The continuing chronicle of Wesley's quest to be published; plus comments on popular culture, family life, and whatever else falls out of his head.

Monday, May 01, 2006

“Okay, I paid the twenty bucks. Now what do the cards say?”

Karl was making his way through the busy foot traffic from his apartment to his office overlooking another office on a side street off of a real street in Manhattan. He normally enjoyed the morning crush. The press of bodies, the thousands of stories that he passed every day. New York was an exciting town. It was the very definition of cosmopolitan, and Karl had loved just about every moment he had spent there since graduation, even if he didn’t especially love his life.

Normally he enjoyed the walk to work. Today had been an exception. From the very beginning, when he slept through his alarm and he had been forced to take a cold shower because someone else in his building had used it all up, to the steamed heat that the city’s streets were already emitting, it was shaping up to be a spectacularly unpleasant day.

And then, in the distance, he saw Rose, power-walking his way in her silver-pinstriped Armani suit. Even at this distance, Karl recognized the way she moved. Her confidence, almost predatory, preceded her, slicing through the crowd so that New York citizens found themselves veering left or right with no real knowledge of why.

Rose was the third to the last person he wanted to see, right below his mother and Christopher Walken, who had creeped Karl out ever since Pulp Fiction. Since Rose was the last person alive who could look intimidating in wrap-around Ray-Bans and was arguing into her cell phone, she might not have seen him yet.

This block of Broadway hadn’t quite survived the makeover that Times Square had during Giuliani’s reign. While Karl could see the ads for new musicals in the distance, the businesses were of a different caliber right where Karl was. A fistful of cheap jewelry stores and pawnshops, a take-out place that specialized in “Korean/Jewish cuisine,” and a gay nightclub were the only places he could immediately see, and none of them had opened yet. He could risk ducking into an alleyway, but not even Karl was that dumb: the wrong element may stay away from the street during the morning rush, but if you took two steps off the sidewalk, you were in another world.

Karl crept forward with the rest of the crowd, hunching his shoulders so that Rose might possibly pass him by without recognizing him. Meanwhile his eyes darted to the right, looking for an opening in the row of businesses beside him.

He spotted a windowless, gun-metal door so narrow that it seemed to be wedged more between two other buildings than set into it’s own. Above it hung a wooden shingle with flaking paint: “Hotel Apollo,” it read. It didn’t look safe, but the risk of danger behind the door was secondary to the real hell he would be put through if Rose spotted him.

Tough choice.

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