Photo: Neil D. MacLean (www.sixfivephotography.com)
I wrote this one down back on 01.05.05 according to my notebook.
The teenaged boy was straightening his dress pants with his palms, surveying them stretched, around 38 inches, across the bed. His little brother, about ten, wondered out loud what his big brother was up to. The teenager told him that he was preparing his outfit for their third brother’s graduation. It seemed odd to the little brother that they would prepare for that event. Their brother was about to finish the ninth grade and any graduation they should prepare for was either a year past or wasn’t gonna happen for another three. He said all of this out loud. The big brother explained that their brother was gonna march in the school’s eighth grade graduation. He had missed it the year before because he had to go to summer school in order to be promoted to ninth grade. This was his chance to “walk.”
The little brother decided to prepare an outfit too. He looked in his closet; the options were sparse. He figured it’d be special if he could go too. Their father probably wouldn’t. He muttered this, but the father was sneering from the other end of the hall like he’d heard the boys talking about what was, apparently, his general absence in their lives.
On the front sidewalk the boys continued their preparations by edging each others’ hairlines with electric clippers. Evening was setting in and the cord that was stretched from inside the house was almost completely hidden by the shadows. Big brother went into the house to answer a ringing phone. Little brother turned from his brother’s rushed steps to the sidewalk just in time to notice a neighborhood thug striding up the street in all black and really dark sunglasses. Little Brother trembled a little and tried to avert his eyes. He seemed to sense trouble with this character. He was remembering that you never looked Thug Boy in the face.
Thug Boy tripped a little bit over the clippers’ cord. Big Brother was about to come through the screen door but stopped just as he saw Thug Boy walk menacingly up to Little Brother. Little Brother stammered an apology for the cord and Thug Boy seemed to accept it but then apparently thought better of it. With leather gloved hands he pulled out a handgun with silver along the handle. He instructed Little Brother to shoot it toward the sky to the right. Little Brother did as he was told without hesitating. Thug Boy told Little Brother to shoot at the ground. He did it. Thug Boy took the gun and started to walk away.
Before he was a whole three steps away it seemed he did a double take at an older big bodied car, a Caprice maybe, that had pulled up to the curb a house away. The houses were close, kind of like the “courts” here in the city. There was an obviously high teenager in the back passenger seat of the Caprice. He seemed to be in and out of consciousness he was so high.
Thug Boy returned to Little Brother. Wordlessly he handed Little Brother the same handgun and pointed the high kid out. The driver and other passenger didn’t seem to notice all this. Maybe they were high too. Point blank Little Brother went up to the open window and bloodied the high boy’s head. There were no screams, just a scurrying of people who’d been milling about and the slamming of wood and mesh screen doors.
Thug Boy took the gun and walked away just like he’d walked up. Slow and aloof. Little Brother met his brother halfway between their front door and the sidewalk. Together–and silently–they took the chairs and clippers and other stuff that they’d scattered on the sidewalk. Once inside, Little Brother promised Big Brother that he “was okay” and was “gonna be okay.” He showed him a steady hand, “See.” Big Brother sat next to him in what looked to be a twin bed that they shared.
The father’s bedroom door never opened. And the graduating brother had yet to come home from his girl’s house. I don’t know how I knew that’s where he was, but I did. The two brothers curled up in the bed and watched a black and white television sputtering canned laughter of some-any sitcom. Little Brother’s hand was as steady as before. But his heart raced. “Okay?” he said to the somber looking Big Brother who had yet to say a word since the whole affair, “See? For real.”