Just joining us? Don't miss Part 1 and Part 2!
Part 3: "You can never be too careful."It was a very cold day and the snow was falling heavily, so it took Bully longer than he expected to walk down Eighth Avenue to the F Train subway stop. Not every portion of the sidewalk was shoveled, and even on those that were, a thin layer of slick crystal ice had begun to form. Bully skidded and slid down the shiny patches, pretending he was Iceman. Though he moved slowly through the snow already packing the pavement, no one moving past him noticed him, and he often had to leap to the side or dodge to the edge of the sidewalk to avoid being stepped on or pushed. It was a very busy day, Christmas Eve. There were many people out and about, and no one had time to notice a little stuffed bull underneath their feet.
Aside from waiting for green lights to cross the streets, Bully only paused once, at the mailbox on the corner of Eighth and Eighth, to shimmy up the cold metal box and slide his letter to Santa Claus inside. He banged the door open and closed a few more times just to make sure, absolutely certain, that it had dropped to the bottom. Although he had already sent an email with his Christmas list to email@example.com the week before (cc'd to firstname.lastname@example.org just to make sure), Bully had since then thought of a few extra Christmas gifts he wanted. And anyway, he wanted to make absolutely, positively sure that Santa got his list. You can never be too careful, not with Santa.
He paused on top of the mailbox and peered into the darkness below, hoping that Santa would have time to read his letter tonight before he set off on his world-wide rounds. He was certain he was going to get wonderful things for Christmas, but there were a few things he wanted most of all.
At the very top of his list Bully had written "A PONY." And then, after sucking on the tip of his crayon thoughtfully for some time until his tongue had turned quite green, he had added, beside it, "(A REAL ONE)." You can never be too careful.
Right below that was his second most-wished for gift, and although Bully was especially looking forward to riding his little baby pony around the apartment even he had to admit it was unlikely that John would let him keep it. So he had done what Blackie called "hedged his bets" and added right below that "THE GALACTUS TRILOGY."
Bully had wanted Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Galactus Trilogy comic books for so very long, so very badly. He kept a careful watch on eBay for used copies of Fantastic Four #48-50, even occasionally cautiously bidding in the first minutes of an auction when the price was measured in a few rather than hundreds or thousands of dollars. But the precious trio of classic comics were snatched away from him every time, sniped out from under his little ringed nose, and not for a few dimes more than his maximum spending price, but for what seemed like it would take one bazillion wastebaskets emptied to even approach. Each time one or two or even all three of those comics escaped his eager grasp Bully would go and sit down in the corner and count his marbles or suck on a Jolly Rancher or pet Gus the Cat until he had stopped shaking with overexcitement and disappointment.
John had pointed out that Fantastic Four #48-50 were among the most collectible of Jack Kirby comics, and it was unlikely that Bully would find them affordable at his limited budget, and anyway, he could read them on the computer screen with the big DVD of complete FF adventures. But it wasn't the same to Bully; he wanted to hold them in his hands, to smell the paper and turn the pages, and clicking at the mouse (which is difficult enough with hooves) to see what the Silver Surfer was up to next, oh look out Mister Surfer, here comes Ben Grimm! was not the same sensation that Misters Lee and Kirby had intended he read that story in, was it, now?
So the thought hit him: in the absence of a rich eccentric uncle with a magnificent comic book vault, who better to ask for FF #48-50 than Santa Claus? Bully doubted that the elves would have much problem getting their little hands on three slim comic books, and in fact they would probably see it as a delightful and refreshing break from making Playstation 3s.
Bully's horns quivered in anticipation of comic books under the Christmas tree as he slid down the side of the mailbox and trudged onwards, the last block to the subway station. He shivered in the cold. Bully wrapped his arms around himself and plowed his way through the snow, now nearly to his waist. He had bundled up when he left the house: his pair of yellow rubber boots, his bright red Christmas sweater and red felt duffel coat, his long colorful striped scarf, and his brilliant blue stocking cap with the big soft white pompom on the top and the name BULLY embroidered on the front. He was very glad he had worn all these winter clothes, and by the time he reached the long deep steps of the Seventh Avenue subway he was cold and shivering.
But the subway station was toasty, and he soon warmed up as he trotted down the long concrete corridors, gazing up at the bright colorful posters as he headed for the turnstiles. It was easier to stay out from underfoot inside, and Bully trotted alongside the wall as big galoshes and boots and shoes and sneakers clomped past him in both directions.
He had his MetroCard out when he reached the turnstile, and was lucky enough to have caught a momentary lull in traffic. It took only a blink of an eye for Bully, quite an accomplished climber, to shin up the side of the turnstile, and, with both hooves, swipe his MetroCard through the scanner. The little screen lit up in bright blue letters: GOand Bully went, with a sprint and a leap, thumping down with a bounce onto the turnstile arm. It moved down with a heavy clunk under his weight as he landed upon it, and Bully landed neatly on all fours down on the floor, pulled himself up to standing position, and trotted off for the steps marked MANHATTAN TRAINS, stowing his MetroCard back safely in his little clutchpurse and holding it tightly to his chest.
For the very excited and anxious Bully, the subway ride to 34th Street seemed to take forever. At the best of times the F Train is leisurely and unhurried, and today, with each car jam-packed to overflowing with people loaded down with armfuls of brightly-wrapped parcels, it was even slower than usual. At each stop the conductor explained, at first patiently, then gradually losing his calmness, and then final with weary resignation, to RELEASE THE BOARS. At least, that was what it sounded like to Bully over the crackling intercom. He perked up and looked about him for giant hogs, but none were to be seen, if you didn't count the plus-size guy eating a dripping gyro sandwich as he sat in the seat reserved for the elderly and the handicapped. Bully fixed him with a particularly strong stare of disapproval, but the man buried himself in his sandwich, hot sauce dripping down his chin.
The longest delay of the ride occurred at Carroll Street. The train sat and sat and sat in the station so long that Bully was afraid the F Train was changing to a G Train, an exasperating but not unprecedented event that was less a magical alphabetical transformation, more a too-frequent commuter annoyance. But when the conductor finally came over the intercom, his voice drowned out by static and electrical hum, Bully could have almost swore that he said: ...BEING HELD IN (static)...UNTIL WE RE...(buzz, crackle)...NEL PIGS ON THE TRACKS...(hum, pop)...AND CLEAR THE DOORS, and then the intercom fell quiet once again and with a whoosh and the familiar friendly ding-dong of the closing doors, the train lurched forward again.
Bully stayed out of the rushing crowds' feet by sliding beneath a seat and curling up with his back against the rumbling car's wall, checking his Christmas list again and again and staring up at the subway advertisements far above him,. for such wondrous and magical products as Sprint, Cap'n Morgan's Spiced Rum, and Doctor Zizmor. So intent was he on reading a New School poster and contemplating taking a course in January, possibly theoretical philosophy, photography, or maybe cookie baking, that he very nearly missed it when the conductor announced IRTY-FOURTH STREE, and he leaped up excitedly and was pushed by the wave of the crowd out onto the platform and up the long stairs out into the cold Manhattan afternoon.
Tomorrow, Part 4: A Slight Detour.