Friday, April 30, 2010

The Way of It

Little Joey looked down at the gun held out to him.

“C'mon, take it. I ain't got all night,” Dix said, and poked him in the ribs.

“I can't.” Little Joey kept his hands by his side. “Need more time to figure things.”

Dix laughed. “If you want this, there ain't more time.”

The boys were standing in the shadows of a dilapidated apartment building where Little Joey lived, in a space crowded with siblings and disorder. When his family first moved here from a homeless shelter, he celebrated the positive change to their circumstances. He was able to go to school regularly, and he even earned a little money helping the elderly neighbors in the building carry packages home from the convenience store. Once, after putting beer down on Old Pete's kitchen table, he took out some of his drawings from his backpack to show him, and grinned when Old Pete complimented his talent.

“Yep,” Little Joey said, “I wanna be an artist.”

It was not long, however, before his parents surrendered without a struggle to the familiar ways of drugs and inattentiveness, and his older brother joined a neighborhood gang.

Little Joey stopped going to school, preferring the company of the boys who congregated on the block for most of the day with not much on their schedules except for smoking and killing time until the evening.

“Boy, don't hang out with them losers,” Old Pete had warned. “I know it be hard, but you can get out. Go to school. Learn. Be somethin'.”

But two days ago his brother died in a drive by shooting, and the word on the street implicated a new member of a rival gang fulfilling a rite of initiation. Little Joey spoke about revenge, and the neighborhood boys sent Dix to recruit him to their ranks.

Now, confronted with the stark sight of the weapon in Dix's hand, Little Joey hesitated. He understood he was at a crossroad. One way led to an unknown place where he saw the details imperfectly, the other to a plot in a drama out of his control.

“What's keeping you? Dix asked. “You in or what, man?” .

Little Joey looked up at the windows of his building. His parents had not been home for several days. He saw the lights go out in Old Pete's apartment, then looked at Dix, who smiled and held out the gun again.

There really is no one, he thought.

“We take care of our own kind, yeah?” Dix said.

Little Joey nodded in reply.

45 comments:

  1. Yeah, it kinda is like that: "in a space crowded with siblings and disorder" was my favorite line. Totally brought it into focus.

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  2. So sad. I think what got to me was how you called him "Little" Joey but obviously his problems are adult problems and not the least bit "little". Heartbreaking.

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  3. This one was a heartbreaker, Great stuff!

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  4. very solid dialogue, nuanced and poignant - nice telling marisa

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  5. Like, G.P., the way "Little" Joey has so very much to deal with adds more tragedy to this. Such a sad (and not unbelievable) story.

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  6. Ai yai yai. And so it goes on. Another generation down and dirty. Very realistic, gritty and frightening. Makes me think of The Wire (which I adore).

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  7. Nicely done. I think the line in italics at the end just sums up the piece very well.

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  8. "The Way Of It" and "Whatever" yes the inexorable law of male gang initiation and entry - the only family on offer when your blood parents fail you so lamentably.

    Loved the line "in a space crowded with siblings and disorder".

    Sad and all too familiar

    Marc Nash

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  9. Heart-wrenching - one more decent-hearted person led into a life of crime & violence for lack of emotional support... a boy persuaded that he needs to do what his peers believe to be a man's job.

    I wonder how many people doing time for murder started out in just this way.

    Evocative, and brilliantly told.

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  10. I've seen contemporary films that have dealt with gang culture, but this reminds me of an old black & white called the good die young. Three 'good' guys get persuaded into a situation that runs away with them and their lives. I've also lived alongside gangs and known people who have nothing and no-one to prevent them being sucked in by the promise of belonging, brotherhood and status - however, illusory.

    Evocative!

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  11. Heartbreaking, tear pulling
    Well written - so real so believable.

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  12. Heartbreaking... Your writing is spot-on, Marisa!

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  13. Oh Marisa, this was so heartwrenching. It must've been really hard to write, (emotionally that is). I'm with about everyone else - the line "in a space crowded with siblings and disorder" just says it all.
    Brilliantly told story!

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  14. Right until the last I was cheering for him to turn away, find a different path! Way to engage!!

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  15. Emotional support certainly means a lot... sad but such a good flash.

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  16. Poor kid. Different sort of fiction than I expect from you, Alice/Marisa. Impressed by your versatility.

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  17. This was heartbreaking. Very well crafted. The last line was so final and hopeless.

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  18. This was a well-written story of true horror in our world. I'm sure many gang members started for reasons similar to this.

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  19. Tragic, gritty, heart-wrenching. Good story.

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  20. Children leading children into a life of hell. Crushing. :-( Well written, though.

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  21. Oh my, what a sad, but very realistic tale. You had such wonderful dialogue that really spoke in their voices. Very well-written.

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  22. Oh my, what a sad, but very realistic tale. You had such wonderful dialogue that really spoke in their voices. Very well-written.

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  23. Beautifully written, Marisa, and just heartbreaking. I was pulling for Little Joey right up to the horrifying last sentence.

    Excellent story.

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  24. So sad and happens so often. Nicely written :)

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  25. Dark and gritty. Good job.

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  26. Well written story!

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  27. Oh lord, poor Joey. Loved that last bit...

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  28. Very powerful. Gang members are people, too. They just make different choices for reasons most of us can't understand.

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  29. It's hard to see how a boy could overcome odds like that. Made me think about a line from a Bob Dylan song: "broken, everything's broken", which echoes a speech I heard from Jessie Jackson once. He eloquently described a neighborhood like the one Joey lives in, where "everything's broken."

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  30. Whoa. I feel like Joey pointed that gun at me and shot. Still reeling. Peace...

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  31. I held my breath... hoping he would make the "right" decision.

    Very real, and very sad.
    Great post.
    ~2

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  32. Sad story. Why does the wrong choice always seem so easy?

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  33. Well written, heartbreaking, tragic--what others have said already. You do an great job with the dialogue as well!

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  34. Perfect description of someone at a crossroads. Well done.

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  35. I love the writing (but you know that already), especially that this crossroads doesn't end well, necessarily. Life is like that.

    I'm not the happy ending type, heh.

    I love their voices. Great dialogue!

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  36. Oh no...I feel really bad for him. Talent squandered because the environment won't nurture him. I'm actually a bit upset!

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  37. Wow, so sad. Terrific story. Really rips at the heart.
    ~jon

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  38. Spot on dialogue. This was wrenching, and the title really added another level to the story. Really well done.

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  39. Why do they always choose the gun?
    So sad.
    So well done, Marisa.

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  40. It would have been the easy way out to have Joey make the "right" decision. Easy but not honest.

    You took your readers all the way with you, hoping. The ending felt right and painful and tragic - and honest.

    Well done.

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  41. "There really is no one" is such a simple but powerful line, Marissa. "Heartbreaking" sums it up best.

    One very minor suggestion: "Dix said, and poked him in the ribs" might be stronger as "Dix poked him in the ribs" associating the comment with Dix immediately without the attribution. Just a suggestion.

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