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Going Nowhere Slowly

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Stanley fell to the ground as the sound of gunfire rang out louder than he had ever heard before. He crawled on arms and knees until he was clear of his bedroom window, just as his mother had taught them to do at times like those – and there were many in their neighbourhood.

“Joey! Stanley!” His mother shouted from the other room.

“I’m okay, Mamma. I’m safe,” Stanley shouted down the hall as he rose to his feet.

“Oh thank the Lord, my boy. You stay where you are.” There was a moment of silence as both of them waited for another reply. “Joey?”

“I’m on the floor, Mamma.”

“Joseph Grant Bruiners! How many times do I have to ask that you answer me immediately? You will surely be the death of me.”
 
The relief in his mother’s voice was evident. Stanley hated where they lived. He hated the way his mother worried about him and his little brother, Joseph. Most of all, he hated how she worried about their father – wasn’t it his father’s job to worry about them?

Joey crawled from his room, a big smile on his face and Stanley already knew what his little brother was about to say.

“That was cool, wasn’t it? It was close, wasn’t it? Did you look out the window?” Joey’s voice was dripping excitement, reminding Stanley of the first time he had sat on Santa’s knee at the mall. Kids were supposed to be excited about sitting on Santa’s lap and whispering their deepest desires into his ear. No child was meant to ever be excited by rival gangs shooting outside their house – even at the tender age of twelve, Stanley knew that wasn’t how things were supposed to be.

“No, Joey. If a stray bullet doesn’t kill us, Mamma would if she ever found out we did that.”

“I’m not afraid, Stan.”

Two more shots rang out, louder than before, loud enough to make Joey rush into his big brother’s arms. Stanley held his little brother, the rapid beating of his nine year old heart betraying his bravado.

“We’re okay, Mamma.” Stanley yelled out before his mother called out to them again.

They could hear screams outside, the sound of people rushing out into the streets was always a good sign, it meant that the shooters had fled. The sound of screaming wasn’t, it meant that someone had been shot. They knew that their mother would not allow them to go outside, even if the shooters were long gone, so they rushed to Joey’s bedroom window to survey the goings on outside. A crowd of people had gathered just outside their front gate.

There was a loud banging at their front door. “Auntie Mona! Auntie Mona! Come quickly!”

“Boys, you stay here.” Their mother shouted as she rushed out the door.

A bad feeling settled in the pit of Stanley’s stomach, a feeling that made him feel like he was going to throw up. That feeling stayed with him for weeks. It stayed with him as he comforted his little brother after their mother had told them what had happened. It stayed with him as he watched his mother make the funeral arrangements. It stayed with him at the funeral. It stayed with him as he lay in bed at night listening to his mother’s muffled sobs. It even stayed with him while he watched his mother pack his father’s belongings into boxes.

Selwyn ‘Nines’ Bruiners would never have won a ‘Father of the Year’ award, but he had been the best father that he could be. While he was hardly ever home, he always managed to provide for his family. Stanley knew that his father had not held a real job; in fact, he had no illusions about what his father did for a living. He missed his father, they all did, but he was thankful that his mother now had one less thing to worry about. 

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