The Promise ©2016 by Marc Alexander Valle

Words and image by Marc Alexander Valle ©2016

They followed the jet as far as they could.

“You know time is slower up there?” Baskin said.

“Yeah?” Vinny said.

“And when he lands, we’re gonna be older than him.”

“Really?”

“That’s what my teacher said.”

 

The jet disappeared into the distance.

“Baskin, where’s it go?”

“A secret base. No one knows.”

“You wanna keep going?”

“No. Hangman’s on tonight.”

They turned home.

 

Neither said a word.

Vinny’s head pointed down.

Porchlights turned on. Fireflies danced. Streetlights flickered.

Neither said a word.

Vinny’s head pointed down.

“Tomorrow, Vinny.”

“What?”

“We’ll follow it tomorrow.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, fartface. I promise.”

“Cool.”

They walked inside.

Stuck in the Middle: A Flash Memoir

“Tell her that she’s not my friend anymore,” Tina, who was sitting to my right, said.

I turned to Linda, who was sitting to my left, “Tina said that she’s not your friend.”

“Tell her I don’t care,” Linda said. “She’s not mine.”

I turned to Tina, “She said she doesn’t care.”

“Well, tell her I don’t care either and that she’s a liar.”

I turned to Linda, “That you lied that one time and she doesn’t care.”

“She doesn’t?”

“No,” I said.

Linda looked around me, to Tina.

“You don’t care that I lied?” Linda said.

“What?” Tina said.

Two minutes later.

“Yes, you were, Marc,” Tina said. “You were trying to get us to fight.”

“But you told me to tell her all that.” I said.

“You didn’t tell her everything I said.”

“I did.”

“You’re mean, Marc.”

“But I didn’t do nothing.”

Life Lesson #2: Drama loves company. Do as little favors as possible.

Bucket Ruckus: A Flash Memoir

“Wax on, wax off,” I said. Tanya laughed. I continued with more impersonations.

After the fourth minute, it was indisputable. The second grade board was clean. I would have to impress her another time.

“Alright,” she said. “Mrs. Reed makes us dump the water in the sink when we’re done.”

Tanya approached the sink. I followed.

“I got it,” I said, taking the bucket from her.

“Mrs. Reed told you how to dump it, right?”

“Yeah! Watch.”

I grabbed the handle with my left hand and lifted. It wobbled. I held the bottom with my other hand. All I needed was to get it above the sink. Way above. As high as I could get it without getting water on the counter.

Tanya stepped forward, “Mrs. Reed said–

I tilted the bucket.

“Just make sure you pour the water sl—

I dumped all of the water into the sink in one shot. Nearly all of it splashed back.

Tanya backed off a step.

I backed off a few.

But it was too late.

“Oh my God! You got water all over my dress.”

I looked at myself, “Yeah, I got it on me too.”

“Why’d you do that? You were supposed to pour it in.”

“I didn’t know.”

Students got out of their seats, looking over.

“Ooohhh, weeee,” they said.

I turned to Mrs. Reed’s desk.

She was walking towards us. I placed my hands in front of me to cover the water. It was useless.

The Accidental Atheist

“I am an atheist,” Mrs. Holis, my sixth grade teacher said. “I believe that when you die that’s it. There is no heaven. No hell. Nothing. You’re just a body and when you die you go back into the earth”

My eleven-year-old mind could neither conceive nor understand an end to consciousness. I took this to mean that when you die, you sit in a casket fully awake until the end of time. I carried this image all through middle school.

Two years later, walking home from the mall, she emerged from a porch with another lady. She saw me.

“How are you?!” she said.

“I’m fine. How are you?” I said.

“Great. Are you doing well in school?”

“I guess.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound too good.”

“I know.”

She took out a brochure. “Well, I just want you to know that God loves you…”

“Okay.”

She handed the brochure to me. I took it. “And Jesus is our lord and savior.”

“Okay.”

“Do you believe in the Lord, Marc?”

“Yeah.”

“And do you believe in Jesus?”

“I guess.”

“Well, do you believe that God sent down his only begotten son to save your soul?

“I don’t know.”

“Well, this literature will help you understand the sacrifice that Jesus made for you. Okay, hun?”

I took the pamphlet and looked at the pictures on the way home. I then tossed it over the bridge and into the Jordan creek.

I felt a sense of relief deep inside knowing that she was no longer an atheist.

She might have been wrong back then. I might have to sit in a casket until the Earth explodes. Thank God.

The Writer: A Flash Memoir

“Mr. XYZ?!” Mrs. Cart hollered in front of the seventh grade class, “You want to write about Mr. XYZ?! This is supposed to be a paper about heroes. Do you even know who Mr. XYZ is?!”

. . .

The plan was to write a term paper that made me look cool. I chose an unsavory character from history. One who I’ve referred to as Mr. XYZ. Mrs. Cart didn’t follow the plan.

Back home, I paged through the Encyclopedia Britannica, looking to please her.

George Washington. Boring.

Thomas Jefferson. Boring

Abraham Lincoln. Boring.

Axel Rose. Taken.

John F. Kennedy.

The theme music for the film JFK blared inside my twelve year-old head. Three months earlier, Oliver Stones’ film suggested my first non-fiction idol. I wanted to be him as much as Luke Skywalker. I now had details in my hands to support those feelings.

I wrote the paper on JFK.

I turned it in.

Mrs. Cart read it in front of the class, said something about my turning things around.

I had written every word to get back into her graces and it worked.

I had found an acceptable hero. One that I fantasized about being.

I crafted a narrative. I was adored for it.

. . .

I had sold out, compromised.

But remained true. At least to what I wanted to believe was true.

My journey as a writer began.

The Existential Futurist: A Flash Memoir

Age 35

2015. At home. On my cell phone with Adam.

“Alright,” I said. “So are robots going to take our place as artists?”

“No,” Adam said. “Humans will always have a need to produce art.”

“Yeah, but they might be better at it. Then my writing will look like a kid did it and not mean as much.”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Age 13

1993. Sleepover at Jake’s. The first person I knew to have the internet. We saw Jurassic Park, the summer’s highest grossing film, for third time earlier that day. We’d been in online chat-rooms since we’d gotten back.

“I’m just scared,” I said.

“About what?” Jake said.

“Cause when I’m a movie director. Cause everyone’s going to be on the internet and there won’t be movies anymore.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You don’t?”

“No, people are always gonna want to go to the movies.”

I looked to the computer screen. Five more people entered the chat-room.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said. “I don’t know.”

Age 35 continued

“Yeah,” I said. “but look at what androids do now. And look at how fast it got like that in twenty years.”

“But they won’t be human,” Adam said.

“Well, what’s human? Whatever it is they might be able to reproduce it. We’ll be obsolete.”

“No, it’ll be alright.”

I looked to my computer screen. The news app said that the fourth Jurassic Park film is the fastest grossing film for the summer.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said. “I don’t know.”

Bubblegum Complex: A Flash Memoir

Age 35

Third store I’ve been to and no sling bag. Now I gotta walk out this place empty handed, wondering if the clerk thinks I’m just here to steal.

“Can I help you find something,” the clerk said.

“What?” I said.

“Is there something you need?”

Age 7

I headed down the aisle that led directly to the counter, clasping the piece of stolen gum. The exit was to the left of it, and I would have to pass Chadi as he stocked a carton of Pall Mall. But he turned before I could leave the aisle, making eye contact.

“What do you have?!” Chadi demanded.

I stood still, body pointing towards the exit, “Nothing.”

“Open your hand!”

“I don’t have nothing.”

“You steal from me?!”

“No.”

“Show me what’s in your hand.”

I opened my hand.

“Why you steal from me?!”

“I was going to give it to you later.”

“If you would have asked me, I would have given one to you. Why didn’t you ask?”

“I don’t know.”

I couldn’t run for the exit. I lived right around the corner. He could tell my parents. For the next minute, or maybe more, or maybe less, I let him scold me. He made me put back the candy and told me to leave.

“Next time I tell your parents. Okay?”

I nodded.

“Go.”

Age 35 continued

“No,” I said to the clerk.

I grabbed a travel-size shampoo and showed it to her.

“Thanks.”

I paid for it at the counter.

Outside the store, I stared at it.

Color protecting shampoo. What heck am I gonna do with this?   

90’s Childhood Movie Theaters

I frequented several movie theaters growing up in Allentown, PA in the 1990s.

da27f5cfc59a5b9690c6a1a383ef0c11

General Cinema was across the street from the Lehigh Valley Mall. This was the theater my brother and I went to most often. It was two and a half miles away from our house, but the theater had all the major studio releases.

General Cinema was the easiest theater to sneak in another film after you finished your first movie.

ghdsf

The Eric was a quarter mile from our house. This theater mainly played MGM, New Line Cinema and TriStar/Colombia films. This meant that they showed all of the Jean Claude Van Damm, Freddy Kruger and first generation Star Trek films.

The theater was right across the street from the Lehigh County prison, so we could hear the inmates play basketball from the upper floor. The Eric is now a social security office.

Snapshot video sequence

The Franklin was a second-run theater that formerly had been an adult theater called The Jannette. The theater was a block away from us. Their first film was Sister Act. People would talk and yell at the movie screen. There was an elderly usher, probably in his 70’s, that the kids would harass. I can still remember him chasing them around the theater and them making fun of his hair piece.

large (1)

The Plaza was a second run theater at the Whitehall Mall. I still remember seeing Rain Man there. There was an arcade right next to it that was more like a second hand arcade, because they only had older games. Our dad would give us quarters to play games until the movie was about to start. The last movie I saw there was Babe 2: Pig in the City.

large (2)

AMC was miles away from my family’s house. We would rarely go there, but I still remember their first films were Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Clint Eastwood’s Pink Cadillac. I can remember that these were the first two films because that opening weekend I was on punishment. My dad said that not going to see Indiana Jones was part of that punishment. We eventually went the next weekend, but we saw the film at General Cinema instead.

If cinema was scripture to me, then the movie theater was a cathedral. Each one was different and had its own character, but until this day I walk through these buildings in my dreams. I wait for a show to begin as though I’m about to watch the greatest motion picture ever made for the first time.

My 7th Grade

In seventh grade, the school put me in the lowest section. I had little in common with those kids. They talked about who was making out with who and who’d been placed in juvenile detention for the summer. They also knew song lyrics. Many of the boys rapped to themselves throughout the day.

They’d ask me why I was there.

I would say, “I don’t know”.

They would say, “Are you smart?”

I would say, “No,” or “I don’t know.”

Then they would say, “Yes, you are.” Then try to get me to help them on a test or with seatwork. When I didn’t know the answers to their questions, they would say, “But I thought you were supposed to be smart.”

I was always a quiet person in school. This was the quietest I ever felt.

The next semester, I was transferred to another section. This was the best time I ever had in school. We were considered a section that was fully capable of achievement, but as our social studies teacher would say, “You’re all ignorant. Not stupid. Ignorant. You know what ignorant means? It means that you have the ability to know, but you don’t want to.”

These statements were a joke to us. Everything was a joke. At the cafeteria, we did this thing where we’d say “Schism-scasm-schism” then follow it with a random word. Then we’d insult our classmate with a statement that rhymed with that last word.

My parents sat me down to talk about my grades. They said that I was taking advantage of their marital problems by not doing my school work. I probably was taking advantage of them. I don’t know. I was having too much fun.

Smart, but lonely. Happy, but ignorant. Seventh grade.