"I don't know, man.  Don't seem too hot to me.  What I do if the car breaks down on me?"

     "It ain't gonna break down, man.  If it fucking breaks down, call me up, and I'll give you a ride."  Why the fuck I ever said that, I don't know.  I knew it was a mistake the minute I said it.

     Oddly enough, Otis seemed to feel at ease with me right away.  I could tell that he sensed I was was working class, too.  Anyway, the lack of mutuality made me uncomfortable, because I sure as fuck didn't like him.
     "Ok, then, I'll give you $100 for the thing."

     "Are you kidding me, man?  I could get $800 for it.  I've discounted it for the rust."

     "Yeah, man.  I live way the fuck down on 67th and Stony Island.  I got to drive everyday out to Austin and Lake where I works at the bank."

     "Why don't you take the L?  Get on at 63rd and Stony Island, take it to the Loop, then take the Lake Street L right to the bank's doorstep."

     "Been stuck up twice on the L.  They got me coming down the steps at 63rd and Stony one time.  Got me up on the Loop platform one time, too.  I carry this now, when I rides the L."  He opened his oily blue coat and revealed a hungun and holster under his armpit.  I got a heavy intuitive flash that this fucker wouldn't hesitate to use it.  Suddenly, I felt vulnerable in the gloom under the L with this guy.

     I agreed to sell the Ford for $250 after prolonged negotiations along with the proviso that I would personally give him a lift if the car broke down on him within the next three months.  He unwrapped the bills off a big wad-  he had obviously brought the full $500 just in case he had met his match at negotiating.  He caught me eyeballing the money.

     "I gots a good job, man.  I been the janitor at the bank for twenty years.  Gonna buy me a building next year.  Rent all the units out, never repair nothin', and collect my money."

     "City has been cracking down on that shit.  You gotta keep the building in good repair now."

     "Naw, I going to pays off the alderman."



      A week later, a day after a blizzard, I got the phone call at 5 A.M. from Otis.  "Hey, man.  Your car won't start.  I gots to go to work."

      "Oh, shit, man.  The sun ain't even up yet.  What do  you mean, 'my car?  Motherfucker is definitely your car."

      "Man, you said you was gonna give me a ride if this pig broke down."

     "I can't give you a ride.  Take the L."  I felt shitty as soon as I said that.

      "What!  Man, all you white motherfuckers be the same.  If you sold that motherfucker to a white man, you'd be givin' that motherfucker a ride.  None of you motherfuckers any good, man."

     "Fuck you."  I hung up.

     But when I finally woke up and got out of bed, the conversation bothered me.  As I prepared to go to work at 7 A.M. the phone rang again.  It was Otis again.

     "MacNorton?"

     "MacNaughton.  Hey, man.  I'm sorry.  You just called too fucking early in the..."

     Otis cut me off.  "You oughtta be sorry, man.  In fact, you the sorriest assed mothefucker I know."  Otis sounded positively cheerful.  "Hey, man, I'm just fucking with you.  OK?  Hey, MacNorton, you still there?"

     "Yeah, I'm still here, Otis."

      "Come on and get me, man.  I'm down at 11th and State."

     "Cops got you, huh?"  He had just given me the address of Chicago Police headquarters.

     "No, man.  I took the L like you told me.  Only this fucking kid tried to stick me up.  Motherfucker pulled a screw driver on me."

     "Oh, shit, man.  I'm sorry.  I should have given you that ride.  I'm sorry man.  You OK?"

      "Yeah, I be fine, man.  That little motherfucker who tried to stick me up ain't doing too good though.  I busted a cap on that little motherfucker."

     "Oh, no.  You shot him?"
Continue to next page