The following piece was originally written for a Creative Writing class at Long Beach City College and then reposted on Medium.com.
It was a simple parent rule: don’t run after fire trucks. In 1972 South Bronx, where fires were breaking out all over, and everyone swore that someone was burning it down, that was an impossible rule for 10-year old Joey and Mickey to obey. The pre-teens only saw adventure when they decided to run after Engine 50 and Ladder 20 through ten inches of winter snow on a late December afternoon. They lost the trucks as they hurtled over the 138th Street bridge into East Harlem, leaving the two wondering where the hell they were. Undaunted, they slogged over the bridge into East Harlem where, for two hours, they found themselves lost in circles while running a gauntlet of gangs chasing them, drunks, and junkies while desperately searching for a way back to the South Bronx. The pair were scared and depressed as they turned into a side street full of burned-out buildings and old cars buried in the blackening snow and saw the sign: 138th Street Bridge, The Bronx. Four hours after they had begun their lost adventure and tired, dirty, and hungry, Joey and Mickey cried with relief as they walked down a full moon shadowed 140th Street straight into the arms of their crying mothers and stern-faced fathers. Through falling tears, Joey and Mickey promised that they would never chase fire trucks again. The pair were so happy and relieved to be home with their parents that they didn’t notice their fathers tugging at their falling pants. If they had, they would have seen the leather belts in their hands behind their backs as they all made the last leg of their long walk home.