More crosstown than up or down, they blew through the city like leaves. At the river, they skidded into a headwind off the water and eddied through islands of trash that fronted the docks, swirling beneath the bridge they had never crossed, and went with the flow until one of them snagged on something. Pick him up, said one. They hoisted him by the armpits into a sit and let him count how many they were. He fought them anyway until one kicked the back of his head. They slogged his dead weight to a bench and settled him between armrests, then picked up cable ties to lash his ankles and wrists to the bench. What now? said one, when the man came to. Let him beg, said the one with ideas. I don’t beg, said the man on the bench, I sing, for which I am paid. He looked directly at the one with ideas. In the subway, you freak!, said the thinker. For an audience, punk, said the singer. They listened to the voices echo off the vacant buildings. Let him go, said one to the night. The others looked at the ground. Let him go, he said again. They sat him in the singer’s lap, wrists and thighs to wrists and thighs, and lashed him to his partner so that struggling would cut them both. They only had to hit him once, but he struggled against the lipstick until his face was slashed with pink. Cut off his pants, said the one with ideas. Now sing, he said, and maybe we’ll let you go. Cold wind off the water and approaching sirens drove them from the riverfront. Twisting through the alleys they heard the wind, sliced by fire escape ladders and power lines, whining in song.

Copyright © August 27, 2008 David Hodges

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