A Novel by A. D. Metcalfe
Author and Professor of Sociology, The New School for Social Research
The book sheds light on the backgrounds, motivations and aspirations of a segment of the American population that we all think we know about but yet are hidden in plain sight
It is life on the streets writ large; an excellent structure that works both as a book and film.
Author, Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon
Within moments, I was totally enthralled by the characters, the setting in 1970s New York City, the tone, and the way the author pulls the reader into the story. I became very attached to Johnny and worried about him and hoped he would find a way out of the situation he was in.
It is cinematic in the way she weaves the stories together. I look forward to its publication and to the author’s other work.
Dale T Phillips
Author, Scary Books and Murderous Crooks
Street is a tough, gritty, honest look at the tumultuous life of a young boy who's run away from an abusive home, and who adopts a new identity to survive on the mean streets of NYC in the 1970's.
Sharp detail keeps this book moving at a good pace, mixing action with pathos.
1970s New York City is borderline bankrupt, rampant with crime, drugs, and municipal neglect, but for a twelve-year-old runaway from Miami, it provides camouflage and opportunity.
Johnny Alvarez holes up in a Washington Heights tenement and amasses a diverse gang of misfits and latchkey kids who help him navigate the city and shield him from authorities. They support themselves by committing petty crimes, but as the gang grows, so do their illicit predilections. Johnny earns the trust of the Brick, a mid-level dealer, and soon he and the boys are making regular drug runs.
Time and distance from Miami are not enough to keep Johnny from struggling with his past. Fragmented memories and physical scarring suggest things were bad. His inability to remember makes him feel worse. The gang helps keep Johnny’s head straight, providing levity and support, but sometimes the violence they face on the street triggers the repressed memories to surface.
Johnny recalls times when his parents ignored the torture he endured by his sadistic older brother. During these episodes, he is prone to explosive rage, which ultimately helps his reputation as a venerable force amid the city’s seedy underbelly.
Johnny Álvarez took his time, walking through side streets, keeping close to the shadows, and looking out for police. An unattended twelve-year-old would be suspicious in the middle of the night. He snaked his way toward the Miami airport, knowing there was a Greyhound bus station nearby. When he got close, he could see there was little activity. A child alone in a terminal would throw up as many red flags as one wandering the streets, so he found a secluded spot in a nearby park and hunkered down until morning.
He shook off his school knapsack, which was stuffed with as many clothes as it could hold, and lay on the grass, but he was too wired to sleep. Instead, he looked up at the darkness, hoping he’d be out of town before his parents discovered his empty bed and his eighteen-year-old brother lying in a pool of blood on the basement floor.
By dawn there were enough people inside the station for him to blend in, so he pushed through the glass doors and studied the list of departures. Amid the many buses was one leaving for New York City in less than an hour.
He walked to the counter and stood in front of the clerk—a tired-looking, gray-haired man—and asked to purchase a ticket.
“Where are your parents?”
Johnny scanned the large room. Since he was brown-skinned with dark hair, he thought it would be more believable to pick people who looked similar. He found an acceptable couple lingering at the concession stand and pointed to them. “They’re over there, but I’ve got the money. I go to New York every summer to visit my grandmother. She picks me up at the other end.”
“You don’t need a round trip?” the man asked.
“No. She’s going to drive me back.”
“Okay,” the man said. “That’ll be thirty-six dollars.”
Johnny pulled two twenties from his pocket and handed them over.
The clerk gave him change and a ticket. “Your bus is boarding in thirty minutes from gate seventeen.”
“Thank you.” Johnny headed toward his pretend parents to polish off the ruse.
Near the magazines and books, he saw The Traveler’s Guide to New York City. It was outdated—printed in 1969—but he figured things wouldn’t have changed that much in three years. The guide described different neighborhoods, provided maps of subway and bus routes, and highlighted historic sites. He brought it to the register, along with a few snacks and a drink, before drifting to the gate where the empty coach was parked. He looked at the sign above the windshield which read New York City and smiled. When the driver arrived to unlock the door and punch tickets, Johnny was the first one on. He went straight to the back row and settled in with his gear.
It wasn’t until the bus was moving down the interstate that Johnny started thinking about the previous night. He rubbed his wrists. The rope burns from his recent captivity had irritated the existing scars, but it wasn’t as bad as the other times. Glancing out the window, he tried to recall what had happened, but his memory was patchy. Had he killed Orlando or just knocked him unconscious? He had not checked, fearing his brother would wake and begin another demented torture session. Instead, Johnny had sat quietly on the top step, behind the bolted basement door, and waited for his mother to release him. When she finally did, he went to his bedroom and lay awake until both parents were asleep. Once he felt it was safe, he packed his things and slipped out of the house.
The absence of guilt surprised him. He felt calm and confident now. Whatever he might face in the world would not be worse than what happened in that house. He wondered if his parents would care that he was gone. Would they even bother to file a report with the police? It was doubtful, but he could never be sure. He would miss his friends, but there’d be new ones. Ones he wouldn’t have to lie to all the time. He vowed never to return to Miami. Dying on some unfamiliar street would be preferable.