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Beacon Street was a residential alcove that was close enough to downtown that everything was close, but far enough away to escape much of the bustle. It was the fourth financial quarter and the leaves were turning their dead hues.
Alan and Mary Pinkerton lived halfway down the street in a charmingly renovated postwar colonial. They both worked in advertising.
They worked at the same firm, but took separate cars, because the demands on their times were different for each of them on any given day. On this day, she got home after he did.
Mary found him in the living room watching the latest commercials on TV. She set down her purse and keys.
“Is that the new Lexus?”
He didn’t look up. “The performance is unmatched.”
“Is that the self-driving AI model?”
“Only the very best.”
He looked up at her at the end of the commercial to see her hair had more bounce than usual. “Did you do something to your hair?”
“I used Head and Shoulders, silly.”
Alan looked incredulous. “Head and Shoulders? Isn’t that a bargain brand?”
Mary scoffed. “It may be easy on the pocketbook, but Head and Shoulders looks like a million bucks!”
She tossed her hair in slow motion as music played.
“Well, I guess I was wrong about Head and Shoulders,” he laughed.
The next commercial on the TV was for New Balance walking shoes. It showed people walking in forested and urban settings.
An idea spontaneously occurred to Mary. “What if we go for a walk before dinner?”
Alan thought about it. “We did just buy those workout outfits…”
“Yeah. It will be fun!”
She put on her Lululemon Wunder Train high-rise tights and matching top, with a North Face fleece. He put on his Gymshark Apex seamless long sleeve t-shirt and Nike woven sweat pants, with a North Face windbreaker. He also wore Nike shoes. She wore Adidas.
“No pockets,” he observed.
“Welcome to my world.”
“I guess we’ll have to get some of those arm bands that hold your phone.”
“Ooo! Maybe one with a little wallet in it.”
They were excited to have a new thing to buy. He quickly took out his phone to order some phone armbands with wallets from Amazon.
“They’ll be here tomorrow.”
“So late? What are we supposed to do for our walk?”
“Ah hell, let’s be as reckless as metrics show our demographic to be,” he exclaimed. “Let’s leave our phones and keys and everything.”
“Walking does poll high on listed hobbies,” she contemplated. “Alright, let’s do it.”
And they threw caution to the wind, leaving everything behind but the clothes on their backs.
Outside the wind delivered the smell of cold to their filled lungs, which heated inside them, and exhaled thin clouds of breath.
They left the door unlocked, walked down the garden path, and out the white picket fence they had installed partly out of a sense of irony, and partly from a place of nostalgia for a time that didn’t exist.
It was a little bit before dark, but already the TVs glowed in the Beacon Street windows.
“What a treasure to live among such quality people,” she said.
“Yes, quality is the number one thing,” he said.
They’d never met any of the neighbors, except for Bill Mathers, who lived on the corner and waved whenever they saw eachother. When they got to the corner, Bill was outside, raking leaves.
Alan said, “That BMW is a beaut! Let me know when you sell it.”
Bill Mathers said, “I’ll get a new one next year when the new model comes out. I don’t have much use for classics. Too much trouble.”
Alan said, “I hear that.”
They continued on their walk, knowing they’d made a successful interaction, as they turned left onto Whispering Meadow Drive.
They didn’t have a set route for their walk. They went where they desired, as the wind grew colder, and the sky rolled in an overcast like a quilt over the world.
They heard the sound of laughter as they pulled onto Merry Street. The name’s jaunty candor charmed them. They found truthful advertising to be quaint, as if it harkened to a prelapsarian utopia when things were always as they seemed, everyone had a good paying job, and nobody bought bargain brands.
They followed the sound of laughter to a nice house with a wrought iron fence and a tasteful adobe archway at the gate. They looked in on a party of 20 or so people. Everyone was in evening wear and various drinks were had — from martinis to White Claws to brown liquors of unknown quality, but it could be assumed to be high. There was some innocuous electronic music playing at a moderate volume.
A man in the party saw Mary and Alan passing by, admiring the tasteful nature of the gathering. He waved, and motioned them over.
“Are you neighbors?” he asked.
“Yes, we live on Beacon Street,” Mary replied.
“Oh that’s just wonderful.” He examined their attire, and though their workout clothes were not evening wear, they were clearly quality garments. “Would you like to join us for a drink?”
“We do enjoy meeting quality people,” said Mary.
“Yes, quality is the number one thing,” said Alan.
“Well, come on in and help yourself to a drink. There’s some catering around here somewhere.” He looked around for the caterers. “Where the hell are they?”
“Thank you!” said Mary, and they entered the adobe archway.
As they moved through, they saw a familiar face. It was Tom from Accounts. Alan decided to talk to Tom about the latest accounts in Accounts, while Mary moved about the party in search of a drink and a networking possibilities.
The house was a white two story brutalist structure. The front door was open and there were more people milling about inside. Mary found the bar, but no bartender, so she took the initiative to grab a mango White Claw as it required no mixing.
As she opened the can, she saw a woman laughing next to the kitchen door. Their eyes met and the woman motioned for her to come over.
Mary went over to her and said, “What’s so fun — ”
The woman shushed her between laughs, and whispered, “Look.” She opened the kitchen door six inches for a peek.
Mary looked inside. There was a beautiful and spacious modern minimalist kitchen with a tasteful island. Mary thought that it was a mistake to hide this kitchen in a closed floor plan, but she examined further to find the joke the woman was laughing about.
There was a woman crying in there. She was looking at her clothes, which used to be a catering uniform, but now tattered like a cartoon pirate’s rags. She looked up and saw the two women looking in on her with amusement. She gave them a fuck you face and ran out the back door.
Mary reflected on this scene and said, “She should’ve used Tide. It’s the only detergent I trust for delicate fabrics.”
The laughing woman ran off, presumably to tell others.
After a stretch of five and four drinks respectively, Mary and Alan took their leave of the party, laughing, filled with contentment from finding new people of quality. They said their goodbyes and out the adobe archway they went. “We must have you over soon,” and all that. They headed back whence they came, in the direction of home.
“What a delightful evening,” said Alan. “You were right about the walk, dear.”
“Yes, I developed some new contacts. Though I was unable to keep their cards because I don’t have any pockets. No matter. We’ll see them again.”
They came to a crossroads and neither of them could recall the right way home. The wind blew harder. It was well past dark. A leaf from a nearby oak smacked alan on the cheek. A streetlight mounted to a telephone pole shone down on their indecision.
“This way looks familiar,” said Mary.
“Familiarity is the number one thing,” said Alan.
And they headed that direction, but it didn’t look familiar anymore after the departure. They wandered the urban maze like this for a good while, before they finally reached Main Street.
“I know where we are!” said Alan. “We’re only a block away from work!”
Mary said, “That’s perfect! We can go to the firm and call a car to take us home.”
They walked stridently toward their place of work for institutional recourse. Main street was spotted with cute boutique shops. They were all closed, but window shopping happened along the way. A belt caught Mary’s eye. Alan saw a handsom polo. Work would vindicate them.
Elroy was working the security desk at the building of Cypher & Cypher Advertising. Mary and Alan waved when they entered the building.
“Can I help you?” Elroy looked alert.
“Elroy, can you call us a car please,” said Mary.
“I’m going to need to see some ID,” Elroy said.
“We don’t have our ID’s. We don’t have any pockets.”
“We see you every day, Elroy.”
Elroy looked them up and down. “I see a lot of people every day. Either you show me ID or you leave.”
“If Mr. Cypher hears about this treatment, you’re going to be in a whole lot of trouble.”
“Please leave the building. I don’t want to call the cops. I just want a quiet night.”
Alan yelled, “Listen, you fucking peon, send the car so you keep your job tomorrow.”
“I’m not going to lose my job for doing my job, which is protecting this building from raggedy assholes like you. Now get out of here. I’m not going to tell you again.”
Mary looked at Alan and said, “I don’t think he’s budging on this. Let’s get out of here.”
Back out on Main Street, they sat for a minute at the bus stop.
“This isn’t good,” said Mary. “But at least we know our way home from here.”
“’Raggedy’… he called us ‘raggedy.’ Do we seem raggedy?”
They looked down and saw there were some deteriorations to their fabrics.
“I suppose we’re not at our best right now. But that doesn’t mean he can’t treat us with respect.”
“Respect is the number one thing.”
They passed a man with tattered clothes. He muttered something about how we live. They didn’t listen to him. They just wanted to get past him without interaction. That didn’t happen.
The man came up to them and said, “Our street is gone!”
Alan said, “We don’t have any money.”
“No, you don’t understand. It’s gone!”
“Please leave us alone.”
“It’s me! Bill Mathers!”
Mary was shocked to find that it was Bill when she actually looked the man in the face. There was reproach in her tone, “Don’t scare us like that, Bill. We thought you meant us harm.”
Alan said, “Yes, what’s the meaning of this, Bill?”
“Beacon Street is gone. Like the whole street disappeared. I just stepped off the curb onto Whispering Meadow and when I turned around it was an alleyway.”
Mary said, “Nonsense. Streets don’t just disappear like dandruff after using… dandruff shampoo.”
Alan said, “Where’s your car, Bill? We need a ride home. This has been a hilarious joke, but it’s getting late.”
“Aren’t you listening to me?! This isn’t a fucking joke! The street is gone.”
“Fuck you, Bill. You really know how to take things too far,” said Alan.
And they walked on as Bill shouted, “You’ll see! You’ll fucking see!!!”
They were bearing against the wind with less rigor and a chill hit their bones. This was both because it was getting colder out, and because there were increasingly more holes in their designer sportswear. They didn’t notice the shop windows as much anymore, except to envy the winter wear for its warmth. Mostly they kept their heads down and trodded on.
“Head West on Main, turn left at Tidy Crossing, right on Center Lane, past North Willow to Beacon Street.” This was the path they’d driven hundreds of times. A mile and half, or thereabouts.
When they turned left on Tidy Crossing, there was a return to the residential portion, away from the shops. The sidewalk was a series of orange spotlights coming from above. The streetlights seemed to give the third degree, as the shadows in the glow of TV light in windows had a menace to them.
Their clothes had definitely deteriorated to cartoon pirate level. “Right on Center Lane.” It was good that they’d be home soon because they might be indecent soon if things continued their rate of deterioration. “Past North Willow. Beacon should be next… it’s not Beacon. It’s Merry street.”
“What the fuck!” Alan said. “It should be here.”
“Well, it’s not.”
“Is this a practical joke? Are we being Punk’d? I’m fucking over it! Do you hear me? I don’t want to do this anymore!”
Lights started coming on in surrounding houses.
Mary said, “We need to move or we’re going to be arrested. Let’s go back to that party from earlier and regroup.”
They turned down Merry Street, toward the egg yolk light of a well lit domicile. The laughter and chatter from the party were still audible. They were relieved to hear the clamor of quality people again.
By the time they got to the party, they were practically holding their clothes together, a threadbare mess.
They made for the adobe archway, when the man who welcomed them in before said, “Woah, where do you think you’re going?”
“We need help. We can’t find our home,” Mary pleaded.
“Okay, well, just stay where you are. I’ll Google it for you. What’s your address?”
“3192 Beacon Street.”
The man waited for the results. “It says that’s in Boston. It’s not in this city at all.”
“That… can’t be,” Mary said shocked. “We went to the right schools and got the right jobs. We moved to the right neighborhood. We listened to NPR and recycled. We voted and donated blood. We bought ethically sourced meat products and fair trade coffee. We bought everything we were supposed to. And now what? We’re expendable?”
“You can’t even look at me.”
“Ma’am. Your breast is exposed. Wait there. I’ll get you two some old T-shirts to wear.”
Mary crossed her arms and blushed. She looked up at the house and saw the laughing woman and Tom from Accounts in the window hollering with laughter. The houseful of guests laughed with them.
“What I wouldn’t give for some dignity,” she said.
“Dignity is the number one thing.”
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