Saint John — It’s around 8:30 p.m., and 15 members of the “West Side Mafia” street gang are idling in the playground outside of Havelock Elementary School. Some are hanging from monkey bars with their feet still planted on the ground, others are sitting on the rubber stepping stones or at the bottom of a slide, vaping on e-cigarettes. They hardly speak, and what they do say is laced with profanity and usually makes very little sense. They are waiting for 9 p.m., a time when most residents have settled into their homes, and yet, it just before their bedtimes — the perfect hour for crime.
Many locals feel that the West Side Mafia is a plague on an otherwise totally perfect area of the Port City. It is mainly comprised of 13- 16-year-old high school students, with the exception of 23-year-old Matthew Lavin, whose mother says is “still trying work things out.” The gang supports itself primarily by selling tufts of stale oregano and half-bottles of their parents’ whiskey to middle school children. It has also been linked to rampant seasonal pumpkin-smashing, and the “T.P.-ing” of several homes.
“People ask me why I got into the West Side Mafia, and I always tell them the same thing: bitches,” says 14-year-old Jamie Rogers, who, according to several sources, has never kissed a girl and still wets the bed. “Straight up. See, bitches love gang-members. It shows that you’re a hard-ass mothaf*cker.”
Tonight’s job has been in development for weeks — a “tagging,” as they call it. “Yo, so the plan is,” explains group leader Andrew McGill (better known in the WSM as ILLLRYMES … he is also an amateur rapper), “we’re going on down to Seaside Park and write some crazy shit all over the swings and slides and stuff.”
And the goal of this project: “People will come out to the park tomorrow and be looking at everything and they’re gonna be all like ‘whaaaaat’ — it’s gonna be so sick.”
Of course, like any other street gang, the West Side Mafia has a primary rival for the “ownership” of west Saint John — the Kidz of the Carleton Community Centre.
“Man,” says ILLLRYMES, “all them Carleton kids are all right stupid. They always be poachin’ our crew, too — some moms and dads be forcing their kids into after-school programs, for real.”
But what about the poor parents of the wayward degenerates who remain in the WSM? How do they feel about the gang’s stranglehold on their children?
“I think that it’s just terrific that my Ryan and Philip have a small group of kids to hang out with,” said Tracy Dupree, mother of 2 sons in the West Side Mafia.“They’ve always had such trouble fitting in at school. Sure, they’ll get themselves into the occasional high-jink or silly shenanigan, but boys will be boys, I always say. I would recommend this little club it to any parent who’s having a hard time getting their young ones out of the house.”
Finally, 9 p.m. strikes and the group sets out for Seaside. They duck the guardrail and head straight for the play equipment with Sharpie markers in-hand. Some of them write obscenities, some sign their names, and some draw crude pictures of boobs and cartoon characters with large phalluses, but they all share a common wish: to be noticed. The members of the West Side Mafia crave the attention of their peers, parents and teachers. They want it so badly, but have know idea how to get it, and are, in fact, completely oblivious to the fact that they need it. So when these people — these children — huff paint, steal bikes or fart on each other for a laugh, it is because they are looking for something more.
They are just looking for love, and for that, they are beautiful.