One afternoon years back, in a distant city, I found myself staring
into the window display of a toy store that some ingenious window
designer & puppet maker had fashioned of cardboard and papier-mâché
& painted to look like the very street I was on: its luncheonette
& canopied shops a perfect replica, down to that toy store itself,
& out on the sidewalk, puppets jerking about on their shiny black strings
like frenzied pedestrians racing in every direction. A couple with
gift-wrapped boxes in both hands was stepping out of a doorway;
there were elderly gents & ladies in high-fashion furs, sailors in white
caps, a merchant in front of his shop stroking his mustache,
a girl in red pumps, a kid on a bike & two on skateboards,
businessmen clutching their attaché cases, a dowager walking
three Pekingese, a small boy being pulled along by his mother,
hard hats in T-shirts drilling into a cordoned-off piece of the roadway,
a spastic dance of marionettes bouncing in place
in that urgent, convulsive way puppets do: & none of them, needless
to say, making the least bit of headway. The whole thing was at once
striking & comic, but somehow mysterious too, & inexplicably touching.
I stood there a long while, amused, appalled, & entranced,
till I came to myself & saw with a glance at my watch how much later
it was than I’d thought, & with that I rushed off down that street,
with its chaos of scurrying souls — that blur of dizzying shadows — intent
once again on whatever urgent errand it was that had brought me.