Flash Fiction, November 2022
A Psalm 73 Story
‘Why do the wicked prosper, God?’
I glance at the gang congregated over by the link chain fence, laughing and joking around while I slave away carrying bags of concrete. It’s just not fair. If one believed the Bible stuff Grandma tries to feed me, they ought to be six feet under by now. Or at the very least, they ought to be dragging around a five-ton load of guilt and shame. The grins on their faces and ruckus laughter seem to disprove all of Grandma’s lessons.
Why do I kill myself doing the right thing when I could be like them?
I’m sweating, covered in filth, and hungry. They walk around like they own the place. Trendy, ripped jeans which look nothing like my authentically ripped ones despite what Grandma says. Their shirts are bright black and probably still smell new. I try to lean my head a little farther away from my ripe shirt.
Danny, an old school chum, laughs and draws my gaze. Nothing troubles them. They have everything they could wish for.
And I ate a butter and jam sandwich for lunch. Can't even afford the humble meat pie.
I throw another bag of concrete onto the truck. This is so unfair. Why am I holding out for the ‘good life’ Grandma says I’ll get if I do the ‘right’ things? Their life looks pretty good. So what if their actions are questionable. It can’t be that bad if they are so happy.
Sure, old man Vittorio died last week, but he was old! Living the life of ease until dying in rich digs surrounded by all that money would be sweet.
A clink of fake chains is all the warning I get before a hand thunks onto my shoulder. “Luka, dude, when you gonna join the crew, man?” says Danny.
The words appear innocence, but there’s a warning in them. I’m not safe unless I’m one of them. Their 'invitations' will expire one day. A pit of dread swirls in my stomach. Should I give in? Just join? It doesn't sound so bad when you say join. Surely, Grandma would rather I was alive then dead.
I open my mouth, but I can’t say the words.
“Dude, come on. Man up! Don’t be a chicken. We don’t need no weakling in the neighbourhood making us look back before the D'Cardos.”
The rival gang. A shiver runs down my back. I’m already a D'cardo target because of my address, never mind that I haven’t joined the Dragons. One day I’ll have two targets on my back unless I ‘man up’.
The brink is just before me. I can feel it, the fear of falling into the abyss is almost as strong as the thrill of falling.
What if my feet just slipped? Would that be so bad?
A squeal of tires precedes the revving engine. I react without thought. Everyone with half a brain dives for cover when they hear squealing in this neighbourhood because the retorts come next.
Pop, pop, crash. Something shatters. A rain of gunfire deafens me. My hands covering my ears does little to filter out the noise.
Danny yells something too muffled to understand and returns fire. It doesn’t surprise me he is packing. They are always packing. Violence surrounds them like a cloak.
The living nightmare ends like it began with a squeal.
A few Dragon members take final shots at the retreating car. I keep my head down, waiting for the silence to be broken with something other than gunfire.
“Danny?” Someone yells.
I peak over the trey of the truck.
My stomach turns at the carnage before me. Danny’s lifeless eyes stare at the chain mail fence, his neck at an odd angle. Blood seeps from several holes through his torso.
How could I have forgotten this part of gang life? Brought to desolation in a moment, consumed with terrors just like the pastor read from the Bible last Sunday.
Lord, my feet almost slipped.
My heart constricts at my foolish ignorance. I see their end now, God. It’s death. Whether death of old age or gone too soon. Their end is death, and I’d rather live with God, to have His right hand guiding me until I reach that land up above. There to be rewarded for the faithful life I served on earth.
It is good for me to draw close to God. I will put my trust in Him.
Image from Canva