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Glass-cutting winds and crystalized brimstone. Skull-crushing snowplows huffing and puffing on the slippery bridge upstairs. The Manhattan skyline blazing through the freezing rain like a New Jerusalem. Like civilizing Rome. Endless legions of supercute diesel trucks rolling out of the Island Kingdom with DSNY standards on their windshields—high-intensity headlights aimed at the barbarian darkness ahead. The tanklike trucks shoveling the muck off the creaking overpass. Salting the earth for all its hazardous transgressions . . .
Twentysomething leagues under the Queensboro Bridge, an airlock hisses and softly depressurizes . . .
“Whoa baby!” someone kicking open the metal vault. “I haven’t seen a storm this bad since the blizzard of ’69. Ya’ll better hold on to your dicks!” someone yelling into the howling wind as a shivering Giacomo ducks beneath a vampire-pale arm and faceplants inside a massive missile silo. Someone slamming the blast door shut behind our favorite superhero.
A few seconds for the pressure to equalize. A few seconds for Giacomo’s superhairy ears to finish popping, for his wildebeest eyes to properly adjust to the ugly florescent lights glaring down on the concrete and rusted steel. On the partially congealed olive oil puddles and the beer can cemetery. On the tundra of dirty clothes . . .
“You hungry?” Dylan yawning and shoving a pot of mac and cheese into Giacomo’s paws, the orange goo generously sprinkled with ash by the hand-rolled cigarette hanging from Dylan’s laughing lips.
“Fuck yea. Thanks.”
Wrapping his arms around the warm pot of pasta, his neon-pink messenger bag strapped tight across his chest, Giacomo Jones waddles over to the only fixed point in the bomb shelter (the wobbly wooden chair, obviously). He sits down and shivers.
“Jesus fucking shit,” stomping his Chucks together and brushing the smoky sleet off his extra-large jean jacket. “It’s fucking freezing in here. How the fuck do you fucks live like this?”
“Yea I know,” somebody shouts, but our favorite superhero definitely can’t see who. Because things are like way different now. Totally different now. Because that really tall fencelike superstructure, previously pressed up against the back wall of the Warehouse like some sort of posthistorical Stonehenge or some sort of post-Foucault Bastille or some sort of post-Beckett farce—because that thing back there has now been completely tucked away under a shield of camouflaging drywall. The see-through cages swapped for windowless compartments. Because the Pizza Boyz have somehow managed to build themselves paper-thin bedrooms.
Someone’s giggling voice keeps shouting through the drywall—“But don’t worry, the cold’s good for you. It builds character. Besides, it’ll be spring soon. And you know what that means. Nothing but sunshine and sex!”
Standing behind Giacomo, one hand resting on the back of the wobbly wooden chair, Dylan yawns. “No, it won’t. The spring’s never going to get here,” slapping his skinny stomach and blowing a perfectly perfect smoke ring up toward the really high ceiling. “This is the winter of our lives . . . The winter of our lives . . .” Dylan blowing another perfectly perfect smoke ring. Giacomo swallowing a lump of cheese and watching the florescent will-o’-the-wisp sail up and over the box of colorless drywall. Giacomo swallowing and thinking that he can definitely see microscopic icicles forming here and there along the ring’s shimmering circumference . . .
A really loud wheeze echoes out of one of the windowless compartments, the middle compartment. Like a malnourished groundhog Wylie’s head pokes itself out through one of the two or three rectangular openings just wide enough for a liberal arts graduate to squirm through. Wylie frowns and wheezes. “Would you stop going on and on about the ‘winter of our lives.’ No one knows what that even means. If you’re going to talk, try to at least make a little sense. I’m sick of all the bullshit that passes for conversation in here.” Wiggling his hairless chest through the drywall crevasse Wylie then strides across the mouse-turd maze in his purple rain boots, nodding to Giacomo on his way by—“Long time no see.”
Leaning back in the wobbly wooden chair Giacomo grunts and swivels his baboon eyes to watch Wylie grab a six-pack of beer from the broken mini fridge—the florescent floodlights bouncing off Wylie’s malnourished chest as Wylie chugs one of the beers and strides over to the makeshift gym. Pressing the six-pack down into the concrete mush Wylie throws Giacomo a beer, throws Dylan a beer, and scoops up a jump rope off the floor, the wooden handles double-dipped in oily sludge. In frosted tomato sauce.
Giacomo takes an extra-large gulp of cold beer, coughs and wipes the orange pasta off his very prickly chin. He burps. Burps twice. “How’s the fucking pizza industry these days?”
Wylie smiles and swings the heavy rope over his malnourished head. “No idea. We’re taking a break from all that. The whole thing got way too stressful. Wasn’t worth it. I’ve started building my own furniture. I’m thinking about selling rocking chairs to homeless veterans or something. There’s always money in that.”
“Jesus,” Giacomo shivering and hocking a greenred loogie on the concrete mush. Wiping his muzzle with his jacket sleeve then nodding up at Dylan.
“What about you—what the fuck are you doing?”
Slumped up against the drywall cube, a frozen laptop at his feet, Dylan reaches behind his ear and pulls out another hand-rolled cigarette. He slaps his skinny stomach. “Thinking. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. And I think I’ll be applying to grad school.”
“You’re fucking with me. Grad school?”
“Grad school. That’s the next logical step. There’s no question about it. It’s either grad school or the Peace Corps. There’s nothing else.”
“Jesus. What the fuck are you going to fucking study?”
“Not sure,” Dylan calmly tapping his cigarette, the graywhite ash drifting over the frozen laptop like a hundred dead lilies. “Criminal law, English, public policy, sports medicine, music theory—it’s all the same. It’s grad school. It’s a fact that people go to grad school to escape ‘the real.’ It’s basically just an excuse to have more sex. Grad school is where you go if you don’t ever wanna grow up. That’s an undisputable fact of life which I’ve come to accept—and will soon apply for.”
“Eh, I don’t fucking know about that . . .”
Blowing another perfectly perfect smoke ring Dylan stubs out his cigarette on the drywall, then throws his empty beer bottle across the massive bunker, aiming for the black plastic trashcan near the vaultlike front door. He totally misses. He shrugs and reaches behind his ear for another hand-rolled cigarette.
“What about you?” Dylan yawning. “How’s your truelove company?”
Giacomo shoves a fingerful of orange goo through his chapped lips. “Eh, not bad. I’m almost fucking done with the fucking algorithm,” chewing. “I don’t fucking know why but I’m getting sick of the whole fucking thing,” chewing. “We’re fucking flying out for the Presentation this week,” chewing. “Maybe those fucks out there can give me some of that inspiration shit.” Giacomo chewing with his muzzle open. Licking the orange goo off his extra-large thumb and listening to Wylie wheezing like a dying Chihuahua behind him.
“I’m going with you!” a giggling voice screams out of one of the windowless compartments. “I’m done with this city! I’m done with this rat race! I’m DONE!”
No one says anything. A hungry little mascot trudges across the mucky floor, its tiny cheeks stuffed with crumbs, with dandruff snacks.
Out of breath and about to collapse, Wylie drops the jump rope and grabs another beer. He yells back at Syd. “You’re done with this city? Are you joking? You haven’t done anything except smoke weed!”
“Exactly!” Syd giggling through the drywall. “There’s nothing here for me. I’m ready to move on. We should all move on. Let’s go on a road trip!”
No one answers. Freezing rain swirls down through the extra-small glory hole overhead. The black silt mixing with the florescent feces, with the graywhite cigarette ash.
Totally unfazed by this really loud silence, more than likely belligerently drunk, Syd tries again. “What about you, Giacomo—you wanna go? We can take the minivan and drive across the country. We’ll throw out the pizza ovens and launch the first travelling yoga studio. What do you think? I’ve been taking online classes and my parents already promised to lend me the money for gas. I’ll teach you the basics. We’ll give lessons at truck stops and highway diners. We’ll have a whole family of sexy yogis with us. We’ll be on the road! Let’s go!”
Giacomo sneezes cheese all over his superhairy paws and extra-large jean jacket. He sneezes twice and definitely doesn’t answer.
Lighting up another hand-rolled cigarette Dylan laughs quietly and steps over one of Wylie’s aborted furniture fetuses (half bar stool, half drafting table), then walks over to the “kitchen”, kneels down in a puddle of olive oil Jell-O, and rummages about in the broken mini fridge—string cheese, cheap beer, string cheese—until he pulls out a chain of spicy chorizo. Dylan sits down on top of the mini fridge and uses a pocketknife to carve off fatty chunks of meat. Dylan eats meat and thinks.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Warehouse, somehow chugging a beer and chewing on a pepperoni pizza crust, Wylie squirms back out of his windowless compartment with a dirty towel over his malnourished shoulders, purple rain boots still on. He marches over to the wobbly wooden chair, snot-sprayed paperback in hand. He tosses the book into Giacomo’s lap.
“Here, I finished it. It’s good. Not great. But good. You can read it if you want. It just can’t leave the Warehouse.”
Giacomo takes his anteater eyes off his pot of mac and cheese. He sets the pot down on the concrete mush and flips through the cum-crinkled paperback.
“Why the fuck not?”
“Because if it leaves the Warehouse then I won’t—”
An obnoxiously loud kazoo-buzz echoes and echoes off the Warehouse walls . . .
“Wrong!” Syd giggling from his compartment. “It’s because he doesn’t want anyone messing with his collection! He’s a pervert with a book fetish!”
Wylie’s face flashes red, danger-red. Wylie grits his teeth and keeps talking to a grinning Giacomo—“Because if it leaves the Warehouse then I won’t be able to compare it with the new Philip Roth novel that I just bought and—”
Another obnoxiously loud kazoo-buzz rattles the bunker.
“If you ask me,” Syd screaming with glee, “Philip Roth is the worst writer I’ve ever read!”
“Why don’t you just shut the fuck up!” Wylie shouting and throwing his beer bottle at the drywall—the deeper than deep impact setting off ripples and ripples of plaster.
A very slight pause before another kazoo-buzz rattles the bunker.
“And I don’t remember who said it, but someone, some genius told me that the problem with reading Philip Roth is that Philip Roth hates women and that Philip Roth thinks all women are either trashcans or cum buckets and that’s why all of Philip Roth’s stories are pretty much always about the adventures of a little Jewish boy who goes around shitting and cumming on random girls and random grandmas. It’s disgusting. It’s insulting. And I hereby ban all of Philip Roth’s books from the Warehouse. Forever!”
“I swear to God!” Wylie gasping, Wylie choking, “Please tell me who the fuck this genius is,” clearing his throat, clearing his throat, “so that I can call him up right now and tell him to go stick a spiked douchebag right up his slandering asshole!”
Dylan snorts and looks up from his chorizo, pocketknife in hand, broken mini fridge open.
“Sorry, Wylie,” he yawns, carving off another chunk of meat. “But I think Syd might be on to something. It really is an undisputable fact that Mr. Roth has a very misogynistic, almost gynophobic worldview. That’s true. That’s beyond questioning. What’s also true is that Mr. Roth does have a tendency to use his female characters as a sort of vaginal sounding board for all the problems he sees in our patriarchal society. He uses their bodies—their swollen labia—as a sort of carnal canvas. A canvas on which he then spray-paints all the evils inherent in the sexual division of labor, in the gender wage gap, and of course, in bikinis. This is a fact.” Dylan pauses to shove another chunk of spicy chorizo into his mouth. He yawns with his mouth full. “Actually, I wouldn’t even say Mr. Roth’s work has any real female characters. Nope. I’d say it just has a bunch of objectified mouthpieces . . . But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“What!” Wylie’s voice cracking, Wylie’s chest burning with hives, “How can you say something like that! That’s just so—so wrong! Philip Roth is a genius and a novelist! Don’t you realize what he’s been doing? Don’t you realize that he’s been picking apart the American identity for over fifty years? Don’t you realize that he’s the best at it! So why don’t you guys just say it? Just go ahead and say it! The real reason you don’t like him is because he’s Jewish. You just don’t get him at all because you’re nothing but a couple of ignorant anti-Semites!” Wylie’s face about to explode, “Just a bunch of brainwashed philistines! Heathens! Rebel scum! And you know what! I always knew it—I did!” a scarlet rash spreading across Wylie’s malnourished chest.
“Take it fucking easy,” Giacomo softly growls from his wobbly wooden chair, a blob of unnaturally yellow cheese on his extra-large jean jacket. “They’re just fucking with you.”
“Whatever,” Wylie mumbles, and humps it off to the front of the Warehouse, slamming the bathroom door behind him and climbing into the most repulsive shower on either side of the Mississippi.
A plastic kazoo clasped tight to his vampire-pale chest, a fat joint clamped tight between his giggling teeth, Syd struts out of his windowless compartment and picks up Wylie’s beer. He chugs what’s left and smiles. “You guys wanna go to a rave tonight? It’s going to be under the Drunken Clinamen. In the basement or something. Should be fun. I bet they’ll have that two for one MDMA special going on all night. Plus I picked up some ketamine and acid for us. What do you think?”
Dylan reaches behind his ear, pulls out another hand-rolled cigarette. He yawns. “I don’t know if you boys realize or not, but raves—and dance parties in general—are pretty much responsible for most, if not all of the mass suicides throughout recorded history. It’s an undisputable fact that every time there’s a crowd there’s a cult waiting for a leader. Especially when drugs and DJs are involved.”
Syd struts over to the makeshift gym. “Don’t be such an asshole. Everyone knows that drugs and DJs are the only things that stop people from killing themselves after a bad day at the office. And besides, without a little substance abuse, history never would have got that killer record deal in the first place!”
“Please don’t say things like that,” Dylan blowing a perfectly perfect smoke ring up toward the really high ceiling as Syd takes a really deep, pre-workout drag from the joint, then starts curling a pair of 25-pound dumbbells.
“Did you end up asking out that California girl?” Syd flexing his non-existent biceps.
Giacomo farts on the wobbly wooden chair. Farts twice. “You mean my fucking
“No way,” Syd dropping the weights on the concrete mush. They land without a thump-thump.
“That’s fucking right.”
“Well I don’t believe in girlfriends or sex anymore,” Syd exhaling and running a hand through his thinning hair. “And I don’t intend to have either again till I’m thirty.”
Wylie pokes his malnourished head out of the bathroom. Wylie shouts—“You don’t believe in sex because you haven’t had any in two or three years!”
Coughing up a mushroom cloud of evergreen smoke Syd blushes and snatches up one of Wylie’s aborted furniture fetuses (half nightstand, half coat rack), then hurls it against the steel walls as hard as he possibly can . . . Syd squirming back into his windowless compartment as soon as he hears Wylie kick open the bathroom door.
A dirty towel wrapped tight around his malnourished waist, purple rain boots still on, Wylie reaches into the mini fridge for another six-pack of cheap beer, then strides over to the makeshift library of moldy paperbacks. He bends over and picks up the second-most relevant title (relevant to twentysomething life, obviously), a half-burnt, half-salvaged copy of T. S. Elliot’s Four Quartets. Tossing Giacomo another beer, tossing Dylan another beer, Wylie squirms into his windowless compartment with the heavy book held tight to his wet chest.
A new hand-rolled cigarette on his laughing lips, a new beer in his left hand, Dylan throws his old beer across the massive arms depot. He totally misses the trashcan. He shrugs and squirms his skinny stomach into his windowless compartment.
Progressive house beats now pump-a-pumping out of Syd’s compartment (The Chemical G-Spot), the Warehouse walls shivering from side to side, side to side, our Chicago-tough superhero coughs and takes another extra-large gulp of colder than cold beer. He peers down at his Chuck Taylors, heel-deep in a grayblackbrown pool of melted ice and dead fleas. He spits into the empty pot of mac and cheese, then leans back in the wobbly wooden chair and scratches his really itchy scalp. Because Giacomo Jones is definitely wondering where the Pizza Boyz are going. Like where do they see themselves in five years’ time? And how much do they expect to contribute to their 401(k) accounts before they retire? But then Giacomo burps, burps twice and feels something greasy land on his walnut nostrils. Squinting his eagle eyes, leaning all the way back, Giacomo peers up at the really high ceiling. At the fractal patterns of rust spreading out from around the florescent floodlights. At the glory hole directly overhead which definitely seems to be getting bigger—like way bigger. Another drop of freezing filth lands on our favorite superhero’s nose, the yucky muck sliding down his walnut nostrils, seeping into his bloated brain. Weeds of sweat sprouting up across his unibrow as he watches the florescent floodlights start to wobble. As he watches the freezing filth burst through the rusted cracks and break the glory hole wide open—a bucket of bubbly black grime landing on Giacomo’s muzzle, his lungs swelling with liquefied failure. Gagging, coughing, gagging our favorite superhero suddenly feels something that he’s like definitely never ever felt before. Not even on Chicago’s South Side. Not even when he was speeding through fifty red lights to identify what was left of his totally incinerated family. Giacomo Jones feels a trembling up and down his superhairy spine. Giacomo Jones feels so much fear fear fear that his human heart starts to race and bang up against his rhino rib cage. Giacomo Jones gasps—the really high ceiling wobbles, electronic dance beats shake-a-shake the steel walls, and in really slow, slow motion, one more drop of freezing filth slides down our favorite superhero’s walnut nostrils . . . Giacomo gasping and throwing up his arms, flailing and flinging beer all over his extra-large soul . . . Giacomo wobbling wobbling wobbling then faceplanting into the sludge-cushioned concrete . . . Ouch. Double ouch . . .
A few sympathetic tears later we shimmy our superlong legs down through the gaping glory hole overhead. Brushing back our frizzy black bangs we bend over and whisper our GET WELL SOON wishes. We lick our peeping tomboy lips and give that very prickly cheek a sloppier than sloppy kiss. Then we turn and leave our favorite superhero gasping for breath all alone next to the empty pot of mac and cheese. Next to the broken bottle of cheap beer. Because c’est la vie. Because you definitely can’t win ‘em all. Definitely not. Because twentysomething leagues upstairs, the supercute war rages on and on and on . . .
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