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Streetlights

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People would always ask about the streetlights when I was a kid. Odd, if you didn't know the context. The
Streetlights
streetlights in my cul-de-sac had the odd habit of leaking. It could be the driest summer of all time (and in the small Southern California suburb where I come from, that's saying a lot) yet there would be a constant pitter-patter of dripping water in the quiet nights.

For a while they thought it was the water system, sewage or otherwise. Because water is such a concern out here- so sayeth the infrequent drought attention PSAs that pop up on the radio every so often- the idea that a pipe could be leaking with enough pressure to reach up a 20 or so foot concrete poll is quite frightening. Also it's annoying for the upper-middle class soccer mom's who have to jog under it, instead of working like a reasonable human being. Regardless, they tore up the sidewalk, bulldozers, closed off the whole section of the road right out side our neighborhood, everything and anything they could do to be invasive.

Of course, because this story is on this board, they didn't find anything. That would have been too easy, too obvious. My dad, the knowledgeable physicist who knows everything, dismissed it as merely condensation. Us kids were having none of that and of course had to investigate a bit more. Now as a kid, you kind of have a mad reckless sense of your well being- hell, you're almost suicidal in your ignorance and stupidity. Me and Luke, the boy up the street, started putting buckets underneath the streetlights. Looking at the obscured liquid that filled the buckets over night, it was anyone's guess what it was actually leaking. In a retrospectively stupid idea, we both got the idea that we should drink it.

What a spectacularly bad idea. We were sick. Our moms were mad. I miss school for the whole week because of it. Comparatively I got the best of it. Luke was in the hospital that week. He had to get his stomach pumped. They said the contents came out "as thick and dark as tar." They also said it was lucky for him to be alive to get punished by his parents (he didn't think so).

As time went on it became the status quo. The streetlights leaked, that's what they did. My block was no longer decimated by the hordes of construction machines waiting at the end of the cul-de-sac. City council left us alone, deemed it to be "irreparable," and moved on to the next way they could burn our hard earned tax dollars.

Our block managed to stay out of the news for a good whole year and a half until Jenna, that proverbial girl-next-door went missing. I was pretty torn up at the time. She was the first girl I'd ever kissed, and the first I was probably gonna ask out (and have her say yes). It seems like a pretty selfish thing to be upset about, that I wasn't gonna have a girlfriend cause she went missing, but it was middle school. I was just dumb. Anyway, it was three days after she was missing before anything aside from the usual AMBER alert (or what ever we had back then). That was the night the streetlights rained blood. It was hers. The missing persons case turned into a murder investigation almost in an instant. A night later, I saw her father coming out of their house handcuffed. Jenna's mother stood next to mine on our lawn, crying and screaming at the police car pulling away.

I was so confused I couldn't work it out at the time. Her father had apparently kept her in crawl space in their house, drugged and bound with duct tape. It was something that hit me hard. Something that those CSI and Law and Order shows really go into that much is how all those murders and sick fucks have neighbors who think they're normal people. The school had a memorial service, people said their peace, the parents cried during the service, thinking about if it had happened to their own child, how they would feel. But people moved on.

Not a short while after, one of the other kids on the block decided to make the news as well. It wasn't that he died, rather it was that he hit another kid with his car. He was high or stoned or something, but my father said that the kid was no good when he moved into Luke's old house, who had since moved to Texas, and now I guess he got his proof positive. The weird thing about the crime scene this time is that the blood splatter didn't make sense. Instead of the burst and streaking you would expect from a drugged out kid in a Mustang hitting a six year old who felt like playing in his front yard, it was splashes under the streetlights, like it had rained down from up above. It became an interesting asterisk for the case notes, but what the police saw was a simple hit and run.

Five years later, long enough for the adults to forget all the weird occurrences that came about whenever someone died on our block, we made the news a final time. This time it was something that hit too close to home for it to be swept under the rug. One day my little brother didn't come home from school. He had been at a debate tournament the whole day. They have the tendency to go on off schedule by the magnitude of hours, so my parents weren't too concerned. I sat on the sidewalk, next to one of the steetlights crying. My mom came out, she probably was going to ask me to pick him up or something.

She was confused when she saw the tears, asking me what was wrong. I held up my hand, the one closest to the streetlight; it was crimson. She yelled at me for being irrational, herself tearing up as she shouted the harsh words of disbelief. I was right and she knew it. Something had changed though, this time he wasn't on the block when he died, yet his blood still came out of the lights. It, what ever it was, was growing.

Turns out debate was an excuse for him and his friends to do drugs after class in the ravine that ran behind the school. I'm not just talking about smoking a dime at 4:20, I mean serious shit that even I would never do. My parents and I saw the signs scattered about his room only after he overdosed in the creek. His drawers were filled with used syringes. I guess he was too scared to ever throw them out. My parents decided that day to finally move.

And for the next 10 years I forgot about the streetlights, only remembering the sicko that killed my first crush, the idiotic driver that ended a life as it was beginning, and my brother's poor decisions. I had moved on, just like everyone else had when all those people passed away. The only reason I bothered to think about all this again, or even remember it existed, is that as I pulled into the driveway from work, the streetlight started leaking red, and my kid nor my wife had gotten back from their day.

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