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BLOOD on the streets of Northwest?

Seemed unlikely

I thought so too

Not in the leafy confines

Not in the well-heeled hollows that border the high-end lawns.

Not in one of our verdant capital city boroughs where the ancient trees make graceful offerings of ample shade.

No

No way

Disbelief was the order of the moment

A child

A child, mind you!

It’s not possible. Not here. Oh God, not here. It’s simply just not possible.

But it was. It is. Always has been, people just forgot. Like they do. When they’re insulated.

OK, OK, I know you’re not really insulated, sir—you’re among the most hyper-connected people on the planet. Finger so firmly on the pulse you’re probably gonna smother the goddamn thing. No, removed. That’s what I meant. But still aware. Very, very much aware.

But we’ve evolved beyond this kind of tragedy

At least that was the idea—

Course that’s the thing about tragedy. Bit unpredictable. Bit of a chameleon, really, isn’t it? Always shifting shape, size, color and brand. Always reinventing itself in a hyper-American frenzy.

But I mean, seriously?

A drone?

A goddamn drone?

Oh—

Who?

Thought you knew, you know—the way you know most things, sir—

The Cahill kid

Friends with your grandson, sir—

Timothy. Timmy? Tim?

He goes by Tim I’m fairly certain

Yes!

The tow-head tyke that lives on Newark.

Well

Lived

If we’re being accurate. Which is morbid. But also the truth.

Yes. I swear it. One of those buzzy whiny drones. Out for a delivery. Like they are now a hundred times a day. New run-of-the-mill kind of a thing. Like the way the mail—the mail!—used to slide through that squeaky squeaky brass mail slot in your front door. Like the UPS guy used to ring your bell right when you sat down to dinner.

Remember that?

Remember when?

Don’t know

Good question

Not entirely clear what the drone was dropping off

Eggs?

Milk?

Cashmere sweater?

Hard to say. Details haven’t all leaked yet. But it was on its way to the Vereen’s. Snap delivery. Instant delivery. Presto delivery. That much is a fact. Was Ann-Marie Vereen who saw the whole thing as it went down. OK, poor choice of words, you’re right, sir. My point is, it was Ann-Marie who ran screaming across her lawn over toward the Cahills’. Ann-Marie who had the presence of mind to blink 9-1-1 in her glasses.

Not that they got there in time

And you’d think the medical drone would be as fast as the delivery drone, wouldn’t you?

Still

Imagine that

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Standing in your parlor on a rainy November afternoon. One of our irrationally warm November afternoons. Left over pumpkins drenched and shiny with precipitation. Your grandkid, sir, and the Cahill kid, and the Mendelbaum kid, popping wheelies and pretend racing up and down the alley next door.

Now

Way I heard it

Though there’s some disagreement about exactly what happened—

The Cahill parents are saying it was a malfunction

(As they would)

But the Company spokesperson is saying the onboard camera tells a different story

(As he would)

Truth, probably, lying sneakily somewhere in between, or maybe just elsewhere entirely

But anyway

The Company is saying—the Company is alleging—that the kids spotted the drone a ways off. And one of these little rapscallions—unclear which one—but one of them, picked up a rock or produced a slingshot and took aim, steady…steady, and then…fired!

Direct hit

And that’s when, I guess—whether a kid did it or some faulty wiring did it—that’s when Ann-Marie left her perch in the parlor. She must have just known. Felt it. Felt that something was off—we haven’t lost our instincts yet, sir, not entirely—she came bursting through the front door—the baby blue front door that does make such a lovely contrast with the house’s white stucco. Everyone skeptical at first, remember, sir? Everyone second-guessing the poor woman something vicious over their charcuterie and Oregon pinots when they heard about the color choice during last year’s remodel…but Ann-Marie showed ‘em, Ann-Marie fed ‘em their smuggy-smug chatter right back to ‘em in steaming hot spoonfulls.

That woman knows her color schemes goddamnit

Got to give her that

Woman’s got taste

Anyway out the robin’s egg blue door she comes a-bolting, the drone wobbling on its axis, yawing left and right like a drunken eagle that has no business exercising its right to fly—and certainly not in a neighborhood like this and certainly not in the presence of our kids, sir—and she’s yelling at the precious priceless little ones, screaming at the top of her lungs

“What the hell was that? What the hell was that? Get back! Get back!”

But the kids were entranced

One in a million

One in a million that their rock toss actually hits the winged robot

But hit it he did

Whichever one he was

And yes it would change things—sort of, I suppose—if it turns out it was the Cahill kid who threw the rock or whatever it was that nailed the drone and caused the whole thing

But they haven’t recovered the camera yet

And even when they do, who’s to say they’ll tell us what’s on it

And even if they tell us, who’s to say it’ll be the truth

But the kids fell back. Ann-Marie screaming bloody murder. Hell I flinched. So you can just imagine the kids. They hustled. And pronto. Ducked under the porte-cochère, laughing and high-fiving like they’d won the Super Bowl but still, ostensibly, out of harms way.

And right then the drone picked up speed

And veered into that huge oak on the corner of 34th

Lopped a branch clean off with one its rotors—thing fell to the ground like a giant’s limb

And the drone started spinning—a blur, a greyish white silver steel blur, insanely fast, round and round and round

Closer and closer and closer to the Vereen’s front lawn

And Ann-Marie was screaming even louder (if that’s even possible which I guess it is) and the kids went quiet and sort of huddled close together under the porte-cochère next to Mr. Vereen’s old Mercedes SUV

And then the drone sagged in mid-air, sort of dropped right at Ann-Marie and little Tim Cahill yelled and leapt out from under his protective overhang—just like his father, dammit, just like his father and his grandfather before him come to think of it, such a wonderful, wonderful man, admirable tradition of service in that family, sir, admirable tradition of service—and they better make mention of that when the time is, well you know, appropriate—and he ran to push Ann-Marie out of the way and that’s when the drone came back to life, rotors a wild whirring buzzsaw and little Timmy’s head was in the wrong place at the worst possible time.

Oh my God, sir, the blood—

I was just there across the street vacuuming the Jones’s carpet

In Mr. Jones’s brand new entertainment salon

With that beautiful television that curves like a sculpture.

But oh honey—

The blood

The blood the blood the blood

Everywhere

Why I hadn’t seen anything like it since 1968.

And ’68

Well, people were out of control. And it’s bad enough when it’s just the people who are out of control.

Plus, sir, that wasn’t Northwest

No

No that was another time

And another world

And now here

Here.

Across this here street of ours.

All that blood

Too much blood

Too, too much blood.

What do you think it means, sir?

Because it’s got to mean something

It’s got to

Doesn’t it?