Only Children

Only Children by Rafael Yglesias Read Free Book Online

Book: Only Children by Rafael Yglesias Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rafael Yglesias
Tags: Ebook, book
radar to protect him from surprise—and he couldn’t tell if the comment was seriously addressed to him. He decided to ignore it.
    The traffic lights in the distance turned green, but apart from the lone car, no others appeared. He turned around to look toward the uptown avenue. Only after Eric found himself staring at the trio did he realize it seemed like a reaction to the leader’s remark.
    “You hear what I say?” the tall one spoke. He sucked on the joint and offered it to the others, stretching his arm behind him, the joint pinched daintily between two fingers. It was taken.
    Eric didn’t want to be this person standing outside a building with a wife in labor confronted by the three stoned black teenagers spoiling for an incident. The sociological logic of the situation, reducing him and them to blank numbers in a simple equation, undoing the romance, the pleasant fear, of him and Nina at the instant of his child’s beginning—this was to be the memory? These stupid kids menacing him? His conversion from a young street-smart New Yorker to some timid bozo unable to get his wife to the hospital?
    “Look!” Eric yelled. “My wife is in labor! I’m gonna get a fucking cab! Do you understand!” he shouted at an even louder volume than he had begun. It did him good, expelling not only tension but fear as well into the orange haze. The kids stood still, almost like statues, children absorbing an expected reproof. “Either help me, kill me, or get the fuck out of here!”
    “Hey, man,” the tall one said slowly.
    The lobby door opened. Nina appeared, carrying the little bag, its size ludicrous by contrast with her bloated stomach. “Eric,” she said in a calm, intimate voice, as if they were in bed together going over the events of the day. “Let’s start walking. Maybe we’ll get one on the way.”
    Behind her, skulking in the doorway, Gomez shouted in a tone of nervous bravado: “The cops are parked around the corner! At the deli. Maybe they give you a ride.”
    What a stupid transparent lie, Eric thought, disgusted.
    The teenagers thought so too. The one who until now had backed away, had seemed most ready to flee laughed explosively and stepped forward to answer Gomez. “Kiss my ass, motherfucker,” he said, giggling from the dope.
    “Watch your language!” Gomez scolded like an old woman.
    “I don’t watch shit!” the giggler screamed, extending his right hand, a whooshing sound announcing the switchblade’s existence before the orange light glowed on its surface.
    Eric felt himself shrink, his huge frame, filled out by his studious exercising, broad at the shoulder, narrow at the waist, his long arms, powerful enough to snap the kid’s arm in half, his thick thighs, and elastic calves, strong enough to bound over in a stride: the adult renovation on the puny body of his childhood detonated in a puff of demolition, reversing history, replacing the skyscraper with frail clapboard. He was little again.
    We’re going to die and I can’t stop it.
    Gomez seemed to lose his mind, his former panic replaced with insane boldness. He came out of the lobby doors and shouted at the kids: “What’s the matter with you! You crazy! You want to go to jail!”
    “I’ll open you up!” the kid said, and made two slashes in the air to illustrate how.
    Get between them, Eric told himself.
    “You punk! You don’t have the cojones !” Gomez answered.
    Nina walked away from the group, straight at Eric and the gutter. “There’s a cab!” she said with delight, and no fear, in her voice.
    Eric turned to see a free taxi glide across the street, its turning signal blinking, angling straight for him, a guided missile adjusting with its target’s dodges. He stepped back to preserve his toes. The driver stopped and smiled at him knowingly. “What hospital?”
    “Beth Israel,” Nina answered, and opened the door.
    “That’s easy,” the driver said.
    “I don’t want to fuck with you,” Eric heard Gomez

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