When Ambassador Dengue Fever told me that Billy wasn’t dead after all but half alive and back in town, skulking through the Transit System’s blackened veins feral and broken and scrawling weird mambo-jahambo on the walls with chalk–chalk! as if spraypaint never existed–I pretty much just shrugged a whatever shrug and kept on selling hydroponic sinsemilla to stainless steel refrigerator owners living in neighborhoods that had just been invented, and hoping Karen would let me back in the apartment soon, me being her son and all, even if I had been expelled from fucking Whoopty Whoo Ivy League We’s A Comin’ Academy on account of some Upper Eastside whiteboys’ inability to keep my botanical enterprises, of which they were the major beneficiaries, on the low.
Dengue was blind as Lady Justice, and so fat now that his eyes wouldn’t have done him much good anyway, obscured by slabs of blubber when he laughed or even spoke. He dressed like an African tribal chief in a Hollywood movie, or a hip-hop backup dancer circa 1989; voluminous kente-cloth, chestload of polished wooden beads, an ankh-handled staff that had evolved from prop to crutch. The nation-state for which he served was a graffiti crew called the Immortal Five, the name long smudged with irony: Amuse murdered, Sabor dead by his own hand, Cloud 9 incarcerated, Dengue having fallen asleep one night with perfect vision and awakened from a nightmare permanently sightless, and my father, Billy–Rage–Billy Rage–a fugitive missing in action, last seen sixteen years ago, last heard from almost twelve and incoherent even then.
–by Adam Mansbach
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