Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Everybody Knew

by Bryan Russell

Everybody Knew

Emilio was nine, but he had a good arm. He could throw. Better than Chris and Juan, and he always had to throw first, otherwise nothing would happen. They never threw until he did.

They had some good stones, and when the cops' car pulled around the corner he was ready. It was unmarked, the car, and they weren’t in uniform, but everybody in the neighborhood knew they were cops.

Emilio threw, yelling as he did so, and Chris and Juan threw after him. His friends missed, but Emilio’s first stone made a metallic chunk sound against the fender, and his second throw hit the windshield, leaving a white mark in the glass.

The cops were jumping out of the car. They had beer bottles in their hands. Emilio ran. He could hear his friends behind him, their breathing, the sound of their shoes hitting the ground. Down the alley they went. The cops were shouting and chasing, all four of them. Chris ran past Emilio. He couldn’t throw worth shit, Chris, but he could always run.

Chris split left down an alley, and Emilo and Juan went straight ahead, and then right down another alley, and then left, and right.

And then they stopped. They’d come this way a thousand times, where an old chain-link gate had once stood to block the alley, but had rusted away years ago. But somebody had put up a new gate, an ugly thing made of old boards. And it was high.

Emilio jumped, tried to climb, but a big hand grabbed him and threw him on the ground. His breath left in a big whoosh. There was pain, and he tried to breathe.

“Hey, fuckers,” one of the cops said. He punched Juan, and Juan fell down.

There was blood all over Juan’s face, and Juan started to cry. Snot smeared down over his mouth.

A hand hauled Emilio up.

“You gonna cry too?”

“Fuck you, cop,” Emilio said.

The cop laughed. He had nice clothes, talked around a cigarette in his mouth. He turned and kicked Juan, who cried even harder. “Your friend’s crying.” The cop looked back at Emilio and then backhanded him across the face.

Emilio staggered, but stayed up. His face went hot. His uncle had hit him like that, once. It was like an iron had been pressed to his face. His Nan’s old steel iron, the one she used to press her Sunday dress. He never thought she was strong enough to lift it, but she always did.

He felt hot and numb, but he didn’t cry.

Emilio watched as two of the cops kicked Juan, and a third one unzipped and pissed on him. Laughter, beer bottles raised in an ironic toast.

The cop that had hit Emilio looked at him closely. He laughed, handed Emilio a half-full beer.

The cops walked away. Emilio drank the beer. Something inside him went as numb as his face. It was a slower numbness, but just as deep.

Juan was crying. He was wet with piss. His lip and chin were covered in snot.

After awhile Chris came down the alley. He looked flushed, but he was breathing easily. “What happened?”

“Juan balled,” Emilio said. He turned and kicked Juan. Then he kicked him harder, and Juan’s crying grew louder. Emilio kept kicking, and Chris joined in. They kicked for awhile, until Juan stopped crying and just whimpered.

Emilio threw the beer bottle at the wall and it exploded. He’d always had a good arm. He looked back down the alley.

Someday he was gonna be a cop.


Stephanie M. Lorée said...

A dark piece. I liked the tone and the voice through sentence structure: "He couldn't throw worth shit, Chris, but he could always run."

This line in particular was moving: "It was a slower numbness, but just as deep."

Good stuff. Thanks for sharing!

mooderino said...

Excellent story. The only place I felt a little pulled out of it was when you went off on a tangent about how strong Nan was. Was there a particular effect you were going for there?

Moody Writing

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Ah, sadness. You write the dark side so well. But you kill me with these stories about the kids.

Matthew MacNish said...

You're sick and wicked Bryan.

Paul Joseph said...

To date, I think this is my favorite. Well done.

Nate Wilson said...

I mirror Matt's sentiments. But in the best possible way. Fantastic tale, Bryan.

Jaycee said...

Very very moving. Couldn't stop reading. Sad too, the differences between Emilio's and Chris' personalities.

Marsha Sigman said...

That one is going to stay with me for a while.

maine character said...

Excellent, especially with the voice and short sentences.

It'd also make be a great intro to a novel or film, where they immediately cut to him three years in on the job.

M.A.Leslie said...

Outstanding work Bryan, but your work usually is.
Your writing is like a fine bottle of wine, it improves over time and I always enjoy a glass.

Hollister Ann Grant said...

Ooh, wicked good.

Donna Hole said...

Awesome voice; vivid description. I really liked how disturbing it was. Real life can be like that.


Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Thanks, everyone.

And sorry. I keep forgetting to put in the fluffy bunnies. Next time, perhaps. Next time...

air max pas cher said...

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Matthew MacNish said...

Ack! I didn't mean to imply we want to see anything else, or less. You're at your best when you torture your characters.

D.G. Hudson said...

A slice of reality, Bryan, set in Mexico? Or southern California? or anywhere there are bad cops?

You write about the sad side of life so well, which to me means you see beneath the artificial, and bring it out to show the rest of us, so we can learn to understand these dark types. We need to know what makes the bad villains - bad.

We especially need to understand that what happens to us as children can greatly influence how we behave as adults.

Are you anaylytical, Bryan?

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Yeah, I'm definitely analytical. But I think one of the things I love about good stories is that point of intersection between analysis, instinct, and emotion. It's taking that stuff you're thinking about, and then feeling it and making it real.

This story, for me, was sort of about poverty and power. When you're powerless you hate that power that oppresses you, and yet you envy it, too. Helplessness is conquered by exerting power, but that exertion of power is often a terrible thing.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

@ Matt

Frankly, I'm not even sure if I'd know how to write a fluffy bunny story... without it turning out like that scene in Monty Python's The Holy Grail.

Deniz Bevan said...

Very dark and gritty. And yet I can see it happening in real life. I'm always impressed by those that can write such short pieces!