Monthly Archives: November 2016
One Hundred and Nineteenth Street and Ninety Fourth Avenue. Just a corner in the New York City borough of Queens. Like thousands of other corners. In a city as planned as New York it is easy to find this exact corner. Nothing looks unique about it. Four rounded corners of concrete. Four asphalt traffic lanes, plus two parking lanes, run North to South. Two asphalt traffic lanes, plus two parking lanes, run East to West. These roads meet. The Government put a traffic light to control the commuters. And, six boys made it their home.
This corner is smack in the middle of an old planned neighborhood called Richmond Hill. What was once farmland is now a map grid of streets with neat rows of houses. The houses are a mixture of old and new construction. Most are built of wood but some are of brick. The monotony is broken up by parks, schools and churches. Each of these houses contain working class families who are desperate to maintain a toehold on the “American Dream”.
Six boys have meet on the corner everyday since Middle School. Now in High School the ritual stays the same. They meet everyday before school and walk the six blocks together.
Always a good idea to move with a group, especially when you never know when a racially fueled fight might break out. They also love to play sports together. Basketball almost everyday but Fall is dominated by football and Summer is a time for baseball or stick-ball. But this group gets together for more than just protection or fun. No, this is about family. Sure all six have a home with a bed. But behind close doors there is little to do but avoid the conflicts that abound. Everyone’s parents is caught up working to pay the bills so the children, especially grown children, are left to their own devices. So the boys have made this family of their own.
The corner isn’t warm in Winter nor is it cool in Summer but they meet there just the same. For only on the corner can you meet your peers who share in your fears. Only on the corner can you plan the next conquests, either legal or not. Only on the corner does a bright future seem possible.
All six are proud of their corner, and keep it clean. They shout at the girls as they pass. They threaten other boys to stay away if they know what is right. And they challenge everyone with their presence.
Who could have known that a corner would become a home for these six young men?
© 2016 Allen J Spiro
For you road trips seem a big waste of time. Long rides in the big red truck. Your bladder always hurts from holding back the flow of pee till there is a stop. But the back seat is set up pretty nice. Your favorite old blanket is there if you want to sleep. Of course, there is always something to look out at from the window. You have learned to enjoy these rides because you never know where they end up. As you have heard said by your Dad “life is an adventure, so enjoy the ride.” You sigh.
Today the rocking truck puts you to sleep. You dream of past lives. City streets, apartments, elevators and so many cars to dodge. In those days it was a tall lady you called Mommy. She wore a dead animal across her shoulders but called you her baby boy. You are startled from these dreams as the truck lurches down a dirt road. You look up. This all looks so familiar to you. Smells are coming through the open window that seal it. This was home.
The truck stops in front of a blue house with a big porch full of stuff. Yes, you are sure. This was home, not so long ago. You cannot remember the Old Lady’s name because everyone called her something different. Some called her Mom, others Grandma. But others called her Mrs G or Betty or Sully too many to chose from. So you called her Old Lady. She named you Jerry. Never was sure why she called you that.
As soon as the door on the truck is open you jump out, forgetting age. Your nostrils flair. Ahhh, the smells. Your cannot help but to run around the entire perimeter of the blue house. Here you smell that cat, there you smell those mice and in this corner is a raccoon you don’t recognize. But something is missing. The Old Lady, you cannot smell even a hint of her out here. Must have been the rain. It has hidden her from you. Your Dad is going into the back door. Pushing in right behind you breath in the house for clues. You smell her but the scent is old!
Bounding up the three stairs into the kitchen. Everything looks the same but different. You are unsure what has happened. The Old Lady should be here. Running into the next room. No new scents! Everything smells stale. Quickly you go room to room. Nothing. But you don’t give up. You know the Old Lady never strays far from the blue house. Quickly you retrace your path through the house. Still nothing new to smell except Dad, who hasn’t moved from the kitchen. The basement door is open so you carefully move down the dim stairs. You explore the entire basement carefully. The only thing that was new were mice. You can smell that they have been everywhere. The mice have been in all of her stuff but you cannot smell the Old Lady!
Your Dad calls “Come’On Jerry”. So you head back up the stairs. Dad and you go for a walk down the road. You never walk this far with the Old Lady. But now you are at the Church she goes to every week. Maybe she is here? But your Dad walks past the building to the field of stones. You follow as he threads his way trough the stones to a fresh mound of dirt covered with flowers. You are not sure why Dad brought you here. You can tell he is sad as he kneels. You sit and wait while Dad talks to himself. He gets up and you follow him back to the red truck.
You climb back into the truck. Difficult to find any comfort in the blankets on the large back seat. You can only smell your own odor. You sigh, looking out the window. You never have seen a moon so large. A harvest moon it is being called by Dad. The silvery orb is pulling forth so many emotions. You want to howl. But you cannot. That man so long ago made you go on a trip to that place where they took your voice. So now you look out the window and miss the Old Lady, in silence.
© 2016 Allen J Spiro