Lancelot and Arthur at the Corner Bodega: A Flash Fiction

Lancelot and Arthur at the Corner Bodega

by Marc Alexander Valle

 “If you step on the line,” Terry said, “it’s a laser, and it’ll cut your legs off.”

“Yeah?” Eddie said.

“So we gotta jump them.”

“Are we fighting evil knights?”

“No, just lasers.”

“Okay.”

They never used lasers before, but Eddie had seen them in a movie, and he thought they were the most dangerous weapon. He liked the idea. So the boys walked over one sidewalk line to the next.

Terry’s movement was fluid. He’d step over the line, then he’d have to hop the next one or two. Eddie took his time, hopping over one, then stepping forward a bit until he’d hop the next line.

Last week, they dodged arrows, and Eddie got shot in the knee, so Terry claimed.

“The most painful place in the world to get shot in,” Terry said. “We’re out of commission. The queen is dead.” Eddie decided to practice his jumps every summer day since that event. He felt that he was prepared this time.

Terry pulled ahead.

“Wait up,” Eddie said.

“Come on,” Terry said.

“Wait up.”

Terry stopped.

Eddie continued to hop and step just a bit faster, but not too fast.

“Eddie, come on. There’s gators.”

“What?”

“Alligators behind you.”

“Alligators?!”

Eddie hopped and stepped faster. He’d seen alligators on television, and he feared what they called “the death roll”. Concrete block by concrete block, he began to find a flow and a groove. He could sense the gap between the gators and himself widening behind him. He caught up to Terry. “Where are we going?” he said.

“Around the corner,” Terry said. “To the store.”

“For what?”

“I want a 5-Nougats.”

“I can’t do this that far.”

“You want a Swill Stick?”

“Yeah.”

And they continued, hopping and stepping. Eddie fell behind. Terry stopped and waited, then started again. They continued around the corner and approached Stephanie and the jump rope girls. He knew Stephanie from class and liked her and thought she’d be impressed with his new jumping skills. He once gave her a valentine with a knight drawn on it. His caption read, “I’ll save you, princess.” Eddie jumped as far as he could and nearly touched dog poop. He checked to see if Stephanie saw, but she continued to count the girl’s jumps.

Eddie continued. Neither boy stepped on a line.

Eddie caught up to Terry. Terry looked ahead. He could see the sign for the corner store up the block.

“Alright,” Terry said. “No more lasers.”

“No?”

“No. See that house? That’s a sniper’s nest. It’s got Nazis in it.”

“What are Nazis?”

“You remember Uncle Jimmy?”

“Yeah.”

“He used to kill them. Now they want to kill us. So we can step on the lines now cause they don’t need lasers anymore, but we gotta run. Real fast. On three.”

“But you said lasers.”

“Yeah, but Nazis now.”

“What about the alligators?”

“No, just Nazis. So here we go. Three..two…one.”

But Eddie stood still, looking at the sidewalk.

“I said let’s go,” Terry said, looking back.

Eddie shook his head.

“Come on. They’ll blow your head open.”

Eddie shook his head again.

“You want to get blown up?”

Eddie shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s just for now,” Terry said, touching Eddie’s arm.

“I thought you said lasers.”

“Yeah but for now.”

“Yeah but lasers.”

This wasn’t the first time Terry changed the rules. But it was the first time Eddie insisted on following the previous instructions.

“I’ll get you a soda,” Terry said.

Eddie put his head down.

“And a mystery bag of candy.”

Eddie looked up.

“Or a bag of gummies.”

Eddie’s eyes opened wide, “Okay.”

They ran. They ducked. Terry yelled commentary on the sniper’s fire. Eddie lagged just a little behind. But not too far.

They made it to the store.

“Alright, just a regular size bag of gummies,” Terry said.

Eddie nodded.

“And a small soda.”

Eddie nodded.

“And don’t tell mom about the soda. Finish it before you get there.”

Eddie nodded again. Terry turned to the steps of the store.

“I win,” Eddie said.

“What?” Terry said.

“You got no legs!”

“What?”

An ice cream truck turned corner down the street. Eddie could see Stephanie and the jump rope girls stop, then run toward their row home. The sidewalk was clear now, and Eddie estimated that there must be one-thousand lines and cracks on the ground. This was the most he’d ever jumped. Sweat began to bead on his forehead. He turned to Terry whose eye brows were crunched down, waiting for a reply.

“Nothing.”

Prompt: What did you learn from your first job?

I worked at a movie theater when I was 16. I don’t have many good memories of it, because I don’t have many good memories from my teen years at all. But this prompt wants me to find something that I learned. After 22 years to reflect, I think I have something.

Show up on time to your minimum wage job and work hard. You’ll usually have a job and few problems.

I was nominated for an employee of the month the first month that I was there. I asked the manager why I was nominated. I had thought you needed to do more than clean a theater. He said that I was a good worker and caused no problems. For this reason, I was given more hours than most of the teens there.

“Is that all it takes?” I thought. “Is Woody Allen right about successes and how most of it is just showing up?”

As I got older, I dropped out of college and worked crappy jobs, I realized the importance of just showing up and working. Most workers in these jobs won’t show up and work. They give excuses to not be there, and they try to get out of some of the worst tasks of their shift. They’re often involved in drama, and many of them can’t be trusted. A good worker is hard to find and managers know this. This is not to say that showing up and working hard will make you a manager. Most likely you will be taken advantage of if you work too hard. But I’ve been able to hold on to these types of jobs because others do not have any standards for themselves.

This leads me to the real lesson.

Where did I get this ethic from?

My parents worked constantly when I grew up. This rubbed off. But more importantly, my parents weren’t phonies and showed me that it’s more important to express yourself with actions before words. My first job showed me the importance of a reputation. Your reputation is other people’s perception of who you are. And perception is everything. My mom and dad had a good reputation with me and my brother. They give us what we needed, and they were consistent about it. In turn, I decided to be as dependable as they were.

Show who you are, don’t tell. This is what I learned from my first job and other crappy jobs to follow.

And what did you learn from your first job?

My First Real Book

I never wanted to be a writer first. I wanted to be Steven Spielberg. At age 8, I asked the school librarian if she had a book on Spielberg.

She said, “No, but he’s a very interesting person. I think I’ll look for one and order it.”

I kept going back to the librarian nearly every day to see if she found the book and she eventually ordered it.

“It’ll take two weeks to get here,” she said. Once again, I went to the library every day and asked to see if the book arrived. I thought that maybe asking for it would speed up the process and ever time she told me that it takes two weeks to get to the school.

So as I waited, I tried to imagine what the book would look like and what it would say about Spielberg. I wanted to know about every movie that he made and what it would take to be a movie director. All I knew was that this was the man behind all of my daydream fantasies, and he got paid big houses and cars to make them. Movies allowed me to explore a more courageous side of myself that was not manifested in my interpersonal social life. I could be anyone I wanted after the credits started to roll, and I believed that I had a few characters of my own to share.

When the book arrived it was thinner than I thought, but I opened it and took in the new book smell. I could hear the glue of the bindings and the hard cover crackle. The pictures were in color, and I sat down to take them in.

I can’t remember exactly what was said about him in the book. Over the years I would take in more information about him and all the information seems to conflate to that book. But I do remember that this was the first time that I read a book that was purely informational. Until this day, I’m good at absorbing trivial information and consider myself an info junkie. I have so much data in my head that it fuels my imagination and serves as points of references in my mind. This book started it all.

The book didn’t help me become a filmmaker, but it helped me see the world more critically as non-fiction has allowed me to do. It helped me become a better writer and artist, who work deals with the critical analysis of reality and its nature.

My First List of Banned/Challenged Books

This is my former professor’s posting. It’s hard to imagine the Harry Potter series being banned when it got so many children to read. I honestly believe that if it weren’t for those books, the YA market would not be where it is today.

charles french words reading and writing

The ULS: The Underground Library Society

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(https://pixabay.com)

As the creator of the ULS, The Underground Library Society, and at the request of several followers, I have decided to put up lists of books that have been banned or challenged. If a book is challenged, that usually means there were people who wanted it removed from a school or library.  Both are forms of book censorship. It is important to note that I am not focusing only on books banned or challenged in the United States of America; unfortunately, censorship is a world wide action.

Here is my initial list of banned and challenged books:

The entire Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling;

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee;

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain;

Beloved by Toni Morrison;

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie;

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger;

The Grapes of…

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Post-Meditation Journal Entry # 4 and # 5

5/12/17, 5:00pm-ish, duration unknown

Today’s sit went by fast, but was hard. I want badly to catch the previous experiences, that deep experience. You feel like you’ve touched something. Today, I just didn’t touch anything.

I’m blocked as a writer, so I tried to start a screenplay today. I’ve completed screenplays in the past in between ages 14 and 21. I was bad at it but you couldn’t tell me otherwise back them. I thought that maybe since I completed screenplays in the past, I could finish one now and at least have a piece of work in my hand.

I had an interesting idea. But I couldn’t see the world of the story nor the protagonist. The elements that would compose the word of this story seemed flat and uncertain of itself. It was grey, cold and ashy. I reasoned that it was because I picked the wrong protagonist, so everything else fell apart. Story just might be too boring for me anymore. Not enough time to indulge in another writer’s stories, not sure where my story is going.

5/13/17, 10:00pm-10:20pm

The last thing I saw was Moby Dick. Also, I could see the sea vessel on choppy water.

Sometimes meditation is like dreaming. When you wake those thoughts and images slip away. But with meditation they just fade out like a candle and all you have is the smoke.

Post-Meditation Journal Entry #2

5/7/17, 8:20pm – 9:00pm

More messages this time. They’re almost dream-like and too hard to translate. I’m grateful for them. I feel as though I’ve benefited from this sit. I saw betrayal, that’s the word that comes to mind. It usually comes in the form of the image of a woman. So what comes to my conscious mind when I think of betrayal?

Mom’s 1990’s ABC soap operas and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

My interaction with betrayal has been minimal. I don’t set myself up for it. Betrayal requires that you let your guard down and assume loyalty from another. I’ve never felt loyalty, always the loyalty-bearer. I’ve been careful in this life to not act on any oath-breaking impulses with friends and colleagues, it’s not who I am and I don’t want the problems.

So why would betrayal popped up from the subconscious? Is it what the universe wants me to do, to be more vulnerable to those impulses, to take advantage of imbalanced relationships and live a little and stop being so nice?