These was good kids once, I thought to myself. I'd watched them growing up for years. Here I am, rocking in my chair on the porch listening to them brag about running drunk through the streets. Don't know why they come here. Maybe because I just listen and don't let on how this old grandpa sees all the growing up they still need.
Their stories prove my point. Skipping school, staying high, fighting, rampaging through the neighborhood earning themselves the name “gangsta”. Nothing I didn't do when I was their age, but the years had changed me.
Something in their tone scared me that day, though. If they think hunting down some punks who'd done something stupid could right the wrongs... I knew I had to say something, stop them, before they did something you can't undo – and so I spoke.
Children, check it out, I'm going to lay some truth on you. This one time, me and my boys was in the car headed to bust some skulls. Bohemian Rhapsody was on the radio, our 'peacemakers' in our laps. We was dumb, man, thinking we was bullet-proof because we was young.
We'd gone to do what we thought the Cops couldn't. Those Punks was thinking they'd get away with taking a life from our family, but our vengeance and fury had spawned vigilante justice.
Now see, we heard The Dudes was going to be there to protect the hood. They'd just gotten out of prison for roughing someone up too hard. The Dudes had it bad, man. Wrong end of the stick, I guess. God, the Devil, or the Fates, whatever you believe in, just wouldn't let them catch a break. They was poor, sure, but everything was bad for them. Things got worse no matter what they did, shifting from survival to misfortune all through the day, every day.
Now, we was on the other end of things. Just a car full of dumb, getting in trouble with The Law, driving around causing a ruckus and 'disturbing the peace'. We took The Peace to mean that conformity was winning in the war against creativity, so my opinion was that Cops needed to be made into a public spectacle of foolishness. Those 'peacemakers' couldn't do nothing, anyway.
Boy, did we raise hell! Even the preachers would be like, 'Damn kids!' People thought we was hopeless. Lost causes. Not like we cared, we didn't have dads or moms. Our lives was wrapped up in chains and struggle, gagged or at least muffled inside ourselves without expression, not able to speak or be heard because of the lack of opportunity called 'growing up in the projects'.
You feel me?
The world we knew was consuming, assuming, abusing, defusing our dreams, deflating our egos. It was a stream of radio stations and half-closed eyelids, advertisements and TV shows, run by blind men too ignorant to see the immorality in manipulating the very hearts of men. Couldn't stop the denial and avoidance, so we'd lost all hope and faith in the world. Like an old silver chain, people get tarnished and lose sight of who they are. The product of our environment was men that we thought could never change. Like The Dudes.
Now, The Dudes knew that when your eyes adjust to the dark even a point of light can blind you, so when we tried our hand at darkness, they saw we was fake. They knew darkness. They were the types to face Death three times a day; should he come their way again, they'd say 'wazzup' and shake his hand. But they had been humbled by prison somehow, only we couldn't see that yet.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself, you know?
We got there, turned the music down and stepped out of the car. It was dark and we didn't see the Dudes chilling in their jet-black Impala with the engine off. It got cold, things got tense quick. My nerves felt ready to snap.
I was creeping slow, snaking my way up the path to the porch with my gun ready to go off any moment, my footsteps backed up by the nearly audible sound of nervous heartbeats. I stepped on the creaky porch and cocked my shotgun. Cha-Chk... It was the loudest thing I ever heard.
Suddenly we saw headlights up the road, but not The Dudes' Impala. There we were holding guns looking like red-handed thugs, so I kicked open the door just in time to hear the back door slam shut. It hit me: we're being ambushed! I spun, trying to see but blinded by the headlights, dazed, shocked; I had guessed right – up pulled a van full of local gang-bangers. As the car whipped around, I was thinking, These Punks got connections!
When you're looking down a barrel of cold metal, you think about a few things. How do I get away? Can I win? Am I going to die? This wasn't worth it! My mind in a fog, I didn't notice The Dudes get out of their Impala.
Funny, we wanted to fix a corrupt world, but The Dudes had more than enough of broken lives and helplessly watching the ignorant lose everything. Their spirits had changed in prison, and my guess is they wanted to keep us from following in their footsteps. I still wonder...
Anyhow, they were pissed, watching their enemy – Regret – about to walk off with our souls. For a moment we were innocent in their eyes, and so their goal shifted from just watching over the neighborhood to waging war against our potential mistakes, even dying for them if need be. In the panic and the muzzle flashes, I remember the silhouettes of the Peacemakers as they stepped in and cried: 'Run!'
Leaning back in my chair, I said, “They took the bullets for us. Wish I'd known better. But you listen now, it ain't too late for y'all.