The Canyon

Scenes from the Scott Homes -- the mamas, the kids, the babies, the fight for dignity, the pall of despair

The condition carried into March. There were discussions as to the proper solution. Eventually the doctor was consulted again, the dosage tinkered with, to little benefit.

Who can say why the mood lifted, what force jolted Ruby out of the fog and back into herself? Maybe she got tired of her diminished role. Maybe she got tired of the dope.

By spring her eyes had cleared and she was fit enough to take up again the long-standing feuds against other mamas. "Them drugs really mess you up," she observed whenever anyone brought up her absence.

Cookie and Angel Argue About When It Was They Mama Died
Cookie and Boojay and Angel were riding south along the Palmetto, playing a game called That My Car when Boojay realized something.

"I gone this way before," he said. "Down to visit my daddy in jail." Outside, the refurbished homes of South Dade slid past.

"Me too," Cookie said. "I went with Mama."
"Nuh-uh," said Angel. "Mama dead already."
"Was not. She die last year."
"She die in 1992."
"You wrong," Angel said. "Aks Ruby."

"She die last year," Cookie said, his face flushed. "And she went up to the sky." He turned to his brother, who had come from the very same mama. But Boojay was looking away, his lazy eye fixed on something beyond the window.

"That my car," Boojay whispered, watching a Range Rover pass on the right and disappear.

Trey Face
The way Richie told the story, he and Trey were walking down NW 111th Street at about two in the morning. Richie's moped had broken down.

"Some niggers come by, young boys, they say, 'You want some weed?' We said, 'No, we straight.' Then they said, 'Whyn't you come here?' They was about five guys, and they start shootin'. I could hear the bullets goin' past my ear and Trey got hit in the neck and it came out by his eye." Richie paused to trace the path of the bullet, a fingernail dragging over his skin. "Trey face got shot! Fractured his jaw, boy, and that blood was pourin' out. I gave him my shirt but he didn't wanna go to the hospital at first, so we came back here and started bangin' on the door. Then we just waited downstairs till the ambulance come."

Trey's face remained swollen for weeks, his gold-toothed scowl lost in lumpy cheeks. He stuck close to the house during his recovery, helping out April, but he never spoke about what had happened. As the swelling went down, his face reassumed its angular menace and he spent more time outside, lording over the boys at the tree, then disappearing for hours. He had money, somehow, and sometimes red eyes.

Dressed in their floppy jeans and new sneakers, his friends circled Angel, waiting, only waiting.

A few blocks from Ruby's row, across the railroad tracks and the whizzing smog of NW 22nd Avenue, in a unit that replicates all of Scott's -- walls spidery with cracks, doors scarred, floor littered with grimy baby toys -- a girl about April's age, a vague acquaintance, stood behind the screen and quietly declined to come outside.

"My friend got shot," she explained. "Well, not my friend. Her friend." She shrugged toward a petite, shadowed figure whose belly looked ready to burst. The man shot was this girl's boyfriend, the father of her one-year-old and of the baby in her tummy. He'd had some kind of tangle with the cops and bullets had hit him everywhere. "One in the back of the head," she noted.

Rather than going out, for the next half-hour she and a few friends sat and discussed quietly, languorously, with the grace of predators, what they would wear to the wake, how they would fix their hair.

Sherwood had him some reefer, and he sent Moses off to buy a 50-cent cigar so he could roll a blunt. Tammy's second-eldest son was sitting at a low table in the parking space outside his mama's. His younger brothers, imprisoned upstairs, would issue an occasional yip or raise up on tiptoe so as to be able to survey the scene below.

The game started just after dark, spades first and when that grew too arduous, whist. Sherwood enjoyed trash talk and throwing his trumps onto the table with loud whacks, a feat made nearly impossible by the deck's condition.

Krystal, who had pendulous breasts and an infant daughter, was sucking on a Popsicle while her little girl watched the game from a stroller and moaned with hunger. "Little bitch drive me crazy," Krystal said. She stuffed the Popsicle in her child's mouth.

"Bettina pregnant again," Sue said.
"Who the daddy?" Sherwood asked.
"That same fat boy," Sue murmured. "She expectin' in October. No way I'm watchin' this one get born."

The game adjourned briefly when Moses returned, and Sherwood casually pulled apart the cigar and poured out the tobacco and filled the brown leaf with herb from a little Zip-lock bag. He rolled the blunt tight on the draw end and loose on the other, then reluctantly passed it around.

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