The International Writers Magazine:New York Stories
It’s the Vernal Equinox in Manhattan. Purple shadows stick to everything in sight as the sun sinks at the far edge of West 42nd Street. “Shorty” Walker wobbles forward and back trying to escape from his shadow, but sinks right back into it, like an animal trapped in a tar pit.
Walker arches his back to prevent from falling over. His toes strain inside his shoes, like an infant learning to balance the weight of its upright body. He reaches into his coat pocket, pulls out a brown paper bag, peels it open, and takes a long drink from the bottle inside it. His shadow waits patiently while Walker stops to swallow.
“Sun looks weird gone behind them buildings,” mutters a large woman sitting on a bench at the periphery of Bryant Park. Her voice is high and pitchy like that of an infant trying to get its mother’s attention; annoying and unexpected, coming from a human being weighing roughly three-hundred pounds. The woman’s hulking body melts onto the park bench like a stack of cheese-wheels left under the scorching sun. Her head, a blubbery ball spewing sweat into the folds of her neck, flowing like a melting candle. Her eyes, nose, and mouth are barely suggested by the folds of fat that make up most of her face. Her forehead starts at the bridge of her nose and continues on until it reaches the back of her head.
Walker replies without looking at the woman: “The sun’s not just ‘going down,’ you have to look at the whole spectacle, my friend,” remarks Walker, tracing an arc in the air with the slow sweeping motion of his extended arm. The sleeve of his wrinkled jacket slides down to reveal a pale, scrawny appendage that ends where the paper sack begins. Walker shakes the paper sack from side-to-side, wipes the lip of the bottle inside it with the palm of his hand; brings it up to his mouth, and takes another long drink.
The stout woman’s pinkish tongue instinctively licks her fat lips watching Walker’s adam’s apple slide up and down. Her eyes protrude out of their fleshy casings like a tree-frog eyeballing an insect. She looks up at Walker from her promontory, using her chubby hand as a visor to shield her eyes from the last rays of the deflated sun. “I’d say the sun’s gone behind them buildings to take a dump,” mutters the large woman, shrugging her shoulders dismissively and making grunting noises that pass for laughter.
“No, no, no, that’s not what I’m saying” Walker blurts out impatiently, stretching his neck like a chicken reaching out for a fat worm, and shaking it from side-to-side before swallowing it whole. “Listen, listen,” Walker commands the woman, cupping his hand over his right ear and pointing his index finger at the woman, while keeping a strong grip on the bottle inside the paper sack:
“The silhouetted pre-war buildings rip a sliver of sky with their jagged edges as the moribund sun bleeds, and splashes its blood on the street and empty sidewalks. Tail-lights glow like cinders from a smoldering fire, while a solitary cyclist drags his long, heavy shadow towards the vanishing horizon...” Shorty Walker finishes with a slight slur in his speech. See? that’s how it’s done,” shouts Walker, moving his body like a prize fighter, punching the at the air with his fists. “That’s how it’s done,” he repeats, then bows as a magician on stage performing a magic trick.
“Shiiiiet... I guess” half-concedes the husky woman. “You some kinda poet, man?” she asks Walker while pulling down her right-eyelid with her middle finger. “I mean,” she remarks with levity, “sliver of sky?” kinda shit’s that? “sounds phony, dude” she adds, sinking her fingers into her flabby chest. “Gotta give it you though... I like the ‘bleeding sun’ shit. Your mama teach you that fancy talkin’ man?”
Walker feels challenged. Lifting his chin in the air and stretching his neck like a peacock flaunting its feathers, he fills his lungs to capacity before announcing:
“I, madam, am a writer.”
“A writer, that a fact? Yeah? asks the fat woman, arching the muscles on her face where there should be eyebrows. “Made any pichures? Mr. writer? she asks with her blubbery head bobbing. The screeching sound of the woman’s voice, with its mocking inflection, makes Walker’s pale skin crawl. Walker’s skin is a pale veil covering a thin frame. His face is creased by furrows, and dotted with ruddy blood vessels crisscrossing his cheekbones and forehead like grain on fine-leather. It hangs on his bulbous head like a mask on a Mardi Gras reveler, with a pair of large black eyes moving inside their sockets like two magic 8-balls divining his fortune.
Walker shifts his gaze to the paper sack dangling from his right hand before replying with prickly pride: “I’m not a movie whore, I write literature.” He objects while pounding his fist on his chest. After a pause, Walker peels off the brown bag to reveal a half-empty bottle of Chivas Regal, its piss-color contents flares when a stray ray of sunlight filters through it. “I have to get something published.” Walker admits inhaling and exhaling deeply, “you know,?” that’s how it all starts. “I need to be discovered,” he mutters as he takes another drink and exhales letting out heavy sigh.
“Discooooovered.. riiiight,” says the heavy woman eyeballing the swishing liquid inside the bottle.
“Here” says Walker, “have swig,” swinging the bottle towards the thirsty woman’s hands. The gargantuan woman eagerly grabs the bottle by its neck with her fat right hand while cradling its bottom with the palm of her left. The liquor dances inside bottle as it exchanges hands. “Fancy shit, ” she whispers checking out the label. “I thought you said you was a starving artist and shit?” She mutters rhetorically, holding the bottle between her gooey fingers then rolling her head back taking a generous mouthful of the glittering hooch.
“This good shit, man,” murmurs the obese woman making clicking sounds with her tongue. She wipes her lips, and then the mouth of the bottle with her dirty sleeve.
“Name’s Tiny,” she mutters, extending a flipper of an appendage towards Walker.
“You don’t look so tiny,” says Walker reaching over the woman’s bulging abdomen to grip the doughy digits of her right hand. “I’m Johnnie Walker, friends and enemies call me ‘shorty,” he says letting go the doughy fingers. “You ain’t look so short ayther,” mutters Tiny, her large body undulating like Jello. Walker’s head moves up and down as his eyes follow the fat woman’s movements. He feels a certain closeness with the woman after sharing the bottle with her.
Tiny wears a pair of laceless canvas shoes that barely hold the flesh inside them. They’re black from filth rather than original color. In contrast, Shorty’s feet neatly disappear inside his white patent-leather loafers.
“Can I tell you a quick story?” asks the lean Walker turning quickly on his heels. Before the woman has a chance to answer, Walker parks his rear end on the narrow space of bench next to the whale-of-a-woman. Walker’s bones creak inside his skin like dice hitting the sidewalk. His thin body fits snuggly between Tiny and two cardboard boxes filled with unnecessary trinkets the big woman had collected around the park. Tiny turns her head like an owl, her eyes widening and eyebrow muscles arching. She’s still cuddling the bottle of Chivas Regal between her fleshy arms like a raptor protecting her freshly caught prey.
“Ain’t no need to story me man, I got stories of my own,” mutters Tiny trying to prevent any further closeness with the insistent man. “Just ‘cause yo sharing yer here liquer don’t mean we close, dude.” Tiny’s body jiggles as she attempts to put an inch or two of distance between herself and Walker. She still sounds like a blubbering infant when she talks, her shrill voice continues to make Walker’s skin crawl, but the effect of the alcohol has dulled Walker’s need to be comfortable. Walker feels the wind buffeting his face but it’s neither warm nor cold. His senses are practically those of a corpse. Like a dead man in some sort of purgatory Walker watches the world spin around him. Bodies parade in front of his eyes, but his eyes only detect blurs of red, and blue, that fade faster and faster as he settles in his stupor.
The sun has completely sunk beneath West 42nd. The only signs of its existence are bleeding rays of light reflected in a distant sky as asters of decaying light enveloping the few clouds visible between the black buildings. Walker’s attention remains focused on Tiny’s inadequate shoes. In fact, he’s been staring at the amount of flesh spilling over the side of her dirty canvas shoes. He’s unable to recall his destination. Sitting on a park bench with a whale-of-a-woman seems the right thing to do at the time. Perhaps it is his destiny.
Walker lifts his head slowly shifting his gaze to Tiny’s barely discernible eyes inside the slits of fat. With a deep sigh he lets his chin collapse onto his chest; then finally, he’s able to focus his blurry eyes on the Woman’s face. Walker’s head weighs a ton on his shoulders.
“What’s your name, then? Walker blurts out like he had just noticed Tiny sitting next to him. His eyelids blink in slow motion fighting gravity with each move. The whites of his glassy eyes are red as the distant sky. “I’m a writer, you know,” he lets out. “I’ve got Literature,” he says, talking as if he were at a revival meeting: “There are few men of letters anymore, you see, and I’m one of the few remaining men of letters.” His words are glued together one on top of the other: “There’s just few men like me left you know, what they call the intelligentsia, mind you.” “Intelligentsia,” he repeats condescendingly, “those of us who care about language and the mysteries of literature, am talking no trashy novels, or romance paperbacks that people read in the subways, no ma’am, that’s not what am talking about, I mean the good word....”
“Good Word my ass, you blasfeemur,” Tiny erupts, interrupting Walker’s rant. Her voice speeds past Walker like an out-of-service train rushing through stations, escaping Central Station ignoring man and woman alike.
The blubber from beneath Tiny’s right arm jiggles back and forth as she lifts and slides it purposely inside the opening of her large blouse. Skillfully she undoes two buttons of the mangy blouse with her chubby fingers, then roots inside her large bosom slowly, and pulls a black book the size of a small paperback with gold stamped letters on the cover spelling out: Holy Bible. “Here’s Da Word,” she shouts shaking the sacred book in front of Walker’s face. Walker had been staring at the machinations of the giant being, his eyes squeezing out of their sockets like a fish’s on the butcher’s table. Tiny sets the Chivas bottle down, holds the Bible and starts thumping on its cover with her chubby palm, causing her entire body to jiggle like a giant bowl of Jell-O. She holds the Book up high and starts to belt out a Hymn:
“The light that shines in darkest night comes from the cross of Jaysus Chraiss
em no eye has seen no ear had heard save Jaysus Chraiss the Father’s Word
So come, one and all bow..bow..bow..bow, before the Lamb of God....”
A small contingency of onlookers had formed in front of the odd couple. Two young males wearing matching undershirts, crooked baseball caps, and pants large enough to fit a cow inside them lingered on after the others left. Both spoke the language of the urban youth. Their upper body, arms and neck, covered with tattoos of glyphs and dragons.
“Nice girlfriend muddafuckah,” said the younger one mockingly to Walker.
Shorty Walker was sitting next to Tiny with one of his skinny legs crossed over the other trying to squeeze into the small space left in the bench between him and Tiny’s giant body. His white patent leather loafers reflected the light from one of the nearby lamp- posts, its light cut a semi-circular space from the ragged shadows.
“Betcha she can squeeze your whole damn body up her asshole,” the darker of the two blurted as his body swayed from side to side, his right arm sliding down his pants down to his crotch. He gestured rhythmically with his tattooed fingers while he bit his lower lip with teeth adorned with a gold cap tooth.
“Maricon,” shouted the young one, nearly touching the ground with one his knees as he moved closer to where Tiny and Walker sat frozen.
Instinctively, Shorty Walker felt the need to confront the strangers. It was his manly duty to defend his honor. The hard ground met the sole of his white patent leather loafer as he uncrossed his legs. The thin skin on both his hands stretched, as his fingers slowly shrank inwards. The veins crisscrossing his face bulged like the full net of a fisherman’s catch. He felt a fire burning inside his chest. He drew a deep breath into his lungs to lunge at the mocking strangers. His strength came straight from the bottle of Chivas Rigal. Just as his weak leg muscles pushed his body upwards, a powerful arm overtook him and jerked his body down into a sudden darkness.
Tiny grabbed Walker by the neck and buried his head, and nearly his entire body into the folds of her giant belly. The scent of human sweat went up Walker’s nostrils nearly suffocating him. He tried to get from under the tremendous force that pinned him down, but all efforts were in vain. From time to time the sound of taunts and insults form the hoodlums penetrated the constricting folds of the woman’s blubbery abdomen and reached Walker’s ears. Walker felt the heat of anger in his chest but could not free himself to act upon it. Tiny with the strength of a Minotaur had Walker pinned down against her belly and would not let him go.
The last thing Walker remembers was a muffled blast and the familiar smell of fireworks. The warmth of a slow flowing liquid trickled down his face. The pressure bearing down on him subsided. He rose up quickly and felt his head, his face, his neck, his chest, his arms. He was fine. His hands, however, were stained with purple liquid that stuck to everything he touched. A bolt of lightning hit his brain when he saw Tiny’s head: a blubbery ball spewing blood into the folds of her neck, flowing like a melting candle.
© Oswaldo Jimenez November 2011