As Simple as Black and White

December 1, 2008
By Kevin Schulman, Fairfield, CT

Sound was something seldom heard in the Monoto household. Living in the rural plains of Nebraska, the Monoto family was a family of farmers. Corn, hogs and hay were all they had ever known about. Matt had only heard the sound of a car once when the neighbors moved in a mile down the road a few weeks ago. He had heard the sound of tractors and farm machines but never the sound of a car. Although a mile was a far distance, the air seemed to carry sounds miles in any given direction. Matt worked for his father’s family farm, as was tradition. Matt was sick of it though! Unlike his parents, he didn’t take pride in milking cows or wrangling bulls.

Matt talked to the new student at school who had moved in down the long road from Matt’s property.

“Hi, my name is Jack,” said the boy hesitantly.

Hi, my name is Matt. I’m your new neighbor from down the road.”
Jack explained to Matt that he wasn’t from the Midwest but rather the Northeast. Similar to Matt, Jack did not care for the farm life. The bone-chilling Nebraskan air, eerie silence and potent farm smell was driving him crazy! Throughout the week, Jack and Matt spoke whenever they could. Jack described to Matt the millions of cars in New England, the almost deafening roar of jet engines and the obnoxiously loud honking of hundreds of cars on the Tri-Borough Bridge at rush hour.
“Why did you move here to Nebraska?” asked Matt.
“My family was being driven insane by the hectic New England lifestyle so we moved to the most rural place we could find, which landed us here,” Jack said with a chuckle.
The opposite was true for Matt though. He, unlike Jack’s family, wanted to find the most exciting place he could. Determined to escape, he stayed up one night planning to getaway from this peaceful prison he was trapped in.

“ COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO,” sneered a rooster who lived directly outside of Matt’s room.
Matt despised this rooster, for it woke him from his dreams every morning at an obscenely early time: 4:45 A.M. Matt lumbered down the hallway of his prison looking groggy and miserable. The day was unusually cloudy and the optimistic light of the sunrise was trapped behind layers of clouds. As Matt continued down the hallway, his shadow was cast upon the wall, almost as if there were two different people. Throughout the following school day, Matt speculated about his plan to escape the place he loved but hated. He desired to live near the city, experience the thrill of everything in and around the city, and that wasn’t happening in Nebraska.
When Matt got home, he immediately ran up to his room to begin the preparations for his elaborate escape plan. He dashed downstairs and, to his surprise, saw his father feeding the animals. Trying to be inconspicuous, Matt tiptoed to where the family’s rooster was currently resting. Unfortunately, the crunchy autumn leaves made Matt very noticeable. Matt’s father, Jim, noticed Matt and began to reminisce about the times when he worked on his father’s farm.
“Son, I remember the times when I worked on my father’s farm. Those were great times. Hey Matt, did you know that the rooster perched right up there was the first animal my father every purchased for this here farm? I will be devastated when that reliable old rooster dies.”

“Such an inspiring story,” muttered Matt, trying to pretend to care.

For once in his life, Matt would have to hurt his father’s feelings. That night it was raining and the frigid Nebraskan air got even colder. That didn’t stop Matt though, from dressing in his black T-shirt and black sweatpants and going outside near midnight. He swiftly snuck outside and seized his father’s musket from the rotting red barn. He took aim in the dark and slowly pulled the trigger back. BANG! The sound of a single gunshot rang out into the stormy night, only to be followed by the sound of rustling feathers and thunder. He crept back upstairs and packed clothes and food from the pantry into a century old suitcase passed down from generation to generation. He tried to sleep only to be awoken a few hours later by an exploding clap of thunder. He quickly turned around only to see the blinding flash of a bolt of lightning followed by the soothing tapping of raindrops hitting the frosted glass of his window. He grabbed the musty suitcase and headed out the door into the stormy night.
The walk to the station took an hour and a half and was very deteriorating to the body. The streets were not paved in this part of Nebraska, and sharp stones and uneven streets made the walk very uncomfortable. When Matt finally arrived at the station, he was dog-tired and was surprised to see only 2 other people at the station. The two men turned out to be the conductor and the assistant of the rusty train that was parked there. Matt inquired about how much a train ride to New York City was and they said,

“The train ride to New York is 20 dollars. Do you have the money?”

Unfortunately, Matt did not have the money but eventually traded the majority of his food to the conductor and assistant for a one-way ticket to New York City. After a grueling eleven hour train ride, Matt awoke to the cloudy dawn and frigid air of New York City. He could tell he cold it was instantly because he had fallen asleep against the ice-cold window on the side of the train. As he jumped off the train, he was overcome by the nauseating scent of pollution and his head ached from the putrid smell. He stepped from the platform and felt an uncontainable joy. This was the place he had always dreamed of being. He glanced back at the station and saw a rusted, bullet riddled sign that read: H•rle•m 125th St•ee• Stat•on. He noticed a few trains that were out of service, each with same ominously glowing logo that said, “MTA.” Matt strided down the street and greeted the many street vendors. They groaned at him and muttered unheard words.
Something had changed though. Matt saw a new type of people he had never seen before. These people were darker in skin color and all seemed to be on the street. He had never seen anybody that looked like this. He passed them by, not uttering a sound due to an unknown fear. As he paraded down the streets, he noticed more and more lights. He played a hazardous game of Frogger in Manhattan, dodging cars and buses. As the sunset on New York City, a new city arose out of the darkness. It was a more dangerous city, but in some way a more inviting one. He stumbled upon a plaza called Times Square. He found a rusted bench and lay down, trying to rest. But the square was like a second sun that lit up the surrounding area with the light of 100 million candles. The following morning, Matt slowly walked down the streets of Manhattan, closely analyzing every storefront and watching the river of cars move like molasses down 5th Avenue. There was an uneasiness that could be felt as Matt walked down the street. It was an uncomfortable feeling but everyone moved along like it was a common feeling that was understood. He wandered through the narrow, dark alleys. It seemed like the calm before the storm. It appeared that two armies that were clearly different were silently waging war. It was whites against the African-Americans and it seemed like the most critical fight of the century. Unfortunately, Matt was right in the thick of it, completely oblivious as to what was actually happening.
Suddenly, Matt heard a cracking noise in the distance. He couldn’t think of what caused the sound, but somewhere in his mind, the cracking sound made Matt remember the wet night where he had devised his elaborate escape plan. The musket! Matt’s mind suddenly filled with thoughts of danger. He started running faster and faster until he had broken into a full run. He weaved through the crowds of everyday Manhattan. He came across a dark alley that seemed empty. He sprinted down the alleyway and looked back to make sure no one had followed him. That’s when he ran into the wall. Or at least he thought it was a wall. “The wall” turned out to be the back of the leader of the Black Panthers, a group of people supporting African-American power in America. The man had his back turned, so Matt didn’t know what he looked like at first. Unfortunately, he discovered the physical features of the man a few seconds later when the man turned around and slammed Matt against the brick wall behind him.
The man looked gruesome. His shirt was torn, as were his dirty, faded jeans. His eyes were red and he appeared to be very fatigued. He had a long scar across his forehead that looked to be a knife wound. The man demanded to know what Matt was doing, but all Matt could do was stutter and shake in fear. The thug turned to his “friends” who looked to be in the same condition as the leader. The leader of the group commanded Matt to stay at the wall while his gang discussed the fate of the intruder. They looked at him from time to time and eventually, Matt heard the word “kill” mentioned in their discussion. He broke into a cold sweat and decided that he needed to escape quickly and silently. He slowly sidled along the surface of the brick wall, being sure to not look too obvious and suspicious to passerby. He saw the bright sun shine through the shadows of the alley. He though he was free! He started to run the last 10 meters. That’s when he heard the sound that he knew was trouble. While he was running, he ran right into a puddle of dark, murky water. The sound was relatively soft, but the echo in the alley made it sound like an atomic bomb. The members of the gang all turned around and yelled,


Matt darted out onto the street and yelled to commuters that he was being attacked but the roar of the city ate up his words. He heard the sounds of the Panthers darting down the alley. He tried to run down the street, but the crowds acted like a living roadblock. He tried to sprint in the opposite direction but people blocked him every direction he tried to escape. The Panthers pushed through hundreds of people and spied Matt, the prey of choice. The leader reached into his jeans and pulled out a shining .22 pistol. He took aim at Matt and slowly pulled the trigger. The bullet shot out and hit Matt square in the chest. He cried out in agony but nobody heard him.

“Welcome to our jungle, kid,” muttered the leader as he placed his pistol into its holster and walked away without remorse.

Back in Nebraska, Matt’s father walked outside. He looked around and found the wet musket on the grass. He fell down on his knees and started the cry.

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