1/21/2021 1:40:05 PM
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A Native New Yorker, born in Harlem and raised in The Bronx. I spent a great deal of time visiting, living in and working in Virginia. As a result, many of my short stories are in the vein of Zora Neale Hurston, with extensive use of southern black dialect.

As forty-seven year old Harold Baker was walking towards the local public library, he began thinking about how he had discovered his ability to kill the “Deservers” in the way in which he did. Yes, that was the name he had given them - - “Deservers”. Those he thought deserved to die in the most horrific ways.

The first time it happened was when he was in seventh grade. David Lovett, a bully, who, because he was physically larger than most of the other students, continually harassed Harold and some of students at their New York City public school.  Once during a school fire drill, while Harold and his classmates were walking down a hallway on their way out of the building, David body slammed him into a wall. Their teacher, who was standing away from Harold at the front of the line, didn’t see the incident. David and his friends laughed loudly, as Harold cried out in pain. After composing himself, Harold stood and continued walking out of the building.

When the fire drill ended, Harold re-entered the school, went into the BOYS bathroom, and undid the neck of his shirt to better exam his shoulder in a mirror. It was somewhat bruised, so he grabbed a few paper towels, soaked them in cold water and then placed them on his shoulder. It felt a little better..

Harold re-did his shirt, left the restroom and made his way to the school library. He intended to research a term paper for his history class, which was due next week. But, as he often did, Harold decided to read some newspapers. He knew he was procrastinating, but he also knew he would get the assignment done eventually. While reading the sports section of the newspaper, he tried to ignore the pain in his right shoulder, but it was throbbing. Finally, he began reading one newspaper’s New York City section. For some reason, one story about a fire in a New York City Housing Authority project building caught his attention. According to the news article, a fire, caused by an electric heater situated too close to some bedroom curtains had resulted in the deaths of four people. “Too bad that bastard David wasn’t in caught up in that fire,” Harold thought to himself. “Burn his ass to a crisp!”

Later that night, as he lay in bed in darkness of the room he shared with his younger brother, with his shoulder still aching from David’s body slam, Harold began to imagine David inside the building he’d read about earlier. He envisioned David running with flames covering his body. He then whispered, “I really do wish David had been in that building’s fire.”

When Harold awoke that morning, he was surprised to discover that his shoulder wasn’t hurting any longer and when he looked in the bathroom mirror, the bruise was gone. Upon arriving at school, he saw several students and some teachers visibly upset. He asked a fellow student, Mike Lloyd, what had happened.

“You read the newspaper yesterday, didn’t you?” said Mike.

“Yeah. Why?” asked Harold.

“You didn’t see that David Lovett was one of the five people killed in that fire on Webster Avenue the day before yesterday?”

Harold was taken aback.

“Wait,” said Harold. “The article said four people. Not five.”

“Well, you read it wrong,” replied Mike.

“But, David was here at school yesterday,” responded Harold. “We had a class together just before the fire drill and he body slammed me into a wall.”

“You must’ve dreamt all that,” said Mike, as he shook his head and walked away.

Harold stared at Mike and then ran up the steps to the school’s library; he still had a half an hour before his first class. He saw that yesterday’s newspapers were still in the wooden periodicals case along with assorted magazines and newspapers. He found the news story about the fire. Mike was right. The article did report that five, not four people, were killed in the fire and one of them was indeed David.

“This is really some Twilight Zone shit,” Harold thought to himself.

During the years that followed, Harold discovered that he could use this “Deservers” extermination ability on other people, as well. However, when Harold tried to use it on some elected officials, as well as strangers, who had done something immoral or corrupt, he discovered he could only use it on people he knew personally.

Moreover, he was careful enough to use a great amount of discretion when using his anti-“Deservers” power. When he did decide to use it, however, Harold would read the New York Post, as it seemed to provide more graphic detail about fatal accidents than any of the other daily publications. He remembered the tabloid’s classic and much-talked about 1983 front page headline, Headless Body In Topless Bar.


Among others, Harold used his “Deservers” power it to do away with his high school French teacher, who repeatedly embarrassed him in front of other students with his unnecessary insults. For this particular “Deserver”, he read and re-read a New York Post story about a subway train derailment in Queens in which three people were killed. As he lay in bed that night, he continually thought about the tragedy and continuously recited the teacher’s name.

As he expected, when Harold read the story the next day, there were now four people killed and among them was Monsieur Maurice Bergett. According to the story, Maurice Bergett, a teacher at a local New York City public school was thrown out of one of the train’s windows and struck by an oncoming train. A laughing Harold said, "Oui, oui, weeeee!!!"

On rare occasions, however, his desire to find a death for a “Deserver” was thwarted when the “Deserver” was killed before he found an appropriate demise for them. In one instance, two years before the people who ran the company for which he worked unexpectedly fired him, he intended to dispatch a co-worker.  This particular woman seized upon every opportunity to ridicule his work or his statements about various matters.  Her criticisms were usually said in front of other staff to elicit laughter from them. He was pleased to note, however, that in most instances, they didn’t laugh or even smile, as they, too, realized that she was simply a truly mean-spirited person.

He began scanning the daily newspapers each morning. Unfortunately, however, before Harold could find a good newspaper story tragedy for her, she was hit and killed by a New York City transit bus. Nevertheless, he was happy to read that her body had rolled under and was completely crushed by the bus. “I hope the bitch enjoyed the ride”, Harold said to himself and laughed.

A few years later, when he discovered that his girlfriend, Susan, was cheating on him. After she broke up with him, Harold began newspaper story hunting for a demise to suit her. Alas, he found one about a gas main explosion. Apparently, workers were repairing a water main break in mid-town, when one of them accidentally punctured a gas pipe. The resulting blast killed two people. Much to Harold’s delight, but not surprise, when he re-read the story the next day, Susan Fulton was one of three people killed in the accident. Ironically, with a dash of poetic justice, the accident had occurred just a few blocks from the “hot sheet” four-hour motel where Susan would meet her lover. “Eureka!” said Harold, as he clapped his hands in glee.




One of his favorite “Deserver” deaths was the result of a newspaper story about a mid-day tourist helicopter crashing into a luxury high-rise condominium. The three people in the helicopter, including the pilot, his two passengers and five people, three on the seventeenth floor and two on the eighteenth floor were killed. There were also numerous injuries, but, as many of the tenants were away at work, there were not any other fatalities. Harold re-read the story several times until he knew all of the details of the tragedy. He decided that this was an appropriate death for the people who had unceremoniously and unduly fired him.

Late that night, Harold, who had taken the newspaper home, lay in his bed imagining the helicopter crash. He said the names of his two “Deservers” repeatedly. He pictured the helicopter hitting the building. Its lone propeller blade swirling off of it to the street below. The two “Deservers”, on their way to a nearby meeting, were walking under the building’ awning. The blade was swirling violently out of control. It finally reached the sidewalk where it sliced the two “Deservers” in half. Their severed bodies were then crushed into the sidewalk by the helicopter’s severely damaged cockpit.

When he awoke the next morning, before he went to make coffee, Harold grabbed the newspaper and re-read about the helicopter crash again. This time, however, instead of eight deaths, there were ten resulting from the calamity. According to the article, two unidentified people walking along a sidewalk adjacent to the building were killed by “falling debris”. Due to the way in which they were killed, however, DNA was going to be needed to identify the bodies on the sidewalk. Harold was elated. He made his coffee, lit a cigarette and mentally began planning his day. “DNA,” he thought and grinned broadly.

Now, as he entered the library, Harold also thought about the cancer diagnosis his doctor had given him two days ago. It was an incurable form of cancer and the doctor advised him that he would be subject to an incredible amount of pain resulting from the disease, as well as the treatments used to extend his life for as long as possible.

Harold was also burdened by the guilt of having caused so many deaths over the years; it had begun to weigh heavily on his conscious. He had many sleepless nights, while thinking about the family and friends of the “Deservers” who emotionally suffered as the result of their deaths. He heard through the grapevine that one family member had taken her own life, as the result of a “Deserver’s” death.

Harold walked over to the library’s newspaper and magazine rack, selected a few newspapers, sat down at one of the community tables and began perusing the daily and weekly editions. He finally found a news story he liked.





by Raymond Rodriguez


Three people have died in the Bronx and two more are seriously ill from food poisoning thought to have resulted from eating contaminated pre-packaged sandwiches served in two Bronx hospitals, according to a statement by New York City Health & Hospitals.

The deaths were caused by an outbreak of listeria at hospitals run by private corporations. Listeria is a bacteria that causes illness from contaminated food. It can kill in severe cases.

Sandwiches and salads linked to the cases have been withdrawn, it said. The supplier, Yum, Yum Foods, and one of its cooked meat suppliers, Delightful Cooked Meats, have voluntarily ceased production while the investigation continues.

Listeria infection is rare and usually causes a mild illness in healthy people. However, it can have more serious consequences among those with pre-existing medical conditions, pregnant women and those with a weak immune system.


Harold was smiling as he re-read the newspaper story. He liked sandwiches. He’d make sure there was mustard on his.


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