Welcome! Thank you for reading Chapter 1.
Hunts Point was divided by a bustling industrial park to the south and poor residential neighborhoods to the north. Once a vibrant and sought-after vacation destination for New York’s elite at the turn of the 20th century, the district had became more and more industrialized, pushing residents away and forming one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the Bronx. More than half of all residents lived below the poverty line.
The building Sam had called home for the past five months sat on the corner of Casanova Street and Spoffard Avenue. The neighborhood housed mostly Hispanics and African Americans and reminded him of prison, but he wasn’t one to complain. Sara had helped him secure an apartment and a job upon his release. His situation wasn’t optimal, but he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Sam was happy to have a roof over his head and didn’t mind the riffraff that came with it. The truth was he was riffraff as well.
When Sam moved in, he hadn’t expected to play host to Bradley. Otherwise, he may have held out for a less crime-riddled neighborhood. Prostitutes, drug addicts and dealers were within a stone’s throw from his apartment, or anywhere in Hunts Point for that matter. If Claire had taken the time to research the neighborhood and discovered that the Point was a red-light district, she would have never approved of Bradley’s trip.
What am I reading? What am I writing?
It had shaped up to be a perfect June. All week the temperature had hovered in the low nineties.
Bradley hoped Sam lived in the heart of Manhattan. That was where all the action was. That would have made up for a lot. But the skyscrapers that shrunk in the truck’s rear cab window confirmed his fears as they trundled over the Robert F. Kennedy Triborough Bridge. Ahead, there were no skyscrapers, no excitement. He took out his phone and snapped a picture of Manhattan before it completely disappeared from sight.
“This is the Bronx.” Sam turned right onto Leggett Avenue from Bruckner Boulevard.
Bradley watched a 7-Eleven convenience store pass by followed by what seemed to be endless rows of auto glass, tire and body shops, some boarded up and tagged with graffiti. The truck hit a pothole that bounced the rear end. Bradley imagined his bags being flung out of the truck and crashing onto the street. He looked back through the rear window of the cab and was reassured when he saw his bags were still there.
“This isn’t what I pictured New York looking like.” Bradley framed a photo through the windshield.
“What did you expect?” Sam said. A quick glance revealed Bradley’s uneasiness.
“You know, skyscrapers. I saw them back the way we came.”
“I can’t afford to live in the big city,” Sam said. “This is all I can manage at the moment.”
“Everything looks so rough.” Bradley watched row upon row of warehouse doors pass by. Click went the shutter noise on his phone.
“You’ve got a good eye for detail,” Sam said. “Hunts Point is rough, but New York City couldn’t survive without it. It’s an important food distribution center, one of the largest in the world.”
Bradley slunked down in his seat, not interested in the history lesson that had begun to unfold.
Sam cast Bradley a sideways look. “You groan, but just out your window lies the three hundred acres that keeps the entire state of New York alive and eating, every day. All twenty million of us.” He looked at Bradley again. “Well, twenty million and one.”
Sam turned left onto Casanova Street and passed a woman dressed in a tight white tank-top, red hot pants and heels to match.
“Holy shit. Was that a…” Bradley turned to watch the woman through the rear window and snapped a photo with his phone. She caught his stare and waved.
“A hooker? Probably. They don’t call it Casanova Street for nothing.” Sam grinned and pictured Claire’s reaction upon learning that her son would be living in a red light district. “Don’t tell your mom, but Hunts Point has a certain…reputation.”
Maybe this won’t be so bad, Bradley thought, as he pinch-zoomed the photo on his phone and ogled the prostitute. The phone’s camera had caught her mid-wave.
All along Casanova, cars and trucks were parked and double-parked in a haphazard way. Some were even backed up onto the sidewalk. Sam pulled up to the curb and killed the engine.
“This is it.” Sam looked through the windshield at the rundown, three-story apartment building. Its red bricks were cracked and crumbling in places and a set of weathered concrete steps led to an arched vestibule. Around the entry steps was a set of locked bars that had the top tips sharpened and bent outward and down, which made climbing over them a dangerous, if not impossible task. Attached to the bars was a sign that read “Rooms for rent” with a phone number underneath. The building was bordered by a set of fire escapes on its right side over a narrow alley, and Spoffard Avenue to the left.
Bradley took a photo through the grubby passenger window of the truck. “Looks like a dump.”
“Yeah, well it’s my dump. It’s all I got.” Bradley’s words stung a bit. After five months, Sam called it home, even with a little affection. He unfastened his seatbelt and pulled the handle to open the driver side door. It stuck and opened on the second try. “Come on. Grab your bags and I’ll show you around.” He closed the truck door with a rusty clrunk.
“Gee, I can’t wait,” Bradley said.
Sam dropped the tailgate and pushed Bradley’s bags towards the back bumper. Bradley grabbed his day pack and slid off the old vinyl seats that were cracked and polished to a sheen from years of denim-clad asses. As he stepped down to the sidewalk, his foot landed on the sun-baked carcass from the previous night.
“The fuck is that?” Bradley looked down at the rusty smear that lead to his foot. Even though the sun had evaporated most of the moisture from the rodent’s ravaged body, its sinewy entrails and bones still stuck to his new Vans.
“Watch the language,” Sam said. “Just because you’re with me doesn’t mean you can spout off like that.”
“Whatever.” Bradley tried to scrape off the rat gore with the edge of the curb. “These are brand new Classics.”
Sam watched Bradley pull out a set of keys and dig chunks of congealed blood from the diamond-textured shoe tread. “We can clean them up inside,” Sam said.
Bradley continued to dig at his shoe tread. He was obsessive, just like his mom.
Sam pulled Bradley’s two bags out of the back of the truck and slammed the tailgate shut. He looked at Bradley as he worked up a sweat in his leather jacket. “Aren’t you hot?”
Bradley stopped and looked at him. “Aren’t you? You’re dressed like a lumberjack.” Bradley refocused his attention back on his shoe tread. “What’s with the long sleeves?”
Sam tugged his sleeve’s cuff in line with his wrist and ignored the question. “Okay…What’s with the tail?” Sam motioned toward the raccoon tail that hung from Bradley’s belt. “You a teen wolf?”
“Funny,” Bradley shook his head but remained on task. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Sam grabbed a bag and dragged it toward the front steps.
“Whose stupid idea was this trip anyway?”
“I don’t know. Your mom stopped taking my calls,” Sam said. “But I’m pretty sure it was her stupid idea to make it ten weeks instead of one.”
Content with his cleaning job, Bradley scraped remnants of blood off his keys with a discarded napkin he had found nearby, and placed them back in his pocket. He grabbed his second bag and followed.
“She just wants the summer to herself,” Bradley said.
“I guess we’re stuck with each other for a while.”
Sam pulled a huge collection of keys out of his pocket and picked through them one at a time. A cat appeared at the top of the stairs, alerted by the jangling keys, and sauntered down the steps. It squeezed through the bars in front of the stairs and snaked around Bradley’s legs.
“How much does a place like this go for?”
“Five hundred seventy-five a month,” Sam said.
“Holy crap,” Bradley said.
“It’s a steal.” Sam sorted through his ball of keys. “Most other places you’ll pay two or three times that.”
“What’s with the bars?” Bradley said. “Trying to keep the rats out?” He remembered the rubber rat in his suitcase that Claire had given him the night before he left.
“Give this to Sam,” Claire had said.
“Why?” Bradley had thought it was a strange request.
“It’s just a gift.” Claire had winked at Bradley. “Tell him it’s from me. Surprise him with it. He’ll appreciate it.”
Sam gave Bradley a grave look, then nodded at the cat. “That’s Piper’s job. He keeps the rats in line. Don’t you, Piper?”
“It’s just a dumb cat,” Bradley said.
“Maybe to you, but one less rat in this world is good in my books.” Sam found the key he was looking for and unlocked the barred iron gate. He carried one of Bradley’s bags up the stairs to the front entryway. “Close the gate after you.”
Bradley knelt down and gave Piper’s head a scratch. He rotated the collar around his neck to get a look at the tags. The vanity tag read “Piper the Scoundrel” and had a picture of Puss-in-Boots winking. The other tag was heart-shaped brass and had a name and phone number stamped into the metal. Bradley could hear Piper’s loud, instant purr as the cat nuzzled his leg. Claire didn’t allowed pets at home, so Piper was a nice discovery. However, Bradley kept that detail to himself.
“He should clean up after himself.” Bradley thumbed over at the crisping blood stain on the sidewalk before he closed the gate and followed Sam up the steps.
David’s Summer – A story of love and loss
How far would you go to save the life of your child?
After her newborn son David is diagnosed with cancer, Deanna’s life quickly focuses on her frantic need for a cure. Her husband Max, however, has other ideas.
Based on his own troubled and secretive past, Max challenges Deanna to consider quality of life versus quantity. Deanna chooses to seek treatment options alone and risks not just the life of David, but her relationship with her family as well.
Her thirteen year old son Alex is caught in the middle, left to navigate this family crisis on his own. An unexpected friendship may offer the perspective he needs.
This emotionally rich and compelling story will draw you in to its bittersweet world.
Embedded into the wall just inside the front entrance were the mailboxes for the six apartments in the building. Opposite that and a little further down the hallway was the door to Sam’s apartment. The hallway ran the length of the building to the back and was lit by weathered, antique wall sconces that ended on either side of an old elevator. A semicircular brass floor indicator topped the ornately decorated doors.
Sam stopped at the door to his apartment, 102, with “Building Superintendent” spelled out underneath in cobbled together press-and-stick letters of various sizes and styles.
“You’re the Super?” Bradley said.
Sam could hear the surprise in Bradley’s voice. “I’m not a good for nothing bum, despite what your mom says. Got to work for a living. It’s a perfect setup.” Sam jangled out his keys and unlocked the door.
Right beside the door was what would best be described as a mud room, without the room. A plastic mat for shoes, and various tools (a rake, a yard stick, a tool belt with a hammer) hung off a row of mismatched and misaligned wall hooks. On the floor next to the mat was a large toolkit and a rolling metal box with various tubes and cords. Bradley wondered why anyone would need a rake here, with no grass to be seen anywhere.
The kitchen was sparsely furnished with just enough to get by. In the center of the room sat a 1950s Formica table with four chairs, matching in both their vinyl covering and their state of disrepair. A single light bulb hovered above, one of those new compact fluorescent ones with the curled glass tubes. The sink had a window on the right wall, which offered a fine view of the alley if one didn’t mind turning their head when washing the dishes. On the counter top, right of the sink, sat a Mr. Coffee machine from 1974 and an old push-button telephone. To the left was a rusty hot plate and a tired old Frigidaire.
“Living like a king, huh?” Bradley said.
“You get used to life being a certain way.” Sam disappeared down the hallway.
Bradley scanned the drab kitchen, his repulsion seeped into a scowl. He tried not to touch anything. “You steal that table from Grandma?”
“Came with the place.” Sam’s voice emanated from another room off the hallway.
Bradley dropped his bag and day pack, and began to look through the cupboards above the sink. A few plates and glasses, some chili flakes, and crackers. He grabbed the shaker of chili flakes and looked for the best before date.
Sam returned to the kitchen. “Don’t worry, they’re fresh. I go through them like shit through a goose.”
Bradley returned the chili flakes to the cupboard. “So, where am I crashing?”
“Down the hall, last room on the right.” Sam said. “I dropped your other bag on the bed.”
Bradley grabbed his day pack and remaining bag and headed down the darkened hallway. He tried what he thought was the light switch before he realized that the light fixtures on the walls had no bulbs in them.
The bedroom was even more sparse than the kitchen, with a bed in the center, headboard against one wall, and an old dresser with a lamp on it. The bed faced the window and overlooked the alley. Bradley dropped his bag and his day pack in the corner and lifted his other bag off the bed. The mattress’s noticeable sag in the middle failed to spring back.
I wonder if his prison cell was as barren as this, thought Bradley. He deposited his bag with his other luggage, walked to the window and looked out. The dumpster in the alley overflowed with garbage.
“This sucks,” he said to himself.
He knelt down, unzipped one of his suitcases and reached into one of its interior compartments. Bradley’s hand brushed against something that felt cold and clammy. At first he didn’t know what it was, but remembered once he wrapped his hand around its cold, squishy body and rolled its rigid cord of a tail between his fingers. It was the rubber rat Claire had given him before he left. He turned it around in his hands and examined its realistically painted and textured fur. Its eyes were a bright red. It even had whiskers made of fine fishing line. A subtle and short-lived smile crossed Bradley’s lips.
You’ve been reading Vermin 2.0
Rats. They brought the Black Death. They’re fiercely intelligent. They eat anything.
Now there’s a new breed of rat in the sewers of New York City…a version 2.0…and they’re hungry for blood.
Ex-con Sam Shaw has problems. Bradley, his estranged son of fifteen years, has moved in for the summer and Sam has no clue how to be a dad. Plus, the building he maintains has become infested with super smart rats that crave living flesh. But Sam’s problems don’t stop there. He also has a debilitating fear of rats. With the help of a crew of rodent experts, Sam and Bradley must battle the infestation before they, and the building’s tenants, are eaten alive.
Vermin 2.0… Can they be stopped?
You’ve read this far. Perhaps you’re willing to go a bit further and continue reading to the end of the tail…er, I mean tale. 😉
Want a little more of the story? Please continue on to read Chapter 3.