The Dead Man
It was dark. I know that.
Earlier that day I had shifted sides with my mother, as we walked Fifth Avenue, so that the aggressive traffic would hit me first and somehow save her. She was so very proud of my thoughtless move, for the very reason that it was thoughtless. She expected great things of me. The stoned taxi drivers understood I was first-timer to The City, probably some hick from the Gothic South or something. Which was true.
It was no game. By the second day I was saying ‘Ya’ instead of ‘yeah’ or ‘ye-as’, when I meant yes. Like in an elevator where there was a hop, is it hop?, dressed in red velvet but no funny hat asked ‘ground floor?’, I said ‘Ya’ and then stood thinking seriously about nothing in particular. The way an exiled Russian Prince might do if living in Paris and visiting New York on a lark.
Elevators are spooky because the people in them are never themselves. It’s like they’ve entered into a song and don’t know the words; just riding along with the melody until the door opens and they are released into themselves again. The door glid and I bowed not too deeply, in a spirit of exilation, in keeping with my station. I handed the good man a dollar and fled.
Just outside the door, beyond the reach of the doorman, who also needed a dollar, were two men in medium-caste suits selling red kazoos from a stolen, I guess, grocery cart, for a dollar each. I swear, everyone in New York needs a dollar! Like if you ask some passer “Is this here place open?”, they say ‘ya’, and then stand around a moment just in case. One of the men was alternately preaching; not too good, and playing the kazoo; which was pretty good, except he had a cough which the kazooing seemed to aggravate. The other man was sweating for a bath.
“I won’t lie to you!” Said the kazooer, “This man needs a drink! Pray for his soul! You sir!”
“Won’t you lend a dollar the cause? Look, a fine kazoo for your troubles.”
He then began the overture for Jesus Christ Super-Star on a big red one that featured a slide. Like a bone.
The strangest thing now, is that I don’t remember any other people that day except the dead guy we saw that night. The sidewalks are as clear to me as the bottom of any ashtray, and the crammed together stores were pretty much like the mid-way of a poor carnival which had decided to stay in town forever. I ducked into one and went through the Jazz section. I think I bought In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida as a punch out for a dollar. Then I went back to the Waldorf Astoria and flipped a nickel with my mother to see who would get to sleep in the bath-tub that night. Big-Daddy snored.