by S.W. Vaughn
I grew up here. Grass was a fairy tale, and rust cultivated intricate patterns on concrete and pipe. When summer baked the alleys, we sought the open rooftops.
Queenie had the best roof. She’d painted it green, and rendered flowers on the stubby surrounding walls. She welcomed us in her ersatz garden. The adults avoided her. We heard whispers: Queenie had a third leg, a rocket in her pocket. We didn’t understand “transvestite.”
Queenie had a soft spot for Jaime Kimball. We’d find him there at all hours. Jaime’s hopped-up mother didn’t take stock in her son, so he did what he pleased. We were at once sympathetic, and green as Queenie’s roof with envy.
Jaime whispered through life, a born peacemaker, soothing tempers when hot and piddly childhood wars broke out. Once I thought he might have become a cop, like me.
Five years ago, Jaime plugged everything life had burdened him with into a brick of C4, which he planted in Queenie’s basement.
We found him on the roof of the nearest building outside the blast radius. The pulsating lights of fire and emergency vehicles highlighted a lifetime of anguish in the hollows beneath his haunted eyes.
They shot him three times. I couldn’t draw my gun. I finally understood.
I grew up here. The ruins have shifted, settled. Grass pokes through warped asphalt in tufts and clusters, soft green paint splashed on ancient canvas. Queenie’s blood fed those stalks, and Jaime’s spirit brushes them with a sigh.