Sandy, she says, “I haven’t felt this way since 1993,” as she arranges her blowsy grey wig in the wind. “I love the craggy grandeur of this godawful place…as long as I keep a polite distance from it. I can’t even get you to be in my dreams anymore.”
She glides and smooths her hands across the stone of six florid Corinthian columns that run along the sidewalk beneath the old Stock Exchange Building’s peaked crown. She closes her eyes and dreams of the terraced receding stories of ziggurats somewhere anciently up above, and her mind floats her over all those Renaissance palazzo-styled downtown buildings with their corny Beaux-Arts facades and their ornamental crests and palmette acroteria: so many strange, old things lost to the hasty temperament of the times. She dreams in pastels of marmalade windows with saffron-icing sills. She dreams, and then she does not.
If someone were to ask about her appearance, she’d tell them, “I got this flimsy tiara at a 99-Cents store in Vegas. It suits most of my occasions, with the occasional flute of champagne. These eyeglasses are broken in five places, and my heart’s in about the same shape. And this teal dress with the ruffles? Don’t ask me about this teal dress. Nobody likes the things that I like enough for my liking. I’m hiding my face from the present.”
“My biggest fan,” she sighs as the ambulance sirens scream incoherent ululations through the patchwork of her rarest sensibilities.
“I’m going to have to disrespectfully disagree.”
It was a man called Salinger. He screwed up his face like a tourniquet on his personality. It wasn’t an easy thing to ignore, but she did. She scanned the surroundings and stayed bottled up.
The city was just blocks of pavement, cement on the horizon, adornments and artificial lights, dirt and grass and weeds covered by manmade things. Sandy gestured towards this thought with a hint of a forearm’s shiver. It didn’t matter. The man called Salinger was not going anywhere. His hair was silver gelatin, slicked-back and stiff. Dangling rakishly in his bony fingers was a telescoped pork pie hat. She tried to make some necessary conversation.
“Why are you invading my newsfeed? Huh?”
“Hello. This is a man called Salinger. I have come to take you away from all of this. With me you will flourish as I watch TV and make small inroads on my typewriter into the lives of imaginary people. I cannot sit in one place for too long without my back aching. My stories grow shorter and shorter. Run away with me, please.”
“Tomorrow’s the day, huh?”
“You seem to be stuck on that tag query. Huh?”
Sandy ducked the staid inquisitional jab with some spit and a nonchalant scratch at her scalp. “We’re all training for a life that’ll probably never come anyway.” She wiped away her spit stain on the sidewalk with a stiff scrape of her boot, wishing for dust where there was none. “I’m bad. Real bad. And I’m not changing anytime soon. Not for no man.”
“Be daring. Be dangerous. You’ve never seen a damn thing close to quite like me in your whole entire life, kid. And you never will.”
“Pssssssshaw. You? You’re just another idiot with his necktie strangling his good sense. Pshaaaw, I said! Piss Shaw!!”
“George Bernard and the horrible lord above. To them? Sure. Let’s make some surer dives into the all this casing of the promised land. We’re tasters at best. Sippers of oblivion. Strays marooned in a lonely alley. Run away with me?”
“Only in slippers, if, and only if, Skeptical runs into Cynical at the corner of Never and Sure. You better not bet on what it’ll all make me do, or don’t. ”
“Is that a maybe?”
“Your song’s old and boring, and I’m all sung out.” She flipped up a middle finger at where the man called Salinger seemed to be standing, or lurking, as it were. “Hitch a ride on this, and spin. You’re about to have a sale of the going-out-of-business type. And soon’ll be too late for it. Besides, this is the part where Franny makes her exultant exit.”
Sandy ran away. She just turned and fled the scene. The man called Salinger was pointing a pistol her way. Inconsiderately, he shouted, “Happiness is a terrible drug, Sugar! We are all out of time and our minds!”, before firing into the void and in her general direction. And he fired and he fired and he fired until all the bullets ran out.