The plan was to go climb the fence and chill in the park after dark. Billy and Mike were down for it. Max had introduced them to Buster and Tommy when he recognized the two classmates as like-minded individuals with a penchant for cannabis and alcohol. Billy was a country kid who wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box but had a heart of gold. Billy’s parents had sent him to the private Lycée in a bid to get their son educated and a step further in life. Being the happy-go-lucky soul he was, Billy left the family farm behind him and settled into a life of inner city delinquency. Mike was a city kid who shrugged off the general rules of conformity for a more liberal approach of artistic endeavor and expression. He wore hemp shirts and baggy trousers, he listened to Bob Marley and French rap music, and he smoked his days away dreaming of revolution. Mike and Buster hit it off straight away with their passion for the herbs and Tommy was always in a good mood so nobody complained about their addition to the crew’s nocturnal excursion.
It was getting close to Midnight so a last trip to the local night shop for supplies was in order. Max pocketed the change from everyone and Tommy made a mental note of what each of them wanted. Two cans of 8-6 for Buster, a can of Despe and a pack of peanuts for Mike, a coke for Billy and a big bottle of Seize for Tommy. Max would grab himself a big bottle of Seize too. As they turned onto the main boulevard they spotted a familiar silhouette heading towards them in the opposite direction. The tall stocky frame, heavy-swaying dreads and big-toothed smile were that of their friend Momo. Buster called out, “Yo! Momo!” and a pair of heavy hands rose to greet them.
Momo was a character. If you hung out in the city after dark you were bound to bump into him at some point. A six foot three dread head of Caribbean descent, whereabouts exactly Max didn’t know, with intimidating stature but soft eyes and a big smile. Momo was a good friend to have in the streets. He knew the dealers and the dealers’ dealers. Night shop owners knew who he was and half jokingly, yet seriously too, reminded him to settle his tab the next time around. You could catch him rubbing up to white females in the nightclub just like you might share a fat joint with him in a dark stairwell. Smoking weed was one of Momo’s favourite pastimes and when he held court around a bong or blunt, he had stories for days. Each one wilder than the next, and no matter how trife the situation got, Momo always came out on top. Max reminded himself of one of Momo’s latest adventures that involved getting stuck-up at gunpoint in a dark alley behind Hotel de Ville. As Momo described the scene, the alley way wasn’t very wide and the guy wasn’t very tall, but with a lethal weapon he must have felt bigger in his boots. Momo just stood over his aggressor unfazed and told him that he’d better be ready to use his piece if he pulled it. The guy was bluffing so Momo straight slapped the gun out of his hand and proceeded to chase his prey down the alley. Needless to say Momo didn’t suffer fools lightly. “Too many wannabe gangstas think they’re tough hiding behind knives and guns. If you pull that shit on me and you ain’t ready to use it, Imma make you pay!”
A deep Caribbean accent called out, “Whah gwan homies?”
“Just chillin’. We’re gonna head over to the park and chill there for a bit.” Buster replied.
“Ai-ight!” Momo nodded his head in approval. “You smoking?”
“Yeah, I copped something sweet from Adel earlier,” Buster said. “Want to join us?”
“Of course! I thought you’d never ask!”
Momo and Buster laughed, slapped hands and hugged. Turning towards the rest of us, Momo introduced himself to Billy and Mike. They shook hands and nodded before we turned and continued on our way towards the park.
After a few minutes Mike stepped towards Max, reached out to grab his sleeve and pulled him closer.
Mike tilted his head but kept his eyes locked forwards on Buster and Momo who were a few meters ahead of them. “That’s Momo…”
“Yeah! So?” Max didn’t get why Mike’s attitude seemed to have changed so suddenly.
In a hushed but stoic voice Mike said, “Adel’s looking for him. He owes him money.”
Max tried to make light of the news. “What’s new? Momo owes everyone money. Chill Mike!”
“He owes Adel a grand. I gotta stick him!” Mike exclaimed through gritted teeth.
“What!? Chill Mike!”
The urgency in Max’s voice caused Buster and Momo to turn around and glance at the pair of them trailing behind. Max smothered his nerves with a goofy smile and a wave as if to say ‘Fuggetaboutit’. They took the bait. Mike remained expressionless.
“I gotta stab that nigger. I gotta do it for Adel,” Mike warned.
Max stopped and turned to stand in front of Mike. “Listen man, I don’t know or care for whatever beef Adel has with Momo but whatever it is you can let them handle it between themselves. They’re grown men for godsake.”
“I’m telling you…” Mike started.
“You ain’t telling me shit!” Max cut his friend off. “Listen we’re just chilling tonight. We’re gonna hang out in the park, have a beer and enjoy some of Adel’s finest haschish. You can take a swim in the lake if you want to cool off. No one is stabbing anyone. Got it?”
Mike didn’t answer so Max tipped his chin and widened his eyes to get his point across. Mike looked away for a moment and nodded, “Yeah…”
“Good!” Max didn’t really relax. He’d never seen such steely determination in someone’s eyes before. Especially not those of his stoner buddy Mike. He tried to defuse the situation by calling out to Billy who was chatting away with Tommy.
“Hey Max! How come we didn’t call any girls to come join us? Tommy says you know a few”, Billy asked. Tommy smiled.
“I don’t know Billy… Your parents sent you to the city to get an education, not an erection!” Max shouted back.
“Oh! He burnt you there, boy!” Tommy mocked Billy as he wrapped his arm around the kid’s shoulders. “Hey Buster! Max and I are heading this way to grab the drinks!” Tommy gestured towards an intersection.
“Yeah, we’ll meet you in the park at the usual spot round the back of the lake,” Buster answered.
Tommy swung around to lead the way towards the nearest night shop with Max. Mike stepped forward to join his friend Billy. Max saw a smile crack across his face and hoped his high school pal wasn’t going to try any heroics while they were away. Tommy spotted the queried look on Max’s face and asked “Hey man, you looking sort of off. You don’t want to walk with me to the shop?”
“Nah, I’m good. Maybe I shoulda called a couple of girls…” Max replied.
“Yeah, I knew you were fiending for that blonde girl I hooked you up with the other night!” Tommy joked with Max as they went their separate ways.