Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned

ISBN-10: 0671014994

ISBN-13: 9780671014995

Edition: 1998

Authors: Walter Mosley

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New York Timesbestselling author Walter Mosley introduces an "astonishing character"(Los Angeles Times Book Review)in this acclaimed collection of entwined tales. Meet Socrates Fortlow, a tough ex-con seeking truth and redemption in South Central Los Angeles -- and finding the miracle of survival. "I either committed a crime or had a crime done to me every day I was in jail. Once you go to prison you belong there."Socrates Fortlow has done his time: twenty-seven years for murder and rape, acts forged by his huge, rock-breaking hands. Now, he has come home to a new kind of prison: two battered rooms in an abandoned building in Watts. Working for the Bounty supermarket, and moving perilously close to invisibility, it is Socrates who throws a lifeline to a drowning man: young Darryl, whose shaky path is already bloodstained and fearsome. In a place of violence and hopelessness, Socrates offers up his own battle-scarred wisdom that can turn the world around.
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Book details

List price: $16.00
Copyright year: 1998
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 10/1/1998
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 208
Size: 5.50" wide x 8.75" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.638
Language: English

Walter Mosley was born in Los Angeles, California on January 12, 1952. He graduated from Johnson State College in Vermont. His first book, Devil in a Blue Dress, was published in 1990, won a John Creasy Award for best first novel, and was made into a motion picture starring Denzel Washington in 1995. He is the author of the Easy Rawlins Mystery series, the Leonid McGill Mystery series, and the Fearless Jones series. His other works include Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, 47, Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, and Twelve Steps toward Political Revelation. He has received numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, the Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award, and PEN America's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
Leadtext: Crimson Shadow: Section One "What you doin' there, boy?" It was six a.m
Socrates Fortlow had come out to the alley, to see what was wrong with Billy
He hadn't heard him crow that morning and was worried about his old friend
The sun was just coming up
The alley was almost pretty with the trash and broken asphalt covered in half-light
Discarded wine bottles shone like murky emeralds in the sludge
In the dawn shadows Socrates didn't even notice the boy until he moved
He was standing in front of a small cardboard box, across the alley -- next to Billy's wire fence
"What bidness is it to you, old man?" the boy answered
He couldn't have been more than twelve but he had that hard convict stare
Socrates knew convicts, knew them inside and out
"I asked you a question, boy
Ain't yo' momma told you t'be civil?" "Shit!" The boy turned away, ready to leave
He wore baggy jeans with a blooming blue T-shirt over his bony arms and chest
His hair was cut close to the scalp
The boy bent down to pick up the box
"What they call you?" Socrates asked the skinny butt stuck up in the air
"What's it to you?" Socrates pushed open the wooden fence and leapt
If the boy hadn't had his back turned he would have been able to dodge the stiff lunge
As it was he heard something and moved quickly to the side
But not quickly enough
Socrates grabbed the skinny arms with his big hands -- the rock breakers, as Joe Benz used to call them
"Ow! Shit!" Socrates shook the boy until the serrated steak knife, which had appeared from nowhere, fell from his hand
The old brown rooster was dead in the box
His head slashed so badly that half of the beak was gone
"Let me loose, man." The boy kicked, but Socrates held him at arm's length
"Don't make me hurt you, boy," he warned
He let go of one arm and said, "Pick up that box
Pick it up!" When the boy obeyed, Socrates pulled him by the arm -- dragged him through the gate, past the tomato plants and string bean vines, into the two rooms where he'd stayed since they'd let him out of prison
The kitchen was only big enough for a man and a half
The floor was pitted linoleum; maroon where it had kept its color, gray where it had worn through
There was a card table for dining and a fold-up plastic chair for a seat
There was a sink with a hot plate on the drainboard and shelves that were once cabinets -- before the doors were torn off
The light fixture above the sink had a sixty-watt bulb burning in it
The room smelled of coffee
A newspaper was spread across the table
Socrates shoved the boy into the chair, not gently
"Sit'own!" There was a mass of webbing next to the weak lightbulb
A red spider picked its way slowly through the strands
"What's your name, boy?" Socrates asked again
"Darryl." There was a photograph of a painting tacked underneath the light
It was the image of a black woman in the doorway of a house
She wore a red dress and a red hat to protect her eyes from the sun
She had her arms crossed under her breasts and looked angry
Darryl stared at the painting while the spider danced above
"Why you kill my friend, asshole?" "What?" Darryl asked
There was fear in his voice
"You heard me." "I-I-I din't kill nobody." Darryl gulped and opened his eyes wider than seemed possible
"Who told you that?" When Socrates didn't say anything, Darryl jumped up to run, but the man socked him in the chest, knocking the wind out of him, pushing him back down in the chair
Socrates squatted down and scooped the rooster up out of the box
He held the limp old bird up in front of Darryl's face
"Why you kill Billy, boy?" "That's a bird." Darryl pointed
There was relief mixed with panic in his eyes
"That's my friend." "You crazy, old man
That's a bird
Bird cain't be nobody's friend." Darryl's words were still wild
Socrates knew the guilty look on his face
He wondered at the boy and at the rooster that had gotten him out of his bed every day for the past eight years
A rage went through him and he crushed the rooster's neck in his fist
"You crazy," Darryl said
A large truck made its way down the alley just then
The heavy vibrations went through the small kitchen, making plates and tinware rattle loudly
Socrates shoved the corpse into the boy's lap
"Get ovah there to the sink an' pluck it."
"Shit!" "You don't have to do it..."
"You better believe I ain't gonna..."
"...but I will kick holy shit outta you if you don't."
"Pluck what?
What you mean, pluck it?"
"I mean go ovah t'that sink an' pull out the feathers
What you kill it for if you ain't gonna pluck it?"
"I'as gonna sell it."
"Sell it?"
"Yeah," Darryl said
"Sell it to some old lady wanna make some chicken." Copyright (c) 1998 by Walter Mosley
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