It was late in the afternoon on one of those chilly New York City days where the clouds couldn’t decide whether to spritz or pour rain. I was in my office, trying to ignore the past dues and termination notices. I didn’t have any appointments scheduled, so I was surprised when the office door was pushed open with authority. In came an older woman. Before I could stand up from my chair to make introductions, she popped a question.
Somewhere along the line it all got out of hand. Somebody was robbing graves at Riverside Cemetery, sitting just above the Merrimack River on a flat hilltop. Stealing coins, too, strange as it seems. That’s the kind of thing can jerk a town right off its feet, even if the spread of the cemetery was closing fast on its capacity and a new site required.
I’m on my third slow loop through a nearly-empty parking lot, passing by darkened stores as the last workers depart on a Sunday night. The land on which the mall sits was once part of the Everglades – I helped survey it as a summer job years ago. I’d wade into the forest with a machete and mark the trees developers would be saving – the slash pines were going, but the live oaks would stay to be stranded in asphalt.
Three days ago, Tristan, my cousin’s boyfriend, was waiting at a stop sign on his motorcycle when an inattentive driver plowed into him. If I delay my arrival any longer, I’d miss his viewing completely, so I finally drive across the street to the funeral home.
“Just keep following this road Donna, it’ll be about another ten minutes.”
Claire stared at her. She could see worry, apprehension and fear. Her younger sister had the same look when she had first told her what she did.
Claire’s thoughts went back to where this had began.
They were on me at once, each with their own manner of eagerness and exerting their righteous belief in violence for violence’s sake.
They tore away at my shoulders and arms, beating, demanding I release my grip from Luky Roberts.
Some voices were familiar, most were strange and hostile, as I had come to expect in Compound RR4, one of the lightest secured cell units in the Saratoga Range District Penal System.
As the pistol spun and wobbled on the oak table, Jay remembered playing spin the bottle in the basement of his grandparents’ house. They had used a glass milk bottle and it clanged loudly on the concrete floor. It was cold and musty down there, but he remembered his palms were sweaty. The girls were Dawn and Amber. He was the only the boy. Eventually, he knew, he would kiss both of them, and he would get to see them kiss each other. It was safe, because none of it was his idea, but he had to hide the tremble of his hands. Then his grandmother ruined everything. She heard the odd sound in the basement and intervened before any kissing occurred. He wished his grandmother were alive to intervene now.
Bullet Brown sittin at the bar sparked the fire when he tells Tall Tan, “Don’t start no shit and there won’t be no shit.”
Tall Tan, the Collector Man, poured some gas on the spark. “Too late for that. The shit started when you opened your goddamn lying mouth.”
Bullet smiled his gap-toothed smile. “Well, fuck, man. If we gonna do it let’s get to it.”