62. five years ago

I wrote this five years ago for a creative writing class. It’s better than most of what I write, but it’s got a few holes. For one, I ripped a line wholesale from John Irving. Also, the goal was to limit multisyllable words, and I didn’t quite get there. 

But I’m proud of it. It’s the first time I ever took fiction seriously.

We have to do it. That’s what Tim says, and no one says no to Tim. But the more I think on it, the more I think he’s right. What they did to Gibs was messed up.

Tim and I went to see him last night at St. James, and he’s still banged up bad, lots of beeps and boops doing his living for him. His neck was wrapped tight, but I know what’s there. Tim says it’s called a Harlem sunset. I thought it should have a worse name than that, but no one says no to Tim.

I’m not as tough as the rest of the Four Swords think I am, but at least I know that. I don’t think I could do what Paul did to that kid he caught messing with his cousin. That night, as the rain soaked my feet through my shoes, he told me it was a piece of cake.

“All it took was a bat,” he said, grinning and swinging at me. But I saw it took guts. He’s a strong kid, and now no one will mess with his cousin. I wish I could do that. I wish I had the fire in me that guys like Tim and Paul have.

“Why did they cut up Gibs?” I asked Tim on the drive home.

“Hate to ask you this, kid, but do you got a smoke?” I fished in my coat for my cloves and lit one for both of us. He was trying to quit smoking, and I was trying to start.

“I think it had to do with Kate,” he said.

“Who’s Kate?”

“Mike D’s girl.”

“Who’s Mike D?”

“He’s a Duke.”

“Oh.” I gave Tim a grim nod, apt for the rare use of the D-word.

“You’re in tonight, right?” I knew what he would want me to say.

“We have to do it,” I said.

“That’s my guy,” he said, ruffling my hair. “We have to do it.”

The rest of the ride went quick, my head buzzed with smoke and fear and the sound of Gibs breathing through tubes.

“Meet at Paul’s at eight,” Tim said when he dropped me off. “Bring your dancing shoes.”

Mom had left for work by the time I got home, so I knew it was at least six. I called Syd and Jack to see if they would play some ball with me to calm my nerves, but both calls went straight to voicemail.

I went up to my room and locked the door. I dug my dad’s old Ray Charles disc out from my desk and put it in my boom box. I wished I had Georgia on my mind like old Ray. I layed on my bed and tried to sleep, but when I closed my eyes I saw Gibs.

What will I feel? The guy that got Gibs, what did he feel? Did he know who Gibs was or just that he was a Sword?  I felt my hate for the Dukes well up, and, remembering what Tim said, I reached under my bed.

The 6-inch switch caught the light from my lamp when I clicked it. The back of the blade was scraped up from rubbing it on the brick wall next to my house; no Sword’s knife is new.

Seeing it was ten to eight, I locked the house and left for Paul’s. In the warm air, my fear was close to gone. My steps were light on the walk. I would make the Dukes pay for Gibs, and then I’d smoke a clove with Tim and go to St. James to tell Gibs the whole story. And then it would all be done.

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