Tales of Finnegus Boggs, Lessons from a Marid Djinn

Tales of Finnegus Boggs, Lessons of a Marid Djinn

Billy & Tyron

by J. Cafesin

Entropy Press, LLC

Second edition, April 2022

Copyright ©2022 J. Cafesin

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher. Information regarding permission, write to: Entropy Publications, LLC, San Francisco, CA, query@entropypublishing.com.

Tales of Finnegus Boggs—Lessons from a Marid Djinn

Billy & Tyron

It was Billy’s idea to rip off the liquor store. He heard brotherabe on his cell say the place was ripe.

Bounce was good— take Fruitvale or Foothill outta there. Heart of the hood, where this kinda crap happens all the time. And Lucky Liquors is run by this old chink. Gook’s at the mart from opening til closing cuz he too damn cheap to hire help from the Projects. Serves him right getting tagged every couple of months.

Slide convincing Ty to do the deed. Bluds since Sunshine Daycare, they bled enough and shredded enough to earn respect as the cracka/nigga posse not to jack. No fools in their faces since 5th grade, or on their streets edging the rim of the Hood. Only their jank address and the popo’s keeping em down.

Lunchroom Thursday, Billy goes on spouting about taking what they deserve for being dissed since they was kids. From jacking construction sites at seven, to ripping music, movies and apps off the net and selling it on Craigslist at eleven, Tyron is always angling for money. To Ty, it buys respect. To Billy— freedom. He be flipping off his hammered old man and dick-head brother on the way outta town, and his mom too, if she’d stuck around.

“One strike gets us a sled and elevates us the rest a high school, blud. Then we outta here, down to Hollywood, man, do some rappin, some actin, be whoever we wanta be, Ty. And even if we get caught, but we won’t, the most we’d get is maybe a short stint in juvie since we ain’t got no rap sheets. And if we don’t get caught, and we won’t, I heard Chris say the gets around five large.”

Tyron stares at Audrey across the lunchroom, the hoodrat who brought him out, now slumming with the cracka slanger, Baker. “Five grand would get us some respectable treads,” Ty says. “We be legally stylin by the weekend if we did the deed this week.” And Ty’s sly, white-tooth grin spreads like a crack in a cave against his dark skin. “Late afternoon, tomorra,” Tyron says. “Before the chink stashes his cash from the day in a safe or at the bank. Hoodies and caps, keep our mugs down, away from cameras, and we be golden.”

“We ain’t gonna just glide in there and ask for cash, blud. And copin a gun’s gonna take time, and it ain’t gonna be cheap,” Billy feels a need to reality check him.

“We don’t need no gun. Never liked em anyway. I’ll thinka somethin.”

No shit Tyron hated guns. Took his old man out in a drive-by in their driveway when he was nine and his dad’s brains landed all over him.

They’re rifling through Tyron’s shared closet for old baseball caps after track Thursday afternoon. Action figures missing body parts, busted Transformers, remoteless remote control cars once Ty’s, now part of his four younger half-brothers and sisters collection. Most of the toys were used when he got em, but now they’re all trashed, except for the hard plastic stuff, like shields and swords, and his old toy gun, the black and silver Beretta M92 pistol he got for his tenth birthday from Uncle Mike, a replica of the ones in the The Matrix. Tyron holds it with both hands, points it out in front of him towards Billy still ripping through the pile of junk.

Billy looks over at Tyron and his freckled face goes white. “What the fuck—.” Then he grins, his blue eyes laughing. “Dope, hom. I remember that, when you brung it to school and guard dog Jackson almost shot yo ass.”

“Guess it’s real enough,” Ty says checking out his old toy. “And this way we in control, get what we want and no one dies. Now all we need is caps and we tight on gear, but we gonna need treads to haul ass outta there. Stupid runnin round the Hood— ever— but retarded after popo’s get called out on the hit.”

Billy’s bushy brows bunch, then his eyes light up like there’s a bulb in his head. “I’m for liberatin my brother’s Charger from the Costco parkin lot. Jack it right after he starts his shift. Bring it back before his dinner break and he’ll never know we copped it.”

“And how we gonna cop his keys, homs?” Ty asks.

“Chris made an extra set of keys after that time he shredded me for losin his.”

“Even though ya didn’t, and he found em in the fuckin couch cushions after crackin yo ribs for losin em.”

Billy can’t help grinning. “Asshole laid out $150 for a new set he didn’t need, which he keeps in his box of stash under his bed.”

Tyron nods, but Billy sees his eyes glazing, his minds churnin. Ty’s brain is always working.

“I gotta hold the gun, since it’s mine, well, was. And I’m way more harsh than yo cracka mic mug.” Ty’s plan— he points the toy gun at the chink, covers most of it with his monster paws so it looks real, then shouts for the paper. Billy snags it and they haul ass. “And with a bogus gun no one gets drilled. And that keeps us in juvie if we get nailed.”

“But we won’t get nailed if we do this right, Ty. Then we be stylin with our own treads, right on outta here.”

After track next day, Billy and Tyron walk the mile and a half to Costco. Parking lot is crawling with Kardashian’s swarming into Oakland since the tech invasion. Chris’ Charger is parked at the far right side of the lot, bordered by trees lining the canal between Oakland and Alameda. The boys cut through the grove to either side of the car, get in casually, and drive away.

They share a J on the way to Lucky Liquors, listening to Live105 to chill. Billy parks across the street from the gook mart. Storefront windows is stacked with boxes, bottles of booze, cases of water and soda right up to the glass door with iron bars. White bird crap spots a blue cloth awning that runs along the top of the old brick building and shades the sidewalk below.

They wait for the rush hoping to drown out their day and the night ahead. Sun’s setting when Billy finally swings the Dodge round and parks in front of the liquor store. They put on tattered Oakland A’s caps, pull down the rim to their brows, then hoods over their heads to the brim of the caps. Tyron grips the toy gun inside the long pocket of his hoodie and holds it pressed to his stomach as he follows Billy’s lead out of the car and into Lucky Liquors.

Billy goes to the cold cases in the back and pulls a six pack of Bud. Tyron grabs a bag of pretzels and Lays and brings them to the register as Billy comes up behind him.

Chink stands behind the counter, seen only through the small space not packed with crap for sale. He don’t look at Tyron as he scans the bags. The slant deserves to be messed with. Payback for the neighborhood he’s pretending don’t exist while they fork over their welfare checks to buy his shit.

He pulls the toy gun from his hoodie. “Gimmy every fuckin bill in the register. NOW!” Tyron demands as he points the gun at the Chinaman who just stands there. “I said now, foinky!” Ty’s rushing, feels like a speed buzz. Scared, but something else too… Smart. Powerful. Heart pounds hard, but beats steady, filling his chest like music does.

The chink finally looks up at him, speckled gray eyes wide. Then he looks at Billy.

“Ya heard da man.” Billy’s voice is deeper, angrier than Tyron’s. “Give em the cash now or my blud here splatters your brains all over your booze.” He eyes a golden bottle of Jack Daniels on one of the shelves along the wall behind the chink, and goes to get it.

“Sup, hom?” Tyron gets tense, with Billy not following the plan.

“I’m elevatin us above the crap we been drinkin.” Billy rounds the counter to get the whiskey behind the old man.

There’s a loud bang! Tyron’s stomach is suddenly burning, like he’s been stabbed, some unseen force slamming him backwards into the stack of plastic bottles of soda behind him. Then he’s on the floor, and tries scrambling to his feet but the pain is so blinding, ripping through his guts, his chest. And there’s blood everywhere, on his hands, his gray hoodie…

…Billy’s yelling in his face but it’s hard to hear, to breathe. The chink’s still behind the counter. He’s pointing a silver gun at them, a six shooter like in old movies, and screaming about something, but Tyron can’t hear what with the burning in his guts. Then Billy has the toy Beretta, holds it by the barrel waving it around, his voice suddenly blasting.

“—it’s FAKE! It’s fuckin plastic!” Billy yells at the chink, then throws the toy gun at the old foinky, but Tyron can’t see if he nailed him.

Then Billy’s pulling on him to get up, helps him to his feet but he can’t feel them and his legs fold. Billy practically drags him outta the liquor store to the Charger, opens the back door and drops Tyron on the back seat, stuffs his legs in and slams the door, then gets behind the wheel and hauls ass outta there.

“How bad you hit, Ty?” Billy glances back at Tyron, then watches him in the rear view as he moves with the traffic on Fruitvale, hoping to blend. “Talk to me, blud.”

Tyron slumps in the middle of the back seat, hands numbing now, watching tagged houses of west Oakland pass in slow motion. “He shot me. Why’d he do that?” He looks down at his hoddie soaking with blood. “Oh God, I’m bleedin bad.” Tyron curls on his side. He holds his stomach with both hands trying to hold in his blood. “I’m gonna fuckin bleed to death. I don’t wanna die, man. I’m only 17. I don’t wanna fuckin die.”

“You ain’t gonna die, Ty.” Billy’s blowing smoke up Ty’s ass. Even in the rear view he can see blood all over the beige bench seat. Chris is gonna split his skull open this time. “I’ll take you to the 12th Street Clinic—”

“NO! They have to report gun shots. I can’t get 5-0’d. It’d kill my mama.” Tyron starts crying then. He can’t help it. “God, it hurts. My stomach’s on fire, man.” He groans, curled on the back seat shivering. “I’m cold…I’m scared, Billy. Whata we gonna do?”

Billy cruises at the speed limit, but his mind is racing. He continues across the short bridge onto Alameda Island, where chedda and green rules. He and Ty used to bike to Crown beach all the time when they was kids just to screw with the natives and popos, since they don’t take kindly to Oakland teens invading their slice of paradise.

“Oh Christ, I’m bleedin all over the place. I’m gonna be sick. I swear to God I’m gonna puke.” Tyron’s talking to himself, but it’s making Billy crazy. “It fuckin hurts, man. You gotta help me, Billy.”

“What the fuck do you want me to do, Ty? You don’t wanna go to 12th Street then you gotta tell me what to do, man.” Billy yells into the rear view mirror.

“I don’t know. I don’t fuckin know!” Tyron manages to yell back.

Fast turns into slow motion as Billy cruises at 25mph along tree-lined streets, passing big green lawns of luxury cribs. Even the apartments are nicer than anything in or even near their hood just over the little bridge. He drives toward the beach, as if moving to the past, wishing like hell he could go back there, to when they was kids, or at least to before they came up with this fool plan.

Billy notices the stop sign when he’s less than two feet from it and slams on his brakes. Tyron moans as the Charger lurches forward and halts a few feet over the crosswalk. No other cars at the intersection. No curtains or shades move in the windows of the houses on three of the four corners, and no one is outside the big white buildings across the street on the right.

“Yo, Ty! Ya with me, blud?” Billy moves slowly through the intersection, trying to see Tyron in his rear view, but it’s almost dark out and dim inside the car. “Ty!” No response. “Tyron! Talk to me, man!” Still no response. “Fuck!” He pulls the Dodge to the curb alongside the parking lot in back of the white buildings, kills the engine and turns around.

Tyron’s usual dark chocolate skin looks almost… milky, the red surrounding his black eyes sinking them even more. A strobe of headlights and Billy spins back forward. He slides low as a white Beemer pulls out of the gated lot then passes by the Charger. Only then does Billy see the ‘Doctors Only’ sign on the parking lot entrance, and realizes where he is.

Deserve it or not, Jesus must be watching out for them. And down or not, if Ty’s hit bad enough, Billy’s taking him inside the hospital he’s just parked on the side of.

Billy turns back round, leans towards Ty between the two front seats. Blood’s all over the bench seat Ty’s curled up on, and Billy thinks he might hurl but swallows it back. He moves Tyron’s bloody hands from his stomach, then lifts his blood soaked hoodie real slow to see the damage. Tyron gasps, opens his eyes halfway, like he’s toasted, and moans.

“Sorry. Gotta check it out, Ty.” Billy’s never seen a bullet wound before, except in video games and movies. Looks pretty much like that— a sea of bright red surrounding a dark hole oozing thick red juice.

“It’s fuckin freezin.” Tyron mumbles then sorta laughs. “It’s true, just like on TV, when someone is dyin, ya get cold…” He drifts, thinking on what he’s just said.

“Ya ain’t dyin,” Billy deems, but compulsively shivers because he don’t believe it.

Ty seems like a little kid, curled up and holding his guts in like he is. Blood’s dripping off the bench onto the floor now. And it’s all over the back of the bench too. Billy was sure he’d only heard one shot. He pulls Ty’s hoodie up along his side carefully to check out his back. Tyron sucks in hard, like he’s hitting a bong, then groans loud.

“Sorry. Gotta see your back, hom. Lean towards me.”

Tyron does, but he practically screams as he rolls towards Billy.

Billy spots a hole oozing blood in Ty’s lower back, just inches from his spine, and he’s suddenly sure the grace of God is watching out for them. “The bullet went straight through, blud! You golden, Ty. Gotta guardian angel lookin out for ya, man. Now all we gotta do is get you stitched up and you’ll be smack, hom.” And Billy’s convinced it is now God’s will that Ty won’t die.

“I’m fadin, man. I think I’m dyin, Billy.” Tyron is crying again, his tears making long dark streaks across his face. He looks like a scared little kid after getting called out.

Billy takes off his hoodie and folds it up. “Press this gainst ya, man, and hold it there,” and he pushes his hoodie into Tyron’s bloody hands and presses them against his friend’s stomach. Tyron moans, and curls tighter, but keeps hold of Billy’s hoodie.

“Keep pressure on it! Slow the bleedin, man.” Billy turns back forward, shivers in his thin black t-shirt as he pops the glove box hoping to find some herb to calm their nerves. No Js, or even loose bud, but nestled among crumpled receipts and manuals is a small gray P99. His brother has crossed the line from dealer to thug, and a stupid one at that. If Chris gets tagged with a 9mm-semi, he’ll blow his parole and be facing hard time.

“If I die… ya gotta make some shit up to my mama… how I saved somebody… or some bullshit that’d make her proud,” Tyron says between deep quivering breaths. “Ya hear me, blud?”

“Bullet went straight through, hom. You ain’t gonna die, Ty! Just gotta get yo sorry ass sown back up.” Billy’s fingers are sticky with blood. He looks around, taxing his brain for a way to get help without getting them both snagged.

The hospital lot is packed with cars, but Billy don’t see no one. Then a cracka— no, darker, maybe a raghead—comes strutting through the glass doors at the back of the hospital and crosses the lot towards their Charger parked curbside. His doctor coat flares with the wind. He looks tall, at least as tall as Billy. And he’s thin, dressed in all black under his white coat. He moves smooth, almost like he’s gliding. Getting closer Billy can see the doc is a slumdog. Dark, wavy hair that’s all there. And this dude is pumped, especially at his age. Billy’s sure he’s too young to be talking to himself, then he notices the blue light blinking in the dude’s ear from his wireless earbud.

Fifty feet away, now forty, the doc is coming towards the last row of cars parked in the lot. Billy can tell he’s headed for the black Ferrari just the other side of the four foot high, ivy-covered fence separating the lot from the sidewalk, and their Charger parked on the street. He crouches low, hoping he’s invisible beyond the fence, in the dark, and to pedigree like a doctor.

“—don’t care what the market price is, Marty.” Doc’s voice is deep, and as smooth as his groove, and gets louder the closer he gets. “The gold has been among my assets for generations. It’s only a trifle of my holdings, and I don’t need the capital.” He switches a small, bulging black bag from one hand to the other, then reaches in his pants pocket. Doc’s probably got all Ty needs in that black bag of his.

It’d take that sand monkey like ten fucking minutes to sew up Ty’s two small holes, then Billy’d let him go, even drop him back to his car for the owe. No reports. No one gets snagged. No one dies. All good. Like none of this ever happened. Billy looks back at Tyron. He’s out, eyes closed but surrounded by dark like hollow black holes. Makes Billy shiver, like a ghost passing through him.

Ferrari alarm chirps. “I get it,” the dude says. “I do. But I’ll ride it out, Marty. Don’t worry. I have the time.”

Now or never. Billy pops the glove, grabs the gun, gets out of the Dodge and shuts the door quietly. He’ll jack the slumdog before he makes the gate.

And the sand monkey opens the Ferrari’s door and gets in.

Nowhere to pocket the gun, and his jeans hanging too loose to hold it in his waistband. Billy grips the gun tightly as he moves around the back of the Charger, then onto the curb and across the sidewalk in a few quick steps. His heart hammers in his chest and ears. He tries pretending he’s a shooter in Halo but it ain’t really working to pull him from the reality slam. MOVE! MOVE! MOVE! is yelling in his head. He’s waiting to hear the Ferrari ignite, and rushing to get in front of it before it leaves the lot. But that fine machine just sits there, silent.

Slide jumping the fence—way easier than the hurdles in track. He lands silent as a puma behind the Ferrari, then moves to the driver’s door, yanks it open and points the gun at the doc he saw get behind the wheel a minute ago.

“Freeze mothefucka—” Billy growls into the milky void inside the Ferrari.

Glowing smoke swirls in greenish mist, then suddenly gathers like a coiling snake and rushes towards him. And as it surfaces Billy sees a face, the face of the Indian doctor, and then the doc’s sitting behind the wheel of his Ferrari, the blue light from his cell earpiece mixing with his door light making him look blue/green, almost like water.

The doctor looks at him casually, and laughs, bringing Billy back from one fucked up flashback. “Get out!” he grips the gun with both hands now and points it at the doc’s head. “Get your black bag and get out.”

“Bizarre as it seems, I believe I’m being car-jacked, Marty.” He talks to his earpiece but stares up at Billy, beyond the gun two feet from his face, looking right into Billy’s eyes. “No. No,” he chuckles. “I’m fine. It’s just a kid, no more than a teen.”

“Lose it or I blow it off.” Billy points the gun at the slumdog’s ear.

“Marty, I’ll have to get back to you.” He smiles, indulgent like as he takes the wireless from his ear, closes it in his weirdly long fingers then like a magician opens his hand at Billy and the earpiece is gone.

Billy almost shoots the prick, except the safety is still on. “Get out! Get the fuck out of the car.” Prickling rush when the doc just sits there, like Billy’s some sorta joke or something. He pushes the safety forward so the gun can fire. “I said get your black bag and get out. Don’t make me pop ya.”

Doc grabs his black bag sitting on the passenger seat and gets out. Billy keeps the gun on him as he backs up, suddenly filled with a massive dose of chill since there’s no way in hell Billy could’ve forced this jacked dude out of his car.

“I’ve had many strange experiences in all my years, to be sure. But I don’t believe I have ever been carjacked. Isn’t that remarkable?” Doc stands by his open door, towering over the low Ferrari, eye-to-eye with Billy, not three feet between them. “If it’s my car you desire, I’m afraid it only responds to my commands. I’ve had it customized to my—”

“I don’t want yo flash treads. Ya think I’m a moron? It’s a goddamn billboard screamin, Look at me!” Billy shoves the doc forward. “I need some doctorin. Move!

“Where are we going?” the sand monkey asks, like he’s excited or something being shoved along by Billy.

“Black Dodge on the street.” Billy resets the safety, holds the gun at his side but keeps his finger on the trigger, and his thumb on the safety. They come round the fence at the lot’s entrance and onto the sidewalk. He shoves the gun harder in between the doc’s shoulder blades pushing him towards the Charger, which looks empty parked at the curb.

“Get in. Do it now!” Billy commands as he opens the passenger door, glancing at Ty, curled like a suckling baby on the bloody back seat, dead maybe. And with this thought comes a choking, suffocating weight, as if Billy’s being buried alive.

Doc eyes Ty laying in the back as he gets in the Charger without Billy needing to convince him. Again he’s flooded with that sense of relief, knowing he couldn’t have made the doc get in if the dude resisted. He sits all chill, even laces his big fingers together, puts his hands in his lap and looks up at Billy, like they was buds or something. No fear that Billy can see, or even sense. He slams the door in the slumdog’s face, but keeps the gun pointed at his head as he walks around the front of the Dodge, gets behind the wheel, and locks them all in.

“What would you like from me?” He looks at Billy, stares, like into him, stopping Billy cold. His black eyes seem to change then, to deep, emerald green, and they practically twinkle, like he’s laughing again, except he’s not. “I would say: ‘Your wish is my command,’ but that is so cliché, don’t you think?” His deep voice practically echos, the vibration in Billy’s chest jarring. He points the gun less than a foot from the doctor’s head, but doesn’t release the safety.

“Shut the fuck up. I’ll do the talkin.” Billy’s sure Doc’s playing him a fool, acting like they is all down. Billy don’t care. “You fix my friend, sew him up, and you outta here, back at your car like yous never here.”

Tyron moans, and both of them turn to see him open his eyes, but they only open halfway, like he’s seriously baked. “He took a bullet. It went straight through. Sew him up, front and back, and you gone. Ya got my word.” Billy manages to keep the gun on the Doc as he starts the car and puts it in gear with his left hand then pulls from the curb real slow, heading for the beach, where it’s quiet, and empty at night.

“I’m Finnegus Boggs. Dr. Boggs, if you’d like. I also go by Doc Finny, but mostly to children, which you clearly are not.”

“Don’t give a shit about your name. We get to the beach and you’re gonna fix up my blud here.” Billy drives past the apartments and the bay suddenly spreads out in front of him. “When ya get Ty right, we say ga-night.” He turns onto Shoreline Drive, cruises slowly along the beach front for a space between the Beemers and monster SUVs. The Bay’s a deep violet void, but the hills across the water, the Bay bridge and the city beyond it all twinkle.

“Ah. Hunza,” Doc says, all over the top, like he’s seeing Oz or something. “San Francisco is a sparkling jewel, is she not?” He looks at Billy like he’s waiting for an answer. “Well, it’s important to acknowledge beauty, even in troubling times. Especially in them, don’t you agree?” He stares at Billy, waits.

“I ain’t squawkin wit ya, man.” Billy pulls the Dodge to the curb in front of the Seaview Apartments. “I nabbed ya to sew up my man here, so shut the fuck up and get back there and fix him up.”

“How droll. Don’t be a stereotype, son. It’s deathly dull.” Doc sighs heavily, like he’s a father calling out his kid. “Let’s have a look at your friend then, shall we?”

And suddenly Billy’s outside, sitting cross-legged on Crown Beach under a blanket of stars brighter than he’s ever seen. Feels like he’s suddenly in a dream. Tyron lays in front of him on sparkling golden sand, except not on the sand, but floating just above it, his eyes closed, his hands holding onto Billy’s blood-soaked hoodie. Billy scrambles to his feet, tripping in the warm glittering sand as he moves toward the empty Charger parked across the street, then wheels back round to Tyron, and the sand monkey’s in front of him blocking his way.

His gun is gone, so with closed fists Billy shoves Boggs’ hard in the chest. The doc glides backwards like he’s on ice, but doesn’t fall. “What is this? What the hell’s goin on?!” Billy shoves him again, only this time it feels like he’s slamming a wall, his knuckles burn, like he’s shredding skin, and Boggs doesn’t move at all. “Who are you? What the hell are you?” He practically whispers, afraid of the answer. “Some kinda magician or somethin…?”

“Not a magician. A typical guess, that, or some sort of god, but that’s neither here nor there.” Boggs’ smiles slow and wide, like that cat in Alice In Wonderland. “ I am a Marid, a djinn, a genie, as you may refer to me, though I find that expression rather vulgar, don’t you?” His black eyes sparkle, for real. Light twinkles from them, like coming from inside of him.

Ty’s inert body starts to rise slowly. He groans, then opens his eyes halfway, totally blank he’s floating four feet off the ground now. Boggs moves to his side and shines a pen light into his eye. He stares up at Boggs, then grabs the collar of the Doc’s white lab coat with his bloody hand. “You’re real.” Ty mumbles, gripping the clean white collar. “Billy always said you was fake, that there ain’t nothin gonna save us, but you’s real.” He stares into the Doc’s eyes sure he’s seeing the angel Gabriel, and even with his blurry vision he’s equally sure the spirit is glowing. He lets go of the Doc’s coat, blinks out some tears and sighs gratefully. “Am I dead?”

“Not yet,” Doc says kind of gentle, like the way he puts his fingers on Ty’s neck.

“You ain’t dead, blud. I’m here.” Billy moves to Ty’s side opposite the Doc. He grabs Ty’s bloody hand and holds it in both of his, right then getting what Ty meant when he said he was cold. His hand is freezing, his grip so weak Billy can barely feel him squeezing. “I got this doc here, man, and he’s gonna fix ya right up. We ain’t gonna let ya die, Ty.” Billy looks at Boggs, pleading, still unsure if he’s dreaming. It all seems so real, except Boggs’ white coat is lit up against the black Bay and makes it look like he’s kind of glowing.

“Don’t tell my mama how I died, blud,” Ty begs, gazing up at Billy now. “Tell her I took a bullet tryin to stop it. Make me a hero, Billy. Please man…” Tears are streaking his face again.

“You ain’t gonna die, man. Ya hear me, Ty?!” Billy glares at Boggs’. “Tell em he ain’t gonna die.”

“I will not.” Boggs looks at Billy, shakes his head slowly. “I do not lie. I could, of course, like most do. It took me many millennia to learn that lying about facts to spare feelings ultimately serves no one.”

Then Ty’s grip goes slack in Billy’s hand and his eyes roll back in his head.

“Where’s your black bag? Where the fuck is it?!” Billy’s all up in Boggs’ face, yelling over Tyron. “Ya need to sew him back up and stop the bleedin!” He lays Ty’s hand back on his bloody hoodie. It stays there, like his elbows are on the ground instead of floating feet above it, but blood drips from Ty’s back and hits Billy’s left Converse before he backs up. “Where’s your black bag, Slumdog? Ya need to sew him up before he bleeds out, man. You need to stop the bleedin—” Billy stifles a sob with short breaths, afraid the sand monkey sees how scared he is.

Boggs looks Billy straight in the eyes, but his eyes ain’t sparkling now. “No. I don’t.”

A jumbo jet taking off from Oakland airport rumbles the earth and makes the golden sand shimmer as it flies over the black Bay.

Boggs looks down at Tyron, puts his hand on top of Ty’s hand, still holding Billy’s bloody hoodie. “Your friend has lost a lot of blood. Even if he gets sewn up there is only a marginal chance this boy will survive without an infusion of hypertonic saline along with a viscosity enhancer like Hextend or—”

“Talk fuckin English.” Billy starts shaking, hoping this wacked out asshole don’t see.

“Well, I am, of course. You’re inability to understand me is perhaps your own ignorance.” Doc looks at Billy like he’s waiting on directions.

“Then we go back to the hospital, and ya get him the medicine—”

Doc shakes his head. “Too late for that.” He brings his hand to Ty’s neck and presses two fingers into the side of Tyron’s throat. “His heart rate has accelerated.” Boggs closes his eyes, like he’s trying to feel inside Ty. “Pressures dropping. Vessels are starting to clamp down to try and maintain perfusion.” He sighs real deep, like he cares. “He may have three minutes, maybe five, before he has a heart attack, or strokes out, or if he’s lucky goes into an irreversible coma.”

Billy feels hot tears running down his cheeks. And dissing himself for being a pussy ain’t stopping em. “You tellin me Tyron’s gonna die? Right here? Right now?” He feels dizzy, like the ground ain’t under him anymore.

“It’s not possible to predict the future with consistent accuracy, regardless of the recent claims by the data science community.” Boggs’ smiles but just for a sec. “The future is dynamic, ever changing, and solely your making. Whatever hand you’ve been dealt, your choices chart your course, your journey through life, which is why one can only move backwards on any given time line—“

“Shut the fuck up, slumdog!” Billy stands a few feet from floating Ty, eye-to-eye with Boggs. “What yo rappin ’bout, dickhead? Take ya a fuckin second to pop us back to the hospital, fix up my man, and be done.” He wipes his tears away with the end of his t-shirt as they fall, but he can’t stop them. “Why ya talkin at all, Doc? If he’s dyin, why ain’t ya tryin to save him? You a goddamn doctor, ain’t ya? Ya took a oath on a fuckin bible to cure people, didn’t ya?”

“I’m not a priest. And I’ve learned there is no such thing as holy men. You are all born solipsists, and most of you never seem to grow out of it. Too bad too—“

Shut up!” Billy barely stops himself from clocking the sonofabitch in his snug face, but that won’t help Ty none. “Ty dies. You die,” he growls, glaring at Boggs. “Fuckin get us to a hospital like ya got us on this beach, or I make it my mission to come for yo fam if his mama has to bury him.”

The ground vibrates but there ain’t no planes that Billy can see. The gold sand starts rising in sparking flashes of light. He feels his body hair rise off his skin. Not exactly sparks, more like pops of golden light, like glitter is swirling around their ankles now, and way beyond them, as far as down the beach Billy can see.

“As… unique as this experience is, being diverted from a rather dull evening by, well,” and Boggs waves his hand in the air as if swatting a fly, “you, I imagine if I were mortal it would not be. Either way, it’s unwise to push me too far.” Boggs turns away, moves a couple of steps from Ty and stares out at the Bay.

Billy’s coming unhinged, can’t think, can’t stop shaking, fighting himself not to move on this asshole the longer he just stands there letting Ty bleed out. “I don’t care what ya are, or if this is even real, but if this is, and you’s some kinda angel, like Ty says, or devil, which it’d be more my luck, then,” and he stops cuz he’s shedding in front of this sand monkey now. “Take me…” Billy stifles another sob. “No one gives a shit about me anyway.” He wipes his dripping nose with the bottom of his t-shirt again. “Ty’s got a mama who loves him, and brothers and sisters too. You fix him up, and take me instead if ya need someone dead. Please, I’m beggin ya, man, take me.”

Boggs turns and faces Billy again, standing a few feet from floating Tyron. He’s smiling, not like that grinning cat, but halfway, like suddenly he gives a shit. His black eyes go soft, like warm, welcoming black holes sucking him in, freezing him in place.

Golden glittering light swirls and pops round them rising in slow motion, up past where Ty lay floating, almost to Bogg’s and Billy’s chests now. It’s fucking awesome, like nothing he’s ever seen, not YouTube, not gaming, not anywhere.

“This likely will not save your friend,” Boggs says as the glittering light continues to rise around them. “And if he dies, his timeline is effectively over. Complete.” Glitter starts spinning all around them. “Tyron Lewis Johnson’s life will have ended, and can not be resurrected.” Flashes and pops of glittering light sparkles around them faster and forms a circular vortex of sparkling gold. The vortex brightens as its speed increases, lighting up the three of them, the golden sand, the beach beyond and out over the Bay, making the black water shimmer with gold, brighter and brighter…

Then everything goes white.

And suddenly Billy is standing next to Tyron laying in a hospital bed. Before he can even register where they’re at, he’s being pushed aside by the nurses coming in. They gather around Ty, put an IV in his arm, then stickers on his chest, and the heart monitor beeps on. He don’t know how Boggs got them there. He don’t know why. He don’t care. They’ll fix Ty up for sure in here.

Blue curtain surrounding them sweeps aside and Boggs’ comes in, his doctor’s coat all bright white, like he ain’t never left the hospital tonight. The nurse moves away as he stands over Ty and shines a penlight in his eye.

Tyron stirs, groans, blinks his eyes open, but just barely. Boggs stares down at him and Ty fixes his gaze on Finnegus. Tears fall, making a dark line, like mud streams in dry dirt, down the sides of his face. “I’m sorry!” Ty sobs to Boggs. “Tell Jesus, I’m sorry! Gabriel please forgiv—” Then he starts chokin. “Forgive me my sins—” and then his eyes roll back in his head and the heart monitor starts beeping real fast.

Billy moves towards Tyron but a nurse pushes him back. “Please leave now,” she demands and is literally pushing him out of the draped enclosure as he hears Boggs’ say, “Get me 15ml hypertonic saline and 500ml Hextend stat.”

Billy stands stone still against the drapes where the nurse left him to attend to Tyron. He hears Boggs giving orders to the nurses about stuff to do, and while he hears the words, Billy don’t get what the hell he’s talking about, using doctor speak like he is.

Then it’s quiet except the rustling of the nurses and Ty’s heartbeat on the monitor. And suddenly Boggs’ is standing next to him and Billy nearly jumps out of his skin.

“What the fuck’s with you? What are you? You a real doctor, or just a mothafuckin wacked out psycho that slipped me some shit and this is all some fuckin head trip? If this is real, then why ain’t you in there tryin to save him?”

“I did, just as you asked, in fact,” Boggs’ says.

The curtain sweeps aside. Boggs, then Billy looks over at Ty, all hooked up with tubes up his nose and needles in his arms, laying like he’s dead, eyes closed, still as stone in the hospital bed.

Boggs kinda laughs. “And you are ne’er the first to accuse me of insanity. And for most indictments I am proud—standing up against madness rather than succumbing to it. As for my credentials, I’ve been practicing medicine on and off for the last five millennium. I find it very satisfying. Except in times like these, of course. Such a tragic waste of grand potential.”

Loud tone sounds and stays as the green line on the heart monitor flat lines. It looks and sounds just like it does on TV.

Boggs just stands there, but the nurses spring into action, one pumping Ty’s chest with her hands on top of each other, while the other nurse is grabbing paddles from the top of a box on the wall. “Clear!” she says real loud, then slams the paddles down on Ty’s chest. His body bucks but the flat tone remains, and the green line’s still straight after the spike from the shock.

Billy can’t breathe. This is happening. Ty is dying. He can’t stop it. And this dickwad doctor won’t stop it. He can’t stop his lower lip’s quivering now, and Billy feels warm tears running down his cheeks again. He wipes them away with the back of his hand and looks at Boggs, pleading. “Please, please save my buddy, man. I don’t give a shit if you is the fuckin devil. I’ll agree to anything you say, do anything you want. Please save my friend! He’s only 17, man. Please—” Billy can’t help crumbling then, letting lose the sobbing been stuck in his guts. He don’t even try to stop it.

Finnegus Boggs eyes Billy. “I can not.” He looks at Tyron, then looks back at Billy, his eyes again like black holes, and don’t reflect, but seem like they’re sucking light in. “I can not save your friend, Billy. But you can.”

“Clear!” the nurse says again, making Ty’s body buck on the bed. The monitor bleeps in rapid secession, the green line jagged, not like a normal, rhythmic heartbeat.

“His heart going into cardiac arrest. He’s almost dead,” the doc says.

“Why ya still messin with me? He’s dyin, for fuck sake. How the hell am I supposed to save him if you can’t?”

“You’d call it magic. But it’s really just physics.” A smile cuts across the genie’s face like some Yoda. “While going forward is only a predictive model, as the future is undetermined, certain beings, like myself, for example, can go backward along a timeline. Say the words and I can, well, put you in a position of saving your friend, essentially give you the opportunity to reset your lives on a different path which does not lead to this particular outcome.”

Something weird starts happening with time, like it’s slowing down. The nurses are moving slower, the tone on the heart monitor is deeper.

“C..l…e….a….r….” The nurse’s voice is low and slow. Instead of slamming the paddles onto Ty, it looks like she’s moving in super slow motion and just placing them on his chest.

Billy inhales a shaky breath. “Just fuckin tell me what the hell ya want me to do,” he says, but not with any clout, suddenly tapped, like he may pass out.

“I just told you what to do,” the Doc says like a bummed coach. “Clearly you have learning issues. So, I’ll tell you again, but PAY ATTENTION BOY,” Boggs booms, his voice deep, echoing with reverb.

And suddenly they’re all back at Crown beach, still standing together watching Ty just like in the hospital. Billy tumbles back, nearly falls, recovers, then glares at Boggs just standing there watching him fumble like some fool. “What the fuck?!” Then Billy sees Ty. He’s not in the hospital bed, and he ain’t floating either. He’s laid out on the golden sand this time, his arms across his chest, like he’s in a casket, looking real peaceful like. “Is he dead?” Billy dare ask just above a whisper.

“Not yet,” Bogg’s says like he doesn’t really care anymore. “However, I can give you the power to save him, Billy, but only before he is dead, as I’ve said.” He moves to where Ty lay, points two weirdly long fingers down at him then flicks them upwards. Tyron starts rising, slow, until he’s four feet off the ground, but he’s laying like he’s still on the sand. “I am a Marid, the first in the line of my kind, and the most powerful, and respected of Djinni I may add. When you opened the door to my Ferrari, you essentially summoned me, like Aladdin’s mother rubbing the oil lamp. Ah, but then you’re probably unfamiliar with the tale of One Thousand and One Nights.”

“I fuckin know who Aladdin is. And I ain’t him.” He glares at Boggs. “Aladdin’s a fuckin fairytale. My mom is gone and there ain’t no such thing as genies.”

“Aladdin is a legend, a fable, to be sure. But I am not.” Doc smiles, like Ty’s mom when she’s telling him how it is from what he thinks. “Scheherazade told of us more eloquently than I, but I’ll try and translate into twenty-first century, guttural American slang.” He cracks the slightest smile. “In layman’s terms, contrary to legend, Djinn’s can live anywhere we like. We possess the authority to grant one wish to whomever calls us out, you might say, which is why most of us don’t live in houses, with front doors.” Boggs smiles, but it sags when Billy doesn’t. “I keep the car doors locked most of the time, and, other than valets, for which I prepare my exit beforehand, not many people open the driver’s door of a vehicle other than the driver. In fact, you are only the third in over 90 years.”

“Lucky me.” Billy says and looks at Ty floating like he’s dead, his posse, his homedog, his blud, more blood than any fam ever was.

“Ah…But you are, Billy,” the smug sonofabitch says.

“Losin the one good thing bout my fuckin existence ain’t lucky.” Billy looks out over the black Bay to the beaded lights on bridge to the city he and Ty never cross.

“Luck is what one does with opportunity, Billy. And I’m giving you an opportunity now. While I’m not obligated to grant requests when called out, I am choosing to award you one for giving me this unique experience, which is rare for me living as long as I have. As payment for this adventure, I grant you one wish. It must be stated clearly, and concisely, and without multiple components. And you have my word, the outcome will be to your exact specifications. No refunds, exchanges, or repeats. And there is no wishing for more wishes. I’m honor-bound to grant only one per client I take on—”

Tyron moans, then’s suddenly starts screaming like a zombie. Shocks the shit outta Billy and seems like Doc too cuz he hovers over him with two fingers on Ty’s neck. Ty’s mumbling something Billy don’t hear till he moves closer.

“I see the light, B,” Ty says, but he don’t open his eyes and he don’t seem to notice he’s floating. “I see it, man. I see the light, blud. God damn, it’s beautiful, all sparkly and shit…”

“Anoxia is affecting his optic nerves.” Doc stands straight, within slugging distance, and looks at Billy. “His right temporal lobe is malfunctioning from oxygen deprivation. His brain is shutting down.”

“Where’s Gabriel?” This time Ty’s eyes open but a slit so small his eyelashes stay woven together. “Oh no! No! He left me. He’s gone. I’m goin ta hell, Billy. I know I am. I’m going to hell for all the bad shit we done…” and he’s wheezing by the time he stops talking, gasping to breathe, tears carving up his face with wet lines again.

“Not to worry.” Boggs says real casual like. “There is no place, or any reality known to me as humanity’s religious constructs of hell. Only in life does one create it, or choose to avoid it.”

“I’ll make it my mission to prove ya wrong if ya don’t save my friend.” Billy glares at Boggs who frowns back at him like he’s stupid. He tries to chill instead of kill the mothafucka, runs his hand through his hair and looks at Tyron, glowing in blue moonlight and floating like he’s already a spirit.

Then Tyron starts jerking and gurgling like he’s being strangled. His eyes spring wide open and he’s glaring up at Boggs, begging, desperate. His red mouth’s gaping and he’s gasping in every breath.

“No. No. Shhh. It’s all good, blud. Ya gonna be good—” Billy says, and he would’ve taken Ty’s bloody hand in both of his but Boggs bends in front of him, his ear to Ty’s chest forcing Billy to step back. “Blood’s accumulating around the lungs in the hemothorax,” He straightens but rests his left hand real gentle on Tyron’s chest. A deep red glow surrounds Boggs’ hand and Ty’s eyes close, his breathing settles some, wheezing instead of choking now.

“He should be dead soon,” Doc says real matter of fact as he turns to Billy. “And, again, I can not reverse death once beyond it along this timeline.”

Billy’s trembling so hard everything’s jittery. Was this really happenin? Or it really be Thursday night, and he’s just dreaming about the lunchroom today when they was squawking about hitting the liquor store. “This is wacked.” Billy says out loud, trying to talk himself into waking up. “I’m havin a nightmare, or doin some nasty trippin…”

“Oh, this is happening, boy,” Boggs says. “Reality does not go away because you choose to ignore it.” He shakes his head like Billy’s stupid. “Change your life tonight, Billy, or choose your rage over reason and blow yet another opportunity. Your life, your choice, as always.” Boggs eyes go from black to yellow, like eagle eyes, freezing Billy in terror where he stands. “You may request the tiresome ‘riches beyond your wildest dreams’?” Boggs’ flashes his Alice in Wonderland cat grin.

“Billy,” Ty says real soft like, but his eyes stay shut. “Billy where ya at, blud? Help me…” Almost a whisper as Billy moves to Ty’s other side opposite the doc and grips Ty’s stone cold forearms folded cross his chest, hoping Ty can feel him.

“I’m here, blud,” and Billy squeezes his forearm tighter. “I’m sorry, Ty. I’m so fuckin sorry about alla this…” He can feel heat coming off Doc’s hand on Ty’s chest, only inches from his before Boggs takes it off, steps back and looks at Billy.

“What’s it going to be, boy?” Boggs stares at Billy like coach does when he’s saying something complicated. “I can provide you with a steady, rather generous source of income allowing you to pursue your ambitions with all the trappings of wealth—a nice home in a prosperous neighborhood where the kids are destined for success.” Again he cracks his big cat grin. “Or, I can send you back along your timeline, ensure you meet Tyron. Perhaps you will reconsider your choices, change these events and alter this outcome, cinch this opportunity to continue your long friendship, which, even with my assistance, only you can really do.” His yellow eyes go red, then deep red then black, and he ain’t smiling no more.

Billy lets go of Ty and steps back. Boggs is the devil, Billy is sure now, the red eyes just like the preachers say, and they show Lucifer on TV.

“It’s your choice, Billy, limited only by your vision, as is so much of life.” Doc sighs. “Make your wish now, boy, or lose this opportunity.”

Tyron’s starts breathing real loud, gurgling like he’s choking again. His eyes pop open, black balls floating in liquid red. He’s gazing up at Boggs like he’s blazing—seeing God or something.

Dream or not, devil or angel, Billy don’t give a shit now. “I don’t know who or what the fuck you are, but if you can save him I’ll play. I wish my friend is gonna live, gonna be fine, was never shot, like this never happened. That’s what I wish.”

“That was four wishes.” Doc holds up his index finger. “’He’s going to live.’” Boggs holds up two fingers. “He’ll ‘be fine,’ whatever that means.” He holds up three fingers. “He wasn’t shot during the holdup; or go back in time to some unspecified date before you both committed robbery? I’m unclear on that last bit.” He holds up four fingers. No blood on his hands or his white lab coat. Freaks verging on sparkling clean. “Which wish do you want, Billy? You only get one.” Finnegus Boggs frowns. “Without fail, everyone always angles for more.”

“You fulla shit, man. Yo docs is so fuckin proud but ya don’t save nobody. Not my sister, not my blud, not me, not even you.” Billy holds his hand up and points two fingers like a gun at Boggs’ head. “You ain’t nobody, like everybody else, just like me. Tyron dies, I smoke you, then me, and the world loses nothin.”

Boggs shakes his head. “Your infantile whining is becoming tedious. When do you stop blaming everyone but yourself for where your choices have lead you?” He looks at Tyron floating in front of him, now gargling in air, body jerkin, eyelids spazzing, his lower lip quivering, drooling foamy white shit running down his cheek and dripping on to the sand. “Watch your friend die, or make a wish, boy, one wish, and I’ll make it so.”

“I’ll fuckin kill ya if you’s playin me, man. But if you’re what ya say you is and givin me a do-over,” Billy knew exactly where he’d go. “I wish I could go back to the lunchroom last Thursday, right when we sat down and Tryon and me started talkin bout doin the hit. I wish we could go back to right then.”

Boggs eyes pulse bright white light from inside him, like Billy just won the slots at Vegas. “Your wish is my command, sir.”

Time slows then, like it did in the hospital. A plane leaving Oakland moves through the starry sky over the black Bay in super slo-mo. Tyron’s still spazzing, the white foam coming from his mouth bubbles out slowly, and drips even slower down his cheek and onto the golden sand.

“There is only one addendum.” Boggs pulls a see-through monitor the size of a tablet right outta the air as he moves around floating Ty towards Billy.

Something above the twinkling hills across the Bay, beyond Boggs now next to him, catches Billy’s attention. The starry sky is… disappearing, going black, in tiny squares, kinda like a busted computer screen.

“Your signature is required.” Doc pulls a thin silver stylus from the breast pocket of his lab coat. Billy stands frozen, barely breathing. Everything around them is going black now. The hills beyond the Bay, then the city lights of downtown, and now part of the Bay bridge is vanishing in tiny squares to a black void beyond.

“It acknowledges you understand the outcomes of your choices are solely your responsibility, in your control, and therefore I am not liable for any and all events that transpire after the stated request is executed, at which time our contract is terminated, and I am released from any and all obligations to you,” Boggs says, just like the popos squawk when they busting yo ass. “Sign it, and I’ll make your wish reality.” Boggs’ black eyes twinkle from inside again as he holds up the translucent screen for Billy to see. “Initial here, and here, and sign here,” he points with the stylus, then hands it to Billy.

The pen is warm, and vibrates with energy like the transformer on a laptop cord. The Bay is being gobbled by black squares now, along with the rest of the Bay bridge, part of the beach they’re on, the street and the apartments beyond.

Boggs sighs, like he’s getting pissed, and points at his tablet again where Billy needs to sign. A deep blue light, sharp like a laser shoots from the tip of the stylist as Billy puts the pen to Boggs’ glowing tablet. He puts his mark where Boggs said, then again, and the blue tip gets brighter, almost sky blue now, like a brilliant sunny day. The laser lights up the three of them, and the golden sand where they stand, but beyond their halo of light is only blackness now.

“Just your signature now and you’ll have what you wish. And I’ll throw in this bit of wisdom upon my leave… Regardless of the hand you’ve been dealt, to get the life you truly desire, Billy, you will have to make better choices. You are the god of your own destiny.” He taps the screen where Billy should sign.

Billy’s trembling so hard he can barely hold the pen. He says a silent prayer while signing his name that Boggs ain’t selling his soul, and this nightmare will end. Right as he finishes scrawling his sig, the tip of the stylus goes white and floods the tablet with blinding light that burns his eyes. Billy squeezes them shut against the brightness, the afterimage in his head is his wonky signature scrawled across Boggs’ glowing tablet.

“I dunno, hom. Seems like it could get kinda wacked if it goes down bad,” Ty says.

Daring to squint, the bright light is gone. Billy blinks several times to focus and sees Tyron wolfing the last of the small pizza that comes in a styrofoam box, along with a carton of milk, a bag of Cheetos’s and a tiny cup of applesauce. The school’s ‘healthy’ meal for welfare kids.

“Brotherabe’s a dickhead, blud.” Tyron speaks with his mouth full, his prime white teeth just about glinting against his dark skin. “Can’t trust shit Chris squawks—” Tyron’s eyes narrow on Billy. “What yo grinnin at fool? Ya totally wasted or what?”

Billy laughs, and can’t wipe his big ass grin even after he stops laughing. “I’m good, def, man. Extra fine and right on time.”

Ty stares at him. “Yous dope, homeslice.” He tries to look cranked but Billy’s grin is catching. Tyron can’t help smiling back. “I ain’t goin ‘long with this ‘cuz yo grinnin at me, B. Thought we gave up the stare down shit when we was in 3rd grade, blud.” Tyron takes a few gulps of his milk then wipes the white mustache on his sleeve and scopes the humming lunchroom. “Audrey’s been pumpin Baker for like a month now.” He stares at Audrey all decked— tight red sweater and brown leather skirt that matches her long legs but barely covers her ass. She’s standing behind Tim Baker sitting on a bench across the room, a cracka punk dealer with a Z9 Beemer. She’s rubbing his shoulders while he rambles with some runner in his crew. “The bitch is only doin him ‘cuz he’s got the life, livin large off all that tax-free cash.”

“Maybe…” Billy says, reliving the first time they did this scene. He was supposed to say, ‘We could too. And we ain’t gotta pimp to get it.” He hears the words leave his mouth in his head, knows he said them the first time, and then spouted on till he’d convinced Tyron to do the deed. It was easy. ‘One strike gets us a sled and elevates us the rest of school, blud. Then we outta here, down to Hollywood, man, do some rappin, some actin, be whoever we wanta be, Ty. I heard Chris say the gets around five large.’

Tyron stares at Audrey, now sitting next to Baker on the bench. “Five grand gets us respectable treads.” He’s talking to himself, figuring it out. “We be legally stylin by the weekend if we did the hit this week.”

Billy shudders, glares at Ty. He said the exact same words he used the first time they was here, like Billy’d gone on convincing him, like the first time, even though he was sure he only just said, “Maybe…”

And like a brick to his head he gets it right then. The twisted freak screwed him. Finnegus Boggs sent him back to after he wagged on about hitting Lucky Liquors. Flash of rage, at himself, really, makes him sweat. His wish to go back to “right when we sat down and Tyron and me started talking about doing the hit.” Now Billy has to tell Ty the crap he was slinging in the lunch line was brain dead. Without being marked a pussy. If Ty nails him for slinking, the hit will be left dangling, and Ty’d always be angling, and one day maybe even convince Billy doing the deed was righteous.

“Hold up, hom. I’m razzin ya, Ty, just yankin yo chain.” Billy don’t sound near as chill as he wants to. He feels dizzy, like he might puke, looks around the room for a grip. Michelle sits on the bench across from Audrey. She’d been good, but not as good as she thinks she is, or his brother had shouted. “Ya spoutin wisdom bout brotherabe. Dickhead’s a dropout, base-baked ex-con with his head so far up his ass he don’t see he’s goin nowhere. We prowlin to score treads, blud? We don’t need to be thievin like Chris, or pushin crap like Baker to get one.”

“Where we gonna be our last year here with no wheels, hom?” Tyron talks to Billy but stares at Audrey. “And we don’t have time to earn the dime to cruise outta here by graduation. How we gonna get us the goods without no cash?”

“I don’t know, man. Find a junker and rebuild it. Ask Coach, or Principal Conner to turn us on to a payin gig after school couple days a week. Pull better grades and we won’t need no car to break out. Ms. McClellen says scholarships are a one way fast pass outta here.” Billy glares back at Tyron who’s eyeballing at him like he spinning jive. “I’m serious, Ty. Nixin treads for now beats endin up with records, or in juvie, or one of us capped.”

Ty scrunches his big bushy brows together, like he trying to figure Billy out. “What sup, blud? Ya fried or wiggin or what?”

“We ain’t doin the hit, hom. Be Chris’ bullshit idea and we ain’t doin it.”

“Ya put it on the table and now ya wussin on me?”

“I ain’t wussin. I finally got it right. A car ain’t gonna prove who we are, Ty. And it ain’t no sanctuary to save us from here. We gotta do that— by gettin it on with how things is— workin for somethin, at being somethin other than just blattin on like we been doing, blud. Jackin Lucky Liquors just proves we dickhead losers like Brotherabe. No crime, no time—live long and large down the line if we do it right.” And suddenly Billy flashes on the afterimage of his signature on the translucent screen and remembers Boggs saying, “…to get what you truly desire, Billy, you’ll have to make better choices. You are the god of your own destiny.” And Billy smiles right then, and can’t help laughing, till Ty’s eyeballing him mostly shuts him up. “I finally get it, blud. We can be whatever we want, man, have the life we want. We really do get to choose.”


Aftermath [of Choices]

Chris Connolly was killed in an attempted robbery of Lucky Liquors later that week. The Chinese owner had recently armed himself after being robbed to his insurance limit. Billy got his brother’s Dodge Charger and his job at Costco. He advanced quickly from stock boy to cashier while finishing his senior year at Castlemont high school.

His final English assignment was to write a short story. Billy considered blowing it off, be satisfied he’d turned his F to a C this last semester. He played with the idea of writing the story of Finnegus Boggs. He’d never spoken of that night, not even to Tyron, afraid he may be crazy. Half the time Billy could blow it off as just a dream, the other half he was sure his night with Boggs had happened.

It was Ms. Mallory that talked him into submitting a story, pumping him up about his stellar storytelling on recent assignments. He considered it a parting gift to his high school English teacher for helping him catch up without making him feel stupid. Writing about what happened that night was hard, getting the words to even make sense. He wrote and rewrote night after night till he got it out of his head and on the page right— made the tale seem possible, almost real. Of course, everyone in class thought it was made up, but most agreed, even applauded along with Ty when someone said Billy should write a book of “Twilight Zone fairy tales” to sell online.

Ms. Mallory proudly serialized his short story in the Oakland Patch where she worked as an editor part time. It was picked up by the Associated Press as a feel good story, and published nationally. Billy got offers from colleges all over the country for full scholarships to their writing programs. He finished his first novella, Fractured Fairy Tales of the Twilight Zone during his four year free ride at NYU. His book was picked up shortly after graduation, along with a three book deal from Random House, and a movie deal from Dreamworks for a screenplay and the rights to The Tales of Finnegus Boggs—Confessions of a Marid, Djinn.

Bored after Billy took his brother’s job at Costco, Tyron got an afternoon job at a neighborhood preschool on Coach Russo’s recommendation. Tyron’s years of experience helping care for four siblings made him well suited for the childcare role. He quickly became a surrogate father to the many kids at the Sunshine Day School without dads—fathers like his that had left, or were never part of the scene.

Mrs. Jackson, the director of the preschool, was so impressed with Tyron’s rapport with the kids, and his talent for assisting her and the staff with all things technological, she recommended him for a state-funded childcare management certificate program. He was scared to take a test after barely graduating high school three months earlier, but chose to attend the program with Mrs. Jackson’s pushing, and a shove from Billy in a text sent from college in New York assuring him it was his ticket out of there, where Tyron still lived with his mama on the rim of the Hood.

Tyron did not leave Oakland on his 18th birthday as he’d planned. He attended night classes at Laney JC in early childhood development after graduating the childcare program with honors. He got his Master’s in Education at Stanford four years later. His thesis outlined the inequity and racial bias in our education system, then introduced a K – 6th grade STEM learning platform he was developing with fellow graduate students that dynamically detected bottlenecks in learning, then alter the presentation of material to improve engagement and retention. No elementary school or even college student, regardless of location or socioeconomic status would need fall behind with Growing STEM Online.

A year after graduation, with generous financial support from Billy and his Hollywood friends, Tyron and his team launched their online STEM education platform. With documented learning outcomes over 90% in most cases, even with low-performing students, the program was adopted for public schools nationally within a year of launch. Today, Growing STEM Online helps balance inequity in the early learning experience, educating kids, regardless of where or how they learn, in science, coding, math, on their own level, allowing them to achieve beyond their per-conceived limits and be whoever they choose to be.

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Finnegus Boggs is the first fairytale in the short story collection, Fractured Fairy Tales of the Twilight Zone, Volume One

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About the Author

“Writing fiction is intoxicating,” says author J. Cafesin. “Fully engaging. Hot. Sexual. Physical. Mental. Spatial. Virtually touching real as I enter the scene. And I’m a million miles from lonely.”

J. Cafesin is a novelist of taut, edgy, modern fiction, filled with complex, compelling characters so real they’ll linger long after the read. Her debut novel, Reverb, has been called “Riveting; Brilliant; An original and unique read,” by recent reviewers.

Other works include her fantasy YA/NA short story collections, Fractured Fairy Tales of the Twilight Zone: “5 Stars. Great read for young adults, and even some not-so-young adults.” Her second novel, Disconnected, called “unabashedly unafraid, completely honest writing,” released July 2016.

The Power Trip (the first novel in this upcoming three-book series) unveils the misanthropic adventures of the four Stanford students, who implement an online game in which players manipulate each other using predictive modeling. Due to release late fall, 2021.

Her essays and articles are featured regularly in national publications. Many of the essays from her ongoing blog have been translated into multiple languages and distributed globally.

Find J. Cafesin on her website: jcafesin.com; and Twitter @jcafesin.

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