A Matter of Transgression

by Lois Mackey
a play in one act

(Lights up Evening in Southside Community Center, the eve of Kamar Walker’s funeral, JOSEPHINE WALKER dressed in black with simple jewelry is seated on a chair facing the closed casket. A repast is taking place in an adjacent room where family, friends, and others are gathered.)

(ENTERS CHLOE and WANDA)

CHLOE

Mama. You’ve been sitting here for a while.

WANDA

Josie sweetie, come and look at all the food, folks really turned it out.

CHLOE

Seems like everyone in the hood knows how much Kamar loves peach cobbler.

WANDA

I counted at least six.

CHLOE

Kamar (Look at the casket, then sit by her mother and take her hand) he would have loved it.

JOSIE

It’s nice… so many think highly of my boy.

WANDA

I ain’t surprise one bit, everybody in Bronzeville know Kamar from thirty-eight street clear down to forty-seventh, how could anyone resist that big beautiful smile.

CHLOE

All those people came out to show my baby brother some love. They’re here for you, they know you are a good mother.

JOSIE

I failed him, baby.

CHLOE

That’s far from the truth.

WANDA

You just like me. We stepped up and was mama and daddy to our sons. When daddy didn’t show up, we kept it moving, we do what mamas do, we take care of our children. Boys don’t like listening to their mamas. They see us as soft. Boys don’t… don’t want to be soft. Those streets won’t let them. I’ve been in your shoes, you know that. And you were there for me. Now I’m here for you. And I’m telling you the might of them nasty mean streets can seem stronger than a mother’s love, but it ain’t. Sweetie, it ain’t. You loved that boy. And let me tell you, I seen how Kamar smiled at you. His face lit up like Christmas. And nobody going to convince that there’s a love a love stronger than the love of a son for his mother. Kamar loved you. Your son loved. Now we’re going to be joined at the hip, you and me. You got to eat something.

CHLOE

I ate, the food is so good.

JOSIE

That boy loved being fussed over.

CHLOE

That’s because you spoiled him.

JOSIE

Maybe, I didn’t spoil him enough.

WANDA

How could you have spoiled him more, Josephine? There ain’t a mama around here that did more for their children than you.

CHLOE

You’re a good mom (lower her chin to JOSIE’s shoulder).

FORTY Enters walk up to the casket remove a bottle from his pocket and pour libation and take a swig.

WANDA

(Frown at FORTY pouring liquor on the floor) Excuse me, you can’t be doing that in here. You need to do that outside.

FORTY

(Turns to the WOMEN) This how we do it (take a swig from the bottle)! What’s up Chloe (walk over and take a seat).

CHLOE

Hey Forty (Turn to JOSIE) mama, you know Forty, Kamar’s friend.

JOSIE

Kamar brought him to the house (With disdain) I know him.

CHLOE

You haven’t been eating. Let’s get some food in you.

WANDA

Chloe is right, there’s some delicious dishes. Sweetie, there’s a room full of people came to comfort you, show you that they care about you and the family. Let ‘em express their condolence, and eat some food.

CHLOE

All kinds of good foods, cake pies and mac and cheese, (Stands and take JOSIE by the hand).

JOSIE

Just give me a minute, baby. Sitting here with Kamar is so peaceful. Tomorrow, I have to give him up, in the morning, I have to let him go. So, I need this time to spend with him, little while longer.

CHLOE

(Nods her head, lean down to kiss JOSIE, then release her hand and LEAVE OUT).

WANDA follows CHLOE then turns to FORTY shakes her finger at him

FORTY

(Frowns) What?

WANDA LEAVE OUT

JOSIE

Did you know Kamar was an artist?

FORTY

What?

JOSIE

Every now and then I would catch sight of him doodling. When he was a little boy, he loved drawing cartoon characters. And he was good at it, too. That boy would go through the big box of crayons in no time. Did you know that about my son?

FORTY

(Disinterested)

JOSIE

When he was in the third grade, I brought him here one summer for the art program. He got to meet Miss Borrough.

FORTY

What’s so special ‘bout that, she famous or something like?

JOSIE

Something like that. No, exactly like that, she founded this place. Margaret Burrough was the corner stone of this community.

FORTY

Never heard of her.

JOSIE

She raised money to pay the bills for this old building. She organized the children, and the adults too. We went out and raised money to keep the doors open. We went out on street corners to ask for donations, it was called Miles of Dimes.

FORTY

Sound like the old queen got her hustle on.

JOSIE

If you want to call it that.

FORTY

I’m all about the hustle. Got to get that paper anyway you can.

JOSIE

It was for the kids.

FORTY

Whatever (Remove the bottle from his jacket pocket, and take a swig).

JOSIE

She asked you not to do that in here.

FORTY

Forget that old lady, ‘side it ain’t like this is a church. Why you got the wake here anyway. Why ain’t the wake at a church. Ain’t you a church lady?

JOSIE

Is that what Kamar told you?

FORTY

Yeah, I heard you one of those come to Jesus mamas… into all that church shit. He didn’t like it though. (Mockingly) Dawg always talked about you using the bible like a bat(Gestures as dodging a blow to the head).That was some funny shit, you should heard him tell it. My mama that way too, though. Thinking Jesus gonna save a nigga. Niggas dying every day in these streets…waiting on Jesus… ain’t nobody waiting for Jesus but you…it ain’t just you though, my mama, too. All these young niggas got mamas waiting for Jesus to save their young asses. When the last time Jesus saved somebody. I bet an AK have saved more niggas than your Jesus.

JOSIE

(Surprised by FORTY’s offensive behavior) Every other word out of your mouth is a cuss word. Spoken like a heathen.

FORTY

What’s that?

JOSIE

What’s that. If you went to church, you wouldn’t be asking. Let me tell you something, Jesus have save more of you than you know. You may call it luck but it’s more than that. So I would appreciate a little respect.

FORTY

For who, you?

JOSIE

The son of God, the Alpha, the Omega.

FORTY

The Alpha who and who the hell is the other one. I don’t know those dudes. Only you and me here.

JOSIE

Jesus has many names.

FORTY

(Laugh loudly) Damn, What you called him again?

JOSIE

The Alpha and the Omega. We know him as Jehovah.

FORTY

All ‘em aliases (chuckled). Suppose he had enemies, too (Take another swig from his bottle, his mood becomes more sombering} Say those names again. Alpha and what’s the other (Burst into a drunken laughter).

JOSIE

(Aghast, decides to ignore FORTY’s request)

FORTY

I’m just trying to get to know this Jesus.

JOSIE

(Continue to ignore FORTY)

FORTY

(Take another swig) Well you sit over there and do your Jesus thang, and I’ll do Hennessey.

JOSIE

Why are you here? There’s plenty food in the reception room, maybe some of your so called homies are hanging around eating it up.

FORTY

I ain’t had good food in a month. But, I’m showin’ shortie some love, right now. to my dawg. Chloe will hook me up. I’ll take a plate when I go.

JOSIE

Say your good-bye, then go. But, if I can have these last few minutes with my son, please. It would mean the world to me, just sit, and (falls silent).

FORTY

You do you, and I’ll do me. I’ll sit here.

JOSIE

Then, please be quiet.

FORTY

That’s my dawg.

JOSIE

He’s my son.

FORTY

I caught a case.

JOSIE

(Shoo him)

FORTY

(The booze he’s drinking making him oblivious to

JOSIE, she looking on in disgust, as he speaks to Kamar looking down at the floor then toward the casket)

You know, I would’ve been there for you. Got out today, dawg. Those suckers working at the jail acted like they didn’t want to let me go. Cook County need to hire better people to process the paperwork. I would’ve roll through with the rest of the homies. I should have been out yesterday. My bondsman, handled his side of the business. He knows not to let me sit too long. Once the judge set bail, I’m ready to bounce. If I hadn’t caught a case, this shit would’ve never went down like that. Kamar you like my little bruh. My dawg. My ride and die nigga. I would do anything for you, you know that.

JOSIE

(Upset) Sweet Jesus! My son is nobody’s nigga.

FORTY

It’s all in love.

JOSIE

Will you please, go.

FORTY

Awright, awright. I didn’t come here to upset you. I can see you’re getting’ upset.

JOSIE

(Shakes her head in disbelief) You can go now.

FORTY

(Inebriatedly, momentarily weighing

whether to stay or go)

You kickin’ me out. Who gets put out at a funeral.

JOSIE

This is a wake. The funeral is tomorrow, ten a.m. Come say your good-byes there.

FORTY

Naw, I don’t do no funeral. Who get kicked out of a wake.

JOSIE

Stay. But, I just need you to be quiet. Sit. Be quiet. Is that asking too much.

FORTY

You got to be feeling this, right.

JOSIE

(Nods)

FORTY

(Rise but sink back on the chair) Josephine. I know, I know put a handled on your name. Miss Josie. Miss Josephine, is that better. I came here to show some love. If I disrespected you, you feel disrespected that’s my friend. I didn’t mean to do that. I’m gonna to take care of it. I’m out now. I’m going to make everything right. Me and my crew, we got this. This shit shouldn’t have happened. I wasn’t here for Kamar. But, got this!

JOSIE

What are you talking about? Got what?

FORTY

Nobody come in my hood and disrespect me like…like. The word got out that I was in lock up, so those muthas thought they were going to make a move and take my spot.

JOSIE

What?

FORTY

Shit got crazy… that’s what I’m sayin’. But don’t worry, I’m going to straighten it all out. I’m goin’ to settle the score.

JOSIE

Oh, sweet Jesus! By doing what?

FORTY

If I had been here, we wouldn’t be here sayin’ good-byes. Me and Kamar would be chillin’ and laughin’ over that bible as a bat shit. Kickin back listenin’ to our favorite joints, rollin’ a few trees… drinking a cold forty. But, instead. I got to make this shit right.

JOSIE

Could you please, stop with the four-letter words. You know who did this, murdered my baby?

FORTY

And those niggas good as dead.

JOSIE

You know them?

FORTY

Yeah but they ain’t friends. Those muthas are from across town, but we know where they be. We know all their spots. We goin’ to roll up on them like some desert storm shit, and we ain’t leavin’ no man standin.

JOSIE

You can’t do that.

FORTY

Who and what army goin’ to stop me.

JOSIE

I don’t want you makin’ more trouble. Tell me who they are, and how to find them. I’ll pass it on to Detective Rawlings.

FORTY

I ain’t working with 5-0. Naw, we got our own way of doing thangs. All three of ‘em muthas in our cross hair. It might get even deeper, we may do their whole crew.

JOSIE

Haven’t there been enough bloodshed. So many lives taken.

FORTY

We can’t let them get away with killin’ Kamar.

JOSIE

This is not the way. I don’t want this Forty. I’m burying my baby tomorrow, my son and you sit plotting to take another life.

FORTY

I can’t be lookin’ weak. Those chumps killed Kamar. Don’t you want to see ‘em pay?

JOSIE

Absolutely, Let the courts punish them.

FORTY

(Chuckles)You got jokes. The courts, yeah right. These cats killed your son, and put three homies in the hospital. And I suppose to wait and see if the courts put them away. Cops screw thangs up. Then those cats walk on a technicality. I’ve seen that before.

JOSIE

Not always. If you don’t want to share what you know, then let it go.

FORTY

Let it go. You want me to just let it go. Like that, ‘cause you ask, I suppose to let these muthas cruise on off into the sunset. Ride through my part of town like it’s all good in the neighborhood. With no payback. I ain’t that kinda nigga.

JOSIE

Then be that kind of man. Be the bigger man. Don’t let this be about you. I’m the one that lost a son. Don’t allow it to be about getting even.

FORTY

It’s ‘bout survival.

JOSIE

How can you say that, what survival is that waiting for more bloodshed… plotting to take a life? Who’s going to survive? If you and the others can’t find a way to stop warring, gunning down each other there will be no survivors, you all have target written across your backs.

FORTY

That’s real talk.

JOSIE

I have had it up to here. My grief cup is full, Forty. It’s running over. Do you really believe that there will be no man left standing? It seems as if every week, I get a call to bake a cake for another repast, another funeral. Then there will be another cake, and another one, and another and another. I’m sick of baking cakes for funerals, Forty. I’m exhausted from grieving. My friends are losing their sons. My neighbors are losing their sons. Go next door for the repast, all that beautiful food, bought by mothers that know my grief, and felt this pain inside of me.

FORTY

Nobody lives forever.

JOSIE

You’re right! But, boys should live to become old men.

FORTY

I didn’t make the rules. So I’ve been told, the rules were put in placed by El Rukn aka Jeff Fort. You see your Jesus ain’t the only one with many names. Maybe some old gang bangers before his time set it up this way. Who knows, it had to come from somewhere, sure in the hell didn’t come from me. I’m just playin the hand I got dealt… by the rules. I was born into this shit! that’s real. Kamar didn’t deserve this. What you see happening… this shoot ‘em up bang, bang is a ghetto boys trust fund. The feds took Jeff off the street, and locked him away. In one of those supermax they got set-up for nigga like me. Once they got Jeff, they washed their hands, said job well done. The mayor, the cops, the police superintendent, and all those assholes said case closed, patted each other on the back, and walked away. They got Larry Hoover, the head leader of the Gangster Disciples. That dude got to die and come back and die six more times before he let out of supermax.

JOSIE

I know of those men. I remember those gangs, But, if you ended right now.

FORTY

How do I do that? When the feds put the generals away they left the lieutenants.

JOSIE

Call a truce, make peace.

FORTY

And let your son be dead. Another nigga gone.

JOSIE

It has to end.

FORTY

That’s real talk.

JOSIE

This gangbanging has got to stop.

FORTY

If nobody start nothin’ there won’t be nothin’ (take a swig).

JOSIE

Don’t let this getting even, be in the name of my son is all that I’m asking.

FORTY

It don’t work that way. Kamar would want us to take them out.

JOSIE

How do you know what my son would have wanted? I watched him grieve for his friends. I saw my boy cry when his friends died. So don’t cover up your dirt, with some misguided pretentious love for my son. Don’t you dare pretend that you’re going to kill to revenge his murder. Should there be blood on your hands; if you going to be a cold-blooded killer, own it!

FORTY

If we don’t, those niggas on the wrong side of MLK will start rollin’ through on any given day shoot up, bang, bang, taking target practice on our asses. Shit like what happen to Kamar, got to be handled. That’s how we roll.

JOSIE

Give their names to the police, let them put them away, in jail where they belong.

FORTY

You believe in the cops like you believe in Jesus. What’s the difference, if the cops find them, and take ‘em out or I do. You keep sayin’ sweet Jesus. Well, I call mines sweet revenge.

JOSIE

There’s nothing sweet about revenge. Your revenge can’t give me my son back!

FORTY

You don’t know how these streets work.

JOSIE

I may not know, but I know young boys like you killing each other cause nothing but pain. When did you decide that who should live…and who gets taken out? Why do you get to place a worth on our sons. Who elected you the decider. Who appointed you God?

FORTY

Niggas in the street don’t fear God, but they sho’ in the hell fear me!

JOSIE

Fear you.

FORTY

When I roll up on a mutha, they think I’m god.

JOSIE

A haughty spirit…arrogance before the fall.

FORTY

What’s that some more of your Jesus crap?

JOSIE

You think highly of yourself. I’ve worked for twenty years caring for the sick. I have stood by the bedside as men waiting to receive last rites, before taking their last breath, I never heard them ask for Forty.

FORTY

(With sarcasm) Now you going to beat me down with your word bible words.

JOSIE

That’s real talk. If you kill three… or all of them, it wouldn’t change a thing…my son is gone… Kamar is gone forever.

FORTY

Damn… that’s real talk. I feel you.

JOSIE

No, you don’t feel me. You walked in here with your swag, your liquor. You poured libation on these beautifully buffed floors, and you think you’re honoring my son. You insulted me as soon as you walked in this room … you disregarded my grief… my pain…you have no idea how I feel. I just wanted to sit here, be here near my boy. And you came with your chaos, and your pathetic show of respect. It’s like I’m deaf… I hear you, but it’s not you who I so desperately want to hear. I sat here in the stillness in peace trying to remember the sound of my son’s voice, his laughter. I don’t recall his last words, what he said to me.

I can’t even remember the last words he said to me…I want to open that box, and take him into my arms…and hold him… blow my breath into him… look into his eyes, he had joyful eyes. You have no idea how I feel, tomorrow I will watch at his graveside as they lower him into the ground… you have no idea how I feel… no idea whatsoever… so tell me Forty… what make you think you know how a mother feel who have to bury her child. How many more mothers you’ll give them anguish… death is the greatest divide between a mother and her child. Do you keep a body count or do you so matter-factly forget.

FORTY

I ain’t confessin’ to nuthin’!

JOSIE

You don’t have to confess your sins to me.

FORTY

There you go again beating me over the head with your bible words! Kamar was no angel. I ain’t the only bad guy, you know.

JOSIE

As if I didn’t know that.

FORTY

He was in the streets doing his thang, like the rest of us.

JOSIE

First you came to pay your respect… now you want to speak ill of the dead.

FORTY

I’m just keepin’ it real. Every time one of my homies get blown away, their mamas act like they were sons were angels.

JOSIE

And this is your condolence to me… you came to tell me, Kamar was no angel.

FORTY

I keep it real…I told Kamar there ain’t no time for being soft in the streets. You wanted to keep him soft, keep his head in books, he had to learn how to survive on the block. Book sense ain’t no good. Books are for fairy tales, this is real. I gave him street knowledge. I helped him to be a man!

JOSIE

(Infuriating)You were teaching my son to be a man. You’re nothing but a child, yourself. A misguided one at best.

FORTY

You had him acting like a pussy! You were raising a chump but he earned his stripes. I told him he had to be strapped at all times, but oh no he was scared to sneak a gun in the crib. Mommy don’t like no guns.

JOSIE

That’s called respect.

FORTY

So, he kept his piece at my place.

JOSIE

Kamar owned a gun?

FORTY

You mamas don’t get it. Everybody with any sense, got a piece. Then I caught a case, had to go away for thirty days.

JOSIE

Kamar had a gun?

FORTY

He needed one. These roughnecks out here ain’t playin’, they got to be taken serious. The streets ain’t no game… homies get shot… homies don’t get up, that’s the real. A man can’t be listenin’ to their mamas, mamas are soft. Listenin’ to mamas get shorties killed.

JOSIE

(Rushes over to the casket)

FORTY

I told Kamar, don’t be listenin to your mama. All your mama do is go to work and church, she don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout the streets like we do. I told him that! He knew how we roll… he was my road dawg. When somethin’ jumped off… he had the heart of a soldier.

JOSIE

Did he… did he ever shoot it… kill someone? Did he?

FORTY

I ain’t no snitch. Like I said, he was a solider.

JOSIE

He’s only six …sixteen. He’s a boy…just a boy not a soldier.

(JOSIE forcefully take FORTY by the hand as he attempts to put up resistance, but he is unable to free himself from her clutch, and stand at the casket beside her)

(JOSIE opens the casket)

JOSIE

Look at my son.

FORTY

(Lower his head and turns away)

I don’t look at dead people. I don’t go to funerals.

JOSIE

Why not, you kill them but you can’t look at them (JOSIE grabs FORTY by the chin and force him to look in the open casket. he avert his eyes away) I said look at him. Look at him!

FORTY

(Closes his eyes)

JOSIE

Look at my boy!

FORTY

(Open his eyes, then look down into the open casket)

JOSIE

Who do you see?

FORTY

(Grief stricken) My dawg.

JOSIE

No, my son. My son(Sobbing uncontrollably) look what all your teaching him to be a man got him… it got him killed… little boy!

(JOSIE sinks onto a chair)

My son is gone…my son is dead… he’s gone…he’s gone!

FORTY

(Looks helplessly from the casket to JOSIE. Look once more at his friend in the casket turns to leave then to JOSIE passing her by as he makes his way to the door)

(WANDA and CHLOE heard the commotion, and rushes in. FORTY stops, and watch as the women consoles JOSIE)

CHLOE

It’s alright mama, I’m here.

WANDA

We’re her sweetie (Consoles JOSIE).

CHLOE

(To FORTY) What did you do, what did you say to my mother?

FORTY

I ain’t said nuthin! We were having real talk.

WANDA

This is not the time for a whole lot of talk. (Give FORTY a hard look) You look drunk. Probably drinking before you got here, pouring liquor on the floor. Whatever you said show got her upset.

CHLOE

What did you say to her.

FORTY

I was keeping it real.

WANDA

Ain’t nothing real about you hoodlums!

FORTY

Mamas cry, that’s what they do!

CHLOE

Get out of here Forty!

WANDA

Yeah, get out. Leave!

FORTY

I’m goin’ to make it right, I got you dawg. I got you!

(FORTY exits)

THE END

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