You knew it, Sally-Boy, you knew it all those years ago, and you said it
into the hot, black Brooklyn night on the fire escape we loved, the fire
escape that reeked of rust and iron and our own sweat from wrestling on
it, drinking on it, pumping iron on it. You knew it then, before
everything changed, before the last boosted beer was drunk that night,
before I left you and you left us all. You always seemed to know so much
and you knew it then, and you said it, Sally, as we swigged the last can
of Schaefer we shared:
“Remember this night, Mikey,” you said, mysterious Brooklyn noises
swelling around us like a concert of benevolent memories, “remember it
because it won’t ever be like this again, never—too much going on,
too much is, like, confused and gettin worse. So, my cousin, my brother,
take it from me, take it for what it’s worth and sip that beer real
real slow…’cause, Mikey, it ain’t never gonna be like this
again…never, not ever ’cause everythin changes…it just does.”
In my head, I see him sip, burp, smile. I know what is coming next, and
I hear myself saying, "Don’t say it, Sally. You scream it out, it
means ‘fire,’ and the lights go on all over the neighborhood."
I hear his laugh, his voice rising:
"What the hell, do I know, Mikey? I am just Salvatore Fuoco!!!
Fuck-a-you! Salvatore fuck-a-you!!! Salvatore Fuocooooo!!!"
Lights flick on. People shout, “Is there a fire? What’s goin on, for
crissake? Shut the hell up!”
Then I laugh and say, “You always do it…” but when I turn to see
him, Sally-Boy is gone.
The neighborhood slowly turns dark again.
Still, every dawn, the thought of Sally-Boy leads me to my Fire Escape
I committed a crime, but I know it was right.
I went too far, and then I stopped short.
I failed to speak, when words were needed.
I spoke, when words meant nothing.
I let people disappear, because confusion overwhelmed me.
And now all these years later, I still talk to you, Sally-Boy. You, who
gave me fear and courage; you, who somehow knew when everything had
changed for you, when nothing would ever be the same; you, who
disappeared. And now I know when everything changed for me…and nothing
has ever been the same…
For me, the changes began in January of 1968, the second semester of my
sophomore year at Sinclair College.
I can now see how the new me emerged as I left the old me behind, a time
and a change that I could not have predicted…but that’s how it
happens, right, Sally-Boy?
Excerpted from "The Fire Escape Belongs In Brooklyn" by Chuck Cascio. Copyright © 2017 by Chuck Cascio. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Chuck Cascio is an award-winning journalist, educator, short-story writer, and business leader. The author of six books—three fiction and three nonfiction—Chuck has had hundreds of news stories, feature articles, opinion pieces, and short stories published in a wide-range newspapers, magazines, and journals. Among Chuck’s awards are a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, a Suburban Newspapers of America Award for Column Writing, a Distinguished Teacher Award in the Presidential Scholars Program, a Rothman Institute Award for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and other honors and citations for journalism, creative writing, teaching, and business. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Chuck moved to the Washington, DC, area at an early age, but he remains a New Yorker at heart. He earned a BS degree in Economics and Business from Wagner College on Staten Island, NY, and an MA in Communications from the American University in Washington, DC, where he later became an adjunct faculty member. Chuck also taught high school and was faculty advisor to student newspaper publications, receiving extensive recognition for his innovative approaches to teaching. After leaving the classroom, Chuck served as Vice President for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and then as Vice President for Educational Testing Service. Chuck and his wife, Faye (an award-winning science educator), are dedicated gym rats, who live in Reston, VA, near Washington, DC. Chuck now focuses on writing fiction, and he also post blogs on various topics. Chuck can be reached at email@example.com.
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