Harlan Ellison: Street Scene

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Harlan Ellison Street Scene
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    Street Scene
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    Knights publishing
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    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
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Street Scene: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Street Scene

by Keith Laumer and Harlan Ellison

Very much like a dead bird, the pteranodon fell out of the sky at 4:18 of a Wednesday, fell whistling, end-over-end, landing squarely in the middle of Sixth Avenue and 47th Street. It fell flat-out, wings spread, and crushed a Mustang, two Cadillacs, a Buick Riviera, three VW’s, the front end of a Peugeot, and a Greyline Tours sightseeing bus.

The fall of the beast killed eighty-seven people, but it was not that, precisely, that caught the attention of Will Kiley as he emerged from one of the small smut bookshops dotting Sixth Avenue, his parcel of paperbacks and photo sets showing Puerto Rican girls with unshaved armpits and spread thighs clutched to his side. Riley’s attention was initially caught by the crashing shape as it shadowed the street, then by the crashing sound as the extinct creature impacted, and then by his recognition of the beast as not merely a pterodactyl, but specifically as a pteranodon, genus ornithostoma. Kiley, a third year student at Columbia University, majoring in Historical Geology, instantly recognized the osseous crest extending the skull to the rear in an effective counterweight, balancing the mass of the immense, bony, toothless beak.

Kiley observed this aspect of the beast in the dust-settling instant after the pteranodon, crashing, bounced, rose into the air amid a welter of automobile parts and crushed humans, hung there as though observing its own handiwork, and then slammed down again very near its original ground zero. One vast wing lay spread like a dusty, olive gray tarpaulin over the still feebly struggling bodies of victims trapped beneath it; an edge fluttered as pocketed air escaped, bearing a pungent reek of reptilian juices. The other extended across 47th Street, sagging, warty leather stretched on thin bones like collapsed aluminum tubing, the fingered tip caressing a tarnished brick front adorned by a clustered trio of brazen spheres.

Sirens began keening everywhere. Screams rose up in the intersection as half-pinned, maimed survivors of the beast’s tumble struggled to free themselves. From his doorway, Kiley noted at once that the beast was incredibly heavy, much heavier by a fantastic overage than any pterodactyl had a right to be. Aerodynamically a sport, the creatures had never weighed more than a hundred pounds, and eighty was closer to the average. But this thing had crushed a sight-seeing bus and something over a half dozen cars. It was many times longer and had a far greater wingspread than any pterodactyl ever exhumed as fossil. It was lying almost like an immense crucifix, its shaft of body beading uptown on Sixth Avenue, the beak pointing toward the Radio City Music Hall, its wings outspread as though waiting for Pilate’s men to come and drive in the spikes, crosstown on 47th.

Kiley was torn between staying to watch what was certainly going to happen, or running back uptown to his mingy little room, to put the contents of his parcel to use.

At that moment, a group of fifteen Chassidic Rabbinical Seminary students adorned with payess, beards, long black overcoats so out-of-line for mid-August, and faintly redolent of the scent of Rappaport’s gefilte fish, emerged from one of the diamond exchange shops, and seeing the dead beast lying in the street, began a loud and incomprehensible argument as to whether or not pteranodon was kosher.

“It flies…it’s a chicken,” said one.

“That makes it kosher,” confirmed a second.

“Snake. It’s a reptile,” countered a third.

“Then most definitely, there should be no argument on this point, it’s trayf!” concluded a fourth.

A florid, large-boned police officer of the midtown precinct, ran up from 45th Street, blowing his whistle, readying his book of parking tickets, and looking around for the owner of the dead beast. Spying an old man lounging against the side of a papaya juice stand, the cop hustled over and pointed an accusing finger.

“That your pterodactyl?”

The old man shook his head.

“You’re sure?”

The old man began to tremble. “Honest to God. It ain’t mine. Why’djoo always pick on me?”

“‘Cause you were the guy owned that big monkey we caught climbin’ up the Empire State, that’s why!”

“They never proved it!”

“I don’t give a damn if they didn’t. I knew you were the guy. I knew that big ape belonged to you!”

“Oh yeah, fuzz? How’d you know?”

“You were the only guy on the street with a seventy-five foot tambourine.”

The lean, corsetted, hatted, rouge-on-bones young woman standing au dessus the soot-flecked plate-glass display window of the truss and artificial limb shop on the southwest corner of the blocked intersection compared the watch strapped to her narrow wrist with the oversized timepiece dangling over the sidewalk across the street. Her lips compressed into a hard line like a surgery scar; for the tenth time in thirty seconds she scanned the pavement to left and right, strode a few impatient steps to peer past the upjutting elbow of the pteranodon blocking her view. Still no Melville. Melville wasn’t coming. Stood up. Her. Lilya. Stood up. By a creep like Melville, which she was doing him the biggest favor of his life just to go out with him, the slob, and he’s got the undiluted crust to not show, and after she skipped lunch just to have room for a lousy dinner which he probably would’ve suggested Nedick’s anyway—

A large, slow-moving middle-aged man with moist eyes and a mouth like a prune pit was hesitating, looking at her; Lilya had seen a Museum of Modern Art Film Retrospective of Films of Depravity in 1966; the persistent image of Peter Lorre as “M” kept oozing into her mind; this was probably an out-of-town rapist. She’d been staring right at him: probably in another second he’ll make the pass; I can always spot them, yechh; why me? Why always me? If I ride in a car with someone down the Major Deegan Expressway, they always yell, hey looka that, and I always look and it’s always a legless cripple or some drunk lady whose thing is collecting Cardboard flats what it is she’s puking into a litter basket, or a cat run over across the head by a sanitation truck. Why always me? A flasher, this one is. I can tell. Runs around in the park with nothing on but a long overcoat and pants cut off below the knees and tied with twine. A freako-devo-pervo, I can always yechhh spot! Stands on the BMT platform, just before the doors close, zing! he flashes!

Lilya stiffened her face, let her gaze slide past him, turned her back, but not so rapidly as to appear really, like rude. She gasped as the old man tottered, wheezed, lunged past her, hand outstretched for the door of the hole-in-corner public house next to the prosthetics display. A gush of beer-laden air, the door closed behind him. Lilya jerked as though struck by a wet mop. Her eyes fell on the clock. Twelve minutes late. She’d give him exactly two more minutes, or possibly five, that would make it four-thirty on the nose, and besides you couldn’t expect her to climb over that flying crocodile, which somebody ought to call the zoo and tell them a few things about letting the inmates go falling all over the street.

Will Kiley decided he’d had quite enough morphology of flying reptiles for one day. The parcel beneath his arm grew warm even as he thought of it. Within the parcel: Rolling Sin House, a novel dealing with six young prostitutes who buy a house trailer and flout the laws of interstate commerce; Lust Whip Madam, a stinging tale of cruelty and unbridled passions among the silken-limbed houris of the bondage set, locale Scarsdale; Teeny Slut, an adventure into the sexual psychology of the amoral young. These three, and a seventeen-picture set of maybe a Rosita or Consuelo or Guadalupe (he would settle for a Dolores), were the spurs to his rapidly returning uptown to a student-dingy room.

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