The old lady is diabetic, has to keep a really limited diet, and makes you share it with her. She’s got the soul of a bully. You get to hate the sight of a simple chop, a scoop of plain white rice, whipped cream cheese. You have elaborate dreams of food, starches and sugars piled high to the ceiling, swimming pools of lime jello and whipped cream, and wake up to find the old woman sitting at the foot of the bed watching you. She laughs at you all the time, snorts really, as though you’re too ridiculous for words and she barely has time for you. You haven’t felt so redundant since you were seven and your older brother let you hang out with him and his friends. Still, it’s exciting in that same sort of way, you feel like you’re being let in on something that you’re not supposed to know about yet (if at all), so you put up with the snorting and the watching and even the chops and the rice and the whipped cream cheese.
She crams you full of knowledge brutally but efficiently, the way a butcher stuffs a sausage, and with about as much concern for you as he’d have for the sausage casing. You never get your feet under you, you always feel like you’re being whirled from point to point without a second to catch your breath, but there’s no denying it’s an effective method. After the second month the old woman puts you in charge of half the gang and says run it and that’s it. She doesn’t tell you how to run it, doesn’t tell the other gang members why you’re in charge, doesn’t tell them to play nice, leaves you out to dry, in short. It’s touch and go for awhile until you build your power base, until they learn that you’re not the sort of person to be trifled with (though you’re always fair), until you kick some sort of loyalty into them. You don’t have to kill anybody, not kill, exactly, but you certainly put one or two through the wringer hard enough that they go away and don’t come back. Afterwards things settle down and you can get to work.