The name of this one reminds me of a funny one I wrote years ago, “I Am Bic Pentameter, Private Eye.” But it’s nothing like it, except the first name of the main character. You can’t help your prompts, can you?
Bic Deuce and the Close Shave
by Marian Allen
Drugs, trespassing, theft, and assault. Me and the gang has done all of ’em. Well, not drugs, unless you count cigs and beer. And we never assault nobody unless they assaults us first. Or unless they’re in our territory without permission, you know? That’s fair. ’Cause they’d assault us, if we trespassed in their territory. Which we do, and then there’s a fight.
Not a rumble, like they call it in the paper. They just call ’em rumbles ’cause that’s what they call ’em in New York an’ big cities like that. Louisville likes to think it’s a big city like New York, but it ain’t. It’s plenty big enough, but it ain’t no New York. Maybe some day, like my old man says every time he gets a job working construction on a new building downtown, but not now, in 1958.
So this one day, we was all in the clubhouse, which was this boarded-up store that the top floor had all burnt down. Dutch had broke the padlock on the back door and the Perfesser had rigged up a light with hanging a flashlight from the overhead light and put, like, a shade on it so the light spread out good.
It was me, who is Bic Deuce, the Perfesser, Dutch, and Macky. There used to be Bomber (his old man flew a bomber in WWII, like mine and Buzz’s, only ours came back). We was waiting for Buzz, but he was supposed to be watching his baby brother that we called Li’l Buzz while their mom was at work, and he had to wait until she left before he could bring him here.
We’re sitting around shooting the breeze, and Dutch said, “I’m out of smokes.”
Macky unrolled the sleeve of his t-shirt and checked his pack and offered him one. None of the rest of us did. Dutch’s favorite brand of anything was OP’s – Other People’s – but Macky never learned.
Then in comes Buzz, with his eyes all bugged out and kinda shaking all over. Li’l Buzz’s raggedy-ass stuffed tiger was hanging out of a pocket of Buzz’s bomber jacket, but I didn’t see no Li’l Buzz.
“Your mom okay?” the Perfesser says.
“I lost Li’l Buzz,” Buzz says. “We was on our way over here, and he dropped his stupid tiger and it slid under a car and I had to get down on the street and reach under to get it, and when I got back up, he wasn’t nowhere to be seen. Y’all, I think he went into Portland.”
I don’t know how it is in the rest of Louisville, but around here there’s bunches of neighborhoods and bunches of guys like us claim different ones, or sometimes just a street or two. Us and friends of ours has a pretty big territory all put together, but Portland is outside of it, even though it’s just around the corner from where Buzz lives.
Dutch says, “I could round up some of the other guys and we could go after him in force.”
The Perfesser says, “That’d be asking for trouble. And he might not even be over there.”
Buzz says, “I’m the one that beat up that Portland guy that come over last week and challenged me. They might’ve lured Li’l Buzz in there so they can jump me when I go after him.”
Macky says, “Like they got the brains to figure that one out.”
I said, “Listen, I’ll go. I never had no big trouble with any of ’em; they won’t figure I’m fixing to start something.”
Buzz looked like he was about to fall over. “Really, Bic? You’d do that? I ain’t never gonna forget this. Not never.”
I gave him a good shove. “Cut it out. We’re his kinda uncles, ain’t we?”
Buzz dropped a couple of tears, but nobody said nothing, ’cause it was his brother. Macky offered me his brass knuckles.
“I got knucks of my own, ya goofball.” I took them out of my pocket and put them on the table. “I gotta go unarmed.”
It felt weird, walking into Portland by myself, no hardware, not all jazzed up for trouble. I wasn’t exactly parading down the middle of the street, but I wasn’t sneaking, either. Didn’t want anybody to think I was up to something.
I kinda wanted to call for Li’l Buzz, but I didn’t want anybody to think “Hey, Li’l Buzz” was some new kinda challenge or something. So I just walked along and checked things out.
About halfway up the block, a guy come out of one of the houses and looked scrunch-eyed at me. I kinda smiled and kinda waved, wondering if I ought to go over and explain, but I thought he might think I was coming over to start something.
Then, over on my side of the street, I heard a little voice call, “Unca Bic! Unca Bic! I need help!”
My head swung around, and there was Li’l Buzz, up a tree in the middle of a grown-up empty lot.
“I can’t get down,” he says, almost kinda blubbery. “He can’t get down, either. I was trying to save him.”
There was a cat next to him, yellow with dark stripes, like his tiger, stretched out on the limb next to Li’l Buzz. It looked like it was about a hundred years old, with pieces of its ears missing and its fur all jaggedy.
They weren’t very high up, but it probably looked higher to a little kid. I reached up for Li’l Buzz. “C’mere. I’ll catch you.”
“I ain’t touching that cat. He probably got the mange and lice and I don’t know what all.”
“No, he don’t.” Like he knew.
“Pleeeeeeease, Unca Bic.”
The less time I spent where I was, the better, so I said, “Okay. Hand him over.”
The old cat let Li’l Buzz pick him up and hand him down to me. I put him on the ground. He sat down and licked his paw, like he hadn’t just been up in a tree and couldn’t get down. If he had been my cat, I would have called him Mr. Cool.
“C’mon, then.” Li’l Buzz jumped and I caught him under the arms and let him down.
“Don’t ever run away from your brother again,” I said. “You got him worried sick. That’s not cool.”
That was when I saw we was surrounded.
Even Li’l Buzz could tell something was wrong. “Am I in trouble?”
Everybody was kinda looking at this one guy, who had his arms folded across his chest, like to see what he was going to do.
He nodded at the cat and then at Li’l Buzz.
“You get one pass,” he said. “This was it. You got it?”
“I got it,” I said. “Thanks.”
They spread out so we could get through, and they all followed us to the end of the street. Just when we turned the corner back to our own territory, that one guy said, “Kids, eh? I got my own baby brothers. Bunch o’ pains.”
“Kids,” I agreed. “Well,” I said, “see ya.”
“Not if I see you first,” the one guy says, and everybody laughs, including me.
So that was what happened.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: Bic Deuce razors, growing up in the West End of Louisville in the 50s (Portland was my neighborhood).
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