by Mark Crimmins
After you buy tickets to see Billy Cobham at the Iridium’s midnight show, you walk down Broadway and stop to have a cigarette in a doorway. The tourists on the open top deck of the Gray Line sightseeing bus are swapping shots of each other. They adopt the universal millennial posture. Not seeing things directly but looking at them through viewfinders. In front of the bus a squadron of yellow cabs idles. Two young men in tuques are selling bottled water to the people in line for the bus. One pulls his wares from a supermarket shopping cart. The other from a picnic hamper on an airport luggage trolley. The top of the bus fills with girls in purple, blue, and green shirts. One gestures towards the windows of Jamba Juice and whispers to her friend. The friend laughs, sticks out her tongue, and slowly licks a vertical strip of air, lifting her head as she does so. A family of Southern tourists stops in front of you. The young boy pulls his father’s arm, gestures up at the W Hotel, and asks, “Would that be considered a skyscraper?” You too look up at the steel and glass tower. When the father frowns and says, “Not really,” you laugh. But now a more chaotic element intrudes. A shirtless middle-aged cyclist. Short. Stocky. Heavily tattooed. He weaves down Broadway on a small child’s bike. Improbably, he stops and waits for the red light to change. A tiny boom box dangles from his handlebars. Music blares much louder than the speakers can bear. Through the distortion a rapper yells an injunction to the sidewalk crowds. Get higher, Baby! Get higher, Baby! As you listen to the vibrating track, a surge of joy goes through you. A recognition on Forty-Seventh Street. Sugar Hill Records. Melle Mel. A blast from the past from Good Ole Grand Mast! It’s been thirty years since you first heard White Lines on a dance floor. 1983. At The Palace over on Ninth. A track that swept all before it. But in the unstoppable metropolis, this recognition itself is soon swept aside. Into the crowds before you drifts a tall man with a long dark beard. A traffic cone on his head like a wizard’s hat. His face and hands caked with dirt. His bare feet filthy. Toenails bleeding. His body wrapped in strange robes assembled from discarded pages of the Times. His paper vestments rustle in the Broadway breeze as he delivers solemn warnings to people who aren’t there. Nobody understands the prophet of doom. He speaks a gibberish all his own. Raises a finger in caution. In a flash of terrible discomfort you realize he is someone you once knew. An old workmate from a job long past. Nervous Tony. The transformation is horrific. You take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Shake your head to refuse the tragedy. But now new crowds surge. The apparition passes. The ghost vanishes. Swept by strong currents down the relentless river of Broadway.
Mark Crimmins’ fiction was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize, a 2015 Best of the Net Award, and a 2015 Silver Pen Authors Association Write Well Award. His short stories have been published in Confrontation, Cha, Split Rock Review, Penmen Review, Trainless Magazine, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Kyoto Journal, Prick of the Spindle, Microliterature, Eclectica, Cortland Review, Tampa Review, Ellipsis, Columbia, Queen’s Quarterly, Apalachee Review, Del Sol Review, and Chicago Quarterly Review. His flash fictions and micro fictions have been published in Happy, White Rabbit, theNewerYork, Eunoia Review, Flash Frontier, Portland Review, Pif Magazine, Gravel, Eastlit, Restless Magazine, Atticus Review, Apocrypha & Abstractions, Dogzplot, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.