Friday, July 18, 2008

Ditmas Park Tales: The Tracks

My shitty version of Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" --

Okay, this is how The Kid ended up making me climb the sharp rocks out of the tracks.

The Kid -- I must have had a dozen aliases created for him in other things I've written, but I'm getting lazy now -- had struck upon a truly genius idea. We were going to go down to Ave. I to the discount store and buy up all the Toy Biz Marvel Comics action figures that were on sale. I mean, they were on sale for nothing, maybe $2 or $3 a piece. Hulk. Dr. Doom. Wolverine. We'd buy them all up, along with similarly discounted Simpsons and Little Mermaid figures, and then wait a few years and resell 'em and make a profit and be rich.

I was 16 and had made a firm decision that I wasn't going to return to high school anymore. It was boring, it was dull, I couldn't relate. Worst of all, they were making us play badminton.

So instead of taking the bus down Coney Island to the store, The Kid convinced me to take the tracks. They were train tracks that were rarely used anymore, overgrown with weeds and choked with rusted cans and the skeletons of bikes and appliances. It was easy enough to make one's way down to the tracks, by squeezing past a fence and navigating past a very level decline or series of flat step-like rocks. But, as with everything in my life, I needed to know there was a predictable conclusion, a way out. I wanted to know there was a similarly safe and easy way to get out of the tracks. The Kid assured me that there was.

Now, The Kid also had a habit of accidentally setting things on fire. So I don't know why I trusted him.

My heart dropped as we walked along the tracks. One-by-one, The Kid opened up to me regarding the dangers of the area -- how to listen for the trains he initially told me almost never traveled down this route anymore, the accidents, the criminals who hung out there. I saw a crack pipe lying between two bleached and splintery wooden boards and brought it to The Kid's attention. He admitted sometimes him and his cohorts would go down there with booze, but swore they weren't taking drugs.

Later, The Kid would steal a small metal cash box and take it down to the tracks and try to open it with a sledgehammer. I don't remember details. There might have been tiny explosives involved as well. Just like in those heist movies. I just remember it was the last time he was allowed back in his house, and that's how he ended up staying over mine for a spell.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, we were walking along the tracks, listening for the trains that were not supposed to come, when a little band of about six boys confronted us. The oldest one must have been no older than eleven. They looked at us with screwed-up, mean faces and announced that we would not be allowed to pass. Also, that we were fart-heads.

Now, The Kid looked like he was 12, but was all of 15. You'd figure me and him could take these suckers. But, we just felt rather silly about it. They were little children. And they could probably, if they piled on, could kick our ass. Or even have a shiv. Never underestimate youngsters who hang out on the tracks.

One boy threw a pebble at The Kid, and it bounced off his forehead. The Kid flinched. Then somebody else threw a pebble at me, landing on my cheek.

"Fart head!"

Soon, we were barraged by pebbles and the sound of this bunch's laughter. We were beat. We had no plan. We just pushed past them, the momentary sting of tiny rocks peppering our back and legs.

"How much further?" I asked him.

There was no conception of time on the tracks. Or direction, other than Where We Were and Where We Were Going.

The Kid assured me we were almost there. Then, by a steep wall-like formation of sharp rocks and glass, he stopped.

"Okay. We get out here. The store's right up and over."

Indeed, he was correct. Looking up, I could see the top of the discount store surrounded by blue skies and clouds.

"Yeah, but how do we get out of here?"

"We climb."

No, there was no fucking way I was climbing a fucking wall with sharp shit sticking out of it.

"Fine, then go back home. There is no other way. I'll leave you here."

I wanted to cry. I watched him approach the wall, grip the pipes and rocks that stuck out of its horrible, lumpy facade, and crawl away from me into the horizon.

I wanted to turn back, but then I thought of those little bastards with the pebbles. I was so close to victory and those Marvel Comics action figures for only $2.99! Nightcrawler! Colossus! Spider-Man with alternate suit!

So I approached the wall and unsteadily gripped a triangular piece of granite. I winced as my knees and the meat of my hands got scratched up. But, I finally made it to the surface.

As I met up with The Kid and headed with him towards the store, something caught my eye. I couldn't believe what I saw. A little further along the block, past the wall we climbed, was a set of concrete stairs leading to the tracks. It even had a fucking banister.

"We could have taken this to get up! Didn't you know about these stairs?!"

"Yeah. But the other way was more fun."


  1. I know someone who's getting a new nickname!

  2. LOL!

    I was not prepared for that ending, but I really should have been. Nice. :)

  3. Hahaha nice friend. I took my friend down to the tracks running from the Brooklyn Navy Yard after an expedition down there myself. At least I accounted fer his physical failings and took him down via the stairs. Luckily for him that's where the hole in the fence was.

  4. Prick ;)

    If I was "the kid" I would have took the hard way "not realizing" there was stairs just ahead. But that's just me...

    Great story!