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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tito Perdue's THE NODE - Excerpt #5

By 3:57 he had come to the heart of the downtown city, an underwater garden, as it seemed, owing to so many stalk-like buildings wavering in the current. Here he halted long enough to twine his scarf more snugly about his neck and then take out a cigarette and ignite it hurriedly for the warmth it might give. The stars, they were jittering back and forth – until he understood that it was but a deception caused by the motion cited above of the downtown structures listing so dangerously from side to side. He saw then a light burning yellowly in one of the upper stories and silhouetted against it what either was a human being or item of furniture of some kind. There was no question but that the speed of the wind accelerated as it wended among the buildings and ran off down the streets lined on both sides with commercial buildings. It was 4:07 in the morning and they still had several blocks to go.

“About four more blocks,” he said. “But what if they won’t let us in?”

He groaned, the dog, and then began searching up and down the avenue for other possible places in which a person and his dog could escape the breeze. A capsized car lay in the intersection, its doors all missing and offering no sort of protection. Except for that neither man nor dog could see any sanctuary soever from the weather.

“Too late to go back now.”

“Well hell yeah it’s too late!” (He was speaking to himself in two voices.) “Should of thought of that before you started out!”

“I did. I thought about it.”

“The devil you did! I don’t know, sometimes you just...”

He stopped, distracted by an airplane toiling overhead. Many months had gone by since last he had witnessed any such thing as that, a jet-powered vehicle with, apparently, fuel enough to get where it was going. The man marveled and watched, shielding his eyes by habit against the weak light of the moon. But what a poor pilot it was to steer like that, an unconfident person who changed his mind at the last moment and opted to keep on going instead of setting down.

“He’s not stopping.”

“Pretty obvious isn’t it? Jeez.”

A delicatessen came up, a narrow building squeezed in between two much larger ones. Pressing against the window, our traveler detected an illuminated glassed-in counter holding a selection of meats and cheeses together with a gallon jug of knurled pickles floating in brine. He perceived a sausage in there, too, a coiled and pudgy thing half again as long as the longer of his own two arms. They were eating well, were these people!

It was not that he intended to possess himself of any of these products, not at this time and not so long as the place held at least two CCTV cameras looking down from a corner of the room. The hour was late and there was an iron grating over the window that could by no means have been broken open save but by aid of much heavier tools than any possessed by him. Even so he marked down the location, using for that purpose the gel-point pen that he carried in his vest. Already he had circled a good number of landmarks on his street map, including the police station, the water works, and several other designations. Suddenly he ducked back under the awning, surprised that the airplane had come back and was patrolling almost exactly overhead. In the next block an individual of some sort had stepped from his doorway and was scanning up and down the road, oblivious, as it seemed, to our hero and his dog. He estimated it, the man who gave this narration, as the last day in April, 4:38 in the morning, birds circling overhead.


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