Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong, like my friend Zap. He’s as cool and brainiac as they come, but the boys down on “D” wing think he’s stupid, like he’s been trippin’ or got some wire treatment at the Retreat. But he ain’t.
Zap just keeps to himself, he don’t talk to nobody but me and Richy. I’m Blade, cause I always got one on me even after a strip search. The dudes who run this joint know better than to mess with me. And Richy, he’s my personal ATM, that Ace ain’t never without a Benjamin. Between his cash and my blade we make a fearsome team, and now that Zap is one of us it should be just a matter of days before we see Main Street again.
Let me tell you about Zap. When he first arrived I had to agree with Frenchy. His eyes was all dull and his skin looked white as a ghost. He sat at the admissions desk in his slashed blues with a hoodie, and no lights was on.
A social worker was yapping to Gretchen, the Admissions gal, and Frenchy walked right up to Zap, bent down and looked him in the eyes.
“Yo, brother, you alive in there?” Frenchy’s nose was about three inches from Zap’s and the kid didn’t even flinch, I mean nothin’. I was in the waiting room waiting for my ma to bring me some magazines, cuz it was the end of the month, and mom always brings me the newest issue of racecars. She thinks it’s my favorite, but really I just need it to score me some weed from Stoner. Anyway, like I was saying, I was watching out for my ma, and I saw Frenchy buggin’ this new kid. But the new guy wasn’t moving a muscle. He just sat there, like someone took his brain to another planet.
“Hey! I’m talking to you.” Frenchy moved away a bit, so as not to catch whatever this dude had. “What happened to you? Did someone shake you too hard?” Frenchy looks up at me and I shrug my shoulders. Frenchy lifts his hand and pulls a phantom chain to tell me the lights are not on. He walks towards me.
“That dude was hooked up on something dangerous.” He motions with his thumb towards Zap. “He might a been zapped. Hey that’s what we’ll call him, Zap.”
I don’t like to get Frenchy going so I try to act like I don’t care what he thinks, like I’m more interested in the cars pullin’ up in the driveway. If Frenchy thinks he’s got you he’ll cling like a stinkbug in heat.
My ma’s truck pulls into the parking lot, just in time and I dash from my seat to race past Frenchy, who turns in mid-stream and swims towards some other kid flippin’ through a magazine waiting for someone too.
My ma takes a while to get out of the car. Her short fat legs look like tree trunks as they reach to touch the ground from the rusted out pickup. She needs a new car, but her old man is a lazy bastard who sits around all day drinking booze. At least I don’t have to deal with his sorry ass while I’m in here.
My ma makes her way through the metal detectors and security guards. They know her, but she still has to remove her coat and place it on the conveyor belt like everyone else. She won’t look the guard in the face. I feel bad cause I know she’s embarrassed to have her son in this place. After she collects her coat and bags she turns to come into the admission’s office, I’m rocking on my Nikes and I feel the rush of her smile creep over me, but I don’t wanna be sappy in front of the other guys, so I play like I don’t notice until she comes up and squeezes me like a potato.
“Hey Ma.” I turn toward her, but I still don’t look her in the eyes.
“How’s my baby?” She presses her body against mine, and I can smell the cold cream she used this morning, and the Avon perfume she bought from Mrs. Lampnor, our neighbor with the gnarled hands. I always wondered how a person like that could sell stuff that was supposed to make you pretty.
“Ma, don’t call me that here!” I say, but I know it’s a waste of breath ‘cause she always calls me baby, don’t matter how many times I tell her not to.
“Here’s your magazine Ronald, and I brought you a package of Oreos, and some new socks.” She fishes the latest edition of Auto Racing out of the plastic grocery bag, and seems to be waiting for me to break out in excitement. I look around the room to see if anyone has heard her use my real name. I have an image to keep up, and here she is making me sound like a clown from McD’s. The new kid, Zap, is facing our direction, and our eyes make contact. I stare back at him, and curl my lip at him, to let him know that I will not tolerate his blabbing his mouth. Zap moves his right hand to his sealed lips and locks it with an imaginary key.