Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Confident (07/05/07)
TITLE: The Choice
By Maxx .
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Through the window, the glow of halogen streetlights painted my arm a luminous blue, except for the rivulets of purple that spilled along my bicep, elbow, and palm.
A spasm of laughter tightened my lungs and broke. I doubled over, swallowing.
“I capped your hide, Ty.” The vacant room shrouded me. “Capped you. Promised I would.”
In the distance the incessant howling of sirens wailed against the concrete arroyos of the barrios, like coyotes endlessly tracking.
“Hector?” A voice from behind, tight, questioning.
The corner lamp clicked and flickered. I squinted in the sudden glare.
“Meja…” A gasp. The figure, short, round, lurched toward me. “You’re hurt… bleeding… ” Her words trailed away.
Ma-Ma, no.” I lifted my sodden arm. “It’s not mine.” But the flow spoke otherwise. I watched droplets spattering into a crimson blot on the ragged carpet.
My shoulder chilled as if an icicle had speared my collar bone. The room spun as the first conscious spasms of pain began to radiate over frayed nerves.
Awareness can be an agonizing thing.
Ma-Ma’s hands moved to her face then covered her heart, pressing against a threadbare nightgown. She mouthed syllables … a silent prayer? … just as she’d done for Raphael the prior year. She blinked, her brown eyes brimming. “I’m calling 911.” Her words strident, sharp, afraid.
But her feet didn’t move.
Sirens cried, louder, nearer, until their combined cacophony was deafening. Three, five, ten? Around our block, down our street, in front of our home. Red and blue lights pulsed into the shadows.
I kicked the plug powering our solitary lamp. Darkness. “Stay low.“ My voice was hushed, conspiratorial. Ma-Ma and I became lost in a strobing kaleidoscope.
Her knees locked, firm, as the tilt of her chin lifted. The silhouette of her face twisted blue, purple, and red. Her gaze shifting between the window and me. “No.”
Her eyes found mine and held steady. The tendons of her jaw and neck clenched beneath puffy, ashen cheeks. “What have you done?”
I wrenched the closet door open. Reaching behind aged coats, I shoveled boxes onto the floor.
Motion outside, a footfall on twigs. Figures, dark clad, badges glinting, moved through the midnight.
I pulled a 9 mm pistol from the small of my back, holding it out, aiming toward the picture window overlooking the street.
Shouts beyond my vision. Ominous, anxious, threatening.
Ma-Ma raised her arms, stepping in front of me. “Meja! No!”
The muscles in my finger twitched, the trigger cold and sure. My arm shook and beads of perspiration peppered my brow. Breath whistled through my set jaw as my eyes saw nothing but the gleam of the steel barrel.
“Hector,” she whispered, close. “What’s going on?” She placed her palm on the weapon and lowered it.
I stumbled again, back, against the ancient clothing. Boxes spilled around my feet. I pushed with my heel, breaking them open…
…until the rounded tips of bullets firmly loaded in a dozen extra clips lay strewn across the floor.
“Blood for blood, Ma-Ma.” I winced, bending to gather them. “Ty for Raphael.”
Her breath caught, jagged. “I was praying for him…”
I slapped ammo into the magazine.
Ma-Ma dropped to the carpet, hands to her temples. “If I could forgive, why…”
“I couldn’t, ok?“ I lunged, standing over the crumpled woman, peering down. “He killed my brother!” I was sharp, edgy, each syllable a distinct shout.
“And my son!” Her fingers knotted my saturated pants leg. “He forgave, too.”
“That didn’t keep him from being shot like a starving dog, did it?” I waved the pistol above her head. “What good did it do serving Kool-aid to bums and whores?” I pushed her with my foot. Tears choked my rage.
“The least of these…”
“Nobody was saved and Raphael’s brains were blown all over the sidewalk.” I coughed. “I saw him, broken…”
“He chose…” She pleaded, gaze unwavering. “…hope… faith. What do you have faith in, Meja?”
I cocked the 9 mm. “There was no purpose. A wasted choice.”
She stood, placing her palms on my cheeks. “I don’t know the ways of God. But maybe your brother died only to bring you to this moment where you can make a choice, too.” She kissed me.
I squeezed my eyes shut. “How can you be confident in that?”
“Faith in things unseen, Meja.”
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