The Last Day of Kareem Jackson

Mainport Tales
The Last Day of Kareem Jackson
by Anonymous

It happened again.

The clanging of sticks.

The banging of drums.

The chanting.

Africa.

The man stands above a mound of stones, naked, looking at him. Into him. Seeing all of him. Blood falls from his eyes. Not tears. Rivers.

Africa.

The village burns. It wasn't the man who made it happen. It was him. It was three hundred years before he was born.

Africa.

A single pebble stands above an endless plain of clay.

Congo.

It was dark. Strangers stand before him. Black. White. Brown. Asian. Young. Old. Living. Dead.

One man threw fire. A man with a bull's head walks through the desert. Children fire guns at the sky. A hyena barks at him. A boy in a pile of rubble ties a white towel over his bloody face. An old brown man in a suit looks up at him. Tattoos move across his jaws like snakes. His eyes go black and his mouth opens wider than it should, revealing row after row of sharp teeth.

Owando.

Everything goes white. A bald bearded black man with dark glasses stands before a grandfather clock. He steps through it..

Africa.

A black man in a ringmaster uniform laughs loud as he conducts a puppet circus in a three ringed tent. Two British men play chess while flocks of birds fly around them. A skeletal horse rides through a field of wheat as the farmer weeps.

Congo.

Mainport is buried in sand. It's flooded by water. It burns in fire. All its people choke to death on clouds of poison.

Owando.

He's holding a gun. He's fifteen again. He needs the money to stay out of the group-home. The store owner threatens he'll call the cops. There's nothing but death for him at the group-home. The man reaches for the phone. The gun goes off by itself.

Africa.

The naked man from before has a pebble in his hand.

Congo.

The Mirror Man of Mainport is behind him. He looks up at the sky…it goes dark.

Owando.

He can't see anything.

The Kouyou River.

The man puts the pebble onto the mound.

His name is taken away.

Boss Kareem 'Negro' Jackson woke up in his bed from the same dream he'd had almost every week for six months. His mouth and throat were dry. He looked down. There was vomit all over his bed. He leaned over the edge of the mattress and got out. No point in getting back to sleep now. The pillow and bed sheets needed to be washed anyway.

He tossed them into the washer and walked straight into the shower. Every day now. It used to be once a week, but now it was every night. And his reactions to it were getting stronger and stronger.

Last week he'd scratched his chest up, clawing at his heart. The week before that he bit his hand so hard he considered going to a hospital. This was the fourth time he vomited in his sleep this week.

After his shower he got dressed. Africa.

Pulled on a plain black t-shirt with plain black pants and headed downstairs. Congo.

'Duke' already had bad news for him.

Owando.

“Like I said, Boss,” he wrung his hands together. He was wearing that ridiculous oversized jersey, why did everyone in his crew have to buy into that gangster-culture bullshit, “we don't know which one it was.”

“Did the man fly?”

“Nah, man,” Duke rubbed his forearm.

“Did he shoot lightning out his ass? Shit, Duke! Give me some information!”

“Kay, kay, he…he had on, like, this hoodie,” the Boss wanted to kill Duke, “and…and he was flipping around with kung-fu shit or whatever…”

The Kouyou River.

The Boss looked him in the eye. “Kung fu shit?”

“Yeah, man. Like Bruce Lee on steroids.”

The Boss spit. Africa. “Well that fucking narrows it down to about fifty fucking people. Were they caught carrying?”

“Nah, we good. Mikie might get picked up on a weapon charge, but I don't think they can prove nothin'.”

“Good.” Congo. Boss Negro walked outside. Finally some good news. The men that were picked up only had a handful of priors and what was actually in their favor was that it was a vigilante, not a cop, that brought them in. Owando. He didn't play the 'villain' game the newspapers loved to talk about. Boss Negro's people were all about business. He got into the open car door and Duke followed.

“Where to, Boss?” came a voice from the front seat.

“Red Rider's,” he didn't feel like going into his base at the projects today.

“You got it Boss,” came the response. Kouyou River.

He saw it all out that window. The City of Mainport. He wasn't born here, but he made himself here. When the 'heroes' took down Big Man Owen, it left the city open for business. He had what the city wanted, and all he needed to do was set up shop. It still wasn't easy though. Big Man's lieutenants were in a civil war, but they didn't want a man from out of town getting a taste.

He could see one of the 'heroes' flying off in the distance. Africa. He was a pinprick in the gray morning sky.

That was Big Man's problem. He bought into the 'hero' 'villain' culture like his own thugs bought into 'gangsters.' Big Man acted like he was untouchable, like the cops or the vigilantes or anyone couldn't shut him down. And for a while, it was true. But he was too brash. Too open. His dealers were on high traffic corners. His muscle acted like a bunch of banditos. Their mere presence offended anyone with a sense of subtlety and intelligence. Congo.

They pulled into the lot behind Red Rider's and went through the back entrance.

He flopped down into his office chair and rubbed his eyes. Owando.

Duke sat down on the couch opposite of him, “don't mind me sayin' but you look tired, Boss.” He hadn't told anyone about his dreams, not even his closest associates. “You want one of the rooms cleaned up so you can sleep?”

“Those beds are for johns to bust their nuts over, I'll be fine,” he kept rubbing his eyes and stopped when he realized he was making it worse. Kouyou River. Africa. He sighed. “What do you think about heroes, Duke?”

Duke shrugged and sat forward. “Some are alright. They stop people from getting robbed, or raped or beat up by some crazy motherfucker with…with like, a super tank or whatever. Like, Ironside? He was alright. My momma told me he rescued her from a mudslide. And Black Biker's pretty cool, too, him being a brother and all. But then you get the ones who try to fuck with a nigga up on the corners or lock up the lil' ones for slingin' or the fiends for possession…you know, the ones who are smart, collect evidence, or bring in someone who has a warrant, or just fuck a nigga up to keep his ass off the street, but a lot of these motherfuckers just haul our ass down-town. Like the police go, 'oh thank you for collecting this black-man for us, oh, you mean he was committing a crime? Well thank you so much! We'll send his ass to jail right away!'”

Duke wasn't a smart man, but when it came to the game, he was a prime player. “What about 'villains'?” Congo. Owando. The Boss started getting a headache. He tried to ignore it.

Duke frowned and shook his head. “If you can dress up in a…in a Halloween costume and get away with somethin' then more power to you, cause people remember the costume, not the person under it. It's a good idea as long as you throw away the costume afterward. When you start building a name for yourself, unless you got powers or some kind of protection and shit you're just asking everybody to fuck with ya'll.”

“This ever happen to anyone you know?” the Boss was intrigued. The fillings in his molars started stinging. He rubbed his jaw. Kouyou River, Africa, Congo…

“Shit, just about every nigga in Mainport do it at least once.”

The Boss furrowed his eyes and laughed, “Really?” Owanda, Kouyou River…

Duke nodded, “Yeah, man. See, we grew up with that shit. We don't play Cowboys and Indians, you know what we played?” He paused. AfricaCongoOwando “Good guy, Bad guy!”

“What were you?”

“Bad guy,” Duke sniffed. KouyouRiverAfricaCongo “Fuck, Big Man used to hire all the Bad Guy types he could.”

“I remember that,” the Boss started losing concentration. His eyes went unfocused.

“Worked out good for him too 'til, well, fuck, you know how that went.” Duke scratched his chin. OwandoKouyouRiverAfricaAfrica. “You wanna hire some?”

“What?”

“You know, hire some Boss, some of them can be pretty useful. They hang out at this dive bar near the waterfront-”

Boss Negro held his hand up. “No, I'm…I'm just…going to…stick with regulaaAAAAA!”

Africa.

Congo.

Owando.

KOUYOU RIVER.

AFRICA.

CONGO.

OWANDO.

KOUYOU RIVER!

The naked man stands in a suit in front of a bull. The bull rears back in terror, but is held in place by the man-in-the-suit's friends. “Africa. Go to the Congo,” the man whispers to him, “your destiny begins near the town of Owando,” the man sinks his arms into the bull's chest like it was made of paper, “by the Kouyou River,” he tears out the screaming bulls heart and slings it over his shoulder. “Come here and have your name taken from you.” He throws it on the ground.

KOUYOU RIVER!

OWANDO!

CONGO!

AFRICA!

Kouyou River!

“Shit, is he dead?”

“Shut the fuck, up! Call an ambulance!”

Owando!

Duke was holding his head up.

Congo!

He was convulsing.

Africa!

KouyouriverOwando

He was relaxing.

CongoAfricaKouyou

“Boss?”

River. Owando.

His chest was heaving.

Congo.

“You okay, Boss? What the fuck was that?” said Duke. He was scared.

“Ambulance is on the way, Duke!” came a voice from the other room.

Africa.

“Madubwana.”

“Oh shit, his mind's all messed up. Come on, boss, speak to me.”

“Duke…Duke, I'm not going to the hospital.”

“This is not an issue, Boss. You just fucking threw a fit! I thought you were dyin'!”

Boss Negro tried to stand up, but fell on his knees. “I'm…fine.”

“You hired me for not fucking around, Boss, and you're seeing the paramedics, now sit down!”

When the ambulance drove away he had an appointment to go take a CAT Scan that he never intended on attending. Duke was fussing over him like he was his grandmother.

“I got Stogie going to the market for some stuff, Boss. Chicken Noodle Soup, some Crackers. Club Soda…”

“Duke,” the Boss didn't know what would happen if he left it all behind, “how would you feel about running things for a while…”

Duke's eyes went wide. He wasn't expecting it. “Uh, Boss, you got Willy and Fleece next in line. I'm just, you know, your secretary and shit.”

Duke still didn't understand after all this time. “Duke,”started the Boss, “you were the only lieutenant Big Man trusted near the end, and the only one he didn't listen to. I’ve been grooming you. You've had every opportunity to stab me in the back, but you haven't taken it.”

“Boss, I…uh…”

“I could have died on the floor. You could have broken my neck, or choked me to death, or just left me to die, but you didn't. And after I've killed so many of your old crew.”

Duke rubbed the back of his neck. “But, we friends though.”

Boss Negro stood up on his own for the first time since the attack. “You're loyal, Duke. You already have the management fund in your name. I'm giving you my business fund as well.”

He shook his head violently. He didn't want this. He was going to get it though. “No way, that's the Kareem Jackson's Everything Fund, remember? No way.”

“I'm going to the Congo.”

If Duke was surprised before, he must have been acting because his jaw literally dropped. “What?”

“The Congo. Owa-…I'm going on a trip to the Congo,” he didn't know how else to put it.

Duke looked concerned. “Just take a few days, go see the doctor, a-”

“I'M GOING TO THE CONGO! OWANDA! THE KOUYOU RIVER!” It just slipped out. “This is something I need to do.”

Duke kept shaking his head. “We're going to have to call a meet, Boss. Get everybody all down here and-”

“Do it…DO IT!”

Duke jumped and walked out the door.

Duke was the man for the job. He had to leave for the Congo immediately. He wouldn't need much. He'd arrange it so that if he didn't return in a year, Duke would get complete control. Duke didn't give himself enough credit. He was no Boss Negro, but he knew how to run a business.

But maybe he was actually going insane. Maybe going to get a CAT Scan before the meeting would be the wiser choice. Africa. He needed to call off the meeting. Congo. Until he could get this sorted out. Owando.

No. No, he was going. Everyone would just have to live with it.

Later that night on the plane ride, he dreamed of absolutely nothing at all. The most peaceful night's sleep he had ever had.

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