The crack of rolled-up paper against his cheek shocks him into consciousness.
–– Wakey wakey Mister.
He wipes the grime and snow from his face. She comes into focus, a shattered mirror of the Winged Angel she would have become under the stroke of his brush, her face swollen in a smattering of yellow and purple, her right eye surrounded by a blackened ring. Blood crusts on her split lip and meets the gash on her chin. It dams the cascade of red curls. Her silver necklace is gone, replaced by a necklace of scratches. She shivers. She rolls Sammy’s Comic tight.
–– Mister, who’s Sammy? You kept talking about him when your face was in the curb. Sammy Sammy Sammy.
–– How long was I out?
–– Dunno. Maybe ten minutes.
–– Ten? Exactly ten?
–– Okay, okay. Maybe eleven. Mister. Who’s Sammy?
Frank staggers to the bench. He brushes off the remnants of Sal. Goodbye old friend. She joins him. He reaches for The Comic. She pulls away.
Forty-seven minutes, seven seconds.
Wait it out.
–– Who’s Sammy, Mister?
Frank coughs. He points to her face.
–– You should see the other guy. Mister. Who’s Sammy?
She holds the top of The Comic with her thumbs. She twists her hands. Twenty-eight bundled pages of cheap pulp cry out in crackling unison.
–– My son. Sammy’s my son.
–– This for him?
–– Shouldn’t you be home?
She lunges at him. Frank flinches.
She pulls a cluster of packed snow from his hair. She molds it into a ball and puts it to her blackened eye. She slouches into the bench. She puts The Comic to her mouth and taps it on her lips. She throws the snowball to the ground. She pulls a tiny ball of string from her pocket. Two ends tied together. She rolls The Comic into her coat, her torn sleeve growing. She interlaces her fingers with the string and manipulates it, manipulates them.
–– You know this one?
Frank shakes his head.
–– They’re fun. Gene showed me. Said it was better than staring into space on my break. Manual dexterity or something. He was a better teacher and cook than sign-fixer. Makes me laugh every time I go to work. “Heading to ‘Ene’s Mom!” When she’s awake.
She loops the string up and over her middle finger and pulls her hands apart. She winces when the rope pulls on the shattered protrusion of her nail.
–– I always loved his eyes. He would sit; drink his coffee. He looked at me. Not like some of those creeps, you know? Ugh. James was nice. And then I just… you ever feel that way, Mister?
She takes the string in her teeth and loops it around her hand again. He shakes his head. She shrugs and dismantles the string figure. She puts the string around her neck. She opens The Comic. She stomps her feet and catches snowflakes in her mouth.
–– So Sammy would like this, Mister? I mean really really like it?
Frank nods. She picks up another snowball and puts it to her face.
–– Really really?
–– Really really.
She coughs. She touches her neck and fiddles with the string.
–– I want it back. My necklace I mean. I want it back. You want something too, dontcha Mister? I mean, you understand, right?
She pulls The Comic from her coat and taps it against her chin. Double double tap tap. She jumps to her feet.
–– You can even keep the two dollars. But I want my necklace back. String is for string figures, right?
She throws the snowball onto the sidewalk. It rolls, growing larger as it meets up with the tire tracks.
Forty-four minutes, seventeen seconds.
She smiles and bops him on the head with The Comic, now the riding crop of a polka-dotted Patton.