Luigi Martello stopped turning the crank on his organ-grinder and stared in disbelief as a fire hydrant morphed into a man!
His monkey, Bobo, didn’t seem to notice and kept dancing despite the absence of music. Luigi wiped the sweat from his brow and watched the man disappear into the busy New York crowd. It was lunch time, and the hot sun beat down on the small umbrella attached to his cart, affording little shade. He wondered if the sun was getting to him, and took a well-used handkerchief from his shirt pocket and wiped his whole face. He got a drink of water from his little ice-chest and considered going home for the day.
Part of his brain refused to admit what he saw. It was just too crazy. Unreal. He knew fire hydrants couldn’t turn into people. So what did happen? His thoughts were diverted when a group of adults with children approached. He broke out into a merry tune and Bobo’s frenzied dance moves soon had everyone laughing. Coins rained down on the plate sitting on the sidewalk in front of Luigi. The rest of the day passed quickly.
That night, over dinner, he told his wife Maria what he saw that afternoon. She clucked over him like a mother hen and said that he was just working too hard. He hadn’t taken a vacation in years. Not even a day off.
“The grind is getting to you,” she said, smiling at her own pun.
He smiled back at her and held up his glass of wine for a toast, “To my beautiful wife who always looks out for me!”
Bobo, who was sitting on a little stool by the table, clapped his hands and chattered happily. He felt much better when they went to bed and had no trouble sleeping. Tomorrow was a new day.
The next day he set up on his corner of 33rd and 3rd Street. It looked like rain, but he decided to stay and see what happened. Bobo was wearing a little red jacket and matching hat. Luigi wore his usual suit and a heavy trench jacket with a brown fedora. As he considered putting his gloves on he saw a stray dog morph into a man!
He froze, eyes riveted on the stranger. The stranger stretched, and then looked over at him and waved. Instinctively, Luigi raised a hand and waved back. In all of his years working the streets he saw plenty of strange people, some obviously crazy. But this madness…maybe he did need to take some time off. It went against his grain, but something was straining his brain and he had to be seeing things.
Normally a jovial person, Luigi had trouble coping with what he saw and grew morose. An hour later he went home and told his wife he didn’t feel well. She was surprised because he gave no inclinations of feeling sick that morning, but didn’t question him about it. She was concerned because she couldn’t remember that last time he didn’t work a full day, or said he felt sick. She gave him an aspirin and tucked him into bed. He closed his eyes and pretended to go to sleep.
The next morning he woke with a new determination. He decided to change his routine and go to another street corner further downtown. He put on a happy face for Maria at breakfast, and she was immensely relieved to see him doing so well.
The new street corner had more stores and less apartments than his regular spot. As soon as he set up he had customers gathering. Bobo danced to his lively music to everyone’s delight. The coins clattered down into the tin plate. And nothing strange happened. After a week at his new location, with no one shapeshifting right before his eyes, Luigi settled back into his comfortable existence. Life had returned to normal.
Curiosity can be a good thing, but sometimes it leads us to places where we’d rather not go. In spite of things going so well, Luigi began wondering about his old street corner. It was closer to home. He even knew some of the residents who lived in the buildings and began missing them. Feeling slightly defiant the next morning, he set up on the corner of 33rd and 3rd Street. Some friends stopped by to say they missed him recently. It was getting late in the day when a stranger came by and asked him, “Is this the shapeshifting portal area?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about pal. Maybe you should move on and ask someone else. I’m just a simple man, and I don’t want any trouble.”
“How rude! I was told people on this planet were cordial if you were with them.”
“People on this planet? C’mon now! Your starting to scare me.”
“Wait a moment…I’m starting to feel it!” the stranger said, while turning into the same kind of monkey as Bobo.
“Oh, mother of God! What’s going on here?” Luigi moaned.
Bobo looked at his twin and bared his teeth. The twin yelped and ran off down the sidewalk. Luigi was still sputtering when he saw a well-dressed woman turn into a sleek black cat that went off after the fleeing monkey!
Luigi sunk to the curb and sat there next to Bobo who was still chattering angrily.
“Can I help sir?” a young man asked.
“I doubt it pal. I’m just not in a good place right now.”
“I’m afraid I may be responsible for that sir. My name is Glennet, and I own the rights to shapeshifting portals on earth and two other planets. I’ve been getting complaints that the portal on 33rd and 3rd Street has been experiencing operational problems for a couple of years now. In my defense, I’ve been so busy with my other properties that I overlooked this one. It was never a high performer.”
“Did I die? Am I dead? Is this real?” Luigi groaned.
“Reality is a construct. Be assured, you’re in the right time frame. I’m sorry for whatever inconveniences I’ve caused you. I’m correcting that…right now!”
It was five o’clock and time to go home. Luigi bragged to Bobo, “You see. I was right. Nothing strange happened here today.”
As It Stands, as Albert Einstein once said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”