Trouble came easy in those days. Cassandra remembered sitting on Tyree’s stoop when Stoney Hamilton sloshed down Scoville swearing and firing a handgun. “Goddamn, cunt, bitch, asshole, hoebag, fuck!” And at ‘fuck’, he pointed his gun straight in the air and staggered forward a few more steps.

“Listen at him.”  Tyree rose to watch. Cassandra joined him.

Cassandra said, “That’s not going to stand.”

Stoney swiveled until he found them. “Goddamn, cunt, bitch…”

“Yeah, I know, hoebag and all that dumb shit. Put down that gun before you hurt somebody.” As Cassandra resumed her seat, Stoney aimed at her and pulled the trigger. The roaring report set him off balance.

“Jesus Christ, what you doing?” Tyree screamed.

Stoney shot at him too, then stumbled around the corner to 59th.

“You OK?”

Cassandra ran her hand along her scalp. It came away red. “He grazed me!” she said.

Tyree looked behind her. Both bullets had passed through the siding and into the apartment. “I think you  need stitches.”

“Naw. Scalp wounds are just messy is all.” A double trickle of blood seeped down her forehead, just above her left eye. She wiped it away and looked out to the street. In the place where Stoney had been, she suddenly saw herself.  Her scalp burned, the blood was in her eye, and she looked down her years to a future defined by this one street, this one scar.

She got up off of Tyree’s stoop and headed out the gate. “Where you going?” Tyree shouted.

“It’s time for me to be somebody else.”

“Wait! “ Let me get you a towel!”

She did not wait. She turned onto Scoville and walked towards Shiloh Baptist, wiping blood from her face.  She looked back twice on her way up the street, half hoping to see Tyree behind her. But he did not come. Her feet propelled her away from him, away from the ghost of her future, away from the crossroads of Scoville and 59th.


This week at Trifecta, we are being asked to use the 3rd definition of the word ‘trouble’. Come play with us if you have a moment.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Walking — 34 Comments

  1. That was a great twist at the end Jessie, I like the fact that she decided midstream to change her life and walk away from where she was. Like the steps were all she had to do.

    • Or like they were the first things and her feet would start her where she needed so that the rest of her could follow in its own time. 🙂 Glad it works foryou!

  2. Ah, if only it were so easy. As usual, a great story beautifully crafted.

    • Indeed. If it were, then nobody would ever live in poverty and danger. I actually see this as her looking back after a long journey to security and pinpointing the moment that she decided to turn away. She may not live physically far from where she started out, but she’s come an enormous emotional distance.

    • Haha! I actually went to school with a guy named Stoney Hamilton. I have NO IDEA what he’s doing now, but I remember in kindergarten (because my mind works like that) we were all supposed to be sitting writing neat lines of the letter B, Stoney drew a picture of a whale instead. I heard Miss Northcutt say “That’s a lovely whale, but we’re working on the alphabet right now.” And then of course, we all wanted to SEE the whale. So she let Stoney show us. And she hung it on the art wall. And he sat inside and worked on the letter B during recess.

      • Oh! The point. (Me? Distracted? Nevah!) I remember that entire incident probably because I love his name. It popped back into my head thinking of this story.

      • The Stoney Hamilton Story

        Stonewall Jefferson Davis Hamilton III, or “Stoney” as he was called, was a proud great-grandson of the Confederacy. And furthermore, young Stoney was Trouble with a Capital T from day he was born. A natural renegade, Stoney began drawing inappropriate pictures of sea mammals at an early age. Something about the blow holes intrigued him. By high school, he had moved on to bigger fish…
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        • Hahah! That’s AWESOME. And what’s even more funny is that I got as far as “began” before I realized you hadn’t dredged up some history of the name!!

    • I don’t think he could. Cassandra is the Greek prophet nobody listened to. Tireseas is the blind prophet of Thebes who lives at the will of the gods. I gave my Cassandra a free will of the kind that the mythological one never had. She chose to stop telling people prophecies they wouldn’t listen to. I didn’t grant Tyree that same volition. He’s a woman trapped in a man’s body (the mythological Tiresius spent seven years as a woman and even had kids that way) who sees the future. Sometimes, people listen to him. And because they sometimes listen to him, he consistently stays and tries to help.

  3. LOVE this bit: ” In the place where Stoney had been, she suddenly saw herself. Her scalp burned, the blood was in her eye, and she looked down her years to a future defined by this one street, this one scar.” Very satisfying outcome.
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    • Thanks! I wrestled with that sentence to make it work in the story. I initially had her mistaking it for her own mother and then Stoney’s mother before she realized it was herself standing there.

  4. Your fictions are such gifts, Jessie. I always come away from the wondering what happens next. Did she really change her life? Or just walk into another bad situation? I am pulling for her. Well done.
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    • I think she did. I started it with ‘trouble came easy in those days’ to suggest someone looking back on an event in the past and recognizing it for a true turning point.

    • Thanks Ruby! I think from our outsider’s perspective, she IS strong. But she would consider herself cowardly for walking away from a good friend like Tyree. Even looking back and knowing she did the right thing, she would feel that sting of abandoning him.

  5. That was fantastic. Unexpected. And amazing. And wow. I could see the scene, hear the bullets, hear the yelling, and watch as recognition of this important moment dawned on her face. Great job!!
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      • It wasn’t bad…more a little jerky. Your stories always flow so beautifully from beginning to end, it feels like the bits just fall into place. But this felt forced.. I’m not evening exactly what.

        Maybe it just wasn’t the kind of ending I expected.
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        • Cool — it’s helpful to know that kind of thing. I love to hear my praises sung, but quite frankly, that’s not what will sell my work. Knowing where something doesn’t get across is as important to me as anything. This one may have gotten lost to my research. I found a real neighborhood, and spent ages figuring out exactly where they were standing, and that could easily have translated into forced-sounding writing. And the part where she sees herself went through three iterations, none of which felt quite right to me. This one is the closest, but it still doesn’t quiiiite capture what I’m going for, which could come across jerky.

  6. I wouldn’t use the words weird or jerky. I just didn’t get the meaning of the lines “Listen at him” and “That’s not going to stand.” Pondering them took me out of the story for a moment or two until my need to know what happened next took over. I wonder if those are regional turns of phrase? (It could be that I’m extremely sleepy, but I’ve been this tired for months now, so I don’t know.) I also thought Stoney was Cassandra’s boyfriend or husband (because of the misogynistic words he used), and wondered why they weren’t scared of him holding a gun.

    Lately I’ve come to realize how much more important it is for me to write the emotional truth I’m getting at, than it is to tell an exact truth that my reader will most likely see differently or not understand. I wonder if that’s what struck Carrie — if your story is specific in a way that she didn’t have enough clues to ‘get’. I felt like I got a lot the emotion in it, but your comments about the Greek mythology you referenced (that I know nothing about) made me see how it may have meant more to you as you wrote it.

    The emotion of your story still feels powerful to me. Many of us live in neighborhoods like this, and the struggle to get away or be swallowed in, is fought in many moments that a lot of people wouldn’t understand.

    • You’re probably exactly right about the regional specificity losing people, especially since I never was able to reveal what region I’d chosen, even though I knew exactly where they were. I chose the Scoville Avenue neighborhood of Cleveland which was, as recently as two years ago, the second most dangerous place for people to live in the country. “That’s not gonna stand” may be pure “Jessie” – I meant for it to mean ‘even around here, nobody’s going to stand for that long’, but I wanted her to be speaking in an easy shorthand. (I may have wound up trying to cram too many ideas into too few words!) ‘Listen at him/ listen at that’ is VERY Appalachian. By Cleveland, you’re pretty well out of Appalachia, but Tyree could be from Cincinnati or something, where it’s a phrase you hear in the happy little communities and the tough inner city neighborhoods alike.

      I wanted their numbness to his having a gun to be alarming. It’s a symptom of exactly how used to violence they are that they get up, look at it, tell him to put it down, and sit back down, and only get upset when he actually fires at THEM. I think they thought he was too drunk to hit the broad side of a barn – not exactly a SAFE assumption, but a common one.

      The feedback is invaluable. It’s fun to give background like this in the comments, but the majority of it should be coming through in the story, and if it’s not, then the story still needs work.

  7. It’s the matter-of-factness that chilled me. The profanity, the gun play, even getting shot in the head — just a day in the life, she’s been here before. Gulp! I’m so glad she got out of there.

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