The Hill

It was his way of saying he cared.

———-

Saturday night they’d all gathered over at The Hill. He was late. He was always late. “I missed the train,” he’d say. The rest of the group had their doubts. In one form or another, collectively they knew there’s no way he can miss the R so well, so often. Then again they didn’t have anything else to disprove him. So they’d always nod their heads and make space for him on the wall running parallel along East Street.

The Hill was their spot. The two brothers were the remaining original members. Seemed only whispers acknowledged who they were in the halls during school. That’s where curiosity piqued the minds of the other members, each sneaking out of their houses that first Saturday night and trekking their way across the city to find out what this spot was about, or for. The brothers didn’t seem much to mind or care and so let the couple of new kids find their own spot to lean against along the wall.

Most nights no one said much of anything. Two of them would share a cigarette but neither ever had an actual pack of cigarettes. Tony once asked about it. “You take them cigs from your parents?” Chris took a drag and passed the cigarette to Brian, neither of them saying so much as a word. Tony dropped the issue after that. It was the amount of time it took Chris and Brian to smoke the cigarette which determined how long the group would hang out at The Hill. Five or ten minutes and they’d look around at each other, maybe stretch as if waking up from a nap during study hall, and then head off their own way back to their homes.

None of their parents ever knew about them hanging out at The Hill. The way in which they held their heads tilted arrogantly downwards while walking through the halls at school they all knew their parents were completely clueless. Maybe that’s why one of the brothers stepped out into the street one early Spring night. A light fog from a warm rain hung over the area. He suddenly screamed, in an irrational fashion. Nothing coherent, really. Just random screaming at the top of his lungs. It echoed through the neighborhood, returning in weak manner like a boomerang. He liked the idea that the air exhaling from his lungs was adding to the fog and then he let out one long, loud, bloodcurdling scream which finally awoke one of the area residents. The man came tumbling out of the front door of his house, wearing one slipper on his left foot, his bathrobe open, himself screaming something incoherent with curse words laced in and among “…call the cops…” and “…you lousy, no good…”

The others watched. Stunned someone cared enough to yell at them. To tell them they shouldn’t be smoking. That they should be home. In bed. What lousy parents they must have if they were allowed to just hang out at all hours of the night. But the man was still yelling incoherently, so they imagined that’s what he’d been saying.

The boy in the street looked over at the others and mumbled in their direction, “I’m going home.”

It was his way of saying he cared.

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