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The Reason For Living

By Joseph Grant

As he lay dying in the East Tremont Section of the Bronx, the bullet wounds he had sustained to the throat and abdomen throbbed with each new pulse and spilled vital blood from his heart to the freezing sidewalk beneath him.

Miguel Sanchez gasped for help on the northeast corner of Garden Street. Getting help at 4:22 on a icy Saturday morning was futile, only Sanchez was too naïve to know any better. The streets were empty. They were usually bustling with varied kinds of illicit traffic at this hour. Maybe it was the gunfire that cleared the sidewalks. Maybe it was the cold.

His father had tried to persuade him to stay in school. “Yeah, that’s fine Pops, he would say, all smart-assed, school ain’t where the money’s at”. His father gave up on him and left them last year for some bodega puta. What the hell did he know?

The bullet fragment in his throat did less destruction than the slug to his stomach. That one was only a ricochet, but it did major damage. He wondered how long he had. All of his friends, with the exception of those in prison, were dead.

He knew the entire neighborhood was peering down on him. He’d done the same when it had been someone else’s turn. Now, it was his. He knew the guy who popped him would return.

They always came back to admire their work. Even he had done it. It disgraced the victim and gave his killer a badge of honor. It was an urban rite of passage.

The streets began to stir. The crack whores began slowly slinking from their shadows. A car alarm sounded in the distance. He was ripe for a jacking. He had done it, too. It was the best and the easiest way to get cash and anything you kept with no questions asked. They called it “getting the goods”. His death would show the same lack of mercy his life had.

A figure stood over him. Shit. It was the Dominican who had shot him. The guy Miguel failed to rip off. He tried to move. He knew the guy was going to ice him.

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere, you dyin’. I ain’t gonna kill you.” He kicked Miguel in the stomach. Miguel grimaced and rolled over. “I ain’t gonna kill you. You already dead.”

The Dominican took Miguel’s watch with a snap that took hair and skin from the wrist. “Lata, you don’t need no watch where you goin’. Hasta manana, mierda.” The guy removed Miguel’s kicks, leaving him in his stocking feet. Mierda, Miguel thought. Spanish for shit. The last words he would hear in a life of mierda.

He looked at the paper. An advertisement showed a young, affluent white couple, drinking, having fun on some Caribbean beach. The ad made him sick down to what was left of his core.

“Have fun this summer with Caribbean beach-saver fares and low rates to exclusive hotels on Fiesta Cruises. Call now for a trip of a lifetime. Life is short, so you’d better start living.”

Miguel rolled on his side and nodded. Life is short, but life is also a lie. No one ever lived like that. Life was shit. Life out here was no fiesta, nothing to celebrate. You just lived, hoping not to die and every day you lived past, you owed tomorrow a death. By his community’s standards, he was already an old man. Life out here was short and so, Miguel lay back and died.

(C)opyright 2009 Joseph Grant All Rights Reserved

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