Quick as a deluge, the Hellcat’s rims revolved to escape persecution. In the swift sedan sat three humble compadres, Marley — driving, Kuti — in the passenger seat, and Deepak in the back. Trailing them like hounds were the LAPD. “They’re goons!”, cried Kuti, observing a barrage of police cars in his side-view mirror “Ah, what the…  they got a ghetto bird on us already!” he went on. “We’ll be alright.”, reassured Marley. “We’re not gonna be alright if this jackass keeps pulling maneuvers.” spouted a pursuing cop to his partner, “Come in Helicopter Operator, can I get a report on the driver.”, the partner spat into his radio, splashing the shield covering his face. “Just put his hat, ehrrr, he combed his hair and then put his hat back on. Errr, he’s acting nonchalant up there in that cockpit, going 115 miles an hour. Roger.” the operator emanated through police radio. Marley was chill. Confidence reverberated through his auburn mullet. “We’re too fast for them”, he said. “We’re losing them!”, the furious cop said. Slowly, our protagonist’s white Dodge Charger Hellcat got smaller and smaller in the helicopter operator’s line of sight as the car simply was too fast.

Through Inglewood, South Central, Compton, and Watts, the boys drove. They entered Long Beach and Marley eased his foot on the gas, “I think we lost ‘em”, Kuti sighed in relief. They drove south, cruising the block as they used to in High School. Kuti looked out of his window and observed the world. He saw men, women, and children treading down the sidewalks with buckets on their heads. Above them was a lone hawk soaring, nonjudgmentally observing the city. He looked at the billboards, “Wear your bucket!”, “Your bucket protects my grandparents!”, “Stay home, let’s stop the invisible enemy t̶o̶g̶e̶t̶h̶e̶r̶ (separate)!”, “Socializing kills”. Board after board, the propaganda he witnessed reminded him of a corrupted land — the “Invisible Enemy” — the compliance of his countrymen. Deepak who sat tall queried his friend “So Marley, we’re going through Mexico, down through Panama, and into Costa Rica, then what?” “I told you Pak, I know a guy who lives down there. He’s got a nice big property, a guest house, goats, nature, the whole deal. He’s got knowledge like us, we’ll stay there free from the New World Order”, Marley assured. “And then we can journey over the Antarctic ice wall, right?, Jules Verne style”, added Kuti, “Yeah” chuckled Marley further. “Seriously though, I can’t believe this… the affliction, the oppression cast, people are in fear of loving their neighbour — of socializing. My own family have become Bucketheads.” said Kuti with sorrow. “Yes my friend, the new way of life is prison. The population is ordered on casual house arrest 10 months of the year and then they’re given 2 months of yard time in the summer — that’s why the police are after us, because we are escaping prison — we don’t want buckets, we don’t want to stay home… because there is no invisible enemy… ”, Marley spoke, gazing at a robustly bosomed woman on the street with a rusty bucket on her head, “People say, stop complaining, they say people of the past had it worse. But what they don’t understand is this is the affliction of the past, this is a world war. The rulers of the world operate smarter. They don’t openly colonize anymore, they do it in secret. Let’s see the president of a nation try turning down McDonald’s in their country, they’ll be treated like Cuba, or the middle east.” As the boys were getting deep into conversation their car, that beauty of an automobile they drove, started making noises. *Pup* *Pup* *Pup* *Pup*, the car slowed down to a stop. “Aw shucks!” Marley said, gripping the collar of his blue Italia football jersey.

The street was residential as were most, following the collapse of small business. An endless row of bungalow homes sat on either side of the road. Each house appeared as the one before it, all with boarded windows and porch-chained skully terriers. The street was littered with government flyers posing the dangers of fake news. The sky was kissed by an orange. “How are we going to get to Mexico now?”, said Kuti. “We’ll figure it out” replied Marley calmy, “We’re going to have to ditch the whip, I think… because they’re still looking for a white Dodge Charger”. The boys were slightly nervous to leave. The city essence was toxic. To the Bucketheads the air was toxic because they believed the invisible enemy poisoned it; to the boys, the atmosphere was toxic because of the unnerving reaction they knew to receive from the Bucketheads. “I elect Pak to go first, he was in charge of filling up the tank” offered Kuti. “Why don’t you go” replied a disgruntled Deepak. “I’ll go” Marley settled. Giving his mustache a twist before opening the door, Marley stepped outside onto the middle of the neighbourhood road. “ANTI-BUCKETER! ANTI-BUCKETER!” a poorly postured male in the distance pointed at Marley as the rest of the pedestrians around began dialling numbers on their phones. “Ah sheik, we gotta go, hurry up.”, Marley told his friends in the car. Deepak and Kuti hastily exited the vehicle and joined Marley in hopping a wooden fence into the backyard of the nearest house to their left.

Marley hoisted over the fence into the house’s backyard. The grass was pear green with patches of greasy yellow. Marley peered into the house’s sliding door and caught a glimpse of the living room. In it sat an elderly man watching a broadcast of the American News Network. Then Kuti sprung over the fence, almost losing his balance, “Hey, a backyard adventure. We’re like The Backyardigans”, he said. “Heh, yeah… hey look at that guy on the TV, look how wide-open his eyes are, and his cheek twitching like that”, Marley said, subtly pointing, “Likely those propaganda pumps are shapeshifters, maybe they’re reptilians.”. “I always thought that. All those guys look weird… and isn’t he like the Governor’s brother or something.”, Kuti replied. “Yeah, sus… hey, where’s Pak?”, Marley remembered their friend. “Oh yeah.”, said Kuti putting out his hands, helping lift Marley to see over the fence. When his gaze penetrated the horizon of the wood Marley witnessed a scene from a Hollywood movie. Behind a ghastly Deepak, scratching at the fence’s cypress, was a crowd of Bucketheads advancing from every direction, “Sir, your health and safety!”, a few of them repeated like drones. “Come on!”, Marley declared, grabbing Deepak by the forearm and hauling him over the fence. The three friends were now united in the man’s backyard. “Let’s get moving. I think I know of a railroad a few blocks from here, it’ll take us through Mexico.”, Marley stated like a good leader. The boys were off, hopping fence to fence, from yard to yard. Through each home’s backdoor, they witnessed families’ viewing films, women watching shows, kids regarding cartoons, and adults observing the news. One fence Deepak jumped first and totally cleared like a pole vaulter, landing on his rear “AHHH! AHHHHH!”, he hollered upon meeting face to face with a slobbery American pitbull. The dog raucously barked at Kuti as Marley and Deepak hopped into the yard. “Stay still…”, Marley said belatedly as Deepak had already started running — and the dog followed. Every fence Pak jumped, the dog followed, knocking it down. Police sirens faintly emerged as the bully’s barks grew. Deepak felt like he was running hurdles against the devil. Adrenaline and lack of oxygen heightened his senses and gave him sharp visions of his past; he ran like a train through a tunnel of perceptions. The clouds acted as graffiti on the roof painting a picture of the time his mother bought him a toy. The lawn gnomes were a pack of beggars reminding him of when his father brought him to the parade. The boys followed behind like a camera crew, stepping over the collapsed fences. After a minute of stooge-esque mayhem, Deepak came across a stern metal fence “Ah-ha!”, he beckoned. Deepak took lift-off like Mike and caught a glimpse of a family sitting in the yard on the other side when that menace of a dog bit his right bumcheek, “Ala!”, he shouted, propelling himself over the iron. Now the terriers’ attention was solely on the trailing Kuti and Marley. The dog growled. The sirens still beckoned. “I think they like blueberries… I remember that from Fantastic Mr. Fox”, said Kuti. “Those were beagles, this is a pitbull”, Marley responded. “Uh… We don’t have blueberries anyways… uh… what about this stick”, Kuti observed, picking a stick up off the ground and offering it to the hound. The pitbull walked over to the two and clenched the stick in his mouth, subsequently rolling over. “Aw… all he needed was a friendly tribute. It’s too bad those other dogs aren’t so innocent.”, Marley remarked, “Who’s a good boy? You are.”, he added, rubbing the dog’s belly before hopping the solid iron fence along with Kuti.

When they landed in the yard they saw Deepak sitting on lawn chairs with a man and a woman and presumably their children playing in the grass. “They’re like us.”, Deepak said. The man he sat next to had a grizzly beard only made by age. Slightly intoxicated, he looked at the young Marley and told, “After your friend got bit by that dog, hilarious by the way… uh, he told us about your escape… hey… we’re cool man — you see, no buckets here.”. Marley was elated, “Much love man… but how do you get by like this? I’m sure Deepak told you how the law treated us”. The man responded, “Hey, we can’t abandon everything so abruptly like you kids, we have children to take care of, we put our heads down and unfortunately follow the rules, until…”, His wife jumped in “Not for long though… we’re planning our escape. We just bought a boat”, “a 26 footer” the husband added. “We’re going to Africa” she finished. “Ah, the motherland.”, Kuti replied. “It’s not savages in villages, like TV.”, the man said. “Oh, I know.”, replied Marley, “Some of the greatest kingdoms this world has ever seen…  Mali, Axum, Egypt, and more. The continent and its people are culturally rich, there’s no reason for that sacred land to be in shambles, besides outside interference, paid-for dictators, proxy wars, robbery… to keep them down — and now it’s our turn to be brought down, like they’ve already been doing in American ghettos.”. “Yeah, how’s that for equity… everybody gets garbage”, Kuti added, shaking his head. The man squinted his eyes, impressed with the boys, he called his son over and affectionately rubbed his shoulders. The man said, “You’re right about that. Trust me, I love archaeology but these guys throw it out the window… in terms of respect. They thief out the gold and thief out the scrolls and even the buried bones. And they still can’t conventionally explain the pyramids.”. “Mmmph”, the boys collectively muttered in assent like a brother eating soul food. The grown-ups in the backyard had a moment of silence to reflect on the knowledge. However, their peace was muddled by the rising sound of police sirens. “Hey, is this the last house on the strip?, Marley asked, “Yes it is.” replied the man, “And the train tracks are right there?”, Marley asked with a thumb pointing over his shoulder at the fence, “Yes they are,”, the man said. And as if on cue everyone in the yard heard the *chugga* *chugga* of an oncoming train. Marley took a breath through his nose and looked at one of the playing kid’s faces. He witnessed a pure joy, a young tree with a 1000 years of age and observation ahead of it, then he spoke “We gotta go.”

By the sound of sirens and an air of ardent authority, police were in the neighbourhood. The boys knew the rulers’ henchmen could very well be feet away from the other side of the fence, between them and the train. *Chooo* *Choooo* the train whistle beckoned. “I don’t know if I can do it guys, I mean I got a family and a girlfriend. I think I’m gonna turn back.”, declared Kuti nervously as his friends were preparing to jump the fence. “Very well”, replied Marley, putting his hand on Kuti’s shoulder, “May you have good fortune, my friend.” “You too”, replied Kuti. “Bye Kuti”, said Deepak. The boys waved goodbye to the couple and their kids too. “Are you ready, Marley?” Deepak asked for reassurance. “Sun is shining, weather is sweet.”, replied Marley. HEAVE.

Marley and Pak cleared the fence like bad boys and landed on the sidewalk. There were police all around but it didn’t matter as the boys (minus Kuti) had a 50ft clear path to the train. “They’re here!” called a lousy buckethead as the boys booked it to the train. In-out, in-out, in out, they breathed through their noses and mouths as they dashed, police shouting rushing towards them. For a moment they were tigers free from the zoo. Then suddenly a 9mm bullet whipped through the ether hitting Marley in his left shoulder. “Agh!”, he cried in agony. A dark purple spread like disease on the blue of his jersey. “What the.. but… police aren’t supposed to shoot people like that.”, Deepak whimpered in shock, “This is America.”, Marley replied like a man. Police were closing in. The trains last boxcars were passing by. Another bullet whizzed past Deepak’s right ear. “But… but…”, Pak looked at Marley. “Go on.”, Marley said, “Phillip Hancock, Montezuma, Costa Rica, I’ll meet you there. God bless you Pak.”. Pak uttered, “God bless you Marl”, and took off for the train. In his dust a mound of fat police officers doggypiled Marley. Deepak cut the distance between himself and the train and dived into its last boxcar looking back at his poor friend. Heavily panting, Deepak wiped the sweat from his eye. He was all alone, scared but free. He faced a new journey, a quest to Costa Rica, to Phillip, to freedom. And as he mourned all he left behind including his comrades, and his corrupted country he remembered the words of his dear friend, “Sun is shining, the weather is sweet.”.