A/N: This is a work of fiction, but it was inspired by true events. Wasn't sure whether to put it under General or Biography, but I settled for General.
I was there the night Uncle Ben got shot.
I was sitting on the loveseat in the living room of his house, reading a book, when I saw a beam of white light wedge through the window behind me and brighten a portion of the carpet. With that light came the rumbling sound of a truck's engine. I glanced outside and saw two headlights shining blindingly against the blackness of the night. A door opened and then closed. A figure emerged from the vehicle, but did not come to the porch.
There was a shout—"Ben!"—and I felt my stomach knot up with dread. I recognized the voice.
It was Jimmy Barksdale.
He shouted again. "Hey, Ben, you home?"
Uncle Ben was home, but I was tempted to open the door and yell back that he wasn't, just so Jimmy would go away.
I didn't get the chance. Ben came running downstairs wearing a large T-shirt and shorts. He opened the door and hollered out, "What do you want, Jimmy?"
"What do you think I want, you son of a bitch?" Jimmy replied coldly. "I want what you stole from me!"
He was talking about Sarah—my uncle's girlfriend—and her one-year-old daughter, Kaylie. Before Sarah got together with my uncle, she dated Jimmy. She stayed with him for four years, despite how abusive he was. He would beat her black and blue and she would just take it. It was Uncle Ben who got her away from him. After he saw a bruise on her face, he called the police and got Jimmy locked in jail for a week. That was when Sarah had warmed up to Uncle Ben.
My uncle Ben and Sarah had been together for just short of a year now, and they would have been doing great if it hadn't been for Jimmy showing up and causing trouble. He was one of those people who couldn't just take a hint and leave things alone.
"Where's Sarah?" he asked.
"In bed, Jimmy. It's past midnight," Uncle Ben replied.
"I need to talk to her."
"No you don't."
Just then, as luck would have it, Sarah came down the stairs in her nightgown. She noticed me sitting on the loveseat and asked me what was going on.
"Jimmy's here," I said. She groaned.
Uncle Ben tried to tell her to go back to bed but she didn't. She walked over to the doorway, next to him, and told Jimmy to get lost.
"Sarah, I need to talk to you," Jimmy said. "In private."
"No, Jimmy, you don't need to talk to me," Sarah retorted. "I already know what you're going to say, and the answer's no."
There was a short moment of silence. Sarah sighed—something she did a lot when Jimmy went into his sob-story mode.
"I've changed, Sarah. I'm different."
"You never change, Jimmy. You never think of anything or anyone but yourself."
"Sarah, please… give me a chance."
"You know what, Jimmy?" Sarah crossed her arms. "I did. I gave you four years worth of chances, and you blew them all. I should never have stayed with you for that long."
"But you did, Sarah. You did! So don't stand there and try to tell me nothing good came out of it."
"Jimmy, the only good that came out of our relationship was our daughter."
There was another silent moment—a longer one—before Jimmy said, "How is Kaylie?"
"She's fine," Sarah answered matter-of-factly.
"Can I see her? Just real quick? It'll only take a sec."
"No, Jimmy. She's asleep right now, and I'm not going to wake her."
"Now, for the last time," Uncle Ben cut in, "get in your truck and get the hell off my property!"
"Shut up, Ben, you bastard!" Jimmy snapped.
"Jimmy!" Sarah yelled.
"Sarah, honey, why don't you go to bed," Uncle Ben whispered, and then he turned his attention to me. "You too, Faith. It's past your bed time."
I jumped off the loveseat and scrambled up the stairs. I didn't go to bed, though. My curiosity took over; I sat on the top step and continued to listen.
Sarah refused to go to bed. "No, it's okay," she said. "I can take care of this."
"You know what, Sarah?" Jimmy snorted, coming out of his sob-story mode and getting angry, "you're such a stupid bitch. That's all you are—just a stupid, back-stabbing bitch. You think you're so hot, don't you? All that makeup and shit. You think you can have any man you want, you damn whore!"
"That's enough, Jimmy!" Uncle Ben said acidly. "Now get the hell out of here before I call the police."
I tensed at his tone. He hardly ever lost his temper.
"You know, Ben, I almost pity you. You're such a dumbshit, stealing a girl like her," Jimmy snarled.
"I never stole her, Jimmy," Uncle Ben said. "She chose me because I'm a better man than you are."
Jimmy went ballistic. He started ranting and raving, picking up rocks from the driveway and hurling them at the house. (He ended up cracking a window with one.) Uncle Ben, unable to handle it anymore, went outside to straighten him out.
I heard Kaylie start to cry from her room across the upstairs hall. I got up slowly—so as not to make a noise—and sprinted over there. I rushed to her crib, lifted her out, and held her. I could feel her little body shaking with fear and confusion against my chest, and I tried to comfort her by rubbing her back and whispering "Shhh" in her ear.
Uncle Ben and Jimmy were fighting outside. I could hear them. Every punch made my stomach tighten and I wondered, Who got hit? Was it Uncle Ben?
I heard Sarah, who'd been screaming at them to stop, lose it and try to break them up.
There were more punches.
A body colliding with the truck.
Punches mixed with blood-curdling groans.
The hopeful sound of the truck door opening and closing.
But then the screams got louder. More intense. My stomach felt like it was doing summersaults. I kept rubbing Kaylie's back, even though her crying got worse and I knew that it wouldn't stop until the fighting stopped and everything was quiet.
"It's okay, Kaylie," I whispered. "It's okay." But neither she nor I was convinced.
I rocked her back and forth, cooed to her, continued to rub her back. I was so occupied with calming her that I almost disregarded the loud bang that suddenly erupted from outside. It was Kaylie's wailing that caused me to acknowledge it.
I'd heard that sound before, and I knew full well that it was a gunshot. My heart had to have stopped. My feet and hands went cold. I quit comforting Kaylie. I thought, A gunshot? What the—? And then I remembered that Uncle Ben didn't own a gun and panicked.
I gently placed Kaylie back in her crib, not wanting to take her outside at this time of night, and then ran back down the hallway, flew down the stairs, and dashed out the front door. Jimmy was driving away in his truck, its red taillights glowing in the dark. Uncle Ben was lying on the grass, hunched over, a hand clamped over a bloodspot on his stomach. Sarah was kneeling beside him, sobbing and muttering, her hand pressed firmly on top of his. When she saw me standing on the porch, she ordered me to go inside and call an ambulance.
I did. I ran back in the house, grabbed the living room phone, and dialed 911. When I got someone—a lady—on the other end, I fumbled with the words. The shock was too much and all I could get out at first was, "Shot. He's been shot. Uncle Ben… he's lying on the ground and he's bleeding. I think he might be dying!"
"Okay, where are you?" the lady said. "Right now, where are you calling from?"
If my head was clear I'd have remembered to give her the address, but instead I simply said, "Ben and Sarah's house."
"What's the address, miss?" the lady asked.
"Oh, uh, four-six-eight-six, Old Union Road, in Shelby. Can you hurry?"
"Alright, we're going to send help. Just stay put and wait for us."
The lady hung up and so did I. It was then that I fully realized what had just happened and what I had just had to do, and I started to cry.
Oh God, I kept thinking, Uncle Ben's been shot. He's going to die! Ambulances in that town hardly ever got there in time. Most people they were called for didn't make it. That was one of the problems with living out in the country—you didn't get good medical services.
Surprisingly, and to my relief, an ambulance did come in time, along with two squad cars. The paramedics loaded Uncle Ben onto a stretcher, hauled him up into the back of the ambulance, and then took off with flashing lights and a blaring siren.
Which left Sarah and me to be questioned by the cops.
A cop named Officer Casey spoke to me. He started with the usual: What happened, from beginning to end? Why—as far as I know—did it happen? Had anything like it happened before, to my knowledge? And so on. But then he asked me something that threw me for a loop: Did I feel a bit sorry for Jimmy?
Sorry for Jimmy? "No," I said plainly.
I know why Officer Casey asked. I'd told him about Jimmy being Sarah's ex-boyfriend, as well as the father of her child, and he wanted to see if I thought Jimmy did what he did because he missed his "family." I didn't think so, but even if he did, I wouldn't have cared. Lonesome father or not, I thought he deserved to burn in hell.