Wrong Neighborhood

He pedaled down the alley. Alone. In the dark of night. A bag of groceries hung from one handlebar. Mostly crackers, jerky, eggs, a bottle of cheap bourbon. Music pumped through his headphones like water to a boiler. The sky above was a wash of pink-tinged clouds laden with snow. A few icy flakes drifted down into the streetlight beams. He pedaled on, undaunted by the cold. Every few revolutions he would sit up and shadow box, punching and jabbing the air as he coasted.

He was a cycling Muhammad Ali, going seven rounds with Sonny Liston. One left jab, two right jabs. One, one two. One, one two. He crossed a street where earlier he’d seen another black man rummaging through a house’s garbage can. Poor brother was probably looking for some half eaten food or some newspaper to line his coat with to ward off the bitter cold. It was a damn shame. He punched the air some more.

He didn’t usually ride through this neighborhood, but now that he was staying with his sister and brother-in-law, he supposed that he would get used to it. It was clean. Gentrified. A generation ago, his parents grew up near here. Now, there was a Starbucks where once there had been a laundromat. A sushi bar where once there had been a sports bar. A yoga studio where a butcher shop once stood.

He punched the air again. One, one two, but it didn’t feel as good this time. Cycling through this unfamiliar neighborhood made him wish he was back home, downtown with his girl, watching movies and playing video games until the grey twilight of dawn. He pedaled harder through the thickening snow.

He sat up as he sped through a deserted intersection and made a pistol with the fingers of his left hand. He lined up the mailboxes and pretended to pop each one like it was his own personal first-person shooter game. Music thumped in his ears to the rhythm of a semiautomatic. Bang bang.

The bullet came without warning. It caught him square in the heart from behind, knocking him over the handle bars. He and the bike skidding for several feet before his body came to a stop under the honeycomb shadow of a chain link fence. He never heard them shout at him. He didn’t have time to register the red and blue flickering light in the corner of his eye.

— 30 —

Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below. You can find him on Twitter here.

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