Dream a Little Dream...
The year was 1919 when I returned home. The air was heavy in my lungs, I remember, or was that my pride? Coming home, the streets were flooded with friends and relations clambering to welcome their brave kin that had survived the Great War. The Armistice had been signed, sealed and delivered.
"Corporal?" I turn my head. "You're relieved, son. Go home."
Home... It sounds so good, tastes so good. Tastes, you say? Yes, it tastes; tastes like homemade apple pies, crisp firewood crackling in the flames, momma's rose-scented soap. Yes, home has a taste and I'm starving. But the home I came back too wasn't the home I left. It was different, all of America was different. Back in the trenches, the boys and I planned our lives out with the money we were earning risking our lives.
I learned all too quickly that a dream made in the trenches stayed in the trenches.
Vejita slammed the telephone back onto the hook, earning a few stares from nearby customers. He thanked the man behind the counter for allowing him use of the phone, then left. He walked down the street, still clad into his uniform, earning respective nods from passersby. He paid them no attention. All he could see was the breath in front of him. The icy chill of the air bit as he sucked it into his massive chest.
'What am I going to do now?' He had his military stipend that he had been saving up and his honorable discharge bonus that was promised to him. But what was all that worth now, now that he had nowhere to go? Vejita stopped along the sidewalk. 'I need a cup of coffee,' he decided and turned back around for the diner.
He shrugged off his jacket, laying it on the counter.
"Where you from, son?" the man behind the counter asked. Vejita shifted nervously under the scrunity of the people in the diner, waiting for his answer.
"Iowa," he grunted.
"Hey! I'm from Iowa!" a man in the back yelled out.
"Me too!" another chirped.
"Hurray for Iowa!" the first man shouted. There was general applause and cheering and few men stepped up and slapped Vejita on the back. The man from the back of the room came forward and offered to buy Vejita a cup of coffee.
"You did us all proud, boy, serving in the war," the man said. Vejita said nothing. The man behind the counter brought over the coffee, sitting himself down in front of Vejita.
"Why you look so down, kid? It have to do with that phone call you took?" the man asked sincerely.
Vejita blew lightly at the steam rising from the mug. "Partly," he mumbled.
The man from the back sat down on the stool next to Vejita. "Oh, I see. He gonna be all mysterious. It's all Jake with us, fella," the man said as he stuck out his hand. "The name's Nappa. You know like Napa County, California?"
Vejita eyed the offered hand warily. "Never heard of it," he replied, raising the mug to take a sip.
"Man, where have you been?" Nappa asked.
The man behind the counter stood up and punched Nappa in the arm. "Nappa, you idiot. He's been at WAR, which is more than I can say for you!" Nappa growled and stood up.
"My leg is good enough reason," he spat.
Vejita looked up, interested. "What's wrong with your leg?" Nappa eased up off of the other man with an indignant shrug. He looked down at Vejita and smirked.
"I got a shrapnel shot in this here leg," he pointed out with pride. The man across the counter began cleaning glasses.
"I still maintain he put that bullet there," the man said matter-of-factly. Nappa and the man were about to have at it again when they were interrupted by Vejita's chuckling. Nappa and the man grinned at eachother.
"Now there's a smile if I ever saw one," Nappa beamed. Vejita stuck out his hand.
"I'm Vejita Ouji," he announced.
Nappa took his hand, pumping it up and down. "Pleasure," he replied. "And this here," he motioned to the man behind the counter, "is Radditz." Vejita shook Radditz's hand.
"Ouji, that's not a common name," Radditz said while passing Vejita some bread from across the counter.
"Eastern European actually, or so I'm told." Both the men nodded in unison.
"So when you going back home?" Nappa asked. Vejita tensed up. "Sorry, son, did I say something wrong?"
"No and yes." Radditz and Nappa looked confused by his answer.
"What do you mean?" Radditz inquired. "If you don't mind my asking, that is."
"I would rather not talk about it."
"All right. Fine by us, eh, Radditz?" Nappa said jovially. Radditz nodded in agreement.
"Say, fellas, would you know of a good place I can stay?" Vejita asked as he bit off a hunk of bread. Nappa and Raddtiz looked at each other.
"It just so happens that Radditz here owns this building and is looking to let out the apartment on top, if you interested," Nappa informed him. Vejita looked up hopefully.
"How long for?" Radditz asked him.
"Until I figure my life out."
"Better make that long term," Radditz muttered, mulling the matter over in his mind. "Hmm... I can't see why not. If you don't mind my brother dropping by now and again. I wouldn't worry about him; he's a total pushover."
A dog was howling. Vejita grumbled and turned over, pulling a pillow on top of his head. 'Will someone shut that thing up?' his head screamed. He had stayed up late into the night catching up on the affairs of the state with his two new friends, disturbing facts which didn't allow him a restful sleep; rather plummeting him into a fits of anxious worry. And now some stupid dog was bawling away at God knows what. 'What I wouldn't give for a pistol and clear shot at that--' Vejita rolled over, dumping himself out of the bed and onto the hard wooden floor. He sat there, his head buried in the folds of his arms.
The country he had come home to was not the one had left. 'That's for sure,' he assured himself. In two years, the country had spiraled into depression. Vejita turned his head to look at the dried, cracked billfold sitting on the side table. What was in it now, what had been his dream of a new life was worth just that---zilch. He sighed heavily. He could really use a drink right now. Oh, yes, there was that also. Prohibition was going into effect nationwide. Vejita tilted his head back to rest it against the cot. All in all the country was going to pieces.
When he had left for the war, there was talk, sure. But talk was just that when it came down to politics. Vejita remembered being involved with a mob of some sort argrily protesting the Prohibition. Okay so he was sixteen at the time--- he did recall the leader spouting out something about "being accused of crimes which aren't a crime," that being followed by a ruckus of cheers. It seemed fun at the time, quite the intellectual thing to do actually. He scored a couple of dates from moon-eyed girls watching the 'manly' protestors. 'Hey, I'm protesting for my rights' seemed like a good pick-up line at the time.
Vejita ran a hand through his unruly black hair. "What am I going to do?" he murmured to no one in particularly. He slammed his fist down on the ground. One of the floor boards jimmied loose and tilted up a bit, then flew back down. Vejita noted this with interest. He hit the floor board again, harder, causing the board to fly up--he caught it. He peered under the crevice and upon spying something hidden there, he tuck his hand in. He felt around a bit, coming up with a small flask encased in leather.
"Thank you, Jesus," he whispered. He popped open the top and sniffed. "Well, old boy, let's get bent." He leaned his head back and plugged the flask into his mouth. The taste hit him like a steam train. Quickly, he found himself keeled over and gagging. "That smarts," he coughed out. He glanced at the bottle shrewdly. 'Just what the heck is this stuff?' It smelled like alcohol, looked a heck of a lot like it. "But it tastes like bushwa," Vejita said while grimacing.
Vejita woke with a pounding headache and his stomach in turmoil. "Jeepers creepers," he muttered.
Vejita banged his head on the long hanging-ceiling as he was coming down the stairs. He swore to himself. "Radditz!" he called out.
"Kiddo!" Radditz called back as he hustled around wiping off the tables.
"Why is this darn thing so low," Vejita grumbled as he pointed to the offending overhang. Radditz shrugged.
"Bought the building that way," he replied.
"Figures," Vejita murmured as he hopped the last two steps to land on the ground.
"You going find a job today?" Radditz asked while taking the stools down off the bar. Vejita stepped up to help him.
"Sure, why not?" Vejita asked, sullenly.
"I wouldn't futz around, boy. Get yourself a straight job. There's too many of the bad types around."
"Got it. But I don't need your backseat mothering, Radditz." Radditz cracked a grin. He flung his wipe cloth around his neck like a kerchief.
"And you be home nice and early, you hear?" the older man cackled. Vejita smirked and shook his head.
"I'm outta here." Or he would of been out of there had he not ran smack into something. "Watch it, bub," he growled.
"Oh, hey!" Vejita had to crane his neck back to catch the brick wall's face. Vejita scowled at the unnaturally cheery face grinning down at him.
"Don't tell me. You're Radditz's brother?"
"Whoa! How didya know that? Gee!" he whistled. He peered around the door to scout out his brother. "This guy's smart, huh, Radditz?" His brother chuckled. Goku turned back to look at Vejita. "You're the guy living upstairs, right?"
"How'd you guess that?" Vejita asked wryly. Radditz came outside to flip over the sign on the window to 'Open.' He shook his head.
"Ever since we got that phone put into the diner he's been calling every night," Radditz complained. Goku shrugged.
"I worry about you, big brother."
Radditz ground his teeth. "Which one of us older?"
Goku laughed. "You, of course-- or was that a trick question?" he mused. Radditz rolled his eyes.
"See what I put up with?" Vejita just chuckled in reply. He turned to leave once more when he was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.
"You're new around here right?" Goku asked. Vejita raised an eyebrow. The guy looked genuine. No harm in asking a question, Vejita decided.
"Yea. What's it to ya?"
"Nothing, fella!" Goku countered, holding his hands up defensively. "Just thought I might offer to show you around."
"Yeah, whatever," Vejita muttered as he strode away from the dinner.
"I'll take that at a yes," Goku said, smiling and hurried to follow him.
Vejita stretched his back, twisting until he heard it crack. He pulled a hankerchief from his pocket and moped his face. In the distance he heard the faint blowing of a whistle. That could mean only one thing---break time. He leaned back against a stack of crates, willing the aches in his feet to disappear.
"Hey, Vejita!" Vejita groaned. 'No please, not now!' Goku skipped up to his feet. He handed him a brown paper bag. "Here," he said as he offered the parcel. Vejita looked warily at the bag.
"I don't trust you."
"What's not to trust?" Goku asked, eyes bright.
"Last time it was blood sausage; the time before that head cheese..."
"So I have a thing for trying new culinary creations?" he admitted.
"Either that or you're trying to kill me," Vejita concluded.
"Fine, if you don't want the Reuben sandwich..."
"Gimme that," Vejita growled, snatching the lunch bag. He torn it open to find an honest-to-goodness Reuben sandwich, toasted sourdough bread and all. "For once, you didn't futz up. I'm surprised." Goku put his hand behind his head and laughed.
"I'll take that as a thanks." Goku sat down beside his friend on the crates. "How long have we been here?" Goku asked, looking up. All he saw was the multitude of stacked blocks and metal beams. He heard a mumbled reply amid the crunching and chewing next to him. Vejita swallowed the hunk of food in his mouth.
"Too long," he reply before digging back in. Goku opened his own sandwich bag. He and Vejita had happened upon this job at the docks almost by accident. What with the strikes of the union workers on account of low wages and the work week, the corporates were desperate and any rag-tag sembrance of a work crew they could get, they were grateful for.
The strikes were many and consistant, thankful for Vejita and Goku. When the strikers cast them angry, accusing looks, Vejita just shrugged it off as 'not his problem or his fight.' As long as the company paid what they promised, Vejita would push crates all day and go home smelling like the rank harbor water: mildewy and sour with a hint of dead fish.
Goku on the other hand wasn't a mover or a shaker. He preferred to go with the flow of things. But since he had met Vejita, he had been getting the most of out of life, 'cause Vejita wouldn't settle for second-best. Goku wiped his mouth on his sleeve. It had been less than a year before they came across this job at the docks; before that they have basically holed up at Radditz's place. Goku could see things were going to be on the up and up for him and his new companion. Sure, Vejita was rough around the edges, but who wasn't? He was a man of few words, stoic and severe. But Goku saw there was a lighter side to Vejita, one that few had a chance to view, but it was there no less.
"Hmm?" Vejita mumbled, chewing on a pickle.
"What do you say we go out on the town. We pick up some glad rags and make a night of it." Vejita stopped his chewing.
"What the heck for?" he asked. Goku shrugged.
"I thought it'd be nice." Vejita looked at him like he was daft, then shrugged. Goku took that as an acceptance. "It's gonna be the bee's kness, Vejita. You'll see." Vejita looked skeptical. "There'll be lots of girl there," Goku piped in an effort to persuade his friend.
"Girls, I don't need."
"What are you doing about?" Goku shook his head. "Hey, Vejita?"
"What now?" Vejita grumbled.
"What's your idea of a perfect girl?" Goku asked, looking up at the sky, dotted with scavenging sea gulls. Vejita sighed and crumbled the paper bag. He leaned back on the crate, resting his head in the crook of his arms. 'My idea of a perfect girl...'
"One who waits for me," he finally answered, softly.
"You got it clear?"
"Yea, yea. Piece of cake, fella. Ease off."
"There will be no screw ups, got it?"
"Whatever the boss wants," a burly voice spoke. In truth, he did not know why this was so important. It was a stupid game afterall. But he had learned long ago, not to question authority. He looked at the ragged edge of his hand where his ring finger would be. It had been a painful lesson indeed. "Don't worry. I got it taken care of."
"He's counting on you."
"And he will not be disappointed."
"It was just as you said, sir." The older man scoffed at the messenger.
"Of course, why wouldn't it? Did you doubt the genius of my plan?" the older man's voice was laced with malice.
"N-no, sir. I would never---"
"Good, because it's only just begun. We got the goods on Briefs; the rest of the Family will fall just the same... You just make sure he don't get out."
"Yes, sir. Blue is on it." The older man slapped himself on the forehead.
"Please don't futz this up, you morons."
"Uh... we'll try, sir."
"Yeah? Now get outta here!"
"The Ox" sat hunched in his wingback chair, his fingers steepled. He was deep in concentration and no man in the room dare break that---almost no man. Someone shuffled his feet nervously but was quickly silenced with deadly glares from the other men. "The Ox" gave a deep sigh. He opened his small black eyes to gaze at the room, and his very best men. 'So this is what we have come to...'
"I have called you here for very important business," his began, his voice booming. Nothing about "The Ox" was diminuitive or unintimidating. He was a giant of a man, six feet five inches tall with thinning black hair and a scraggly beard. His girth was large and full and his hands were wide in span. His eyes were dull and lacked life, and sometimes the way he spoke was slow, giving the impression that he was not a very sharp man; however, Giovanni "The Ox" King was the lord of an underground ring. He was a mastermind.
But now he was looking haggard and worn. A man's who very livelihood had been sucked dry. He sighed heavily.
"I didn't think they would stoop this low," he bit his lower lip. A strapping young man with neatly cut hair stylishly glossed back walked forward to stand behind his boss.
"You talking about Briefs?"
"Yes... They're getting more forward with their threats," older man muttered. The young one, Yamucha, growled.
"Let 'em come. We'll be ready for 'em, right, boys?" He was greetedly with a chorus of whoops and hollers. Yamucha grinned.
"See, boss? We're gonna show 'em down."
"I hope you're right, Yamucha." Another man with a tattoo of an eye on his forehead stepped forward. The tattoo was something he had come back with after his trip to China. All he had to say was never fall asleep drunk in a tattoo parlor. That one always got a few laughs.
"Are we going to go through with the run tonight?" the man, Tien, asked nervously. "The Ox" sat back in his chair. He seemed to mull the matter over in his mind.
"We can't let them see how they intimidate us."
"The Dragon Gang stands behind you, boss," Yamucha said fervently. The group of men that surrounded the room nodded. "The Ox" nodded in turn.
"Then we do it. We met them head on. The Red Ribbon Gang will be sorry they ever messed with 'The Ox.' " Yamucha grinned and popped open a case of moonshine. The merry sounds of cavorting carried from the abandoned warehouse late into the night.
* * * * *
A/N: what's in store for all the charries? a little bit of vejita's past is revealed... well, in my mind. you'll know soon enough. i promise this is original. i know there's another story out there ('youth of the nation') running on the bonnie and clyde thing but i promise this is not that. it is totally my own, created in my twisted skull. please sit back and enjoy! ^_~