how the city works
JB Mulligan
Beneath the city, under the subway tracks scabbed with trash, condoms, dead rats and discarded paper cups, under the streets of dead rats, old cars, used condoms and lost change, beneath the offices of dreamers and the guilty dead, the wheels turn, the whistles toot plumes of steam, gears grind and pistons pump squealing like rats with their tails caught in pistons.  The foreman shout instructions that nobody can hear, and workers with small pointed ears (like the foremen) laugh and curse and do their jobs, take breaks for rat sandwiches and thermoses of sweet bubbling liquids, talk about what they see through the one-way streets, make wagers on the girl and boy, they will or won’t break up tonight, ignoring the bright and intermittent nova of panty-flash above them (she’s not their species, and they have no gender).  It’s a good job, there’s always something to watch, and the noise here is so like the noise up there that sometimes they lose track of where they are, below or above, and then the foremen shout and there’s no question, and they grumble and smile and get back to work.  Between their feet, the rats squeal happily, breeding and looking for food, sometimes perching on the shoulders of the workers to look about or nuzzle the whiskery chins, before they scurry down and disappear.  

First published: May 2017
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