Borrow Trouble (December 1, 2006)

Selected as one of Borders Books Best of 2006
African American Fiction

Baltimore was in the backseat, several blocks away and frowning disapprovingly with the pretty lady on his lap, laughing her head off. Henry gawked at the woman’s complexion, so white she appeared to be carved from a bar of soap. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she threw her arms around Baltimore’s neck, kissed him passionately and then without notice reared back and slapped his face so hard it sounded off. Pudge had been taking it all in from the rearview mirror while keeping one eye on the road.

“Ouch!” shouted Baltimore, messaging his cheek. “What was that for?”

“That’s for the ‘hundred you had me pay that man!” she answered him, in a common manner befitting a very common girl. “A hundred dollars is a lot of money and hard to come by too.”

“How many times do I have to tell you Franchetta, don’t go pushing your luck,” Baltimore reprimanded her. “There are two kinds of people who get pinched, them’s that’s greedy and them’s that stupid. Don’t be stupid.”

“Alright Daddy,” she cooed. “I’ll be on my best behavior now that you’ve come stumbling back around.”

“Okay, let’s see what a hundred’ bought you, other than your freedom papers,” Baltimore jested.

Franchetta slid off Baltimore’s lap and wedged herself between him and Henry. She unfastened her ritzy three-quarter fur coat and pulled one expensive necklace out of her lacy panties after the next as the men looked on. Henry was speechless and Pudge nearly wrecked his taxi, twice. “Aren’t you forgetting something,” Baltimore said knowingly.

“Shoot, I should have known you saw that too,” the woman pouted. She fished around inside a hidden compartment in the lining of her coat and came out with the store manager’s wallet.” Baltimore let that woman kiss him again after she handed the wallet over as a gratuitous fee for saving her. While en route to her place, Henry was so confused that he started to mist up around the eyes. Baltimore shook his head as he recited what had gone on inside the department store with the manager and how he’d pitted the man’s greed against him. “Any con man worth his salt could have pulled it off if the pigeon was inspired properly,” Baltimore said solemnly. “Gentlemen, I’m proud to introduce you to Miss Franchetta St. Jean, my first love. among other things and as you just seen, a first rate pick pocket.” He’d neglected to leave out other pertinent vital information which allowed her to bring the others men up to speed if and when she saw fit.

“Baltimore, please tell this fool before he floods this cab with those crocodile tears,” she sniped without regard to Henry’s feelings.

“Okay, okay,” Baltimore agreed. “Henry, Franchetta here ain’t what you think, she’s as black as you and me, on the inside, where it matters most.” Franchetta went on tell them how her mother was Mulatto and although she didn’t know her father, it had always been assumed he was a white man despite not having it confirmed or denied before she ran off from home at age sixteen. Since meeting Baltimore in lower Maryland as a young girl, she’d become quite the chameleon, learning how to wear her hair and pass for white during the day to survive while kicking up dust and devilment with her own people as soon as the sun set on the city. Another of the things neither of them mentioned straight away was Franchetta’s full-time occupation. They both agreed with a sly wink that it was better to save the best for last.