As Jean-Michel Pinot’s eyes glanced towards the heavens, his mind wandered away from the busy intersection where he was standing, awaiting the bright white walk signal. He thought of the cotton clouds hanging in the sky, like a baby’s mobile only without the delicate melody that would lull the infants off to sleep in their cribs.

That kind of pacifying effect was most needed in a city like this one, so tense and aggravated at times. What kind of melody might be playing, Jean-Michel pondered, for the enormous mobile that peacefully drifted above the island of Manhattan? Perhaps a delightful little piano rendition of Gershwin’s Embraceable You? It would be antithetical to all of the cacophony that went on down below. Were he not used to it, it would also be quite difficult to think at all. Yet it wasn’t quite that hard to get a good thought going – namely because he was used to the noise, and it had become a sort of a white noise, a background for his life. When he found himself in more suburban areas, the sudden noise of a police car racing by or an ambulance would give him a start – but here, it was just another note on the 88 keys of a Manhattan keyboard.

The harsh brushing of another man’s shoulder brought Jean-Michel back to the earth, where an individual of medium height had fired off a less than pleasant hand gesture to a taxi cab which had nearly hit him after running the light. What was the hurry, anyhow? Perhaps the people involved had no concept or grasp of their own mortality, and how saving a minute or two wouldn’t matter in the end since one would die either way. Where was he going that was so important that it merited the giving of the finger gesture? Unless it was to the clinic to get some dialysis work done, Jean-Michel thought, it probably wasn’t all that gravely important. Perhaps if he were going to the surgeon to get outfitted with a new heart, or if he had some sort of neurological disorder which caused such poor memory that he didn’t even remember that he had gone off to the deli to buy a sandwich for his post-delivery wife… more likely, however, the man just wanted to get home to watch the Knicks. Which wasn’t, he thought, all that bad in terms of reasons to rush somewhere… but certainly not middle-finger worthy.

Where was the cab going that it was in such a rush that it nearly hit someone? If it had hit someone en route, would it have been worth it? Probably not. A court case would surely follow, multiple lawyers would be involved, and thousands of dollars would be thrown in every direction trying to figure out if the driver was liable for damages, if some prison time was necessary… and all in the name of getting from where one was to where one needed to be as quickly as humanly possible. Would the cab company have to pay for the fees, or would it be the cab driver? What if the person that got hit ended up losing the case – would he have to pay for the company’s legal fees?

No Witness?
Nobody else seemed to notice this near accident. Why not? They had their own lives to worry about. People were so self-involved that if something didn’t directly affect them in some way or another, they weren’t going to take notice of it. It wasn’t a big deal if something nearly happened – it only started to be a big deal when it happened – and then it was generally only a big deal to the people involved. Why worry about somebody else’s life if you had your own to worry about? Jean-Michel certainly had something to worry about – getting to the post office to pick up his mail. Hopefully there were at least a couple of checks waiting for him amongst the magazines and advertisements for maid service… the last few months had been particularly good in terms of writing. Things were really starting to pick up for him, at last.

A few blocks away, Felix Twickson was staring at a cup of decaf something-or-another. There he was, with fifty cents of raw material, a dollar or so for the labor, and two dollars for hype- or, at the very least, the brand name. What time was it? It didn’t really seem to matter all that much. Morning. When one finds oneself without work or any other sort of set schedule, time often has considerably less meaning. He only knew what day it was because he had picked up the previous day’s copy of The New York Times from the recycling pile in the hallway. While he couldn’t bring himself to subscribe to the Times (financial situation being what it was) he had no problem whatsoever reading day old news for free. This was particularly the case on Monday mornings, when he would get the lovely Sunday edition of the Times, carefully folded in such a manner that one would think it had never been read – so it was the way of Felix’s neighbor.

Neat & Tidy
Nothing wrong with a little neatness, Felix thought to himself as he read Safire’s column. Speaking of which, when would Safire get around to doing some words he was really interested in – such as oblong, and obtuse, and a few other words that started with o-b that had been on Felix’s mind lately. And of course, there was the Book Review section – Felix couldn’t possibly pass that one over. This was chiefly because reading had become one of his favorite things to do since losing his job as – well, whatever it was he had been doing. Data entry? Filing? Customer service? Wandering from one temp agency to another in search of the least boring job had put him in the position of someone who didn’t want to go to temp agencies anymore – and so he sat, unemployed, and stared out the window.