A dog ran out into the traffic. Santos, the good-hearted wise guy, twisted the steering wheel and the getaway car ploughed into the side of the security van. Sirens sounded and in the bank a bell began to ring. The three men in clown masks shook their heads. “Come on Santos” Pete shouted, “let’s get out of here.” The car was dead; steam or smoke billowed from under the hood. They climbed out of the car as the traffic behind them smashed to a halt. The security guard dropped the case he was holding and pulled out his pistol. Pete saw him and raised his semi-automatic. The guard shot first and Pete fell backwards, spraying bullets left and right, through the car and his companions. A block further down the street Levene wondered why they were a minute late. The dog disappeared behind the bins up the alley.
My grandad would bunk off school and go swimming. When he went home, his mother would taste the salt in his hair and box his ears. He would bend over me as we looked toward the mainland and taste my hair. “You’ve been swimming!” And I would try to dodge the gentle cuffs.
I would try to hold one of his hands in both of mine and study the tattoo on his forearm and the scar he said was caused by a bullet. Then on the way home he would tell me one of the stories I must have known were impossible but believed with all my heart. And still do.
The 80kg bully prepared to kick sand again. This time, instead of kneeling, the thin boy showed him fifteen grams of lead.
It was truly a dark and stormy evening when Japheth Jones went out on his scooter. His mother was taking the damp clothes down from the line on the drying green before the rain set in for serious. Little did little Japheth or Mrs Jones think that the next time she saw him he would be in a hospital, a stray bullet in his chest. We all remember the story, but how is Japheth now? Here’s his story as told to our reporter.
“The doctors said the bullet was at my heart, not in it, but I preferred the more exciting phrase. That’s where it felt as well, as my heart beat I could feel it pulsing against the bullet, the bullet holding firm – more than nuzzling, less than pressing – against each beat. As if it wanted to kill me each beat, slowly, so slowly, continuing its slow slow flight now buried in my chest.
“I got used to it there and somehow felt safer because it was there. Maybe it was because it hadn’t killed me straight away – something so dangerous hadn’t killed me – that I felt somehow protected, like I had a real original lucky charm deep inside my chest. I often thought, when I thought about it, which wasn’t often, that if anyone was to make a voodoo doll of me and stick a spike in my heart they’d be surprised to feel my lucky bullet there protecting me.
“So it was five years I kept the bullet there and then we decided it had to go. Well, the doctors decided it had to go. Like I said, I’d got used to it, it was my lucky piece, it kept me safe and reminded me I was going to die – and that’s when you feel most alive, right?
“I used to think risotto was my lucky food, vermilion my lucky colour and Jehoshaphat my lucky cowboy name. I loved the comfort of the food, the clarity of the colour and the sheer chutzpah of being called Jehoshaphat. How could they not bring me luck?
“That’s what the reporters said, I was lucky they said, in the first days when they wanted to ask my parents all about it and then later me all about it.
“And sometimes I’ve felt like falling and sometimes I’ve felt like flying and sometimes I’ve felt like turning around and walking right back out of this situation.
“And then I fell and then I flew and then I fell again.”
And then he closed his eyes and sighed, wisely. Our reporter left, slowly, reluctantly, and may not return home.