Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Cadillac Man. A short story by Mike
Kim was just a mother. Just a hard working, loving mother. She had never received a formal education as she had her first son, Kevin when she was only 17 and still in high school. She had heard stories about young mothers growing up to resent their children for “stealing” their youth. But, the truth was that Kim was a very lonely person her whole life. This child was a blessing in her eyes to distract herself from the frightening reality of things in life like your children’s father leaving you behind for a life as an NFL linesman.
Kim and Mark were high school sweethearts until Kim became pregnant. Up until the he was born, Mark denied that the child was his. It was only on the day he was born did Mark act like a father. Holding his child’s mothers hand during the birth, and cradling him in his arms with tears in his eyes. Kim knew it wouldn’t last long. Mark had been accepted to the Louisiana State University on a full football scholarship. From there he went on to win many awards while in school for his dedication on the football field. Kim had kept the secret about Kevin for years so Mark could continue with his career without persecution.
During the last game of his college career, Mark had suffered a broken leg injury. He was told that he might never play football again and to start looking towards another future. After lengthy sessions with the teams pastor he returned to Kim to make up for the years he was absent from her and Kevin’s life. About seven months later he started to receive word form his doctors that he could start physical rehab. He was back on the field a couple of months later and signed as a free agent to the New Orleans Saints. The contract called for three years and 15 million dollars. During his stay at home, in beautiful Hornbeck, LA, he got Kim pregnant with their second child, Vera.
The morning was always rough for this broken family. The children would always wake up hungry and cranky. Kim could not afford to buy them breakfast foods so she would often take the children to her mother’s house to do laundry and eat breakfast. In the world of heartache and callous souls that Kim lived in her whole life, she was always able to retreat to her mother for comfort and warmth.
This morning was especially hard. Kevin was sick with a pretty high fever and Kim was worried that Vera would get sick during the night, since her and her older brother had to share a bed.
“Kevin, could you go down to the corner and get your mama a newspaper?” Kim asked.
There was no reply.
“Ok, fine. Can you stay here and watch your sister for a minute while I run down and get one then?”
Again, no reply.
Though she lacked the formal education our society clings to as a staple for success and happiness, Kim was intelligent. Her daily reading of the newspaper was her escape and anchor to this world. And since the nice man who owned the bodega across the street from the project she lived in always gave her a left over one from the day before for free (he said it wasn’t considered news anymore since it was a day old) she had made it a habit. Kim had also read somewhere that reading to your children at an early age will help drive their hunger for knowledge. The kids didn’t mind having the funny pages read to them, either.
On the way to the bus stop that would usher them to breakfast, a man stopped them and was asking for money. Kim politely told him she had no money for him. She could see the sadness pouring out of her children for this man. They didn’t understand why a man would just ask for money instead of working for it, like everyone else. Or, why their mother couldn’t help this man out in some way. They didn’t understand why their mother would turn this man away when all their short lives she has explained to them the importance of sharing and love.
Kim was wearing her worn out, thrift store jacket to hold in her body heat form the outside air. It was before the sun had risen over the horizon so she knew it would get warmer after that. She hadn’t known the small joy that comes to woman from buying new clothes. It was almost an alien concept for her. With one pocket containing ten dollars for the bus ride to and from her mothers and the other containing half of the rent she owed to her landlord. Kim didn’t have a bank account and so she had to give cash to her mother and she would write a check. This was a once a month hassle for her and everyone involved.
As they finally trudged up to the bench that she had spent more time on than an actual bus seat, Kevin began to moan. Kim knew her son was very ill, and shouldn’t be outside in this weather but there was no other option. She knew once they got to her mothers house he could fill his stomach with hot food and lay back down. Everything was going to be alright.
The road was empty, as it usually was at this time of day. You could usually count how many cars would drive by on one hand until rush hour. The street wouldn’t even look the same after that. Stretches of pavement would turn into stretches of bumper to bumper people in their metal cages. Applying makeup, drinking their morning coffee, singing along to the radio or just simply screaming at everyone else on the road for not driving quite like they wanted them to. These were the sights of the morning commuters. That is, until Kim started to read the newspaper everyday. Now, she just has to be able to keep her attention on the letters and not on the engines, horns or yelling that filled the morning air.
Kevin was using his mothers lap as a pillow trying to sleep until the bus arrived. He knew it was only a short ride after that in the warm bus, to his grand mother’s house and a belly full of food. Vera was playing with her mother’s hair saying things like “bewteeful” and “pwetty” between each stroke with her hand. Vera was old enough to start talking in sentences but since the two people she is with all day are quiet and reserved, her speech was few and far between. Even when she would talk it was usually only one or two words at a time.
Kim looked up from her newspaper when she saw bright lights pierce through the morning twilight. In fact, they were so bright that she thought it was the public bus she and her starving children were praying for. As it got closer she noticed it wasn’t the bus so her attention was diverted back to the newspaper.
“Who that?” Vera asked her mother.
Kim was surprised to see the oncoming car was coming to a stop right in front of her. The car was an older Cadillac. It could no longer be considered a “luxury” car anymore. It looked like it had been involved in several minor accidents and assaults. There was a man inside who looked rather scared.
“Gimme your money! Now!” he demanded
“Please…” Kim whispered. But before she could say anything else, the man pulled out a handgun and pointed it right at her from the driver’s seat.
“I aint fuckin witch you, lady. Ill hurt them kids if I need to.”
Kim stood up slowly. She reached into her pocket and felt over $200. She needed this money though. This was for her and her family. Without it they would not be able to pay rent. She reached into her other pocket and pulled out ten dollars and threw it at the man in the car.
“There. That’s all I have. It was my children and my bus fare. Please, just leave us alone now.”
“Ten dollars?!” exclaimed the petty thief. “You gonna need a little more dan dat if you and yo kids wanna make it home alive today.”
Kim explained to the man that that was all the money she had. She begged him to leave and to not hurt anyone. As the man was about to get out of his car and make his way over to her, a wonderful sound was heard coming down the street. Cars. Traffic. People. Witnesses. Help.
She knew there was no way he would shoot them in front of an audience, and he would probably leave once he noticed it too. But he didn’t leave. He sat there with his emergency lights on, waiting. In less than five minutes the entire street was filled. Cars poured in from both directions, filling in the space in front of Kim, her children, the Cadillac and this man. This disgusting man. Unshaven and dirty. He looked like he smelled bad. He was also terribly ugly, Kim noticed. Not just physically but spiritually and emotionally. She could see it written in his cold dark eyes.
Why doesn’t anyone notice, Kim wondered. These people are so self involved they can’t even notice that the young impoverished mother of two sitting on a bus stop bench not even 15 feet away from them is being robbed at gunpoint. Maybe they did notice, but the caring just wasn’t there. They figure they’ll just read about it the newspaper and shake their heads at this kind of world.
The man in the Cadillac was now angrier than ever. He propositioned her one more time to either give him the rest of her money or he would shoot one of them. With tears in her eyes and the screams of her children in each ear she looked up at the man and simply said, “NO”.
She heard the gunshot first. It seemed to echo off of everything. The trees, the sky and even the noise in the air. The initial bang was quickly followed by something that sounded very similar to the tone you hear on a television when there is an emergency broadcast. She felt her children and herself covered in blood. She could see all three of them dying in the street without anyone to help them. She could see in her mind the man taking the contents of her pockets and driving away. Counting all the money out loud as if he had actually worked for it. She could see the man laughing about it to all his associates.
Nothing. She opened her eyes and could see nothing. Hear nothing. Feel nothing. Not that there was an absence in any of these senses but that there was nothing wrong. Her children were looking up at her as if to say “I’m ok, are you?” with their eyes.
It doesn’t happen very often, but when a pistol isn’t kept up properly with regular cleanings and such, it can jam. When a gun jams often and is still never kept up correctly it can backfire. Most of the time when a handgun backfires it will pop the metal slightly possibly exploding the barrel of the gun, severely burning the shooters hand. But every now and then a rare occurrence takes place where the bullet will shoot out the back of the gun. The bullet meant for Kim, Kevin and Vera now lay in the forehead of the man in the Cadillac.