Primitive

Primitive

Before Anthony Rienzi was married with two daughters and working for a marketing startup in North Carolina, he used to steal girls’ underwear.

Rienzi was the panty-pilfering bandit of Louis Pasteur Middle School in Little Neck, Queens. His heists started in the seventh grade and ended—as far as I know—when Corinne K. died in a car crash on Little Neck Parkway.

Rienzi was never caught. He’s never confessed. I’m the only one who knows about the jobs he pulled. We were best friends.

This morning Rienzi sent me a friend request on Facebook. We haven’t spoken in nearly two decades, and there he is, an older, thumbnail version of the kid I used to eat lunch with every day.

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Beaujolais Day

Beaujolais Day

The guidebook promised “a revered afternoon,” the city would stop, people would spill out of the cafés and brasseries, and, sure, there were plenty of signs in the windows: Le Beaujolais Noveau Est Arrivé!, but most places were empty, apparently no real rush to uncork the first bottles. So, until things picked up, if they ever would, I thought I’d do something quite ordinary, my laundry, and when I got it spinning, a full load at the Lav-Club on the rue Frédéric-Sauton, I walked the few blocks to Le Vermeer Café.

It was quiet inside. Three Sorbonne students were playing cards by the toiletries; a collie was asleep by the coat rack.

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Cheyenne Greene and the Pastor Blaster

CheyenneGreene

The words “fifteen years,” from the judge’s mouth, hit him with a monstrous force. “I haven’t killed no one!” And it was then, in the fury of the moment, with the click of the handcuffs, the cold metallic grips, that he began looking at life differently.

Later, he would tell the pastor: “I was playing a game I could never win, and I guess like a lot of dudes, I got caught up in a false reality. Up was down. Open was closed. No was yes.” And locked up he had plenty of time to think about it. All along, he had thought he was game tight but it took only one mistake: a telephone call to a DEA informant about a few white hot kilos rolling down from Chapel Hill, and it was game over, Cheyenne.

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NeedlePoint

NeedlePoint

The glass door whooshed open, and sunlight slipped in. A smell of chemicals mixed in the air with blood, sweat, and maybe even tears. Dirty footprints marked the tiled floor right up to the mat under the glass window. A pad and pen was ready for the visitor, and she signed in. As she signed her name and time, she grimaced at a broken nail, making a mental note that such a thing had to be fixed and could not be ignored. As she moved away from the glass window, she made a fist so as not to see such a flaw, but then she saw those in the waiting room staring back at her.

There were only eight chairs. An elderly woman sat in one, staring off into space. A mother with two kids occupied three, and her little kid was a monster.

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Count Bitchula

CountBitchula

The band was practicing here for the first time, three of us in my living room, when grunge was all the rage. We called ourselves Count Bitchula. People likened our sound to a brutally overdriven version of Violent Femmes. They associated us with the Melvins, Nirvana. I didn’t mind the comparisons. I would’ve personally thanked Kurt Cobain for ending the reign of hair metal if I could have. Incidentally, Kurt Cobain and I were both twenty-seven that year, and I felt an odd kinship with him every time I put on a Nirvana record. This was somebody who never bought into the lies, somebody who’d figured things out, who knew that idiots ruled our planet and he was having no part of it.

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Happy

Happy

After years of waiting, Happy Dunbar once again had what he referred to as the feeling. It was a sense – a frisson, as an old French girlfriend once described it – that he had gotten only a few times in his life. That, he understood, was why he could vividly remember each and every instance. The first came when, as he often joked later, he integrated a black church in Newark, where a visiting minister named Solomon Burke – known in the secular world as The King of Rock & Soul – filled not just the building, but also Happy’s needy soul, with a belief in the healing power of music. In those days, Happy, who had yet to acquire his music biz moniker, was rarely the least bit happy.

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Cruising Along Fate’s Darkness

CruisingAlong

Bright yellow flashed along her sides, blinding and twisting deep. Then, velvet darkness resettled, unbothered and waiting. Emptiness stretched out and yawned loudly, refusing to end, and the past fell behind. We know where we begin, but where do we end? The road never tells.

I always wanted to run. She called my name, but I was stuck at the front door. I never knew where she would take me, and I was scared of where I would end. But my mistakes have left me blinded and twisted, and I regret ignoring her call. I should have ran. Instead, I teased her with little trips down my haven, staying close to the nest, but who was fooling who?

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Front Page

FrontPage

It was deadline night. The newspaper was being put to bed. Phones rang with last minute comments, and fingers pounded along the keyboard. Cigar smoke rose out of the editor’s office and into the small room, where the reporters hunkered down and finished writing their story.

First year on the job, Kingston Linders was assigned to the police blotter. He was itching to tango with politics, but the senior reporter had that gig. He would love to do community events and issues, but that was also taken. And he was the rookie, so he got what he was stuck with. And every day, horror stories came over web and fax, and he had to dig through them.

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Over the Porch

OverThePorch

I sat down on the white bench, checking my watch. They were late, and nobody called me to tell me that class was canceled. I rose up from my seat and stretched my arms over my head, pretending to be oblivious to the cop now watching me. I glanced across the street to the dance studio, where little girls also stretched and practiced their dance. I was only killing time, but somebody noticed me. Now, the blinds were drawn, and the cop was near, contemplating his next move. But I was not going anywhere.

I sat back down on my seat. I kicked at the air before me, waiting. I was always waiting for something. I wondered how I got here. It was a year ago, and my brother saw the ad in the paper for acting classes. He was thrilled and dragged me along to the introductory class, and I was the one left attending. And here I am now.

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