Marty’s Sticks

A bunch of people had been strangled and left in this stinky alleyway down by Martha’s. Marty told me about it- I first saw it from the second floor window of the abandoned building. They were all twisted around, four men wearing suits stained with blood, one woman in a grey suit as well, one little boy with a slingshot sticking out of his back pocket. Face down in the disgusting water down there. There were always piles of garbage bags on that alley, a broken baby carriage, dead pigeons. It always smelled bad. Now it smelled much worse, even from the second story window. Marty threw a piece of broken plaster down at the pile and hit one of the dirty, white faces, bruising it. He didn’t laugh, just stared. “You coming down with me?” I turned at his question, snapping out of it. “Where?”

“Down there, Rosco. Where you think?” He searched around the plaster chunks and debris in the abandoned building, finally finding a piece of splintery wood with some nails in it. “Come on, kid.”

I followed him down the stairs, hanging back a little, almost loosing him in the stairwell but then there we were in the stench with the reeking bodies and garbage. Marty poked one of the fat ones with the stick. “You think they got any money?” he asked. I looked at the twisted and sullied corpses. “Hey Rosco, look, get this guys wallet- look!” I saw what looked like a leather wallet sticking partially out of one of the pockets.

“Nah. You take it.”

“You scared? He ain’t gonna hurt you!” Marty laughed. “Hey, what about her?” he wanted to know. He was standing over the woman, who was face down in the brown water. He poked the side of her boob. I swung and hit him in the side of the head, a powerful blow that caused a snapping sound and made Marty first stumble, then collape, holding his head. “Augghh God! Auuuughhh!” I reached down and pulled the stick out from under him. He writhed on the ground. “Don’t fucking mess with these people,” I shouted. “Leave them alone. You could be dead like them someday! Your mother could be dead! Your sister!” My voice sounded strange.

Marty got to his knees, still holding his head, dirty water dripping from his sleeves. He had an odd half-grin on his face. Then he walked determinedly away, hunched over, stumbling but pressing on, squeezing his temples, thin lines of blood branching down his cheeks. I followed, stumbling too, trying to keep up with him. “Marty! Marty!” I tried to get him to respond in some way. “Marty! I had to hit you! You can’t mess with them!” He seemed to be grinning. He was hard to keep up with. “I’m sorry, man! I didn’t mean to hurt you bad. Are you hurt bad? Or are you just faking it? Marty!”

He took off in a run and I gave up trying to talk to him. I stood and stared as he went around the corner to the other alley leading out to the street. I looked back at the bodies. The sun was already behind the buildings and there were only a few more hours of daylight. I walked back to the end of the alley with the bodies and just looked at them. Their necks were the worst- red with veins and bruises and blood. I took the stick and carried it over to some stone steps. I broke part of it off and skewed the second piece on the first with one of the nails to form a cross. I found myself crying at this point but I ignored it, letting the tears fall down on the wood, the steps. I went to where the woman was and stood the cross up beside her, stabilizing it with chunks of concrete. From some distance I looked back at the scene, the bodies and the propped up cross. I wiped my face. Then turned and went to go looking for Marty.

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