The New Year’s toast over with, Johnny slipped outside for some much needed time alone. Cold, fresh, air welcomed him on the veranda.
Sipping his drink, he headed for the wall separating the veranda from the yard. Resting his arms on top, drink in hand, he stared up at the sky.
The North Star shone bright and clear, and he remembered the wish he had made so many years ago as a scared boy.
Only ten, he had come home to hear his mother screaming. Running inside, he had found her man beating her yet again. It was obvious his mother had been fighting back as hard as she could. Scratches marked her abuser’s face and chest, blood streaming from them. What little clothing he was wearing was as torn as Maria’s undergarments.
The man picked his mother up and slammed her against the wall. With the sickening sound of shattering bone, his mother’s corpse slid down the wall, a dark swathe of slimy blood following her.
He had seen enough violence in his little life to know his mother was dead. Johnny wasted no time. His eyes traveled to the gun belt hanging over the corner post of the bed. The man stared at the body, heaving and panting, oblivious to Johnny.
The gringo turned when he heard the gun cock.
A wide, nasty, smile grew on his face. “And just what do you think you’re gonna do, little half-breed? Why, I’ll break you in two. Snap you like a twig. Maybe give you some of what I was givin’ your mama before she got all crazy on me.”
Johnny could still feel the calm that came over him back then. The hate and rage of the moment settled him. He never even flinched as the man moved forward.
The gun exploded, flame shooting from the barrel. Johnny saw the smoking hole as the bullet traveled through the man’s body, and heard it slam into the wall, as he struggled not to fall backward from the kick of the Colt.
The man grabbed his gut, staring at him with the eyes of a rabid dog.
“I’ll see you in hell you little bastard!”
Johnny pulled the trigger again.
He fired all six rounds into the man. As the blood spurted from the man’s body, Johnny held his gaze and gave an upward nod of his head before he dropped the gun by his side and smiled.
“Sure thing, gringo bastardo!”
He couldn’t remember running from the hole in the wall that they had lived in; only that he had.
Cold, fresh air had dried his tears that night, after he had sobbed himself to exhaustion.
It was there, curled up, no blanket, hidden behind some rocks and trees, he looked up to see the same North Star he was looking at now, and made one of many unrewarded wishes.
“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight. . . Por favor, please make my Papi’ want me, to take me home, to take care of me. I’ll be good, I promise.”
It was the last time he had wished for that, never again thinking about that particular wish, not until those last minutes before he was to die. Thinking then of all the wishes he had made that hadn’t come true. Still, he had made one more plea, to die quickly and with dignity.
Roaring laughter erupted behind him.
He looked back to the house and saw his father through the window.
Smiling, he looked up at the star once more.
“Thanks. Thanks for granting that one wish instead of all the others.”
He thought he saw the star twinkle back at him. He smiled, ducked his head, and leaned back, fingers curled on the edge the wall to keep him upright. Leaning forward, against the wall again, he wished,
“Star light, star bright, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish, I wish tonight. . . "
He looked back toward the house and saw his brother join their father. Turning back to the star, he finished,
“Don’t let it end.”
d.b.brisbin December, 2011