Not If - Funny post Apocalyptic story

Published by peachalulu in the blog peachalulu's blog. Views: 254

** Some language ** The second short story I wrote- a humorous post apocalyptic vision. It’s long, but I’m hoping for some critique or comments


NOT IF
Tom sat on the barren museum steps scratching Lotto tickets. There was a dwindling pile of cast offs at his feet, whirling down Fifth avenue in pairs. The winners were pinned, growing wrinkly under a sweaty beer bottle. This could be it, he told himself, this could be the big one. Excitement fizzed within him, as the third 50,000 dollar symbol appeared.

“I won!” He shouted, jumping up. “I won! Hot diggity-damn I won!”

Hot diggity damn - where did that come from?

Nobody congratulated him.

He danced up and down the steps in celebration losing a flip flop and nearly his pajama bottoms. Making a quick grab for the droopy waist, glimmers of sparkly Square Pants Sponge Bob winked between his knuckles.

Come on candy muncher where are you at?

Get a grip. There’s nobody there.

Killjoy.

He hurled his beer bottle into the street and let the breeze carry off his winning ticket. Okay, take it easy, he told himself squeezing his head, it’s just a relapse. You’re fine now, not like before. Not like last year, when he shot hockey pucks of empty tuna cans down Wall Street, complete with running commentary, wore a diamond tiara and matching earrings, found a stick of dynamite and launched a Cadillac into orbit over 82nd street, smeared stale peanut butter over himself and ran naked through a shopping center, and finally hot wired an ice cream truck and roamed the empty streets of New York, hoping the monotonous, tinkling music would coax someone to come running. Anyone.

Nobody came.

Face it chump, there’s nobody left in the world but you.

How depressing. He didn’t even like himself much, but with others around there was a buffer, he could preen, at least I’m not a total whack-job like so-and-so. Plus, there was always hope that each following girlfriend, taking him on as her own personal project would someday wave her magic wand and eureka - he’d become suave and cool. The ex-Mrs. Harding had given up after two years of wand waving. Her diagnosis - hopeless.

Recently, he pulled himself together, as much as anyone can when they realize - okay, they’re the last person on the planet. Everyone else was vaporized by some mysterious oxidant, virus, who-the-hell knows, they all crumbled to dust like freaking cigarette ash. While he, Tom Harding had been spelunking. Ha Ha, spelunking sounds so rigorous and sporty, what he did was flail around in a cave, stumbling after a couple of pros, who unfortunately wound up buried in the rumble that had reduced a cave tunnel to cascading chunks. Tom had crawled out the only survivor, not just of the cave in - but whatever triggered the rumble.

He wasn’t as cool as Charleton Heston in the Omega Man about it, he cried, okay - bawled. But shit it wasn’t even exciting. Bring on some taunting zombies, he was all ready for them. Found himself an AK-47 and tried it out. Nearly deafened him, but what the hell.

He left the museum steps, and pushed a shopping cart heaped with junk er - treasures, bemoaning his transient state. A bum, that’s what I’ve evolved into. Before ground zero, he’d been relatively, successful a manager at the Brew Ha-Ha café, and by night he designed cd covers, though Vivian thought he’d lacked ambition. What the hell was wrong with being a manager?

Anything more might’ve brought trouble, of which he was a lightning rod for: When he took up jogging, first day, he wiped out on some monster turd and broke his ankle, when he took a glass of Coke instead of wine at a party he started rumors that he was a recovering alcoholic and got talked into joining AA, when he bought a shirt he thought was cool ( how was he to know he didn’t have any taste, he was between girlfriends at the time ) he bumped into his ex-wife wearing the same top at a party. Not good. Of course there was an upside to the end of the world, when he fell into an open manhole, there was no one around to laugh their ass off over it, but then again there was no one to help him out, either.

He was convinced that there was or could be someone out there as lately a phantom with a sweet tooth had begun swiping candy from the bottom racks in the convenient stores, hardly waiting to tear them open, just mindless gobbling. He was torn between hope - woman! - and despair - some stupid animal.

He pushed his cart, with it’s one crazy wheel, back home towards the Plaza hotel. Muttering to himself, he bent, picked up a flipped baseball cap to add to his cache and rummaged in his junk til he found just the right spot to put it. As he rolled his cart off the curb, a stuffed gorilla fell out, diving head first into a puddle. Shouting incoherently, he picked up the gorilla , sobbed a minute, set him back in his perch up front, then hung onto the pushbar. Be cool man. Whistle. He whistled. His calm didn’t last and turning foul, he shook a fist at the Heavens, snarled at the sex shops. A nagging feeling pushed him on ...

“I’m going, see! See! Sheesh, get off my back!”

He passed the remains of Hot Tamale - an ironic name considering the fate of the boutique...

On New Years eve Tom was feeling ambitious and decided to set off a batch of fireworks, unfortunately, he was half tanked when he decided this and misjudged the angle of several earsplitters which sputtered off into a boutique and set it ablaze. He staggered off to the fire station, hijacked a fire truck and came back sirens blaring, bashing through a couple of garbage cans that had been awaiting pick-up for over a year. Then, he spent two hours figuring out how to hook up the hose. Turning it on full blast, he was caught up off his feet and waved about, like he was bronco riding an anaconda. He was knocked out cold and woke up with water still spurting from the hose and the boutique reduced to one blackened I-beam surrounded by smoking ash. Just another day on Planet Tom....

Instead of going home, Tom settled on another stoop, with another bottle of beer. He opened an old Archie comic book, found the other day in a second hand shop, and started to read. Restless and needing noise , he dug out the See and Say from the corner of his shopping cart, and brought it back to where he was sitting. Pulling the string, he waited.

“Mooooo.”

Ahhh much better.

“Baaaa.”

He pulled the string, it snapped.

“Shit!” He sent it skittering down the steps.

He took another pull off his beer and turned his attention back to Archie. The sky was turning red gold as the sun began to slip toward the horizon, blocked by the jagged edge of the city. A clatter rang out nearby, a can clinking over pavement? A while ago, Tom would’ve chased down the sound to discover it’s source yelling, hello!hello!hello!

Now, he merely shifted, rising up on an elbow glancing in the direction of the sound and dismissed it. Probably something he’d knocked askew and now it had fallen. A shadow seeped out from behind a mound of squishy garbage bags, it rose, swelling forth, a creature crawling from the rubble. An ugly snub nosed creature with a sphinx face. Tom froze, the bottle hesitated before his lips. Springing to life, he clamored for the gun in his cart, spilling beer over the gorilla and whooping - “Zombiepocalypse has begun!” He fired. The bullets sprayed wildly spitting up flakes of cement, nailing the shadow, then he lost control and the bullets arched up taking out the street lamp. Chunks fell, one slab conked him, and he dropped into the gutter like a sack of meat.


***


Tom groaned.

A zombie was tasting him. Shhiiiit. Tasting him! Licking him like a popsicle as if it couldn’t decide wether to eat him or not.

He opened one eye cautiously. A dog with a gargoyles face loomed over him. A pug? He propped himself on one elbow. The pug continued to lick Tom’s chin wagging his curly tail.

“How did you survive? Wait, don’t tell me you were spelunking too,” He rubbed his dusty forehead and continued guessing. “ ....secret bunker maybe?”He reached forward and fondled one of the pug’s silky ears, before moving over the fat neck rolls till he found a bone shaped dog tag attached to a collar - Mr. Wong. “You’re a package of mystery aren’t you? I don’t know how you survived.... you’re first name is a secret. This is no way to begin a friendship. I’m on to you though ....you’re the one whose been polishing off all the candy.”


***


Tom was standing on a ladder hanging pumpkin lights from a marquee in an attempt to decorate the city for Halloween or rather, this block, he wasn’t too ambitious. Mr. Wong slouched nearby in the red wagon Tom fixed up for him. This way, whether he was sleeping or awake, Tom could pull him everywhere he went. He was a tolerant pug who, listened to everyone of Tom’s boring rants, allowed himself to be squeezed into various outfits and hats when Tom got bored and why not, Tom could work a can opener. Suddenly, Mr. Wong was alert and barking. Normally Tom ignored him. But this time he removed his earphones and reproached -

“You know there’s nothing there. It’s a psychological effect due to the loss of society and you can’t deal with -“

“Get that ladder out of my way.”

Tom wobbled clutching the rungs. Did he just hear...

His head darted round, searching til he spotted a raggedy, old man trying to push his over packed shopping cart in front of the ladder , skimming one wheel off the curb into the air. His cart pitched. “Sonofabitch. You damn construction morons, always buggering things up with your digging and orange cones, and ra-ta-ta-ta.”

“My God , a person! A person. Mr. Wong do you see him? A survivor. I can’t believe. Do you know how glad I am to see you.”

Tom leapt off the ladder, slapped the man on the back releasing an enormous dust cloud and a whirling moth from under a crumpled collar. Choking, Tom recoiled a bit - “Somebody likes their Muskatel.” The old man ignored him and continued his effort to jerk the shopping cart around the ladder.

Undiscouraged, Tom went on, “This is amazing.” Hands on hips, he just beamed at this beautiful, beautiful! Craggy faced, red nosed, puffy old man. “Where the hell have you been? I scoured this city from top to bottom. I even drove down to Washington last year. How did you survive? I was in a cave when it happened. I still don’t know what it was but I’ve gathered some information from the cell phones around here. Sounded like some sort of atmospheric chemical explosion or something. Shit, I could never decipher any of that damn text messaging lingo. Ha! This is incredible.”

“Grab the end there.” The old guy pointed to the edge of his cart still trying to maneuver it by rocking it back n’ forth, a carton of recycling toppled into the gutter.

Tom grabbed the end of the cart and tugged and yanked. What the hell did he have in this sucker - a load of concrete?

“Why didn’t you just walk under the ladder?” Tom grunted.

“Bad luck to walk under a ladder, ya fool” The cart righted itself and wheeled over Tom’s foot, propelled by the old guy who steamed on past.

“Finally, Wong did you hear that?” He turned to the pug. “Now we know how the end came about - some dern fool probably walked under a ladder.” The old guy was totally uninterested in Tom or his teasing and continued to motor on down the sidewalk. “Whaddya think Mr. Wong, think he was spelunking? ”

Tom jogged over to the old man, trotting along side him as he asked, “Fancy a game of ping pong? I found a table down at a youth center.”

“I’ve got a bus to catch.”

Tom did a double take. “Really, well good luck with that.”

The delight of finding another human alive, began to wan.

He stormed back to Mr. Wong, waving his hands- “First human I’ve seen in nearly two years and he’s crazy, daft. Probably doesn’t even know the end has come. Can you beat the luck I’ve got.” He slid down the wall to squat beside the wagon. “Ladders, mirrors could not top my bad luck. You know, I only survived the end of the world only because I’m so shitty at spelunking that everyone made me go last. And what do I accumulate in my domain? Well, if I was Charleton Heston, some righteously hot babe. No, not me I get a pug. And no offense, but you are the doggone laziest creature in the entire earth. Whaddya you sleep like fifty hours a day? And then - then - try and stay awake for this whopper - the only human I meet is a man. Procreation and recreation arguments aside. He’s a bum! A stinking wino, who probably only survived because no decent germ in it’s right mind would go within fifty feet of him - they’d keel over from the stench.... Waiting for the bus. Ha!....” he snuffled, wiping his nose on his shirt sleeve , and raked his hand through his hair, shaking off his gloom.“Okay, well, whaddya think Wong, shall we give him another chance?” Tom suddenly smiled. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Probably not, but Wong wiggled forward to lick his chin, humoring him.


* * *


The filthy city bus bumped it’s way down 86th street before coming to a screeching halt along side the bus stop. The homeless guy or H.G. as Tom dubbed him , woke with a snort grumbling - “‘bout time, I’ve been waiting forever.”

As the doors hissed open, Tom watched him swing his legs off the bench and smiled. “My apologies sir, we’re running a tad behind schedule, coming on twenty months now.”

H.G. rummaged a bag loose from the junk in his cart and heaved himself up the bus steps.

“You’re lucky I don’t report your tardiness, young whippersnapper.”

“Whippersnapper?” Tom hooted. “Dig what Father Time called me, Wong. Whippersnapper.”

Mr. Wong sitting on a seat two rows down, wearing a wee sailors hat and uniform, perked up at the mention of his name.

H. G. headed for a seat but Tom stopped him.

“Hold on there , slick. Where’s your bus pass?”

Tom was shocked when he managed to produce one though doubted his name was Sylvia Makowski.
“Alright Sylvia , grab a seat.”



* * *


Two weeks later, H.G. and Tom were standing near central park eating stale granola bars when H.G. finally noticed that the little fella ( Mr. Wong ) was not the Asian secret agent Tom lead him to believe, but merely an animal.

Looking at his granola bar and than at Mr. Wong, as if he’d never seen him before, he asked Tom, “Is he with you or,” he lowered his voice to a whisper. “Can we eat him?”

“Wong, watch your back.”

Things livened up with the arrival of H.G , though he wasn’t the most congenial friend. Most of the time he was wasted and convinced that Tom was one of a set of twins and Mr. Wong was anything from an elf to a leprechaun. Although Tom questioned his double vision, when he managed to nail him in the head with a snowball, but who knows maybe he was aiming for the phantom twin. His age was indeterminable because he behaved like he was a hundred and six, eliminating anything physical from their activities. Though Tom tried manipulating him on a basketball court, tennis court, even propping him up as hockey goalie, it was the act of a child manipulating a teddy bear that at any moment would keel over. Eventually he gave up and then remembered, given the zero requirements needed, bowling. And though H.G. was terrible at was still game and highly competitive.

“A hush falls over the crowd as H.G., always an entertaining bowler, steps up to the lane. Can he avoid his artful nemesis, the gutter? Will H.G. manage to break his losing streak?”

Fueled on a half gallon of wine, H.G.’s wind up spin was one whirl too many. Dizzy, he released the ball too early still opposite the alley. Tom turned to watch it rumble down the lobby and crash through the doors. H.G, gave a sublime grin and declared. “Strike!”


***


Spring brought the two men back outside, into much needed fresh air. Tom was looping lanyards, dangling car deodorizers, over H.G.’s head.

“What’s this?”

“Look, if your not going to take a bath -”

“Is this some kind of sainted medal?”

“Yes the patron saint of pinecone to help you stink less.”

Because planting was still a month away, Tom embarked on a project that took two weeks to complete but after it was done, he and H.G. stood on Broadway savoring his efforts. Two ice cream cones - scooped up out of a cart that Tom had refurbished to hold the first batch.

A roar of motors went, nearly unnoticed. Two buildings had collapsed recently and sounds had become unreliable, tricky. Tom didn’t want to make a fool of himself, running down the street after a harmless sound. He waited, the roar grew, and in the distance he saw a motorcycle gang approaching. His smile at the revelation of other people, dimmed. These jokers could be trouble. He licked his ice cream deciding to play it cool.

The bikers spotted ‘em and began whooping, shouting, vrooming around like something out of a fifties rebel movie. Gun fire sparked off and one beared joker shot a hole clear through H.G.’s ice cream. Tilting his cone, H.G. peered through the smoking hole before licking the mound down flat.

The lead biker skidded to a stop in front of Tom who took in the man’s gut spilling over a hand grenade belt buckle, the stained beard, the goggles. The other bikers rolled up behind him, seven in all, and not a woman in the bunch. Unless you could count the skinny kid, sporting a blonde wig and smeary lipstick, riding double with the ZZ Top freak which Tom did not.

“Didn’t I tell ya, ice cream would bring ‘em,” Tom lowered his voice and spoke only to H.G. “If you make it, they will come.” He doubted H.G. would recognize his stellar moment to spoof Field of Dreams. He was right, not even a snicker.

“Where did you get that ice cream?” Who would’ve thought that question could sound
so sinister.

“I made it,” Tom couldn’t help but brag. “After I rigged up a generator, fixed the freezer, found the machine at Target - 36. 50 on sale mind you, and found the recipe. Need I say, it was hard work.”

“What flavor?”

“Mine tastes like bullets,” H.G. admitted.

“Vanilla.” Tom said ignoring H.G. and fighting back sarcasm. Sheesh, it was white. What did he think this was Baskin Robins offering up everything from white chocolate to coconut almond?

“We’ll take seven.”

“Got anything to trade?”

Biker Bob ( as Tom dubbed him ) flashed a pistol with gunslinger precision. He’d probably been practicing this move 24-7 hoping to try it out on someone. “How ‘bout a bullet a cone.”

“This is your lucky day,” said Tom nervously, rocking on his heels. “It’s on the house.”

“Way to stick to your guns.” H.G. muttered.

“It would be easier to do, if I actually had mine.” Tom glared as he scooped up the first cone. “But no, you said, bring the umbrellas.”

“Well, it was overcast and chilly this morning.” This odd defense from the ZZ Top lookalike.

The bikers licked their cones murmuring delight before asking the question that needed to be asked, and Tom gave the dire answer - no, no woman.

“We make do.”

Uh-oh.

“Any of you fellas a dentist?” One of the bikers called out. The only one who wasn’t savoring his ice cream.

Biker Bob explained , “Big Pete’s feeling kinda poorly. He might need to have a tooth pulled.”

Tom shook his head pulling what he hoped was a sympathetic face, “I used to design c.d.’s and ran a coffee shop.”

“You make good coffee?” ZZ top perked up. “Vern’s is terrible, we could use a good chef.”

“Well fellas,” Tom laughed. “I’m not really looking for a job ...I uh ... I got shit to do around here.”

Biker Bob stopped licking his ice cream, “Is there something unappealing about our little organization.”

“It’s just a tad , you know, just a smidge, dated,” said Tom gesturing. “I mean, you come blazing into town like your still against the man, down with the government. Only there ain’t none. Talk about rebel without a cause.”

“And you were making a shit-load of noise. You could’ve interrupted our siesta.” H.G. added.

“Many apologizes.” Zz Topp tipped his leather cap.

“What was his line of work?” Biker Bob gestured with his head to H.G.

“Accountant.” It just flew out of Tom’s mouth.

“Yeah?” Of course they were skeptics in the bunch. “He really let himself go.”

“Yut, Yut. ” Tom was on a roll. “He’s a lesson to learn from, in this kinda situation you have to keep you mind and body in shape. While he’s been taking his siesta’s, I have been roller blading down Wall Street, practicing my backhand, swimming at the Y. I’ve kept myself in top physical form.” Tom crooked his arm up showing off an impressive muscle-bulge.

“I noticed. How would you like to be my new bitch?”

Tom coughed over a mouthful of ice cream. Oh boy.

“Thank you, no.” Tom said, scuffing his foot and avoiding eye contact. “I’m holding out for the dream fellas- a woman.”

“What if it’s not an option?” Biker Bob fixed him with a steely look.

“I’ll take death.”

“I’ll take another scoop.” H.G. held out his nibbled cone.


***


The bikers left for Florida, taking Tom at his word that he didn’t have a woman stashed somewhere, and when he asked why they believed him, Biker Bob laughed. “Go on, no woman would let you dress like that, mate!”

True.

Why they didn’t take Tom with them remained a mystery.

It was just H.G. and Tom again, and Mr. Wong.

After the planting of the legumes, Tom found himself in church, on his knees begging for a woman.

“Lord, I’m getting desperate. The mannequins on Lexington are beginning to turn me on. It isn’t as though I don’t appreciate your sending me, Mr. Wong and H.G., although in all fairness a pug and homeless man wouldn’t have been my first choices. Not that I’m complaining. But I could use a woman. Like right now, Lord. It isn’t quite fair that Adam got one even before he asked. But, I’m putting in my order. Nothing fancy, anything, anything at this moment will do. I ain’t picky, just send me a woman.”

“Women are -hic- trouble you’re better off without ‘em.”

Tom’s head jerked up startled. H.G. was sitting two pews behind him.

“Will you butt out of my prayer.”

“Ask Him for something sensible-hic -like a hamburger.”

“Ask Him yourself.”

“Hic-We’re not speaking.”

“H.G. is literally putting in his order - a burger.”

H.G. wrapped it up. “Amen.”


***


Four days later Tom was over on Broadway, which had been turned into his own personal garbage dump, unloading three days worth of trash from a bin on wheels. A flash of movement caught his eyes, and across the heaps, was a figure, standing there, watching him.

The figure, etched by the sun, was deliciously curved.

A woman.

His saliva glands kicked into gear before his feet caught up. He started off over the mounds shouting, waving. “Hello , hello!”

The woman ran towards him tottering and slipping in sling back heels.

Oh! His heart pounded out a beat to match the sudden aching harp strings that resounded in his ears with gooey romanticism. He was the star of his own cinemascope scene of lovers running into each other arms. To collide in a cymbal crash of sheer love n’ lust. His loins were already on premature fire. His arms outstretched, the Sound of Music was reaching its crescendo. He skidded to a stop a few feet in front of her. The woman babbling in relief, mirrored his move.

He couldn’t believe it.

“Hell-o!” it came out sarcastic, really meaning I should’ve known, or will you look at this. His arms shot up in surrender and he half turned on his heel.

The woman snarled - “I hate that expression. I’ve always hated that expression.”She gave him a cool once over. “27 billion stores to loot and you still couldn’t come up with matching socks.”

He fought glancing down at them. “They’re a conversation starter. I knew it would bring some loony out of rubble just to point them out. 27 billion women on the planet and you’re the one who survives. I should’ve known a mere deadly, all-consuming virus couldn’t kill a harpy like you. What did you do, nag it to death?”

His ex-wife fumed.

“I have nothing more to say to you except - stay off of Broadway and out of my way.”

“Broadway, are you daft? This is my dump!”

But she was already making her way down the street. He could tell from her zippy, twitchy walk, and the way she kept jabbing downward with her fist, that she was furious.

He shook his own fist at Heaven, “Thanks a heap!”

Slipping down the mounds of junk, he headed off to tell H.G.


* * *


Despite this new twist, Tom couldn’t help scouting out glimpses of his ex-wife and took to following her. H.G. trailed along pointing out needlessly, “She’s gonna be trouble, that one.”

“No shit, Sherlock.”

Vivian spent most of her time window shopping or picking up items, just like Tom. His mind was in a frenzy, hot flashes came to him not just of their fantastic love making which made him wince, and wobble. No, he was thinking - My God, she can play tennis, and remember those days when she was game for, a little one on one, basketball.

Vivian came out of a store wearing a huge picture hat and turned to admire herself in the reflective windows. Suddenly she turned and shouted, “Quit following me around!”

“Is that all you do all day, shop?!”

“God, we’re not going to repeat that old argument.” Off she went with that twitchy, motoring walk. His loins were on fire demanding make peace, dummy.

“Hey , how about dinner tonight?”

“I’ve got other plans.”

He must be crazy trying to hook up with her, it was only his groin talking. And his groin was a complete idiot, it didn’t know what Vivian was like, the real Vivian. All his groin knew was Vivian’s groin and, oh, what great moments they had together! Tom groaned. Shape up pal, He told himself, or she’ll have you roaming all over the city with a wrecking ball and crane wanting everything just so. He remembered what she was like with their first couch.

A week or two later he tried getting up the nerve to approach her again, but couldn’t think of an opening, then Vivian spotted H.G. and he didn’t need one. She was already primping at the prospect of another male.

“Well, you’ve been holding out, who’s your friend?”

Tom snorted around the bottle of beer in his mouth before unplugging it, “This is H.G. - ”

“Any relation to Wells?”

“Could be one of his characters - The Sleeper Wakes.” H.G. opened one squinty eye at Vivian and knowing that Tom now had H.G.’s attention, somewhat, he continued with the introduction. “This is my ex-wife Vivian.”

Vivian shot a frown at Tom before pointing a brilliant smile at H.G. , “It’s Vivian Drinkmore , actually.”

“Drinkmore.” H.G. roused. “I like the sound of that.”

“Gentlemen, I think it’s time to discuss the situation we’re in, like the reasonable adults we are, and come to some sort of arrangement.”

“Arrangement?” Someone should tell Vivian her career as an organizer is kaput, but Tom decided, wisely, to try and keep his mouth shut.

“Well, here we are the last three people on earth. But I don’t want any fighting, any blood shed over me.”

Tom couldn’t stop his eye roll, and took a quick slug of beer.

H.G.’s nodding was on autopilot and Tom knew he was going to pass out any minute and that Vivian would loose half her audience.

“I think perhaps a bit of spirited competition is in order, I know,” Her brightness was as false as her spontaneous idea, she probably been hatching this beauty for a week - “Whoever can fill a bath tub with hot water for me, can take me out for dinner. ”

H.G. roused at the mention of work. “She’s all yours, bub. I ain’t toting no, damn buckets of water.”

“Wow, ” Tom couldn’t help himself. “I escaped myself a bit of fierce competition there, didn’t I?”

But some hours later having made 22 trips up eight flights of stairs in a Brownstone - did she have to stay in the Penthouse? Wheezing, puffing, dying, he wondered who was smarter. H.G. woke up and watched the last three trips while gumming through a package of fruit chews before commenting, “I would’ve rigged up a pulley. Lucky, if you’ve got any energy left at all, though that was probably ‘er plan all ‘long.”

Tom could’ve killed him.

Despite the fact that Vivian had set up a competition for her benefit, Tom found himself with the dilemma of still dazzling Vivian with dinner while she, luxuriated in a hot bubble bath. He set out sardines and pickles at the Four Seasons. He also hunted up a tux, and she arrived filling out a red dress with curves he didn’t know she could ever produce.

“Wow.” Va-va-voom.

“Are you quite done raping me with your eyeballs?”

“Not quite.” He held out her chair for her.

H.G. shuffled in and sat down at a nearby table calling, “Waiter, Waiter!”

“It’s kind of serve yourself , H.G.”

“Waiter.”

Tom groaned but rose and fell into character. “Good evening sir, may I help you.”

“I will have a hamburger, well done. Don’t be stingy with the pickles and a glass of chilled Zinfendel.”
Tom whirled, snatching a bottle of wine from the nearby buffet, along with a package of sardines and slammed them both down in front of H.G.

“There you go, slick, knock yourself out.”

“You’ll get no tip from me.”

“So, what are we having for our main course?”Vivian asked when he returned.

“Main course?” Tom shoved the package of sardines towards Vivian who wrinkled her nose.

“Fettuccini? Rice pilaf? You’re telling me sardines, pickles and pretzels is the whole shebang?”

“Viv , I toted enough water up eights flights of steps to float an ocean liner today, there was no way in Hell I was gonna to whip up linguini. I searched eight blocks for a tux that fit and lit over six hundred candles.”

“Lets not quibble over small details.” Vivian raised her hands flashing freshly manicured nails. “Pretzels will do for tonight.” She opened the bag and removed one, taking a dainty nibble. Feeling encouraged, Tom scooted his chair closer.

“Doesn’t this situation, horribleness aside, remind you of that old movie - The World , the Flesh and the Devil?”She asked.

“Hmmm.” That cleavage was hypnotic.

“It was this old black and white movie with - oh, I forget her name. Anyhow, she’s the last woman in the world and she gets to choose between Harry Belafonte and Mel Torme, no wait that doesn’t sound right, Mel Ferrer, yes, that’s it.”

“You’re choices are Buddy Hackett over there and -”

“This should be good.”

He decided to skip any further reference to movies stars and went with, “The president of the world.”

She laughed.

“Well, Mr. President, should we come to some agreement over the most pressing angle of our situation, n’est-ce pas?”

“Now you’re talking.” Tom scooted his chair even closer. He couldn’t take his eyes off that cleavage.

“I’ve made some charts which will help us to fully realize our goals so that we’ll both be satisfied with the results.” Vivian unzipped her purse and began taking out items, laying them on the table.

“Charts?” Tom felt his eyebrows jump. Okay, this was a new one, especially for Vivian. “You’re going to chart our ....action?”

“Action?” Vivian stretched out her collapsible pointer and propped up several color coded charts.

“Our sexual hook ups.”

She gave him the look. A look he was familiar with, the look that said, shut up and let me do the talking.

“Tom, when, or if I decide to start dating, I will consider all options. You’re not high on my list right now, and I will, definitely, not run into anything.”

“All options.” Irritated, he jabbed a thumb in H.G.’s direction. “Like Buddy Hackett? Is that supposed to make me jealous or laugh.”

“I’ll have you know ,” H.G. slurred. “I was considered a real looker in my era.”

“Which era was that the troglodytes?” Tom did not even look over his shoulder but gestured impatiently to the charts, “So what are these damn charts for anyway.”

“I have noticed you have turned Broadway into your own personal dump. As inheritors of the earth, I feel it is our duty to preserve some of our heritage for the generations to come.”

“If we don’t hook up Vivian there won’t be any future generations, and will you speak English, I’m not one of your clients.”

“Get your shit off Broadway!”

Tom ears were ringing. He held up his hands in protest.

“What difference does it make Vivian , Mama Mia is never going to make a come back.”

She ignored him and tapped the chart with her pointer. “I suggest we keep the old dump which is here, in Jersey. We could fill a garbage truck and drive it out once a month. That means no more tossing dishes off the balcony or leaving little trails of trash where ever you lunch. Your behavior has been most unsanitary. I’m surprised we’re not swamped with rats.”

“That’s cause their all dead, Vivian. Our zoo is down to some pigeons, a pug, and last year Mr. Magoo thought he spotted a squirrel.”

“Sure, let civilization go the route of the dinosaur, what do you care. Well I intend to do something about it. I also think we should start preserving some of our national treasures.” Tom noticed how as usual, Vivian’s I’s quickly turned to we’s but what she really meant was, you. Err. Tom. “We could select some books from the main library and some items from the nearby museums. My God , the artwork, the Mona Lisa - ”

“That sounds like a shitload of work, Vivian. We’ve got legumes to harvest in Central park - we can’t live off this canned crap forever. The weevils got my tomatoes last year. Can you believe the weevils survived? Spelunking, I suppose.”

“We cannot let our history just erode with the elements.”

“Maybe it’d be for the best, what are we going to do, be like those old people. I remember when,” Tom put on his best, shaky, old fogey accent. “There was telli-phones you could talk to people from miles away - that’s when there was lotsa people, and this thingy called the inter-net and the fashion police.”

“Hilarious. Can you be serious for one moment? Our first plan of action should be to clean up the city - moving the trash is -”

“I haven’t agreed to that.” You’re blowing it man, just look at that cleavage and agree to anything.

“So, you refuse to move your dump?”

“Where ever I want to put my dump, I’ll put it.” That didn’t come out right. “Broadway is, as far as I’m concerned, the city dump! You don’t like it, tough.” Way to go meatball, you just talked yourself out of intercourse, not that it was looking all that promising anyhow.

“Very well.” Vivian cooly began packing up her charts and squishing down her pointer. “Just to let you know, I plan on relocating the trash by myself and if anyone so much as litters on Broadway , they will suffer the consequences.”

“Going to write me a ticket.” He took a gulp of wine.

“Try it and find out.”


***


Wild with curiosity, Tom having no real garbage, filled up a bin with junk anyway and first thing the next morning, headed down to Broadway. H.G. followed, pulling Mr. Wong’s chariot - the battered red wagon behind him. What did that kook have up her designer sleeves? Tom was dying to find out.

The garbage mounds were still there, and there was no sign that Vivian had any intention of moving it. No construction equipment, no new cars. Dejected, he tipped the bin letting the garbage cascade out when, suddenly, gun fire rang , spitting up bits of trash near Tom’s foot. Shooting! Why the daft bitch is shooting at me! He dove for cover.

H.G. ducked behind a silver Acura and beckoned, urging Tom to make a run for it.

Tom ran.

Gun fire chased him the entire way.

“She’s crazy, she’s loco! She’s finally lost it!”

“Solider, we’ve left behind a comrade.” Tom looked around as H.G. flattened against the car and saw Mr. Wong still snoozing in the wagon- out in clear range.

“Wong. Pssst! Mr. Wong! Get your fuzzy ass over here.”He changed tactic. “Num num.”

The pug opened an eye but he wasn’t buying it not till his heard the psft, of a can opener piercing a can.

Tom took off H.G’s scarf, tied one end to his gold cuff bracelet ( 985. 65 on sale at Bloomingdales), and threw it lasso style to hook the wagon handle. When it caught, he began tugging, “I got it!” He told H.G. and slowly began reeling Wong in.

Well she hadn’t totally lost it, she wasn’t going to risk shooting a dog. Her ex-husband yes, the world’s last pug, no.

“You take that garbage you brought in and get out of here.” Vivian shouted from a rooftop.

“Nothing doing, crazy lady!”

“Is this a declaration of war, comrade?”

“No!” Tom scoffed. “You can’t have a war with three people. Besides, we’ve got her outnumbered.”

“But she’s a helluva good shot...I think I’ll switch sides.” H.G. tried to slink away.

“You yellow bastard.” Tom grabbed his legs.

“I’ll give you one last chance - are you going to take your garbage and get?”

“Never!” A hot coil unraveled in Tom. Fueled with fury, he stood and dashed over to a mailbox and dove headlong into the opening. “In fact, I’ve got more trash to take out.” His shout was muffled. Both feet left the ground kicking out for more leeway. When he finally had enough mail clutched to his chest, he backed out.

“See! See!” He shouted, frantically waving the mail. Gun shots rang , shredding some of the letters to confetti. He ran. “More garbage for the Broadway city dump.”

A final gun shot.

Tom keeled over into the pile of trash, taking the letters with him.

Vivian let out a hysterical scream.

“That fella John, he was a brave one.” H.G. said to Mr. Wong and nodding, he withdrew a bottle of wine from under his coat, tipped it in solemn salute before taking a long, long swallow.

Vivian came running slipping in her heels over the garbage mounds and with a sob flung herself on Tom. “I didn’t mean it. Oh, please God, don’t be dead.”

Tom opened his eyes. “Your wish is granted, crazy lady.”

“Oh, you rotten bastard!”

She got in one good slap, but the fight was over before it began. Tom just didn’t fight fair. She moaned and surrendered melding into his arms as his lips found hers.

“And to think there was a time when you said, not if you were the last man on earth.”

“And to think it’s actually come to that.” Vivian replied grinning.

“Vivian, you do have a sense of humor.”

“Shut up and kiss me.”
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