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The Dixon Family Chronicles: “Live for Today”

Gary Phillips

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Illustration by Manoel Magalhães

“Man, what can I do?” DeMarkus Williamson paced, hands on his hips, head down. He was dressed in oversized basketball shorts and a tee.

“Teaflake doesn’t strike me as the forgiving sort.” Little Joe said. “But then again, you didn’t steal his money. He’s a logical cat.”

“Still,” the young man said, gesturing with his hands. “It was my girl that done it, and like he’s gonna believe I wasn’t in on it.”

“How much are we talking about?”

“She made off with a shade over twelve grand. Settin’ me up to be the chump.”

“Shit,” Little Joe said, whistling.

The two were in a rear bedroom in a clapboard house in Richmond. Out a translucent-curtained window, the metal spires of the century-old Chevron refinery could be seen in the near distance. Recently the progressives in the city, outspent mightily to the tune of $3 million by Big Oil backing its hand-picked candidates, won seats in the city council races.

“Yeah,” DeMarkus said, shaking his head. The home belonged to a friend of Miss Doty, DeMarkus’ godmother. When Little Joe had gone to see her at her home in Oakland, she’d feigned ignorance of where to find the teenager. As Little Joe had suspected, she was merely protecting DeMarkus. Once she was sure Joe wasn’t bird-dogging for the articulate but dangerous Teaflake, she contacted Dr. Vaughn, who she’d taken a liking to when the younger woman had interviewed her.

Sitting his lanky body heavily on a chair, DeMarkus sighed. “I sure didn’t mean to get you and Elva all up in this.”

“We’re concerned about you, DeMarkus.”

“I knew I had to lay low until I figured something out.”

Little Joe observed glumly, “He’s going to want his money back plus interest.”

“Or I give up Patricia.” That was the supposed girlfriend of Williamson who’d stolen the cash, a mere day’s take from one of the three medical marijuana dispensaries Teaflake oversaw. Because of federal regulations, banks couldn’t accept these funds for deposit, so it was a regular routine to move the cash around for safekeeping. The teen hadn’t been part of Teaflake’s operation but the 23-year-old Patricia Threadgil had, as one of his runners.

“You got an idea where she went?”

“Probably L.A.,” DeMarkus said. “I know she’s got a cousin down there and them two had talked about trying to open a nail shop.”

“If you know that, probably so does Teaflake.”

DeMarkus folded his sinewy arms. “I think that’s why he’s been laying in the cut, just takin’ it all in like a snake who can strike at any time.”

Little Joe shifted his feet as he leaned against a dresser with a scarred top. He barely had two thousand in his account. His sister, no way. Uncle Hank? No, even if he could convince him to help this knucklehead, he was pretty sure his unk was hurting worse than him.

Little Joe asked, “Does Dr. Vaughn know what’s up?”

DeMarkus regarded him evenly. “She knows a little, not all of it. Why?”

“I wonder if she might have a donor we can go to.”

“Donor? You serious?”

“Sure, she’s got big time connections, I checked.”

“Why would she help?”

“Why not? She’s not worried about contaminating the research. She’s part of it.” He visualized her giving a paper at some convention of her bow-tie wearing colleagues and being able to brag, subtly of course, about how her intervention saved the life of one of her subjects. An Indiana Jones among the nerds.

DeMarkus was on his feet again. “I got to do something. I can’t keep living like this.”

“No you can’t.” Little Joe too rose. “I’ll call you later on that burner I gave you. We’ll come up with a plan.” He stuck his fist out and the younger man reciprocated with a fist bump.

“So you and Elva, huh?”

“That’s got to be on the hush-hush for now,” Little Joe emphasized.

DeMarkus Williamson smiled knowingly.

Later in the evening at his place, Little Joe and Elva Avalos reviewed where matters were at. They sat near each other on the couch, their respective open beers set on napkins on an end table.

“It’s not like we could keep us a secret forever,” he said. They had been circumspect at their poker game.

“I know.” She snuggled her head against his chest, his arm around her muscular shoulders. “The light’s shining into the dark end of the street.”

He chuckled in his throat and they kissed passionately.

“Not bad for a dyke, huh?” she joked when they parted.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“We’re going to have to tell her, Little Joe.”

“I’ve been ready.”

“You always so foolhardy?”

“Us Dixons are some mule-headed folk.”

She rose, her hand out. “Well, let’s you and me go in the other room and see afterward if we can’t figure out our situation and what to do about DeMarkus.”

“I like that plan.”

“Until the axe falls.”

“Live for today, baby. Live for today.” And they went into the bedroom.

-To Be Continued-


The Dixon Family Chronicles appears every Wednesday. See also:

Chapter 1: “The Sink Man”
Chapter 2: “SOL”
Chapter 3: “Time Is Tight
Chapter 4: “Early in the Morning
Chapter 5: “You Gonna Step Up?”
Chapter 6: “Esoterica”
Chapter 7: “Which Side Are You On?”
Chapter 8: “A Little Past Seven”
Chapter 9: “No Justice …”
Chapter 11: “The People United”

Watch Gary Phillips talk about his webserial.

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