On the Come Up(8)

This ain’t a battle, more like slaughter.

I murder this chick in cold blood, Like someone did her whack-ass father.



I advance on Milez. “What the hell you say?”

Hype cuts off the music and I hear, “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” as a couple of people rush into the Ring. Aunt Pooh pulls me back.

“You li’l asshole!” I shout. “Say it again!”

Aunt Pooh drags me to the corner. “The hell is wrong with you?”

“You heard that shit?”

“Yeah, but you handle him with your bars, not your fists! You trying to get disqualified before you start?”

I breathe extra hard. “That line—”

“Got you like he wanted it to!”

She’s right. Damn, she’s right.

The crowd boos. You don’t make digs about my dad to them either.

“Ay! Y’all know the rules. No holds barred,” Hype says. “Even Law is fair game in the Ring.”

More boos.

“A’ight, a’ight!” Hype tries to calm everyone down. “Milez, that was a low blow, fam. C’mon, now.”

“My bad,” Milez says into the mic, but he smirks.

I’m shaking, that’s how much I wanna hit him. Just makes it worse that my throat is all tight, and now I’m almost as pissed at myself as I am at Milez.

“Bri, you ready?” Hype asks.

Aunt Pooh pushes me back to the center of the Ring.

“Yeah,” I bite out.

“A’ight then,” Hype says. “Let’s get it!”

The beat starts again, but all the lines in my head suddenly don’t exist.

“I . . .”

Murder this chick in cold blood.

I can still hear the gunshots that took him from us.

“He . . .”

Like someone did her whack-ass father.

I can still hear Jay wailing.

“I . . .”

Murder . . . Whack-ass father.

I can still see him in the coffin, all cold and stiff.

“Choked!” someone shouts.


It becomes contagious and turns into a chant. Milez’s smirk becomes a grin. His dad chuckles.

Hype stops the beat.

“Damn,” he says. “Round one automatically goes to Milez.”

I stumble over to my corner.

I blanked.

I fucking blanked.

Aunt Pooh climbs up on the ropes. “What the hell? You let him get to you?”


“You know how much you got on the line right now?” she says. “This is it. Your chance to blow up, and you gon’ hand this battle over to him?”

“No, but . . .”

She pushes me back into the Ring. “Shake that shit off!”

Milez gets palm slaps and fist bumps over in his corner. His dad laughs proudly.

I wish I had that. Not an asshole for a dad, but my dad. At this point I’d settle for good memories. Not just from the night he was murdered.

It happened in front of our old house. He and Jay were going out for date night. Aunt Pooh lived with us back then and agreed to babysit me and Trey while they were gone.

Dad kissed us goodbye as we started a game of Mario Kart, and he and Jay walked out the front door. The car cranked up outside. Just as my Princess Peach gained on Trey’s Bowser and Aunt Pooh’s Toad, five shots went off. I was only four, but the sound hasn’t left my ears. Then Jay screaming, wailing really, in a way that didn’t sound human.

Word is, a Crown pulled the trigger. The Crowns are the largest King Lord set here on the east side. They may as well be their own gang, big as they are. Dad wasn’t a gangbanger, but he was so close to so many Garden Disciples that he got caught up in their drama. The Crowns took him out.

From everything I’ve heard, he wouldn’t have let anybody make him blank like this. I can’t either.

“Round two!” Hype announces. “Milez, since you won round one, you decide who goes first.”

He cheeses. “I got this.”

“Let’s take it old school then!” says Hype.

He scratches the records and the beat starts. “Deep Cover,” by Snoop and Dre. He wasn’t kidding about the old school. That was the first song Snoop ever did.

The old heads in the gym go crazy. Some of the young ones seem confused. Milez doesn’t look at me when he raps, like I’m no longer relevant.

Yo, they call me the prince, I ain’t new to this game.

Been plotting for years And I can’t be tamed.

You can call me a G, Your son wish he was me, And every girl with a pulse Falls inevitably.

I get money,

Like it’s going out of style.

All my whips brand new.

I got Jordan on the dial.

Rule numero uno of battling? Know your opponent’s weakness. Nothing he’s spit this round is directed at me. That may not seem like a red flag, but right now it’s a huge one. I blanked. A real MC would go for the kill because of that. Hell, I’d go for it. He’s not even mentioning it. That means there’s a 98 percent chance this is prewritten.

Prewritten is a no-no in the Ring. A bigger no-no? Prewritten by someone else.

I don’t know if he wrote those lines, maybe he did, but I can make everyone think he didn’t. Dirty as hell? Absolutely. But since my dad isn’t off-limits, not a damn thing is off-limits.

Angie Thomas's Books