Literary Lion: Escaped the Bullet

My left arm feels like it’s on fire. Something is protruding from my shoulder. Bone? I throw my head back and scream.

“Quiet!” he says from the front seat.

Two minutes. I was two minutes from Ace Hardware. Two minutes from buying the screws and screwdriver that would secure my drive home. No more nervous glances in my rearview mirror. No more fear of flashing blue lights.

My dad was teaching me responsibility. If I wanted a car, I had to buy it with my own money. He’d been working on the ’99 Accord in the back yard for almost two months. He’d given it a fresh coat of paint, changed the tires, put in a new timing belt.

“Hondas are durable,” he told me. “You can put 300,000 miles on these boys, they’ll still run.” He told me if I could pay the insurance on it by myself for three months, he’d sell to me for a discount. $800. Three months later, I could finally take Stacey Carlton to the movies in my new ride.

Now, I fear the only Stacey I’ll ever kiss will have a beard, long, shaggy hair, and call me his chocolate lollipop.

My hands are pinned behind my back. At least, I think they are. I can no longer feel them, the metal cuffs cutting off my circulation. I can only feel the pain in my shoulder, as if a thousand sharp needles tied to a brick were being dragged down my arm.

“I think you dislocated my shoulder!”

“You cryin’, boy?”

“Th-th-the plate…. it’s in there. D-d-did you check the backseat? Under-r-r-r the driver’s s-s-s-seat? It must’ve fallen when I s-s-s-slammed on breaks.” I blink away the tears, hold my breath as my body shakes underneath the force of the sobs.

“When you passed the stop sign,” he said flatly.

“I didn’t see it! The sh-sh-shrubs.”

“You’re slurring your words, son. Have you been drinking?”

“I’m 17!”

“Underage drinking is against the law. Driving drunk, driving without registration, plates, insurance—that’s if you really bought the car—resisting arrest. They’re adding up quickly.”

“Call my dad. He’s on the way home. I was behind him. I just had to stop by Ace.”

“Is that some homeboy?”

“The store! So I could screw on the plate! Check the car!”

“I didn’t see anything.” He puts the cruiser into gear. I fall back into the seat, igniting the pinching pain in my shoulder that had temporarily fallen numb. I can no longer hold back the tears. The waterfall descends, and in my blurred vision, I am transported back a year, to my 16th birthday, three months before my grandma died. Her final words of advice ring loudly in my ears.

You’ve reached that age when you’re still a boy, but you look like a man. Boys who look like men are an endangered species in this country. If you ever find yourself in a jail cell, whether you did something wrong or not, be happy you escaped the bullet.

—Nortina


This is in response to Literary Lion, hosted by I Smith Words. This week’s theme is escape.

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