Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Where Are They Now?

Ken was a cool kid, a jock. He had a nonchalant bearing that I envied, that I knew I could never replicate. It’s as if he was incapable of ever appearing awkward, and yet was utterly unconcerned with not appearing awkward. These paradoxical characteristics were not in tension. They potentiated each other.

To this day when I’m in the kitchen late at night, all alone, trying to wrestle the recycling bag full of old newspapers out of the plastic can, and failing miserably, instead lifting both the stuck bag and the can by the drawstrings of the bag, I think to myself: Ken would never look like this.

One day in science class we were all sitting cross-legged on our tables to view a demonstration Mr. Pinkston was giving of a dissected frog. Except for Ken. He was lying flat on his back.

Mr. Pinkston had been a military man and liked to bark like a drill sergeant.

“Ken!” he shouted.

Ken lifted his head drowsily and rested on his elbows, a little sheepish. Somehow this flash of self-consciousness did not appear self-conscious. It appeared calculated—and it appeared not calculated at all.

Mr. Pinkston asked Ken what part of the frog’s anatomy we were presently discussing and by some miracle, or obviously, Ken provided the correct response.

“It seems to me, Ken,” Mr. Pinkston declared, “that you do some of your best thinking in the reclining position.”

We all laughed. Ken laughed. I laughed. All I could think was: Did Mr. Pinkston just make a joke about Ken getting laid? We were twelve years old, maybe thirteen. But if anyone was getting laid it was Ken.

Some time later Mr. Pinkston was fired for groping a student.

Ken spent the rest of his life skiing in a rich and secluded Rocky Mountain resort town.

Or so I heard.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Enterprise - 57

It took me hundreds of elevator trips to realize. I’d share a ride up with a dad and his twelve-year-old son, wide-eyed, beside himself with anticipation. The door would open on the third floor and the boy would race into what appeared to be a harshly lit, rundown showroom. I’d glimpse paunchy men in their fifties chatting up customers over display cases that ran along the perimeter. I perceived the scene as less than ordinary. I was on my way to the floor above.

Finally I heard the word. Don’t you know what that is down there? No. That place downstairs? It’s a magic shop.

Turns out people came from all over the world to see the place. It was one of those old-timey New York things that you can’t believe is still around, like the watch repair guys above Grand Central, the bric-a-brac dealers on Canal, the peking duck places with the white tablecloths. And yet there it was the whole time, unchanged since 1937 or 1951 or whenever the fuck. Same old magic guys shooting the shit with each other, blowing kids’ minds with the same old tricks.

We went down there one time to have a look around, me and Steve and a couple others. It was exactly what you’d expect it to be. A place where you could buy a pop-out snake or a top hat with a false bottom. It was utterly unmysterious.

I had a feeling it would be there long after we were gone.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Enterprise - 56

In my dream Bill was still in charge of the office out west, all these years later. The place was dilapidated now, the chairs ratty, computer parts and cables disordered everywhere.

But he was still running the Product. And some of the French guys were still around, tweaking the algorithms. Their determination was poignant—heroic, even. Still there was no plan. No viable path to profitability. But there was hope.

And I wanted to help. I wished I could help.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The requisite guys in windbreakers doing reports from the hurricane, the sea at night behind them, waves coming in ominously fast.

Breaking news.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

There was a young man seated on the bench in the middle of the Seventh Avenue platform, perfectly still, gazing in my direction. There was something on his forehead, a kind of starburst pattern radiating down. I thought it had to be makeup, a tattoo, something deliberate. As I approached I saw that it was blood—dark, drying, oozed from an unseen wound.

He made no sounds, not of pain nor anguish, nor anger, nor despair. An MTA employee stood guard beside him, also still, unconcerned, maybe just waiting for someone else to come. I glanced around for telltale objects—a weapon, debris, a skateboard. There was nothing.

What happened? I wondered as I walked away.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A man steps out of the post office into the rain and brusquely opens his umbrella.

The crossing guard stands in the middle of the avenue in his garish yellow rainsuit, doing nothing. Until the light’s about to change and he wanders to the corner yet again.