From the bestselling and award-winning author of The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn comes a sweeping story of community, crime, and gentrification, tracing over fifty years of life in one Brooklyn neighborhood.
“A blistering book. A love story. Social commentary. History. Protest novel. And mystery joins the whole together: is the crime 'time'? Or the almighty dollar? I got a great laugh from it too. Every city deserves a book like this.” — Colum McCann, author of Apeirogon and Let the Great World Spin
On the streets of 1970s Brooklyn, a daily ritual goes down: the dance. Money is exchanged, belongings surrendered, power asserted. The promise of violence lies everywhere, a currency itself. For these children, Black, brown, and white, the street is a stage in shadow. And in the wings hide the other players: parents; cops; renovators; landlords; those who write the headlines, the histories, and laws; those who award this neighborhood its name.
The rules appear obvious at first. But in memory’s prism, criminals and victims may seem to trade places. The voices of the past may seem to rise and gather as if in harmony, then make war with one another. A street may seem to crack open and reveal what lies behind its glimmering facade. None who lived through it are ever permitted to forget.
Written with kaleidoscopic verve and delirious wit, Brooklyn Crime Novel is a breathtaking tour de force by a writer at the top of his powers. Jonathan Lethem, “one of America’s greatest storytellers” (Washington Post), has crafted an epic interrogation of how we fashion stories to contain the uncontainable: our remorse at the world we’ve made.
Release date: October 3, 2023
Print pages: 384
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Brooklyn Crime Novel
“IT WOULD BE FOOLISH TO SAY that all renovation areas are safe or that once renovation begins an area is magically transformed into a crime-free haven . . . If you are concerned about crime in an area, don’t just take one person’s word about it. Go over to the precinct house and see what the police have to say about your block and the surrounding area. Ask people on the block who are living there now. Former residents usually give the least reliable information.
It can almost categorically be said that neighborhoods that have a lot of renovation activity do become safer, either through private patrols or through pressure upon policemen or just because more people are on the streets. The pioneer in an emerging area like Crown Heights will find bargain prices for a number of reasons, and a higher crime rate is a key one.”
—JOY AND PAUL WILKES, You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Own a Brownstone
WHEN WE announced our production plans for “THE CASE AGAINST BROOKLYN” . . . the startling expose of cop-bookie corruption . . . we expected gangsters, hoodlums, and merchants of violence to give it the lead-pipe treatment. We expected threats and worse from the gunmen of Gowanus.
But we never expected reasonable citizens to challenge the free screen. We never dreamed that important citizens of Brooklyn would have “ordered” us not to show this picture in the Borough of Brooklyn. But we have been told to stay out . . . or else!
We think the citizens of Brooklyn want to learn the truth. We think that you will side with “THE CASE AGAINST BROOKLYN”.
—ADVERTISEMENT, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 6, 1958
“MANHATTAN KEEPS on makin it/Brooklyn keeps on takin it”
—BOOGIE DOWN PRODUCTIONS, “The Bridge Is Over”
A first story. The start of our inquiry.
Two white boys, in a second-floor apartment above a storefront on Court Street, between Schermerhorn and Livingston streets.
The boys, both fourteen, gleefully labor at something captured in the teeth of a small, table-mounted vise. They labor at this thing with a hacksaw. The tool, the vise, the whole tabletop workshop, belongs to the divorced father of one of the boys, a man who lives alone in this apartment except during those days when his son visits. The father works as a therapist but aspires to make jewelry. Hence the vise, the hacksaw. The father is absent this morning.
THE STOREFRONT BELOW the apartment features an Italian restaurant called The Queen. A small dining room with red plush curtains, eight or ten tables crowded together. This place has a reputation among some as a throwback, a place for “fine dining” of a sort cherished only by probable mobsters, or by nostalgists for a version of Brooklyn that is already, by this point, quaint. Though hardly vanished.
Mobsters may also be nostalgists. Probably so, in many cases.
The restaurant’s proprietors own the building. It’s to them the father pays his rent. The Queen also has a twin, The Queen Pizzeria. A thriving slice joint, two addresses away. Wedged between the two, the tablecloth Queen and the pizza-counter Queen, is a mid-sized pornographic movie theater. The proprietors of the pornographic movie theater pay rent to the owners of the storefronts on either side of it, the pizzeria and the tablecloth restaurant. Two of these businesses, the porn movies, the slice joint, are required to keep the third—the tablecloth restaurant—afloat.
A slice of pizza costs fifty cents.
A subway token costs fifty cents.
Hmmm. Is this some golden law of affiliation? The city an oblique, untranslatable system? Or might the sole religion here be the price of things?
Let’s return to the boys. What’s the thing in the vise?
The vise holds a coin. A U.S. twenty-five cent piece, a Washington Quarter dated 1968, from the Denver mint. The therapist-jeweler’s son wields the hacksaw. He runs it diligently in its groove, until the quarter is cut in half. The boys grin, sharing a nerve-wired, chortling delight. The vise is loosened, just long enough to turn the half-quarter in its grip, then tightened again. The hacksaw is applied anew. The slim blade rips through, halving the half-coin. The other boy seizes up the result for scrutiny. All that’s left is Washington’s proud forehead and nose and the letters LIB. The boys have made a quarter-quarter.
The two fresh quarter-quarters are moved to the table, where we see them now added to the results of this afternoon’s industry: a pile of ruined coins. Nearly all twenty-five cent pieces, some halved, some quartered. A couple of nickels, too, have been sawn in half. Dimes? Too small. Pennies, not worth the trouble. The room is sharp with the scent of hot metal, of microscopic shreds of coin.
They are doing this superbly pointless thing off the back end of a sleepover. It’s ten in the morning. The two boys are caught like flies in the web of the summer between eighth and ninth grades, the shift to high school, a great confusion of dispersal from these particular streets into the city at large.
Everything will be nothing like it was ever again.
They scoop the ruined coins into their palms, and pour them into their pants pockets, until the pockets bulge. The energy between the boys is high and delighted. Yet this is a delight in something craven. They’re sly with self-regard. Sure, they’re vandals—this is established fact. They’ve been known to write graffiti on the city’s surfaces. On trains, when they’re courageous. More often
brick walls, metal doors, commercial vehicles. They’ve egged the Court Street bus at night, from the windows of this same apartment (divorced dad being not much for tallying his egg supply). What are they hoping to prove by destroying the coins?
The boys move through the apartment door, which is triple locked, including by a bar lock that braces at an angle to the floor, and down the back stairwell, heading for the street.
CHAPTER 17 of the U.S. Legal Code covers “Mutilation, diminution, and falsification of coins. 332. Debasement of coins; alteration of official scales, or embezzlement of metals.”
The boys are committing a crime, then.
Are they likely to be arrested for it?
Not too likely.
In the world of these white boys, television cops are more present than the real thing. Dragnet, Adam-12, Kojak, cornpone fucking McCloud.
No television cops are going to screech up in a black-and-white and bust them for mutilation of currency.
The boys cross Atlantic, along Court Street, in the direction of the Italian neighborhood, their old school, the projects, Cobble Hill Park. All we know for certain is that though several dollars’ worth of quarters jangle between their two loaded pockets, these may no longer be offered for purchase of a subway token or a slice of pizza. They ruined their money! What gives?
This is a story about what nobody knows.
It’s set in a place nobody doesn’t think they know. Yet nobody knows anything about this place, and they never did.
Maybe I exaggerate.
Still, not many can be bothered to know. Not, for instance that Malcolm X’s family was hidden, in the hours and days immediately following his assassination, in a safe house on the corner of Dean and Nevins streets. Nobody knows this. Or they forgot.
Equally, they forgot that Willie Sutton was apprehended on the corner of Pacific and Third. He’s the one who when asked “Why do you rob banks?” replied “Because that’s where the money is.”
Nobody knows this anymore if they ever did.
Nobody knows that Isaac Asimov lived in 213 Dean Street for a year in the 1940s. To care, you’d have to be a nerd. Even then, how would you find this out? Guy wrote four hundred books; you read fifty of them. You’d walk right past.
Nobody knows H. P. Lovecraft, the paranoid racist, lived at 169 Clinton, corner of State Street. Lived there in abject misery, cowering within his terror of the Other. “The population is a hopeless
tangle and enigma; Syrian, Spanish, Italian, and negro elements impinging upon one another, and fragments of Scandinavian and American belts lying not far distant. It is a babel of sound and filth, and sends out strange cries to answer the lapping of oily waves at its grimy piers and the monstrous organ litanies of the harbour whistles.”
We don’t need your type around here.
And five minutes after he goes, Brooklyn wipes its hands of him.
This is that kind of place. A babel of sound and filth, but it’s our babel of sound and filth, and the rubble of what’s in front of you today is too much to sort through, never mind what weirdness just packed up and went.
Example: a row house at 246 Dean collapsed. This was one of four anomalous wood-frames on that block, likely not a good idea to squeeze them into the sequence of brownstones. Rain squeezed between, at the roof line, at the splice. The brick of the brownstone didn’t care; it grew moss. The wooden structure secretly absorbed the moisture. It sagged and rotted, and by the time they noticed, there was nothing they could do about it.
Once it fell, it was cheaper to bury the ruin in the earth of its own footprint, and the backyard. So, when the eventual hippie renovators acquire the lot, along with the brownstone beside it, the one with the mossy brickwork, they’re astounded to find a mountain of lathe and plaster and shattered bathroom tile and marble mantelpiece just mingled in the soil there. They’ve intended to plant a garden, but good luck. It’s like the earth just opened and chewed up and half swallowed the house. It’s like a bombsite.
Why, in these blocks of brick and stone, the strange four wooden A-frames jammed into the sequence? Who lived there? Why did it fall? How was the decision made to entomb it in place? Nobody knows, nobody cares. Around here we call that off-street parking.
Nobody knows what was here five minutes ago, just before they got here, let alone a hundred years.
Nobody cares that nobody knows.
In this place that used to be, in a time the city was synonymous with crime, nobody ever got arrested for forgetting.
Why don’t the white boys with the ruined coins have names?
They don’t need names.
On these streets,
in this Brooklyn Crime Novel, there’s simply too many of these white boys. Some will reappear, and some won’t. It doesn’t matter. In this inquiry, we’re taking a wider view.
Here’s a tip: among the white boys, keep an eye on the spoiled boy and the millionaire’s son, when they come along.
Also the younger brother, who’ll appear in the next story.
And that Black boy too, here, coming along the street just now:
A Black boy and three white boys walk carrying hockey sticks down Dean Street, westward, across Smith Street. Then, at Court Street, as Dean jogs and changes its name to Amity, they move into Cobble Hill. From there they turn south, down Clinton Street, toward Carroll Gardens, the Italian neighborhood.
Two of the three white boys are thirteen. The third, an eleven-year-old, another white boy, is a younger brother.
The younger brother is, frankly, a compromise recruit. They need him to flesh out a team of four. They’ve got a date for a game of street hockey, with an established all-Italian group who await them on Henry Street.
The younger brother needed some persuading, because—hockey? Street hockey?
But his older brother rarely rounds him up for anything anymore. He likes that it can still happen. His older brother and his friends, they said they needed him.
So, street hockey. Sure.
None of these three white boys is Italian. With the Black boy, they all live on Dean Street.
If they’re non-Italian, are they something else? Sure, a muddle. Indistinct fallen WASP, half Jew, hippie, whatever. None with an identification to rival that of the Italians.
They’re Brownstoner boys.
The Black kid is ten months older, one grade of public school, and a million significances ahead of even the oldest of the three white kids, those he now leads into the strange turf of Carroll Gardens for this ostensible street hockey throwdown.
Do any of these four boys know how to play hockey—even street hockey, in sneakers? Barely.
The Black kid is their best hope, on account of confidence, kineticism, his excellence at street games generally.
The younger brother, on the other hand, is likely to be useless. He’ll need continuous buoying even to carry on competing, as he needs continuous buoying on this journey into the unfamiliar
neighborhood. This younger brother, he might even be worse than dead weight. But to show up with fewer than four players is to default the challenge.
In any case, this is a quixotic group. The Italian boys are going to kick their asses. There’s a kind of glory in knowing and not-knowing what they’ve gotten themselves into. It’s somewhat incredible they even managed to find four hockey sticks—blades splintered, bound everywhere with electrical tape—with which to represent their hopeless cause.
On the corner of Kane Street, they divert one block farther west, walking past the quiet schoolyard of P.S. 29, to reach Henry Street. It’s a Saturday afternoon in early May. Now fall back, let these boys veer into the honeyed light that leans now over the rooftops and seeps through the canopy of leaves, that ripples itself across ornate brownstone cornices. Let them be out of sight for an instant, let them go unescorted into this day’s fate. It’s the truer truth. Nobody sees them, not just yet.
A check against lyricism. Keep the light, let alone the honeyed light, from your eyes. Just the facts, man—no painterly effects. We’re here to enumerate crimes. Or perhaps, to distinguish not-crimes, the exception, from against an overall criminal background. We’re not out collecting light on faces, or light through leaves on cornices. The city’s a grid of schematics. Let’s try to put some pins in the map. No need to pin butterflies. No butterflies, no buttery light.
We’ll follow the boys’ lead in this: Tend your secrets, tuck away your secret excesses. If, say, there’s any special allure or romance between any two of these four Dean Street boys, it’s at present strictly maintained behind this afternoon’s martial façade. Four bodies marching, sticks on shoulders. A sight, so far unseen.
AT THE CORNER of Henry and President, the four are met by four others. A day of fours. These aren’t their designated opponents, those presumably waiting another six blocks farther down the street. These are four other Italian guys, sitting on street-corner chairs, outside an unmarked social club, a tiny storefront with windows painted black. We’re speaking here, of course, of local recognitions, these aren’t Italians in the national sense, maybe none have ever been to Italy, maybe one has a Puerto Rican mom shamefully unmentioned, but come on, yougoddabekidding, weknowwhatwemeanhere, this is an Italian neighborhood and there’s a self-concept, a clarity here that might nearly be a relief in contrast to the weird muddle of the four boys with sticks. The Italians range in age from fourteen, the same age as the Black kid, to one who might be a twenty-year-old trying to pass, in his bomber jacket and penny loafers. He’s certainly got a pencil moustache formed of something much harder than peach fuzz. At the sight of the Dean Street boys, the four rise and stand, beaming slouchy insolent astonishment at what’s arrayed itself before them.
“You got to be kidding me.”
“What kind of thing is this walking down the street? What am I looking at here?"
“We’ve got a game.”
“You’re going nowhere like that with sticks. Now turn around and don’t make me articulate it twice.”
“We got a game, c’mon.”
“A game he says. I’ll make a game out of you. You’ll be gaming on your ass and crying for your ma and she’ll be saying what’s the matter and you’ll be saying I don’t know what happened I accidentally fell on my ass in a game.”
“He’ll game your mother.” A second voice, to clarify what’s been explained.
The youngest Italian reaches out and latches his fingers on the stick of one of the Dean Street boys, who doesn’t let go so easily. There’s a moment of tug of war, then the oldest and tallest Italian, the pencil moustache, slaps the younger Italian’s hand away.
“We’re doing you a favor.”
“We’re meeting Vinnie,” says the Black kid. “They’re waiting for us.”
The game’s set for the quietest block in Carroll Gardens, Summit Street, behind the parish of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary & St. Stephen, none of which would bear mentioning even if it were on the tip of the tongue, which it isn’t. “Vincent.”
For any signs the Italians show, Vinnie might be someone’s younger brother, might be someone’s worst enemy or a dog from Mars.
“What are you doing hanging out with these guys?” Pencil moustache addresses this to the Black kid. “What are you trying to accomplish? This don’t make sense.”
“What even is this?” The questions widen to some implicit ontological ground, to fundamental matters of being. “What am I looking at? Someone say because I don’t understand.”
“Just let us pass.”
“What even are you? You, tell me. Are you Jewish? Does anyone even know what I’m looking at?”
Another echo of clarification: “Does your mother know?”
“He says c’mon. You’re lucky we don’t break all those sticks across our knees. Where’d you even get those? Triangles? McCrory’s? They shouldn’t be selling that to you, it’s irresponsible in a case like yours. What is that, doctor’s tape? You got your stick in a sling?”
“If I know one thing, that ain’t duck tape.”
For no clear reason, this is a laugh line for the Italians, a bust-up. The mood is so suddenly bright and infectious that the Dean Street boys smile too, and chuckle in confused relief. Then, as if laughter is a signal that the exchange has obtained its result, the pencil moustache
says, “No seriously get out of here. You ain’t crossing this street. Go home before we kill you with your duck tape sticks you agglomeration of nothing.”
The other Italians chime in:
“We’ll fuck her with the stick.”
“Go. Now. Get out of my eyes.”
The Dean Street boys know when they’re routed. They retreat up Henry, jostled in confusion. At Kane the Black boy says, “This way! We’ll go down on Columbia Heights and cut around. Kane Street cuts through!”
One white boy agrees eagerly, another doesn’t. “Forget it, you saw those guys, they’ll kill us.” The younger brother is wide-eyed, maybe traumatized by the encounter on the corner.
“We can’t forfeit. Vinnie and his boys are waiting.”
“It’s too late.” Time does seem to be ticking away, the sun a blobby bomb arcing to hide itself in rooftops.
“Let’s go, my brothers, let’s go!” The Black kid’s leadership is irrepressible. They move west, a nervous pod, but acting as one. That is, until coming to the neighborhood’s deforming limit, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. In this place, rather than lancing overhead, the Expressway is carved as a savage moat into the natural grid of the Brooklyn streets. A roaring trench of cars and gray pollution so chunky you feel it catch in your teeth.
The little brother balks, not wanting to cross the highway. Abandoning the cover of the tree-lined streets had been more than he’d bargained for. This, now, feels like falling off the earth’s edge. “Let’s go back.”
The older brother turns on him. “Back? We’re right here! We have to make the game!”
The Black kid’s more consoling. “They can’t see us, man, don’t worry.” He gestures with his stick, full of animation. “Listen, we’ll stay on Hicks but cut down the other side of the highway, they won’t see us. It cuts right back across the BQE at Sackett and Union, there’s no way, they can’t cover both streets, too lazy anyway to get off their motherfucking milk crates minute after we was gone.”
His savvy and expressiveness, the flow of street names, the relentless invocation of the word cut and cuts. All are for the moment irresistible, even to the younger kid whose eyeballs are not-secretly swimming in tears. Nobody corrects their leader to say it was chairs on the sidewalk slate, not milk crates. They cross the highway and creep southward along Hicks.
But the Italian squad, against all hope and likelihood, have located a pointless motivation in the dead of the afternoon. They’re up off their chairs. They too know the BQE street bridges at Sackett and Union, which are after all only a single block apart. They wait, then jump and point and sock fist in palm as if expecting a fly
The Dean Street boys flee toward the waterfront, down Sackett, and reach Columbia Heights. After an instant—one in which the group is in peril of disintegration, two heading north, two south—they fall in again, helplessly really, behind the Black kid. Improbably, he’s emboldened, moving south, deeper into the strange turf, still adamant they won’t blow this game.
YOUNGER BROTHER’S CRYING now. Is this Red Hook? He doesn’t know. He didn’t ever wish to go to Red Hook, let alone on this day, with no guide except the crazily fearless Black kid. The name Red Hook was always disturbing to him. Suggestive, as with other unvisited place names, of a journey into an unwelcome past. As if Red Hook ought to have been severed from Brooklyn’s mainland by now, amputated, to float off to sea.
And to journey there carrying sticks? Couldn’t they at least abandon them?
The younger brother is isolated within the group by his role as younger brother. He’s bracketed on the sidewalk, kept in a protective cordon as if under quarantine. Perhaps his tears, his irrational copious weeping, might be infectious. Perhaps he cries on all their behalves, the secret everybody knows.
It is only two months before the worst thing that will happen to the younger brother.
Maybe he’s crying because he feels it coming. That worst day, in June, he won’t cry as he did this day, just crossing the BQE, into the unknown territory of Red Hook. He won’t cry at all.
You can’t always make sense of these things. You can’t always predict when you’ll cry.
SO, THEY WANDER. Is there an appointment still for keeping? Any chance in hell that Vincent’s team of four haven’t thrown up their hands, gone off into other activities? Claimed victory, if they’d even troubled to remember the challenge?
The Dean Street contingent are far from home. Perhaps they always were. How long will they persist? Will they engage the older Italian four again, or perhaps even some other unforeseen thing, as they inch and edge their way along the blocks, probing back in the direction of a street hockey rendezvous, one diminishingly likely to occur?
Tune in again to this same sad channel.
What is it that this Black kid sees in them, his white friends?
Or is it something he wants from them?
Or wants them to see in, or want from, him?
What is it that drives him to offer his leadership to the white boys of Dean
Street—in hockey, of all things—or to teach them to properly throw a Spaldeen off a stoop, or flick a skully cap across the pavement, or boost a soda from the rear of a bodega? He even feels he needs to teach them to walk down the street properly, not to be craning their necks around backward every five steps telegraphing susceptibility for all to see. He teaches them every trick in the book—every trick in the book of his body.
Years before magical negro was a notion you could only deplore and deride, certainly nothing ever to admit you’d consented to resemble, this one Black kid from Dean Street had found himself cast in the part, for every taker in a five-block radius.
WHAT DOES IT take to get a name around here anyway? Call him C.
Now restate the question. What is it that C. sees in them?
The answer may not be about something he sees in them, the white boys, at all. Sure, he sees them. But he feels their parents. Their parents, and his mom. C., he’s a parental tuning fork. He didn’t ask for this power. Like most powers, it’s a curse as much as a gift.
C. hears the parents when they speak, and when they don’t. But his awareness of the white parents comes later. First, inescapably, comes his attunement to his own mother.
His mother, unlike his father, is from the islands. Haitian. She works as a nurse at Brooklyn Hospital, in Fort Greene Park, and brings home stories of horror from the emergency room. Specifically, the filthy condition of the white children’s underwear when they appear with broken limbs from the playgrounds. The private school children from Brooklyn Heights, most of all. The richer, the filthier.
“You treat them like anyone else,” she says, about the white people, practically before he can know what she is talking about. “They hardly know any better.”
(C.’s father, who is from Bushwick, keeps it much simpler. “Don’t let them get you in trouble. Don’t let them get you mixed up with the cops. Because be assured the cops will be bringing you in, not them white boys.”)
His mother’s philosophy comes at him from all sides. It blurts from nowhere. She’d be cooking him eggs. Teaching him to knot his bowtie for church, a thing he never did get exactly right. Her thoughts floated out like banners:
“You have to teach them who you are. Don’t figure they already know.”
She will begin with some assertion plainly dubious to him, but never mind. For her, it is gospel: “It’s your neighborhood. You treat them like a guest in your house.”
Or: “Introduce yourself, look in their eyes. You call the parents Mister or Missus so-and-so.”
Or: “You see the dirt under the fingernails on that boy? Don’t those people even know how to wash a child?”
Or: “You walk that boy to school, and you walk him back to the block after, I don’t care if you never speak one word the whole way.”
Among the many things his instincts commanded he protect the white children from, C. will think ruefully, so many years later, is the ferocious judgment of his mother.
She glances at him, as they step out on their way to church, sees his eyeballs sliding sideways to inventory the morning street and says: “They don’t even know how to play right.”
It’s like she knows before he knows what he’ll be doing later that afternoon. The bowtie tossed aside—somewhere, he’s still got a cigar-box of the things—to run outside and cajole some misshapen clump of white boys of different ages and capacities into a fair facsimile of a stickball game. Based on—what? What did he know that they didn’t? C. based it all on some black-and-white footage of Willie Mays in a Harlem street, marking distances with the manholes, picking who’s up first by every kid grabbing the stick until someone lands on top.
To hell with eeny meeny miny moe, you’d be deaf not to hear the echo lurking in that shit.
Like his mother knows what he’ll be doing before he knows, or maybe like she’s making it happen.
Maybe the answer is that simple, to the question of C.’s tenure as the white boys’ champion and protector: his mother made him do it.
Hoyt Street, between Dean and Pacific, in an eyesore house with a crumbling face, its ineptly painted brick flaking, through a third-story window, she appears routinely: the Screamer. Some kind of nightmare Rapunzel, white girl, crazy, banished upstairs. She looks out at the street and she screams. Indecipherable, unpredictable, and fucking loud!
Sometimes no one, just exhortations of crazy right into the blue sky, the Catholic hospital’s mute windows.
Increasingly, at the boys who come to egg her on.
The white boys and the Black boys and the Puerto Ricans (some of whom we should note are Dominicans, but the white boys don’t grasp this distinction). The Screamer’s block forms a kind of haven, a neutral zone. The situation’s a kind of universal solvent, an ingredient that galvanizes anyone who’s been hailed by her zany bolts from the clouds.
For the boys, it begins to seem a sexual thing, though no one wants to think about that. The joke about the Polish stripper: put it all on! Go ahead, try it, bellow your stand-up routine up at
her. Like trying to roof a Spaldeen, harder than it looks. All wit is lost on the Screamer. She’ll outlast you.
Hoyt Street, passage to the A train, out of the Gowanus Houses projects, gauntlet of uneasy new commuters, path of eerie hospital run by resident nuns in row houses worth future zillions. But the Screamer owns this one block, by dint of the total law of aggression.
This is a time of sirens, the firehouse on State Street roaring the southward streets, Nevins and Hoyt, deep into Gowanus to confront the burning third-floor walk-ups, the Wyckoff Gardens incinerator fires, the god-only-knows Mafia-incinerated warehouses and funeral homes, sometimes perhaps to extinguish the burning chemical slick floating atop the Canal. ...
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