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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)

TITLE: Rat Trap
By Sandra Petersen


Broken glass shards crunch under my tennis shoes as I sprint down a dimly lit alley. My cotton shirt clings to me with the sweat of my exertion.

I will myself not to look over my shoulder, then glance anyway. Panic constricts my throat at what I see. The opposite end of the alley and freedom seem a hundred miles away.

I would scream if my jagged breathing would allow me. Instead I command my legs to move faster. My arms pump wildly in my helter-skelter escape.

Now I hear the footsteps and shout of the officer as he yells at me to stop. How long before a bullet ends my headlong flight?

I topple an overflowing garbage can. The smell of rotting fish and soiled diapers rises from the spilled contents and I trip. Staggering to my feet, I take two more steps. Flashing red and blue lights dance against the walls of the buildings that line the alley.

I pivot and crane my head one way, then the other. Both ends of the alley are closed to me. I sink to my knees, breathing hard, and raise my trembling hands over my head.

Not for the first time I wonder which of my compatriots is still alive. When the cops arrived to break up our war, I took off. I dodged through grappling Death Lords and Kings of Aces toward the maze of alleyways that composed our territory. The stench of blood and sweat hung over the litter-strewn street, our makeshift battlefield. More than one warrior lay moaning on the pavement.

A pool of blood spread from the lifeless shell of my best bud Mo. Here and there, fallen friends stared open-eyed to the ebony sky, mouths agape in silent bloody screams. Tonight their blankets would be body bags, courtesy of the city morgue. Tomorrow or the next day, if they were lucky, a sobbing girlfriend or a weary-faced mother would come to identify their remains.

I didnt want to be an unknown corpse.

My last view was of Roscoe the Brute swinging his crowbar into the exposed neck of a Death Lord, leaning into the motion like he was driving a home run out of the park.

I ran.

The officers tighten the handcuffs on me and jerk me to my feet. We sway and stumble, a grotesque dancing threesome, toward the waiting squad.

Last one, the officer grunts as he pushes my head down and nudges me into the backseat. Another handcuffed captive, a Death Lord, scowls at me from the opposite side. His red bandanna sits askew atop his coal black fro.

The driver smirks at us in the rearview mirror. You know, I should let the two of you at each other. Itd save cell space. He edges the squad into the street.

The Death Lord stares at me, taking in my gang tattoo, and the size of my biceps. He snorts and spits on my shirt, after determining that Im not much of a threat. Then he glares out the window.

Within minutes, we pull up outside the police station. I think of my grandmother and her quiet faith. She tried to teach me about her Lord. I wouldnt listen.

Will they tell her? I hope not. She thinks Im dead. Maybe I am.

The Death Lord and I are wrestled through a doorway and down the hall to the holding tank. I wonder again if Im the last one and begin to wish Id never become a King of Aces.

As the door to the tank opens, I see six unfamiliar faces. The uncuffed Death Lord swaggers into the tank and is received into a fellowship of hand signs and back slaps. I protest as my cuffs are removed and Im shoved into the room. The door slams shut. I stand, my back to the wall, yelling to my captors as seven pairs of eyes narrow and lips curl in malicious snarls.

Im like one of those rats that poor Mo used to capture in saltine boxes back at our digs in the hood. Youve heard of dog fights? For fun, Mo made a small arena out of broken orange crates and planks to pit his rats against each other. My buds bet cigarettes on the outcomes.

Now Im the rat in the arena and my cellmates are all Death Lords. There is no escape and the fight is to the finish. All bets are off.

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This article has been read 981 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 02/07/08
The description is excellent. I could feel and see it allthe evidence of a good writer.
Venice Kichura02/08/08

What descriptive action here! I love your use of present tense as it makes so much more intense!
Sharlyn Guthrie02/09/08
Vivid in every detail. I could smell, hear, see, feel it all...and my heart is pounding. Great job.
Ann Renae Hair02/10/08
You grabbed me right away. I could smell the trash! I love the innocence of this young man. Certainly some do wonder how they got so far away from what they knew was right. I hope he made it out of that cell okay...sure would like to know the rest of the story. Great writing.
william price02/10/08
Very descriptive tale of a lad who has made some wrong choices. Enjoyed it. God bless.
Patty Wysong02/10/08
Very vivid. Being inside the MC's head really added a lot.
Jan Ackerson 02/10/08
Sandra, I loved this! The present tense (and the seamless transition to a small, past-tense flashback) really worked for me--befitting the immediacy of the situation.

I had to smile when reading this...I thought about the writing adage "write what you know" and I'm trying to imagine your former life as a gangsta. You definitely had me convinced!
Shelley Ledfors 02/10/08
Wow! Really powerful writing. This story drew me in immediately and kept me there the whole time. Excellent.
Betty Castleberry02/10/08
Bold, descriptive and attention-getting. 'Nuff said.
LaNaye Perkins02/10/08
You grabbed my attention from the first sentence to the last word. Excellent!
Joanne Sher 02/10/08
Very, VERY intense. You have done a masterful job of setting the scene especially. If this is you out of practice, I have no chances when you are IN practice, my friend.
Dee Yoder 02/11/08
Tension-filled story and a really taut ending kept me reading. I can't help feeling sorry for the MC-and his poor grandmother.
Lyn Churchyard02/11/08
I found myself holding my breath as I read this. True craftmanship!
Loren T. Lowery02/11/08
Intense action. The use of the first person really made it point on for me. The title is perfect for the message of the story. I didn't want to be in that cell with him, not even for a moment.
Beth LaBuff 02/11/08
Excellent writing on this story. It's a world I only visit through other's writings. You've made this come alive.