Fifth Street

A city is a cold and unforgiving place.

You want cozy and comfort? Try the suburbs. Just remember: the coffee sucks.

Fifth Street by J.D. Rice

The boy lies like a shriveling leech amid a rancid junk heap in an abandoned ally. His breathing is heavy and gasping, his lungs sucking in the putrid fumes of the city’s filth. Rain falls on us both, washing away the smell of urine and bile from beneath our feet. Washing away the tears from my eyes. The boy’s eyes bulge out of his head, wild and unfocused, unable to see the anguish on my face.

What do I think of him, lying there, exhausted from the chase, drug-fried brain finally giving up any hope of escape?

He disgusts me. From his grease and rain-soaked hair to his tattered, blood-stained shoes. Pitiful, rank, disgusting creature. Drug dealer. Murderer. The barrel of my gun is inches from his crooked nose, and he does nothing, too far gone to see any danger as I cock my hammer. He doesn't even remember the crime he's about to executed for. But I remember. I'll never forget.

Two whores suddenly round the corner, a rich, drunken bachelor between their arms, laughing at some already forgotten joke. They see me, yelp in fear, and back away. They won’t call the police. There are no police on this side of town. The only justice you can find is through the barrel of a gun. The kind of justice my little girl is about to receive.

Whores. Pimps. Dealers. The only thing they have to fear is competition. Their system knows no sympathy, no honesty, no honor. Their ethics are defined by shameless lust and insatiable greed. I see two drunks a day, lying dead, ignored by their fellow sinners on the street. In a city like this, who gives a damn? The wretched creature before me is a product of this place, a still-born child flushed into this rank sewer of existence. He never had a chance.

I narrow my eyes at the boy at my feet. He’s cringing now, shaking, crashing from God knows what high he was on. My thumb still rests on the cock of the gun. Water drips from the tip of barrel, falling to the ground, mixing with the crimson blood running off the boy’s shoes. Where is the justice in this?

He probably doesn't know what he did, doesn't remember breaking into the apartment on Fifth Street, the apartment where my daughter lived in squalor. I'd offered to let her stay with me downtown so many times, but she wanted her independence. And this is what she gets? Some junkie looking for scraps kills her in an intoxicated panic. She dies, he lives, and I hold a gun to his nose knowing that I can change all that, yet knowing that I can't really change a thing.

Where is the justice in this? I ask myself.

On Fifth Street, I answer, and the boy’s brains splatter against the concrete wall.

J.D. Rice a flash fiction writer, freelance editor, and aspiring novelist living in Frederick, MD. His work has been featured on 365tomorrows, Flashes in the Dark, and Every Day Fiction. Follow J.D. on Twitter @jeremydrice.