He used to come over to my house and play basketball with me, he was so much older and cooler. The guy had a high and tight head, the black combat boots with his shorts. Only now do I see the paramilitary ideological worship thing going on. Just like dad.

He knew where our tree house was, my friends and I. Plywood planks and imagination. It was just down the road, the sycamore huge like god. And I was always warned about tetanus from our rusty nails. Wrong, mom. The guy smiled a lot if I remember right, and I’m not sure that I do. He had thick glasses, I think. But days in the tree house. It was ours, fuck everyone else, when we were there we were it. So many glory days when we were kings.

It ended at dusk with blood all over our tree house. When basketball guy took his toy .22 to his mouth. I was kept inside my house until after the ambulance was gone. How desperate do you have to be to kill yourself with a fucking .22? Now I don’t know whether to think it is stupid or sad. I remember the sound from across the neighborhood when Elza told the basketball guy’s mom. Wailing Scream.

By the time Mr. Meyers got there he was already convulsing. The basketball guy had to shoot more than once to get the job done. By the time the ambulance got there he was already dead. Before that, Mr. Meyers had done what he could. Like there was anything he could have done. But it must be frustrating when you can’t undo a tiny .22. On the way to where ever they take people that are already dead, the paramedics got a pulse from the combat boots. The siren jumped to life and shone like hope. They turned off the siren a couple minutes later. Did he change his mind after the last shot? Did he not like what he saw out there? Before this I used to think the afterlife was a cornfield baseball players walked in and out of. I didn’t think like a child anymore.

I played basketball alone that night. At the time I didn’t even make the connection. I just had nothing to do because now our tree house was some kind of spectacle. I remember talking to Russ and we wondered why he had to pick there. That was ours. Now, red, the plywood and rusty tetanus nails stood silent. It was all gone soon, stained plywood falling below fathers’ hammers, the backs of the hammers stealing our rusty nails. Nothing seemed fun about the tree house except the memories now. Virgin days gone.

The kids in the neighborhood these days don’t have a tree house. They don’t have a chance to be kings. I still look at the sycamore sometimes, cut in half when they paved my dusty old road. The tree is still green in the springtime, I’ve still never gone back.

My friends and I, if we grow up, when we are older than he was, we’ll be kings again. Courage over all the shit that makes kids do what he did with his .22. We’ll have proved to ourselves that we are stronger than that. Stronger than basketball guy, stronger than every morbid suicide worshiper. If we do it, we’ll be kings. If we do it, the world will be our new tree house, yet to be spoiled by darker weaker things. Kings again.

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