We ran like the wind with our broomsticks and our hamper full of Spam. It was absolutely primal. I, personally, felt a mild thrill. As we neared Holy Cross, Lynn dug in her heels to slow our mighty hamper and started chanting, “Slow down, slow down, slow down.”
“Slow down?,” I gasped, “we are nearly there.”
“Don’t double cross us, Cracky,” Moira warned, as we all slowed to a brisk walk.
“We don’t want to be so conspituous.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, we don’t want to be CONSPITUOUS,” said Moira.
“Listen, bitch, 42nd and 8th hasn’t been this scary since the early ’80s. We act like we don’t care so much about what is in this hamper, people might not snatch it away from us. At least not all of it.”
“Gotcha,” Mike panted, “don’t draw attention to ourselves.” He pointed at the madhouse pseudo-carnival on the other side of 8th Avenue.
42nd and 8th had always been a wild corner. Jill’s main beef with her apartment had been the constant din coming from the street. The traffic noise was bad, but the people noise was worse. Nights were loud, with drug dealers and prostitutes and theatre-goers galore, all laughing or yelling or fighting or screaming.
Mornings were actually louder than the nights. Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Sunday, Born Again Christian Evangelists set up sound systems and preached. Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, Black Israelites set up sound systems and preached. So every morning, Jill was awakened by either screaming rants about Jesus coming to fry sinners or screaming rants about somebody else coming (possibly in a flying saucer) to fry white assholes. If you held your ears and looked out of a window and down to the street, you’d see that everybody was in their own idea of Biblical dress.
Those old days were nothing compared to this. The creatures of the night and the creatures of the day were all out at the same time, but there were more of them than I’d ever seen at once, and they were wilder. I saw what I was positive were heads on pikes, but then I realized that they were the various puppets from the various Disney On Broadway shows. Music and preaching blared wildly from multiple sound systems. There were naked dancers of every sex, some of which I’d never seen before. Street food carts belched noxious smoke, and I wondered what they were serving, now that supply trucks weren’t coming into the city. It was a living, moving, throbbing neon engraving from a modern version of Dante’s Inferno.
We’d stopped moving without realizing it. We were staring, mouths agape, suddenly rube tourists in a town we’d been sure couldn’t shock us. “Let’s move along, kiddies. You are nearly home,” Lynn prodded.
Most of the action was across the avenue. There weren’t many people in front of Jill’s entrance, but there were some, and they looked mean. We casually rolled our hamper to the steps and commenced casually wrestling the awkward thing up them, grunting and moaning and cursing under our breath .
“Hey,” said one of the mean people. We casually froze. “Where the hell you going? You got something good in there?”
“Ah…rubbers,” Mike said. “Big load of rubbers. We just looted the drug store on 9th. The bitches inside been saying they won’t keep working without some new rubbers.”
“Those bitches,” said another mean person. “Think they so good they need new rubbers.”
“Indeed,” said Jonathan. “Some people are very hoity toity.”
“Hoity toity! Haha! I like that!,” enthused a third mean person, and he companionably slapped Jonathan on the back.
We took that as our signal to redouble our efforts to get the damned hamper up the steps and into the lobby. A final gut-busting effort, and the wheels were rolling on the tile floor, then rolling into the elevator, then rolling out of the elevator and straight for Jill’s apartment. I snatched my keys off my belt loop, where they always jingled on a climbing carabiner, and picked out the ones that fit Jill’s locks. I remembered Jill giving them to me so I could check in on Lexington while she was on tour, and I bit my lip. We rolled the hamper into the apartment and Trish whispered, “Does she have a roommate? Somebody is here.”