Short cuts: Requiem

The details from the news article are sketchy: police were called to the scene, responding at 11:24 PM, finding the victim, a 45 year old man, dead of multiple gunshot wounds. The incident began as disturbance between neighbors and turned violent. One person was briefly detained, but no charges were filed.

That last bit is puzzling. I assume it must've been a case of self-defense so obvious the person who pulled the trigger multiple times was only briefly detained. He (she?) must've been standing their ground, as the law states.

I hadn't seen this man who was killed yesterday in almost three decades, and we weren't particularly close friends even then. I'd heard his life had gone sideways in the time since I'd known him when we were kids growing up in the same church, for all the regular reasons. But this isn't about speculation. It's not about blame. It's about a memory.

It is 1981. Maybe '82. Somewhen thereabouts. I am perhaps seven years old, he is maybe a year older. Our fathers are playing church league softball, and we are playing with a small pack of other children in the dirt road that snakes around the ball field. He has designed a game for us, calling it motorcycle gang. Here's how you play motorcycle gang: you run in loose formation through clouds of gnats, bare feet slapping up dust, holding your hands out as if you are steering a motorcycle, making engine noises with your mouth. I remember him out front, leading the gang, sandy hair blowing in the wind. I feel at once free as any wind and part of a pack that feels like it will last forever. I am in awe of him, riding in this gang beside and just behind him, knowing somehow that I will never again achieve this level of wildness and abandon that seems to come so naturally to him.

I don't know much about the trajectory of his life after that moment. I don't know anything at all about his death beyond what I read in the article. I don't know what happens when we die. I suspect it's nothingness, a not-being as complete as the not-being we experienced before we were born. But I hope it's something close to what I felt that summer evening. And I hope, whatever the circumstances of his life, whatever happened the day he was killed, he's feeling something like that now.

Note: Short Cuts is a series of flash-length creative non-fiction. The idea is to write fast and hard about real shit without much revision.


  1. Maybe it's the season...or maybe it's how you captured that memory so beautifully that I could see it like a parent looking fondly at a child AND like one of the children riding round and round with the gang with her hands over her mouth, but whatever the reason, I'm sitting on the back porch feeling all emotional. Ah, life.

    1. Having my own child now has definitely affected the way I see everything in the world. Thank you for reading.


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