Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dvorak Classic: Chapter Twenty Three

Dvorak Classic
Chapter 23 (or, "To Coney Island")

Yesterday’s Episode: Carissa and Mac met up to form a game plan, but couldn’t return back to Upper Manhattan when they realized it was gone.

    Carissa tried to form the correct words. “Your -- your house?”
    “It’s the only place we have to go. If Washington Heights is gone right now, then so is Isabel, and her house is ruled out too. And we can’t stay at the school.” Mac bit his lip. “There’s really no other place, although I have to wonder...” He pulled out his own cell phone and dialed a number, then holding it up to his ear. Five seconds passed and then he smiled. “Yep. We’re good. Just got my answering machine. Mom’s not home yet, but that was her voice, so we’re all good.”
    Carissa was a bit confused. “All good? Wait, we’re still going to your house?”
    “Yeah. My mom will be home later tonight.” Mac smirked at Carissa. “What, are you afraid of being in an apartment alone with me?”
    “It’s not that,” Carissa said, although now she was trying not to squirm. The thought of being alone with Mac for ANY period of time threatened to make her sick. But it was true; there didn’t seem to be any other options. “Are you sure everything is going to be okay?” she asked.
    Mac looked her right in the eye. “Don’t you trust me by now?”
    Carissa almost objected, but found she couldn’t. Because Mac had never given her a chance to not trust him. Ever since the beginning, when she had found his note in her locker and met him on the roof, she had trusted him. They had been on their share of adventures up until now, and going with him on this next one wouldn’t be any different.
    “Your mom will definitely be back, right?” she asked.
    Mac nodded. “We better get going. It’ll take a while to get there, since I don’t have my bike anymore.”
    And he was right -- the train stopped several times over the bridge to Brooklyn, and Carissa wondered if she was ever going to get there. Going at this time on a Friday meant also that they got stuck in rush hour, and she was squished between a stroller and a bass guitar. Mac had it worse; he was two people away and next to the screaming baby that always seemed to be on every train. Mac had said that they needed to take the train all the way to the end of the line, and it did seem to take forever, winding back underground and then above, stopping at each stop without warning. Carissa now knew why Mac liked having his bike on him at all times, and felt sorry for the fact that he didn’t have it anymore.
    Finally, the train slowed down and arrived at the terminal. Mac and Carissa had more space now and were able to easily exit the train. “I’m kind of glad the train didn’t do something weird,” Carissa said. “By now I’m used to the unexpected.”
    “Well, this is all according to plan,” Mac said. Then, he paused. “Mostly.”
    “Except for the ‘going to Coney Island because Washington Heights disappeared’ thing.”
    “Oh, yeah. That.” Carissa tried to laugh, but nothing came out.
    “Don’t be nervous,” Mac said. “We just have to find this Dvorak guy, and Raz and that old lady are gonna help us. We’ll get everything back to normal.”
    “I hope,” Carissa said as Mac led the way out of the terminal and toward Coney Island. Since it was the dead of winter, all of the amusement rides were closed for now. Carissa remembered the hurricane that swept through the area in October. “Did your family do all right during Sandy?” she asked. “We were fine.”
    Mac nodded. “We got lucky. Our building is far enough inland that there was no structural damage. We did have to evacuate, and the basement flooded, but they pumped that out and are still in the process of reimbursing those families who lost things in the flood. Mom and I are on the fifth floor, though, so we were fine once we returned after the power came back on.”
    “Where did you stay?”
    “Mom’s boss lives in Park Slope, and he hooked us up with a couple of friends. We crashed on couches and ate soup out of cans, but we made it.” Mac cringed as he remembered something. “Oh, P.S. - the apartment’s gonna be a mess. My mom’s never home, just to warn you. She works at night, especially on the weekends.”
    “Bartender.” Mac seemed surprised. “How did you know?”
    “My mama used to work as a waitress in the bodega, before she went back to school and learned how to do nails. She opened up a salon with her hairdresser friends last year. But before that, she was always working odd hours. My papa was the one who worked for a long time, full time, at whatever job he could find to pay the rent, but my mama started working to help pay for my school. That’s why they both work now.”
    They walked through the Island, past Surf Avenue and away from the amusements. “During the summers, I help out with a car mechanic in Brighton Beach, and even sometimes during the school year,” Mac said as they walked. “It helps my mom with the bills. But since Sandy, the shop has been closed, waiting on federal money. That’s the only way we’ve felt the pinch. I’m trying to be optimistic about it and do my best in school, see if that somehow translates down the road.”
    “Carissa, everybody at that school knows I’m smart. Really smart. And I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with it, but I’m going to go to college here in the city, on a scholarship, whatever pays for it. And then, I’m going to get a job, and my mom won’t ever have to worry about paying our bills again.”
    Carissa was shocked to hear all of this coming from Mac. “You...you really seem like you have everything figured out.”
    “I try to. We’re not bad off, the storm has just set us behind and caused me to really look at things. That’s all. I’m sure that’s just how reality goes.” Mac turned to Carissa. “I’m sure you see that in your own family, as well.”
    Carissa nodded. “How much farther?” she asked. “It’s getting chilly, and I apparently forgot my hat and gloves in another dimension now.”
    “Not that much farther.”
    They walked farther away from the ocean and up to a good sized apartment building. It looked newer than Carissa’s, and much less like a former tenement house. Mac unlocked the front door and led Carissa to a small elevator which barely fit both of them. She held her breath and didn’t even realize she was doing it until she got out.
    “This is it,” Mac said as he unlocked the door and let her in.
    Truth be told, it was bigger than Carissa had been anticipating it would be. There was a living room off to the left side with clothes and papers everywhere -- in fact, it looked as if it had not been cleaned since Sandy. The kitchen wasn’t much better off; in fact, Carissa was pretty sure that she smelled something coming from there.
    “Don’t pay any attention,” Mac said as he grabbed Carissa by the arm. “We’ll be in here.”
    He pulled her into a side room, turned on the light, and shut the door. Carissa forgot how to be nervous as she looked around the room. There was a huge television screen on one wall, along with cabinets and cabinets of DVD cases. There was a desk in one corner, a couch in front of the television, and dozens of video game consoles lying around.
    “You’ll be sleeping in here,” Mac said as Carissa stared in shock.
    “Is this...your room?” she finally asked.
    He laughed. “No, this is just where I put my stuff. Mom let me have this extra room. We rented it out for a while but haven’t recently, especially since Sandy. So I’ve been putting the extra stuff in here. My bedroom is down the hall, if you want to see it.”
    “No thank you,” Carissa said immediately. She didn’t even want to think about the fact that Mac would be sleeping in this same apartment later tonight.
    Mac grabbed a remote control from the wall it had been hanging on and pointed it at the television. “Up for some TV?”
    They ended up switching the channel to one of the game systems, and first Mac played against Carissa in the game that was already loaded, some dancing game where you had to step on the right colors. Then, they played a puzzle game to see who could clear the rows quickest. Mac had told Carissa he was notoriously good at the game, and yet he kept getting beat by her. “I had no idea you were good at this game!” he said with a smile after being beat for the fifteenth time.
    Carissa laughed. “It’s all in the wrist,” she said, her anxiety long gone. She was having fun now, and even though it was just her and Mac, everything was fine. “Want to play again?”
    “Hold on.” Mac was quiet for a moment, then he turned off the television. “Shoot.”
    Carissa tried not to panic. “What’s going on?”
    “My mom’s home early. I was hoping that you would be asleep before she got here.” He went outside the room and turned to her. “Stay here and don’t make any noise.” With that, he shut the door.
    Carissa’s eyes widened. What was going on here? Mac was definitely keeping something from her. She made sure the television was off, then walked up to the door and pressed her ear to it. If Mac wasn’t going to tell her, then she was just going to have to listen in.

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