By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003
August Subway Story
I sat in the middle of an almost empty subway car. Across from me, three overweight kids all around nine or ten years old held onto Burger King bags. They laughed and teased each other while they gobbled up their nutritious lunches. One girl dropped fries on the seat next to her. Before she finished chewing, she quickly scooped each one up and tossed them into her mouth.
After they devoured their lunch the kids rolled up their Burger King bags and blatantly littered. They nonchalantly discarded their fast food trash underneath their subway seats. The youngest boy, who was wearing a cardboard Burger King crown, took a purple ball out of his pocket. It was one of those rubber ball-like yo-yos… balls attached to a string/rubber rope. He jumped up and sat down a couple of seats away from where I sat quietly. He tossed his yo-yo ball at his sisters and he took turns trying to hit each one. I tried to read and edit a couple of pages that I had written the night before but found his antics distracting especially because the girls yelled and screamed like they were being tortured by Kashmir freedom fighters. They begged their extremely overweight and scantly clad mother for help calming down their hyperactive sibling. She couldn’t be bothered and pretended they were invisible, while she yapped like a poodle inflicted with Tourrettes syndrome to another woman in broken Spanglish. She easily ignored their pleas and the kid with the crown resumed his aerial bombardment of his sisters with his yo-yo ball.
A couple of subway stops later, he jumped over to the seat across from me. One of his sisters darted from her seat and plopped down next to me on my left side. As I continued to read, the kid tried to hit his sister several times with his yo-yo ball. One instance he missed badly and hit the page I was editing. The next time he almost hit me in the head. When that happened I immediately looked up and flashed my meanest, pissed off, agitated New Yorker face. I even cleared my throat to emphasize my “don’t even fuckin’ try that again” look. To my surprise he cocked his arm back and tossed his yo-yo ball my way. I grabbed his purple toy in mid-air. He tugged his string to get his ball back and I held my ground. He continued to yank but I wouldn’t budge. I jerked the ball my way and he let go of his end of the string. I had possession of the yo-yo ball. The power was mine.
His sisters kidded him real hard. He asked his mother for help, but again, she was too busy. I inspected his purple yo-yo ball and found teeth marks in the middle and ketchup smeared all over it.
“Can I have it back?” he sheepishly asked.
I gave him a serious look. I leaned forward and with my best aim I hurled the ball towards his head. The purple yo-yo hit him smack in the middle of his forehead. He was caught completely by surprise. Before his sisters teased him some more, I caught the ball as it instantly snapped back to me. I took aim again and I hurled it at his Burger King crown. With a direct hit his crown fell to the subway floor and in a matter of seconds, the nine year old kid was crying hysterically. That caught his mother’s attention. She waved her chubby finger at me and yelled at me in Spanglish. I coldly laughed and stood up. The train pulled into 59th Street, my stop. I glared back at the screaming mother, her laughing daughters, and her teary eyed son before I stuck out my tongue. The mother was too fat to chase me so I had nothing to worry about. As the doors slammed shut, the kid yelled out one more time to me, “Can I have my toy back?”
The subway pulled away and he pushed his face up against the window longing for one final glimpse of his yo-yo ball. I took one last look at it and chuckled before I handed his toy to a homeless man sitting down on a bench at the end of the subway platform.
“Knock yourself out, chief,” I snickered and wandered out of the station whistling a Grateful Dead song.
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.