“It was a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets…” oops, wrong station! Allow me to twiddle the dial — [whee-oop, beep-de-beep-beep, beep-beep-de-beep, schwaaa-squork]
“… in Quincy, downtown at one AM, early Saturday morning. The scene is a poorly-lit loading dock behind the Quincy Herald-Whig newspaper building. Motor route drivers are lounging around, smoking cigarettes and engaging in fitful bursts of desultory conversation. The papers are late.
I’m leaning against someone’s battered route car and listening to Roger tell a gruesome tale of road-kills the previous day. We talk about the likelihood of seeing a cougar cross the road.
A small and skinny black man maneuvers his motorized wheelchair between the car and a pickup truck. The man is wearing a leather cap and seems to be trying to get our attention. I approach him and lean towards the man and try to make out what he is saying. I think that perhaps he wants to bum a cigarette. I notice an invisible haze of wine fumes emanating from him.
The old man mumbles and I really can’t understand him, but he seems to want me to come with him. Something about opening a car door — can this guy drive? He beckons me onward and before I know it I’m accompanying him across the street.
He says, “Oh, my hands are cold! I can’t work the door, but I bet you can!”
The mystery is cleared up when the man wheels his chair up a switch-backed ramp and pauses before a security door. The two-story brick building seems to be some sort of government-subsidized apartment block.
He says, “The numbers are [mumble mumble]”
The door has a panel with six buttons arranged vertically and a turn-lever. I peer at it; the light is dim and I can’t make out the numbers.
“Here, lemme try again.”, he says, and leans forward from the wheelchair and attempts to push the buttons.
The man fails, and says, “You try, okay? One… three… six!”
I push the buttons but the lever isn’t working.
“It’s kinda tricky! Ya just have to be quick and turn it towards the right.”
I finally get it and the door swings open.
The man says, “Hey, couldja help me get my leg outa the stirrup? I have trouble liftin’ it.”
I lean over, grasp the man’s spindly calf, and lift it up and over so that his foot reaches a footrest.
“Aw, thanks, man!”, he says.
“Have a good night!”, I say, and return to the loading dock.
“Hey, Larry, didja get him in? He was kinda stinko, right?”
There is some more good-natured raillery, and then the bundles of newspapers are sliding down the rollers and we all begin to prepare for our routes.”
[squee-awk… squee-awk… squee-awk]
We interrupt this radio drama to bring you an emergency announcement. An alien spacecraft has landed in Washington Park and the tentacled occupants are demanding blood sacrifice. We ask that public-spirited volunteers report to the park immediately… oh, no! What’s that coming through the ceiling?
[crashing noises and the sound of ripping sheet-metal, then nothing but ominous static interrupted by faint Morse code]
Larry, who turns off the radio with a frown.