“Run! Run! Slow ass motherfuck!”

It was too late for the commotion. I shouldn’t have been awake, but who can ignore his voice? Everything echoes in the courtyard. Sounds like the kid downstairs. His old man beat the shit out of him. That much I knew.

They were a squat family. Literally short people. A family who looked like they had been caught in a hydraulic vise when the DNA was being stirred up. And their faces were beaten too. Squished, blank faces.

I know his old man kicked the kid’s ass. He went to Anne, my neighbor across the yard, for help one night. I don’t know why he picked her. She was friendly, I suppose. One of the only true Christians I’ve ever met. A call to Child Services ended up accomplishing jack shit. A few nights later, I heard glass break and woke up the next morning to a trail of blood leading up the stairs. I saw him carrying a knife around and yelling into a phone. He held it like a lover grabbing his heart.

But I never talked to these people, so what’s a guy to do? I never saw anything happen. Never saw a fight or heard yelling. I just knew that the father kicked the kid’s ass.

So, here I am, waking up to the kid’s voice in the middle of the apartment building. There’s no reason I should have heard him. He wasn’t yelling. He was whispering, in fact. Why did I wake up? There’s a sense that humans have. You know when something real is happening, something a little more important than the usual daily fare.

“Run! Run! Slow-ass motherfucker!”

What am I going to do? Nothing. I didn’t see anything, and I don’t know what happened. That’s fine by me. I’d rather not be involved. But his voice sounded real. Real enough to wake me up.

I turn over. I try to sleep, until a few minutes lapse and I hear the uniform clopping. When I peer out the window, I see cops marching in line. Too official for a disturbance. Too intent for a visit.

For a moment, I consider checking out the situation. But instinct tells me to stay put. I hear only the occasional bristle of the walkie-talkies and the muttering of cops.

I don’t expect to dream and I’d rather not. I heard his voice, and that’s the only story I need for a night.

The next morning, I find two candles at the bottom of the stairs and a note pasted to a door. Something in Spanish. Mi amigo. Corazon. Something reverential. Something from a friend.

Well, word spreads quickly in the laundry room. The kid stabbed his old man. Gave it to him good, apparently. The squashed daughter spent the next week moving everything out. Her empty face let go of a tear every now and again. The kid was no saint, obviously. But the old man wasn’t Mr. Rogers either. Don’t know if they ever found the kid or whoever he was talking to. These things get left dangling pretty often.

I didn’t say anything to the new tenants. As far as I know, neither did anyone else. Wouldn’t do any good anyhow. They put in new carpet.

LA Weekly