Our neighborhood on East 59th Street was an urban backwater, a still pool off the main drag where everything and everybody swirled slow and lazy. As kids we hoped — no, we knew — one day we’d catch the current of Kennedy Boulevard and be swept away forever.
Sundays were the worst. Once noon mass let out most people got raptured away to their kitchens and living rooms or to some out-of-town relatives. Real ghost town outside. TV was dull after the Bowery Boys finished their routines. Whatever Mom cooked always involved boiling water that steamed up the windows. Made that apartment feel even smaller.
This Sunday was like every other one. The corner store was closed. Me and my friends Dwayne and Izzy stood at the glass door, coveting the Hostess cupcakes resting on wire racks just beyond the doorway. Cream-filled devil’s food delight with white swirls on top of chocolate icing, taunting us from the store’s dusty shadows. I was five, Dwayne and Izzy were six.
If we bust the window we could get some cupcakes, I said. Dwayne went round the side of the store to the gravel parking lot, came back with the corner of a cinder block and heaved it through the door. The glass shattered the day like a starting gun. Izzy was in and out and down the street before anyone else showed up. Dwayne stood there expecting thanks. I stepped back saying look what somebody did.
The dads paid for the door. I was still allowed in the place. But I never saw the other two after that. Some of us really did manage to get out of that neighborhood.
I heard Dwayne was somebody’s bag man when he got killed. Izzy’s probably in office or in jail. Me? I’ve always been an idea guy. I do all right.
Bill Merklee loves short stories, short films, and very short songs. His work has appeared in Flash Flood Journal, Ellipsis, Bending Genres, X-R-A-Y, Ghost Parachute, Gravel, Columbia, New Jersey Monthly, and the HIV Here & Now project. He lives in New Jersey. Occasional tweets @bmerklee.
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