This piece is really different from what I usually write. It’s short and I’m not sure if it will lead to anything (there also isn’t a “Part 2” at the moment) but I would love to hear what you think about it. Where would you like to see this go next? What questions do you have? Any and all feedback is welcome. Feel free to leave a comment here or on the blog’s Facebook page.
Jack placed his coffee on the counter that faced the window. He took his newspaper out of the black plastic bag and put it next to the coffee. The bag slumped to the side, now holding only the box of cigarettes Jack bought at the bodega earlier that day. Jack leaned his cane against the metal window frame, pulled out the brown metal chair and sat down carefully, gripping the counter for support. He leaned back gingerly, wincing at the nagging pain in his lower back, and gazed out the window at the cars slowing to a stop in advance of the red light at the nearby intersection.
They’re always in such a rush on this street, he thought. It’s such a short block and the light at the boulevard is always red; how far do they really think they’re going to get?
His eyes refocused on his reflection in the window. The pockmarks in his cheeks seemed to be spreading and the bags under his eyes looked… stiffer, somehow. He reached up to smooth out the white wisps of hair that had been blown out of place by the gale-force winds outside. His eyes settled on the paper clip he had threaded through the broken hinge of his glasses. He gritted his teeth momentarily as he felt the spasm in his back flare up and recede again.
Jack took a sip of his coffee, feeling the dark liquid spread warmth through his body. His stiff muscles relaxed slightly with the sudden change in temperature. He glanced out the window again as a woman ran by on the sidewalk, clutching her red purse to her chest as she struggled against the wind to catch the bus. Again with the running, he thought as he took another sip.
He unfolded the newspaper. The front page showed a courtyard in front of a brick apartment building with caution tape around it. There was an inset photograph of a young man with dark skin. At the bottom of the page, large white block letters spelled out “TRAGEDY.” He thumbed through the first few pages and skimmed over the first few stories. A teenager had been shot by another teenager, apparently from a rival gang. A mother had been arrested for buying heroin while her seven-year-old son waited in the car. A politician was being accused of fraud. A man had been killed during a home invasion.
Jack grunted with disapproval, folded the paper back up and put it back in the plastic bag with the cigarettes. I don’t know why I bother, he thought. He shifted in his chair and leaned back again.
A UPS truck pulled up and the driver parked, ignoring the fire hydrant his truck was now blocking. A tall, blonde woman passed by wearing a purple workout outfit, holding a large Starbucks cup and chattering away on her Bluetooth headset, oblivious to the fact that the UPS employee had almost dropped his deliveries as he stopped short to avoid walking into her. The UPS man glared after the woman and muttered something Jack could not make out. Don’t even bother, buddy, Jack thought. She didn’t even see you; she isn’t worth your energy.
Jack finished his coffee, took hold of the countertop and pulled himself up to stand. He tried unsuccessfully to suppress a groan as his back voiced loud protests to the movement. Jack put the bag with the newspaper and cigarettes around his wrist, picked up the wooden cane and made his way over to the garbage can to throw out his cup. He gave a cursory wave to the cashier and made his way back outside.