Under the Cover of Night

Jacques Fleury
Spare Change News

The full moon permeates the darkened street where Chiro sprints to hide under the bridge, the rolling waves
of the ocean muffling the footsteps trailing behind him. Exhausted from fear and the run itself, he leans against the wall to catch his breath as the hooligans pursuing him get close enough to hear his panting.

He thinks about how he got into this mess to begin with and longs for the life he once had with his wife and his two kids, a son and daughter, until his habits got the better of him. One night he came home and his wife, Zelda, began to scream at him. She told him that she couldn’t “live like this anymore”— barely able to put food on the table even though she was working two jobs, while he sits on the couch, smoking pot and browsing internet porn sites while leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Things got really bad when he started doing harder drugs and took up gambling, and Zelda ended up doing what her own mother had done: sacrificing her own happiness to keep her family together. Her own mother had also looked the other way when she found out that her dad was having an affair. Zelda had sworn then that she that she would never allow herself to become her mother. But eventually her mother’s fate crept up on Zelda and before she knew it, there she was with a cheating, drugging and emotionally unavailable husband.

Chiro knew that he was a deadbeat dad and he didn’t seem to care. After all, he did model himself after his father, so he felt justified in his behavior. But now, as he cowers under the shadowy bridge fearing his life may end in a matter of minutes, he suddenly has an epiphany about wanting to become a better man for the sake of his family. He looks up to the starry skies and makes a plea with God. “God, please help me. I know these guys will kill me, like they’ve killed others who came before me. God, I promise if you spare me, I will try my hardest to be there for my family. If I should fail to honor my promise to you, God, then you can take me. But tonight, God, please spare me, please …”

“Chiro you rat, we know you’re here somewhere. We can smell fear remember?” Dino, a big tall muscular guy with broad shoulders barks out in a baritone voice. “Yeah, that’s right, ya might as well come on ouuut!” Lenny, the smaller guy says in a high pitched, almost cartoon-like voice. Chiro’s heart starts to beat faster as the ruffians edge closer to his hiding spot. “What was that?” Dino asks Lenny. “What was what?” Lenny responds seeming incredulous. “There it is again!” At this point, realizing that Dino is on to him, Chiro decides to make a run for it. “There he is! Get him!” The men take off after Chiro and it is not long before they catch up to him.

“We’ve got you now! Where is my money?” Dino huffs with his huge hand around Chiro’s neck. “I … don’t … have it you big brute! Get your paws off of me!” Dino looks over to Lenny, “What are we gonna do with this fool, Lenny?” “Kill him, Dino. No one stiffs us and gets away with it!” Dino whips out his knife and holds it right up to Chiro’s throat. “Now for the last time, where is my money?!” Chiro struggles to free himself from Dino’s tight grip, “I’ll get it to you tomorrow…”

“Nah…you said that yesterday. Now you’ve left me no other choice but to do what I gonna do…” He raises the knife above Chiro’s chest and just as he brings it down, a voice hollers in the distance and the men look up to see flashlights bouncing in the darkness.

“Hey! What’s going on here?” Both men then take off into the night to evade the cops.
***
Chiro’s promise to God is soon tested when the temptations of old habits present themselves. But he is steadfast in his devotion to his family and his promise to God. He joins a drug and alcohol support group, to Zelda’s relief. He sells his car, his most prized possession, to pay off the mobsters. He once gave the car more love and attention then he did his own family, but now it is all but a distant memory. He looks up into the sky and says, “I can live with that.”

JACQUES FLEURY’s book: “Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir,” about life in Haiti and America, was featured in the Boston Globe. Contact him at: haitianfirefly@gmail.com and visit his website at: www.thehaitianfireflyproductions.com.

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