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Street Scene

Street Scene


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.
    He started past the head of the beast, when he saw the edge of the artifact hanging from its neck. It seemed to be a large golden disc, hanging from a thick link chain. Will Kiley’s instant thoughts were not of rich rewards from the archeological society. They were of ready cash for old gold in any one of the Second Avenue antique shops. Ready cash that could buy important things like regular meals, more books, possibly even a young woman’s affections. (Will Kiley, having emerged from a cocoon of poverty spun about him by his parents in Three Bridges, New Jersey, was inclined to accept the philosophy that money may not be the only thing in life, but the other thing won’t go out with you if you don’t have it.)
    He jammed the package of stiffeners into his jacket pocket, and began hauling at the golden chain, in an attempt—hearty but hardly surreptitious—to get the disc off the dead pteranodon.
    From a doorway across Sixth Avenue, a group of youths belonging to a Bronx-based organization titled The Pelham Privateers—what in days of pre-protest picketing would have been called a juvenile delinquent gang, now referred to as “a minority youth group”—observed Will Kiley’s struggles, and continued their own observations.
    “But it don’t look like it got hubcaps,” Angie said. “Hey, shtoomie, if it is lyin’ inna street, it is gotta have hubcaps. The question’s where?” The gang’s leader, George (“The Pot”) Lukovich dealt with matters in a realistic fashion.
    “Maybe they’re unnerneat,’ “ suggested Vimmy.
    “Could be,” George mused, “could very well be.” He pondered a moment longer, then made his mind and the gang’s collective mind, up. “We gotta jack up its ass. Get unnerneat’. Get the hubcaps off. Vimmy, I want you should take t’ree boys and go over to the building they’re building onna corner Madison an’ 48th. Steal a pneumatic hoist or somethin’.”
    Vimmy gave a quick one-finger salute, and dodged out of the doorway, tapping three of the gang members on their chests as he passed them. They followed, at a dead run.
    A hook and ladder approaching from the direction of Fifth Avenue swerved to avoid the quartet and skidded to a halt in the lee of the dead ornithosaurian. Big Louis Morono, wearing a Texaco hat and black rubber boots and slicker, leaped down, dragging a foot-long brass nozzle trailing a flat gray constrictor of hose. Assessing the situation at a glance, he set off at a heavy-footed trot toward the stern of the beast, assisted by fellow fire fighters each supporting his half dozen yards of tubing. A second team launched itself with silent efficiency in the opposite direction, toward the giant maloccluded jaws. They rounded the head, continued parallel with the scaly neck, paused only momentarily before trampling ahead across the leather carpet of the wing. They met Big Louis and his crew at a point abaft the fourth thoracic vertabra.
    “Anything?”
    “Nothing.”
    “Smoke?”
    “Not a wisp.”
    Big Louis sighed. His hose drooped. “It figures.”
    “Yeah.”
    “Okay, boys, reel it in.” Muttering, Big Louis headed back for the trembling truck. Before he had taken more than three steps, however, one of the members of the second team yelled, “Hey, Cap! It’s a, uh, you know what, a dragon. Maybe it breathes fire. Could be, y’know!”
    Big Louis stopped dead and smiled a winsome smile. “Reel it out again, men!” he shouted.
    As Will Kiley struggled manfully with the golden chain and its golden disc, two rumpled figures wearing thick glasses paused beside him. They ignored him, but pointed frequently at the head of the dead beast:
    “The chief difference in the pterodactyl skull from that of a bird is in the way in which the malar arch is prolonged backward 0n each side,” said the first.
    “The nostrils are unusually large. Could it be Dimorphodon?” asked the second.
    “Don’t be a silly goose, Trenchard,” replied the first. “Doesn’t even resemble.”
    Trenchard’s eyes flashed anger and his mouth tightened. “Damn’s blood, Goilvey! You were the one who said this genus shouldn’t be this heavy. You were the one who dragged me out of the Automat, leaving a perfectly good fish cake, just to come down here and argue about this. I don’t know why it’s so big, and I don’t know why it’s so heavy…all I know is that I don’t like you talking to me so snottily. Your seniority in the department doesn’t give you the right to…”
    A civil rights group, attracted by the noise, abandoned their labors integrating a parking lot, and instantly interpreting what was going on there in the intersection, whipped out magic markers and fresh cardboard, and rejingo’d their slogans. They began parading around and around the dead beast, bearing signs that read HE DIED FOR US! and DON’T LET THIS DEATH GO UNAVENGED! and SOCIETY ASKS: WHY?
    “Looks dead to me,” murmured a secretary, walking to Sak’s with a girl friend.
    “Remind me to make an appointment with my orthodontist,” her friend replied.
    A representative of the sanitation workers union—summoned by enraged members of his local—arrived on the scene, and uttered a snarl. “Like hell we will!” he commented to the members of the press. “It’ll lay there till hell freezes over! If the corrupt and Commie-Symp government of this city thinks it is going to fatten and batten on the blood and sweat and tears of the members of the United Sanitation Workers of America Local #337, it has another think coming. The name is Fortnoy. F-O-R-T…”
    The two CIA men ran out of film. One’s tie-tack camera clicked on empty spools, and the others mini-corder in his hatband whirred emptily. They met at mid-pteranodon and compared notes:
    “Maoist?”
    “Doubtful. Castroite?”
    “Maybe. Reach the office yet?”
    “No, something’s wonking up the circuits.”
    “Jamming?”
    “Maybe. Maoist?”
    “Doubtful. Russkie?”
    “Maybe…”
    Kiley pulled and strained at the disc, trying to drag it out from under the great head. He was making some small headway when a photographer and three models and the director of fashion for a leading women’s magazine nudged him aside, and began posing the girls on the head of the dead beast.
    “Look anguished, Maddie,” said the photographer, a slim and ascetic young man wearing an Australian digger hat in white velour. The model looked anguished. “No, no, more anguished. Cry for the entire world, sweetheart!” Maddie anguished harder. She cried. “Now tilt the pelvis just a tiddle forward, darling,” the photographer urged. “Let’s transmute that anguish into a starchy impudence at the really tasty things the season’s culottes have to say to the New Female!”
    “Off duty,” said a cabbie, streaking down around a wing-tip and plunging up the Avenue.
    Somewhere children were laughing and the wind was sweet with the scent of imminent Summer. But that was somewhere else.
    “Jesus, I can’t stand the stink!” shouted a woman from the seventh floor window of an employment agency.
    Seventeen sailors from a Japanese freighter, in New York on three-day leave, crouched near the juncture of wing and torso, and snapped pictures of the dead beast with Leicas, several murmuring words that sounded like, “Rodan.” No one paid them any heed.
    Several handbills were hastily pasted onto the leathery hide, announcing the candidacy of Roger Scarpennetti for Borough President.
    A vendor of socks (seconds) pitched his way from tail to beak, and made almost four dollars with his wares.
    Three agile and rolling-gaited Caughnawaga Indians, those last noble descendants of the noblest of noble savages, crossed 48th Street heading downtown. They carried lunch pails. They were on their way home by IRT subway (which they would catch at 42nd Times Square) from the building site construction on Madison and 48th; the selfsame construction site toward which four Pelham Privateers (behind the point-scouting of the redoubtable Vimmy) at this moment were streaking. The three redskins, high-steel workers of the most loftily-paid species, paused at the corner of 47th and Sixth, shifted lunch pails, and clucked their tongues almost in unison.
    “Is that crummy, I ask you!” said Walter Knife-That-Gleams-In-Starlight.
    “Yeah, first they zap alla the buffalo, bison, whatever the hell they was that they did in, and now this!” The lament was voiced by Teddy Bearclaw.
    “Goddam white-eyes,” added Sidney G. Nine Fires.
    “Red man’s burden,” said Walter.
    “Is it not a sad pass what our people has come to, that we must erect for these shitty crummy pony soldiers a edifice of such nobility as we are at this precise moment in time erecting,” penultimated Teddy.
    “What the hell is a bison?” asked Sidney G. Nine Fires. Mutual shrugs of confusion led to a prompt exit.
    The Reverend Leroy L. Heal, arriving at the head of the Poke County, Mississippi, delegation to the First Annual Congress of the International Evangelical Brotherhood for the Promotion of Christian Love and Low Down Payments, paused, waving his flock to a halt, shaking his head sadly at the vast obstruction blocking the intersection ahead. His second-in-command moved up beside him. Together, they studied the crumpled, strutted, awning-winged apparition filling the street.
    “Well, Leroy, what do you make of it?” the lieutenant inquired.
    Rev. Heal sighed. “The expenditure of funds and ingenuity that went into constructing this hoax and placing it in our line of march could have supported three indigent families in fair comfort for a period of at least two months,” he stated.
    The two men advanced; Rev Beal poked at the leathery hide with a finger.
    “Plastic,” he said. ”A transparent fraud.”
    “As I see it, Leroy, they intended to suspend the thing from wires and have it buzz us. But apparently the wires broke.”
    “Obviously. Tsk. Sometimes I wonder at the curious picture the opposition seems to entertain of our gullibility. First the whole thing with the sheets over their heads; now this: big racist rubber chickens.”
    “So—what do we do?”
    “We make ourselves comfortable,” The Reverend said. “And wait.”
    As the strains of We Shall Overcome rose on the afternoon air, a party of lobbyists for the All-American Society for the Preservation of Property Values (ASPPV) emerged from the gloom of Reilly’s Bar and Grille, summoned by the mingled cries of the wounded, the chatter of the spectators, and the exhortations of the cop, still in search of a recipient for the summons. The group blinked at the scene, noting the size and placement of the reptile with eyes accustomed to lightning assessment.
    “By George, Charlie,” the head lobbyist said, around a cigar, “you couldn’t replace that thing for under twenty-eight-five or I’m a baboon’s nephew.”
    Charlie was staring at the singers grouped by the monster’s stem.
    “Tell me there’s no Commie money behind them Nigras,” he murmured.
    Lilya looked at her watch for the thirty-first time. Ten more minutes and not a second more, and then by God she’d take a cab to Schrafft’s and order the expensivest item on the menu and if that skin-disease Melville ever dared to show that collection of acne scars he called a face again…
    “Sorry, lady,” the man with the leather jacket said, not looking at Lilya as he bellied her aside. He planted his feet and looked the project over, from beak to tail-tip and back to beak.
    “Hey, Jake,” a wiry man in overalls said. “You want I should get the rig in position.”
    “Nix,” Jake said succinctly.
    “Right,” the wiry man said. “This is outta our line—”
    Jake whirled and grabbed a handful of the wiry man’s overall bib.
    “There ain’t no wrecking job Ajax Wrecking can’t handle and doncha forget it, “ he growled. “Hold the headache ball. Tell the boys to break out the chain saws.”
    “Sure, Jake. Only you got aholt of the hair on my chest—”
    “Twenny minutes, that’s what the dude said. I don’t want to see nothing but hip pockets and elbows until we get this intersection clear, get me?”
    A husband and wife team, tourists from Joplin, Missouri, making one of their rare p.a.’s in the Apple, stood near the forearm and metacarpus of the dead beast, the husband setting the automatic timer on his camera. Then he strolled nonchalantly to his spouse (indicating his ease and familiarity with matters photographic), struck an attitude, and waited, smiling, till the camera had clicked them off. “Do we have time to make it down to the Village for some shots with hippies, before dinner,” the wife asked. Her husband’s answer was lost on the wind as the mayor’s helicopter settled in the center of Sixth Avenue, just above 47th Street.
    The riot police jog-trotted around the corner of 48th and Sixth and began breaking up into assault teams.
    “Careful of that Mace!” Captain Schirmer bellowed through the bullhorn. Snipers in office windows began firing at streetlights. “All right, move it out!” shouted Captain Schirmer. The first wave of riot police lobbed their tear gas grenades, and began spraying high pressure hoses down the Avenue. The rabbinical students fled, still uncertain whether the pteranodon was kosher or trayfe—but dead certain the eggs were edible if the proper bruchah was said over them. The rescue squads pulled the last of the survivors out from under the dead beast, and carried them away from the line of combat.
    Kiley was trapped at the neck of the creature, still trying to yank loose the garden amulet. He was cut off from escape by the insurrecting Columbia Law students and Black Panther Freedom Party members on the eastern flank, by the riot police using Mace and leadweighted truncheons on the west, by the roughneck warriors of the Ajax Wrecking Corporation (all ex-Seabees) on the North, and by the advancing wave of members of the Amalgamated Butchers and Meat Hackers Local #39 on the South. He crouched down, hoping to go unseen, and continued yanking at the circle of gold.
    More police on horseback clogged the scene, trying to aid their beat partner in establishing to whom the corpse in the street belonged. The ticket was written, it merely needed to be served.
    Three hookers began working the uptown side of 47th Street, hoping some of the show biz crowd would stick to their fingers, or other portions of their anatomy.
    “Oh!” cried Alice, awakening, “apparently it is all a dream!”
    “You’re under arrest, “ said the cop with the ticket, to no one in particular. He said it again, softer, but no one paid any attention.
    Lilya curse/wished plagues on gnats and nits on the acne-pocked head of Melville, and stalked off down the Avenue, passing the hip-girdle of the pteranodon, failing to look down where she would have seen her much-cursed Melville, much more crushed than cursed.
    Near the hind limbs of the dead beast (what George “The Pot” Lukovich would have referred to as the ass-end), twelve members of The Pelham Privateers now worked diligently trying to get the beast erect so its hubcaps could be stolen. The pneumatic jacks they had installed merely sank into the flesh of the beast.
    Big Louis Morono, seeing the gang at work, whistled up his men, and using the high pressure hoses, drove the juvies from the scene.

Ending by Harlan Ellison

    Even as they fled, the Pelham Privateers indicated their frustration at having been thwarted. They mugged Trenchard and Goilvey where they stood, leaving the two tottering scientists even more tottered: face-down in the gutter, arguing through split lips and cracked teeth, “It’s too big to be a pterodactyl from our past…it has to be from the past, you twit…no, it’s from another planet…don’t be an ass, they don’t have pterodactyls on any planet in our solar system…so it came from another Solar system…how did it get here…that’s not my problem…”
    Will Kiley struggled with the golden amulet.
    And at that precise moment, the parallel worlds, having reached the apogee of their pendulum swings, and having started back toward the point at which they touched originally (for the first time in fifty-six years), met…perigee…merged…
    And Will Kiley, tightly attached to the focal point of the two world’s merging—the golden amulet—found himself poof!
    Gone. Vanished.
    In the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 47th Street, the mob was cleared away, and the Ajax Wreckers joined with their working-class comrades of the Amalgamated Butchers and Meat Hackers Local #39, to rid the streets of the unsightly corpse of a flying reptile that had dropped from no one knew where…and no one seemed to very much care…

    Meanwhile, back at the tangential meeting-place of the parallel worlds…

    Very much like a dead ibari, the man fell out of the sky at X.O. + 19 of a Bluemom, fell howling, arms and legs all a-tumble, landing squarely in the moss-and-metal center of the Religious Icon of Ned, in Avuncular Square.
    Two leathery-winged residents flapped over to the gigantic creature, and stared at it.
    “Did it fly?” said the first, scratching its osseous crest with a wingtip finger. “Or did it merely fall?”
    “Big, isn’t it?” commented the second. “Much bigger than whatchamacallit, men, are supposed to be. And heavier. I wonder, is it edible?”
    “Ah-ha, not is it edible,” interjected one of the dietary priests of Nerf, “but is it hazzil! That’s the question.”
    “It looks hazzil.”
    “The eyes are blue, that means it can’t be hazzil!”
    A Proctor descended on the scene and extracted its demerit book from its wingtip-pouch with the fingertip of its other wing. “Okay, who owns this myth?”
    “What’s a Teeny Slut?’ asked the dietary priest of Ned. But no one seemed to know.
    And no one seemed to very much care…

THE END

Ending by Keith Laumer

    The Vice-President in charge of Enforcement for the meat cutters confronted Jake, Ajax Wreckers’ ace field man, as the latter tugged at a twenty-foot length of amputated pterodactyl skin.
    “Hey,” he barked over the stutter of the chain saws chopping through the lobster-like flesh. “You guys are doing our work!”
    Jake dropped the leg, causing a gush of blood like drained oil to moisten the shoe-tops of the union man. He took a step toward the challenger, pushed his large, broken-veined, fist-scarred, unevenly shaved face forward.
    “Oh, yeah?” he riposted.
    As they stood nose to nose, their followers gathered behind them. A chain saw barked and sputtered, lugging down on bone. More large men appeared. The lines formed up across the slope of the pteranodon’s keel. An advance scout from the Black Panthers sidled up to a dark-skinned butcher who stood glowering at a similarly pigmented wrecker.
    “Hey, baby,” he protested. “Let’s not waste no horsepower on internecine strife. Let’s get Honky!”
    “Now, boys,” the Rev. Beat interrupted.
    “Who you calling ‘boy,’ Uncle Tom?” the Black Panther inquired threateningly. He gave the small, neatly suited ecclesiast a push with a hangnailed forefinger. Charles W. Throckwall of the ASPPV noted the interchange from the corner of his eye.
    “See here, fellow,” he blurted. “That’s a man of the cloth you’re pushing—”
    “Stop, thief!” a skinny female in a fantastic hat yelled. Will Kiley, bounding pop-shopward with the golden amulet, skidded on the oily blood and caromed into Throckwall, who rebounded in what appeared to be a leap toward the Panther. The latter withdrew for reinforcements, jostling a meatcutter. The meatcutter threw the unfortunate chap at Jake, who replied by placing two short jabs in the lower belt region of the policeman just as the uniformed minion thrust the summons at him. Whistles sounded the charge. Union men slugged it out with wreckers and militant sociologists. Christians and Realtors battled side by side. Big Louis Morono played his hoses over all parties without discrimination due to race, creed, or national origin.
    “By George, Charlie,” the real estate lobby chief called to his aide. “Maybe we’d better rethink our program. They’ve got quite a body of public opinion on their side, it appears!”
    “We can’t fight this kind of organization,” Charlie agreed. “We better pull back and regroup.”
    “Leroy,” the Rev. Beat’s lieutenant shouted in his leader’s ear. ”Possibly we misjudged the magnitude of the backlash—”
    “Hey, boss,” Jake’s aide cried over the tumult. “We only got ten minutes to finish the job, which Ajax’s rep is riding on the outcome!”
    Jake grunted and strained chest to chest with the union Enforcer.
    “Deal?” he muttered tentatively.
    “How’s about if your boys do the primary breakdown and my guys take it from there? And kind of get your thumb outta my eye, OK?”
    “Check. And my groin ain’t a place for you to store your knee when you ain’t using it, right?”
    The two fighters for economic justice disengaged, and with hoarse bellows summoned their followers. In moments, the saws were stuttering through tendon and gristle, while cleavers flashed, separating radii from ulnae.
    Caught up in the mood of the moment, the riot cops, who had been delayed in their arrival at that end of the beast by a call for help from the beat cop, and who had paused to lend a hand in getting the cuffs on Kiley, formed a bucketless bucket brigade, passing along the assorted chunks of anatomy as they were freed from the carcass. Thirty seconds before the deadline, the last slab of reptile disappeared into the chippers. The firemen hosed down the pavement. The crowd disappeared into the places crowds disappear into. In the bars, beer flowed. Sirens wailed as firemen and peace officers returned to interrupted pinochle games. A single scrap of pteranodon hide, overlooked by the flensers, floated along the gutter and disappeared down the storm drain, where, due to a curious concatenation of circumstances, it eventually lodged in an orifice serving a large department store, resulting in the simultaneous overflow of the third floor pay toilets.
    Two newsmen, having been torn away from a fruitless assignment emanating from the City Desk whereat an anonymous phone call had narked that Senator Seymour F. Lark (R., Vermont) (he who had been accused by Senate Subcommittee of squirreling away a quarter of a million skins in monies allegedly originally contributed to his campaign re-election exchequer) was lying doggo in the apartment of a lady of shady reputation, just off Sixth Avenue at 46th Street, came upon the recent scene of so much reptilian-oriented turmoil, and encountered little more than moist patches of concrete and a few spots where the acid in the blood of the now-vanished pteranodon had managed to eradicate the lane stripes of Sixth Avenue.
    “Another dry run,” Ollie, the taller scrivener stated glumly.
    “Uh-huh, Stanley,” the fat one said.
    “Hey, Madame,” the tall one accosted a matron in a man’s sweater and run over shoes. “You see anything of a giant reptile around here?”
    “I don’t know nothing,” the interogee replied, and continued her bee-line for the copy of the National Enquirer she had spotted in the litter basket. The other pedestrians who had begun to clot at the prospect of a lively interchange, drifted unobtrusively away, scenting official interest in their affairs. The newsmen shrugged and disappeared into a bar. Traffic resumed its normal flow. The sun shone on a peaceful street. The Governor’s car paused at the intersection. His Governorship scanned the prospect, saw nothing amiss, and relaxed against the forty-dollar-a-yard upholstery.
    “Peace,” he said. “It’s wonderful.” At that moment a black speck appeared in the patch of sky visible between the serried cornices above. It grew, became a ragged bird-shape, tumbling end-over-end, whistling…
    With a resounding splat, a second pteranodon impacted in the street.

FINIS
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