Employees stocked the fridge with beer, pocket
bottles of Smirnoff tucked
behind stacks for easy nipping. Lunch-
breaks were drinking contests, pounding
pints to dull ourselves before re-entry,
turbulent and dazed. After our shifts
we’d hit the bars along the Bowery
fueled on Chinese takeaway and pizza
by-the-slice. We were ‘bodies’
in their jargon, useful mannequins
for schlepping boxes full of books –
ten floors of them and counting.
The intricate small man sat at the desk
glasses clasping the bridge of his nose
bald pate shining like a headlamp.
“I need a body,” he would say. Someone
would pick up a phone, request
a body, one would be sent up
from the nether world. We were paid
minimum wage to build labyrinths
of boxes made of books made
of paper, miles of it, enough to pave
Broadway with a pelt of snow. Walls
went up between us, block after block after block,
a city within a city. Like Theseus,
I wandered through them endlessly in search
of my Minotaur. The king is dead.
Farewell to the Scion of the Strand [Tablet Mag]
Photo by Cory Doctorow.