On the Way to Forever 21 for a Faux Fur Coat (Reminiscent of Margo Tenenbaum’s)
by Robert Tumas
21 for a faux fur coat (Reminiscent of Margo Tenenbaum’s), and there is snow in the courtyard, on the hill, and the chain link, of St. Ignatius church on Crown Street. Teacher of artists, as young men, that founder; if there has to be a cross involved, better them than any, Simon says. His bells, his church tower, and the chimes ring out, counting to 7, services at 8 and 10, just off of the Parkway, Rogers, St. Ignatius on Crown Street. The drunks have moved into the vestibule to escape the snow drill on Crown Street. The cigarette smoke and odor of plastic bottled vodka is thick.
The Four Train smells like wet feces, we notice- we see, a man towards the far end of the car who looks like St. Nick with tea shades, work pants, tapered, zippered legs, flight suit, long white beard. Dirty teeth. He sits with a stroller, empty, save for some ratty, black plastic bags. There is no express service right now, accounting for weather.
What has he done with the baby? I ask.
You don’t laugh half as loud as I thought you might.
It might actually be Santa Claus, in an anti-Wonderful Life sort of way, you say.
You name our mutt, Iggy, before we even decide to live near the church. We adopt him from a family in a tenement apartment building, with orange tiles, near Coney Island, while we are looking for a kitten. We get driven home to Bed Stuy in a four-door cab truck, Ridge Line, gas drinker, smelling of Corona and Black & Milds, and we pay 100 dollars with a check, which will bounce. We don’t know Spanish, are unable to make idle conversation. We do not find any kittens. But we end up with another dog. I didn’t believe that sort of thing actually happened anymore.
When we brought him home you said he was a small lion, but he was so afraid of the hissing radiators that he slept in between us on the bed- a dangerous precedent- like a small human. He pees on that same bed, mercilessly, we are at a loss, and we refuse to treat him any differently. He sits on my lap, even now, obstructing my view of my church.
There was so much snow, piled, where the light came out of the hole in the ground on Eastern Parkway, that opened into a chasm of the earth, on the way to 14th Street Station Union Square. You didn’t mind at first. The wetness, the zoo, the birdcage of it all. It was Christmas Day. There was a pub or a cottage, on a dirt road on Inis Mor, light spilling out onto the lane. There was an argument over a pint for a tundish.
The snow and the darkness combined to make a glow bubble out of the light emanating from the chasm, the virgin mother, Mary, vodka, tomato juice, novenas, pepper, it was St. Ignatius all over again on the Four Train. Next stop, Union Square, 14th Street, Union Square. Where the hipsters all wear army coats.
You didn’t mind it for a while but the wind shifted, shifts now, endlessly, shifted the glow bubble, and shook the makeshift whisky drunk we were on- faking it, with cheap beer and the leftover wine from the housewarming party you threw. Threw up, all over the tree lawn, the sidewalk. The black branches are a canopy above us, protecting us from the flaking sky, and you are talking to your mother again. Which, I am happy about – because I like her.
There is no warmth now in the glow bubble, and they are dismantling the holiday shopping town in the park- we watch a man wheel a giant box full of identical bags of McDonalds on a dolly through the snow, another man with him, carrying a box of similar size, filled with Medium soft drinks- they are for the day laborers, snow shoveling, “guns for hire” says the article in the Times.
They are all the same, we hear him say.
They are all the same, so just grab one.
The coat hangs immediately within the parlor of the store, the vestibule, a massive cathedral of zealots. The security guard eyes us, thinks of his children, his mother; we are ruining her neighborhood near St. Ignatius church on Crown Street. Driving up the rent on Crown Street. Driving out the grandparents near St. Ignatius church, services at 8 and 10, on Crown Street. We are blight. We are driving the rent up on Crown Street.
They are all the same, says the demure, young, female clerk from the Lower East Side- silver lip ring, velvet blue eye shadow, ombre highlights. Cute, perky breasts in a pale blue T-shirt, no bra, one bare shoulder, pointed nipples, small buttocks in black spandex, we lick our lips in our minds.
They are all the same, she says, so just pick one.
I need a medium, you say, caressing her with your manicured fingers, her face puckering into gooseflesh, her chest moving beneath her shirt, beneath your amber nails, but if I wear a sweater underneath, you say, far away, I may need a large.
They are all the same, I say, so just pick her.
You blink twice, as if remembering the coat again, and we are always, I guess, there again, in St. Stephen’s smithy, on the way to forever
Robert Tumas is a writer and grad student who lives in Crown Heights with his wife and their two dogs. His writing has appeared in The L Magazine, Slant Magazine, The Faster Times and The Rumpus. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in ‘stretch’ Magazine and Puerto Del Sol. He is currently at work on a novel about growing up New Jersey.