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by Ron Gibson, Jr.

Word got to us before them boys ever did. One of our scouts, little Junior Johns, came booking into the dark warehouse, blue and white Kmart Trax slapping concrete like firecrackers, to say them boys were on the move. Sully smiled, and Sully never smiled. He said, “Get ready. Man your posts.”

Our group of ten or so boys began to drag heavy buckets full of cinder and jagged rocks collected down by the railroad tracks to large window openings on the upper floor of the warehouse. Not too close so them boys could see us, but far enough back to blend in with shadows.

When I look back on that moment from the perch of adulthood, I sometimes wonder why I was there. Not a single one of those boys are in my life any longer. They are as strange now as some of their names I can’t remember. To be honest, these boys I spent so much of my childhood trying to impress and vice versa, I couldn’t tell you if I truly liked them or if they ever truly liked me.

“A bad union is better than no union,” my granddad used to say. “Without a union you have no say, you’re nothing.”

Maybe it was as simple as that. We banded together because most of our fathers worked together and belonged to the same union. We banded together to have our say. We banded together because we were cursed with youth in a world ruled by everyone else.

Even as we knelt in shadows, waiting for them boys to show, there was evidence that we were only daytime rulers of that warehouse. When night buried dusk, teenagers left shattered bottles, empty beer cans, drunken graffiti and freshly-laid donuts in the parking lot to remind us of the pecking order.

“Shut up over there,” Sully growled, exerting his own order.

I would go on to meet several Sullys in the world. On factory floors, in bars. Each had a talent for recruiting, for bringing about the action they desired. We may have merely been facilitators for a private war between Sully and his nemesis Marcus Evans, but Sully was ours. Like that piss-poor abandoned warehouse. Like the failing marriages we would struggle to hold onto. Like the deteriorating unions that conceded to corporate demands. Like the jobs that slipped through our fingers without a whimper to overseas destinations, along with the dreams of our fathers of a better life for us.

The familiar moan of a freight train barreling over the southland prairies gave way to the sound of wild dogs, yipping and howling. Before the horizon gave up them boys, I could already see the mean in their faces, the hunger that was hungrier than ours.

What we had and what we have may not be much, but we each gripped the deadly weight of those rocks in our hands like friends, ready to fight for it.

Ron Gibson, Jr. has appeared or is forthcoming in Exquisite Corpse, Word Riot, Maudlin House, 521 Magazine, Soundzine, Pidgeonholes and Cease, Cows. He has been included in various anthologies and was nominated for a Pushcart. @sirabsurd