EightMature

“Well if it isn’t J, my man, my man!” Mike says from behind the counter as I step foot onto the freshly scrubbed tiles of his store. “Where you been, dog? I ain’t seen you in weeks!”

“Hey DJ,” I reply with his preferred nickname. Some fools insist on calling him Tiny but I’m not crazy enough to try that; he may be five foot nothin’ but he’s built like a pit bull. “I finally took that vacation I been dreaming about – you know, Disneyland, Disneyworld, Euro-“

“Shut the fuck up and come see my new stock,” he says with a jerk of his head. I make my way over to him, my eyes jumping from album cover to album cover, always searching for a golden nugget I somehow missed on a previous visit.

“So what you got that’s worth listening to?” I ask.

“Worth listen- I don’t stock crap that ain’t worth playing for anybody that’s got half an ear for good music,” he says with narrowed eyes, a pit bull sizing up his dinner.

“You know I’m just pushing your buttons,” I tell him with a smile. I’ve been coming to DJ Mike’s Real Music Shop for the last two years, usually every couple weeks, and it’s always worth the extra bus to get here. The first time I wandered in, looking for shelter from a spring shower, Mike and I hit it off instantly. Our musical tastes match up extremely well, with enough differences to keep things interesting. He knows I can’t afford to buy anything but I pay him in conversation for his time and knowledge. “Show me what you got.”

“You best watch yourself and that mouth of yours, not everybody has my forgiving temperament,” he says with a wave of a thick finger in front of my nose. “All right, now I know you dig real hip hop: Mos Def, Common, Talib Kweli, and those other brothers that speak the truth. Well I got an original truth speaker for ya – say hello to mistah Gil Scott-Heron.”

“That’s a hell of an afro,” I say as I take the album from him and turn it over to scan the track listing. “I don’t think I’ve heard any of these. Put it on for me?”

“Anything for my man,” Mike says. “Pass that back and I’ll pump it on the store stereo.”

He slides the record out of its protective sleeve and handles it with the kind of respect I imagine an art collector would show a million dollar painting. DJ probably got his piece of art for two bucks at a garage sale.

“That ain’t the Mona Lis- oh damn, what track is this?”

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” he says smugly.

“This is the source, the original that everybody samples and quotes?”

“It all started with my man Gil,” he tells me as he flips through a cardboard box of records on the counter. “I’ll play Angel Dust for you after this one is done. If you think this is ‘oh damn’, Dust will blow your mind.”

“I can’t wait,” I say, closing my eyes to better absorb the music. I start to nod my head by choice and my right foot and hand join in on their own accord.

“Hey dude,” a voice calls from the doorway as the track wraps up and I open my eyes. “You got 50 Cent’s new cd?”

“Do you see any cds in here?” DJ asks the kid with the backwards cap, wife beater, and baggy jeans. I know there are only albums and a handful of tapes here but the kid has to stare blankly around for a few moments before he gets it. “You’ll have better luck around the corner at the strip mall.”

“Oh. All right,” he mumbles before fleeing to the safety of the street.

“Damn kids these days,” DJ mutters as he switches the records up. “No appreciation for vinyl.”

“Or good music,” I add.

“That’s what I said. Now close your mouth and open your mind.”

I barely manage to contain my ‘oh damn’ as the bass hits the speakers like a 2x4. I close my eyes again and allow myself to be transported.

“I been thinking about taking a vacation myself,” he says once the track ends. “A real vacation.”

“Nice man, where you want to go?” I ask, ignoring the cowardly calls of jealousy in my mind.

“Someplace warm, maybe Mexico,” he says, giving me an unreadable look. “But I don’t want to lose a week’s worth of business while I’m gone.”

“Yeah, that’d be rough.”

“I was thinking maybe you could cover for me.”

I feel my eyes bulge and jaw drop. He can’t be serious.

“DJ you know I’m a bum, are you crazy?”

“What, you gonna rob me?”

“Hell no I ain’t –“

“Then what do I got to worry about?”

That’s a good question. I don’t have a good answer.

“Think about it. Come back tomorrow and let me know,” he says matter-of-factly. “Now get outta here, I need to close up for the night.”

I stumble outside, mind reeling. He can’t be serious. Can’t be.

“First things first,” I tell myself, a little too loudly judging by the looks I get from passersby. “I need a drink.”

The End

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