The Deviant - Tiana Laveen


The Art of War

“Do you think about me when you’re fuckin’ that other nigga?” Shane snarled, full lips twisted, exposing a hundred rays of broken sun, moon, and stars as he crushed his cellphone to his ear. Diamonds glistened across his grill like specs of glitter on snow, bright in an obscene way.

His hyena laughter broke out in spastic bursts, then bubbled over the elevator music at Pat’s Art Supplies Warehouse in Harlem. Dark flesh with black ink featuring African symbols and dollar signs lined the man’s exposed arms, the veins prominent and ripe. It was then King wondered why his friend didn’t have on a jacket. It was far too cold to be without one on the unseasonably cool day in New York.

“Fuck you mean, get the money from my mama?” Shane’s dark brown eyes narrowed in his long, chiseled face. “I didn’t loan my mama the money. I gave it to you. Keep talkin’ greasy and see what happens.”

King shook his head and laughed lightly at the fool as he clutched a new set of paintbrushes in one hand and petted various paint canisters he couldn’t afford with the other. Shane stayed behind him, still raving on the phone, while King headed to the clearance aisle in the store to check out the oil paints. Let’s see what sales they have… I need umber, another black, and definitely another indigo blue. He trained his eyes on the assorted tubes and bottles, some of them bent, others marked down previously with old discount stickers. His stained fingers rummaged through the display, trying to find what he needed for a steal.

Shane bounced from foot to foot as if he were about to begin a new dance. His rough voice carried crude expletives from his mouth left and right, drawing unnecessary attention to them. “I don’t care about none of that shit, Kiara. You should’ve did what I told you to do and none of this would’ve happened in the first place. What?! This bitch hung up on me, man.”

“Whoever is talkin’ on their phone, shut tha fuck up already!” someone yelled.

“Man, whoever said that, come make me shut up. Fuck you, pay me,” Shane hollered, smacking his lips as if he were eating something slimy, and in desperate need to get it down. King rested his eyes on his friend and felt the slow crawl of his temper rising. Sometimes, Shane got on his nerves so bad, he feared they may come to blows. It felt like hanging out with a child. Shane was becoming more and more unhinged as the years passed. Might have been the pain relievers the guy had been using lately, dealing with dead-end jobs, one bad relationship after another, or unresolved trauma. It was hard to believe that back in the day he’d been the quiet one of the crew, the voice of reason.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked, his brow arched.

“Shane, cool it.” King grunted as he bent down to fumble through a bin of broken pastels. “I’m in my happy place and you’re messing it up. You told me that you wanted to hang out today, and all you’ve done is scream at Kiara. I could’ve heard shit like that by just stepping outside on the sidewalk. I didn’t need you around to accomplish that.”

Shane smacked his lips and shoved his phone into his pocket. “Shit got heated. Wasn’t my fault,” he mumbled, looking shifty-eyed and sheepish.

“All I am saying is no one needs to hear your arguments with your ex, all right? I get sick of hearing about the shit, too, quite honestly. Matter of fact, and this has nothing to do with you arguing on the phone, just stop calling her. You two are toxic.” He noticed a pack of erasers he wanted on the shelf. “Oh, this is marked down half off. I can swing that.” Then he casually grabbed a set of ebony pencils that were next to the pastels, and held them like a treasure.

“First of all, mothafucka, I didn’t ask anyone to listen. I wasn’t on three-way with yo’ ass or anyone else up in this wack ass place and no, fuck that leave it alone and be all peaceful ’nd shit, King. She called me last night wanting me to stop through, smash them guts, knowing she’s got a whole boyfriend livin’ up in there and now, today, she acts like I’m bothering her.” Here we go… “She said she missed the