Not One Clue

By: Lois Greiman


My stomach pinched up tight, but sometimes in a crisis the professional me manages to squeeze past the real me and see the light of day. This was one of those auspicious moments. “I need you to take a deep breath, Micky, and start at the beginning.”

“I didn’t mean to—”

The keening in the background changed pitch, setting my teeth on edge and my nerves on stun.

“At the beginning,” I said again.

I heard him inhale. It sounded shaky, but when next he spoke, his tone had settled into default mode. “Like I says, I just wanted to see ’im.” Under duress, Micky’s lexicon tends to slip toward ghetto. Apparently, a “shitload of blood,” tended to cause duress.

“Yes. You told me.”

“But when I come to the door they was—”

“Whose?” I asked, voice firm and strong. “Whose door?”

“Lavonn’s. When I come to the door, her and Jackson was stoned out of their minds. Higher than—”

“We wasn’t stoned!” The voice in the background was pitched high with hysteria. “We wasn’t. We don’t do that no more. We was just relaxin’. That’s all. Jesus Christ! You didn’t have to shoot ’im,” she said and sobbed brokenly. In my mind I imagined her rocking back and forth, arms hugging her chest, head dropped.

“I don’t know what the fuck—” Micky began, but I interrupted.

“Did you shoot him?”

There was a pause, during which I could hear him swallow. “Bastard had a gun.”

“Jackson?”

Maybe he nodded. It was damned hard to tell. “He had a piece and he was high. I’ll swear to that.”

“Where’s the gun now?”

He drew a shuddering breath. “In my hand.”

I closed my eyes and swallowed bile. “You think the police are on the way?”

“I called ’em.”

I could imagine him doing that. “Okay. You have to put the gun down, Micky.”

There was a pause, long and wearing and filled with the residue of someone sobbing.

“I ain’t going to the pen,” he said finally. “They’re like caged animals there.”

And he would know. He’d been a guard at Folsom before becoming a third-grade schoolteacher. “So what’s your plan?”

I could imagine him glancing at the body. At Lavonn, crouching beside it. Maybe at the boy. “Could be, this is when I buy it.”

My mind went into a kind of slow spin, picking up a hundred crystal-sharp memories of my sessions with him. Micky had a past that would have doomed a lesser man. He had a history and he had a conscience. Sometimes that’s too much for anybody. “You think now’s the time to kill yourself?” I asked.

Another pause, long and painful. “Good a time as any.”

I kept my voice steady. “In front of your son.”

“I sent him to his room. Right after I called you the first time. Didn’t want him seein’ …” His voice broke again. “Didn’t want …” Words failed.

“I thought you said he was a smart kid.”

“Yeah.” He sniffled. “He ain’t got no one to help him with his studies, but he’s bright.” His voice had gone very quiet. “You can tell sometimes. You can just tell when they’re—”

“But you don’t think he’ll figure out that you killed yourself.” I cut off his blooming paternal pride. Cut off the meandering musings, and that changed the tone of his voice.

“I won’t be goin’ to the pen, Doc. I seen what it’s—”

“Yeah, he’s probably not worth your trouble. Just a skinny black kid with ears that stick out.” We’d discussed the boy’s ears at some length in our sessions. But Micky wasn’t talking now. The phone had gone quiet except for the sobbing in the background. “His mother was a druggie, wasn’t she?” I asked.

“I know what you’re doing,” he said. His tone had gone tight and edgy.

“That’s because you’re smart, too, Micky,” I said. “But it didn’t save you, did it?”

I could almost hear him wince. “You owe me,” he said.

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