Brian Francis Slattery



Dear Mari,

First: Jess, Efraín, Pete, Lucretia, Carlos, and Serena are all dead. I haven’t found Mya, Hugh, Will, Beth, Dolores, Tom, or Anabel yet, but I think they’re dead, too. I’m so sorry.

We were on stage when the first bomb went off. It was down the street and we were playing too loud to hear it. Efraín and Jess were playing so well, better than ever. You should have heard them. Efraín was breaking in a new kit. Jess had the same shitty guitar she’s always had, the one she’s made sound great. It was a big night, crowded from the stage to the back door. I remember someone screaming from the back. Then the second bomb went off, right outside.

There was a flash and the windows blew in, and the flames shot in right after them. The people near the windows were shredded and set on fire. The whole building shook and the ceiling above the bar collapsed. The power went out and the room filled with smoke. I grabbed Jess’s hand—I was standing next to her—and started to drag her toward the front door. You know it’s only five feet from the edge of the stage, but somehow in those five feet I lost her. I spilled out on the street with a pile of people. My bass was still strapped to me, but the neck had snapped. There was a scrap of bloody cloth hanging from the broken place. Maybe a dozen other people were on the street with me. We scrambled away from the heat and waited. No one else came out.

I read somewhere that there are people who don’t panic, and I guess I’m one of them. I watched Eight State burn. It scares me now what I felt then. I wish I could say I cried, or that all my sadness turned to rage. Instead I felt my blood pressure drop. The sound in the world got a little quieter. I looked down the street and saw a row of fires, bomb after bomb. I heard tires screeching and machine gun fire, and I knew—just knew—that there was nothing I could do for anyone at Eight State, and half my friends had been in there. But maybe if I got to Temple in time, I could save the other half.

You know on the news they said it was a paramilitary outfit. I say it was a bunch of assholes who decided to get a lot of guns, make a lot of bombs, buy up some Army surplus vehicles and make their own uniforms. The news said they came at our city because we said we were a sanctuary, because our mayor spoke out, because we marched. They said they did it in the name of law and order. But I didn’t see any order that night. I saw burning buildings, shat­tered glass, flames, and rising smoke. I heard people screaming and shooting, shooting that wouldn’t stop. I heard sirens everywhere. Police cruisers racing from block to block. An ambulance on its side, on fire, in an intersection. And body after body, ruined and run over, or smoldering, or just full of holes. The couple the police captured said they just attacked wherever the people were. It was a Friday night, so that meant clubs and restaurants, downtown streets. It meant us.

Everyone was on the street in front of Temple. They hadn’t hit the place yet. I found Jacob there. He still had his guitar. We stood there and wondered what we were supposed to do. Nowhere felt safe.

Then we all saw it, a tan Humvee barreling down the street toward us. It ran over a dozen people and looked like it would plow through the rest of us, except that another car, racing in from a side street, crashed into it and knocked it on its side. 

This is our city. You understand what it’s like. As soon as the Humvee stopped, we were all over it. We got two of the tires off. They’d locked the doors, so we broke the glass, dragged three of those motherfuckers out, and threw them in the street. They got shoved around a lot. One of them shouted at all of us: We’re the New Patriotic Army of the East and we are coming for you. 

[to be continued in the book]

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