International Writers Magazine:
first thing Garrett Mitchell noticed as he crossed over the Queensborough
Bridge into Long Island City was the way the radio station came
back in clearly. The drive over the bridge had given nothing but
static and he was very nervous about driving his sporty new import
from Manhattan into Queens. Going to Queens was like traveling to
another planet from New York City, as far as he was concerned.
car had been a wedding present for him and his young bride from his
new in-laws. It made him uneasy to drive such an expensive car and it
bothered him the way people drove here. While a status symbol to own
the import, it could just as quickly become an eyesore, should a scratch
or dent occur from any of these reckless drivers.
He felt the soft, creamy velvet seats and breathed in the smell of the
plush, new interior and tried to take his mind off of it. He was not
from New York like his brides family; he had been born and bred
in a WASP-ish Connecticut community and rather unfamiliar with the City
and unaccustomed to its ways and sometimes desperate melting pot means.
His mind drifted back to his young bride, Kiera, waiting back at their
room at the posh Upper West Side hotel, The Mayflower. She took the
news badly when he was ordered by his boss in Hartford to go to the
General Services Division of the Apex Photo Offset Company on 21st Street
in Long Island City. After all, he could not blame her for being irascible
with him. They had just gotten married the day before at First Presbyterian
over on Fifth and the reception was very riotous and hence, had not
yet been on what could officially be defined as their honeymoon. What
should have been a consummation of their love was instead, a heaving
night of her stomach, rather than her bosom and his subsequent unconsciousness.
He drove; passing ancient industrial brick and ivy-covered warehouses
that over the years had become marred by decay and more recently, by
graffiti. He drove on, past other lesser decrepit buildings of smaller
stature but equal vandalism.
He continued down an extremely lunar-looking Route 25, which unexpectedly
turned into Queens Boulevard. The area was now getting less commercial
and more retail. He was told by the warehouse supervisor that the company
was located right off the Bridge. He looked at the texted directions
his supervisor sent him but, he could neither see the warehouse nor
the street. The old man told him he couldnt miss either, but somehow
He drove along the Boulevard and looked for a shoulder. It reminded
him almost of the Connecticut Turnpike. There were no shoulders to drive
onto and the most he saw on the side of the road were shredded truck
tires and rusted mufflers. At about every one thousand feet increments,
there were construction signs, followed by a sea of bright orange cones
grouped with grubby highway workmen, contemplating work. He spotted
the Bridge in the distance behind him and the familiar sight of Shea
Stadium ahead and was well aware he had gone too far.
After numerous attempts of trying to re-enter the causeway, he finally
jutted out in front of a slow-moving garbage truck, much to the cursing
and finger-waving of the driver and his refuse understudy. He floored
the import and saw a sign for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and entered
He looked at his MapQuest directions and took the BQE through Jackson
Heights, over Northern Boulevard and onto Grand Central Parkway, wound
up back towards Manhattan and when he got within close proximity of
the Queensborough Bridge, lumbered onto Astoria Boulevard. As he edged
slowly towards his destination, thousands and thousands of gleaming
white headstones smiled up at him in the mid-morning sun, back-dropped
by the skyline of Manhattan. The vision of endless tombs lined up in
the green grass with spring trees overhanging them shook him. Suddenly,
it seemed as if all the air in the car dissipated and his chest clenched
for breath. The hangover had awoken into a panic attack, full throttle.
After turning in and out of a few residential blocks, he finally spotted
21st Street but could not turn down it as it was a one-way. Strangely,
the cars that mobbed the entire block were all parked up on the sidewalk.
It was going to be a bitch to find a parking spot, he groused.
He eyed a tiny space in front of a textile manufacturer around the block
and pulled up half-assed onto the sidewalk, along with the other cars
parked likewise. He was certain to lock the car and walked along the
uneven sidewalk in the cool, morning air and deep gray shade of the
textile building. It would be best to resolve the matter with the warehouse
supervisor at Apex rapidly and get the hell out of here, he reasoned.
Two things struck Garrett about the warehouse. The first was an odd
humming noise and second, how old the building seemed. It looked as
if the place had been built during the last breath of the Industrial
Revolution and appeared to be straight out of Dickens. Everywhere he
turned, dust held precedence and there were endless wooden doors with
smoked glass and chicken wire with the names of what were most likely
long-dead employees stenciled upon them. He noticed that the doorknobs
were either brass or crystal, the kind one didnt see any more.
Calling out several times to no avail, he walked through a doorway where
he heard voices. A fossil of a man looked up as he gummed his sandwich
and then as quickly, went back to his sports page. Garrett looked over
at the secretary and for the first time, around the office. The office,
as well as the secretary, appeared to be out of a time-warp. The woman
wore a bee-hive hairdo, horn-rimmed glasses, pearls and a beaded librarians
tassel holding her glasses in place. He cleared his throat as she went
to answer one of the many old rotary-style phones that dotted the desks.
"Hello, my name is Garrett-.." He got out before another phone
ring cut him off. The woman held up a withered finger.
She placed the phone back down after a few minutes and asked: "Now
what did you say your name was?"
"Im from Greater Connecticut Life Insurance Company."
"We dont need no life insurance." She said gruffly.
"No, Im Garrett Mitchell. Im here to see John Martino.
Im from the Greater Connecticut Life Insurance Company. There
was a problem?"
"Oh, youre Garrett!" She beamed. "Im Claire!"
She picked up the phone. Instead of calling the man, she slung the phone
over her polyesterdraped shoulder and screamed at the top of her
A man whom Garrett thought looked more at home in an old fighters
gym lumbered through the door. "Yeah?" He slowly mouthed.
"This guys here to see you." She said.
The two men looked at each other. Garrett was dressed in a suit and
tie, while the man was dressed in greasy workmans clothes. The
man stared back at him silently. Garrett held out his hand. "Im
I spoke to you over the phone earlier?"
"Youre the guy I spoke to, huh?" He mumbled. "They
keep getting younger
" His voice trailed off. "Your boss
is an idiot." He said suddenly and then shook Garretts hand
with a calloused palm.
"What do you mean?" Garrett asked.
"He sent you down here. Theres no need for you to come all
the way down here. We could have done this whole damned thing over the
phone, really. Its just a problem with the vendor, thats
all. Shes goin to be here at ten-thirty, so in the meantime,
why dont you just sit or somethin." He said as Garrett
looked at the endless line of unoccupied desks and nodded blankly.
He reached for his cell phone. Shit, his cell phone was not in his jacket
pocket but down the block back in his car. "What Id really
like to do is call my wife."
"Yeah, go ahead. Its local, right?" He said without
hearing the answer as he disappeared back behind the door into the main
plant where Garrett could see large machines and printing presses and
now figured out what the humming noise had been; it was the last screaming
gasp of the previous century, he smiled.
Claire directed him to an empty and absolutely filthy cubicle where
he placed a call back to the hotel. He dialed the extension back at
the hotel but did not get a response. He sat for at least forty-five
minutes before the warehouse door popped open again and John Martino
stood there with an agitated-looking woman. For the rest the morning
and until sometime in the early afternoon, talked about the vendors
employee health benefits. When the meeting concluded, Garrett stood.
"May I use your phone?"
"Make sure its-.."
"Yes, a local call." Garrett nodded and walked towards the
front office where Claire was still sitting. The old man that had been
there initially was gone. Garrett surmised in his weary state that the
man had either died or was now making his afternoon deliveries. The
meeting had taken that long. Claires head shot up at the sight
"Can I help you?"
"Im just going to use the phone."
"Who are you here to see?" She asked, confused.
"I was just in with John, remember me? Im Garrett. I was
in here this morning?"
She shrugged at him. He walked past her to the dusty cubicle he had
been to before and saw the handprints he had left earlier and though
of how it resembled some forgotten and pathetic archeological dig. He
got through this time.
"Hello?" His new wife answered.
"Its me. You feeling better?"
"Hi, my big, strong handsome executive. You better believe Im
feeling better. I ate. Are you come back soon?" She purred.
"As soon as I can get out of here. It shouldnt be too long."
"Ill be waiting for you, honey. Im very lonely here
in this hotel room with this big bed here, all by myself."
He laughed. "Ill be back soon, okay
just hold on. Dont
run away with the bellhop, okay, my naughty little bride. Just hold
on, baby. Ill be coming soon. Okay?"
Kiera breathed heavily into the phone. "Good, cos I will also."
Garrett hung up the phone when he noticed Martino standing to his side,
staring at him.
"It was nice meeting you." Garrett extended his hand in Martinos
"You goin somewhere?" Martino asked with a wrinkled
"I have to get back to my wife."
"Whipped, I tell ya. You gotta stand up to them or theyll
carry your balls in their purse."
"Look, I dont need you to tell me about how me and my wife
"Aw, dont get yer panties in a wad! I was just trying to
give you some fatherly advice, ya see. Anyhow, I was about to give Mrs.
Pritchett here a tour of the warehouse, you inerested?"
Garrett thought about young Kiera, alone in that hotel room, being crazed
with desire and thoughts of a bellhop not far from her, even though
they had both been kidding. "I think Ill take a rain check."
"Oh come on!" Martino said and put his greasy hand back on
Garretts shoulder. Ill have you back to that wife in no
time, youll see."
For the next excruciating half-hour, the old man showed them the inner
workings of the Apex Photo Offset Company, much to Garretts chagrin.
What had been a drone when he arrived at the front office of the warehouse
was now a deafening roar that the supervisor had to shout over. They
walked on the slippery, soot-covered factory floor past the giant printing
presses, the endless paper rolls that fed into them, the ink it took
to make the insurance booklets that Garretts department handled
and the slicing implements that cut them to size order and the plastic
wrap that was shrink-wrapped by heat to fit around the books and how
all of this was supplied by what appeared to Garrett as this side of
Martino concluded the tour with a stop at a dirty and most likely virus
laden cafeteria. Garrett passed, leaving Martino and the vendor to their
It was now three-thirty. Had he not taken that senseless tour he would
be now walking into his hotel room, into arms of his beloved bride.
He burst out of the door into the bright, warm June sunshine and along
the uneven and broken pavement down the block. His throat was scratchy
and his chest felt tight and he wondered what toxins he had inhaled
inside that dumpy warehouse. He stumbled at the corner and walked towards
Vernon Boulevard. Thank God, he thought and quickened his pace, the
car is still there.
It was in one piece, the tires and hubcaps still intact and as he walked
past the furniture repair business and the moving companies that dotted
His eyes shot to the car door. Inexplicably, the lock was up. That could
not be. He made sure in such a dodgy neighborhood to lock both doors
and rolled up the window. Cautiously he opened the door of his new car.
Bizarrely, he saw his phone but the scene that met his inspection shook
him to the core.
31 condoms the police report read.
He didnt even remember going to the police. All he remembered
was showing up at the precinct after Martino and Claire shuttled him
out of the building, saying something about how they couldnt handle
a hysterical man in their offices. He remembered the police telling
him something about how prostitutes preyed on cars along that road to
have their tricks in and he had just been unlucky. They told him something
about how he could try to get the seats steam-cleaned but they would
always most likely be stained for good, velvet does that, they smirked.
As he rode the crowded "N" and "R" train back to
Manhattan, he recalled how the one cop told him to leave the keys in
the ignition and that the new car would be off of his hands in a matter
of minutes and how he explained could not do that, as the car had been
a wedding present from his new in-laws. The police informed him that
he could do as he pleased but very easily it could be reported stolen
and that all it would take would be for him to fill out the right forms.
That way, they explained, he could still get the sticker price for the
car and not have to say anything to the insurance company. The train
buckled as it crossed the bridge back to Manhattan. It sounded like
a good idea. It was not so clear what he would tell his new bride or
© Joseph Grant
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