We heard her scream first. Spanking the cleft concrete before ricocheting off rusted gutters and tin lampposts, the sound traveled much too far. Most on porches, those not, came. Some stood, others sat, but all watched the off-white partition in which the scream stemmed.
She was running. Masked by shadows of early eve, her face sodden and eyes wet, mouth twisted and body tight. Many called, but she only ran. Then, they came. Louder than she screamed, there were five. They cursed and chirped, but mostly, they laughed. Actions exposed by the girl’s recent cry, yet still, they laughed. Law was informed, but did not come: a normality here. With eyes on the five, something needed be done.
A sitting man spoke, “You boys need to move on.” The other eyes agreed.
“What,” one of five shouted.
The sitting man stood, “Cut the noise, or move on…” The five laughed, harder, as one of them stepped to the fence separating he and the once-sitting man.
“We’re not going anywhere,” the boy said.
“You’re not?” the man’s eyes narrowed.
“Nope…What you going to do about it?” the boy whispered tauntingly with gesture of jeer.
This was a dangerous question, I thought, for one may regret learning another’s answer. The once- sitting man, now pacing the porch, stared at the barking boy as he turned. The man’s taut jaw twisted into a wicked grin only the eyes nearest to him recognized. He stepped from the porch as the boy stepped to the chirping five and walked to his vehicle. His strides soundless, concealed by the wind’s dead moan. The man pulled it from the trunk, then rested it beneath his shirt. The five did not see him, and with the wind as accomplice, they did not hear him either. The man was half way across when they noticed, too late. The once-sitting man had firm grip of it beneath his top.
The boy prepared to bark, but the man clenched his throat first. He forced the boy onto a gate, revealing the jagged blade edge once cloaked in thin polyester. The four stood in frosted fear, as the man pressed the weapon to the pulsating green of the boy’s carotid artery. The man’s eyes grew blazingly wide and shone brighter than the waking glints unveiling from under the blue, not yet black, sky.
Panicked, the boy grabbed hold of the blade against his neck and attempted to push it away. The once-sitting man was too strong, and the more the boy pushed, the further he carved his palms into the blade’s edge. Slicing flesh and nearing bone, the man’s weapon and boy’s hands melded into a single, unnerved entity.
When more red than silver neared the boy’s neck, two standing eyes restrained the once-sitting man. They echoed, “Get out of here.”
With tears and gashes, the boy did. The man handed the bloody blade to his wife; she cleaned it and handed it to me. “Hide it in a place it will never be found,” she whispered. I did.
Few hours passed when the once barking boy returned with the law. His gashes wrapped in compress, he stood silent. The eyes and now standing man watched the law probe the boy about his assailant. Past pockets of prodded pavement and withered walkway wedges, the boy and the man made contact. It was the truest look either had had at the other. Short but testy, the boy looked away first. When asked if any witnessed the crime, the eyes did not respond, and when asked if he could identify his attacker, the boy, too, did not respond. As instructed, the once-barking boy moved on, and the standing man, restfully, took to his seat.
I still hear her scream when gazing upon the off-white divide she ran from, and hope she found her way; home. The boy’s silence, eyes’ falsified blindness, and the truth behind the happenings beyond the partition, remain unclear. But, through primal encounter, no longer do I wonder why the again-sitting man kept a machete concealed in the trunk of his vehicle. Nor, do I wonder why, I will forever keep it hidden.