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Monsters in Times Square by Sarah Beaudette | Word Riot
Short Stories

July 30, 2017      

Monsters in Times Square by Sarah Beaudette

     When New Mickey showed up in front of the Visitors Center on 7th, he wouldn’t give our little welcoming committee the time of day. Just stood there under the Jumbotron, his glossy mask a highway of pink and orange light.
     The first thing I noticed was his getup. Most Times Square characters are Party City amateurs, Halloween trick-or-treat motherfuckers like your Spidermans and your Batmans with bagged out knees and nicotine stains. Then there’s the professionals, like your boy Pluto. I saved all the money from my Batman days and sent away for a good Pluto from Peru: carved foam, smooth nylon, the plush stuff that kids love. New Mickey, I’ve never seen his shit before. It looks vintage—real old but cared for. Like characters are a family business where he comes from. Blue sequin stars on his tailcoat, sewn by hand. Hard shiny plastic face, and real holes for the eyes, not screens. He just stood there in the middle of us, not saying nothing when the Statues of Liberty tried their profit sharing hustle on him, just stiff as a board, nothing to see here folks. So I made the cross over him and went back to my corner. Que Dios te bendiga. Welcome to Times Square.
     New Mickey kept to himself, under that Jumbotron—Woody’s spot—but no one bothered him. Woody’d found a Buzz last week anyway, near the theater. I didn’t pay much attention to Mickey. If you’re a professional, you only got yourself to watch. I saw he was good though, maybe as good as the best of us. Someone had taught him all the Mickey moves, the hands, the arms akimbo. You could be a monster underneath that mask and it don’t matter. As long as you’re good with your hands, the kids are gonna melt. I know. All day I shuck and jive them into the magic, siphon off the babies and then it’s too late, the picture’s taken and the parents’ wallets are opening up. New Mickey was good, and he was quiet. Did his own thing and went home, wherever that was.
     One day in July, three months after New Mickey first showed up under that Jumbotron, Hades opened up under the Q train and sent white hot wind up through the grates. Days that hot, people go nuts. Viejos knock off like flies in their walk-ups. The Romanian ladies process down Amsterdam to bring the begging baby to St. Luke’s, for bad dehydration. In Queens, women and children get stabbed by their papis.
     Days like that you’re better off sleeping but I needed the money so I’m on my corner at 7, ready for the hustle. By 10 a.m. I’ve got five bucks and double vision. Better off sleeping.
     Around noon I notice New Mickey under his Jumbotron. He’s swaying like he’s drunk, though I’ve never seen him drink. A couple of Asian tourists stop to watch him and all us characters stop too, watching him through the blur of heat hanging over the pavement.
     Thirty seconds of stumbling, then Mickey goes down hard. His tailcoat flaps up over his skinny red ass, and he’s not moving. Just lies there while the light from the Jumbotron scans him like a barcode.
     Woody and I are closest. I work on taking Mickey’s head off while Woody feels for a pulse. Sheriff Woody, who leers at 12-year-olds. Twenty bucks says you’ll never find a picture of him on any mantle. Even though Mom and Dad and Sonny are smiling, what you can’t see in the shot is that Woody is sliding a hand down Mommy’s ass.
     Mickey’s barely breathing. Much less than he should be for a simple case of heat stroke. When I lift his mask, I understand why I’ve never heard him speak. Hard to push a tongue through those livid oatmeal scars, that parody of a mouth. Once he had a face. Sometime he got burnt. Bad. A mewling whine comes from his slit mouth, and a few bubbles of spit. He sounds just like my baby sister that day at home, and I have to shake my head. Can’t think, it’s too hot. Can’t breathe.
     The other characters are crowded around us now, and I take off my own head. Can’t breathe. There’s Jew-hating Elmo, the Mario who got bagged last year for forcible touching, the Minnie who can’t stop itching her nose. The Statues of Liberty lean in, whispering and nudging with their spikes. I want to shove them away, but can’t think what to do. Everyone who showed up today is indocumentado. Won’t catch one of us calling the police. No help’s coming for this guy. Meanwhile Mickey’s out of it, and that pitiful whine won’t stop. She wouldn’t shut up either and maybe if I’d made her, that day, if I’d just made her, then we all would have been okay.
     Before I know it I’m doing it, gentle, with my big Pluto paw over that wrecked face. I count to ten, like mama told me to, in the closet, before he found us.
     Quiet, he’s quiet now. His breathing almost calm. No one says a word. I can smell their relief, underneath the stink soaked into their spandex, their matted nylon fur.
     Next morning, Mickey’s gone. We don’t talk about it—don’t even guess about who finally came for the body.
     Later, I’m taking a picture with one of those Wall Street assholes and his kid. Daddy’s hand barely grazes the poor kid’s shoulder, and then the cheapskate peels a single dollar from his billfold. A dollar.
     So I take off my head and lean into him, look into Daddy’s eyes until he can see me, can see all the universal rules disobeyed in them. And his hand is reaching for his money, you bet it is. I can see the kid is getting scared, backing up behind Daddy. It’s best the kid learns this lesson now, while he’s young. That he sees what kind of a guy his Dad is. That he sees what’s underneath Pluto’s mask. If he’s smart, he’ll never come back here again.

About the author:
Sarah Beaudette is a nomad, currently in Mexico. Her fiction has appeared in The Masters Review and Necessary Fiction among other publications, and won the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest 2016. She spends most of her time exploring 15th century crypts, mispronouncing bakery orders, and using her pregnant belly to prey upon the sympathies of cab drivers.

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