So You Say You Want An 80s Childhood?

I took the liberty of printing my own chapbook. I just wanted to see how it felt to have something in print that I could show everyone and pass out. It’s a bunch of vignettes about growing up in Allentown, PA in the 1980s and 1990s.

The 500th Block of Vincent Child: A Flash Fiction

Special thanks to Door is a Jar, who first published the story in the Spring of 2019. 

The 500th Block of Vincent Child

by Marc Alexander Valle (mavthewriter)

     Vincent Child watched as the young man assaulted the old man across the street. He wasn’t sure if it was a robbery and didn’t know what to do if it was. So he stood still, watching the young man grab and shove the old man in front of the tenement on the narrow one-way street.

Vincent looked around. No pedestrians. Only him and the two men on the sunless block. A knot formed in his stomach and he could feel the cold breeze more intensely, cutting through his black jacket and tan pants. The men continued to struggle.

He wished he hadn’t turned this corner. Yesterday, he turned onto another street. That was his usual route for the last ten days as he substitute taught for an eighth grade teacher at Jackson Middle School. But he’d read an article that said that if you change certain routines in your life, you can change your brain waves and create positive thought patterns. So he turned onto the 500th block of Chester St, a slightly downhill block of apartment buildings and tightly parked clunkers, then he crossed the street.

“Give it,” the young man said.

“No!” the old man said.

The young man punched the old man, who fell behind a parked Cadillac. The young man crouched down. Vincent could see neither of them now. He could hear sirens getting closer and wondered who they were for.

He looked around again. A woman pushing a stroller walked his way. He believed that she hadn’t seen the struggle across the street, but he figured she would soon. And when she did the woman would believe that he was a coward. She would tell the police that he did nothing and the news would quote her as saying, “No one did anything. He just stood there.”

Vincent pulled his cell phone from out of his jacket. He turned it on and waited.

     What icon do I press? Do I call 911? Are they already coming?

“Help!” he heard from the old man.

The young man was standing back up. “Stop!” he said, looking down and kicked.

“Give it.” He kicked again.

“Hey,” Vincent said. “Hey!”

The young man looked over. “I called the cops,” Vincent said, raising his phone to the young man.  “The cops.” The siren were blaring and getting closer.

The young man crouched down again behind the Cadillac.

“What’s that?” the woman said.

“I don’t know,” Vincent said, “Two guys fighting.”

The woman shook her head and kept walking with the stroller.

Vincent kept looking at her as she walked away, then turned to the Cadillac.

He could neither hear, nor see either of the two. He turned back to the woman with the stroller. She was nearing the corner. He turned to the Cadillac. Still no commotion. Then back to the woman as she turned the corner. Then back to the Cadillac.

“Hey,” Vincent said.

No response.

He turned and started walking down the block.

“No! Stop!” he heard someone say behind the Cadillac. “No!”

It sounded like the young man. But it could have been the old man. He wasn’t sure.

“Hey,” he said.

No response. No commotion. Vincent backed closer to the corner.

He heard the sirens, blaring and getting closer.

     The cops are on their way. I’m late.

     They were blaring and getting close.

     I’m sure they’re coming here.

He turned the corner.

“A 67-year old man was beaten to death yesterday on the 500th block of Chester St. at 9:00 am. Police were alerted by neighbors–

Vincent Child put down his phone on the desk. The incident he saw took place at 7:00 am. A full two hours before neighbors called. It’s impossible to have been the men I saw. He exhaled and stood up.

The seventh grade students would be arriving in ten minutes. He’d wanted to avoid seventh grade. He heard they were bad this year, but he was sent to cover one period after his break. The teacher’s lesson plan was at the center of the desk:

Students will be wrapping up their projects on How My Community Feels. If finished, tell them to post drawing on the corkboard. Some students are finished. Have them read a book.

Vincent walked over to look at the drawings. Most drawings had children playing. Some had children with family. A few had people arguing. But in one drawing there was a man on the ground with another man standing above him. Vincent read the words below it:

I saw a man get beat out my window and no one did nothing. Makes me scared.

Vincent looked at the image again. At the edge of the paper, a woman in purple held onto a yellow stroller. Behind her, a man dressed in a black jacket and tan pants. The man in the black jacket looked back at the two men with wide eyes and an open mouth. He saw “Period 3, 7th grade” labeled at the top of the paper. Vincent was in period 2 now.

The school bell rang.

Vincent took his black jacket and hung it in the closet. He doubled checked his pants and saw they were blue today. The students could be heard down the hall, yelling and getting closer. Part of his job was to serve as hall monitor in between classes, but he could only stand still, listening to them yelling and getting closer.

Vincent looked over to the drawing again and studied the face of the man with the black jacket. He had the vertical face his mother always said he had and noticed shaky lines to make him look more scared. He put his head down and took a deep breath.

Vincent turned to the door again. He could hear the kids coming down the hall, yelling and getting closer. Yelling and getting closer.

Marc Alexander Valle ©2019

Twitter, Instagram, Youtube Channel: Mavthewriter

The Dunbar Number ©2016 by Marc Alexander Valle

First published in The Lehigh Valley Vanguard  ©2016

If you keep your mind open and listen to someone’s view, you can believe anything.

People on the ‘left’ always seem right, logical, thorough. People on the ‘right’ always seem right, thorough, logical.

Clinging to their views like a cat to its master’s when it’s about to go into a tub.

You second guess yourself.

You figure it out again,

you come up with new points, arguments, philosophies,

you tell yourself that your view is free from the influence of experience,

you tell yourself that you’re not free from the influence of experience, but still must be right.

Like you happened to have fallen out of a womb that landed you into the right time, place, race and class in history.

But have you ever met someone that admits to having the wrong point of view? I have. The person’s name is ___________. The person has asked to remain unidentified but has this to say: The momentum of cause and effect acts on us all, acts within us, acts without us. Don’t listen to me. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

The Chestnut (Longer Version)©2016 by Marc Alexander Valle

The old man contemplated suicide. He would walk the park. Maybe change his mind.

Children played.

Mothers talked.

Dogs barked.

Fathers caught baseballs.

He still wanted death.

He turned to the creek and stepped on its bank. An object floated towards him, a squirrel clenching onto a chestnut. The old man bent down and held out his cane.  He leaned in as it neared. But the squirrel kept holding on to the chestnut.

The creek pulled the squirrel downstream. Then, submerged it.

Children played.

Mothers talked.

Dogs barked.

Fathers caught baseballs.

“Stupid animal,” a boy said. “Why do they do that?”

“Everybody’s gotta eat,” the old man said. “No matter how stupid you are.”

“I don’t get it.”

The old man turned away. “Sometimes you’re not supposed to.”

Both story and image by Marc Alexander Valle ©2016.

For the shorter, one-hundred word version of the story, click here, and please click ‘Like’ if you liked it.

 

3 Poems and a Photo©2016 by Marc Alexander Valle

These are three poems of mine from an untitled series. They have been published in Beechwood Review (http://beechwoodreview.com), a minimalist online journal. The attached photo is also mine.  

Branches, buddings, purple wrens,
landing, chirping, bouncing,
over battlefield trenches

Desert, moon, white, dunes,
sand, blowing,
unearthing limestone ruins

Thick mist clears,
hot air balloon armada
blots the atmosphere

All poems and photography by Marc Alexander Valle ©2016.

Weird by Marc Alexander Valle*

People called me weird in elementary school, because I said that I was Superman since I was wearing red underwear.

People called me weird in middle school, because I always talked about movies and used Star Wars analogies to make my point.

People called me weird in high school because I was quiet and would suddenly say something totally irrelevant like “Bill Clinton would have made a good Roman general, don’t you think?”

People would call me weird because I could consume a gallon of spaghetti sauce but hated tomatoes. Because I would drive all around the block to find a stop light simply because I didn’t like left hand turns. Because I would drink coffee followed by a soothing cup of chamomile.

Being called weird doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I figure that being weird is better than being a ‘weirdo’. A weirdo is like the Rain Man of weirdness. I consider myself the Good Will Hunting of weirdness…more adjusted, less irritable.

Weirdness is the state of not being normal. But weirdness is definitely a normal phenomenon in nature. Look to the sky and study flocks of sparrows swarming to and fro, left to right, up and down. There’s always one bird just outside the swarm, trying to keep up, trying to break off.

He’s weird. Maybe even a weirdo.

We’re all weird on some level. Some people are weird on all levels. I’m probably weird on a few levels, but nothing I’m uncomfortable with. Well, except for a couple of things. But if I told you, you’d probably call me weird.

*Published in Lehigh Valley Vanguard

Posted image above by Marc Alexander Valle.

New Bike by Marc Alexander Valle*

New Bike

10-year old Devin Maguire held onto his BMX handle bars and stared at my new bike, “Your dad got that bike from a thrift store.”

“No he didn’t!” I said.

“Yes he did. I can tell.”

“No, he didn’t.”

“Yeah, cause there’s marks on it.”

“He got it from K-Mart.”

“Okay, which one?”

“The one down the street.”

“I know all the bikes at K-Mart. I didn’t see that one there.”

“Well, that’s where he got it from.”

“Did he tell you he got it from there?”

“No.”

“Then how do you know?”

“Cuz, my parents don’t shop at thrift stores!”

When my dad came back from work, he told me that he bought the bike from a thrift store. The same store we’d been to several times that year.

*Previously published in Lehigh Valley Vanguard