The People

Snowflake Rita Ramirez (Snow)

Squatting with her arms tight around her legs and forehead pressed to her knees, Snow rocked on the balls of her feet. To the south, the hum of traffic along the Eisenhower Expressway. Nearer, beneath the dumpster, the scurry of rats looking for supper. That feeling in her center, the one she couldn’t describe except to say when she was a kid she thought it meant she was going to die, tightened her chest, filled her mouth, made it hard to breathe.

Who wasn’t crazy in this motherfucking world, one way or another? She was no weak, pathetic bitch like her aunt. Men were pigs, everyone knew that. You just needed to be an asshole right back at ‘em so they knew their limits.

You must learn to trust. The remembered words seemed to echo against the metal dumpster. Snow shivered but it had nothing to do with the cold. You must learn who to trust. I can’t help you if you don’t. Even your brother knows that.

Alejandro Ramirez (Alley)

A lot of people never knew what the hell Alley was talking about half the time. Snow hardly noticed his strange phrases and word choices, except once in a while, like now, when he made her think that instead of being slow, this kid was maybe too fast for the rest of them. How the hell many other thirteen-year-olds knew what feasible meant, at least here on the streets?

Jack-man tried to make it sound like it was the weed making Alley act so strange lately. But Alley’d been smoking since he was eleven and never turned scary before. He’d always been all over the place, like now. A space cadet graduate, not able to concentrate unless you made him sit there and repeat it over and over.

Jo Sullivan

Her old co-workers at the Trib would probably think she was crazy, walking up to strangers at night. She would sound even crazier if she tried to explain she felt safer talking to throw away kids in the dark than she did frat boys in broad daylight.

People on the streets weren’t people at all if you listened to some jerks, and they were invisible to most everyone else. Somebody needed to give them a voice. One of Jo’s recent Street Stories had involved a homeless vet with PTSD. It had been one of the most disturbing pieces she’d ever written. Not because interviewing the guy had been at all scary. What had chilled her most was the list of symptoms he described.

Feeling emotionally numb and distant. Check. On edge all the time. Check. Avoiding people and places that remind you of the event. Double check. Recurring nightmares or thoughts about the trauma. Check, check, check and fucking check.

Leonard Goldenhawk

It was the whispering of two ghosts that drove Leonard Goldenhawk to travel the long distance from Yakima County, Washington to the west side of Chicago. Two deaths—one a murder, the other a suicide as surely as if the woman had jumped from the highest peak of Louwala-Clough into the troubled mouth of the volcano.

He thought of his cabin on the banks of the Toppenish: wood burning stove for the mild winters, a single blanket on the bed, a wood rocker by the window. He thought of stories told by the old ones of children taken from their houses and fed white man’s ways in boarding schools. The thinning of the blood had begun then. And few people cared to gather what was left, to make the blood line pure again.

Dr. Mordechai Levinson

Levinson’s shoulders were rigid beneath his white shirt. A gathering of silver hairs formed a patch at the back of his head. When he turned toward them, his face was in shadow but Jo saw the pinched lines around his mouth. The glasses perched on his peaked nose had finger smudges on the lenses.

“I warned Night Moves that girl would turn criminal one day. I saw signs of it from the very first session and strongly suggested institutionalization or at minimum strict supervision. Maybe now you will keep a closer eye on your patient.”


Debra R. Borys, author of the STREET STORIES Suspense Novels, freelance writer, former Chicagoan, current resident of West Seattle and mother of two sons who work to keep us all safe.  The STREET STORIES series reflects the reality of throw away youth striving to survive.


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