You can’t tell what’s going on if you’ve only just joined us, so catch up with Parts 1-8, right here!
Part 9: Faster, Piggypig! Run! Run!New Yorkers pride themselves on their savvy and sophisticated ways, but many of them don't see the marvels underneath their own nosesnoses they like to poke into businesses in all directions but which often miss some of the most amazing sights in the city. Especially in the subway, the rule is keep your eyes forward and your head down and rush rush rush to get to where you need to be (not necessarily want to be) as speedily as possible.
That's why when the rush of stale air blasting out of the tunnels and the rattle of the tracks sounded in the 23rd Street station, the passengers waiting for the arrival of the F train shuffled forward towards the edge of the platform, but everyone was so intent on looking for the train that no one actually noticed the orange blur zipping down between the tracks, zooming through the station in a wink of an eye and a bobbing curly tail. Papers whipped and scarves blew in the windy wake, but as the tracks stopped rattling, the crowd moved back again, focused on iPods and Sudoku and The New York Times just like before. It was the sort of moment that, in the movies, would have been capped by a double-take and a man pouring out his bottle of generic liquor onto the ground with a “never again” shrug. But in a Manhattan subway full of busy commuters, most everyone had tunnel vision, and if anyone actually saw the plump orange pig dashing southwards with a little stuffed bull on her back, they kept it to themselves: a private Christmas miracle.
Bully held on firmly to the pig, tighter than the grip of a wet lollipop stuck to his fur (and he knew from sad personal experience how grippy that was. He gaped upwards in amazement as stations flashed past him: 14th Street, West 4th, Broadway/Lafayette. As they passed Second Avenue Bully's thoughts fell upon a place he had once lived, above this station, a store he'd lived in before John had taken the little stuffed bull home to live, a shop filled with toys and games and all sorts of fun thingsbut Bully had never felt completely comfortable there, among the scary Mexican wrestler dolls and the naughty playing cards and the sarcastic t-shirts. It had never been a home.
Home was a cozy, crowded apartment in Brooklyn, and Bully had never missed it so much in his life.
"Hang on, Bully," Effie called breathlessly as they passed through the Yancy Street station, and he obediently grabbed harder at her neck and squeezed his knees tight around her back.
He leaned down close to her ear and asked her, "What are you, Effie? If it's not a rude question," he added hastily.
Effie laughed merrily. "Of course not, dear. What am I? I'm a tunnel pig." She nodded as if that explained it all.
"What's a tunnel pig?" Bully asked.
Effie smiled. "Tunnel pigs," she explained, "keep the trains from running into each other. If a train is going too fast, a tunnel pig will run in front of it and slow it down. That way it doesn't bump into the train in front of it. Haven't you ever heard of tunnel pigs? We're a vital part of the MTA workforce."
"I thought," Bully said thoughtfully, "that they had red lights to do that." Bully was quite a subway enthusiast, and enjoyed riding in the front subway car and looking out through the dirty window to the tracks ahead, spotting the signals that halted or coaxed the train on. No one had ever mentioned tunnel pigs to him before!
"Who told you that nonsense?" Effie said, scoffing but not cross, "Don't believe everything you hear, little Bully. There are more things under earth than are dreamt of in a little bull's philosophy! Luckily today the trains are running slow because of all the people, so they won't miss me if I take some time out to run you home. But I'd better stop talking and get a move on." She frowned worriedly. "There's a train coming up behind us. I don't want to be caught in front of that."
Bully's fuzzy ears twitched as he strained to hear something other than the rush of wind past his face and the clack of Effie's trotters on the tracks and the splash as she bounded through puddles. "I don't hear anything," he said, dubiously.
"When you've been on this job as long as I have, dear..." Effie said patiently, picking up the pace. "...anyway, there's an F train just leaving Yancy Street. And we're about to pass right under the East River. It's a very long stretch without stations and I don't want to be caught there by that train. Now hush, please, dear, and let me run." So Bully obediently shut up and held on tightly as Effie accelerated, the dim darkness of the tunnel flashing past him.
In a moment he thought he could hear something. "Is that it?" he asked, tilted his head to catch the distant dull roar behind them. "Is that a train coming?" But Effie did not pause to answer. If Bully had thought she was running fast before then she was virtually flying now. She arrowed straight and true down the space between the first two rails, never missing a step, never breaking her stride, her four muscled long legs moving in graceful and powerful balance as she and Bully rocketed down into the darkness. When Bully read his Flash comics he often daydreamed about tapping into the Speed Force and becoming the Fastest Bull Alive, zipping across the city in a matter of seconds. A few ill-advised experiments with his Radio Flyer and a balloon filled with baking soda and vinegar aside, however, Bully had never moved this fast without being in a car or plane before.
Bully suddenly felt a thick muffled pressure on his fuzzy head and a moment later his ears popped. He knew that feelingthey were under the deepest part of the East River, a little more than halfway across the long tunnel to York Street. But now the rush of the train was louder, and Bully found himself crouching forward on Effie's back as if leaning in that direction would speed her up.
Steam puffed from Effie's snout now in twin misty bursts as, on either side of them, the tracks began to vibratequietly at first, then a loud metallic hum, and then a odd, off-tone twanging noise like a cowboy balladeer tuning up his rusty banjo in one of the Roy Rogers movies Ox liked to watch. Bully gulped nervously as Effie rocketed onwards, the rush of air past them pressing the soft silky pink fur on her snout flat against her skin, and Bully was struck with a horrible, horrible thought: what if Effie wasn't fast enough to outrace a train because she had a little stuffed bull on her back?
Oh no! Will Effie be fast enough? Or will tomorrow’s Part 10 star a pig and cow pancake? (In the meantime, you can track their journey starting at 34 Street/Herald Square and moving southward very fast on the MTA F Line Map! And pay no attention to the fact that the MTA misspelled “Yancy” as “Delancey”…Yancy Street never gets no respect, I tell ya!)