Max led the way through the gap in the fence and Tommy followed him. The bottles clinked in the plastic carrier bag as they dropped off the low wall into the undergrowth. The two boys hesitated for a second with baited breath to make sure the coast was clear before heading through the pine trees and onto the path. Max had been to the park several times during the middle of the night and he had only ever met random stoners or the odd fox during his visits. One time Max, Tommy and Buster were hitting bongs on a bench somewhere near the rose garden when the bush next to them shuffled and came alive. They all jumped and yelped at the sight of a homeless man heaped in grubby clothes creeping out from under a bush. He grunted in their direction and shuffled back down into the shrubbery. The boys high had evaporated in an instant and been replaced with seeping paranoia as they left the scene staring at every bush along the way. Max thought it was pretty funny with hindsight but it freaked all of them out on the night.
“Buster and the guy are probably down by the lake by now,” Tommy said.
“Let’s get a move on then,” Max replied. “You can bet they’re smokin’ and tokin’ already!”
The thought of arriving late to a smoke out made Tommy press forward and pick up the pace along the path around the huge lake that sat in the middle of the park.
There was actually a zoo in the park too, but Max and the others never ventured that way in case they stirred the animals and alerted the guards with the noise of howls and growls. Also, Max hated zoos. The idea of locking wild animals up to be gawked at all day by humans seemed such a stupid and selfish idea that he refused to visit them, period.
Five minutes into their midnight stroll and a sudden splash sound reverberated across the shiny expanse of water.
“What was that?” Max asked, stopping for an instant.
“Sounded like something got thrown in the water. You think Buster’s gone for a swim?” Tommy grinned.
“It wouldn’t surprise me…” Max replied.
Another splash broke the silence of the sleeping surroundings and the boys looked at oneanother again.
“Whatever that is, it’s making a racket! If Buster’s gone skinny dipping the guards won’t take long to pinch his bare ass!” Tommy asserted.
“Nah, he’d be more careful than that,” Max started. “ Plus it’s not that hot tonight. It’s probably a couple of swans or something…”
A moment later two swans paddled past Max and Tommy. Neither bird turned to look at the boys.
Nearing the rendez-vous spot, Max and Tommy saw the shadow of a dark figure approach them along the path. It was Buster and he was still fully dressed so he obviously hadn’t been for a midnight swim as Tommy had speculated.
Buster was walking at a steady pace shaking his head. The body language was not confident as if Buster was deliberately getting away from something. Momo, Mike and Billy were nowhere to be seen. Max and Tommy stopped and prepared to about turn when Buster held out his arms and held each of his friends by the shoulder.
“ Dude! You won’t believe this shit!” Buster wasn’t even trying to lower his voice.
“What??” Max said suppressing his question through gritted teeth.
“ Your buddy Mike just tried to stab Momo!”
“What the fuck?!” Tommy exclaimed.
Max felt a sudden drop in his stomach and fear spread through his body like perma-freeze. “Say what?”
“It’s crazy man,” Buster explained with wide eyes. “ We’d just reached the spot, Momo was taking a leak in the lake when Mike walked up to him, all puffing his chest out and shit. Homeboy pulled a blade out his pocket and points it at Momo talking ‘bout how Momo owed Adel money and this was revenge!”
“No way!” Tommy added.
Max stayed silent.
“Yeah way! Momo just standing there with his dick in his hands like ‘Come on, son…’ Needless to say…”
“Yo blood!” Momo appeared out of the dark cutting Buster off. He bee-lined straight for Max.
Max was glued to the spot. The scenes from earlier that evening; Mike telling him about his plans for revenge; Momo’s track record as a bad ass. Max knew he was about to get punched and anticipated seeing stars.
“Yo blood!” Momo said again. “Your homeboy just tried to stick me! That bloodclot wannabe gangsta tried to pull some last boy scout shit on me man!” Momo was pissed off. “Did you know ‘bout this man?!”
Momo’s bloodshot eyes beamed with fury, as he looked straight at Max. Tommy and Buster didn’t even try to intervene.
“ I…,” Max stuttered. “ I…,” he stuttered again and hearing himself, swallowed on a dry throat and started again trying to act as calm as possible. “No man! I had no idea!”
“Well, that motherfucking rassclat just got his ass beat for pulling that dumb shit,” Momo exclaimed.
Buster stepped forward adding, “ Yeah, he’s toast and his buddy Billy ain’t coming back neither.”
“Billy tried to stab you too?” Max asked the towering pressure cooker that was Momo.
“Nah, he looked shook from the get go, but fuck his white ass too!”
“Fuck… I’m so sorry dude! I don’t know what to say. I hardly know those guys.” Max tried to sound as convincing as possible even though it was true that he only knew Mike and Billy for a few months prior and neither had ever shown an inkling of violence before this evening. ‘What the fuck was Mike thinking?’ Max thought to himself. ‘I told that idiot not to try anything…’
Tommy took a long swig from one of the bottles and passed it to Momo who grabbed it with his big fist, raised the bottle to his lips and swallowed half the beer in one gulp.
Holding the bottle by the neck, Momo wiped his mouth with his shirt cuff and spoke again. “Fucking boy scout looking to avenge that bum, Adel. I told that fool to put away the knife and raise his fists like a man otherwise I’d slap it out his hand with my big black cock!” Everybody laughed and Max couldn’t help but smile at the idea. “That fool stood there hesitating so I zipped up and told him to do what he had too because I wasn’t gonna wait all night,” Momo recounted as the boys listed eagerly. “He stepped in and I smack his bumbaclot ass hard as hell. Pull a knife on me and you will feel the wrath of the almighty right and left!” Momo raised his fists and smiled.
“He slapped the knife outta Mike’s hand and proceeded to make him pay for his bullshit heroics!” Buster continued.
“That’s what that splashing sound was,” Tommy guessed.
“Yeah,” Buster said. “ Mike took a swim with the fish tonight!”
Momo, Tommy and Buster laughed but Max just smiled nervously. Thoughts were racing through his head like an Indy 500 and the noise was deafening.
“Like I said Momo,” Max started. “ I had no fucking idea Mike was going to do some dumbass shit like that! If I had I would have stopped him and told you, I promise.”
Momo turned to face Max, his grin slipped into a straight face. “ I know Max. Don’t worry about it. Little rudeboy tried to get buff and stuff, stirring up some bad blood between Adel and me, but that’s my bullshit. Not his and not yours. We good homie!” Momo slapped Max on the shoulder; a good solid slap that symbolized friendship and brought a wave of thawing relief to Max’s frozen body. “ Imma deal with Adel in my own time,” Momo concluded. “ And if I ever see either of those rassclat wannabe gangstas again, I won’t hold my punches.”
Buster eased the mood by reflecting on Mike’s dip in the lake. “ I shoulda asked that fool what the water was like? I kinda felt like having a swim myself.”