The black crayon—the one School Resources Officer Gary swore looked like a gun (“or maybe a knife…definitely something!”)—rolls out of Melvin Jenkins’s limp hand. It comes to a stop under the water fountain outside Miss Beverly’s classroom.
Blood, splashed across white porcelain fountain, drips down. Droplets splatter against a black vinyl tile in the elementary school’s checkerboard hallway. The black crayon—its gray paper wrapper peeled away—blends in with the floor.
Later, as more police officers, EMTs, school staff, and administrators filter through, someone will step on the camouflaged crayon, grinding it against their heel, as they try to lean in and take a quick sip from the fountain.
School Resources Officer Gary can’t put down the gun in his hand. After all, there’s protocol to follow. With his free hand, he wipes unanticipated tears from his cheeks.
He looks down at Melvin. He’s so small. School Resources Officer Gary blames the shadows—the way they fall, long and black, across the hallway at this time of day. They made the boy look so much bigger.
And then, there was that thing in his hand. Why didn’t the boy just drop that thing in his hand?
School Resources Office Gary will take early retirement and start a new after-hours security job at the local for-rent storage facility lot. He’ll never know the “thing” was a crayon.
He can’t even remember the last time he fired a gun. It’s been years since he had time for re-certification. But he knew someone who kept pushing his paperwork through.
Melvin’s construction paper—with the drawing he’d hoped to finish at home while his Mama watched the local news for her Lotto numbers—rests beside the boy’s body on the floor. The paper showcases black crayon marks and faint gray boot print scuffs.
In the days ahead, that drawing—boot prints and all—will sit center-stage for countless hours of news coverage. Talking heads will split time between extolling the artistic significance of Melvin’s monochromatic palette and holding it up as indication of a third grade timebomb ready to explode (if not for School Resources Officer Gary’s quick thinking and even quicker trigger finger).
“I’ll be right back. Please stay in your seats,” Miss Beverly says. She’s surprised by the calm behind her words, even as fear pounds needles into her brain. It makes her want to scream.
The D.A. will hold a press conference to announce he’s considering possible charges. He’ll hold another press conference to address the protests that spread downtown once news of the shooting hits social media. He’ll plead for peace and understanding, while also insisting that SWAT’s presence and the curfew are necessary for community safety.
He’ll hold a final press conference weeks later to announce that his office has found insufficient evidence to press charges.
Melvin Jenkins dies in the school hallway. His drawing’s never finished.
The next year, the school board will vote to cut the elementary school’s arts budget—a necessary sacrifice, following their decision to add two additional school resources officers.
Even still, someone will ask, “But why did the children have to use so much black?”
Barb is a freelance writer and editor from the southern United
States, currently living (and trying not to freeze to death) in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His short fiction has been selected for publication by Not One of Us, Tales to Terrify, Boneyard Soup Magazine, Twisted Anatomy, and Shiver: A Chilling Horror Anthology, among others. For more of his work, visit patrickbarb.com.