NOBODY Is All Bad HON.Mention Writing That Makes An Impact Contest
Word Count: 846
"Rules Of The Street"
By: SM Ferguson
Intimidation is a survival skill. In my life you either excel at it or die, it’s as simple as that. I find it important to cruise my neighborhood constantly. Walking, I stare people in the eyes until they look away. I am the predator. They are my prey. I can never let them forget that. My clothes, jewelry and even the way I move, telegraph signals that I am still strong. One flash of implied weakness will end my life. These are the rules of the street.
I hear the pounding drive of rap music pouring from the run-down apartments. My headache throbs to it’s rhythm. My eyes move constantly, scanning for threats. Danger and instant death are as much a part of my world as a quiet family dinner is of yours. It can come from any direction, a car slowing on the street or a dark alley between buildings. I study and assess every derelict I see long before I pass them, not everyone is what they appear to be out here. All of them are potential threats. My neighborhood is rich with prostitutes flashing their wares, homeless sleeping in doorways and junkies searching for their next trip to heaven.
I cut down an alley, savoring the darkness of the humid night. It protects me. In the bar at the end of this alley awaits my buddy. I’ll be glad to hook up with him for there is safety in numbers. Ask any wolf in the pack. My T-shirt is damp with sweat, it is hot in the city this august night. Ripe smells of garbage and urine assault my nostrils with every breath. I don’t let it bother me. They are but symbols of the poverty around me.
I stop abruptly, my eyes taking in the dark shape lying prone on the ground before me. Noiselessly, I press close to the side of the alley. The brick of the building is hot and rough against my skin. I blend into it’s shadow, studying the shape stretched out before me. I knew it was a body, what I needed to understand was the message it held for me.
I had ordered no hits tonight. My mind flicked over possibilities. An overdose? Or was it a warning? Rival gangs sometimes left bodies on your turf to signal you were next on their take-over list. I needed to know and I hoped it was not my buddy’s remains lying there.
The dark, coppery odour of blood hit me. My stomach knotted, muscles tensed for action. Not an overdose. I moved in for a closer look.
An old woman lay on the ground , knife still sticking out of her chest. Sloppy work I thought. Studying the woman, my anger rose as I processed the scene. She’d been robbed, a brown paper sack near her spilled out the wrinkled fruit and loaf of day old bread she’d ventured out to collect. A coffee shop attached to the bar put it’s leftovers out nightly for the hungry and the rats. This woman likely survived on their garbage. She’d had nothing to steal and it cost her life. Payment to some junkie, mad he got no cash to score heaven that night.
Moistness filled my eyes as I stared at her body. She reminded me of my grandma, I’d loved that woman. I remembered laughing in her kitchen, filling my stomach on fresh baked cookies, surrounded by love and sunshine. The smell of death was replaced by those of pinesol and cinnamon. Grandma had begged my mother to leave me on the farm after the divorce but I’d been brought to the city anyways. Mom left me to be raised by the gangs on the street while she entertained men to get cash for food and her next bottle of booze.
I wondered if this dead woman had grandchildren. Instinct said no, they’d never have let her roam these streets alone. I didn’t want to leave her there to rot with the garbage, it didn’t feel like something my grandma would have taken pride in my doing. I swore at the woman at my feet.
Why’d you get killed here? Why must you remind me of a past I will never return to? I killed people, it’s part of my lifestyle. People don’t pay for service rendered, they die. Off-turf guys invade, they die. This was different. There was no honour in her death. She’d broken no code. Her only mistake was struggling to exist. My head pounded and indecision filled my heart. She could not be left here so alone and exposed.
I walked quickly to a payphone outside the bar, dialed the anonymous tips line. Quickly I reported the body, hanging up when they asked my name. Moving back into the alley, I stood guard over her body until I heard the sirens. As the flashing lights strobed closer, I turned and headed for the bar. She was the cops problem now. I’d done what I could.
WORD COUNT: 843