Haakim and I were sitting at a table at Printers Inc., admiring the rice paper prints on the walls, the intricacies and skilled workmanship of the Chinese and Tibetan symbols. Years ago Haakim had been spirited away from Oakland by a group of Stanford professors recruiting minority whiz kids who might want to transcend their humble origins and play with the big boys. His primary specialty was mathematics. Being Black, and Muslim, and raised without the assumption that pipe-smoking scholars in bow-ties and tweeds knew best, he had been skeptical from the beginning, but had been through and was done with what he called the “corporate trip.”
“What are you working on now?” I asked.
“I’m building a machine that records and enhances psychic energy. I’ve already invested five-thousand dollars, and plan to put in another five. The primary component is a crystal. Hand held, it can act as a conduit for the flow of psychic energy.”
“But the equipment you would need to build something like that must be really expensive and sophisticated. How can you afford all that?”
“Corporations are dinosaurs, and dinosaurs leave huge turds. You’d be surprised at what you can find by scrounging around.”
The man who had pronounced Pogo dead wore a high-crowned, straw sun-hat indoors, with a holster of tools slung low on his hips, his hands indelibly gray from years of work in oil and grease.
“Where you from, Festus?” I asked.
“Arkansas – you know damn well I weren’t from here – huh.”
“Nice country out there?”
“Yep – and lottsa horses, quarter-horses and such, biggest race track in the world there – Hot Springs, Arkansas – lived there ten years. That was enough, too.”
“ Born there?”
“Nope. Born in Indiana.”
“Yeah? I been through Indiana, through Gary. That’s a dirty town. Lotta wild boys in the streets . . .”
“Yep, I know – been through there – ‘cept we didn’t put up with none of it – we go in there with clubs, see? Matter of fact, I got into it with one boy. I told him I’d shoot him, and he knew I would, too. Hell, if I’d shoot my own brother, he knew I’d shoot him.”
Not a flinch from his blue eyes.
“You shot your brother?”
“Why’d you shoot him?”
“Cause he was messin’ with my wife. Never went to jail for it neither – you know?”
“Cause my wife, she was a cop. And my brother-in-law was a state policeman, and his father’s a judge. All in the same town!”
“No, it wasn’t neither.”
“For you it was.”