Click here for previous "Royce."
"When is father coming back, Albany?" Anne-Marie asked. Their father Castor Danish had not been heard from in over a week. There was food in the house for now but not enough to last another seven days or so.
"How am I to know?" Albany replied. "I am tired of this child" he said while cradling Royce in his arms. "Why do you not hold him, sister? Just for a bit. My arms are getting tired."
"Really? Father will be upset if..."
"Father is not here!" Albany shouted as he thrust the child into Anne-Marie's arms, almost dropping him.
Anne-Marie took Royce and pat him on the back. Many times during the night Anne-Marie would sit next to his crib and read stories to him. Stories of pirates, adventures, and crime novels she found under her fathers bed. They were different from any books she had seen before. Many of them had photos paper clipped with men that she knew as associates of her father. Some of them were covered in sheets or in bags.
The child never cried and that worried Anne-Marie. He would just sit and stare at whomever walked past him. Even when Albany dropped him a few weeks ago he did not make a sound. He just looked at Albany and sighed.
"Let's go outside, Royce-Royce" Anne-Marie said to the child. "Why did father give you such an odd name, hmm? Do you know what a Royce is? It is a car. A very nice car. Maybe one day I will buy you one. How does that sound? Then I could say 'Hey, there is Royce in a Royce!'" Anne-Marie laughed.
Albany watched as they walked outside. He sat at the kitchen table and rubbed his temples. He did not want the burden of taking care of his sister and baby brother. He looked at the filthy kitchen. The piles of dishes in the sink. The laundry that seemed to triple daily. Why wasn't there someone to do it for him?
He knew his father was good at what he did. So why did they live like pigs? He got up and began to separate the laundry. A rat jumped out of the clothes and bit him on the hand. He screamed loudly, causing Anne-Marie to come rushing back inside.
"What happened?" she asked. Royce sat in Anne-Marie's arms facing Albany. His blank stare always bothered Albany. It was not blank exactly. But you just could not tell what intentions he had.
"A rat bit me!" he whined. "Quickly, grab something for this bite!" he told Anne-Marie. She ran to the icebox and found a bottle of vodka. She placed Royce on the pile of laundry as she opened the bottle and poured it on Albany's hand. He screamed and tried to move his hand but Anne-Marie grabbed his arm and held it under the bottle.
"Stop moving!" Anne-Marie shouted. "I'm almost done" she said as she grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his hand. She looked down and saw a large rat on Royce's chest.
"That's it!" Albany screamed as he jumped onto the kitchen table. "Kill it!"
"You kill it!" Anne-Marie shouted.
Suddenly they heard a squeal, a squeak, then and a snap. Anne-Marie covered her eyes expecting to see the creature on her baby brother's face chewing his eyes out or attempting to enter his mouth. Albany gasped causing Anne-Marie to finally chance a peek.
Royce had the rat in his hand. He had crushed its neck. It lay limp in his hand; small droplets of blood ran down Royce's skinny little arm. He glanced at Anne-Marie and thrust it towards her. She looked at Albany, who still was on the table shaking like a leaf in the winter.
"I think he wants to give it to you" Albany said.
"I don't want a rat", she protested. Royce sat patiently waiting for Anne-Marie.
"Just take it!" Albany hissed at her. Anne-Marie walked over to Royce and took the rat by the tail. As she dangled it in front of her face it spun a bit. Albany shuddered.
"Thank you, Royce" Anne-Marie said. "I love you, too."
"It is a pleasure to meet you" Djinn said to Royce. Royce just stared at him and sighed. Albany smiled and motioned for Royce and Djinn to have a seat. Royce looked behind himself and back at Albany. Royce never sat with his back to a window. Albany chuckled and scratched his mustache.
"How silly of me" Albany said. "I will switch places with you" he said to Royce. They all sat, Royce very close to Djinn. "This is my new help, Djinn. I met him over in Iran." Albany looked at the two of them and noticed that they were very similar in behavior. They both sat with their elbows on the table like animals. They both rarely spoke. Well, Royce never spoke since that one time. They both never questioned orders.
"I have heard many great things about you, Mr. Royce" Djinn said. "I look forward to learning many things." Djinn stared Royce right in the eye as he spoke. He felt something akin to a combination of fear, awe, and shame. Like seeing an angel in the nude. He thought that Royce gave off an aura of pure "nothing." Looking into his eyes was like looking into a deep cave. Only inside this cave there lurked no bear or mysterious creature. But Hell itself.
"Royce, there is no need to be rude. Shake the man's hand" Albany said. "He will be working with you from time to time. I know how you are around Oberon and I do not need an incident."
"My ears is burnin'!" Oberon shouted as he entered the restaurant. He grabbed a chair from a nearby table and placed it next to Royce, sandwiching Royce in between Djinn and himself. Someone at the table he took the chair from gave him a look and he stomped his foot at them. "Say sumthin'!" he shouted at the table.
"Oberon, what took you so long?" Albany asked.
"I had to take an epic shit! You shoulda seen it. I almost took a picture of that shit", Oberon said. "Man, I feel empty now."
"You are disgusting" Djinn said.
"For real though, this is what is mus' feel like to lose a child" Oberon said. "I feel like I lost a part of myself."
"Oberon, please. We do plan on eating later" Albany said.
"He ain't eatin'" Oberon said pointing towards Djinn. "Nigga don't eat until sundown. I think you brought a fuckin' vampire back!"
"He is not a vampire. Are you, Djinn?" Albany asked.
"What is a 'vampire'?" Djinn asked.
"Are you fuckin' with me?!" Oberon asked Djinn. "You ain't seen that vampire flick with that cute bitch from Spiderman?"
"What is a 'Spiderman'?" Djinn asked.
"Shit. Man, I'm gon' have to rent you sum movies! Me an' you gon' be best friends an' shit" Oberon said. At this point he decided to talk to Royce. "What's crackin', Lazarus?" Oberon said to Royce. "Did it bother you when they freed the slaves?"
"Oberon..." Albany sighed.
"When they let bitches vote did you protest?" Oberon said. "How 'bout electricity? Did that scare the shit outta you?"
"Why are you so disrespectful to Mr. Royce?" Djinn asked.
"He know I'm jus' fuckin' with him. Ain't that right, Father Time?" Oberon said. "Nigga so old he taught God how to make air!"
"That's enough" Albany said. "I have brought you here because I have a proposition for you all. I would like to expand our venture to include a few more interested parties. Mainly Solomon and Van Housen."
"Fuck that!" Oberon shouted while pounding the table. Royce stood up and placed his coat on. "See? Even Methuselah agrees with me! Fuck Solomon! That racist sumbitch!"
"Oberon, I do not know if anyone has ever told you this, but I consider you to be the most racist person I have ever known" Albany said. Royce headed towards the door and sighed heavily before exiting. "You seem to have a problem with every race on the planet."
"How I'm gon' be racist? Nigga, I am Buh-lack!" Oberon said.
"Really? I had not noticed" Albany replied.
"Man, I need to take a bref! I'll holla at ya'll later" Oberon said as he quickly left.
Outside Royce was smoking a cigarette and cleaning his nails. Oberon saw him and ran up to him smiling. Royce noticed him and exhaled his smoke. Oberon raised his hand to give Royce a high-five. Royce looked at Oberon's hand and began to walk away.
"Come on, my nigga!" Oberon said. "Why you gotta make shit all difficult? We can be cool, man!" Oberon said. "Let me holla atcha for a minute" he said as he placed his hand on Royce's shoulder. Oberon felt like someone ran across the carpet and poked him in the neck with an electrically charged finger. "Look here, man. I know ya brother Albany, but I don't know him, ya feel me?" he asked Royce. "One day when nigga is gone, I will take over his shit." He waited to see if Royce would have a reaction. "Look at you, man" Oberon said.
"Oberon, we need to get going" Albany shouted from the front of the restaurant.
"You are cool, man" Oberon said. "I swear you are as cool as the other side of ya bed." Oberon walked away smiling at Royce.
"What were you two talking about?" Albany asked Oberon.
"Bullshit. Like what Moses was like when he was little."