¡Help write El Bloombito! As an interactive exercise, I started typing two hours ago. I have an idea where it’s going, but you, the reader, will help push the story on in “Mad Libs” style. This of this as an “Improv” of writing. Be fun! Be crazy! Be original! Please read on.
EL BLOOMBITO – CHAPTER ONE
“Que se uh oh hurrycanos, Sandy on se, no se el calle. With that, I’ll be happy to take your questions.” The steady Mayorial voice spoke through the Bose speakers, set on either side of our faux wood TV stand.
Sitting together on the Clinton-era tan couch that sagged in the middle, Reyna and I laughed as one. But the overwhelming reek of Curve Crush eau de toilette was all hers.
“¿Qué?” asked my sister, her long dark locks waving like a monkey’s tail from a tree as she guffawed. Her loose blue and red “Rangers” XL jersey moved as she shook like Jello. She padded herself like a lineman with Snickers and fully leaded Coke after Joe left her. But her demeanor now was as happy as it was in the Nineties, when we used to race second-hand 12-speed bikes through Greenwood Cemetery, escaping before a zombie grabbed us. Mayor Bloomberg’s TV news conference was funnier than anything on SNL or Comedy Central. An Alaskan Taco Bell employee could better pronounce Español than Mayor Mike. Reyna bit her upper lip and its heavy coating of cosmetics for a moment before she asked, “What did he say?”
I smiled as my brown eyes focused on the Samsung thirty-one inch TV our parents bought on layaway. I said, “No idea, ask someone from Staten Island.” The smell of day-old pizza floated in from the galley kitchen like driftwood in the East River. Yesterday night’s Ilario’s Sausage Special was reminiscent of the odor of Staten’s most famous landmark, its city dump. But Dad was dead and Mom was exhausted. Sis and I had been too wound up in CNN Hurricane Updates to keep up with cooking or cleaning up the boxes. Besides, the roaches would clean up the petrified cheese remnants for us.
Reyna laughed again while Mayor Bloomberg raised his arm to take a question about drainage pipes from a mercurial NBC national bureau reporter. Under Bloomberg’s receding hairline and ample nose, the billionaire leader of New York City wore a dark blue suit and a tie that looked like a Christmas cane with its twisting lines of red and white.
“Staten Island?” asked twenty-three year old Reyna, her hazelnut eyes clear. “I think you mean the Upper West Side!” On the TV, the Mayor’s mouth moved again in its economical way, the words pouring forth with little effort from his lips. His eyes remained deadened, presumably from a lack of sleep. I could hear the neighbors fighting in the apartment above, we never knew their names since our communication was all Neanderthal with them, a few grunts and snorts if we passed on the creaky staircase or in the lobby by the mailboxes. I hoped the bickering above didn’t wake Marissa, Reyna’s five-month old, whose gentle snores came from the bassinet she had nearly outgrown.
“Upper West, Staten, whatever. I only know that Dude’s never lived in Queens or here in Brooklyn!” I said, watching his animated interpreter for the deaf move her arms like a traffic beat cop at a busy corner. I pivoted my back to stretch since I’d sat in that spot for two hours.
Reyna sighed and looked around our ten-by-ten foot familial living room. Our flat kept all four of us close, Mom, Reyna, her daughter and twenty-two year old me. Sis pointed at Bloomberg as he droned on about bottled water. “Can’t blame him for not wanting to live here.” She pushed her copy of the New York Post to the side on the end table, its “Frankenstorm Sandy!” headline old news. “I guess he’s a good leader, but I think he’s term-limited.” I raised my legs as if I’d rise Lazarus-like from the couch and musty room.
I stood and grabbed my yellow raincoat that made me look more like a Central Park flasher than the general ledger accountant I was. “Whatever. Call him El Bloombito or the SuperSize Bandito, I don’t care.” I stretched my arms, my fingers nearly hitting the shell-shaped overhead light that came with our rent-controlled apartment. “Better gas up the Tercel. Whenever work is back on-line, I gotta drive.”
Reyna smiled, then spoke in her I’m-only-a-year-older-than-you-but-I’m-wise-enough-to-be-your-mother voice, “I told you! Work in the city! The Subway’s much easier!” She reached for her day’s third red can of Coca-Cola. She was Bloomberg’s arch enemy, the serial consumer of sugary cereals and drinks laden with corn syrup. “And the MTA’s cheaper!”
I neglected to make my snide remark about serving hotdogs in an office cafeteria. I knew it hurt her ego when I mentioned it before; she attended CUNY before dropping out in the fifth month of her pregnancy. Besides, my ride was my freedom to visit Martha, who neither Mom nor Reyna knew was in my nocturnal plans. Sis’s one-time best friend before their fight that came to nails if not quite knives, Martha lived in Jersey City.
“’Sorry?’ No contractions? Definitely not a New Yawker,” I muttered as I looked at the careful block letters, “Sorry, We Are Out Of Gas,” taped to the Premium side of the Valero gas pump. I heard J. Lo on a boom box parked on an apartment building’s third floor fire escape almost directly above us.
“Hey!” screamed someone with a Yonkers vibe. I knew it would only be a matter of time before someone proved the City of Brotherly of Love was several state lines away. “It’s my pump!” Brooklyn proved as cold-hearted as its November air was crisp.
“No shit, asshole!” I yelled. I pointed at my right Nike, the one with a tiny crack between the top and the right seam. “No car, asshole!”
I walked across the tiny stretch of concrete parallel to Henry Street because my red-faded-to-pink ’94 Tercel sat squat in its coveted space close by our flat. ‘Close by’ for Brooklyn, which could be the length of many Middle American towns. From across the gangway, my neighbor Tony warned me the night before the City That Never Sleeps was “out of gas.” Even in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, that seemed impossible, but my stroll through our South Brooklyn hood suggested he might be right. On account of working for the NYFD, Tony usually was.
“Don’t fuck with me, asshole!” said the voice. I could see him now. His dark hair and darker attitude hulked as he turned his head to stare at me. His face was like a Guy Fawkes mask, minus the grin. He wore an oversize navy blue winter coat, too warm for the season and probably concealing some sort of large bullet-expelling weapon underneath.
Considering he might be packed, I adjusted my retort to drop “asshole”. “No car, man. Don’t fuck with a guy named Oscar, okay?” I was a Featherweight, extra light on deltoid, biceps and triceps.
He laughed. They always did. “Oscar? A regular De La Hoya you are!”
As I passed behind a silver ’98 Taurus with the driver slumped, either asleep or dead, I said, “Sure am. Good luck with gas.”
The angry man in the wintry coat turned back to focus on the gas pump. I suspected he felt intense staring would cause gasoline to materialize from the pump like the mythical black oil in an old Beverly Hillbillies TV show.
New York would be fine, I thought. The rest of the nation needed gas but New York walked, biked and commuted on tracks. Only a few like me had to drive at all. I thought of Martha and walked faster as I hunted for the CITGO. If it too was out of gas, I had a problem, but one I’d solve. I’d swim or walk if I had to. More than usual, I needed to see Martha.
Where does it go next? I have ideas, but what are your thoughts?
What do you like of Oscar, our protagonist? Do you have ideas for him? His hobbies? Likes/dislikes? What does he need to see Martha so badly for? Ahem, is there another reason?
What about Reyna and her baby? Mom? What about the guy in the coat at the gas pump?
I promise more Bloomberg… the story is called “El Bloombito” for a reason. How do you think the Mayor will tie into our story?
Any phrases you especially liked or disliked? Details you enjoyed? Are you a New Yorker who caught a mistaken detail? What would you add?
This is practice for my novel-writing and hopefully a fun read for you. Perhaps it could even be part of a story of its own. Or I may lift phrases, character(s) or scenes from El Bloombito for my novels. I promise any lifting that comes from reader input gets a credit as well as an autographed copy from the author, if it sees its publication!
We can revise and rewrite so please comment below with whatever you have to say. Thank you for reading!