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Falling Though Space (youngsters:drama, 3454 words)
Author: Joe E.Added: Aug 12 2003Views/Reads: 3022/1514Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Falling Though Space is an allegory in which Jackie dreams that he is being held captive by the King of the Underworld and sees the action through his father's eyes for most of the dream.
 



Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

elevators. And, I remember my father's running joke about Temple. "I 
went through college, there," he'd say and give a dramatic pause. "In 
the front door and out the back," he'd add with and excited laugh at 
this own joke. 

We didn't always walk. Sometimes we tried hopping trucks when they
stopped for the light on 10th Street. But, that was more a game than a 
means of transportation. More often, for a nickel fare, we'd ride the 
trolley car to the end of the line at Fairmount Park. Once, I fell into 
the river and Joey had to pull me out. I was almost dry by the time we 
got home and got off with a warning to stay away from the water. 

It cost a dime to ride the subway. And, we quickly learned that once you
were in the system, you could ride back and forth all day. After a 
dozen or so trips, we discovered that we could crawl under the 
turnstile without the subway lady catching on. We'd ride south beneath 
Broad all the way to City Hall. There, under the watchful eye of Willy 
Penn, we'd play hide and seek in the arches, chase the pigeons, ride up 
and down the escalators. Or maybe, we'd go east on Market and visit Lit 
Brothers or Gimbles. Eying up the sales, we'd pretend we were rich and 
could buy everything in sight. 

It's morning, just a minute or two before daybreak. Joey and I are
sitting at the small kitchen table. Across the way, in the large dining 
room, four servants in black jackets and ties are setting a large oak 
table. I take my coffee to a window above the sink and peek outside. 
Two stories below, neatly trimmed lawns and hedges form a checkerboard 
maze as far as the eye can see. 

An elderly peasant woman enters the long wide entranceway that leads to
the dining area. She wears a spotless starched white apron over a black 
cotton dress. Behind her in peasant garb, are two women and two men. 
They bow and curtsey to my brother and I in a very servile manner. This 
is our last chance. We gotta jump 'em, I tell myself. 

And at the same time, but in a different voice, I'm saying, It's the
King and his men in disguise. 

As the words enter my consciousness, the peasant woman is transformed
into the King. Although he still wears his helmet, I can tell that he's 
pleased at my discovery. However, I'm certain that he would have killed 
me had I tried to over power him. He and his guard retreat to the 
dining room and take their chairs at the head of the table. 

My mother comes into the hallway and walks to just inside the dining
area. Her snow-white hair clings tightly above a face once so highly 
photogenic, but now pinched with lines of worry and grief. Silently 
ringing her hands and pursing her lips, she looks from the little 
kitchen area that holds Joey and I to the King's table and back again. 
I realize that she can't make up her mind whether to join us, or to 
take her place at the oak table. 

Joey gets up from the table and joins me at the sink. The view from the
window is different now. It's as if we were high above the Earth with a 
panoramic view of its oceans and continents. I point outside to share 
the miraculous view with my brother. He takes a quick glance, but acts 
as if he doesn't see. I'm still angry with him for not joining in my 
plans for escape. I give him a nasty look and move away. 

"I'll tell you one thing. That bacon and eggs sure smells good. You may
not believe it, Jackie, but this isn't such a bad place.... At least 
they feed you good," Joey says as he takes a step toward me. 

"Don't you realize? He said he's gonna kill us," I declare in an angry
whisper. 

"Ahhhh.... We don't got to worry about dat. They never do what they
say,” he says giving me a playful punch on the arm that knocks me 
against the stove. Bacon grease splashes on my new Levi's and white 
tennis shoes. 

"Look what you done now, you stupid idiot!" I yell at him. 

"You're the one that's stupid!" he shouts back with a hurt look in his
eyes. 

All of a sudden, the King is in the kitchen. "That's enough!" leaps from
his mouth as he lifts my brother in the air with two fingers. My mother 
draws a trembling hand to her mouth. The King leans over the sink and 
drops Joey from the window. Next thing I know, I'm dangling in the air 
kicking my feet. Miles and miles below, sunlight reflects off one side 
of the planet Earth. 

That's how he planned it. To have us fight among ourselves, I imagine as
he lets go. Expecting a swift plunge to my death, I close my eyes and 
gasp for breath. When I open them again, I find that I'm floating in 
black, silent space. Sailing free and easy, I lose all sense of time, 
all sense of fear and worry; all need for a safety net. “We're so high 
above the Earth that it will take us forever to reach it,” I'm telling 
myself. Then, I realize that it was Joey who tricked the king. We got 
him so angry at our fighting that he lost his head and let us 
escape....  Then, all thought is washed away by the vastness; a 
vastness of space that reduces the mind and body to a finite speck of 
energy.... 

After an interminable passage of time, the Earth looms larger and larger
and becomes the focal point of my attention. Soon, the silence is 
joined by a tidal swell of roaring wind. The planet revolves from west 
to east exposing the polar cap, vast areas of ice, snow, and tundra, 
high mountains, and stormy seas. Closer still, and the continents begin 
to take on detailed shape; Europe, Iceland, Greenland. Before long, the 
Baltic Sea, the Mountains of Norway, and Sweden, the North Sea, and the 
British Isles come into view. Then, a vast expanse of Atlantic Ocean, 
which flows into darkness. Silence... silence, everywhere all the 
boards did shrink.... Silence... silence, everywhere and not a drop to 
drink.... 

When I'm at twenty five thousand feet, yellow outlines of cities; New
York, Camden, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D. C. are 
interspersed amid the blackness. In the northwest, silent flashes of 
lightening zigzag through mountains of gray-black clouds. My body 
begins to take on weight.... 

Then, the mass of light breaks down into millions of separate points.
The Delaware River, the Schuylkill River, and Fairmount Park are 
outlined by long banks of streetlights. Between the lines, heats of 
headlights race down the turnpikes, across the bridges, and through the 
city streets. 

Sunlight slowly makes its appearance on the eastern horizon. Below the
statue of Willy Penn, Market Street runs east and west, Broad runs 
north and south. Block after block of checkerboard streets are jammed 
with commuter traffic. 

Traveling north over Broad, I recognize familiar scenes; the Mid-City
Hotel on 16th and Arch where my father stayed, Girard Avenue where Joey 
and I made the transfer for Fairmount Park, Columbia Avenue where we 
spent our Saturday afternoons at the movies, the Baptist Temple on 
Berks where we attended church and Sunday school.... 

I'm in an alley a block from our old apartment house at 13th and Berks.
Red brick, three story, row house buildings stretch out for block after 
block in every direction. Certain that the King's men are right behind 
me, I burst into a cold sweat. The alley, littered with over flowing 
brown bags of garbage, and a summer's growth of weeds, seems to go on 
forever and ever. If only I can make it home. If only I can make it 
home.... I keep telling myself. 

Around the corner, I find the empty lot where our apartment house once
stood. Poking in the rubble, I search for a trace of something 
familiar. Footsteps sound in the alley. My heart beats faster and 
faster.... 

Joey rushes at me and grabs my hand. "Quick.... Quick," he cries leading
me to the flat green double doors that open to the basement of our 
childhood home. "He'll never find us down here. We can hide behind the 
furnace," Joey explains as he pulls on the iron handle. I hurry down 
the wooden steps as Joey pauses to bolt the door behind us. Footsteps 
vibrate on the closed steel doors. Then, complete silence. 

A beam of light comes through a narrow casement window and falls on a
short flight of concrete stairs that go up to the front of the cellar. 
"What's that?" Joey asks pointing to a dozen or more cardboard boxes 
stacked just a few feet from the furnace. A gigantic rat races across 
the boxes and dives for the floor. "We'd better get out'a here, Jackie. 
The King's men are long gone by now." 

"No, we'd better wait. If they catch us now, we might never escape
again," I say and head for the stairs. Joey follows a step or two 
behind. At the uneven stack of boxes, I brush off years of dust. 
Opening the closest one, I find that it is filled with faded 
photographs. Some, that I've seen; my dad in his boxing trunks and 
gloves, my mother with pearls and sparkling teeth, Joey and I in our 
Sunday school suits, grandmother and grandfather standing in an ancient 
doorway. Others that are new to me; aunts and uncles in stiff poses, 
and foreign looking people who I don't recognize. Dozens and dozens of 
photographs; photos from the forties, the thirties, the twenties, the 
turn of the century. 

I look more closely at my father's boxing picture, and see a muscular
lightweight with straight black hair and a cocked left jab. On the 
front of the picture it reads, "Charley Daley, Coal Region Lightweight, 
Johnny 'Tex' Ballent, Mgr.” On the back it says, " Charles Daley, 1009 
Brandywine Street, Philadelphia, Penna. Age 24 years. Weight 133 
pounds. Height 5 ft. 6 in. Free to go any place in the World on a 
minutes notice." 

As I hold my mother's picture to the light, I see short bobbed hair and
a laughing face with all the energy of a twenty's flapper. I remember 
my father saying that he wanted that picture buried with him when he 
dies. "It was jus' one of those unfortunate things, Jackie .... Your 
mother and me. It wasn't anyone's fault. Jus' one of those unfortunate 
things....” 

The next box is filled with newspaper clippings. "Coal region
lightweight Charlie Daley fights in main event." "Daley wins in split 
decision." "Daley stops Machine Gun Thompson in fifth round." "Coal 
region lightweight puts fist through wall at local card room after 
dropping purse in all night poker game." 

The memory of a childhood rhyme rings inside my head; "Charlie is a
boxer. Charlie is a bum. Charlie went in the kitchen and drank all the 
rum..." " He can't always help what he's doing. He took to many blows 
to the head," my mother told her brother, Lee.... 

My father told me it was the best part of his life, the fight game.
"They called me the Boxing Baker. That was 1921. I was a baker at Horn 
and Hardart's in New York.... Mostly we fought out'a Atlantic City. I 
was what they call a crowd pleaser. I never backed off no matter how 
much of a beating I took....   Never knocked out...." 

And, I remember, as I shadow boxed my way off the assembly line at
Fisher Body just a second or two before break, one tough black dude 
saying, "That old boy should'a been a boxer." Saturday night fights on 
T.V. before that fights on the radio, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Sugar 
Ray Robinson, Jersey Joe, Rocky Marchino, Muhammad Ali... 

"What's that noise?" Joey asks in a frightened voice. "We shouldn't be
down here going through his papers. If he catches us, again, we're in 
big trouble. Remember what happened when we took the orange soda out'a 
the landlord's ice box." A gnawing sound comes from beneath the box I'm 
looking through. "It's there" he tells me pointing at the box. The 
sound grows louder.  "It's a rat's nest, " he screams and breaks for 
the cellar doors. 

Joey pushes open both doors and climbs outside. Two of the King's men
are waiting for him. As they lead him away a guard at each arm, one of 
them says, " Come on now. You don't want to miss your breakfast do 
you?" 

"No.... No, I guess not,” Joey answers. 

I tremble in fear certain that they'll come for me next. Not a sound
except for the steady gnawing from the cardboard box. Then, I focus on 
my hands and realize that I'm dreaming. "It's only a dream.... It's 
only a dream...." I keep telling myself. 

Then, it strikes me that the stairs that lead to our childhood kitchen
are just to the right of the furnace. I grope my way to the stairs and 
find them covered with dust and spider webs, but still intact. At the 
top, I find the kitchen door. Turning the knob, I step inside and find 
myself in an electronic workshop that is filled with pinball machines 
and one-armed bandits. A bald headed teenage girl leads me to a small 
room. She points to a computer and leaves. 

I sit down in front of an old Apple IIe and turn on the drive. As the
screen lights up, the palace dining area comes into view. My mother is 
walking down the long entryway. She wears a yellow mop wig. Her face is 
painted in minstrel black. Several colored servants with large platters 
of Southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes, lima beans, and corn bread 
are dancing around my mother. They jeer and poke at her in a very 
disrespectful manner. When they see my face on the screen, they all 
fall into line. My mother straightens her dress, and gives me a nervous 
smile. "Don't worry, Jackie. Everything happens for the best. It's all 
for the best. God loves you!" she tells me as the screen goes blank. 

I hit escape and the King's helmet covered face fills up the entire
console. We glare at each other with an intensity that dissolves the 
black Plexiglas of the King's mask. I behold the deep green eyes of my 
father peering into mine.  "You're not the creator.... You're not the 
King of the Underworld. You're nothing but moon dust!" I shriek at him. 


Surge after surge of electrical force hits against the T.V. screen. The
glass shatters. My image of the King, my image of my father, my image 
of myself is broken into a hundred million sub-atomic particles. And, 
I'm myself again my father's son, or at least what's left of myself. As 
the electrical balance between my atoms collapses, it's just like 
professor Paul Hewitt explains in his physics text, I'm blown off my 
seat and reduced to the size of a pin. Falling backwards, I continue to 
grow tinnier and tinnier. When I turn to look, I see vast mountains and 
canyons where the floor should be. In the empty silence, I'm sucked 
into one of its gray walled canyons. 

Still shrinking, I see that the canyon floor itself is covered with
mountains and deep chasms. When I'm about to hit bottom, I float into 
an even deeper crevice. The walls are no longer solid. They are 
nebulous see through veils that wave in and out of each other. Below, 
now, are gray and back clouds. I continue to shrink as I fall into one 
of the clouds. And, then, in a wink, I find myself in a place emptier 
than what on would encounter in falling from the moon. Far in the 
distance, a streak of light flashes. And, then, nothingness; no 
thought, no feeling, no sound, no time- space, just the silent energy 
of an all-encompassing void.... 


   


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