Trotsky’s Terrible Tuesday

(Written in April 2019)

It’s the tail end of a gorgeous summer day in Coyoacán. It’s August 20, 1940; the Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia Sedova are drinking mint tea in the garden of their villa in this rural borough of Mexico City. They’re sitting on a stone bench under the shade of many tall royal palmetto trees, facing the garden of tropical flowers and rare cacti which Trotsky has meticulously cultivated these past few years. Thoroughly-needled tubes of mammillaria glochidiata cacti are backed by a shrub of pink dahlias with thousands of small tongue-like petals. Clucking comes from their nearby enclosure of chickens and the resonant plucking of a guitarrón is heard in the distance.

The stress from years of exile has aged the pair. Both of their hairs have faded to gray and Trotsky has put on a few pounds. The quiet lifestyle of this Mexican villa suits them, however, and it shows in their relaxed apparel. He is wearing a sleek white button-down and gray trousers (having ditched the suit jacket in this climate) and Natalia is in only a thin striped blouse and a long black skirt.

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Faraday

(Written in April 2019)

March 30, 2011. My first big item, a Nintendo 3DS. At this point, I’d been stealing on a near-daily basis. It started with that bag of chips in the school cafeteria but it quickly progressed to retail. At first I’d justify it to myself as stealing things that I wanted so I didn’t have to pay for them, but I knew that I was really doing it for the rush. The rush you get from the weight of your full pockets, and that rush you get when the automatic door opens and your thieving ass is safe.

I got Trey roped into this early on, and I’ve not since experienced a bond at all similar to the kind that I formed with this partner in crime. Video games were our treasure of choice since we didn’t need to sell games to get value out of them. You just had to locate the security camera, get your buddy to cover you, and slip that game in your pocket. Then you had the choice of walking out nonchalantly or buying some cheap item as a decoy if anyone gave you a funny look. Of course, we would steal anything if we felt like it; even something as monotonous as a pack of batteries. Trey and I thought of ourselves as redistributors of wealth, not villains.

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Positive

(Written in April 2019)

It’s a hot August day on Rikers Island. Of course, I can only tell that it’s daytime from the rays of light shining between the bars of this cell’s tiny window. No one’s been around to enforce bedtime in days, nor let anyone out for a meal, shower, or recreation in the yard. That fucker down the hall is moaning again. Does he think anyone hears him? Nobody’s coming to help you, buddy! Can’t you smell the death stinking up this shithole, begging for the sweet escape of an open window, a door, anything​? The stench of the diarrhea and vomit that soaks the clothes of my criminal neighbors had gone from an infuriating olfactory presence to my new normal.

My name’s Eric Porter, and I guess I’m a survivor. Oops, that sounded like a hokey line from an NA meeting. Well, it’s true. Every night last week, the whole block would huddle around the big wall-mounted CRT TV over in the rec room to get the latest updates on the superflu. It popped up in Montana and spread hundreds of miles in a flash. 100% lethality and seemingly airborne transmission. Of course there was a riot in here when the news came that it was in New York, but what could we do when they brought out the tear gas and tasers? Into your cell you go and into your cell you die.

Except me. And that other guy. That was 5 days ago so I’m starting to get hungry in spite of the stench. All I’ve had to eat is some of the skin above my fingernails, but I’ve been doing that since I had to kick meth on account of my imprisonment. I’m not too far above moany guy, I just express myself differently. Right after the cell block got real quiet, my favorite pasttime was to poke my nose through my cell door and shake the thick white bars hoping that someone would come rescue us. Now I’ve given up and await impending doom. I lay in my hard, white cot and stare at the hard, gritty ceiling to conserve energy, only getting up to relieve myself in the stainless steel toilet or drink water from the tap above it.

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Not a golfer

(Written in February 2019)

I’m walking down a dirty city street at night when I see a neon green golf ball in the gutter beside a crumpled newspaper. It looks unmarred, like someone had stolen it from a mini golf place earlier today and it fell from their pocket. I must be the first person to notice this ball since it ended up here, since there’s no way that anyone could leave it alone. Without thinking and without choice, I pick it up. I look for markings but there are none besides the normal concave patterning on its surface. The ball fits easily in my right pants pocket.

I keep moving, and my house is now only 3 blocks away. The nearest streetlight is busted but my eyes are adapted to the dark at this point. Another green thing in the gutter catches my eye, but this time it’s a $5 bill. I think that this is just a weirdly lucky day, and stuff it into my left pocket.

“Hey!” I spin around and a man out of a bush to my right. In his right hand is a gun, pointed right at me.

“It’s your lucky day, pal. Empty your pockets.”

He must have planted the bill as a honeypot. I had left my phone and wallet at home for this brief walk, so all I can offer him is the golf ball and his $5 bill.

“What the hell is…” he mutters as I hand him the ball. He seems entranced by it, and I take the opportunity to run away. I steal a glance back once I’m a full block away and he’s still standing in the same place, staring at the ball.

The next day, I go on the internet and read a news article about a man that was struck and killed by a car the night before in my neighborhood. He was carrying no identification and had an illegal handgun in his pocket. The driver claims that he ran in front of the car out of nowhere.

I hear a knock at my front door and go to answer it. I open the door and only see a thick yellow packing envelope addressed to me. I bring it inside and open it. Inside of it is that wondrous, glowing, neon green golf ball.

Times with Tim

(Written in April 2019)

The summer before 7th grade, a new family moved in across the street. It was a single mother and a boy named Tim, same age as myself. No, it’s not short for Timothy. His full first name is Timothan.

“My dad wanted me to have the same name as him: Jonathan”, Tim explained. “But my mom thought it was too traditional, so Timothan was the compromise.”

I first saw him pushing one of those manual mowers across his lawn one afternoon. Mind you, this was in a gated community where the lawns were kept tidy and short by landscapers.

“Hey, the grass is already cut. Why are you doing that?” I asked him.

“Because it’s fun,” he replied deadpan.

“Let me try.”

He moved aside and I pushed the mower, it’s cylinder rotating effortlessly as I continued down the trajectory Tim had set. I felt strong as I glided down the lawn, the wheels slightly indenting the grass, knowing that this would be a lot harder if the mower was actually mowing. I guess it is fun, after all.

A few days later, Tim knocked on my door and invited me to his house to play video games. After many fierce rounds of Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 in his basement, we went upstairs to get some food. He picked a baguette from the table and put it on a cutting board. He then painstakingly removed the crust—as in, the entire exterior of the baguette—and threw it in the trash. I thought it was a joke until he threw the crust in the trash and offered me half of the soft cylinder of bread innards remaining.

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