by Roy L. Pickering Jr.
What would his mama say?
What would she think if she could see him now, about to do what he was about to do? She'd kick his butt good. Toss it into the streets with no more hesitation than if he were the garbage. His mother would be ashamed that he was her son.
But she wasn't seeing this. And he didn't have a choice in the matter. He had wanted to be down with the Crypt more than anything. Now he was. That brought responsibilities along with it. The lesson most stressed by his mother was that you live up to your responsibilities, no matter what. That was how she had managed to raise half a dozen kids in this neighborhood with no man around, and done just fine.
Ricky was the last of those children to grow up, and the most difficult to get there. His older siblings had made Mama proud, graduating high school, getting jobs with the city, marrying before kids were on the way. They made things easy for their mother, because they bent to her overpowering will.
She had not been able to go six for six, however. Ricky fought with his mother from day one, when he had to be forcibly removed from her womb. A clear omen of things to come.
When his mother commanded that he eat his vegetables, Ricky screamed for candy. She told him to get to bed early, he wanted to watch late night talk shows. When she demanded he hit the books, he read comics. She insisted he clean up his act and stop getting detention, so he got himself expelled instead. His mother had dreamt the impossible for all her children, that they go to college. Ricky was her last hope. He had not placed college very high on his list of priorities. But at age thirteen, he joined a gang.
That was six weeks ago. Since then he had done a lot of things his mother wouldn't approve of. He had consumed alcohol and ingested drugs. He had engaged in sex. Ricky had robbed, and fought, and hurt people foolish enough to resist. He had hurt people who didn't resist at all.
If there was anything in his mother stronger than her will, it was the love she held for her children. Ricky knew that despite the things he had done in the past, she would forgive him. But after what he was about to do? He didn't think so. This crossed the line not even a mother's love would venture beyond.
Nevertheless, Ricky had chosen his path so now had to walk it. He wasn't willing to travel the long, arduous road his mother had tried to direct him towards. He was in too much of a hurry. Out on these streets is where he would stake his claim, where he would immediately be paid in full.
That's why Ricky was leaning against a fence, waiting to fulfill his latest duty as a member of the Crypt. Any moment now the guy would be coming home, basketball in hand, cap turned backwards on his head, one pants leg rolled up to his knee. And Ricky would make his first kill.
He patted the gun which was held securely in the waist of his jeans, hidden from view by his overlapping shirt. Ricky wondered what it would be like to kill a person. What else was there to think about at such a time?
Would he feel like more of a man, or less? Would he feel regret and remorse? Or only relief that he had accomplished his mission? Would he like it? Would he like himself? Would he be able to do it? If so, would any of the other questions matter?
There he was. Ricky could set his watch by him. He was alone as usual. The sun was down, the nearest streetlight out, no witnesses to be found.
Ricky moved closer. It was necessary to be as quiet as possible, because if seen, his intentions would be instantly known. But he couldn't be too far away. Missing was not a luxury he could afford.
When his foot hit the discarded soda can, a dozen car alarms and a marching band could not have made a more resounding clamor. Surprise was no longer his ally. Neither was time.
Ricky raised his arm and fired. The bullet harmlessly flew over the left shoulder of its target, eventually imbedding itself in a wall of the tenement building behind him. The second bullet released sunk deeply and with finality into soft flesh. Its victim crumbled to the ground, his hands useless as a dam to hold back the flow of blood.
"Did you see that?" a voice asked. "He just smoked that nigga."
Apparently there had been people around. Ricky hadn't noticed them. Who could blame him? He was new to this. Killing was a skill like any other. You had to practice to get good at it. Doing it right, doing it perfect, wasn't easy to achieve the first time out. Novices tended to be sloppy. They made amateurish mistakes like not observing witnesses; making unnecessary sounds that gave them away; missing their first shot, which could turn out to be their only one. Cause if your mark was wearing a piece himself, then he would get a chance, and you could end up lying on the ground bleeding your life away. Just like Ricky was.
He would never know what it was like to kill a person, but he would learn how it felt to be killed. Voices around him slowly growing softer, the stars in the sky becoming fainter by the second. The pain, overwhelming at first, then fading as well. No chance to even be afraid, for Ricky had allotted his precious remaining moments to asking himself a question.
The police would come, the news would spread, the sordid tale would be told. Ricky Tate, thirteen year old gang banger, tried to pop someone and got popped himself.
What would his mama say?