Ricky Butler

by Margie Shaheed

See you layda alligator
After while crocodile

"Hey! Y'all seen Angela Davis?" "Yeah," someone hollered back. " She jus' went to the bathroom." He took a seat at the bar to wait for her to come out because he had found something he knew she'd be interested in buying. He called her Angela Davis, an icon of the ‘60's because she was a woman who personified the notion of Black Power. She wore a big afro and African clothes and jewelry. A bit eccentric, she was a person with whom he could climb up on his soapbox and talk about Black issues. The last time they talked they got into a heated debate over the significance of having a Black president. She blew the sleeves off of his shirt with her arguments. In his comings and goings he didn't run into people with a Black consciousness like his so he was happy to call her his friend. Everybody else in the bar felt the same way as he did about her and so the name just stuck.

While he waited, a short shapely woman dressed in bright colors came out of the back room to ask if he wanted to join in on the Stepping lessons. Inspired by R.Kelly's song, Step In the Name of Love, the popular line dance was rapidly becoming a party staple. He told her he didn't have time for a dance lesson, but he was curious, so he stuck his head in the room to see what was happening. He was surprised. It was early Saturday morning and eleven people had come down to learn the new dance. The music was loud, and people were dancing. They laughed and talked. On the table were muffins and coffee. He asked the instructor if he could have a muffin. He picked it up and stuffed it in his mouth quickly.

Ricky took his seat back at the bar and asked the bartender for a glass of water because he suddenly had the hiccups. He had garbage picked an indigo print kimono and a pair of ivory colored earrings from the dumpsters at one of the luxury apartment buildings downtown. It looked as if someone must've moved out, but whatever the case, he always struck gold whenever he went down there to sift through the garbage. To him, it seemed like rich people were always throwing away something good—he guessed to make room for the new stuff they would eventually buy and own.

He is a hustler from way back and he lights up whenever he gets the chance to talk about how he used to be a pimp with a stable of girls working for him. He was one of those, "dyed, fried, and laid to the side" brothers. He said he had all of the trappings too—a big car, diamonds, and the partying good life. His philosophy back then was you make the streets work for you—you don't work for the streets. He is a bag of contradictions though, because in the excitement of life, you can't always predict the realm of possibilities, and if you play with fire, sooner or later, you're going to get burnt. His ticket ran out and so he had to adjust.

He is a heroin addict who still shoots up his dope. He's getting sloppy with it too because just last week he was in the bar shooting up in the men's room. The hit was so strong it raced straight to his head and exploded into a symphony of bells ringing in his ears. He stumbled out of the bathroom with the needle still in his arm! Blood dripped on his shirt and pants. The owner of the bar was livid when she found him stooped over in the corner slobbering at the mouth—looking like a boogie man hiding under the bed. She forced him out of the bar by threatening to call the police on him. This partly brought him back to his senses because he didn't want to get locked up. The last time he went to jail he got sick as a gang of dogs without his fix. His whole body ached and he threw up his insides. He didn't want to go through that again.

He's proud and considers himself an honest man. He regularly boasts about the fact that he never robs or steals from anybody to make his money. Of course, folks find this hard to believe because with a hungry monkey riding your back, digging rusty nails in your skin the way his does, it's hard to say what you will or will not do. He jumped up from the bar when he spotted her coming out of the bathroom.

"Hey Angela, Ah got somethin' good for ya," he said as he reached into the plastic bag as if she had won a prize.

"Here, try it on," he said as he handed her the garment.

He had his salesman's hat on now and it was working in full gear. She slipped the kimono on over her tee-shirt and jeans and then she walked over to the glass doors to look at her reflection.

"Ah like it brotha. It matches perfectly wid a blue velvet dress Ah already have at home," she said as she spun around to get a better look at the long robe.

"How much chu want for it?" she asked.

"Not much, but wait a minute. Ah got some earrings for you too. Tell you wat jus' give me $10 and Ah'll throw the earrings in for free!"

Now, she couldn't blame him for getting his hustle on but $10? No way.

"Listen, she said. Ah'll give you $7. That's all Ah got."

He thought about it for a minute then he said, "Fo' you Angela? Anything. Go ahead. Give me the money so Ah can git my ass outta here."

She reached into her purse and gave him the money. He took off his baseball cap and carefully tucked the bills away in the seams. This way, he could trick would be robbers into believing he had no money on him. He put his cap back on his head and told her goodbye—quick to be on his way to his next mission.

Ricky Butler by Margie Shaheed

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