It’s always Saturday night, Sunday morning, or Tuesday afternoon in Little Aleppo, and what is New Year’s Eve but the King of All Saturday Nights? Impregnated with pressure and promise, and liminal–the space between this and that, then and now–New Year’s was a tense party up and down the Main Drag. No one wanted to let the new year down.
Certainly no one could sleep through it: Little Aleppians believed in blowing things up to celebrate the year’s changing. Usually fireworks, sometimes stolen munitions. One year, someone dropped a few pounds of raw potassium in Bell Lake; locals were deafened for blocks, and you’ve never seen swans so furious. All the dogs in Bhutantown were terrified.
(Little Aleppo has the only Bhutanese diaspora in the world. It is comprised entirely of a guy named Jampa and his dog in an apartment on Crown Street. The dog’s name is Lumpy.)
Precarious Lee had been on the roof of the Tower Tower all day. It was the tallest building in Little Aleppo, built by the richest man; these superlatives are relative: there are only twelve floors, and Tower Gildersleeve’s net worth fluctuated wildly depending on whom you asked. Also, the building wasn’t named “Tower Tower.” That’s ridiculous, even for Little Aleppo. It was really called the Gildersleeve Spire.
But everyone called it Tower Tower, and everyone hated it, and everyone hated him for building the damned thing.
It is not an opinion to call the Tower a monstrosity, just a statement of fact. The building was to architecture what Two Girls, One Cup was to pornography: technically within the category, but it made you want to throw up. The two most hideous schools of structural design of the past century have been Brutalism and that crinkled-metal bullshit that Frank Gehry does; Tower Tower combined both.
Not “combined,” really. As in a meld, a melange. More like “stacked on top of one another.” The first six floors were featureless concrete with windows like archer’s loops; the top of the building looked like a clown’s orgasm: brightly-colored and dripping. Also, half the facade was made of polished stainless steel, so on the first sunny day after completion half the neighborhood caught fire.
“AND they tore down the old record shop to build it AND the security guards won’t let you use the lobby bathrooms AND it fucks your view no matter where you’re standing AND that fucker’s name is Gary fucking Spumanti. ‘Tower fucking Gildersleeve.’ Suck my dick with that name. Gary Spumanti from Boise fucking Idaho.”
“You’re passionate about this.”
Big-Dicked Sheila was passionate about this. Tower Tower was across the street from her hair salon, to the east; her shop had been pitch-black in the mornings since the building’s construction. Sheila didn’t open up until after lunch, but it was the principle of the thing; plus, her plants were not flourishing.
“I crusade for justice. Suck in, sweetie.”
“Suck in where?” Tiresias Richardson said.
“I gotta find a new act.”
KSOS did a horror movie marathon every new year’s–6 p.m. to 6 a.m.–and a horror movie needs a Horror Host, so this was a big night for Tiresias and a weird one, too: she wasn’t used to getting into the Draculette getup so early, and she definitely wasn’t used to wearing it for so long. The dress restricted certain processes, like moving or oxygenating one’s blood.
Tiresias and Sheila (mostly Sheila) had redesigned the dress to be easier to get in and out of, but it was still an unnatural garment. Clothing is for covering nudity, but not the Draculette outift: it was for implying nudity, supplanting nudity, surpassing nudity. Comfortable wasn’t the point, but Tiresias thought it might be nice to have in addition.
Draculette dress 2.0 was made out of kevlar-impregnated spandex with a thick cinch in the small of the back; the laces were made of black paracord, and Sheila had to put her foot in between Tiresias’ shoulder blades to tighten it.
“Your feet are so smooth.”
“Are you fucking around?”
“Not at all.”
“I hired a pedicurist. Utter wizard.”
“The short guy in orange that was there today?”
“He said his name was Alfredo.”
“Whatever his name is. He’s a wizard.”
“Sheila doll, stop hiring people before you know their names.”
Sheila collected employees like a cat lady She had hired psychics, shoeshines, caricaturists, close-up magicians; she had a piano tuner on the payroll for six months even though she didn’t have a piano. Instead of firing the guy, she had Precarious Lee find her a piano. Sheila’s heart was bigger than her back account.
“You worry about your job. What’s the first flick?”
“Bride of the Werewolf.”
“What’s it about?”
Tiresias had been KSOS’ Horror Host for a few months now, and not one movie’s title had matched its content. The station’s owner, Paul Loomis, had bought an enormous batch of B-movies. And that was all the information he would give her about his library’s origin.
“But from whom did you buy them, Paul?” Tiresias had asked him several times.
And Paul would say, “I am the legal owner currently,” and run down the hall and lock himself in his office.
She had never even heard of some of the studios that produced the shit she showed night after night: Sharp Brothers? Who the hell were they? Adamo Pictures?
A question for another night. She had a wig to put on, and a hallway to get rolled down, and then she had a show to do and not much to work with. There was the zombie movie, and then there was Doctor Foul’s Furnace of Death, which was about mutant ladybugs; and Surf City Transylvania, which was about a mad scientist who turns into an evil Chevy Corvair; and Blunk! The Creature From Uranus, which was an instructional film from the Navy on how to avoid syphilis while on shore leave.
“Paul, this one’s about the clap! It’s not even a real movie!” Tiresias shouted to a locked office door earlier that afternoon.
“The schedule is set!” he shouted back.
The New Year’s Movie Marathon on KSOS was a beloved tradition in Little Aleppo, not partially because there was an invariable train wreck: several Horror Hosts had melted down on air. There was a betting pool run by the local large gentlemen, and you could place your wager at the Broadside Newsstand.
The best teevee performers, the ones who become the biggest stars, are those who appear to be themselves. Teevee stars aren’t like movie stars: you have to leave your house to see a movie star, and when you meet them they are 30 feet tall. Teevee stars get invited into your living rooms; you take them to bed with you. But they’re not being themselves, just pretending to be, and you can only keep that up for so long. Human beings didn’t evolve to have cameras pointed at them for twelve hours straight.
Meltdowns had occurred.
“I got her at five hours. She can’t eat in that outfit, and apparently she’s been on a bit of a bender. Five hours, max.”
“Gussy, this woman is a friend of yours, isn’t she?”
“Yeah. That’s how I know she’s been on a bender. I’m going down to Omar’s to bet. Want in?”
“I’m not a gambling man. Nor a rambling one, come to think of it. Bob Seger would be let down.”
“I never leave the shop, and I speak with precision; for no definition of the word do I ramble.”
Mr. Venable was in his customary spot in the bookstore with no title, wearing his customary suit. Gussy had stopped in to invite him to New Year’s; it was their tradition. Every year, she asked, and every year he refused; it was their tradition. Back when she worked for him, Mr. Venable would also fire her for asking, but now she owned Little Aleppo’s movie theater, The Tahitian.
“Come to New Year’s.”
“You can’t fire me: I own a movie theater.”
“It’s a big deal. For me. It is a really big deal this one. There’s a surprise.”
Gussy was sort of telling the truth. The Tahitian’s stage had a secret: there was music in it, a grand organ like a medieval throne that raised and lowered smoothly on electro-hydraulic pistons that were very futuristic when they were built. Five feet deep, and eight feet wide, and facing the screen so that the keyboardist’s back was to the crowd. He would be raised and lowered on the same hydraulic pistons as his instrument, playing the entire time.
There were four keyboards stacked on top of each other, and stops like the pulls on a cigarette machine that regulated the tone, and levers that slid in and out that sounded click-ick-ick-ick, and–since the organ was made such a very long time ago–everything that looked like ivory actually was.
Her grandfather, Irving Incandescente-Ponui, had installed the organ during the Depression and it had accompanied every movie he showed, even the schlock, until he died and his son, David O. Incandescente-Ponui, fired the organist and let the glorious machine rot in the basement. David O. was an asshole.
When Gussy reopened The Tahitian, she didn’t have the money for the organ. Before she started her day sometimes, she would make Julio get two broomsticks and go with her down under the stage. The first time she went down, there was a rat the size of a catamaran, so Gussy came up with a different system: she nestles into Julio, all backed-up into him, and he swings the broomsticks around wildly. Gussy believes that this forms a protective circumference of violence around her, but it makes Julio feel silly and he always ends up whacking himself in the shin two or three times.
It was worth it to see my grandfather’s organ, she thought, and then she thought that she shouldn’t call it her grandfather’s organ. Like I said, she didn’t have the money to fix it at first, but she did have it covered and treated to avoid any further damage–the wood on the right side was beginning to crack–and so for a few years it was this mummified and duct-taped lump surrounded by rats and a teenager swinging broomsticks, but Gussy knew what was under there.
And this year, she’d come up with the scratch. Gussy wanted to unveil the glorious machine on New Year’s at Midnight, and she wanted it to be a surprise, but the organ restoration company she’d hired had parked their van with ORGAN RESTORATION written on the side right out front for three months.
“A surprise? Really? I have no earthly idea what it might be.”
“Not one single clue.”
“Maybe 20 years ago, there was another van with those words on it that everyone kept seeing. A very different service was provided.”
“They restored people’s organs?”
“They did something to people’s organs. None of the doctors agreed on exactly what, though.”
“What happened to the van?”
“No one wanted to know. It left, and we were happy. Further investigation was determined to be unlucky.”
Gussy loved Mr. Venable, but it was tiring having a conversation with him most of the time.
“Are you coming?”
“What is the feature?”
“Double-bill. Two greatest New Year’s Ever-themed movies of all time.”
“Trading Places and The Godfather, Part II?”
“Damn, that was quick.”
“Common knowledge, Gussy.”
“Did Julio put it up–”
“On the marquee, yeah.”
“–on the marquee? Kid’s a dolt.”
Julio Montez was task-oriented, and lulled by repetition like most teenagers, so when he came in that morning and saw the box with the plexiglass letters and the pole with the suction cup at the end, he did the thing he always did without checking to see if there was a note that had blown off the top of the box when he had opened the door to the theater that read DO NOT PUT TITLES ON MARQUEE, JULIO.
It wasn’t Julio’s fault. It was New Year’s Eve and for the very first time in his pimply little teenage life he had someone to kiss at midnight. Things were going well with Romy Schott. Not as well as the first couple weeks, but that was because Julio was terrified of her the first couple weeks and didn’t talk. He had regained his voice, but now he couldn’t stop saying dumb shit.
“I like your back.”
And then Julio would start yelling at himself inside his buzz-cutted head. Back? What the fuck does that even mean, jackass? Just talk to her like she’s a person, he would think. Sometimes, he would even come up with something clever to say, but then the neck of Romy’s shirt would shift, exposing an off-white bra strap, and he would be stupid again.
“There are back models. You could be one.”
“You’re being weird.”
Their fingers were interlaced and Romy give his hand a squeeze. She did not have any brothers, and boys made no sense at all to her. She had heard Julio talk in class, and to his friends; she knew he wasn’t this dumb, and wondered how long his mental cloud would last. Romy was thinking about the phrase “feminine wiles.” Was this it? Is this what they did to guys? Because she wasn’t trying to be wily. She certainly didn’t appreciate the effects. She made a mental note to look that up later.
The early afternoon sunlight poured through the plate-glass facing the Main Drag, and the dust danced from the red carpets to the chandelier. Julio had the pole with the suction cup in his one hand and Romy held the other. (She had sent him back out to fix the spelling mistake he had made.) He had to work, but she would hang out with him and then they’d go outside with the rest of the neighborhood at midnight, and kiss each other as the year died.
Precarious Lee was still on the roof of Tower Tower. An hour earlier, he had seen the tall kid who worked at The Tahitian stick all the letters to the marquee fifteen feet over the sidewalk with a long pole with a suction cup on the end. A half hour later, a girl with dirty-blonde hair came by. Kid came back out and fixed the typos. Ten minutes from now, Gussy would show up and the kid would come back out and take the letters off.
Running a real loose ship over there, Precarious thought, and then he got his mind back on his work.
On New Year’s Eve in Little Aleppo, the Poet Laureate writes a midnight benediction that no one will ever read. The firefighter’s choir wanders the streets naked but for their hats, boots, and coats; they aggressively sing Hall & Oates classics at grandmothers, and challenge children to dance-offs. It is the only night of the year that the Morning Tavern is open, and the bartenders yawn their way through their shifts, sleeping patterns fucked up and confused.
The Upside of the neighborhood drinks champagne. Folks on the Downside drink what they drink every night, but more of it. In the Segovian Hills, former Rock Stars live in houses bolted onto cliffs. They drag their amplifiers out to their decks which are perched on stilts stabbing into vertical rock, and they play their greatest hits to the canyons below. Then they play something from the new album, and the canyons go to the bathroom.
The Reverend Arcade Jones would stay in. The First Church of the Infinite Christ’s doors would be open on New Year’s Eve, just like they were on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and Thanksgiving and so on. Hospitals, movie theaters, and churches, Arcade Jones thought. All the places of last refuge must remain open. There were people who had somewhere to go, and there were people who could stay home. It was that third category–the folks with nowhere to go who just couldn’t bear to be with themselves–that the Reverend saw as his one-night flock.
If Jesus was infinite (and Arcade Jones believed that He was) then He was within each of us as surely as He was within the Mother Mary, and does this not make us all the Mother Mary? How then could he turn someone from his door, knowing as he did that the person in front of him was surely the Mother of Christ? To offer shelter is to serve the Lord, the Reverend knew.
Which didn’t mean you could be acting foolish in the Reverend Arcade Jones’ church; he had caught a guy making love to the holy water font and tossed him a good dozen feet straight out the door, but if you behaved even semi-decently then the First Church of the Iterated Christ would take you in.
There were no services that night, but you could stay as long as you wanted, and there was no sermon but the Reverend would talk to you about anything you wanted to talk about, but he would probably steer the conversation towards endings.
The Reverend Arcade Jones always set himself a theme for the year’s change, something to think about and preach about and pray about, and this year he was hung up on endings. We devalue what’s painful, the Reverend thought. Nothing lasts, and everything changes, but Lord do we fight that change! Nothing more hateful to a sinner than tomorrow.
One of his parishioners said something to him: New Year, new you. The Reverend thought about that, and then he flipped it around: old year, old you. Leave your anger in last December, and your sorrow in May. A man can’t put on a new suit til he’s taken off the old one.
There were meetings going on in the church basement. Alcoholics Anonymous, and Alcoholics Synonymous, whose members were drunks, juicers, boozehounds, and dipsomaniacs. Junkies praised the program, and eyed the room wondering who they would be relapsing with this time. People who ate too much, people who fucked too much, people with the same terrible disease. Church basements are for meetings, and they all have the same soiled checkerboard floors and mildewed wood paneling. The coffee was vile, but free.
“Brothers and sisters,” the Reverend yelled down the stairs. “Please! I cannot hear myself think up here!”
The Bellowers Anonymous meeting was not going well. Or maybe it was going very well; either way, it was too damn loud. Arcade Jones did not know or care. He walked down the center aisle of the church, and out the open front doors: it was just after sunset and the breeze blew in warm and friendly from the west; the first stars had woken up. They looked like dirty rivets on blue jeans.
The First Church of the Infinite Christ has a bell named the Calling Judge. It is six feet in diameter, and the clapper is a monstrous bronze uvula that makes a sound like WHONGGGG at D# below middle C, and the whole neighborhood can hear the hour struck.
Omar down at the Broadside Newsstand definitely could. He’d been waiting for that damn bell for ten minutes; he was sure it was late.
“Maybe they forgot to wind the church, Argus.”
Argus was Omar’s partner, and a dog. Argus’ doghood did not factor much into their interplay: it was an equal partnership. Occasionally, Omar would forget that, and Argus would walk him into traffic just a little bit. They got along, mostly, and had settled into one another like any old couple. Omar didn’t want to train a new dog; Argus didn’t want to train a new person.
Neither of them wanted to be bookmakers, either. The large gentlemen in charge, the ones who held no licenses but were the ones to see for licentiousness, had deputized them.
The large gentlemen ran Little Aleppo’s local lottery, the Mother Mary. The winning number was the last three digits of the day’s total business at the Broadside, Tuesday and Friday, and to make sure nothing went wrong while they were doing wrong, the large gentlemen sent Sally Moon to loom over Omar all day.
Whether or not his presence actually kept the game square was up for debate; Sally Moon would argue in the negative: even if you could work out the math, it would probably cost more money to pull off the scam than you’d make. Sometimes, four people would hit the same number and the prizes would end up being $300 each. Anyone smart enough to rig the Mother Mary was smart enough to know not to bother, he thought.
But no one listened to Sally Moon, and so twice a week he stood by Omar and Argus all day as Little Aleppians bought The Cenotaph in the morning on their way to work, and beauty magazines at lunch, and various pornographies on their way home.
What the large gentlemen did not anticipate was the syllogistic improvisation that Little Aleppo could engage in: if the Broadside was involved in the Mother Mary, and the Mother Mary was gambling, therefore Omar was a bookie. Or Sally Moon. Or Argus. One of them, it didn’t matter: somehow, the neighborhood got it into its head that the Broadside was where you went to make a bet.
As I said, the large gentlemen did not anticipate this, but they did not fight it. The large gentlemen had a concrete policy of allowing anyone who wanted to give them money the chance to. Omar had no interest in taking bets, but the large gentlemen asked politely, and though Omar was blind he could see what was happening, and he gave them no reason to ask impolitely. He had held other jobs before he owned the Broadside.
So when New Year’s came calling, Omar took bets on the Horror Host’s meltdown.
Sally Moon stood there the whole day and willed himself not to punch every motherfucker he saw.
It was cruel, this betting bullshit, not right. Tiresias, Draculette, she was very talented and did whatever she could with not a lot. They give her no budget, no budget at all, and she’s still funny, and, and she’s charming, and, and she’s beautiful and what does this neighborhood do? Root for her to fuck up. Vultures, goddamned vultures, he thought.
He had to be with the other large gentlemen tonight, but he was recording her show. Sally Moon was a fan.
First was the Calling Judge, the First Church of the Infinite Christ’s bell, and then the bells of St. Mary’s and St. Clement’s and St. Martin’s joined in, along with every dog in the neighborhood, and then the firefighter’s choir. Six o’clock in Little Aleppo.
No more bets.
In the studio at KSOS, a red light went on.
At The Tahitian, the lights went off but the curtains did not open, and the projector did not reel to life: there was a powerful sound instead, a low THRUMMMMM that you heard with your sternum. On either side of the screen, there were narrow stage drapes staggered a few feet in front of the main curtain: these slid open to reveal gold pipes twenty feet high, each topped with a war bonnet of art deco palm fronds, and they made a noise like Kuh-SHWAAAAA BAAAAABUMBUM.
The first thing the audience sees is the crown of the keyboardist’s head, slightly threadbare, and a clean neck that suggests a very recent haircut; this head rises, and there are shoulders pistoning back and forth and then: the glorious machine. It horseshoed around the small man in its center with his skinny wrists and big hands gliding from keyboard to stop to lever, and his feet tapping along the bass pedals. He was wearing very well-worn brown lace-up oxfords.
The grand organ had four keyboards, 61 keys apiece, and 84 stops grouped into 14 colors. Next to the bass pedals was a rocker that the keyboardist controlled with his left foot to control the volume. There were also buttons.
The keyboardist gave the crowd what they wanted: bits of Wagner and Copland and Handel, and then he closed with Beethoven. The Ninth, of course. What’s the point of an organ the size of a building unless you play the Ode To Joy on it?
He played it loud, and for a second the glorious machine outshouted the bells ringing out on Rose Street.
Pssssssh it sank slowly into the stage and the curtains opened to cheers, and then the cartoon with the dancing snacks played.
Behemoth klieg lights ignited–FLAMP!–high on poles overlooking the Salt Wharf so the stevedores could see what they were stevedoring; in the marina adjoining Boone’s Docks, the annual houseboat joust had begun.
At nightfall, Little Aleppo poured onto the Main Drag. In theory, the street was not closed to traffic; in practice, the Main Drag was blocked by two rows of flaming garbage cans, one on either end of the neighborhood. The kids ran zigzags across the four lanes, freed from the tyranny of looking both ways and holding hands. Wandering dogs and skateboarders; cops on horseback; horses; cops with broken arms running after horses: the neighborhood plunged into the street. On New Year’s Eve, Little Aleppo takes itself out for a stroll.
Not everyone, though, not nearly. Some people like staying in. Others have to. Either way, no one could stand any of the usual New Year’s shit on the teevee. Grinning swabs of smarm wearing winter coats and introducing pop stars: fuck ’em and their wireless microphones. Little Aleppians preferred a more local experience, even at the expense of budget and production values and competence. On Christmas Day, KSOS shows Log. There wasn’t enough money to rent a chimney, so they couldn’t set the log on fire, and so just got rid of the “Yule” part of the equation; it’s a 24-hour static shot of a log sitting in an office chair.
There was a similarly small amount of cash on hand for the Late Movie, as well. Tiresias had to buy her own props, or improvise, or repurpose junk she found around the studio. There was her skeleton ex-husband, Fatty, and the black-painted frog named the Prince of Flies. A fan had sent her a stuffed bat, and he became her second ex-husband: the deadbeat Count Fang, whose debts are so great that the only way to avoid paying them is to stay a bat at all times.
A television studio has a grid of metal bars attached to the ceiling; it’s where the lights clamp onto. Tiresias tied a fishing line to Count Fang and looped it over the bar right above her so the bat was about a foot over her head. She held the other end of the line and jiggled the Count up and down while having a conversation with him. She only did one side of the dialogue; she called it her “Boob Newhart” routine.
Count Fang always needed money, even though he was a bat; or he wanted to borrow the car, even though nothing has changed since the last time I told you he was a bat. There was always something.
“No, Fang. I’m not buying you a tuxedo. Why do you need a tuxedo?”
Then she would flapflapflap the stuffed animal up and down.
“What kind of party?”
“Ah. Of course. A bat mitzvah. AAAAAHHahaha!”
And then she would look right in the camera as if to ask “what do you want for free?”
Bettors hoping for an immediate flame-out were disappointed. Draculette goofed her way through the first dreadful film, chatting with Fatty and the Count; she made fun of her cameraman, Bruiser, for his high-pitched and plentiful laugh. Sailing was smooth.
Tiresias was handling the show, so Sheila left the studio and went outside to have a smoke on the sidewalk in front of KSOS. Diagonal from her was Tower Tower, and as she gave it the finger she saw Precarious Lee on the roof. He was waving at her, and she stuck the cigarette in between her teeth and waved back with both arms.
Precarious pointed at her, and then down at the street where she was standing. He flashed ten fingers, then two. He repeated his actions.
“You didn’t have to do it again, honey. I got you the first time,” Sheila said to herself as she smiled and blew out a big plume of smoke PHWOOO and it was midnight all of a sudden.
Midnight will do that.
The crowd at The Tahitian flowed onto the Main Drag, a new tributary into an already-bulging river; every time the door opened, you could hear the grand organ playing Greensleeves. Gussy and Mr. Venable were the last two out, and she locked the door behind her.
“He went against the family.”
“It is a glorious machine, Gussy.”
“What’s built right can be fixed.”
Mr. Venable had nothing to say to that, but he agreed.
The Christmas tree–which was not a Christmas tree at all, but a 40-foot peregrina maria–was still up in the courtyard separating the sidewalk of Rose Street from the First Church of the Iterated Christ, and Arcade Jones stood under it like an enormous present with a shaved head. He was surrounded by sinners, active and penitent, and they had all come outside to take midnight’s confession with one minute to go.
None of the undiscovered geniuses at the Morning Tavern listen to the bartenders yelling at them to leave their drinks inside with fifty seconds to go, and the swans that live in Bell Lake take passerby’s distraction as cover for attack at forty seconds to go.
On the sidewalk outside the KSOS studio, Sheila is wearing a little black dress with Paul Loomis’ sport coat over it–it is cold in the studio, so she made him give her the jacket–and green Converse high-tops. Paul told her not to smoke in his jacket, so she lights another cigarette and then Precarious Lee is at her side with 30 seconds until midnight.
Sheila gives him her smoke and lights a new one; Precarious hands her a gadget that looks like a wireless detonator
“What is this?”
One big, threatening, red button in the middle of a plastic brick. An antenna, which Sheila pulls out to full length with her teeth with 20 seconds left.
“You know the way to a girl’s heart.”
“Been told that.”
“How much time left?”
Precarious raised his arm to look at his watch and Sheila said,
“Fuck it,” and jammed the red button with both thumbs, happy as only a troublemaker with a mysterious red button to push can be, and Tower Tower lit up with a BLAM! and fireworks sizzled off the roof where Precarious had been setting them up all day, and cannonades of gunpowder, pyro–he had jammed three pounds of flash paper into a drum head and stuck a fuse on it–and plastique, the color before the sound: blueBOOM; redBANG; greenCRACK all launching themselves off of the roof of Tower Tower, twelve stories above the Main Drag.
The bells again, the church bells on Rose Street, and the dogs joined in with aghast howling at the confusion their world had become; Little Aleppo was deaf and blind and cheering and drunk as shit, except for the people who had stayed home, who were drunk as fuck.
Precarious pointed down the street to Sheila’s shop. It was bright as a desert morning.
“I thought you were gonna blow the building up.”
She leaned into his arm, and he leaned back.
Julio and Romy did not notice the fireworks because they were having sex in the projectionist’s booth again; they didn’t even notice they were locked in the building until a few hours later. Gussy laughed very hard when Julio called her asking to be let out.
Little Aleppo slept in on New Year’s Day. Three residents of the Hotel Synod didn’t wake up at all; everyone else got up around eleven. Omar and Argus made it to the Broadside by noon.
In the middle of the afternoon, a tall woman with thick curly hair piled up in a sloppy bun stopped by the stand. Argus’ tail twitched, and he panted when she patted his head.
“I know you.”
“I would hope.”
“You’re the only one who bet on her to go all the way.”
“Omar, if there’s one thing I know about Draculette, it’s that she goes all the way. AAAAAAHahaha!”
He handed her a thick manila envelope.
“Do you want Argus to count it?”
The woman stretched out the cuff of her sweatshirt and stuffed the envelope up her sleeve, and then she put her hands in her pockets and walked up Gower Avenue until she hit the Main Drag, where she turned right and walked into Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.