ONCE upon a time a monster moved into 91 Monroe Street
That's a tenement block, full of Puerto Ricans and Italians, Jews and Negroes, Irish and some Chinese, many first generation immigrants, a lot of artists and Bohemians; all these people wear cos- tumes.
But this monster was very strange looking.
He was short and ugly and had bright carrot-red hair and was forty years old. He wore a long green cape which completely covered him; it dragged along the ground a little bit when he walked, so you couldn't see his legs.
This made him strange looking, but the thing which made people call him a monster was the peculiar way he walked - or rather, moved.
Because he didn't walk like ordinary people do.
He sort of glided.
It was like someone was pushing him on roller
skates, or he was riding a one-wheeled bicycle, and some said he really sat cross-legged in the middle of the air, floating.
Some thought he was an angel, others thought he was a devil, but everyone, old ladies, young gangsters, and children alike, felt the same fear when they saw him coming, gliding.
People would rush inside to watch him from doorways and through windows, peeking at him from behind curtains, as he glided grimly down the vacated street.
It went on for about two weeks.
He had very regular hours. He went out early in the morning and returned early in the evening, and nobody ever knew where he went or what he did when he got into his apartment
One evening as he turned down the block, and as the block emptied, a bum fell out of the bar at the other comer.
The bum began to stagger up the street toward the monster, and he was so drunk, swearing and lurching and talking to himself, he didn't notice the silence, or the emptiness, or the green-caped redhead moving quickly toward him.
But all of Monroe Street was watching.
The bum looked-and he saw the monster-and - reached in his pocket and brought out a ciga- rette, the cigarette was broken, and he said, "Hey buddy! You got a light?"
The monster fiddled around underneath his cape and brought out a match and lit the bum's ciga- rette.
It was at this point that the bum, who was so drunk, collapsed, and in falling, fell on top of die monster, knocking him down, knocking him into the middle of the street, and in the process, he grabbed onto the monster's cape and pulled it off. The monster was completely exposed! And the people rushed out and they formed a big circle around the monster and they just stared-!
And then someone said in a sort of disappointed voice, "Aww, he's only got three legs."
Then someone else said, "Yeah, he's no devil. He's no angel-hah! He's just got three legs. That's why he walks like that!"
Then they began to get angry with him, shouting at him belligerently for frightening them.
And the poor monster, there were tears rolling down his cheeks, as he tried to tell them that he didn't really mean to frighten them, it was just that he was ashamed of his deformity, that's why he wore the long cape.
Finally a guy stepped out of the crowd and helped the monster to his feet, and said, "Say, buddy, what you need's a drink!"
So the monster, cape over his arm, glided down to the bar at the corner, and a crowd of men followed him in.
His hands were shaking as he took his drink, so the other men pretended not to notice. One of them said, "You think the Yankees'll win tomorrow?"
Another said, "Well I got two bucks they will!"
The monster turned, pointing a steady finger at the man, shouting. Til take that bet!"
Because, you see, he was a Dodger fan.
That's really the end of the story.
But I can't help noticing that the monster and the people have completely forgotten the bum.
While they sit drinking and talking about base- ball, the bum is unconscious in the gutter, and he'll never even know of this great deed he committed.
Kids are careful not to step on his body as they run back and forth chasing each other, but that's about the only attention he gets.
But-as the author-I have a certain power.
And so I'd like to express that gratitude which my characters failed to show. You see, this bum is going to die in a couple of months anyway of tuberculosis, but I'm going to have him picked up by the police on an alcoholic charge and they'll take him to Bellevue, and they'll discover his T.B. there, and they'll send him to a state sanitarium, to die.
They'll take care of him.