Let the shootings begin

The same year I moved into my house there was a series of fatal shootings across the city. I was looking for a new job in the hospital because my hours had gone to shit and I wanted something different. The nurses on my old unit were complete bitches that had nothing better to do than start rumors and enact draconian rules on the cleaning staff letting us know we were not like them. One of the unit clerks, a young black girl named Kesha, was pregnant and we would have lunch together because we didn’t want to be stuck with the wenches on the floor. Soon I was declared the baby daddy even though I knew the father and worked with him for over a year at the hospital. The staff knew this too but a white guy and a black girl eating lunch and talking can only mean one thing…
I wasn’t in my house long before I learned how rowdy the neighborhood can get. There were fist fights, stabbings, windows being broken, and open prostitution on the corner. My wife and I had met a couple from the street over and were enjoying some drinks in the back yard when we heard the gunshots. Craig and I went out front to check it out and saw two girls and a guy walking in front of the house. Then the girl in the middle fell to the pavement and they picked her up carrying her to a house. We would learn later that the girl had been shot, by accident. A car from the north side of town had driven through the southside and a guy standing on the corner took notice. He pulled his gun and shot at the car as it drove by, missing the car completely but hitting the girl half a block down walking home from school. The girl lived and a few days later the shooter was found in hiding in the town of Galesburg, a white community that bragged about shagging sheep and who’s sister was the hottest. It was the perfect town for a young black man to hide in. the girl who was shot would later go on TV and declare that she forgave the shooter because he didn’t mean to shoot her and that it was an accident.
A week or two later another shooting happened, this time on Reed St. there was a birthday party happening and while the celebration was taking place in the backyard, the birthday boy sat at a picnic table enjoying the food and company when two young men walked up behind him and shot him in the back of the head. The body was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The back of his skull had been blown wide open and there was zero chance of saving him. The people working the ER at the time were John and Cassie. The family had arrived to the ER and were demanding to view the body. The staff tried to tell them “you don’t want to see him like this” but after hearing “fuck you” a few times the staff changed their minds. Some of the nurses went into the room and started cleaning things up to make it ore presentable and John was asked if he could help with the clean-up. The pool of blood on the floor was the biggest concern. John went in with a mop and started removing the blood. The cords to the EKG machine and pulse Ox got in the way and John bumped the stretcher. Something heavy hit his foot and when he looked down there was the sight of a human brain resting on his shoe. The scream that followed was described as that “of a girl” and one of the nurses turned around to see John throwing the mop and unable to move. “get it off, get it off, get it off.” The nurse ran over and soccer kicked the brain off John’s shoe and watched him leap out of the room yelling “I’m done, I’m done, I’m done.” He left the ER and went straight to the supervisor’s office to tell them to put him somewhere else. That was how I ended up working the ER.
I took the job on second shift and left the General Medical Unit. The hours weren’t the best but I figured the ER staff were too busy to be bitches. This place was a whole new ball game. It was fast paced. You didn’t get a lunch and had to snack when you could. I quickly learned that the city had more shootings in a week than were reported on the news. Between the patients and the staff there was always entertainment. To work in an ER is to have a reckless personality and a need for adrenaline. Partying was a way of life and the same people who referred to bikers as organ donors also rode motorcycles in their spare time. There was a desire for adventure and everyone, married or not, was fair game. This would be my home for the next couple of years.

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The Tale of Ninja Matt

It was a Tuesday night when my neighbor decided he was going to have a party in his car parked behind his house. I didn’t think anything of it at first knowing that on previous nights like this one the parties were short lived after he downed a bottle of vodka and passed out in his house. This night was already turning out differently from the rest.
I was upstairs in my office working on a story when the music started. The bass of the subwoofer vibrated the windows of my house and looking outside I could see the car rocking back and forth as the occupants hollered out the lyrics to a rap song. My wife came into the room with a window overlooking the backyard and alley and looked out at the car with smoke billowing out of the windows.
“Do you hear this shit?” she asked as the walls shook.
“Yup,” I said not wanting to deal with it. This kind of thing had become a regular occurrence throughout the summer and I wanted to see how long it would go on before calling the police.
“I’m calling the cops,” she said before I stopped her.
“That’s the one neighbor that likes us. We aren’t going to bed yet. If they are still at it in an hour then I’ll call.”
I didn’t take long for the guys outside to ruin their own party. Dennis lived in the house since the year before and I had learned from talking to him that his sister owned the house and let him stay in it. He owned the Cadillac parked behind it and I had no idea what he did for a living. Tonight, his job was to party and they were taking it very seriously.
“They’re throwing things in our yard,” she said in disgust and horror.
I bolted out of my chair and looked out the window to see a beer can soaring through the air into my yard. Next was a liquor bottle and other trash. This was a line they should not have crossed.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“Giving it back.”
I went into the bedroom and pulled out all the black clothes I owned. Head to toe I looked like Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon and I snuck out the front door and into the back yard. I walked around picking up all the cans and liquor bottles of which there were already many. I walked over to the fence and tossed them back over without anyone noticing. The smell of marijuana was in the air. Dennis sat on his porch puffing away at his own joint while a second made the rounds in the car.
I sat back on a bench in my yard and waited for the next item to fly over the fence. Upstairs my wife watched and waited. Her job was to call the police if there was some kind of altercation during this adventure.
The music was cracked up and the lyrics “fuck that bitch, fuck that bitch” were repeated through the neighborhood. As the song was cracked up, the windows were rolled down and a red light flew over the fence, a burning ember like a shooting star across the sky. I ran over to it and found the cigarette still lit. I picked up the butt and flicked it back over the fence in the same direction it came from. I sat back on the bench and waited for the next thing.
What I didn’t see was that the lit cigarette went back through the sunroof if had been thrown through and into the car. A minute later all hell broke loose.
The following is the conversation I heard between four very drunk and high men from the other side of the fence. I don’t know who was speaking at the time:
“Ow, ow man, what the fuck man. Oh shit, get it off get it off. What the fuck!”
“What the fuck you doing in my car man?”
“Man, that cigarette burned my leg man.”
“Why the fuck you burn your leg?”
“I didn’t burn my leg. Why the fuck you throw that cigarette in the car man?”
“Why the fuck would I throw a cigarette in my own car?”
“I saw you throw that cigarette in the car. It came in through the sunroof.”
“Why the fuck would I do that? It’s my fucking car.”
“This hurts really bad man. This shit hurts.”
“Man, it’s a cigarette. Why you being a bitch?”
“Look at it, this shit hurts. What the fuck you want me to do?”
“Why the fuck are you guys throwing shit in my car?”
“How the fuck did we throw it in? we’re in the motherfucking car.”
“I gots ta go to the hospital.”
“You aint got to go to the hospital. It’s a cigarette burn.”
“Look at this shit. This shit hurts.”
“Fuck you.”
“Man, his pants are burnt and everything.”
“What the fuck, you want me to drive your ass to the hospital when we downed a fifth of absolute. Are you out of your fucking mind?”
“This fucking shit hurts man.”
“God damn it.”
I hear keys jingling out of a pocket and the car doors opening.
“Get in the fucking car.”
The car starts and the Cadillac slowly strolls out of the tight space and disappears into the alley.
I go back into the house where my wife is on the floor laughing.
“Oh my god, how the hell did you do that? That cigarette went right back through the sunroof they threw it through. What the hell happened?”
“It landed in a guys lap and burned him. They’re taking him to the hospital.”
We both laughed and started to enjoy the silence of the night. The yard was clean, the air smelled fresh and the sound of bats could be heard fluttering through the air. We finally had our night back.
The next morning, I saw Dennis in his yard mumbling to himself. I went out back and started racking the leaves that were already starting to fall from the trees.
“These lazy ass motherfuckers,” Dennis pops his head over the fence. “these motherfuckers come over to my house and trashed my fucking yard. Ain’t nobody got any respect these days.”
“Man, that sucks,” I had to force my laughter deep down to get through this conversation.
“Fucking liquor bottles, beer cans. Who drinks this shit? Those motherfuckers ain’t coming back here. Fuck this shit.”
Dennis’ car wasn’t there and I wondered what happened to it. He put all the bottles and cans into a grocery bag and set it by the house where it would stay. Dennis disappeared after saying a few choice words about his friends and I never saw him again after that. The car never returned and the house was declared condemned a few months later. I can’t say I miss Dennis, the man who would catch catfish out of the local rivers and dump the heads and guts behind the fence to rot stinking up my yard. The guy who would hit on my wife while sunbathing. The guy who told his friends to throw their shit in my yard the night before. That guy, fuck that guy. I hope they were pulled over, the car impounded, maybe his license taken away. When you act like an asshole, sometimes you’re going to get fucked. Do not mess with the ninja Matt, you will never know what happened.

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