Jeremiah Cobra, And Then He Shot His Cousin
Chapter One: Let Us Not Speak of Murder
One bullet into his chest. One glimpse of light into the darkness. One heart torn apart. What’s funny is though Justice Rooks lay in that darkness, bleeding onto the street that was already shimmering wet from the rain, it was I who could not move. He did plenty of moving—heaving and writhing from the pain and all that. But I stood perfectly still, watching his blood and the rain turn the asphalt into a black river beneath the street lamps. I might have walked on this river, walked away on its currents of light. Instead, I could only stare into the darkness as police sirens wailed in the distance. I did not even lower the hand that held the gun that fired into my cousin’s chest.
Perhaps I redeemed myself with that bullet. After all, what would have happened if I had not done what I did? Justice had wanted to rob Eula Mae Reeves. She was one of those church-going ladies who always had a smile, a hug, and a peppermint candy for kids when the sermons were most unbearably long. It was said that she counted her blessings a little too loudly, drove her red convertible too proudly, acted like the hood couldn’t touch her. She was a little bougie sometimes. But that was no reason to rob her. It was certainly no reason to kill her. And Justice would have if she had come home before we could get out of her house… My God! How many lives had I saved?
Brea. I definitely saved her life. Justice had already harmed her earlier that night. There might have been harsher words for what he did to her, but it was hard to know which to use since she was his girl and all that. She was going to leave him, though. That night, in fact. She told me so. I’m not saying she was going to be with me instead. Only that she was going to leave him. And not that I wanted to be with her or anything like that. I just knew that Justice did not deserve her. He didn’t appreciate her beauty or her spirit. It was more like he was just keeping everybody else from admiring her. He was selfish that way. He hated every dude that spoke more than two words to her. Except me. I didn’t count.
“You’re like one of her girlfriends,” he once joked. “Ain’t ‘Stacey’ a girl’s name, anyway?”
He was right about that part—about Brea and me being friends. Since sophomore year in high school. She told me everything.
Justice cheated on her once.
Okay, more than once.
They had even fought once.
Okay, more than once.
She cried on my shoulder most Sunday afternoons— after they both had been at each other’s throats the night before. But they always made up by Monday. That was her spirit. She didn’t believe in evil people. “Just evil choices,” as she put it. A good friend would have told her to leave him. But a guy can’t say that to another man’s girl. Not unless he’s a bitch. And I ain’t no bitch. Justice was wrong about that part. Stacey wasn’t a girl’s name. It was my name. And I ain’t no bitch.
Sometimes, Brea did get the idea to leave him on her own. The last time she told me she was going to leave him was that night before Justice and I went to rob Eula Mae. She was certain that she was done with him. But when I talked to Justice, he spoke as if nothing had changed. Perhaps she had said “no.” But Justice always got his way.
Not anymore, though. Not after I murdered him. No, let us not speak of murder. Not yet. Family may fight together. Family may even fight each other. But family ain’t supposed to kill each other. And Justice was the only family I knew. I had known him almost my whole life. I could never murder him.