Los Angeles, California
School had just ended. There was a loud buzz in the air as the excited kids came out of their classroom, talking and laughing. Some were making plans to eat at McDonald’s. Some were planning sleepovers. Some were inviting their friends over to play video games. Some of the girls were giggling and making their own plans. Finally, the weekend had come, and the kids were enthralled. They just couldn’t wait to get home! They couldn’t wait for their plans to start playing out! Some of the students started walking home. Some others started to board the bus, eager to leave.
One kid, however, slowly walked out of his classroom, avoiding the others, even avoiding eye contact with his fellow students. The boy was tall, lanky, and wore braids. He seemed to be pondering something unpleasant. Something he really dreaded.
He slowly made his way towards another room. This was the room every student in Van Nuys Middle School wanted to avoid.
It was the detention room.
The room was reserved for the troublemakers, bullies, and students who had done something bad enough to be punished with being forced to remain in school after hours.
Odai Beckham Jr. felt he didn’t do anything bad enough to earn him detention. His EVS grade was so low that Mrs. Matthews wanted to call his parents over for a “small chat.” Odai felt that getting his parents anywhere near the school was a bad idea. Lost in thought, he’s ignored his teacher and walked out of her room. The next thing he knew, he’d received detention.
Odai groaned and took a seat. This was going to be a long day…
After detention, Odai avoided the bullies and troublemakers cleverly and left school through the back gate. His house was a few blocks away from school, but Odai wished that his house was a much, much longer walk away from school.
He soon arrived at his neighborhood. One look at this area would tell you that this was not your average neighborhood. This wasn’t a spot anyone in their right mind would visit. Even tourists were warned by locals to keep out of the area.
The walls and footpaths were sprayed with gang symbols.
The cars had stickers on them with crime syndicate signs all over.
Leftover cigarettes were scattered over the floor. Hundreds of them
The scariest part? It was that some of the walls were littered with bullet holes.
A few men walked past Odai. He refused to look at their faces, or acknowledge their presence. Once they had passed, he heaved a sigh of relief.
Those men had real, live, loaded firearms on them.
And they would not hesitate to use them.
Odai Beckham Jr. stepped into his house slowly, hoping not to attract the attention of his parents, or even worse, his brothers. He slowly slipped into his room, took off his school clothes and walked slowly towards the refrigerator for some orange juice.
What he saw didn’t surprise him.
His parents were sitting on the couch, both of their heads drooping weirdly. They appeared to be totally unaware of their surroundings. They didn’t notice Odai or acknowledge his arrival. They were in a state of something in between asleep and awake. A white, powdery substance was scattered on the table in front of them.
Odai sighed. This was the reason didn’t tell his parents anything. This was the reason he kept them out of his life. This was the reason he didn’t want them anywhere near his school, or to have a “small chat” with the teachers.
His parents were both addicts.
His brothers, on the other hand, were rarely home. They spent all their time on the streets and would occasionally show up home with a bunch of shady, suspicious looking people. They would buy the white powder from a place they called ‘The Source’ and would sell it to anyone willing to offer them a wad of cash for it.
His brothers were both drug dealers.
Things had started off normally for Odai Beckham Jr. His parents, Odai Beckham Sr. and Martha Beckham, were both employees at a liquor store. They were addicts in their youth, but had gone through rehabilitation. They had been clean for years. The couple had married and had three children, Okang, Oboi, and Odai. The meaning of the name ‘Odai’ was ‘Third Son’. Their father had been the third son of his father and was hence named Odai. The names ‘Okang’ and ‘Oboi’ meant ‘First Son’ and ‘Second Son’ respectively. When the couple had their third son, he was named Odai Beckham Jr. after his father.
Unfortunately, Okang and Oboi could not be kept off the streets. They started hanging with the wrong crowd and getting involved in petty crimes. Now, they were well-known dealers in Van Nuys. When Odai was five, his parents had found his brothers’ secret stash of narcotics. They starting reminiscing about the pleasure and the elevated feeling that they would experience as youths. They couldn’t resist the drugs. Now, they were extreme addicts, parents to two criminals and one failure.
Okang and Oboi showed up home and for the first time since what felt like forever, they paid a visit to their brother Odai’s room. But this was not for some brotherly love and bonding.
“Here,” said Okang, handing him a small package. “This is for one of our elite customers. He’s going to be showing up in a red Porsche, taking the package, giving you some money, and leaving.”
“We’d do it ourselves,” said Oboi. “But the area is crawling with cops. They wouldn’t suspect you as much, since you’re a kid.”
Despite his vehement protests and against his better judgement, Odai Beckham Jr stood in front of his gate with a small package in his hands.
He was about to make his first deal.
The rich, elite client showed up in his fancy car. His eyebrows raised as he saw the lanky frame of a kid in front of him. “Got the stuff?” he asked.
Odai handed him the package and held out his hands for the money.
Then, all hell broke loose.
As the client took out the cash, a loud bang pierced the silence. The client’s head reeled back, blood pouring out of his chest. Okong and Oboi heard the noise. “It’s those fools from Southside!” yelled Oboi. “Let’s put some bullets in them!”
The two men shot out of their hiding spots with their guns ready and loaded. Six other men followed after them. They opened fire at someone hiding behind the trees. In the midst of all this confusion, Odai stood there, terrified. Too scared to even move.
BANG! Okang screamed in pain as a bullet pierced his chest. He fell backwards and sprawled on the ground. His lifeless eyes like orbs, staring up at the streetlight.
“NO!” howled Oboi. “GUYS! GET THEM! GET THEM!”
Odai hugged his stomach, where a bullet had hit him. Blood spurted out of the wound. “Aaaaagghhh!” he yelled.
Then BANG, Odai fell back, a bullet neatly lodged in his head. He fell back and lay on the ground in a strange, disturbing position. The other men, now devoid of their leaders, ran for their lives. Then, the assailants came out from their hiding spots behind cars. They walked straight up to the fancy car, and took the package, and the bundle of cash with it. “We aren’t letting the Northside fools get all the green, are we boys?”
Guffawing heartily after their skirmish, and totally ignoring Odai, they got into their van and disappeared.
Odai couldn’t take it. He collapsed
Odai woke up to the sound of sirens and found himself in handcuffs. “This child,” said a cop, “was probably the one making the trade. There’s powder on his fingers.”
“Check the house for more supplies,” said another officer. “We confiscate everything.”
A lump swelled in Odai’s throat. Even though they’d never bonded, even though they’d never known each other, his brothers, his only brothers, were killed before his very eyes.
Suddenly, BANG! And then another BANG!
Two officers walked out of the house, carrying all the narcotics in the house along with them. “An entire family of dealers, sir. Kid probably thought he was carrying the family legacy.”
“What was that sound?” asked the head officer.
“There was a couple inside sir, clearly under the influence. They tried getting at us. So we shot them. You know what it is, sir, you can never trust these people.”
Odai now really wanted to burst out crying. But he didn’t have the energy. All the sorrow and anger was now slowly igniting inside him. He felt an urge to cut himself, to tear himself, to rip his own flesh, all out of grief.
The streets had taken his brothers.
And racism had taken his parents.
CALIFORNIA STATE JUVENILE PENITENTIARY.
Odai’s new home.
He hated the place. The other inmates were nasty. The food was disgusting. Not for the first time, he felt lonely and unwanted. He had been arrested and charged with dealing of illegal substances. If the lawyer succeeded, he’d be out, hopefully soon. He’d explained his case and just prayed.
The therapist was nice, however. She encouraged him, told him it wasn’t over for him, and gave him indications of how he could turn his life around after his sentence.
Then, something happened, something that changed his life.
It was exercise period. The inmates were allowed to play a variety of sports and engage in physical activity. They were juveniles after all. They needed this.
Odai walked slowly around the ground, looking for an activity. He hoped it would stop the relentless visions and nightmares torturing him.
Suddenly, “Hey! You’re so tall!”
Odai turned. A few kids were staring at him excitedly, their eyes gleaming. “You want to join us? We need a big guy like you!”
Odai walked slowly towards them, grateful for the invitation. “Cool, what are we playing?”
“Basketball!” said one of the kids. “It’ll be fun! Trust me!”
The kids quickly explained the rules to Odai. They then told him he’d be playing forward. And would have to try and put the ball into the basket aggressively. Odai nodded, happy for his new role.
As the game started, one of his teammates stole the ball and passed it to him. Odai ran down the court, dribbling. He saw two other players block his way. They had no intention of letting him score. He was just the new guy, after all.
Odai ran as close as he could to the defenders. He then made an extremely fast, three hundred and sixty degree spin and rotated past them. He now had a wide open look at the basket. He threw the ball off the glass. It hit the glass and went into the hoop.
“Hey!” yelled Odai happily. “I scored!”
The boys were dumbstruck. They’d never seen a move like that, or such a tall guy with that level of speed, agility, and body control. That was a move used by professional players in the NBA, not some first time rookie in a prison.
But the kids had no idea what they’d done. They’d just given this genuine basketball talent a chance to play. They had no idea what kind of monster they’d awoken.
In those ten seconds, Odai Beckham Jr. had fallen in love with the game of basketball.
Endnotes and Disclaimer.
Sad but true. Drugs and gang violence are two things that plague the African-American community to this day. Gang violence has taken thousands of lives. Including that of good, innocent, people.
Police brutality and racism are also two very real entities that trouble American society. Sometimes, police have crossed the line with African-Americans due to their underlying racism.
THIS IS, IN NO WAY, MEANT AS AN OFFENSE TO THE AFRICAN AMERICAN OR THE POLICE COMMUNITY. THESE ASPECTS WERE INCLUDED TO MAKE THE FICTIONAL STORY MORE RICH AND INTRIGUING. THESE INCIDENTS, IN NO WAY, REPRESENT REAL INCIDENTS OR REAL PEOPLE.
Author’s Note against Substance Abuse.
Substance abuse can feel good at first. But it is like a slow acting poison that eats away at your life force. The author does not support or encourage the use of narcotics in any way whatsoever. If you are struggling with this, or know someone who is struggling with this problem, please get help. For your sake, your friend’s sake, your well-wisher’s sake, or just to help ordinary, innocent people from dangers. Thank you all.