City Streets

April 3, 2009
By Ruth Spurlock BRONZE, Northampton, Massachusetts
Ruth Spurlock BRONZE, Northampton, Massachusetts
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The streets of City are heavy iron arteries, cars hurtling through like blood through veins of a sedentary mountain of a man, waiting for a heart attack. Along these smoggy pathways cars hurtled, hot conglomerates of metal and rubber weaving deftly in and out of each other, of hot dog carts, pedestrians, stray dogs, tour buses, and streetcleaning trucks. Behind one of these streetcleaners, Jacob S. was stuck, had been stuck for four blocks now, was getting impatient. The monolith of rusting, green and yellow paint-peeling steel shuddering forward a few feet at a time, its brushes whirring arthritically, its shovels scraping over the asphalt in the haphazard manner of palsied machinery, scooping into its crunching bowls empty aluminum cans, bottles, newspapers, the odd shoe, hot dog paper, empty and discarded tubes of mustard. Indiscriminately, the streetcleaner digested all of City’s refuse.

Behind its octogenarian progress, Jacob S. clenched his pedals impatiently, with sleek black rubber soled shoes, his caffeinated joints sending his foot to the gas at every unclaimed inch of pavement that appeared before him, back to the brake sporadically with each shuddering pause of the monolith, so that his three-months-new, ice blue car pranced forward and back like a green filly at the race gate.

On his left, an unending stream of three-and-four-months-new cars in storm gray and gold and copper-bright-orange sped past, swerving recklessly around the monolith’s wide, rusting hips. With each car that passed, Jacob S. tugged at his patent-leather steering wheel, urging his impatient filly into the passing stream, but each time, another car approached, and he jerked back on the reins, so that the car danced side to side, even as it skittered forward and back, almost in place, almost without any real forward motion.

Agonizingly slowly, they came upon a crosswalk, the monolith huffing and stumbling along, and Jacob S. and his car jigging along behind it, hemmed in by the blood-gush of cars. But what’s this? A gap in the gush! The silver car next in line slowing, leaving a space just before the crosswalk! Jacob S. took his opportunity, called upon all the acceleratory power of his three-months-new car, darted into the onslaught, hurdled forward, skirting the monolith’s flanks, filling the gap.

The pedestrian for whom the silver car-next-in-line had slowed clipped her way across the street, shielding her skirt from the hot, puffing breath of the monolith, dashing with purse and shopping clutched to her torso. When Jacob S.’s car collided with her, she made a fantastic flailing rainbow of skirt and purse and bags, hair and arms and legs whirling to the asphalt in the blue haze of Jacob S.’s disappearing exhaust pipe.

The bloodstream gushed past, swerving indelicately around her crumpled form, until the monolith arrived at the crosswalk at last and, with a rheumatic groan, gathered her into its yawning mouth, a Snicker’s wrapper garnishing her hair bedraggled by the film of oil and soda and old rainwater on the asphalt. And then she was gone. And then the bloodstream gushed on, smoothing over the place where she fell as if she never had. And then the streetcleaner gurgled on its way, shuddering and hiccupping.

The pedestrian’s boyfriend, Mark L., held a memorial gathering two weeks later, after finding the ring he’d given her in a reclamation shop on 17th Street.

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