In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Doppelgangbanger, and: Thugonomics, and: (Sub)Urban Dictionary
  • Cortney Lamar Charleston (bio)


Fox Valley Mall, technically in Aurora, attracts slightly rougher edges—ya mans right here, stoners, guapo boys and black. Girls bougie, beautiful and brainy, taken lightly by fools only. I eye her way, but he eyes mine, cop decoy

with badge and walkie-talkie, walking up on the envoys of decency—Mom and me—to do the kid a solid: Straighten this. Pull up that. E-NUN-CI-ATE. I peep his ploy. Play a historian. Home on his perfect white teeth, horrid

contrast to his charcoal cheeks. Mom nods in that morbid way: Told you. But I don’t need telling. If I’m a stereotype, I be branded Sony, Bose—not some shit Zenith did. I’m so damn smart with it, jo! I got all my teachers hype

and still Mom looks like she wants to light flame to my hide; she don’t want me stunting as some stat been shot and died. [End Page 33]


Beyond the GPA boost, AP Microeconomics comes to life for me once Veit introduces the concept of indifference curves: a graph, a line drawn between two bundles of goodswhere a consumer is given equal satisfaction and utility.

  I think about where I’ve seen one before in real terms—     on the face of a bigger, blacker boy. Wife-beater   wearing. Fitted hat banked hard left, the brim flipped up like a finger to the law. He’s looking me up and down, lips crooked like a checkmark as he   takes a secret ballot on running my pockets     skinny of heavy coins and a few dead presidents—

      nay   yay   nay   yay   nay.

According to theory, the choice behind his smug grin is between a large order of French fries, fists and handcuffs or just one jawbreaker, his cheeks swollen in the suck of sugar, as if punched by some sucka who ran away.

How many beautiful boys have been bruised that way, by the bleakness of being broke or the blow against it by a brother’s balled up hand if not a black hole hollowing a black body after a star is born inside a barrel of steel?

In economics, as applied to the urban, increasingly the suburban, is there anything more scarce than love? How do you price a kilo of that? Would somebody gut you for a bag of the purest anybody can find?

      Here is why I have no answer:

because I never needed sell myself short of profit. Because my mother made enough for me to feel enough. Because my father made me in his image, with his hands. Because I made straight As, a strong return on their investment— after all, it’s the black child’s burden to always know what they cost somebody, though I forget how many thousands [End Page 34] of tax dollars it takes per year to keep one locked behind bars. To keep one out? Some love. Hundreds of stacks of thousands in loans to get that elite college degree, and my parents are short on something valuable or another between the two of them, so I hedge. Hustle. Sell myself to my future self, borrowing time, in theory, the way borrowing guap goes, if not a third me gently into the night, a Glock in my invisible hand and no immediate faith in God, or anyone else, to deliver me my daily bread basket—

  my lip line drawn straight on the horizontal     like something out of a textbook. Indifferent. [End Page 35]

(Sub)Urban Dictionary

  I think there’s a little white man inside all of us.

Though my look precedes me, in this case, I’m not talking about the shack-creeping slave master but the crown-funded discoverer of preexisting things, the explorer of the exotic via means aquatic or terrestrial.

Oh lookie here, another settlement by a river—between two rivers, in fact. Fresh off the boat of the skies, I walk among the savage appetites tearing into thin steak strips and Cheez Whiz with pointed teeth. How they strut, I study. The men dress their faces in bales of black...


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pp. 33-37
Launched on MUSE
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