Conor Robin Madigan
Latrell was a native of South Klein, a street to the North and West. It is not a street on a map or in any book; few of his neighborhood's streets are.
As a boy walking midday in golden leaved streets, in green grassed lawns, followed by song birds, as if he were one with suburbia; even then in Latrell's mind's eye, mounted images of the future of this place as his, his own place, returned to after years of conquest. His father, a mechanic, an engine man; his uncle a bodywork specialist; and on his mother's side uncles, the sons of great Reverends and Ministers; themselves preachers, singers. Excellent tongue and voice sparked his blood—special energy; though sadly marred, I fear, by the streets and callings of his youth.
A Cadillac pulled into his father's shop, and Latrell wanted to sit in it, to ride Luxurious with the owner. But Luxurious, owned by a notorious moneylender, was yanked from his reach; his uncle having saved Latrell the agony of failure, as Jack the Cooch, opened wide his door and greeted the shop with, "fix my car, monkeys!" Then Latrell vowed a vow. Alone in his room, he wrote a journal, which he knew would be one day great; when the Cooch would be dead; when years of conquest returned him to his place at the throne of South Klein. His mother had painted his room pink; on the wall a Bambi trim, Thumper nuzzled firm near Bambi's chest—a miscarriage prepared for. Hiding his journal, his words, his dreams, he fell asleep that night; and when the Cadillac was next in the shop, like a ravenous dog he ran; took to the hood; with one dash of a hammer shattered the windshield; climbed up the broken windshield to the roof, gripped the hammer tight, and screaming swung even after the hammer flew from his grip.
In vain the Cooch threatened the child with a small .22 pistol; held at Latrell's knee level; Latrell had the blood of preachers, Ministers, Reverends, bards, and stood his ground. Struck by the boy's vigor, and ardent destruction of his car; his personage, the Cooch at last relented, told the boy to watch his future readily, and left.
But Latrell—this preacher's nephew, never witnessed the Cooch's exit, instead he caught angle iron to his head. They laid him out on the shop floor, his pulse bled his head, and they made ruin of his ego. Though, like a man of his blood relaxed in relentless warmth of the Lord's task, Latrell smiled to himself, as his mother escorted him home to preen his wounds, and tongue kind and good words.
For truth witnessed—so Latrell tells me—he was activated by that morning, the sublimity of his violence; his true rage whereby to make his father still happier than he was; and more than that, still better a man for standing up to the Cooch. But, alas! the practice of violence soon stained Latrell's righteousness, and the Lord's justice: his task defunct to petty violence and crime; his father: a lost fan. He still held his journal every night, and wrote, and prayed he once again might return to some good act. Arrived at last in his own Cadillac; and seeing his peers at their wheels; and then going to Chicago, and seeing how desire ravaged their lives, Latrell gave it all up for lost. He thought, no man can be good and righteous with this place and these hands; I'll die a criminal.
And thus a criminal, he yet lived with his mother, wore criminal's clothes, and tried to speak hate through his blessed tongue.
By his story's end, I asked him whether he figured justice could prevail in his wounds, and not hate; since he might now consider his father's act just, he being a good mechanic and father on all accounts. He answered no, not yet; and added he was fearful Crime, or rather Criminals, had unfitted him for sure goodness and the righteous way. But, by and by, he said he would return, as soon as the Cooch held no more turf. For the time, however, he proposed to run about, and steal all he could from his Criminal peers.
I asked him what he'd do upon release; touching on his future plans. He answered, to go to the streets again, in his old vocation. Upon this, I told him that thieving was my own nature, and informed him of my intention to drive out to Chicago, as being the most promising place for an adventurous thief to compass from. He at once resolved to accompany me to Chicago, ride in the same car, get into the same thieving ring, the same street, the same mess with me, in short to share my criminal life; with both my eyes on his, boldly reach into the gut of the city and take our need. I assented; for besides my genuine appreciation of Latrell's story-telling style, his voice, clarity and tone, he was now an experienced car thief, and as such, could not fail to be of use to one, who, like me was useless at stealing, much less jimmying a lock, though well acquainted with the streets, as known to dwellers and gutter-snipes alike.
His story being done, his eyes weary with low light, Latrell pat my shoulder, let his hand rest on-side my arm, and with a nod he turned and mounted his bunk, and very soon we snored.