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One Step to the Next Question

Ten-year old Mike Burns remembers at the beginning of THE FIRE ESCAPE BELONGS IN BROOKLYN...the fear...the questions...decision about whether to take that next step. He looks down the fire escape, through the mysterious gap between him and the sidewalk below. One step is all it takes to move from one question to...what?

Dangling from the last rung of the fire escape, staring down at the short drop to the scruffy Brooklyn sidewalk below, afraid

to let go, my ten-year-old brain raising fears in the night (Suppose I slip when my feet hit? Suppose it’s further down than it

looks? Suppose I land on my face?), my twin cousin, Sally-Boy, calling to me from below (“Come on, Mikey, I done it, so you

can do it! It’s easy! You just gotta let go, you drop, you land. Let go, Mikey! Let go!”), so I finally do it, I reluctantly release my

fingers, I feel the brief emptiness of space and summer’s suddenly cool air, I fight back a brief gasp when I fear the sidewalk

has disappeared, and then my sneakers absorb the impact of the concrete, my knees bend slightly, I hold my balance, and

Sally’s laughter echoes, “Hahahaha! Mikey, we did it, Mikey, we did it! We made it all the way down! Hahahahaha! I knew we

could do it, I knew it!” and I laugh with him as we punch each other lightly, and then the haunting blackness of the street

hovers except for a few flickering lights in the tenements surrounding us and a distant street lamp shining its yellow-tinged

glow, so I sit on the warm sidewalk with him, doing nothing, talking the idle chatter of two ten-year-olds enjoying the rush of

having broken yet another rule, and I look up at the fire escape lining the outside of the apartments, all the way to the top

and beyond into the starry sky, and suddenly I think, but I do not ask, “Where do we go now, Sally-Boy?” 

THE FIRE ESCAPE BELONGS IN BROOKLYN in paperback and ebook: 

copyright: chuck cascio; all rights reserved