Sunday, April 06, 2008

on Flatbush Avenue

Nobody really gave a shit that Carlos sold smack from the corner table in the back of the cafeteria in the Sears on Flatbush Avenue, except that Carlos was getting his dope from a guy who was also selling discount assault weapons from Virginia to all sorts of bad guys around central and southern Brooklyn.

So I went there a few more than a dozen times I guess. Drinking the bad coffee, eating the just a bit too chewy to be real meat hamburgers, and after seven visits Carlos and I talked, and on visit nine I made my first buy.

After the third buy - the ADAs always wanted three - I showed up a day or two more just for cover's sake and then vanished. I was on another task, five weeks later, when they busted Carlos at his apartment on Church Avenue and dragged him to Brooklyn South's major case detectives and scared him to fucking death and got him to talk. He was nothing, of course, just a tool salesman with a bad habit and a need for a little extra cash on the side. That's just like all of us, right? He was no more selling heroin in a Brooklyn department store by choice than any of us were doing anything by choice. We'd all been sucked to this capital of the American Empire by forces so massive they were invisible. And we were all committing crimes and finding ways to collaborate as we tried to survive. It's the way it is.

The information from Carlos proved valuable. It led to a series of very good arrests. He got cut loose as carefully as they could - a faked "dismissal of the evidence" in court. Everybody tries. There are few real villains here.

Still, Carlos was dead twelve weeks after I last saw him in the cafeteria. Shot from a car as he walked past the Kenmore Theater on his way home on a dim and wet January night. Another murder never solved.

The next summer, buying a drillbit from under a disguising Mets cap, I overheard another Sears clerk say that his wife had fled back to Puerto Rico with the two kids. I felt sick. So I went up to the second floor, and found a corner table in the cafeteria. And drank two or four cups of the bad coffee. Around me the city swirled and pulsed, moving on, as it always does.

copyright 2007 by Ira Socol

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