July 4th, 11:10 P.M.
Six warriors crouched in the shadow of a tomb. They were panting after their long run. The moon was shining above them; all the spaces between the gravestones and the tombs were bright but the shadows were hard and deep. Embracing cherubs, smiled down on them from the eaves of the tomb, fat-faced and benevolent. Far off, starting from the south and running to the northwest, a solid bank of moonlit cloud looked like a range of mountains. The cemetery was on a hill. Below them were clusters of tombstones, an iron spike fence, a highway, a narrow river gleaming, a long stretch of lawn sloping upward, a line of apartment houses a half mile away, and, between the houses, elevated tracks on which a string of brightly lit trains rattled festively.
They listened. They heard nothing but the rumble of the train across the valley. They heard their own gasping breaths mixed with the sounds of rustling leaves.
“All here?” one of the warriors whispered.
They looked at one another suspiciously and shifted a little, all except Hinton who had found a spot in the darkest doorway shadow of the tomb. He sat there, his feet up against one side, his bent back supported by the other.
“What do we do now?”
They cooled it for a while; looked around, recovered from their run. They listened for any strange sound and tried to guess what it meant. Were there other warriors here? Were the police around? They wondered how they could get across the valley to the train.
“Cool it, cool it.” There might be a watchman.
Hinton curled further into the shadow. It wasn’t so bad here, he thought. He felt almost sleepy, protected because the others were between him and the outside. He was tired. The run had knocked everything out of him. He hadn’t slept well for two days–the tension. Now if he could only sleep for awhile. Why couldn’t they stay here? It was restful. There was a cool breeze and the grass smelled nice.
From behind the bank of apartment houses a line of fire climbed slowly into the sky and burst into a shimmering American flag. The smiling stone cherubs changed into something malevolent in the spangled light. The whole dragging place spooked them. Illuminated, they shifted positions, milling, bumping, pressing back against the tomb, pushing into the deeper shadows. The flag hovered for a second, was caught by the wind, and began to drift lazily south until it dissolved in a shower of three-colored sparks. In this final burst they saw that Papa Arnold was missing. Someone groaned. They began to count off.
“Where’s Hinton? They get Hinton too?”
“I’m here.” His knees drew up to almost touch his chin; his lips were on his knuckles.
“Look at that Hinton; he almost asleep. Man, cool,” The Junior said.
That Hinton, he could sleep anywhere. Lunkface tried to look sleepy because it would show how cool he was. He reached to shift his hat down over his eyes, but the hat was gone. Lunkface cursed and started to move out into the moonlight to look for it. He was hissed back into place. A series of little explosions sounded off in the distance–firecrackers like the rattle of machine guns. Where was the sound coming from? Hinton closed his eyes tighter; his chin pressed on his knees; his thumb was going to his mouth, but he scratched his nose with his thumbnail instead. Something rustled in the grass. They froze it. Nothing happened. An animal, a rat maybe. Rats eat corpses. That made them feel better; they all knew and understood rats.
Hector said, “Man, we have to cool it here for a while. Maybe Papa Arnold will make it here . . .”
“How’s he going to know we’re here?” Bimbo asked.
“If he don’t come, we move out to where that train is and go home.”
The Junior shifted his position and stuck his hand out into the moonlight and looked down at his wrist; he was the only one who owned a watch. “This brother doesn’t think it’s a good idea. It’s going to be midnight soon.”
“So man, you can’t stay in a graveyard after midnight,” The Junior said and his voice was hysterical.
They all knew about what might happen in a graveyard after midnight. Some of them believed it; some didn’t. But it disturbed them all; all except Hinton who buried his face tighter into his thighs which were drawing up. It would be good to just stay here, he thought. It was cool, probably the only cool spot in the whole city now. Just too much trouble to get up and go climbing fences and walk all that open distance to that train across the valley. A few dull explosions sounded.
“We got to get out of here. They come and get you,” The Junior said.
That was silly, Hinton thought.
“Man, I got to find my hat,” Lunkface said. “That cost.”
“We got to get out. They come out of their graves. Everyone know that.”
“We stay here a while,” Hector said.
“No one elected you Father.” The Junior was shrill now.
“You want to tangle about it?” Hector asked. No answer. “Someone has got to be the Father till we get back home. You listen to me. We’ll move out before twelve. We have plenty of time.”
They waited. They listened. They looked out for the cops, the other gangs, the watchman, while Hector made the plan for getting all the way home.