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FALLING MAN
BY KERIM PEIRCE

My friend Pete was killed by a falling man. He was standing at the free throw line, concentrating on the rim and holding the ball while the wind whipped around us. There was no way anyone could make a free throw in that wind, but when you play 21 itís part of the game.

We used to play basketball every day that summer, at the court next to the new SBC building. The court is in a little park, which is pretty much a lot with a playground and a few trees sticking out of the asphalt, between the new skyscraper and some smaller apartment buildings.  When they first started construction in the spring, it was so loud out there that you couldnít even hear the clang of the backboard or the metal swish of the chains. By the day Pete died, the building had gotten pretty high, and the northern chill was already descending from Canada. Swirling leaves flew into your mouth and got in your eyes while you tried to dribble. We bodied up and talked extra shit, the three of us still hungry enough to go out there in that weather. And then, right in front of our eyes, with no warning, a man fell from the sky and crushed Pete into the concrete, right at the free throw line.

The man was an ironworker, you could tell by his clothes and boots. The wind thrashed the back of his jacket around, making him appear to be hysterically begging for help. The way the man hit Pete, their heads konked together and they landed face down, with the man on top of Pete. Peteís legs were bent up at the knees and his feet stuck up out of the concrete, like two periscopes. I considered taking his shoes off, not to keep them but maybe to give them to his mother. But me and Colin just stood there, staring at the two guys in the hole, while the basketball rolled around. Some of the other workers up on the giant steel skeleton looked like they were yelling things to us, but you could barely hear anything because of the wind. I donít know what they could have been trying to say to us.

Eventually some people with hard hats on ran out of the building, towards us and the dead men. They ran up fast, but when they got there, all they did was look at Pete and the worker and their splattered skulls. The wind was picking up, to the point where people had to hold on to the fence just to keep from getting blown around. One of the workers took out a cell phone, but it wouldnít work. He shrugged to his friends, then jogged back to the building. The ball bounced off Peteís upturned shin and rolled towards me, so I picked it up.

EMS came and put the men in body bags and loaded them into an ambulance. Both guys were kind of floppy when the medics picked them up, as if rigor mortis was fighting to take hold over the million shards of bone. The shallow dent in the concrete where the mensí crushed heads had nestled was stained dark from the seepage of brain blood.

Colin and I went to Peteís funeral. Our mothers, who are friends, didnít go, because Pete was new to the neighborhood and they didnít know his family. Peteís mother had him cremated and put in a simple metal urn, where he sits to this day, I guess, on her mantle. SBC settled with her for a reputedly handsome sum, so she and Peteís sister bought their apartment and the one adjacent to it, and had the two connected. She is always very nice to Colin and me. She looks into my eyes and strokes my beard when she sees me on the street.

The next spring, I bought some black and red spray paint. I went to the park early in the morning and wrote ďPedro Quintana 1985-2002Ē on the wall of the apartments, which was also one side of the court, in Gothic letters. The indentation that the bodies made had been filled in, but you could still make out their bloated outline in the slightly different hues of concrete. I repainted the free throw line so we would know where to shoot from.

Please realize K. lived here
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