“Bronson? Bronson! You all right?”
Bronson, with numb fingers, felt the bullet hole in the wooden fence, just up and to the right of his head. “Jesus,” he said.
Mal pulled his nine from the small of his back. Bringing the gun up with his right hand, he braced it with his left and emptied it at Jorge’s Impala as it barreled down Meade.
The after-game party at Tanya Jackson’s was huge since Tanya’s parents were in Seattle for a week. Tupac boomed incessantly inside, but Mal sat alone in the backyard, putting a huge dent in Mr. Jackson’s bottle of Black Label.
Nobody wanted to talk to him, and that was just fine. All his teammates thought he was a weirdo, and that was fine, too. If he could play basketball without them, he would. But he couldn’t, so there you go.
After a while, he didn’t want to push through the house to get to the bathroom, so he went around the corner to take a piss.
Voices wafted to him from the front yard. An angry voice, a timid voice. Mal stepped quietly over to the side gate.
“Where your homies at now, bitch?”
Jenkins did not, in fact, look too fuckin’ tough, Mal thought. Tanya’s boyfriend, a 23-year-old psycho named Shorty towered over him. Word was he’d already been in prison a couple of times. He was wearing a brand new Bulls jacket.
“Man, I ain’t even tryin’ to fuck with you,” Jenkins said.
“I got my own back, bitch. See? This what a man look like, motherfucker.”
Mal stuck his arm through the bars of the side gate, careful not to tap the Black Label bottle on the iron. Once he had his arm all the way through, Mal closed one eye and took aim. He was way too drunk to be doing this. He pulled back and threw the bottle.
Jenkins actually screamed when the bottle exploded on Shorty’s head, putting the dude on his face in broken glass and cheap Scotch. When Jenkins’s eyes finally landed on Mal leaning against the side gate, Mal gave him a little wave.
“Mal, Jesus Christ!” Jenkins let out a shaky breath. “Way to be on point, man.”
The Impala swerved to the left, overcorrected to the right, and plowed itself into one of those bulky SDG&E transformer things, decorated with finger-paints by a local fourth grade class.
The neighborhood flickered and went dark.
“Jesus,” Bronson said.
“Hey, Mal! Shit, I haven’t seen you in a dog’s age. How’ve you been?”
“All right. What you drinkin’?”
“No, no, no, I’m buying this round. Barkeep!”
Even though they’d lost touch, Bronson had known Mal pretty much all of his life. And here, ten rounds later, Mal was probably talking more than he’d ever heard before. Must be the Black Label.
“Hey, man, shit,” Mal said, “So ya lost yer fuckin’ job, so what?”
“I gotta eat, Mal, y’know. I mean...I gotta eat, right?”
“Yes. Yes, yes, yes, you do, Bronson, but here’s the thing. Here’s the thing: there’s a difference ‘tween working and making money. See?”
“No. No, I don’t see at all.”
“Well, you don’t worry ‘bout it. You and me, we’ll go into business. Forget about it.” Mal raised his glasses and wiped at his face. “And this broad? Forget about that, too.”
“Yeah. I mean, at least she, y’know, gave me the fuckin’ ring back. Can’t, uh...can’t take that from her.”
“Lemme, hey, lemme ask you this. And don’t think about, like, just answer. Don’t even think about it.”
“Like, don’t even think about it. This broad, when she gave you back yer ring there, what was your first gut feeling: depressed? Or relieved?”
“Bronson? Bronson! C’mon, man, let’s get the fuck outta here.”
Bronson touched the hole again. The wood was warm. He let Mal pull him away down the darkened block. Sirens rose in the distance.
“C’mon, man,” Mal said, “You all right? Are you hit at all?” He began patting Bronson down some.
“No, I’m good, man.”
“Yeah. I’m, y’know.” Bronson let out a shaky breath. “Relieved.”
-This title comes form Michael Moore’s Twitter account in regards to a plane he was on almost missing the runway…or something like that.
-Jimmy is the tireless line-editor of Cameron Ashley and Josh Converse and has a Blog Spot blog you should all check out. It’s attentionchildren.blogspot.com.