Captain and the Kid written by Cally and Grandreopening
The following is a true story, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. It’s a story about a girl and a boy on the subway, right and wrong, life and death. Actually that’s not entirely true; this is just a very short story about Captain (C) and the Kid (K).
(K): Four schools in four semesters. It’s not a record; we set that in grade school; 3rd through 4th grade. To be specific, Ms. Elwood, Mrs. Derringer, Mr. Dicks, Mr. Raji, Mrs. Bergdorf, Ms. Gutierrez, and I think there was one more with a Spanish-sounding name, and I’m pretty sure she was really nice to me but I honestly can’t remember.
But this is now, that was when. When there was a reason. There is always a reason, always some never-seen emergency. Ma says I’ll make new friends, like the ones I made at the last school, at the last “Buy-the-Week” Inn which she insisted we call the ‘apartment’. It was nothing but another shithole motel and Ma will never understand the only friend I have is Tiger. Tiger is black and white and ugly, just like me but he’s the only friend I’ve really every had.
(C): Captain’s Log, Star Date 68557.5. It’s been one a hell of a night. I’ve been walking for five hours in the horrible cold and strange frozen precipitation, and still no sign of Lieutenant Cox. Never hire a man for your communications officer; they refuse instruction and ignore directions. Neither the tricorder nor the communicator is functioning property, apparently disallowing our return to the ship. I should never have let him out of my sight, never mind the novelty of alien porn. I’ve taken temporary refuge in an arcane transportation system that appears to simply crawl around in circles on strange metal tracks attracting what I deem their plebian citizens. Again, Cox dropped the ball on the civilization research. We were supposed to be observing signs of mating and/or fertility, but all I’ve actually seen is this ugly ass dog dry humping on one out of every five beings entering the car. Seems random, yet somehow very focused and specific (insert bookmark here for further review). I’m beginning to feel like the ship’s transporter isn’t even functioning or someone surely would’ve beamed me out of this shithole, Cox or no Cox.
I will now attempt to coerce one of the natives to aid me in a physical respite (primarily sleep and nourishment) outside of this rolling tin can. Captain out.
(K): I’m on my way the “Diss”, that’s what everyone calls D.E.H.S.; Who ever heard of a ghetto high school being named after Dwight D. Eisenhower? I take Tiger because Roy in maintenance lets him hang around his shop in the boiler room. I don’t trust my Ma and the folks she has over; not that they would hurt him on purpose, though a few that might, no, most are cool, they’d likely just get drunk then something dumb would happen to him.
This ride sucks. It’s a two-train jump that starts early, and in this neighborhood the early trains still tend to smell like puke. Sometimes all the bangers’ are still coming home drunk and mean; god they suck. Its been pretty mellow lately, which is nice. This morning it’s strangely empty except for this weird-ass woman behind me. An empty car and she’s been leaning on the door murmuring under her breath. She keeps looking around all twitchy, it’s like she’s looking at everything around here for the very first time. Fricking weird.
(C): “Pssst, hey kid.” Kid looks up at me like I’m some kind of freak. “Hey, I need help and I’ve got barter material. No I can’t show you here but take me to your place and maybe we can strike a deal.” I wasn’t too sure whether this was a good idea, especially now that I can see the look of stoic, yet frightened indignity plastered across his face like a half-assimilated Borg. Kid turns around, clearly lost in thoughts that might include jumping up and racing away or pissing his pants and deflating into a ball of liquid alien goo (not pretty−I’ve seen it before). The dog just stares at me, lower jaw jutting out, slow trickle of saliva shining on its slightly trembling lip. All of a sudden the dog emits a low, yet surprisingly menacing growl, and leaps from Kid’s lap, through the near-empty train, just as the train slows to a stop and the doors begin to open in a bizarre, slow-motion screech. Kid looks at me with wild eyes akin to a Klingon in heat, screams “NOOOOOOO, TIIIIGEEERRRR” and panic ensues.
(K): “NOOOOO, TIIIIGGGGER!” I scream. “What did you do you crazy bitch?” Fear and anger seized me. I hate it when it happens, it reminds me of Ma, how she loses it sometimes. I guess I’m the apple and she’s the tree; that anger bug that’s been chewing her trunk forever has me now. It bites deep and hard as I see Tiger bounding down the aisle, tail between his legs then out into the blur of legs on the platform. He’s never done that; he always stands his ground when the drunk bangers start to push and shove on the early train. Something is wrong.
I shout “crazy bitch’ and shove her hard. I’ve never done that, to anyone, much less an adult. I feel like I’m watching myself; this is so weird. Then I turn and run, tears streaming down my cheeks, to find Tiger…to find my only friend in a city of 15 million.
(C): Damn. The little shit pushed me. But, seized by the anathema of empathy that propelled me into this line of work in the first place, I took off, following the kid as he ran, wailing and cursing. I ran, thinking I’m definitely not logging this, chasing Kid chasing Tiger through the throng of underground life. I wasn’t sure exactly where we were going or if Kid actually saw the damn varmint, but I felt somehow responsible. As I rounded a corner I just glimpsed the kid’s back as he rushed into a “public restroom.” I had, quite painfully, found out about public restrooms several hours ago and stopped well short, knowing there was no other way out, and I sure as hell wasn’t going in there. I waited, torn between internal disgust at this ridiculous situation and the haunting realization that I’m pretty much lost, stranded, and pitifully ignorant of the species I was here to observe in the first place. I started looking around at them, all of them different. Hair color, eye color, skin color, clothing, expressions, all different; some subtle, some not so much. I never knew a race so different, yet so similar. A firm grasp on my shoulder bolted me out of my daydream; it was Cox! Looking down (yeah Cox was short and quite stocky) I was at once heartened and somehow horrified to see that Cox had emerged from the public restroom, Tiger tucked quite snugly under one arm. A second later, I saw (over Cox’s head) Kid emerge from the public restroom, just as Cox whipped out his communicator, breathed in a low, throaty drawl, “beam us up,” and the familiar tingle of my own matter breaking up began to overcome my body. The last thing I heard was, again, “TIIIGEEERRRR.”
(K): I saw Tiger’s tail disappear around a corner through the salty blur of tears. I just wanted to get to Roy’s office, drop off my dog and get through another day at the “Diss” with as little attention as possible. I was good at fading through the day, at being unseen. The teachers remembered my name; most did anyway. None of the students did. I had forced, semester-long lab partners that had no clue what to call me. I knew how NOT to draw attention to myself. Now I was crying and wailing on the subway station chasing my only friend.
He went into a restroom—thankfully it was the men’s. I race in to find him and ran into the chest of a thick bald man. He’s not mean looking but has distant, faraway eyes. They are raincloud blue, his eyes. Ma always said ‘the eyes tell no lies’ but this guy’s eyes were mute, maybe deaf and mute because it was like I wasn’t even there, in front of him, like I wasn’t tugging on his sleeve and blubbering. He just gently brushed me away like I was a cat and he was done petting and walked out. He walked out with my best friend whimpering under his arm.
I follow him out, getting mad. That molten coal that had burned before, glowing, starting to sear my guts. I charge out, around the corner and he’s there, talking to that same crazy woman.
“What the hell is…..” Then they start to glow, a little, then more. There are people everyone in the station but no one is noticing, only me. It’s like they are fading. I don’t think. I yell “TIIIGGGGER” and leap, the last thing I remember is grabbing that crazy black bitch’s pant leg, and then I’m glowing and fading too.
(C): Captain’s Log, Star Date 68775.5. We’ve got two unregistered, unvaccinated mammals aboard ship. Cox has been severely reprimanded and sent to the brig for disobeying orders, illicit cavorting with the native species, and several suspicious contraband powders that are currently being analyzed. I’ve ordered full medical scans of Cox, the kid, and the dog. Once cleared, I will escort our erstwhile guests back to their planet, and hope this incident doesn’t get us all (myself) into hot water. I’m stating for the record here that this entire fiasco was completely due to the incompetence of Lieutenant Cox, who I am recommending for psychological evaluation. Captain out.
Off the record, I have been persuaded to, and will in all good conscience, escort the kid and the dog to the “Diss” as he calls it, which seems to be an educational institution of questionable repute. As I learned from a hard-fought conversation with him that ended in an awkward, yet sloppy tongue kiss, the kid seems to think my mere presence will assuage his extreme anxiety that was apparently gained in the current situation, and serve to dissuade him from “calling the law” and “bringing me down.” He must know I could kill him and his scruffy little snaggletooth right here and now. But never mind that; I kind of like the little shits. At present, we are in the control room and will beam down momentarily. Having finally won him over, he smiles sweetly, hugs Tiger, and we stand quietly for a few minutes. Kid is still all eyes, still doesn’t quite comprehend where we really are, then Kowalski nods from the control panel and the tingle begins…… back to Earth
Photo credit: Sheldon Serkin