A Short Story
by- Tom Kubrak
It was 3pm usually when Patrick arrived at the bridge in Orange crossing over highway 280. A busy highway that never seemed to take a break. The Sounds of passing traffic were always a delight to listen to for Patrick. Patrick was eight years old and he came to the bridge in Orange, above the interstate, everyday to watch and listen to the passing cars. He started doing this a few years ago after his mother Victoria bought him his first toy Tonka truck.
Orange was a town that had seen it’s better days. Early in it’s days, tracing back to 1792 it was “The hat making capital of the world.” It also was a hotspot of beer making. The Orange Brewery staking a spot on it’s territory. It was a hotspot for travelers in the early 1800’s. All of these industries employing thousands. Then The Newark riots had a great effect on the city. Industries slowly started to leave and the amount of jobs decreased dramatically. The city is still recovering becoming a pass through town as highway 280 passes right through it’s core.
This was where Patrick would go. On South Essex Ave where the highway passed under.
Although he loved to go to his bridge, Patrick found his other escape in his sports. He was an athletic boy- but sort of an outcast when it came to conversing and talking to the people he was playing with. It was always awkward being around him with the other kids. He always said things that the other kids found stupid or just plain weird. To get away from them, and avoid these encounters with the other kids, he sometimes went to the bridge and played with his cars right next to the speeding cars below him.
Today… Patrick was a spectator of a violent accident on the bridge. Along with 10 other latinos who had taken a break from their job across the street. Traffic had slowed to a pace that was equivalent to his street on Oakland Ave. Patrick stared at the crash stupefied, not noticing that napkin float from one of the other spectators lunches and float calmly down to the interstate pavement.
The car was mangled and crumpled into what looked like when Patrick crumpled the crust in his fist after refusing to eat the crust from his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Patrick arrived when the ambulance did and shortly after the tow-truck came. He watched as they pulled the lifeless body from the car. He couldn’t hear what they were saying but he saw them try to put up a sort of barricade to block the passing cars from viewing the bloodied corpse.
Patrick continued to watch as a few police officers shortened the already slow traffic down even slower as they put cones up to guide the traffic into a one lane shoot so they could attempt to clean up the wreck. Two extra men came with the tow-truck driver to do just that; clean up. Glass was strewn about all over the pavement and metal from the front of the car was laying everywhere- where the car had impacted the interstate wall.
Coming from a family who lived and worked blue collar jobs in the city Patrick never really got on the highway except for school bus trips to the zoo or the city. So, seeing this put an imprint in Patricks mind of the dangers of the interstate.
Patrick watched closer and closer and he saw something that didn’t look right. While the other people were cleaning up and the ambulance was finishing loading the body there was somebody about five feet from the car, who was in what looked like a long white shirt and black pants. His t-shirt blew slightly in the wind. He just stood there and awed the human. The scene had about five people working on it and at one point he saw one of the policemen pretty much walk through him.
‘That’s so weird.’ Patrick thought clutching the bridge’s fence a little tighter.
The next week…
“Patrick! Get down here right now!” his mom yelled up the stairs to him.
Okay mom okay!” he called from his room shoving his school supplies in his bag.
His Mom was always on top of him before school. A strict disciplinarian, Patrick never messed with his mom. It was a game he refused to play at this point in his life.
He needed his bag full of pencils markers and his other desk equipment. His 3rd grade literature book, his calculator and of course his toy cars for later on the bridge.
“Patrick Charles get down here right now!” The bus was coming in 15 minutes and Patrick still needed to have breakfast. His mother always made sure her children always were ready.
“Okay sorry mom I’m coming!” He bellowed down the stairs shaking the glasses on the living room table of their small 2 bedroom duplex.
He through his bag on the floor and grabbed his seat at the table only to be greeted by his older brother.
“Good morning Fat Pat.” His brother George snickered to him.
“I’m going to kill you.” Patrick replied slamming his fist on the table.
“Patrick!” His mother waled.Bagels were on the table and Patrick was fuming at the comment as he dived into a cinnamon raisin bagel.
She continued: “Enough with this killing stuff. Do you hear me Mr.”
“Yea whatever.” Patrick replied stuffing the bagel in his mouth.
She grabbed his arm firmly hurting Patrick. “YES Mom God.”
“And don’t use the lords name in vain ever again. Okay.” She eyed him but wasn’t done. She still had his brother. “And for you! Enough with the fucking jokes okay?”
“Sorry Mom.” Patricks brother dropped his head.
“Slow down your going to choke to death.” His mother cried to Patrick.
“I’m fiiine.” Patrick said, attempting to swallow the mouthful of his bagel.
“Drink some orange juice at least. For Christ’s sake Patrick.” His mother continued nervously watching him.
Patrick downed the orange juice, grabbed the rest of the bagel and ran out the door with his brother to the bus stop.
“Have a good day at school!” His mother called still fuming over their petty brother rivalry.
Patrick’s school was old. The Orange Academy for Youths. The school’s air conditioning system always seemed to break and being that it was peak summer the school already had to send the kids home at least 5 times.
Ms. Demitri was his homeroom teacher. Patrick couldn’t understand why the other girls in the class we’re always so engaged with her. If Patrick was a few years older maybe he would’ve understood but Ms. Dmitri was 25 years old fresh out of her doctorate program at Stevenson College.
She had jet black hair and she always had it in a pony tale. She always wore a fit but loose skirt that just went past her knees. She wore a dark pair of glasses that complimented her tanned skin, and naturally dark hair. Most of her blouses were loose to not flaunt her breasts. Although she attempted to hide her natural beauty it was all too well known by the girls in Patrick’s class and the male teaching staff.
“Why does she have to be so perfect.” Jennifer whispered to Veronica sitting behind her in the 6th row. Jennifer was in the 5th row. One row behind Patrick.
“I’m trying to listen. Shh.” whipping his head back, Patrick said.
“Is everything okay back there?” Mrs. Dmitri called out.
“Patrick won’t stop talking to us.” Jennifer said reassuringly.
“I was not. I was telling you to..”
“Patrick!” she snapped “That’s one star taken off for the week for you.”
“Awhh no but..”
“And Jennifer and Veronica this is your warning.”
“No buts.” She snapped again.
“Now where were we class?” Ms Dmitri quickly said to the class attempting to dissuade the altercation that just occured.
The class was about local history today and how recently a large wave of Honduras immigrants began coming into Essex county and landing throughout The Oranges. Some of the kids were engaged and others were just trying to look like they were paying attention in order to not arouse another angry outburst from their teacher.
BBBLING BAAALING- “Thank God” Patrick thought. He was saved by the bell.
“Alright class! Head to your next class across the hall today with Mr. Slater!”
“We knoooow.”- Veronica chimed so just her and her friends could hear. They laughed whisperingly in order to slither out of the classroom before Ms. Dmitri’s eyes could claim them back into the room.
At lunchtime Patrick sat with a group of kids mainly that were also a little ostracized from the main group of kids. They went to a small catholic school so there were clear cut clicks in the school with around 50 kids per class.
“What’d your mom make you today Patrick?” Harold asked him.
“Ham and cheese with a bag of Doritos, an apple and a capri sun.”
“Oh that sounds alright I guess. My mom packed me leftovers from last night’s salmon.”
They each began eating their food but Billy, their other friend didn’t touch his food. He just sat with his head down playing his nintendo switch-which he wasn’t supposed to have out during school hours.
“Billy, what are you doing? You’re going to get caught.” Harold whispered cautingly.
“Will not- It’ll be fine.”
Billy and Patrick just shrugged their shoulders indifferently and dug back into their food. Patrick’s eyes began to wander around the lunch room. He saw Veronica’s table with her other girlfriends- Walters table with the other soccer players – he saw the nuns table with Ms. Dmittri at the middle of the table – and then he drifted towards a table where one man was sitting; alone.
The man he saw was dressed in a white t-shirt, and a pair of black pants. Similarly dressed like the other man but the man on the highway had dark skin. He sat motionless as his stare didn’t seem to break it’s gaze from whatever wall he was looking at. ‘That’s odd. I’ve never seen that man.’ Patrick thought, continuing to stare. He slowly lifted his sandwich up to take a bite and then…
“Mr. Billy Stevenson now what do we have here!” The head Nun called loudly as she came stomping over towards the table.
“Hey that’s mine!” Billy whined as the nun ripped it from his hands.
“You know you’re not supposed to have this in school, young man.”
“No buts Mr. now go to Father’s office right now and tell him why.”
“Fiiine.” Billy said stamping his feet out of the lunchroom with tears bellowing in his eyes.
“Now for you two…”The nun paused, “Enjoy the rest of your meal.” A sly but polite smile coming onto her narrow and keen face.
They both sat with food stuck in their mouth and just nodded their heads nervously. They had never seen her make a move like that and it spooked the two boys. The two friends didn’t say a word the rest of lunch. When Patrick finally regained what had just happened he peered back to the table to where the man was sitting. And…
He was gone.
When he got off the bus later that afternoon he took his usual walk back towards home; the long detour had him pass the park where the other kids were playing. He was a block away from the park when he realized that he wasn’t in the mood for the park that day. Something else was calling him; the bridge.
It had been a weird day at school and the rest of it had Patrick just staring blankly forward and trying to put together what he was seeing and why everything was moving so slowly. The teacher called out his blank staring and warned him to “pay attention-this is important” but Patrick just couldn’t focus. Usually a bright student that was intently following the lesson – it was to no avail throughout the day.
As he continued walking, his new plan towards the bridge his mind raced in a wondrous pool of thoughts. He was hungry; He was thirsty; and he wanted to check out the cars. His peaceful place. He failed to think about the man he saw from last week but put aside his hunger and thirstiness to get to the bridge.
Looking over the bridge the traffic was back to normal and Patrick was thrilled when he saw a motorcycle gang speed by with their engines roaring. He jumped up and down Yawling in excitement. A woman whose house was on the edge of the highway eyed him as she continued to mend to her small garden on her half of the porch of the duplex.
After the motorcycle gang passed by he went to the other side where the cars were coming towards him where the accident occurred. Here Patrick took off his backpack and took out his fastest and best looking toy cars.
He was going up and down the bridge’s side wall and sometimes the cars would go off a jump and crash off of the fence.
ZZEREMMMM -Patrick mouthed as he continued doing acrobatic tricks with his car. It always got louder and more flips happened as he continued to play with the cars.
ZZREMMMMMMMRerreeee- he flipped it and…
“Oh nooo!” He called as the car fell through the small gap between the fence and the barricade. “No no no oh my God!” He tried to see where it landed but he couldn’t see it. He also was glad his mother wasn’t there to scold him about using the Lord’s name in vain.
The cars continued to zoom by. ‘I hope it didn’t hit someone else’s car,’ he thought. ‘Oh geez maybe it did. I gotta get out of here.’ He said to himself putting the other three cars in his backpack. He began quickly walking in the other direction to get away from the scene of the crime.
Oddly, Patrick decided to take another look onto the highway and he turned his head- ‘Oh God.’
The same man in the white robe was there where the accident occurred last week. ‘Who is that guy?’
He was engaged and grasped the fence looking at the odd person just standing at the edge of the highway as cars whizzed by him.
Patrick’s eyes never went off of the strange man as he unknowingly gripped the fence tighter and tighter.
Then suddenly… The man TWISTED his head and his eyes locked with Patricks and he JUMPED back landing in the middle of road on the bridge. He tripped and fell as a car came by pretty fast.
“Get the fuck out of the road kid!” the woman yelled passing by.
He stumbled to his feet quickly and came back on the sidewalk of the bridge. He was panting pretty aggressively and tried to regain his thoughts. He wanted to look to see if the man was still there…
Just like a small boy would sneak around playing hide and seek with his friends, he got close to the barrier of the bridge and slowly began coming up to peak over the ledge to look where the man would be. Sloooowly slooowly his eyes POPPED up and scanned the highway.
But the man wasn’t there. ‘Ohhh alright,’ he thought and confidently began walking back off of the bridge.
WHYYYYYYY- something called out from behind.
“Who is it?” Patrick whirled his head around. “Who goes there!!?”
Whhyyyyyyyyy- the voice calling from somewhere said.
“WHO IS IT!!!” yelled Patrick. Frightened as all hell.
He began to run. Run fast and hard away from the voice. He got a block when he cut into an alleyway between two random houses. “Okay I’m safe I’m safe.” Panting he crunched into a ball.
Patrick pulled his lunch bag out to munch on some Doritos to cool his nerves. “I’m safe.” He whispered to himself.
WHYYY Whyyyyy WHHHHHHYYYYYY – the voice called. Sounding as if it was now in the alleyway Patrick was in.
This time Patrick wasted no time and bolted out of the alleyway, leaving his school bag behind, He ran as fast as he could towards home and didn’t bother to look behind him this time.
By- Tom Kubrak
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