On the Corner of Charles and West

A man is shot in a Baltimore drive-by shooting.

     Then there was a sound, accompanied by a whizzing glimmer. It was a sound he had heard only on television, but he knew what it belonged to. He saw the figure between him and the street, a burly man of about thirty with tattoos peeking out from under his jacket, take off into a run. As tires shrieked with adrenaline, he felt it drive through. He had been hit in the pelvis, and thrown from his feet onto the concrete, raw with January frost. He his head struck against a graffiti laden wall like a crab mallet trying to crack a diamond. 

     He cried out, but at the deep ring of gunfire, everyone had fled the area; nobody heard him, and his lungs began to burn, as if he were running up a steep hill. His first thoughts were of the pain, but as the time began creeping back to normal speed, and still no one showed up, he made up his mind to get help for himself. It was at that point that he realized he couldn't move his left leg.

     He had shattered the joint, but he was a real estate agent, not a doctor, so he had no way to know what was really wrong. All he could tell was that he no longer controlled it. He reached slowly and painfully for his cell phone in his left pocket, only to slice open his hand with the broken glass of the screen. He made an empty mental note to amend that practice and began to consider his options, only to realize that he had none. He let himself slide from against the building onto the sidewalk.

     It was at that point when he realized that he hadn't a choice but to die in that spot. But no, tomorrow was his daughter's birthday. He could never leave her the day before she turned seven. He tried to sit up, but it was to no avail. He tried to shout, but no sound would come. I am trapped inside a body that is dead already! He let go.

    Thereupon he saw a child, Shirley Temple, he thought, wearing a jumper made from an old hiking backpack, come stumbling down the street. The girl was shivering, and she became delighted when she saw his warm leather coat. He saw her intentions as she saw them herself, and as she came up to take the coat from him, he helped her mildly, putting all his strength into removing his arms from the sleeves. And then, he, the dying, middle-aged man now wearing only a blue oxford and a bargain tie, smiled up at her to show his approval. When you're dying, does it really matter any more? His eyes followed her as she dashed away towards where she had come from, and disappeared into his thoughts. 

     He shivered, and slowly began feeling drowsy. He memorized the scene, the empty chinese restaurant across the street, the silent noise of cars driving gently along Pratt Street, and the crunch of the beer cans they ran over, off in the distance, the empty black sky, which would have stars, were it not for the city's lights. But the sleep was too enticing, and he let his eyes drift closed, as a new world, one of clouds, and a gate swinging open filled his soul. The last sound he heard was a siren, getting closer and closer to him. But, he had already left.

The End

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