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.
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.
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
Art has been a toy to me, like an extra-dimensional rubrics cube in the mind. I didn’t know that I was an artist until my 30’s, after years of actually being an artist through writing, photography, and other mediums. Art is a compulsion, an impulse inside the body that manifests itself when we wake up from the auto-pilot of day-to-day life and realize that the world is 10,000 miles away from how we actually feel inside. It’s an attempt to get hold of the wild horse called our life and steer it in a direction that accurately expresses who we are or at least how we feel about who we are.
When I wrote those first screenplays in high school, I thought I’d be Spielberg by senior year. What the heck did I know about life and setting realistic goal? I thought the answer was a grandiose level of success. What I didn’t realize is that I was doing the most fundamental and bravest thing. I was saving my life.
Art saved my life. Not necessarily in the literal sense, but at very least psychologically. And psychological survival is often overlooked. I would have cracked inside as a teenager. I don’t know how this would have looked, but I had a steam pipes inside my mind and it needed release. Nothing else could do that for me those days. I barely knew how to talk to people, and I thought that being noticed and liked was everything. And for something that was everything to me, I barely felt that I was noticed at all, sitting at the lunch table by myself.
This thing called art, this puzzle in the seat of the creative mind distracted me from suffering, self-inflicted suffering, as it always is self-inflicted. Art became a place. Like a child going to her or his grandparents in order to relax from the overbearing nature of parents. Except myself and my value system were the overbearing parents, believing that if everyone loved me, all would be normal.
Art snapped me out of this. It was a long drawn out snap, one where I fought back, but art eventually won. “Who do you think you are?” it said to me. “I’ve been here before you and will be here after.” And then you see the greats. Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Mozart, Kubrick, Mary Shelly, those people that wrote on cave walls in France. Death didn’t care what they did for art’s sake. Death took them as quick as Death takes everyone else. Time doesn’t care either, because everything they did could one day be gone, will be gone when the universe ends.
We must treat ideas as though they are real and can grow if we feed them thoughts, positive or negative thoughts. “Art saved my life.” It’s not the hungriest idea I’ve ever conjured, but it has had the power to humble me. But I’ve come up with a better idea since getting older. “Art had and still has the power to save my life.” There’s a big difference, and I won’t insult your intelligence with an explanation. But I will tell you to find something to be a nerd about and geek out over it. Knit sweaters, catch crawfish, paint a portrait, collect coins, race go-karts, anything as long as it’s positive. Do it well and know it well and do it again. The skills that we gain through practice is the empire that we build within ourselves. Practice often and practice well. It may save your life or at least your sanity.
©2019 Marc Alexander Valle
I played with toys until age 13.
Are they just friends?
Maybe until 14, just a couple times.
Do you think she’s cute?
I had a younger friend. That was my excuse.
Does she like him?
I was good with toys.
Does he like her?
I could conceive complex scenarios and cinematic dialogue.
Are they talking?
I had a lot of toys.
Are they going out?
I’d line them up and just look at them.
Did they kiss?
I asked my therapist why I was doing this while others were maturing. She said, “Is that really any of your business?”
©2019 Marc Alexander Valle
You have to bleed it out. Art, truth, beauty.
Craftsmanship and hard work are effective, but it’s not what the body needs.
The mirrors of self-reflection reside in the gut, the solar plexus, the basement.
I used to fear the basement of my parents first house as a kid. It smelled of 100-year-old walls. I could touch the damp air with my fingers. For whatever reason I walked down, I always came running back up, imagining a zombie giving chase. I’d slam the door behind me.
You have to let it bleed. Art, truth, beauty.
Beauty is the circle and there are no shortcuts.
I once took a shortcut to the park with some friends through an abandoned factory lot. I walked on a steel beam pretending that I was 100 stories up in the air. My brother told me to get off. I kept walking, laughing. I tripped and fell on the next beam. It took a chunk of skin on my leg.
I thought I was going to die, it hurt so much. Blood poured down to my white sock and made its way down to my sneakers.
You have to let it bleed out of you. Art, beauty, truth.
Truth is the slow burn of the universe and the universe is a cold joke where reality uncovers itself at the punchline.
I once brought a dirty joke book to my sixth grade class. I showed everyone, thinking it would make me look cool. The teacher found it on me. I had to explain why I had it, and when he questioned me, I cried. Two girls in detention saw my tears, and I turned my face in embarrassment.
You have to bleed it out. Art, truth, beauty. It doesn’t even really like you or trust your humanity. But it needs you. And if you trust all three enough to let it pour out of your wounds, you’ll be rewarded with a feeling of pride, like you did something special. And we all need to feel like we’ve done something special. Even if it’s forgotten. And we will be forgotten. Right?
©2019 Marc Alexander Valle
Reality is a conversation with yourself.
That’s how I was going to start the poem. I became inspired to write it while I was waking up. I had to use the bathroom quick first. It was going to be my greatest poem. By the time I got to the computer, I forgot what I was going to say.
Reality is a conversation with yourself. A conversation full of narrative threads and spider-web worldviews.
I won’t have to worry about being fast enough at age 80. A machine will be in my head with a connection to the future form of the cloud and all my past thoughts will be at my disposal. I will write my great poem.
Reality is a conversation with yourself. A conversation full of narrative threads and spider-web worldviews, born from the fire of existence.
I’ll go to bed that night and have the best sleep of my life and have a dream better than all the dreams I’ve ever dreamt. I’ll revisit old memories intertwined with old fantasies that will turn into new adventures. I’ll get to use all of my collected knowledge to solve riddles and puzzles and unlock the greatest mysteries of the world. Did Socrates exist? Who was Shakespeare? Where was Jesus during the unrecorded years? I’m not sure if I’ll ever wake from that dream that night. No one ever really knows with those sorts of things.
© 2019 Marc Alexander Valle
I only ever met one kind of prophet in my life.
The older kid at the arcade that could beat the game in a handful of quarters.
He took us to the promised land of closing scenes and end credits.
I met him again today.
He’s bald and fat and has four girls in their teens.
They just kept playing on their phone as he asked what topping they wanted on their pizza.
I wanted to tell those kids that games, like those on their phones, filled a store-sized room at the mall.
That their father could dodge bullets, high kick thugs, out run cops, fight off aliens, save the princess and come back to life before his mom came to pick him up.
All the kids and teens in that room stood behind their dad, holding their breath and cursing in between.
The Indiana Joystick of flipping burgers.
But every now and then he’d get a day off from the hamburger stand, and fulfill his obligation to show us the way.
He exited the pizza shop with his girls and pulled a parking ticket from under his windshield wiper.
Not enough time on the parking meter.
He ran out of quarters.
Marc Alexander Valle ©2019
(Feedback is welcome)
The Santa Poem
My brother told me that Santa doesn’t exist. He showed me where all the gifts were stashed. G.I. Joes were everywhere. I felt a thrill throughout my body. Finding that Santa doesn’t exist is a double-edged sword. Your childhood is almost over, but now you have the advantage in gift begging. You can manipulate your parents into getting you what you want, and now you have someone to blame when you don’t get it. I’ll probably lie to my kids about Santa if I ever have any. When they find the gift stash, I’ll still lie to them. One Christmas, our dad made us leave a can of beer for Santa. He said that he wanted to see if Santa would drink it. The can was empty in the morning.
Feelings have no literal translation. Not even with body language. Or music. They’re private. Tossed and lost in the middle of the ocean like pirates’ treasure. Like Atlantis. It kills all of us to know that no one will ever know exactly how we feel. They call that loneliness. The only feeling without need for translation.