Other walkers looked at the loud man, annoyed, but they stepped aside as he stomped forward, his eyes a mixture of sarcasm and anger. He marched along as if owned the sidewalk and everyone should clear a path for him. Karen, Sam, and whoever else he was giving orders to may have been intimidated by him - maybe even some of the other pedestrians were also intimidated, annoyed, or some combination of both - but Curt was far from intimidated.
Their eyes locked in a stare as they walked into each other's path. Curt's hands were buried deep in his lint- filled pocket, and his shoulders hunched tightly against his neck like two inward-leaning dominos perched along a lone standing domino. As they approached each other, Curt did not blink as he continued to look into the loud man's wild eyes. Mr. Big Shot made flinging, shooing motions with his hand, as if telling Curt to step aside while shouting. "Well screw him, Karen. You tell him once I get in the office I'm going to kick his ass!"
He snarled as he and Curt grew closer. Curt met the snarl with a pursed lipped expression that translated into several languages as "I wish you would."
By now they were two strides apart.
Curt took a short step to his right.
The approaching man sneered as if saying, "That's right. You better move out of the way."
If indeed that was what he was thinking, the thought did not reach completion as Curt planted hard and lunged his left shoulder into the man's collarbone.
The sneer was gone, replaced by a "What the fuck?" yelp that followed his phone dropping and bouncing off the pavement. Maybe three quarters of a second passed before his ass bounced off the pavement in a manner similar to his phone.
Curt never looked back.
A woman who was steps away from entering the new hair salon for the gentrifiers, turned up her nose and was preparing to say, "You people just don't have any respect," but Curt's glare made her think twice about sharing any commentary. Her face flushed and she hurriedly stepped into the salon.
From his perch on the pavement, the angry man made several "up yours" gestures with his left hand in the crook of his right arm and his right hand extending a middle finger. Yet even in his bluster, he knew better than to run after Curt.
Curt hung a left to round the corner. In fifteen blocks, he'd be at the county building, and with each step, the thought of the obnoxious man he'd knocked on his ass drained from his thoughts like water down a drain.
The man sparked another series of thoughts that made Curt grit his teeth. He recalled changing the air filter in his neighbor's apartment. Tiye was an artist with creative utensils and materials everywhere. On her countertop, she had left the top off a small can of white paint alongside some black canvases. After taking the old filter out of the overhead vent, Curt accidentally knocked over the paint while attempting to rest the filter on the counter.
"Oh shit! I'm sorry!"
Tiye rushed over as Curt tried to scoop the oozing paint spill back into the can. At the sight of the white paint oozing over the black canvas, Tiye quipped, "Well, there's a snapshot of our neighborhood."
That was a few days ago, but the paint oozing over the canvas was a vivid image of how Curt felt about how the neighborhood was changing and, more discouragingly, about the state of hip hop.
"We can't have shit," he thought, as he walked past a poster promoting an upcoming Iggy Azalea concert.
A half hour later he sat across from his parole officer in a cramped office overflowing with stacks of files. The
YOU ARE READING
Four Floors (excerpt)Short Story
This excerpt is taken from the first time collaboration between authors Ran Walker and Sabin Prentis. The original collection of short stories explores the lives of four people who occupy a brownstone in a heavily gentrified neighborhood in the city...