He spends hours of days trying to convince himself it’s all ok; everyday a little less of him to remember, a little less of them. He works, he sleeps, he sifts through the minutes. He’s been trying to escape from his former life like a shadow running from Peter Pan and his little fairy, who are trying to sew him back together to anchor him down but he can’t stand it anymore, can’t stand being tied down. There isn’t anything worth being tied to anymore. He once had faith but faith didn’t serve him as much as he served it. Substance of things hoped for; yet everything is unseen. He searched for God and could not find him when he ached for him the most he could not hear him. Pastors with so much wisdom tried to guide him tried to be a shepherd to a lamb that did not want to live that did not want to be led. Hopelessness would be a feeling and that he would cry for now, for anything would be better then not feeling at all. What scares Eric most about his life now is the fact that he doesn’t know how to live. Every day is empty like a hollow tree; nothing wants to live in it except creatures of the night that use it to hide from the light. It is funny how life works. In nature, everything is used; even things that are dying, the living will find some use for those things that can’t find any use for themselves.
The day had rattled away like wasted time down the garbage disposal. Eric sat in his easy chair watching the flickering images of eternal technicolored hope and capitalism, subliminaly warping his calloused mind. The only thing that separated his days from one another was the changing of the guards in the sky. Everyday had become a monotonous repetition of movements like experienced dancers performing a child’s ballet. Sadness was the fuel of his slowly deflating heart. The phone rang. Eric stared at the phone for a minute, as if confused at its existence, or his then he answered it.
“I know” Eric walked over to the window of his apartment and stared at the darkness that painted the sky. “How are you?”
“I’m ok. I was calling to see if I could get you out of the apartment”
“I don’t want to get out”
“Eric, it’s been a year. The only time you get out is for work….” Eric interrupted.
“…I go to church, sometimes.”
“Eric you’re my brother, I love you…”
“Good you should.”
“Funny, Eric I’m serious. Please come out with Jason and me. We’ll go to the sports bar, watch the Cubs.”
“That sounds great, but I don’t drink and the Cubs aren’t on, so I think I’ll skip, maybe next time sis.”
“Eric…” Ignoring his sister’s plea Eric talks over her. “…Love you Shannon, goodbye” He turned off the phone and dropped it to the floor.
Eric walked across the living room to the hall closet and took out a lock box. He opened the box relieved it of a pistol and some ammo then he walked back to his chair and loaded the gun. He pointed the gun at the TV and laughed. Then he put it to his head, pressed gently against his right temple and cried. Indecision was worse then the decision to pull the trigger. His hand shook with anger and disappointment. His brain told his finger to pull but his finger rebelled. Tears of fatigue languidly lurched down his cheeks tumbling boulders of sorrow and release. Eric placed the gun on the coffee table in front of him and in exhaustion fell back in his seat and in to sleep. He slept like a soldier in a war, his mind the battlefield, scattered with dead bodies, wounded ideas and deep scars. He drifted into a grief stricken coma, wandering in the forest of his foggy mind, a cold dense foliage of weeds and succulents that don’t die, even without water and they grow back when you cut them. Thorns and spikes like nightmares sit in the quite of their purpose, patient; waiting for the fool that tries to up root them. Tares, the only way to beat them is to bleed. It takes a portion of you to remove them from you.
Eric woke to a light tapping on his door. He wiped the dreams from his eyes and the drool from his lips. Drowsiness hung on his face like paralysis. The rapping at the door became more insistent. Eric walked to the door took a deep breath and opened it. Two young girls like miniature angles stood on the shadows of the landing fear etched across their faces but hope abounded in their eyes as they stared at Eric from his door mat that read help is in side. Eric looked down at the girls, perplexity pasted to his face. He pulled in a deep breath and sighed then looked out on to his landing and purveyed the apartments nearest him. Eric stared again at the girls their eyes met his and they locked. The oldest girl moved forward a half step, her dark hair whipped across her forehead by the wind; she whispered a word that could not be heard over the pounding of music from the courtyard.
Eric shook his head “What did you say darling?” The girl moved forward another small step and repeated her self. “Help”
“Oh, Help” Eric looked at his watch “Darling I’m not on the clock. Isn’t kind of late? I mean it’s midnight. Why are you even awake?”
“Help please” Her voice still quite but insistent, she stared at Eric with expectancy.
Eric shook head “Look darling, we have an emergency number if you have maintanence need. I’m not on the clock” The younger girl stepped behind her sister and whispered a plea of her own “My mother needs help”
“Look, am I missing something? I’m only the matinince man, I only fix small problems like plugged toilets or swamp coolers that break. Are those any of the problems you’re experiencing? If not I don’t have the tools to help.” Eric looked down at the girls feet neither girl had shoes on. On both of their feet Eric could see blood. He pointed at their feet and asked “What is that?”
“WE need your help.” The two girls turned and walked down the landing toward the stairs.
“That didn’t answer my question. What happened to your feet? Hey!” The girls kept walking ignoring his pleads.
“Why not call the police? They both stopped and turned to look at Eric who stood in his door way sure that he had just averted the danger of getting involved.
“WE did call the police. They don’t come here.”
The girls slowly turned and began to walk away again. Eric stared at the two sisters, the two children that walked with bare feet in the cold night, who stood close to each other for warmth and protection. They reminded him of his two girls. The last time he saw them they looked just like these two, worn out and tired, except his girls had shoes. His eyes rolled back in to his head as he fell into a memory about his daughters. His heart sank, his chest heaved, microscopic moments of life and sorrow flowed through his veins. Memories like tattoos printed on his mind left a constant reminder of what he was actively trying to forget. Convulsions of the brain, spasms of his heart emptiness that now defined him. Eric looked at his apartment at his messy kitchen and filthy living room, laundry scattered over the entire floor, his gun. He looked back at the girls who stood in the cold, billows of condensation racing from their mouths. Eric looked around the landing waiting for some one else to open their door so they could take the girls and the problem with them.
Eric yelled out! “Stop! What do you need help with?”
Eric stared at his apartment then at the girls. He walked inside quickly and put his jacket on. He stared at his gun and questioned what he was getting into. He placed the gun in the pocket of his jacket and stepped into the cool night then closed his door. From his landing he looked down at the court yard and the parking lot. Men in white t-shirts hung around they’re cars playing loud music drinking and cussing and telling tales.
“Why not ask them for help?” Eric pointed at the men in the courtyard and the parking lot who seemed so far away from where Eric and the girls were, only three flights up but a world apart. The girls did not answer him. The youngest girl walked next to Eric and wrapped her delicate porcelain hand onto the fingers of his large calloused club and led him to the stairs. When they reached the stairs the girls walked together ahead of Eric. He looked around at the immense darkness. He thought about all the times he had tried to fix these lights and how many times they had been broken. Some people liked to live in the dark they feel safe, hiding from their mistakes and decisions. He walked the stairs like a confident blind man, one hand in front of the other feeling for something solid in the darkness. The girls like angels, strode side by side walking in a rhythmic prance. They looked back every few steps to be assured that Eric was still following. Eric looked to his left over his shoulder at his apartment, a bright light in the distance high above the troubles he seemed to be getting himself into. His apartment faded like a star in the darkest of nights hidden in the space of time and chaos.
Eric followed the girls straight ahead into the center court yard of the apartments. Doubt crept into his mind; it weakened his knees and made his hands sweat. He brought his hands to his mouth cupped them and blew, his breath warm and moist on his cold skin. As the girls neared the center of the courtyard they slowed down, apprehension shuffled with their feet as they turned to be sure Eric had not lost hope and deserted them.
A door opened just as Eric entered the center of the courtyard; voices were heard arguing, sounds of items hitting the floor reverberated off the outer concrete walls of the buildings rattling around like trapped electrons. As they walked a little farther down the broken concrete path a group of men began to flood out of an apartment. They came out laughing and joking with each other not noticing the girls but as they got to the path they realized that Eric was there and they stopped talking. The only noise that was heard was the mariachi music blasting from random apartments and a few cars in the parking lot.
Eric tried to quicken his pace, knowing that it was useless. The men began to circle Eric like vultures. Eric’s heart fluttered he tried to think of ways to avoid the men. Nothing came to mind he felt trapped. Panic was setting in. Eric’s mind filled with every thought of negativity his imagination could conceive. He had worked in these apartments for five years, when he was hired the owner told him that he would be treated harshly simply because he was white. Eric didn’t care then he never figured he would have any problems since he never came out of his apartment except to work. Five years ago he came in for the interview not caring whether he got the job or not, but figured he was more then qualified.
“You come with great references. Ten years in construction, framing, dry wall, plumbing. You seem to be an honest man. I would love to have an honest man for once…”
Eric could tell the man was holding something back. “But?”
The man shifted in this seat. “But, I’m more afraid for you then anything. You gotta understand where you are. Look I don’t mean to be little you or make my tenants seem ignorant but they really dislike white people. I own the place and I try to stay away as much as possible.” The old man laughed nervously.
Eric stared at the man with no expression. “I’ll take it. I don’t care.”
“Then I’ll hire you; just remember what I told you they will treat you with utter contempt even though you are her to help them.”
“I’ll survive.” Eric remembered not caring how anyone treated him. No one else’s actions, good or bad could bring back anything that once was important in his life. People and consequences had no bearing on his moments anymore. They simply were companions living and happening in a sister dimension next to his lonely chaotic universe. They mimicked his existence but had no direct affect on his decisions. But now here he was, for some reason he had stepped out of his apartment to help these girls, for the first time in years he was feeling something. He didn’t know what to do with the emotion so he swallowed it and let it sit in his stomach causing a sharp stabbing discomfort.
Five young Latino men circled Eric like lions stalking their prey. Eric stood there in silence waiting for some kind of cue so that he could play his part in the dance. One of the men stepped forward. He wore a crew cut t-shirt that left part of a tattooed cross evident on this left shoulder. It appeared to Eric that the tattooed blood from the cross was truly weeping down the man’s arm.
“Don’t you know you shouldn’t be here white boy? No one wants you here” … the man continued to circle Eric sizing him up. Eric stood his ground just watching the girls in the distance who stood on the path patiently waiting for Eric.
“Look, I don’t want any trouble I just want” … The young man cut Eric off and laughed at him. “No one here cares what you want Slim Shady, I’ve never seen you here before. Who do you think you are?
“I’m the maintenance man. I work here…” All the young men laughed at Eric again they poked at him and lightly pushed him back and forth between each other. The young man with the tattoo cross caught Eric as he was bounced back and forth. The man held him close to him, holding Eric’s arms down. Eric tried to breath but he felt his lungs slowly giving in, anxiety gripping his heart. The man slowly moved his face closer to Eric’s, so close Eric could feel the man’s moustache tickle his cheek. “I know who you are during the day white boy. Who do you think you are now to be coming out here at night? Don’t you get it? We don’t like you.”
“I’ve never done anything to you.”
“You’re white, that’s all you have to do. That is an offense to me.”
Eric began to plead for his safety “But all I’m trying to do is help these girls, they asked for my help.”
“That’s despicable. You’re using those girls as your excuse? Why do you have to bring them into it?
“They asked me for help. They said their mother was in trouble.”
The man looked at the girls then looked at all his friends. A small smirk grew across his face.
“Do you know who those girls belong to white-boy? Do you know where you’re going? Not only are you dumb enough to come out here and walk in my courtyard but you going to the elephants place. You are a stupid gringo. If you’re scared of me wait until you meet the Elephant. He doesn’t care if your white or black he hates everyone.”
Eric stood staring into the dark sky and watched the haze of the cold float like cigarette smoke into the puzzle of stars that connected a thousand images to a thousand stories of a million people that stared into the sky; a million lives and experiences ran through Eric’s mind. He stared in a daze as the voice of the young man stung in the back of his conscience, reminding him that he was somewhere but his destination did not punctuate his existence in this moment; the words were like distant reminders of fading memories that he had put away long ago. Eric thought to himself “I don’t care anymore about anything. I just want to accomplish this one last thing, to be noble for one last person.” He wanted do something good for these girls that he had witnessed during the summer playing in the parking lot of this concrete jungle under the piercing steaming, raging yellow heat that burned so hot it broiled the ground like a griddle that burned the feet of the children that were too poor to afford shoes. All he wanted to do was help these girls that found the strength to come to him that found it proper to seek out him. His pride swelled into to his chest and he stared into the young Man’s eye’s. He could not understand why so much opposition stood in his way to helping these girls why so much hatred existed between his love and their need, all he wanted was to help all he wanted was to yell and scream back at these young men. He knew that they felt they were protecting what little they had and that their pride was fueling their hatred, but he felt he did not have time to argue or reason he felt the gun in his pocket and wondered if this why he had brought it, if this is why he decided to bring it. His hand fondled the weapon with appreciation of the power that he wielded, he grasped the gun in his pocket and felt the trigger, his mind thought of all the time that was wasting away listening to this racist garbage that was being spued at him. As the young man cursed and called him names he thought of hypocrisy of the words the hatred that they imbued. To what gain is hatred held on to? To what purpose does it gain to hate those that hate you? This Eric Pulled out his hand and formed a fist. As the men circle him he dove forward in a desperate attempt to catch at least the young man that was talking off guard, which he did. His hand struck the man in the mouth, a tooth rolled across the courtyard as the man lay flat on his back, his breath quite and rhythmic. Eric looked up at the others; they stood looking at each other then staring at Eric in disbelief.
“All I want to do is help these girls. I don’t want trouble I don’t hate you, though I know you all hate me, I know I am white I know you are not and that you have had many white people treat you bad, but I am not them. I am only trying to help these girls then I will go back to my apartment and leave you all alone.”
Eric waited for someone to hit him, to push him but nothing happened. The young men stared at him with gaping mouths and respect. They parted the circle that was around Eric and without words allowed him to pass. Eric tried to hurry and move slowly with confidence. He looked back every two steps. Eric walked to the girls.
“Look, girls can we get to your apartment soon I don’t think I can handle much more in this night?”
The girls stood in front of a purple door. They huddled closer to each other, arms wrapped around each other’s bodies. Eric walked towards the girls with trepidation he put hands on their shoulders.
“I take it this is the place?” The girls did not answer; they stood like statues frozen from the cold and the fear. Eric walked over to the door; he put his hand to it and noticed it was already cracked open.
“Ok, well, I’m going in now. Do you want to tell me anything before I go in?” The girls just stared. “You know your responses are not the most encouraging.” Eric turned, faced the door and pushed it.
The door pushed opened and it moved like a coffin, slow, hard, stiff. Eric looked back at the girls who assured Eric with half-smiles that he was at the right place. He shook his head with absurdity, questioning himself and his motives. He entered the apartment with timidity; the room felt like a sepulcher, death reeked in the air; damp fresh smoke filled his nostrils. Eric looked once towards the girls but they were no longer there. A fog rolled across the cold pavement where the girls once stood. Eric faced the apartment again. He took a deep breath and stepped in and immediately stopped, he locked his gaze on a woman in the hallway across the living room directly in front of Eric, she slowly pulled herself across the floor with one arm. Eric stared in disbelief at the frail women dragging her bloody frame across the dirt brown carpet. He took a step towards her and the door shut behind him. He stopped , looked up and saw a large Indian man, six foot tall in white t-shirt like a canvas smeared in red paint his hands were sliced and bleeding his knuckles raw and swollen the man stood over the desperate women with a blank stare. His eyes burned with intent yet showed not emotion. The man wiped his hands on his dark trousers smearing blood across his thighs. He took one swing at the helpless women and seemed to stomp out all life from the struggling body now lying motionless on the stained dirt brown carpet.
Eric’s eyes opened wide, tears rushed down his cheeks. Heat flushed over him, his stomach turned. The large man standing across the room from Eric stared with a bewildered look on his face blood dripped from his right hand.
“Are you ok” the man asked with concern. “You don’t look well.”
“Really, I don’t feel well either”
“Who are you? Why are you in my home?”
Eric’s bowels shook. Death permeated his mind. Crimson vibrated in his eye sockets. His chest constricted and his lungs tried to give up breathing.
“I know you.” The man said with a smile. “You’re the maintenance man, right?”
“Why are you in my home?
Eric simply answered the man without thinking. His mind was empty. He could not wrap his mind around what he had seen. “I came to help.”
“Help who? Does it look like I need help with something?” The man laughed and looked around the room as if there was not a bloody body on the floor staining the dirt brown carpet.
Eric repeated himself. “I came to help”
“Yeah I heard you the first time. I just don’t know who you came to help. The only person here is me. Well, unless you came to help her.” The man pointed down at the body. “But if that was the case you’re a little late.” He chuckled at his own joke.
“I don’t know who I came to help except that two girls asked me to come down here and help them and their mother.” Eric pointed at the dead body “Is that the mother of the two girls?”
“I assume you are talking about mouse and m&m. Yeah that was their mother. You are late. Don’t you hate being late, gives you an awful feeling in your stomach doesn’t it?”
“Why did you kill her?”
“That’s not a reason. What did she do?”
The man’s face twitched. “Do you always ask dumb questions when you feel uncomfortable?”
“I just don’t get it. Why would you kill someone….like that?”
“Does it matter how I killed her? If I had done it with a knife would I have been more civilized in your eyes? Well I would have used the knife but she hid it so I used what she could not take from me.” The man raised his fists in the air and shook them at Eric. I speck of blood flew across the room and hit Eric on the cheek. He immediately wiped his face with his sleeve.
“She didn’t deserve that.”
“How do you know? Did you know her? I’m gonna guess no, since you didn’t even know who you were coming to help. And how do you know what she deserved?” Maybe she was cheating on me, maybe she stole from me. Can’t I do what I want with my own family? What does it matter to you?”
“Because it doesn’t make sense. She was your wife wasn’t she? That’s not how you treat people you love!”
The man paced the room. “Love, what do you know of love? Maybe what you think is love is wrong and what I‘ve done here is right.”
“That’s absurd…” Eric chuckled a nervous laugh “Love is kind and love does not hurt”
The man stared at Eric with hate dripping from his eyes like tears filled with memories, residue of pain, leaking off the walls of his blackened brain. “Well you’ve never met my mother. She loved me but she sure as hell hurt me.” The man laughed. As he moved toward his couch he pulled out a cigarette and threw it in his mouth, he sat and lit the cigarette, smoke marched into his lungs, it ran out of his nose like a dragon’s breath, burped from the belly of a furnace, blackened carbon that stained the air.
Eric stared at the man who casually sat on the ash burned couch, peace on his bloody face. Eric’s mind wandered to the days of his youth. His Father, beating, Hugging, yelling, belittling. Old spice like a voice yelled in his nose a reminder of a time as much as a thought, a smell leaving a trace of hate and love entwined with in the fabric of Eric’s being. Confusion, sacrifice, a heavy hand of justice and misunderstandings, a life unfulfilled unleashed upon a young man, frustration and bitterness, wasting away with in the heart of a man released upon a child in rearing. All the hate trapped in the father was beat into the child with loving intentions. A memory, a tear, a moment of weakness flashing through Eric’s’ face.
The man looked up at Eric his face tightening. “Why are you here again? I mean are you gonna do something about this or are you just gonna ask questions all night?”
“What do you want me to do?”
The man laughed again at Eric. “Why are you asking me what I want? You’re the one that came on the mission….I want you to leave. So now what are you gonna do?”
Eric felt compelled to answer, yet he had no answer. He struggled to understand the women on the dirt brown carpet blending in to the floor like a corpse on the bed of a forest being over run by green life that was wrapping around her in a cocoon taking everything vital to live out of her and leaving only that which is held together with red life. Eric wondered who she was and what she had done to deserve this. He wondered about the two girls who now had to live with out a mother with out caring figure to love them and protect them from people like their father and those young men outside the apartment so full of hate. What would the girls want him to help with? What could he do now that would make things right with the girls? How could he help them now that the girl’s mother was dead being acclimated in to the earth through the dirty brown carpet? Eric thought of calling the police but he remembered what the girls said “The police don’t come here” They were right and he knew that was not a reasonable response but what, what would help, what would make things right for two girls that just lost their mother?
“What are you gonna do with the girls?”
Eric’s eyes popped open, his mouth failed to work; it just hung on its joints. He wanted to hit this guy and tie him up but Eric knew he could not hurt this man with his fists.
“Why are you gonna kill them, their just kids?”
“Because I love them. I’m gonna put them out of their misery. So they don’t have to live the life that I have. So they don’t have to live in this world of hate and destruction. Do you know how I have lived? Do you know what I have put up with being an Native American and a Mexican? I get crapped on everywhere I go not accepted by either side. They already get it everyday of their life, would you want your children called half breeds? They don’t need this life, I’m doing them a favor.”
“That’s stupid! Your gonna kill them to take them away from pain. You’re going to inflict pain on them to release them from pain, that you’re inflicting on them, this is ludicrous!!”
The man suddenly stood. He stared at Eric, like a mad elephant. The man took slow, long breaths. His eyes twitched in a steady rhythm. His blood boiled and heated his eyes so that all he saw was red.
Eric shook, trying to think of a way out of the apartment. Then he remembered he had a gun and then Eric found himself fondling the gun again thinking over his options and how much discretion should be used. What kind of man was he? Did he want to be a man that acted with violence to get his way? He thought of a thousand words and none had the power that the gun possessed. He thought of a thousand actions but none held the (finite) understanding that would come from him holding that gun and threatening to use it.
Eric looked at the man, who stood tense and ready to charge. Eric took his hand out of his pocket and let it fall to his side. His hand slapped his thigh with a defining trumpet of acceptance with what ever fate would have for him.
Eric stood erect and stared the elephant in the eyes, no fear in either both ready to play their part in the script. “I will not let you harm those girls.”
The Man did not answer. He simply reared his head back in anger flared his nose and with a quick first step bounded forward with incredible agility. Eric did not attempt to move he closed his eyes and let the mad elephant slam him against the wall and throw him across the room. Eric’s body absorbed the pain as he had done most of his life, a sponge soaking up hate; his mind turned off and waited for the onslaught to stop. The elephant trampled him and kicked him and hit him and yelled and spit at him frothing with the hatred of years, of time, of lost life that he had struggled so hard not to let go of but what taken from him. He punched Eric with the remnant of hatred that was imbued into the heart of a child that grew into an animal that never learned that it was ok to let it go, to think a different way, to come to a better place, to be more then what was expected, to live outside the lines that felt like bars holding him in. A man grew into an animal angry with it’s self and its inability to help it’s self. An animal lost the ability to understand and love; he lost the ability to know what love was, is, could be. He simply wanted it and felt he would not get it so decided to die and kill what was left of life that reminded him of his failures and anything that stood in his way would pay for the insolence of interfering. Life had left him nothing and now he would have his revenge on life and end the suffering that was scheduled for his reflections his little images his carbon copy miniatures, his porcelain angels. Tears ran down the elephant’s cheeks like giant raindrops falling from the sky with intrepid speed, picking up bits of all that has ever been real in him and falling on the bloody face of the maintenance man that dared to interfere with his last chance to show the world that he was alive and did feel something for someone.
Eric’s body lay on the dirt brown carpet bleeding like a carcass left on the forest floor degrading into the earth. He felt life run through him, but it did not move him. His body lay broken, wishing that it had not woken; his mind ebbed from thought to thought. He tried to remember where he was he tried to see but only blurry images of shadows crawled across his eyes, some moving some not. Nausea bubbled in his stomach his head was spinning. Eric closed his eyes trying to quite the noise he heard that felt like guilt, and failure screaming and pleading for help. Eric threw up in his mouth and spit it on the dirt brown carpet; he watched it soak in to the curly threads of the earth that tickled his face. Eric let his thoughts wander; they kept coming back to two girls. Who were they? Why did they insist that he love them? Didn’t they know that love was difficult for him? Didn’t they know that everything he has ever loved or cared for has died? Why did these two girls want him to help them live? What did he do to deserve such a responsibility? He couldn’t even keep a woman in his life longer then a few years yet here they were these two girls insistent upon his loyalty and showing theirs to him. Why was he thinking of these girls? Why did they seem so familiar?
Tears began to race down Eric’s crumbling, shattered, flaking face. The tears rolled for the memories of his daughters, his loves. He lay on the nimble fingers of the earth’s carpet physically dead but being reborn in his spirit. For so long he had felt dead inside not wanting to feel the death of his daughters. For so long he held and hid the pain inside but his body cried no longer. It needed now no recognition it was too busy fighting to live, his heart now screamed in him a million agonies. A wretched sorrow bellowed in his soul. A thousand days of loneliness unleashed inside his head. A million questions answered now while he lay quite on the breach of death, reconciling with the earth his purpose and his worth. Pain and memory alike poured like rivers of living days around his mind, through his eyes and carving paths down his cheeks. He opened his eyes and screamed! A massive unleashing of life and love and lost self and melting days of past, burnt like toast, a scraping off of all that does not belong. Sorrow long has held his hand and heart, a grip like death that allowed him to survive with no strength or desire no understanding or reason he simply has been for so long that now like a slave he unfurled the chains of everlasting hatred and pity depression and bitterness; he now can remember who he is, was and where his life was heading. From the deepest part of his soul came a sound much like a battle cry of one not afraid to die or live.
The sound broke all conversation for blocks. The women outside the apartment cried for the horrible noise, the elephant who sat on the couch next to his daughters stopped and looked Eric. Both girls had fear painted on their faces, the depth of the situation striking them intently. The girls showed no reaction but the elephant smiled. He rose from the couch and walked to Eric. He stood over what he thought was a dead body and waited to see if it moved or made another sound. There was nothing. He thought maybe it was the last breath of his dying body, a scream of release but then there was another; a scream so hard and painful that the elephant stepped back towards the couch and covered his ears.
Eric slowly rose from the dirty carpet, blood dripping from his head. His left arm hung at his side useless, like a broken branch hanging on a tree by its bark. Eric slowly erected his empty frame and through his swollen eyes he stared at the elephant.
Then said “I will not let you hurt those girls.” The elephant stared back in confusion and frustration still panting from the first round of beatings. He prepared himself to charge again when Eric pulled the gun from his jacket and shot once with a shot that flew past the Elephants ear.
“That was a warning. I have no problem letting the next one sink into your forehead.”
The elephant stood still his hands held in the air. The two girls sat on the couch motionless holding each other.
“It’s ok girls why don’t you go next door and sit with your neighbors.”
The girls immediately popped off the couch and left through the front door leaving it open and running to the next door neighbor.
“What are you gonna do to me? Are you going to shoot me? I’m not afraid to die. I’m Native American my people are born ready to die.” The elephant pounded his chest.
Eric hobbled over to the elephant and put the gun against his head. “Kneel down”
The elephant knelt in front of Eric who still had the gun pointed against the elephant’s forehead, the metal of the barrel rested against the elephants perspiring brown skin.
“You said something earlier about what you were doing could be love. I disagree, Love is not easily defined but I do know it when I see it and this is not love.” Eric waved his hand around the apartment. “So you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to show you love, so you know what it is. Just like Jesus did for me. I’m not going to shoot you. I’m going to let you go but at a price. I’m going to buy your life instead of killing you because even you are valuable in Jesus’ eyes and because I just saved your life from me, I will own you. Which means you will not do these things anymore that harm your daughters; you will not drink anymore or be involved in any thing that is destructive to your life. Those things are detrimental to the contract we are making right now. Do we have an understanding?
“Yes, I understand.”
“Then you are accepting these terms?”
Eric smiled, then lowered the gun and casually but painfully walked towards the door leaving the elephant still kneeling on the dirt brown carpet his hands in the air. Eric limped out side where hundreds of people were standing in the courtyard. All the residents were staring at Eric but no one said anything. Eric looked back at the apartment and realized that everyone had been watching through the open door. He felt stupid that everyone had been watching, yet he wanted everyone to cheer him and say good job but no one said anything. They all just stared at him with the same blank stares that they always did. Eric slowly moved towards his apartment trying not to stare back at any one.
As Eric was about half way through the court yard he heard a scream from behind him, then another scream and then yet another. Each scream a cacophony echoing around the concrete walls that stood like barriers to civilization. Eric turned and saw the elephant charging at him with a baseball bat. He swung it from side to side aimlessly but with force. He hit a few people as he ran towards Eric yelling something that Eric could not understand. As the elephant ran closer Eric could slightly make out what he was saying. Eric calmly faced the elephant and raised his gun and fired once into the elephant’s chest. No one moved as the shot rang out, no one screamed. The elephant fell to one knee then stood with defiance and staggered forward still trying to reach Eric who shot another bullet into the elephant’s chest. The second shot nearly hit the same spot. Blood pumped out of the elephant’s chest yet still he soldiered on, taking small steps attempting to keep his balance. Eric shot once more this time into the elephant’s stomach. The elephant finally dropped the bat and fell in front of Eric. Eric’s mind was blank, he stared at the man he just let go, whose life he had just saved from the fate he had just now bestowed upon him. Eric knelt next to the elephant and listened for he could hear something coming out of his mouth.
“No one owns me. No one owns me….”
Eric knelt next to the Elephant and whispered in his ear. “It wasn’t meant to be taken literal. I was not actually going to own you. I wanted to show you love, I really did care. Now look where we are. I gave you a chance to start over. Why didn’t you take it?” Eric tried to stand but when he did his head began to spin so he sat next to the elephant who coughed blood with his shallow breaths.
A young man walked about to Eric. “Are you gonna leave him like that?”
“What do you mean? Hasn’t anyone called the paramedics?”
The young man stared at Eric. “Aren’t you gonna finish him off?”
“What do you mean? Shoot him again. He’s not going to hurt anyone now.”
“Yeah but he’s gonna die anyway, there aren’t any paramedics coming, you might as well put him out of his misery.”
“But, he could live.”
An older woman walked over to Eric stopping just behind him. She looked at the young man and said something in Spanish. The boy looked down at Eric. “She wants to know if your gonna put him out of his misery?”
“But…” Eric looked around and everyone was staring at him waiting.
Eric placed the gun to the elephant’s head sighed a long exasperated breath and took one last shot at the elephant this one in the head finally finishing it. No more sound came from the elephant. Eric stood, numb, confused, the world spinning, not sure if he had accomplished anything good through all this. As he turned to walk toward his apartment Eric heard cheers from the spectators in the courtyard. He looked around and saw men and women clapping. He looked back at the apartment of the elephant and saw residents looting what they could lift and running it back to their apartments. He looked for the girls but they were not there any more. People he did not know came up and patted him on the back, which hurt, so he would wince and walk on toward his apartment. He walked back the same way he had come down never looking back. He got to his door picked up his place mat and took it inside with him closed the door and went to sleep. He never slept that good.