Chapter two: Lower than gravity 
Quan walked with purpose, his only agenda was to get home and sleep until it was time to go back up to the club and get Kayla. It was early October the night breeze was brisk causing him to bring his arms closer to his body to stay warm, he should’ve worn a heavier jacket. He walked past various women who stood on the sidewalk offering their services, he continued on not even tempted. His mind was elsewhere. He was feeling less than a man by the minute. His thoughts from earlier plagued his mind, he could not take care of his family, it stressed him beyond reason. Kayla would always say that it didn’t matter as long as they were together as a family, he wondered if she would say that if he was the one doing things of a sexual nature to make ends meet. A woman stepped in front of him to ask if he’d like to party, a slang for sex. He kindly declined and moved around her but by doing so he bumped into someone else, that someone was a man who wasn’t in the mood for it. In fact there was never a time that he was. He stood much taller than Quan, his frame wider with more muscle mass. He wore a black sweat shirt and blue jeans that hung low off of his hip. Sadly he portrayed a stereotype living up to it well. 

“My bad.” Quan said only briefly looking up at the man. The man eyed Quan irritated, he had chosen his next victim.

“Yea it is nigga.” The man said offensively. Quan took note that the man had a beef with him but decided to keep on, he was used to this type of situation in The Bottoms. A life could be lost over a small matter of stepping on someone’s shoes, so was the sad state of affairs that took place here. Quan was better than that. The man watched Quan continue to walk off, he would have none of that. “Ay nigga, where you goin?” He said. Quan kept on walking, the man pulled out a gun from the pocket of his hoodie, Quan heard the gun cock, he turned raising his hands looking down confirming the weapon, it was not pointed at him yet which meant this situation could be talked out of. 

“Look man, I haven’t been out of prison long.” Quan said trying to diffuse the situation.

“I’ve been to prison too! Am I supposed to be scared of yo ass because of that?” He raised the gun tilting it sideways pointing it at Quan who started to feel nervous. 

“I didn’t mean it like that!” Quan protested. “I’m just saying that I’m not trying to find trouble!” 

“Too late for that, you found it!” The man said. From the shadows in the alley nearby a low guttural growl was heard by both men startling them. A pit bull emerged onto the sidewalk, it was thick and muscular, a dark tan with white on its chest was its color. It’s eyes were white. Quan backed up, the pit bull seemed more focused on the man rather than Quan, it’s eyes fixed on him which made him nervous. It continued to growl. 

“This yo dog man?” He asked Quan fidgety. Licking his lips he asked Quan again. “Ay, this yo dog?” His voice grew more apprehensive, Quan said nothing. The pit kept slowly making its way toward the man who finally could no longer bear it. He pointed the gun at the dog pulling the trigger, the bullet missed. Holding the gun with both hands he squeezed off four more bullets that hit the dog but it kept coming at him. The pit bulls eyes evoked a great fear in him, he took off running screaming obscenities while shooting behind him at the animal, the dog did not take up pursuit. Quan studied the pit and saw no visible bullet wounds or blood. 

“What the fuck…?” He said under his breath startled. The pit bull turned its attention to Quan. Quan scurried backwards keeping his eyes on the dog, while doing so he tripped and fell. His eyes locked onto the pits, he was mesmerized by the dogs eyes that seemed to light up, the eyes shot through him penetrating his soul. He stopped moving paralyzed by fear, the two stared at one another for a moment silently. Something in the dogs eyes calmed Quan, his fear left him then. The pit bull turned strolling back into the darkness of the alley. What just happened? What took place between the two? So many words unspoken, yet all was understood, but the moment still left questions. The loud vibrations of a radio from a car snapped Quan out of his trance followed by someone shouting crackhead and laughter as the vehicle drove by, he sat there still stunned trying to understand what had occurred between the pit bull and himself. The one thing that he could grasp the most was death, his death. The dog was warning him. Or was he? He started second guessing himself then stood up full of frustration. Who’s death was the dog confronting him about? The more Quan thought about it, the more vexed he became until he decided to get home and relax. Did anything even happen? Was his mind just that messed up stressed over not being able to take care of his family knowing that his girlfriend worked at the strip club to help make the money he could not? He screamed out beating his chest then dropped to his knees. What was happening to him? People walked down the street, cars drove on by, he did not care what any of then thought. He sat there until his mind was calm. He decided that the pit bull was real, but what transpired between did not. Standing up he took a deep breath and walked home. 

Walking up the stairs of the duplex he prepared himself, he did not want his Grandmother knowing that he was upset. He might’ve calmed some, but he was far from feeling alright. There was just too much going on in his life. Stopping at the front door he pulled out his keys.

“It’s unlocked.” Mama Bessie said from inside. Quan took a deep breath then opened the front door. He walked in closing the door behind him. Mama Bessie was sitting in a rocking chair by the window, the blinds were closed, Quan’s son Bo was sleeping against her peacefully. Quan quickly walked past his eyes looking to the ground, he tried to get to the hallway that went to his bedroom. 

“What are you doing boy?” She asked somewhat perturbed, Quan stopped but did not turn around. 

“I’m going to go lay down if that’s alright.” 

“Then take your child with you, being with his father will do you both some good.” Her voice was not loud, but it was firm. 

“Grandma, if you don’t mind I have a lot on my mind.” He kept his back turned to her. Rubbing Bo’s back gently she kept her eyes on Quan studying his body language, she was no fool. 

“Anyone living in The Bottoms has a lot on their mind. Let’s not get caught up in excuses as to why you can’t be a father right now. The way I see it, you done missed a few years of being daddy while you were locked up! Come get your son and take him back with you!” She made sure not to get loud as to not upset Bo who was still sleeping. Quan turned halfway but did not look at Mama Bessie, she saw that his eyes were bloodshot and watery. “You been drinking or smoking boy?” She asked.

“No…” he said before looking up at her. “Like I said Grandma, I’m just tired.”

“Tired of what? Be more specific.” She said softly. His eyes lowered again, his shoulders hunched showing the weight that was on his mind. “The Bottoms has a way of eating away at your soul if you’re not careful. I’ve watched loved ones be swallowed up by this place, all of them lost their souls. But I don’t want you to be taken by The Bottoms, too many loved ones it has already claimed.” She kept her eyes on Quan. Quan rubbed his face in frustration before speaking.

“And how the hell am I supposed to get out if I can’t even find a damn job?”

“Lower your voice, your son is sleeping. And watch your language boy, I will slap some sense in you in case you are loosing it!” Mama Bessie said, but her voice still was not raised, but it was firm. Quan sighed heavily, his eyes watering. Composing himself he placed one hand over his eyes rubbing them with his front finger and thumb. He made sure not to raise his voice.

“I’m losing Grandma, I don’t want this place to pull me down. I see how others have already been pulled down, and they will never come back up for air. They are drowning, dying a slow death. But I have so much going on up here.” He pointed to his head. “I have what you taught me battling with what I learned on the street. All my troubling thoughts are on the sideline edging the street side of me to just take over!”  

“And you’d be a fool to get back out there on them streets! Next time might not be jail time. Next time might be a gun to the head!” Her voice was with emotion, she broke her own rule raising her voice. Bo woke and started to crying softly, Quan looked down at his son. “Come get your boy, take him in the room, calm him down, get some rest. Work on clearing those street thoughts from your mind, for your family’s sake!” She rubbed Bo’s back softly he pressed his face against her breasts. She was a large woman, it was a feeling of security for the little boy. Almost instantly he silenced falling back to sleep. 

“It’s going to take a lot more to calm my mind, and I can’t sleep for too long. I have to go back to pick up Kayla!” He made sure to keep his voice lowered but he sounded broken. It tore Mama Bessie up inside to see the pain in his eyes, to hear it in his voice. But she could not show that she was so hurt, he needed to be strengthened; not be broken more than he already was. She fought it down, then smiled. 

“Come and get your son and stop feeling sorry for yourself! Be a damn man!” She woke Bo back up with her loud voice. Quan and Mama Bessie looked at one another, he saw in her eyes that she would not back down, he chose not to challenge. Lowering his head he walked over to his screaming son picking him up from Mama Bessie’s lap. He turned walking down the hall to his room where he walked into his room shutting the door behind him. Mama Bessie waited making sure she heard Quan lay down in the bed with Bo before she silently wept.