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Authors: Theo Black Gangi

A New Day in America

BOOK: A New Day in America
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A New Day in America

By Theo Black Gangi


For KBG, my true New Day.

“It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.”

—William Faulkner

Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Things Past

The camera and the TV are hooked up to the generator.
Won’t hurt much to let it run
. At least that’s what Nos tells himself. He cuts out the lights so the living room flickers with home movies.
Waste not

Nos knows each episode by heart. Jay, his middle child, is holding the camera and the frame is shaky. Mike, his eldest, fills the screen, tall and lean, walking to the kitchen, ignoring Jay, as always.

“I totally love this, Mike,” Jay calls to him in a squeaky voice. The camera is Jay’s favorite new toy. Mike turns over his shoulder, too cool for the room. Mike, with his tight-end build—six-four by sixteen, wore a size fourteen sneaker when he was thirteen years old. Mike was graceful, had great hands. You could see in the video how he grabs the refrigerator door and backhand tosses a granola bar at Jay behind the camera.

Nos watches the TV with the face of a cadaver. The rifle lies across his lap. His fingers run a cloth along the barrel, and he thinks the gun is the only clean thing in the whole brownstone, even though it reeks of CSL lube.

Mike was his oldest—he would have been sixteen.
About six years ago. He’d be finished with college by now
. He glances to his own greasy hands and compares them to Mike’s hands. Mike’s were soft, could catch a football with just one from three feet over his head. Nos’ hands are rough and callused like the pigskin.

The next video is of Jay and his friends. Jay was thirteen. The makeshift credits roll—markers on pages reading
Denzel Washington is Denzel Washington as Denzel Washington in ‘Denzel is Pissed.’
Opening scene—Jay as Denzel in a rolled-up button down with his partner, who is immediately killed by another of their friends in a ski mask with a plastic gun. Jay yells “Nooooo!” Scene two: Jay questions a bar full of thugs, and they each attack him. He beats them all up and snaps their arms (poles tucked under their sleeves). He accidentally punches his buddy in the face, and his buddy gets pissed. Jay apologizes, and the scene cuts off. Scene three: climactic battle between Jay and the arch villain: goes on way too long and they are constantly giggling.

Nos is the next cameraman. Makes him nervous every time Jay’s Denzel movie wraps up. He always considers turning off the TV. He is concerned about the dwindling power. He should check the street. He should check on Naomi. Video is suddenly unaffordable.
Should shut it off right now

But he never does. At least not right away. He always sees the shot of his own feet in red Adidas socks and hears Jay explain to him, “It’s on. See the red light?” He sees his home as he once saw it. The hallway he painted gray. The brown coverlet Yvette insisted they buy from Target instead of Macy’s. The bedroom walls he’d painted the green that Yvette chose and then always hated and yet refused to let Nos repaint, too ashamed of her poor choice. Naomi is on the bed, sinking just so into the memory foam mattress. The camera gets closer. She is barely a year old. Everything is so small. She has a few scant curls and still looks like a boy, so Yvette had her ears pierced, and she wears two tiny studs. She is in an OK mood. Nos says nothing to her, only watches. She stares back at him like she doesn’t quite recognize him.

Nos wonders if Naomi ever knew what was coming. Was there a night when she dreamed there would be nothing at all but the two of them?

The camera pans from Naomi to Yvette as she fusses in her closet. The bedroom closet was all hers, as was the bedroom bathroom. The south side of the second floor was
no boys allowed
. Nos slept there and not much else.

Yvette has her back to Nos. Supple slope, narrow waist, shoulders getting heavier, much to her frustration. “Any words for the camera?” he asks.

She glances over her shoulder. One dark eyelash flips to him.

Nos mouths the words.
Hi camera

“Hi camera.”

The power cuts. The screen clicks blank before she can ask,
How did you get that thing away from Jay?

The room goes black.

Chapter 2
Day of Black Sun

The generator is empty. Nos is pacing.

Around four a.m. he’d heard the window rattling. More scavengers. He’s lost count of the families he’s turned away and jaws he’s busted. He’s well
, following the Army Rangers Handbook to a tee. He’s fortified his two stories with barred windows and reinforced the locks. But it’s
. His home is needless responsibility. For a year his doors and gates kept the outside out and the food in. Now the food is near gone. The outside is inevitable.

It’s a Friday in November, Black Friday. He’d forgotten, lost track of the days. Nos realizes—
it’s the anniversary

At least tomorrow is the anniversary
. Yvette refused to shop on Black Friday, but preferred the day after. Next sunrise, it will be a year since the blast devoured the city. A year since he felt the heat of Manhattan burning. A year since the over one hundred thousand tons of what was the city was tossed into the sky and all of New York City went black.

A year since the Day of Black Sun. Since Christmas shopping

When he thinks of Yvette and Jay and Mikey leaving for the city he believes he wanted to stop them. Nos remembers a feeling of doubt as she kissed him goodbye and his boys waved from the hallway. He thinks he should have listened to his intuition and stopped her. Told her
I don’t know why, but you have to stay home today. I know this doesn’t make sense, and I never tell you where to go, and you wouldn’t listen anyway, but you have to stay home today

Instead Nos kissed her and didn’t think to watch her walk out before locking the door behind her.

The only miraculous insight came from Yvette. For once, he was glad she was such a hypochondriac.

Naomi was sick, she insisted.
Too sick
. A little flu was all. A runny nose. Nos didn’t think it was a big deal. Still, Naomi would stay home. They were only going Christmas shopping. Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomies—names now silly with nostalgia like Pompeii or Carthage. He let them go into the fire. Naomi stayed home.
Shouldn’t have let them go

Even now, as he eyes the strangely peaceful street below with his rifle close by, he knows he’s kidding himself.
Memory is only wishful thinking. Something to pass the time

Better than dealing with the day outside. Nos hears people padding through the water and shuffling through the grass that broke through cracks in the sidewalk. A patchwork trail of weeds makes way to Ft. Greene Park. The street itself has cratered. Water soaks through from underneath. A channel runs down Lafayette Avenue, following the underground route of the C train.

The subways flooded after just a couple months. Pools spilled from the station entrances.
The pumps
, people said. Electric pumps that had quietly been pumping water from the underground, like so many city workings that went unnoticed. No power, no pumps; water flooded the whole subway grid and rose and soaked the soil beneath the pavement. Now when it rains, the water washes through the sewers and pours out of the subway and fills the crater. The water is rising. Smells awful.

Should be a river soon. Brooklyn makes a piss-poor Venice

He unlocks Naomi’s door and watches her sleep. She is huddled in pounds of blankets and sweat clothes. Daylight breaks through the fenced window. Naomi’s eyes are still closed, but Nos can’t tell if she is asleep. Her face is a saintly mix of spheres and angles. Her round eyes repeat her round cheeks. Her lips are a sharp slit across her face.

She has chores to do this morning. Has to clean the water filter. But she looks so comfy he lets her sleep for now.

Nos climbs down to the living room to get a fire going in the fireplace so there will be some heat when Naomi wakes up. He’d stopped burning fires past sunset because the smoke made the house a target. His is the last occupied brownstone on the block. The lunatics are never far.

BOOK: A New Day in America
11.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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