CW: Mention of guns
We heard muffled steps approach as we walked down the hill toward the shadowy patch under the highway.
“Watch this,” a voice whispered.
We turned to face three teenagers – basketball shorts, appendages like sticks, a gun. The kid holding the gun was fidgety, his knuckles boney. His eyes were a pale grey and his teeth perfect. No one was smiling.
They spread out.
Heart pounding and palms sweating, I embraced our pizza like a shield. It was a rare extravagance. Usually we just bought a couple of slices, but it was our two-year anniversary of living, working, and making art together in our loft in Fort Greene.
The gun looked like a toy. I prayed it was.
They probably thought we had more money than they did. Why not even things out a little? Three against two. I thought to offer them the five dollars we had after buying dinner, but against a gun, it didn’t seem enough.
“Empty your pockets,” one said. His voice cracked.
Frank cradled our cheap bottle of wine.
I searched the deserted street for rescue.
“You don’t want to do this.” Frank took one step toward them. I watched him reach behind his back and press the bowie knife he’d tucked in his waistband against emergencies. I wanted to scream, but no sound came out.
Frank came to New York for art school from west Texas where everything bit, scratched or stung. He was ready for anything. I’d come from Ohio to find out if I had talent.
It was a Brooklyn stare-down.
The hum of traffic on the overpass was mesmerizing like surf at the beach. A perfect soundtrack for a takedown, until a tractor-trailer’s airhorn blasted above us before rumbled on to Queens.
The gun boy glanced upward. An almost imperceptible spasm began in his bicep and slowly traveled down his arm to his hand gripping the gun. He squeezed and the barrel exploded.
I waited for Frank to fall. My knees buckled.
The bullet, finding no one, vanished into the night.
As if snatched by an invisible gust of wind, the boys took flight like moths into the spring night.
We never looked back.
At home, we gagged on the pizza. Frank’s hand trembled when he poured glasses of wine, dripping it everywhere. We poured the rest down the sink. It cost us too much to drink it.
Suzanne C Martinez’ work has appeared in The Hong Kong Review, The Citron Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Broadkill Review, and others. The Broadkill Review nominated her for a 2019 Pushcart Prize and 2020 The Best of the Net. Flash Fiction Magazine has nominated her for a 2021 Pushcart Prize. @SuzanneCMartin3