In the Hollow of the Hands

The man who eats pigeons lives just across the street. Spit can make it from my house to his; spit can shoot from my bedroom window and land on his stoop where the cats come to feed on the less-desirable parts of the cooing, fluttering, clumsy foul that look out forever from his basement window.

The way this street works, the nasty albino boy can whisper, Gothic pussy, three floors below my window and it will creep up the brick and into my room.

Mother yells from inside, "Go get me some milk! God damn it will you do me that one, small favor?"

No I will not. Not now and not ever. She, after all, chose this.

"Damn it how did I ever bear such a miserable piece-of-shit kid?"

14K lives way out of place -- at least one block too far south -- but he is big and not-friendly and he knows the way to hold a gun without looking like a poser. He stands in his doorway and makes the whole street aware. He hacks up phlegm and scratches whatever it is that he feels needs scratching. Even that pink kid with the bone-white lashes quits whispering nigger when 14K stands there scratching.

Scritch scratch where's my cigarettes?

Each time I venture out I'm caught by something, it seems.

"You black on the inside, too, Gothic? Is that my dog's collar or did you get your own?"

It's mine and everyone wears black these days and you'd know it if you were still going to school. Black celebration -- my Walkman long busted, but I continue to wear it and hold the song in my head. Stupid white-out freak. Why you always look so god damned stunned?

"What was that pussy? My sweet gothic girl."

"Get off our stoop."

"Can't you be a friendly kitty?"

"Move your butt off my stoop and let me inside."

"Got to get to your coffin before the sun shines too bright?"

Fucker, fuck fuck, stupid raw-meat fucker fuck.

Tony has to wear a school uniform and his dyed black hair and shiny black tie match so hotly I said he could come over even though it is against the rules. White-on-white is nowhere to be found, and I'm pissed, because Tony's dad has some interesting connections in South Philly. I forget about it quick, though. Lips like sugar, revenge is nothing next to something.

Whispered talk about Spics crawls up the brick fa├žade. Tony looms over me, hot like a fever. When things get so good they almost hurt I want to snarl and say it, too: spics, dego wop bitch. Up the brick, up and up, like the albino is right there in my ear as Tony pushes deeper and deeper. Gothic pussy. Bird-eating Polock. Nigger gangster. Gothic cunt-mother.

A scream in life is nothing like the movies. It sounds more like play. Fucking Hallohan High sluts goofing off.

"Say it again," Tony says.

"Fucking Hallohan sluts!"

"Yell it! Say it louder!"

"Fucking sluts!"

Pop! Pop! They are always hanging on the corner screaming about everything, smashing bottles, tormenting boys. The Great Whiteness waits for the wind to blow their skirts up.

Tony leaves and I try to watch him from my window. Where are the girls? I listen for the albino whispers. I hear only sirens. Woop woop. Flashing lights. Coo coo. The pigeon man's door cracks open. He reaches his arm out, hooks the cat dish in his ugly fingers and pulls it inside. I can only see across the street. I press my face into the glass, turn it to the side and reach with my eyes. I hesitate before opening the window. Enjoy the silence. I lift it open.

14K is cradling something broken. There is blood on the black street that looks like a syrup. Further down the block a man's body is basting in the heat and looks nearly forgotten. 14K stands, empties his arms. Cops guide him away from what he protected, their hands cupped near the small of his back. I see what he held. She clutches the end of a torn purse strap. Milk spills from a carton tucked half inside the brown bag beside her. She clenches her eyes as help carries her to a gurney. Snap and it stands on four metal wheels.

Pss, pss, Kitty Cat. From our stoop below it creeps. Pss, pss, don't be scared, Little Kitty. Little Cat.

About the author:

A native Philadelphian, Kate Hill Cantrill lives in Austin, Texas, where she works as a scenic painter. Her fiction has appeared in Caffeine Destiny and is forthcoming from StoryQuarterly. She is currently writing a novel.