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Ragdoll

The scene seemed strung up by a cosmic playwright in its banal twist of unfortunate underpinnings. For a moment, from the passenger seat of the missile-like Volvo, you could almost switch places with each of the characters in the forthcoming conflict. The ragged black man with his pistol arm extended towards the frightened couple on the sidewalk. The little boy who peeked from the restaurant window, over a too-tall bench to see what in the world was happening out there. And my husband, Darby, really Steve, but Darby was my youngest son’s interpretation of Daddy until speech therapy, hunched over ready to ram this dog into a thousand kibbles on the hot pavement.

Later at the hospital, Darby would look over at me and say he wished he’d thought about what he was doing. But what choice did he have? He couldn’t see any other outcome. He didn’t discuss the brains that met our Volvo’s bug stained windshield. Nor the fact the couple panicked and almost ran into oncoming traffic once their assailant had been subtracted from the equation.

But let’s imagine for a minute you are the assailant holding your pistol at a couple of wayward travelers. A couple, seemingly innocent of anything other than being too carefree with their wealth. The woman wore an elegant purse over her shoulder, the contents of which bulged, jingled, rang, begged for one thief or another to take it off her person. The man was no better. He held a smartphone in the slick palm of his hand, looking periodically at its screen, then allowing it to swing like a pendulum along with his gait. In the man’s back pocket the outline of a wallet so pronounced one could only assume he either carried a rolodex of credit cards or more than a dozen tightly packed green bills. Not even the thief would suspect just how many family photos this digital-aged man was carrying in that wallet.

Or imagine the boyfriend or husband — whatever he may be — and take it from their point-of-view. Honey, it’s a nice breezy day, the sun is shining high in the sky, so let’s take to the streets, walk up to the ice cream stand, share a malt, pretend the walk will be pleasant even among the exhaust and Saturday late-afternoon traffic. So you help your wife pull on a cream colored sweater that would contrast nicely with a bullet hole, the crimson red of the blood spilling into the threads, melding the outfit into a letter-sweater of death. Imagine then being pulled up, stopped by a crisp instruction from a hoodlum.

“Stop right there.” And they had stopped, waited until the capillaries in their eyes felt like they would burst from too much mental stress. How could this happen? To him? What had he heard? Don’t look them in the eye. No, that was a bear or panther. This was a murderer. He could see it in the eyes. They were as good as dead. It was then he’d felt the warmth of his own discharge gush down his leg, followed by heart pounding disbelief as he watched the ragdoll of a man crumple on the hood of a speeding car.

But from my perspective, the whole affair’s beginning, the man with his pistol arm extended may have only been trying to hand a dance club flyer to the couple, who in their sanguine daze dodged him like he was some sort of murderer aiming the tube-like flyer, with its drop shadows, aliasing, and kerning. And, only then, if Darby hadn’t been changing the channel, looking for his damned game, maybe the bug spattering on the windshield would have been its only decoration.