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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Here's a Short Story Titled "Invisible"


Nobody saw her.

Midnight. She heard the struggle. A muffled scream. Someone gagging like hands were choking away life. A final gasp, then a body slumping to the ground. She didn’t move from beside the dumpster, instead burrowed deeper into the discarded plastic bags.

“Come on Billy. He’s dead.” Feet shuffling. New leather clapping on the alley pavement, tapping quickly toward the street.

She waited, her breath shallow. Silence.

She pulled herself from the trash pile and shuffled from behind the bin to the body.

Merely a boy. Brutally beaten. Shot six times. Barely recognizable. Pockets turned inside out as though the perpetrators were searching for something. Slumped against the dumpster, his head pushed forward to his chest. One hand flung back against the cement wall, a tattoo of a snake needled in his wrist. Still bleeding. She looked closer. Familiar.

Brrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg!

She craned her head around, eyeing the cell phone lying in the middle of the alley.

Six hours later she was on the street, the night behind her. Forgotten. She arrived at Benny’s Bakery and gathered the Pepsi he always had waiting for her outside. She waved at him through the window. He gave a nod.

She had a brace choking her chubby neck. Her legs were wide and covered with white pants that looked like someone had sprayed dirty snow over orange rinds. She limped along, one foot bound in a sneaker, the other covered only by a grey athletic sock. When she walked, she drug her left foot as though she were hobbled. She carried a Pepsi in her left hand and brought it to her lips, sucking in a tiny sip, pulling it from her face then pushing it back to her open mouth immediately for another draw. It was like watching a wind-up doll, walking, sipping, walking, sipping as though her arm had to pump the can to her face in unison with her leg.

When she stopped, she’d sniff the air and look around, her big nose bobbing up and down like she was tracking an escaped prisoner. Now and again, she’d lift up her sneaker and dig at dog poop that wedged itself in the one rubber sole. She’d pound her leg on the pavement, trying to free the last clump, then give up and limp on.

People raced by, heads down, never eye contact. Most afternoons she’d wait at the bus stop pretending she had somewhere to go, someone to see, something to do. When she was hungry, she’d dig in the trash cans in the subways, always full of discards. She only remembered ever being hungry once in her life. Before.

She’d been on the street for six years. She got in the car the day she buried them, but never drove home, leaving the car near the river. Empty. Nothing to go home for.

Kevin had been twelve. Jenny seven. Her husband Tom arrived home from work two hours past his normal time. Sweating. Cursing. Mad. His boss, Bill Jansen wanted to hire his son to take over the Sales Manager position, currently held by Tom. Tom was expected to train the punk, then work for him. There’d be a raise. He’d quit. Walked out, leaving Bill and his son open-jawed.

“You’re nothing !” the kid yelled at the back of Tom’s head. “You won’t get away with this!”

She’d gotten up in the middle of the night, unsettled. She’d gone to the driveway to get the purse she’d forgotten in the car. Sleeping pills.

The sound of glass spewing everywhere. Screams. Gunfire. She stood with her face pressed to the front window. Paralyzed. Two bodies dressed in dark clothes plummeted down the stairs and out the back door, she’d told the police. A sliver of light from a flashlight illuminated one of the men’s forearms. Tattoo of a snake. No faces. She pressed into the darkness of the front porch. Nobody saw her.

The bedrooms, splattered with her family’s blood. Pin dots of crimson decorating the daisies in her daughter’s room, the little girl left hugging her Barbie. Kevin, hiding in his closet, crouched, arms hugging his knees, head gone from his shoulders.

Her husband riddled with bullets, sprawled like a slaughtered deer, head flapping back on the bottom of the bed.

Pictures. Pictures. Flashbulbs. Yellow Tape. Lineups. Silence.

“Do you recognize anyone, Mrs. Slater? Were there any distinguishing marks?”

Silence, every day since.

Brrrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg!

The sound startled her. She slipped her hand into her torn pocket. She stared at the screen, its face lit with numbers. Dad. She punched at the buttons until she heard him on the other end.

“Is he dead?”


“Billy? Is he dead?”


“Who is this?”


She stared at the phone. Searing pain. The voice. She’d heard it at the funeral home. Bill Jansen. Paying his respects.

For six years she’d replayed that night in her head. Restlessness had saved her life. No clues. No suspects.

The tattoo. She forgotten the tattoo. Billy. He’d reached out to shake her hand at the funeral home, a sliver of a tattoo on his left forearm peeking from under a crisp white shirt. How had she missed that? She forgotten the tattoo.

It was close to midnight before the light bounced back and forth across the alleyway. Her shadow hugged the doorway, cloaked in dark. The flashlight passed without noticing. His back was facing the street when the baseball bat struck. Once. He slumped next to the dumpster. She pushed at him with a shoeless foot. He moaned. Rolled. She made sure he saw her before the next blow. A smile. He lifted his hand to shield his face. A snake tattooed on his forearm. Again. Again. Again. Again.

Nobody saw her.

Brrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg!


“Hey, is Billy there?”

“I just found him in the alley beside Benny’s Bakery on 34th and 7th. His phone was laying beside him. He’s conscious, but maybe I should call the cops.”

“No—I—uh, I’m his father. There’s money in it if you wait with him. I’ll be right there.”

Twenty minutes later, a car door slams. Footsteps tapping the pavement toward the dumpster.


A flashlight slaps the body. Billy’s crumpled face beaten beyond recognition. Arm thrown back against a pile of garbage bags. Tattoo of a snake on his forearm. Lifeless.


First hit behind his knees. He crumples.


A bone bursts through his skin. Blood spurting, then streaming a path to his feet. Eyes roll back in his head. Flutter close.

Whump. Whump. Whump.Whump.

Morning news. Two bodies found in an alley on 34th and 7th. Father and son. Beaten to death. No motive. No clues.

Pictures. Pictures. Flashbulbs. Yellow Tape. Lineups. Silence.

She shuffles to Benny’s Bakery. Seven-thirty a.m. She picks up a Pepsi he’s left outside for her. She waves. He nods.

She limps along, her Pepsi in her left hand, sucking in a tiny sip, pulling it from her face then pushing it back to her open mouth immediately for another draw. It’s like watching a wind-up doll, walking, sipping, walking, sipping as though her arm has to pump the can to her face in unison with her leg.

People race by, heads down, never eye contact.

Nobody sees her.


  1. Interesting rewrite. Although I understand the judge saying he tired of the brusque voice throughout, I thought the beginning was more arresting with that unique dysfunctional voice. Just a thought. What if you began the story with that voice, then gave her medication, which kind of regulated her speech, so the whole thing wouldn't be in the same voice? Just a thought...

  2. Great thought! I'll go back and take another look at this! Thanks for the insite!


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