I’m currently working on a potential novel about youth, gangs, drugs, homelessness, and other social issues many places in the nation are facing. This story takes place in the Yakima Valley of Washington State. I’m currently 12,000 words into the story. You can read the first two chapters here. Keep in mind that this is a first draft and may contain typos and errors. The final draft may also differ in content, plot, or characters.
A never ceasing sun blazes down on the Yakima Valley as Carden takes the exit onto North First. He was hired as a counselor for North Valley High School and is excited about the opportunities that await him. As he drives into town the first thing he sees is a group of homeless people gathered by the local mission. There are a couple of super skinny hookers wearing cheap clothing strutting their asses up the street. Carden slams on his brakes as a man who seems stoned out of his head wanders right into oncoming traffic.
Holy shit! What is this place?
As he slows down for the traffic light by the Jack in the Box restaurant he can’t believe what he’s seeing. There’s a man defecating in the parking lot. His pants are down to his knees and he’s squatting to relieve himself. Carden stares through his passenger window in disbelief.
What the fuck you looking at motherfucker? Ain’t you ever had to take a dump?
The light turns green and Carden is happy to move forward but he continues to sense an overwhelming desperation about the place he’ll be calling home for the next year. He signed the contract. People are slumped up against fences and buildings in disheveled clothing looking half asleep or half dead. A woman is staring up into the sky for no apparent reason and turning her head in slow methodic circles. Young hispanic boys are hanging around the minimart wearing dark hoodies and loose pants. He sees one pass something to a twenty something year old woman as she hands him some cash.
Was that a drug deal?
He sees grown men riding beat up BMX bikes and poor homeless women pushing stolen shopping carts filled with random worthless crap. The place is overflowing with poverty. Red and blue graffiti litters the walls and fences. As he turns the corner onto Yakima Avenue he’s almost hit by a car that just ran a red light. The car’s exhaust has been modified and the windows are tinted so dark that he can’t see the driver. The mystery driver races off. Another car moves by with windows down and rap music pounding so loud that Carden feels the vibration in his own steering wheel. The driver is wearing sunglasses and looks like he just came from the barbershop. He moves his head to the music ever so slightly. He thinks he’s the epitome of cool.
Carden pulls into a bright yellow coffee drive through. As he orders his drink he sees four or five police cars rush by with sirens blaring. The barista hands him his drink and smiles.
Must have been another shooting.
Does that happen often around here?
Once or twice a week.
Really? Nobody told me.
You’re new here?
Yeah. I just moved from Wisconsin to work at the high school.
Welcome to hell. She laughs. Just kidding. It’s not so bad. If you’re not into drugs or gangs you probably won’t get shot.
Good to know.
It’s always something around here. Have a good day.
Carden thanks the barista and drives to the neighborhood where he’ll be living. Well, this isn’t so bad he thinks to himself. He was told to get a place on the west side of town. So he rented a place near 56th and Summitview. He stops at the local Safeway to buy some food for his new apartment. There’s a scruffy looking man loitering outside the door. He smells bad and his clothes look like they’ve gone a month without a washing.
Hey man, you got five bucks? I’m just trying to get something to eat.
Carden reluctantly gets his wallet out. He’s only got tens and twenties. He gives the man a ten. Here you go, man. I hope things get better for you.
Carden buys cereal and milk and eggs and bread, the basics. As he checks out he sees the homeless bum buying a bottle of cheap whiskey. He should have known better than to give him money. Two men with prison tattoos on their necks and faces come through the door as he leaves. Another cop car races by with lights flashing as Carden gets into his Volkswagen. He sits in the car for a moment and assures himself. It can’t be that bad. It’s just an off day, coincidence. Tomorrow will be better.
He finds his apartment and uses the key that was mailed to him by the rental company. The place is empty but clean. He unloads some boxes from his vehicle and finds the box of kitchenware. He eats a bowl of cereal and then finds his sleeping bag and unrolls it onto the floor. His place is relatively quiet and he feels somewhat safe inside. He takes off his jacket for a pillow and crawls into the sleeping bag and then calls home.
Hey, mom. I made it to my new place.
Oh, that’s good, honey. How is it?
It’s not too bad. Went to a nice coffee shop and there’s a grocery store within walking distance of the apartment.
That sounds nice. When do you start work?
Next Monday. I’ve got a lot to do in the next week. I’ve got to get a bed and a TV, maybe a chair and a bookcase. You know, some basics.
We can send some money to help if you need.
No, that’s okay, mom. I’m okay. Tell dad I said hello and I’ll call back in a few days.
Well, thanks for letting me know you made it to Washington safely.
Sure, mom. Love you.
I love you too, Card. Bye now.
He lays his head on his jacket and thinks about his girlfriend, Rain. He doesn’t call her because he knows she works late and that she has to get up early for school. He unbuttons and unzips his pants and cups his hand over his junk. He massages himself for a little while but exhaustion wins out and he falls asleep with Rain on his mind. Twenty minutes later he is awoken by the vibration of his phone still in the pocket of his jacket. Half asleep he scrambles to answer. It’s Rain.
Hey babe, how are you?
I hope I didn’t wake you?
No, no, it’s okay. I was just thinking about you.
Did you make it to Yakima?
Yeah and you wouldn’t believe this place.
Oh, hell no. It’s a complete mess. Homeless people everywhere. Hookers. Drug dealers. Sirens constantly blaring. Graffiti. Crazy drivers. Driving into town it looked like a third world country.
It can’t be that bad.
I ain’t shitting you babe. I’m kind of regretting ever signing on with the district. This place is a ghetto. The school is in a crappy neighborhood. It’s like East LA.
Well, I know my Card. You’ll make the best of it. Maybe you can be the change the place needs.
Yeah, right. Thanks for the vote of confidence.
How’s the apartment?
It’s okay. The super told me I should get a place on the west side of town. I see why now. The place is nice. Two bedrooms. There’s a garage. I don’t have bed yet. I’m sleeping on the floor tonight. Card pauses and sighs. I miss you, Rain. I wish you could have moved out here with me.
Card, it’s just one more year until I get my degree and I’m coming over for a month for the holiday season.
Yeah, I know, but I miss you babe. I miss being with you.
I know what you miss. They both laugh. I miss you and little card too.
Can’t you finish your CPA online?
We’ve been over this. I could but I want to complete the program here.
Yeah. I want you to do what works best for you too. How was work?
I got a $40 tip on a $100 check.
Cool. And Jackson? Is he still being an ass?
Not as much but he wasn’t working tonight. Anyway, I just thought I’d check to see if you made it in safe. Glad you did, hon.
Oh, the girl at the coffee shop said there’s a couple of shootings per week here. I’m sure she was exaggerating. Can’t be that bad. He pauses. Thanks for calling babe. I love you.
I love you, hon. Call me tomorrow about five.
Your time or my time?
Okay, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Carden ends the call and sets his phone on the floor next to his head. He tries to get back to sleep but can’t stop thinking about all the things he saw driving into town. He’s been to some pretty shitty places in Milwaukee and Chicago but he didn’t expect Yakima Washington to be so sketchy. He hopes the job is better than what he’s seen of the place so far. After twenty minutes of replaying the reel in his head over and over he finally drifts off.
* * *
Carden’s first day at the high school comes and goes without any dramatic events. He’s learned that Yakima has bad parts and good parts. If you stay clear of the bad areas you’re much less likely to be the innocent victim of a crime. Still, something bothers him about this outlook. He notes that most of his colleagues simply accept that this is just the way it is. He constantly hears people say things that create an ambivalence about the problems in the region. It’s downplayed and blame is cast onto victims. You can’t move anywhere in the country and get away from this kind of shit. It’s everywhere. Or, it’s only the gangs. If you stay away from that kind of lifestyle you’ll be fine. Or, if they weren’t just lazy drug addicts they wouldn’t be homeless.
On his way home from his first day at work he thought maybe Rain was right. Maybe he could be the change that a place like this needed. Maybe his outside perspective would be helpful in implementing new ideas and policies that would help kids in the community overcome the dangers of gangs and drugs. And where else do you start to heal a community than with its youth? As he drove though town and past several empty and abandoned businesses he became excited thinking about the possibilities. The next day when Jesus was sent to his office his hopes were tempered by reality.
Jesus Hernandez, I see you’ve been sent to see me because you told Mr. Henderson to go fuck himself. I think we both know that that is not appropriate. Is there something that is causing you to have this kind of animosity toward Mr. Henderson.
Jesus sits slouches in the chair in front of Carden Anderson’s desk. He’s an asshole and so are you.
Why do you think that, Jesus?
It’s just the way it is, man. Henderson treats me different than he does that pretty little white bitch that smiles for him and kisses his ass. He automatically assumes I’m a troublemaker and treats me like a criminal. Fuck that shit. I mean I didn’t even say nothin. He just didn’t like the way I was dressed and said it wasn’t appropriate. I can’t help it if my mama can’t afford pants that fit me right can I?
Well, there is a school policy about this. If your pants allow your under garments to show in an excessive fashion you can be sent home for breaking dress code.
Then send me home homie. What do you think? I’ll just come back tomorrow wearing some slacks and shiny black shoes like you. Jesus looks at the name plaque on the desk. Carden? What the fuck kind of name is that? You do card tricks or what?
We’re not here to talk about my name. We’re here to talk about your behavior. Look, I don’t pretend to know much about you or your family or your culture or this entire valley for that matter. I just moved here from Wisconsin. But I do know a few things about adolescent psychology and behavior. I know there are triggers behind your actions. I’m not here to be the heavy. I’m here to help.
What kind of card tricks can you show me?
I can see we’re not getting anywhere with this discussion. I can call your parents and have them come pick you up.
Go ahead. My mom’s at work. She ain’t coming. She barely makes enough money to pay rent as it is. You think she’s just gonna up and leave for some uptight school counselor.
What about your father?
My dad? He’s in fucking prison. What’s it to you? You think you’re better than him or me or any of my bros because you got some piece of fucking paper from some snooty ass college? You’re right. You don’t know shit about me or my family. How the fuck you think you gonna help? I can see the headlines now. Counselor Card Man saves the entire Yakima Valley by turning kids straight. You got your head up your ass if you thinking that.
I’m sorry to hear about your father.
Sorry? He’s a fucking asshole, beat my mama all the time. Drinking. Drugs. Meth. Fentanyl. But those motherfuckers still set him up. Fucking Southside.
Yeah, that’s the way it is around here. It’s family. You have your loyalties. You got a lot to learn Mr. Card Man. I’m outta here. Jesus gets up and shuffles toward the door.
Hold on, Mr. Hernandez. We’re not done here.
Think I care? Look at the clock. It’s 2:25. School’s out in five minutes. I can do what the fuck I want. Later, Card Man.
Jesus walks out the door and Carden watches him leave in some disbelief. He ponders. So this is what I’ll be dealing with on a daily basis? This is my job? I guess I signed the contract. It’s not what he imagined as his first gig as a school counselor. He knew he would face rebellious and troubled teens but this was much worse than he expected. He learned that high school kids could be involved in gang wars and drive by shootings. He was told that kids dealt hard drugs like cocaine and meth and heroin right on campus and to always be on high alert because just about any kid might be carrying a firearm.
Carden finishes up his report on Jesus and does some other paperwork and leaves for the day. On his way to the parking lot he sees some kids vaping and smoking. Rap music is blaring from their car windows.
Hey, this that slime shit, hey
YSL shit, hey
Killin’ 12 shit, hey
Fuck a jail shit, hey
Drinking Activis, hey
On that snail shit, hey
Cookin’ white brick, hey, hey
Bricks and bales shit, hey, hey
Bitch, I’m super rich
Bitch, I’m stupid rich
Someone yells out the window. Hey, it’s the Card Man. We heard about you, bitch.
He keeps walking, looking forward, trying to ignore what he’s hearing and seeing. He thinks is this how it starts? Ambivalence? Is this what’s led to such a breakdown of norms in this place? Is it the way it is because no one has the guts to stand up to it? To fight for what’s right? Still, Card walks to his comfortable newer model Volkswagen all wheel drive car. He gets in and starts it up and drives toward his apartment.
What’s happening, bruh?
Nada, man. Just waiting on William.
It’s Friday night on Yakima Avenue and all the old farts are cruising their hot rods up and down the road while the kids mix it up with their Hondas and Subarus. People line the streets to watch the show. You see classic Ford Mustangs mixed with 1940s trucks and Volkswagen GTIs. Everybody’s revving their engines and spinning their wheels. Music from multiple decades creates a cacophony of sound. The smell of burnt rubber lingers in the air. Two boys from North Valley High are taking it all in.
William got the goods, bruh?
Fuck yeah. Anything you want. Blues. Blow. Weed. And if he don’t got it he can get it. He’s the plug, bruh.
That’s what I’m saying, man. So what’s he hooking you up with?
Just some good weed and a couple Xans. I’m not into the harder shit. But William can get it if you want it.
Can I get his number, bruh?
That’s not cool, bitch. You gotta meet him first. I ain’t trying to get killed. Bruh, he should be here in like about five minutes. I’ll introduce you. If he thinks your cool he’s your plug. Let me text him.
Both kids look down at their smartphones and stand together silently texting and checking their Instagram and SnapChat feeds. A bright yellow Corvette revs up it’s engine while waiting at the light.
Woah, check out that Corvette.
Bruh, that’s William.
He drives a Corvette?
Yeah, I told he’s cool. He’s fucking loaded too. William said it’s cool if you come with me. He wants to meet you, bruh. It’s your lucky day. Once you’re in you’re golden.
William turns into the Walgreens parking lot next to where the two boys stand on the sidewalk watching the cruise. He’s wearing a pair of $800 Bailman Officier sunglasses and a black Gucci button-up shirt with the top three buttons unbuttoned. His dark hair is clean cut and stylish and he’s sporting a thick three day shadow. He rolls down his window as the boys approach the Corvette.
You guys digging the cars out here?
Shit, your car is the coolest, man.
Magic, this is Issac.
What’s happening, bruh?
Just chilling, bruh. It’s good to meet you.
Yeah, you too. Any friend of Jose must be cool, yeah?
Yeah, man. I’m cool. I’m cool.
The boys notice a gun on William’s passenger seat, a Glock 19, 9mm caliber. Issac talks.
Fuck, you see that shit, man? Nice piece.
Yeah, shut up, Issac. Jose moves closer to the Corvette blocking Issac’s view and hands Magic a fifty dollar bill and then quickly grabs a small plastic baggie through the window and shoves it into his hoodie pocket. Thanks, bruh. So is it cool if I give Issac your number?
Yeah, he seems cool. I trust you. More business is good business. You seen Blade lately?
No. I heard he skipped town, owes some white trash heroin dealer a bunch of money.
Yeah, he owes me eighty bucks. If you see him around tell him to text me. Tell him we’re cool. I just wanna know how he’s getting along.
You got it, bruh.
Hey, good to see you Jose. You look good. Nice to meet you Issac. You guys hit me up if you need anything else. I gotta run. More deliveries. Be cool.
Check you later, Magic.
William shifts his car into drive and eases slowly out of the parking lot and heads south on Sixth Avenue.
Thought you said his name is William.
It is. He goes by Magic on the street though, bruh. It’s all cool. Hey, you wanna smoke? Come on. There’s a spot up a couple blocks by the school where no one will see us. The two boys start footing it toward a more private place.
* * *
The morning sun is glaring into William’s truck windshield as he sets off for the Tri-Cities to make a pickup. He lowers the visor and puts on his Bailman shades. He checks to be sure he has everything he needs for the trip. Money. Gun. Water. Gum. Good to go. He heads south on Interstate 82 making sure to drive the speed limit and stay under the radar. He streams some music from his phone through his Bluetooth system.
Bitch ass nigga I be popping pills
Syrup and them percs help me pay the bills
Yeah boy I pack the steel
Fuck with me nigga, this shit will get real
Bitch I’m popping pills and I’m sipping syrup
That yellow Tuss and maybe some purple
Xanax help me sleep, lean help me sleep
I pop a pill before I brush my teeth
The music breaks as the phone rings. He accepts the call.
Yeah, this is Magic. What’s up?
What time you pulling in?
Just like we planned it, man. 11:30. I’m ‘bout an hour away. You got four, right?
We got what you need.
And a couple hundred of that other shit?
Yeah. Here’s the address. 2444 West Dock Street. You’ll see a big white warehouse. Drive toward the backend. There’ll be two loading docks and the doors will be wide open. Ask for Zachary. He’ll hook you up.
William’s been buying from the same source for a few years. His name is Julio but he goes buy One. One takes steps to keep things on the lowdown. Pickup spots and people might change, but Magic only talks to One to get the details. They got their system. Everybody knows the drill. You always come alone. You go to the assigned location. You make the trade. You drive away. Simple. It’s all about mutual trust and respect. No questions.
Magic stops in Prosser to check his texts. He scrolls through about a dozen names. He smiles. Shit, got about eight thousand in sales lined up already. Fuck yeah. He searches up some Lil Peep and hits play before pulling back out into I-82. Life is good. A few miles before he gets to the Pasco exits he puts in an address search on his phone and hits the start button.
In two miles take a slight right toward North Road 68. Magic follows the directions and pulls into the warehouse at 11:27. He finds the open warehouse doors in the back and climbs out of his F250 Raptor. There are a few guys working on the loading dock and shooting the shit. He calls out. Hey, I’m looking for Zachary. Anybody know where I can find him?
Inside and to the right in the office.
He carries a small cardboard box filled with money and steps into the office. A blue collar type guy in his early thirties sits behind a large steel desk looking through some invoices.
You must be Zachary.
That’s me. What can I do for you, friend?
I’m William. I’m here to pick up some product.
Yep. I’ve been expecting you. You’re right on time. You can leave your payment right there on the desk. Magic sets the box down. Easy peasy. Step right this way. Zachary gestures back toward the loading dock.
The two men walk back into the warehouse and Zachary calls out. Hey, Rueben, can you grab those two boxes for Mr. William? Help him load ‘em in his truck.
Sure thing, boss. Rueben grabs a dolly and wheels two cardboard boxes to Magic’s Raptor. Where do you want ‘em?
Let’s put them in the back beneath the cover. Magic unlocks and slides his tonneau cover open. Right back there where they won’t slide around would be perfect.
You got it. Rueben loads the boxes and Magic slides the cover back and locks it. You’re good to go.
Pleasure doing business with you. Have a great day. William climbs back into his Raptor, and starts the engine. Soon he’s driving back up Interstate 82 toward Yakima. He has a busy afternoon and evening lined up ahead of him with at least fifteen deliveries scheduled.
When he gets home he unloads the product to check the contents. Four kilos of cocaine. Two hundred fentanyl pills. Perfect. He starts weighing and bagging what his clients have ordered. There’s no cutting. He gets his product ready to sell. New texts keep coming in. Magic knows it’s going to be a busy and profitable night. He works quickly to get everything in order and places the orders in the center console along with some cash. He lays his Glock on the passenger seat and pulls out to start his evening’s work. He loads some music.
Street dreams are made of these
Niggas push Bimmers and 300 E’s
A drug dealers destiny is reaching a key
Everybody’s looking for something
Street dreams are made of these
Shorties on they knees for niggas with big cheese
Who am I to disagree?
Everybody’s looking for something
William delivers to his highest paying customers first then works his way down the list to those only buying grams or less. By the end of the night he’s sold half a kilo and has already made $10,000 in profit on it. By the time he offs the whole kilo he’ll have made close to $25,000. Times that by four. Not too shabby. That’s $100,000 after costs all in a matter of a few weeks. He’ll make another $20,000 on the pills. It’s a good business and business is good.
Around midnight he’s finished delivering all of his orders. He drives home and sits in his truck in the driveway waiting for more texts to come in. Issac texts.
Hey, bruh, you remember me? My homie Jose introduced us the other night on the Ave.
Yeah, by Walgreens, right?
Yeah, bruh. My name is Issac.
I remember. What can I do for you?
Jose said you got whatever I need. You got a little bump?
You talking about C?
Yeah. How much for a G?
Eighty. Where are you at?
I’m out by Randall Park, man.
Meet me in the west parking lot in ten minutes. I’m in my Raptor. I got you covered.
Issac walks down the street from a friend’s house and across 48th to Randall. Magic pulls in a few minutes later. He waves Issac over to his truck.
Cool truck, bruh. You own this? And a Corvette?
Yeah, I got a Volkswagen R and Jeep Wrangler too. All paid in full, man.
You must have an awesome house.
Nah. I keep my residence on the down low. Sometimes you gotta move around a little in this business. Nobody but my closest friends and family know where I live and it stays that way, man. Nothing personal. Just business, bruh.
Yeah, that’s cool. Here. Issac hands Magic four crisp twenty dollar bills. Magic sets the money on his console and hands Issac a small plastic baggie, a gram of cocaine.
Hey, I gotta go. Just got another big order. I’m busting 20K tonight. Enjoy the C. It’s pure shit. Text me whenever you need a bump. I’m up all night.