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
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