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BLACKOUT
by Alfred de Grazia

CHAPTER XI

ALIGHTED

Buildings standing silent along the quiet streets in clean cool air, stiff-postured and stupid-seeming like laborers with Sunday shirts buttoned to the neck. Thomas approved their clumsy composure as he walked North. He could see them stretch ahead for many blocks. When he reached Fourteenth Street, he could see far to the East and far to the West, across town. He had never viewed New York so horizontally.

The aspect of Union Square discomfited him. Men were there. They stood about, sag-jawed and blank-faced, or clumped funguslike on benches. Vanished was the glory of battle and Thomas let his eyes dart but for a moment in search of his sword on the devastated field.

He cut over to Park Avenue; the sword might lay there forever. His resolve needed movement, action. In his hurry, he almost walked past a drugstore that was opening. But the motion in the otherwise still caught him and immediately he thought of why he must stop: a cup of coffee, cigarettes, dental floss, the New York Times - oh, there were many things that he needed.

They had no coffee but it would be made.

They had cigarettes.

They had dental floss.

"Are you kidding? Naturally there're no papers. Account of the blackout."

"I forgot."

"There's yesterday's paper over there. That's all there is."

Yesterday's paper! Thomas was interested. He had read it, but had not read it all.

"I'll wait for the coffee," he said, and swung himself upon a stool with the heavy copy of the Times from the day before.

He was engrossed immediately. He took no note of the "good morning" of the pharmacist, who entered and set to work behind a glass screen. He did draw in a leg abruptly when a toy poodle on leash to a beautiful lady snarled and snapped at his trouser cuff.

Peacefully he read that

---more troops would be ordered to Viet Nam---

- thirteen people had died in a Pakistan earthquake -

-- the United Nations could not collect the dues owed it --

He sipped from the cup of coffee that had been placed before him.

--- five new art galleries had opened in New York in 1965 ---

-- Mrs. Beebe was attending her daughter's wedding in Baltimore --

Further he learned that

- clouded skies were predicted -

-- the editor disliked crime --

---- more people were attending professional football games ----

-- stocks were higher on the Big Board, mixed on Amex, lower in London and up on the over-the-counter marketů but that was because ATT was so active on the up side in the NYSE, or so said the men on the floor ---

He lit a cigarette, and placed his dead match in the ashtray of a man who had taken the stool next to him.

-- many cars were for sale . . . it was a buyer's market in used cars --

-secretaries were getting $115 a week if they could be called "Gal Friday's"-

---- U.S. maritime unions denounced the transfer of American ships to foreign registry to avoid paying decent wages ----

--- Henri du Moise Bugier had completed thirty years' service with the French Line ---

He laid the newspaper down carefully and was startled to notice how many people were in the store and on the street outside. He looked at himself in the mirror behind the counter. Had he grown darker during the night? After he had put together the fifteen cents to pay for the coffee (the theft of his wallet pricked his memory), he pushed his way through the door, still wondering at the noise and confusion around him.

It was later than he thought. Walking miles in such traffic would be difficult indeed. He should telephone home, too. But he had no dime.

No use worrying over the matter, he counseled himself. Besides, I think that I have an appointment to see a student at eleven o'clock.

He walked South once more, toward his office, with its rotten view.



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