another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
On The Gold Line by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | JAN 2016
It was a snowy Sunday morning, the 17th of January 2016, which found Monique (Agent 32) and I (Agent 33) at the CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) Gold Line’s eastern terminus on Hawthorne Lane at East 5th Street. It was 9:12 AM in the inner eastside neighborhood of Elizabeth. We were the only ones waiting under the plexiglass-covered shelter.
“Well, Monique, the green trolley dog should be here in less than three minutes,” I announced.
“Green trolley dog!” she exclaimed. “That’s so funny, Parkaar.” [my ailing alias] She then looked at my hands. “You forgot your gloves, didn’t you, 33?”
“I did, but I remembered my digital audio recorder! I’ll be ok. Thirty-six Fahrenheit is not that bad. And, anyway, the snow and sleet is forecasted to end by 11 AM.”
Just then we spotted old streetcar no. 91 turning onto Hawthorne from Elizabeth Avenue. It slowly closed in on the berth. Once stopped, the front and rear doors opened. We hopped up the front steps and sat in the middle of the electrically powered trolley. Ah, nice and warm in here.
The middle-age African American male driver was talking to two older white men – the only passengers who didn’t get off – who were sitting in the front bench seats. One was on the far left; the other, far right.
“I can deal with the one or two snow events a winter down here,” the trolley operator said from his front and center position. “No, I don’t miss Buffalo in January at all. No, not at all. You can have that four feet of lake-effect snow.”
Monique wondered aloud: “What is lake-effect snow?”
“I’ll tell you later, asawa.” [wife in Filipino]
The older of the two white guys (on the left side), who had pony-tailed gray hair, just nodded.
The guy in front of us on the right side of the trolley then spoke up. “I don’t miss those winters in Brooklyn, either. Nope.”
“Snow is just a novelty down here,” I interjected, launching myself into their conversation as the vintage streetcar took off in a herky-jerky manner. “My dad was born and raised in Brooklyn. He doesn’t miss it, either.”
“Oh, whereabouts in Brooklyn?” the passenger in front of us, who also had gray hair, but shorter than the other fellow, quickly asked.
“Avenue D – East Flatbush,” I said.
“Oh, yeah, I know that area well,” the man in front of us said as the trolley rounded the curve onto Elizabeth Avenue.
I looked straight ahead through the windshield. “Well, Monique, there’s where we’re headed. It’s now a straight shot to uptown.” The Charlotte skyline was shrouded in low, gray clouds, interspersed with snow squalls.
The man in front of us heard my comment to Monique. He looked back at us. “Are you guys going to the Panthers-Seahawks game by chance?” Only by a lucky chance.
“No, we’re just going to RíRá to watch the Liverpool – Man United match, and then we’ll watch the Panthers game in another sports bar,” Monique explained.
We had Liverpool T-shirts on over our sweaters. Monique had an LFC beanie on and a Liverpool FC backpack in her lap (which had Panthers shirts inside for a changeover at 11:00). The man studied these items.
“RíRá?” he asked.
“It’s an Irish bar on North Tryon near 5th Street,” I said. “It’s the official Liverpool FC bar in Charlotte. They show all of their games. It’s a fun crowd.”
“So, you guys like both kinds of football?” He smiled at us.
“Yes, we most certainly do,” Monique said. “We root for the Reds and the Panthers.”
“The Reds? Cincinnati?” He seemed honestly confused.
“No, the Reds are the nickname for Liverpool’s soccer team,” I told him. “Though, I loved the Big Red Machine in the ‘70s.”
“And, LFC stands for Liverpool Football Club,” Monique said as she pointed to the front of her red beanie.
“I see. You learn something new every day. Soccer is really growing in popularity in this country.”
“Are you going to the Panthers game?” Monique asked as the streetcar clanged to a stop at Charlottetowne Avenue.
“Me? Ha! I wish. I’m just hoping to link up with a guy so that I can watch it at his house.”
“I see,” Monique said.
“We’d love to be in Bank of America Stadium at one o’clock,” I said. “But, those ticket prices are way too rich for our blood. We is just plebs.”
“Yeah, no doubt. Playoffs are for the well-heeled patricians.”
“Or, the lucky,” Monique tacked on. “Winners of tickets.”
The conversation ceased as the trolley went by CPCC (Central Piedmont Community College) and crossed Kings Drive. I watched the overhead bare wires as we passed under I-277 and noticed the yellow warning signs. High voltage. 600 volts of direct current, I think. That sure would warm up one’s chilly body.
The streetcar then stopped at McDowell Street for a red light. I looked to the left, spying the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. There’s that focking [sic] edifice that’s been the bane of my recent existence. I could have more time with my son, much more time, if it wasn’t for their crooked system. That worthless, immoral lawyer is probably giving that corrupt judge kickbacks. Ah, my son will chose to live with me very soon. He hates the witch’s new live-in boyfriend. Just a matter of time. Just be patient.
Suddenly my raging reverie was broken by the trolley stopping at Davidson Street. The man in front of us looked back at us again. He sneezed and wiped his nose with an old white handkerchief.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “I’m having a hard time shaking this cold.”
“Same with me,” Monique said.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“John,” he said as he looked at his small cell phone and shook his head. “Not looking good for the game.”
“Is your buddy ducking your calls?” I asked.
“Not sure. Maybe he’s hungover and not awake yet. I gave up the drink three months ago. I had to. I was headed for the grave.”
“Hey, more power to you,” I said with genuine encouragement.
“I don’t miss it that much. I just sip iced tea now. The next morning is a lot easier.”
“I hear ya, man,” I added.
The streetcar crossed Brevard Street and came to a stop at its uptown terminus, which was between the CTC (Charlotte Transit Center) and Time Warner Cable Arena (where the Hornets play). The stop was at a median in the middle of the street. We all rose to get off the trolley.
“It’s been nice talking with you, John,” I said.
“Likewise,” he said.
“Where will you watch the game if you can’t link up with your pal?” I asked.
“Yeah, which sports bar is your backup plan, John?” Monique quickly asked before John could answer.
“Uh, no money for any sports bar,” John said and then sighed. “I’m homeless,” he quietly announced as he wiped his nose again. “I just hope that they will show the game at the shelter.”
Neither Monique nor I said anything as we all got off the streetcar. Just silence chopped up by footsteps.
John and his buddy headed for the CTC and we walked towards the arena, en route to RíRá.
“John didn’t look homeless,” Monique said to me as we crossed the light rail tracks at 5th Street.
“No, he didn’t,” I replied as we headed towards College Street as the snow picked up in intensity.
“I guess you just never know.”
“No, you really don’t, Monique.”
“I wonder what his story is, 33.” I just know that he has the recorder on.
“Well, soon part of his story will be made public, 32.”
“What do you mean, 33?”
“His snowy Sunday morning ride on the Gold Line. I’ll write it up later at the office.”
“And, what are the chances of John ever seeing that short story, Parkaar?”
“Oh, maybe one in a million, Agent 32.”
“We should have got his full name and contact info.”
“I don’t know, Monique. I think most homeless people don’t want to be bothered. I think they prefer to lie low in anonymity.”
“But, what about that guy with the smooth radio voice. He became famous. He struck gold!”
“Yeah, I know.”
Then we heard a shout from a car window as we walked under the public library overhang to stay out of the snow: “Fuck Liverpool!” Ah, a United fan.
Agents 32 and 33 take a ride on the Gold Line streetcar on a snowy Sunday morning in Charlotte. They are headed to an uptown bar to watch the Liverpool - Man Utd. soccer/football match. On the way, they strike up a conversation with a passenger from NYC. The subject of the Seahawks - Panthers game comes up. At the final stop, the passenger has a surprise announcement. No sex, religion, politics, violence, or Mr. Malloy in this one. Percent real-life experience: 92%. Approx. 1400 words.