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On Top of the Empire State Building
by Albert Russo

Unky Berky says he’s very pleasantly surprised by the attitude of people here. When he studied here he had to ride the subway every single day between Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan where he used to go to university, but what he dreaded most was traveling back in the evening during winter. He’d get a very stiff neck trying to avoid the wolfish stare of some of the guys who, the moment he made eye contact with them, would jeer at him, sticking out of their pocket or their shirt the tip of a blade.

One late afternoon, returning from a Chinese laundry-shop, he crossed a peaceful-looking square behind Flatbush Avenue, when midway he realized that he was being followed. A pair of hooligans were playing with bicycle chains, whirling them around their arms like they were yoyos. They made them swish back and forth, too awesome for words. Unky Berky quickened his pace but they managed to corner him. He was probably too scared to even want to faint and asked them in his pussy mousey voice if they could please let him go. They talked in grunts and belches and guffawed all the while they flipped their fingers over his face. The one who played chief even tried to push his thumb inside my uncle’s nostril and into one of his ears. What a disgusting little twerp!

It’s thanks to a granny who was passing by at that very moment that my poor uncle was saved. Short and stooped as she was, she yelled at them so loud and hurled such abuse that they got frightened and scrammed. You wouldn’t believe the things she said for a lady of her age. That a girl! I hope to have her stamina when I grow old, coz in this world if you don’t show your fangs, you’re either sushied alive, or chic-kebobbed, like a vulgar piece of lamb. To tell you the truth, I’d rather be a shark, even if it makes me look bad.

On account of the planes that destroyed the World Trade Center twenty ago, we went to 34th street and whisked (by elevator, you ninny) to the top of the Empire State Building. In spite of it being an antique, we had a grand view of the city. Only, you couldn’t stay too long outside, coz with the wind blowing at minus ten centipeed you might turn into a living stalagtit. But what most impressed me, beside the other skyscrapers, were the cars and the busses, which, seen from here, looked like tiny matchboxes. And the people seemed no bigger than ants. That may be the reason why some folk prefer to commit suicide here, they figure that by the time they reach the ground they’ve turned into a bug and it gives them wings, sort of. This way, at least, they can’t miss their fate, unlike those who try hara kiri by using a knife or a revolver, and get maimed for life.

Excerpt 5 from ZAPINETTE GOES TO NEW YORK by Albert Russo