Tori walked around the well-decorated house looking for valuables. She saw a silver picture frame with the word FAMILY written in decorative script across the top. The house belonged to a family of four - a mother, father, little girl, and a little boy. Tori stepped back and gazed at the photograph wondering what it felt like to have what they had.
“I . . . uhhh. Do you know these people, Hazel? We stealing from people who have kids you know.”
“No, I don’t know them, Tori, and neither do you,” said Hazel, heading for the back door. “You don’t owe them nothing. Come on. We do this now or you going to be sucking someone off later for that score. You choose. I’m outta here.” The screen door slammed behind her.
Hazel’s words brought Tori back to reality. She quickly rummaged through the coffee-table drawers grabbing what she could. She found a PlayStation, some DVDs, two handheld game devices that had been left plugged in to charge, a dead cell phone, knickknacks from the mantel, and a computer printer. She scurried down the steps, out of the house, and ran around the corner.
Hazel was waiting for her two blocks down, bumming another cigarette from a corner store regular. When she saw Tori, her face broke into a delighted smile. “Nice job,” she said. “Here, I got you a loosie. Ha, I see you got that printer. We should be able to get at least ten for that.”
“Yeah,” said Tori, as she and Hazel walked along the busy street. “It would've been a waste to leave it behind.”
They arrived at Barry’s, an illegitimate pawnshop that a man named Barry ran out of his apartment. He bought everything from electronics to furniture, anything you needed to get rid of.
Hazel pressed the buzzer and they waited. Tori had never been inside Barry’s apartment. She had only waited outside many times when Oscar had brought him some hot merchandise.
Barry opened the door. He was tall and had to weigh close to four hundred pounds. He was dark-skinned and his face was covered with a thick beard. He wore black-tinted sunglasses, even though there was no sunlight in the room. As he blew a thick cloud of cigar smoke into Tori’s face, Hazel slipped past him and went inside. Tori stood at the door and peered into the apartment.
“You coming in?” he asked.
“Umm, no. I’m going to stay outside. Let Hazel know that I'll be outside, would you?”
Tori made her way back outside. After three attempts to get a cigarette from someone, a teenage boy finally gave her one. As she puffed the nicotine in the cool air, she mentally counted how much Barry might give Hazel for the merchandise. Even though he was known for low-balling, Tori calculated that there should be at least fifty dollars’ worth of stuff in her bag alone. If Hazel had as much as she did, which she definitely did, that would be another fifty. Split down the middle and it would be fifty bucks apiece, enough to buy five bags. Not bad for ten minutes’ worth of work.
And I was able to do it without O.
Tori paced in front of the building and flicked ashes off of her cigarette. Damn, what’s taking this chick so long? As if on cue, Hazel came out of the building, flashing a wad of ten-dollar bills.
“How much we get?” Tori asked, her eyes never leaving the cash.
“A hundred. I tried to get more but you know that cheap-ass wasn’t going for that.”
Tori laughed loudly, as she had calculated that amount earlier in her mind.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. Nothing. Give me my half and let’s go cop from Blue over on Wilson.”
“Yeah, when he got it. That dude be on some other stuff sometimes.”
“I know, right? He a fake-me-out dealer.”
Back a Hazel's apartment, Tori stood over Hazel’s kitchen counter and inhaled the heroin that she had copped from Blue. The sink had an annoying leak that hit the dishes with a loud, wet plop every second. The cabinet doors were missing and roaches boldly scuttled by.
Hazel shared the one-bedroom apartment with her daughter, sister, and her nephew. Hazel’s daughter was about to be five-years-old and she could barely speak or say her ABCs. Hazel’s plan was to say that she was special-ed so she could receive more money from the state. In addition to the Section 8 Housing, Hazel also received food stamps and cash assistance from the state.
“Yo, I gotta be out Hazel. Thanks for that hook up.”
“No doubt. Catch you on the block.”
Just as she'd been doing before running into Hazel, Tori resumed her search for Oscar along the streets of Brooklyn. Chasing Oscar and heroin had become her daily routine. It kept her so busy that the sun would fall and rise again before she finally lay down her head to rest.