Evening was falling in Little Aleppo, tumbling down the stairs and picking up speed along the fade to black. The light was golden and warm: what fancy people call crepuscular, what photographers call the golden hour. The air was pacific and so still that a cloud above Mt. Fortitude had not moved for two hours; locals were starting to develop theories about it.
There were swans lying in moistened ambush. Fathers buy shampoo. Parallel parking occurs, and sometimes well. Werewolfs are getting itchy. Three men are dying in St. Agatha’s, one who did not expect it. You can still get breakfast because you can always get breakfast. Fast cars cannot show off on the Main Drag, and they rev in frustration. A kid puts a cherry bomb in a mailbox. The shops put on their lights in no particular order. Apartments, too, and then houses. It’s best to avoid the police. A tall woman thinks about Mardi Gras. Teenagers pretend not to be frightened of adults, and vice versa. The first star of the night comes out. It’s white against purple, and it’s not a star. The first star is a planet. The first thing night tells you is a lie.
On Briar Street, a man named Galloway Unh prays for his mother to get better; on Vallejo Avenue, a woman named Myra Bettis prays for her mother to drop dead.
The pigeons watch everything, but don’t give a shit unless it involves food, and the clumsy. Some men have axes, and people get out of their way. Windows glow blue from the teevee, and married couples sit on stoops drinking tallboys of Arrow in paper bags. An old man known as Captain Halifax goes to the corner to buy an evening paper, but he’s twenty years too late. No one believes the sign on the bench that says “Wet Paint.” An eight-year-old boy has run away from home, and made it as far as the Victory Diner, where they fed him mac and cheese and called his parents. The news is on, and you won’t believe what this hero dog did.
The athletic teenagers are still at practice, and the rest of the kids are smoking dope, or joining bands, or homework. Muslims call other Muslims to prayer. Old habits are picked up again. The Salt Wharf has a greater variety of knots than anywhere in the world: rolling hitches, and cleat bows, and double-turned eights. Frye Fingers, a retired court bailiff, is dead in his apartment on Hilo Street and will not be discovered for five days. A duck is in the wrong place.
The tide was on a 17-day cycle, and the rains were on an 18-day cycle. When they met every 306 days, the neighborhood would celebrate.
The Town Fathers limp to their luxury cars in the parking lot of Town Hall, and people yell at them. People think they have the right to yell at the Town Fathers just because they have the right to yell at the Town Fathers. Luxury cars are soundproof. Sleeping children in rented strollers are wheeled out of Harper Zoo. Buskers are used to give directions: turn right at Accordion Jim.
Jayme Daguerre used to work at the Arrow brewery, but the forklift turned left when she thought it was going to turn right. Spine got pinched. Nerves got fucked. Insurance ran out. She’s got a room in the Hotel Synod now. Currently, there is pain. Soon there will be none. Her hands will stop shaking, and soon there will be none.
People are deciding whether to get ice cream, people are deciding whether to get drinks. At Harper College, there is a seminar on the Semiotics of Semaphore, and the grad students are eying each other up. Somewhere, there is anal sex. Deep fryers have been boiling for hours and hours. Fewer dance lessons are given than last year. The dearly departed are laid to rest on the Upside, and bodies get buried on the Downside, and babies are born whole and perfect. There is a permanent temporary autonomous zone in a loft; the half-naked are dancing to disco.
There is a building made of printing presses. The Cenotaph comes from there. Men have jammed crowbars in the machinery’s innards. Bomb threats have been called in, and real bombs planted silently. Protests outside. Very sarcastic letters. There have been hostage situations. The whole damn neighborhood is a hostage situation. Quiet now. Tomorrow’s newspaper doesn’t exist yet, but the machines have been greased and primed, and there will be news even if nothing happens.
Oenophiles discuss terroir; winos pool their change.
The 31 bus ran through up the Main Drag; it had not been attacked in a long time, and the driver was becoming suspicious. The firefighters switched to their evening hoses. The marquee on the movie theater didn’t tell the whole picture. The new shit was coming in Thursday. Squirrels squirreled.
On Gower Avenue, there are magazines. A man, a dog, a larger man. But mostly magazines. Papers, too, but they lined the sidewalk. Magazines received pride of place. Verticality is key for sales. Gower Avenue is glossy for a hundred yards. The show biz magazines have tits and abs and teeth and teeth. Sports magazines have uniforms and bikinis. News magazines have drawings that are dramatic, or piquant. Magazines dedicated to sewing mostly feature sweaters. Dailies, weeklies, monthlies, the irregular.
At the far end, far away from Omar and Angus and Sally Moon, there are various pornographies. Genitals against a white background, and tongues where tongues should not be. Big fat tits and veiny cocks. There are multiple insertions. The women cannot close their mouths, and the men sneer. Complicated underwear and taut hamstrings. The women have implausible names, and the men have ludicrous ones. Specific magazines that display fighting, or feeding, or feet. Men assaulting each other’s juicy assholes, and women fucking in their heels. They were not happy in their sex, but impressive. Proud hard-ons, and pussies adored. Teenagers would sidle up, and Omar would yell. They would skeedaddle, because teenagers are just as scared of adults as adults are of teenagers. The big tits would stay, along with the fat cocks and also the sewing magazines.
Evening was falling. It does that. You throw everything into your day, and evening comes around just as scheduled and there’s nothing you can do but give in and grab a drink and put a dollar on the Mother Mary. There was no news from the south, and life was up in the air as always in Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.