Curled over a sack of groceries Marbella hurried across Third Avenue (Falcoln Heights would be on in seven minutes; if the elevator came she wouldn't miss a kiss). She skirted a pothole, then a stack of dog poo; a kamikaze taxi went hurtling past. Pay attention in New York or your nice shoes won't survive ...
Had she bought these Pradas half a size too small just because they were one third off? She'd got a blister; should she pop it? But what was this pain -- a new one -- under her rib, a stomach ulcer?! And what about those Iranians, building nukes in a lab inside a mountain? Wouldn't they target Manhattan soon? Shouldn't she move to Connecticut? Oh, the world is my worry bead. Somebody should write a song about me ...
Her building's white canopy beckoned from the corner, doorman in livery like a toy soldier. Two men in hardhats down a hole were straining to twist a bulging valve. Now why did Con Ed keep dredging up all the streets in her neighborhood? As she neared her door, a scrawny, bearded man in filthy jeans accosted her:
"Gimme five dollars, lady. I'm a homeless vet." Bug-eyed, a spotted rabbit peered from inside his torn jacket.
"I only write checks to charity, sorry."
He stuck out his hand stubbornly. "Gimme an orange then. You got plenty."
"Get lost, mister," she suggested, and he muttered something that ended in "bitch." As her doorman came charging like a bull, suddenly the street erupted with an ear-splitting roar ...
Smashing into something soft she landed on her side. Hot rain showered down, with globs of muck, which stuck to her stinking like a sewer. Her glasses smeared, she couldn't see. Somebody whimpered like a hungry dog.
Sitting up she fumbled tissues from her Dior bag and wiped her glasses to dry streaks. How disgusting: she'd gotten all slobbered with mud, stockings torn and plump legs bleeding. One of her almost new, discount Pradas had lost its heel ... As for the street, had an earthquake struck? A fissure had split the asphalt lengthwise, the sidewalk around her broken and buckled. Rocks the size of cantaloupes lay all around, as if scattered by monsters at play.
Where the workmen had struggled, a white geyser roared into the air, as straight as a pillar. They'd disappeared, leaving behind one lace-up shoe and a blue hardhat. Where had they gone, run off like thieves? She'd sue them for blowing up the street! They were to blame she'd miss the latest episode of Falcon Heights. Not only that, today was her birthday: 52 years young at heart. Well, the world goes on if we lose our shoes. Maybe some handsome reporter would interview her for the New York Times? Better climb back on your feet, my dear, and take stock of the situation ...
Something whimpered, from underneath her. Why, she was sitting on the homeless man. And her doorman (he looked like Rinaldo -- or was it Enrico, or old Gomez?) lay sprawled on broken glass with his back to her, cursing or calling on the saints in Spanish.
She rolled her plump bulk off the poor beggar, who was twitching all over like an epileptic. One of his shins looked crimped, as if the bones had snapped.
"Oh dear, I don't know first aid," she whined. "I can't even stand the sight of blood." Her own was leaking from her scraped knees.
"Please call a doctor, Mrs. Pinchik." The doorman's square teeth gleamed in his spattered face.
"But I don't have a cell phone any more, Enrico. I kept dropping them; I'm so sorry." The light in the street looked brownish-green, as if inside an aquarium.
Suddenly the homeless man sat up: "Where's Wabbit?" Marbella wrinkled her nose; had he bathed since he was a baby? Then again, she herself was all clotted with mud. This was nobody's lucky day.
"Who's Wabbit?" she asked as he stared wildly at the pillar of steam, which reached past the fifth floor. Water condensing pooled on the street, flowing gently towards Second Avenue.
"He's Willy's pal, an angora rabbit. Willy saved him from the garbage last year."
"It's the end of the word," said Enrico savagely. "We should be praying for our souls."
"I just want Wabbit. I don't want to go to the hospital; they'll lock me up."
"Your rabbit must be around here somewhere," she said confidently. "Where would he hide in this fiasco?" They heard a siren wavering in the distance. Soon it faded away. "The police in New York don't have time for disasters. They're too busy eating jelly donuts. Somebody should turn up to help you, though; somebody heard that pipe explode."
"Who blew us up?" Gingerly Willy petted his own bent leg. "The Arabs?"
"No, Con Edison; I saw the men. Who needs jihadis, when we can do such damage by ourselves? You know, hon, your arm is bleeding."
"I caught some glass," he said bitterly. "When all I wanted was an orange. I'm so hungry I could chew my hand."
"Well, be my guest." She handed him an orange from her muddy bag. "You gotta keep up your strength." Now something shuffled in the street's ravine. "Hey, I bet that's your little rabbit down there. He must have fallen in."
"Hey, Wabbit," Willie bellowed down. "Aw he won't even look up at me ... He's blaming me for getting so wet and dirty. This time it's not my fault."
"Oh he's just scared," Marbella soothed, as Enrico went crawling into the lobby, leaving a track of mud and blood.
"I'm scared too. Am I gonna die here?" Willie took a big bite out of the orange without peeling it.
"Well, I'll stay with you till EMS turns up --"
"-- though I'm missing Falcon Heights."
"You watch that show? I saw it a couple of times, at Bellyview Hospital ..."
* * *
Very slowly a van with "ambulance" in mirror-writing came nosing down the tilted sidewalk. "Take this guy first. His leg looks broken," Marbella greeted the first responder, a jowly man without a neck. He was chewing bright pink gum.
"But I can't leave Wabbit," Willy groaned.
"Hey, buddy, what are you talking about?"
"He lost his spotted rabbit in the explosion," she said. "His pet."
"That's too bad, buddy; but you need treatment. Come along downtown." The medic and his partner lifted grimacing Willy onto a plastic stretcher.
"Hey, I'll catch Wabbit," Marbella promised. "And I'll take good care of him."
Willie sobbed like a little boy as they loaded him into the ambulance. Siren howling, it carted him away while Marbella waved.
Then she pulled a lettuce head from her grocery bag and stripped off the plastic wrapper. She held it out over the fissure in the street, and after a while the panda-eyed, grimy bunny came hopping up to her, twitching his cute pink nose. Grabbing him by his long, soft ears she hauled him up kicking at the air.
Humming "Happy Birthday" to herself, she cradled him to her large, soft breast as mud trickled down the building's facade. Things could be worse; she wasn't hurt; and she'd toss these pinchy shoes. She couldn't run half a block in them, in a real emergency ...
Soon a dozen cops came swarming, ahead of three blaring ambulances. The geyser, shedding water, warmth and stink, still roared overhead like a criminal's artwork; a sudden happening that could only find its stage in New York City.
"Ma'am, do you need any help?" asked a hulking cop, who looked like Gaddafi.
"No thanks, officer. Please, check on the doorman. I was just taking my rabbit for a walk. Now we're hopping home."
"Ma'am, are you sure you're OK?"
"Never better; and you know what? I'm never going to worry anymore."
He chuckled. "Is that so?"