She liked the Brando type. The more there was of it, the better!
Chester McRae. Good old Chet, best man in Accounting. Six feet tall, brown hair, brown eyes. Full of vim and vigor, that was good old Chet.
"God!" he screamed. "They're strangling me, the skunks!" He rose from bed, his face dripping with sweat and his hands trembling like a frightened child's. "They're killing me!" He ran to the bathroom and vomited. His wife was standing by the door when he finished, but he walked past her as if she didn't exist.
"Why, Chester! What's the matter with you?" she asked, trailing him into the bedroom. "I've never heard you talk like that before!" For a moment she stood watching him in numb silence. "For goodness' sake, Chester, why are you getting dressed at three o'clock in the morning?"
"None of your business," he mumbled, setting a firm upper lip and gazing at her with lizard-cold Marlon Brando eyes. He picked up his tie, laughed at it with careless ease and threw it across the room. "See you around, baby," he hissed, zipping up his trousers and walking past her.
"Chester McRae! Where are you going at this time of night? You've got to go to work tomorrow! Don't you love me any more? Chester...."
But her words echoed emptily through Chester McRae's pleasant little suburban home. Chester was no longer present.
Bartholomew Oliver. Good old Barth, best man on a duck hunt since the guy who invented shotguns. Five foot ten, weak chin, gambler's mustache. Good man with small-town girls, too.
"Hey, Thelma," he said. "You know what I think?"
"Go to sleep."
"I think it'd be funnier than hell if I left you flat."
"What kind of wisecrack is that? And what do you think you're doing?"
"I'm getting dressed...."
"It's three o'clock in the morning."
"So? I don't give a damn."
"You'll come back. Drunken louse."
He laughed softly and smiled at her in the darkness with ice-white Marlon Brando teeth. Then he was gone.
Oswald Williams. Good old Ozzie, best man in the whole philosophy department. Five foot two, one hundred and seven pounds, milky eyes. Wrote an outstanding paper on the inherent fallacies of logical positivism.
"Louise," he whispered, "I feel uneasy. Very uneasy."
His wife lifted her fatty head and gazed happily down at Oswald. "Go to sleep," she said.
"If you'll excuse me, I think that I shall take a walk."
"But, Oswald, it's three o'clock in the morning!"
"Don't be irrational," he whispered. "If I want to take a walk, I shall take a walk."
"Well! I don't think you ought to, or you might catch a cold."
He rose and dressed, donning a tee-shirt and tweed trousers. With snake-swift Marlon Brando hands, he tossed his plaid scarf in her face.
"Excuse me, Louise," he whispered, "but I gotta make it...."
Then, laughing softly, he strode from the room.
At three o'clock in the morning, even a large city is quiet and dark and almost dead. At times, the city twitches in its sleep; occasionally it rolls over or mutters to itself. But only rarely is its slumber shattered by a scream....
"Johnny! Hey, Johnny!" cries Chester McRae, his eyes as dull and poisonous as two tiny toads.
"Let's make it, man ... let's split...." whispers Bartholomew Oliver, one finger brushing his nose like a rattler nosing a dead mouse.
"I don make no move without my boys," says Oswald Williams, his hands curled like scorpion tails.
Together they walk down the street, moving with slow insolence, their lips curled in snarls or slack with indifference, their eyes glittering with hidden hatreds. But they are not alone in the city. The college boys are coming, in their dirty jeans and beer-stained tee-shirts; so too are the lawyers, in dusty jackets and leather pants; so come the doctors and the businessmen, on stolen motorcycles; the bricklayers and gas station attendants, the beatniks and dope pushers, the bankers and lifesaving instructors, the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick makers... they are all coming, flocking into the city for reasons not their own, wandering in twos and threes and twenties, all of them sullen and quiet, all of them shuffling beneath darkly-hued clouds of ill intent, all of them proud and deadly and virile, filling the streets by the thousands now, turning the streets into rivers of flesh....
"Hey, Johnny," says Chester, "let's cool this dump."
"Man, let's make it with the skirts," says Bartholomew.
"I don see no skirts," says Chester.
"You pig," snarls Ozzie.
The mob is monstrous now, like a pride of lion cubs, beyond count in their number, without equal in their leonine strength, above the common quick in their immortal pride, milling through the hot black veldt, swarming in the city streets. Millions of them, more than the eye can see or the mind can bear. It seems that no man sleeps, that every male in the great city must walk tonight.
"Johnny," says Chester, "I don dig no chicks on the turf."
"Eeee, colay. What a drag," whispers Bartholomew.
"You goddam logical positivist," snarls Ozzie.
An uneasy sound ripples through the mob, like the angry hiss of an injured ego, moving from street to street and swelling upward in a sudden, angry roar ... they want their women, the dance-hall girls, the young waitresses, the nowhere chicks in five dollar dresses, the Spanish girls with eyes as dark as the Spanish night. And then, as though by accident, one man looks up at the starry sky and sees her —sees her standing on a balcony far above them, twenty stories above them, up where the wind can blow her hair and billow her blue dress like an orchid of the night.
She laughs gently, without fear, gazing down at the mindless mob of rebels.
They laugh too, just as gently, their quiet eyes crawling over the sight of her body, far above.
"Thass my chick," whispers Chester.
"Cool it, daddy," says Bartholomew, slipping into a pair of dark glasses and touching his lips with the tip of his tongue. "That skirt is private property."
"You boys may walk and talk," says Ozzie, "but you don play. You don play with Rio's girl."
Suddenly, angry words and clenched fists erupt from the proud, quiet millions that flood the streets. Suddenly, a roar like the roar of lions rises up and buffets the girl in blue, the girl on the balcony. She laughs again, for she knows that they are fighting for her.
A figure appears on the balcony, next to the girl. The figure is a man, and he too is dressed in blue. Suddenly, just as suddenly as it began, the fighting ceases.
"My God," whispers Chester, his cheeks gone pale, "what am I doing out here?"
"Maybe I got the D.T.s," whispers Bartholomew, "but maybe I don't...." He sits down on the curb and rubs his head in disbelief.
Oswald does not speak. His shame is the greatest. He slinks into the darkness of an alley and briefly wishes for an overcoat.
The pride of lion cubs has been routed, and now they scatter, each one scrambling for his private den of security, each one lost in a wild and nameless fear. In twos and threes and twenties they rush back to their homes, their wives, their endless lives.
Far above, in the apartment with the balcony, a man in blue is chiding a girl in blue.
"That was scarcely reasonable, Dorothy."
"But Daddy, you promised to let me have them for the entire night!"
"I wasn't really going to let them hurt themselves! Really, I wasn't!"
"But, Dorothy—you know these things can get out of hand."
"Oh, but Daddy, you know how I adore strong, quiet, proud men. Rebellious men like Marlon."
"Yes, and you know how I adore order and peace. There shall be no more riots! And tomorrow our little puppets shall go back to their 'dull' lives, as you so wittily put it, and everything shall be as I wish."
Three hours later, Chester McRae arose at the sound of the alarm, dressed in a stupor and stumbled into his kitchen for breakfast.
"My goodness, Chester," said his wife, who had already arisen, "you look grouchier than usual! Ha, ha!"
He smiled wanly and opened the morning paper.
Halfway across town, Bartholomew Oliver was still asleep, casually lost in the pleasures of an erotic dream. But Professor Oswald Williams, his tiny jaw unshaven and his eager eyes shot through with fatigue, had been hard at work for three hours, scribbling down his latest exposure of the logical positivists.