“Illegal” Vases

“Yes, I’m here just trying to work for you.”

“You only have a high school diploma, what do you think you can do for us?”

“I can call the people that you need me to.”

“Well, do you think you can pass a drug test?”


“If you get hired we’ll call you.”

The white man shook the guy’s hand and then sat back behind his desk waiting on the next interviewee to walk in through the door. The next person that came in was your average twenty three year old Caucasian male who was just trying to get by. He spent many days at university studying biology and only wanted the job to have some extra money, not that he needed it. He knew how to create the perfect resume so he got hired on the spot.

The first guy, his name was Anthony Grey. He wanted to work for the telemarketers because he knows what happens if he were to start selling weed. He didn’t want that to be him. His friends, in high school, were dying left and right, and the only thing that he could think about was finding a way to get money he needed in order to fill out applications to college. He didn’t have a dream school, he just wanted to be in a new environment far from the life that he grew up staring at in Brooklyn. 

He was hanging and hanging by the phone in his spare time. Changing his suit and tie combination with his cornrows he made his way into many different offices. It was weeks that he was waiting by the phone praying for an opportunity.

His mother was pacing the house back and forth just wondering what was to come of his income. There wasn’t enough food in the house, the lights were about to get cut off, and they had been noticed of late fees on the rent, “Boy, you bets to get a job!” She would yell at him through the cracks of her teeth while puffing a cigarette. Her addiction to nicotine and alcohol was growing worse by the day. Anthony was an only child, but having his only mother made him only want to escape. 

“Ma, I’m trying. I’ve been to interview after interview. Nobody’s hiring me.”

She shook her head in shame while waving him off, “You get on my nerves with all those damn lies.” He was upset and mad that he couldn’t convince her of anything even if it were true. 

He didn’t retaliate, being her only son and the only male in her life that never gave up on her made him understand the value of allowing her to be right, even if she wasn’t.

She walked into the kitchen, her bright blue polka dot dress on and began to make white rice and chicken for dinner. It was their last pack of chicken.

Anthony sat in the living room listening to the TV blare music he had heard a million times in the cabs on his way home from school. On his coffee tablet there stood his mother’s only house decoration, a vase with dead roses on the inside of it.

Anthony looked at the vase and thought about what it would be like to create them. He wondered about how long it would take to make such an item. 

He began scrolling on his phone about the process of making vases. He wanted to learn ceramics and thought that it would be cool if he could meet a glass blower. After watching YouTube videos about glassblowing he was convinced that he should try it. 

Anthony wasn’t a punk but he wasn’t stupid either, he was too scared to tell anyone else about his new idea to anyone in his neighborhood in fear that people would laugh at him. He could hear just what they would say running through his skull, “Stupid ass, who the fuck do you know make vases?”

In his room, he was thinking about the many people he knew of that were creative. That list was small. It was filled with Soundcloud rappers and girls who did hair in the neighborhood. That was close to creativity as he was getting. But then, it occurred to him that there was a trash man that everyone hated.

People hated this trash man because he was “weird.” Some kids thought that he did dope, others were spooked by the things that he wore, while some adults had rumors spread about him being a rapist that lives astray from society. It was all kind of talk about this trash man, but one things was for sure, the trash man had all kind of trash, including glass vases. He knew that his best luck was to start with him.

The old trash man hung around the corner from his small two bedroom apartment in New York, he was named Greg. He had long grey wooly locs, a tattered black pair of pants that looked like an old pair of Dickies, a ripped white t-shirt, and some old beat around converses that had holes in them. He was a recluse to the rest of the black community in Brooklyn. 

Anthony went to meet Greg the next afternoon. At first, he was a bit nervous to talk to the homeless man, but then he suck it up and knew it was what he had to do in order to find the information that he needed. He approached the guy slowly, as not to cause any worry, and then said, “People always call you weird, but you might have some information for me.”

“Oh yea?” He was in the process of lighting a cigar and after an exhale he stated, “What might that be?” 

“I want to find someone who makes vases.”

“Somebody who makes vases?” The trash man belched out a laugh, “Boy, you better take ya black ass back home talking about make some damn vases.” His laughter was roaring, on and on, as if it was the best joke since the last open mic night.

The comedic relief made Anthony’s face drop, “I.. I really can’t. I know you know somebody, all you ever fucking do is walk around.” 

The man stopped laughing after realizing he stepped on some toes, “I’m just playing with you, with ya sensitive ass. I know a guy; it’ll cost ya something though.”

“What’s that?”

The guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a round piece of aluminum foil, “You have to sell this rock for me.” There was a kind of genuine sincerity in his eyes. 

Anthony, staring back him said, “Mane, I ain’t doing that!” He snapped at the man, slapped the foil out of the man’s hands and folded up his arms.

Greg fell out laughing again, “You really are a stupid ass. It got my old hot dog from earlier in it.” He kept laughing, “Boy, let’s go. I ain’t got no damn rocks for ya to sell, but we can get those vases, witya stupid ass.” He grabbed his shoulder and began to direct his body.

They walked beside each other for a little while, it was around a few corners and past a couple of houses when they were making their way towards a warehouse. This place was old but not quite abandoned even though it had boarded up windows. The garage door was open and on the inside you could feel intense heat although it was only early Spring outside.

There, on the inside, was another man who was blowing glass, his name was Rafael. He was a spanish, had a family, and was an acquaintance of Greg. “Meet Raffy. Raffy this is…”

Anthony outstretched his arm, “Ant.”

“Ant… is that uh, short for Anthony?” His spanish accent was thick and the boy nodded, “That’s what I’ll call you. What can I do for you?”

“Can you teach me how to blow glass?”

“What the fuck? Greg, what kind of piece of shit is this?” Raphael began to die laughing at the kid.

“Raffy. The boy’s not kidding ya, he just wants to make some money.”

“Tell’em to sell weed.”

“Nah, the kid has a good head on his shoulders.” Greg patted Anthony’s shoulder and then smiled. Meeting eye to eye with Raphael he could sense the approval that was coming.

“Whatever, watch me, kid.”

Raphael demonstrated the first time just how to twirl the glass around the metal prong that was well hot with sparks and fire. His face was scrunched tightly as the steam of glass rose. Sweat started to drop down his forehead and after he created a simple vase he allowed it to cool off into the form.

“It’s that easy?” the boy felt a sense of bewilderment coming over him.

“It is. Try it.”

Anthony sat on a bench in front of the kiln and began to make his first glass vase. He realized that he had to move faster than what he anticipated. He was a bit nervous because it was so hot from being out of the fire and was in fear of burning himself. When he was done he was proud to see how well he could do it on the first go. Gregory began clapping his hands, “A natural.” His thick black lips created a mucky smile from all the weed he smoked.

“Thank you.”

“Yea, you are a natural. You really want to sell vases?” Raffy was a bit confused. “You seem too smart for that. You going to college?”

“I just want to sell vases for now, but college will be later if I can make enough.”

“Alright, well I’ll teach you the ropes.”

Anthony came back home late that night after meeting with Raffy and making a total of fifteen more vases to set up a table with on the side of the street. He was always being made fun of for being different but he was sure that this would be that one time which would probably kill the small bit of confidence that he felt. He was excited, but more than that, he felt good to know that he wouldn’t have to work for anyone else.

His mother woke up early the next morning and was getting ready for work. She stopped dead in her tracks when she looked at Anthony and noticed the clothes he was wearing, “Boy, where you going lookin’ like you about to move trash?”

“I’m going to work.”

“Oh baby, you got a job! Where at?”

“Ma, I’m going to sell vases.”

“Sell vases?” She shook her head with her purse by her side moving closer to the front door of their apartment, “Boy, you a liar. You ain’t selling no damn vases, you best not to be in the streets selling drugs. I hope that’s not what you’re saying to me, ya dumbass!” She was mad at him, infuriated, and couldn’t believe that such words were coming out of his mouth.

“Ma, no!” His tone had risen because he was defensive, “I really am.”

“I don’t care what the hell you sell, it just better get taxed, that’s all I know.” She slammed the door behind her as she made her way to her job.

He shook his head feeling dismayed, with his face in his palms he began to think and think to himself. It became clear that his day was already doomed, but it didn’t stop him from setting up a small table not too far from his home with all of his glasses on it.

Anthony spent an entire day on the sidewalk trying to convince the people of New York to buy his work. There were many who walked passed and didn’t buy a thing, or take to to look at his stand. In fact, he got so many, fuck you’s, that he started to think he was in the wrong business.

The white man from the interview walked past his stand and stopped to look at him square in the face, “Where do I know you from?”

“You interviewed me.” He looked the man dead in the eyes, remembering the opportunity that he needed, desperately.

“Oh, right, Mr. Grey?”

Humbly, he answered, “Yes. Anthony.”

“I’m sorry we didn’t call you back.” Although, the man didn’t seem to look apologetic.

“People like you are the reason that my people have to make illegal money.”

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