"The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin." ~ Mark Twain
Minerva, Chapter 16
'So we're going tomorrow, right?' Matt stated, rather than asked. 'I turned down a night of clubbing with those French girls, so don't fuck me.'
'They sure wouldn't have,' Jim said and finished his beer.
'Sure, we can go tomorrow,' Quinn answered, feeling like an overworked father. Matt had been pestering him for months.
'And it has to be at night,' Matt reminded him. 'I want to get a proper lesson.'
'What do you think?' Quinn asked Jim, after Matt had left the table to take a piss.
'I don't know what sort of promises you made, but you could get jumped takin that bitch to church.' Jim snorted.
'Right,' Quinn said with a smile, 'but really, what do you think? I've got to give him something. Maybe somewhere in Brooklyn ?'
Jim considered. 'Yeah, Crown Heights would work. But don't stray too far from the Jews. And seriously,' Jim said, looking at Quinn, 'don't take him to Bed Sty.'
* * *
'I still don't see why we're not packing,' Matt said. 'You go out in the 'hood, you gotta be ready.'
'We're not going to shoot anyone,' Quinn lectured, 'so we don't need a gun.'
As they walked farther from the subway, Matt's excitement grew. He would never in a million years walk in this neighborhood at night, but he felt invincible with Quinn at his side. The feeling he had, just walking with the man, was simply euphoric. He was happy to be flirting with a model, say, but even then it was mostly because he could see the envy on the other men when he did it. But now, he was really having fun.
'You probably don't want to advertise the fact that you've never been on this street before,' Quinn said, referring to Matt's touristy fascination with the buildings covered with graffiti. 'You know that there are white people who can walk down this street with confidence. So if you carry yourself like you're one of them, then the guys here won't know that you're really not.'
A car approached them from behind.
'Okay, since we're out here on a lark, the only danger from a drive-by is a gang initiation.' Quinn turned slightly and watched as the car passed. 'So I just casually check to make sure the window's rolled up whenever a car gets close. Don't stare of course; but it's perfectly within your rights to check out who's driving past you.'
'Okay, that makes sense,' Matt said, committing the instructions to memory, though he wondered how the tip could be applied in the summer months. 'This is great stuff,' he added, hoping Quinn would continue to share what, to Quinn, were obvious observations.
'Stand right here,' Quinn suddenly said when they were near a parked car. Quinn walked back a dozen feet. 'Now face forward. As I walk toward you, look at the reflection in the car and the shadows from the street lamp on the sidewalk. Without even moving your head, you can tell exactly where I am.'
* * *
'Okay, we're just gonna keep walking and not be at all nervous by these kids,' Quinn informed Matt. Two black teenagers, loudly joking and pushing each other, approached them. 'Remember, they're not used to seeing two white guys walking around at night. They'll probably think we're cops. We'll make brief eye contact to show we're not afraid, and we'll look them up and down once to assess the situation. But once we decide that we could kill them if we had to, we shift our eyes forward again and walk right on by.'
The two groups of males halted their conversations as they passed warily in the quiet night. Quinn listened intently as they passed to ensure that their footfalls became progressively more distant.
'White motherfuckers!' one of the boys yelled a few moments later.
'What pussies,' Quinn chuckled. He turned to Matt, who was obviously quite alarmed. 'Notice that they didn't say shit until after we passed. And notice that now they're yelling louder, since we didn't turn and chase them after the first insult. As long as we keep moving, we're fine.'
Matt nodded his head. Quinn's analysis made sense, but he still wished they were packing.