Here’s a sample from the beginning of The T-Girl in the Housing Projects, a new story by Calvin Freeman!
When Jimmy Red moved out, Tina suspected the boys would become more reckless. She was totally correct. Jimmy Red had two sons who had been out of school for years; all three of them sold various drugs, from weed to steroids and crack. They were among the least pleasant of the inhabitants of the Child Creek Housing Projects.
“Yo, bitch, don’t you even think ‘bout that!”
Every few hours, Tina heard them shouting through the walls. Their father had been a calm and even-keeled kind of man, even if he was just as much of a thug and pimp as his sons. He often made his boys be quiet, even punching them or tying them up when necessary.
She didn’t want to get involved because they were mean and violent and possibly homophobic. Tina wasn’t gay as far as she was concerned — she was transgender, and she was a biological male, so Jimmy Red and his sons always treated her like a gay man. They had few redeeming features in Tina’s eyes: not only were they sexist and homophobic, they were racist (especially against Chinese food deliverypeople), they were fat and smelly, and they gangbanged the skankiest, nastiest girls Tina had ever seen.
She very strongly disliked them. When a letter showed up — an actual letter, in an envelope — with Jimmy Red’s name in the return address, she hoped it would be a notice that his sons were leaving. Jimmy Red had gone to take care of his father, who was ailing. The envelope was addressed to her but her last name was not given (Jimmy Red had never asked what it was).
I understand my boys aint been gud naybors. I done tolds them to quite down and not git in trubble. If they r bad call me 3405558992, dont call police.
Tina thought that was sweet. Jimmy Red was still a crack dealer and abusive pimp, plus seemingly almost illiterate, but he was nicer than his sons. They were actually quiet for a day or two. Jimmy Red must have told them on the phone to keep it down.
That didn’t last long though. On Friday, Tina came home to see a disgustingly fat woman scurrying into the building, makeup slathered on with a garden trowel; it was obvious she wasn’t wearing panties, and she didn’t even wear heels. Some people, Tina thought, didn’t deserve to be women.
She soon figured out who the ugly woman was here to see. She was followed by more, including some kind of cute girls, plus a bevy of guys, all presumably here for the rapidly growing party in Jimmy Red’s apartment. Tina loved hot straight men, especially thugs and machos — but somehow it seemed that Jimmy Red and his boys only knew fat nasty thugs: There was not a single sexy one who came in near enough to Tina’s window to see it. There weren’t even any kind of cute guys. The best she could say was that some weren’t that fat. These were not the good kind of drug dealer.
Tina had to think about when she would call Jimmy Red. It was pretty obvious they were setting up for a party next door. The music began, but it wasn’t really that loud yet, and it was still early. She’d come across like a total bitch if she complained right now. But there seemed to be little point in waiting, since it was obvious where this evening was heading.
“Where’s the bitches at?!”
“Watch me drink this!”
The sounds of the party filled the air, easily audible through the thin walls of the housing projects. As the evening drew to a close and night arose, Tina sighed. The party was just getting louder and louder. Finally it was ten o’clock, which seemed like the earliest she could reasonably tell them to quiet down.
Should she just complain to them? Should she call Jimmy Red first? Should she try to get Miss Green in Apartment 19 to call? Miss Green had gotten the same letter from Jimmy Red; she was an elderly woman who lived alone, so she was more sympathetic than Tina.
“Fuck you, faggot!”
The sound of glass breaking tinkled through the air. There was a series of grunts and a dull thud as something heavy landed on the floor. Then people laughed, and someone banged on the wall.
It was a fight. And somebody had shouted the word faggot. Tina thought that was sufficient excuse to get involved.
So she went over there and knocked on the door. She didn’t expect that talking to them would do much, but if she called Jimmy Red to explain that they were rude to her in person, he’d be angrier than if she simply warned him they were being loud. It took awhile for anyone to hear her knocking.
Then finally the youngest son, nineteen year old Raekwan, opened the door. He was already drunk, clouds of cognac vapor emanating from his mouth. He burped as he saw Tina.
“Hi, Raekwan, I was wondering if you boys could keep it down,” Tina said. “Especially the faggot stuff, I don’t need to hear that-“
“Then quit bein’ a faggot. Bitch.” He slammed the door shut.
Tina was angry enough that her first instinct was to simply call the police right now. She was sure they had drugs and probably guns in there. But she didn’t want to get a reputation as a snitch. She considered going to Miss Green and getting her to call the police, but she didn’t want to get a nice old lady involved with a bunch of steroid dealers and fat meth-whores.
Instead she called Jimmy Red. He answered on the third ring. She could hear a TV blaring in the background.
“Hi, Jimmy Red, so nice to hear from you. This is Tina, remember? Your neighbor-“
“What’re my boys doing?”
She explained. She said that Miss Green was scared and that Tina was trying to mollify her — that wasn’t entirely untrue, since Tina had heard Miss Green near her door, listening, no doubt frightened, and Tina did want to mollify her. She stated that his boys were yelling about faggots and making folks uncomfortable. She said the police weren’t called as far as she knew, but it was only a matter of time before Miss Green or someone else called the cops.
That was enough, and it was accurate (or at least, not technically a lie in any way). Jimmy Red gruffly hung up the phone. Tina went back to her apartment. After about four minutes, the music cut off. There was frantic hushed whispering audible through the walls, but they weren’t shouting to be heard over the music anymore, so Tina got nothing but a few scattered words. She heard people drunkenly stumble down the hall and outside.
Finally, there was a knock on her door. Tina didn’t intend to answer it, but it wasn’t Raekwan or any of the other sons. Through the peephole, Tina was shocked to see a muscular young black buck with a square jaw and a strong face. He was sexy. He was not one of Jimmy Red’s boys.
“Hey, um… Ma’am…” He smiled nervously. He sounded like he wasn’t sure if ma’am was appropriate. He shifted his weight between his feet. “Uh, so… Hi…”
“Hi.” He was cute enough that Tina had an instinctual desire to flirt with him, even if she was in a bad mood still.
His eyes opened wide. He hadn’t thought Tina was going to say hi. He bit his lip. “Uh… Hi.”
“Hi.” Tina giggled.
“I’m… uh… Marshall.”
“Hi Marshall, I’m Tina.”
He took a deep breath. “Uh… Look… So, you know… Raekwan said, like… I, uh-“
Someone hissed and whispered something. Tina hadn’t realized anyone else was out there. She opened the door the rest of the way, revealing Raekwan there just out of sight.
“Get out of here, Raekwan!” Tina said. She shoved him away from the door. He was too fat to really push, but he got the hint. She was annoyed seeing him next to Marshall because he somehow made Marshall less hot, like a sexiness vampire.
“He’s yo’ boytoy, Miss Tina. Don’t call my dad again,” Raekwan said. He no doubt intended to sound tough, but he just sounded insolent and spoiled. He snarled. “You can do whatever you want to him.”
Marshall’s eyes bugged out once again as he blurted out, “No!” He paused and straightened his shirt. “Not whatever, nigga. Nope. I said I got-“
“You said you like freaky-deakies-“
“I ain’t say that!” Marshall roared. “I don’t gotta do it! I don’t gotta!”
“Then fuck off, Marshall!”
“Hey!” Tina clapped her hands. “I asked you boys to be quiet, so you may not come to my doorstep shouting. Nosir.”
They both quieted down. Marshall looked scared, avoiding eye contact, while Raekwan glared at her.
Tina cleared her throat. “So what is this?” She pointed to Marshall. “You, Marshall, tell me what’s going on.”
He looked at his feet. His big muscular body all flexed at once, making Tina’s dick perk up beneath her skirt. Marshall sniffled. “Uh… So… If you… I ain’t, like… gay or nothin’.”