Hey look! A blog post that isn’t about food.
So, as I mentioned awhile ago, I self-published my graduate thesis on for Kindle and for Barnes & Noble’s Nook readers. I figured that I should do some sort of promotion for this because the internet is a giant place and unless you’re selling tits or cats not many people are going to find your shit.
My awesome thesis/short story collection/thing I paid a university way too much fucking money to let me write is called Waiting in Cold Storage.
Without further ado (and only one more mention of TITS!), I present to you a selection from my book.
Eenie Meenie Miney Moe
by Jen Stansfield
“Eenie meenie miney moe,” they chanted in unison, a prepubescent chorus echoing off concrete walls. Garret walked the lines, his finger landing accusatorially in front of this one’s forehead or that one’s nose before moving on. “Catch a tiger by his toe. If he hollers let him go, eenie meenie miney MOE!”
The grimy finger with its ring of black under-nail dirt hung in front of the newest member of the group, the eight year old blond boy with the wide ears that made his baseball cap sit crooked on his large head.
“You’re out,” Garret said, gesturing back towards The Nook.
The Nook was a hollow in the long walls of concrete tubing. Maybe it was once a place where large tools – backhoes and tractors and trucks – were stored when not in use. Perhaps it was the beginning of an abandoned spur to a forgotten neighborhood. Thought none of them knew for sure, what really mattered was it was a place where they didn’t have to do what they didn’t want to do, unlike when they lived with their parents. The only rules they lived by were their own – and Garret’s, of course. The boy shuffled his feet over the rocks, directing the beam of his flashlight down on the ground and the ancient cigarette butts – some bearing brands so old they had stopped making them before the boys had been born. The cigarettes weren’t worth trying to salvage as the last shreds of tobacco had fallen out or decayed – they’d checked.
“One down,” Garret said as he walked the tracks between the two lines, his eyes glinting like distant headlights in the dark. Dino and Jimmy walked behind him holding flashlights. They were both big heavy boys, Garret’s hired muscle, though all he could offer was sleeping room in his tent and the occasional smoke swiped from a drunk girl’s purse on a Saturday night. Occasionally one would turn and shine a flashlight into a boy’s eyes without warning, illuminating dirty, tear-streaked faces glowing like Harvest Moons, suspended in the enclosed blackness.
“Eeenie meenie miney moe,” they began again as Garret jumped between benign rails, paying no mind to the electrified third rail. They all knew its location like they knew how to tuck their ratty blankets around their bodies so the rats wouldn’t find a way in while they slept. Those that had to be told about the third rail, the rats or the trick of putting cotton balls in one’s ears to prevent roaches from crawling in on cold nights were not suited for Nook life.
One by one Garret’s finger pointed at the boys and one by one they shuffled off to the sidelines, no one wanting to stay, each afraid to leave. Garret’s movements were erratic; none knew where the finger would land. He did not adhere to the rules of the game. He didn’t have to, it was his game. He drew it out, relishing in the sniffles of the other boys echoing around him. He often said the game was better than television.
Eventually it came down to two of them, Brian the boy with the long eyelashes from the South Side, the one originally in charge of showing the others how to avoid detection when sneaking past the fare collectors and disappearing into the tunnels, and Alan, a boy with shaggy hair that had been in the Nook for so long no one could remember where he came from.
“Eenie meeney miney.” Garret took his time, his arm swinging between them like a metronome. The boys on the sidelines shuddered.
“MOE,” he said, his finger pointing at Alan. If the game had been played by the rules, the finger would have pointed to Brian. “You’re out.”
Dino and Jimmy descended on Alan and pulled his arms behind his back. They bound him in yellow caution tape someone had found in front of an open manhole or maybe it was left over from the construction a few miles down. The rest of the boys retreated into the safety of the Nook and killed their flashlights, plunging them into darkness in the dank, stagnant underground. Mice began to scurry, the high-pitched whine of the rail bothered their tiny sensitive ears. Garrett stood at the opening of the Nook, Alan bound and standing in front of him. The left side of Alan’s greasy hair glowed brighter with each passing second.
The boys watched as Garret placed his foot on the small of Alan’s back. To the soundtrack of the jangling wheels on rails and the whir of the automated train car speeding towards them, Garret gathered his strength and pushed.
Even years after writing it, that story has always stuck with me. Strangely, I didn’t realize how fucked up it was until I workshopped it. Have you ever written something that, when you finished, you sat back and said, “I have no idea where this came from.”? That happened with this story.
So yeah! Read my short story collection if you want to read more weird ass stories about little kids kicking each other in front of trains for absolutely no reason whatsoever! Ok, I think that’s the only story about kids kicking each other in front of a train. (I think. I can’t promise. Well, I can. BUT I WON’T! WILD CARD, BITCHES!)
I just realized this post contains a startlingly small amount of swearing, so: FUCK BALLS.