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"Bad News", "Little Manila", & "Boys" by Alex Romero

Bad News

You seen them boys before? You know the ones, those three boys from the borough of Queens who pedal down the street machine-gun fast like a blender from hell. On a hushed night in Little Manila, their wheels crunch up the pavement the closer & closer they get. Everybody knows trouble follows them wherever they go. It’s always something with them boys, so naughty & ungrateful, talking smack all disrespectful to their elders & all them boys can do is laugh like it’s something funny. Even their moms & dads got tired of trying & who could blame them? They sneak off late at night, use the moon as their flashlight & tag their names all thru the barrio letting everybody know they don’t care. They steal shit from bodegas & knock over trash cans & wear their Catholic school uniforms but still can’t find Jesus. They toss pop-its at peoples’ feet & ring doorbells before vanishing into the dark. Watch what happens when you try to check them, they just bark at you & say Mind your business. Them boys are bad news & got tons of growing up to do. If you see them around, best to cross the street.

Little Manila

The neighborhood is noisy, half-hidden below the high-rise tracks of the number 7 train station rumbling over us like a warm thunderstorm. Sidewalks slick with city grit. Spices, smoke & subway funk coalesce into the air as motorcycles & taxis surf the avenue like ocean waves. A woman in a visor cap & vinyl gloves lugs a stuffed garbage bag, collecting bottles on the block until she hits the lotto; men scatter mahjong tiles across a folding table & sling their shiny beer bottles up toward the moon; a knockoff Mister Softee ice cream truck blares dame más gasolina; a row of construction workers holler at girls with the needy gaze of someone thirsty; the girls hiss at them & flutter off like angels with pigeon wings; dumpster rats come out to play, scuttling the street like furry apostrophes; the final church bells ring, almost like a kiss goodnight from God; when the sun goes down, the house lights blow out like candles on a cake; the Mets lose, again.


We them boys—Jordy, Paco, & Mike—three teens from the sunny side of Queens together as one like a well-oiled machine. So fly, flames rise beneath our feet each time our sneakers hit the street. At school, we rock fresh skin fades & handsome faces & skin the color of autumn. We move like we carry stars in our backpacks. We became one six years ago when the nuns kept mixing us up. Now Jordy’s in the eighth grade, Paco & Mike in seventh. Jordy is Mike’s big brother, a goon & a clown, running around with the kind of pep that suggests he’s been waiting for something to happen his whole life. He can put on one hell of a Bambi act too, talk his way out of any mess whether we’re caught shoplifting or skipping mass or hopping the subway turnstile. But Paco’s quiet & acts real shy, every sentence that leaves his mouth is so beautiful it makes us wanna cry though we would never do such a thing in public. Especially not Mike, who’s serious & also smart, but even the smart kids don’t have the answers sometimes. We them boys from womb to tomb. We stand together. We have dreams too.

Alex Romero is the Founding Editor of Speakeasy Magazine. A second-year MFA student at Columbia University, he holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College. He is a staff writer for Surging Tide Magazine. His words have been recently published or are forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Maudlin House, Fleas on the Dog, The Coachella Review, and BULLSHIT LIT, among other places. He has been long-listed for Uncharted Magazine's Novel Excerpt Contest. His short story, “Our Little Manila,” was selected by Tia Clark as a finalist for the Plentitudes Prize in Fiction. He is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships from Lambda Literary, Key West Literary Seminar, the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation, Tin House, and more. A Queens native, he is a lifelong resident of New York, where he is writing his first book.

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