57) LIFE IN THE BIN
Ratso awoke after his first night in the bin. While he didn’t live in the lap of luxury, his new abode worked out fine. He slept peacefully in the quiet solitude of his shelter because he enjoyed his safety. By being careful, no one would ever find him here.
He wondered what went on in his old neighborhood. He ran away before finding out the condition of his mother, Fred or what happened to the Brownstone apartment. They possibly escaped, or he may be an orphan. For all his limited knowledge, his former residence may have crumbled in a heap of embers on the lower east side; he would probably be blamed.
He ventured out into the city. (A) Because of his hunger and (B) maybe he would leave his mark somewhere. After being chased by the black Subaru, he gave up on trying to explain things to his ex-gang member friends. He determined he didn’t want to venture anywhere near his old house either; to be on the safe-side.
He cautiously lifted the overhead door of the bin enough to peek outside. The exact location of the bin, his new home, stood at about the 3rd container in from the end of a long row of storage cells.
Taking care to be cautious, Raphael glanced left and right. He smiled knowing nobody else occupied any of the other spaces in his immediate area. He luckily chose a site away from the main area of traffic, which obscured anyone from seeing him.
Running to the end of the row, he went along the fence until coming to the loosened section. He decided he wanted to find kind of store to get the items he needed. The best place for that would be right in the heart of the city; Times Square. Hiking to the square would be a long walk. But the stores should be busy and he would be another body in a sea of faces.
It was a trip, criss-crossing the avenues and streets of Manhattan, until finally making his way to 7th Avenue. He turned and walked uptown towards the square. He had no idea of the date or the time because he hadn’t seen a clock.
His travel offered the normal honking of horns and the general flavor of people rushing to get nowhere. Forging his way up the avenue, he saw the entrance to the subway on his right and a large blue sign marked ‘Times Square’.
Truly a hotbed of commerce.
The search was on, for a store most likely to carry what he needed. When he checked his pockets, he found a crisp $ 5.00 bill in his possession. He’d rather keep the money for food or something important and so he made multiple stops to get everything. He realized you couldn’t simply go into a store and rip them off. To be a good shoplifter, it took smoothness and an air of confidence to get a ‘Five Finger Discount’ without getting caught.
A large orange sign announced ‘Office Max’ and he decided this would be his first stop. They surely carried pens, pads, and pencils. He didn’t know if they would employ a guard or a security alarm. He wasn’t too worried because he had enough experience at this to figure out what to do. Walking in the front door, he went down the aisles, looking at the item banners hanging on the ends of all the rows. One marked Pencils, Pens, Stationary, and Tablets became his target.
Holy Shit, Ratso thought, a one-stop shopping aisle.
He found the writing device section, but he needed no dozen pens; only one. A bin advertised those cheap stick pens marked $ .15 each. This would work. He didn’t mind spending a minimum amount to get what he wanted. Grabbing a single pen, he found some tablet.
A few items down the aisle he found a five pack of memo pads. Since they were a small size, one of them could easily fit in his back pocket. He grabbed the 5 pack and went into the next aisle. This one held large items like attaché cases and backpacks.
He broke open the cellophane and pulled one pad out as he walked to the front counter. The remaining four got tossed into an open trash receptacle. As he made his way to the checkout, he casually slipped the pad into his breast pocket, under the flap of his jacket. In the same aisle, he located batteries for his flashlight. This shopping trip was turning out to be a real bonanza.
He went down another aisle marked Locks and Cables. Was it possible he’d be lucky enough to find a padlock here?
Sure enough, an assortment of padlocks, bike locks, and house locks were present, and a key making machine. Each lock hung in a blister pack on the wall. He tried to determine which package would be the easiest to break into and hide in his pocket. To his surprise, a package hanging on the rack had been taped together.
The tape barely held the lock inside the blister pack. When Ratso slipped his finger between the plastic and the cardboard backing, the lock and key popped out into his hand. This small padlock fit snugly in his right hand. He casually reached into his pocket, dropping the lock inside and pulling out the $ 5.00 bill. This was done basically for the benefit of any cameras secretly hiding in the ceiling.
Holding the pen in his left hand, he approached the sales counter.
“Will that be all Sir?” said the teenager working the counter.
“Yes, Maam,” Ratso answered and he handed her a bill from his pocket.
“Wait a minute,” he hesitated. He went back to his pocket and instead, pulled out a quarter.
No sense in carrying a bunch of change around with me.
The cashier rang up the pen and gave him change. She placed the pen in a bag and casually told him “Have a nice day.” Ratso walked out the front door onto 7th Avenue, happy with the success of his first stop.
Next on the agenda would be to get sort of puncturing tool to make a peep-hole in the bin door. This may be more of a problem because this item will most likely be larger and more difficult to hide. Also, he may have a problem trying to explain his presence in the store if he bought nothing.
The more he thought, the more nervous he got about trying to steal something. He obtained what he needed at Office Max and to take a chance on getting caught seemed stupid. After weighing all of the pro and con options, Ratso decided not to press his luck. He would find another way to make the peep-hole.
Walking down the avenue, he came upon an alley running all the way to 8th Avenue. He wanted to act on an urge to leave his mark, especially now because of his success. He entered the alley and walked about fifty feet inside, where the wall offered a fairly smooth surface.
He took out his spray can and sprayed a large circle with the letters R-F in the center. Underneath the letters, he sprayed a zig-zag line. His signature graffiti tag stood for Ratso-Fatso. The Fatso part went back to his old gang days when everybody harassed him about his weight; even though he carried little poundage anymore. They only used the term because the words rhymed.
He slipped the spray can back in his jacket pocket and headed toward 7th Avenue. Even though broad daylight blazed, the sky seemed darker to him now. The wind suddenly, whipped up, and here and there Ratso identified little whirlpools of dust swirling around; almost as if something solid formed mid-air.
I’ve accomplished what I wanted to do, he thought. I better get back to my hiding place.
He turned around and headed back the way he came. His stomach emitted growling sounds from hunger; telling him he needed food. He considered the $ 5.00 bill in his pocket, with some loose change. He wanted to buy a slice of pizza or something, but keeping money for emergencies overrode any sense of honesty. The decision was made to find a street vendor who offered sort of entree he might grab.
When he got to the corner of 9th Avenue and 47th Street, he spied a restaurant called ‘The Chelsea Grill’. A driver unloaded racks of supplies for the establishment and busily wheeled them inside. Ratso approached a row of racks still parked by the curb and realized they contained sheets of pre-made sandwiches on trays.
The lone driver already pushed one of the carts into the restaurant. Ratso caught the scent of fresh food on the cart, waffling through the air. Temptation called to him and he pulled the foil off one of the trays. He stuffed four tasty delights into the pockets of his leather jacket.
He moved with purpose up the street and around the corner. He giggled slightly at the thought of the delivery man coming back out to find a few missing items. Further along his journey, he spent some of his loose change on a 12 oz. can of Coca-Cola. Within another 45 minutes, he arrived safely back in his secret bin, where he enjoyed two sandwiches, chased down with Coke.
After his delightful dinner, he emptied his pockets of today’s haul. He put the pen and pad in his shirt pocket, replaced the batteries in his flashlight and checked to make sure he had a working lamp.
Alas, he said to himself. Let there be light.
He and pondered the lock set he procured. He didn’t need this until he left the shelter of the bin.
“Now I believe everything will be safe when I leave again,” he mumbled to himself. “I still need to find a way to punch a spy hole in the door. I guess I’ll get something tomorrow when I go into town.”
The rest of the evening, Ratso used his flashlight to read a collection of old papers left in the bin. He couldn’t care less about movie magazines or gossip newspapers, but they filled the time. The events of the last couple of days finally took their toll on him and he got tired. He smiled at his accomplishments. His shelter seemed nice and dry, the blankets he found would keep him warm, and the bin offered him safety from his pursuers.
What more did a poor boy need?
Ratso awoke in total darkness, accompanied by a cold sweat. He couldn’t tell whether his condition came from hunger, eating bad food or nerves. His tongue tasted like Tin and his body signaled danger. He fought off the impulse to puke by choking back the feeling, as he tried to concentrate on his surroundings.
Gradually, his eyes became accustomed to the dimness as he made out the interior of the bin. But to his surprise, this habitat resembled no bin anymore; it reminded him of a cave.
From the top section of this cave, blue-tinted water dripped from the roof, making pools on the floor where Raphael slept. The water had a viscous nature. It seemed to form what only can be described as stalactites from the top and stalagmites from the bottom; right before his eyes.
What the hell is this? He said to himself.
His mind seized up with unparalleled fear, but he understood control was paramount. Logic told him he still occupied the bin, but this distortion of his senses became so real, I could not believe this was a simple dream.
I’ve got to keep my cool, he mused, because I don’t believe this can happen.
As quickly as his thoughts came to him, they vanished. He was aware of conical fissures forming and locking together. They formed a cage from which he perceived no escape. He reached out and pushed against the structure. The structure would not yield to his touch.
Flashes of lightning periodically lit up his surroundings and he caught sight of a vast network of individual cages strung together. The result being, Raphael found he could maintain no sort of movement within his confining space. These cages seemed to move inward to squeeze the life out of him.
Looking through the translucent material to the outside, he distinguished light, as if the door to his bin stood wide open. But his immediate problem continued to be the ever increasing pressure from this cage trapping him. He recognized if he couldn’t escape, he would be crushed.
I guess this is my finish, Ratso mourned to himself. I can see the end beginning now. I’m about to be crushed into nothingness. My blood will be compressed to oil, my flesh will be compressed to coal and the finality of my life will be at hand.
Even though Ratso never practiced religion, he felt the need to pray; even though he didn’t understand exactly how. His parents, not being religious, never took him to church.
I wonder, he thought. Does the earth fill a big hole in what they call heaven; or is it the other way around? Is heaven a small part of the earth?
He sensed movement from the other side of his ensnarement. Peering through the space between these steel-like columns, he saw his Cousin Johnny standing outside, looking at him. His face remained motionless although he peered directly at him. Raphael’s cried for help.
“Johnny,” he screamed. “Get me out of here.”
Johnny stood without a movement. He acted like a person in a trance. There didn’t seem to be a single trace of emotion on his face as he watched Ratso attempting to wrestle free from his cage. His eyes cast the cold, dead look of a mako shark. He didn’t even try to speak. The only indication he recognized him was a single tear of blood trickling down his cheek.
“Johnny,” he repeated louder. “Please help me.”
In silence, John slowly turned and walked away, leaving Ratso to his rage and his fate.
The pain increased now as the cage continued its march forward on Raphael’s body. In the dim light, he realized his clothes had somehow changed and his body was covered in a white jumpsuit. The jumpsuit resembled the clothes he wore when incarcerated at Lakeview Shock Facility; only in a different color.
He now sensed pressure from his head to his toes. He suffered a splitting headache and a roaring earache. His lips and throat seemed parched; as if he ate dust all day. In his pain, he thought weird thoughts.
If I could change to liquid, he thought, I could fill the cracks up in these rocks and escape.
But logic took over and he realized his body remained solid. He probably would die and his thoughts gravitated to the idea. Because of his young age, he never considered death before. What happens when you die?
At least if he died here, he would be out of the hands of some perverted embalmer. He would probably never be found. Perhaps the pressure would be so intense; his bones would just explode and sail out into space. Maybe that’s how the planets formed during the big bang.
“Help,” he shouted out.
There was no reply to his call. He assumed no one would come and try to rescue him, but he tried it anyway.
Why did he be so profound, when everything in his makeup continued to die?
Suddenly, as if he experienced an epiphany, the cages dissolved and Ratso spun like a top in a rush of air. He caught glimpses of blurry images as his spinning increased in speed. Bright light and darkness alternated like the flapping of a wing. A rainbow appeared above his head and vanished in a flash.
Faces from his past appeared like blips on a radar scope. The pressure from the spinning caused difficulty in breathing. He learned of a subtle humming in his ears as his eyes bulged out from the pressure.
Mercifully, he passed out.