By Jonah Frere-Holmes
When she heard the man’s bark, the old woman was in front of the TV, solemnly rocking back and forth as The Price is Right gave off its blue glow. She heard the man, assertive but too excited, jumpy or new to his job. She heard a chorus of primal, electrified shouts, the sounds of young men in a state of peak energy, like an electron moving to an outer shell before returning to earth, emitting light in the form of photons. She heard the footsteps of running boys, the constant patter of their feet hitting the pavement the way rain hits a windowpane, only more amplified. Her stomach turned, and she felt a blush throughout her entire body, the sudden warming indicative of miracle or disaster. As she reached the door, she heard the pop, two times, and when she flung open the door to the best of her ability, she was rigid. She took it all in; the uniformed officer screaming into his mic, the still boy on the pavement, and the blanks she did not see her brain filled in from memory, because she had seen this before. Not this exact scene, but the the standing uniform and the slain boy. When she saw who the boy was, she was devoid of feeling, and the world suddenly quieted itself, as if to allow her peaceful passage to the body. She put one foot in front of the other as she always had and always would, trembling furiously as she bent down. She had seen it before, but she had never lived it, there were parts she had never seen. She had never been up close, seen the way the sweat glistened on the face of the boy, the skin on his face still pulled taut with urgency. Her golden cross clinked quietly on the pavement as she collapsed next to the boy, the blue siren of the squad car glowing and reflecting off the base of her cane. The barrel-chested uniform crouched and advanced, fearing retaliation, divine retribution, and his own thoughts from that point forward. The old woman, unable to move, wailed softly, her tears and the boy’s sweat pooling on the pavement to create a puddle that reflected a weathered soul, failing to absorb the life of the still boy, who had been teeming with energy only moments ago. The holes were in the neck and the back, and a scarlet stream dripped slowly down the right side of the boy, adding to the peculiar mixture of sweat and tears. The ambulances came and took the boy away, and the officer was driven back to the station for a uniform Q&A session to determine his fate. The old woman was shunted back home, and what she lost that day remained on the pavement forevermore, talking to the boy, cooking him dinner, laughing at his mischief. Her body, weathered and crumpled, forged on for a few months, awaking to the light of The Price and descending into rest, as the glow of the moon and the darkness of the evening mixed in her windowpane, casting a shadow over the long pulls of breath she took, patient but expectant, awaiting a new world.