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With A Bullet : Excerpt of a Hot Property

April 04, 1993

One day in the summer of 1980 I went to the Buddah Market on Slauson with my mom--and I weighed two pounds extra. I had a Browning .9mm with 14 shots. It was an unusually bright midafternoon and I felt light, almost happy, content actually. Riding up Slauson past Crenshaw, I remember tensing and cringing as I read line after line of Rollin' 60s graffiti on walls and buildings. I jokingly asked Mom to pull over so I could cross them out. In return, I got a "you damn fool" look, and I noticed her face cloud over. Mom just didn't overstand the complexity of our conflicts with other gangs.

In Buddah Market's parking lot, I gave my appearance the once-over. G-down (short for "gangster down") in my gear, I had on blue khaki pants, white canvas All-Stars, a blue sweat shirt and my hair in braids. Brownies--brown garden gloves worn to fight and shoot in--hung halfway out of my right back pocket, and a blue flag hung out my left.

"Why don't you tuck that old rag," Mom blurted.

"It's not a rag, Mom, it's a flag," I said, wishing she would for once see my seriousness here. This was not some awkward stage of my life. This was a job to me, and I was employed full-time, putting in as much overtime as possible. Life from that vantage point seemed to be one big test of show and prove, pick and stick. Inside, I was on point. Not only was I in jeopardy in Rollin' 60s territory, but I had my mom with me.

"Mom, I'm going over to the cereal section," I said and stepped quickly so she couldn't call me back.

Turning the corner at the end of the aisle, I felt relieved to be alone, both for my safety and Mom's. I had every intention of going to the cereal section when I was distracted by a nice-looking young lady in produce. I made a beeline for the vegetables, and that's when I saw him. Damn! Enemy! Enemy!

My adrenaline alarm was going off. Sonic booms of heartbeat filled my ears. My throat got tight, and my movements became a-u-t-omatic. We both reached for our waistbands simultaneously.

I managed the drop and drew first. Not bothering to aim, I fired. "Boom!" Confusion and chaos swept the aisle like buckshot. Damn, I missed!

I fired again and hit him in the torso. The bullet knocked him back, and out of reflex his weapon discharged into the air. I shot at him three more times to create an atmosphere of intensity, then turned and went in search of my mother. I totally forgot I had the gun in my hand. I tucked it while jogging down the household appliance aisle. Not finding her there, I panicked and made my way to the door. There, among the other scared-to-death shoppers, I found Mom. I grabbed her arm and ushered her away from the crowd.

"Boy, was that you?" she asked, hoping that it wasn't. "Kody, what happened?"

I made no attempt to explain. My sole intent was a timely escape. We drove in silence, block after block. We never even looked at each other.

Back across Western Avenue, I began to breathe better and reflect on what I had done. Fuck him, he was gonna shoot me. I justified my shooting of him as self-defense. This thing was very dangerous; we all knew each other. There was no escaping once sighted.

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