Call It Sleep XXI

INSIDE the Royal Warehouse, located on the East River and Tenth Street, Bill Whitney, an old man with a massive body, short-wind and stiff, rheumatic legs, toiled up the stairway to the first floor. In his left hand, he held a lantern, which in his absent-mindedness, he jogged from time to time to hear the gurgle of its fuel. In his right hand, clacking on the bannister at each upward reach of his arm, he held a key—the key he turned the clocks with on every floor of the building—the proof of his watch and wakefulness. As he climbed the swart stairs, stained with every upward step by shallow, rocking lantern-light, he muttered, and this he did not so much to populate the silence with ephemeral, figment selves, but to follow the links of his own slow thinking, which when he failed to hear, he lost:

“And wut? Haw! Ye looked down—and—sss! By Gawd if there waren’t the dirt-rud under ye. And. Ha! Ha! Hawl No wheels. Them pedals were there—now’waren’t they? Saw ’em as clear—as clear—but the wheels gone—nowhere. By Gawd, thinks I— Now by Gawst, ain’t it queer? Old Ruf Gilman a’standin’ there, a’standin’ and a’gappin’. Jest a’standin’ and a’gappin’ as plain— And the whiskers he growed afore the winter ... By the well with the white housing. A’savin’ his terbaccer juice till he had nigh a cupful . . . Whawmmmmm! Went plumb through the snaw in the winter . . .”

Resounded, surged and resounded, like ever swelling breakers:

—Double! Double! Double dared me!

Where there’s light in the crack, yuh dared me. Now I gotta.

In the blue, smoky light of Callahan’s beer-saloon, Callahan, the pale fattish bar-keep jammed the dripping beer-tap closed and leaned over the bar and snickered. Husky O’Toole—he, the broad-shouldered one with the sky-blue eyes—dominated those before the bar (among them, a hunchback on crutches with a surly crimp to his mouth, and a weazened coal-heaver with a sooty face and bright eye-balls) and dwarfed them. While he spoke they had listened, grinning avidly. Now he threw down the last finger of whiskey, nodded to the bar-tender, thinned his thin lips and looked about.

“Priddy wise mug!” Callahan prompted filling his glass. “Well.” OToole puffed out his chest. “He comes up fer air, see? He’s troo. Now, I says, now I’ll tell yuh sompt’n about cunt— He’s still stannin’ be de fawge, see, wit’ his wrench in his han’. An I says, yuh like udder t’ings, dontcha? Waddayuh mean, he says. Well, I says, yuh got religion, aintcha? Yea, he says. An’ I says, yuh play de ponies, dontcha? Yea, he says. An’ yuh like yer booze, dontcha? Sure, he says. Well I says, none o’ dem fer me! Waddayuh mean, he says. Well, I says, yuh c’n keep yer religion, I says. Shit on de pope, I says— I wuz jis’ makin’ it hot—an’ t’hell witcher ponies I says— I bets on a good one sometimes, but I wuzn’ tellin’ him—an’ w’en it comes t’ booze I says, shove it up yer ass! Cunt fer me, ev’ytime I says. See, ev’ytime!”

They guffawed. “Yer a card!” said the coal heaver. “Yer a good lad!—”

As though he had struck the enormous bell of the very heart of silence, he stared round in horror. .

“Gaw blimy, mate!” Jim Haig, oiler on the British tramp Eastern Greyhound, (now opposite the Cherry Street pier) leaned over the port rail to spit. “I ain’t ’ed any fish ’n* chips since the day I left ’ome. W’y ain’t a critter thought of openin’ a ’omely place in New York—Coney Island fer instance. Loads o’ prawfit. Taik a big cod now—”

Now! Now I gotta. In the crack, remember. In the crack be born.

“Harrh! There’s nights I’d take my bible-oath, these stairs uz higher.” On the first floor, Bill Whitney stopped, gazed out of the window that faced the East River. “Stinkin’ heap out there!” And lifting eyes above the stove-in enameled pots, cracked washtubs, urinals that glimmered in the black snarl, stared at the dark river striped by the gliding lights of a boat, shifted his gaze to the farther shore where scattered, lighted windows in factories, mills were caught like sparks in blocks of soot, and moved his eyes again to the south-east, to the beaded bridge. Over momentary, purple blossoms, down the soft incline, the far train slid like a trickle of gold. Behind and before, sparse auto headlights, belated or heralding dew on the bough of the night. “And George a’gappin’ and me a’hollerin’ and a’techin the ground with the toe of my boot and no wheels under me. Ha! Ha! Mmm! Wut cain’t a man dream of in his sleep ... A wheel ... A bike . . .” He turned away seeking the clock. “And I ain’t been on one . . . not sence . . . more’n thirty-five . . . forty years. Not since I uz a little shaver . . .”

Clammy fingers traced the sharp edge of the dipper’s scoop. Before his eyes the glitter on the car tracks whisked... reversed . . . whisked . . .

“Say, listen O’Toole dere’s a couple o’ coozies in de back.” The bar-keep pointed with the beer knife. “Jist yer speed!”

“Balls!” Terse O’Toole retorted. “Wudjah tink I jist took de bull-durham sack off me pecker fer—nuttin’? I twisted all de pipes I wanna w’en I’m pissin’!”

“No splinters in dese boxes, dough. Honest, O’Toole! Real clean—”

“Let ’im finish, will ye!” the hunchback interrupted sourly. “O’Toole don’ have to buy his gash.”

“Well, he says, yea. An’ I says yea. An’ all de time dere wuz Steve an’ Kelly unner de goiders belly-achin’—Hey trow us a rivet. An’ I sez—”

—Nobody’s commin’l

Klang! Klang! Klang! Klang! Klang!

The flat buniony foot of Dan MacIntyre the motorman pounded the bell. Directly in front of the clamorous car and in the tracks, the vendor of halvah, candied-peanuts, leechee nuts, jellied fruits, dawdled, pushing his pushcart leisurely. Dan MacIntyre was enraged. Wasn’t he blocks and blocks behind his leader? Hadn’t his conductor been slow as shit on the bell? Wouldn’t he get a hell of a bawling out from Jerry, the starter on Avenue A? And here was this lousy dago blocking traffic. He’d like to smack the piss out of him, he would. He pounded the bell instead.

Leisurely, leisurely, the Armenian pedlar steered his cart out of the way. But before he cleared the tracks, he lifted up his clenched fist, high and pleasantly. In the tight crotch of his forefingers, a dirty thumb peeped out. A fig for you, O MacIntyre.

“God damn yuh!” He roared as he passed. “God blast yuh!”

—So go! So go! So go!

But he stood as still and rigid as if frozen to the wall, frozen fingers clutching the dipper.

“An’ hawnest t’Gawd, Mimi, darlin’.” The Family Entrance to Callahan’s lay through a wide alley way lit by a red lamp in the rear. Within, under the branching, ten-driled chandelier of alum-bronze, alone before a table beside a pink wall with roach-brown mouldings, Mary, the crockery-cheeked, humid-eyed swayed and spoke, her voice being maudlin, soused and reedy. Mimi, the crockery-cheeked, crockery-eyed, a smudged blonde with straw-colored hair like a subway seat, slumped and listened. “I was that young an’ innercent, an’ hawnest t’ Gawd, that straight, I brought it t’ the cashier, I did. And, Eeeel she screams and ducks under the register, Eeee! Throw it away, yuh boob! But what wuz I t’know—I wuz on’y fifteen w’en I wuz a bus-goil. They left it on a plate— waa, the mugs there is in de woild—an’ I thought it wuz one o’ them things yuh put on yer finger w’en ye git a cut—”

“A cut, didja say, Mary, dea’?” The crockery cheeks cracked into lines.

“Yea a cut— a cu— Weel Hee! Hee! Hee! Hee! Mimi, darlin’ you’re comical! Wee! Hee! Hee! He! But I wuz that young an’ innercent till he come along. Weel Heel Hee! Hawnes’ t’ Gawd I wuz. I could piss troo a beer-bottle then—”

Out of the shadows now, out on the dimlit, vacant street, he stepped down from the broken curb-stone to the cobbles. For all his peering, listening, starting, he was blind as a sleep-walker, he was deaf. Only the steely glitter on the tracks was in his eyes, fixed there like a brand, drawing him with cables as tough as steel. A few steps more and he was there, standing between the tracks, straddling the sunken rail. He braced his legs to spring, held his breath. And now the wavering point of the dipper’s handle found the long, dark, grinning lips, scraped, and like a sword in a scabbard—

“Oy, Schmaihe, goy! Vot luck! Vot luck! You should only croak!”

“Cha! Cha! Cha! Dot’s how I play mit cods!”

“Bitt him vit a flush! Ai, yi, yi!”

“I bet he vuz mit a niggerteh last night!”

“He rode a dock t’ luzno maw jock—jeck I shidda said. Cha! Cha!”

“He’s a poet, dis guy!”

“A putz!”

“Vus dere a hura mezda, Morr’s?”

“Sharrop, bummer! Mine Clara is insite!”

Plunged! And he was running! Running!

“Nutt’n’? No, I says, nutt’n’. But every time I sees a pretty cunt come walkin’ up de street, I says, wit’ a mean shaft an’ a sweet pair o’ knockers, Jesus, OToole, I says, dere’s a mare I’d radder lay den lay on. See wot I mean? Git a bed under den a bet on. Git me?”

“Haw! Haw! Haw! Bejeeziz!”

“Ya! Ha! He tella him, you know? He lika de fica stretta!”

They looked down at the lime-streaked, overalled wop condescendingly, and—

“Aw, bulloney,” he says, “Yeah, I says. An’ booze, I says, my booze is wut I c’n suck out of a nice tit, I says. Lallal’mmm, I says. An’ w’en it comes t’ prayin’, I says, c’n yuh tell me anyt’ing bedder t’ pray over den over dat one!” O’Toole hastily topped the laugh with a wave of his hand. “Yer an at’eist, yuh fuck, he hollers. A fuckin’ at’eist I says— An’ all de time dere wuz Steve and Kelly unner de goiders hollerin’, hey trow us a riv—”

Running! But no light overtook him, no blaze of intolerable flame. Only in his ears, the hollow click of iron lingered. Hollow, vain. Almost within the saloon-light, he slowed down, sobbed aloud, looked behind him—

“But who’d a thunk it?” Bill Whitney mounted the stairs again. “By Gawd, who’d a thunk it? The weeks I’d held that spike for ’im . . . Weeks . . . And he druv and never a miss . . . Drunk? Naw, he warn’t drunk that momin’. Sober as a parson. Sober. A’swingin’ of the twelve pound like a clock. Mebbe it was me that nudged it, mebbe it war me ... By Gawd, I knowed it. A feelin’ I had seein’ that black sledge in the air. Afore it come down, I knowed it. A hull damned country-side it might of slid into. And it had to be me . . . Wut? It wuz to be? That cast around my leg? A pig’s tit! It wuz to—”

Like a dipped metal flag or a grotesque armored head scrutinizing the cobbles, the dull-gleaming dipper’s scoop stuck out from between the rail, leaning sideways.

—Didn’t. Didn’t go in. Ain’t lit. Go back.

He turned—slowly.


“Bawl? Say, did I bawl? Wot else’d a kid’ve done w’en her mont’ly don’ show up—Say! But I’ll get even with you, I said, I’ll make a prick out of you too, like you done t’ me. You wait! You can’t get away with that. G’wan, he said, ye little free-hole, he called me. Wott’re ye after? Some dough? Well, I ain’t got it. That’s all! Now quit hangin’ aroun’ me or I’ll s-smack ye one! He said.”

“Where d’ja get it?”

“I borreed it—it wuzn’t much. She called herself a m-mid-wife. I went by m-meself. My old-huhu—my old 1-lady n-never—O Jesus!” Tears rilled the glaze.

“Say—toin off de tap, Mary, f Gawd’s sake!”

“Awl Sh-hu-hu-shut up! Can’t I b-bawl if I—I—uh-hu-uh—G-go p-peddle yer h-hump, h-he says—”

“But not hea’, Mary, fr the lova Pete. We all gets knocked up sometimes—”

—Horry op! Horry op back!

"They’ll betray us!” Into the Tenth Street Crosstown car, slowing down at Avenue A, the voice of the pale, gilt-spectacled, fanatic face rang out above all other sounds: above the oozy and yearning “Open the door to Jesus” of the Salvation Army singing in the park; above the words of the fat woman swaying in the car as she said, “So the doctor said cut out all meat if you don’t want gall-stones. So I cut out all meat, but once in a while I fried a little boloney with eggs—how I love it!” Above the muttering of the old grey-bearded Jewish pedlar (he rocked his baby carriage on which pretzels lay stacked like quoits on the upright sticks) “Founder of the universe, why have you tethered me to this machine? Founder of the universe, will I ever earn more than water for my buckwheat? Founder of the universe!” Above the even enthusiasm of the kindly faced American woman: “And do you know, you can go all the way up inside her for twenty-five cents. For only twenty-five cents, mind you! Every American man, woman and child ought to go up inside her, it’s a thrilling experience. The Statue of Liberty is—”

—He stole up to the dipper warily, on tip—

“Shet up, down ’ere, yuh bull-faced harps, I says, wait’ll I’m troo! Cunt, I says, hot er snotty ’zuh same t’ me. Dis gets ’em’ hot. Dis gets em hot I sez. One look at me, I says, an yuh c’n put dat rivet in yer ice-box—t’ings ’11 keep! Yuh reams ’em out with dat he says—kinda snotty like. Shit no, I says I boins ’em out. W’y dontcha trow it t’dem, he ays, dey’re yellin’ fer a rivet. Aaa, I don’ wanna bust de fuckin’ goider I says. Yer pretty good, he says. Good, I says, didja ever see dat new tawch boinin’ troo a goider er a flange er any fuck’n’ hunka iron—de spa’ks wot goes shootin’ down—? Didja? Well dat’s de way ’I comes. Dey tol’ me so. An’ all de time dere wuz Steve and Kelly unner de goiders havin’ a shit-hemorrage an’ yellin’ hey, t’row—”

toe, warily, glancing over his shoulders, on tip-toe, over serried cobbles, cautious—

“Wuz t’ be. And by Gawd it might hev gone out when I went to bed a’ suckin’ of it. By Gawd it hed no call t’ be burnin’. . . . Wuz to be—Meerschaum, genuwine. Thankee I said. Thankee Miz Taylor. And I stood on the backstairs with the ice-tongs. Thankee and thank the Doctor ... Boston, the year I—Haw, by Gawd. And the hull damn sheet afire. And Kate ascreamin’ beside me . .. Gawd damn it! It hadn’t ought to ’a’ done it . . . A’lookin’ at me still now . . . A’stretchin’ of her neck in the white room . . . in the hospital—”

As though his own tread might shake the slanting handle loose from its perch beneath the ground. And now, and—

“Why not? She asks me. Pullin’ loaded dice on Lefty. The rat! He can’t get away with that y’know. I know, Mag, I said. It’d do my heart good to see a knife in his lousy guts—only I gotta better idee. What? She asks me. Spill it. Spill it is right, I says t’ her. I know a druggist-felleh, I said, good friend o’ mine. O yea, she looks at me kinda funny. Croak him with a dose o’—No! I said. No poison. Listen Mag. Throw a racket up at your joint, will ye? Give him an invite. He’ll come. And then let me fix him a drink. And I winks at her. Dintcha ever hear o’ the Spanish Fly—”

over it now, he crouched, stretched out a hand to

“They’ll betray us!” Above all these voices, the speaker’s voice rose. “In 1789, in 1848, in 1871, in 1905, he who has anything to save will enslave us anew! Or if not enslave will desert us when the red cock crows! Only the laboring poor, only the masses embittered, bewildered, betrayed, in the day when the red cock crows, can free us!” lift the dipper free. A sense almost palpable, as of a leashed and imminent and awful force.

“You’re de woist fuckin’ liar I ever seen he sez an’ ducks over de goiders.”

focused on his hand across the hairbreadth

“Yuh god mor’n a pair o’ sem’ns?”

gap between his fingers and the scoop. He drew “It’s the snug ones who’ll preach it wuz to be.” back, straightened. Carefully bal—

“So I dropped it in when he was dancin’—O hee! Hee! Mimi! A healthy dose I—”

anced on his left, advance—

“Yeah. I sez, take your pants off.” ed his right foot—



He stared at the river, sprang away from the rail and dove into the shadows.

“Didja hear ’im, Mack? De goggle-eyed yid an’ his red cock?”

The river? That sound! That sound had come from there. All his senses stretched toward the dock, grappled with the hush and the shadow. Empty . . . ?

“Swell it out well with batter. Mate, it’s a bloomin’ goldmine! It’s a cert! Christ knows how many chaps can be fed off of one bloody cod—”

Yes . . . empty. Only his hollow nostrils sifted out the stir in the quiet; The wandering river-wind seamed with thin scent of salt "An’ he near went crazy! Mimi I tell ye, we near bust, watchin—”

decay, flecked with clinging coal-tar—

Crrritlktl “Can’t, he sez, I got a tin-belly.”

—It’s— Oh— It’s—if si Papa. Nearly like. It’s—nearly like his teeth.

Nothing ... A barge on a slack hawser or a gunwale against the dock chirping because a ‘Til raise it.”

boat was passing.

—Papa like nearly.

Or a door tittering to and fro in the wind.

“Heaz a can-opener fer ye I sez.”

Nothing. He crept back.

“Hemm. These last dum stairs.”

And was there, over the rail. The splendor shrouded in the earth, the titan, dormant in his lair, disdainful. And his eyes “Runnin’ heel heel hee! Across the lots hee! hee! jerkin’ off.” lifted

“An’ I picks up a rivet in de tongs an’ I sez—” and there was the last crossing of Tenth Street, the last cross—

“Heazuh flowuh fer yea, yeller-belly, shove it up yer ass!”

ing, and beyond., beyond the elevateds,

“How many times’ll your red cock crow, Pete, befaw y’ gives up? Tree?”

as in the pit of the west, the last “Yee! hee! Mary, joikin’—”

smudge of rose, staining the stem of “Nawthin’t’ do but climb—” the trembling, jagged “Show culluh if yuh god beddeh!”

chalice of the night-taut stone with “An’ I t’rows de fuck’n’ rivet.”

the lees of day. And his toe crooked into the dipper as into a stirrup. It grated, stirred, slid, and—

“Dere’s a star fer yeh! Watch it! T’ree Kings I god. Dey came on huzzbeck! Yee! Hee Hee! Mary! Nawthin’ to do

but wait fer day light and go home. To a red cock crowin’. Over a statue of. A jerkin’. Cod. Clangl Clangl Oyl Machine! Liberty! Revolt! Redeem!”


Power! Power like a paw, titanic power, ripped through the earth and slammed against his body and shackled him where he stood. Power! Incredible, barbaric power! A blast, a siren of light within him, rending, quaking, fusing his brain and blood to a fountain of flame, vast rockets in a searing spray! Power!

The hawk of radiance raking him with talons of fire, battering his skull with a beak of fire, braying his body with pinions of intolerable light. A nd he writhed without motion in the clutch of a fatal glory, and his brain swelled and dilated till it dwarfed the galaxies in a bubble of refulgence—Recoiled, the last screaming nerve clawing for survival.

He kicked—once. Terrific rams of darkness collided; out of their shock space toppled into havoc. A thin scream wobbled through the spirals of oblivion, fell like a brand on water, his-s-s-s-s-ed—




“Gaw blimey!

“Watsa da ma’?”

The street paused. Eyes, a myriad of eyes, gay or sunken, rheumy, yellow or clear, slant, blood-shot, hard, boozy or bright swerved from their tasks, their play, from faces, newspapers, dishes, cards, seidels, valves, sewing machines, swerved and converged. While at the foot of Tenth Street, a quaking splendor dissolved the cobbles, the grimy structures, bleary stables, the dump-heap, river and sky into a single cymbal-clash of light. Between the livid jaws of the rail, the dipper twisted and bounced, consumed in roaring radiance, candescent—



"Give a lookl Id’s rain—

“Shawt soicit, Mack—”

“Mary, w’at’s goin’—”

“Schloimee, a blitz like—”

“Hey mate!”

On Avenue D, a long burst of flame spurted from underground, growled as if the veil of earth were splitting. People were hurrying now, children scooting past them, screeching. On Avenue C, the lights of the trolley-car waned and wavered. The motorman cursed, feeling the power drain. In the Royal Warehouse, the blinking watchman tugged at the jammed and stubborn window. The shriveled coal-heaver leaned unsteadily from between the swinging door—blinked, squinted in pain, and—

“Holy Mother O’ God! Look! Will yiz!”


“There’s a guy layin* there! Burrhnin’l”

“Naw! Where!”

“Gawd damn the winder!”

“It’s on Tent’ Street! Lookl”


The street was filled with running men, faces carved and ghostly in the fierce light. They shouted hoarsely. The trolley-car crawled forward. Up above a window slammed open.

“Christ, it’s a kid!”


“Don’t touch ’im!”

“Who’s got a stick!”

“A stickl”

“A stick, fer Jesus sake!”

“Mike! The shovel! Where’s yer fuck’n’ shov—” “Back in Call—"

“Oy sis a kind—”

“Get Pete’s crutch! Hey Pete!” “Aaa! Who touched yer hump, yuh gimpty fu—”

“Do sompt’n! Meester! Meester!” “Yuh crummy bastard, I saw yuh sneakin’—” The hunchback whirled, swung away on his crutches. “Fuck yiz!”

“Oy! Oy vai! Oy vai! Oy vai!”

“Git a cop!”

“An embillance—go cull-oy!” “Don’t touch ’im!”

“Bambino! Madre mia!”

“Mary. It’s jus’ a kid I”

“Helftz! Helftzl Helftz Yeedin! Rotivit!”

A throng ever thickening had gathered, confused, paralyzed, babbling. They squinted at the light, at the outstretched figure in the heart of the light, tossed their arms, pointed, clawed at their cheeks, shoved, shouted, moaned—

“Hi! Hi down there! Hi!” A voice bawled down from the height. “Look out below! Look out!”

The crowd shrank back from the warehouse.


“It’s a—”

“You take it!”

Grab it!”

“Gimme dat fuck’n’ broom!”

“Watch yerself, O’Toole!”

“Oy, a good men! Got should—”

“Oooo! De pore little kid, Mimi!”

“He’s gonna do it!”

“Look oud!

“Dunt touch!”

The man in the black shirt, tip-toed guardedly to the rails. His eyes, screwed tight against the awful glare, he squinted over his raised shoulder.

“Shove ’im away!”

“Go easy!”

“Look odda!”

“Atta boy!”

“Oy Gottinyoo!”

The worn, blackened broom straws wedged between the child’s shoulder and the cobbles. A twist of the handle. The child rolled over on his face.

“Give ’im anudder shove!”

“At’s it! Git ’im awayl”

“Quick! Quick!”

Once more the broom straws rammed the outstretched figure. He slid along the cobbles, cleared the tracks. Someone on the other side grabbed his arm, lifted him, carried him to the curb. The crowd swirled about in a dense, tight eddy.

“Oyl Givalt!”

“Gib’m air!”

“Is ’e bomed?”

“Bennee stay by mel”

“Is ’e boinedl Look at his shoe!" “Oy, de pooh mamal De pooh mama!” “Who’s kid?”

“Don* know, Mack!”

“Huz pushinT “Jesus! Take ’im to a drug-store.”

“Naa, woik on ’im right here. I woiked in a

power house!”

“Do sompt’n! Do sompt’n!”

The writhing dipper was now almost consumed. Before the flaring light, the weird white-lipped, staring faces of the milling throng wheeled from chalk to soot and soot to chalk again—like masks of flame that charred and were rekindled; and all their frantic, gnarling bodies cut a darting splay of huge, impinging shadow, on dump-heap, warehouse, river and street—

Klang! The trolley drew up.

“Oyeee! Ers toit! Ers to-i-t! Oye-e-e-e!” A woman screamed, gagged, fainted.

“Hey! Ketch ’er!”

“Schleps aveck!”

“Wat d’ hell’d she do dat fer—"


They dragged her away on scufflng heels to one side. “Shit!” The motorman had jumped down from the car and seized the broom—

“Fan ’er vid de het!”

“Git off me feet, you!”

“At’s it! Lean on ’im O’Toole! Push ’im down! At’s it! At’s it! I woiked in a power house—”

And with the broom straws the motorman flipped the mangled metal from the rail. A quake! As if leviathan leaped for the hook and fell back threshing. And darkness.


They grunted, the masses, stood suddenly mute a moment, for a moment silent, stricken, huddled, crushed by the pounce of ten-fold night. And a voice spoke, strained, shrunken, groping—

“Ey, paizon! She ’sa whita yet—lika you looka da slacka lime alia time! You know?”

Someone shrieked. The fainting woman moaned. The crowd muttered, whispered, seething uneasily in the dark, welcomed the loud newcomers who pierced the dense periphery—

“One side! One side!” Croaking with authority, the stone-grim uniformed one shouldered his way through. “One side!”

“De cops!”

“Dun’t step on ’im!”

“Back up youz! Back up! Didja hea’ me, Moses? Back up! Beat it! G’wan!” They fell back before the perilous arc of the club. “G’wan before I fan yiz! Back up! Let’s see sompt’n’ in hea’! Move! Move, I say!” Artificial ire flung the spittle on his lips. “Hey George!” He flung at a burly one. “Give us a hand hea, will yiz!”

“Sure! Git back you! Pete! Git that other side!”

The policeman wheeled round, squatted down beside the black-shirted one. “Don’ look boined.”

“Jist his shoe.”

"How long wuz he on?”

“Christ! I don’t know. I came ouda Callahan’s an’ de foist t’ing I know somebody lams a broom out of a winder, an’ I grabs it an’ shoves ’im off de fuck’n t’ing—”

“Sh! Must a done it himself— Naa! Dat ain’t de way! Lemme have ’im.” He pushed the other aside, turned the child over on his face. “Foist aid yuh gits ’em hea.” His bulky hands all but encompassed the narrow waist. “Like drownin’, see?” He squeezed,

Khir-r-r-r-f! S-s-s-s-.

“I hoid ’im!”


“He’s meckin’ him t’ breed!”

“See? Gits de air in ’im.”

Khir-r-r-r-f! S-s-s-s.

“Looks like he’s gone, do. Were de hell’s dat am-billance?”

“Vee culled id a’reddy, Ufficeh!”


“Rap ’im on de feet arficer, I woiked

in a power—"

Khir-r-r-r-f! S-s-s-s

“Anybody know ’im? Any o’ youz know dis kid7” The inner and the craning semi-circle muttered blankly. The policeman rested his ear against the child’s back. “Looks like he’s done fer, butchuh can’t tell—” Khir-r-r-r-f! S-s-s-s.

“He sez he’s dead, Mary."


“Oy! Toit!”

“Gott sei donk, id’s nod mine Elix—”

Khir-r-r-r-f. S-s-s-s.

“Sit im helfin vie a toitin bankis.” The squat shirtsleeved Jew whose tight belt cut his round belly into the letter B turned to the lime-streaked wop—squinted, saw that communication had failed. “It’ll help him like cups on a cawps,” he translated—and tapped his chest with an ace of spades.

Khi-r-r-r-f. S-s-s-s.

(E-e-e-e. E-e-e-e-.

One ember fanned ... dulling ... uncertain)

“Here’s the damned thing he threw in, Cap.” The motor-man shook off the crowd, held up the thinned and twisted metal.

“Yea! Wot is it?”

“Be damned if I know. Hot! Jesus!”

Khir-r-r-f. S-s-s.


Like the red pupil of the eye of darkness, the ember dilated, spun like a pinwheel, expanding, expanding, till at the very core, a white flaw rent the scarlet tissue and spread, engulfed the margin like a stain—) “Five hundred an* fifty volts. What a wallop!” “He’s cooked, yuh t’ink7”

“Yea. Jesus! What else!”

“Unh!” The policeman was grunting now with his efforts.

Kh-i-r-r-r-f! S-s-s-s.

“Hey, Meester, maybe he fell on id— De iron—”

“Sure, dot’s righd!”

“Id’s fom de compeny de fault!”

“Ass, how could he fall on it, fer the love O JesusI” The motor-man turned on them savagely.

“He could! Id’s easy!”

“Id vuz stink—stick—sticken oud!"

“He’ll sue, dun’ vorryl”

“Back up, youzl”

Khi-r-r-r-fl S-s-s.


And in the white, frosty light within the red iris, a small figure slanted through a desolate street, crack-paved, rut-guttered, slanted and passed, and overhead the taut, wintry wires whined on their crosses—


They whined, spanning the earth and sky.

—Go-d-d-b! Go-o-o-ob! G-o-o-b! G‘bye!...) “Makin’ a case fer a shyster. C’n yuh beat itl” “Ha-a-ha! Hunhl”

“I’m late. Dere it is.” The motorman dropped the gnarled and blackened dipper beside the curb. “An Irisher chuchim!”

“Ain’t it a dirty shame—”

“Noo vud deni”

“Wat’s happened, chief?”

“Dere give a look!”

“Let’s git troo dere!”


Kh-i-r-r-r-f! S-s-s-s.

(—G’by-e-e. Mis-s-s-l-e. M-s-ter. Hi-i-i-i. Wo-o-o-d. And a man in a tugboat, hair under arm-pits, hung from a pole among the wires, his white undershirt glittering.

He grinned and whistled and with every note yellow birds flew to the roof.)

“T’ink a shot o’ sompt’n’ ’11 do ’im any good?” “Nuh! Choke ’im if he’s alive.”

“Yeh! If hiz alife!”

“W’ea’s ’e boined?”

“Dey say id’s de feet wid de hen’s wid eveytingk.” “Unh!”

Khi-r-r-r-f! S-s-s-s.

(We-e-e-e- The man in the wires stirred. The Wires twanged brightly. The blithe and golden cloud of birds filled the sky.)


(Klang! The milk tray jangled. Leaping he neared. From roof-top to roof-top, over streets, over alley ways, over areas and lots, his father soared with a feathery ease. He set the trays down, stooped as if searching, paused—) “Unh!”

(A hammer! A hammer! He snarled, brandished it, it snapped like a whip. The birds vanished. Horror thickened the air.)


“He’s woikin’ hard!”

“Oy! Soil im Gott helfin!”

“He no waka.”

(Around him now, the cobbles stretched away. Stretched away in the swirling dark like the faces of a multitude aghast and frozen)


(W-e-e-e-e-e-p! Weep! Overhead the brandished hammer whirred and whistled. The doors of a hallway slowly opened. Buoyed up by the dark, a coffin drifted out, floated down the stoop, and while confetti rained upon it, bulged and billowed—)


Khi-r-r-r-rf! S-s-s-s-(—Zwank! Zwank! Zwank! The man in the wires writhed and groaned, his slimy, purple chicken-guts slipped through his fingers. David touched his lips. The soot came off on his hand. Unclean. Screaming, he turned to flee, seized a wagon wheel to climb upon it. There were no spokes—only cogs like a clock-wheel. He screamed again, beat the yellow disk with his fists.)


Kh-i-r-r-rf! S-s-s-s.

“Didja see it?”

“See it? Way up on twelft’I”

“I could ivin see id in de houz—on de cods.”

“Me? I vas stand in basement—fok t’ing mack blind!” “Five hundred an’ fifty volts.”

(As if on hinges, blank, enormous mirrors arose, swung slowly upward face to face. Within the facing glass, vast panels deployed, lifted a steady wink of opaque pages until an endless corridor dwindled into night.)

“Unh! Looks Jewish t’ me.”

“Yeah, map o’ Jerusalem, all right.”

“Poor bastard! Unh!”

“Couldn’t see him at foist!”


Kh-ir-r-rf! S-s-s-s.

(“You!” Above the whine of the whirling hammer, his father’s voice thundered. “You!” David wept, approached the glass, peered in. Not himself was there, not even in the last and least of the infinite mirrors, but the cheder wall, the cheder)


Kh-i-r-r-rf! S-s-s-s.

(Wall sunlit, white-washed. “Chadgodyat” moaned the man in the wires. "One kid one only kid.” And the wall dwindled and was a square of pavement with a footprint in it—half green, half black, “I too have trodden there.” And shrank within the mirror, and the cake of ice melted in the panel beyond. “Eternal years,” the voice wailed, “Not even he.”)


“Gittin’ winded? Want me to try it?”


“Look at ’im sweat!”

“Vy not? Soch a coat he’s god on!”

“Wot happened, brother?”

“Cheh! He esks yet!”

“Back up, you!”


Kh-i-r-r-r-f! S-s-s-s.

(And faded, revealing a shoe box full of calendar leaves, “the red day must come.”)

“Unh! Did he move or sumpt’n?”

“Couldn’t see.”

(which lapsed into a wooden box with a sliding cover like the chalk-boxes in school, whereon a fiery figure sat astride a fish. “G-e-e-e o-o-o d-e-e-e-!” The voice spelled out. And shrank and was a cube of sugar gripped be-)


Kh-i-r-r-r-f! S-s-s-s.

“Shah! Y’hea id?”


“Yea! It’s commin!”

“Id’s commin’!”

“I sees it!”

“Meester Politsman de—”

“Back up, youz!”

A faint jangle seeped through the roar of the crowd. “Unh!”

(tween the softly glowing tongs. “So wide we stretch no further—” But when he sought to peer beyond, suddenly the mirrors shifted, and— "Go down!” his father’s voice thundered, “Go downI" The mirrors lay beneath him now; what were the groins now jutted out in stairs, concentric ogives, bottomless steps. “Go downI Go down!” The inexorable voice beat like a hand upon his back. He screamed, de—)

Jaoglet Angle! Angle! Angle!

“Dere! It’s cornin’!”

“Look! Look hod dere!”


Angle! Jang!

“Christ’s about time!”

The crowd split like water before a prow, reformed in the wake, surged round the ambulance, babbling, squall—

(scended. Down! Down into darkness, darkness that tunneled the heart of darkness, darkness fathomless. Each step he took, he shrank, grew smaller with the unseen panels, the graduate vise descending, passed from stage to dwindling stage, dwindling. At each step shed the husks of being, and himself tapering always downward in the funnel of the night. And now a chip—a step-a flake-a step-a shred, A mote. A pinpoint. And now the seed of nothing, and nebulous nothing, and nothing, And he was not. . . .)

ing, stabbing the dark with hands. “Ppprrr!” Lips flickered audibly as the blue-coat rose. With one motion, palm wiped brow, dug under sweat-stained collar. Sofdy bald, the bareheaded, white garbed interne hopped spryly from the ambulance step, black bag swinging in hand, wedged whitely through the milling crowd. Conch-like the mob surrounded, contracted, trailed him within the circle, umbiliform—

“Lectric shot; Doc!”

“De hospital!”

“Knocked him cold!”


“’Zee dead?”

“Yea, foolin’ aroun’ wid de—”

“Shawt soicited it, Doc!”

“Yea, boined!”

“Vee sin id Docteh!”

“Git back, youz!” The officer crouched, snarled, but never sprang. “I’ll spit right in yer puss!”

“Mmm!” The interne pinched the crease of his trousers, pulled them up, and kneel—

“Guess yuh better take ’im witchuh, Doc. Couldn’t do a goddam t’ing wit—”

“He’s gonna hea’ de heart! See?”


ing beside the beveled curbstone, applied his ear to the narrow breast.

“Shoe’s boined. See it, Doc?”

(the voice still lashed the nothingness that was, denying it oblivion. "Now find! Now find! Now find!’’ And nothingness whimpered being dislodged from night, and would have hidden again. But out of the darkness, one ember)

“Take it off, will you, let’s have a look at it.”

(flowered, one ember in a mirr—)

“Sure!” Blunt, willing fingers ripped the (or, swimming without motion in the motion of its light.) buttons open,

“Hiz gonna look.”

(In a cellar is) dragged the shoes off,

(Coal! In a cellar is) tore the stocking down, re—

(Coal! And it was brighter than the pith of lightning and milder than pearl,) vealing a white puffy ring about the ankle, at (And made the darkness dark because the dark had culled its radiance for that jewel. Zwank!)

“Is it boined?”

“Can’t see, c’n you?” which the interne glanced while he drew “Waddayuh say, Doc?” a squat blue vial from his bag, grimaced, un-(Zwank! Zwank! Nothingness beatified reached out its hands. Not cold the ember was. Not scorching. But as if all eternity’s caress were fused and granted in one instant. Silence) corked it, expertly tilted it before (,struck that terrible voice upon the height, stilled the whirling hammer. Horror and the night fell away. Exalted, he lifted his head and screamed to him among the wires— “Whistle, mister! Whistle!) the quiet nostrils. The crowd fell silent, tensely watching.


“Smells strong!”

“Stinks like in de shool on Yom Kippur.”

(Mister! Whistle! Whistle! Whistle! Whistle, Mister! Yellow birds!)

On the dark and broken sidewalk, the limp body gasped, quivered. The interne lifted him, said sharply to the officer. “Hold his arms! He’ll fight!”

‘Hey look! Hey look!” “He’s kickin’!”

(Whistle, mister! WHISTLE!”) “Wat’s he sayin’?”

“There! Hold him now!”

(A spiked star of pain of consciousness burst within him)

“Mimi! He’s awright! He’s awright!” “Yeh?”


“No kiddin’! No kiddin’!”




“Oi, Gott sei dank!”