Meet Ralph. He’s a character in TOO QUIET IN BROOKLYN. The antagonist, or at least one of them.
Ralph made the bed and sat on it, trying to count his money, but gave up. He had plenty of time to do the job, it wasn’t three days yet, but his brother and sister kept fading away and he missed Charlie. He took a shower and found some clean clothes in the closet, brown pants and a black shirt. The shirt was too fancy for him. Ralph didn’t like buttons, but he couldn’t find any T-shirts. He sat down because the room was spinning a little and asked his sister to button the shirt, but she shook her head. “You already know your buttons, do it yourself,” her voice said. The clothes were Arrow’s, so the pants were too wide and weren’t long enough, but they’d do just fine. After he scooped the money off the bed, he put it into a pocket. He found a belt in the closet, but it didn’t have enough holes.
“So tie it,” his brother’s voice whispered. Ralph did, and it worked fine. The boots were Arrow’s too. They were a little small, but he could walk in them if he curled his toes. He needed some tennis shoes, that was it, tennis shoes like he used to wear in the Bronx when he climbed trees and ran up walls. He missed running the walls.
He opened the refrigerator and found some hamburger meat in a drawer, but he didn’t like the way it smelled, so he put it back and found another beer and put the empty bottles and pizza box in the trash can underneath the sink. He looked around to make sure everything was neat, took a towel from the kitchen and cleaned the counters and the bathroom. He dusted all the table tops and put the towel in with his dirty clothes.
On the way out, he locked the door and threw his old clothes and the towel into the incinerator. Arrow’s voice reminded him where it was, right around the corner from the laundry room where you needed coins. It was easier to wear the clothes for a week or so and get new ones and throw the old ones out—that’s why the incinerator is near the laundry room, Arrow said.
Ralph climbed the stairs to the bridge and walked across. The sun hit him in the back and his leg was a little stiff and his feet were cramped, but he felt good except when he thought about Charlie. “Don’t think about him,” his sister whispered.
“I’d like to see a middle-priced tennis shoe, not too cheap and not too expensive.” That’s what his sister taught him, and that’s what he asked for at the first store he saw with shoes in the window. The man nodded like he’d heard that all the time.
Ralph stared at him. “Tell him, real big,” Arrow whispered, “because you got big boaters.” Arrow laughed and disappeared. Ralph smiled.
“Take your boot off and stand on this,” the man said and fiddled with the sides and looked up at Ralph. “We don’t have too much of a selection in eleven and a half, but I’ll bring out what we got.”
Ralph chose the black ones and gave the man a bill and said he’d wear them out of the store. “Got any snap-on rubber cleats, like for snow?”
“I might.” The man returned in a few minutes. “Here you go.”
“And a T-shirt. White, if you have it.”
Photo: Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park. Credit: ChrisGoldNY (Flickr), Creative Commons.