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Gerald E. Sheagren
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urbanrenewal.jpg

Urban Renewal

by Gerald E. Sheagren

 

     Zack Logan shuffled along, slump-shouldered, wearing an overcoat, the brim of a New York Yankees cap pulled low over his eyes.

     He couldn’t even remember when he’d stopped walking with vigor and resorted to shuffling. If he had to take a guess, it must have started right there when he’d left his doctor’s office, a little less than three months back. That’d been enough to break any man, especially at the age of forty-two.

     He could still remember the words his doctor had spoken. They were burned into his memory. “I’m so sorry, Zack. The tests have confirmed you have cancer and it’s pretty progressive. You have four, maybe five months to live.”

     It’d knocked him for a loop, like a baseball bat alongside the head. Who the fuck would ever have thought? There he was – a big, strapping guy, at six-foot-three and two-twenty; all muscle, without an ounce of fat; a former college football player and ex-Navy Seal.

     Boy, when some men fall, they fall hard.

     Maybe it was in repayment for all the Taliban fighters he’d killed in Afghanistan; a lot of them with a bullet to the head while they lay there, wounded, their eyes begging for mercy. Not all of them had been willing to sacrifice their lives for Allah. Not all of them had wanted to meet their seventy-two virgins in paradise.

     Had God forsaken him because of that? But hell, a lot of men have done a lot worse things. Has Kim Jong-un been struck with cancer? Have Putin or Ayatollah Khamenei been hit with the Big C?  No, they haven’t.  But, after all, in this crazy game of life, little children, even babies, are struck down early, while the biggest pricks on earth seem to live on forever. 

     Thinking of all of this, he couldn’t help a bitter laugh, his breath trailing off like smoke in the frigid night air. And just a laugh, a simple fuckin’ laugh, brought on tentacles of pain, shooting through his entire torso. Struck by a sudden dizziness, he paused and began to hack, coughing up three phlegm-balls and spitting them into the gutter.

     Four to five months, my ass!

     Finally pulling it together, he walked another three blocks through the blighted neighborhood, smelling the stench of garbage and eyeing the rundown buildings, crudely decorated with all manner of graffiti. The whole damn scene made him feel even worse.

     Every now and then, he passed a man or men lurking in the shadows, the ends of their cigarettes glowing red. As he did, he couldn’t help challenging them in his mind.  Come on, you worthless fucks, if you want a piece of me. I may be nine-tenths dead, but I can still kill you in a hundred different ways.

     A half-block further along, he stopped to survey a building across the street, with its windows painted black. It was the local headquarters of MS-13, otherwise known as Mara Salvatrucha. The violent organization was mostly made up of illegal immigrants from El Salvador, specializing in vicious machete attacks, execution-style shootings, gang rape and human trafficking. Their sick motto was “mara, viola, controla”—kill, rape, control. 

     Bracing his shoulders and taking a deep breath, he strode across the street; instead of shuffling, flung open the door and entered the building.

     Man, I feel great, all of a sudden. I’m flying highhigher than the moon. 

     There were about three dozen gangbangers in attendance—dressed in tank tops and baggy jeans, with shaven heads and arms festooned with tattoos.  Some of them even have tats on their neck, cheeks and forehead. They all turned toward him, scowling, as if operated by a single muscle.

     One of them, most likely the leader, stepped forward and flicked open a gravity knife. “What the fuck are you doing here, puta?”

     “It’s called urban renewal.”

     And then, with his entire life flashing before his eyes, like a movie projector on steroids, he fingered the button in his pocket, hearing the detonator click beneath his overcoat.


Gerald E. Sheagren is a 70-year-old retiree, who lives in the historic town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, along with his wife Sharon and two crazy cats. If he's not reading, he's writing. Over the past 25 years, many of his short stories have appeared both online and in print. He writes in every genre but his favorites are crime and horror. Some of his stories have appeared in such publications as The Horror Zine, Blood Moon Rising, Sanitarium, Hellfire Crossroads, Hardboiled, Thirteen O'Clock Press, Dark Dossier, The First Line, The Storyteller, and Noir Nation.

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