Terrell cut and coursed, full of his immortal youth, dogged, and Judson at the protest called his name, and he was always moving forward—nobody was ever going to touch him. Terrell was so far in front of him, seeming blind with his first full taste of manhood, swept between shadows of dust inside the storm of folks—a graceful, long-limbed man-boy, clever in his way, but oh, not nearly, not ever as clever as men with money and guns. Judson called out, Terrell, and he wanted to be there, to hold him back, but the swell of the angry folks at the protest, and the warm acrid scent of guns fired, and the hot dust he sucked down his lungs, and his boy’s dark blood bubbling up from his perforated heart like the dust that rose unfettered was too stifling and too strong. The stampede of folks wouldn’t stop for Judson that night, but he found his boy alive, briefly, staring up at the man with the gun—and time stood still, and the man was gunning and purposeful and mean—every look, every breath, was for him alone.
“Back up. Or else,” the man said.
He was not afraid of the man, those words. Judson’s bankrupt worker’s back, the way he couldn’t stop feeling it, imagining himself, a white-tailed deer shot through the spine, still alive, all his innards in one clean slice lightly lifted out of him. His hands, like two captive birds fluttering upwards out of harm’s way, signaling to the man his intent was pure, and the bleeding boy mattered more than his hastily caged rage. Blood bubbles formed like corn kernels on the cob of his boy’s parted lips. Each bubble a singular globe, a new world of breath and blood until it burst in unfulfilled man-dom. Kneeling at the side of his son, succumbing to enveloping ground, Judson kissed Terrell’s wet lips—salty like parched earth, sticky like spilt seed. He lightly lifted the bloodied body of his firstborn son to his breast, and the barrel of the man’s rifle shone in the fire-lit night, and he rose up from the swirls of dust, gun smoke, the cries of men a hailing of vacancy in his ears, the face of the man the only sound. The thing he remembered.