A Sunny Day at the Park
By D.F. Wharton
Jonny and his comrades were playing basketball at St. Mary’s Park as the traffic worked its way along St. Anns Ave. On down a little farther children were playing in the water sprinkler as moms rocked strollers back and forth and on down a little farther mostly older men sat around a card table on overturned buckets and folding chairs playing bones with a radio tuned to a Spanish station, and the old man with the icee cart was scraping an icee into a paper cup for anybody with a dollar to pay. There was a parks department employee leaning up against the parks department building smoking a cigarette and looking on. Scattered on a few benches along a walkway a person would be stretched out and passed out, with a cart containing their things within reach, showing the outward signs of living a life on the streets. Beat cops walked their beat on the street’s sidewalk while sending and receiving text messages on the latest IPhone and talking to each other about dieting and fitness programs.
It wasn’t only Jonny and his comrades playing basketball, there were other hoopers from the neighborhood playing and it was hot outside and the games had been going for about an hour and Jonny’s team had been up for most of the time, and was still up, because they were winning. There was the traditional trash talking. But then Marc and some of his comrades were on the sidelines of the basketball court and time seemed to stop as Jonny’s eyes met Marc’s eyes and Jonny was standing eye to eye with his brother’s killer. Marc reached into his pants and pulled out a hand gun and brought the gun up and held the grip horizontal with the ground and said, Bitch ass nigga, and proceeded to squeeze the trigger.
Empty casings ejected as rounds blasted out of the muzzle and ripped into the open air furiously searching for something, someone, to destroy. Like roaches when the light comes on, the ball players scattered in all directions looking for cover. The loud reports of the firearm sparked nerves and instinct reactions of all within earshot. The children playing around the water sprinkler frantically looked for their mothers and mothers grabbed babies from strollers and ran even though they did not know where they were running. Some buckets and chairs were knocked over when some of the old men rose quickly to move and see what was going on and where the shooting was coming from. But a few others of the old, who had seen things, and had been through organized war abroad and unorganized at home, just looked on with bloodshot eyes and considered and didn’t move much but to take another pull from a bottle in a brown bag or soda from a can or water from a plastic bottle. Some took another puff from a cigar or pull from a cigarette or just a plain old deep breath of the air around them. The icee man stopped scraping and went for cover behind his cart and looked about frantically.
The parks department employee tossed the cigarette and practically dove through the door of the parks department building and slammed the door and locked it and prayed to God. The cops walking their beat dropped the latest IPhone into the cargo pocket and drew weapons and spotted the shooter but before they could even say anything Jonny had got his gun, that was stashed in a backpack hung on the chain fence surrounding the court, and Jonny was a better marksman and pumped two rounds into Marc who was flung backwards. One of the rounds struck Marc’s neck and blood was spouting out of his neck like the water from the fountain but nobody was playing in fountains any longer in this moment.
Drop the weapon! said the cops as their weapons were now trained on Jonny but Jonny was an outlaw and a gansta and living his thug life, and so without thinking much beyond instinct he pointed his weapon at the cops but the cops were even better marksman than Jonny and within the next fraction of a second Jonny had six rounds, fired from the police, rip into his body and destroy his major organs. As Jonny lay on his back and looked at the sky and leaked his blood onto the concrete alongside Marc he did not feel the joy or even think about the revenge achieved on that bitch ass nigga that killed his brother, which was a shame because that was his whole mission in life at that time. I’m fuckin dyin, was his first thought and his next and final thought and whisper was, Oh God, I’m sorry.
Both Marc and Jonny died well before they got to Lincoln hospital and so did the seven-year-old little girl that was at first wet from the water sprinkler and then wet with her own blood from the hole in the side of her head and her momma hyperventilating and gripping her daughters brain matter and her dead seven-year-old daughter and rocking back and forth unable to find a breath to breathe and the old man with the bottle in the brown bag who had seen things looked on and did nothing and said nothing because there was nothing to do and nothing do say. The lunch at Frescos, a pizza place across St. Anns Ave, was also disrupted by something a little more than just the sounds of the shooting. A bullet had crashed through the window and into the shoulder of a middle-aged man eating a slice. He made it to Lincoln hospital and recovered. About three hours later it was discovered that one of the homeless men laid out on a park bench was struck in the chest with one of the rounds that Marc fired but he was covered in various rags and was so strung out that he never even moved much, much less made a noise, and he died right there on the bench.
The biggest and most thorough investigation the city did was on the cops, to make sure and prove that the police were not at fault and followed the correct procedure. Career activists flocked to the scene and organized a protest in the name of anti-gun legislation and mothers against gun violence had a rally and mothers of the slain by bullets gone astray wept. But the old man with the bottle in the brown bag knew that bullets don’t go astray, they go exactly where they are fired. But the people, he knew, that have murder and hate in their heart sure do go astray, but there is not much chatter around that.