"From the dumpster?" the running back from Georgia said. "We did that too."
Everybody is from somewhere.
The death of the father meant the firm hand was gone. The barriers, the roadblocks to misbehavior, had disappeared. His boys were free to do things. These were not the best things.
Even Terrell was affected. Always a good student, a hard worker, the "mature" one—a onetime paperboy, out and on the job every morning—he entered Morse High and did nothing. He didn't study, didn't listen to his teachers, didn't go to class half the time and, when he did, didn't show up until midway through the period. He didn't even go out for football.
In Pop Warner he had been a terrific running back. His coach nicknamed him Boss Hogg, and he was a star. Now Terrell didn't even care about football and couldn't have played if he'd wanted to because his grades were so low. "I was just disobedient," he says. "My teachers couldn't stand me. I can't blame them."
He wasn't in a gang, but a lot of his friends were. He hung around with so many gang kids that everyone assumed he was one of them. He became familiar with the drug dealers in the nearby 45th Street park, with the shoot-outs, with the police cars chasing suspects down the streets. He saw people shot. He saw people killed. He was in that grim, exciting urban teenage environment in which wearing shoelaces of the wrong color could mean the end of your life.
"You never see yourself in any danger," Terrell says. "You get immune to all that stuff around you. You see it so much. You're 14, 15, 16 years old. It's a phase. You have to have a reputation. The thing was to be hard. I was hard. Also, everyone knew I had older brothers."
All this terrified his mother. What could she do? She was just about overwhelmed. She had to work long hours to pay the bills. She also had to try to keep her sons under control. Reggie had fathered a daughter, but he and the mother were still in high school, so they often dropped the baby off at the house. O.K., Kateree could take care of the little girl. Kateree's grandfather had suffered a stroke and had come to live at the house. O.K. Terry had punched a teacher and had been sent away to serve 245 days at a work camp. And Bobby...Bobby was her biggest worry. Terrell's skipping school wasn't even on the same list of worries as Bobby.
"Of all the boys, Bobby was most like his father," Kateree says. "He was quiet and shy but also had that anger inside him. I don't know where it came from."
Bobby, two years older than Terrell, embraced everything the streets had to offer. He drank too much. He had a gun. He listened to nobody. Kateree even bought a pair of handcuffs and would handcuff him to her arm to try to keep him from sneaking out the window and getting into trouble. "He was so bad that all of us actually were hoping he would be arrested," Terrell says. "Something had to stop him. If he wasn't stopped, he was going to be shot dead."