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Baby Put That Gun Down


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Baby, Put That Gun Down introduces the greatest legal mind to ever come out of the show-all state of Missouri. He's been shot, cut and scaled with hot grits, and is tired of getting beat up by women. If producing his own iconic version of Joe Millionaire will free him from the crazy, gunrunning Honey Ho motorcycle gang, then lights, camera, action ... let the show begin.

It's a hilarious adventure. But in the end, the story is about the awkward quest for companionship in a contemporary world of disappointing relationships, and the ultimate reward of finding love in the eye of the storm. Every reader that has loved and lost and even won in the eHarmony crap shoot called dating will see the flickering light of hope beckoning them to open their heart and climb aboard the old romance bus one more time.

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Baby Put That Gun Down

  1. 1. Baby, Put That Gun Down Leander Jackie Grogan Visit website at: Publishing Services Worldwide
  2. 2. Second Edition Copyright © 2011 by Leander Jackie Grogan All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by reviewers, who may use quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. For information on permissions, email: Visit website at: Printed in the United States of America Third Printing: December, 2013 ISBN-978-1-61364-032-6 BOOKS BY LEANDER JACKIE GROGAN Orange FingerTips Exorcism At Midnight (Book One in God’s Mysterious Tower Series) Baby, Put That Gun Down Layoff Skullduggery: The Official Humor Guide King Juba’s Chest Black Church Blues Help! The Bible Gobbled Up My Big Sister [Not yet released] What’s Wrong With Your Small Business Team? [Nonfiction Bestseller]
  3. 3. About the Author Leander Jackie Grogan is a native of Houston, Texas, graduate of Texas Tech University and novelist for twenty plus years. His excellence in writing extends over a multiplicity of genres with seven novels having been distributed in eleven countries and five different languages. Both, Exorcism At Midnight and Black Church Blues have become bestsellers with worldwide distribution and popular choices for discussion on national talk shows. He has won numerous local and national awards in creative writing for radio, print and the web. Besides having authored a number of nonfiction articles in such national publications as the Houston Business Journal, AdWeek, Dallas Weekly, Jet and Business info Magazine, Grogan is author of a current business bestseller, What’s Wrong With Your Small Business Team; at one point in 2011, holding the #44 spot in the small business category on Amazon. com. Grogan also serves as a guest blogger for the national crime/ suspense writer’s website, Murder by 4, has written and produced three local spiritual comedies, and some years ago, had a work of fiction published in Hustler Magazine. Grogan’s popularity continues to grow exponentially as a member of the new breed of storytellers unencumbered by the dictates of old world cookie-cutter characters and a narrow spotlight, perpetually shining on the rich side of town. His characters are bold and edgy and unpredictable, and invariably in conflict with traditional values. His writings go out of their way to explore spiritual unknowns and the deep crevices of the mind that harbor raw insight and truth. Grogan’s favorite writer, and most preponderant upon his current style, is the late Sidney Sheldon. Specific works such as Polar Shift by Clive Cussler, Dead Zone by Stephen King, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Deep Cover by Michael Tolkin and The Rainmaker by John Grisham have also had a great influence on his commitment to rich, multi-layered characterization and intricately crafted plots.
  4. 4. Dedication To family and friends who have been so supportive over the years; to fellow authors with whom I have cherished each moment of Facebook collaboration; and to the many die-heart, date-weary singles who have jumped on and off the old romance bus, searching for love and companionship. Sit back and enjoy a good chuckle at the precarious process, and never give up on finding your soul mate. Somewhere out there, Mr./Ms. Right awaits you.
  5. 5. TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter One .......... 9 Chapter Two .......... 17 Chapter Three .......... 33 Chapter Four .......... 51 Chapter Five .......... 57 Chapter Six .......... 67 Chapter Seven .......... 85 Chapter Eight .......... 91 Chapter Nine .......... 99 Chapter Ten .......... 109 Chapter Eleven .......... 119 Chapter Twelve .......... 125 Chapter Thirteen .......... 137 Chapter Fourteen .......... 159
  6. 6. Chapter One I made my voice deep and croaky, like a pissed off bullfrog that had hopped up on the greasy counter in Mama Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen and lapped up too much black pepper and hot sauce. I said, “Baby, put that gun down. Guns ain’t nothing to play with. I know you’re a little upset with me right now. But let’s not take this thing too far.” Sometimes these women need to be reminded that a man was put on this earth to be in control. They know where the first rib came from and it wasn’t from Fat Fannie’s Rib Shack on Piedmont Rd. They also know it was Eve who got suckered by the lizard in the holy garden under the big shade tree. That’s why everything’s so messed up today. Of course, bedeviled from birth by great humility and not one to abuse my God-given powers, I sprinkled a little sweet talk around the extremities of my request, just for her sake, you know, a slight disclaimer of “pretty please” here, and “Double-Dumplings” there. Overhearing my limited rendition of sweet nothings, some narrowminded people might’ve taken my kind words as a form of begging. 9
  7. 7. Leander Jackie Grogan But if you ask me to prognosticate on the fate of narrow-minded people, I would tell you that ignorance is deadly, and not fully understand the true essence of a woman’s rage, narrow-minded people are the first to enjoy the amenities of a steel coffin and slow-moving hearse to the gravesite. The Bible says a woman was created with a natural-born hair trigger. Although I have yet come across the scripture that embodies this priceless wisdom, Crying Lazarus, a reliable third party source back in my hometown of East St Louis, has assured me it’s in there. Even without his loud, fire-and-brimstone, street-preaching corroboration, the evidence speaks for itself. After being shot, cut and scaled with hot grits, I stand as a credible witness. Women are born with a short fuse that can go off at any time. How was I supposed to know Loan-A-Bone Pawnshop was going to burn to the ground with Lawanda’s grandma’s hundred year old family heirloom ring inside? I mean, she’s my fiancée, a quiet, unassuming, ever-supportive little brown skinned, big-eyed diva that has been taught by her family to appreciate the finer things in life. Of all people, I expected her to understand. I told her, “I’ve got plenty of smarts, baby. Some people speak of me in whispers as a powerful intellectualist and a great orator. You remember that speech I gave at your family reunion last year before that Jack Daniels slipped up on me? People were just trembling and shaking with their hands over their faces, trying to fight back the tears.” What the people were doing was a point of contention I didn’t really want to bring up. Her snooty, know-it-all, real estate magnet mama had brainwashed her into believing the people were laughing at me. When we got home that slight misconception escalated into a big blowout with name-calling and personal insults that landed me on the sofa for a few nights ... until she came to her senses. I didn’t want to 11
  8. 8. Baby, Put That Gun Down bring it up, but I had to bring it up because I needed her to remember that even a man of my profound stature has human limitations. I said, “I’m sharp, baby. But I ain’t no fortune teller. I can’t look through the walls like Superman and see that some crooked contractor’s rinky-dink, substandard electrical wiring is about to send the whole shopping center, pawn shop, chicken joint, nail salon and all up in flames.” That’s when my sweet Double-Dumplings closed her eyes, gritted her teeth and shot me in the arm with her dead daddy’s old .22 pistol. I think about my friend, Biggie Williams. He lost two gold chains, a flat screen TV and a George Foreman grill in that same fire. But you didn’t see his ole lady pulling out a gun and acting all crazy. With Biggie laid off from his job and another repo man parked outside trying to scoop up his Deville, she had every reason to act a fool. But she didn’t. I say another repo man as to distinguish him from the first repo man that shamefully extradited that one-eyed monkey Biggie was buying on installments from Jergobbi’s Abused Animal Habitat in the Village. You know those Pakistani people ain’t right over there at Jergobbi’s, repossessing the man’s monkey, especially after he had spent his hard-earned cash buying a fancy clip & flip monocle eyeglass like the ones people of royalty wear over in England. He was even training that monkey to be a security guard down at Blake’s Convenience Store on Fifth Street where they do all that shoplifting. Whenever those hoodlums tried to steal something, that monkey would clip on his powerful monocle, point out the assailant and then proceed to scream like a hyena. That made the thieves run away. One day the whole store cleared out. That monkey was a business investment for Biggie before those bloodsuckers at Jergobbi’s took him away. But you didn’t see 12
  9. 9. Leander Jackie Grogan his ole lady tripping over their operational losses. She and Biggie tried to deal with the problem in a calm and rational manner. But you tell me. How was that spirit of cooperation going to manifest itself at our place when Double-Dumplings had a gun in one hand and butcher knife in the other? I said, “Baby, look around at this fabulous, upscale condo, overlooking Atlanta historic creeks and parks and monuments. We’re a new breed of proud civilized black people with distinction and mutual reciprocity. We’re not savages, baby. We got class. We got to let that domestic violence thing go.” For a moment it appeared she was calming down a bit. So I stayed on my evolutionary roll. I said, “You asked me why I waited until you went to sleep and stole your grandma’s ring out of your jewelry box. In the first place, I didn’t steal it. I borrowed it, like the time I borrowed the two hundred dollars out of our savings account so I could buy you a nice Christmas present. I did it all for you, baby.” And I meant that. I had planned on getting her something really nice for Christmas if my car hadn’t broken down on the way to the shopping mall. The tow truck took most of the money; I bought a Greasy Barn triple meat and fries with the little bit that was left. I had to get a large strawberry malt to wash it down. Standing out there on the freeway all that time, waiting for that trifling tow truck driver to get there made me mad and hungry as hell. Now, looking back on our tempestuous condo mishap, and the way she processed my expression of devotion and good will, I probably shouldn’t have brought the tow truck incident up at all. She started ranting and raving; something about being tired and fed up. That’s when she reached out and slashed at my precious face with that butcher knife. It was a good thing I had watched all of the Muhammad Ali - 13
  10. 10. Baby, Put That Gun Down Joe Frazier fights back in the 70’s. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known to drop my head and turn to the side. I was floating like a butterfly. But I couldn’t sting like a bee ... not with my wrists handcuffed to the bed railing. That’s right. I was a hostage in my own condo, going head-to-head with the worst possible adversary ... a wild woman, locked and loaded, and driven by scorn. The tip of the knife nicked me on the chin, sending a skittish trickle of blood down my neck. I figured if I was going to die, I needed to bare my soul so I could meet Jesus with a clean slate. I said, “Okay, okay just listen. I took your grandma’s ring because I wanted to surprise you with a new engagement ring. I mean, the one I bought you four months ago didn’t exactly live up to the impeccable standards that were originally propagated to me by the seller. I was just as surprised as you when that super glue came loose and the diamond rolled out on the carpet in front of all those high level people at that hotel banquet. Honestly, baby, I never heard of Cubic Zirconia before. The Lenox Square hustler that sold me that piece of crap said it was the real thing. You know I want nothing but the best for you, Lawanda. That’s why I can’t wait for this economy to turn around so I can start looking for me a decent job and give you the things you truly deserve.” I wanted to continue while the words were getting through to her brain. But I kept hearing the low thunder of a pot boiling in the kitchen. I said, “You might want to go in there and turn off that big pot of beans, or whatever you’re cooking. We already had one hellacious barn fire over at Loan-A-Bone. We don’t need another.” I don’t know whether it was the mention of Loan-A-Bone or the misconception I was ordering her around. But she took another swipe at my face with that knife. It forced me to revisit an earlier, tried-and-true strategy with which narrow-minded people would’ve 14
  11. 11. Leander Jackie Grogan taken further displeasure. You know ... begging. “Now please, baby, just think about what’s happening here. This could only be the devil trying to come between us. Who else would’ve put the idea in your head to handcuff me to this bed in my sleep? Certainly not my sweet thing, my one-and only DoubleDumpling. Why don’t you throw those keys over here and let’s end this drama? Let’s sit down over a bottle of Courvoisier and work this thing out.” I reminded her the real villain in this unfortunate state of affairs was Loan-A-Bone. What irresponsible sleaze balls would allow their place of business to burn down without having some kind of insurance or bonding? The owners needed to be tarred and feathered and run out of town. That’s when the house phone rang. She didn’t answer it. But the familiar custom chimes from the Wilcox Prison pay phone ushered in a new sense of rage on her already teary-twisted face. I said, “I know you’re still a little upset with me about that call the other night. Not the collect call from my cousin, running up your phone bill from prison. But the other one from that little lying tramp down at the chicken place. I told you then and I’m telling you now. That’s not my baby. Peaches is just another little street slut looking for a meal ticket. I gave her a ride one time to the bus stop. That’s how she was able to describe the inside of your BMW. And that’s how all this lying started.” I was hoping she wouldn’t hit me with that same blood test question. But she did. I said, “Baby, you know I’d be willing to take a blood test. But I keep reading how these sorry, unprofessional testing labs contaminate the evidence. That’s how I got arrested back in ’99, on bad evidence. Even with my legal expertise and vast understanding of judicial estoppelness, it took me a solid year to clear my good name. 15
  12. 12. Baby, Put That Gun Down You can understand that, can’t you?” She wasn’t listening. Storming out of our small cluttered black lacquer bedroom, she had completely tuned me out. When she finally reappeared in the doorway, weighted down with a silver hot maw pot, bitter face drenched in a white cloud of steam, she tuned me in again, but this time with an Al Green melody too painful to bear. I found myself singing Call Me, Let’s Stay Together and Look What You’ve Done To Me ... all at the same time. I said, “Baby, now, now, now, now, now baby. Whatchu planning to do with that pot? Ba-ba-ba-Baby? Lawanda? Sweet thing? DoubleDumplingsssss!#!*!” That’s it, the whole conversation. I’m telling you people the same thing I told the doctor when I woke up from surgery three weeks ago. He wanted to know how I got shot, cut and scaled with hot grits, all in the same day.   16
  13. 13. Leander Jackie Grogan 17
  14. 14. Baby, Put That Gun Down Chapter Two T hese women are crazy out here. No appreciation for a strong black man fighting through the toils and snares of the world. I never thought my Double-Dumplings would go berserk and leave the confines of her right mind like she did; a good Christian woman from the peaceful town of Sandy Springs, Georgia. The Bible says turn the other cheek, not slash mine with a butcher knife. I’m just lucky her brother stopped by her condo when he did. These three weeks of rehabilitation and psychoanalytic healing at Grady Hospital in Atlanta have helped me to cope with the scares of my abusive relationship with Double-Dumplings. Now it’s just a matter of coping with that $7500 bill they said I needed to pay before I can go home. Down here in Georgia, they don’t seem to realize the new Obamacare law prohibits such outrageous charges against a person of my meager fiduciary status. Here’s what I told that hair-lip woman from the billing office with that big clipboard and all those forms. “I’m a forty-one year old highly intellectualized legal 18
  15. 15. Leander Jackie Grogan prodigy from St Louis, Missouri, the show-it-all, know-it-all state. I’m tall and handsome and spoken of in whispers. And yes, I still have a jheri-curl and one half-moon gold tooth in remembrance of our great civil rights struggles during the 60’ and 70’s. I’m a bonafide graduate of Meramec Community College night classes. And I know my rights. Before the Republicans did the numbers and decided it was cheaper to just let everybody die, the 111th Congress House of Representatives passed Bill HR 3962 which prohibits the willful gouging and degeneration of underprivileged patients such as myself. But in the spirit of cooperation, I won’t report you to the government if you don’t report me to the credit bureau.” I was talking loud like Aunt Gussie use to do at the department store when she was trying to return an item that was two or three years old. It puts pressure on the reciprocal party and forces them to take action whether they want to or not. So far, the only action they’ve taken here at Grady Hospital is put me on an old Army cot they brought up from the basement, and cut my rationings down to one meal a day. I realize this is a semi-private room. But SEMI doesn’t give them the right to make me spend my last day in a corner on a broken down Army cot. I could understand if there were a bunch of patients coming in all at once and room space was tight ... like when my mother took us to visit Uncle Freeman in Mississippi, and somebody brought a pot of bad hog maws to the church picnic. Since there was no hospital, we all ended up being rushed to the same little country clinic at the same time. Since the town doctor was also the veterinarian, we had to share a room with sick goats, dogs, and parakeets, not to mention a bunch of old people passing bad, Nazi-death-camp gas through their bloomers while keeping a straight face. But at least there was a reason for our constricted misery. What reason did Grady Hospital 19
  16. 16. Baby, Put That Gun Down have for downgrading my hospitality and relegating me to an Army cot in the corner? They gave my comfortable bed to a straggly, Mr. Peabodylooking white boy with a big purple bruise on his head. Turns out he had a similar domestic experience; only, his torment had been going on for three years. Can you imagine getting slapped around by a big 6-foot-1, 300 pound country-strong Sheriff Deputy for three years? She was using her authority and size to keep the man in check. I told him, “A strong black man like myself wouldn’t take that kind of crap.” He started coughing and laughing, coughing from his severe case of emphysema and laughing from what he concluded to be my short-sighted perspective on life. Peabody spoke with a catty southern drawl. “You bad ain’t cha?” “You better recognize,” I confirmed. “You Shaft all over again.” “I’m Shaft’s daddy, knowemsayin’. Right on, right on.” You could tell he had spent some time in the hood because he started humming that bonafide Isaac Hayes Shaft theme: WHO’S THE CAT THAT WON’T COP OUT, WHEN THERE’S DANGER ALL ABOUT.... “Hush yorh mouth. You talking ‘bout Shaft, baby.” And then I started making that yo-yo washboard sound in the theme song. We jammed for a minute. Then Peabody looked at my slashed cheek, bullet-grazed arm and slightly cooked chest. “So why the hell is a strong black man laying here in a hospital bed next to me ... Shaft?” Technically, it wasn’t a bed. It was an Army cot. But I did get 20
  17. 17. Leander Jackie Grogan his drift. His rare exhibition of logic and wherewithal immediately put us on the same cosmic plane, not to mention the fact that we both had been violated by crazed, psychopath, over-the-edge women. I wanted to further our acquaintance, especially since he didn’t seem to be interested in that hot Salisbury steak plate the nurse had just brought him. But two slickly dressed suits walked through the door and interrupted our conversation. The black alligator satchels and expensive imported loafers gave them away as attorneys. The short one did the talking while the tall one rummaged through a stack of documents. They reminded me of high pressure salesmen with a background in loan-sharking. They kept telling Peabody he’d better accept the offer before they took it off the table. “You’re a maintenance man at a broken down apartment complex. When are you going to see this kind of money again? We advise you to take this $25,000 before it slips through your fingers.” As it turned out, they represented a cigarette company that was settling small claims left over from the big congressional law passed years ago. Some people have gotten $15 million; Others $5 millions; Others $500,000. And here they were offering him $25,000. It wasn’t my business, but I couldn’t sit there ... well, lay there while they took advantage of my new friend. I said, “You clowns must be out of your mind. This man is suffering from life-threatening emphysema because of those poison white sticks you been dishing out for years. And you want to compensate him with a funky $25,000? Oh hell naw! We’ll see you in court.” The short lawyer asked, “Who are you?” I told them I was Bobby Felton Frazier, one of the greatest legal minds to ever come out of the state of Missouri. “Are you a registered attorney?” The tall lawyer demanded. 21
  18. 18. Baby, Put That Gun Down “I’m more than an attorney, baby. I’m a legal prodigy with expertise far beyond anything you could imagine.” And then I started quoting from the Declaration of Independence: “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal....” I hated my tenth grade teacher for making us memorize that useless propaganda. But now I could see the true value in regurgitating it in a strategic time of need. The short lawyer growled. “What does that have to do with this case?” I told him the same thing that Article Six of the United States Constitution had to do with it. And then I elaborated, “In accordance with the supreme law of the land, the United States government, under the Articles of Confederation, is responsible for debts in pursuance of third party agreements, knowemsayin’? And it must enforce harsh, unmitigated punishment against those in conflict of such agreements.” “What agreement are you talking about?” asked the tall lawyer. “The $206 billion national tobacco settlement, of course. You boys are in violation of Clause 230 which calls for the fair and unbiased compensation of victims damaged by your immoral practices. You’re leaving us no choice but to turn your names in to receive the harsh, unmitigated punishment as set forth by law. But if you was to decide to negotiate in a fair and honorable manner....” The short attorney looked at his partner. “Why are we talking 22
  19. 19. Leander Jackie Grogan to this idiot? He had nothing to do with this case.” The tall lawyer looked at Peabody. “Surely, this nincompoop isn’t representing you?” Peabody looked at me for a long time. Finally, he responded, “Yeah. Yeah he is. Whatever you need to say to me, you said to him.” They both look back at me. I stood up and started pacing the floor like Perry Mason. Actually, it was more like limping the floor, since some of the hot grits had scintillated on my thigh, making it a bit painful to get into my normal cool-daddy stride. “Like I was saying, if you boys are willing to enter into fair and honorable negotiations....” “How fair?” ask the short lawyer. “Off the top, I’d say $750,000 would be a good starting point for a man stricken with deadly emphysema.” “That’s ridiculous!” said the short lawyer. “Our client wouldn’t consider anything over $100,000.” Offering a man a measly $100,000 when you’ve taken away his only breathing utensils is a disgrace to both our professions.” “Look, I don’t even know what profession you’re in.” “Legal mediation, with a specialization in Jurisprudus,” I said. “And what my prudus is telling me is that we need to be discussing matters along the half million dollar range.” “Forget it. Two hundred thousand is as far as we can stretch.” Since you boys deflated my character in front of my client, calling me an idiot and all, I’m going to need another $50,000 in slander money, just so I don’t feel the need to wait for you outside in the parking lot.” “Are you threatening us with bodily harm?” asked the tall 23
  20. 20. Baby, Put That Gun Down attorney. “I’m just letting you know how things go down in the hood, baby. Ask Tupac Shakur.” “Who in the hell is Tuu-” “Look, $225,000 is our final offer,” interrupted the short lawyer. “Take it or leave it.” The tall lawyer started gathering up all the papers. I glanced at Peabody, signaling him with a slight twitch of the eye. “Are you satisfied with this pathetic offer?” He nodded in rapid sequence like a brand new bobble head doll. “We want our money transfer to his account within seven days,” I said. “No stall tactics or waiting around until the Federal Reserve stops making pennies or printing out $2 bills.” Peabody shook his head just as rapidly. “No not my account.” I found out later his bad-tempered, live-in Deputy girlfriend was on the same account. “Let’s make that a cashier’s check,” I reconfigured. “We’ll pick it up from your office in seven days.” Once the two soft-shoed sleaze bags had left the room, Peabody turned to me. “Thanks, dude.” “Thanks, hell. Mediation services are not free. We need to talk about the split.” “How about half?” he offered, spiraling off into a coughing frenzy. “How long you been smoking, fool?” Peabody finally got his throat back. “Since the eleventh grade. In the trailer parks outside Decatur, it was a cool thing to do; That, and listening to rap music with my homies across the track.” “None of your homies ever bothered to tell you cigarettes 24
  21. 21. Leander Jackie Grogan would take you out?” “A hustler named Johnny B did. But he died of an overdose smoking crack. Cigarettes offered more of a long term alternative.” He started coughing again. The more Peabody coughed, the more his offer cut into the busy itinerary of my vacationing conscious. It was his case, his emphysema, his price to pay for being cool. I had invested, maybe, thirty minutes tops? Half of the proceeds just didn’t seem right. “Twenty percent is the going fee.” I countered. “And I said half.” Peabody scolded me between barks. An hour later we had agreed on 33 1/3 percent. We were lying there in our own worlds, plotting out our recently invigorated futures when he asked, “What are you gonna to do with your money?” “I’m starting over fresh, baby. A new car to get the ball rolling.” “What kind?” Peabody asked. “Rover, Escalade, Jag?” “I like that Toyota 4-Runner.” “That ain’t no flash.” I could already see the scene in my head ... Black man in a big white Escalade, pulled over by ten red neck Georgia cops, getting the hell beat out of him for having the arrogance to show a free-and-clear title in his name. “You know why it’s so easy for Po-po5.0 to catch the pimps and drug dealers?” “Why?” “Flash, that’s why. Plus, it’s pretty stupid to pay an extra twenty grand for a luxury decal on the hood.” “I’d pay if it magnetized one of those soft, floozy types that knew how to treat a man. If you had any marbles, you’d pay it too.” “Why? 25
  22. 22. Baby, Put That Gun Down “Maybe it would keep you from taking swimming lessons in a pot of hot grits.” “Listen who’s talking, Mr. Gun-butt kisser, himself.” Peabody rubbed gently across the purple knot on his head. “Billy club this time.” “Jesus Christ, man. Did she give you a reason?” “She accused me of looking at another woman.” “Well, were you?” “Kind of. But she wasn’t looking at me. I mean, who’s going to look at me? I’m just the maintenance guy, you know? I paint a wall here; fix a washer and dryer there; Let some dumbass tenant in who’s lost his keys.” Peabody’s chin was almost touching the floor. I thought to myself, Why do so many people let their jobs define them? Hell, I didn’t even have a job. But it didn’t mean I was nobody. I was somebody. I was unemployed Bobby Felton Frazier with a key map that led directly to the unemployment office. “Now see, with that low-self-esteem attitude, you’ll never get away from that billy club packing jolly green giant and find yourself a decent woman.” “What decent woman is gonna want me? I got nothing to offer.” I quickly reminded him. “Except for those Mr. Peabody glasses, straggly hair and bird chest, you’re not a bad looking fool. And just in case you’ve forgotten, those two clowns that just left here are cooking you up a big pot of greenback soup.” He struck a shameful pose in the small dresser mirror across the room. “Even with money, I’m never gonna meet the type of classy broads you see on these videos.” “Please! Don’t even think about rating those broads as classy. 26
  23. 23. Leander Jackie Grogan They’re just boodie-shakers and rap star groupies. You definitely need to raise your standards, baby. Set your sights on some of those sho-nuff gold diggers out in LA and the Big Apple.” Peabody shook his head. “You talking pipe dream, dude. Those broads looking for somebody with heavy flash and Ben Franklins stacked to the ceiling. I ain’t no Kobe Bryant. How can I meet somebody like that?” At that moment, on the small wall-mounted television above our heads, the commercials ended and a new show popped onto the screen. The music revved up like the beginning of a Broadway play. The announcer said, “AND NOW LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IT’S TIME TO MEET JOE MILLIONAIRE”. We both watched in awe as this young snot-nosed white boy bachelor walked through a harem of beautiful women, handing out expensive long-stemmed roses. These were high-end women in tight shiny dresses and flowing gowns. They were all slobbering at the mouth with a stupid “take me” expression, hoping for a chance to be Joe’s chosen bride. That’s when the idea suddenly invaded the visionary side of my cranium-enclosed encephalon. We were beating life with a small stick, still operating with self-imposed limitations rather than the brightened futures Benjamin Franklin and Ulysses S. Grant had recently bestowed upon us. We were like free slaves still living on the plantation. It was time to re-emancipate our clouded minds. I looked over at Peabody. “You thinking what I’m thinking?” He looked back at me. “That stalking is a hard crime to prosecute?” “No, no look at the screen, baby. What so you see?” “A crop of hot babes in heat, maybe, from places where stalking is a misdemeanor?” 27
  24. 24. Baby, Put That Gun Down “What you’re looking at is capitalism in its grandest form, the buying and selling of goods and services in a wide open unimpeded forum. In the ghetto it would be prostitution. But the powers-that-be have repositioned this thing with an elegant smell to it.” Peabody scratched the side of his head that hadn’t been beaten in. “Okay, but when I look at it the way you describe, I get confused. Who’s buying and who’s selling?” “That’s the beauty of the whole thing. Everybody’s buying and everybody’s selling. Joe Millionaire is using his money and prestige to buy himself a hot young babe that’ll rock his world when the lights go out. Those gold diggers are using their charm and good looks to buy some high living and long-term divorce security when the judge splits up that white boy’s property.” “You don’t think there’s a chance they could fall in love? I mean, I see some babes up there on that screen that already have my heart throbbing.” I shook my head. “If you check again, you’ll discover the throbbing is way below your heart.” Peabody raised the bed covers to conduct a more thorough investigation. “Point well taken.” “We don’t have time for love, baby. Our plan has to be executed on the superficial side of the street.” Peabody frowned. “Plan? What plan?” “Our plan to put a big target on our backs just like Joe Millionaire and have those greedy sweeties running after us.” “But we ain’t no millionaires, dude. We barely two hundred thousandaires.” “Who knows that besides me and you and the lawyers?” I asked. 28
  25. 25. Leander Jackie Grogan There was no way those trifling gold diggers had checked Joe’s bank account to see what was really in there? Women don’t process like that. They were buying into the hype and the flash that came along with the show. Peabody perked up. “You really think we could pull it off?” “Yeah, but we’re going to have to make some adjustments.” He frowned. “Adjustments? Like what?” “Like getting you a decent haircut, and making a few trips to the weight room to recompunctualize that puny chest.” I didn’t say it right then, but my hope was, with so many seasoned drug dealers on English Avenue, we could find a batch of that ghetto-enhanced Robitussin to put the clamps on his sandpaper cough. Peabody pondered a long moment. “Anything else?” “I’ve been calling you Peabody all this time. As your legal representative, business associate and personal friend, I’d consider it a privilege to know your real name.” “My name is Hadley. Hadley Ross, Jr ... thirty-one year old escapee from the trailer parks of Decatur, Georgia and the most reliable, non-stealing, fix-all maintenance man you’ll ever meet.” “You know, I think I like Peabody better. Why don’t we call you Hadley Peabody III?” He thought about it. “How about Dr. Hadley Peabody III, dashing young resident from the General Hospital soaps?” “You know anything about being a doctor?” I asked. “I just know they cut people open and sleep with the nurses after work.” I took a moment to evaluate his unique qualifications. “That’s close enough.” “What about you?” 29
  26. 26. Baby, Put That Gun Down “What about me?” I fired back at the ridiculous notion of meddling with perfection. “No offense, but the brothers stop wearing those whip and drip jheri-curls light years ago.” “Not true. Not true at all. As I pointed out to my former grit-slinging fiancé, Michael Jackson wore a curl right on up to the time of his death.” “Yeah, but it wasn’t a full drip like yours,” said Peabody. “Plus, he had a good reason with that skin disease and all.” “I’ve got a good reason too.” Peabody eyed me thoroughly and shrugged his shoulders. “I suppose, if you’re trying to cover up that little baby scratch across your cheek and short-circuit any future talk about your ass-whoopin’.” “First of all, your crude and misguided summation of the tragic events of that day dishonor the great restraint I show in controlling my temper. Not too many people know this, but my powerful Kungfu-Jeet Kune Do techniques make me an unregistered weapon of mass destruction. Just my concentrated thoughts alone could probably take out a city block, knowemsayin’?” Peabody flashed a disbelieving smirk. “Really? Exactly where did you learn this powerful Kungfu Jeetzy?” “YouTube, baby. All the lessons are uncut and right there for the taking. But you need to ride it slow and easy until you get to my level.” Peabody took note of the thin white bandages covering the modest burns on my chest. “At what level do they cover grit attacks?” “This ain’t nothing but a thang, my man. With that new money coming in, I’m heading over to that cosmetic laser clinic on Rust Ave. Before you know it these little scratches will be nothing 30
  27. 27. Leander Jackie Grogan but baby-smooth memories.” “And the jheri-curl?” pressed Peabody. “I mean, you just said we gotta be willing to make some adjustments if we want this plan to work.” I didn’t like that idea; didn’t like it at all. But in the spirit of compromise, and with the pendulum of fashion swinging in the opposite direction of my trendy ‘70’s look, I decided to go with the flow. “Fine! Fine! Against my better confunctionation, the curl goes too. But don’t ask me to give up my March From Selma t-shirt autographed by comedian Dick Gregory, himself. My uncle gave me that shirt when he came back from one of his many exploits in the great movement. Course, you’re too young and too white to know anything about that.” Peabody paused. “There were actually three marches from Selma to Montgomery back in 1965, including Bloody Sunday where hundreds of civil rights workers got beat and tear gassed by Alabama State Troopers.” My mouth fell open. “That’s absolutely right, Peabody!” “Dr. Peabody, if you don’t mind.” “Sure, sure, doctor. My bad. But tell me. How do you know about such a proprietary event?” “My first girlfriend was a young black history buff that worked at the Decatur library. She was a bit on the chubby side, but smart as a whip with the sweetest lips. Cheryl McCoy ....... Gave me my first kiss behind that dusty encyclopedia rack on the second floor.” “What happened to her?” I asked. “Don’t know. One day her parents just upped and moved away.” 31
  28. 28. Baby, Put That Gun Down “Well, no more chubby girl for you, my man. From this day on, we’re strictly dealing with the A-list.” “Agreed,” he nodded. “Now any more complaints from the great trailer park fashion expert?” I asked. He made a visual sweep across my face. “Nothing, except maybe that gold tooth?” “Ahhhhhhwww hell naw!!! It took me a full year to save up for this exotic workmanship. Do you know this is pure 24 carat?” “Name one rich movie star that’s got a gold tooth?” “How about Lil Wayne?” I asked. “Lil Wayne’s grill was covered in platinum and diamonds, not gold. And it got so rotten underneath, he had to take it out. Plus, a renowned brain surgeon like myself has no business running around with Lil Wayne.” “Wait a minute. You were just a General Hospital resident a few seconds ago.” “That was before the growing demand for a highly trained specialist, familiar with drills and saws, forced me out of my comfort zone,” Peabody explained. “Fine, fine, brain surgeon Peabody. Who am I to place restrictions on a man’s career?” I’m just saying. If we’ve got a plan, let’s go all the way, unless you got doubts?” “No doubts, baby. When Attorney Bobby Felton Frazier lays down a plan, it’s as good as gold.” Peabody’s face lit up. “I can see it all now, dude. We gonna have em’ begging; begging like blind women on the corner.” “Begging, baby. begging with a tin cup that only holds the Peabody liquid of love.” 32
  29. 29. Leander Jackie Grogan “Eating out of our hands.” “Like little puppy dogs at supper time.” “You know why, cause we bad.” “We badder than bad.” “We Shaft all over again,” he declared. “Naw, baby. I’m Shaft’s daddy and you’re his white step-daddy. And there’s nothing going to get in our way. Can you dig it?” Peabody started up with the Shaft theme again: WHO’S THE BLACK PRIVATE DICK THAT’S A SEX MACHINE TO ALL THE CHICKS? SHAFT! YA DAMN RIGHT! I followed up in my deep, croaky voice. And then I chimed in with that yo-yo background. Our jam session was louder this time and hitting on all cylinders. The room was jumping, with the hard smell of testosterone in the air. That’s when the door swung open and Peabody’s big Lumberjack Sheriff Deputy girlfriend stormed in. And that’s when we started to scream.   33
  30. 30. Baby, Put That Gun Down Chapter Three F lying down Atlanta’s Northeast Expressway in Peabody’s old green junked up Ford pickup, I scolded him with unrestrained ferocity. “If you hadn’t run out the room so fast, screaming like a little girl, you would’ve heard the woman say she was there to apologize.” In a jittery, cough-riddled voice, he fired back in. “You screamed just as loud as me.” “Naw, baby, you got that wrong,” I said. “You need to understand I was sending out a high-pitch, siren-type signal to hospital security.” “You think they heard you, hiding under that Army cot?” “I wasn’t hiding. I was trying to find my pepper spray so I could-” “Look, dude, cut the crap. If we gonna be friends, we gotta be honest with each other. We both got caught off guard. Just face the facts and move on.” “Youuuuu ... you think she’ll move on too?” I asked. 34
  31. 31. Leander Jackie Grogan “Not a chance. There’s this co-dependency thing where she needs somebody to knock around. She’s probably putting out an APB on my license plate right now.” “Oh, naw, naw. I can’t afford no lock-up time. Been there, done that. You’ve got to fight like hell just to come out of there not wearing a skirt.” “Don’t worry. My Uncle Toby has a summer place in the woods. We can hold up there until those cigarette lawyers cut the check. After that, I say we follow our plan, blow this town and hook up with those high-class babes in LA.” “You think your uncle has some extra clothes out there st his place? This hospital gown is freezing my bergenitals.” Peabody paused for a long time. “As a medical doctor, I should recognize that word. But I don’t. In fact, I’ve heard you use several terms that are, shall we say, a mystery to the English language as we know it in the South.” “And you want to know the origin of my unique venaculation.” “Yeah, dude, I do. Like, when did you start creating new words?” I hadn’t told many people about my chaotic, uninspired background. But somehow I felt he deserved to know. In East St Louis where I had grown up, many of the schools were a joke; no books, no teaching, just a juvenile prison to keep us off the street during the day. I graduated from one of the worst of the bunch. When I enrolled as a hardship case at the University of Missouri in Columbia, it was like getting off the boat in a foreign country. People spoke in a totally different language. It was like English on steroids, where they added five or six extra syllables to every word. Everything had to pursue relevant synergy to circumvent the emancipation of a physiological enigma detrimental to the university’s bequeathed destiny. Overwhelmed, unwelcome and a drag on the school’s national 35
  32. 32. Baby, Put That Gun Down standing, I finally bailed out. The Dean of academic probation was happy to assist me in the matter. But not wanting to completely disappoint my mother and other relatives who had sacrificed so passionately to give me a shot at college, I enrolled in night school at the local community college. It was totally different. It wasn’t long before I realized these home town hoaxers, including the instructors and administrators, were just as clueless as me. So to get ahead, I started throwing extra syllables in on them, the same way those ivory dome egg rollers had done on me. “That’s amazing!” said Peabody. “What’s amazing is I was still dumb as swamp water. But the A’s and B’s kept showing up on my transcript. At one point, I made the Dean’s List.” “Did you finish?” Peabody asked. “Damn straight. Two year Associate in Pre-law. Got a junior clerking job at a law firm and started making some nice change.” “How long before they busted you as a Pharisee?” “Five months,” I proudly reported. “But it didn’t matter. I had a good run. Got another gig shuffling papers at the County seat, where my repertoire of syllablism elevated me to Section Supervisor.” Peabody grinned with imagination. “I bet you were the man!” “You better recognize. It was the sweetest deal this side of heaven, that is, while it lasted; all these young pretties with high ambitions and low morals working for yours truly. Then those fools in Washington DC came out with that sexual harassment crap. You’d think they had better things to do than mess with a man’s gravy train, knowemsayin’?” “Hey, I ain’t mad at you. Sara Palin started making up words and almost got to be Vice President of the United States.” “So you don’t think I come off as, well, ghetto ignorant?” 36
  33. 33. Leander Jackie Grogan “Actually, some of your words sound better than the real thing,” said Peabody. “As I further my studies in the medical field, I just might come up with my own itterationaries too.” “Right on, baby. Right on.” Uncle Toby’s old three room log cabin with a sinking front porch and rusty swing, darkly tinted split-log windows and black tar gable roof was located deep in the Jonesboro thickets, a few miles from the dingy waters of Lake Harbin. Pulling up the narrow gravel drive and into the front yard, the whole place looked run down and thoroughly engrossed in a losing battle with knotweeds. Big black metal boiling pots, filled with animal sculls and sodium cleaning solution, surrounded the front entrance. Clumps of deer and alligator remains were scattered throughout the yard, attracting flies and maggots and giving off an awful stench. Wire lines, extending from the outside walls, sagged with drying animal skins. Following Peabody through the carnage, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Davy Crockett was still alive and on some kind of slaughtering rampage. “What does your uncle do?” I finally asked. “He makes a good living selling animal hides. Some of those $900 alligator boots you see in the downtown Atlanta store windows come from his place. Course, this is only half of the business.” “What’s the other half?” Peabody didn’t answer right away. Once we were inside the cabin, a shoebox of tan walls, cheaply framed military photos and scuffed hardwood floors, he swung open the bulky green accordion 37
  34. 34. Baby, Put That Gun Down drapes covering the back picture window. Marijuana plants stretched out into the woods as far as the eye could see. “Your uncle peddles pot?” “He says it’s for medicinal purposes only. He’s got a distributor in California that buys all he can grow.” My crusty lips started to water. “Living with Lawanda and the ghost of her strict upbringing, it’s been a long time since I had a drag on one of those home-grown Stogies.” Suddenly, a soft yet unnerving voice boomed out from behind a crack in the bedroom door. “Maybe we’ll throw a farewell joint in your casket on the way down.” Immediately, a muscular woman in her early thirties with short, bleached blonde hair, wearing a black jumpsuit, stepped into the living room. She poked and waved a custom pearl handle .45 automatic a few inches from our noses. The hostile reception sent Peabody into another desperate coughing frenzy. Eventually, he recovered with a wheezy, owl-like inquiry. “Who-whooooo are you?” “If you haven’t already noticed, I’m the irritated, constipated, man-hating lunatic holding the gun,” she declared with a threatening whine. “So I’ll be the one asking the questions. Now march your pitiful asses over to that table and sit down!” When she said pitiful, I suspected she was mostly talking to Peabody with his cough and all. But just in case her request was of an all encompassing nature, I took a seat as well. “Now let’s turn that question around. Who are you clowns?” “Dr. Hadley Peabody III,” he blurted. “And this is my associate, Attorney Bobby Felton Frazier.” She paused a brief instant. “Hummm. Never whacked a couple of professional bozos before. Wonder how that would look on 38
  35. 35. Leander Jackie Grogan my resume?” “I’m 99.9% sure it would be a waste of time,” I assured her. “You’d earn a lot more street credit knocking off the big names like Frank Nitti and Al Capone.” “And maybe Osama bin Laden,” said Peabody. “That would really help your career.” She seemed momentarily puzzled, but continuing her interrogation. “What are you doing here?” “We dropped by to see Uncle Toby. But if this is a bad time....” “So that sleaze bag Toby is your uncle?” “His uncle, not mine,” I said. “Far as I’m concerned, he’s a disgrace to this community, selling this disgusting and illegal paraphernalia.” “Any idea where he is?” she pressed. “And don’t make me shoot your tongue out for lying.” “My guess is he’s long gone. Probably won’t be back this way for weeks,” said Peabody. “But if I happen to see him, I’d be glad to give him a message.” At that moment, a shiny black Silverado pickup pulled into the front yard. An older man in dark shades and faded Army fatigues jumped out. With a lively step and a couple of bags of groceries, he headed toward the cabin. “Weeks, huuh?” she jeered, tiptoeing with cat-like precision behind the front door. “If you make a peep, I’ll splatter your brains on that table. Now sit there like he’s Santa Clause and you’re stupid enough to believe in the north pole.” Uncle Toby, a short, stocky man with a reddish beard and receding hair line, walked through the door completely unaware of her awaiting ambush. His ruddy face brightened with surprise. “Hadley, my boy, what are you doing here?” 39
  36. 36. Baby, Put That Gun Down The woman lunged from behind the door and slammed the butt of her gun against Uncle Toby’s head. As he crumpled to the floor, she stood over him, her huge feet crunching open the busted carton of eggs next to him. “He’s here for a funeral ... your funeral, you piece of red dirt. Now crawl over there with the other cockroaches and take a seat.” She flipped out her cell phone and hit the speed dial. “The chicken is in the hen-house, ready to be plucked.” She pulled out a pair of silver handcuffs and locked Uncle Toby to his chair. “Sorry, boys, I don’t have enough toys to go around. But think of it this way. Your wrists won’t be all sore and bruised up when it’s time to dig your own graves.” She slid over to the front window and started to peep out. Peabody whispered in a raspy voice. “What’s going on, Uncle Toby? You know this woman?” “Kinda. She’s a member of the Street Angels motorcycle gang.” “Why is she so pissed off?” “It’s just a slight misunderstanding.” “Hey, shut your traps over there,” she ordered. “There’ll be plenty of time to discuss the slight misunderstanding and maybe even the size of your tombstone ... like a chance in hell you were gonna get one.” An hour later, three Harley-Davidsons and a black custom van roared up the gravel drive in a cloud of dust. An entourage of six women dressed in black leather jumpsuits with orange, blonde and blue hair barged through the door. A seventh woman, much younger with streaming black hair, a pale face and a bullet stomach that protruded beneath her flowered blue sun dress, followed, reluctantly, behind. The tall, sunburned, pointy nosed, cropped-curled blonde was 40
  37. 37. Leander Jackie Grogan the obvious leader. She spoke with a Cajun accent. “ Wellllll, Comment ça va, my friend! If it ain’t de Georgia stud-hoss, himself. How you be, Mr. Toby, full of dat Viagra, yea?” Uncle Toby swallowed hard. “Now wait a minute, Jestine. I can explain everything.” “Can you now. Even the disgraceful condition of my baby sister, here? You can explain dat?” She pointed to the young girl’s protruding stomach.” “Believe me, it wasn’t supposed to happen like that. I mean, I didn’t intend to....” “Knock her up. Sho you didn’t, Mr. Toby. You were just trying to have a little fun, yea? A fifty year old man having fun with a innocent, young twenty-seven year old baby child. Isn’t dat what all men want to do, Mr. Toby ... have a little fun, a little laissez les bon temps rouler?” “I keep telling you, Jestine. I’m not a child anymore,” declared the young girl. “Stop calling me that!” “You hush now, Gracie Mae. We don’t need no Gumbo ya-ya from you. Your head’s been in a bayou fog for de last eight months.” Jestine took a seat on the small sofa and parked her $500 knee-high Victorella Biker boots on the flimsy wooden coffee table. The short, fleshy biker with the orange hair raided Uncle Toby’s refrigerator and brought over a cold Abita Pecan Harvest Lager. Jestine tilted the bottle toward the ceiling and didn’t stop drinking until it was three-quarters gone. “Aaaaoooh!” She belched, loudly, a yellowish stream still dripping down the side of her mouth. “Glad to see you still keep my favorite in stock. It’s hard to find a lager made from real Louisiana pecans. Almost as hard as finding a man dat can KEEP HIS DAMN PANTS ON!!!” She snatched an eight inch, jagged-edged, stainless steel gutting knife from her belt and stabbed it into the coffee table. 41
  38. 38. Baby, Put That Gun Down Both Peabody and me sent out a high-pitch, siren-type signal to hospital security. She continued with a cold, deliberate stare. “Now, Mr. Toby, you were about to explain how our simple, good-faith purchase of some thirty reefer bricks led to my baby sister’s awkward and somewhat deplorable condition.” He stammered. “Ma-ma-maybe it was the first or second time you came by, I don’t remember. When you reached into your pocket for that roll of cash, you must’ve dropped it then. Anyway, that night I found a piece of paper on the floor with a phone number on it. When I called the number this soft, sexy voice answered. It was the most beautiful voice I’d ever heard. I had no way of knowing it was your baby sister.” Jestine looked over at Gracie Mae. “Foolish gul. You didn’t tell him about your family tree?” “What did it matter, Jestine? He was interested in me, not my family.” “It matters because you’re the last chance for us Thibideaux’s to protect our good name. At least, you were before you got yourself mixed up with dis crib-robbing chew.” “Come on, Jestine. Let me take this scumbag out for a little walk in the woods,” pleaded the woman with the pearl-handle pistol. “Not yet. Not till I hear de whole story, she said. “Now continue your pitiful lies, Mr. Toby, before my boots plug your mouth up for good.” Uncle Toby stammered again, worse than before. “Weeee-we had coffee at Starbucks a few times; then dinner at the Steak & Dance. One thing led to another. The next thing I knew, we were ... well ... involved.” “Involved like screwing around behind my back,” she said. “I should’ve known it was you when she started coming home with 42
  39. 39. Leander Jackie Grogan them alligator purses and matching shoes. You bribed de good sense right out of a head.” “No, it wasn’t like that at all. I gave her those things because I, well ... fell in love with her,” Uncle Toby confessed. Sometimes, when a witness takes the stand, you can tell he’s lying through his teeth. But Uncle Toby wasn’t lying. He was speaking from his heart. I just wished I had been in a position to dismiss all charges and order the whole courtroom to go home. “Then if you be that in love, why didn’t you do de right thing when you knocked her up?” asked Jestine. “I try. I really did,” he said. “But when I asked her to marry me, she said no. She told me I was too old.” Jestine turned to Gracie Mae who had flopped on a bar stool near the counter. “Is there any truth in dis sad fairy tale?” “Yes, but I didn’t mean it.” “Why you say it, den?” “I didn’t want anybody marrying me out of obligation,” she said. “So I told him he was too old.” “Auuh, you give him the easy way out, yea?” She nodded, affirmatively. “You see dis? She give him de easy way out because she’s a sweet angel child with a good heart. But it ain’t right. Too many of dese deadbeat creepers getting de easy way out. They on dat Maury Show lying through dar teeths. IT AIN’T MY BABY! Dat’s what they say. Next thing you know, dey prowling the bushes for another young toot-toot to cover in shame.” “Men are nothing but dogs!” declared the biker with the orange hair. “That’s why we’ve got to kill ‘em. Kill em all,” said the woman with the pearl pistol. 43
  40. 40. Baby, Put That Gun Down I whispered into Peabody’s ear. “Did she say ALL ... like in ALL of me and you, too?” “Yeah, dude. You gotta do something quick!” “Me? Why me?” I asked. “Because you’re the lawyer. This is your area of expertise.” “Maybe, this little fantasy ride’s got you overlooking a few minor details, like the fact I’m not a real-” “Uh-uh, don’t say it,” Peabody forbade. “Don’t let that negativity creep in and keep you from doing your job.” “My job?!! Peabody had brought us out to a death trap in the woods, and now he was telling me it was my job to keep us from landing in a dark hole with no tombstone. “Look, Cheryl McCoy told me all about these Cajuns,” whispered Peabody. “They’re really Acadian exiles from Nova Scotia. The British kicked them out during the Great Upheaval.” “What Great Upheaval? The only Upheaval I know about is that big fight over on Sixth Street when Holy Bethel kicked Pastor Blake out for dipping in the collection.” “No! This is the 1770’s, when the Spanish Governor let the Acadians settle in New Orleans.” Peabody explained his history way too loud. Jestine looked up. “Did I hear one of dem cooyons disrespect my home country?” “No, no not at all,” I said. “Then why I hear New-Ar-leans coming out your filthy mouth?” I stammered. “Theee-the-eee-the doctor was just saying how much he enjoyed those floats at the Mardi Gras.” “Oh Yea? Name your favorite one,” she challenged. 44
  41. 41. Leander Jackie Grogan “That big, ah, you know, ah biiaaah....” “The Bacchagator Float with de green man chopping wood?” She seemed eager to help Peabody remember. “Yeah, yeah, that’s the one.” “Dat man ain’t green and he ain’t chopping no wood!” she roared. “I think, maybe you go in the hole first.” “Now, now that won’t be necessary,” I said with an artificially calming voice. The only black biker who looked like Whoopi Goldberg with short blonde hair started to sniggle. “He’s got a jheri-curl, Jestine. He needs to go in the hole first.” Peabody bristled. “You must be forgetting that Michael Jackson had a-” I waved him off before he led us down that oldies but goodies rabbit trail. “Listen, people. Nobody’s going in the hole if we abide by the strict Restitutionary Decree of 1771, issued by Spanish Governor Fernando Pekabaloni to all Cajuns arriving from the Nova Scotia Islands of Europe.” A sudden hush fell over the room. Jestine frowned. “Who dese clowns again? And why dey dressed like jompers over de crazy house wall?” “I’m Dr. Hadley Peabody III.” He reintroduced himself. “And this is Attorney Felton Frazier, expert in Southern law and historic adjudication. You’ll have to excuse our attire. We were trying to get away from my crazzzz-” “Crazy schedule,” I interrupted again, not wanting to mention any connection to law enforcement. “Yes, a schedule so crazy it almost prevented us from completing our fire drill simulation for the hospital and staff. These uniforms help us to evaluate the potential legal recriminations from the patient’s point of view.” 45
  42. 42. Baby, Put That Gun Down “In my duel role as renowned brain surgeon and top hospital administrator, I always say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of legal suits. Ah-haaaaaah.” Peabody chuckled, awkwardly. But no one joined in. Jestine studied my bandaged cheek and bullet-grazed arm protruding from the white cloth medical sling around my neck. “How you done got massacred? You lose a big case?” This time the room erupted with laughter. “Oh this? Just props, just keeping it real for the fire drill,” I explained. “When I get into character as a hospital patient, I like to go all the way.” The Whoopi Goldberg biker, who evidently had extensive experience with black men lying, walked over and rammed a hard fist into my bullet shoulder. I screamed, “Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh! I feel good ...duna, duna, duna, duna dunt. I knew that I would now....” I broke into an old James Brown song. To my anguish and surprise, the women started laughing again. The devastating punch had momentarily softened up their bitter guts and given us hope for a peaceful reconciliation. Jestine finally regain her serious glare. “What about dis here decree from the governor?” “Yes, the governor, of course.” I rattled my over-taxed brain like it was some kind of Cracker Jack box, hoping a brilliant prize would fall out. “The Great Cajun Upheaval Decree of 1771 states that under the powers of the earth, and the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature preside, families of royal decent must carry on their copulated ancestry without interruption or delay, or otherwise be found in violation of the Treaty of Paris signed by King Louis VI, authorizing the release of all Acadians to the United States of America.” 46
  43. 43. Leander Jackie Grogan The room fell silent again. Jestine appeared confused. “Dat’s high-powered lawyer talk. Put dat in Cajun language?” Peabody intervened. “It means Cajuns of royal decent gotta keep on knocking boots and having babies or otherwise be sent back to cold ass Nova Scotia.” She thought about it a long while. “We ain’t no royal dissenters.” “You did say Thibideaux, didn’t you?” asked Peabody. “Dat’s right. Me, my brother, Elmer, and Gracie Mae are offsprings of the Thibideaux clan from Canada.” “Then, according to the secret archives of Mother Teresa, that makes you a direct descendent of Louis XIV’s half-brother, Winston Churchill,” I explained. The orange haired biker frowned. “Wait a minute. Wasn’t that Churchill man in World War III?” You thinking about his grandson,” I clarified. “I’m talking about Winston Churchill LeBlanc before the family dropped the last name under the persecution of the Jews. The LeBlancs married the, ah....” “Bourgeois,” said Peabody. “Yeah, the Bourgeois who married the, ah....” “Brasseaux,” he added. Yeah, the Brasseaux then married back into the Thibideaux family. That inner marriage is what really did the trick. Now your blood is just loaded with royalty.” The room went silent for a final verdict. Gradually, Jestine’s hardened face melted into a delightful smile. “You hear dat, Gracie Mae. We got royalty in our blood.” Gracie Mae sat quietly without a response. “This means you have to abide by the Governor’s Royal Decree,” said Peabody. “The husband and wife have to raise that royal 47
  44. 44. Baby, Put That Gun Down baby together and report it to the state of Louisiana Royal Decree Committee.” “But dey ain’t legally hitched,” said Jestine. “How is de Committee going to feel about dat?” “As an attorney familiar with the inter workings of the Committee, I can assure you that is not a problem. To avoid any miscarriage of justice, we simply allow these two lovebirds to go down to the courthouse, get hitched in front of a judge and live happily ever after. That way, we all can put this contentious matter behind us and live happily ever after too, knowemsayin?” Jestine snatched her jagged knife from the table and hurled it passed our ears, into the puke brown flowered wallpaper behind us. Peabody and I sent out another high-pitch, siren-type signal to hospital security. Jestine barked. “My baby sister ain’t getting married at no stinking courthouse! If she’s got dat royal blood, den she’s gonna have herself a royal wedding.” “No, no, no problem,” I reassured her. “A royal wedding it is. Just tell us the date, time and place. We’ll be there like clockwork.” “Ahead of clockwork,” added Peabody. She looked at Gracie Mae. “You hear dat, chey? Dey want you to do all de work and then dey just show up.” “What’s the big deal?” Gracie Mae asked. “I don’t have a problem going to the courthouse.” “Forget de courthouse! You having yourself a royal wedding and dey gonna plan the whole thing.” The woman with the pearl pistol began to protest. “Now wait, wait a minute, Jestine. You promised me I could whack ‘em. How can they plan a wedding when they’re busy being dead?” Jestine beckoned her over to the sofa and put her arms around 48
  45. 45. Leander Jackie Grogan her. “I’m sorry, chey. Dis royalty thing done turned our plans everwhich-a-way.” “But you promised,” she whined. “Don’t worry. You’ll get a chance to whack somebody else.” “Like who?” “Well, how about dat judge you hate, the one down in Nashville dat wouldn’t grant your parole. I heard he’s retiring next year. Shouldn’t be no problem catching him on the fish creek all alone. We could gut him like a big flathead catfish.” She perked up. “You’d make the trip to Nashville just for me?” “I would, indeed. Plus, if these cooyons don’t get my baby sister’s wedding right, you can gut dem too.” She glanced at us with a lustful smile. “Honestly, Jestine, I don’t see no expert wedding planners sitting over there. All I see is three big flatheads.” She was still gawking with anticipation when the faint hum of a rotary engine flooded our ears. “What’s dat sound?” asked Jestine. “Probably that same DEA helicopter that’s been flying over the last few weeks,” replied Uncle Toby. “I advise you to unlock these cuffs right now. Otherwise, this place is going to be swarming with drug agents.” Jestine turned to the woman with the pearl pistol and cuff keys. “Unlatch him, chey. And if he so much as twitches his fuzzy eyelids the wrong way, put a nice bullet in his big fat chew rouge.” I asked Peabody, “What’s chew rouge?” He replied in his medical voice, “His posterior rectanitus. As his potential physician, and being professionally bounded by the Hippopotamus Oath, that’s all I can reveal.” 49
  46. 46. Baby, Put That Gun Down Uncle Toby had the routine down pat. He rolled back the refrigerator, opened up a secret console in the wall, and began to flip a series of levers and coils. Like stunted dead men, rising from the grave, a line of twenty or so wooden poles lifted from the ground on both sides of the hemp garden. Large sheet of thick brown plastic rolled over connecting chains to form a makeshift roof and walls. In less than five minutes, the whole garden was boxed in and hidden from the gray helicopter that passed overhead. Uncle Toby speculated out loud. “My guess is some snitch told the authorities about this place. Luckily they’re too stupid to find it.” “They can’t see that big greenhouse?” asked Peabody. “That plastic’s been treated with a special military camouflage solution,” he said. “All they see from the air is what looks like the forest floor.” “That’s brilliant, Uncle Toby,” said Peabody. Jestine agreed. “Yea. Mr. Toby is quite de rainmaker. Now, let’s see if he can brang in enough rain on dis royal wedding to keep you jackasses from going in de hole.” Jestine didn’t seem to understand how awkward it was going to be for machos like me and Peabody to dirty our hands with such a girly proposition. The whole effeminate nature of the assignment ran contrary to our strong masculine instincts. Realizing how women have no realistic sense of time, I offered fair warning, “Such an exquisite royal undertaking is not like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It’s going to take some time.” “You flatheads got three days,” said Jestine. “Me and the girls got some banking business over in Baton Rouge. When we get back, dis place better look like a French palace, fit for a queen.” “Three days?” Peabody protest the unrealistic timetable. “You heard the lady.” The pearl pistol women strolled over to 50
  47. 47. Leander Jackie Grogan us, coolly, methodically, like a meat market butcher sizing up a new arrival of prime cuts. She snatched the jagged knife from the wall and slid her thumb across the sharp edges. “Otherwise, let the gutting begin.”   51
  48. 48. Baby, Put That Gun Down Chapter Four Me and Peabody had a simple plan. They would leave, and then we would leave right behind them. How were a bunch of ding-bat swamp bitches going to track us down in the Big Apple or LA? The bad thing about our simple plan was it blew up in our faces. Everybody didn’t leave. The psychopath pearl pistol woman and Whoopi Goldberg biker stayed behind to watch our every move. Our first move was to change out of those over-ventilated hospital gowns into a pair of Uncle Toby’s spare jumpers. Our second move was to concoct a new plan to override the first plan the pearl pistol woman and Whoopi Goldberg biker had screwed up. No way were we going to hang around, wasting our precious brain cells on a stupid wedding. That was girly stuff, a pain in the posterior rectanitus that only women deserved to endure. My grit-slanging fiancé had forced me to go to her girlfriend’s wedding a year earlier. I suspected it was a subtle hint our thirteenmonth engagement was dragging on too long. That’s the way women think, knowemsayin’? I was supposed to see a washed up Las Vegas stripper in a ruffled, long-tail, purity-white dress, a fake operetta 52
  49. 49. Leander Jackie Grogan singer bellowing out Ave Maria, and some snot-nosed kid throwing flowers in the aisle, and all of a sudden be overcome by enchanted voices from heaven telling me this beautiful experience was waiting for me too. Please! It was Double-Dumplings’ idea to get engaged in the first place. The process had drug out too long because we had started too early. People need to understand that a man’s got have time to get himself together before venturing into these long-term, irrevocable agreements. Luckily, a few days before the stripper’s wedding, I had bought a used Blackberry from Biggie Williams with two months of ESPN sports still left in the subscription box. I tuned out the useless ceremony and tuned in the heart-stopping action as the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Ravens in the last two minutes of the game. The big game on smartphone ... just another example of how men circumvent the pea brain traps women set all the time. In the cabin’s back bedroom, changing out our gowns, I made my intentions clear to Peabody. “Tell you right now. I’m not wasting my time planning some ridiculous shotgun wedding.” “Me either,” he proclaimed. “I say we tell your Uncle what the real deal is so we can put our three heads together and find a way out of this place.” “Two heads,” he corrected. “Uuhh?” “I already talked to Uncle Toby. He’s going through with the marriage if they don’t kill him first. He’s really in love with that Gracie Mae broad.” I shook my head in disbelief. “You a doctor, aren’t you? Tell me how a severe case of pantynitous could slip up on a seemly 53
  50. 50. Baby, Put That Gun Down normal, sound-minded, seasoned player like your Uncle Toby?” “He’s hit that ole man, settle-down, smell-the-roses stage, a common symptomatic dereliction found in Baby Boomers his age.” I knew exactly what he meant. They were a lost generation, still making tips to the Post Office and writing checks in the Walmart checkout lines. “So what you saying is we on our own?” I asked. “That’s my prognosis,” said Peabody. “Which, as a seasoned operator used to thinking on my feet, I really don’t have a problem with that revised two-headed battlefield schematic.” “Cause we bad.” “We Shaft’s daddy.” “And white step-daddy,” Peabody reminded me. “Let’s go out here and bust this thing wide open.” Peabody looked at the back bedroom window. “Better still, let’s bail through that window and get the hell out of here.” We pulled up the window, kicked open the screen and dove head first through the stingy boxed opening. I hit the ground first, rolling over and up in a fighting stance like a pissed off Green Beret. Peabody followed with a pumped up karate kick and grizzly bear growl. “I pity the fool!!!” “That wants a piece of Shaft’s white step-daddy?” He finished it off. “Kungfu Jeetzy, baby!” “Ooooh yeah! In a slow and pimp-slappin’ kinda way.” The instant we turned the corner, headed for the front yard, the pearl pistol woman stepped out and wacked Peabody across the head with a long link chain. With a pathetic resemblance to melting butter, Peabody slithered to the ground. Understanding the classic 54
  51. 51. Leander Jackie Grogan moves of military warfare, I tried to execute a strategic retreat, or in ghetto language, run like hell. But before I could turn around, the Whoopi Goldberg biker rammed a long hot rusty cattle prod into my posterior rectanitus. It torched the back of my blue jumpers with a jolting buzzing lightning strike from hell and forced me to send out another desperate high-pitch, siren-type signal to hospital security. Inside the cabin, link-chained to two chairs, me and Peabody watched the front door, waiting for the two women to come back inside. When the door finally swung open, the pearl pistol woman walked over to Peabody and slapped him across the face. “You stupid cockroaches got less sense than I thought. Did you really believe we had forgotten about that back window?” “Maaaaaybe.” His voice trembled, nervously. “Not a chance. That was just a test. And you idiots failed with flying colors. Now we got to treat you as a high security risk.” “Exactly what does that mean?” I asked. “It means you stay shackled in those chains, in this room. And you don’t leave this room unless one of us is with you.” “And, every time you get out of line, you get a free counseling session with Little Jimmy, here,” said the Whoopi Goldberg biker, gripping the vicious electric sausage in her hand. “Where’d you get that cattle prod from?” I demanded. “Don’t you know that’s an instrument of torture and that it violates the Geneva Convention?” “Awwwh, no hard feeling against Little Jimmy,” said the 55
  52. 52. Baby, Put That Gun Down Whoopi Goldberg biker. “He’s never been to Geneva.” “And you ain’t going either,” declared the pearl pistol woman as she snatched the front curtains back and point to the flat tires on both pickups. “You see how those tires are kissing the ground like pancakes? Ain’t nobody going nowhere.” Still handcuffed to his chair, Uncle Toby sniggled with amusement. “Might make sense for you boys to get your planning caps on.” “We don’t know nothing about planning no stupid wedding,” sulked Peabody. The pearl pistol woman looked down at the shiny gutting knife on her belt. “I sure hope that’s a true statement.” “What he’s saying is we don’t know all there is to know yet, knowemsayin’? But we’re willing to learn.” I tried to tidy things up. “That sounds much better,” said the Whoopi Goldberg biker. “Maybe we won’t have to buy new batteries for Little Jimmy after all.” 56
  53. 53. Leander Jackie Grogan 57