Yes! Confounded she was, and fully confused by the happenstance. Yet her fierce hands continued to search through this morning's spoils. Like foraging independents, the expert grubbers worked busily through the barrels at this familiar dump-a spot now suddenly too generous for wasting.
The grosser chaff, the rough paper, Styrofoam and stuff was set aside by her left. Then, through the jagged cans and plastic junk and grease, the right one drove into the necessary peril, shoved without hesitation into each newfound crater of risk.
Would it be soft edible surprise?
Or, the piercing electric jolt?
At any moment, chancing again and again, five soft, blind eyes would tell. Would know tomato pasted bread, or quick, red tears.
For that's how they rove, do Alice Tee's assessing hands. That's how they work to keep her moving: the pincer parts that feed the old crab-mouth. The energy to drive that fierce, confused crab-head.
Though Alice Tee would never fault these here pizza people's barrels!
These people were steady delivery each other morning-as regular as train tracks-a constant source she could hardly spurn. Except this morning come, as Alice Tee arrived to find they'd doubled up their output.
Six barrels she confronted!
Six barrels, and off whisked her wits in every which direction, frittering her tightly stretched schedule. For Alice Tee had no space, nor time, and hardly the energy to accommodate this new abundance.
Although, just leaving it was as difficult. Unthinkable. Such waste she could not allow. Especially at this stop, this heartbeat to her rounds. Ohh! Here again was Excess, a quandary as always, spoiling her system, and crimping her smooth routine.
Her hands mechanical-and Alice Tee-they tried their best to manage. Speedily, they salvaged to new limits of her bulging cart. Though, even then, she had worked only four barrels. And still, the too-much Extra lay scattered there, just partly savaged, and so tormenting.
All the while Alice Tee could feel herself remaining overlong with all this stuff. All while it poised and tensed up her time; tigering it, preparing it to spring at her. As, even now, she stretched herself so very close to lateness.
And, how well she could imagine the little gluttons waiting! Preening themselves. Full, round with feathered curves that glittered in rainbows, and so contained of their sleek voracity. The multitude of them, with their gleaming eyes, perfect rings of focussed black and gold. Blank beams that blinked only when their poised heads whipped around to search yet another compass point for Alice Tee.
Or else, they might be cocking faces one-side, angling their insolent looks, scanning the pavement for their warder. Alice Tee's ears could conjure up their surly coos, their scraping claws a-skittering on street concrete, on car tops. How very well she could see them, readying to gobble. Gathering their greediness into grim silhouettes. Lurking overhead on power lines. Dark appetites unbalancing storefront awnings, and fouling the struggling branches of avenue trees.
The laden cart wheels wriggled and squealed of weariness, as now well on her way, Alice Tee pushed on. And yes! She could almost feel a vexed reproach about her tardiness. Mmm-hmn! Reproach from these city locusts, these feathered roaches. But she was now only four long blocks away, and, this time, Alice Tee was ready for them.
The traffic lights and engined wheels never slowed down Alice Tee. The better blockers were the usual eyeballing traffic, those droves that go. They were everywhere, these well-run ones, well driven in to and out of their heads, their offices, their cars, their shops, their very living streets.
Swift tours they made, these driven ones. In, out quick. On time, in time, like ticks and tocks on stone-steady duty. These staring blokes. These stolid gawkers, a silliness of bigots. Eh-heh! It was these that weighed most mightily on Alice Tee's cartwheels, that dragged so heavily, and did impede.
She never stopped though, never took them on. Was slowed somewhat, but kept on moving on regardless. She just muttered rage and mowed through them; scattered their blocking heads. Crunched through their ant-lines. Shattered their ugly points-of-viewing. Spat at them, and on them, too.
And when they hurled their splintered jibes at her back, she snarled and used that extra irritation to make her way more fiercely. She kept herself to Alice Tee's demanding rounds.
And yes, her charges, they were there. Impatiently waiting as Alice Tee knew. She could feel them long before she trundled her squiggly cartwheels round the corner. Their hungry anticipation fluttered on the air, making great excitement quicken all through her and formed a harsh grin that snatched at her mouth; a sneer that reminded her of how, this time, she'd let them have their waiting's worth. Of how she'd shed the extra bulges of her carry-cart into them; down their endless craws. Of how she'd let them stuff it, choke after peck after straining gulp. Yes! She'd even fling them seconds, let them cram to bursting on moldy pizza scraps.
Just so she'd deal with all their ugly greed!
And so grimly thrilled, she pushed around the corner to her stop. And there encountered Excess again, at it in glee. Excess the interloper, invading Alice Tee's sole office, casting corn at her rightful charges, feeding them.
And, of course, the feathered guts were guzzling every bit down.
The plain disgust welled up in Alice Tee and full-stopped her carry-cart, all while she sought in fury for just what she should do.
Usurpers was a species Alice Tee had met before. Always a horror-show, the worst was one time when they followed her-and others-below the city limits. Underground, into the caverns where urban bat-types sleep daytimes; sepulchres for departed subway trains. A space for dropped-out ones. A place where vagrants rest-their homes, on colder nights, well warmed from raunchy rotting batshit.
Quite down here the ravaging misfits had prowled, searching after Alice Tee, and others. Trailed high-stepping through live vermin and the clammy filth, smelling this putrid mess into their memories. They had come in packs through the garbage, charged with dazzling lights and cans spraying a stifling, graffiti paint. They tagged and roared their malice at the wakened sleepers. They swung wicked bats and stinging whips. They struck down the startled frail, in place left whimpers.
Sudden in, and swiftly gone they were.
Only their terror was left to roost with bruised and blue-black Alice Tee, and others.
Usurpers! Huh! She'd known them.
This one on her corner, though, was no better-sort eyeballer. She was not merely having fun. Her shopping bag was small-a bigger pocketbook. It held the food she fed out. And as she gathered the grain from within it, she smiled brightly.
Smiling teeth much bigger than the corn that she tossed away by handfuls. A smile too wide for her gaunt, skinny face, although she kept it on, big, bone-white, and irritating.
Alice Tee screamed at its excessiveness, "Get outa here, you! Go on, clear off!"
The smile didn't budge, although it must've heard her rage. Intemperate, uncaring, it hooked back in the handbag to catch and toss more crawfuls.
Yet still, the smile remained the same. Alice Tee rushed forward and spat at it.
The smile wouldn't yield. Instead, it wanted talk. "I'm City College class of '64, the cream..." It spoke.
But after this, it became doubtful, then skulked away behind a toss of her frazzle-haired head. Minus all the teeth now, she was as thin as spines. Then suddenly, bold as a lance, she went straight for Alice Tee's cart, and tore open the topmost, bulging bag.
It all became too much for Alice Tee. And retaliate she did, and rammed her laden cart into the busybody. Then, a second, sterner jam stumbled it to the edge of the sidewalk, through the clattering, flying bellies, scattering their rush for the fallen scraps-bag.
One more time, and then one other, Alice Tee firmly rammed the busybody, staggering it into the busy street, right in the path of a busy car. Which, hard as a crunch, struck her busy down. Then with one gurgly scream, the interloper went quiet.
But Alice Tee could tarry there no longer; she had set rounds to keep!
She shoved her cart fast through the hullabaloo of grouping eyeballers, their press yielding readily as she forged through. She had to go right now. On the moment, other expectant gluttons would be thronging at her next stop-insistent as timetables-depending themselves on Alice Tee.
She'd bet her schedule on it!
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