#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Escaped the Bullet

It’s Throwback Thursday time! Today we dive into some old fiction that still resonates in the hearts and minds of many, especially if you grew up being taught how to “escape the bullet.”  

In a time when neo-Nazis parade college campuses, cops joke about only killing black people, nurses get manhandled for doing their jobs, and professional athletes are blackballed for making a stand, one has to wonder if this America is still the land of the free, or the land of the free if you look like “me.”

But I try to refrain from the political discussions online, because people tend to get pretty nasty. So let’s get on with the fiction . . .

Originally published June 25, 2015

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’t 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-the plate…. it’s in there. D-did you check the backseat? Under-r-r the driver’s s-seat? It must’ve fallen when I s-slammed on breaks.” I blink away the tears, hold my breath as my body shakes underneath the weight of the sobs.

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

“I didn’t see it! The 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 in 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.

If you ever find yourself in a jail cell, whether you did something wrong or not, be happy you escaped the bullet.



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