I admit it. I’ve been scared shitless lots of times. But I was never as shook as when the gun in Eddie’s hand went off. It thundered inside that car like the whole world was coming to an end. I never expected Eddie to pull the trigger, by accident or any other way. I guess that was a big part of it too. In all the time Eddie had that gun, we never shot it off once. It was just for show, so we could get our hands on some quick money. That’s all. We never flashed it around in front of our friends or anything. It was just for us to know about.
I was more scared for that man we shot than anything else. I didn’t even know he got clipped in the head until Eddie told me later. The gun went off and I closed my eyes. I shut them so tight, I thought my eyelids would squeeze them right out of their sockets. I only opened them again to find the handle on the door, so I could get out of that car and take off running.
That damn sound was ringing in my ears. There was no way to outrun that. I couldn’t hear the air pumping in and out of my lungs, or the sound of my feet hitting against the concrete. And I didn’t know that Eddie wasn’t right behind me until I was halfway home, and peeked back over my shoulder. Then I looked back for him again, even though I knew he wasn’t there.
I ran to my crib on instinct, and I guessed Eddie did the same. But I wished he was right there with me to explain what happened. I had to know right then. My brain was going twice as fast as my feet. I didn’t know how to slow it down or what to think about first. I just needed to tell Eddie I had seen that man someplace before. I could still see his round, black face in front of me, like he was somebody I passed on the streets a hundred times. And I was praying to God with every breath I took the man wasn’t dead.
My name is Marcus Brown, but almost everybody outside my family calls me “Black.” That’s because they’re used to seeing me all the time with my boy, Eddie Russo. Eddie is White. Kids who are different colors don’t get to be that tight in my neighborhood. But we got past all that racial crap, until we were almost like real blood brothers. So somebody came up with the tag “Black and White” for us, and it stuck. It got more hype because we played basketball and football for Long Island City High School. We were two of the best players they ever had. Everybody who goes there knows about us. We even made the newspapers for winning big games a couple of times. Scouts from lots of colleges came to see us play. Some of them wanted to sign up the both of us, and keep what we had going. But that’s all finished with now.
I don’t remember if the idea of robbing people came up before Eddie snuck out his dead grandfather’s gun or not. But once the two of those things were square in front of us, they fit together right. We weren’t trying to get rich off it. We were just looking for enough money to keep up.
Lots of kids we knew either hustled drugs for their loot, or pulled little stickups on the street. But drug dealers and ball players usually hold down opposite ends of the park, shooting looks at each other over who runs the place. That’s how it was for Eddie and me with them.
The football team always had two or three posses that ripped people off. They would wave their dough around at parties and latch onto the best girls. Some of them even bought rides with their money, while Eddie and me wore out the bottoms of our good kicks walking. And whenever those dudes went out to celebrate after a big win, we were like two charity cases. Then word started getting out among the right females that Black and White were strictly welfare.
Eddie’s family has more money than mine. They live two blocks down and across the street from the Ravenswood Houses, in a private house with a front porch. Eddie has a mother and a father, and they both work. Eddie gets an allowance that’s only a little bigger than what I get to go to school with every week. But if Eddie ever needed $20 for something, he could put his hand out and probably get it. My mother has always been tight like that. The only money coming in is from her sewing jobs, and what the state sends her every month to take care of me and my little sister.
Senior dues were $150, and the end of February was the deadline. You either paid it or missed out on everything good that went along with graduating, like the class trips to Bear Mountain and Six Flags. It took me almost three months to save that kind of money. Eddie put a lock on his wallet too, and we were just about there.
Then around the middle of January, Nike came out with the new Marauders. Everybody on the basketball team was buying a pair because they came in maroon and powder blue, the same as our school colors. We were the main attraction on that squad. There was no way we were getting caught behind the times like that. So we spent most of our dough on new basketball kicks. That left us with just over a month to get the money we needed for dues. We didn’t know how. But we made a pact that either both of us would come up with the cash, or we’d miss out on everything together.
Teenagers can get a job easy in some place like McDonald’s or Burger King. It’s honest, but it’s low-rent too. Kids at school and around our way already treated us like stars. And we were going to be even bigger one day. First in college, and then the pros. So we decided Black and White shouldn’t be serving up fries in those stupid hats for everybody to see. Besides, there was almost no way to juggle going to practice every day and having a job.
That’s when Eddie first snuck out the gun, thinking we could sell it. We knew a kid who paid almost $300 for a .38-caliber just like it. But Eddie’s father knew where the gun was supposed to be, and might go looking for it one day. Eddie couldn’t blame something like that on his sister. His father would have known it was him, straight off. So we figured that we could borrow the gun any time, then put it back. That’s how we came to do stickups.