The Motherfucking Circle SWIZ “Dirty Boy Blues” When your teeth fall from your face Iʼll

be there to catch them And with your smile in my fist Iʼll do all your smiling ! ! “Dupont is where all the punks hang out,” said Lars. “Youʼve never been “I know my old school was close to it, but I donʼt think I saw it. Where is it?” I

there?” said as he passed me his beer. It was just backwash so I didnʼt drink any. It was a muggy Monday after work. I found Lars panhandling on M Street again. It was too hot to wear the suit and I desperately wanted to go home and change. I also wanted to get home before Mother so I could go back out until late. She had been giving me a hard time about staying out all night when I had to work the next day. But I figured it was my summer break. It would be my birthday soon and then I would be back in school. ! ! ! ! ! ! “Itʼs downtown,” said Lars. “Connecticut Avenue and Massachusetts run “What do you do there?” “Hang out. Drink, fight, talk, whatever.” “Why there?” “Why not?” After I went home and changed, I pulled out of the driveway just as Mother through it.”

pulled in. Lars and I drove down to the Circle and parked in a lot off of P Street. Walking by the businessmen heading home reminded me that I was straddling their world and the punk scene that summer.


“Fucking yuppie scum bags!” said Lars as he gave the finger to some guy

who was looking at him funny. We crossed the street into the Circle, which had a fountain at its center. It was ringed by benches and, on the outside, cars that drove past. Bums, messengers and punks mixed in small groups to one side of the benches. ! “Help get a punk drunk,” Lars panhandled from the yuppies who walked past, and when he had enough money he bought a case of cheap beer. I noticed a girl stealing looks at me. She had brilliant blue hair, tomboy looks, a freckled face, a slight chest and a big can. She wasnʼt pretty but there was something sexy about her. Maybe I just needed sex. So anyone who would have me was sexy at that moment. ! ! ! ! ! ! “This is Ronnie Motherfucking Collins,” said Lars later that night. “Heʼs like Ronnie held his hand out for me to shake. He was a light-skinned black with “All the women are in love with Ronnie and all the men wish they were more “Itʼs a pleasure, sir,” I said and took Ronnieʼs hand and shook it. He had become a legend to me. Lars had told me countless stories of his Ronnie had just finished the last drops of a 40-ounce bottle of Old English

the Prince of Dupont Circle.” I remembered him from the other day at the canal. a short afro. Ronnie smiled and Lars went on with his introduction. like him – except that no one wants his addictions.”

old friend. My favorite was how he had gotten his name. Malt Liquor and was walking down M Street in Georgetown. His hair was cut short and he wore a plain white shirt, blue jeans and combat boots. He looked like he was ready for war. He passed a man in his 40s who was wearing a Dallas Cowboys baseball cap and T-shirt, which is something you just didnʼt do in the town of the Redskins. The man stared and shook his head in disapproval at Ronnieʼs appearance. Ronnie wasnʼt paying any attention to him. He just assumed the guy was cruising for young boys. But after a moment, he heard the man call out, “Nigger!” Ronnie stopped and slowly turned in the direction of the man, who was smiling.

! !

“Thatʼs right. Iʼm talking to you,” said the man. Maybe he was drunk. Without warning, Ronnie punched the man in the nose. The man fell to the

ground and a gun that was on the back of his belt dropped onto the sidewalk, just out of his reach. Seeing the gun, Ronnie became more furious and continued punching and kicking the guy on the ground. ! ! “Iʼm a cop!” the guy screamed in between blows. “Iʼm Ronnie Motherfucking Collins!” he shouted back, continuing to tear the

undercover officer apart. It took four cops to pull Ronnie off. From then on, the scene deemed him “Ronnie Motherfucking Collins.” He spent a few nights in jail, but in the end they let him go. ! ! me. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! The biggest one said, “You got to be paying the white boy tax.” “What?” I said. “You is a white boy, right?” “Ah…yes.” “And you in the Circle, right?” “Yeah.” “You need to be paying me some tax or I might have to fuck you up, son.” Ronnie stood up. “Leave him alone, Motherfucker!” he ordered. They left me After introducing me to Ronnie, Lars walked off to get some beer. Some of the low-lives and bums loitering around the fountain came over to

alone. From that point on I considered him a friend. If there was trouble, he was by my side, no questions asked. I felt safe around him. I didnʼt have to prove myself to Ronnie. He just accepted me, whereas with most people in the scene Iʼd had to seek out their approval. ! “Listen here, motherfucker,” heʼd say. To him everyone and everything was a “motherfucker” and you could almost have a normal conversation with him if you could blank out all the “motherfucking.” ! “Listen here, motherfucker,” he leaned towards me, tilting his head in my direction, eyes wide open as if great knowledge were about to spill from his brain and slither into my ear.


“You got to think like the Criminal Minded if you want to survive the Circle.

These motherfuckers donʼt play. Never look for a fight, but if youʼre gonna fight, motherfucker, win. If you have the slightest doubt, then youʼve already lost, motherfucker. When youʼre in the act of fighting some motherfucker, itʼs like youʼre gonna kill the motherfucker. Only stop when the motherfucker can no longer defend himself, motherfucker. There is no honor in beating a motherfucker who canʼt fight back, motherfucker. Hereʼs how you deal with the mother fucking cops: ! ! ! ! Rule Number One: Never look guilty, motherfucker. Rule Number Two: Never run, motherfucker. Thatʼs how they pick the Rule Number Three: Change your motherfucking clothes ʻcause they be Rule Number Four: Be motherfucking nice to the policemen. The

motherfucker out of the crowd. looking for you, motherfucker. motherfucking pigs deal with motherfuckers who have bad attitudes. Say ʻYes Sir, Mister Motherfucker Pig Man.ʼ ” ! Ronnieʼs rules of the Criminal Minded were often violated by his followers. You were never to hit a woman, but Rev insisted, “She was acting like a man, so I treated her like one,” after bricking Tiny. Punishment for breaking the rules worked on a sliding scale. The higher up you were in the sceneʼs status, the more you could get away with, like when Blitz knocked out a girl for calling him ʻthe Geekʼ. Blitz the Geek was his nickname before he became Revʼs sidekick and a terror in his own right. There werenʼt any complaints. Nothing was done about it and the overall response from the scene was, “Everyone knows he hates it when you call him the Geek.” ! Ronnieʼs afternoons were spent panhandling and in the evenings he drank, smoked rock, or shot up. It was two days after we were introduced when a young businessman cut through the Circle to save time on his way to Massachusetts Avenue. ! “Excuse me, sir. Sir, could you help me out? Some motherfucker just stole my wallet. Could you help me out with a few motherfucking bucks? I need

enough to take the motherfucking bus home. My motherfucking wife and baby are waiting for me. She must be worried about this motherfucker now.” Ronnie held out his hand, spreading his fingers wide to make his hand look bigger and more desperate at the same time. The businessman pulled out his wallet and gave Ronnie a five dollar bill so he could end the one-sided conversation and be on his way. ! ! Ronnie turned back to us with a large smile, holding the five dollars by its “Looky here, motherfuckers! Letʼs get a case of motherfucking Milwaukeeʼs ends, high over his head. Best.” What he lacked in manners, he made up for in charm. Even when he was playing the starving bum with his hand out for change, people liked him. Well, everyone liked him, except Mother. ! A few days later, I was shaving Ronnieʼs head in my backyard and drinking the cheapest beer I could get. The curls of his hair fell to his shoulders, sticking to his shirt. I heard the hum of the garage door as it rolled open. Motherʼs red LeBaron convertible pulled in. I grabbed the beers, prying the one Ronnie was drinking from his hand, and hid them under the cover of the grill. A few moments later, Mother passed through the yard on her way to the house. ! ! ! ! ! “Hey Mom, this is Ronnie.” I left out the Motherfucking Collins part, thinking “You are a very lovely woman, ” he said casually, watching her with his hand Motherʼs face tightened and her eyebrows sloped into a “V” formation. She “Never bring him here again.” With that, she went into the house. A day later, Lars, Edgea, her friend Jenny and I, waited for Ronnie. He came she wouldnʼt appreciate it. frozen waiting for the beer to return to it. I was shocked he hadnʼt cursed. turned to me.

stumbling into the Circle, escorting a beautiful girl on his arm. His head looked clean. Iʼd done a good job. Maybe I should be a barber, I thought. ! ! ! “Its never the same one,” said Edgea. “But they are always hot,” said Lars. “He doesnʼt care about the girls. He uses them to get drugs from the

dealers. He trades them,” added Edgea. ! But the drugs were rotting him from the inside. Unkempt, he would slowly lose his wit. Over the next year we would have to watch over him like a child. Ronnie contracted HIV from his heroin addiction because of dirty needles and bad blood. He would be my first friend to die from AIDS. But that would be later. For now he was still on top of his game. ! Jenny drank a wine cooler. Lars and Ronnie returned from panhandling and didnʼt have enough to get beer. Lars pulled at the tips of his mohawk. Edgea limped behind Lars, dragging her orthopedic shoe along. ! ! ! “Letʼs get out of here and go to Georgetown,” I said, standing up and “I donʼt want to go yet,” said Jenny. “Come on, itʼs not cool here, and I donʼt want to leave you two with the holding my leather jacket. It was just too hot to wear.

bums.” There were new guys hanging out and I didnʼt trust them. Ronnie had already ripped one of them off for drugs twice and I overheard him threatening pay back. They called him Screwdriver Skip. I thought it was a stupid name, but he looked dangerous. ! ! ! ! ! ! “Weʼll be fine,” said Jenny. “Yeah, weʼre fine,” echoed Edgea. I looked to Ronnie but he was passed out again. “I donʼt know,” I said, looking to Lars. “Maybe we should stay?” I had a bad “Come on, theyʼre fine,” he replied. We left with the plan to meet later and When we got there, she was drunk. When I asked her what had happened

feeling, but Lars knew the Circle better than me. go back to Jennyʼs place. to Edgea, she didnʼt remember. It was the next day when Edgea called from a pay phone. She was at the squat downtown and asked me to pick her up. Lars came along for the ride. ! She was waiting on the corner. Climbing in the back seat, she looked like she had been tossed inside a duffle bag and thrown down a flight of stairs.

! !

“What happened to you?” asked Lars. “We were hanging out with these bums, Screwdriver Skip and his friend

Angel.” As she spoke, her eyes avoided ours. “They seemed pretty cool. Skip told me to come with him to help carry the beer, so I did. Then when we walked past the parking lot he pulled me in and he had a screwdriver at my neck. He said he was going to kill me if I made any noise, so I didnʼt.” ! ! “And what happened?” I asked. “He raped me.” Her voice broke. No one spoke for a few minutes and I drove. “No one saw or tried to help?” I asked and I knew it was a stupid question. She didnʼt answer. ! ! “Skip killed a guy with a screw driver and went to jail for six years,” said We dropped Edgea at home. We asked her to go to the hospital but she “My fatherʼs an asshole and wouldnʼt understand,” she said. ! ! “Where are we going now?” said Lars. It was getting dark. “Iʼm going to kill Skip.” I was angry. Angry at Skip, at Jenny and mostly Lars. “Heʼs only been out for a few weeks.” refused, scared her father would find out.

myself for letting them stay at the Circle when I knew it didnʼt feel right. It was dark when I parked. Stepping out of the car, I thought of what had happened there the night before. As we walked up the block, Lars pointed out Angel. ! ! “Where is your friend Skip?” I said, holding my fist tight at my side. I “I ainʼt seen that brother all night, man.” Angel looked nervous and walked wanted to hit him. “We need to talk to him.” off fast. We crossed over to the Circle and found Ronnie Motherfucking Collins. He was already high, but seemed to understand what we were saying. One of his rules had been violated and now someone had to pay. “Iʼm going to beat that Motherfuckerʼs ass,” he said. “Come on Motherfuckers I got some friends who can fix this Motherfucker.” Ronnie led me over to a group of black guys I had seen around. They were drug dealers, but Ronnie hadnʼt ripped them off yet.

! ! ! ! ! ! !

“You know that motherfucker Screwdriver Skip?” “Yeah man, heʼs a scum bag,” said a guy with a giant Afro. “That motherfucker raped a friend of mine.” “For real?” said a guy who wore sunglasses even though it was dark. “Who that be?” said the Afro. He looked over at Lars and me, sizing us up. “Little motherfucker with one short leg and crazy hair.” “Little shorty? Fuck that. If you find Skip, bring that bitch to us. Weʼll take

care of him.” While the guy with the afro ranted about what he was going to do to Skip, I noticed a group of skins walking along the outside of the Circle, then stopping at the light and waiting to cross. ! The guy with the sunglasses tipped them down over his nose so he could “Yo man, itʼs those crackers. You better get Manny”. The guy with the afro ran off and came back with three other guys. The light changed and the skins walked into the Circle. I saw Paul but didnʼt know any of the other guys. The skins recognized the black guys standing next to us and immediately started pulling out of the ground two by four stakes that were supporting young trees, holding up the stakes over their heads. The guy with the afro pulled a gun from the back of his pants and both groups started yelling at each other. ! ! ! “You know those guys,” the guy with the afro said to Ronnie after noticing “Iʼve never seen these Motherfuckers before.” He held the pistol but he looked like he had never fired it and then said to Paul giving me a confused look. better see the group of skins and then said;

me, “Your boys came down here the other night starting shit and tonight weʼre going to end it.” ! There was nowhere to run; the two groups moved toward each other. I was sure I was going to be shot. A screeching of tires came from outside the Circle, then the headlights bounced light across the path in front of me. The lights on top flashed red and blue. It was the cops. The guy with the gun pushed it into his afro where it was hidden from view. The officer looked over at him and assumed he was keeping his hands on his head as an act of submission. The skins dropped

the two by fours. The cop rolled down his window and shouted. “Whatʼs going on here?” Everyone was quiet. ! ! ! ! ! “Nothing, officer,” said the guy with the sunglasses. “Just talking with our “Well you better keep it that way or Iʼll be dragging you all in.” The copʼs “Thank fucking god for the cops,” I whispered to Lars. Then I looked at “I donʼt know you motherfucker, but you better come corrected around “Paul, you are fucking something up that has nothing to do with you.” I still The two groups started talking. ! ! “Now what?” asked Lars. “I donʼt think Skip will show up after that,” I said. “We should go to the friends.” window rolled up. He drove off slowly and parked outside the Circle, watching. Paul. “What the hell is your problem? These are friends of mine,” I said to him. these parts or those motherfuckers be shooting your ass,” said Ronnie to Paul. wanted Skip. “You better fix this.”

canal just to make sure he isnʼt there.” But he wasnʼt at the canal either. After that I had had enough for the night and went home. ! ! ! ! I slept late, enjoying the fact that I didnʼt have to go to work until Mother “You remember that guy Angel?” Lars asked. “Yes.” “After Edgea got raped by Skip, Angel took her back to the squat and woke me up with a phone call from Lars.

raped her again. Last night, when we went looking for Skip, Angel ran off and told him. They got caught breaking into someoneʼs home. Skip got sent right back to Lorton and Angel will end up there, too. I guess they were trying to get money to split town.” ! ! “I donʼt know if Iʼm supposed to feel good about that or not,” I said. “Forget it. There is nothing else we can do.” He hung up. What would I

have done if I had caught Skip? I was so mad at the time I might have done something very stupid. In the end I would have gone to jail. My life would never have been the same.

You can find the paperback at these local book stores. St Marks Books 31 Third Avenue New York, New York 10003 Tel: 212-260-7853 McNally Jackson Books 52 Prince Street (between Lafayette & Mulberry) New York City, NY 10012 Tel: 212.274.1160 See the book trailer here!

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