Hours later as little Max, a.k.a., Fish helped ‘Just Tall’ stack shelves at the voodoo shop, the dilemma of how to ease Mrs. Cara’s mind without betraying his friends was weighing on him. He noticed a fresh tattoo on the seven-foot-tall stock boy. The tat was an old time pistol with a six pointed star on the handle. The star was the symbol of the Simon City Royals. Tall was a Lieutenant.
“That’s a cool tat. When did you get it?”
“Thanks, Fish. My boy Spoon did it last night. Itches like Hell.”
“Gang tat?” Fish asked casually.
“Yeah, it’s a patch for my set. Hey, Spoon’s gonna be in town for the summer if you wanna get some ink.”
“Why would I want to get a gang tattoo?”
“Oh, Gee, I don’t know, maybe because you are in a gang?”
“I’m not in a gang.” Max laughed.
“Oh, come on! You don’t have to pull that shit with me. I’m not ‘the people’.”
“What people?”
“Are you mildly retarded? People, the cops, whoever you wouldn’t want to know you are in a gang.”
“But I’m not.”
“Look, man, maybe you’re just slow.” The boy pulled up his sleeves to reveal a plethora of gang tattoos that ranged from spider webs to music notes. “So check this. I am a S.C.R. I have roughly 30,000 brothers nationwide. When a brother I don’t know sees these flags, they may ask me my ‘knowledge’. If I answer correctly, which I will, they will embrace me as a brother or ‘show me love’ as we say. Now, I know they refer to you as a brother because I heard Spider and Tex say it.”
Max’s mind went to Mrs. Cara saying she wouldn’t make him betray his brothers. Max’s thoughts were interrupted by Julian coming into the shop with Tin Man and the former jockey Buck in tow. Mrs. Muriel spotted the trio and said, “He’s in back. I’ll tell him you are here.”
Before the motley crew, one linebacker sized giant in a red Adidas tracksuit (with mismatched socks), a silver spray painted man, and a dwarf in a ten gallon hat, paused at the counter, Tall said, “Julian, is Little Max in a gang?”
The linebacker snapped, “His momma didn’t name him Little.”
“Sorry.”
“Yeah, he’s in ICG.”
“But he doesn’t know his knowledge.”
“Yeah, I don’t know my knowledge,” Max piped up.
“Sure you do, Fish. How many seats at the round table?”
“That’s easy, thirteen.”
“How many people sit in them?”
“Twelve.”
“Who sat in the thirteenth?”
“Judas the Betrayer.”
“Who is Percival’s father?”
“Pelenone.”
“And the best part, what did Percival’s Mom tell him?”
“Oh, I love this part! ‘If thou hear an outcry of distress, especially if it’s a woman, render your service. If you see a fair jewel, win it and you will receive fame, yet freely give it to another and you will receive praise. If you see a beautiful woman, pay court to her and you will know love’.”
“Yep, you’re a gangster.”
“But wait, that’s a story, not a secret,” Max protested.
Julian looked to Taz and Buck and said, “Did ya’ll know those answers?”
“No,” they said incredulously.
“But that stuff wasn’t a secret! I read it in a book, Bullfinches Mythology.”
“Who gave you the book?”
“Buddha did.”
“Did he also point out stuff about the Knights and Percival?”
“Well, yeah, and he underlined ‘em…and said…maybe I should memorize them. Wait, but I thought you had to fight to get into a gang. Blood in, blood out.”
“Being jumped in, or put down,” Tall added.
“But you can also be blessed in. Since you know the knowledge, that kind of makes you an Ice Cream Gangster. I know that’s the knowledge, because I helped the boys write it.”
Fish sat down feeling overwhelmed. Here he was doing everything he could think to one day be one of the boys and come to find out he was a gangster all along!
“You’re lucky, Fish, cause your set has some radical ideas.”
“Like what?”
Julian, looking for the first time like the kind of intimidating muscle that deep down inside he had the potential to be, tightened his jaw and said through clenched teeth, “Like violations.”
“What’s that?”
Tall let out a sigh. “When a brother broke the rules, or violated, they would get minutes.That means four gang members fight him all at once for however many minutes the infraction required.”
“That’s messed up. Why don’t you quit?”
“It’s one of the things I’m working to change, Max. You think I like to see my brothers get beat on? I would never quit. Part of being in a set is being your brother’s keeper.”
Mrs. Muriel arrived, “He will see you now,” and led the three back to the Prince.
Tall went back to stocking shelves beside an almost five foot tall Max who was feeling more loyal to the boys, his brothers, than ever, and more confused about how to communicate with them before Mrs. Cara’s deadline.
Finally, the three came out of the back looking like they had just been fired from a job. Max noticed each was wearing a bracelet made of blue glass. Tin Man Taz’s was a sharp contrast to his spray painted silver body.
The Prince stepped ominously through the curtain and stopped them with, “Don’t forget dat she cannot touch you while you wear dose. But don’t leave dat circle while she is exposed. It won’t be p-r-e-t-t-y if I know dat girl.”
“Wait, but I thought she can’t touch us as long as we wear these,” Buck asked.
The Prince picked up a small wooden snuff box from the counter and threw it at Buck’s head. The ex-jockey’s reflexes were too slow and the box boinked off his head with an “ouch.”
“Did I touch you?”
Buck rubbed the knot on his forehead. “No. The box did.”
“Remembah dat. Now be deah at eleben o’clock.”