|Gambling in the Alley
By Tyrobia Harshaw
Tim stared down at the ground; his heart felt like a punching bag to a heavyweight boxer. In one hand twirled a Smith & Wesson
Model 19 revolver pistol, a single .357 Magnum bullet in the other. He shifted the bullet in between his fingers with an uncertain
determination. Raindrops as big as nickels pounded on the top of his head, breaking his slicked Mohawk down into a messy clump on
either side of his face. He spat the off-blue strands of hair trickling into his mouth away and squinted as he gazed into the sky. The
drops of rain seemed a mere subtlety to his conscious until that moment, but as the rain hit the ground, he remembered how much he
hated the stench of rain mixed with city as much as he hated the smell of the city, itself. On especially humid nights like this, those
drops of rain only amplified the retched puke of cigarette butts and garbaged litter around the alley. He fell back, leaning on the graffiti
stained brick wall and focused back on the gun and bullet, his lanky frame sliding down, sitting on the wet concrete, resting his neck
onto the wall before placing the gun on his bare stomach, toying with the bullet. The rain bashed against his skin, wrinkling it into an
even paler tone than he usually had. He wrapped his tattered, plaid shirt around him—refusing to button it up—in a weak attempt to
keep the gun dry. The rain had steadily soaked through his pants, forcing them to cling to his legs in an intimate tango. The white in his
shirt was hardly recognizable when it stuck to his skin, while the black melted into him like a geometric tattoo. “Please,” a voice begged.
Tim looked up and met his eyes once again with the face of a man neatly tied to a bent out of shape aluminum chair on the shaded,
adjacent wall of the alleyway. He stopped struggling now as the ropes started to soak in rain around his wrists, ripping and burning the
more he struggled. The skin around his wrists started to glow a burning red, before long. The rain began to wash off the blood from his
head. His previous struggling had caused him to topple onto the concrete numerous times, bouncing his head violently. Tim was
courteous enough to return him in his upright position, tightening the ropes on his wrists behind his back and legs before returning to
his spot in the alley away from the light fixtures, occupying his attention back to the gun. He never said anything when the man cried
out for help. He never ran away when he screamed at the top of his lungs. He knew nobody would hear him, and if anyone did, no one
would intervene. They would just go about their business, so Tim waited patiently for him to run out of steam, ruffling through the man’
s wallet for entertainment.
His ID said his name was Richard Henson, an Average Joe. DOB: 10-16-61, almost twice Tim’s age, 286 lbs, near double his size,
organ donor; it expired in two months. The picture offered no justice to Richard. The clean-shaven, smiling, confident doppelganger
with slicked auburn hair in the laminated photograph was replaced by a terrified fart, quite a few pounds larger than his ID claimed,
and a five o’clock shadow with his hair in a mess, his cheap hair gel clearly washed away by the rain. When Tim asked if he knew about
his upcoming expiration, Richard met his question with a flurry of expletives and cries for help. He liked calling him a “blue-haired
faggot.” He faintly smiled every time Richard belted out a yell, his triple chin fluttering at the vibrations of his voice like the wattle of a
turkey, rocking in his chair until he toppled over, pouring his fleshy stomach out of his yellow dress shirt, ripping his brown suit jacket,
bending that poor chair to hell under the pressure of his weight. He found even more pleasure when a police siren chimed from the
main street. Richard screamed as loud as he could. Tim informed him they weren’t coming for him. They had better things to do, but
he was welcome to try to grab their attention. Richard screamed for the next two minutes before conceding, sobbing into two of his
Richard’s tears meshed with the rain so intricately it became difficult to tell if he had cried at all, if not for his pitiful sobs. “Please,” he
repeated, “you don’t have to do this. Just let me go, ok? I won’t tell anyone. I’ll just walk away. I promise. I won’t tell a—”
“How many times are you going to say that?” Tim growled. He started flipping the bullet in the air and catching it. “How many times
are you going to beg for your life? What’s funny is that you haven’t even asked why you’re here.” He caught the bullet and shot him a
curious glare. “Do you know why you’re here?”
Richard sniffled and shook his head. “No,” he said, “I don’t. You don’t want my money. I haven’t done you any harm. I haven’t done
anything to anyone else to deserve this. I’m a goddamn telemarketer, for Christ's sake!”
Tim continued flipping the bullet.
“I have no idea why I’m here. No clue.” He paused and stared into Tim’s eyes. Their pale blue complexion offered Richard no
sympathy, comfort or security, no emotion. Instead, Tim’s eyes stared blankly back at him, mind innocently wandering elsewhere, zoned
out. “Please,” he continued, “just hear me out. I can keep a secret. I’ve got a bank account with—”
“I used to have suicidal thoughts,” Tim interrupted. He grasped the pistol, letting the bullet fall and slap his stomach, bouncing off on
the concrete, rolling away a few inches before placing an index finger on it, stopping it in its tracks. “I’d wake up every morning wishing
I didn’t have them.” He picked up the bullet and clenched it in his fist. “I hated my life. I hated my job.” He stood up. “I hated the
tediousness and I hated the people; most of all, the people.” He stared at the gun, alternating its barrel from the ground to his face.
Richard shook his head violently. “I’m not like those people! I’m a good man. I know how you—”
Tim ignored his dialogue. “I always used to fantasize how I would kill myself,” he said. “Hanging.” He pointed the gun at Richard.
He cringed and shifted his head away. “Jesus Christ, man! I’ve got two children!”
“Slitting my wrists,” Tim continued, in his own world. He pointed the gun at himself. “Overdosing.” He shrugged, dropping the gun to
his side. “But none of those seemed right. Too cliché."
Richard gave Tim a confused look before crying harder. “I don’t understand! Why am I here?” he spat, saliva bolting out of his mouth.
Tim placed the barrel to his temple, feeling the cold stainless steel rub against him as the rain sweated down his face. “So I practiced
putting an unloaded gun to my head and pulling the trigger.” He imitated the sounds as he pulled the hammer back. “Click…click.”
Richard’s eyes widened as he cried out to Tim, “No!” Attempting to jump out of the chair to stop him, Richard launched forward and
plunged down, scraping his knees on the ground, grinding his stomach on the impact, and slamming his forehead once again into a
puddle on the concrete, splashing and bouncing off the ground.
Tim pulled the trigger. The hammer launched forward and slammed against the barrel. The matrimony of the clashing metals let out a
slight ticking sound, similar to a realistic toy pistol. “Boom,” he uttered. With a flick of the wrist, he whipped out the cylinder and stared
into the six empty chambers, spinning it absently as he spoke. “Calm down, Dick,” he said. “I never could bring myself to loading it.”
Richard groaned from the ground. Blood seeped out of his wound in a stream of red, diluted by the rain. He desperately spat out the
liquid pouring into his mouth, trying not to drown. Tim ignored him. “When I’d drive my car, I’d always think about steering over the
median into oncoming traffic,” he said, “but then I’d think about the other person in their car I’d hit. All the things they must be going
through. Their lives. Their spouses. Their children. All that stress.”
He looked at Richard and sighed. He glided over and heaved his chair up, but Richard’s stunt caused the front legs of the chair to bend
backward, so when Tim let go, Richard helplessly tumbled back down, replaying the action he completed moments earlier. Tim rolled
his eyes and hoisted him back up, slamming him onto the wall to keep him up. Richard’s cranium slapped the wall with such force, his
neck gave way and jolted his head into his chest. Tim crouched down next to him, staring forward at the circle of light on the ground in
front of them. It was that time of night for the street lamps to turn on, to keep the alleyways clear and safe from the muggers and the
rapists that plagued the city.
“I’d probably be doing them a favor ending their life with my own.”
He took the bullet and placed it into a slot, spinning the cylinder one final time before snapping it back into place.
Richard made quick, shallow breaths as he switched stares between Tim and the gun, shaking his head in speechless disbelief, mouth
gaping open. Tim tilted his head up and looked at him. His face was clean of scars and blemishes; he looked like he could be an altar
boy for Sunday mass, but his eyes told a different tale.
“Then I realized,” he said, “I don’t really give a shit what they’re going through. I hate people. What makes that one person more
special than me? If I die, what does it matter to me if they live or not? If I live, what does it matter? Why do I have to face the
consequences and follow the laws of people I hate?"
He placed the barrel on Richard’s forehead and flung it up, motioning for an answer. Instead, Richard just sobbed. “Please,” he said,
“don't do this."
Tim slammed the barrel on his head, knocking Richard to the side and grabbing his arm to keep him from toppling over again. “I don’t
think you understood the question,” he said, “so I’ll ask you again. Why do I have to face the consequences and follow the laws of
people I hate?"
Richard took a deep breath, snorting snot up his nose. “Um, b-b-because—”
Tim squeezed the trigger. The hammer pulled back and ran into the barrel, making nothing but a clicking sound. “I don't!” he bellowed.
“You don't!” Richard squealed. He shook his head so hard he moved the chair. He attempted flailing his arms, accomplishing nothing
but the rope repeatedly slapping the back of the chair.
Tim pressed the barrel of the revolver to his own temple once more and pulled the trigger. The hammer slammed on the barrel and hit
another empty chamber. He released a disappointed sigh. “Why do I have to pay for the things that I need to live?” he asked, pointing
the gun back at Richard.
Again, he squeezed the trigger. Again, no shot.
“Why should I pay for what I want? Why can’t I just take it?” He squeezed his eyes shut, shoving the barrel into his own mouth before
pulling the trigger. He opened them to find himself still alive, staring into Richard’s terrified face. The rain bounced off Richard’s body,
forming an almost angelic aura around him. Tim grimaced and put the gun into Richard’s eye, who quickly closed it. “Open your
fucking eye and look at me!” he demanded.
Richard’s eye slowly peeked out and stared into the vortex of the barrel. His eyes widened and he let out a shrill scream.
“LOOK AT ME!” Tim repeated. His voice howled and echoed even through the harsh beats of the rain. Richard’s fear slowly focused
in and connected with Tim’s ferocity; his dark, almost black brown connected with Tim’s dead, pale blue. “Why! Why can’t I take it?
Tim pulled the trigger. The hammer punched the barrel and slapped the bullet. The gun erupted in a roar as the bullet screamed out of
the barrel, pushing through Richard’s eye and clawing out the back of his cranium, throwing his head back. It escaped through the
wound and embedded itself in the wall. The blood spattered onto the wall like the stream of a sprinkler. Tim looked at Richard,
confused. His mouth quivered. He grabbed the top of Richard’s scalp and pulled him up, examining his lifeless expression. His mouth
gaped open, frozen, forever trying to finish the word “can.” His eye immediately begun to cauterize, and as the smoke escaped the hole
so did the stench of gunpowder and slightly burnt pork roast. As soon as he caught a whiff, Tim let go and twisted his head away to
escape the aroma. Richard’s body fell with the chair and its broken legs onto the ground making a large splash onto the puddle in front
"No," he said, devastated. He gazed into the barrel of that smoking Smith & Wesson, twitching his eye. “No!” he repeated.
He placed the gun in his mouth delicately—tasting the steel and bloody chunks of Richard, allowing the gunpowder to fill his mouth,
reminding him of a combination of pepper, copper, sulfur, rotten eggs and dirty chitterlings—and pulled the trigger.
And over again.
He pulled it one last time before dropping his arm to his side, defeated. A single tear rolled down his cheek as he looked up into the
sky, th e clouds seemingly gathered above the alley, and the alley alone.
“I’m not trying to be a god on Earth,” he uttered to himself, “and I don’t want to rule over anybody. I just want to live my life on my
own terms without adhering to a society that I don’t agree with. I want to enjoy life again.”
The rain already began to wash down the blood on the wall. The blood in Tim’s hair washed into his scalp, making his head look
reminiscent of a mutilated American flag. Richard laid in the puddle, his head submerged in the water, diluted blood funneling out his
eye in a path toward the storm drains around the alley. Tim returned his eye on the revolver and smirked.
“And with this power, I will.”
He put the pistol in the back of his jeans and walked away.