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BUTTERFLY'S CUTLASS SUPREME/ Anthony Burke Lee WHEN I WAS fourteen I got burned in a drug deal by a guy named Butterfly and when I went back to take care of it, one thing led to another and I ended up going to jail. I had just moved from Manhattan to Queens, from my mother's to my father's, started a new high school. Things like that are tough when you're young, but in about a week, there was a pack of guys who wanted to hang out with me just because I was from the city. I couldn't really understand why, back then. To them, it meant something. To me, Queens was so wide open and quiet it felt like anything could go wrong. Of course I never said this out loud to any of them. I could see in their eyes that they thought I had the whole world figured out and that if I really felt like it I would take it over but was happy for the time being cutting class and getting high. You'd be dead wrong if you thought I set them straight—they weren't chumps, these guys, they were tough kids. And even though I didn't really know how it happened, when I was with them I felt like I could do everything they believed I could. So, one Friday night early in October, my friend Ernie pops up from his grandparents' glass-topped coffee table—and we're looking at him, waiting to hear the verdict, a line cut for each of the five of us and a lot more in store—and he pops up from the coffee table sniffing, sniffing, looking around, sniffs one more time, and says, "This shit sucks. It sucks. It fucking blows." And it did. I guess it did. What mattered was that he said it to me, and they all looked at me. This was an important night. Ernie's grandparents were visiting friends in Florida; there were girls coming over later. So I did a line, like the final call was mine, and I started with the "motherfucker-this, motherfucker-that" stuff, and the six of us were out the door and into the car, which belonged to Ernie's cousin, and flying down Roosevelt Avenue to find the guy who'd sold us the stuff, who also happened to be Ernie's cousin—the same guy who owned the car. Now that's important . Not that they were related, but that the car belonged to him, even if his license had been suspended and he was afraid to leave the apartment he was staying in because there was a bench warrant out on him for felony possession. He was letting Ernie use the car. Ernie said The Missouri Review · 24 if he ever got stopped and the cops ran the plates, he would tell them his cousin hadn't been home in months, so his aunt told him he could drive it—that she was tired of moving it twice a week. His cousin's name, I think, was Steve, but everyone called him Butterfly. Why, I don't know. It was just a nickname. Ernie rang the bell and Butterfly came down and I punched him in the face and he went down, and Ernie looked at me, and my heart was going, and my hands were still in fists, and he looks down at his cousin, and looks at me, and he starts laughing like a nut. And God help me, Ernie kicked him right in the face. He's laughing and he leans over, his hands on his knees, and he yells in his cousin's ear, "Hey, Butterfly, I'm having a party at Nana and Grandpa's. You want to come?"—I'll never forget that—and we drag Butterfly out to the car. So now there's seven of us in his Cutlass Supreme, and if anybody else threw a punch I really couldn't tell you anymore, but I know I did, and so did Ernie, and we went down for it. When he pulled away from the curb...


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