4. The Kid

4. The Kid

They lived on a cul-de-sac, in a little neighborhood surrounded by hills. The streets wound around and around through the hills, so that, driving late at night in somebody’s brother’s car, they felt lost on streets they had known since childhood; trapped like rats in an endless maze. But finally, as always they would find themselves at the park.

There, on hot summer nights, their lives happened: in gulps of warm beer, in the whispered stories and blasted music and the girls who maybe, just maybe, would let you disappear with them into the lush darkness in the gully, down by the stream.

Within that suburban square mile of trees, baseball fields, and the dirty trickle of the stream, they built a kingdom completely their own.

The Kid was a kid like any other. In the pack he stood back- blended in effortlessly as if it was what he had been born for. He drank with them, shotgunning from the cans of warm, cheap beer, puked in the bushes as they laughed and cheered and then did it all again; but even when drunk he never fought, or pawed at the girls, or stood on the rocks with his shirt off and howled curses at the moon, never truly lost control like some of others.

Like Jimmy McAllister- still famous at the park, still toasted for the time he took Melanie Anderson down to the stream, Melanie Anderson who gave every boy in school a hard-on when she wore that halter top with her tits just falling out- “Probably the girls, too!” said somebody out of the darkness, and they all laughed. Jimmy McAllister was upstate now; eight years for armed robbery. He told them he never even touched the gun, was just along for the ride, but the judge didn’t give a fuck.

The Kid loved Jimmy McAllister, even if he had never seen him- he loved the idea of Jimmy because he gave them something to drink to, gave them a picture of a world outside the park and the dead-end streets, even if it did end up in a cell in Pelican Bay.

So when they raised their cans to Jimmy, the Kid pounded his. The scene before him swam, and the cigarettes in the dark became fireflies, leaving glowing trails behind them in the air as the invisible owners opened one more beer for Jimmy and all the other heroes of the park.

The Kid staggered unnoticed into the bushes, making it to cover just in time. Minutes later, as he kneeled, still retching, he looked up into a blinding light. He blinked, trying to convince himself what was he seeing wasn’t a hallucination, or a dream:

In the parking lot of the park, their park, next to Eddie’s brother’s Taurus, there was a long black towncar. It gleamed supernaturally in the moonlight. The Kid heard footsteps on the gravel. Instantly he knew: they had finally come for him.

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