I ain’t stupid. I know what’s goin’ on. Always did. Back then, around ’73, me I was maybe seventeen. I didn’t know shit, but I know I loved Long Daddy. That’s what we called him, Long Daddy. I don’t know why we called him that. ‘Prob’bly something I said when I was real little and it stuck. You know how little kids think they hear something so they say it an’ get it all messed up, then everybody say, “Oh, ain’t that cute,” an’ they keep sayin’ it. I know he likeded it ‘cause after a while he got other people to call him it, and pretty soon everybody say Long Daddy or maybe just LD. See, he never had no other street name till I, his son, give him one. Maybe ‘cause he was real quiet, a stay home and watch TV guy. He never hung out and never had no real job at a store or nothing. Just stay in the crib and get high and watch TV.
At night that’s when he went out. Not to no bars or nothing. He went out to make his money. ‘See, Long Daddy was what they called a cat burglar. Don’t get me wrong, not like he went out and stealed people’s cats, ha ha ha. After dark he’d find ways to get into people cribs and take off they jewelry or, later on, their new electronical stuff. You know, like cd players and walkmens and then all that eye-shit. He never took no computers. They was too heavy, he said. If you gonna be a cat, you gotta be light and fast.
Anyhow what I wanna talk to you about was one night how me and him went out together. It was the first time, see. Before that he wouldn’t tell me nothing about where he went. He sure as shit wasn’t about to let me come along. I used to beg him to let me go with him. I’d say, “Long Daddy, c’mon, lemme hang with you tonight.” He’d say, “Hell no, Skinny Wilson.” He called me that ’cause he thought it was cute or something. See, my name ain’t Wilson and, truth be told, I wasn’t all that skinny. Maybe lean or something, but not skinny. It was cool. He could call me Skinny Wilson, but I didn’t let nobody else call me it. Skinny sound like weak or a pushover or something.
Anyhow I’d keep beggin’ him. He’d just say, “I’m a man. You’re a boy. I’m goin’ out to do my man stuff,” and walk out the door. If he wasn’t high yet he’d yell back, “Make sure you lock that door, Boy!”
All that got different back in ’73. The year before that the Knicks had lost it in the NBA finals, but this year they could do it. They had Clyde Frazier and Earl the Pearl and a couple of white guys–DeBusschere or something like that and Bill Bradley (the guy who got to be the senator over in New Jersey) and this other guy, Jerry Lucas, who could throw it in from Times fuckin’ Square. These guys played great team ball—you know what I mean? So that night my boys come by to watch the game and shit. Around half time Long Daddy come out of the bedroom. He got his Knicks shirt on—the real team kind with no sleeves—and his undershorts and his eyes all weird-ass like he been blowing massive reefer, and he tell me to go out and get him some smokes. He smoked Newports. Damn that shit was foul. It was so mentholized it used to burn your throat. I know. I used to cop one outta his pack when he was too lit up to notice and always throwed it out after one drag. I’say to myself, I ain’t never gonna do that again, but you know how it is. It’s not like you forget. You just do it again. Later on, when me an’ him was in it together, makin’ money and all, I actually started buying them things myself.
Now I think I did it to be like him, but back then I didn’t see it like that. I didn’t see it like nothin’. I just smoked the shit.
Anyway, my boys an’ me, we had some 40’s and some smoke an’ we was in the front room watching the game and carrying on, an’ LD, he comes out of the bedroom in his Knicks shirt and skivvies and he got this attitude an’ he shouts at me, “Hey Skinny Wilson, go get me a fuckin’ pack o’ Newports and make sure your dumb ass bring me back all my smokes an’ all my change!” Then he throw a five spot at me. It fall on the floor between us. I bend down to pick it up, you know, I mean, all this in front of my boys. I feel like shit. Then Lacy, my number one dog, he start going’ “Hey, Skinny Wilson, hey, Skinny Wilson.” Pretty soon they all like singin’ it, you know, thinkin’ they so cool.
That’s when I lost it. Just lost it, an’ I started screamin’. We had this lamp on the table. It was about two foot tall and had a frosty white shade on it. I grabbed the sucker with both hand—it musta weighed about five pounds or something—and started swinging the motherfucker like it was a baseball bat or something. You shoulda seen them fools run! It was like one of those movies where the guy gets drunk in the saloon–a cowboy like–and starts shooting off his six shooter and everybody run out the swinging door or jump behind the bar. Or maybe like nowadays, I guess, when one of them mass murderers go off in a movie or a school or someplace. When it happened I was pissed as hell. Now I remember their sorry asses and just laugh like hell.
Long Daddy? That stoned look come off his face and his eyes open wide. I swear he look at me like he seeing me for the first time ever. He just stand there while all my boys running down the stairs out onto the street. His mouth all hangin’ open. He grab me around the middle and give me the biggest damn’ hug he ever give me. ‘Think about it, I think it was the only time he ever hug me. “Boy,” he says to me. He got a grin an’ a half on his face. “You an’ me, we goin’ places together.”
And we did. We did go some places together. We even went out of state down to Atlantic City a couple of times. LD loved to play cards when he had the cash. Back then I wasn’t old enough to go into the casinos, so I’d stay out on the Boardwalk and hustle weed. Sometimes things’d get slow on the Boardwalk, so I’d go over onto them streets where the hookers hang out. Long Daddy tol’ me my mama never come outta the hospital when I was born, but I couldn’t help thinkin’ some night down in AC I was gonna spot her. She’d look like me or maybe I’d just know. I’d conversate with her. Then she’d get pissed that I was just talkin’ and keepin’ her off the stroll. Then she’d finally know it was me. Now that was stupid! How she gonna recognize somebody she ain’t never see before? But, you know, I’d think maybe she used to come around when I was in school and walk past the play yard at recess time to check me out. Stupid as the day is long! Anyhow then I’d go back, cross over the Boardwalk to the sand and take off my shoes an’ socks. If it wasn’t too cold, I’d roll up my pants legs and take a little walk where the water came up to about my ankles. That’d feel sweet.
Anyway me and him started doin’ cat burglaries together. Then one night we was walkin’ home feelin’ real good with some good money from Johnny Rocks, the fencey-man, and right outta nowhere he say to me, “You gonna be all right in the joint.”
“What you talkin’ about,” I says to him. “What joint?’
He says, “C’mon! Don’t go lame brains on me. You know the joint–the joint!”
O Jesus, I think. “You mean like jail,” I say. He sniggers.
“Shit, Skinny Wilson. Jail’s just a minute. Unless you real fucked up or a punk anybody can do jail. I’m talkin’ hard time. You know, upstate. I done it twice, a two-and-a-half-to-five and then a four-and-a-half-to-nine, all in Sullivan County. They got some mean motherfuckers up in that spot. The CO’s beat your ass down in a minute—especially the Black ones—and you ain’t got no table lamp to be swinging at ’em with.” (He like laughed when he said that part) “and all them wanbes from like Buffalo and Rochester–they call it ‘Rach-ster’ up there–they think they gonna get a rep takin’ out somebody like me an’ you from The Bronx.
“But you cool. You know how to do, and you got the heart. Put another fifteen pounds on you before you go and get you used to movin’ around with that new weight. Fifteen pounds gonna make all the difference.”
You see, Long Daddy was always looking out for me in his own way. I was his only son, so when the lawyer asked me to take the rap for him, what? I’m gonna say “no.” He want me to say when I was up in that apartment the night we got busted, like he only came up there to try to just pull me out before I took somethin’. Of fuckin’ course I said it. Besides, he already had two strikes on his ass. If I’d a said LD did it with me, they’d a burned his shit good. Locked him up till Jesus come back. They was gonna give me a misdemeanor at Riker’s and some community service if I ratted his ass. No fuckin’ way I’m gonna give up my old man!
I ain’t no chump. Bet your ass there was something in it for me. You know, Long Daddy said how he appreciated it and how he was gonna make sure my commissary was stocked. And he was gonna come visit me on the regular. He said they got these busses that split the City maybe six or eight at night and you sleep on them and in the morning you’re upstate for your visit, easy as that. Mostly it’s the women with they kids on the bus, but there some guys–the ones like us don’t have no cars. He owed me big time, so I knew he’d come.
The simple straight shit: He never did come up to see me. Not even once. Never even wrote me even a fuckin’ postcard. Commissary? Shit! If I wasn’t sellin’ blow up there, I’d a never got my smokes or Snickers or batteries for my little Walkman. But you can bet your ass nobody at Clinton or Green Haven or even when they maxed me up to Comstock, nobody ever called me Skinny Wilson twice! Even the ones be ganged up, you know. At first we had the Black Assassins an’ the Reapers and the Javelins an’ a million more. I sent a bunch of them dudes to the infirmary. Later on when we got Latin Kings and Bloods and Aryan Brotherhood, once or twice I went in there myself, but ain’t nobody ever fucked with me again when l comed out.
Them dudes I sent into the infirmary, one of them come out feet first. That’s why they maxed me up here to Comstock. Long Daddy’s got all the time in the world to come visit me now ’cause, you know I ain’t goin’ nowheres. I’m like fifty-seven now. If I don’t get iced, I probably got 25 or so left in me, so he got plenty o’ time to get his ass up here. One way or another I know he gonna show. I was in this rehab program back in The Bronx one time, an’ I met this dude come from the joint in Newark. He tol’ me in the Green Haven was where he met his old man for the first fuckin’ time. Can you believe that? LD could come up here by the bus or even the damn’ paddy wagon. Whatever—when he do, I’m gonna hug him just like he hugged me that time. A man’s only got one daddy, an’ he’s the only one I got.