am.”

“You think you there, but you not there. You got it on the inside, but not on the outside. Again, that comes from a lack of precision in yo vision.” Willy turned to the arrivals and destinations board. He held his hands out and framed the board with his fingers for Henry. “What happens next in the movie of Henry Kreiser’s life? Where are we at in that movie? How does it end? Those are the questions you gotta ask yourself.”

Henry looked through Willy’s fingers at the board. It started flipping through the cities again. Henry laughed.

“Don’t laugh Kreiser. You gotta figure out how to be the star of your movie. If you don’t, it’s not gonna end the way you want it to.”

Henry laughed. “You got a strange way of looking at things.” He got up. “I’m goin’ back to the house.”