tagMind ControlGentrification Ch. 02

Gentrification Ch. 02

bytaxandtithe©

"Hi Mister Ray! Hi Mister Eshwar!"

"Well hey there, Champ!" Ray leans forward and chucks the brim of the boy's oversize baseball cap so that it falls over his eyes.

The boy giggles and pushes the cap back up. "Mister Eshwar, did my things come yet?"

The turbaned head of the store owner moves in a stately nod. "I believe I heard my son mention that a box filled with an 'incomprehensible mish-mash' of electronic components arrived this morning, young Pablo. Might I inquire as to why the delivery was so large this time? Have you got a new project?"

"No, the man came again, the one who wants to buy our building. Last time, Mama told him that she said no before, and that he shouldn't come again. He keeps coming though, even though he should mind her. So I made a hat so that he has to mind her and I ran out of stuff. So that's why there's so much this time."

Ray and Eshwar glance at each other, before the proprietor continues, "Well then, I believe you will find the box behind the counter, in the usual location."

"Oh, is it okay if I leave it for a while? The man is there right now so Mami said to go out and play while she talks to him."

"The fella why wants to buy the building?" Ray asks.

"Yeah. Mama has the hat now, though, so this should be the last time."

"Well then, young man," says Eshwar, "Why don't you run inside the store and pick something from the iced treats, then come sit with us out here and we will enjoy the morning together while your mother speaks with the gentleman."

"Okaythankyou!"

The boy drops his oversize backpack at the end of the bench, and the sound of HIS flip flops slapping the aged linoleum of the floor inside the bodega rapidly fade as he dashes to the freezers at the back.

"Well," comments Ray, "This should be fun to ask Rosa about."

--

"My English, ees not good, Meester Blume," says Pablo's mother, "But I am theenking joo hear me the last time, and all other times."

"Oh, but this is different, Mrs. Medina!"

The young man is, indeed, young. Rosa Medina would be amazed if he'd finished his third decade yet.

"Our bank is prepared to raise its last offer by a full seven percent, *and* you will receive a very attractive rate for one of the units once the construction is complete!"

The older woman sighs. "Meester Blume, I have whole building, I no sell eet to joo and take a piece of eet. I not evict my friends and neighbors."

"But..."

"Meester Blume, there ees not enough monies in joor bank for thees theeng. Before, I say to joo, go, and here joo are."

"With all due respect, Mrs..."

"Do you see thees?"

"I... what is that?"

"Ees hat. My son made."

"It's... uh, lovely. Very pretty lights on it."

"Put eet on."

"Pardon me?"

"Joo want to stay, want to talk, you put eet on. If not, joo go, and joo don't come no more."

"Fine."

The young banker takes the strange device from the older woman and examines it, spinning it this way and that, trying to figure out which side is the front.

"The beeg red light, ees front, he tell me."

"I see."

The banker unceremoniously drops the hat onto his head. Rosa blinks at the electrostatic pop that follows, and the air is filled with the smell of ozone and a faint odor of burnt hair. Mr. Blume's expression has become glazed, and the light on the front of the hat has turned amber.

"Hokay, he say light turn green, then we talk. I go to store to check on heem, I be back."

--

"Mama! Did you put the hat on him?"

"Si, nino, la luz es amarillo. Usted esta comportando?"

"Si, mama, estoy sentado con senor Eshwar y senor Ray."

"I see! Good morning, my friends."

"And to you, Mrs. Medina." says Eshwar, as Ray nods to her.

Ray says "We hear tell you have a visitor."

"I do. I'm afraid I played my immigrant-with-bad-English card a little too heavily in previous visits. It generally discourages repeat appearances, but it only seems to encourage this one."

Ray chuckles. Rosa has an obvious accent, but he'd wager her grammar was better than his by a mile.

"Pablo, how long will the light take to switch to green?"

"Just a little bit, Mama. It probably already is. You have to leave the hat on while you talk to him, though, and if you tell him to do something and then take it off, he doesn't have to do it."

"I remember, son."

A tall black woman walks around the bend of the street as the group is talking. Seeing them, she approaches. "Pablo, I swear you're taller than you were last week."

Pablo grins and runs over to hug the newcomer. "Hi Ada!"

"Oof, such a big boy!"

Rosa smiles at the African woman. "I really appreciate this, sorry for the short notice."

Ada waves her off. "It's fun having him in the shop, although it's hard to keep him out of the equipment."

"You said I could take apart one of your old tattoo guns when you got a new one!"

"I sure did, and I've got one set aside. You have to promise to be careful with it, and we probably both have to promise your mother you won't come home with a tattoo."

Rosa laughs. "Please, that's the last thing I need." She pauses for a moment, looking at the artist. "Ada, I love that shade of lipstick. Could I borrow it? I'll be happy to replace it."

"Uh, sure, hang on." Ada rummages in her bag for a moment before handing over the tube. "Thinking of changing your look?"

"Not really, just something I want to try. Well, I have company in the apartment, and I need to pick up a couple of things in the store here before I go back. You be a good boy and mind Miss Ada, okay, nino?"

"Okay mama."

Ada says, "Company? You know Pablo is welcome to stay overnight. I have a cot in the office he can use."

"Can I, Mama?!"

Rosa pauses. "Hmm. We'll see. Let me give you a call in a bit and I'll let you know, Ada. I owe you one."

Nodding to Eshwar and Ray, she steps past the old men into the interior of the bodega.

--

Michael Blume comes back to himself with a snap. He's still in the immigrant's tiny apartment, although he seems to be alone. He still doesn't understand why she keeps such a tiny place when she has the entire building, but that's the kind of small thinking you find with these people.

His throat is dry, and he swallows a couple of times to relieve it. There's a glass of water sitting on the table in front of him. Mrs. Medina had given it to him when she let him in for this latest meeting. For the life of him, though he can't motivate himself to reach out and take it. He just looks at it, and looking is making him thirstier.

He doesn't know how long he just sits there. He doesn't know where the immigrant lady he'd come to talk to has gone. He doesn't know why he can't seem to bring himself to stand up and leave.

Real fear is beginning to blossom in his heart. The sudden sound of a key rattling in the front door lock draws his attention there. After a moment, the door opens to reveal Mrs. Medina, carrying a paper shopping bag. No sign of the boy. She glances at him (or, is it at his forehead?), nods to herself, and carries her bag into the kitchen. He hears her rummaging in there, doors to cabinets opening and closing and the rustle of the bag as she puts away her shopping. She returns, bag in hand, and sets it on the coffee table in front of him. She still hasn't said anything, or even acknowledged him, really, and she doesn't now. She disappears into another part of the apartment (bedroom? bathroom? he can't remember the floor plan clearly enough), and he hears more sounds of cabinets and drawers opening and shutting.

She returns again, this time carrying an weathered leather bag, sealed with a zipper, and a small cup with steam rising from it. She places these on the coffee table as well, and then perches on the edge of it and finally addresses him.

"I miss my husband, Mr. Blume."

She unzips the leather bag, and pulls out a small dish from inside.

"He was a violent man, lived a violent life. Never raised a hand to me or his son, though."

Reaching into the grocery bag, she pulls out a small jar. Opening the lid, she uses a finger to scoop out a dollop, depositing it in the empty dish. Measuring carefully by eye, she pours steaming water into the dish as well, until she's satisfied with the amount.

"Where we came from, if you were a man, you were violent, or you had violence done to you."

This time a shaving brush emerges from the bag, and she begins busily mixing the water and the cream in the dish into a lather.

"When he proposed to me, he said that he would take care of me, and that he would make sure I always had what I needed."

Satisfied with the consistency, she leans forward and begins to briskly brush the lather onto Michael's face.

"You would not have survived there, Mr. Blume."

The fear that had begun to ebb with the return of Mrs. Medina has come back stronger than before. The entire situation has an air of unreality. He doesn't understand why he can't (won't?) move, he doesn't understand why her English is suddenly as good as his own, and he doesn't understand why she seems to be preparing to shave him.

"My son, our son, is nine now. When we found out I was pregnant, he got us out of the country in three months."

She pauses her activity, holding the brush poised to apply more lather, and gets a far off look in her eyes.

"It was a terrible three months, and the last weeks were spent at sea, in a boat with thirty other people that shouldn't have held ten."

Finished applying lather, she stands up and presses against his chest. He leans back against the short rest of the chair he's seated in. She moves behind him and gently positions his head so that he's facing the ceiling, face and throat exposed to her.

"We were within sight of the shore of this country when the coast guard intercepted us. You might not remember, but that was a complicated time, politically. A few months earlier or later, and we simply would have been shipped back where we came from, probably to face execution. Instead, they put us on another boat, which put us on another boat, which brought us to New York, all without touching the soil."

She leaves his field of vision for a moment, and then returns, holding a strip of leather and a straight razor. Tying the leather to the arm of his chair, she begins using it to strop the razor. The rasping sound sends chills up and down his spine.

"I often wish that I could show the people born in this country what It feels like to pass Ellis Island as an immigrant entering America. I think you take the beautiful woman standing watch over your waters for granted. She remains the loveliest creature I've ever seen."

He almost can't feel the first pass of the razor over the skin of his throat. She runs a finger along the skin in its wake, testing its smoothness. Satisfied, she continues to work.

"My husband moved us into this neighborhood, into this building, into this very apartment. We had nothing, but it was the happiest time of my life."

She's shaving his cheeks now. He can feel the exhalations of her breath against his skin, feels the warmth of her body and the brush of a breast as she leans over him. He's never experienced anything this intimate before. Never felt this powerless.

"He died a few months later, but he kept his word. The drunk who ran him down was a delivery driver for one of the big parcel companies. I can't tell you which one, though, terms of the settlement.

She pauses in such a way that the silver edge of the razor hovers in his field of view.

"It might interest you to know that the driver died a few weeks before the settlement was even finalized. Well, 'disappeared' officially, the police never found the body."

She folds the razor and he hears her place it back in the bag. In a moment she's returned and is using a towel to wipe the excess lather from his face. When she's done, she takes his chin between her index finger and thumb, and leans close enough that her nose brushes his cheek. She closes her eyes and breathes in his scent.

"You smell like him now. It makes me dislike you less, Mr. Blume. I should thank you for the opportunity to use his things again, I used to enjoy giving him a shave."

She leans back and takes one of his hands, drawing him forward in the chair and then to his feet. There's a bit of escaped shaving lather on the collar of his shirt.

"You are a bit taller than he was, I think. No muscle on you, though. He was built like a stallion."

Her fingers deftly unknot his tie, and she draws it out of his shirt, folding it at setting it on the table. Next she tugs the tails of his shirt out from there they are tucked in his pants.

"You are... pretty, in a way he was not. Lovely features."

She begins unbuttoning his shirt at the collar, taking her time on the way down.

"He was *not* a pretty man." She grins at the memory. "He had terrible acne when we were young, and it left him with scars."

When the last button parts, the moves behind him and draws the shirt off of his shoulders. She folds it and places it on the table with the tie. Moving back around in front of him, she runs her fingers through the sparse hair on his chest.

"I didn't mind, though. He had a good face. An *interesting* face."

She tugs on a few of his chest hairs, causing pinpricks of pain. Reaching down, she picks up the shaving dish, takes the brush in her other hand, and begins lathering his chest.

"He never said, but I think he wished his chest was hairier. Very important sign of machismo, to all the boys back home."

Retrieving the razor from the bag, she begins to denude his chest of hair with the same sure, steady strokes she'd used on his face.

"Less important here, or so I'm told by the younger women in the neighborhood. They seem to like them smooth in this country."

The razor continues down, removing the thin strip of hair that runs over the center of his belly and into his pants.

"You'll have to let me know if it makes a difference in your conquests."

Wiping his torso off with the towel, she leans against him, resting her cheek against his chest as she inhales the odor of the shaving lather.

"Mmmmm."

Stepping back, she unbuckles his belt and draws it out of his pants, laying it with the other clothes. She kneels in front of him and lifts one leg at a time to remove his shoes and socks. She then unbuttons his slacks and pulls them down into a pool at his feet, where he steps out of them at the gentle urging of her hands. Leaning back on her heels, she regards him. He's wearing nothing but boxer shorts now. She sighs.

"No man has pretty legs. I think it's something about the knees."

Finally, she pulls his boxer shorts down and off, and puts them to one side, leaving him nude before her. In silence she takes the dish and begins the process of lathering and shaving his legs. Some number of minutes later, having gone to retrieve some more hot water and refreshed her lather, she finishes.

Kneeling behind him, wiping the last traces of lather from his now silk-smooth thighs, she continues, "You have a nice bottom, the gift of youth. Perhaps in a few more years we would have had to shave it too, but..." She runs a hand idly over one buttock, "It's quite good for now."

Knee walking back around to his front, she examines his cock and balls, going so far as to heft them in one hand.

"For this next, we'll have to be careful. I never shaved anything but my husbands face." She looks up at him, terrified eyes framed by silver and the glowing green light on his forehead. "I suppose we'll just have to go slow."

--

"Miss Ada, come look!"

Ada walks over to where Pablo has been tinkering with her old tattoo gun. They'd stopped at the butcher and picked up a side of pork with the skin intact for him to practice inking on. It's marked up with dots and slashes of various colors and widths now.

"Here, put these on."

Ada takes the oversized black plastic glasses the boy hands her and puts them on. "No lenses?" she asks.

"Those are just to keep the receiver close to your head. I couldn't make it a band because your hair is so big."

With a snort she picks up the gun and examines the cartridge. "What color is that?"

"You'll see! Start drawing something on the pig."

Ada obligingly does so, and a solid black line appears.

"Okay, now do one next to it, but think about the color green."

She stares at him for a moment, then shares and lowers her gun again. At first, the ink is black, but when she makes herself really concentrate on a particular shade of green the line shifts colors to the precise hue. After a little practice, she can switch back and forth at will, and begins working with other colors, too.

"Jesus, kid. You are really going to have to keep a low profile as you get older, or you're going to start a panic."

"I know, Mama says so too. But it's you though, you're okay.

"Mmm." she replies absently, drawing a more complex figure in scintillating shades of color. "Do you think you can do this to all my equipment?"

--

Rosa gently wipes the last of the lather off of the young man's newly-smooth testicles, gently patting them dry. His relief at avoiding a maiming is almost palpable. He remains standing, nude and hairless from the eyebrows down.

His hostess packs away the shaving supplies after washing off the brush and dish in the kitchen. She replaces them wherever they came from in the back of the apartment, and then returns to regard her guest.

"I should thank you for giving me a reason to get out those old things. I let them alone for too long, I need to be reminded of him more often."

She sits down on the couch across from him and just looks him over for a few minutes.

"I won't lie to you, Mr. Blume. What pleasure you find over the next few hours won't be of your own choosing, and you are going to experience some things you would really rather not, in ways you would really rather not. You already know that you are basically helpless while you're wearing that hat. I could put you in an unlocked room somewhere and you would starve to death before you found the motivation to get up and leave on your own."

She looks out of the window at the light of the late-afternoon sun.

"I hope you believe me when I tell you that that hat is by far the most benign option I have available. Some of my neighbors would be happy to assist me in effecting a permanent and involuntary change of heart on your part."

"You won't die tonight, Mr. Blume. You have my word on that. In a few hours, I will take that cap off your head, and you will be free to be on your way."

She turns back and locks eyes on him. "You will, however, remember today. You will make very sure that neither you nor anyone else from your institution visits me, or anyone else on this street, with the intent of purchase.

"Because, Mr. Blume, if they do, we will repeat everything that happens to you here today, except we will do it for an audience. Trust me that you can be found and brought to heel for the performance, if required."

She relaxes and leans back. "But I am being a thoughtless hostess. Drink the glass of water I gave you."

The banker immediately picks up the glass from the table and drains it. Rosa rises and takes the empty glass from him and disappears into the kitchen for a moment. She returns holding a much larger glass, also empty.

Approaching her helpless guest, she brings the vessel to his crotch and gently lifts the shaft of his penis over the rim, so that it's aimed inside. Holding the glass with one hand, she reaches up and strokes his cheek with the other.

"Piss, Mr. Blume."

Immediately urine begins to stream out of him and into the glass. She can feel the warmth of the liquid through the clear material. Eventually the torrent slows to a trickle, and then peters out. Still holding the glass in place, Rosa reaches down to the coffee table and retrieves a tissue, with which she pats him dry. She carries the jar of urine to the bathroom, and he can hear pouring liquid followed by a toilet flush a few moments later.

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