Gather here. Gather. Gather.
Marcus stood in front of the stereo
raised his voice and made circles in the air
with his left hand.
He had put his leather jacket back on
and gone rummaging in it only to find a comb
in one of the pockets which he promptly
shoved into his hair.
Lou smirked and Claudette laughed
and he said again Alright, y’all
alright. Think about what Freddie used to say
before the cops came and took him
away. What Freddie said got ‘em dead and tonight
I want to do something
for the man.
He pulled a small plastic bag out of his pocket
and a book of matches and then to Lou:
Now Louis, now Louis, brother. Brother, brother
you’re gonna have a smoke with your
brother before he has to go off into the shit
like no man should.
And I don’t mean back to Chicago, bro-
Have a smoke with me. Then looking around the room:
You too, y’all.
Claudette made Laura blush
as she rushed right over forgetting herself
by letting Marcus place a full joint
into her pert open mouth.
Lou asked Is this for Fred, Marcus-
are you serious
Marcus set the matches down
on the table, pushing one wine glass aside
and pulled his zippo out again.
Looking up at Lou as he lit what dangled from Claudette’s
mouth he whispered
For Fred, brother, for real
then looked around the room to see who
was actually listening.
Laura turned quickly away
but then he saw Emmie pushing Lucky further
into a corner and shouted
Hey Vanilla! Vanille –yeah, you baby
Emmie turned toward him brushing
a strand of hair out of her face.
I’m asking who is listening to me right now.
He held up the bag. You want in on this?
To Lucky’s surprise, Emmie peeled herself
away and said Alright.
Alright! Marcus intoned, lifting his chin toward
the ceiling. Alright! Vanilla is down!
He nudged Lou in the ribs. Get your chick over there
interested, bro. He cocked his head at Laura.
Look at her. Have you ever seen one
needed this so bad?
Lou saw Laura standing in the doorway
of the kitchen, her back turned toward the room
and he knew better. No. No, she doesn’t
need this and I’m not sure I do either.
Marcus looked into his brother’s face for a moment
locking eyes with him.
He scowled first but then broke into a wide grin
You’re alright, Lou. You’re alright.
Give her time. Give yourself time and then
you see what happens!
Emmie took a joint and held it loose
between her index and ring fingers which made Marcus
laugh and as he lit it said
Now take it slow, girl. Remember that you are vanilla-
What does that mean, vanilla
and Lucky, who had walked over said
It means your whiter than white,
you’re light and this stuff is something red and maybe
mean. Watch yourself.
Emmie eyed him.
How do you know that? She leaned her face into his
and said Where’d you learn to speak like that?
Lucky looked at Marcus who had a small
smile edging out the corners of his mouth and nodded
back at him. Lou told me about you
and he winked.
-Jeremy Nathan Marks