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The Crowd: Fiction by Jack Garrett
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Madam Maree Sees Your Future: Flash Fiction by Jon Park
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How He Died: Poem by John Grey
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Jack Garrett: The Crowd

104_ym_thecrowd_bernice.jpg
Art by Bernice Holtzman and Jack Garrett 2024

The Crowd

 

by Jack Garrett

 

 

I am driving fast over a hill on an old, worn-out country road when all of a sudden, as I reach the bottom, I see a railway crossing with a large bump in front of it. The sound of a speeding locomotive is then heard coming from my right. Since I am driving so swiftly, I have no chance of stopping in front of the train safely, so I make the decision to accelerate my car’s speed even faster, and as I am doing this the car becomes airborne as it hits the large bump, which acts as a takeoff ramp, sending me flying through the air at a speed of 55 mph for a distance of 40 yds, and at an altitude of about 15 ft. The jump sends me sailing over the train’s engine, clearing it by a good 2 ft. I then light a cigarette and relax as I cruise down the old country road still in one piece.

 

I no sooner take the first puff when a policeman’s siren suddenly blasts from behind me, and looking into the rear view mirror, I see his lights flashing their menacing message of warning. I then panic and step on the accelerator, leaving the policeman behind me in a trail of burnt rubber and flying pebbles from the gravel-sprinkled road. I am scared into taking such resistive actions for many reasons: #1, I have just robbed a gas station; #2, I have just shot the attendant (didn’t kill him, though); #3, I don’t have a driver’s license; and #4, the car that I am driving is a freshly stolen Jaguar XKE with 12 cylinders and a top speed of 180mph. It also contains a sun roof, which at this point remains closed.

 

My decision to escape creates an idea in my criminal mind that I would somehow feel safer in a crowded city where I could blend into a crowd of people rather than continuously race the policeman’s car on the open country roads and probably risking the eventual outcome of being trapped by a roadblock. I decide to turn south on a super highway that leads to the city, which is only a few miles away. The policeman is still behind me, although his reflection in the rear view keeps getting smaller and smaller as I keep on going faster and faster down the semi-crowded freeway. I glance at my speedometer—180mph as its needle is pinned down to its extremity. Then out of nowhere, I see 6 or 7 police cars coming down my side of the freeway with lights and sirens flashing and screaming in hot pursuit.

         The other cars on the highway begin pulling over to avoid head-on collisions with the police cars. This is my chance, for only 30 ft or so away is an exit ramp leading to the crowded city. I get off the highway well behind the police cars coming at me and well in front of the car that is still following me. I drive smoothly up the ramp, hoping I’ve made it, but again I see more police cars coming down the road, which is adjacent to the exit ramp. Instinctively, I step on the gas again, but I am now approaching a red light with a crosswalk, and on that crosswalk I see a middle-aged man reading a newspaper as he is walking across the street. He is too close for me to come to a safe stop without hitting him, so I try swerving to my right, hoping to get behind him, but he is walking too slowly to avoid the ultimate collision course that has just been created by this untimely encounter of man and machine.

 

The low front bumper of the XKE strikes the man solidly below his left knee, sending him flying high into the air before landing with a thud in no other place but on the roof of my car. I keep on driving—keep on driving faster—I have to. I can’t just stop now and turn myself in with a man laying on top of my roof.

 

The cop cars on the adjacent road are now right up next to me, for I am also on that adjacent road after turning left at the intersection. The police and I are racing at about 80 mph, while all the rest of the cars on the crowded boulevard are pulled over to the side.

 

The man I hit at the intersection is still on top of the roof, yelling at me to stop, so I quickly open the sunroof so he can crawl inside the car if he wants to. He doesn’t want to, and this proves to be a fatal mistake on his part because one of the police cars begins pulling up too close for comfort, and as I downshift to regain a comfortable margin, I hear him swearing as the gravity force forces his fingers free of my sunroof as he rolls rapidly off my speeding car and into the street, where I don’t know what happened to him.

 

I am driving much faster now but I am also looking for a place to get out of my car so that I may blend into the large crowd of people as planned. Then I see it—the perfect place to get out. On the next street in front of me there is a huge traffic jam with crowds of people walking along the sidewalks. I immediately turn right and park the car in the middle of the street, get out, and begin running through the crowd as the police are still rounding the corner.

 

I run through a crowd standing outside of a large department store. The streets are narrow, the buildings look old, and the people seem poor and miserable. As I get through the crowd, I come to the doorway of a very old building that is next to the department store. As I open the door, I come to a long staircase and run up the stairs with wild abandon. The building seems occupied, but no one is present. “I want to be in a crowd…” is what I am thinking as I run up this old wooden staircase that creaks like demanding crickets.

 

When I finally reach the top of the stairs, I come to a window that overlooks the crowded street below. Through the window I can see and hear the sights and sounds of police and people struggling to get by one another. A policeman yells out, “Clear the way, there’s a madman on the loose!” Then a pedestrian yells out, “I think I saw a madman run through this door!” Upon hearing this I run to another window that is at the opposite end of the hall and located toward the rear of the building. This window proves to be my escape route, for it provides easy access to the rooftop of a slightly lower building next door, which is only an inch or two away. I hurriedly open the window and slip outside where I dash across the rooftop. I then come to the edge of the building and notice a fire escape leading down to the alley, where there is a small crowd of people sitting around. I decide to go with the crowd as I run down the long grate iron fire escape stairs to the people in the alley below.

 

As I reach the bottom, I see closely what kind of people I have chosen to blend myself in with. The people are all dirty, all old, and all seem to be mumbling incoherently as they sit in the alley with their backs against the building wall. I then quietly and slowly sit down with them, hoping to blend into the crowd. As I am sitting, the one next to me says in a grizzled but threatening tone, “What the hell you doin’ here, boy?” I don’t answer him and I don’t like the tone of his voice, so I get up and move toward the other end of this small crowd of vagabonds, sitting in a row with their backs to the wall. I sit down again hoping to receive either no response from the man sitting next to me, or else maybe at least a more friendly one than before, but preferably no response at all, because that is the way things usually work out in crowded situations. I see his head turning toward me slowly. His face looks somewhat younger than the rest, but equally gritty. His eyes have a touch of vengeance while at the same time looking crafty and menacing. “Hey Boy,” he says through sparse, gritted, yellow teeth, “I’ll bet you got some money on you, heh boy?” I don’t answer him. Instead, I remain perfectly still because I am now seeing policemen running down the alley around the building, and some of them are running towards my crowd.

 

Four of the policemen come over to where we are sitting and ask us if we have seen anybody strange running around in the alley or down the fire escapes. I tell them that I haven’t seen anyone strange, but the man sitting next to me says that he has and that that certain somebody is sitting right here next to me. I then get up and run toward the fire escape with speed and power so extreme that one would get the impression of seeing a taut spring being released from its casing and flying into the air through the sheer force created by its former tension. I reach the fire escape, scrambling up the steps with the police only a few yards behind me. As I make the long ascent to the high rooftop, I keep thinking, “Where can I find a crowd?” I finally reach the roof and dash across to the front of the building where I look down at the crowded street below. “I’ve got to blend in with a crowd. I’ve got to, and I shall.” I then hurl myself over the building edge where I land with a splat that blends in perfectly with the crowd.

 

###

Jack Garrett was an artist, actor, writer, and musician extraordinaire. He played keyboards and guitar for several rock bands well known in the downtown NYC area during the 1970s and ‘80s and opened for the Ramones as well as for U2 with his band the Nitecaps during U2’s 1980s European tour. He leaves a treasure trove of art, music, and writing. Mr. Garrett had been put on warning at more than one job for doodling at his desk.

He passed on September 28, 2011.

Bernice Holtzman’s paintings and collages have appeared in shows at various venues in Manhattan, including the Back Fence in Greenwich Village, the Producer’s Club, the Black Door Gallery on W. 26th St., and one other place she can’t remember, but it was in a basement, and she was well received. She is the Assistant Art Director for Yellow Mama.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2024