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Folly - Madelyn Helford.heic

Thursday Morning Massacre

   Summer mornings around 5 a.m it’d still be cool with a lot of fog, and we’d still be around the big white truck waiting for it to warm up, the one we’d drive to jobs in. Me and Lil’ Marvin sitting in the cab because we don’t smoke and my brother Jeremy, Reuben, Tunk, and Big Marvin hanging around the open door smoking their last menthols before we head out to the job. Lil’ Marvin had Huggie Lowdown on the radio telling jokes and doing his motivational thing. When Big Marvin and the rest of the guys get in to pull, he’ll switch it to smooth jazz, but it’s all good. I can still smell the bags of dirty cement on the truck, the dirty ashtray filled with butts, and the drywall dust that’s everywhere. And when we get to the site, the piles of PVC, leaking motor oil, and the sour smell of rain water mixed with old paint in the eight-gallon pails left open, that we’d never moved, just being lazy. On mornings like this, I’d sit, confused, wondering “Why do I have to do this?” Getting SSL hours so that I can graduate. What is the point, all these days waking up when it’s still dark, working with strangers? All except my brother. When Big Marvin sticks his head in the cab, Lil’ Marvin reads my mind. “Why we gotta do this anyway?” Lil’ Marvin is 17, and he’s just graduated with all his SSL hours and is set to go to college in the fall. I guess he just wants to relax.

   “I need you to know how to do this stuff in case something ever happens to me and I need you to take over the business,” Marvin says.

   “Why’d you put it like that? Something gonna happen?”

   “Stop asking so many questions. Let’s go.”

   Last night, after work, Big Marvin, Lil’ Marvin, me and the rest of the gang were chilling down off Atlantic Street in Southeast, eating some Boston Market, messing around, playing Play station. Around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m., Big Marvin got up, looked at his watch, said “I’ll be back,” and walked to the front door.

   One of the guys, being funny, said, “Who do you think you are, The Terminator or something?” Then he repeats “I’ll be back,” in a deep rumbling voice, and everyone laughs. But Big Marvin has this serious look on his face that is kind of scary.

   Big Marvin grips the door knob for a second, looking back into the room, and lil’ Marvin says, “Dad, where are you going? Can I go?”

   But before Lil’ Marvin can finish his sentence, Big Marvin yells “No!” in a voice so demanding and final that everyone in the room jumps, and the funny one we all call Cloud just sat there and said, “Damn,” as the room filled with silence. Ten minutes later we all hear gun shots and a car crash. It’s all coming from maybe five blocks away, but we hear the echo. I check out Lil’ Marvin, who’s sitting next to me, and he looks like he’s just seen a ghost.

   “Damn, you hear that?” everybody says.

   “They shooting again,” Tunk says. He’s just refilled his plate and is sitting down.

   “Sounds like a semi-automatic,” my brother says.

   “Naw. 9 m.m woulda’ jammed shooting that fast,” Tunk says.

   Then Marvin comes in the house and everyone pops outta’ their seats asking if he’s okay. Big Marvin scowls and says, “Why you asking me a question like that?” Then he jets upstairs.

   And Lil’ Marvin sits down quiet and confused and says “Why he get mad over a question like that?” And I am thinking to myself, maybe he got a guilty conscience.

   So here we are this morning, loading the final stuff on the trunk. Marvin says “Let’s go boys. Let’s get this work done. I wanna get it outta the way cause a storm is coming and I don’t wanna get stuck with it later.” So the six of us pile in and Big Marvin turns on his smooth jazz. Tunk is smoking Newports and it's being a rainy Thursday.

   Cloud says, “Never eat wet pussy on rainy Thursdays.”

“Say what?” my brother says, not paying attention ‘cause he’s digging for his seat belt stuck down in the seat. And we all head off, bored, ready to work, but still half asleep. There’s only two vehicles on the road this early in the morning, us and a black Crown Vic, and we’re each heading in opposite directions. I look into the Crown Vic for no good reason, and notice the driver has this crazy look in his eye. Plus he’s wearing a ski mask on his head and it’s summer.

   As we pass the Crown Vic, Big Marvin notices. “Oh shit, don’t turn around,” he says in a voice I’ve never heard come outta him before. It’s the type of voice you hear in a commercial. I don’t know if he is talking to all of us sitting in the front seat of the truck or talking about the guys driving in the Crown Vic. But I figure it out pretty soon because the car jams on its brakes and turns around so fast it is followed by a trail of smoke as it runs up on us. The shooter is sitting in the passenger seat and he is wearing a ski mask too. He opens up on us fast with an AK-47 or something. The first round must’ve missed because I heard them before anyone got hit. My brother must’ve heard ‘em too because he cupped the back of my head and jammed it down into the seat before he caught one. He slumped down on top of me, bleeding from where he got shot in the head. Tunk, who was riding shotgun by the passenger door, hovered over my brother repeating “It’s okay.” Then he got shot about 5 times in the back.

   I am in shock and covered in blood, looking at Tunk thinking if he wasn’t there my brother would’ve been dead by now. Then Tunk says the weirdest thing. He says: “I’m tired of all this shit,” and opens the truck door and bails out while we’re moving. Big Marvin gets hit the same time Tunk does, only I don’t notice it right away ‘cause I'm blocked by my brother and lookin’ at Tunk fall outta the truck and get left behind. When I am finally able to see Big Marvin in the next second or two, he is bleeding through the back of his shirt. I can't tell if he’s been shot in the back, or the leg, or the ass, but he’s bleeding all right, and the truck runs off the road and up over the curb. I push my brother to the side and hold him. I peek out the back window. The Crown Vic has stopped and the shooter, still wearing the ski mask, gets out and shoots Cloud and Lil’ Marvin, who had ended up riding in the trailer we were pulling. Then he walks over to Tunk, who is lying in the middle of the road, and shoots him one time in the head to finish him off. He is heading methodically to the trunk when I notice all the police sirens coming for a while, only I haven’t noticed ‘em.

   Then the Crown Vic pulls up next to the guy coming to finish all of us off. The driver must’ve said something because the guy with the gun suddenly stops and stares at us, decides to get in the car, and they break like the wind and are gone. Really, they vanish like some magician’s trick. They’re just gone. And we are swarmed by police cars. They pack my brother and Big Marvin off in ambulances. They sit me in the back seat of a squad car. After awhile, they pick up Cloud and Lil’ Marvin. But they seem to forget about Tunk. He just lies there like he’s invisible.

   They ask me questions, thinking I know why we got shot. All I can answer is “I needed SSL hours,” and it’s like I’m speaking in tongues to them. They don’t know what SSL hours are. They look at me like I’m crazy. In between questions, I look over at Tunk.

   “Aren’t you gonna move him?” I finally ask.

   “Move who?” they say.

   "Tunk,” I say.

   “Who’s Tunk?” they say.

   “That’s Tunk,” I say. “The guy who’s lying in the street.”

   “He’s dead,” they say. “What’d he know about all this? Did he say anything to you?” they ask.

   “Yeah. He said he was sick of all this shit. And then he opened the door and stepped out."

   “While it was moving? Why’d he do a stupid thing like that?” the younger cop asks. “Ask Tunk,” I say, nodding at the body down the street nobody has bothered to cover yet.

   Then I hear one cop say to the other, “Let’em sit tight ‘til we finish up here and then I’ll run him over to Protective Services.” Then all the voices start to melt together and I don’t remember much at all.

Folly by Madelyn Helford from Limbo

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