30 Day Challenge: Day 4 – Bystander



What the hell was that? Jesus, I must be hearing things. I gotta stop eating junk food right before bed. I’ll bet it was that damn grilled cheese. My mother always told me never eat cheese before bed; gives you the night terrors. It was probably just part of a dream. That’s all. It was just my imagination getting the better of me.

Shit. I heard it again: someone screaming. No, a woman screaming. Why is she screaming? I crack open my window, but I can’t hear a damn thing. Well, that’s a lie; you can always hear something around here… Police sirens, car horns, angry Mexican cab drivers – Queens, N-Y-C baby; it doesn’t get any better than this.

I can’t see anyone. You know, it’s probably just a guy having a bust up with his old lady.

“Please help me!”

That sounds like more than just your average lovers’ spat to me. Christ, maybe it’s that Maria Romano from downstairs. Her husband’s a good for nothin’ woman beater. Ain’t she a doll though; a gorgeous Italian woman; chocolate brown hair, coffee brown eyes. She looks like a model; she really does, although not too skinny, she’s just right. As nice as they come is Maria; too nice. I wish she wouldn’t put up with that husband of hers; he’s always rippin’ her a new one. Damn that guy. Scumbag. I hear her crying out sometimes; I guess everyone does. I wanna go help her, I really do, but it’s best not to get involved in these things, you know? Everyone pretends they don’t hear it. I guess if a strong guy like me ain’t gonna stand up to ol’ Romano, then there’s no hope in hell of Maria ever doing it for herself. Thinking about it, that didn’t sound like Maria. No, it definitely wasn’t her.

It’s strange that Jenny isn’t up now; usually she’d be tryin’ to find out what all the uproar is about. She’d be peering out the window watchin’ all the hullabaloo like it was one of those crappy TV show dramas. Maybe she can’t hear from her room. My daughter: the sound sleeper – she definitely doesn’t take after me; I can’t sleep through a mouse’s cry let alone a screaming match outside.

You know, it’s probably just some old loaded broad screeching her head off just for the hell of it; could be Martha O’Brian from way up on the sixteenth floor. That one’s always got a bottle of something in her hand. I swear to God, last week I heard all this commotion out in the hallway; thought a guy was tryin’ to kill someone, but it was just ol’ Martha, havin’ a hell of a time whacked out on cough syrup. Yeah, cough syrup. She’s a funny one that Martha; had a hard life. She told me about it once in the stairwell; the longest walk up those stairs I ever took, I tell you. Something about her mother, I don’t know. All I remember was me tryin’ to stop gagging over the smell of her. Jesus, would it kill that woman to bathe in something other than Gin?

“Oh my God, get away from me!”

Man, this is real, isn’t it? I should go down there. Hell, what am I gonna do? I’ll need a weapon. Boy, I wish I brought that ol’ six shooter when Frankie offered me it last month. That would be handy right now. I don’t have anything here. I’m just not a gun type of guy. What about that knife in the kitchen; as blunt as wet bag of sand, but if I use it with enough force… No, that ain’t gonna work. For the love of God, why don’t I have a gun? This is New York, this is 1966; everybody’s got a gun! And what do I got? A Goddamn pencil! That’s all I got that could even mildly inflict pain.

“Leave that girl alone!”

Now who the hell is that? Someone from downstairs. Probably old Gippessi; he’s always around somewhere; eyes like a hawk. Or is it an eagle? I don’t know. Surely he’s got a gun; he’ll go an’ sort this all out. He’ll go down there and find that it’s only some dopey kids messin’ around; snuck outta the house for the night and makin’ hell an’ all noise about it in the streets. That’s all it is.

I haven’t heard anything for a while anyway. It’s all over with, whatever it was. I can’t believe Jen slept right through all that racket. I almost forget she’s here sometimes; she’s so quiet. Not like the regular teenagers nowadays.

Now, I’m gonna get myself a drink of water, and finally get some sleep. People today have no consideration for those of us that have to get up for a five AM shift.

Oh look, Jenny’s fallen asleep with her light on again. I keep telling her how much the electricity bill is, but does she listen to me? Does she hell!

Wait, where is she? She’s not in her room…

“Jenny?!” Why isn’t she in bed? This isn’t like her, she never does anything wrong; she’s such a good girl. No, don’t be ridiculous; that wasn’t her screamin’ out there. It can’t have been. No, it wasn’t, was it? “Jen?!” Oh Christ, if that’s my little girl out there in the street- If someone’s hurt her I’ll-

“Dad, what?” Oh thank God, she was just in the bathroom. Of course she was; she wouldn’t be out at this time of night. That’s someone else’s daughter out there, not my Jenny.

“Nothin’ kiddo, just remember to turn off the light. Goodnight.”


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