The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards hosted a celebratory reading in a renowned independent NYC bookstore featuring a select group of Northeast Region-at-Large Gold Key award recipients. Daniel Kwiatkowski ’15 was invited to read his Gold Key Flash Fiction piece, “Can We Escape?” The reading took place at McNally Jackson Books. Daniel originally wrote the piece in NA’s Creative Writing Workshop as a personal essay and then converted to fiction.
Can We Escape?
“Yes, the plane’s coming in tonight…. If anyone tries to escape kill them” my cab driver, Juan, muttered in Spanish into the cell phone he held close to his mouth. My dad was lost in his cell phone as Juan drove us back from a Puerto Rican resort’s golf course to our hotel. Armed with my years of high school Spanish class teachings, I listened and began to pick up on some words and phrases that seemed bizarre for the profession of the small man with a gray beard and fedora who held us caged in his cab: “avión viene de México esta noche, si?”, the plane comes in from Mexico tonight, yes?, “y podemos encajar cuarenta, si?”, and we can fit 40, yes?, “las muertes de anoche”, the dead from last night, and finally the sentence that caused me to nudge my dad, “si ellos tratan de escaper, matalos”, if they try to escape, kill them.”
I started to panic. One of these phrases I could have lived with but it was this assortment that he rattled off with such indifference, such command, topping it off with the word “matar”, to kill, that caused by alarm. I typed out the collection I had understood and showed them to my dad, finishing with the sentence, “Juan’s a human trafficking murderer!” I texted my brother and let him know that we were held captive by a Puerto Rican human trafficker and if we didn’t return in the next hour to alert the authorities. After a few more frantic texts to my family and an attempt to strip my dad from his phone to establish an escape plan, the area around us started to look familiar and soon enough we were back to the safety of our own resort. It was only after I jumped out of that cab that I noticed the tall stack of lobster cages in the trunk and began to question my Spanish.