After School

The basketball went over the rusty fence and fell into the next clearing. He ran into the long-neglected plantation and leaned over his hands to pick up the ball; even though his hands were so close to the barren soil, he ignored the sparse withered seedlings in the soil hit by basketball. He happily carried the ball out of the empty and depressed abandoned plantation. In his back, the afterglow of the sunset sprinkled on the slightly decaying wooden name tag -“Spinach – Harlem Grown Educational Urban Garden“.

It was 3:30 in the afternoon on a casual Wednesday. 

Two-hour basketball practicing exhausted his energy: He was starving. Waving goodbye to his friends, he walked down the side street opposite the basketball court and went past the Key Food supermarket. 


A pungent stench from the garbage at the door made him frown. He quickly reached the crossing of 138th Street and Lenox Avenue. Without hesitation, he made a left turn. On the left side of the street, familiar high-saturation warm tones filled his eyes – the bright yellow of McDonald’s, the orange-red of Popeyes, the ripe brown of Deli, and the dazzling red of the shabby Chinese restaurant. The cool wind in late autumn encountered with the heat from the back kitchens, and he could not help feeling surrounded by a warm current as well as the salty, greasy smell permeating the air.

Decisions were not that hard to make. After a brief struggle between Popeyes and McDonald’s, he chose to go to the latter one. He ordered his all-time favorite chicken sandwich combo, which only cost him $4.98 after tax, and picked a nice corner sit beside the window. Munching on his sandwich, he was overwhelmed by the satisfaction brought by the high-calorie fried chicken. 

“To me again, I’m 34 with two children…..”

He turned his head. At the next table, an African-American lady, whose children were climbing onto the table, trying to dip the French fries in their hands in some ketchup, was talking to an Asian girl. He heard the woman go on,

“It’s all about money. I’m born and raised here, and at this point I’m being pushed out and I don’t know where the hell I’m gonna go.”

Being pushed out by what? Being pushed out from where? He was a little confused. Nevertheless it did not bother him for long. He took a slurp of his coke and finished the rest of his sandwich in a few bites. Some crumbs fell on his dark blue pants.

By Mingkai

~ by Mingkai Zhang on November 3, 2019.