(This was his idea)
“Hurry up! We‟re gonna be late!” screamed my mom.
“Okay! I‟ve got everything!” I screamed back.
Slinging my backpack on, I hopped into the full size van of a friend of ours and we took
off. My dad, my mom, and my sister were seated in the back while I was seated on the
passenger‟s side. Our flight was at 9 in the morning and we were suppose to be there a half
hour early to check in, but considering there was a forecast for a lot of snow this day, we planned
on leaving around 7. It was now 7:30 and, by the looks of it, the weatherman was right for
once. Larry kept the van at 45 the whole time and we got to the airport around 8:30 . . . an hour
for travel when it would normally take a half hour.
After checking in our luggage and saying bye to our friend, we proceeded to our gate in a
hurry. The airport wasn‟t very big (though you would think it was from the name: Fort Wayne
International), so we just breezed past security, took the escalator upstairs, and we were at our
gate. It was now 8:45 and we proceeded to our gate only to see that our flight was delayed until
“Why‟s it delayed?” asked my dad.
The attendant at the gate answered, “We need to clear the runway and defrost the plane.”
“Terrific, now we‟re going to miss Les Miserables.”
“I‟m sure they can refund our tickets,” my mom assured.
“But it‟s Les Miserables!” my sis and I whined.
With a voice starting to raise in volume, my mom said, “We‟ll see it when it comes to Ft.
“It‟s not the Broadway cast,” my dad observed.
Picking up her hand carries, my mom huffed, “Complain all you want, we‟re still missing
the show. I‟m going to sit down and wait over there so I don‟t have to listen to you three
And with that, my mom took her things and sat down in front of the big glass window
overlooking all the runways. Dad, my sis, and I looked at each other, shrugged, and sat down
next to mom. Looking out the window, we could even see our plane, covered in snow and
looking like anything but ready to fly. The wind picked up and died, making swirls of white in
the air and covering the runways with more snow.
“I‟m hungry!” my sister said.
“Me too,” I agreed. I stood up in front of my mom, held out a hand, and said, “Give me
some money for food.”
My mom pulled out her purse, handed me some cash, and said, “Get me a chicken salad
My sister heard her and said, “Ohhh, that sounds good, get that for me too!”
“Me too,” my dad said.
“Okay, 3 chicken salad sandwiches. And if you want drinks, the vending machine‟s
over there.” I pointed behind them. Indeed, there were some drink vending machines.
I went down to get the sandwiches at the little restaurant downstairs and brought them
back up. I had decided to get a chicken salad sandwich too, just to make things easier. After
handing everyone their food, I looked at my watch: 9:15. Almost two hours until we left . . . not
too bad. Besides, we had good entertainment in front of us.
There were trucks plowing and salting the runways. The trucks plowing the runways
were about as big as those trucks you see plowing the roads, the difference was instead of a big
shovel in the front, there was a huge attachment that looked like an oversized snowblower.
“Jeez, those must be the industrial strength snowblowers,” I commented.
Behind the trucks doing the plowing were the same type of trucks but without the
attachment. Instead, there were men riding on the back of the truck throwing salt down.
Everything looked well and good except for one thing: the wind kept blowing the snow back
onto the runways. And what was even stupider was the trucks were plowing and salting into the
“Um, shouldn‟t they be doing that the other way?” my sis asked.
But they kept on doing it that way until the salt trucks ran out of salt. Both sets of trucks
left the runways, and in a few minutes, the wind had blown all the snow back.
Directly in front of us was even better. You know those trucks phone companies use?
It‟s the ones where there‟s an arm in the back that lifts a person up high. The plane crew was
using that to lift up a guy, who was all bundled up and held what looked like a hose used to put
out fires. When he was high enough, he opened the hose and a spray of pink liquid erupted.
The liquid turned into steam as it contacted the plane and the snow and frost disappeared. After
a half hour, one of the plane‟s wings was clean.
I looked at my watch: 10.
“They better hurry up with that if they‟re gonna finish the whole plane in time.”
“Or not,” my sister said, pointing to the departure time. It now read 2.
Mom and dad didn‟t say anything, but they had that look about them as if they found out
college tuitions had gone up 10%. They weren‟t happy.
We continued to watch the guy defrost the plane. It was around the back tailwing of the
plane that he ran out of the pink liquid. He let go of the hose and it fell to the ground. Then he
pulled on a lever to lower himself to the ground, but the arm didn‟t move. After a couple more
pulls of the lever, the guy gave up and started jumping up and down, hoping that would lower
him. It didn‟t work.
My sis and I started chuckling at the scene.
The guy gave up on jumping and just stood there. Some of the other crew were stood
under him and talked, obviously trying to figure something out. After a couple minutes, the
crew dispersed, leaving the guy stuck up there. Then, in an act of desperation, the guy started to
climb out of his place. From the look of it, he was gonna climb down the arm to safety.
“Holy shit, that‟s dangerous!” I yelled.
By this time, everyone else who was on the delayed flight was watching too. People
were commenting on the scene in front of us:
“That‟s not very smart.”
“Why don‟t they get a crane or something?”
“If that guy tries it, he deserves to fall and break his neck.”
But the guy didn‟t try it. He climbed back into his original position, unsure of the climb
down. Just then, a small vehicle approached. Attached to the back of it was a conveyer belt
tilted up at a steep angle. Normally used to load the luggage, it looked like they were gonna use
it to rescue their buddy from his compromised position. The person driving the vehicle pulled a
lever, raising the conveyer belt as high as it would go. He pulled the vehicle in as close as
possible to the guy‟s position, but the conveyer belt wasn‟t high enough. Only a couple feet
separated the guy from his rescue.
“That sucks,” my sis said.
All the crew appeared again and looked on as the situation seemed hopeless now. But to
our surprise, the guy decided to be brave again and reached for the conveyer belt.
“He better not!” I said.
The guy was able to reach the conveyer belt with his leg, but it was a stretch. Pulling his
leg back in, he stood there motionless for a little bit. We were all in suspense, waiting for what
would happen next, and we didn‟t wait long, because the next thing he did was leap from his
position toward the conveyer belt. All of us held our breadth . . . and let it out as the guy slid
down the conveyer belt to the ground.
“That was one hell of a leap!” someone exclaimed.
“He‟s one lucky bastard!” someone else added.
The whole crew gave the guy a hug as he reached the ground, and we all clapped for him,
even though it was the stupidest thing we‟d ever seen. But it wasn‟t over. When they tried to
drive the vehicle away, it wouldn‟t move. The wheels spun, but the contraption didn‟t budge,
and instead sank deeper into the snow. Even rocking the thing didn‟t get it out. The man
driving jumped out, ran out of sight, and came back with a shovel. After shoveling some of the
snow out, he jumped back into the driver‟s seat, started the sucker up, and stepped on the gas.
The vehicle promptly went nowhere again.
“I wonder what he‟s gonna do now?” I asked.
Another failed attempt at rocking followed . . . then more shoveling, then more rocking.
Eventually, the guy just jumped out of the vehicle and never came back. Everyone watching
dispersed, since it seemed the entertainment was now over.
“What time are we leaving now?” I asked.
Sis looked at the departure time. “It says 5.”
“Delayed again? Are we ever gonna get out of here?”
I looked at my watch and it read 11. The day seemed to be taking it‟s time.
Mom was already taking a nap, but dad heard our little exchange. He slowly stood up,
then walked methodically over to the attendant at the gate. I couldn‟t hear exactly what he said
to the attendant, but the attendant held up two hands as if to shield herself from dad‟s onslaught.
Dad was now leaning forward and his neck muscles were fully tensed. His yelling drew
I looked at my sister with amusement, then looked at my mom and was surprised to see
her fully awake. I guess she knew the sound of dad yelling even from far away.
After a couple minutes, dad stopped and slowly walked back to his seat and took his time
sitting down. Mom, me, and sis leaned towards him to hear what he had to say.
“We‟re getting another flight,” he said calmly.
At his words, we picked up our stuff and went back downstairs to where the ticket
counters were. Dad did more of his patented “lean forward and yell” technique of speaking and
got us some tickets to St. Louis at noon (our original flight was to Detroit). So we went back
upstairs with our stuff and waited at the gate right next to our original flight. As we sat down,
everyone clapped, and dad took a bow.
After a half hour of uneventful waiting, the gate attendant called for us to board and so
we did. The plane we were riding was a small, 2 propeller engine plane, only sitting about 40
passengers. We climbed up the little stair ladder into it, put away our luggage in the overhead
compartments, and sat in our assigned seats. On one side of the aisle were 3 seats and on the
other side only two, so I was stuck sitting next to a stranger.
The lady I sat next to was dressed in a brown fur coat and fur hat. I couldn‟t tell what
her age was, but she looked like she was in her 40's or so.
“Your flight was delayed, wasn‟t it?” she asked me, in a very non-threatening voice.
“Yeah, three times, so my dad got us another flight.”
After a little chuckle, she said, “I noticed him yelling at the gate attendant.”
“He can be a little outspoken at times,” I replied with a smile.
“Well, I personally don‟t understand why they delayed it so much. I think they‟re a
little wimpy here in Fort Wayne. You see, I come from St. Louis to Fort Wayne all the time to
visit my family here, and they‟ve never delayed the flight over there.”
And she and I continued chatting on our way to St. Louis. I don‟t remember what else
we chatted about, but it sure made the time go by fast, because before I knew it, we were
approaching the airport (the flight was an hour long). All of a sudden, the ride became a lot
rougher. The pilot said something over the intercom about some rough air, but we were all
trying not to lose our lunches. It felt like a roller coaster that was trying to get off it‟s tracks . . .
the side to side movement was accompanied by short drops and climbs.
Someone behind us said, “Oh fuck, is this normal?”
Someone else answered, “Yeah, this is how it always is.”
I looked out the window to see the ground quickly coming up to meet us, and within a
few moments, the plane set down rather suddenly and the erratic movements stopped. Everyone
breathed a sigh of relief.
The captain said his usual speech about staying seated until the plane stopped, and we
did. As the plane came to a halt in front of the gates, everyone stood up, got their luggage, and
exited the plane. I noticed as I walked to the gate that the ground seemed to be moving under
my feet and I felt a little woozy, and from the way everyone else walked, they felt woozy too.
We entered the airport and followed the signs to the next gate for our next flight. As we
walked through the airport, we noticed an abundance of restaurants and shops.
“Wow, it looks like a mall in here,” my sis said.
Before we reached the gate, we looked at the departure monitors to see what was going
on with our flight to New York. Low and behold, it was delayed . . . until 9.
“This sucks,” I dead panned.
We proceeded to our gate, put our things down, and sat. What we had gone through was
enough already, but this was just gratuitous. Exhausted already, my mom and dad promptly fell
asleep. Sis and I were tired too, but we wanted to look around the airport, so we got up and
walked around. The place really was like a mall, with everything from a stuffed animal store to
coffee cafes. Later on for dinner, we got McDonalds and some Chinese food.
It was around 8 that they announced our flight was canceled. Needless to say, we were
all unhappy. Dad decided not to yell this time because all flights to New York were canceled,
and trying to get a route through another city would just be a waste. Mom got in the ticket line
to see what we were suppose to do. She came back with some slips of paper with stuff printed
“They‟re putting us in a place called the „Sleep Inn‟ for the night. The airline‟s paying
“That‟s it?” I asked.
“Well, that‟s what they said. Just be thankful we don‟t have to sleep here.”
So we picked our stuff up and proceeded to the shuttle stops. There, we boarded a little
bus and it brought us through the city of St. Louis. It was dark outside and the city lights were
on. I could see that there were hills all around, and the roads wrapped around them like boa
constrictors wrapped around their prey. Among these roads was the Sleep Inn.
The shuttle dropped us off and we entered the hotel. I was quite surprised by how small
it was, with the lobby being no bigger than a waiting room to a restaurant. Mom got out room
keys and we proceeded to the elevator. We boarded the elevator and pressed the button to the
My dad looked at me and said, “You should write a story about this.”
I smiled and said, “Yeah, it would make a good story . . . but it‟s not over yet.”
We reached our floor, entered our room, put our bags down (the airport still had our
luggage), and collapsed on the beds, my sis and I on one and mom and dad on the other. Sleep
found us very quickly.
The first thought I had when I woke up was, Damn, it’s cold. I stood up from the bed,
shivering all over, and walked over to the room‟s heating unit. The knobs were on full blast, but
the thing wasn‟t working. Great, more bad luck.
Mom, dad, and sis were awoken to the sound of me kicking the heater and cussing at it.
I looked at them and apologized. I noticed we were still wearing our clothes from the day
before, coats and all, and realized we must‟ve fallen asleep right away.
I asked my mom, “What time are we suppose to be downstairs for our shuttle?”
She rubbed her eyes, yawned, and answered, “Ten o‟clock.”
I looked at the digital clock on top of the T.V. and it read 8:10.
“I get first shower!” sis yelled.
I scowled at her.
Dad coughed, then said, “Hurry up so we can eat breakfast too.”
And so we took our turns taking quick showers, using the cheap hotel soaps and
shampoos since all our stuff was in our suitcases. We even had to wear the same clothes, since
our clean clothes were in there too. Can you say eww?
We picked up our stuff, locked the room, and made our way downstairs for our
complimentary breakfast. The “dining room” was nothing more than an employee‟s lounge
with some extra chairs and tables. And our breakfast consisted of cereal, bagels, fruits and
vegetables. There wasn‟t a hot meal in sight, unless you counted coffee.
“So, you think we‟ll be delayed again today?” I asked.
No one answered.
We finished what little we were eating and made it to our shuttle in time. On our way to
the airport, I could see the city much better in the daylight. There were tall buildings in the
lower parts of the hills while houses and other smaller buildings populated the higher elevations.
All of it reminded me of the high hills and mountains we used to cross on our way to Florida for
spring breaks years ago.
Arriving at the airport, it felt almost second nature doing this routine again. Mom
checked us in at the ticket booth, we took our stuff through security, and proceeded once again to
the same gate we were at last night. This time, the flight was on time. Maybe today would be
Not long after we settled down, the gate attendant called for boarding. Things seemed to
move a lot quicker now, which was fine by me. We picked up our stuff, went to the gate,
walked down the long hallway to the plane, showed our tickets, struggled through the narrow
aisles to our seats, put our stuff in the overhead compartments, sat down, and buckled our
seatbelts. And before long, the plane was in the air and we were finally going to arrive in New
The first thing I noticed as we approached was the sheer size of the city. We weren‟t
even near downtown yet and already there were houses and small buildings stretching for what
seemed to be miles and miles. I realized these must‟ve been the city‟s many suburbs. Our
plane was approaching much more smoothly than our last one, probably because it was a bigger
plane and the wind wasn‟t as bad. We crossed a big lake before touching down . . . I was a little
nervous that we were going to be touching down in the water, but thankfully, I was mistaken.
The next few moments after we got off the plane were all a blur. I remember going to
the luggage claim and finding that the airport personnel had taken everyone‟s suitcases off the
conveyer belt and left them on the floor in no particular order. We had to look for our suitcases
among perhaps hundreds, but we were able to find all of them. Then the next task was getting
transportation to our hotel. We stepped outside and for the first time, we came in contact with
New York traffic and culture. It was NOISY, with people in their cars honking their horns and
even more people yelling for rides from taxi cabs.
Tentatively, we fell into a line where a police officer was being courteous enough to stop
cabs for the uninitiated. As we waited, I looked at how much stuff we had and thought we
might have to take two taxis.
“Mom!” I yelled above the car noises. “We might have to take two taxis! So why don‟t
you give me the address to the hotel!?”
She nodded and pulled out her itinerary from her big purse. “It‟s called the Lyden
Gardens Hotel . . . North Manhattan, on one-hundredth street!”
“Write it down on something else!”
She tore off a piece of the itinerary, wrote on it, and gave it to me.
In mere moments, we were at the front of the line and the police officer had a cab waiting
for us. The driver was tall, at least six foot, with a pot belly, dark hair, tan skin, and thick
prescription glasses in big brown rims. He loaded our stuff in the back and all of it fit,
amazingly enough. Dad, mom, and sis sat in the back while I had to sit in the passenger‟s seat.
The cab driver jumped back into the car, threw it in drive, looked to his left, honked his
horn, and entered traffic with reckless abandon. “Whe woood you like to goooo?” he asked
with an obvious accent. I was suddenly reminded of the stereotyped foreign New York cab
Mom answered, “Lyden Gardens Hotel, North Manhattan . . .”
“Ah yess, I know dat one. I whill get you dere.”
Just then, dad had a little coughing fit.
“Are you okay dad?” sis asked.
Mom felt dad‟s forehead. “You‟re burning up, hun.”
“No you‟re not. When we get you to the hotel, we‟re going to get you some medicine.”
As we made our way from the airport towards the city, I was amazed left and right. One
thing that caught my eye was this cemetery in the middle of the highway . . . it was bigger than
any cemetery I had ever seen. But as we crossed one of the many bridges to Manhattan Island, I
was totally shocked. I had been to Chicago many times, but this was indeed another level of
metropolitization. The island was packed literally to the edge with tall buildings and
“Wow!” I said.
The cab driver looked at me and said (I can‟t write exactly how he talked, so I‟ll just
write what he was actually saying in proper English to make things easier), “Yes, I know how
you feel. But let me tell you something, I both love and hate this city. I once tried to leave it,
but I had to come back. There‟s no place like it on earth.”
He seemed like an interesting guy, so I asked, “Where are you from originally?”
“I am originally from Jordan.”
“That‟s a long way off. How‟d you end up here?”
“I had to flee to this country.”
“Ooooo, government get you down?”
“No, I killed a man.”
All of us were stunned silent and just stared at the guy.
“I used to work for the government as a hired, how do you say it? Assassin . . . yes.
But they sent me to kill the wrong man and so sent me out of the country never to return. It is
okay, though, I have made a new home for myself here.”
I nodded slowly. The rest of the drive was made in silence except for dad‟s coughing. I
mean, what could you say after that?
We reached the hotel after some aggressive driving on our cab driver‟s part (I thought a
few times that we were going to die). The hotel was very tall, maybe twenty stories or so, and
there was even a doorman to help us with our stuff. Mom paid the cab driver and he drove off,
leaving us with some information we wished we didn‟t have.
Dad, sis, and I waited in the lobby while mom checked us in. She came back with a look
“What‟s wrong?” I asked.
“They gave us the penthouse.”
“Really? How much more is it gonna cost us?”
“They‟re not going charge us anymore than a regular room.”
“Cool,” sis said.
“Why?” asked dad.
“There was a glitch in their computers and they just couldn‟t fix it.”
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let‟s get up there!” I said.
We hopped onto the closest elevator, pushed the top floor, and waited, not knowing what
to expect. After a little while, the elevator slowed, then stopped. A ring announced our floor
and the doors opened.
It was like we were in a hotel elevator, then we were in a dream home . . . you know, one
of those homes they showcase on the Home and Garden channel, except this was smaller. In
front of us was the combined dining area and kitchen. To our right was the living room area,
and beyond that were some doors that probably led to the bedroom and bathroom. Everything
was decorated in a contemporary style. The dining table was basically a piece of glass and the
dining chairs were made of a black metal of some sort. Under the white, leather couches in the
living room was white carpeting and around the room, the walls were white. The only things
giving the living room color were the framed photocopies of famous paintings hanging on the
walls and the black, big-screen television in front of the couches.
“I like it,” I said.
“Me too,” sis agreed.
Mom and dad didn‟t say anything. I don‟t think mom thought much of the room, and if
you‟ve ever been to our house, you‟ll know that she‟s not too much into modern decoration.
And dad wasn‟t picky about that sort of stuff.
The bellhop brought in our suitcases on a cart and put them down on the living room area
floor. After he was finished, he walked to the door and waited patiently. I realized we were
suppose to tip him.
“How much?” I asked.
“As much as you want to give me sir,” he answered. I noticed that he also had an
accent. . . Russian if I‟m not mistaken.
“How much is the average?”
I looked at mom and she pulled a five from her purse. As she handed it to him, she
asked, “Where‟s the nearest place to get some medicine?”
“That would be just down the street, ma‟am. A block north and there‟s a CVS.”
The bellhop put the five in his pocket. “Have a Merry Christmas.”
After he closed the door, sis and I ran over to the leather couches (there were two, one
directly in front of the T.V. and the other adjacent to it) and flopped down.
“I am gonna like living here!” I said.
My sister nodded in agreement.
Dad coughed a little bit and mom patted his back. “Okay, hun, I‟ll go get some
medicine. Just lie down and rest, okay?”
Dad nodded. Mom put the envelope with our hotels keys on the dining table, pulled out
one of the card-keys, and left the room. Dad walked across the living area to the far door,
opened it, and entered. Sis and I got up and looked into the room. If there was a size for the
round, red bed in the middle of the room, it would be emperor-sized. To the left of the room
were dressers and closets built right into the wall and to the right was a wall covered in mirror
plates. I supposed the rich must‟ve really liked to look at themselves. Dad just slowly walked
to the bed and flopped down.
Sis and I looked at each other, then we scurried over to the other door on the opposite
side of the T.V. I opened the door and inside was the bathroom. To the left was a huge mirror
above the two sinks. Fluorescent lamps lined the edges of the mirror so one could see every
detail of their face even at night. Under the sinks were a bunch of drawers, painted black and no
handles in sight.
“How do you open those?” I asked.
Sis reached down, grabbed the lower end, and pulled the drawer out. “Duh, stupid!”
I scowled at her.
At the far end of the bathroom was the shower, embedded in the wall. And to our right
was the bathtub, black and big enough to seat four people.
I closed the door to the room and said to my sis, “I wonder how much this place costs?”
“You probably don‟t even wanna know.”
“You‟re right. Come on, let‟s unpack our stuff.”
We took off our winter coats and shoes and put them in the closet which was right next to
the bathroom door. As my sister proceeded to get into her suitcase, I dragged mom‟s and dad‟s
suitcases to the bedroom before I got into my own. My suitcase wasn‟t very big, since I packed
just a weeks worth of clothes and the necessities. But my sister, holy shit, she had a ton of stuff.
Her suitcase was about twice as big as mine and what she had in there that took up so much
space, I have no idea. I didn‟t think she was very high maintenance . . . I guess I was wrong.
“Hey, I‟m hungry, we should order lunch,” I said.
“Yeah . . . let‟s try the room service!”
We found a menu list on the little glass table in front of the couches along with a
hardbound tourist guide to the city. I call it a menu list because there were actually several
menus in there, one for just about every kind of food there is. There were menus for Japanese,
Chinese, Italian, American, French, and Mexican food, to name a few. Mom loved Japanese, so
we knew she‟d want to order that. I decided to try the Italian food (Parmesan chicken is my
favorite . . . it‟s orgasmic) and sis tried the Chinese. We asked dad what he wanted and he said
he‟d share with mom, so we picked up the phone, called each number on the menus, and ordered
what we wanted. In about a half hour, all our food was brought to our room by the bellhop.
Mom came back with the medicine soon afterward.
“What took you so long?” sis asked.
“I couldn‟t decide what medicine to get your father, so I got them all. How much did the
“I don‟t know, they said they‟ll charge it to our room.”
“It smells really good.”
I pointed to one of the Styrofoam boxes. “This one‟s for you and dad. It‟s California
rolls with shrimp and vegetable tempura.”
My mom smiled. Not very many things made her really giddy, but Japanese food was
one of them. Dad came out of the bedroom and we ate our food.
The rest of the day, we didn‟t do too much else. After the hell we‟d been through
getting there, we just wanted to relax and enjoy the room. Mom hovered around dad, seeing
how he was doing and giving him his medicine. Sis and I watched T.V. and the same crap that
was on in our hometown was on here, so we just turned it off after a while. Instead, we opened
up the tourist guide to the city and planned what we wanted to do. The Manhattan area alone
had so much stuff to do, I mean, there were museums, the famous Fifth avenue with all those
shops, Times Square, Radio City, Central Park, Chinatown, and much more. We should‟ve had
a month here to explore the place, but we‟d have to squeeze in as much as we could in five days.
Mom came into the living area and said, “Your father has the flu, I think. He‟s in no
condition to go out.”
“Ah, poor dad,” sis said.
“So, I‟m going to stay with him here. But you two can still go out and have fun. Here .
. .” Mom got into her purse, pulled out a huge wad of cash, split it in two, and gave each of us
half. I quickly counted my share and it came to $500.
“You sure about this?” I asked.
“Yes, just be careful with it.”
“Okay, we will.” I turned to sis. “Wanna look around the block before nightfall?”
We both stood up and put on our shoes and coats.
Mom said, “Take the other card-key. And if anything happens, you call here, okay?”
“Will do mom,” I assured her.
And with that, my sis and I went downstairs and walked around the block. There‟s not
much to tell about this first outing, except to say we were surprised by how much stuff was
within walking distance. Along with that CVS, we saw a grocery, two or three different kinds
of restaurants, a clothing store, a Cashmere store, and a toy store. I thought, if there‟s this much
stuff in one block, how much was there in the entire city? I couldn‟t imagine.
It was starting to get dark, so we came back to the room. Dad was sleeping because of
his medicine and mom was reading one of her romance novels (she always brought one wherever
she went). For dinner, we ordered room service again, this time ordering stuff he hadn‟t ever
tried before. After dinner, we decided on sleeping arrangements, which were simple. Mom
and dad got the bedroom, sis got the couch that folded out, and I got the couch that didn‟t. I
normally didn‟t like sleeping on couches, but this was a big leather one, so I didn‟t complain too
much. Sis and I went to bed that night excited for what the next day would bring.
I woke up around 9. After a little stretching, I sat up, slipped on my slippers, and walked
over to the dining area. There wasn‟t a window in the kitchen/dining area, but there was a huge
sliding glass door to the balcony. I slid it open and stepped out, taking in what was probably
very polluted air and looking at the tall buildings all around. I could also see the sun shining
right between two particularly tall glass skyscrapers. Tentatively, I inched my way to the rail of
It‟s hard for me to admit, but I‟m afraid of heights. If I‟m in a plane or some enclosed
space, I‟m fine, but being in the open way up high wasn‟t fun. I took a psychology class one
time and there was a theory that said we have phobias because of some childhood event which
hurt us physically or emotionally, resulting in some emotional scarring and the phobia. I can‟t
tell you what happened to me, but I can tell you that now, whenever I‟m in a high place, my
heart races and my knees feel weak.
I took a quick look over the edge, saw the other 19 stories between me and the sidewalk,
and promptly took a few steps back. Damn, we‟re really high. Having had enough of the view,
I came back into the penthouse and slid the glass door shut.
By this time, sis was awake too, and I could hear dad sneeze through the closed bedroom
door, so mom must‟ve been up too. I walked over and opened the door.
“Morning! You guys hungry? I wanna try some of the room service breakfast.”
Mom stood up from bed and stretched. “Okay, but this is the last time. We don‟t know
how much all this room service is costing us.”
“Okay, what do you want?”
“Anything‟s fine,” Dad said.
“I‟ll order the sampler then.”
I closed the door to give them some privacy, walked over to the kitchen, picked up the
phone, and ordered the breakfast sampler. Not feeling like changing out of my pajamas anytime
soon, I just flopped down on my couch and turned on the T.V. Sis sat up too and watched with
me. Saturday morning cartoons were on.
In twenty minutes, our food arrived. The bellhop brought in a cart with several covered
plates on it and some pitchers of orange juice and milk. After putting the plates and pitchers on
the dining table, he removed all the covers and revealed our meal. There were eggs benedict,
pancakes topped with strawberries, french toast, two or three different kinds of omelettes, hash
browns, and sausage links.
“This is a sampler?” my sis asked.
I tipped the bellhop as he left and he said, “Don‟t worry about the plates, room service
will get them later. Enjoy!”
Sis and I sat down and dug right in. Mom came and joined us, but dad stayed in the
“Why isn‟t dad coming out?” I inquired.
“He doesn‟t want you two to catch what he has. Don‟t worry, just save some food and
I‟ll bring it to him.”
“That should be easy, there‟s a ton of food here.”
Everything was good, which was no less than I‟d expect from penthouse room service.
Even after eating as much as we could, there was still at least a third of the food left. Mom put
dad‟s share on a plate and brought it to him. Sis and I went back to our respective couches and
sat down to digest our food.
“Hey, what do you wanna do today?” I asked her.
“Shop,” she said without hesitation.
“Typical. Okay, how about we explore fifth avenue? The guide says shops line both
sides of that road for a mile.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Alrighty, take a shower and we‟ll go.”
We took our turns in the bathroom. My sis took her customary hour to get ready while I
was ready in a half hour. I noticed from last night that the winter here wasn‟t as cold as it was
back in Ft. Wayne, there wasn‟t even any snow. So we didn‟t bundle up as much as we had
been. I myself had on jeans, a T-shirt under a sweatshirt, and my winter coat. We put on our
shoes and packed our money and wallets in our pockets. I split my money equally between my
wallet, my right back pocket, and my front left pocket. If anyone decided to pickpocket me,
they‟d only get about a third of my cash.
I walked over to the bedroom door and knocked, saying, “We‟re going!”
Mom opened the door. “Okay, but be careful!”
“We will mom.”
“Be back here before dark.”
“And don‟t leave your sister alone!”
“I got it mom!”
I leaned in a little and said, “You want us to get you anything, dad?”
“No, it‟s okay, just have a good time.”
“Okay, hope you feel better! Take care of him mom.”
“I will, but you know your father. He doesn‟t want to be helped.”
“Well, you‟re the one that married him.”
Mom chuckled and kissed me on the cheek. She looked at sis and said, “Don‟t spend too
Sis just looked at her annoyingly.
I looked at my watch: 11:30. “We better get going, we‟ve only got 7 hours.”
“Isn‟t that plenty of time?”
“Yeah, but you know her,” I said as I pointed my thumb back at sis.
She humphed and kicked me in the back of my leg.
Mom laughed and said, “Okay, go then. Do you have the number to the hotel and the
address? In case anything happens.”
“Yeah mom, I‟ve got that piece of paper you gave me yesterday.”
“Good. Have fun!”
I grabbed one of the key cards and we left the hotel.
We took a cab down to the beginning of Fifth avenue. I had seen how busy the place
was in movies and on T.V., but actually being in the middle of it was a totally different
experience. As me and my sis walked along the street, people seemed to be in a hurry, walking
at a frantic pace every which way. At the crosswalks, people walked in front of and in between
cars, sometimes when the “Do Not Walk” sign flashed. I could almost feel a real current
flowing, like a river, except it was people and not water moving.
Sis and I went into a bunch of different stores and explored each as much as we could.
Some stores were small, some were multi-story complexes. Some were glamorous, some
weren‟t. There were even people selling things on the street, everything from jewelry to
paintings to socks. But there was one thing all these places shared in common: everything was
expensive. We would have to choose wisely where to spend our money.
Most of the shops we went into were just really fun to look around. One particularly big
place we went to was the Warner Bros. store. It must‟ve had about 10 floors of stuff, and not all
of it was toys or clothing. The upper floors consisted of a book store, a candy store, and a
coffee shop. What those had to do with Warner Bros., I can‟t say.
Another eye-opener was F.A.O. Swartz. I had seen it in the movie “Big” and had even
visited the store in Indianapolis, but this was indeed another level of toy store. Stuffed animals,
toddler toys, action figures, electronic toys and games . . . everything had it‟s own section, and
these weren‟t small sections either. I think each section could‟ve been it‟s own shop in the mall
back home. There was even a Sanrio section where Hello Kitty merchandise was in abundance.
That made my sister happy. I ended up getting a stuffed Hippopotamus and naming it Poe.
The most shocking place, though, was Tiffany‟s. I had never seen prices like that
before. I mean, the things they were selling weren‟t just expensive, they were insulting and
ridiculous in their pricing. Forget the jewelry, a picture frame alone costed at least a hundred
bucks. A fucking picture frame! I was hoping to get something there, but that idea went out
the window. I was even thinking maybe I could get one of the plastic bags with the store‟s
name on it just to prove I was there. With my luck, they probably charged for that too, so we
All the other stores we visited weren‟t too memorable. I could get the same stuff most
of those stores were selling for half the price back home, but then again, that‟s not why people
bought the stuff. If I had something from Tiffany‟s, I‟d probably show it off just like anyone
The weird thing about doing all this window shopping and being in such a crowded place
was that time seemed to pass by just as quickly as the people did. I looked at my watch and it
read six-ten. We didn‟t eat lunch and I wasn‟t even hungry yet. It seemed like there was a lot
of energy to thrive on here.
“We better start heading back,” I said to sis.
“Why? It‟s not dark yet.”
“But it‟ll be dark soon, it‟s December, remember?”
I looked around at where we were. I noticed a stairway people were going down and
above it was a sign which listed a bunch of numbers and letters of varying colors.
“Let‟s try out the subway,” I suggested.
So we pushed our way to the stairway and followed the crowd downstairs. There were
booths where people were paying for passage to the underground trains, and near those booths
were vending machines that sold passes. We used one of those vending machines to purchase
all day passes for my sis and I. After swiping our cards through a scanner, the booth workers let
us go through. Another staircase down and we were at the subway stops. It looked just like the
movies. There were elevated parts where the people waited and there were the tracks much
lower in the ground, which lead to the tunnels where the trains traveled.
“Okay, I think we have to take the 5-B to get back to north Manhattan.”
I shrugged. “That‟s what one of the signs said.”
After a couple minutes of waiting, the 5-B arrived and we boarded. We found some
seats and sat down. To my right was my sis and to my left was a person I can best describe as a
bum. I mean, this person was homeless, that much was obvious. On their feet were some very
worn and very dirty sneakers. They had on a long, brown coat which looked too thin for the
winter, some black cotton gloves, and wore a red cotton cap on their head which also covered
their ears. I couldn‟t tell if they were male or female because their face was pretty dirty. What
I could see were thin lips, a nose which formed an acute angled triangle, and brown eyes.
As we started moving, the person noticed I was staring at them and said, “What are you
“Oh, I‟m sorry, I‟m from out of town and I‟ve never seen someone like you before.”
“Someone like me? You mean a bum?”
“I wouldn‟t put it like that . . .”
“But that‟s what you were thinking.”
The person looked away. I couldn‟t tell from their voice whether they were male or
female because it sounded too raspy.
“Hey, I‟m sorry. My name‟s Jonathan and I‟m from Fort Wayne, Indiana.” I held out a
hand to shake.
The person looked at me and humphed. “Boy, you really ARE from out of town.”
They took my hand. “Kris.”
“Nice to meet you Kris.”
We let go.
“Have you been here in the city long?”
“Most of my life.”
I thought about how old Kris was, but I asked instead, “How do you get enough to eat?”
“Oh, there are lots of churches here that give out free food. Then there‟s the occasional
“If you wanna call it that.”
The subway came to a halt. Kris stood up and said, “Well, this is my stop. Nice talkin‟
“Yeah, you too.”
Kris started to walk out, but tripped and dropped to one knee. I got up quickly and
helped Kris up.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, no big deal.”
And with that, Kris got off the subway.
I sat back down in my seat, but something felt wrong. I could feel the seat against my
butt where I normally wouldn‟t, because my wallet was usually . . . oh shit. I stood up quickly
and felt my back pocket. No wallet there.
“What‟s wrong?” sis asked.
“Shit, shit, shit! That bum stole my wallet!”
The subway started moving again.
I yelled, “Stop the train!”
Everyone just ignored me. I tried to open the door, but it was no use. We were already
speeding down the tunnel.
“Damn it, we better get off at the next stop and find the closest police officer.”
At the next stop, we got off and looked around for a cop. After not seeing any, we went
upstairs to find one. What we saw wasn‟t right. All the signs on the buildings had weird
symbols on them instead of words. And all the people walking around had black hair.
“Oh shit, we‟re in Chinatown!” I said.
“But I thought you said we were on the right train!”
“I thought we were!”
“Shut up! We have to find a police officer! Come on!”
I walked quickly in a random direction, looking back to make sure sis was behind me. I
didn‟t know if we‟d find a cop in this crowd, but I wasn‟t thinking at this point. And to make
matters worse, it was already dark outside. We kept looking around, but couldn‟t find a cop
“Fuck, this is great. Even if we find a cop, they probably won‟t know enough English to
know what I‟m trying to tell them.”
“What are we gonna do?” my sis asked.
“I‟m not sure. We should probably find a place to stay for the night. I don‟t wanna be
“But we should get back to the hotel!”
“We can‟t, not before I report my stolen wallet. Besides, mom‟s gonna kill me!”
My sis shook her head, but followed me anyway. We looked around for what could pass
as a hotel and found a place called the “Dragon Inn.” I hoped that the owner spoke at least a
little English, since they were able to make a sign in English letters.
It was difficult, but we were able to get a room. We used some of the money we had left
(fortunately, I had put half of my money in my other pockets and sis still had most of her money)
to pay for the room. The place wasn‟t anywhere close to the Lyden Garden, but it had to do for
the night. Our room looked like a bathroom with a bed in it, which was probably what it was,
considering it‟s size and the fact that there was a dirty toilet in front of the bed. There was a
phone in the hallway and I used it to call mom.
“Mom, we‟re staying in Chinatown for the night.”
“Well, we spent a little too much time shopping and ended up in Chinatown. I know you
didn‟t want us out after dark, so we found a hotel here and got a room.”
“I don‟t like this, I want you two back here now.”
“We can‟t mom. But I promise we‟ll be back as soon as we can tomorrow.”
“Okay . . . as soon as you can!”
“Okay, bye mom.”
Of course, I neglected to tell her about my stolen wallet.
I went back to the room and saw that sis had already fallen asleep on the bed. I flopped
down next to her and closed my eyes, hoping I could do something tomorrow to get my wallet
As I awoke, I wondered why the penthouse smelled so badly. Then I remembered where
we really were and opened my eyes to confirm it. There right in front of me was the dirty toilet.
I grumbled and sat up, noticed my sister still asleep, and held up my arm to look at my watch.
I nudged sis and said, “Wake up, it‟s already noon.”
She mumbled something incoherent, and I nudged her some more.
She rubbed her eyes and sat up.
“Do you need to go to the bathroom?” I asked.
“You better hold it, you‟re gonna get a disease if you use the toilet in here. Let‟s
We both stood up from bed, grabbed the things we bought yesterday, and left the room.
I paid the owner downstairs and we left the inn.
“How are we gonna get back to the hotel?” sis asked.
“Well, I figure we can get a map of the city and try the subway again. If that doesn‟t
work, we can try taking a cab. Sound good?”
“Good enough for me. Hey, while we‟re here, let‟s look around.”
We looked around some of the shops, and there were plenty of them. The quality and
prices of the items were nowhere near Fifth Avenue, but they were still fun to look at. There
were a LOT of shops that sold Sanrio/Hello Kitty merchandise . . . they really put the F.A.O.
Swartz section to shame. And there were some shops that sold samurai swords. I used to love
ancient Japanese weaponry, but in recent years, I‟ve become somewhat of a pacifist. I already
had some swords and didn‟t need anymore, but it was still fun to look every once in a while.
For lunch, we stopped by a bakery/eatery. They had a bunch of stuff from pork
dumplings to all kinds of deserts. Fortunately, the people knew enough English to take our
order. We ate our dumplings and cake, went to the restroom, and checked how much money we
had left: I had a hundred dollars and sis had two hundred.
“Let‟s get a map and get the hell out of here,” I said.
We made our way to another subway entrance. Following the routine we had done
yesterday, we followed some people down a flight of stairs, purchased passes AND a map of the
city with subway routes on it, and boarded our correct train. I studied the map in detail.
“Hey, the police station‟s in the eastern part of Manhattan. I‟d better go and report my
“But what about going back to the hotel?”
“You can go back by yourself. We‟ll get you a taxi so you don‟t get lost.”
“Okay, but mom and dad are gonna be pissed.”
“Hey, just tell them this is all my fault.”
We got off at one of the middle Manhattan stops. As soon as we were upstairs, I yelled
for a taxi. One pulled to the curb and I opened the door for sis to get in. She got in and I
handed her the things I had bought. I looked at the cab driver and said, “Take her to the Lyden
Gardens Hotel on one-hundredth street North Manhattan.”
I looked at sis. “Don‟t worry about me, I‟ll just go to the police station and come back.”
“I‟m just saying, tell mom and dad that, and I‟ll call them tonight and tell them what
I closed her door and the taxi sped off. I looked at my watch: 3. There was still plenty
of daylight left.
I made my way to the police station. It wasn‟t too hard to find, which surprised me.
The crowd here wasn‟t too bad, since the station was far enough away from the shopping district.
From the outside, it looked like a congressional building, with the stone stairway leading to
doors behind the Greek-style pillars. I entered the place and in front of me was a mob of people,
and in front of the mob was a long row of officers sitting at desks. The only thing separating the
mob from the officers was a velvet rope with only a little part of it separated to let each person in
one at a time. There was another officer at the rope to make sure people didn‟t cut.
I tentatively fell in line, or whatever the people were organized in. After what seemed to
be hours, I finally arrived at the front. I could see that even behind the officers at the desk were
even more officers at even more desks. I guessed this whole building was just one big reception
area for the police. Where they kept the criminals and other people, I had no such idea, I just
wanted to file my report and get my wallet back.
The officer at the rope said, “Okay, next!” and pointed to an open officer in the middle.
I ran over and sat down at his desk. The officer I got was an African American man, his
hair and facial hair greying with age. I looked to see if he had a pot belly, just to see if it was
true about New York cops and them eating donuts all the time. There was no pot belly or
donuts in sight.
After writing something on a piece of paper, he asked me, “What‟s your problem?”
“Well, my wallet was stolen on the subway.”
He broke out into hysterical laughter. I looked around to see if anyone noticed, and
everyone in close proximity was looking at me. I shrugged, not knowing what was going on.
After a little while, he calmed down.
“Shit! You know how many wallets are stolen in an hour on the subway? Sorry kid,
but you‟re outta luck.”
“You mean there‟s no way to get it back? Can‟t you send someone out too look for it?
I can even describe who stole it from me.”
“Yeah right, as if we have the manpower to do that. You better just go back where you
came from and hope whoever stole it doesn‟t use your credit cards.”
I sank in my seat, defeated by the system.
The officer put a piece of paper and a pen in front of me. “Here, write down your name
and where we can reach you. If it turns up, we‟ll contact you.”
I sat up, wrote my name, the hotel, and the room number. As I stood up, I held out a
hand. “Well, thanks for the help, officer.”
“No problem, now you better get going cause it‟s dark outside.”
I turned and looked out the windows. It WAS night.
“Damn, was I here that long?”
“Not at my desk, but the wait in the line was about 3 hours last I heard.”
“Oh well, thanks again! And have a Merry Christmas!”
After walking out of that place, I noticed a pay phone outside, so I decided to call my
“Mom! Hey, it‟s me, did Grace get there okay?”
“Yeah, where are you? Your father and I are worried sick!”
“I just got out of the police station. Did she tell you what happened?”
“Yes. We‟re angry that it happened, but it‟s not your fault, and we just want you to
come back here where it‟s safe.”
“Mom, I‟ll be okay. I don‟t wanna ride the subway, cause I don‟t trust it anymore, so
I‟ll have to walk home.”
“What about a taxi?”
“I wanna save what little money I have left. And with the taxi fares here, I don‟t even
know if I‟ll have enough to get back.”
“Well, find a safe place to stay for the night.”
“I will . . . hey, how‟s dad?”
“He‟s doing okay, here, talk to him.”
I could here dad clear his throat.
“Dad, how are you feeling?”
“I‟m okay, it‟s not as bad as it was yesterday.”
“Be careful, okay? Your mother and I trust your judgement.”
“Thanks dad, that‟s good to know, and I will.”
“If anything ever happened to you, I don‟t know what I‟d do. You and your sister are
I didn‟t know what to say to that, I had never heard dad say anything like that to me
before. In my whole life I didn‟t remember him talking about his feelings like that. He was a
very private man.
So, I just said, “I‟ll be okay,” to try to reassure him.
“Okay, call as soon as you can tomorrow.”
“I will . . . bye.”
After hanging up the phone, I thought about what dad had said. Ever since I moved
away for college, I had started feeling closer and closer to my parents. The anger of adolescents
was replaced with lots of respect for them, although I still got angry every once in a while. In
fact, I started seeing them more as people and less as my parents. They were still my parents, of
course, but there was more to them than just their parenting. And there was more to my dad
than just being the father he was. I could never admit it to him under normal circumstances, but
I really looked up to him . . . and loved him.
I pulled my map out, stood under a street light, and looked at where I could stay for the
night. I didn‟t have enough money to stay at a hotel, no matter how bad the place was. I did
notice that a couple blocks west of where I was was St. Patrick‟s Cathedral. I figured they
might have a shelter there, so I walked towards the place.
On my way to the Cathedral, I felt relatively safe because of the crowd. St. Patrick‟s
was on Fifth Avenue, just like all those shops, which I found kind of weird, mixing religion with
commerce. I wonder what God thought about it?
The cathedral was huge, so huge in fact that it took up the whole block it was on. I‟m no
architect, but I think the cathedral was in a Gothic style . . . well, it looked really old. Adding to
the high roof were even taller towers with crosses on the tops. My neck hurt just looking up that
I walked up the stone stairs and entered through the big wooden doors. Inside, the roof
was very high, just as the outside predicted. In front of me were row upon row of pews, and in
the far distance, I could see the alter, decorated in Christmas style with red and green. On each
side of the cathedral were shrines. In a regular church, there‟s usually a little place where they
put a statue of a saint and candles you can light, but these were full blown shrines. Each shrine
was dedicated to several saints, and so there were several statues, but not just posing in boring
positions. It seemed each shrine was a stage, complete with scenery, and the statues seemed to
be “acting” out a scene from the bible. It was quite beautiful.
One thing that disappointed me was the fact that there was a shop in there, selling St.
Patrick‟s Cathedral merchandise. I didn‟t go in to see what they sold. It just felt wrong. I
recalled that scene from the bible of Jesus getting angry with the merchants who were selling
things in church. So, I just avoided the shop.
It looked like there was no priest in sight, so I just walked around and looked at the
shrines. I stopped at one (I don‟t remember which), lit a candle, put a dollar in the box next to
the candles, made the sign of the cross, and put my hands together to pray.
“God, please take care of my dad, no matter what the outcome of his sickness is. I know
it‟s all up to you, but please, just take care of him.”
I made the sign of the cross again to end my short prayer. As I turned around, I noticed
the wooden confessional booths at one corner of the church. Someone opened the door to one
and entered, while someone came out of another one. I figured there must‟ve been priests in
there. I walked over and entered the one that the person came out of. The inside, was pretty
dark. There was a seat in the booth, and to the right of the seat was a screen with small enough
holes that I couldn‟t make out the priest‟s face. I sat down at the seat.
“When was your last confession?” the priest asked.
“Oh, I‟m not here for a confession, father, I just need some information.”
“How may I help you?”
“I need a place to stay for the night. I don‟t have enough money for a hotel, so I need
someplace free, like a homeless shelter or something. You guys have one around here?”
“I‟m sorry son, we don‟t have a shelter.”
“Well, thanks anyway father.”
I stood up to leave, but the priest said, “But there is a place just north of here.”
I sat back down and listened.
“First, I must make you promise not to tell anybody about it.”
“You have my word father . . . besides, I‟ll go to Hell if I disobey you.”
The priest chuckled, then continued, “A couple blocks north of here is an abandoned
apartment building. The owners of the place are wealthy catholics and they know homeless
people stay there, so they have kept paying for the land and have not torn down the building.
However, if any city authorities found out about it, they would tear the building down and the
homeless people wouldn‟t have a place to live. Now you see why you should not tell anybody
“Good, now are you sure you don‟t want to confess anything?”
“Um, maybe a couple things . . .”
I told the priest about some of the things I had done while I was off at college. It felt
really good to get that stuff off my chest. Confession, I thought, was a good idea. You tell God
your sins through a priest, He forgives you, and you have a fresh start. Ideally, you‟re not
suppose to sin again, but our human nature always seems to kick in and we do sin again. Other
religions bad mouth it because we have a tendency to abuse it, but that‟s part of our human
nature too. The point is that we keep trying, and I‟m sure that‟s what God wants the most.
After He forgave me, I said, “Thanks for the confession and the place to stay.”
“Your welcome, and have a Merry Christmas.”
I left the booth and the church and headed north just like the priest had told me. It was a
little farther away than a couple blocks, but I made it there in one piece, thankfully. I thought I
was gonna get mugged, but it didn‟t happen. The run down building took up a whole block, like
the cathedral. It was about 8 stories tall and made totally out of brick. All the windows were
dirty with years of no cleaning and it looked like the only way to get to the upper floors was to
use a metal staircase, attached to the building, which zig-zagged all the way to the top. I
decided to just take my chances on the first floor.
Slowly, I climbed in through a window (the glass was gone). After letting my eyes
adjust to the darkness, I could see homeless people lying on the floor all over the place. Some
had blankets on, while the majority were sleeping with nothing covering them except the clothes
they had on. I guessed that this big room was probably at one point someone‟s living room. It
didn‟t smell too pleasant, either, but beggars can‟t be choosers. I tip-toed as best as I could
around without stepping on anybody. After finding a big enough space, I sat down slowly, took
off my coat, lied down, and covered myself with my coat. The pavement wasn‟t comfortable at
all, but soon enough, I was able to fall asleep.
I woke up with my neck sore, my back aching, and feeling really, really cold. I was
surprised I had gotten any sleep at all, but I must‟ve been tired from yesterday‟s events. After
yawning and stretching, I sat up and looked around. Most of the homeless people were gone, to
where I couldn‟t say. I looked at my watch: 9:05. Then I looked around the room again.
There were only a couple of homeless people still around, but one in particular caught my eye.
This little kid was playing around with what looked like a piece of plastic. He must not have
been more than six or seven, I guessed. Along with the red wool cap he had on, he also wore a
brown coat (which was actually a full-sized adult coat, but the sleeves were rolled up to
accommodate the kid‟s short arms), some blue jeans which actually fit him, and some sneakers
which fit him too. I wondered how a homeless kid could find clothes his size.
The kid flicked the piece of plastic my way and it landed to my right. As the kid ran to
pick it up, I snatched it before he could reach it.
“Hey! Give it back! It‟s mine!” he whined. I noticed he was, indeed, a boy.
“What do you have here?” I looked at the piece of plastic. It was blue, with a VISA
symbol at one corner, a BANK ONE symbol at the opposite corner, some numbers across the
middle, an expiration date under the numbers, and a name next to that. The name read . . .
“„Jonathan Viloria Acierto‟ . . . hey, this is my debit card!”
“No, it‟s my boomerang!” the kid yelled. He tried grabbing it from my hand, but I stood
up and held my card far higher than the kid could reach.
“Where‟d you get this, kid?”
“My sister gave it to me!”
“Where‟d your sister get this?”
“I don‟t know! Give it back! It‟s mine!”
I pointed to the name. “See here? It says Jonathan Viloria Acierto, and that‟s my
“No it‟s not! My name‟s Jonathan!”
His name was Jonathan, like me. That was an odd coincidence. I didn‟t have time to
ponder it, though, because the boy started to cry.
“Woah, wait, I didn‟t mean to make you . . .”
He just kept crying. I looked around and the homeless people who were still there were
looking at the scene. One of them (a lady with only a few teeth left) walked up, knelt down next
to the boy, and asked, “What‟s the matter, Jonathan?”
Jonathan pointed at me. “The mean man won‟t give me back my boomerang!”
The lady stood up, looked at me, and said, “Why‟d you take away his toy?”
“Because it‟s mine.” I showed her the card and pointed to my name.
Before I could react, the lady snatched the card out of my hand. “How do I know it‟s
your‟s? You could‟ve just noticed Jonathan playing with it and wanted to keep it for yourself.”
“Okay, I‟ll prove it.” I described the card in detail: the card number, the expiration date,
the way my name was spelled, the VISA symbol, the BANK ONE symbol, and the way my
signature on the back was blurry from the card being used so much. Cards really are too
“You got it all right, but what‟s Jonathan doing with your card?”
“My wallet was stolen a few days ago by a homeless person. Obviously, whoever stole
it must‟ve given it to Jonathan . . . wait, must‟ve given it . . .” The wheels started turning.
What did the kid say about his sister? I looked at the woman with the lack of teeth. “Where‟s
“She‟s out getting breakfast.”
“Will she be back anytime soon?”
“I think so.”
“Good, I need to have a talk with her.” Jonathan wasn‟t crying as loudly as before. So
I sat down and said, “I‟m going to give you this back, but only after I have a talk with your sister,
Jonathan rubbed his eyes and nodded his head. “Okay.”
The lady with the two teeth went back to her corner of the room and sat down.
“How old are you kid?”
Jonathan sat down on the floor. “I‟m five.”
“And one week!”
I chuckled. Why do we always want to be older when we‟re young?
“My sister told me not to talk to strangers.”
“Your sister‟s very smart. But I‟m not a stranger, my name‟s Jonathan too, so you know
my name. Now we‟re not strangers.” This wasn‟t exactly the right thing to tell the kid, but I
wanted to get some information out of him.
“What‟s your sister‟s name?”
“And how old is she?”
“She‟s veeeeery old.”
“Older than that lady over there?” I pointed at Mrs. two teeth.
“Noooo! Not that old!”
“But pretty old, huh?”
I thought some things through. His sister must‟ve gotten my cards somehow. That bum
who stole my wallet must‟ve been a friend of hers, or an accomplice of some sort. They
probably stole things and split them, or something like that. I didn‟t know yet what I was gonna
do when his sister arrived, but one thing was for sure . . . it wasn‟t going to be pleasant.
Just then, someone climbed into the room through the window (the same one I had
climbed through). I noticed they had on a red cotton cab, black cotton gloves, a long brown coat
which looked too thin for the winter . . . then things clicked.
“Jonathan, I have breakfast!” the young lady said as she spotted Jonathan. I noticed her
voice wasn‟t raspy like the first time I heard it.
“Yay!” Jonathan yelled as he ran towards her.
I stood up and followed.
Jonathan jumped into the bum‟s arms and the bum gave him a kiss. “Miss me?”
“Yeeeeeah!” He pointed to me. “The mean man stole my boomerang.”
“Oh, he did, did he?” The bum looked at me and instantly froze. Their eyes widened
and their face started to lose all it‟s color.
I smiled and said, “Hello, Kris. Or should I say, Kristine?”
Kristine tried to open her mouth and say something, but nothing came out.
I pulled out my debit card and said, “I believe this belongs to me. Where‟s the rest of
Kristine put Jonathan down and said, “Hun, go eat your breakfast with Tina while I talk
to the mean man about your boomerang.” She handed him the brown bag she carried in with
“Okay!” Jonathan ran over to the two teethed lady.
“Where‟s the rest of it?”
Kristine crossed her arms. “I don‟t know.”
I put on my business face. “Give me back the rest of my wallet, or I tell the police about
this place and you‟re out of a place to sleep.”
“Oh, am I? A priest at St. Patrick‟s told me about the story behind this place. I can
easily have it torn down by mentioning it to the right people.”
Kristine shook her head.
I looked over at Jonathan. “Boy, Jonathan wouldn‟t like moving out of this place, would
he? You two, being back on the streets, where God knows what could happen to him . . .”
Kristine reached into her right coat pocket, pulled out my wallet, and threw it to me. I
immediately opened it to see what was left. All my cards were still in, but all the cash was
“I used all the cash to buy food for Jonathan and I, if you‟re wondering.”
I put my debit card back in it‟s right place, folded the wallet, and put it in my left pants
pocket. “Thank you. Oh, by the way, I wouldn‟t have reported this building to the authorities.”
“So you WERE bluffing!”
“What else was I suppose to do?”
Kristine shook her head and walked over to where Jonathan was sitting and eating. I
followed, even after Kristine gave me dirty looks.
“How are the pancakes?” Kristine asked.
“Good, save some for me!”
I watched as the two ate their food. Jonathan ate his quickly, but Kristine took her time.
It occurred to me that these two probably had more of an appreciation for food than
non-homeless people. You just never know what you take for granted until it‟s either hard to
get or you can‟t get it at all.
I asked, “How long have you been on the streets?”
Kristine looked at me angrily. “What? Now you want to know our life story too?”
Jonathan started whining, “I want my boomerang back!”
I pulled my wallet back out, unfolded it, took out my gas card, and threw it to Jonathan.
“Here, you can have this one, I don‟t really need it.”
Jonathan picked it up. “Yay!” And he promptly threw it around, like he did my debit
Kristine looked at me, much more softly, and said, “Thank you.”
I shook my head. “No, it‟s okay. I have a soft spot for kids.”
Kristine put the foam plates and plastic utensils in the brown bag. “Jonathan and I have
been on our own for about a year now. Two years ago, our parents died in a car crash.
Jonathan was too young at the time to remember too well, which I‟m thankful for, cause it‟s not
something you should remember vividly.”
I nodded. “What happened then?”
“We were put in a foster family, but it wasn‟t very good at all. I think they were first
time parents, because they didn‟t know how to handle someone Jonathan‟s age, or my age for
that matter. I eventually decided we needed to leave.”
“Why didn‟t you transfer to another foster home?”
“It would‟ve been too much for Jonathan, all the moving. I didn‟t want him to lose his
parents again. So I figured I could support both of us.”
“Stealing wallets isn‟t a very good method of support.”
“Oh, I tried getting a regular job, but it‟s hard to when you‟re a high school drop-out.
Eventually, I learned from some guys how to pick-pocket.”
“I should have you arrested . . . but I won‟t, for Jonathan‟s sake.”
“Thank you. I don‟t want to even think about what would happen to him if I wasn‟t
around. It would be catastrouphous.”
Kristine nodded. “I make up my own words when I can‟t think of the right ones, or
when the right ones sound ugly.”
I stood up. “Well, watching you two eat made me hungry, I‟m gonna go eat breakfast,
then head back to the hotel I‟m staying at.”
Kristine stood up too. “I know a good IHOP nearby, it‟s where I got our food.”
“Oooooh, no, I‟m not gonna have you steal my wallet again!”
Kristine smiled. “Come on, it‟ll be fun! Besides, I have to repay you for being so nice
to Jonathan, even after all I did. And those pick-pocketers work this area. I can help you avoid
I thought about it for a second. “Okay, fine . . . lead the way.”
Kristine clapped her hands together, which made me laugh. I could see she was still
very much a girl under all that street toughness.
“Tina, can you watch over Jonathan while I‟m out?”
“Sure . . . have fun on your date.”
“It‟s not a date!”
I just stood there and laughed some more.
After climbing out of the abandoned building, Kristine led me through the neighborhood.
It was full of old buildings, all of which were heavily run down. I wondered if this must have
been what New York had looked like many, many years ago. Yet, among them was a brand
As we sat down at a booth, I noticed there were many people in the place that looked
poor. I got some dirty looks because of how I looked . . . namely, not poor.
“The breakfast sampler is glorious, but the bacon can go.”
“What‟s wrong with it?”
“Nothing, I just don‟t like pork.”
I nodded. “Kind of picky for a homeless person, aren‟t you?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “You‟re paying, right?”
I laughed. “It‟s not like you are!”
“Okay, cause I wanna get something for Jonathan to save for later.”
I ordered a steak omelet and Kristine ordered two breakfast samplers, both of which were
to go. I was thankful that I still had plenty of money left in my debit account to use for food and
for the cab fare back to the hotel.
Kristine slipped off the cotton gloves she was wearing and she pulled off her cotton cap.
Long, brown hair fell down past her shoulders as the cap came off. I got a glimpse of her small
ears before her hair covered them up. Then I noticed her face, which her hair framed perfectly.
She had thin lips which covered her teeth except for one canine tooth which stuck out every time
she smiled with her lips. Her cheek bones were high, giving her eyes a slight tilt upwards,
which I thought made her look the slightest bit oriental. Speaking of her eyes, they were big
and brown, drawing your attention to them. Her eyebrows tapered perfectly, looking like long
paisleys. The dirty spots on her face couldn‟t hide any of her beauty, no matter how hard they
“What are you looking at?” she asked. I must‟ve been staring.
“Ummmm . . . you‟re very cute.”
She tilted her head to her right slightly and cooed, “Awwww, thanks! That just made
I smiled. “No problem. You must‟ve been very popular when you were in high
“Yes and no. I had lots of friends, but none of them were the „popular‟ type, I just
couldn‟t stand those bitches and assholes.”
“Well, that‟s good.”
“And, I assume, you had your share of boyfriends?”
“Any of them serious?”
“Only one, the rest were just for fun.”
“Just for fun?”
“I never understood the whole dating thing, especially when it‟s „for fun.‟ I mean, for
one, when you‟re dating, that‟s like saying, „I want to be your girlfriend/boyfriend, but without
the commitment.‟ Then, when you‟re dating other people, it‟s like, „I want to cheat on you, but
you can cheat on me too, and it‟s okay.‟ That‟s just a crock of shit.”
“Jeez! Bite my head off! That‟s a little bitter.”
I realized what I was saying. “I‟m sorry . . . yeah, I‟m a little bitter about the whole
thing. I could go on for hours about it.”
I shrugged. “Too much heartbreak, I guess. But I‟m still hoping for that right one.”
“Well good, there‟s still hope for you yet.”
I looked at Kristine, at her eyes.
“What?” she asked.
“You know, you‟re really easy to talk to. If I had met you in another life, I think I would
have loved being your friend.”
“Awww, that‟s so sweet! I don‟t know what to say!”
“It‟s okay, just a thought.” I smiled
Our food came and I immediately dug in while Kristine watched. We talked about some
other things, mostly just small talk stuff. She told me about some of her experiences on the
streets and I told her about my experiences in the past couple days. I found her to be very smart
I finished up my food, Kristine grabbed her‟s, and we left the IHOP.
“Thanks for the food,” she said.
“No problem. Where are you going now?” I asked as I walked with her.
“There‟s a Goodwill store nearby, I need to get something for Jonathan. It was his
birthday last week.”
I looked at my watch. Today was the twentieth. “What day was his birthday?”
“It was the twelfth, whatever day that was.”
“Really? My birthday‟s on the twelfth too!”
“Really? Wow, that‟s kinda eerie.”
“Yeah, I know. Same first name and same birthday. I wonder what the odds of that
Kristine shook her head. Then I realized something else while we were talking.
“Hey, Goodwill isn‟t free, where‟d you get the money?”
Kristine smiled with her lips. I noticed again how one of her canines stuck out.
“You still have some of my money, don‟t you!?”
In reply, she stuck her tongue out at me. It was too funny to get angry at her, so I just
laughed. It‟s easy to get away with things if you‟re cute.
“Okay, fine, you can keep it, but only because it‟s for Jonathan.”
Kristine led the way. The Goodwill store we went to had a lot of clothing. Most of it
was being sold for a dollar or two, but I would say even that wasn‟t worth it, cause the clothes
looked terrible. But I shouldn‟t say stuff like that. When that‟s all you can afford, it probably
looks really good. I immediately felt very guilty for thinking what I just did.
“What do you think of this?” Kristine asked me as she was looking at some boy pajamas.
“Ehhh, I don‟t think Transformers are in style right now.”
“You‟re right, they‟re kinda ghetto.”
We moved on to the toys. There wasn‟t much there either. The actions figures were
missing body parts, the puzzles were missing pieces, and toy guns and swords were missing
handles. It was almost a bust, but I spotted something underneath everything. It was a foam,
red, three-winged boomerang.
“Hey, I think Jonathan will really like this,” I said as I pulled it out.
Kristine grabbed it out of my hands. “Ooooooo, he‟ll LOVE it!”
We examined it one last time to make sure it was in good shape, then proceeded to the
checkout line to pay for it. It was marked three dollars, so Kristine pulled out a five dollar bill.
“There‟s gonna be two dollars left, aren‟t you gonna get something for yourself?”
“Naw, it‟s Christmas, remember? It‟s the season for giving. The look on his face will
“Besides, I can save the two dollars for food.”
“Ah, smart, very smart.”
She paid for the boomerang and we left the store.
“Well, that was fun!” she declared.
“Yup, sure was. You gonna head back now?”
“Yeah, it‟s past lunch, I‟m sure Jonathan‟s hungry again. For lunch, we usually go to a
soup kitchen at one of the churches.”
I nodded. “It‟s good to know people do that.”
“Yeah it is.”
“Well, I think I‟ll come say bye to Jonathan before I catch a taxi back to my hotel.”
I followed Kristine back to the abandoned hotel. We climbed in through the window
and Kristine called out to Jonathan.
“Jonathan! I have a surprise for you!”
He didn‟t come. Instead, we noticed a couple people standing around the corner that
Tina was at last time we saw her. We walked over and the crowd parted to let us through. In
Tina‟s arms was Jonathan. His face was red and he was sweating badly.
“Tina! What‟s wrong?” Kristine asked as she fell to her knees.
“I don‟t know, Kris. He just started feeling hot all of a sudden and I didn‟t know what to
do, so I was just trying to comfort him.”
“Kris-teeeeeeene, I feel hot,” Jonathan peeped. There‟s no worse sound in the world
than when someone you love tells you they‟re not feeling good for whatever reason.
Kristine took off her right black cotton glove and felt Jonathan‟s forehead with the back
of her hand. “On my God, he‟s burning up! What should we do!?”
I knew that when you have a fever, you‟re suppose to get the person‟s body temperature
down using ice or water or whatever was available that was cold. But there was nothing
available right then, so the only other option was to get him to a hospital A.S.A.P.
“I‟ll go get a cab,” I said, and rushed out of the place.
After stopping a cab by walking into the street and waving my arms around madly, I ran
back to the window of the building and yelled, “Carry him over here!”
Tina, Kristine, and some of the homeless people carried Jonathan over to the window. I
grabbed him and brought him over to the cab. Kristine followed right behind me.
After we got into the cab, I yelled, “The nearest hospital, now!!”
The cab driver stepped on it.
“Where are we going?” asked Jonathan.
“Oh, we‟re just going for a ride to see a nice doctor about getting you to feel better,
okay?” Kristine said as un-hysterically as she could.
In five minutes (which astounded me with New York traffic at rush hour), we were at the
hospital. Above the E.R. entrance were big letters which read “Sloan-Kettering Hospital.” A
police officer opened the door to the cab. I got out first and Kristine handed me Jonathan. I
walked as fast as I could through the automatic double-doors and into the E.R. with Kristine
following me closely. I saw the front desk and in front of it was a bed on wheels, which I put
Jonathan down on as gently as I could. Kristine patted Jonathan‟s head while I “conversed”
with the nurse at the desk.
“He‟s got a fever! Do something!!” I yelled.
“Okay, sir, I just need his insurance card,” the female nurse said politely.
“Insurance? This is an emergency, get him some fucking help!!!” I was now leaning
forward like dad did when he wanted to be heard more loudly.
“I can‟t until you give me his card!” she yelled back at me.
I looked at Kristine. Seeing the desperate look on her face made me mad, and seeing
Jonathan in his condition made me even madder. I was about to yell again when I realized
Jonathan‟s first name was the same as mine, so I pulled out my wallet, pulled out my insurance
card (which, thankfully, Kristine didn‟t give to Jonathan to play with), and handed it to the nurse.
“Thank you, we‟ll get some hel . . .”
“Just fucking do it!”
The nurse picked up a phone and said something. A person dressed in a blue smock
came out of nowhere and pulled the bed, Jonathan and all, into the emergency room. Kristine
followed, but I grabbed her and held her back.
“He‟ll be fine, the doctors will take care of him,” I tried to assure her.
“They fucking better, or I‟ll have their heads!”
The nurse handed me back my card. I took it, giving her a dirty look, and brought
Kristine over to the waiting room. We sat down and waited . . . and waited . . . and waited. I
had never waited so long at a hospital in my life. I don‟t know what it is about hospitals that
makes time so slow, but it‟s damn irritating. I can‟t recall what time we got there, but by the
time a nurse came in to tell us we could see him, it was around six at night.
We entered the emergency room. Actually, that‟s a misnomer, because there were lots
of rooms inside. Each “room” was nothing more than beds separated by curtains. We followed
the nurse to a curtain marked M-8. A man in a long white coat with a clipboard emerged from
behind the curtain. He wrote some things down, then noticed Kristine and I standing in front of
“Hi, are you the legal guardians of Jonathan?”
“Yes,” Kristine answered.
The doctor nodded, put the clipboard under one of his arms, put the pen in his coat
pocket, and crossed his arms. “We were able to get his temperature down using some cold
packs and ice. He still has a slight fever, so we‟re going to keep him overnight for some
Kristine and I nodded our understanding.
“He‟s asleep right now, but you can go ahead and see him. We gave him some
anesthesia because he was panicking too much.”
I looked at Kristine. “I‟ll be in the waiting room if you need me.”
Kristine nodded and the doctor lifted up the curtain so she could go in. I made my way
back to the waiting room and sat back down. I felt very, very tired physically and emotionally
from everything that just happened, so I leaned back in my chair, stretched my legs, closed my
eyes, and fell asleep.
I felt a push on one of my shoulders and someone saying, “John, wake up!” I opened
my eyes and looked at Kristine as she was trying to wake me up.
“Mmffmff . . . I‟m awake,” I said.
She stopped pushing on my shoulder as I sat up in my seat.
“He‟ll be fine. The doctor said his fever‟s gone and we can go home anytime.”
“That‟s good. I‟m so glad he‟s alright.”
I looked at my watch: it was noon already.
“Holy shit, it‟s noon!”
Kristine nodded. “I came by earlier, but you were still asleep.”
“Why didn‟t you wake me up then?”
Kristine shrugged her shoulders. “I didn‟t want to wake you up. You looked like you
needed the rest.”
“Well, thanks, I guess.”
“Don‟t mention it!”
I chuckled and stood up, as did she. I stretched my arms out and yawned to get rid of the
“Well, I better get going, my parents must be worried sick about me.”
“Okay. Thanks for everything, especially for letting us use your insurance card.”
I shook my head. “No thanks necessary, Jonathan needed it.”
“You wanna come say bye to him?”
I thought about it for a second. “Nah. Just tell him not to talk to strangers, even if you
know their name.”
Kristine gave me a strange look, but said, “Okay.”
“Oh, hold on, let me give you my address if you‟re ever in Indiana.”
“Yeah right, as if we‟ll ever make it that far.”
“Hey, you never know!”
I pulled out my wallet, took out a business card I didn‟t need, grabbed a pen from the
front desk, and jotted down my address and phone number on the back. I handed it to her, she
looked at it, then put it in one of her coat pockets.
“Thanks, we‟ll stop by if we‟re around.”
“Good! Well . . . it was really nice meeting you two.”
“Thanks! It was nice meeting you!”
“How about a hug, in case I never see you again?”
“Oh, I‟m sure you will!”
She reached up and wrapped her arms around my neck and shoulders while I wrapped my
arms around her waist. I could feel how skinny she actually was under her coat. I could also
feel how soft her hair was against my cheek. I‟m not a very physically intimate person and I
wasn‟t a big fan of hugs until I went away to college. I met lots of girls there that were very
open about that kind of stuff and I grew to enjoy it. This particular hug I was getting was a very
good one, since Kristine seemed to be squeezing me pretty tightly. I squeezed a little tighter to
After a few moments of squeezing, we let go.
“Have a Merry Christmas!” she said.
“You too!” I said.
As she walked back to the E.R., she waved, and I waved back. I watched her go in and
realized that I‟d never forget any of this. I hoped her and Jonathan would survive being on the
streets. I had only caught a glimpse of their daily life and couldn‟t imagine what else they
must‟ve gone through. I also realized that they didn‟t fit into the stereotype we have of
homeless people being lazy and unable to take care of themselves. Kristine and Jonathan were
good people, they were just unfortunate. I hoped again that they would make it.
I found my way to the restrooms and took a quick piss before leaving the hospital. I also
found an ATM machine and got some cash (about $100) to pay for my cab fare. I went back to
the E.R. entrance and found the police officer that had opened the door to the cab last night.
“„Scuse me, officer, which way is north?”
“Just follow the street that way,” he said as he pointed down the road next to the hospital.
I noticed again all the skyscrapers and tall buildings all around. It must‟ve been easy to get lost
with everything looking so much the same.
I started walking down the street, less scared now that it was daytime. The rush hour
traffic was underway and cars were packed in the streets. Horns were honking and people were
yelling. I wondered why they did that, since it didn‟t help any, but maybe it just made them feel
After an hour or so of walking, the traffic started to pick up again, so I decided to get a
cab at that point. I stood at the sidewalk curb and held out my hand. A few taxis later, one
finally stopped. I opened the door and hopped in.
“Hello sir, where would you . . . oh, hello again!”
That voice sounded vaguely familiar. The accent was some sort of Middle-Eastern one.
I looked up and recognized the face. It was the cab driver that drove my family from the airport
to the hotel.
“Hi, you remember me?”
“Of course, I had to remember faces very well for my old work.”
I remembered what his old work was. “Oh.”
“What are you doing so far south of the hotel?” he asked.
“It‟s a long story. Just get me back to the hotel.”
“Okay, Lyden Gardens, right?”
I nodded. The cab driver turned on the digital meter, looked at the incoming traffic, and
just floored it. Like before, he was very aggressive in his driving, but I guess you had to be in
New York traffic. Also like before, he was telling me how he both loved and hated the city and
then he started getting into his past.
“Back in my home country, I used to . . .”
“Yeah, I know, you said this all before.”
“Did I? I‟m sorry, I must be losing my edge after all these years.”
“It‟s okay, just keep driving.”
The cab driver nodded and kept quiet. I don‟t remember where we were, but at one
point we passed this new 2001 Volkswagen Beetle. It was red with cream colored leather
interior and two guys in suits riding inside, one driving and the other on the passenger side.
They kept looking around and when they spotted the cab I was riding in, they focused on it. I
noticed the Beetle switch lanes behind us and it started following us. I guess I wouldn‟t have
thought twice about it, but at one point the guy on the passenger side stuck his head out of the
vehicle. I could see he was dark skinned with black hair and a mustache.
“Do New Yorkers do that when they get impatient?” I asked.
The cab driver looked in his rearview mirror. I could see his eyes widen in the mirror.
He snapped his head back to get a better look. As he did that, the man who was sticking his
head out of the Beetle pulled back inside, said something to the man driving, and then stuck his
head out again. This time, he also stuck out his right arm, and then I noticed the semi-automatic
gun in his right hand.
“Holy shit!!” I yelled.
The cab driver snapped his head back forward and screamed, “Get down!!”
As I did, I heard the engine to the cab rev up, then I felt the cab make a sharp turn and I
heard cars honking their horns. At the same time, I heard a rapid popping sound. The back
window of the cab shattered and I was sprayed with glass.
“What the fuck is going on!!!!!??” I hollered.
Between the rapid popping and the revved up engine, I could barely make out the cab
driver‟s voice. “They are the bodyguards of a man I assassinated long ago. I guess they have
come for revenge. I‟m sorry about the inconvenience.”
“No shit you better be sorry!”
The cab made some more abrupt movements and I kept sliding back and forth. More of
the windows of the cab shattered and sprayed on me.
“I will lose them soon, just hang on!”
This was too much. After all I had been through, this took the cake. Now my life was
in danger because of some stupid grudge someone had against someone else and I was caught in
the crossfire, literally. This part, I think I could omit from telling my parents, if I ever saw them
I don‟t know how long it took, but the cab driver did lose the guys chasing us. After
some tires screeching and some more sudden turns, I heard the rapid popping of the gun pass us
and disappear into the distance. I slowly sat up to look where we were and saw that we were in
an alley between two red brick buildings. After some waiting to make sure the guys in the
Beetle didn‟t come back, I exited the cab. Miraculously, there were no holes.
“Wow, there aren‟t any holes,” I said.
The cab driver got out too and said, “It is all part of the assassin training. We learned
how to dodge bullets, even when driving vehicles.”
I nodded. “Okay, where are we?”
The cab driver looked around. “Let us see, judging from the path I took, and from the
look of these buildings, I would have to say we are in Little Italy.”
“Little Italy? LITTLE ITALY!?”
“Yes, what is wrong?”
“That‟s almost as far south as Chinatown!!”
I was turning madder by the second. “So!? So you took me the opposite direction of
where I needed to go! I‟m almost back where I fucking started!”
“I am very sorry, but I did not know those people would try to kill me. The meter is still
running, if you want me to take you to the hotel.”
I looked in the cab and the meter read $75.
“Are you fucking nuts? You should give me a free ride back after what just happened!”
“Why should I do that?”
I noticed how calm the cabby was this whole time. I guess having the ability to
assassinate someone must‟ve made a person a lot less frightened of angry people.
“Because I could‟ve been killed, that‟s why!”
“Not my fault, blame the bodyguards for doing all of this.”
“They‟re not here right now, but you are!”
I yelled at him some more and he answered me calmly some more. I don‟t know how
long this went on, but next thing I knew, we were surrounded by a bunch of big men dressed in
suits and wearing gold jewelry. The cab driver and I stopped our argument to see what was
One of the big men said, “You‟s guys have a toll to pay us?”
“Toll?” I asked.
“Yeah, this is Alto territory, anyone wantin‟ to pass through has to give us a toll.”
“They are the Italian mafia,” the cab driver informed me.
“Great, just great, just when I thought things couldn‟t get any worse.”
Another one of the big men asked, “Do you‟s got the toll or not?”
I pulled out my wallet, took out the hundred bucks, and held it up. “Here, is this
Yet another big man grabbed the money out of my hand and counted it. He then looked
at me and said, “Toll here‟s a thousand.”
“That‟s all I got on me.”
“Well then, we‟re gonna have to take you two‟s to see our boss.”
The big guys escorted us to their limos. I guess even the assassin knew when he was
outnumbered, cause he didn‟t put up a fight either. We got in and the “Altos” took us to their
boss‟s place. After pulling in through the gates, we could see a huge, white, Victorian style
mansion. How the “boss” was able afford so much space in New York, I didn‟t even want to
After pulling up to the front doors and exiting, the big guys led us quickly through the
mansion to the boss‟s office. I didn‟t get a good glimpse at the rest of the place with all the men
surrounding me, but it seemed to be a really elegant place. Light colors were used all around
except for the boss‟s office, which was mostly dark brown in stark contrast to the rest of the
house. As we entered, I noticed the boss sitting at a high-back leather chair behind a huge
wooden desk. The boss himself looked pretty old, with grey hair slicked back, his eyes with
permanent bags underneath. His suit had a reddish tint to it and instead of a tie, he wore one of
those things you see cowboys wear around their collars. The Big men brought the cabby and I
right up to his desk.
“Hey boss, we found these two‟s and they couldn‟t pay the toll.”
The boss sat up, examined us, and asked, “Where‟d you find them?”
“They was in the alley between Joe‟s place and Ned‟s place.”
The boss looked at us and asked, “How did you end up there?”
I jumped in, “There were some men who were trying to kill us!”
“Yeah, they chased us, but we were able to lose them in that alley.”
The boss looked at the cab driver, and the cab driver nodded. He looked at one of his
men and asked, “Was their cab in bad shape?”
“No boss, the windows were gone, but other than that, no holes and no nothin‟.”
“It seems my men here are contradicting your story.”
I leaned forward, putting my arms on the desk, and said, “It‟s true, I swear!”
Some of his men pulled me back.
“Who am I gonna trust? My own men, or some kid and some cab driver who just
happen to be in my territory and couldn‟t pay my toll? Sorry guys, but you‟re gonna have to
swim with the fishes for not paying the toll.”
Swim with the fishes? I felt like I was in some bad film noire.
“Wait, I can get money, just give me some time!”
“Sorry kid. Boys, take them away.”
They started dragging me off, but they didn‟t get the cab driver so easily. In an instant,
the men who tried to drag the cab driver off were on the floor, unconscious. The men dragging
me away stopped and stared, as did I. Even the boss was flabbergasted.
The cab driver said, “I am a trained assassin from Jordan. Spare me and you may have
my services for free, along with free cab fares for life.”
The boss looked again at the guys on the floor unconscious. “I‟ve never seen anything
like that. Boys, get this man cleaned up and find him a room.”
“Thank you,” the cab driver said as he was led away.
The boss looked at me and said, “I‟m sorry again kid, rules are rules. Here, let me make
your agony less painful.” He reached down and pulled out a violin.
As the big guys continued to drag me away, the boss started playing “Pavane” by Faure.
It‟s one of my favorite classical songs, so I knew it like the back of my hand. Even in my panic,
I could here the boss hit a wrong note after the first part of the melody.
“That note‟s wrong!” I yelled.
The boss stopped playing and said, “Wait boys.”
The big guys stopped dragging me and turned me around to face the boss.
“What did you say, kid?”
“I said that note‟s wrong. When you go down from the F, you hit a D-flat, not D
The boss played the first part of the melody again, hitting the right note this time.
“By God, you‟re right, I must‟ve been playing it wrong for all these years. How‟d you
“It‟s one of my favorite songs, I figured it out from a recording one day on my soprano
“Soprano sax, huh? Do you know any Kenny G?”
I cringed at the question. I use to like Kenny G, but after listening to lots of early jazz, I
grew out of that phase. But I did remember a few Kenny G songs from way back when.
“Yeah, I know a couple tunes.”
“Wonderful! My daughter‟s having her wedding tonight and we couldn‟t hire Kenny G
to come, so we‟ll take the next best thing.”
“What do I get out of it?”
The boss sat back in his chair. “Your life.”
I nodded, then said, “Give me a ride back to my hotel and I‟ll give you a full set of
The boss thought about it for a second.
“You got it kid.”
I sighed in relief.
“Take him away, boys, get him ready for the wedding.”
After making that deal with their boss, the big guys weren‟t half bad. They took me out
to get a tux fitted, then to an instrument shop to get a soprano sax. We even stopped by an
Italian restaurant called Charlie‟s for some food. That was the best Italian I‟ve ever tasted.
Their chicken Parmesan was exquisite.
Next, they took me to where the wedding reception was going to be held. I guess the
boss must‟ve had lots of connections, cause it was being held in the basement of Rockefeller
Center. People were still decorating and things didn‟t look complete yet, but the band was there
and I was suppose to practice with them. So I pulled out my brand new soprano saxophone and
we ran through some tunes. There were only four of us: sax, piano, drums, and bass. We were
all jazz players, so it was easy for us to play off the cuff. We couldn‟t go wild or anything with
our playing, since this was a wedding. After the Kenny G tunes, we planned on playing some
jazz standards to fill out the rest of the set.
We jammed until the decorators were finished. I told them I‟d see them later and the big
guys came and escorted me out. We picked up my tuxedo and headed back to the mansion so I
could take a shower, change, and get ready. I didn‟t know when the wedding was suppose to
start, but I hurried up anyway, just to make sure. Man, it felt great to take a shower after not
having one in a couple days.
The big guys took me back to Rockefeller and I jammed some more with the band, who
were now all dressed up. After about an hour or two, people started coming in and sitting at the
tables which surrounded the dance floor. The band and I were on a stage behind the dance floor
and in between the dance floor and us was the table reserved for the wedding party. Eventually,
they arrived too. We had to play the wedding song when they entered.
The rest of the night was pretty easy going. We played Kenny G‟s song “Forever In
Love” for the first dance and “Songbird” for the wedding party‟s dance. After that, we worked
our way through some old jazz standards. Of course, we made sure to tone down our
improvising since there were people dancing in front of us.
I‟m personally not a very big fan of weddings. I mean, I‟m happy for the newlyweds,
don‟t get me wrong. It‟s just the whole fiasco you have to go through, it seems more of a show
for everyone attending than it is for the newlyweds. Maybe that IS the point, but still, it doesn‟t
fit me at all. If my future wife wants all that, that‟s fine by me. But I‟ve gotta find that special
someone first. That must‟ve been it . . . the real reason I didn‟t like weddings is because they
made me feel lonely. Ha, who needs a psychiatrist when you can figure this stuff out on your
People started leaving after the couple did the “feed each other some cake” bit. Good
thing, too, cause my playing was going downhill. I keep thinking I need to practice more, and
this just proved that I really should. Now, how to get rid of the part where I‟m too lazy to do it?
After everyone was gone, I found the boss and said, “Remember our deal?”
“Oh yes. I‟ll have one of my boys bring a limo around for you.”
“No, thank you, you were really good. Any chance I could book you for my other
I laughed. “No, but thanks for the offer.”
“Okay. Now get outta here, kid, you bother me.”
As I walked away, I said, “Have a Merry Christmas!”
One of his men took me outside and got me a limo. I had the limo driver bring me back
to the boss‟s mansion first so I could change and get my stuff. I left the tuxedo and soprano sax
in the room I used. I suppose I could‟ve brought the soprano sax with me, but that wouldn‟t
have felt right, so I just left it.
I told the limo driver where to go and he brought me back to the hotel safely. After
being away for almost 4 days, my New York adventure came to an end, not with a bang, but with
a whimper. I took the elevator to the Penthouse and as it opened, my parents and sis saw me
and immediately ran up and hugged me.
“Thank God you‟re back!” my mom said.
“What happened?” my dad asked. I noticed he seemed to be fine now.
“Where were you?” my sis asked.
“Guys, I‟m too tired to talk about it right now.”
They let go of me.
“But . . .”
“But . . .”
“But . . .”
“No buts, I‟m gonna walk over to that couch, flop down, and take a long, long nap.”
My mom said, “Okay, but we‟re leaving tomorrow, remember?”
I walked over to the couch, let myself fall onto it, and said, “Good.”
Our trip back home wasn‟t nearly as exciting as our trip to New York. Nothing
happened. We just got on our flights and got home in a day. There was a delay in Detroit, but
that was nothing compared to what we had gone through a week before. In fact, that delay in
Detroit was really funny because the airline gave us free phone cards to say they were sorry.
Free phone cards! Yeah, as if that makes everything better.
I told my family about everything I went through during my days apart from them. Of
course, I didn‟t tell them about how I almost got killed twice in one day. With some creative
thinking, I was able to gloss over it. Maybe, someday, I can tell them about it, but I‟m gonna
have to wait until it really doesn‟t matter anymore, until the day we can look back at the whole
thing and laugh.
One thing is for certain. This is one trip we‟re always going to remember, no matter
how much we may want to forget it. It‟s hard to imagine anything else bad that could‟ve
happened on this trip, but I‟m glad we went through this experience. If we can survive this, I
feel like we can survive anything God might throw our way. Maybe that was His intention . . .
or maybe He just has a weird sense of humor. I‟m still not sure which one. I‟ll have to ask
Him next time I see Him.
Dad was a softy. He didn‟t show that side of himself very often, but he was. He cried
at the end of the movie “Babe” (which, if you recall, is about a pig who becomes a sheep dog).
Why? Cause it made him feel very happy, I think. That‟s the only time I can remember him
crying out of happiness.
This story is based on the last trip we ever took together as a family. Of course, it‟s
heavily exaggerated and most of it is made up, but there are parts in here that are almost exactly
how things happened (for example, the whole scene in the airport where we watched what was
going on outside). Dad really was sick too, but he didn‟t have the flu. He had liver cancer. In
fact, the reason we went to New York was to see a doctor about what he could do for dad. It
was by sheer coincidence that it was the Christmas season. Well, the doctor couldn‟t do
anything for dad. That was very tough. We sat in the hotel room and cried, realizing what
would inevitably happen. Other than the day dad died, that was the hardest moment of my life
Dad died on March 17, 2001. The three months between New York and his death were
filled with ups and downs, more downs than ups. I saw a man I looked up to (and sometimes
hated, to tell you the truth, but who doesn‟t hate their father at one point?) slowly deteriorate and
eventually succumb to the cancer. But dad never ever bad mouthed the medical community for
not having a cure. He never bad mouthed God for calling him this early. He accepted it as best
as he could. He had a strong will and used it to not hate anybody for what was happening to
him. I mean, he quit smoking cold turkey after my grandpa died. It seemed he could do
anything if he concentrated hard enough. It was from him that I learned that principle of mind
I wanted to keep my promise to dad of writing a story about our trip to New York, but it
was hard to start after he died. I had lots of idea, but I just couldn‟t start the story. I knew I
wanted to make it a comedy because dad liked my uplifting writing more than my pessimistic
stuff. He could be quite cynical at times, but he always had hope, and I do too. Then there was
the issue of how much I should put in that‟s factual. How personal should I make this story? I
was afraid of laying it all out for people to see. Before I knew it, 3 months had gone by after
dad‟s funeral and I didn‟t write one word.
But inspiration finally came to me and I started writing. It‟s nothing spectacular,
nothing like enlightenment. I just got the urge to write. I wrote down some ideas, organized
them, and just went at it. I hadn‟t felt this good about writing in years. It came so fast to me
that I had to write things down quickly, else I‟d loose it. As the story developed, it grew from a
comedy based on facts to something more. I like to think it‟s a comedy with lots of heart in it.
Not only is this story for dad, but it‟s for my mom and sis. I promised dad that I would
take care of them when he was gone. It‟s a daunting task, but I know mom and sis will help me
out too. Not only that, but we also have infinite support from our family and friends.
Speaking of friends, this story is also for a good friend of mine (sorry for being cryptic,
but I‟m sure they know who they are). We helped each other through these tough times (both of
us were going through things). God really does put people in your life that you need, even
though you never think about it until the time you need them. Then you look back and notice
the timing and how perfect it was that you got to know each other. I can‟t thank them enough.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the story. You must have if you read all the way up to this
point, right? Or maybe you were smart and read the back before the actual story. If you did,
you now have added incentive to read it. I hope you got/get something out of this story,
whether it be a laugh, a cry, a piece of knowledge you didn‟t know before, or maybe you were
able to relate to a part of it. I don‟t know if dad would‟ve liked this story, but I do know that he
was proud of me no matter what I did as long as I was being honest and doing the best I could.
Well dad, I did both in this story. I‟ll see you later.
-Jonathan Viloria Acierto