Robbery – Cory Bennet
March 22, 2021
“Let the demon sit up in my brain from bringin’ that pain, from movin’ that caine”
Why I got the gun (Part 1)
I didn’t think anything of it when Mark hit me up for a pack. I wasn’t moving weed like that consistently but I had known him for a few months and he steadily copped half-pounds off me. In my mind, he was probably going to flip half and smoke half. Get high for free. It got sketchy when he said, “it’s not really for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“it’s for my boy, I’m just facilitating” and I didn’t like that.
“Who is your boy, where he from?”
“Jake, he’s from Pittsburg.”
“Bay Point? come on man.” But Jake was willing to pay for what I was selling.
I made sure Mark would be there because I had a feeling he was making a move. We set it up and I talked to his boys and it seemed chill. I still didn’t want to do it, but my dope habit was $200 a day and I needed the money. We met a few days later near a lagoon in the cuts by an apartment complex. I had my friend Damian drive. I asked him, on the way there, what he thought and he said “it’s janky but that’s how it is” and then he asked “you good?” I said “yuh” and touched the snubnose tucked into my pants.
Where I got the gun (Part 1)
I hadn’t seen my pops for a couple years. I didn’t know what he was up to, if he was sober or not. I hadn’t gotten any calls from Alameda or Coco County about him so he must have been acting right. I didn’t tell him I was coming by. I drove east for about a half hour under low grey clouds. I was doing things I didn’t want to. It was dark by the time I got to his house. He lived in an area where the streets were named after birds. He stayed on Osprey. I googled it one day and learned an Osprey is a raptor, a bird of prey, and pretty much lived everywhere in the world. They ate fish and operated during the day. I would later read a poem by William Butler Yeats about an Osprey. I’m still not sure what the poem was about but it seemed to be sad and about searching for a home. It’s called “The Wanderings of Oisin” and that name, Oisin is a combination of Oi, like how punx say it, and sin. That’s how I pronounce it in my head. That’s how the name looks to me. Oi! Sin. It’s a long ass poem too. But it’s that old mythical Irish shit my Mama has tried to teach me but it doesn’t interest me. She still tells me stories and I listen but I don’t think it has the effect she is looking for. She knows I am constantly in a spiritual crisis, a sick soul, and that’s how she tries to help. To connect me with my roots.
I pulled up to my pops house, considered that he done good for himself for a two-time felon with no high school diploma and a crippling alcohol addiction. He got a job at California State University, Hayward as the maintenance manager. I ended up getting my Bachelor’s degree from there. It was the only school I applied to. I wanted to see if I could get a sense of him, see his ghost, maybe talk to someone he knew. Once, in the music building where I had a Middlemarch lecture, I saw a dude replacing a lightbulb and I stood in front of him until he noticed me. “Can I ask you a question?” He said “sure.” I said, “Did you work with Edouard Bennet?” And he shook his head and said “never heard of him.” I was disappointed, I wanted him to say he was his best buddy and they did old man shit together and he’d tell me stories about my pops and I’d get to know this guy better too and we’d be friends and I’d have a connection to him. But that’s not how life is. Life was this: his sister and brothers and my cousins all disappeared and I never heard from them. Ma told me they were having a funeral for him and I laughed, like they knew him at all, I cringed at the eulogies that were probably given. The three people who knew him best didn’t go.
I knocked on his door and suddenly became nervous, scared, terrified. Fuck. What if he’s on one, I thought. It’s cool, I’ll do some dope with him and we will chill. No fighting or nothing. I’m grown now, I thought, I can handle this. I heard his footsteps, he always kept his boots on in the house, and when he opened the door his mouth twitched a smile and he looked me up and down, stood back and closed one eye and moved his head around, bobbed it. I said “stop fucking with me” and he laughed and stepped forward to embrace me, and my hands stayed at my side for a second and I slowly lifted them, even though they felt buried in concrete, to put around his back. I could hear Neil Young playing inside, from the record player and speakers that he dragged across the East Bay. I rested my head on his shoulder and he said “good to see you, bubba.” We separated and he stepped aside and I walked into his home. It smelled like him, something I have lost over the years, and recognized pieces of furniture from his spot in San Leandro where I had seen him last. I felt self-conscious as I walked down his hallway and turned to look at him once I entered the kitchen. He was closer to me than I anticipated and it spooked me. He placed one of his giant hands on top of my skull and squeezed it a bit, enough that I winced, and he said “this is fresh.” I said “yeah, I did it last night.” He nodded and asked “is this new or what?” I said “nah, I been bic’ing it for a minute” He crossed his arms and said “Well, it looks good on you. Look tough. You fucking people up now?” “It’s nothing like that Pop, it’s just a style, it doesn’t mean anything.” “What about your tattoos, they mean something?” He pointed to my panther head with a dagger thrust thru his skull, and my grim reaper skull. “Nah, I just thought they looked tight, and my boy does them now.” “Who?” he asked.
“The Nathan I know?”
“He’s doing it legally?”
“In a shop in Oakland near the Lake.” Suddenly interested, he reached out to grab my arm and I recoiled. He looked me in the eyes and tsked, shook his head and asked “why so jumpy, son?” and grabbed my arm, yanked me closer to him and considered my eyes, then the tattoos.
“Hmm, good lines, he’s got a steady hand. You’re looking a little pinned”
“Can I sit down or some shit?”
It almost looked like no one lived there. No pictures up, everything in its place, like he was selling it. But that’s just how he lived. He wasn’t sentimental, didn’t fuck with art, and he moved a lot, Ma said prison turned him into a minimalist.
Why I got the gun (Part 2) & backstory
We pulled up behind a Pontiac, something from the 70’s, 4-door and all black. I cleared my throat as the truck rolled to a stop. I was getting nervous. It all felt wrong. But it’s felt wrong a million times and nothing has happened. I’ve gotten popped a few times and done a bit of county time but nothing serious. No weapon charges, manufacturing, distribution, kingpin. Weed wasn’t all I sold. I fucked with powder and had a solid plug with some Mexican cats and I could push 100 grams a weekend to the kids in Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill. They liked buying from me because then they didn’t have to go through the tunnel to cold cop in Oakland, Richmond, or Berkeley. I was friendly as fuck, dressed clean, and never talked any shit. Even when they shorted me on purpose, I ate that shit. I padded their eight balls and dropped them bars or klonopin, and never hollered at the women that I sold to. I’d have five racks by Sunday morning. I got the powder for 15 thousand a kilo and it was good product, not too stepped on, still white, no yellow tinge to it, and what did these kids know anyways? I’d walk away with fifty thousand racks after flipping a kilo. That took about a month if I was lazy about it. If I paid Dame to help me trap, we’d make almost twice as much. But neither of us liked cooking crack with our shirts off in an abandoned old warehouse in West Oakland enough to stay doing it. He sold Percs and Xanax and took night classes at Laney in Business. I started hollering at him like “sup string” because in the HBO show The Wire, Stringer Bell was a character that sold drugs and took classes at night. He lived in the deep east and we homied up at Town Park. We were wearing the same Vans Authentic Pros, and sitting on our boards with our backs on the chain link, and he said “Dame, I seen you around.” I said “Sup wit it, I’m Cory. I was watching you battle that kickflip backside tail the other day. You freaked out.” He laughed and asked if I wanted to burn one. He drove us to his spot above a grocery store off Macarthur and 106th Avenue, damn near San Leandro. We blew a couple grams and talked about skating. He took a baggie out and looked at me, “kosher?” and I said “yeah bruh” and he poured about 4 grams on the table. We railed the lines and started talking, it opened us up. He was in the middle of telling me how he used to get his ass beat by his stepdad but one day he served the old man his lunch when we heard a boom that shook the concrete walls of his studio. Looking out the window, we saw a white van backed up to the Chase ATM across the street and three men in all black. “They got Ak’s for real” Dame said and sat back down to twist a blunt. He was smart and had a protestant work ethic like nothing I’d ever seen. He never told me who he got the pills from because I never asked. He knew about Pancho but only because it was on some family shit.
Why I got the gun (Part 3)
We sat in the truck for longer than we needed to. I was trying to get a vibe on it but nothing pinged back. There were three people in the car ahead of us, one in the front and two in the back, the one behind the driver’s seat was Mark. He turned around to look at us. I got a text from him that said to hurry up and get in the whip. I opened the door and looked at Dame and said “I don’t like this bruh, watch me.” Dame said “I gotchu bruh don’t trip.” I walked over to the car, dust rising from unpaved road, and slid into the Pontiac. The driver was a thin cholo, possible Jake, and the dude behind me looked like a corn-fed white farm boy. Mark looked like he was on one, eyes bugged and jaw sliding back and forth, he couldn’t hold eye contact. We all said what’s up and dapped up. It was quiet. The driver asked where it was at and I said in the truck, I’ll grab it when I see paper. He pulled out a leather bag and snapped it open, it looked like five racks to me. Even if it was short, I’d be making money, I made a move to go grab the dope but I felt strong hands pin my arms behind the seat and he said “easy.” I remained still. I knew what it was, knew what was coming next. The driver pulled his strap from under the seat and put it on his lap. He looked at me and started talking but I interrupted “okay you getting the tree, I’m not fighting this.” It was quiet. I said “and fuck you Mark.” I looked over at the driver, my shoulders began to ache, and said “all this for five racks and a pound” and I laughed. “Is your man gonna let me go get the shit or what?” They hadn’t thought this part through. They looked at each other. They were bad criminals, stupid. The worst kind. I didn’t care I was getting robbed. It was about time. The driver leaned over and found my piece and took it. He said, “let him go, text your boy to bring it over.” I got my phone out and began texting Dame and the driver said “show me” so I leaned over so he could see but I smashed the side of my head up against his nose and flattened it out, I threw me elbow into his mouth and felt the sharpness of his teeth dig into my skin. I grabbed both guns and corn-fed boy behind me reached from behind. I tossed Jake’s glock onto my crotch and pointed the .38 at big country. He put his hands up and leaned back, Mark whimpered. I wasn’t emotionally equipped for this. I was starting to shake but white knuckled it. I’m the mayor of grit teeth city. I grabbed the glock and pointed it at Mark and shot the window he was cowering under, he covered his head and started to cry. I told big country it aint worth it and he agreed. Jake was coming back around so I hit his disfigured nose with the end of the snubnose and more blood poured, more bones cracked, and then I saw Dame come around with the shotty like click-clack motherfuckers everyone stop moving. I got out the whip and we hustled out of there.
Where I got the gun (Part 2)
“What you doing here?”
“I was in the area” I said.
“Oh yeah? I don’t doubt that.”
I got up to leave.
“My fault, my fault. Stay. I gotta get gone in a couple weeks. You won’t see me for a bit. I want to remember your face.”
I was standing, looking down at him and something in his face was different. He was older. He had grey at his temples and a strip down his black hair, his dark red beard was thinner than I remembered. I sat down and thought about what he said.
“Remember my face? What you mean? And you’re going somewhere? You’re doing that thing where you’re cryptic”
“What’s that mean?”
“Like you never been straight up with me about shit”
“No, the word cryptic. What’s that mean?”
“I don’t know, like obscure and shit. Mysterious.”
His smile always fucked me up, maybe because I saw it so rarely. Maybe because it was almost a frown.
I was afraid. He was sick and dying. He fucked someone over and he had to skip town. He was hitting the booze too hard and aimed for the geographic cure. Or it was the law.
“Okay, I hear you. Your mother can tell you about the past. Maybe I’ll talk to you when you’re older.”
“Whatever, why you leaving town?”
“Caught a bid.”
“See what I mean? No explanation, no context, you make me drag shit out of you, just fucking tell me pop.”
“Folsom, I’m going to Folsom. Before you ask, talk to your Uncle about it.”
“I don’t know why you won’t tell me what happened but it’s whatever, I’ll holler at Jimmy.”
“The Prodigal Son.”
“Oh poor me, poor me, pour me another drink. I don’t wanna hear it really, if you can help it.”
“You say some awful shit to your father sometimes”
“Dude, I haven’t seen you in how long and for why? You never raised me homie, never taught me shit. Don’t give me that father bullshit.”
“Why you show up on my front door?”
“I thought you’d help me.”
“Help you with what?”
I cracked my knuckles on both hands.
“I caught a dope habit. I’m trappin with Dame, I don’t know what to do.”
“Can’t help you. Go to rehab, tell Damian to back to school, stop selling. How come you learned all the wrong things?”
I didn’t have an answer so I looked away, embarrassed to be vulnerable with him. He got up and walked to the freezer, then the garage, then to his room. He came back with a couple bands, a gun, and a piece of paper.
“Call any of them if you get into trouble. Do you need money?”
“Well I got no use for it so I am giving it to you so the law don’t get to it.”
He placed the .38 on the glass table between us.
“Take it if you need it, leave it if you don’t.”
“I don’t get a chopper?”
“If you can’t handle it with this, you’re over your head.”