a short story by D.F. Wharton
George pulled the pistol from his waist, and then he pulled the trigger.
Erick wasn’t ready. It felt like he’d been hit in the chest with a brick. That couldn’t have just happened. He was in shock. Another shot, another brick to the chest. A long hard ringing in his ears. His vision went blurry. Somebody was screaming. The shapes of people were scurrying away. His lungs screamed for oxygen. That bastard, George, was gone. Everybody was gone. Erick was still on his feet, hunched over, leaning against a wall. He’d been shot twice at point blank range.
Erick breathed. Erick coughed. Erick spat up blood. Erick was dying. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his phone. Damn. He couldn’t get his fingers to work on the screen. He couldn’t talk. His mouth kept filling with blood. He was still on his feet. He kept trying with the phone. He wanted to dial 911 and tell the operator he’d been shot and to send an ambulance.
Nothing was working right. His mind was still going, but all the words were stuck in his head. Bronx-Lebanon Hospital happened to be about five or six blocks away. He would walk. I can make it, he thought. It was a good thought that was swimming around in his head. And he told himself he would make it. Stay on your feet, he told himself. He pushed off the wall and started walking like a drunken fool.
Step, step, step. God, please let me live, he thought. Twice had Erick made a deal with God. Once at Horizon Juvenile Detention Center and once on Rikers Island. He beat the case both times and both times he went right back to hustling in a life of crime, making excuses to justify his actions.
One block. Blood was spilling out of the holes in his chest. He could hardly breathe. He stumbled along. His heart beat hard in his ears. Something was screaming inside of him. All the organs in his body seemed to be on fire. It was hard to move his feet. He had to get to the hospital. Shock and panic were mingled with the madness in his mind. He stumbled forward.
He would live. He was too young to die. He would somehow make it to the hospital. Another step, then another. He coughed, and blood filled his mouth. He fell down.
Two blocks. Erick had made it two blocks and then fell to the pavement where he died. Erick had recently turned eighteen.
I would get into the particulars—who the killer was, what the beef was that had finally ended for Erick—but there’s no point. Because just like Erick never learned, and thought it would never happen to him, so to will it be for those who follow in his steps.