Tag Archives: Walt

The Canal Street Subway (day 17)

Real history: in the 1920s, the IRT, one of the subway companies operating in Manhattan, proposed an east-west Canal Street Line (CSL). Though the CSL spent many years in the preliminary phase, blueprints, endless city council meetings, budget discussions, announcements, pronouncements,  and denouncements, ultimately it never was built. The plans, blueprints, and proposals all were safely catalogued into the city’s extensive archive.

Left to itself, the basement on Canal Street functioned perfectly. The interior of Susannah Fontaine-Williams’ extra-dimensional bag stabilized itself. The ladies who ran the Excellent Bag House, the knock-off store upstairs, though they heard stray sounds from below, stayed away from the door SFW had long ago padlocked.  Understandably, the basement spooked them. Walt’s other projects, aside from Vax, the lone conscious nano-bot, remained in the state in which Walt had left them prior to his caninization.

As for Walt the big black dog, he had grown content in his role of protector of the Susannahs. Most of the time, that meant lounging on the sunny terrace, barking at odd sounds, and accompanying her on her rounds. In this particular moment, one Susannah was airborne. The other called, “Walt, let’s go for a run!”

On a subterranean shelf in Chinatown, Vax, self-appointed Lord of the Nanobots, discovered the sensation of loneliness. Without water, he would be forever alone and helpless, and he pondered  shutting down. Who wouldn’t?

On the adjoining block to the north, the empty building abutting the Excellent Bag House, absorbed the first tug of a wrecking claw, sending bricks, wood and glass crashing onto and through its floors. Vax felt the vibration, but lacking any context, could not so much as wonder what it was all about.

The company operating the wrecking claw used a set of blueprints provided by the city showing the location of buried electric lines, water mains, and most importantly, gas mains. However, a computer error mistakenly delivered the plans showing the location of where all of that infrastructure would be if the Canal Street Subway had  been built. As it was, of course, no subway line traverses Manhattan beneath Canal St.

Walt, with no real regard or understanding of how real estate boundaries worked below the surface of the earth, had built the lab and the bag pod well beyond the boundaries of the building above, and a significant part of it extended beneath the building facing demolition. With each yank of the wrecking claw, a little more weight of the building crashed onto the area above the pod. A single  brick nicked a gas line and natural gas began to leak and fill Walt’s vacant lab.

35,000 miles above the North Sea, Susannah Fontaine-Williams slept, clutching her bag while the strange woman in the seat next to her watched.

Leibowitz

Leibowitz tosses the cigarette from the window of his Saab. He is dying and dying is what got him into this mess with Susannah Fontaine-Williams. The coughing fits always take their toll and he sits straight up in the passenger seat and breathes the savory beach air.

He closes his eyes for a quiet, peaceful moment, shading them with the limp brim of his bucket hat. He dozes, lulled by the muffled crashing of the incoming tide and his own blend of medications procured from the cabinets of Leibowitz Pharmacy. The pharmacy, his legacy, going to Ileana on his death. He’d resisted for decades the sale to one chain or another, leaving that payoff for his daughter if she wanted it when the time came.

The constant blare of a care horn pierces his dreamless dozing. Reflexively, he feels for the gun, a Walther PK-9, in his jacket pocket. It’s there.

“Leib?” a soft voice, feminine and familiar. Hands gently push his frail frame back from the steering wheel and upright in his seat. The seat reclines and leans him back, which startles him awake.

“No,” he says. “I can’t breathe in that position.”

“Sorry.” She adjusts the seat so he’s once again upright.

“I’m fine.” He focuses on her. “You should get out of here. They’re coming.”

Susannah’s dog is standing at the car door, leaning in, licking Leibowitz’s face, whimpering. She touches his cheek. When he opens his eyes again, he sees that she is crying. Leibowitz arches a confused eyebrow.

“Damn,” she says.

Sunrise in Cape May

The chilly Atlantic laps at Susannah Fontaine-Williams’s feet. The tide is coming in and soon the waves touch her knees then recede past her ankles, before the next one stretches to her thighs. She lay face down, her face turned to a side either asleep or unconscious; she doesn’t know yet.

The next wave ebbs, leaving her untouched, but the one behind it crashes over her back, thrusting her forward then  dragging her back toward the sea as it recedes. Water gets in her nose and she sputters and coughs like an old car that hasn’t been turned over for a long time. She starts to rise when another wave knocks her over and tries again to drag her out to sea. This time she pulls herself up to her feet, stretches, checks to make sure her bathing suit contains all of her parts, and walks toward the dry sand of Cape May, New Jersey.

From beyond the dunes a figure watches through binoculars Susannah’s wobbly walk to shore. A couple in sweatshirts walks by and says good morning to her. “You’re staring,” the woman says to her partner.

Why wouldn’t anyone stare? SFW emerges from the sea in a bikini, a dagger strapped to a leg backlit by the rising sun, waves crashing at her feet, reminding you of Ursula Andress in the famous beach scene from Dr. No.

“Sorry,” he says. “She looks so familiar.”

“Mmm, hmm,” she says.

Binoculars dangling from his neck, the watcher speaks into his mobile. “She’s alive. No. It should been strong enough to knock out a horse…Yes…I understand.”

A big black dog comes bounding down the beach, barking, tail furiously wagging. “Walt!” Susannah Fontaine-Williams calls out, and, now on dry sand, falls to her knees, arms out to welcome him.

The sun is now fully over the ocean’s undulating horizon. The man with the binoculars gets into his car and lights a cigarette. An instant later he goes into a coughing jag that leaves him wheezing. He pauses then spits out a hunk of viscous black goo onto the sandy parking lot before taking another puff.

Inside the bag with Walt

Walt liked going into the storage pod and standing among the objects in Susannah Fontaine-Williams’s purse. It felt cozy to him. And while he had a legitmate reason to go into her bag from time to time to check on capacity and to make sure that nothing too odd was going on as clearly stated in Item 141, Periodic Inspections,” he was aware that he needn’t really do more than poke his head in the door for a moment or two. He also knew that he might have personal issues he didn’t really understand as even someone who crammed as much into her bag as SFW would never come close to filling what amounted to a 12-foot cube. Walt particularly liked those moments the bag was open and he could peer through the ceiling at her world. It was like looking up from the bottom of a pond through the shimmering surface, everything a little bit distorted, especially at the edges. He theorized that the difference in the size of the portal on either side caused the distortion. On his side of the opening, the portal took up most of the ceiling, umbrella-shaped, about ten feet across. On her side, the opening stretched just the width of her bag. That he could have devised such a thing awed him to no end. The few times he’d peered through the opening to her side of bag, he’d seen the underside of a chandlier, or a plain white ceiling. But this last time, he could see SFW’s torso crossing back and forth, and the bottoms of clothes that must have been on hangers or draped on hooks. He thought he ran a small risk of course of getting clunked on the head by some object or other, and wondered what would happen if she reached in while he was there. Could she, he wondered, mistake him for something or other, grab him, and pluck him from the storage pod – her bag – into her world? I will install a transparent barrier, he told himself, and a chaise lounge beneath it to optimize my observations.