Feckless Flo was written as a performance piece, so reading isn’t really the ideal way to ingest it. But I still need to figure out how to convert the audio from a Sony Minidisk recorder, which is the only version I have that isn’t cringeworthy. For now, just imagine this sounds like Liam Neeson playing the Lucky Charms leprechaun, because THAT’S HOW GOOD my Irish accent is.
Late afternoon on a New York City subway train. Flo is a tired looking 35 or so, wearing a cleaning woman’s uniform. She is Irish.
Oh, pardon me – here, I’ll move so you can see the map. You must be lost, there ain so many white girls ride the M to Marcy Avenue. Just me, mostly. Last time there was another, she look at her map, see Marcy Avenue and I hear her say, “Macy’s Avenue? That’s awesome! I didn’t know they had a Macy’s in Brooklyn. Maybe it’s an outlet.” Ha! Eedjit. And I – oh, it’s me you’re lookin at? Well you just turn round the other way, I’m all right. There’s people doin all kinds a nasty stuff in this car, why you lookin at me? No shit, girl, we in the crazy car, can’t you tell that?
Things bout New York you got to learn before you call yourself a New Yorker. Number one is, they all crazy. Every last person in this town’s a first class nutbag. And I don’t mean pretend crazy – like I know this girl before I came here stitched a pillow said, You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Live Here But It Helps on it? That’s joke crazy; that’s needlepoint crazy. But you got to be real crazy to be here. Ain enough space, ain enough work, ain enough money, ain enough trees. But everybody born here stays, and half everybody wasn’t born here comes, and they pile on top each other like shingles on a roof. Why’d they do that? But they do. Got to be crazy.
Trouble is, you can’t tell by lookin at em. Monday mornin rush hour, people all dressed the same. Men in suits – if it’s gray they got brown shoes, black they got black shoes, every once in a while you get some rebel in a bow tie – summertime come, all the girls wearin the same damn thing, tan pants and a black shirt, soon they start wearin little tweed jackets from the Gap, whatever some magazine tells them – that’s what crazy. All these people move to New York to make it big, find their dream, express themselves, then they all dress exactly the same. Like one big Catholic school. That’s why I like the crazy car – least there you get the ones is crazy on the outside. But one like this, where you got two, three, even four bona fide nutters in the same place, that’s rare and special as a harvest moon.
You know what that is, dontcha? That’s the second full moon in a single month, and if you think it’s good for the harvest you should see what it do for the wackos.
I hit the big time once, had a guy one end throwin chicken bones over his shoulder and a lady down the other singin the apocalypse alongside a man playin a comb and a bit a waxed paper, and then this guy come on board with a big black plastic bag. And I’m thinkin he’s just bought somethin from an art supply shop, or maybe some screens from the hardware store, but what he does, he says, “Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Arvin and I’m with PETA” – you know, that People for the Excellent Treatment of Animals, them folks – “and I have a question for you: how many of you know that you’re wearing a dead animal right now?”
And the “normal” people, they’re not even payin attention cause to them he’s just another person tryin to talk to them in the subway, and by definition in this town if you try to talk to someone you don’t know on the train you’re halfway suspect of being a nutcake yourself. So the guy says louder, “I want you to know something.” Then he pulls a dead fox outta the bag and starts wavin it around sayin, “This fox was murdered by an electric shock from an anal probe.” The thing’s stiff as a board, you could use it for a tea tray and the guy’s wavin it around like he’s gonna do a hammer throw. And everyone’s payin attention now—the chicken man, he stops throwin his bones, and the apocalypse lady’s hushin up the old man with the comb, they’re all stunned, and I’m thinkin, “Really? Have you got one of them things in that bag with you? ‘Cause the guy on my left’s sittin with his legs spread wide enough for two and I frankly could use an electric anal probe right about now.”
My point, Miss, is this: if you come over here to look at the map of Marcy Avenue, fine. But a packed subway car, it’s a delicate balance, a tiny little ecosystem, and the slightest disturbance can set it off kilter. People on the train, they need their space. Look around, there’s a million silent little deals goin on, “You move your arm up there and I’ll put my bag down here,” it’s the like the UN in here, and the gist of it is, it requires a certain amount of give and take and the understandin of some rules—like, it’s one thing to sing a little ditty about the end of the world to yourself, and quite another to start yellin about anal probes and wavin a dead fox in people’s faces. These are the kind of details you gotta pay attention to if you’re gonna make it in this town.
You really want to know why I like the crazy car? It’s the only place I get to cry in peace. All those other nutballs doing their thing, no one pays attention to me. That’s what that PETA guy didn’t understand about the train. So don’t be worryin about me, I’m all right. Tired, that’s all. Go on, have a look round and check out Macy’s Avenue, what do you say? Maybe they’re havin a sale on tweed jackets.