Jamal had decided to lie down for a few before he had to go to work at

.. Well, he musta slept for quite some time, because Thomas, Jamal’s father came into Jamal’s room and turned on the dim light on Jamal’s worn desk.





“Jamal, wake up son, don’t you have to work tonight?”  Thomas said.





Lying on top of his bed with his head buried under two pillows, Jamal was sleep but he did hear the words, “work and tonight”    He rolled over slowly, trying to gain consciousness.  “What time is it?”  He mustered out.





“A quarter past 8’oclock.  I didn’t know that you had to work tonight.  I asked your mother why she let you sleep so long, of course she said you needed it.” Thomas said standing up.  “Hey”, he said tapping Jamal on the leg, “I heard your presentation went good today.  Your mother was telling us at dinner.”





“Ya’ll ate?”  Jamal said suddenly getting up. “Why didn’t ya’ll wake me up?” 





“Well, I didn’t know you were home at first until Chantelle, asked your mother if she was gonna wake you up, but she said that she made your dinner for you to take with you and to let you sleep.”





Jamal couldn’t much fuss, he did need to sleep.  He had worked hard over the last few weeks to prepare for his presentation, so that really was the first real sleep he’s had in a while.





Jamal stood up, yawning.  “Dad, I thought of Justin today.  It’ll be four years this Sunday.  We planning anything this year?”





Thomas looked away, then back at Jamal.  “To be honest Jamal, I forgot. I haven’t forgotten Justin, no way; I could never.  I just didn’t remember it was this month.  I’ve been so busy working overtime, I just lost track. But I guess a dinner would be nice and visit his grave afterwards.”





“Let’s ALL go to church Sunday.”  Jamal chimed in, knowing his father would oppose.





“You know I work Sundays.  But I should be home no later than four.”





“Hmmm”, Jamal said.  His father hasn’t been to church in, shoot as long as never; since Chantelle was born, and that was 16-years ago.  That’s also when he started working long hours, with alot of over time.  Jamal figured that with three kids and five mouths to feed, his father could use a few extra hundred dollars a month. 





“Okay, Jamal started, I’ll pray for ya.” and laughed.





“You do that.”  Thomas said.  “It’ll be good to know that somebody is while I’m out there in all that hustle and bustle.”  “You remember what happened in Washington, DC, with that sniper, some years back? He killed a bus driver too.  Ain’t nobody out of harm’s way out here.  Well, let me let you get dressed.” when he saw Jamal take his shirt off.





“Yeah, sorry dad but I gotta get ready to roll, so can we talk tomorrow when you get home?”  Jamal said snatching his towel from the back of his bedroom door, and made a dash for the bathroom to take a quick shower.  The kind where you hit the major parts that matter and rinse.





Jamal had to be at work by 11’oclock, so he made it to the train by 9:45, which gave him just enough time to go three stops on the train, and walk 1 ½ blocks, stop by the corner store for some snacks and clock in.





“What’s going on, Dan.”  Jamal asked the parking lot Security guy. 





“Ain’t nothin’, man.”  Hey, you see that game the other week?  The Giants vs. the Redskins?  That was a good game, man.  We whooped up on those skins!” Dan said all excited.





“Naw man, I’ve been buried in schoolwork, but I saw the hi-lights on Sports Center.”





“You need to get out more, Jamal.  You’re too young to be so up tight.” Dan said.





“Dan, you ain’t nothing but what, four years older than me?  I’m not up tight.  I just have a different focus right now.  It’s a crisis out here and my people need me out here.  So once I know that I helped my people, my community, and hopefully made difference –then I’ll relax.” Jamal said walking past the booth into the building.  He knew wouldn’t understand and didn’t feel like explaining himself.





Dan shook his head.  Jamal walked into the 3-story warehouse building where he worked and took the elevator to the second floor to his semi-office cubicle.  He was 20 minutes early so the gang wasn’t all here, but SHE was.  Julie.  The night Supervisor.  “The Witch.”





“Oh, hello Jamal.  I didn’t think anyone was here yet.”  Julie said pushing her tiny rimmed glasses up on her face.  She looked at Jamal as if she was checking him out tonight.  He does look quite handsome tonight Julie thought, as she looked away quickly.  “Can’t mingle with the workers”, she thought.  “What?!”  Was she actually contemplating it?  What is wrong with her tonight? First the FedEx guy now Jamal.





Did Julie actually have a soft-side?  Jamal thought to him self as he got settled at his desk before his night’s shift.





Julie coughed lightly, clearing her throat, and said, “We’ll be short staffed tonight.”  “Khalil and Donisha both called in, again”, she said driley. 





The Witch is back.





Jamal was checking his email when Rodney came in and took a seat across from Jamal’s desk. 





“I think Khalil and Donisha messin’ wit each other, man.”  Rodney said.





“So, what if they are?” Jamal said without looking up from his computer where he is reading his emails.





“That would be bad, real bad, because I’m kinda diggin’ Donisha on the real, son.”  Rodney said.





Jamal turned from his computer and stared at Rodney for a minute.  “What?!  Donisha wouldn’t give you the time of day, and she a Khalil are just friends- I do know that much. It’s just a coincidence that they both called in the same night. Plus, she mess around with those ruggish thug-type dudes, and you too nice for her.” 





To put it mildly, Rodney is the office lover-boy, so he thinks. He’s always up in a girl’s face, no matter how cute or ugly, never giving the chicks any room to breath.  He isn’t a bad looking brother, but from Jamal has seen, when he gets a girl, he smothers her so much, she always end up leaving the relationship and he can never figure out why.





“Whateva, Jamal.  You don’t see the way she be looking at me and calling me sweetie and babe all the time.”  Rodney sounded sprung about a girl who barley paid him any attention.





“Rodney look, I have mad work to catch up on, can we discuss this at break?”  Jamal sounded irritated, but not from what Rodney was saying but from an email he just read.





“Alright, cool. Rodney stood up and walked out Jamal’s cube to go and bother another helpless co-worker.





Jamal’s full concentration was on the email he was reading.





Dear Mr. Washington:




Thank you for your recent inquiry about owning a franchise with Tax Depot.  After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that you’re collateral and/or assets do not meet the requirements set forth in the terms and conditions section of the application you completed. 





We thank you again for your interest in owning your own business, and we hope that you will consider us in the future.





Respectfully yours,





Tax Depot



“Yeah, right” Jamal said aloud.  Jamal didn’t even know why he was upset about it.  He knew it was a stretch when he applied, but he thought, why not?  People are opening up business all the time, not to mention franchises, such as McDonald’s.  “Oh well, I guess I just stick to the original business plan and start at ground zero.”  As a matter of fact, still thinking, he’ll do just that, start from scratch and call Ms. Jones early next week to see if he can meet with her friend.  He knew he was being a little overzealous, but he needed to feed the hunger yearning inside of him to help his community and he knew that soon he would get that chance.