Weirdo Row by Sadriguez

Johane Vanderschlonge stood on the steps in the well down to the Times Square train station speaking tenderly to a fifteen year-old girl with blonde-yellow eyebrows, as she was on the verge of crying. “It's all for you,” he said. And Jimmy heard: “You think I give a rat’s cock about any of this shit?” A nondescript commuter ascending the stairs eyed cautiously the unusual scene, thinking to step around Vanderschlonge and his girl. All of this in Jimmy Strumthrumpastiddidos's view. Vanderschlonge gestured towards the commuter: “What? Him? You think I give a dog’s ass about him or any of these fucking people?” He slapped the commuter to its knees, did this amid hiccuped grunting of reassuring words at the girl. Jimmy accelerated his pace, moving in on the scene. “It's for you baby!” Johane said tenderly to the girl, nearly on the verge of crying himself, moving her finally to tears as he spat grandly on this collapsed commuter who had now regained wits and was lying stone still, hyperventilating to summon words, reasoning, in its own defense. Vanderschlonge began now to scream passionate things at the girl as he spat again and again upon this commuter, rifling in his jacket pocket for his butterfly knife, meaning to open up the struggling commuter, when Jimmy closed in, placing a gentle hand under the panting and hiccuping Vanderschlonge's elbow.

“Whoa, what's up, Vander? What'd this piece 'a shit do, huh, man? Come on now, John, you know you can't be doing this here. As the P.O.'s only a block away.” Vanderschlonge was glad to see him, as glad as Jimmy, who knew where things could have led. The commuter stayed on its face on the steps, didn’t move. The girl stared down at it with all the comprehending of a cat. Jimmy slid this tender hand higher up on Vanderschlonge's arm and gripped affectionately the bicep. Johane turned his gaze from the girl, who still stared blankly at the still commuter, and on down to the friendly hand gripping his arm. His face showed deliberation: of what the hand, of what the words of Jimmy augured.

“Give this piece 'a shit a pass, John. C'mon, now. Give him a pass, now. You know you shouldn't do this kind of thing here.” The commuter sat on the steps now, face in hands, shaking its head on occasion as though rethinking some decision.

Vanderschlonge looked back at the girl, turning the anger to her: “Flora! why don't you say ‘hello' to my friend Jimmy you stupid fucking—.” “It's cool, John,” said Jimmy, “She and I'd literally never met,” then to Flora,” let me introduce myself,” he said. He took her hand and saw the sadness in her eyes even in this neutral state. Jimmy could touch Flora's hand. The commuter had only looked at her, before looking at John, and had been slapped and spat upon for it and that could have easily turned into something worse. The commuter left now and Jimmy drew Vanderschlonge away from the girl, out onto the sidewalk.

“How have you been, John?”

“I donno.”

On the train to Weirdo Row, Jimmy Strumthrumpastiddidos deliberated the tableau of a few minutes earlier. Who was the girl? What had the commuter done? She, some runaway from Scarsdale, he thought. But the sadness of her wasn't something that could be bred in wealth, comfort, the promise of higher education. Perhaps it was farther up on the MetroNorth. Vanderschlonge cannot drive.

The stars were out in Weirdo Row but, as ever, as dim and dull as pinpricks in a black tarpaulin hung over a rotted old pool. By the exit to the subway station he saw a circle jerk of businessmen around someone or -thing indeterminable and looked away from the pumping triceps of their arms. This wasn't an unusual sight so he went on to the corner shop, out in front of which sat an elderly man in overalls without a shirt.

“How are you this evening,” he asked Jimmy.

Responding without looking at him, “Fine, fine...” said Jimmy. And “It's good that you're ‘fine, fine,’ tonight,” said the old man. “Why do you suppose you're fine, fine?”

“Well, I feel pretty fine,” said Jimmy. “I just saw an old friend. Maybe averted an act of violence.”

“And so you took the violence from there and, so, you brought it here, did you? Just like everyone else did?”

Jimmy ignored him now. He went on: “But keep alert tonight, Jimmy. Keep your violences handy, now. It's a bad, bad night. All the weirdos are out tonight.”

As he walked along the avenue, another old old man, small, squirrely and muscular, passed him going the other way, spat at him and screamed something at him about plaid pants. Jimmy looked down. He was wearing plaid pants that week. He passed another similarly shaped old man with sprayed on black hair and absolutely no eyebrows, beating someone or -thing with a cane in an alleyway, laughing and crying alternatingly.

From the next alley he heard whispered voices and muffled whimpers, a choked and graveled older man's voice: “I get her first now, Jerry, you know I never get any pus-say.” And then, “Lookit ‘at Vinny, she take to dat like a natural,” and then Jimmy heard a lamb bleating somewhere distant so he walked to Seymour's stoop, where his old friend sat with the creature in his arms, half-sheared, trembling with the cold and sad-eyed.

“What's this about tonight being a bad night?” said Jimmy. Seymour had to think about this a while. “Donno. Hey. How's 'bout you give us a chord, Jim?” and he produced and handed Jimmy a weathered old nylon string guitar in red.

C minor major 11th.

“That's a good one, Jim. Keep the strum-box. Something tells me you might need it later.”

“What's ‘something’?” “Donno.” “Well, what's with the sheep?” “You see, she was only half-sheared so we're going to eat the other half, me and Deirdre.” “What will you cook her in?”

“Nope, haven't seen him.”

“Seymour, you keep an eye to the ground. I'm going in Pickled Snake Gulch and I might not make it out unscathed.”

Jimmy closed in on the Gulch with a muffly chug chug of his new strum-box. C minor major 11th to F augmented 7th softly, softly, then harder, louder, the sound gaining in intensity, and he had even begun to sing a little song, but only to himself, when a horny old hand landed on the fretboard and the tuneful Jimmy trailed off.

“Don't make those sounds,” said the possessor of the toadlike hand, “for they wake the Pickled Snakes. Fear for years! Fears for a year!” Jimmy whipped the guitar away and looked into the man's face but he'd disappeared, and now the bouncer spun Jimmy round:

“You're wanted in the back,” said this orge, his skin like maroon sausage, hands of sausagey fingers. “You are the guitar player.” “Yes,” said Jimmy, and the ogre led the way, through the shouting drunken fog of the Gulch, on to the back, where sat the Queen of Bullet Belts, surrounded by her pink naiads, tickling each other and rolling about giggling with glee.

She said to the guitar player, “On this accursed evening, strum me a melody,” and so he did, and when it was finished he begged leave to ask her what this evening meant and how might he save himself.

“Almost none will be saved,” she said with lowered crown.

Vanderschlonge sat in the window of the automat with Flora, the girl Jimmy had met earlier, and another man, whom Jimmy soon knew for Over All, the old man with whom he'd spoken at the corner shop.

As Jimmy's visit was more about gathering information than anything else he paid homage to his friend Vanderschlonge, nodded to Vanderschlonge’s Flora, who smiled a smile, and then selected a distant cluster of small tables at which to sit and politely eavesdrop on the conversation with Vanderschlonge, Over All and silent Flora.

One hundred yards from the mouth of Weirdo Row lay the automat: Vanderschlonge and the girl must have left the commuter behind. “Whatever had happened to him, though?”

“How old's she?” “Nineteen.” Flora shook her head. “Why does she shake her head?” “She must not agree with your odor.” “There aren't any orders in an automat.” “Keep your eye to the ground, Over All!” “Age!” “Sixteen.”

Over All looked at Flora who drank a cup of gray opaque soup and stared at him, at the table, at the soup and back. “Alright, then,” said Over All, and he signaled for a third man, another of those wiry old types, who came where summoned and, once Vanderschlonge has whispered something to Flora, walked off with the girl, who at the moment betrayed no emotion at being sundered from her guy on the arm of the mysterious Procurer.

“What time do the commuters arrive?” Vanderschlonge said.

“They're already,” Over All said, gesturing to the window, past which, Jimmy saw, moved a single-file procession of nondescript commuters. “Where are they going?” “The park. That's where it's going to happen.”

Jimmy wouldn't bother trying to blend in with the commuters. He joined a cluster of local weirdos watching the event from the park’s outskirts. In single-line droves the commuters slowly overpopulated the park, forming a large circle, leaving ample space clear in the middle of them, presumably where the vehicle would park.

Jimmy saw Seymour arm-in-arm with Deirdre, her head half-shaved: “Seymour!” he said. Deirdre spotted him and punched Seymour in the ear. Seymour turned and acknowledged his friend: “Hi again, Jim.” “What do you see, what did you say?” Seymour thought about this. Deirdre said, “It's only a matter of minutes now.” The three stood in silence as the Maidenship descended from the cracked heavens and the red carpet was unfurled by two of the commuters as the others closed in tighter, spread out wider, closed in tighter again, on and on, to create the impression from above of an undulating ring. This, welcoming the great ship, out of which, upon landing stepped slowly the great, elder King of Butterfly Knives, to begin his grave, brave oratory.

“Commuters and lookers-on alike,” said he, great, grand and grave, “are welcome to join in the dance of the Withering Worm!” And so all did, but Jimmy, he, nearly swept along in the forward momentum of onlookers rushing to join the ringed commuters in their celebratory dance. The ship became all aglow with blinking lights of magenta, indigo and brightest green-yellow, soon producing from its various musky crooks and armpits gross wavy tentacles of lobster scale coral, which danced along in the wind with the wormy-swaying commuters and lookers-on.

At the path out of the park Jimmy arrived and felt the sharp bite of a cane at the back of his neck. He spun round, meaning to grab hold of the cane, but at that moment another struck him dead in the face sending him into a sleep from which he awoke at the foot of the stairwell in a dank basement in almost complete darkness save a red light which shone from under a door at the top of the stairs. The basement was in complete silence save the rustling of enormous insects pullulating in the walls.

“Hello?!” he cried to no avail. He fumbled in the dark for the guitar and began to pluck and strum alternatingly, traversing the path of familiar scales, finally resolving the notes in a menacing diminished chord which provoked an increased intensity of insects' rustling and a scratching at the door from which the red light creaked.

A gravelly insect's voice from a nearby bit of wall spoke to him: “The holy Jamaican chord progression will summon the Morbid Dragon. The holy Jamaican chord progression alone.”

“What said that?” No answer. He fumbled for the chords, tried a seeming infinitude of combinations until finally a bramble thicket of brown smoke materialized at his feet, out of which emerged the snarling beast.

“What is your reason for summoning the Morbid Dragon,” that venerable creature said.

“The girl,” Jimmy said, “I know she has something to do with this.” “Something to do with what?” “With the bad things that are going to happen.” “You may be correct but you'll never know.” “I won't be saved.” “That's as yet to be determined.” “Where am I?” “The basement of the corner shop. Mount the stairs and knock at the door three times, and, to be admitted, play once again the holy Jamaican chord progression, only this time play it backwards.”

Having done as instructed, Jimmy found himself in the also dark and silent back room of the corner shop. He heard the voices of Vanderschlonge and the old man Over All in a heated exchange, somewhere muffled and distant.

“He's already paid his money and he's demanding a refund.” “We've already made the deal, if he has a problem send him to me. There will be no refund, only delivery.” “She had no idea what to do!” said Over All, “How old is she, Vanderschlonge?” he said. “He said she hadn't the faintest idea of where to start.”

Jimmy crouched in the shadow and the conversation continued until interrupted by a banging at the door of whatever room Over All and Vanderschlonge stood in.

“Let me in!” cried an unfamiliar voice. “I demand restitution!”

Said Vanderschlonge to Over All: “If you let him in here I'll kill him.” Over All called to the man at the door: “Don't come in here! Go back to the girl's room.” “The deal is null!” said the stranger. “Put that away,” said Over All to Vanderschlonge. “If he opens that door he's a dead man!” “Don't open this door!” screamed Over All.

Jimmy ran to the front of the corner shop and struggled with the door knob. Finally it gave and released him into the streets, and it was then he discovered that the red light came from out there, permeated the entirety of Weirdo Row, shone from some unidentified source.

A consensus among his organs informed him that the awful thing would happen soon. The door behind him swung open and coughed up Flora.

“The boy Jimmy!” she said, bolted towards him, buried her face in his chest.

“What's happening in there?” And that same viscera in conference told him what was happening between Vanderschlonge and the stranger. Soon the light faded and the earth rumbled mightily, knocking Jimmy and Flora to the pavement, he, knocking his head against a fire hydrant on the way down.

Jimmy awoke once more in the court of the Queen of Bullet Belts, hand glued by blood to his split forehead.

“So you see now,” she said. “The maidenhood of the maiden must be saved, for the Maidenship to depart and weirdness once more reign in Weirdo Row.”

“But how can I save her?”

She said: “By making the ultimate sacrifice.”

He awoke, hands bound, in some room in the corner shop and presently in through the door stepped the wiry old Procurer who had taken Flora from the automat, minutes or hours or days earlier.

“Why am I being held here?” said Jimmy.

The old man was silent, but he came in closer and admired Jimmy's plaid pants. “Plaid plants...” he said, trailing off in his rotten mind to Jimmy knew not where.

“Don't you understand?” Jimmy said. “That the salvation of Weirdo Row depends on the preservation of that girl's maidenhood.”

The old man stepped closer and studied Jimmy as if he were some muck in a dish. Jimmy leapt up to the Procurer’s face and crushed it between his handcuffed fists. The old man struggled to grab his cane from where it lay nearby. In the struggle Jimmy slowly moved backwards, in the direction of the door, the crushed face in tow. Kicking it open from behind he tossed the Procurer out into the hallway.

Now unbound somehow he frantically searched from door to door for some sign or sound of Flora.

At last he heard her whimpering through the crack. And at that moment, grasping for the doorknob, he felt again the smarting of the cane in the back of his neck pushing his face into the melting wood of the door.

Vanderschlonge screamed something from within. The adrenaline seized Jimmy who horse-kicked the old man again, this time in his swollen grapefruit-sized testicles, and, freed from him, knocked down the door. Vanderschlonge stood with his gun at the neck of the commuter, while another wiry old man pinned Flora to the bed.

“Stop this John!” John dropped the gun. “Say. All you had to do was ask.” “Get out of here,” Jimmy told the commuter. The Procurer, clutching his groin, and the other old man, followed. Flora curled up in the bed and wept, but soon her tears were tears of joy, and soon those tears turned to a light, burning white, which blinded the onlookers. And soon enough that light engulfed her entirely, and she became the light and ws dissipated entirely.

The heat pouring out freely from the hindquarters of the Maidenship began to heat their organs; the now half-liquid Jimmy dashed to escape the light but Vanderschlonge wasn't as fast so he was destroyed.

Jimmy made his way back downstairs, into the shadows. He waited for the screaming of the red light to die. When he emerged he found an empty street, and soon the equipage of the Queen of Bullet Belts materialized beside him and a footman beckoned Jimmy enter.

She sat on the far side of the carriage shading her face with a large fan: “Is it over?” she asked. “Yes,” said Jimmy. “What is the ultimate sacrifice?” Jimmy said.

The police station, whose denizens were safely unaware of the catastrophic events of Weirdo Row that night, though it was two miles away, lay then in serene calm off Atlantic Avenue. A knock at the door admitted Jimmy, who stepped to the heightened pulpit at which sat an officer, and spoke.

“I have committed a very bad crime and need to turn myself in.”

In the interrogation the detectives, Pilkner and Drysdale, drilled him.

“When did it happen?” asked the one. “Sometime in the summer. Five years ago,” said Jimmy. “What did the victim look like?” asked the other. Jimmy described a female form most generic, save the blonde-yellow eyebrows.

“You can't recall an exact date?” “No.” “Nor location.” “No. Yeah. She's buried under a school. I think in Ditmas Park.”

“We'll have to hold him until something comes up. We find out he's wandered off from someplace or something.” “Why would he lie? Why would even a lunatic lie?” Gesturing to a wall of faces he went on, “Lots of girls fitting that description have gone missing in the history in question.” The other listened in silence. He went on: “He doesn't know exactly when or where the body was interred. Why should he?” “Shouldn't he know.” “Say he doesn't, and might still be telling the truth. He's supplied us with enough evidence to charge him.” “So charge him.”

Jimmy sat in the holding cell at Central Bookings, finally getting some rest. He awoke some hours later, not knowing the time. Only knowing that much time had elapsed, that he had fallen into a deep sleep and, in that time, had his shoes and pocket-contents stolen from him. Soon it became apparent to him that beside him sat the very King of Butterfly Knives, albeit that that venerable figure appeared in a crude disguise: dressed as a kind of fifties greaser with heavily attended-on bouffant.

“Stay the course,” said the King, out of the corner of his fishlike mouth. “You've done right and proper good by the citizens of Weirdo Row.”

“Where's the girl?” “Exactly where you told the Officers she'd be, though they'll never find her. We ensured it. But enough pieces will fall into place. For the true narrative of what happened is now etched into your mnemonic DNA. It is now your fatalistic decline. Irretrievable but unrecognizable. Every lie you manufacture will out as truth by the evidence extant. The narrative's truth as engineered by fate. You will never again see the light of day, Jimmy Strumthrumpastiddidos. Hell will reign on Weirdo Row for another day. And this is the end of your tale.”