FathomOnline

 

 Fathom 1994

Cover

 

Inside Cover

 

Poetry

Graham Touchie (3)
Derrick Higginbotham
Tara J. Hoag (3)
Jason Holt (3)
Nadine Herman

Prose

Otto Lambert
Michael Kohn
Peter J. Taylor
Andrew Mitchell
Andrew MacLeod
Kenneth Gordon
Urs Frei

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Peter J. Taylor

 

 

The Unacknowledged Hero of Dewey Street

     When I remember the unacknowledged hero of Dewey Street, I can see the lips that outlined his name in a silent repetition. Those were funny days, in both senses of the word. The grass looked different back then; I think it was the way the old chain-link fences ran borders between the houses. The squat houses with TV antennas ­ugly houses painted uglier colours. No trees around, making the antennas the highest points in the neighbourhood. Stick arms stuck skyward, gnarled and grasping high for heaven. Funny, I can only see those houses in a grainy super-8 recollection, like my mind is a home­movie camera with no sound.
     It was like there was no sound on that day outside my house. I was in the backyard playing with Star Wars action figures with my pal Jesse, who ended up dying of lung cancer at the age of 23 while he was working at a gas station, saving up to go to the community college. I always played it safe by being the Dark Empire. They had all the ships, centralized power, a ruthless organization, the big, looming metallic structures that could smash a planet without a second thought. I knew back then that the odds were on their side. It was obvious. I didn’t know about romantic notions of Good winning over all, of the inner power of the Light. That stuff never happened on my street.
     But I did know right from wrong. And I did know that if people were shouting, you ran to watch the trouble. Maybe the cause of the shouting was an accident, or a fight, or some other spectacle that was like TV, except in real life. So I guess I heard shouting that day, because Jesse and I went running into my front yard in excited anticipation. People were shouting, but I never knew what it was being shouted because the shouts were overlapping, the shouts were confused and angry. All could follow was the rise and fall of intensity. Jesse and I crouched in my front yard and watched the scene on the street, trying to tell the good guys from the bad guys.
     There was a car stopped in the middle of my street, Shelton Street. Men in blue and red untucked shirts with messy hair and stubble faces, some with moustaches, some with beards, standing around the front of the car. They shouted encouragement and insults, crossed their arms, strutted and stomped in jeans with ground-in dirt. Their hero was an angry man whose light blue work shirt hung open revealing a white undershirt with sweat-stains on it. He was shoving back his enemy who had a black t-shirt and curly yellow hair, and who fell on the ground on his hands and who kept getting back up, only to be pushed back down again. I thought his hands must hurt because the road always stings your hands when you fall on it.
     I knew that the yellow-haired enemy was younger because he lived down the street. He was too old ever to play with us, but I never would have asked him to, anyway. He was always alone and silent and you never talk to people who are alone and silent. His name to me was Funny Wilson Kid, that was all I needed to know. That day he had tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. I knew he was afraid like I was afraid when my Dad would slowly walk toward me with his hand raised without changing the expression on his face or making a sound. The Wilson Kid didn’t make any sound either, not even while he cried or stood up again to try and shove back. When he tried to shove back he was pushed down harder, and then the man with the undershirt started kicking, and his allies started kicking, too. I knew which side had the odds with it.
     Lots of other people were watching this, too. On both sides of the street, people stood in their front yards to watch like me and Jesse. The men shook their heads, the women pressed their hands to their faces, and the kids stood behind their mothers. Most of us were silent like we were watching TV. Some mothers told their children to get in the house, but the children didn’t and the mothers just stood there anyway. Then a single scream came down the block. A long, open, mouthed yell that traveled over lawns as Tommy Wild, who didn’t play football at the high school, who smoked cigarettes out back instead, ran from his house on Dewey Street in his leather jacket. I don’t know what he yelled, it could have been “no” or “go” or “Joe”, and now my memory mostly doesn’t have sound. But I know that everyone looked up at him, except Funny Wilson Kid who was balled up on the road. When he got there Tommy threw everything he had. He threw his fists. He threw his body. He threw his screwed up, angry face. He threw it at the men with the car, but mostly at the man in the white undershirt. He knocked them back away from the balled-up kid.
     The shouting got more intense and that made it harder to understand what was going on. Everything got confused. I couldn’t follow the movements of the men. It was like it was all moving in slow motion but it was still too fast to see. Somehow the men got angrier and somehow they got a gun – it must have come from the car, but I didn’t see it. I don’t think Tommy Wild did, either, because if he had maybe he would have stopped coming at them. But he didn’t, and there was a shot. I remember that there was a shot but I don’t remember what it sounded like, except that it didn’t sound like it does on TV. Tommy didn’t act like a shot person does on TV, either. He sort of stopped, then looked down, then fell down, all the while bleeding and making noises not like a person, more like a dog or something. That’s about the only sound I remember well and it’s a sound not like a person would make. The sound made my stomach feel all shivery. The shouts became screams, but no one moved except the angry men, who stopped being angry and got into their car really fast, not in slow motion.
     The car was gone. On the street, Funny Wilson Kid got out of his ball and looked at Tommy Wild, who was bleeding, and making noises, and curling up into a ball. While no one on the grass moved, Funny Wilson Kid cried tears that were different from the ones that had already run down his face. He reached and held Tommy Wild, who didn’t move anymore but who was still bleeding a lot. It was blood that was darker than blood on TV.
     I remember watching the two of them curling up into a ball on the street. And Funny Wilson Kid was saying Tommy’s name over and over. He says it without sound in my memory, and I think he did on the street, too, because I remember watching his lips move again and again and thinking how it was funny that he made no sound. Or maybe I’m wrong and it really is my memory. I watched the two of them there for longer than it could have been, like a TV show that couldn’t end. Then it did end. My Mom took me back into the house. Jesse went home. Soon it was like normal again. I hardly noticed the sirens as I watched “Gilligan’s Island” in the basement. No one mentioned what happened, not around me at least.
     I know the Wilsons moved, so did the Wilds, but not near each other, I don’t think. We were better off without their kind, so said my Dad, and my Mom nodded. I saw some of the angry men around the neighbourhood. I was told not to go near them and I obeyed. They always came on Friday or Saturday afternoons and sometimes I heard glass breaking, but no more gunshots. I never saw Funny Wilson Kid again, except in my memory and in my dreams sometimes. In my dreams, he isn’t crying. He looks okay, and he’s wearing a leather jacket.

 

last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul