"Subway Sonata" by Mark Blickley

Greg Burton kicked an empty beer can up and down a freezing subway platform. His sister Carol complained about the noise he was making, but the noise didn’t bother her. She was too embarrassed to join him and that’s what really upset her. Greg looked like he was having so much fun. He didn’t even seem to care what the other people on the platform thought about the noise he was making.

“Stop banging that can around, Greg,” said his mother. “The train’s coming. You can’t be late for school again.”

Carol ran in front of her brother and gave the beer can a final kick. They both smiled as it scraped across the yellow line and dropped on to the train tracks.

“Is Daddy going to die in the war,” asked Carol.

Mother shook her head. “Your father’s an airplane mechanic, not a soldier. I doubt he’ll see much action.”

As the subway doors were closing behind them, a dirty man in sunglasses, carrying a handmade cardboard sign, threw himself at the door. The sliding doors crushed his body like a pair of hungry teeth, but he managed to squeeze his way inside the crowded subway car.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the man shouted as the train pulled out. “I am not a thief or a mugger. Could you please spare some change for a Vietnam Vet who’s hungry? Show your support for the boys over in Afghanistan by helping one of their brothers at home.”

When the man held out his cup to Greg the boy grabbed Carol by her arm and mumbled something.

“What’s that you say, son?” asked the beggar.

“I said you smell,” answered Greg.


Mark Blickley grew up within walking distance of New York's Bronx Zoo. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center.