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Free Study Guide-The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X-Free Notes
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Chapter 9

Summary

In this chapter, Malcolm recalls the days he spends with his old friend Shorty in Roxbury. Shorty had become a traveling musician now. When Shorty learns from Sammy that Harlem had become too 'hot' or dangerous for Malcolm he asks Malcolm to come and stay with him at Roxbury. Malcolm accepts his suggestion and both leave Harlem the very same day.

In Roxbury, Ella cannot believe the complete change that had come about in her half brother. He had become an atheist. He believed that a man could do anything if he was smart enough for it. And every time he spoke he said something 'profane' or 'hip'. Even Shorty was shocked at the manner in which his 'homeboy' had begun to think and live, for Malcolm would often catch him staring at him. At Roxbury, he shared Shorty's apartment, where he slept most of the time. When he was awake, he would smoke reefers (marijuana) and play records continuously.

After two weeks of catching up with all the sleep he had lost during the last two months in Harlem, he began moving around on the streets of Roxbury. Here he comes upon a cocaine peddler. Malcolm starts sniffing 'snow' cocaine, which gives a person a feeling of supreme well-being and over-confidence. Those who sniff cocaine feel that they can beat a heavy weight champion and that they are the smartest of all. Under the effect of cocaine Malcolm begins to talk. When Shorty is away with his band, Sophia, Malcolm's girlfriend would come over. When Shorty returned, Malcolm would chat with him late into the night.

Sophia always gave him money, but now his demands gradually increased (due to his need to have drugs and his unemployment). Sophia never refused and always gave him money. Sometimes Malcolm would feel evil and slap her. They would argue and Sophia would cry and curse him. She would threaten him saying that she would leave him and never come back. Malcolm knew that Sophia did not mean what ever she said. Sophia's husband had been in the military. After the war he left the military to become some sort of a salesman. He had some 'big deal' which would make him travel to the West Coast according to Sophia. Malcolm did not know the details of her husband's work because he never asked her any questions about her husband. In any case, Sophia's husband could never dream of his (Malcolm's) existence. Although Sophia was having a difficult time with her husband, she never gave him any reason to think that she was having an affair with a black man.


In Roxbury, Malcolm meets Laura. Their meeting is extremely cordial. They talk, laugh, and smoke together. Malcolm observes that Laura looked a lot older than she really was. Laura had moved out of her grandmother's house long ago, given up college and was now a prostitute.

One night Sophia brought her 17-year-old sister along. Shorty had always liked having Sophia (a white woman) coming over to his apartment. When Shorty met Sophia's sister, they nearly jumped at each other. This is because for Shorty, Sophia's sister (a younger version of Sophia) was not only a white girl, but a 'young white girl'. And for Sophia, Shorty was not only a Negro, but also 'a Negro musician.' Malcolm mentions here that Shorty was never able to keep a girlfriend for long because he treated them too well and women according to him always got bored of it. After almost a month of inactivity, Malcolm starts looking for a hustle. He starts visiting John Hughes' Gambling house with all the money he is able to get from Sophia. Malcolm recalls a poker game in which John Hughes was also playing. Malcolm beats them all and wins a huge fortune. John was known to be a great gambler in Roxbury. He is really impressed by Malcolm and offers him a job at his gambling house. Word gets round the city (underworld) about the poker game. The game helps create a reputation for Malcolm. John had set a rule that whoever comes to his gambling house had to check in his guns if he carried any. Malcolm always checked in two guns when he arrived there. However, once when a gambler picks a fight with him, Malcolm pulls a third gun from his shoulder holster. This incident added to his reputation that he was 'trigger happy' and 'crazy'.

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