Trifling on 34th Street: A Snapshot

Sean Rafferty

Chris Krangle seethes beneath the overhang of Hotel Pennsylvania on 7th Ave., sucking on a Kool for dear life. He’s dressed in a bunny costume from his neck down (he’d left the head on a bench back in the Macy’s locker room). In his right hand, a Twisted Tea sweats through a brown paper bag. He’s developed the habit of miming shooting himself in the temple with fingerguns whenever he sees/hears/feels/or does something that reminds him of the sheer heft of his self-loathing. Just as he raised the bag to his mouth, a big mangey mutt on a thick yellow leash runs its snout over his rabbit footsies. He ignores it, just stares past its opacity and imagines the sidewalk until it wanders out of his field of vision. Krangle enjoys about 10 seconds of peace before a rancid smell forces itself down his throat, so offensive that he has to look up from his feet and behold the same mutt squatting maybe a yard in front of him, spraying soft yellow shit onto the ground. Its inverted red asshole trumpets like a human fart.

Krangle tugs back his long, grey hair and roars skyward. “Aw, what the fuuuck man?” he says. “Yeah just walk up and shit in my face, why not?” He says all of this before he can register that the dog’s owner appears to be a birdly old demented woman who reminds him of his dear late grandmother, god rest her soul. The woman’s doleful eyes brim as she looks up at the swearing headless bunny rabbit that sways before her. He apologizes gently and perfusely, and and brings a smoking fingergun to his temple as she walks away.

The runt of a passing drove of middle school boys flips Krangle the bird and shouts, “Fuck you rabbit! Rabbits are for stew. You probably molest kids, don’t you rabbit?”

Krangle took a pull of his tea.

About fifty years before this moment, he took a mandatory career aptitude test in middle school, and it told him that he should be a “seasonal mascot.” The evening after he took the test, he waited up for his mom to get home from work. She was always telling him not to wait up, but he was too excited about his new career path, so he camped out on the couch until 4 a.m. when the front door burst open, and his mother flew in on the face of a strange man wearing a fine suit. Krangle sat up, and the strange man said:

“Aw, c’mon man, I can’t see your goddamn kid. I gotta suspend some kinda fuckin’ disbelief here Jesus…”

He promptly left, slamming the door behind him. Krangle watched his mother sway on the backs of her pumps, still staring at the door. She thought maybe he’d come back, and that would save her some trouble. After about two minutes of moonlit silence, she slowly turned to face her son, pupils twisted and dilated, wormholes of childhood trauma, clenched her teeth and, starting with a raspy growl, worked up into a full scream. She flung her pumps off in his direction, charged the couch, ripped the seat of his pants down, and began ferociously spanking him to her stacatto syllabification.

“Why-do-you-do-this-to-me-what-have-I-done-to-fuck-ing-de-serve-you-lit-tle-piece-of-shit-shitshit,” she said, and he cried and protested and managed to roll onto the floor. “Why? What is so goddamn important that you just cost us 500 dollars?” And when he told her about the seasonal mascot thing, she said “Ohhh yeaaahhh, you should definitely be a season mascot Chris. You know, I think you’d make a fucking nuclear season mascot, kiddo. Do that. Yep. Do that.” Later that week, a client caved in her skull with an ivory candlestick, and young Krangle thought it was his mother’s dying wish for him to be a seasonal mascot. By the time it finally occurred to him that she was being sarcastic, he’d already developed impressions of not just Santa Claus, but the Easter Bunny, Olentzero, Ded Moroz, Krampus, and Belsnickel. He’d also learned to ride a unicycle, juggle, and play the harmonica, all at the same time. He’d also dropped out of highschool by that time, because, who needed it?

Now, at 61 years old, he’s a living product of his mother’s sardonic encouragement. And yes, he’s leaning on Hotel Pennsylvania drinking spiked sweet tea in a bunny costume, and yes, he just accosted a poor, confused old woman. But, he still feels like maybe today, something good could happen. Yesterday a woman gave him her number. His Roger Rabbit impression made her giggle by the vending machine. She had “Memphis” tattooed across the back of her hand and she said she’s new in town. He’d forgotten what excitement felt like. He knew enough to wait a day, didn’t want to seem as desperate as he was, betray that he was prepared to marry her in front of the vending machine. He ate breakfast today, before work, which was unprecendented for him. He decided that he would text her during his lunch hour. The morning half of the shift crawled by, until finally, 12:01 p.m. he texts her “hey it’s roger rabbit,” which he spent a lot of time thinking about and ultimately deciding on, but the moment he sent it, filled with regret. What if she doesn’t put it together? he thinks. What if she thinks it’s some psycho and blocks me before I have the chance to clarify? So, 12:13, he sends, “actually it’s chris haha,” then 12:14, “from the vending machine yesterday,” “what’s up?”

He spends the rest of his lunch break pacing the outer perimeter of Macy’s, frequently whipping his cell phone out of his bunny pouch, just to check. Nothing. He returns to the Easter Bunny throne and works into the night. By the end of his shift, there are still no texts, so he begins thinking about which frozen dinners he has left on the walk home. One limited edition duck medallion dinner with rosemary garlic butter mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. Sounds like a winner. Just as he reaches the Sunglass Hut, his phone chirps, and he lets the chirp settle before calmly reaching into his pocket. It’s from Memphis.

It reads, “heyyy my dude, do u think I could use ur employee discount 2 buy sheets? them bitches r expan$$$ive!”

Krangle realizes, then, that he doesn’t really need a phone anymore. It’s only use is to communicate with Macy’s. He’s just a dead man, waiting around to die a second death. A woman begs for change on the subway steps, and he asks her if she could use a phone, and she says she can sell it, so he gives it to her.

END

 

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