Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Nice Dance

Right in front of the Happy Luck grocery store, I hear a simultaneous gasp from several throats. Which conjures an instant crowd with a dozen pointing fingers. Then I see it for myself. I see a woman is twisting in the wind, doing her fatal dance.

We look on with fear and fascination, anticipating the sudden splatter. But, a curious thing happens. She is coming down in the slowest motion possible. It's like she's floating and slowly sinking, but her dress is billowed and rising as with a great force of rushing wind. Like she is falling slow to us, but at a normal speed to her. Meaning she must eventually reach the sidewalk and eventually must splatter, even though it's slow motion. Her bones would slowly jar and shatter and meat rend apart by degrees, eventually becoming bloody and disgusting. Unless we do something to stop it. We must get a net. A high pile of mattresses. Something! 
I single out a guy to tell him my idea, but he's on a cell phone already, calling 911 and suggesting the same thing. 

I stand. Nothing to do but wait. The woman has only dropped one story so far. I see her ebony hair, her scarlet dress, scarcely more. I dig for a smoke. Flat package tells me I'm out. Well - There seems to be plenty of time. I press to the store to snag a fresh pack. The Happy Luck clerk refuses to let me in.

"You come back," she says, refusing to take her eyes away from the spectacle in the sky. "You come back." 

I look around. I need a smoke. My eye search ends at Mac's Bar. Just when I start to go there I see people being jostled. Two men have emerged from the same building the woman fell out of, humping to get to Mac's. A truck of a man with the largest head I ever saw leads this weasel-like guy, roughing geeks who are not fast enough or who simply won't move. I fall in their wake.

"Take it easy," this fat lady says when the big guy plows her to the side. 

Thinking I am with the first two, she attempts to hit me with her hand bag. But there isn't room in the crowd to swing it. The weasel bumps another lady. 
"Get out of the way," he says without giving her a glance.

I chase these bums into the bar. I watch them order.

"Beer. Tap." 

The big one settles on the stool, like a grizzly bear.

The Weasel sits straight, looking at the door.

"Me, too," he says with a slight nasal tone. 

I order a beer and smokes. 

"Drink up," the weasel says. "I'll buy your next."

I realize he is talking to me. He slaps his glass down, missing the coaster. "Me and The Ball's celebrating," he says. 

"What for?" I ask. 

The Weasel smiles. He sees me dig in my pocket for my lighter. "Here." 

He lights my smoke. 

I pull a deep drag. "Thanks." 

The weasel takes up his drink. "Think nothing' of it." 

I knew by their demeanors, their cheesy suits, these punks were chiselers. I wondered what they were celebrating. The Weasel sits so straight his spine must be unbendable iron. 
His ice-blue eyes come out at me. I see a scar that cuts a line in his forehead, then stops after splitting an eyebrow.

"I didn't push her," he says. "The Ball didn't neither." 

My eyes widen. "You were there? You knew her?"

"She's my sister; also a junkie. She took a leap. That's it, isn't it, Ball?" 

The one known as The Ball gulps his beer. He slides his glass across the dull surfaced bar. 
"Another," he says.

The Ball hunches his shoulders. "She stiffed us," he says. 

"Yeah. The Ball would a killed her but she jumped."

The Weasel looks darkly into space a moment. He recovers, drinks more beer. 

The Ball amiably quaffs his second beer, his beach ball head looming over himself and the bar. His eyes are small, brutal, pig eyes. He could have drained a pitcher as easy.

I jump to my feet.

"What's your hurry. I was about to order you another beer."

"No thanks. I've got to be there. See how they save her."

"They won't. Say good-bye to Marie for me."

I feel slapped. "Don't say her name. I didn't need to know that!" 

"It's Marie M-----," the Weasel says, lifting his glass in a final toast. "Say good-bye for both of us." 

The Ball lifts his glass also. "Don't never stiff the Ninth Avenue boys."

I rush outside, see Marie dangling, like Joan of Arc, her doomed eyes on the crowd. Right now she is almost eye level. There is nothing under her but cold solid concrete. I rush a fireman, grab the front of his yellow jacket. He fends against me, slaps me off. 

"Where's the net?" I scream. " Why didn't you save her?" 

"Hey, we tried. There's a pile of life saving equipment here if you just look. But it was, like, somehow against nature to be able to put one there, I guess because it ain't possible to go get one in the time it takes to fall off a building." 

I look in her eyes as her head slowly sinks lower than mine. These eyes have the ice, just like her brother's, only more human. Her red lipstick is a mess. Her eyes have dark rings. Her nose is slightly hooked. I look back to see the Weasel standing just behind me. He walks up to his sister, nodding his head up and down.

"You always told me to take a leap. This time, it was your turn," he says.

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