Big Dave


By Barry C. Davis

So far so good as we crossed over Market into Upper Darby. Then, out of nowhere, appeared two boys, one big and one little. I held Joel's hand as they cut us off. The big guy stood in front of me, the small guy in front of Joel. He stood real close to me so that all I could do was look into his nostrils, which I observed were full of hair and snot. He seemed to have a cold, cause his nose was running real bad. In fact, the dude seemed to be all nose, like, at any moment, lacking fists to punch me, he would just suck me up.

"Give it up," the little dude said.

Joel looked up at the boy and smiled.

The nose in front of me snorted. Must be preparing for one big suck.

Not willing to give him a chance, I shouted, "Run!" and took off around him. I got past him a few feet, then turned back and saw Joel still standing there. Risking a sure sucking death, I went back and grabbed Joel's hand.

After a hesitation, surely stunned by my bravery and pluck, the two boys ran after us. Nearly sweeping Joel off his feet, I managed to get us into the store, bursting through the revolving doors. The two boys, the shrimp and his big-nose friend, stayed outside.

We loitered in the store for a few minutes. When I thought it was safe, we ran back out the store, using the side exit near where they fixed cars, slipping past a couple of surprised white men in blue overalls and an even more surprised white lady with a thick ankle-length fur coat and wide owl-like black glasses. We ran across Market Street, and then darted back onto Cobbs Creek Parkway. We were headed home, with no toys, which surely would have slowed our escape, but with life and limb and still ten dollars each.

Big Momma, on the porch reading the Evening Bulletin now instead of the Reader's Digest, asked us where our toys were. Before Joel could answer, I told her that we didn't find any and then hustled my little brother out the room before he could tell her differently. I sat Joel in front of the TV with The Flintstones while I headed back to my thinking place to regroup.

I thought of Hot Wheels and nose hairs and of women who wore dead animals on their backs. I thought about how I would get me and Joel into that store and all of us, my new Hot Wheels set included, out. I thought and thought, then, like a bolt of lightening, it hit me.

Big Dave. Big Dave could get me into that store.

I soon found myself in Big Dave's living room. Although he was just a couple years older than I, fifteen maybe, Big Dave had the body of a fifty-year-old former wrestler. Big and sloppy, fat hanging everywhere, leading up to this big old fuzzy head with the kindest, most gentle pair of eyes you've ever seen. He was almost as wide as he was tall, and he was pretty tall. He sat there watching TV, one paw dug deep into a bag of chips. He pulled out what looked like half the bag and shoved it into his mouth.
I explained my situation. Big Dave looked at me with his kind eyes and quickly volunteered to help. He asked me when I wanted to go. Not willing to press him, seeing that it was feeding time and all, I said tomorrow's okay.

"Okay for what?" a voice asked. The voice was sweet and soft, belying the true nature of its owner.

Chandrell, Big Dave's older sister, slithered into the room.

"Okay for what?" she asked again. Her hair was still in rollers at nearly three in the afternoon.

Big Dave explained my problem and how he was gonna help me, Chandrell shaking the red rollers in her head all the while.

"Dave don't do nothin without me saying so," she hissed.

I looked at Big Dave. He looked at me, then at Chandrell, then at the ground.

"Dave don't do nothin without me saying so," she said again, like I didn't hear her the first time.

"What you want?" I asked.

She didn't even hesitate, like she had been expecting the phantom robbers to steal our fictitious gifts, Big Momma to give us the food money, and the dwarf and the nose to chase us into Sears.

"I want Bobby Jackson to call me."

I nodded my head. Why not ask me to turn water to wine while you're at it? Harder still, why not ask me to make you beautiful? What a skinny little beast she was.

"He call me, just once, and Dave can go with you." She said it with a smile on her face, like she knew that I couldn't make it happen.

But, she didn't know me. Brother Youmans can talk, that's what they all say. And Brother Youmans can talk just about anybody into just about anything. My father, in those rare moments when he graced our presence, said I would make a good preacher one day. He didn't know me either, but, just that once, he was right.

Bobby Jackson, the older, fine-looking brother of my best friend, Charlie, lived a few houses up from Big Momma's. They were in the basement, Bobby and Charlie, polishing off two Cokes and a couple hoagies. My stomach growled as I watched them wolf down their feast. I explained my situation, Charlie nodding intently, hanging on every word, Bobby barely hearing me overtop the Sixers and Knicks game.

Finally, Clyde drove past Mad Dog Carter, laid the ball off to DeBussere, who kissed it off the glass into the hoop, past Billy C's outstretched hands. The game was over, and now I had Bobby's attention.

He kept shaking his head, fast at first, then slower. I was wearing him down. "Just one call," I kept saying. Said it so much, Charlie started saying it. Soon, it seemed like even Brent Musberger was saying it on the post game show.

Finally, he was all mine. He emptied the rest of his Coke, sat the bottle down hard, and looked at me. I smiled expectantly.

"I'll do it," he said with a grin. I met his grin with one twice as wide, my mind drifting to that beloved Hot Wheels set.

"But," he said, crashing my mood, "I need a favor."

I waited. Maybe this was the water to wine part.

It was all a misunderstanding, he explained. Old man Kearney thought that he had taken the two Cokes when actually he had paid for them when he paid for the sandwiches. Kearney, confused old dude he was, had forbidden Bobby from ever coming into his store again. Seeing that Kearney's was the only place within ten blocks that sold hoagies and Blue Sky soda, that would not do.

"Go talk to him, Brother," Bobby said. "Then, I'll give that nappy-headed girl a call." He laid a hand on the old Princess that sat by the couch.

"They'll listen to you, Brother, they like you," added Charlie.

Young, gifted and black. Sure can be a curse sometimes.

"All right, I'll be back," I said as I left the room. I knew Bobby likely copped those Cokes, but Mister Kearney did like me, and maybe I could get him off the hook.

Mister Kearney sat in his dark cave of a store like a big grouchy old bear, propped up on a too-small stool behind his counter, one hand on the register, one hand on a 33-inch baseball bat, just in case. Store so doggone dark, somebody new to the place would have to feel his or her way around to find anything. Mister Kearney said the light made him too hot. That it was the middle of winter didn't matter; it was like he was made of butter and would melt or something.