Bear stumbled through Roxbury intoxicated by his own grief, hoping desperately that somebody would say something. The right thing, the wrong thing. It didn’t matter. As long as it was in his direction. Just once. So he could unfurl the thick ball of aggression that burned low in his stomach like a painful tumor. He wanted Joe to step up, to talk out of line so he could rip into his body with nails and fists and teeth. He wanted one of those drunk old heads to call him a whiteboy so he could spit a loogie and send a knee deep into his pockmarked face. He wanted a two-buck-hooker that slithered in the dark recesses of Dudley Square to offer him a blowjob in the alleyway so he could kick her in the pussy and leave her crying in a pile of steaming trash.

But nobody said a word, like some unspoken contract, as Bear trembled in a direction he couldn’t quite determine, his vision blurred by the anger in his body that vibrated like a tuning fork.

The rows of old apartments that lined Cedar Street loomed over the chunky sidewalk, casting long shadows that bent over the road like ghosts watching protectively over Roxbury, over the empty streets where not even the apartments were occupied, the shades drawn with no trace of the wailing soul music that usually blared from behind the shut windows.

Bear trudged ahead in silence up Highland where a muscular dog crouched low and growled behind a flimsy chain-link fence, its ice gray eyes fixed upon Bear, who stopped to let the beast get a full view.

“Come get me,” Bear said.

The dog froze.

“Go on,” Bear said. “Attack.”

The dog growled louder, its gray coat flexing as its body tightened like a bow.

Bear moved closer to the fence and the dog flinched. “C’mon, you fuck.”

The dog froze again, her almond shaped eyes widening bigger than quarters.

Bear picked up a rock by his feet and held it over his head. “Let’s go, dog.”

The dog bent back on her hind legs, flexing, so her body became one solid knot of muscle. She let out a bark that sounded more like a human battle cry.

Bear kept the rock hanging over his head. The dog, as if she could sense the boy’s irrational violence — a rage that turned his body into a spiked coat of armor — backed up on her hind legs and disappeared into the shadows of her owner’s yard.


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