Excerpt for Tabloid: Episode Two - A Fifth Of Freedom by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Episode 2


Under the canyons of the City, steel stairs on an endless loop carried willing and weary travelers deep into the underbelly. Just when I thought I couldn’t go any deeper under asphalt and granite, another set of steel teeth emerged and willingly assisted me to the platform that no matter what the weather hundreds of feet above was, was cold and damp.

I stood on the edge of the platform, just at the yellow caution tape, and looked down the mouth of dark nothingness. When I logically concluded that there was no train, I remained focused and waited. I waited and waited for a glimmer of light, but there was none. I shook my head and took a deep breath. Only in a City of instant gratification could a train, scheduled for every two minutes, be a major inconvenience when one minute late. “Yes,” I said. A glimmer of hope. Two, three blocks away, maybe, I saw a dim light. And although I knew it was only a few minutes before the steel snake slithered into the station, I shot indignant stares and gestured impatiently to indicate that I was annoyed. I was sure that if the conductor saw me, he would at once recognize he was tardy and speed up to make amends for disrupting my schedule. The minutes seemed forever. Finally, the mechanical monstrosity thundered into the station and caused a seismic tremor. I stood with my back against the red bricked wall and tried to keep myself anchored as newspaper, and other debris whirled around in mini-cyclonic pockets. I brushed the hair away from my face as the steel wheels of the massive multi-ton transporter of souls screeched to a defining halt.

I then walked over towards the middle car and waited. Just then a small window, to the right of me, slid open. I looked over at the balding black man who popped his head out. The name tag, on his blue work shirt, read Charon.

He looked around and when he pressed a button the doors of the gondola slid open. A flood of riders filed out in a chaotic line like stampeding buffalos on their way to a feast in the Serengeti. I waited to the side, and when it was clear, I walked in and took a seat by an open window. The car reeked of stale food, urine and asbestos breaks. It reminded me of the Mayor's speech. He promised the City, and its visitors a cleaner, safer and a more efficient subway system soon. Not long after I took my seat, the doors hissed shut and in an instant, the train jerked forward. As it sped through the underground urban River, cold air rushed through the cracked opened windows. I took a deep breath, and quickly covered my mouth and nose. I closed my eyes, coughed a bit and shook my head. After I opened my eyes, I looked at the five young black girls laughing and talking, across from me. The oldest one looked no more than fifteen. She led the loud conversation and ranted about everything from school, teachers, parents and sex. Every over word from her mouth was fuck, and it made me cringe. Yeah, I used the word, maybe too much, but hearing it every five seconds or so made me want to redact it from my repertoire altogether.

Over the intercom, a muffled voice announced the next stop. I stood and glanced at the map across from me. Despite being a native New Yorker, I get discombobulated while traveling underground, and from time to time, and I needed reminders of where I am and what stops I needed. When I returned to my seat, one of the girls walked over, sat next to me and dug into her pocket. She pulled out a dog-eared Hard Times, which kind of shocked me. From listening to the girls talk, I honestly didn’t think that any of them could read. I was intrigued. So, I leaned over to her and said, “I liked that book.”

The girl glared up and over at me like I inconvenienced her with my words. Obviously, she didn’t care about my opinions. She shrugged her shoulders and gave the inevitable, “So.”

I thought about just leaving her alone, but something motivated me to pursue a conversation, so I did. “Did you choose that to read that, or were you assigned it?” I asked.

She sighed an irritating sigh and cut her eyes at me. “My teacher is making us read it. Why?” she said.

“Just asking,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders. “Do you have to write a report on it afterward?”

“How do you like it so far?”

“It sucks. It’s boring. It has no real action. And I don’t know anybody who talks like this anymore.”

“Do you like reading?”

“Yeah, I do. I love reading about other places in the world. You know different cultures and cities that I want to visit when I grow up. I love reading about the job that I want when I graduate.”

“Oh, yeah? What’s that?”

She lifted her head up proudly and said, “I’m going to be a reporter.”

“Really? Why?”

“Reporters go places.”

“What do you mean they go places?”

“They talk to people and report. They go places and report.”

“Do you write?”

“Not really.”

“Well, you know that one of the keys to good journalism is writing what you see and hear in a clear, understandable language for others to make a decision.”

She looked at me for a few seconds like she was processing my words. She then glanced down to the book in her hand and said, “Like Dickens. He was trying to make people understand and see what went on in other areas of society.”


She frowned and said, “How do I write that way?”

“Practice. You have to write every day. Nothing elaborate, but just try stringing some words together and create a narrative. Observe your surroundings and write what you see, hear and smell. Try describing a person’s facial expressions, or the way that person talks.” I pointed over to her friends and said, “Look over there and describe to me what you see.”

She looked over and said, “I see some dumb motherfuckers.” She laughed and shook her head. “Just playing. I see five girls laughing and talking.”

“Now, what kind of mood are they in?”

“They’re happy.”

“What else?”

She slowly looked around the car and scanned the people, the posters on the wall and graffiti. She took a deep breath and said, “I see torn posters, graffiti on the glass and trash on the floor. Two lights keep flickering like they're about to go out.”

“What do you hear?” I said.

“I hear laughing, talking and the sound of the train going over the tracks. I hear wheels screeching.”

“What do you smell?”

“It smells like someone took a piss in the car. I smell nasty food.”

“What do you feel?”

“I feel cold, sticky. I can feel cold air rushing through the windows.”

“Now close your eyes,” I said. “And use all the things that you’ve just described to me in a story.”

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