We was going to be late if he didn’t hurry up, he was cutting it really close, and I was almost mad with Rudy if he was going to make us late for the end of the world at Coney. I looked at my Roylex and I said patient, it never does no good to get quick with Rudy, I said, “Old buddy you should wear the shirt I give you to wear,” because he don’t see right, Rudy, his eyes roll up like and wander, he sees blue, he says banana, he’s cross-wired since this dermatology intern pulled his brain out of our mom with forceps, so Rudy he can take a long time, see, choosing what to wear.
This is why I don’t usually make a fuss, but it was the end of the world, see, and it was going to be at Coney, right, and we had to be there on the dot and looking sharp. That’s what I figured. If we wanted to get good seats and all. We was going to remember this for the rest of our lives, right, so I wanted us both to be looking fine and right on time. Because you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
So I pull the green shirt with the crocodile over Rudy’s head and I show him how the belt closes and he puts on his own shoes which goes pretty quick now I got him the Velcro-close kind and I hang his key around his neck inside his shirt and we walk out the door only ten minutes late. As we go down the stairs, I tell the tale, how he don’t talk to anybody he don’t see me shake their hand first, he stay right with me even if there’s a dog on the train he hold onto me, he don’t pick up anything at all off the street, and etcetera like that.
We walk the twelve blocks to Union Square even though was I by myself I’d take the L and transfer but Rudy he gets confused walking underground, he starts talking loud how he can’t see the sky and how come’s that, so we walk to the Q train which is fast to Coney and we need to get there fast. I keep my arm around his shoulder and he walks just as fast as me, he’s playing fish, his lips push in and out and that’s fine so long as his legs keep going like a person, I tell him he’s doing real good and he goes to stop and tell me all about it, but I say, “Tell me on the train,” and he keeps walking. He’s being so good. I’m real proud of him.
This is why I don’t usually make a fuss, but it was the end of the world, see, and it was going to be at Coney, right, and we had to be there on the dot and looking sharp.
Getting him through the turnstile is always tricky, this is why we don’t use those entrances that have like revolving cages, if I pulled him out of one of those once I done it a hundred times, no it’s got to be regular turnstiles and that’s what they have at 14th and Fourth and that’s what we go through, I swipe the Metrocard and tell him, “Go!” and he goes right through, it’s lucky, there’s a little white dog sticking out of this lady’s bag and Rudy goes right through after the dog but, still lucky, even though I have to swipe three times before it reads my card I catch up to him before he can pet the dog or pet the lady which either one takes up a lot of time which time we don’t have. We have to get to Coney if we want good seats. Rudy nods when I say this and walks away from the dog which is going uptown and we walk fast down the stairs and a Q pulls in and there’s two seats facing backwards, lucky a third time, so Rudy and me sit down and spread out our legs and I show him the sports pages until we come out on the elevated tracks and then he shows me the trees and the birds and names the different kinds of litter. “Plastic bottle. Glass bottle. Coke can.” He likes to say “Coke can” so much that sometimes I don’t tell him the right name because he gets a smile on his face saying, “Coke can, Coke can,” and meanwhile I can check how the Yankees are doing which I’m not supposed to do because we’re a Mets family, always been a Mets family, and I’m behind them 200 percent, I mean everybody gets slumps, but if it’s going to be the end of the world I figure I’ll sneak a look at how the Bombers are doing. I shake my head. “Glass southpaw,” I tell Rudy. “Glass pawpaw?” he says. “Never mind, it’s okay,” I tell him, and we go on all the way to Coney like that, me shaking my head and him saying, “New paper. Plastic bag. New paper. Coke can, Coke can.” He don’t say it too loud or nothing and nobody’s paying attention anyhow, they’re putting on their makeup or talking in their cell phones, getting ready for the end of the world at Coney, little kids is running around they parents paying them no mind and this one couple is going at it hot and heavy which made me think about Marcella who I’m not going to see before the end of the world, I figure, since she kept wanting us to go out just me and her without Rudy who she said was creepy so I told her goodbye, she was hot, Marcella, but there’s going to be a lot of spilled milk at the end of the world so what’s the use of crying about a few drops of it? I show Rudy this big bird out the other side of the train so he don’t get all upset by this couple making out. “Vulture,” he says.
Finally, finally, we get to Coney and I put my arm around Rudy’s shoulder and we walk to the shooting pond where we’re all supposed to meet, he stays right with me in the crowd and I tell him what a good job he’s doing and he smiles which always cheers me up and all the way there, lucky again, nobody says nothing about how we mixing the races or we weirdos holding hands or nothing, we stop in front of the bumper cars and me and Rudy say, right along with this woman who comes out of the loudspeakers, we say, “Bump! Bump your ass off!” and the little kids which we used to be, plus grown-ups too, zoom around under the disco music bumping each other all they can. “Bump, bump yo rassoff,” Rudy says, and I say, “That’s right,” and we walk as fast as we can which isn’t very fast because everybody and his wife, I swear on my mother’s grave, has come to Coney for the end of the world.
Still, we make good time and in fact we’re early at the meet spot, the place where you shoot at the animals by the pond, the bear and the raccoon and the tin cup. One time I hit the bear and made him stand all up so now every time we go there Rudy’s all like, “Make the bear jump! Make the bear jump!” but no time for that now, we got to meet our people and get good seats and that’s what we got to do. That’s what I tell him. “Okay,” says Rudy.
How lucky is this? All our people are on time, Cassandra, Donnell, Ramona and Vernon and all, they’re on time. Isn’t that something? I shake all their hands so Rudy knows it’s okay and we all hug each other and Donnell says Bernice grown another inch since I saw her last month and Cassandra got her hair all up and then coming down braids and Vernon got a new job they give him his own separate cell phone, he’s that important, and we talk like that for a while and then I look at my Roylex and I say, “Okay, let’s get this show on the road.”
We get our seats and I buy Rudy a ice cream at highway-robbery prices from a guy with a cooler, which if I was in charge guys wouldn’t holler “Ice cream!” in public places where they put ideas into people’s heads. I wouldn’t let them. We sit there for half an hour and Donnell says he can’t believe they’re holding the curtain for the end of the world, and Ramona says ain’t that just typical, they waiting for more crowd, and Cassandra says they probably nervous doing a one-shot stand like this, and Vernon says that’s right, he says it’s not like they going to get a chance to polish they performance, and all of them laughing but I don’t laugh because sure enough Rudy spilled some ice cream on his seat and I have to wipe it up before he gets down and starts licking that chair, who knows where that chair been, but they all laughing right along.
At last the curtain goes up and this big fat guy on the stage shouts we’re going to see “Got a damn run!” and we all shout back “Got a damn run!” which our mom used to say is only what you can expect with dime-store nylons, she said you get what you pay for. The whole rest of it I couldn’t figure out what kind of language they was talking, all holding onto these big sticks and shouting at them, and neither could Donnell or Vernon or Cassandra. Ramona says they was speaking Yiddish which I ask how would she know? She says it was on account of she works in the garment district. “They got their own whole language?” says Cassandra, and Donnell and Vernon and me say, all at the same time, “Hush up,” and Rudy almost falls off his chair laughing.
The people on the stage they shout at their sticks and carry women around and set one of them on fire except not really and then the other women comb their long hair down around their knees, then there’s more of they hit each other with sticks and stick each other with blades and fall down dead except they wasn’t really dead they was just getting ready to shout some more—I maybe would have understood it more better if Rudy didn’t keep showing me these vultures that was flying around the old parachute jump, him and me took turns looking through binoculars at these birds flying and flying. It was more interesting than all these people shouting at their sticks, for sure, plus it kept him quiet.
After a real long time it was over and people clap and up out their seats and crowd away and I look at Rudy and Rudy looks at me and we’re both still here so what happened to the end of the world? I ask Cassandra about this because Ramona’s still going on about she knows what words mean in Yiddish and Cassandra says it was the ringcicle, she says this part of the ringcicle’s the end of the world. I say, “Oh, ringcicle, uh-huh,” and Cassandra nods and gets lipstick out her purse and puts it on without a mirror. I say the end of the world’s just like before the end of the world, I say wasn’t there supposed to be a explosion or something? Donnell says, “Ringcicle, sure, it’s the bomb,” and I know he don’t know what it is either, but we all get ice cream at the good place, which they don’t have ringcicles and never heard of them, so how about that? And we wait for the crowd to thin out and we say thanks and it was great and see you soon to everybody and they go off for the F but we go for the Q. Rudy’s asleep on his feet by the time a Q train pulls in and I’m not much better, tell the truth, and we ride and we ride all the way back to Union Square. I find a paper and read up on the Mets ’cause the end of the world’s just like before the end of the world and now I got all this catch-up to do but it’s hard to keep my eyes open and I figure the Mets aren’t going to change after the end of the world on account of they don’t change for nothing, I’ll read up on them tomorrow. From Union Square we walk and we walk all the way home. “Last one up the stair’s a rotten egg!” says Rudy, but I beat him to our door even though he’s got the head start on me. I got to hide the laundry quarters before Rudy grabs them, if he gets hold of that money he’ll stop the next ice cream truck to try and buy every kid on our block a ringcicle.