another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
21 Park Place by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | SEP 2016
New York City on a cold, cloudy afternoon in late January of 1860. William ‘Bill’ Carter, age 16, is at work in the warehouse of a bootery located at 21 Park Place in lower Manhattan.
“Bill, I’m leaving now,” his wiry, middle-age, Caucasian boss said at 3:05 PM. “I think it may start snowing at any moment. Mr. Hall won’t be in today. Jane has already left. Just string a few more pairs of shoes with Mary. It should be slow. You two can then leave at four o’clock. Remember to put the CLOSED sign on the front door. And, make sure that you lock the back door with the bar.”
“Ok, thanks, Mr. Benedict,” Bill replied. He’s a good kid. I think he’ll go far in life.
After Mr. Benedict left, Bill gathered some boxes of women’s boots out of the second-floor stockroom and then went down to the front of the building where the retail store was. Mary, a 19-year-old lass with brownish red hair, was seated behind the checkout counter, reading a newspaper.
Bill set the boxes down on the counter. “Mary, Mr. Benedict said that we could lock up at four and go home.”
“Ah, that was nice of him. I have a lot of washing to do.”
“I need to get a high school education, but I don’t think one early exit from here is going to help with that.”
“Hey, at least we are in America. My parents told me that they were literally starving to death in Ireland after the potato crop failed. I’m grateful to have food to eat every single day.”
“Yes, having a full stomach is great, Mary. But, do you ever aspire to anything better than just being hired help?”
“I’m happy to have a job here, Bill. The owners treat me nice. I have two young mouths to feed. I’m very appreciative. What about you?”
“I want to go to college, but that is never going to happen. Getting a high school diploma isn’t even going to happen. My fate has been set: I’ll just be an errand-runner and a shoe-stringer. I can already see myself being old and bitter.”
“Oh, don’t say that, Bill. This is New York! Anything can happen. You don’t know who you might meet. Just maintain your good work habits and things will fall into place.”
Bill looked down. His dark bangs dangled as he opened two boxes of boots. They then began to lace them in silence. Why is he so down today on his future here? He just got a raise three weeks ago. Everyone likes him. / I wish I could be as positive as Mary, but I just can’t pretend away the bleakness of my prospects.
At 3:57 PM, Bill put the lid on the last box and looked at Mary. “I’m tired of this world. I’ve had enough of it.”
“Oh, Bill, don’t be like that. You’re still quite young. You can’t expect a king’s ransom in just nine months. You never know where you might be several years from now.”
“I’m afraid that I do, Mary. I’ll take the boxes upstairs now.”
“Ok, thanks, Bill.” What has gotten into him? Why is he so gloomy all of a sudden? Did a girl reject him?
“You can go out the front, Mary. I’ll lock up and leave the key under the counter on the secret hook.”
“Alright, Bill. See you tomorrow with a smile back on your face. Ok?”
Bill didn’t reply. He just turned and walked away.
Mary set the lock on the front door and then exited the store. A few flakes of snow were now coming down. Horse and buggies were scurrying to get off the already-muddy streets. I hope Bill cheers up. He’s too young to be so down on life.
Bill walked to the rear of the first floor and barred the back door. Then he marched up the steps with the boxes of stringed boots and put them back in the second-floor stockroom. Well, that was my last visit to that stockroom.
Next, Bill marched up three flights of stairs to the top-level damaged-shoes room, which was really a loft. There he arranged the numerous wooden crates so that there was a narrow passage between them, right below the apex of the 7-foot-tall (2.13 meters) roof trusses.
He then tied a shop towel around a roller-rod and placed the loop around his neck. Next, he stood sideways on a crate in the aisle. Then he slowly twisted a quarter turn so that each end of the roller-rod was resting on opposing stacks of crates, both sides being 74 inches (1.88 meters) above the hardwood floor. Well, this it.
Bill readjusted his feet so that all of his weight was on the crate edge that was 11 inches (28 centimeters) high. He then looked out the far-corner window and saw the snow coming down, quite furiously. Well, this will be the last time I see snow. I wonder if there will be wars in the 20th century. Seems like one is ready to break out any day in America. I wonder if anyone will remember me in the 21^st^ century. Will humankind make it to the 22^nd^ century? I wonder if I have a soul, and if there really is an afterlife. Well, I am going to find out right now.
With that final thought, he kicked the crate backwards. His body dropped. His neck snapped. Bill lost consciousness in seconds from asphyxia. His body’s life was completely choked away in 161 seconds.
A moth stirred and alit on a cold pane of glass.
When Bill didn’t arrive for supper, his parents assumed that he had spent the night with a friend, like he had done many times in the past. But, when he still hadn’t arrived the next morning, his dad trudged down to the bootery, an 11-minute walk through three inches of soft snow.
Mr. Hall, a rotund, bespectacled, vest-wearing, middle-age Caucasian, was in the retail store section of the bootery when Mr. Carter arrived at 9:09 AM.
“Hello. By chance, have you seen my son, Mr. Hall?” Mr. Carter asked. “He didn’t come home last night.”
“No, I didn’t see him yesterday. I was away on business, Mr. Carter.”
Mary, who was back behind the counter, overheard their conversation. “I saw Bill yesterday,” she interjected. “I worked with him until we closed up shop at four o’clock.”
Ed, the porter, then entered the retail space from the first-floor warehouse. “Someone forgot to close the upper-level shutters,” he announced.
“Bill must have forgot to do it,” Mary said.
“Was Bill acting normal yesterday, Mary?” Mr. Carter asked.
“Actually, he was in an unusually dour mood. He told me that he was tired of this world.” Oh, dear.
“I will go close the shutters now,” Ed said.
“Thanks, Ed,” Mr. Hall replied.
“So, no one saw my son after four o’clock?” Mr. Carter asked just to be clear, and to confirm his fears.
“No, I’m afraid not,” Mary said.
Eighty-eight seconds later, Ed was shouting down the stairwell. “Oh, dear God! Mr. Carter, please come up here at once!” Oh, no.
They all rushed up the four flights of stairs. Mr. Carter, the first to the loft, saw a horrified look on Ed’s ashen face. This isn’t going to be good.
Ed, with his left hand over his 30-something Caucasian mouth, pointed with his right index finger towards the crate stacks.
Mr. Carter then walked around the nearest phalanx of crates. He saw his son’s lifeless, 5’-4” (1.42 meters) body hanging with his shoe tips only four inches (10 centimeters) above the floor.
Note: This short story is based on a New York Times article dated January 27, 1860.
Way back in January of 1860, in New York City, a 16-year-old lad begins to think that his fate in America won't live up to his dreams. He then goes missing one snowy evening. When he is found, no one can forget the sight. Approx. 1300 words. Based on a real-life event that was printed in the New York Times. No sex. No violence. No drugs or alcohol. No foul language. If this little tale were a movie, it would probably be rated PG-13.