The Last Street Novel, Page 2Omar Tyree
The limo driver smiled and thumbed through a couple of the pages. His wife was an avid reader and fan of Shareef Crawford’s novels, so he was a little excited to meet the author. The man’s books had served to spice up his sex life at home.
“This gon’ make Carletta’s day,” he told himself, grinning while he waited.
After another minute of wavering, he decided to call Mr. Crawford to make sure he was up on time that morning. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Shareef’s number.
SHAREEF SPRAYED Sean John’s Unforgivable cologne into his hands and rubbed the scent on his neck, chest, shoulders, and lower torso before he slid his wife-beater tank top over his shoulders.
He stared into the large mirror over the cherrywood dresser and boasted, “It looks like another good day. Damn it looks good!” He took a strong whiff of himself and added, “Smells good, too.”
He slid on a white button-down cotton shirt with no tie before his cell phone rang. He pulled his phone from the holder that was attached to the dark blue dress pants he wore and read the 917 area code before he answered the call.
“Yeah, my name is Daryl Mooreland, and I’m your limo driver for the day. I just wanted to make sure that you were ready. We’re not running late yet, but…”
Shareef cut him off and said, “Perfect timing, Daryl. I’m coming down right now.”
“Oh, okay. Good. We got about twenty minutes to make it over to the station.”
“Aw’ight. I’ll be right down.”
Shareef closed the cell phone, slid it back into its holder, and took a seat on the edge of the bed. He reached forward and grabbed his dark blue alligator shoes and slipped them on. He tied “the gators” up, grabbed his camel-colored sports jacket, and stood back up to slide his arms and shoulders in. He looked into the dresser mirror one last time while grabbing his brown, saddle leather briefcase.
“Let’s go get it,” he told himself in the mirror. He checked his pants pocket to make sure he had his hotel key card. Once he confirmed that he did, he was out the door.
SHAREEF ARRIVED at the lobby floor of the Sheraton Hotel and walked out of the elevator with swagger to burn.
The security guard at the elevators nodded and greeted him.
“Good morning, brother.”
Shareef looked like a man of importance. He walked like a VIP, dressed like one, and smelled like one. And he didn’t take his good fortune for granted, either. The privileges of wealth were definitely a good thing.
“Hey, you have a good day, man,” he told the security guard.
“Oh, you know that. I feel good this morning. It’s time to do what I do.”
An attractive young white woman looked him over curiously as she walked out behind him. Who is he?
Shareef caught her stare and responded accordingly. “Yeah, you look good this morning, too,” he flattered her.
She grinned sheepishly. “Oh, thank you.”
“Have a good day,” he told her.
“Oh, yeah, you, too.”
Sometimes recognition was all a person needed to start off their day with a bang.
Shareef strolled out the front doors of the Sheraton in his immaculate attire, with briefcase in hand, and spotted his limo driver at the curb. It looked like a day for bright sunshine in July. And that’s what it was, a bright and sunny day in New York City, forecast for a high of eighty-nine degrees.
“Hey, brother, you ready to make this trip to the station?”
The limo driver nodded to him and smiled.
“I’ve been ready, but I can’t leave without you.”
Shareef walked down to the curb where the black Lincoln Town Car was parked and said, “Well, let’s do it then. We got people who wanna see me on TV this morning.”
The limo driver perked up and opened the back door of the car. There was a certain pride in chauffeuring another young black man. Even if he didn’t get tipped well, it felt good to see another brown man move up the ladder of American class, and for something positive and intellectual at that. The book business was historically an aristocratic white folks business, and as high class as golf, tennis, and traditional country clubs before Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters broke in.
So as soon as Shareef was comfortably seated in the black leather seats inside the limo, Daryl Mooreland told him, “Now I want to get this out of the way bright and early so I won’t have to bother you anymore today, brother…”
He stopped and held out the new book in his hand.
“Could you please autograph this book for my wife. Her name is Carletta, she loves your work, buys everything you put out, and after that, I won’t bother you no more today. I’m just your driver.”
Shareef took the book and laughed. “Naw, man, you’re more than just a driver. You got a wife, you probably got kids, you got a job, you doing what a man is supposed to do, and I respect the fact that you respect me and what I’m doing. So it’s all good.”
Daryl said, “Well, I haven’t read any of your books myself. I don’t really read these kind of books, but as long as my wife is happy with it, that’s all that really matters.”
Shareef paused and decided to let the comment slide. Just keep the peace and move on in silence.
“Yeah, you gotta keep the ladies happy these days,” he responded. “Somebody’s gotta do it. That’s who I write for.” He then took out a Cartier pen from inside his sports jacket and asked, “How you spell Carletta?”
“C-a-r-l-e-t-t-a,” the driver spelled out for him.
Shareef nodded and autographed his latest novel with his favorite pen, a gift from his editor. He was awarded the platinum pen after reaching his first one hundred thousand mark in hardback sales in 2000, for I Want More, the sequel to Chocolate Lovers, published in 1996. I Want More was also the book that landed Shareef his first seven-figure contract. The exact numbers were undisclosed. He didn’t like people knowing too much about his income. His grandparents had told him never to reveal that information to the public. “People start thinking they know you better than what they do when they know how much you’re worth,” his grandfather had told him.
Shareef looked back to his driver and said, “I figured that’s how you spell it, but I had to make sure. You never know with our people’s creativity. I had a girl get mad at me one time in Detroit for spelling her name J-a-n-e. You know how she spelled it? J-a-i-n, like pain, and she expected me to know that.”
They shared a laugh before he handed the signed book back.
“Naw, we don’t allow no crazy spellings in my house,” Daryl told him. “I got two little girls named Jennifer and Jessica, and their names are spelled correctly.”
“Are they twins?”
“Nope. Two years apart.”
Shareef’s wife of eleven years was named Jennifer, but he decided a long time ago to keep his private family life out of his public affairs as well. So he didn’t bring it up.
Daryl said, “Well, let’s get going, Mr. Crawford. And thanks a lot for signing this book for me. My wife is gon’ flip for this.” He climbed behind the wheel and added, “You gon’ get me some good love tonight, brother. Thanks!”
They laughed again before pulling out into traffic on 7th Avenue.
A YOUNG ASSISTANT met up with Shareef while he sat comfortably inside the green room at the NYCN television studio.
“You want any coffee or anything?” she asked him.
“Naw, I don’t drink coffee. I got a natural high,” he told her.
The assistant chuckled. “I guess that’s a good thing to have. You’re always up and going. I have a few friends like that.”
“Are they successful people?” he asked her.
She stopped and thought about it. “Well…yeah, I would pretty much say they were successful.”
He nodded. “That’s the basic rule of life. The busiest worms eat the most apples. And they don’t drink caffeine.”
nodded back to him and grinned. She understood that she wasn’t on that busiest worm level. So she left his philosophy alone.
“Well, what about water?” she asked him.
He grabbed the white paper cup that sat on the table beside him and took a sip. “I already got it,” he told her.
“Oh. Well, you’re very low maintenance, I’ll tell you that,” she commented with a chuckle.
Shareef smiled at her with nothing left to say. He figured he would save the rest of his charm and wit for the morning news hosts and their cameramen.
“I’ll be back in a minute to get you,” the assistant informed him.
The time was 7:27, and Shareef was scheduled to go on air in less than five minutes. When the assistant returned to the room, they were ready for him.
“Okay, we’re ready for you,” she told him.
Shareef walked out of the green room behind her, and as soon as they entered the recording room, with all the cable wires, three large cameras, and several colorful background sets, a makeup artist checked the radiance of his skin and touched him up with dark brown powder to take away his shine.
Shareef then looked over at Heather Cooke, the entertainment host. She was a mixed-race, cream-colored woman with long, dark hair and sharp features. Shareef’s old friends from the neighborhood had told him about her the night before at Friday’s when he told them about his interview that morning.
“That girl Heather Cooke is bad. You might want to try and slide her your number after the interview, son. Hooking up with her would be good money,” they told him. And they would all be watching, including his grandparents, who had recently moved to Harlem’s West Side in Morningside Heights near Columbia University.
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers loved to watch the New York Cable Network news in the morning. NYCN gave them a stronger rundown on the local news and events as opposed to the ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox affiliates, who focused more or national and international news with only a slice of the local. So plenty of urban New Yorkers would see his interview that morning.
The pressures of fame never fazed Shareef Crawford. He was perfectly at ease in the limelight. He craved it, as much as he craved good-looking women like Heather Cooke, who wore a dark gray business suit with a purple blouse.
Yeah, she do look good. She look like a Brazilian or some shit, which means she got black blood in her, he smiled and assumed to himself.
Right before the commercial break, Heather introduced a tease of their upcoming interview.
“Next up in the world of books and publishing is a new hot summer beach read from Shareef Crawford, The Full Moon. We all know what happens to our hormones during a full moon. And we’ll be back to talk to the author about his latest hot novel after the break.”
The key words to Shareef in the introduction tease were “summer beach read.” He hated hearing that shit. It made his books sound like bubble gum, pop culture songs from suburbia. However, it was what it was, and he had made millions of dollars writing it. So he had to suck it up and accept it.
“Okay, we’re ready for you,” the assistant told him again. She led him over to the news set where a sound technician slid a mini microphone under his sports jacket. He didn’t have to say much before Shareef had taken care of the microphone and clipped it into place.
“Looks like you’ve done this a few times before,” the technician assumed.
“Yeah, about twenty-five to fifty times on different shows,” Shareef joked to him.
The news anchor, James Callahan, a tall, middle-aged and graying white man, stuck out a manicured hand from his dark suit to greet the author before Heather could.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” he commented.
“Good things?” Shareef asked him, taking his hand.
James hesitated with his grin. “Well, let’s just say I hear you have a way of expressing yourself with the ladies.”
That meant the man knew nothing about Shareef except what he had heard from women going crazy over his books. However, misperceptions were part of the fame game. Some people heard everything but knew nothing for sure. And again, Shareef was forced to let it slide.
“Well, don’t believe everything you hear. But sometimes you can believe it,” he joked within earshot of Heather. He knew she had heard it. It was his preliminary flirtation with her.
Finally, he slid into the guest chair next to her. She looked at him, touched his knee and smiled.
“I started reading your book last night and had to stop myself to get some rest for work this morning,” she told him.
“That means I was on your mind all last night, hunh? You know we have dreams about the last things we do at night,” he told her.
She grinned, shook her head, and faced the cameras. It was the only thing she could do to avoid his advances. Shareef figured as much and backed off. He was there to do an interview and to pitch his new book to thousands of his New York fans, thousands who had heard of him but had never read his work, and thousands more who had never heard of him and never cared. Such was the life of an artist.
“As soon as you see the red lights go off on the cameras, that means we’re on,” she commented without facing him.
Shareef thought about red lights, cameras, and being on with Heather and began to smile. She felt it without looking at him and continued to grin. But now it was time for business, for both of them. Heather wouldn’t allow herself to be distracted by him. She was a professional.
A producer began the countdown, “Five, four, three, two…”
The red lights of the cameras popped on, and Heather Cooke went to work with great face, posture, and diction.
“Well, if you haven’t heard of him yet, you soon will. His new sexy summer novel is called The Full Moon, his seventh in the genre of African-American romance, and he’s back home in New York to talk about it, and to sign your personal copies.
“He’s the New York Times and Essence magazine bestselling author Shareef Crawford.”
She then faced him with the cameras turning in his direction.
“Well, we’re glad to have you this morning on New York Cable Network. Welcome to the show.”
He said, “I thank you for having me. I also want to thank you for giving such a great introduction to my new book.”
She held up her copy of the book for the cameras and smiled.
“Well, I must say, I started to read it and it’s quite engaging.”
“Like a good black man should be,” he told her.
She laughed and stumbled over her words, the color rising on her flawless cheeks.
“Well, it’s, it’s your fifth, excuse me, your seventh novel, and they just seem to keep getting better.”
He said, “Yeah, that’s my intention. We all want to keep getting better at what we do in life, don’t we? That’s how I keep my readers coming back for more.”
Heather smiled and couldn’t seem to close her mouth. Was he that frank, or was she misreading his comments? She then looked at the teleprompter for something else to say.
“Well…I guess, you heard it right here from the author himself, ladies.”
UP IN the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, above 165th Street, Polo, Shareef’s longtime friend from the old neighborhood, watched the interview on his flat-screen TV and screamed, “Aaaahhhhh, that’s my nigga! That boy is crazy, God. He got her fucking up her words. She don’t even know what to say to this nigga.”
Polo was ecstatic and enthused with energy before eight in the morning. He was standing in the middle of his living room in a purple bathrobe and slippers, with only a pair of colorful boxers on underneath. His hairy belly hung out over his boxers, while he absently scratched the side of his balls. Wrapped over his head was a black do-rag.
He hollered, “Yo, Shareef is a pimp, son. Let me call up Trap to see if he watchin’ this shit.”
A skinny, ten-year-old boy ran out into the room to ask what was going on with all of
“What is it, Daddy? What is it?”
The boy was still in his tight underwear himself, with a white T-shirt and socks on.
Polo grimaced at his son and snapped at him. “Boy, get the hell out of here and finish gettin’ dressed. Ain’t nobody call you out here. How many times I tell you ’bout ear hustlin’ when grown folks in here talkin’? I dun’ told you ’bout that, didn’t I?”
The boy nodded, “Yes.”
“Well, get your li’l ass out of here and finish gettin’ dressed then.”
Before the boy left, he looked around the room and mumbled, “I don’t see nobody out here.”
Polo started in his direction with a stomp. “Nigga, if you’on get your li’l ass out’a here…”
His son took off running back up the apartment hallway toward his room.
“Smart-ass li’l nigga. Just like his motherfuckin’ pop,” Polo grumbled. “He makin’ me miss the interview. Let me call up Trap,” he told himself with his cell phone in hand.
BACK DOWN in Spanish Harlem, below 115th Street, the slim brown man named Trap grinned at the small color television screen at the foot of his bed and laughed. Shareef was still the cocky, go-for-it cat he grew up with on the East Side, not far from where he lived now.
When Trap’s cell phone went off next to a semiautomatic handgun and a large bag of weed on the nightstand, he picked up the phone and read Polo’s number before he answered it.
“Yo, B, are you watching this interview?”
“Yeah, I’m watchin’ it.”
Polo yelled, “Yo, is this nigga Shareef a pimp or what, son? Just let me know.”
Trap held the phone away from his ear a few inches and shook his head.