A Town Without Sequins by Zak Block

“M42 back to the E train, E train to Sutphin, figure out the rest there.”

If the E train passes through Elmhurst station, does it not stand to reason that no train whatsoever stops there? I had this revelation long after I’d discovered that not only is Philadelphia an hour’s leisurely drive from the heart of Manhattan, but so are Washington, D.C., Boston and Baltimore. Cincinnati, Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, about two hours. Albeit that I’m never going to see these places, still is this incalculably useful information.


The woman who got on the M42 at Fifth Avenue said: “Oh, thank you so much, bus driver, for opening the door of the bus and letting me on the bus even though the door had closed and the street light had changed. The reason I’m thanking you is that if you hadn’t opened the door of the bus, I would have had to have waited fifteen minutes, or more depending on the traffic, for the bus and not only is it very windy today but if I don’t get to the Salvation Army by four o’clock I won’t get my dollar and fifty cents coffee and a bagel. And as you can see all these plastic bags that I’m holding are exceedingly heavy. You see, bus driver, if I had of missed my dollar-fifty coffee and bagel I would have to go to the Mexican market, on forty-first and ninth, since that’s the only one that takes my card. And all they’ve really got that you can get at the Mexican-American market is packaged foods: cakes, doughnuts, chips, beef jerky. They sure are tasty, I’ll allow that, but poison, don’t you know. But it’s not as though we can buy any of that good expensive healthy health food like you can get at the Korean-American market. So what do they expect from us. Eat too much of the stuff. Get fat, get heartburn, watery diarrhea and the jimmies. Sharp gas pains, cramps, hard stools, constipation, too much gas, bloating, swelling, hemorrhoids. Witch hazel, neosporin, prep-h. Burns, stings, itches. Sour stomach, sour throat, chunks of acid things come up, like battery acid, throwing back up, seeping back up constantly. Then you’re pre-diabetic before diabetes. Then cysts, rashes, ulcers. Maybe amputations. You get old. So, I’ve got to get what I can get at the Mexican-American market, get it in me as quick as I possibly can so I can get back to my deli on forty-fourth and tenth and try and beat the rush on the Powerball as there’s always going to be one. And I know what you’re going to say: ‘Fat chance, the luck I’ve had.’ And doesn’t it just seem like more and more people are playing their numbers every day. More and more and longer lines, more holdups, with the teamsters, the Hatians, more arguments, ‘I was here first’; ‘I’m here to spend real money anyway.’ I remember once there was this Haitian kid ahead of us in the line trying to buy beers with his friend and he showed him his ID, says he born in nineteen ninety-two, like the ID said. So then Vin McGil’, he was on the line with us with Jimmy Testig’, says Vin ‘Nineteen ninety-two, yeh f’in kidding me? Yeh’r f’in ‘leven years old, kid.’ Now I didnt say anything, frankly I didn’t want to get involved. Jim Testigliani says ‘Get the f outta hea,’ when he looked up from his music player phone, he says ‘Nineteen ninety-two was eleven yeas ago, yeh fuckin’ ‘leven yeas old;’ but as like they both honestly thought it were the truth, that nineteen ninety-two was eleven years ago. I didn’t say anything, I was thinking about the numbers. And I know what you’re going to say: ‘One shot in a million,’ but, see, I’m not going to… well I can’t… it wouldn’t be very sensible to give away too much of it to you but, well, I’ve got a system, you see. You see, first off, you’ve got to figure: the vast majority of these guys playing the Powerball… jeeze more and more every day it seems, like its out of control, like it’s going to break something… figure, most of them play their birthday. Well let’s say mine’s September Second. Oh-nine oh-two. So how many people have got the oh-nine and the oh-two for starters? I would have reckoned about one in three hundred and sixty-five. Smart, right. How many people are born each day. I read it somewhere, something like three hundred and fifty-thousand plus. And you had better believe that includes the September Second of virtually any year in the past seventy-six, and even accounting for population growth it’s still a lot. Well, when was the last time three-hundred and fifty-thousand people won the lottery at the same time? So that’s why I’ve got a system. But, like I said, it wouldn’t do to tell you much about it. But I will say this… it works.”


And when I see this girl I’m going to say what I’ve said to every single one of them for the past seven years:


“Do you long to purify your blood with a destructive fire? For a great and powerful redeemer angel to ruin and then perfect you again; the long, enveloping arms of a cold dead god to grasp ferociously, sternly train and discipline you into normativity? To at long last see that void within you filled or sealed or burnt away? What do you desire and what do you want? Do you want to fly in the face of desire in favor of absolution? These are the only questions worth pondering, I feel, and everything else is middle-school gibberish.”


But what will she say?


After missing the train to Patchogue, Long Island, while getting a refund for my fare in the Jamaica LIRR ticket office, a mentally deranged, diminutive, morbidly obese black man with breasts wearing an oversized basketball jersey started screaming racial epithets and threats at passing black people while wielding a giant rubber bowie knife with fake blood on it: “I’m going to cut you up you dark-skinned snickers motherfucker,” and “Cut you into little black piece, fucking dark-sinned niggers;” prompting eight MTA police to arrive on the scene, the first drawing on him telling him to drop the knife. When he had, and they realized it was fake, they all started laughing, along with the crowd that had gathered.


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