"The corner of first and fourth street" This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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As Luke approached the busy intersection, the sounds of the city roar. Bikers cutting in front of zipping cars blend with echoes from kids playing in the park. Dog barks amplifies the boom of a semi’s horn.

The buzz of Luke’s cell phone in his faded jeans pocket seems to blend in with a police siren in the distance. A squirrel scampers across the cracked Chicago sidewalk as his phone buzzes for a second time. Reaching his right hand into his pocket, his eyes roll as the caller ID reads, “Home.” His right thumb hits “ignore” and he decides to add to the four new inbox voicemails.

He stops at the corner of First and Fourth Street in front of the 24-hour 10 cents Laundromat. Looking down at the cell phone compressed in the palm of his hand, his grip tightens to a squeeze and then loosens as he flips it open and dials his voicemail. A boy, appearing to be no older than twelve, enters the Laundromat with a bulky sack over his left shoulder, his raggedy clothes filth-stained and worn.

Luke’s eyes remain fixed on the boy as the soft voice on the phone begins to speak.

“Luke, honey, it’s me. Please come home. We all love you and are worried.”

As he hangs up his phone, Luke watches the young boy load the clothes into the outdated washer and drop a coin into the rusted slot. The boy’s loose faded gold T-shirt exposes his boney shoulders. He exits the Laundromat and sits on the bench outside the store.

Luke, keeping his distance from across the busy downtown street, can’t help but watch the boy. The stormy overcast leaves the shadow-casted streets shiver cold. Luke can see his own breath in the air in front of him, barely keeping warm in his gray-hooded sweatshirt.

The boy, wearing just his raggedy, gold striped t-shirt, a hand-me-down, and faded jeans, too short for his lanky legs. Rising from the bench, he begins pacing up and down the alley, his head down as if looking for something.

A green and white taxi speeds by, passing up an urgent potential customer. Luke hears a weak, raspy voice from behind him as he feels a tug on his pant leg. Turning around, he sees a homeless man begging for change. Scanning the street corner, Luke observes smashed bottles of alcohol and several brown paper bags.

Luke turns away and heads toward the Laundromat. Not bothering to walk down to the crosswalk, he creeps out from a pair of parallel-parked cars. Corporate lunch hour, 12 o’clock, and the streets of Chicago are chaotic.

Trying to keep an eye on the young boy, Luke juts out to cross the street, feeling the wind as cars and trucks haul by.

“Hey, are you looking for something?” Luke shouts to the boy from the middle of the street.

No response, the boy continues searching the alley, on his hands and knees.

Luke cannot inch forward, the zipping of hurried cars leave him stranded halfway across the street.

“S***” Luke looks left and right.
It is apparent that no car will be slowing down for him anytime soon. Out of the corner of his eye he sees the boy pickup a couple of dirty coins from the alley. He pockets them and heads back into the Laundromat.

Reaching into his pocket to pull out his buzzing cell phone, Luke is thrown back as a red fire truck whooshes by, sirens blaring. Startled, Luke manages to make out the caller ID, “Home” for the fifth time today.

Standstill in the median of the hectic Chicago Street, Luke flips opens the phone, not saying anything.

“Luke?” his mom’s voice distant, stressed.

“What is it?”

“Honey, it’s getting late. Where have you been? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.”

The sound of the city roars as clusters of the loud chatter of thousands blur together. Screeching brakes and enraged city drivers blare over the phone.

“Luke, where are you? It’s so loud.”

“I’m fine. I gotta go.”



Luke and his eight-year-old brother Toby are headed to the Laundromat on the corner of First and Fourth. Luke is carrying the hulking sack over his right shoulder; Toby carries a small, empty sack over his. Thirteen-year-old Luke keeps his left hand firmly gripped around the small, boney hand of his brother. Toby, after just losing his first couple of teeth, looks up at Luke through dirty blond curls and flashes a gap filled smile.

“Hey, Luke, when I grow up, I’m gonna carry just as much as you can. And ya’ know what? I’m gonna score as many goals in street hockey as you do.”

“Oh, is that right?” Luke can’t help but smile.

“Nah, even more goals than you!”

“Haha, alright big guy.” Luke flashes his boyish grin and rubs his hand on Toby’s shabby locks.

Toby socks his big brother in the midsection. As he did so, all their quarters spill out of Luke’s cargo pockets, splattered on the weary, cracked sidewalks of downtown Chicago.

Bashfully, Toby stepped back from his older brother and took off after the rolling coins. Keeping his eyes locked on the escaping coins, he watched them roll over a smashed cigarette bud, scattering the littered ashes.

Suddenly, Luke noticed there was a lot of traffic as a green minivan honked at a blue sedan. His brother was already twenty feet down the street.

“Hey!”

Luke shouted as he took off after Toby, feeling the crush of the same cigarette bud under his sneakers, the rush of harsh, cold air stung his lungs.

The clicking of the traffic light to red as a Pace Bus brakes screeched to a halt, flushed black fumes of smoke into the air. Slamming his brownstone’s heavy door, a businessman’s black shoes clank of each of his eight concrete steps.

Toby was in full stride as he closed in on the quarters.

Dodging a postman, Luke, just a few steps behind Toby, reached the end of the sidewalk and the crossing sign drooped to a red hand that signaled stop.
Luke jutted out across the crosswalk without hesitation.

Reaching down to grab the escaping quarter, Toby kicked is foot in a deep crack, his momentum left him stumbling into the street. His knee scraped against the stony street.

“Toby!” Luke cried.

The pure ping of a street hockey puck connecting with a tipped over metal trash can blended with the bells as the doors of small Ma and Pa shops swung open. An old lady wearing a pink blouse ties her grocery bag and slowly shuffles her way out of the shop.

A silver Toyota SUV slammed on its brakes, but not soon enough.

Tears steamed down Luke’s face as he knelt down next to his brother, Toby’s gold striped t-shirt drenched in blood.




As Luke stands in the middle of First and Fourth Street, guilt and shame overwhelm him. Just then, a silver car slows down to let Luke cross. Not bothering to wave, Luke dashes across the street. Bells chime and he flings open the Laundromat door. Standing at the entrance, Luke quickly scans the entire store, rushing up to the front desk, he tries to catch his breath.

“Did you see a young boy wearing a gold striped T-shirt come in here?”

“No, sorry man” the owner tells Luke.

Luke walks around the store, checking behind every washer, searching every back room.

There are no unattended machines and no sign of the boy.

Luke heads out of the door of the Laundromat and turns down the vacant alley.

There is a heavy lump in his throat as he sinks down, back pressed against the brick wall.

“I’m sorry, Toby” Luke sobs into the palms of his hands pressed against his forehead.

Luke feels his phone buzzing against his leg.

The caller ID displays, “Home.”

Luke watches it ring through moist-fogged eyes, and then hits “Ignore call.”

Struggling to his feet, Luke wipes his tears away from his red eyes. He leaves the alley and heads down Fourth Street, disappearing into the fog of the evening.





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