The bus arrives, I board and the big vehicle rumbles out through the center city and then out to the East side, through meaner and meaner streets. The bus schedule says that I had better be prepared to spend an hour and 20 minutes in my little quest, or whatever it is that I’m doing. Since I have no idea what I’m going to do, 80 minutes doesn’t seem like an unreasonable time to spend in the pursuit of it.
I get off the bus at the stop nearest where I need to go. It’ll be a walk of perhaps a half a mile to get to the site of the little church. The streets along which I’ll walk aren’t the safest in the city, but the little boy nicknamed Viper had learned how to walk these streets some years ago. Although I have grown up from the Viper stage, I haven’t forgotten the hard learned lessons that Viper acquired along the way.
Even in this desperately poor area I see a few glimpses of Christmas time through the windows of the little rental houses that line the streets.
At last I turn down Garrity Street and stand before the fire ravaged ruins of what had been a church. There’s little left of the church. A few crumbling remnants of walls, foundations, that sort of thing. Most of the corners of the ruins are littered with beer bottles, used condoms and other remains of the lives of the locals.
I walk to the steps where Pedro Garrity had started my journey. Little Pedro, or Viper, had quickly learned that there was nothing for him, except that which he could get on his own. It was a hard life and I have left my own litter behind along my path. A few girls who had, maybe, believed my whispered lies. A few boys who had found out that Viper had gained his nickname because of the sharp fang he carried. And, yes, even a few beer bottles. A man takes what comfort he can get, along a hard road.
Pedro Garrity couldn’t live in the world I wanted. Thus, Pedro Garrity died a quick, painless death and Peter del Mundo walked on, in his place. While Pedro died painlessly, Peter had to fight hard to gain the learning that would buy the nice apartment, the expensive clothes, the proud Corvette and some other nice things. A long, hard fight, but well worth it.
As I stand in the dark on the stairs from where I had started not all that many years ago, I hear familiar enough sounds. There are running feet and curses in gutter Mexican. Across the littered ground races a girl carrying a bundle of some sort.
I stand in the shadow of a pole and she doesn’t see me. She also doesn’t see the pistol bullet that takes her life. As she falls, she tries, as a final act to cradle the bundle she carries. Two boys race to catch up to her fallen form.
I move out from the shadow and tell the boys to stop. They shoot instead. They miss. My Sig Sauer doesn’t miss.
The girl carried a baby and a $20 bill clutched in her dead hand. She has sold her life to try to pay for a few hamburgers to keep herself and her baby alive for a few days. A high price and, considering my own beginning, one that fortunately will return more than the girl ever dreamed.
I scoop up the baby and the $20 bill. I move back down the street sliding from shadow to shadow. I’m not seen, or at least I’m not noticed. Few were better at the shadow to shadow game than Viper and the hard lessons I had learned as a boy once again pay off.