Darryl strained his twelve-year-old neck to confirm the address. His mother had recited it three times, very firmly, while holding his shoulders fast. She knew Darryl’s mind was always willing to stray, especially when he was sent on an errand during prime soccer time, when Ali, Patrick and Jeanie were on the field. So she locked his in commitment with sufficient repetition that drowned out other priorities. Darryl’s obligatory odyssey was put in motion. It could be saved if he ran, however, so with a wrench and backhand confirmation, Darryl shot out the door and sped his way to 212.
Quick, this had to be quick. Darryl was picking up some book or something from a lady named Hazel. He’d been on that block before, but couldn’t remember the building. His mother didn’t usually send him to houses – that was for his older brother Ted . Ted wasn’t to be found, though and for whatever reason, this was urgent. Was this a bump-up for Darryl? He considered the possibility as he rounded two strollers, a snippy dog and a domino game. Actually, that’s kind of cool. Maybe he’s passed to the age where can help his mom, besides going to the bodega for bread or milk. Regardless, this new job might lead to payback later. Maybe he can choose movies from the web site, for once.
Ali, Patrick and Jeanie were the coolest soccer jocks on the block. They were loud, obnoxious and very funny. They also let Darryl play, and not as a little-kid mascot. They never, for all their bluster and sarcasm, made fun of his small build and thick glasses. Darryl knew soccer was in his future. He came from a basketball and baseball family, but they don’t know everything. They don’t know the delicious joy that comes from the perfect dribble and score. Darryl was almost there, too. Soon his fists would be pumping.
But not today, boy. He’d reached his destination, barely winded, and took in the most unwelcome door on the block. He shifted his feet and scratched his head. Impatience, then fear set in. There’s no buzzer, everything is barred up. Should he shout out her name? If he had a cell phone, he could call. He didn’t have Hazel’s number, but if he had a cell phone, he’d have his mother’s.
“You! Hey! Are you Denita’s boy?”
A brown frown looked down from three flights, mouth drawn, ready for screaming. Darryl stood up straight and clasped his head.
“Yeah. You Hazel?”
“Who else? Stand back.”
Darryl took a quick leap back as a cloth tote launched and landed in front of the building. It made a safe thud, it didn’t look too heavy.
“You just pick that up and take it to your mother’s, you hear me? It’s locked up in there. It’s none of your business.”
“Excuse me?” The frown, barely visible, was demanding adult respect. How boring.
“Yes, MA’Am…” Darryl intoned, with a feeling that Jeanie would be particularly pleased, if she were with him.
“Get on home, you. I’m calling your mother now.”
Darryl, fully restored, took off once again, only this time running faster. Tote bag drawn across his shoulders, he made a lightning detour to the soccer field. He had just enough time, maybe ten minutes, to show the bag to the soccer crew. Based on that frown from the window, it was sure to impress.