“I have to get back to work,” the sailor said.
“No way, you can’t go. It’s probably dangerous out there,” Jill said.
“Um…member of the Armed Forces, here.”
“OK,” I said. I could understand duty. Weren’t we all at work during what was possibly a major emergency? The show and the military must go on. “But we are sneaking you out the back. We don’t want to get rushed by tourists, again.”
41st St. was far quieter than 42nd St. had been. Mainly because it was dirtier and scarier and no tourists went there. Walking through the Houseman was like walking through a time warp, even on ordinary days. The packs of tourists and the cleanliness that Disney had brought to the city were out front. A quick trip through the building, and you were in a small parking lot with smelly garbage dumpsters. Chain link fencing topped by razor wire stood between you and deserted street. It was like the good old days, if you were annoyed by loud chatter and cheer, and I generally was.
Jonathan opened the gate for the sailor while the rest of us stood guard.
“Thanks for the pee. I really needed it.”
“Hey, you come right back here if you can’t made it to the river, OK? We’ll keep checking out front.” Moira had decided she liked the sailor.
“Sure thing. Thanks for that, too. Hey, my name is Trish. I don’t think I introduced myself. Maybe I’ll see you guys again.”
With that, she slipped out the gate and sprinted west.
“Let’s go check out front,” Jill said.
“She won’t be back this soon,” Mike said. “Her and her amazing tatas have to report to Uncle Sam.”
“It wouldn’t be a bad idea to see what is happening on the street,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Jonathan, “and somebody can tell me what the hell is going on. You’ve left me out.”
We all looked guiltily at Jonathan.
“Let’s go upstairs to my office.”
Jonathan’s office was on the fourth floor. It was called the second floor, but the loft of the theatre was the second and third floor, so the office was four stories up. Jonathan was the theatre’s manager. He had a desk and everything. There were windows in his office, and the height gave us a decent view of starting chaos.
Tourists still streamed below us on the street, but their movements were panicked now, like they saw a bathroom in the distance. Smoke billowed from somewhere uptown. To our left, helicopters rose from the ships on the river.
“How did you know all this was going to happen?,” Jonathan asked. “I mean, you knew in advance. It’s why you bought all that crap at Food Emporium. You were getting ready for a siege, and you didn’t tell me.”
“We didn’t really know, Jonathan. We were suspicious. We knew something was happening because Moira and I saw the giant bird attack the helicopter this morning, and then we saw that we were all being lied to. But, really, life could have gone on like normal. The government could have gone up there and taken care of the bird in a heartbeat, gone on acting like everybody who saw it was crazy. We would have been crazy people hiding in a theatre with a bunch of Spam.”
“Oooooh. You got Spam?,” Jonathan’s eyes widened with the thought of the guilty pleasure.
“You bet your ass we did,” Moira grinned.
We weren’t really comfortable at the window, so we went back to the claustrophobic, safer seeming green room. The TV was still on, but it wasn’t showing us news. It was showing us a Disney movie. The Lion King.
“Spam, anyone?,” Mike asked. “I see we have Turkey Spam for our little Jill.”
Hours later, we woke from our stupors on the various old furniture to the sound of the Emergency Broadcast System blaring from the TV.
“I never nap anywhere in the world but here,” Mike yawned and stretched.
“Well, we are a lazy people. We taught you to nap,” I said. Bethel yawned in my face from her position on my chest.
“It’s stress,” Jonathan said, “I work here, and I never nap. Ever. Until now. And it has to be the Spam, too. God knows what is in it.”
“You might be grateful for that Spam, before long,” I defended my Spam. “I also got a lot of tuna.”
“Where is Jill?,” asked Moira. “I see her damned cat, but I don’t see her.”
We set out through the theatre, calling for Jill. At first, it wasn’t a big deal, but it got scary fast. We finally found her upstairs in the office. The late afternoon sun cast her in silhouette.
“Jill? What are you doing up here by yourself? We were worried,” I scolded.
“I was watching for Trish. And I saw this.” She pointed out the window. We all gathered around her. Food Emporium was only the first several floors of the building across the street. The towers of Manhattan Plaza rose on either side. It was subsidized housing for actors, basically. While poor people in other neighborhoods languished in minimally appointed buildings, Manhattan Plaza residents enjoyed elevators, carpeted lobbies, a staff, and tennis courts. Right now, on the tennis court tucked between the towers, on the rooftop of Food Emporium, a giant bird sat on a nest made of nets and cardboard boxes. It picked with its beak at a weakly struggling police officer.