"It Marks You"
[Thursday, March 5, 2015]
Shiv trotted into the office
without even asking why
the boss wanted him there.
It was only after he arrived
that he started to wonder
what the fuck was going on.
There was a black boy in
a chair, sporting a great Afro
and an attitude twice as wide
who looked maybe eighteen.
"Shiv, this is Jamarco Mayes,"
said Boss White. "Jamarco,
this is Shiv, your new boss."
Seriously, what the fuck?
Boss White had been giving him
more and more authority, but this
was getting downright absurd.
A wordless rush of reassurance
rippled down his back as Boss White
swept his superpower over him.
"Shiv, Jamarco is our new camera man.
He isn't much of a reader, like you, so
I hope that you can help him find
some workarounds for that,"
Boss White said. "Get to it."
"On it, boss," said Shiv.
"Come on, Jamarco, I'll
show you a place where
we can sit down and work."
Shiv led the new guy back to
the piano room in the design studio,
with its ridiculous lipstick-red loveseats.
"Oh," Jamarco said softly, staring.
Shiv realized that he was stuck on
the floor-to-ceiling photograph
that hung behind the loveseats.
No point trying to shake him loose,
so Shiv flopped on the nearest loveseat
and waited for Jamarco to notice.
Sure enough, just a minute later
Jamarco shook himself and snarked,
"Sorry, boss, I got a bit distracted."
"Well, it's a big picture and
Boss White told me you're
a camera man," Shiv said.
"So what brings you here?"
"Aged out of foster care,
then bailed out of college,"
Jamarco said grudgingly.
"Smart guy," Shiv said.
Jamarco startled. "What?
Nobody says that about me."
Shiv got a weird sense of
double vision, like he's seeing
himself from someone else's view,
because that was usually his line.
"Did you like college?" he asked.
"Do you regret having left it?"
"Fuck, no," Jamarco said. "I only
went because my foster parents
and my social worker made me.
It wasn't my goddamn idea."
"Then getting out of a situation
you didn't like and didn't want was
smart," Shiv said. "I hate school too."
Jamarco heaved a sigh. "I liked
the one photography class I took,
but all of the others were math
and reading and college shit.
I suck at that kind of stuff."
"So you're a visual native, too,
huh?" Shiv said. "So am I."
"Visual ... what?" Jamarco said.
"Means you think in pictures
more than words," Shiv said.
"I do it with art, I'm always
doodling shit. I'm guessing
with you it's photographs."
"Yeah, yeah," Jamarco said,
dropping into the other loveseat.
"I don't really get art, unless it looks
like the real thing -- but photos,
man, they see everything."
"Show me some?" Shiv said.
"I'd like to see your work."
It'd give him some idea
what to do with Jamarco.
Boss White kept giving Shiv
more responsibilities, and
Shiv didn't want to fuck up.
Jamarco pulled out his phone
and showed Shiv some pictures.
They were all good -- crisp, clear,
well framed -- but the interesting thing
is that most of them seemed to be shot
from the hip or some other odd place,
and not from eye-level like usual.
"These are good," Shiv said.
"Boss White wants you
to track stuff for him?"
"Yeah, like take a picture
before and after," Jamarco said.
"Or there's spying and blackmail,
that shit's always fun too."
Shiv chuckled. "Yeah, it is.
By the way, if you ever shoot me
with a camera, I will cut you."
"Nah, I got way prettier things
to shoot than you," Jamarco said.
Just like that, Shiv almost liked him.
Jamarco's phone also held bits
of homework left over from college,
and sure enough, the text ones
did not look very good.
Shiv was getting a sense
that Jamarco was what Dr. G
called twice-exceptional, slow
in one area and fast in another.
Now all he had to do was
figure out what the fuck
to do about that.
Shiv checked in
his phone and saw
that Boss White had
sent him a schedule.
"Did you get a copy
of this?" he asked,
tilting it at Jamarco.
The new guy checked
his own phone and said,
"Yeah," but didn't sound
all that confident.
"Can you remember
where you're supposed
to be when, if you have
the list?" Shiv asked.
"Probably not yet,"
"Okay, then you'll need
to redo this schedule
however works for you,"
Shiv said. "Maybe do it in
photos if you like cameras."
"Oh, fuck you!" Jamarco snapped.
"I'm not in kindergarten, I don't
need a damn kiddie schedule.
You're just like all the others --"
Shiv leaned back, put his hands
behind his head and his feet on
the coffee table, and just let
Jamarco rant for a while.
When he wound down,
Shiv said, "Do I look like
a fuckin' teacher to you,
much less a shrink?"
"Well ... no," Jamarco said.
"You still Da Man, though."
"Can't help my skin tone,
I don't tan worth a damn,"
Shiv said. "If you're hung up
on that, you won't go far in here --
Boss White don't hold with that shit.
We're all just gangmates."
"Ebonies & Ivories,"
"And don't you forget it,"
Shiv said firmly.
"Then what's up with
the fuckin' schedule?"
Shiv rolled his eyes,
then slapped his daybook
onto the coffee table.
"This is mine," he said.
"Today's schedule, movies
that I want to watch, grocery list --
they've all got some artwork
so that I can read them."
"You can't read?"
Jamarco said. "I
mean, regular words?"
"Sort of," Shiv said. "I can
make out basic stuff, no more.
I can't rely on reading, I make
too many mistakes. But if I draw
pictures, then they always work."
"Huh," Jamarco said slowly.
"How do you know all that stuff?"
"When you grow up feeling less than,
feeling dumb, being told you’re not
trying or not smart enough to do what
is asked of you in school, it marks you,"
Shiv said with a shrug. "It just does."
"Yeah," Jamarco said, "I guess it does.
So um ... that schedule thing?"
"Later on, other folks showed me
some workarounds like this,"
Shiv said. "It's easy to do.
You just find images that
remind you of the tasks,
then put them in a row."
He flipped more pages
and showed Jamarco
his stash of icons, spares
stuck onto a vinyl page
with dots of tacky glue.
That way, he could make
a quick schedule by reusing
the same images instead of
always drawing a new one.
He showed Jamarco how
images could lay out steps
within a single task, a whole day,
special activities within a week,
and other types of organization.
"See, here's today," Shiv said,
moving icons into a framing strip.
"Meeting, planning, lunch, set tables,
break ... what's a photo walk?"
"Means I walk around asking if
anyone wants their picture taken,"
Jamarco explained. "It makes
a few bucks -- they're better than
selfies, people don't have to stretch."
"Okay, so that, then supper, and
you're off work afterwards," Shiv said.
"How do you make those things
stick like that?" Jamarco asked,
watching him move the icons.
"It's called tacky glue, and there's
a little keyfob that turns it liquid,"
Shiv said. "It's great for sticking
stuff together. When it's solid, it's
just a little sticky, but it peels up.
Vrip works too; I got another set of
icons and frame layouts for that."
"I wish there was a way to do
it on my phone," Jamarco said.
"I don't need another thing to carry."
"There's gotta be," Shiv said. He
checked the Soup to Nuts site, where
he'd been looking for icons, and it had
a link to an app called Snappy Days for
photos. "Here, try this on for size."
Jamarco looked at the link,
loaded the app on his phone,
and started filling a frame
with photos from his files.
"Yeah, I think it'll work,"
Jamarco said. "Thanks, man.
I didn't realize this shit was
actually good for something,"
"I wouldn't use it unless it
worked," Shiv pointed out.
"Why are you so surprised?"
"You act like it's no big deal that
I can't read good," Jamarco said.
"The fuck I care?" Shiv said.
"Just get your work done.
It don't matter to me how."
"Will do ... boss," Jamarco said,
without even a hint of sarcasm now.
That was never going to stop being weird.
* * *
Jamarco Mayes -- He has milk chocolate skin, almond-shaped black eyes, and nappy black hair worn in an Afro. He is tall and sturdy. He just turned 18. Jamarco lives in Omaha, Nebraska. After his mother brought home a string of abusive boyfriends, Jamarco began running away from home and school. He wound up in foster care at 13, bummed around a bunch of different placements, and aged out without finding a permanent family. These experiences have left him belligerent and standoffish with people. Jamarco also hates school and does poorly in a conventional learning environment. His foster parents and social worker pressured him into enrolling in the Metropolitan Community College with a major in Photography, but he dropped out partway through the first semester. He has since joined the Ebonies & Ivories. He actually does enjoy photography, but prefers to sneak pictures rather than take them openly, with a particular knack for getting great shots without needing to use a viewfinder. Boss White finds this a very promising skill.
Qualities: Good (+2) Holding Still, Good (+2) Photographer, Good (+2) Sneaky, Good (+2) Streetwise, Good (+2) Visual-Spatial Intelligence
Poor (-2) Dyslexic
Visual-Spatial Intelligence is one of the nine intelligences.
Jamarco only attended one semester of college, with these classes:
ENGL 1010 English Composition I (4.5 credits)
PHOT 1005 Basic Photography I - Digital (6.0 credits)
Financial Literacy (4.5 credits)
RDLS 1200 College Success Strategies (4.5 credits)
* * *
“When you grow up feeling less than, feeling dumb, being told you’re not trying or not smart enough to do what is asked of you in school, it marks you. It just does.”
— Amanda Kyle Williams, dyslexic author
This shows the outside of Blues Moon with the main floor and two layers of apartments. The two flanking buildings also belong to the Ebonies & Ivories. The taller building on the left is an apartment building. The smaller building on the right is used as storage space for artwork and furnishings which can be used in any of the apartments above the jazz joint.
The basement contains the working part of the lair. The piano room is in the design studio in the lower left corner. The largest office below the lunch room belongs to Boss White. The one across from it is the guest room. The accounts/manager and board room offices are shared space. The big corner office in the upper right is the patch room. They actually don't have an exercise room in their own lair; instead they have a group membership at a nearby gym.
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