I realized, turning the corner and finding the boys laughing around the fire barrel, that I disliked most species of laughter.
Surprise laughter startles me. Bitter laughter tires me. Sincere laughter makes me feel left out.
I got close enough without the boys noticing me to see that they weren’t burning trash in that barrel.
The broad laughter of office men is too smug and dumb. Happy hour laughter, too like the canned humor of future suicides. Old woman laughter, like sugared tea sweetened with cyanide.
I wondered if I should just go tell the boys’ mothers, but my fingers wrapped my police baton.
Women’s laughter, I get paranoid. Men laughing, pissed too. Drugged laughter, sad. Little boy laughter, bitter knowing the kinds of things they’ll be laughing about in a few years. Little girl laughter, depressed, like watching a bird soar right for a glass window.
I got close enough to see what was in the barrel. It had stopped moving. The boys were still laughing.
The laughter of teen boys is the worst: The laughter of hyenas. Laughing at the cries of others. Laughing loudest when they see blood. Laughing to shit where they live. Laughing because this planet will belong to them, because no will stop them, because we will hurt like they do and worse.
I was near enough to smell the hair and fat of the puppy they’d burned alive, under the gas fumes, when the boys turned to me. Some still snickered to see my badge.
I covered it up when I drew out my baton.