A YOUNG WOMAN IN A TRASH BASKET

It was a red car, a mean, fast, low slung red car--maybe a Ford, but he didn’t know for sure, because he didn‘t much follow cars--but it was definitely a red car that was about to run the red light. Actually, he heard the sirens before he saw the car. The sirens were coming from four police cars that were tearing after the runaway red car, seriously motivated by the fact that its driver had, not only held up a pharmacy located on Lexington Avenue near 52nd Street, but for good measure and no good reason, shot the security guard, who now lay clutching his bloody stomach and moaning on the floor of an aisle packed with dental supplies. Sirens seem to intuitively pick up on wanton acts of violence and this moment was no exception. They were now besides themselves with anger and distress, unleashing a flaming whirl of terrifying sound, not to mention, a maelstrom of icy quivers designed to penetrate the vitals of all those unlucky enough to be stuck in traffic before them. Aaron did not have any of this information at the moment; all he knew was that everything was suddenly exploding and dangerous and that he must not step out into the street. He had initially taken a few steps past the curb, but lurched back when he heard the sirens and saw the red car barreling down on the intersection. The tall, gray-haired man in the nicely cut striped suit was not so lucky. He had stepped off the curb a few seconds before Aaron and was hit dead-on by the low slung, bandit car. The ferocious impact not only lifted him out of his shoes and high into the air but had also propelled him, God-knows how fast, before he was felled by a large tree on the sidewalk in front of a cellular phone store. It was clear that he was dead; the sudden appearance of a noir-ish The End sign could not have told us more; everybody who saw what happened knew for certain. “Poor guy, poor guy,” said a young woman, with a baby in a sling hanging down her chest as she began to tremble and cry and kiss the baby‘s head and in a few seconds was enfolded by the arms of an older woman, who may or may not have been a relative, but began comforting her in much the same manner. But it was not nearly over. The murder car continued racing down 57 Street to Tenth Avenue, where, undeterred by past history, it proceeded to run another red light, and in the process, bulls-eyed a small white Toyota, sending it spinning out of control, thus enabling the hapless Toyota to not only hit a young woman who was desperately trying to dodge to safety, but also to send her flying through the air before landing head first inside a metal trash basket, then going against the odds of hitting the same person twice, was able to follow up its first hit by ramming both the woman and trash basket into a brick wall, where they all came together in a smashing, bone crushing stop. “It’s like Baghdad,” said the terrified Aaron, who had just run down the hill, along with a small crowd of people eager, not only to witness the carnage, but possibly to help. “Just like Baghdad, but without the fire and the explosions.” And as he said that, he looked around, as if expecting a series of bomb attacks to lacerate them all. The police, though, were not worrying about such things-- being suddenly impacted into an action that most of them had only dreamed of--leaping out of their individual cars, they now found themselves acting as a posse, swarming the now incapacitated, dead-in-the-water but theoretically still dangerous bandit car--this would-be killer-fortress that might at any moment begin firing at them. Furiously pumped, pitiless, weaving and waving red with fear and adrenalin, a dozen or more mainly young men, automatics heavy in hand, minds secretly powered by God knows how many Dirty Harry, Action Killer movies, how many Heavy Metal songs--songs sung in violent tantrum, songs silently screamed in their lonely Long Island, Bronx/Brooklyn/Queens, not to forget Staten Island, bedrooms and basements, songs populated by darkling marauders, buried alive in their teenage vestibules, now come rushing to the fore, screaming for them to “Go for it!” to prove their male validity with their male blood, if necessary--to completely inhabit this bloody, precious, fucking, killer moment, this death designed opportunity, and to kill, kill before the killer kills you first! But, amazingly, they remained, outwardly, more or less, under control, being cool and able enough to extricate and handcuff the still fiercely belligerent, and, as it turns out, deeply stoned driver/killer from his newly demolished car, with only minimal doses of violence, a few punches to face and neck, a gun butt here and there, and in the process, lo and behold, in the process, discovering, yes, crouched on the floor of the back seat, bleeding and hysterical, a young, half naked woman, who, the Daily News later identified as the desperado’s girl friend, and quoted as saying, “He’s a double addict, both sex and drugs. What I was hoping to do was to give him sex enough to stop him from doing something bad. Please believe me! All I wanted to do was good!” Now with the denizens of the red car neatly subdued, all eyes were now on the white Toyota, and the semi-crushed trash basket pressed hard against the wall, the one with the young woman encased inside--her legs splayed over the rim, her face unseen-- the reigning question being, was she still alive? the reigning marvel, how did she manage to retain that high heeled shoe encasing her left foot? Someone, it seemed, had picked up her pocketbook, placing it next to the trash basket, in case, and I’m only guessing here, in case she might have need of it upon waking from her nightmare; if indeed, that was in her cards. The driver of the Toyota was presently slumped over the steering wheel, his eyelids fluttering. He was thirty six years old and everybody called him Sully. He sold bathroom fixtures for a living and didn’t do half bad. The emergency crew had finally managed to jimmy open the car door and were in the process of withdrawing him from his vehicle . He was very happy. He thought he was a teenager back on the beach at Seaside Heights, and that all the hands that were reaching out to him were the hands of friends; so he began to shake them. “Hey, dude, what’s happening? Nice seeing you. How’s your sister? Have a beer!” At that moment, two ambulances and a tow truck arrived. The ambulances were from Roosevelt Hospital and St. Vincent’s. The tow truck was a police vehicle; it immediately hooked up to the rear of the Toyota and began pulling it away from the trash basket. At that moment an audible was released: the sound of fear and hope and breath escaping from the collective diaphragm of the gathered crowd. Some, on leaving the scene, believed that they had heard another sound as well: the sound of the steel mesh, like music ascending, as the basket expanded, releasing its hold on the body of the young woman that it had taken such care of. Two medics carefully removed her seemingly static form from the basket, placing it on a gurney. People were calling out, “Is she alive? Is she alright?” One of the medics gave the thumbs up. A groan of appreciation followed by a kind of “Yessss” sound was heard in response; while underneath, stirred a wordless hope, a prayer without aim, asking, that if someday trapped in the midst of disaster, that they, too, might be as lucky as she. Aaron was close enough to get a clean look as they wheeled the young woman to the ambulance. Her left arm seemed weirdly rearranged, her legs badly lacerated, but her face, though streaked with blood and distress, possessed, what he thought to be a serene and loving beauty, a light intensely held, causing one to desire to be touched by her, “Just for a moment, even if it‘s only her shoulder brushing my hand as she passes by, would be enough.” And then he understood what had happened, she had died and then come back to herself; her soul had left her body and then decided to return. But what made it do that?

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Note# The above story is part of a longer work THE SMOLDERING.