As a child catching hairs with his tongue, Pixie-Bob warned the adults of earthquakes, of large spaces below the ground where wishes formed. The adults laughed at him or told him that earthquakes never happen in this city and on this coast. Anyway, they were too busy attending barbecues in the sunny suburbs, drinking water from silver spigots, or tossing left-overs to the anonymous hands reaching up through the ground.
After moving to the edge of the East Village, where Pixie-Bob makes a living photographing B-girls in the last hours of their swan dance, he discovers the existence of tunnels. He recalls as a child the underground hands that groped and swayed at barbecues. How many of those starving hands, he wonders, got their wish?
Sometimes, Pixie-Bob visits the tunnels, which can be entered through manholes, subway station shafts, the cracks in your mother's existence, or at times, by just dropping a wish. He discovers girls living there called the Undercats. Because of the poor quality of air, they can't French kiss properly and their dialect is Low Kitten. You can always tell an Undercat because they tend to sit alone in the last car of the subway with soot on their faces which some might mistake as make-up. They often sit pixie-faced with one eye lifted up and at an angle, listening to a stolen I-pod. They prefer Progressive Jazz with hard direction or Tokyopop.
Pixie-Bob falls in love with an Undercat. Her name is Mango Soff and she tells him stories of how her family survived the 4th Ave. Wars by the handouts of rich CoverUps at barbecues. She tells him that at times it's hard to breathe in a bubble, but she would rather dream of light rather than being one of The Cover-Ups, who have no sense of tempo. They mate to an illegally downloaded i-Tune, but shortly after, she dies because either she forgot to breathe or thought the moment was too beautiful to ruin by living on.
Everyday after work, Pixie-Bob visits the exact spot in the same tunnel where he met Mango Soff. Over time, her body decomposes into dust and in its place is a large bubble with a tiny tear. Breathless, Pixie-Bob takes the bubble above ground and places it in a warm spot of his bedroom, near the wall that shows old photos of his family in various positions of happy denials and gross cover-ups. Pixie-Bob always gets sentimental at the memory of artificial grass.
Eventually, a girl breaks through the bubble. She grows up sickly, anemic and she tells Pixie-Bob that she has fuzzy memories of a woman's voice and a strange addiction to mangoes which Pixie-Bob gets from the farmer's market on 6th Ave. He never lets her out of the apartment for fear the light of day might destroy her. He names her Peach-Purr. One day, while Pixie-Bob is at work, calculating how many Cover-Up models in photos would benefit from natural settings, an earthquake devastates the city. The building where Pixie Bobie works, collapses. He is taken to a hospital where he lies half-conscious, sometimes waking up and asking Where is his daughter. She won't last long in a world without him or mangoes. One night, Pixie-Bob escapes from the hospital in nothing but a green striped gown and slippers. He growls at people passing by, giving him strange looks.
Meanwhile, Peach-Purr escapes from the rubble of her building, and as if by Undercat instinct, finds the exact tunnel she was bubbled in. She hears footsteps approaching. She counts the stranger's breaths. "It's me," says Pixie-Bob, "your father." She smiles, but no one ever told her she was blind. Together, they hold hands and pretend they're listening to light jazz. They stop breathing.
Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and prose: Avenue C, Cat People, and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications). His latest e-books are You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press and The Truth about Onions from Good Samaritan. He lives and writes in New Jersey.