“Brownstone Dreams” – an extract
By Kevin R. McPartland
Staggering slightly and mumbling, Bobby Dutton made his way across the schoolyard of P.S. 124 and then stopped. He stared at a large wall that separated the Catholic school from the public school. At the bottom of the wall was a small hole. A full moon was high in the sky and he could see quite clearly the dark indentation in the brick.
Bobby was here at one-thirty in the morning on a dare. It was Hanky who had pushed it—saying he didn’t have the balls to take the gun from its hiding place in the hole in the wall. Earlier in the evening Bobby’s crew, the Schoolyard Boys (as they called themselves), had gathered down by the banks of the Gowanus Canal—an odorous, oil-slicked, narrow waterway that filtered in from lower New York Bay. They’d drunk two six-packs of Rheingold beer and had sniffed several tubes of airplane glue.
As he stood staring at the wall, Bobby suddenly thought of rats; rats were known to scurry around the schoolyard at night. He wondered if maybe there was a rat in the hole — but then succeeded in pushing the fear out of his intoxicated mind as he stooped and pushed his hand gently into the 4-by-4-inch hole, and felt the grainy handgrip of Vincent Casseo’s .357 Magnum. He slowly pulled the gun from the hole and then raised it to a firing position. He closed one eye tightly and aimed the gun at nothing in particular. He noticed how the moonlight danced off the gun’s barrel as he turned in a wide arc and then returned to his original position. He felt the weight of the gun and thought about how these small mechanical devices brought such power to people. He was about to pull the trigger but caught himself—that would be stupid, he thought. He didn’t need every cop in the neighborhood responding to a shots fired in the schoolyard call, so instead, he raised the barrel to his temple and gripped the trigger lightly, ever so lightly, just enough to feel what the last seconds before committing suicide would be like.
Bobby’s senses were heightened in some strange way by it all, as he caressed the cool metal of the trigger with his finger and pushed the gun’s barrel flush against his temple. It was as if he was rehearsing something that was inevitable, or maybe it was all the airplane glue he’d sniffed and the beer. Whatever it was, it was starting to spook him. He slowly took the gun away from his head and tucked it into his waistband. He knew at that moment there was no turning back. He was taking the gun. It would shut Hanky’s mouth once and for all, and besides, the gun felt good to him. He’d make sure to get it back long before Vincent ever knew it was missing, proving to himself and the rest of the Schoolyard Boys he had balls—great big ones.
Bobby started out of the schoolyard, heading toward the Thirteenth Street exit. As he walked, a new sense of confidence flooded his intoxicated mind. He liked the way the gun felt pressed into his belly—held in place by his belt. He felt like a bad-ass, a gangster, a cop, someone who was empowered. He made his way up the eight steps to street level and began to walk up Thirteenth Street. He noticed his shadow in the moonlight and the fact the street was empty except for a woman walking a dog. He noticed a lot of things he wouldn’t have ordinarily noticed. He was different now—he was packing. His street sense told him to be extra vigilant—but in spite of that fact, he hadn’t noticed the heavyset figure that had very slowly opened one of P.S. 124’s large brown doors and was taking particular interest in who it was that was exiting the schoolyard so late at night, and then, as Bobby disappeared up the street in the darkness, had slammed the door shut and turned off the floodlight.
Kevin R. McPartland is a native Brooklynite, novelist and short-story writer. He is the author of the novel, “Brownstone Dreams,” of which this extract is the opening chapter. The novel published by Boann Books and Media and is available from boannbooksandmedia.com or amazon.com. His work has appeared in such publications as AIM Magazine, Chicago, and Grit Magazine, Williamsport, Pa., as well as in the anthology of short stories by Vietnam War veterans entitled “Adventures in Hell,” Ritz Publishing, 1990. He has been a regular reader at the Irish American Writers & Artists’ salon since its inception.