Saturday, January 3, 2015

New York City Trip, A Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Dear, Tess would like to go to New York City with Eddie Gomez tomorrow,” Mrs. Williams told her husband.

“Don’t they have school? It’s a Wednesday.”

“No, there’s a teachers’ conference, and the kids have it off.”

“How would they go?”

“Rick would drive them to the train station and pick them up from there when they return.”

“Doesn’t Rick want to go with them?”

“No. Not really. He doesn’t mind driving them, though.”

“How about Tim?”

“He’s not interested, and Tess and Eddie would probably enjoy it more without him.”

“It’s OK with me. Make sure Tess has enough money and brings her cell phone, fully charged. There’s a train that gets in at 9 p.m. I want them on it.” Mr. Williams returned to watching a political discussion program on TV.

Wednesday morning, Tess and Eddie went to the train station, driven by Rick. In standard big-brother fashion, he asked them how much money they had, whether they had their cell phones fully charged, where they were going and a few other questions too boring to relate. Getting satisfactory answers, he waved good-bye as they went into the train station.

The ride along the Hudson River was peaceful and pretty. Tess and Eddie planned to see the United Nations building and Times Square for sure and whatever else they came across.

The train arrived in Grand Central Station at 11:20 a.m. They needed to go less than a mile north and east to get to the U.N. building, on the eastern side of Manhattan Island, by the East River. Simple, right?

“How are we going to figure out which way is north?” Tess asked Eddie, as they left the train, and they found themselves among a crowd of rapidly walking people. The signs in the station identified a dozen different train lines and several exits.

“We know the train was headed south. We’ve just gotten out of the left-hand side, so that’s east. Every time we make a turn, we are going to keep track of the new direction. To get out, we are going to keep taking the up escalators or go up the staircases.”

This was easy to say, not too hard to do. As they walked along the halls and tramped up the stairs to get outside, they kept track: “East, north, west, south…“ they muttered as they turned around and around, then one way and another. When they emerged, they knew which way was north. Actually, because the Manhattan street numbers increase to the north, they would not have been “lost” for long. The avenue numbers increase from east to west. Piece of cake.

In an corner under a stairway, they saw an old woman sitting on a blanket with her possessions in a couple of beat-up plastic shopping bags. Once they passed the woman, Tess said, “She looks like a homeless woman. She needs to do something rather than just sit there.”

Eddie replied, “Yes. She looks like she is pretty messed up, but it is hard to know what to tell her she should do. They say you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you should decide you know how they should behave.”

“Fair enough. We really don’t know her story.”

They were amused by the New York dogs. None were loose, and some were on leashes with their likely owners. But they saw one on a leash held by a uniformed doorman, some others in twos and threes and, once, in fours---on leashes held by professional dog walkers. Most amusing was the Pug being pushed in a baby carriage by its owner, an elderly lady!

The U.N. building rises dramatically, seemingly all glass, the structure fronted by scores of flags of member nations on a set of high flag poles.

When they entered, they took a tour and enjoyed listening to the discussions through headphones that allowed them to get the speeches in the speaker’s language or in one of the UN official translation languages, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

“May Lee would get a kick out of this,” Tess said about her school chum, while she listening briefly to the Chinese translation of a speech being given by a French representative.

“I can understand some of the Spanish,” Eddie bragged, which was not too surprising…this was the language of his grandparents.

On their way back to Grand Central, they went to Times Square, and they had a meal at a Chinese restaurant, then had to hurry to catch the train back home.

They called Rick from the train to assure him that they would indeed be back at 9 p.m. He met them without trouble. The world travelers rode home, excitedly telling Rick about their trip.

As was often the case, Tess’s diary got the story behind the story. Besides writing about the UN, she wrote about the “bag lady” they had seen and about Eddie’s comment about needing to walk a mile in another person’s shoes to understand that person better. Having worn shoes for the trip that were both pretty and rather uncomfortable, Tess confessed to her diary, “I wish I had worn shoes other than those I chose.” If Tess had told Eddie about her sore feet, and if he followed his own advice, he might have been sympathetic. If a diary could sympathize, Tess knew hers would have.


One of our series of 50  mildly instructive short stories for young readers.

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