An out-of-work adman named Daniel awickened from befogged sleep in the bright March sun of mid-morning. There was much to be done.
He reeled the news quickly while throwing on a shirt. Dolphins had been spotted in the East River. The spokesman for Al-Qaeda had been nabbed. American. The book of faces unspooled in a tickertape of whispers.
There was much to be done. There was the matter of the check. The check was late. A month late. Could it not find him? A dusty mound of mail bouldered like dung upon the mud-grunged stairwell. He read through the cellophaned windows – jury duty, unpaid child support, a Health & Sanitation notice stamped IMMEDIATE – all for skipped-out tenants of the crumbling loft. Yes; no. A telephone bill. The shakes––
Daniel fell through the deathtrap stairs to his South Bronx street. Broken glass. Heftys. Rotting matter. A Velocity speeder was parked there For sale: $200 next to a discarded flyer for “Optimum Online: Connect Faster!” He had to make for the P.O.
He trudged in overcoat to the 4/5. Ten blocks to the P.O. – the warehouses and body shops swifted through his eyelids –– Subway. Steps. Mail. Check.
On shhheeegush getoff but where––
The train should have popped him to Grand Concourse, as it had a hundred times before. But there he was, in the Hub. Bewildering streams, triangulations, the Big Market. Hello Mickey D's, nice to smile that emoticon. iMap no sense. Daniel asked. African accent. Point. Point. Yes, thanks.
He walked down. No, that's not it.
Check STOP food stop. STOP STOP STOP.
A grilled-cheese sandwich and chicken-noodle soup and Daniel was more discursive. Ask. Yes. Answer. Thanks. The map composed. He reversed down the avenue, up the stairs, between the columns, behind the WPA mural.
Key: yes. Box 2…269. Check. No check. Guess it's a day on credit. The universe balances. 2nd Law. Entropy. Eye L8 U lulu L8 moebius ourobouros.
Back in the loft the pup, Panda, had pissed on the papers but shat on the carpet. It became a hockeypuck on his heel. Alley the mewler eyed him like a grasping thing. Tried to sit on head. Claws sharp. Skullburrow. Doesn't know own strength.
Door. Alice had arrived, was lying on the bed. Marilynathena. Daniel said
–– My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun, but her hair arcs upon the pillow like solar flares.
She rose to him, fitted her coat.
–– Fur? They'll paint you, he said.
–– Fake, she said, smiling. Are we headed to the verge?
–– Yes, he said, that there's Work, man, but first brunch. A portmanteau to begin the day.
Pants shirt sweater–– pants, pants. Shooz. Keys pad phone pen hat. Hat? hat o hat hat. Hat.
Grinding open the steel door, they blundered out full tilt to an NYPD fourbyfour. Copper checking the mailhole of the adjacent. Headlights on. I.C.U.
–– They couldn't have, he whispered to Alice. Did they?
–– You're paranoid, Alice said.
They walked in silence and sun past the chainlink and doberman toothgrowl.
–– Hey, Dee! called José from the tire palace.
Hiya, howdo, doffhat. Saved his cat one latenight, Daniel mentioned to Alice.
Silence and sun to the subway. New card. That's another hundred in the hole.
–– I need a new card too, Alice said. Can't wait 'till I can get a monthpass.
–– Soon, soon, Daniel said. We'll make it soon.
In the subway an express 4 slipped past on the middle track, slowing.
–– You need to go uptown to go downtown, the conductor called from the window.
Echoing arghs the army marched up and over. A minute passed. Then, squeals from the downtown track they'd just occupied. Shit! The army charged, in retreat, back across the bridge. Clamoring treads and a Blackberry skittered across the concrete. Daniel picked it up and tried to hand it to a nearby runningwoman.
–– Not mine!
Daniel placed the PDA carefully on the stairhead, not knowing what else to do, grabbed Alice's hand, dashed.
At the Midnight Express on 89th, all greenyellow and clocks to New York, London, Athens, Daniel whispered about the Chinese agent. Pictographs. Parables. The babelfish can do haiku, but it can't search the satire.
He looked over. Curious, same. Open coat, zipped top black. Could he? No. Paper. Reading. Daily?
–– You're paranoid, Alice said.
Daniel and Alice three-sixtied the Grand Central clock spinning, and the reverse Zodiac above, congregating in the exegesis. Burst into bright, to the Dylan. Look, Daniel said, it was once the Chemists' Club. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
They wandered from studio to atelier. Beings leapt and held in grace. On the second-floor landing of the grand staircase, a junkyard draped itself over a wine armoire in the pink – rosé – junk mattress sneakers windowfans blowing, dot-matrix spilling from a disused oven. Search and desttt–rebuild. Satori, to the front room fuse. City of one. Royhand coathangers, spike through the palm, I've seen things.
There was a party, a party within a party, a party within a party party. It was said to be at the Penthouse 12th. But the Dylan goes to 15. They ascended; lost, squirreled. Waited. Waited for the elevator. Waited. God-– oh! Bing. bring it back down a few floors. Safe.
They mingled, like Allen's moose.
–– I feel like an insurance salesman, Daniel whispered. Like a used-car hawker.
–– Shh. Smile. By the records the model hangs desultory. Dance.
Rock the casbah, rock the casbah. Sharia don't like it. Rock––
–– This song's in the mix, said Daniel to the tall grishair jamming it. I just heard this last night, at a curated karaoke.
–– Curated? Where? We gotta get in on this, Francisco.
–– Bruckner. The next is when Chaucer gets lucky in the Wasteland. What's your name?
–– Call me an Athenian. This is the Franciscan.
Daniel, Alice, the Athenian and the Franciscan sat on the sofa and Daniel roared to the Franciscan how the daily weaves it, and how the gothamist unweaves. Too much? Not enough? They were gone. I have no buttons, Daniel thought, no. Buttons. Be kind. Zip.
They wandered into the suite bedroom. Above the king-size, is that?
–– The? Lips
–– Man. Ray.
–– The same -–
Home. Home. Applehome twintree home. Lips.
–– Yes, but not yet, Daniel said. I fancy seeing the islands for dinner and dessert. The Harvale Club? It's right around the corner.
–– Are we dressed? she asked.
–– We're cool, he said.
Alice and Daniel gusted through the foyer and stepped up through another grand staircase to the Library, twenty-foot portraits of presidents Copperfield and Brush on the wall in the silent white chamber. They coasted alimentarily to the Grill, and sat down at a table.
–– Your hat!, Alice said.
–– Oh yes, sorry, Daniel said ––
and they feasted on soft intriguing cheeses and fine roast chicken, almost alone in the great Grill Hall of a Saturday night.
–– One more drink? he asked.
–– To the bar we go! she said.
Daniel and Alice sat down next to a smartly-dressed young man of tawny skin and flashing teeth, who was talking to a grad-school bartender. They looked at the cocktail menu. Crimson Manhattans and True Blues swung to view, Purple People Eaters and a blend of Chartreuse and lime called The Last Word. Daniel and Alice ordered martinis. Bombay. No, not Sapphire. Lemon twist.
–– Superb, Daniel said to the barman. We had an interesting drink at my school ––
–– What's that, asked the young tawny gentleman with the flashing teeth.
–– A pan-galactic gargle blaster, Daniel said, remembering the curaçao tint of ten shots in an Imperial pint glass. I had one. Once.
–– Where did you go?
–– Amid the buried, Daniel said.
–– Bologna, Alice said. He's embarrassed. So what do you do, Alice asked the young gentleman with the flashing teeth.
He worked in something money and meta. Interesting, Daniel said.
The gentleman and the bartender spoke in Presidents as Daniel and Alice turned toward the t.v., tuned up to a college football game. Daniel and Alice talked, their voices competing with the gridiron.
–– I remember when I was a cheerleader at State, Alice said, hourglassing it in sun mane. That was fucked up!
Shh says bartender shh no shh.
Too late. Materializing from a table far in the back, an elderly man appeared before them. White moustache. Your voice, he said, could be heard all over the place!
–– We're sorry, said Daniel.
–– I must use the restroom, said Alice.
The elderly gentleman returned to his table.
Daniel sat in whatfought. Yes, it was time. He got up, and walked over to the table of the elderly gentleman. He knelt down before him. He felt lucky. He said
–– Excuse me, sir. The young lady you just spoke to is my wife. And a doctor of this esteemed institution, in theoretical physics. She once taught me that as you look upon something distant and old and growing moreso, you see redshift. Soon, to the infrared, heat and no light. So too a star. It inflates red giant, then shrinks to white dwarf. Phasechange in superdensity it's a black hole, spiralling in other stars, gravity no light, only jets of radiation. So I kindly ask you to show her some respect. Extremes meet. And you never know who's in this Club.
And Daniel went back to the bar, chewing a pimento olive.