Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Harm City
The Traction of Rats
From Towson to Hamilton, 3:23 to 4:28 A.M., 4/24/17

I have never considered the footing of flattened rat until now, as I slide on my heel over the foot-long smear of greasy fur on the centerline of White Oak. Being out during hunting time, I have paid more attention to the shadowed sidewalks and the roaters of the dipping police helicopter reverberating over Hamilton—my destination—than I have the asphalt under my feet.

Ten minutes later, seeing a rabbit hopping across Oakleigh from the pet cemetery, I do an inventory: sprained right ankle, sprained left knee, tight left hip, hernias on both side, everything above the belt fully operational.

There is no traffic to Putty Hill, and none on it.

At Clearwood a drunk pulls into his driveway and seems to pass out behind the wheel.

Taylor comes into sight down over the next rise, as each secondary street traces a ridgeline ten feet lower than the last as one descents into the pit of Baltimore.

It is moistly overcast—not a light in the sky, making the traffic light ahead the center of this sleepy little world.

As I approach the area's nexus of trouble the trash truck slams ahead, 100 yards past Pappas. Ever since Oprah featured Pappas' crab cakes her fans have been flocking here to put on the feedbag, and their sons, grandsons, nephews and cousins have been hunting the white patrons, employees and even the owner, who was pistol-whipped in 2015. By day the intersection is a danger from hipster bitches and soccer moms speeding in SUVs and minivans. By night there are more purposeful hazards about.

Next to the Mexican grocer, squatting between the building and parked car, two hoodrats, black from head to toe, including the hoods on their heads and their dark sneakers, their backs stupidly to the white wall, stand out like gargoyles as I walk up behind them.

Startled, the short one points to me with his head and the other stands, flexing his hands and glaring into the night as I walk by on the other side of the street.

I eye them obliquely as I pass, not wanting a confrontation as I have no cane—only my knife and that would spell the end of everything.

No smart phone lights their faces.

Good, they are alone, are not texting for backup.

They have come either from Taylor and Loch Raven, the closest transit point a quarter-mile off, or have come the half-mile up Oakliegh from Perring Parkway and Hillsway, a hoodrat stronghold for over three decades.

If I keep on course they might follow me into the most dangerous area on this walk, a dirty thumb of the City stuck in the County eye.

I turn left on Taylor, stop, and look over my shoulder.

The tall one ducks back down behind the vehicle.

I walk to Perring Parkway and cross. On the other side I stop and look. They have not followed.

I walk south on Perring, risking being cited by a cop for walking on the freeway, wondering if these guys are with it enough to head down Oakliegh and cut me off at the bridge under the hanging trees. They could do it—I'm taking the long way and they're ten years younger than me combined.

A cab passes me as I cross the bridge alone under the wagging branches.

I take the shortcut behind the Marine Reserve Armory, the doors on every corner house barred against the teaming hoodrats packed into the Dutch Village apartments and townhomes that sprawl over a half mile.

There is no traffic as I cross Northern Parkway and almost step on another hazard, a fold of six one-dollar bills, which I pick up, deciding to hit the 7-11 and eat Taquittos today instead of canned corn and beans. As beat-up as my lower half is I could use some genetically engineered chow.

As I walk down White Avenue I see a large fox loping across the street with a large rat between its jaws.

It hasn't been a good night for the rats or the hoodrats.

I sense a happy day coming my way.

Being a Bad Man in a Worse World

Fighting Smart: Boxing, Agonistics & Survival

Add Comment