Peanut sprinted down the alley sloshing through the puddles and throwing up sprays of water as he went. Behind him thick, black smoke and flames rose into the sky and in the distance sirens screamed. The alleys picked up and echoed their wails making it sound like the world was ending. He looked over his shoulder and was almost sent headlong into the concrete when the ground gave and rolled under his foot.
A man was sprawled among the trash bags next to a dumpster. A rust colored stain spread across his shirt starting at the top of his right shoulder and ran downward to another wound in his left side. Blood pooled thick and wet at his waistband enough to soak his jeans. His eyes were closed.
“You dead? After all I did to get you outta there, you better not be dead!” When he didn’t get a reply Peanut knelt next to the man and felt his neck for a pulse. “Fires bring firemen, firemen bring paramedics; which you need if you shot. You stay where the help is!”
“Go away!” The man swatted Peanut’s hand away and swung at him with his left arm. “I don’t have anything left for you to take.”
“I ain’t after your wallet. I started the fire so you could get outta there alive. Den you go somethin’ stupid like this and mess everything up. By the way a thank you would be nice instead of accusing me of robbing a man knockin’ on death’s door.” Peanut looked to the end of the alley, the man hadn’t made it too far but they’d never find him here. “I’ll let it slide ‘cause you’re hurt; suffering from blood loss and whatnot. You gotta go back to the warehouse so you’ll get some help. ”
“I can’t.” The man wheezed separating his words with shallow breaths. “If I could- I wouldn’t be here- you always- talk this much?”
“Yeah I do; can’t help it. I was hit by a truck, now I open my mouth and words fall out. Thank you for bringing it up though.” Peanut ran his hand over his head looked around frantically for someone else to take responsibility for the situation. He wanted no part of this but he was all alone. Being homeless and caught near a warehouse fire was bad enough, but being caught with a white guy who was shot up too meant he was going to jail. No if’s ands or buts about it. The sirens were getting louder, he didn’t have time to drag the man back to where they could find him and not get caught. “Damn man, why didn’t you just stay where they could find you? Hey? Dude?” The man’s head rolled forward like a child who was fighting sleep. “Aye! Wake up now, don’t you go to sleep! Aye! I ain’t kidding, that’s how you die!” Peanut reached out to shake the guy’s shoulder. “Dude! Aye man, what’s your name?”
“It’s Mark; Mark Clover.” Mark coughed and blood bubbled from his mouth staining his lips red. “I think they’ll overlook the fire it if you tell them what happened.”
“I dunno Mark; those warehouses are worth a lot.” Peanut shook his head. “Something like that goes at least a couple million dollars is you worth that much?”
“No; but you can’t just leave me here. I’ll die.” This time when Mark’s head slumped forward no amount of poking and prodding would rouse him.
“You’re right, you’re right. Not supposed to move people, wait, is that for crash victims? I dunno, but I do know that if you stay here you’re definitely going to die.” He grabbed Mark’s feet and pulled; Peanut winced as Mark’s head bumped the ground. He switched ends. “Sorry ‘bout that; wasn’t thinking. I got you now.” The sirens were getting louder, coming closer. Peanut picked up his pace racing to beat them but the trucks were coming down the side street. He lowered Mark in the middle of the road. “I’m sorry man, you on your own!”
He didn’t go far, he checked on Mark from the cover of the alley and when one of the firefighters noticed Mark, Peanut let out a sigh of relief. “See, you gonna make it. You aright now.”