The Corner Apartment
This mini-story is part of an anthology I’m working on based loosely on events that took place during my childhood. All stories involve characters who played real-life roles during my upbringing in the Southeast Bronx. Names changed for anonymity.
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He took a long drag of his cigarette, then proceeded to crush it between his fingers.
The butt, still glowing alarmingly red, disappeared into the side of his index finger. The one with the faded “J” tattooed years ago. The ember from the final hit disappeared, but left no mark on the worn ink.
“J” stood for Judy. He had met her on the steps of that very building that they still lived in, thirty years later. In this part of the Bronx, they were the only white people left. Asians, Indians, Mexicans, you name it — the newcomers filled up the apartments, with tiny children spilling out of their doors, impish creatures who kicked balls in the hallway and ran up and down the stairs playing tag, never mind which neighbors could no longer take their accustomed afternoon naps.
Judy liked them. They never had children of their own; hell, they were never legally married, despite knowing no one else intimately. But on the first of October of every year, she sat down and got to work.
Hundreds of plastic baggies would litter the kitchen table, each imprinted with tiny white ghosts, bats with beady green eyes, pumpkins with toothy grins. Judy separated each bag “by the boys and the ladies,” as she called them.
Girls deserve to have the best candy, she would remark decisively. A treat from their apartment far surpassed any other on Halloween, she made sure of that. No cheapskates at 109B; they only had the good stuff.
It was how he made a living in the rent-stabilized apartment in this lonely part of the borough, too.
He only had the good stuff.