The sky is black. The sun has set, leaving the smog to accompany the air. The summer heat melds into everything, suffocating it all in torturous agony. Lang smiles, gazing into the starless, moon less sky, seeing only beauty in the stinking darkness. Beads of sweat roll down his face, causing it to glisten in the weak light of a street lamp far below. Looking down, Lang laughs, seeing humor in the fight going on some five stories lower; two women against five men. He pays little more attention to it, again turning his head to the dark sky.
“Mother? Mother, do you think I can have them when it’s over? Do you think they’ll be good?” Lang laughs again, remembering his mother, always so kind. He wipes his nose, adding more dirt and mucus to his sleeve. Lying down on the hard concrete, he rests his head in a corner of the rooftop, ignoring the smell of urine, trying to remember his mother.
A boy played happily in the bright sunshine. His face radiated joy as he built castles in the sandbox, driving trucks and other toys throughout them. His clothes were sparkling clean, his white shirt, dark blue jacket and tie, matching pants, and the small leather shoes he wore.
“C’mon Jess’ca. Les go home!” He laughed aloud, turning to face the girl that sat beside him. “I wan show you my house!” He clumsily stood, extending his small hand to the girl, doing his best to help her up.
“Okay. Let me ask my mommy first. Mommy!” The young girl brushed the sand from her bright yellow dress and ran to where her mother was sitting, only a few yards away. “Mommy, can I go to my friend’s house? Please mommy?”
Her mother smiled gently, looking up from her book, “Well where does your friend live, Jessica?”
Jessica held out a small finger, pointing to a brown house across the street. “He lives in there mommy.” The girl bounced with impatience, waiting for an answer.
“Of course you can dear, but don’t be too long. Perhaps we’ll go over again later so I can meet his parents.” The girl’s mother smiled, going back to her reading.
Together, the children ran across the street to the house, leaving the white picket gate open, bounding up the brick steps to the front door. The boy pushed the doorbell, and they stood, happy smiles on their faces, waiting for the door to be opened. Moments later, it swung wide, and a woman stood there looking down at them, a look of humor on her face.
“Who’s your friend dear?”
“This’ Jess’ca Mama. She came over t’ play.” The children giggled, brushing past the woman to run upstairs. They ran into the boy’s room, closing the door and giggling more.
“You have a nice house Bobby,” the girl said, looking around the new room in wonder. Her mouth opened in awe as she looked at statues and medals that lined the walls. Baseball trophies, football trophies, tennis trophies, and even golf trophies were displayed on the shelves that ran nearly all around the room. It was a clean, well kept room, the carpet neatly vacuumed, the bed perfectly tucked in. Jessica slowly shuffled toward one of the shelves. As she moved, her leg brushed against the plastic trash can, knocking it over to reveal a dark stain smeared along the wall.
“Wha’s ‘at Bobby?” The girl pointed at the brown stain with a questioning look. “D’ you do that with crayons?”
The boy’s face began to twist in a mask of frustration and anger, as he closed his eyes tightly. “Shut up Jess’ca!”
“That’s the way m’boy.” The tall man standing in the doorway smiled briefly, then his face once again fell expressionless. “Jessica. What a pretty name. Come here Jessica.”
“Daddy, no!” The boy pulled Jessica away from his father, dragging her behind the bed.
“Lang! Bring Jessica back out here! Now!” His father began to walk towards the bed, slowly, filling the children with as much fear as possible. He arrived at the bedside, slowly leaning over to peer at the cowering children. “How sweet.” Quickly, he jerked out his arm, grasping Jessica by her braided ponytail, yanking her up into the bed. Lang’s father bent down, staring Jessica in the eye, a slight snarl on his lips, shoving his mouth to hers and forcing his tongue into her mouth. Pulling her head back, he smiled at Lang, gently tracing the tears that ran down Jessica’s face with his finger. “You see Lang, this is the right way to make a friend. Try it Lang. Try it!” His voice rose to a shout, anger beginning to well up inside him.
“No Daddy!” Lang began to run for the door, tears streaming down his cheeks, when his father’s strong hand grabbed him by his collar, tightening, choking him.
“You’re not going anywhere you little shit! Now you do what I tell you to.” His father slowly dragged Lang over to where Jessica was lying on the bed. He released his tight grip around the boy’s neck, reaching over to Jessica’s dress, ripping the front of it wide open.