Edwin Balder realized that he was very drunk around the time that he turned off of 3rd Avenue, and began the longish decent down 75th Street. He had drunk too many scotches and made quite an ass out of himself once again. It was that damned Pollard, Edwin thought. If only Lawson would quite bringing that Benedict Arnold, two-faced librarian around then they could have a peaceful evening at the joint; at least as peaceful as that Geritol swilling den could get. How long had he been mad at George Pollard Jr.? At least two years. Of course, two years! Edwin shouted into the cold night. He tried emulating Ivan’s dance, chicken arms and all. Edwin stopped dancing. He sighed, looked at the one star shining in the Gotham sky (it was, in fact, a helicopter lingering over the bay), and started walking back to his apartment.
It was at Ridge Avenue that someone crudely took ahold of Edwin’s arm. Instantly he thought of Ivan and that lousy chicken dance, wanting to do it again. But when Edwin felt what seemed like a knife in his back, he began along a much different line of thought.
“Don’t look back at me, don’t say a word,” the mugger said. In that moment, Edwin knew that this was going to be an old fashioned, classic New York mugging. If he wasn’t so scared he’d be excited by the honor. “Just move.”
The mugger lead Edwin half way down the block and then turned him left into a small alleyway between apartment buildings. He turned Edwin around but between the dark and shadows of the alleyway, the streetlights casting a glare, Edwin could not make out the mugger’s face. What he saw was a shroud in a hooded sweatshirt.
“Are you going to mug me?” Edwin asked.
“I said don’t say a word,” the mugger said. He leaned in. “Damn, what have you been drinking?”
“Scotch and water…and I had a Hot Pocket earlier this evening.”
“A ham and cheese Hot Pocket?”
“You need to brush your teeth, nigga,” the mugger said.
“As soon as we conclude this transaction, my nigga,” Edwin said.
The mugger pushed him into the cold brick and alley wall, smacking the back of Edwin’s head a little rougher than he’d have liked. “Who you calling a nigga?”
“It’s a term of friendship,” Edwin said.
“It’s racist. And I’m not your friend.”
“Well, you said it first. Plus we’re standing in a dark alleyway together a few short hours before the witching one, so I’d say we’re at least intimate.”
“What are you? Some kind of fag?”
“Fag? Nice. Now who’s being vulgar?” Edwin said. “I was merely pointing out a fact.”
The mugger put the blade up to Edwin’s face. “Didn’t I tell you not to talk?”
“You addressed me first.”
“Did too,” Edwin said. “You asked me what I had been drinking.”
The mugger was quiet a moment. “Right, right. The whole Hot Pocket and scotch thing.”
“Well, I’m telling you to be quiet now.”
“As you wish,” Edwin said.
The mugger withdrew his knife a little bit, and began to pat down Edwin Balder in the alleyway. He opened the buttons on Edwin’s pea coat and searched the pockets. He patted Edwin’s pants until he found his wallet and took it out. Then the mugger backed away into the darkness of the alley to check the wallet’s contents.
“Seven dollars,” he said, coming back into the shadows and light. “You only have seven goddamned dollars.”
“It’s the twenty-first century,” Edwin said. “What did you expect that I’d have on me, a stack of Benjamins?”
“I expected more than seven dollars,” the mugger said.
“Well, Rooney’s doesn’t accept credit cards. I’m just putting that out there.”
The mugger hit Edwin in his stomach twice, and Edwin fell to the ground. This was an unexpected turn of events. Edwin thought that the witty repartee that he was in the midst of establishing with his assailant would have prevented any random act of violence. He was wrong. Oh why did everyone have to be so violent and base in this country? Edwin went to rub his stomach but the mugger kicked his hand away.
“Get up,” he said. Edwin slowly rose until he was face to face with the black void that stood in for the mugger’s visage. “Where’s your phone?”
“I don’t carry one,” Edwin said.
“Bullshit. Show me your phone.”
“I told you that I do not carry a cellular phone.”
“Everyone carries a cell phone,” the mugger said. He pushed Edwin into the wall again, this time a little bit harder than the last. Edwin wanted to clasp the back of his head, for he feared eventual brain damage from this prolonged assault, but the mugger made him put his hands above his head while he frisked Edwin once again. “Shit.”
“I told you I don’t have a cell phone,” Edwin said., for the third time.
“I don’t like them.”
“What’s not to like?” the mugger asked.
“I don’t see the need to be in constant contact with the world like most of these thumb typing philistines do.”
“Have you seen what some of these phones can do?”
“Yes. And I don’t care.”
The mugger slapped Edwin across the face. Edwin screamed like a woman, although he didn’t mean to. “Fucking Luddite.”
“What did you call me?” Edwin said, recovering his masculine composure.
“I called you a fucking Luddite, bitch,” the mugger said. “How can you not have a cell phone?”
“I…I just don’t.”
“What if there’s an emergency?”
“Yeah,” the mugger said. “Or something else.”
“Then I guess I lose,” Edwin said.
“What if something happened to your boyfriend or your parents?”
“First of all, I’m not gay. Second, I guess I’d find out in good time, the way we used to find out before the world was infested with those brain cancer causing devices.”
“That hasn’t been proven yet,” the mugger said. “The whole brain cancer thing.”
“Well, when you’re all talking gibberish and I’m your supreme ruler, you can come back and tell me I’m right. I’ll happily accept you apology. In fact, I won’t even say I told you so.”
The mugger raised his hand again but thought better of it. “You know the iPhone has like a way to talk to people so that they can see your face.”
“Why would I want that,” Edwin said. “What in anything that I’ve said bespeaks me wanting something as silly as that?”
“Because it’s cool,” the mugger said.
“So is walking home from the pub without being assaulted.”
“It’s like Star Trek.”
“And if I had one it would be yours now,” Edwin said. “And where would that leave me, Captain Kirk?"
“I already have a couple iPhones,” the mugger said. “What I’m really in the market for is an Android.”
“Well, I hope my seven dollars helps you out in getting one,” Edwin said. “Or I guess you could take my credit card for a one time purchase.”
“Yeah, right,” the mugger said. “You’ll have this card cancelled before I even get three blocks.”
“Like hell I will. Have you ever tried calling to get a credit card cancelled? Aside from the language barrier, those credit card reps ask you more questions than can be found on an SAT test.”
“Still,” the mugger said.
“You don’t want to take the risk,” Edwin said. “So can I have my wallet back?”
“Sure,” the mugger said. “If you can find it.”
He turned and tossed Edwin’s wallet down the dark alleyway. Then the mugger turned back and punched Edwin twice in the face. The first time he caught Edwin off guard, but with the second blow he was able to put up his hands and block the mugger’s punch. The second punch got Edwin on his wrist, and it hurt like hell. It must’ve hurt the mugger too, because he yelped and backed away in pain, shaking his right hand. The mugger looked as if he were doing one of Ivan’s dances. His movements made Edwin smile a little bit through the pain. But then the mugger righted himself, and came charging back. He kicked Edwin so hard in the stomach that he thought the scotch and Hot Pocket would come streaming out at any moment. Edwin hit the pavement and lay there on the cold concrete. It was as good as any bed to him.
“Get with the times, motherfucker,” the mugger said, leaning down to Edwin’s ear. Edwin could smell his breath. It was no picnic either.