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Ronald Warren Deutsch

A Secret Place 

Benny stood at the edge of the concrete, looking over and down at the river. "River? What river?" he asked himself. He had seen rivers on the T.V. He'd even seen one when his Uncle Benny took him to Disneyland that time. That was a hell of a river -- rhinos, alligators, all sorts of shit. This was just a big outdoor sewer. If that. He continued to stare and thought he could see blood coming out of Skinny's body. But Skinny had been there for three days now. Could people be bleeding for that long? Did folks have that much blood in them? He remembered when his older brother, Cunny, got shot in the head. The blood came gushing out like, well, like a river. 

Benny came home for lunch. His Aunt Letti had his favorite -- those little dinosaurs noodles with the cheese sauce. Halfway through the meal, he asked Aunt Letti when his Mom would be coming home. Aunt Letti shook her head. Every day, every meal, the boy asked her the same question. How the hell did she know? Her sister was down in time. Three years on the drug charge; another two for weapons possession. But with Shanique's temper, she could wind up spending the rest of her life locked in. So she just shook her head. Maybe one day the boy would stop asking. Maybe one day he'd just forget about her. She'd do something special for his birthday this year. Maybe take him to the zoo or something. He'd be ten this year. Or maybe nine. Who the hell knew? She was just glad the boy didn't bring her sister up when Carl was home. Carl would get mad and whup the boy on side his head. The boy knew better than that. He was a smart boy. Only took once to learn that lesson. 

After lunch, Benny took a walk passing by Jimmy D's house. Jimmy waved to Benny from the upstairs window. Benny waved back. He felt bad for Jimmy. Alone in that wheelchair all day. Nobody to do nothing for him. Can't even go to the bathroom till his Mama came home at night and helped him. Benny hoped he wouldn't find himself like that someday. First thing he'd do when he heard gunfire was drop to his knees. Better to take a bullet in the chest and die than lose your legs and be a cripple. He continued on back to the river. He sat on the edge of the concrete, and grabbing a handful of pebbles, threw them into the brown-grey water. Skinny was still there. Benny thought about what it was Skinny said before they pushed him over. It wasn't the usual "fuck you." No. Skinny had said something else. Something strange. He said "thank you." "What a dumb thing to say," Benny thought. "Pussy-ass," Keb had said afterward. 

Maybe tomorrow Skinny'd be gone. The Police would finally come and take him away. Then another kid would take his place there. There was always someone to be found down there by the river. Used to be a secret place. 

Bodies piling up left and right till the rain came and took them away. But the Police knew all about it now. They'd drop by once a week and wipe up the mess. Everybody's got their job, Benny understood. 

A car pulled up and Benny knew by the sound it was Keb. Keb got out of the driver's seat and Powder got out the other side. Keb had his wild look and Benny got scared. What was Benny doing there, Keb wanted to know. Benny quickly got to his feet and said he was just looking. 

"Looking? At what?" Keb screamed, his voice flying all over the place. Keb was fourteen and his voice was changing every second. 

"N-nothing," Benny stuttered. When he got nervous, he always stuttered. When his Dad was living with them, he'd smack him when he did. Benny was glad his Dad was dead now. 

"Get your ass over here, punk!" Keb demanded. "You waitin' on the P.O.'s? You wanna tell them how Skinny ate it? That what you doin'?" 

"No, Keb! I-I was j-just sittin'... just sittin'...." 

"Pussies sit. Men stand." Powder mumbled something in agreement. 

"I-I'm s-standing now," Benny said hoping to calm Keb down. 

But Keb pulled his chrome out. He waved the barrel around making figure eights around Benny's head. "You makin' fun of me?! You makin' fun o'Keb!" 

Benny backed up and almost tripped and fell. "No, Keb! I-I was just sayin'...." 

"Don't fuck with me, punk. You see a fuckin' credit card here? You think I'm buyin' some shit here?" Keb closed his eyes and shook his head as if trying to get something out. He then opened his eyes and pointed the gun dead on Benny's forehead. "Fuck you, punk!" 

Benny could feel the sweat running down his face. He bit his lower lip and just stood there. He didn't drop to his knees. He just stood for that minute and listened to the only sound there was. The river. The water passing from wherever to wherever. Benny thought he didn't know nobody who knew where the river ended at. And if they did, nobody ever told him. Maybe it didn't have no place to end. Maybe it just kept going. Maybe someone should take a boat or something and see. 

The minute passed and without another word, Keb and Powder got back into the car and drove off. Benny started to breath again and looked up. The sky was turning dark. Rainy dark. He turned and looked down at Skinny's body. If it rained tonight, the river would fill up and take Skinny's body with it. Then Skinny would know where the river ended up at. But Skinny was dead and wasn't going to be telling Benny or nobody. 

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