As I crept by the exchange of cash and pure, white powder, the chain links that enclosed my childhood prison came into view. A dim streetlight across the cracked asphalt was all that shed light onto the block of dry clay and dead grass. Before I could step through the fence, something slammed the back of my head and the world went black.
It was a typical morning in the Upper East Side as I made my way down the cobblestone stairway to gather the Sunday edition of the New York Times. I held my warm mocha blend in my other hand and took in the wonders and woes of the planet from the bottom step. Most fellow residents jogging by, trees and people mere blurs, would take a quick snapshot in their mind of my morning routine. Nothing more than a swift shift of their neck. It was those who were out for a Sunday stroll that would stop and admire the breeze rustling through the live oaks above.
“How are you on this wonderful day, Mr. Thompson?” Mrs. Gatti always made quite the walk from Little Italy to have a lengthy, semi-deep conversation with me. At least it felt extended to me, with her subtle and thoughtful demeanor. Her eyes wandered up into the pale blue sky high above the rustling leaves of the oak as it creaked in the summer breeze.
“Do you ever wonder what lies above?” She slowly bent down to whisper in my ear.
Growing up we weren’t your typical family that attended mass every Sunday. Dad was usually passed out on the couch from the long night before. Mom was busy trying to get the most recent baby to stop rattling every eardrum in the house. That never stopped my mind from wondering. Sometimes it would find a destination where ideas would develop. Other times the gray matter continued into utter oblivion until a thumping fist on my door brought it back to reality. Most of the time that was my Father waking up from his routine slumber in the living room. What would it be today? Scolding me for getting all A’s this semester? There was never a dull moment when he was around. Growing up in a military family does that to you.
“What’s this here on your windshield, Mr. Thompson?”
Mrs. Gatti and I both came back to reality, back to Earth, at seemingly the same moment. Her quivering hand reached out to deliver a faded yellow sticky note.
We have been watching you for quite some time, Phil. It seems you have some thoughts that are dying to be released: a mind that is in dire need of being put to better use. Others have been gathered already. Do not be the one left behind. Your mother thinks so as well. If you would like to see her again, we will be waiting behind the chains on 51st Street.
Looking for an ocean adventure? Read ‘Ocean Diggers’
Interested in a detective’s next historical case? Read ‘Camp Roosevelt’