I was still trying to figure out how we had gotten here. And why my dumb behind had let Jesus drag me into this.
“What y’all doin’ here?” the Puerto Rican kids asked us, pointing their pistols at us.
Jesus stood there with His hands in His pockets, casual as ever. And me, Peter, James, and John stood behind Him, still dumbfounded at whose hangout we had just walked in on.
The Latin Kings.
“I wanna talk to Rico,” Jesus said.
The two kids laughed and waved their guns at His face. I saw other kids behind them on the playground, standing up and walking over to us. I heard two pitbulls barking and their chains rattled as they tried to charge at us. This was bad. And I was two seconds to pissing my pants.
Lemme pause for a second and give you the breakdown of why this was so bad. The Latin Kings are a gang. A GANG. These dudes will peel your face off cuz they just don’t like the shape of your eyebrows. You got a pair of Jordans they want? You could get stabbed twenty times in the chest before you could say mamacita. And if one of their own members breaks a rule, they EAT him. Do you understand? You don’t mess with Latin Kings.
And you don’t ever step on another gang’s turf. Ever. Period. For any reason. And Jesus’ crew had a buncha rival gang bangers. Peter used to be a crip and James and John were bloods. I still didn’t know understand how He got the three of them on the same crew without killing each other, but He did. But now my mans has got us on Latin King turf with no explanation so we’re about to have a triple gang war on our hands.
“Rico ain’t talkin’ to nobody, bro,” one of the kids said, stepping closer to Jesus.
Jesus stared back at Him without budging, but now my true religions were soaked. But Peter had his hands stuffed in his pants cuz he was always ready to go ham and bananas. This was not about to happen. I wasn’t about this life. This was not a good idea. Jesus was always getting us deep in places with all kinds of trouble like my mans was bulletproof. Walking in on Latin Kings turf like He was a king. This was not good.
“Listen, bro,” Jesus said. “I don’t got a lotta time. But if you don’t step back, my mans here’s gonna go Hulk on you. And you don’t wanna see my mans mad. Ain’t that right, Mew?”
My eyes went wide. “I-I-I-I don’t want—I don’t want—”
“He don’t wanna have to hurt you,” Jesus finished, putting words in my mouth. Why did He always do this?
Somebody further back on the playground shouted something in Spanish and the two kids responded back. They all started laughing because apparently someone had just roasted us. We didn’t know what they said, but Jesus did. And He replied back in flawless Spanish.
See, Jesus was half hispanic and half black. His mother was Dominican and used to be in a chola gang and his father was Haitian and used to be a Black Panther. So that meant two things. First, Jesus was fluent in Spanish, Kreyol, and French. And two, he was raised by two bad bosses and that’s where His I-ain’t-scared-of-nobody attitude came from. But I don’t care how many Black Panthers your Daddy banged with—YOU DON’T MESS WITH LATIN KINGS!
But there was a brief pause as whoever was in the back thought about whatever it was that Jesus had just said. Then, to my shock, the two kids stepped to the side, so did the other dudes who had been about to gang up on us, and they all made way for us to walk through the playground.
What had just happened?
Jesus walked forward and we followed Him without a word to a Puerto Rican man sitting at the foot of a slide with two young Latina women standing at his side. He was tatted up all over his neck and arms with piercings all around both of his ears. He had on a Steelers jersey, a matching Steelers fitted hat, and Tims. And with the two lampposts the only lights shining on this spot of the playground, it looked like we were walking into a dark throne room with him sitting on his slide throne. This was Rico.
“What you want, Jesús?” he asked.
Jesus didn’t miss a beat. “It’s time for you to leave.”
My heart stopped. When he had said “We’re going to war.” I didn’t think he meant with another gang.
“Who you talkin’ to, ese?”
“You either leave or I make you leave.”
Rico smirked and looked at the other kings around him, who were snickering and muttering stuff in Spanish now. “Mira, Jesús, I can have my boys blow your brains out or you blow yourself. Amor de rey?”
“Amor de rey!” the other kings chanted.
“What you want?” Rico went on. “You come on my turf and disrespect me like this. You got some real balls, you know that?”
“I wasn’t talking to you, Rico,” Jesus replied. But He was looking dead at him. “Just gimme a second and I’mma be right with you.”
Rico squinted at him. It was that look that said “I’m trying to figure out what you’re smoking that makes you think it’s okay to talk to me like this.”
“What?” Rico asked.
“You got three seconds to be gone or I make you gone,” Jesus told him.
I wanted to leave. I didn’t even ask to be here. And now we were all about to die. But I saw Peter, James, and John reach into their pants, ready to fire away at the drop of a hat.
“Who you think you talkin’ to, bro?” Rico stood to his feet and Peter, James, and John whipped out their pieces and aimed. There were clicks all around us as the rest of the kings aimed at us too. I threw my hands up to show them I was the only sane person who wasn’t supposed to be here. But Jesus kept talking.
“You think it’s a game?” Rico shouted.
Rico pulled out his gun and aimed at Jesus. But before his finger could even wrap around the trigger, Jesus was already in his face. I didn’t even see when He moved. He slapped Rico’s hand to the side then grabbed his face and pressed His fingers against his forehead. Rico dropped like a rock to his knees, screaming at the top of His lungs. Jesus must’ve been hiding a knife in His hands that I hadn’t seen.
But a second later, I realized it wasn’t a knife. And I realized why no one had fired a shot.
We watched in horror as a flood of black mist poured out of Rico’s mouth and nose and filled the air around him. It swirled into the shape of a dragon above him, faced Jesus, and Jesus stared straight at it without even blinking.
He said one word.
Instantly, the mist turned, slithered through the air, pulling the rest of its body out of Rico’s nose and mouth, then vanished into the night sky.
Jesus let go of Rico and he dropped to the side, unconscious.
There wasn’t a sound on the whole playground. We were all staring in complete silence with our guns still frozen in front of us. Well, their guns were frozen. My hands were still frozen in the air.
What had just happened? Had He just cast out a demon? By just touching him?
Jesus stood and looked around at the kings aiming at Him. They all stepped back when He did.
“Anybody else?” He asked.
Jesus looked around at them all one more time then paced in front of the slide. “There’s a new king in town. Y’all been running these streets too long with nothing to show for it. I’ve got a product that’s gonna change this city and change the world.” Then He stopped and narrowed his eyes at the kings. “You’re either with Me. Or against Me. And if you ain’t with Me…” He looked dead at the two kids who had let us in. “Then stay outta My way.”