A/N: It’s Jamal’s birthday today! So here’s the prologue of book one of his series 💜
The black teenager lifted his head as a car pulled into the driveway. The boy sat on the balcony just outside his bedroom window–though it was in less than ideal condition for something made to support the weight of a human being–dark eyes scanning the landscape below him. Inside, his younger brother lay asleep on the bed. The boys, aged fifteen and twelve, had been alone in the house for the last week and a half while their father had been on one of his ‘business trips’. As per usual, the boys had been left to fend for themselves until his return. It was only when their father was gone for longer than twelve days that he called in their uncle to babysit.
The older boy didn’t mind watching his younger brother, and he certainly didn’t mind being all alone at the house. It was something he had gotten used to over the years, and for quite some time, he had longed for it. Hell, after the last babysitting… adventure with their uncle, he had practically prayed for it.
The boy stood up as the driver’s side door of the car opened. He vaulted himself over the railing that lined the edges of the balcony, grabbing the wooden platform before he could go too far. He hung there for a moment before dropping down to the ground below, bending his knees just enough to protect his ankles from the shock of the fall.
He jogged toward the parked car, more than aware that his father didn’t want to wait long for him. He tucked his hands behind his back, the way he had been taught to stand since the day he turned four.
“Everything from the first,” the boy’s father commanded as he climbed out of the car.
“You don’t want to know anything from the end of December, sir?” the boy asked. He was more than used to relaying the events in the news to his father, telling him of everything that had transpired worldwide while he was gone. The boy had been responsible for it since he was able to read.
“Did I ask for December?”
“Then do you think I want December?” The man stared down at his son for a moment before shutting the car door and heading toward the house. The young boy followed. “January. Lay it out.”
“Of course, sir. My apologies. January first, sir. The transit workers went on strike. The subway was shut down for… some time.”
“You’re pausing. Don’t pause. Memorize your material,” the man said as he walked inside.
“My apologies,” the boy repeated. He stepped into the house, closing the door behind him. “UCLA beat Michigan State fourteen to twelve in the Rose Bowl. Missouri beat Florida twenty to eighteen in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama beat Nebraska thirty-nine to twenty-eight in the Orange Bowl.” The boy followed his father into the kitchen. “January second, sir. Green Bay Packers beat Cleveland Browns twenty-three to twelve in the NFL Championship.”
“Damn,” the man muttered.
“January third, sir, Floyd McKissick was named national director of CORE,” a pause, “sir.”
“And, uh, today, the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, as well as their single We Can Work It Out, hit number one. And Georges Pompidou was re-appointed as Prime Minister of France, sir,” the boy said.
“Don’t stutter, Jamal.”
“I didn’t stutter, sir.”
“It’s been a long week, Jamal. Don’t test me. You know what I mean. No pauses. No umms and uhs.”
The boy, Jamal, nodded. “My apologies, sir.”
His father grunted. “Where’s the other one?”
“Wake him up for me.”
“He needs to sleep, sir,” Jamal said. “He’s was up most of the night.”
“That’s not my damn fault, is it?” his father asked.
“Then wake him up.”
“I won’t, Dad,” Jamal said.
Jamal flinched as his father whirled around toward him. “Don’t fucking call me that. It’s ‘sir’ or ‘Mister Pitman’. Don’t want no one thinkin’ you have any sort of favoritism, you hear?”
“Apologies, sir,” Jamal said. He knew better than to call his father anything other than ‘sir,’ but anytime he called him ‘Dad’ or ‘Father,’ it drew his father’s attention away from his little brother. That was all Jamal wanted. Anything to keep his brother out of wrath’s way. “Are you home for long, sir?”
“No, I’m leaving again tomorrow.”
“When will you return?”
“Next Saturday,” the man said.
“We’ll need more food before you leave, sir,” Jamal said.
The man shook his head. For a moment, something human crossed his face. “I can’t, Jamal. I don’t have…” He cleared his throat. “I’ll have your uncle swing by, bring some food.”
Slowly, he cocked his head to the side. “Why?”
Jamal swallowed before clearing his throat. “Apologies, sir. It’s nothing. I just… don’t want to bother him.”
“All right. Well, you’re resourceful. You’ll figure it out on your own.”
His father waved a hand. “Go.”
“Yes, sir.” Jamal offered a respectful bow, hands still tucked behind his back. He walked out of the kitchen and headed up the stairs and to his bedroom. He shut the door quietly, twisting the lock to keep his father from bursting in without any warning. He grabbed a book from the small desk against the wall and sat down on his bed beside his sleeping brother. He leaned back against the headboard and opened the book.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Nearly a year ago, the human rights activist had been assassinated less than eight miles away from the house Jamal and his family lived in.
It was one of the only books Jamal owned, and he had read it a total of seventeen times since his father’s boss had bought it for him. Jamal let out a quiet sigh as he started reading the page before him. He’d finish the book again that night, see his father off the next morning, do his best to steal food for himself and his brother without getting caught tomorrow afternoon, and then live the week in peace until his father’s return the following Saturday, the fifteenth.
It was a ritual, one he was entirely used to. In two months, he would start working with his father and his father’s associates, and that would be quite the change in the ritual. A welcome change at that.
But he knew that didn’t mean it would be easy. It would never be easy. The Pitmans weren’t ‘easy’ people. They lived life as hard as they could until the day they died. Jamal planned to do the same, build his own life, a legend even greater than his father’s.
When Jamal was done, the Pitman name wouldn’t make people think of his father. No. When Jamal Pitman was done, the Pitman name would strike fear in the heart of anyone that knew the legends and rumors surrounding the name, the legends of Jamal Pitman.
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