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Those who live fast, die young

By Raoul Pantin

 The first time Jonesy, as everyone called Jones Dorset, pulled a gun on someone, he was just 14 years old and he was absolutely overwhelmed by the result. 

The target was a big man, maybe in his early 40s, who had been harassing Jonesy for some time, making fun of his bad limp (the result of a bout with polio as a child) and generally making Jonesy feel awkward and foolish.

“Oh God!” the man had responded to Jonesy pulling the gun on him one night, turning white as a sheet. 

“Ah was only joking, man! You cyar take ah joke or what?”

“Save yuh jokes for yuhself!” Jonesy had responded, pleased with the way the man had boiled down like bhajee and how, thereafter, the man had strictly avoided any kind of contact with Jonesy.

Breezy, his pardner, had given Jonesy the gun. Breezy, whose real name was James Franklin, said he had found it in a pile of garbage on the corner where the ‘bad boys’ hung out and surmised that one of the boys must have thrown it there when the police had made one of their customary raids on the block.

“It loaded and everything!”, Breezy had told him. And Jonesy had confirmed this by going out on the block late one evening, taking aim at a streetlight and pulling the trigger. 

The revolver, which is what it was, had bucked in his hand and the resulting explosion had frightened even Jonesy but the street light had exploded in a thousand and one fragments. 

Bull’s-eye!

Jonesy was very impressed. And the day when he stayed home from school because his mother didn’t have the “passage” to give him to travel to and from, and who had five other children to look after (his father had disappeared when Jonesy was just two years old, never to be seen or heard from again) Jonesy had tied a handkerchief across his face, gone into a grocery in the neighbouring block and used the gun to rob the proprietor of $500 in cash, which, Jonesy concluded afterwards was the most and the easiest amount of money he had ever made in his life.

When he subsequently told Breezy what he had done, Breezy had blurted: “You mad or what? Them police go hunt you down like a dog!”

Like Jonesy, Breezy’s father was long gone from his life and his mother was often too busy looking after her other children, all seven of them, to focus on Breezy for any length of time..

“That is only if they know who do it”, Jonesy said. 

And in truth, when several weeks went by and the police didn’t come looking for Jonesy, Breezy decided his pardner was on to a good thing. 

So, handkerchief draped across his face as well, he had joined Jonesy in carrying out several more robberies and the most the newspapers could report was a story about “young bandits on a robbery spree”.

The police might not have known exactly who was behind those robberies but as time went by, the word began to spread in the community in which Jonesy and Breezy lived and indeed in several neighbouring communities, that these two “bad boys” were armed and so people began to give them a wide berth.

Jonesy interpreted it as “respect”. People, he noticed, avoided making fun of him, indeed they tried to avoid him altogether. 

“This gun,” he told Breezy one morning, “is my freedom. People only have to hear that I have ah..ah gun and they straighten up, no joking around, no playing the fool!

 One morning Jonesy and Breezy, handkerchiefs over their faces, held up the owner of a small grocery in a community they’d never been in before.

The shop owner didn’t like the idea of being robbed and put up some resistance, which is to say, he tried to grab the revolver from Jonesy, who simply jumped back and pulled the trigger twice.

The man went down with a yowl and Jonesy and Breezy got so frightened they took off running, forgetting about the pile of bills in the cash register.

The next day they read in the newspaper that the grocery proprietor who had been shot during a robbery was in serious condition in hospital.

“Oh Lord!” Breezy exclaimed. “Suppose the man dead?”

“If he dead, he dead”, Jonesy said. “Who tell he to play hero for me?”

Privately, Jonesy, who was not as tough or as hard-hearted as he pretended to be, hoped the man would recover. And when this was in fact reported in the newspaper a couple weeks later, the man being discharged from hospital Jonesy breathed an enormous sigh of relief.

But by this time some of the real ‘bad boys’ in the area had begun to show Jonesy some respect, making Jonesy swell up with pride. He began to hear some very exaggerated stories about some of his exploits. 

He was even reputed to have killed a couple people during a robbery.

Jonesy didn’t try to deny the wild stories. What he didn’t know was that some of the more lurid rumours had also reached the ears of the Special Anti-crime Police Unit, which started keeping an eye out for Jonesy.

Jonesy and Breezy had taken to spending some nights in an old abandoned shack on the edge of their community. And it was there, early one morning, that he and Breezy were fast asleep when they were awakened by a loud voice booming through a megaphone: “You! Inside there! Come out with your hands in the air!”

“Oh God!” Breezy wailed as he came awake next to Jonesy. 

“Is de police! What we go do?”

“Make a break for it!”

“Just stay close behind me!” 

Jonesy did manage to squeeze off a couple shots. But they went wild. 

Not so the hail of police gunfire that tore into the two boys as they ran for it. They didn’t get very far, their bodies mutilated by police gunfire.

So it was said of them afterwards that they had lived up to the motto of those ‘bad boys’ who lived fast and died young...Mark my word!

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