Apparently the man's assailant has more strength than that provided by
simple muscle in his lower arm and hand and wrist. He squeezed the man's
wrist, a simple old man wearing a blue jump suit and an out of place derby,
probably a factory worker. He squeezed it until, even in the darkened alley,
even with the illumination of a lone apartment window, a blinded window
at that, I could see it turn purple and, then, red. I wondered at this
cycle, purple to red. I soon realized that the pressure had burst a vessel
and that the entire limb was now drenched in blood. I continued to watch
and he continued to squeeze and mutter something inaudibly above the roar
of the traffic. There was no traffic for many blocks. No traffic in this
alley. The sounds were echoed, for blocks and blocks, past clotheslines,
through alleys, across small junk strewn yards, through hollowed out buildings,
and, seemingly, concentrated itself in this boxed in dead end street. He
continued to squeeze, and mutter. And the man tried to respond. I could
hear him try to respond. It would begin as a word but end in streaks and
the assailant squeezed harder and harder and, then. It came off. The hand.
Like the flower of a dandelion it popped off and flew
a good ten feet before hitting and sliding down a wall. And it landed.
With what I imagined was a soft thud.
The man was silent, his eyes wide. He hit the ground face first as the
assailant turned and met my eyes with a stare that could kill Medusa. He
turned away again, back to the man and appeared to laugh. Or choke. It's
all the same motion. The man lay still and the assailant stepped him and
walked over to the hand. He picked it up, placed it in a small bag, and
vanished up a wall.
I considered going back into the bar, if I could get Joe to unlock the
door. Very few people were allowed to leave out the back. Joe thought it
dangerous. And now I even remember the man. He was sitting in the bar,
drinking a mild drink for somebody his size. I talked with him briefly
but all he wanted to do was listen to the band and be left alone. He replied,
to what I can't remember, with a simple nod. He never made eye contact.
That is the usual cue that someone just wanted you to go away.
I walked over to his body, or to him, it was too early to tell. He was
sprawled out as if he had just done a swan dive from the building above,
perfectly flat, and perfectly symmetrical. Except for the missing hand,
of course. No blood was flowing from the stump which meant his heart had
probably stopped beating. Like I would a raccoon or rat on the street, I
kicked him in an attempt to diagnose of his condition. My simple little
kick caused the whole body, yes, it was only a body now, to flip over and
reveal a somber face and tightly shut eyes. He knew he was going to die.
You have to know you're going to die if you're going to close your eyes.
He had something sticking out of his breast pocket, two small pieces of
paper. I glanced around, reached down, but stopped. I kicked the body again
just to make sure. I began to slowly slip the pieces of paper from the
pocket but ended up yanking them out when I realized that it really didn't
make any difference. It wasn't like he was going to wake him up and yell
A light came on in the apartment above me. Followed by another. A curtain
parted, but I was already half way to the main street. There wasn't any
time to waste. I had to find somebody to go to the Sonic's game with.