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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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 by Deirdre Fagan



There once was a boy who was a good boy most of the time, who on one particular occasion was not quite so good.  Officers picked him up for his not-so-goodness on a particularly not-so-good night.  They didn’t arrest him; they decided to hold him in a cell instead.  Overnight.  Until he was right.  Until he was fit. 


The boy who was usually good was not quite himself, and yet he was very much himself. 


They took the boy to the station where they would book him without throwing the book at him.


The boy was not behaving, not keeping his mouth shut.  He continued to shout and flail about, to grab and to hit.


The boy was put in a cell but it did not quiet his tongue.


The boy’s father, a good father most of the time but not all the time, called the station to find his son. 


The boy who was not quite so good on this particular occasion had made the officers who were often not good even less good than they were most often. 


An arm of the law opened the cell and grabbed the boy about the neck instead of about the tongue and squeezed hard for too long.  The squeezing quieted the boy’s tongue.  The boy did not flail, shout, or hit.  The boy hung limp.  Too limp for a living boy.


The father who called the police to find his son waited on a phone line listening to silence.  His tongue was quiet as he poised it for speech. 


The silence was terminal.  His speech, belated.


The boy, the father was told, had hung himself with his sweater in the jail cell.  


The autopsy report confirmed that the bruises along the neck were caused by strangulation. 


A sweater with long sleeves perhaps, a sweater strong enough to hold a 140lb. boy about the neck and suspended in air long enough to suffocate. 


A sweater perhaps, or long sleeves attached to a uniform, attached to a man, who was also a boy, who also had a father, whose father did not have to wait on a phone line for terminal instructions. 


A boy in a uniform who would live knowing he had in one report been described as a sweater. 


A father left to live not with someone else’s injustice but with what sorts of injustices he would have time to imagine had been his own and had caused his good boy most of the time to take his life on one particularly not good night.


And a boy no longer in a sweater who had died not by his own hands but by someone else’s, not bare-chested but in the sweater that would later be described as a weapon.


A particularly not good night and yet all too typical.