In Excerpts of Prose, NEW!, WHAT HAPPENED WHEN REILLY WOKE UP on November 4, 2009 at 2:44 AM


Reilly 2

Cause and Effect. Or Affect.

Click here to read Part I

Peter Piper Picked A Pack Of Pickled Peppers

When people travel through time they are supposed to stay hidden, remain unnoticed and most importantly, refrain from touching anything. Otherwise, you end up altering the course of history.

This occurred to Peter when the silver cell phone fell out of his backpack the following morning. He looked at it, remembering Marty McFly, George with the binoculars; and the sound of Marty’s head hitting the pavement shortly there afterwards.

It all happened in a split second under accidental circumstances. The natural elements that make up a Cause and Effect equation, only Marty was never supposed to be factored in. The wrong accident happened and what started out as good intentions, a simple parking lot experiment (disrupted already by terrorists) ended up turning into a whole load of pashit.

But Peter didn’t care. Or didn’t think to care. He got distracted by the green light flashing again, this time more rapidly. He opened up the phone and looked at the screen.

Missed Call. 212-718-0036.

‘Ha,’ he thought, ‘this phone is like my sister’s. I know how to use it,’ and hit Send.

The phone rang. He counted the ring, four times; and thought about how a friend once told him it was rude to call people before 12:00 PM in New York City.

“Hi, this is Julian. Leave me a message and I’ll call you back,” and Peter quickly hung up the phone. It occurred to him that he should not have called. For a moment he was nervous, like on the subway or in a part of town he’d never been to. He breathed.

The moment passed and he put the cell phone in his bag, continuing out the door and into last waves of the summer heat. He was halfway down the block when he felt his backpack vibrating.

At the same time, Julian was sleepily listening to the phone ring. He was anticipating the pick up from Reilly, per the usual bright morning chirp in her voice or, if it was a bad day, the bitter angry battle cries from Midtown, reverberating in his pounding headache.

When he heard the phone click on, he assumed an immediate offensive position and attacked, “I told you, I don’t take appointments before noon.”


This was not Reilly, ‘What?’ He thought, ‘Did I dial the wrong number?’

“Sorry, man,” Julian said, “I have the wrong number.”

“Wait—No, you have the right number, I think…”


“Uh, your friend lost a cell phone? ‘Cause I found it in the street.”


“Your friend’s cell phone? I found it in the street.”

“Huh? Oh, wait…shit. Can I call you later?”

“Uh…yeah…?” the voice chirped, inflecting upward.

Ow. Headache. Julian clicked off the phone and flopped back down on his bed, angry. It was just like Reilly to lose her cell phone and somehow it would become his problem. To say she had always been a handful was somewhat of an understatement, it seemed. Reilly could be like Peter Pan, off in Neverland and not paying attention to how it can affect other people. Just like the time, she banged on his door at 8:00 on a Sunday morning, ringing the buzzer and throwing stones at his window. And the time…

Julian flopped over and growled like a bear, “Dammit. Now I’m awake. FUCK.”

He sat up in bed and threw the comforter off, turning down the air-conditioning. Julian reached over and pulled one of those toothbrush sponges from the pack by his bedside table. The morning ritual. He cleaned his teeth and scowled. Minty breath came. He thought about coffee and juice and bagels and how the sidewalk was sticky in late summer. Then he flicked on the TV.

What happened next was somewhat remarkable. The image was Reilly, but Julian didn’t notice right away. A few seconds later he did a double take, looking at the image on the screen. The volume was off. Reilly?

The phone suddenly rang. Odd. He focused on that, not really believing it was a familiar face on the morning news. He walked into his living room, looking at the phone. It was Kate.


“Are you fucking watching the news?”

“No, why?”

“Because Reilly’s fucking on it.”

“No…really?” Julian chuckled, this sounded funny. Kate sounded funny.

“Yeah. No. This is serious.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s being held for ransom or something. Some reporter got the info last night or something, I don’t know, but the point is, our friend is seriously fucked right now.”


Julian’s tone was different. He fell silent and sat down at the table, forgetting there was anything in front of him. He thought quickly.

But sometimes, reality hits so hard, you get the wind knocked out of you. Dizzy. It hurts to think, to breathe…. When he came back to listening, Kate was midway through some kind of tangent,

“…do you know where her parents are on the Eastern Peninsula? Because I think I might have the number in an old e-mail somewhere but I would imagine they’re on their way to the city but I don’t know. Maybe we should call them or—“

“Kate! STOP. Go back. Say it again?”

“Reilly’s been kidnapped. It’s on the Channel. It’s fucked up and I have to go but I’ll call you back. And Kenny will probably call too.” Click.

Julian sat with the phone on his ear for a while. Mechanically, he got up and grabbed his keys and wallet, walking out the door. Coffee. He needed coffee. And juice. And Reilly was kidnapped. Coffee. Juice. Bagel. Breakfast. Odessa’s.

Out the door, Julian walked with soft eyes and let his mind go. The sidewalk was not crowded. He moved through it, like melting chicken fat; instinctually, side to side, through the pedestrians and traffic.

He ordered coffee like a robot, thinking he would just pretend to be a robot for the rest of the day. Best way to deal with things. He slurped the coffee, ice cold, and waited for his change. Zoning out on the espresso machine, he put the change in his pocket, mumbling a thank you to the form at the register. He walked briskly towards the door, slurping the drink and then thought, ‘Must get more coffee,’ spinning around like Fred Astaire and letting his hand guide him back to the line.

A few moments later, he emerged with two full iced coffees onto the sidewalk and back he melted, along with the ice, to his apartment. When he got inside and shut the door, the dizzy sick feeling, the fog or whatever it was, began to clear. He was beginning to feel human again.

Call that kid. Get Reilly’s phone.

He flipped his cell open and dialed, letting it ring, counting impatiently, tapping his foot. Cigarette. Reaching for the pack he slurped the coffee like a baby on a bottle, got up and put the full one in the fridge to stay cold. Voicemail.

Meanwhile, the cell phone waves trying to find each other encountered a loss of signal. But in a few moments, during which Julian started his computer and logged onto the Internet, the cell phones would find each other, sending Peter’s backpack into a buzz.

Coming out of the same subway, Peter was being blinded by the glare off the avenue in Midtown. For the first time, he was beginning to understand the multitasking required of people in this city. In the crowd, he flipped his backpack around and grabbed the phone, ‘Missed Call.’

Julian grabbed his phone in the middle of the first ring, flipped it open and saw the ID say ‘Reilly.’

“Where the fuck are you?”

“What? I’m sorry?”

“I said, ‘WHERE the fuck are you?’ I don’t mean to be rude but—“

They were cut off by police sirens or fire engines blaring over the cell phone waves. Julian knew that sound and where it was often that loud. The kid had to be in Midtown or the Exchange District.

“Listen, I’m sorry…” Julian started pacing frantically around his apartment. He imagined he must have looked like Winnie the Pooh meets the Tasmanian Devil going, ‘Think…Think…Think…’

He had to come up with something. Get the kid to his apartment. Out of Midtown. NOW. Doesn’t matter if it’s lame.

“My friend got kidnapped, okay. This is her brother, actually. I just found this out. I’m in Alphabet Village. Can I bring a car to come meet you?”

Fuck, Julian thought, this going to cost me a lot of money.

“What??” the voice said, Peter was stopping. He pulled over to the side of sidewalk, in the corner of a building. The crowd rushed by him. It was hard to hear the guy on the other line.

“…LISTEN…I will PAY YOU, $100 to BRING ME the phone right now, okay?”

“Uh…okay? But wait…what’s going on?”

Peter looked up at the red ticker tape and then the screens above it. He read the caption and then saw the picture, the anchor looking somberly into the camera. A young woman with blond hair.

“…I’m in Alphabet Village. It will take you about an hour, round trip. That is, if you’re in Midtown. You’re in Midtown, right?”


“So I will pay you a HUNDRED DOLLARS to get in a taxi and come drop off my SISTER’S PHONE…that you’re talking on right now…Please, please, please…”

“How do I know you’ll pay me?”

“Just listen to my voice, please. Cell phone for money, okay?”

“All right,” Peter acquiesced and did so reluctantly. He wanted to see the museum and the place where his friend told him to go, a studio where he might be able to study. He thought about Doc going, “Damn…Damn! Damn!”

“So, I hail a taxi and tell the driver…?”

“Tell him you’re going to Alphabet Village. Do not go down Broadway, take the East Side Highway, cross-town on 52nd street. Avenue A, north corner of Thomson Square Park.”

“Cross-town 52 to ESH down to Thomson Square Park, north corner, Avenue A, Alphabet Village.”

“Yes. I will love you forever.”

Peter laughed. So did Julian.

Kate was somewhere, not laughing at all. Life and its juxtapositions.

She was remembering that old feeling you get when bad things happen and you suddenly wake up, realizing you had forgotten what its like when bad things happen.

Remembering above all, like a child who got into the crayons and drew scribbles all over the new wall Mommy just painted…

…remembering, instantly, how easy it is to forget how lucky we are.


…when the really bad things are not happening; when bad things have not happened in some time…

…remembering…how maybe if you’d remembered not to forget, happiness could have lasted, even just a little bit longer….

‘I promised myself I would not forget to remember this time.’

Reilly, her parents and a number of others were contemplating the same thing, in their own different ways. Life and its paradigms.

Under the same sky, Julian stopped laughing and felt it catch in his throat. Like a toxin or a virus, it spread all over his body, sinking to the pit of his stomach.

Peter heard the silence louder than anything he’d heard all morning and felt it catch in his throat. Only, it just tickled. He cleared, coughed to get rid of it. Awkward.

The voice that came through on the other line had become thick and heavy. Like the person suddenly aged too quickly, saying, “Please just hurry. And please do not answer the phone unless it’s from this number, okay? North End of Thomson Park, Avenue A. Do not answer the phone if it’s not from this number and call me if you get lost. My name is Julian, by the way,” and then the breath expired.

“I’m Peter.”

“I’ll be on the sidewalk. In a blue shirt.”

Reaching into his backpack, Peter saw the red hat inside and got it out, saying confidently, “I’ll have on a red hat.”

Then, Click.

Peter ran to hail a taxi, enthusiastically waving the red hat, flagging one down and almost getting hit by a Sanitation Truck. It caused a bit of a raucous in the chaotic flow around him, “Alphabet Village. Take the East Side Highway. Going to Avenue A and Thomson Square Park. North corner.”

Slamming the door, the world shut out a bit. But it was then, the red ticker tape caught Peter’s attention and he realized, he was on the same corner where he found the cell phone. He glanced up and saw that same man, talking on his phone in the second floor window. He was flicking his blinds open and shut with a free hand. Inside the pit of his stomach, Peter felt something that he could not explain or identify. There was no frame of reference for understanding it, but the feeling was familiar. What was it?

The jolt of the taxi, moving with the green light, snapped him back and he said, completing the algorithm in his mind, “Oh, and please take 52nd cross-town.”

From the second floor window, the man had noted a gangly youth. The one who waved a red cloth, knowing from instinct he stirred more than the chaotic, yet ordered, flow of Midtown.

Cause and Effect. Or Affect.


Perhaps I am more prodigious in the warm dark of thought. The loss of tangible consciousness to the inky blackness, it is odd to sense that you are floating. There is no more body and in the absence of this physicality, perhaps I find this new framework composed in a surrender to memory. I fall into the story and let it play out before me. Watch like a movie, this strange out-of-body reflection. Something inside rumbles and buzzes. Becomes an abrasive view of objective perception. Something inside me softens. Watch and listen as it unfolds, beginning in just a few more beats; tumble forward. This overture envelops from the inside. You remember hiding under the blankets of your bed as a little kid…



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