The following is an excerpt from Last Stop on the Z Train by Jason Storbakken. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.
Marcos Meets the Millers
The Miller family had been in New York City for only one day when they met Marcos.
The Millers were from Iowa. Their t-shirts were each a different primary color. Mr. Miller wore blue, Mrs. Miller wore yellow, Timmy wore green, and Jenny wore red. New Yorkers like dark colors, which made the Millers stand out. The Millers also spoke loudly, likely because they were used to open spaces with few people.
They were on their way to visit Times Square. Earlier in the day they visited Ground Zero. But somehow they got turned around and ended up in Queens.
A young man named Marcos gave them directions to Times Square. “Just hop on the 7 and it’ll take you directly to Times Square,” Marcos told the Millers.
Marcos was a food delivery person for a Spanish deli. He enjoyed delivering habichuelas, pernil, chicharrones, and other delicious food to hungry people, but he hoped to one day open his own Mexican restaurant where he could serve tacos, tamales, and flautas.
He was supposed to work later in the day, but he received a call from his wife, Alma, saying she was about to give birth. Their first child was on her way! They had decided to name their baby Teresa after Marcos’ favorite titi.
After giving the Miller family directions, Marcos asked Mr. Miller for a swipe. Since Marcos hadn’t worked that day, he didn’t have money for subway fare.
Mr. Miller was a fine man but he and his wife had to save a long time to save for this trip. Plus, before leaving for their New York City vacation, several neighbors and coworkers warned Mr. Miller about the dangers of New York City and the con artists and grifters who wait for tourists who make an easy mark. Marcos seemed like a nice guy, but Mr. Miller wasn’t taking any chances.
The Millers rushed through the turnstile one-by-one in their primary color t-shirts as Mr. Miller swiped them each through. Mr. Miller went through last. He refused to look at Marcos.
The Millers made their way to the train platform just as Marcos had instructed.
Marcos had enough. He needed to get to the hospital to be with Alma. Against his better judgment he jumped the turnstile.
Transit police were lurking around the corner and seized upon him immediately. They asked for his ID, which he didn’t have. If he had an ID he would only receive a summons of about $50, but if he had that kind of money he would have bought a metrocard.
Marcos was handcuffed and taken to booking where he’d be processed and placed in jail until his court date, which could take several days.
Two thoughts raced through Marcos’ head.
First, he thought of his cousin Julio who jumped a turnstile a few years back and didn’t have an ID. When Julio went before the judge he was transferred to an immigration detention center and eventually deported.
Marcos’ second thought was his family. Alma and Teresa. Who would provide for them? Who would love them the way he could? How would they make it?
As the Millers made their way to the platform, Timmy asked his dad, “What do you think he did?”
Praise for Last Stop on the Z Train
“What a fantastic read! Truly a thrill ride! I know that taking the train can be a bit of a rollercoaster, but this sincerely was an impressive piece. Hands down the best story in the book is ‘I’m not staring, I’m smelling.’”
“I purposely read this on my commute on the subway to and from work. Each story took me briefly into another world between stops. I was instantly looking at my fellow straphangers in a different light. A true delight!”
“Sweet little stories that express New York subway character.”
About the Author & Artist
Jason Storbakken served as Director of Chapel and Compassionate Care at the Bowery Mission for nearly ten years and currently designs the ministry’s curriculum. With his wife Vonetta he founded Radical Living, a Brooklyn-based community organization. He is also the author of Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, Revolution and Bowery Mission: Grit and Grace on Manhattan’s Oldest Street. He obtained his MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, and currently serves as pastor of the Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship.
Pairoj Pichetmetakul is a Buddhist monk-turned-street artist. His work aims to shift public perception and cultivate compassion. One of his current projects consists of riding every subway car on the MTA, from the 1 train to the Z train, and painting the images and visions he sees.
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