Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Microfiction: "Feed the Block"

This story was inspired by the extremes of despair that I see all around me as I teach in the South Bronx.

FEED THE BLOCK

Been on this block since 1895. Seen em come and go. You know what? In all that time, ain’t nothing changed. What I mean is, the people change but they don’t improve. Act like trash, think like trash, do like trash. It’s trash and garbage all over, on the floor, in the hallways, in their hearts. And it hurts me. Personally. All a these stupid girls chasing styles so boys can knock em up before they quit growing. And forget the boys. Dumber than the girls, ready to fight and kill over imaginary insults and fake problems. No use telling them what they real problems are. No, man, they don’t want to listen. They afraid to understand what the real deal is, because they’d fall into despair, which is what a little reality will do to you if you’re an ignorant dickhead. Rather go to Riker’s than school. Rather do time than make a nice living. Rather stay on this block than go out and find the world. Want to be somebody on the block than a nobody living in a decent house on Long Island. Yeah, that’s real smart. Like I said, they come and go but they don’t improve.

I’m holding this block together. That’s why I put up with it. If I don’t, what will happen to the good ones? Like right now. Look there. On the landing outside 3C. See that kid, about twelve, thirteen? His old man’s no good. Druggie. Beats him up all the time. He’s a good kid—nice boy does his school work and helps his mama out with the chores and the little brothers, cause she’s the one who works in that family. A lonely boy, all them heavy responsibilities. And all that fear. Look at him now—staggering around, face all swole up and bruised. See him leaning up against the wall?

“I can’t go back inside,” the boy mutters. “I can’t take this no more. Go jump off the roof. Better than this shit life.”

I hear him. How many times have I seen this, heard it. And maybe he’s right. No way out.

And maybe not. I know a way. It ain’t so bad. And he’d be with others just like him. Not lonely no more. Whaddaya say? Shall we invite him in? It’s 4 AM. Silence. No TV, no cursing, no sex noise. Sssh. The best time for this. The quietest, deadest hour of night. Yeah, it’s time. Time to feed the block.

See. Now the boy’s putting his swole-up cheek against the cool wall. He moves his whole body close, places his ear exactly so’s he can hear. He don’t breathe. Feel him listening.

“I hear you,” the boy whispers. “Your heart’s beatin.” He steps back, looks hard at my wall. “You’re alive.” He places both his palms against me. His hands sink into the soft, warm surface. The boy’s red eyes and mouth open wide.

Come on in, son. Keep me company.

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