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
A piece that I wrote for Allentown Vision 2030’s open mic. Thank you Billy Mack for setting up this event, and thank you Hannah Clark and Allentown Vision 2030 for filming.
My flash fiction story, The 500th Block of Vincent Child, has been published in Door = Jar literary magazine. If you’d like to buy a copy of the Spring 2019 issue, follow this link to Amazon:
I’d always play with those bugs that curl into balls. They called them roly-polys. I’d dig them up in the dirt and touch them with a small twig so they could roll up. I always wondered what it would be like in that ball, only seeing myself in shafts of light. Was it warm in there like when I’d stick my head into my winter jacket? Does he feel untouchable in there, safe and sound? Can he fall asleep?
I’d cover my entire body with the blanket at night so the zombies wouldn’t see me. If I can’t see them, they can’t see. This bed sheet, my midnight steel.
I’m a grown man and now believe that nothing is free from harm. Not my body. Not my life. Not my world. Not my dreams that can turn into nightmares right before I wake and throw off this thin bed cover.
But I still cover up completely even if it’s for a few seconds late at night, trying to fall asleep, and I wonder what all the boogeyman fuss was about. And maybe that was the Universe’s evolutionary plan with those roly-polys. Like the ancestor to the roly-poly lived in a world of bigger bugs, predators, boogeymen, and the only ones that survived were the cowards that curled into the ball.
I lie in bed waiting to feel dozy. Two hours will have to do. Just two hours.
When I wake, I will shed this bed sheet one more time to meet the day that will always arrive regardless of my fears, or what childhood I had, or how strong my daddy was, or what goals I’ve planned or failed to meet.
Just two hours. A few hours will have to do.
by Marc Alexander Valle ©2019
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
“Wax on, wax off,” I said. Tanya laughed. I continued with more impersonations.
After the fourth minute, it was indisputable. The second grade blackboard 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?”
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.
“You guys want to stay here and watch Transformers,” my dad said. “Or do you want to go on a ride?”
My older brother voted to stay at the department store to finish the episode on a big screen color TV.
I voted for the ride.
“Well, you guys have to figure this out,” my dad said.
I turned to my brother, “I want to go on a ride.”
“I want to watch Transformers,” my brother said.
“I want to go for a ride!”
“I never saw this on a big TV.”
“What’s the ride?” I said to my dad.
“Well, you’re not going to see until you get on?”
“I want to go on a ride,” I said to my brother.
“I don’t want to go,” he said.
“But you’ve seen this one,” my dad said.
“Yeah, we saw it!” I said.
“I want to go!”
I want to gooooooooo!
He looked over, “No.”
I turned to my dad: “I want to go for a ride.”
“Well,” he said. “Since you guys can’t decide, you can watch this at home.”
“But it’s gonna be over then,” my brother said.
“It’ll come on again.”
We went on the ride. It was a five-story, downward spiral car ramp. The one we were always going to ride if we wanted to leave the parking lot.