Author Archives: Daphne Gottlieb

About Daphne Gottlieb

Daphne Gottlieb stitches together the ivory tower and the gutter just using her tongue. She is the author of 10 books, including the new short story collection "Pretty Much Dead", about a city torn apart by class war, with the most vulnerable residents just trying to hang on.at the edge of the world.

Two Stories From “Pretty Much Dead

pmd cover

IN RE: Citation #31312035T

Dear Municipal Transit Authority (MTA):

I am writing to you today in regards to Citation #31312035T. I have enclosed a copy of said citation. I am asking that you please dismiss the citation and the $100 fine.

MTA, about 39 years ago, there was a little girl in Harvey’s Drugstore in Manlius, New York. You have probably not heard of either the town or the store. Manlius is a small town, though it was ranked #98 on CNN’s top places to live in 2005. I don’t think it was that good 39 years ago, except maybe in Harvey’s Drugstore: There were jars of all sorts of candy sticks lined up one next to the others. Peppermint, sure, but there was also orange, and lemon, and cherry, and licorice, and anything you can imagine, in colors too magical to be anything except candy.

In this story, 39 years ago, a 4-year-old girl asked her mother for a candy stick. Because it was close to dinner, the mother said no. The little girl darkened like a cloud.

The little girl — angry and full of desire so strong it was stronger, even, than reason or fear – put four sticks of candy in her dress pocket. The cunning girl slid down to the floor of the station wagon’s leathery red backseat rapturously. The radio played Fleetwood Mac, but not loudly enough: Her mother heard the plastic crinkling in her daughter’s hands. She turned the car around. The girl was marched into the drugstore, spitting an apology through her tears, paying for the candy with sticky hands. She did not have that kind of money. It took weeks for her to work off the candy money with chores. It took weeks more for the tears to stop.

MTA, that little girl was me. In the 39 years since then, I have not stolen a thing. This is not because I am good. I have done some really, really horrible things in my life — far worse than, say, accidentally not paying a transit fare. I have broken hearts. I have told lies. I have cheated at Monopoly. I have done shameful things that hurt other people and caused damage that I will never begin to repair. But, MTA, I can pay you the fare that I somehow didn’t pay when I got on that morning. You will find a check for $2 attached. Please take this check in lieu of the $100 requested, because:

  1. If you check my fare history, you will see that, like clockwork, I pay a morning fare to get to work, and I pay a fare to get home from work. Every day. Why would I suddenly decide it was time to skip a day?

  1. Fare Inspectors are waiting at the station when I exit. They’re there every day. They’d be hard to miss in their fluorescent yellow jackets.

  1. I pay a $2 fare. Does it REALLY make sense that I would suddenly risk a $100 fine for $2? There was $38.75 on my transit card. Why wouldn’t I pay?

  1. Let’s put it all together: Maybe I decided not to pay the fare EVEN THOUGH I HAD MONEY on my card AND I KNEW there would be Fare Inspectors AND I ALWAYS GET CAUGHT WHEN I DO SOMETHING WRONG, or I was somehow distracted or unaware that I didn’t pay the fare, because: Continue reading

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