SINCE SCHOOL STARTED IN early September, Baby D has juggled virtual classes and selling water, which he’ll keep doing until the weather cools. He just needs enough money to get him through to the spring. He doesn’t have a favorite subject because school is more about potential interactions with girls than what’s happening on Zoom, he says. As a young man making money independently, he’s confident in his game even if girls from class have seen him on the exit ramp and make jokes about it later.
Baby D looks down at Todd’s business card. Once the red truck drives away, the teen tosses it to the dirt ingrained with bottle caps and used condoms. He and Triplecross say folks like Todd, Bailey, and others are simply “trying to flex cuz they on camera”—in front of a reporter and photographer—and that ultimately they “want all the water boys incarcerated.”
A homeless man approaches carrying a 24-pack and a bag of ice over his shoulders. It’s Baby D’s re-up. The man drops the goods on the ground. Baby D hands over $3 and tells him, “Thank you, Unc,” short for Uncle. It’s a term of endearment given to anyone older than the boys. He’s making a killing today because, thanks to the cheap labor, he hasn’t needed to leave the spot yet.
Before he drove away, Baby D told Todd that he’ll most likely keep selling water. It’s easier and safer than some of his previous gigs. “I used to steal cars,” he admits. “If they stop this, then I’m going back to doing what I used to do.”
For now, Baby D isn’t particularly concerned with news headlines, or how schoolmates, residents, and would-be mentors judge his means to make money. He doesn’t dwell on what the city’s plans to address water boys are, or if the police will continue to randomly crack down on him and friends. Like any other teenager, he just wants financial independence from his parents, and a chance to talk to crushes in person once again. ♦