Two men are standing outside the Jade Palace, a Chinese fast food restaurant, in South Philly, where drug deals are conducted and teen age prostitutes gather like a covey of ravens. They are leaning against the wall and one of them is up to no good.

“What the fuck’s the matter with you, you old fuck?”
You lookin’ at me?” said the Gansta Boy in his low slung,
Blue jean pants and ass turned around red baseball cap.

“I aint be lookin’ at you, Boy. I done seen it all.”
replied Catfish Joe.

“You aint got nothin’ to give me, motherfucker?”
asked Bad Boy.

“I aint got shit for you, Boy. Spent my whole check on
cigarettes and booze,” said Catfish Joe.

“You sho’ aint spend nothin’ on yo’ appearance. That’s for sho’,”
snickered Bad Boy, and he further commented,
“You aint got no business drinkin’. Like to give you a
heart attack, or the shits at the least. And smokin’ aint no
damn good neither.”

“Where you get yo’ medical degree, Boy? Gangsta U? And what I got
to look good fo? I aint no fancy pimp or nothin’. As fo the drinkin’,
nothin’ but the best fo’ old Joe, Fast Ford, (Thunderbird).”
And the old man laughed. There was a rattle in his chest.
“Besides, even Jesus, hisself turned water into wine
You should know that from yo’ Bible trainin’.”

“What make you think I got Bible trainin’?”asked Bad Boy.

“Everybody get The Word when they’s young.You jes’ fell off the God train. And you headed straight fo’ hell, and the Devil be shovin’ is pitch fork straight up yo’ young ass.’

“Shut the fuck up,” and fork it over.
Or I’ll mess you up good, Bitch.” Said Bad Boy.

The old man laughed and said, “Boy does I look like
I got me some titties? What you mean, Bitch? ” said old Joe.

“Give it up, Motherfucker,” said the boy.

“I aint never done that and aint likely to,” said old Joe,
and emptied his pockets.
Only pennies fell out.
“See, pennies from heaven, Boy.”
Then he had a laugh riot and several spasms of coughing.

“Dang,” said the Boy, “Why aint you take yourself to the doctor,
Old Head? You got TB or somethin’?”

“Boy, I got everything known to man and then some.
I aint got no money for no doctoring,” replied old Joe.
“If I be a gnat’s ass from Old Man Death,
What make you think I want to go on livin’?
I done it all, Boy,” said Old Joe.

“You fucked up in the head, old man.
Aint nobody who done everything,” said Gangsta Boy.

“Well, you aint never known ol’ Catfish Joe,” he said.

“My name’s Tyrone. Why yo’ name be Catfish Joe?” said the Boy.

“I fishes the river fo’ catfish. Do that explain my name
Good enough fo’ you?” said the old man.

“What else you eat?” asked Tyrone.

“This and that,” replied old Joe.
“Boy, why you be up in my bidness?”
Does I look like the fuckin’ encyclopedia or somethin’?”

“You look like somethin’ else entirely, Old Man,
But I aint sayin’”, said Tyrone.
“How you get yosef’ in a fucking mess like this?”

“Who say I be bad off? I lives off the land like Tarzan.
You want my goddamn life story, Boy?” he asked.

“Why you aint call me Tyrone, Mr. Joe. I done give you
my name.”

“Sorry,” replied old Joe. “It’s nothin’ on you. I just aint used to people givin’ me they Christian names no mo’. Tyrone, you got some time to spend?”

“All the time in the world, Mr. Joe,” he replied.
“Okay I be tellin’ ya my story. One time when I was young,
I was rich as Croesus. I had me six fine, fat, juicy Bitches and they
Wasn’t no ho’s neither. None of my womens had to work. Just lay
Back, fuck, and look pretty, that’s all. And I had me a big, giant
Mansion with twenty servants. They was all white, you see.
I figured, why not fuck ‘whitie” cuz he done fuck me royally
Fo’ so long. Tyrone, I tell ya it was heaven.”

“Tell me about the Bitches, Mr. Joe,” asked Tyrone.

“Oh, they was the finest pussy this side of Mississippi.
Big, black, and juicy as goddamn Georgia peaches. They was horny as cats in heat, too. They loved the hell, out of they ol’ Daddy Joe.
I done it all wit’ them. The suckin’. The fuckin’.
Old Joe know what to do wif a woman.
Then when I done give one money to buy a pretty dress,
Another bitch find out and she be jealous like ol’ Daddy
don’t love her as much as the first Bitch. Then I gives
her money and she go get an even better dress.
them Bitches was a trip. I tell ya, Tyrone.”

“And what about yo’ mansion”, asked Tyrone.

“Oh, boy, it was splendid. Just splendid. Twenty six rooms,
all done in white, white furniture, white shag carpets.
The Works! I even had me some Elvis paintings and
Bull fighter paintings on black velvet. I likes art.
It was real class, I tell ya’ I also had me a turquoise
Cadillac with zebra upholstery. Shit, them were the days, Tyrone.”
The old man’s eyes misted over.

“Mr. Joe,” said Tyrone, “How you gone tell me
you wasn’t no pimp, Where you git’ the money!”

“Tyrone,” he replied, “I be a God fearin’ man.
I wasn’t never no pimp. They’s evil Bastards.
Goin’ straight to Hell fo’ damn sure.”

“Then where’d you git’ the money?” asked the Boy.

“Well I be tellin’ ya’ shortly, Just you hold yo’ damn horses.
Listen, Tyrone, when you was little did you believe in
Santy Claus and the Easter Bunny, and witches, and shit?”
asked old Joe.

“Sho’, Mr. Joe,” replied Tyrone.

“Well, I got somethin’ kind of weird to tell ya’. But I
wants to tell ya’ I ain’t no goddamned head case.
Tyrone, I had me this old, brown mule, the name of Sugar.
And when I would hold up her tail and it was time to go,
she shat diamonds. Big, beautiful diamonds, and nothin’ else.
Then the old Bitch died on me, and I didn’t have nothin’ no mo’.
Lost the mansion and the Bitches, too. Aint no woman gonna fuck with no po’ ass man.You, believe me, son?”

Tyrone paused and looked directly at old Joe.
“Sho’, I believes ya, Mr. Joe. It was some damned Bad Ass
Luck. Mr. Joe, why you aint come home wit’ me for dinner?
ham, grits, greens and biscuits. You like peach cobbler? Mr. Joe,”
said Tyrone.

Mr. Joe replied, “Boy, you don’t know me like that. How I know
You aint poison me, or some shit?”

Then Tyrone smiled, and said, “My gram’s a God fearin’, high yella
Gal and she got ass for miles and she aint had none in twenty years.
And she fine, Mr. Joe. Real fine.

“Boy, why you aint tell me this befo’? Give me my cane and
let’s git to steppin’,” said old Joe.
And they walked off into the sunset,
And Tyrone turned to the old man, and said,

“See, Mr. Joe, I do know you like that.”
And he smiled real hard like the goddamned
morning sun.


Tyrone and Mr. Joe walked the long black road in the dark moonless night and Mr. Joe remarked, “Dang, them crickets is a chirpin’ away. They always happy cuz they got no sense.”

“Is you always happy, Mr. Joe?” asked Tyrone.

“Sho’ I is boy. I aint got no sense neither,” And they both laughed.
“Lookit them corn stalks in the dark, Tyrone. Aint they look like some weird kind of alien in the darkness?”

“Sho’ do, Mr. Joe. This here piece be’s part of our land, Mr. Joe. Grams and me works it together. I picks up the eggs, milks the cow and feeds the hogs and other animals. Grams runs the husking machine and cooks, and sews, and shit. Mebbe she find somethin’ fo you, Mr. Joe.”

“I done farm work befo’. Mebbe this be good fo’ everybody some kind of way. What kind of woman yo’ grams be, Tyrone?”

“She like dick but she aint no ho’. And if you done her real wrong she might jes’ stick ya and bury yo’ ass in the lower forty,” replied Tyrone.

“That be good to know, Tyrone. I gone behave all mannerful and considrit’ like Colonel Saunders.”

“Don’ behave like no damn white man, Mr. Joe. The she gone cut you fo’ sho’,” warned Tyrone.

“That also be good to know, Tyrone. I use the brain what God gave me and lets nature takes its course. Ol’ Joe good with womins. Damn Good.”
“Is you braggin’ ‘bout yo’ size, Mr. Joe,” asked Tyrone.

“That aint even up fo’ discussion, Ty. It take mo’ than jes’ size to please a woman. If that be all it took all it took, all our womins be out in the pasture ballin’ the mules and horses all the damn time!”

“That be somethin’ I aint care to ‘magine,” replied Tyrone.

“You don’ worry ‘bout Ol’ Joe. I be a damn site smarter than I looks.”

“That be good to know,” replied Tyrone.

“Look boy, this be the crossroads where Robert Johnson done sold his soul to the devil to git’ his talent!” exclaimed Mr. Joe.

“Who he?” asked Tyrone.

“He be an old time blues singer, Ty. Yo’ grams probly’ know him.”

“I don’ know them ol’ guys. They corny, Mr. Joe,” replied Ty.

“You is a knucklehead, boy. And they aint no known cure fo’ that.”

“Mr. Joe, how you gone sell yo’ soul to the devil. He aint no real type person. Do he make house calls like a dang doctor?”

“You showin’ some cogitation, boy. Lookit, Tyrone, they is a battle between the Lord, or the forces of Good, and the Devil, or the forces of Evil ever’ damn day in this world,” expounded Mr. Joe.

“Oh, Mr. Joe, that jes’ plain corny and things jes’ aint that simple. Some people jes’ deserves to be fucked over!”

“And how ‘bout me, Ty, did I deserve it?” queried Mr. Joe.

“No, you was a mean, old fucker. So’s I lef’ ya alone,” replied Ty.

“So who do deserve it, Ty?” asked Joe.

“Those who aint got no balls, Mr. Joe. They gon’ cry, please don’ take my money, I needs it to buy food or I needs it fo’ my medcine’. Hell, they aint got no self respec’!”

“You think?” replied Mr. Joe.

“They bitches and moans. It make me sick so I fucks ‘em over royally. You aint want to show yo’ soft side in this world!” intoned Ty.

“And what ‘bout me? You aint mess wid Ol’ Joe?”

“I could see ya’ had class even though ya’ looked like a piece of shit. They was jes’ somethin’ ‘bout ya’, Mr, Joe.”

“God be sittin’ on my left shoulder every goddamned day, boy. That what it was. Things do be pretty black and white, Ty. You don’ want to fuck wid’ the Lord. In Hell, yo’ brains done boil in yo’ head like some kind of soup, and you can smell yo’ own flesh searin’. And worst of all, you sees who you really was not who you thought you was. They runs a big movie of yo’ damn life over and over again.
And another thing, Ty, they aint no sex in Hell, only in Heaven. In Hell, they got these real beautiful, red hot woman wearin’ black velvet bunny suits and high spiky heals. They too hot to touch and if you let them go down on you they bites it off. They there to remind ya, you aint never gone get no ass again!”

“What about fo’ womin?” asked Ty.

“Oh, they got this real good lookin’ dude. He be like Favio and rubs up against them and says all this nasty shit to get them all hot and bothered. Only, he gay. Big Time. And they never catches on. That be the torture. Son, you see bad ass people don’ know they is evil. They only thinks they is do’in what they gots to do. People does sell they Soul to the Devil every day, Ty. Get yo’ young ass together. I aint foolin’.”

“Okay, Mr. Joe, you right. Don’ git’ yerself in a tizzy. We almost there. Now look ahead, Mr. Joe,” said Ty.

Mr. Joe saw the orange lights rise out of the mist, a kind of vital brightness in the total blackness of the night. Then he saw Tyrone’s house, a white clapboard house with a white picket fence. Purple and yellow pansies lined the walkway and two fresh pies were cooling in the window. A sweetness floated in the air and Mr. Joe’s underprivileged belly ached with hunger. There was a welcome mat in the door that proclaimed, “God Bless Our Happy Home.”

Ty called out, “Yo. Grams, I bought a guest, and he be hongry. Real hongry. He, my friend, Mr. Joe.”

“Well, Ty. Go on wit’ yerself and bring ‘em in! I can’t stands to see nobody hongry! It jes’ aint seemly.” Her voice was low and melodious like an oboe.

Old Joe stepped gingerly into the room, conscious of any noise his big feet might make. He noted the plainness of the furniture in the room and the hand knitted doilies on the wooden tables. A large print of Jesus was prominently displayed in the living room. His eyes glowed like two golden pieces of topaz. Braid rugs covered the crude, plank floors. Everything had that scrubbed and polished look.
She was standing at the stove stirring her pots and pans, and she did as Tyrone mentioned, have ass for miles. Then she put her utensils down and came over to greet them. When she stood before him, Joe felt as if he had been blasted in the face by a shot gun. Such was her beauty. Pretty is tame like a new born kitten. Beauty is savage. Beauty is sorcery. It paralyzes the heart. Her figure was statuesque like a gigantic Sophia Loren and her waist was tiny and tight. Her eyes were large and almond shaped, the color of a shady pond with a multiplicity of brown specs. Her cheek bones jutted out sharply and her chin and jaw line were firm and well defined. There was a slight cleft in the middle of her chin. Her nostrils flaired slightly giving the aspect of a wild cat. Her mouth was lush and sharply cut like those of women in fashion magazines. A wild mass of light brown, curly hair snaked down the middle of her back. “This woman don’t know no mirror,” he thought as his eyes wandered over to her well stocked book shelf.

She threw back her head and let out a loud belly laugh.
“You looks like you done seen a ghost, honey. Is you mute? I be Etta and you welcome in my house. Ty aint never brung any of his friends home wid him. I spec’ he ‘shamed of me!”

“It be my genuine pleasure to meet ya’, Miz Etta. I be honored to be in yo’ presence. Any place I can wash up?” asked Joe.

“Ty, show Mr. Joe the well, and be mindful of snakes,” she said.

“Aint no worry, Miz Etta, I done drove all the snakes out of the Garden of Eden mysef’. Those pies be peach and not apple by any chance?”

“Oh, Mr. Joe, I loves a funny man. I hates them gloomy Guss’s who rains on parades!” And she laughed again and Joe thought, “I aint never heard anyone laugh like that.”

Then they sat down to a meal in silence for the most part. Tyrone was very grateful for this as muggers do not usually like to discuss their day. The meal was honey cloved ham, candied yams, greens, and rice and red beans, and cornbread. Mr. Joe ate two heaping plates of food and had three pieces of peach cobbler. He could see her silent delight at his appreciation of the meal and he further saw hard questions forming in her clear, still eyes. It was kind of like watching water building up behind a dam, and the hope that it would not overflow.

After dinner, Miz Etta sent Ty to his room to read his Bible. After he left, she said, “Aint no way he gone do that. The dang little bastard!”
Then she asked Mr. Joe if he would have coffee and brandy with her.

And he replied, “You done know me, Miz Etta.”

She inquired what his profession was and he told her he was a fisherman at the time but that he was a professional boxer at one time. And she asked why he quit or did he just get too old to do it.

“I quit, Miz Etta, when I was thirty-five cuz I done kilt a man. I saw the light just go out of his eyes. It okay to kill in war cuz you is defendin’ yo’ country, But to kill fo’ recreation or fo’ money, that be a sin. I done give my entire purse to his wife but it still wasn’t right. I pay every day that I lives fo’ what I done. I tries to do God’s will.”

Miz Etta got up and went around behind him. And he thought, “Good she gone give me a hug.”Instead she yanked his hair back severely and put a butcher knife under his chin. “I ‘spec you gone do some listenin’, Mr. Joe. “I lookin’ fo’ a man but not in the way you might think. I wants someone to straighten out my Ty. He in wit’ the wrong crowd, be floatin’ down the river like a winter leaf. The path of least resistance. The devil have that boy in his sway, and he aint smart enough to know it. Mr. Joe, I knows you is a smart man. Stupid people talks all the time. Smart folk, they don’ say nothin’. If you say you can’t, I gone slit yo’ goddamn neck and bury ya’ in the lower forty.” She then pressed the knife in deeper. “If you aint sincere, I gone find ya’ anyway and do the same. To me, it aint no never mind and it won’t be the first time I ever done straighten out no goddamned man! Raise yo’ right hand if ya thinks ya can do it,” said Miz Etta.

Joe slowly raised his hand, and he noticed he had a powerful, insistent, even ludicrous erection. “God don’ let her notice or I be a goner fo’ sho’” he thought.

“I ‘splain further, Mr. Joe, just so’s we understands each other. I done tricked twenty goddamned years fo’ a fine lookin’, big dick, cheatin’ ass brother. His smile be like the mornin’ sun comin’ through the slats in the blinds. And he could make me weep and moan all night long. He aint never give me one dime and I gives him diamond rings, Cadillacs, fancy suits. Any damn thing he want. And he marry me and he tell me I be his Precious Darlin’. Then I catches his wid some little boys, aint even eleven, and I sends the po’ lil’ things home and cleans them up good befohand. And he be lookin’ real, real scared and I tell ‘em, ‘Baby, it aint no thing. I understands. Everybody got they own special thing.’ Then I gits’ on him and fucks him like hell fire and right when he be comin’, I slits his throat wid a straight edge. I watches it spurt ‘til it die down. Red be just a lovely, lovely color, Mr. Joe.

“Then I find I be wit child and I comes here and buys this farm. What you got to say to that, Mr. Joe,” said Etta as she ran her tongue over her bottom lip.

“Girl, you in fo’ the fuckin’ of yo’ life. You needs a man. What you had was a sissy. Don’ give me no sass now. I be in no mood fo’ it!”
He spat out each word like a bullet aimed at her heart.
Her big green eyes widened and she threw back her wild head and let out a gigantic belly laugh. Then she grabbed Mr. Joe’s big hand and placed it on her ass, leading him up the stairs.

When they got to the top of the stairs, she turned to Mr. Joe, looking deeply into his eyes and said, “Mr. Joe, I hopes ya knows this aint jes’ no throw down. I wants a little pieces of yo’ heart but not the whole goddamned thing. I aint greedy.”

“Baby, you gone git’ prime cut. Don’ worry.”

Then they went into the bed room and Old Joe removed his clothes and lay in the dark with his raw, red cock jutting up like a rocket. He knew she wanted to ride him without a word from her. She let her clothes float to the ground like stray onion peels. In the darkness, she was massive, solid, dangerous, and yearning like the Biblical Lilith. She melted slowly like a hot orchid into the velvety softness of the night. And the room infused with the smell of fresh, ripe nectarines. Mr. Joe found that nature does, indeed abhor a vacuum. Yes, it does.

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