Griffin was an undocumented immigrant griffin from Cardiff, Wales. He lived with Bringer of Dreams, a semi-materialized entity from Albuquerque, and Fossil Leaf, an animate rock, on the first floor of a run-down salt box row house in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn.
Griffin had golden fur and an emerald beak and was extremely vain about his fingernails. Rumor had it that he had known Richard the Lion-Hearted, but since he had started the rumor, no one believed him.
Bringer of Dreams had run away from New Mexico after a minor scandal with a coyote. He usually wore a large blue, black and red mask and green tunic. He was seven feet tall with large red feet. Bringer wanted to wear skulls on his belt, but his roommates discouraged this, citing health statutes in New York City.
Fossil Leaf was flat and grey, and had once been a Zamia furfuracea cycad. He had escaped being chomped by a dinosaur, way back when, but was undone by volcanic ash. Last year construction workers at the condo site next door had tossed him on to the stoop of the row house.
The neighborhood was cheap, as yet ungentrified, and only five blocks from the semi-regular G train. There was a slummy Key Food supermarket for shopping. The housing projects on the other side of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway were a short flight away.
This September, like every last Sunday of the month, the landlord came by to collect the next month’s rent, which they left in the mailbox outside the front door. But instead of just taking the money (a cashier’s check) and leaving a receipt as usual, he banged on the door.
No one answered. He kept banging. Finally Griffin got pissed at all the noise while he was trying to take a nap. He flung the door open. Bringer of Dreams and Fossil Leaf stood out of sight, listening.
“What!?” Griffin roared.
The landlord, being a Brooklyn slumlord, was unfazed by the appearance of a large roaring golden creature. He had seen worse.
“You gotta move, you and your buddies. I sold the building last week and the new owners are going to tear this shithole down. The bulldozers are arriving on Friday.”
“We got a lease,” Griffin informed him. “Till January.”
“Sorry. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. I got one and a half mil for this place, and your lousy $850 does not compare. If you don’t leave I call the City Marshall.”
“What about the next month’s rent we just gave you?” inquired Griffin, perhaps too politely.
The landlord shoved an eviction notice at Griffin and turned to go. Huge mistake.
Griffin ate him, rent, fanny pack and all. Then he closed the door, leaving a slight red patch on the stoop.
Bringer of Dreams sighed. Fossil Leaf said nothing. He had been homeless before.
An hour later, as they sat in the living room, trying to figure out their next step, Griffin regurgitated the landlord’s bones on the kitchen linoleum. Bringer of Dreams got up from the sofa and spirit-melded them together into a jangly skeleton and hung them from the front door.
Still, it was dinnertime and discussion about living arrangements could wait. As usual, no one had gone shopping, so they decided to order a pizza from Domino’s. Nick’s Pizzeria wouldn’t deliver to them anymore since Griffin had eaten the delivery guy.
Fossil wanted broccoli on the pizza. Bringer wanted black beans and corn, which Fossil Leaf said was stupid. Bringer got insulted and tossed Fossil Leaf against the wall. Fossil cursed at Bringer and tried to smash his feet. Griffin told them both to shut up or he would claw them to pieces, which shut Bringer up. Fossil Leaf kept yammering on about what is and what is not a vegetable.
They decided to go halvesies.
Griffin hated pizza. He opened the front door, smiled at the skeleton and flew up to the roof to catch the sunset. He licked his fur and feathers until the oils reached their tips to absorb some Vitamin D. He had to think about the move.
Bringer made the call to Domino’s. The pizza came after half an hour. Bringer put the pie on the living room floor. Fossil Leaf flipped into the box and smooshed himself in the cheese. Bringer removed his mask and gobbled down his half.
When the sun set, Griffin cat-padded down from the roof, using the rickety stairs in the hallway to the apartment. He was disgusted to see a cheesy tomatoey Fossil Leaf crashed on the sofa watching The Amazing Race.
Bringer of Dreams was getting dressed for a night prowl through the dreams of some unlucky souls in the projects. He changed into his headdress, his Ricky’s Novelties acrylic fox tail and his hand-made blue and green synthetic deerskins. If he wore the real stuff, people would come up to him and yell about animal cruelty.
“You are resplendent,” said Griffin. Bringer appreciated the compliment. He worked on his appearance.
“We’re leaving,” Griffin shouted to Fossil Leaf, who was on the couch channel-surfing and muttering about there being nothing on TV anymore. Griffin needed to stretch his wings and case the neighborhood looking for a suitable place.
“Don’t forget to clean the cheese off the furniture,” Griffin yelled. “It’s disgusting in here.”
“Screw you,” said Fossil Leaf, settling on a Law and Order rerun.
“See you later, brother. Got some heads to haunt,” said Bringer of Dreams cheerily, and sauntered off under the BQE down to Sands Street, adornments jangling.
As Griffin flew over New York City, snatching rodents, he pondered their situation. This apartment they had found by pure accident. He had run into Bringer, who was also looking for a place, while roaming the roofs of downtown Manhattan. Bringer thought a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge might be fun. At the exit ramp Griffin had flown off and landed on the roof of their current house. No one lived there. They moved in and one day the landlord showed up and said they had to pay up or be evicted. That was three years ago.
Now, Bringer of Dreams materialized in Apartment 8D in the projects. A young nurse who worked at Methodist Hospital slept deeply, exhausted from a 12-hour shift. Her walls were hung with colorful tapestries and pictures of her family back home in Grenada. Bringer sang her a song about oceans and pelicans. She woke up sweating and in tears. She thought about quitting her job at the hospital to go home and take care of her mother.
At sunrise, the two night-stalkers returned to the apartment. The TV was smashed to smithereens. Fossil Leaf was lying on the sill in the kitchen next to the geraniums, basking in the southern exposure sunlight. He sobbed softly. He wailed about missing photosynthesis.
“Get over it,” said Bringer. “We’re talking 65 millions years, give or take. Want some breakfast?” He went to the kitchen and opened a package of instant oatmeal.
Griffin was exhausted. He plopped on the raggedy brown carpet in the living room, avoiding the greasy pizza box, and started to clean himself. He was sick of Fossil’s kvetching. Maybe they should just split up.
Bringer had gone into the bathroom to have a shave. He called to Fossil Leaf.
“You really should get out more, my friend. Maybe the park? Go dancing?”
“Oh fuck off, will you,” muttered Fossil Leaf. “What do you know about my life? You are barely corporeal.”
“My, my. Corporeal. Aren’t we fancy,” said Bringer. He finished shaving.
“Shut up, both of you.” Griffin squawked loudly. He put his hind leg down and sighed. “Tomorrow we got to find a place. Now I need to sleep.”
He went back up to the roof for a catnap. He curled his long sleek tail around his beak. Bringer of Dreams went to his room, removed his clothes and curled up under the light blue IKEA comforter. Fossil Leaf fell into a bowl of Lucky Charms and was soon snoring.
On Tuesday, Griffin took Fossil Leaf with him to look at a place in Park Slope that was advertised on Craig’s List. Not surprisingly, what was advertised as a two-bedroom turned out to be a refurbished boiler room with two particleboard closets.
“$2,275 for this crap!” exclaimed Griffin, and promptly ate the real estate broker.
“She said she had a place near the BQE. You could’ve waited to chow down,” said Fossil Leaf.
“I hate being lied to,” replied Griffin. “Anyway, too much pollution with all that truck traffic.”
On Wednesday, Bringer told them that he had seen a “For Rent” sign in front of a six-story apartment building in Clinton Hill, a hop, skip, and a jump from Vinegar Hill. It was a co-op whose owners lived in Dubai.
They checked it out. Bringer tried hard to look human and pretty much convinced the owner that he was a trans-species performance artist with a trust fund. The only issue was that all the renters had to be approved by the Board.
“What the hell is a credit rating?” said Fossil Rock.
“Whatever it is, I am sure we don’t have it,” said Griffin. “Too bad. Sounds like a great place, parquet floors, dishwasher, doorman.” He clacked his beak hungrily.
“Would you please stop thinking about dinner for a change?” said Bringer of Dreams. “We’re going to be bulldozed in two days.”
Griffin had a friend in Prospect Park, a golem who had been left there by a rabbi from Crown Heights. Maybe it knew of a place. Never hurt to ask. Two bedrooms and one bath. Fossil Leaf usually slept on a sofa. He had to admit he’d miss the guys if they split up.
That evening, Griffin jumped onto the top of the B69 to Prospect Park.
He got off at Grand Army Plaza and loped to the northeast side of the park. He caught and ate a bunny and a squirrel.
Golem knew of only one place, way the hell out in Sheepshead Bay, by the water. Some abandoned fish restaurant. Golem claimed the area was unlikely to gentrify any time soon, given that it was at least 90 minutes from the Financial District. There were plenty of fish. And fishermen.
Thursday night they trekked out to Sheepshead Bay to look at the ex-fish restaurant. There was a full moon. The fish were awake, snipping at bugs on the water’s surface. Small fishing boats moored at the docks gently rose and fell, giving off a sweet flounder smell. Their white sides glowed and guided the trio to the abandoned building not far from the wharves. Across the inlet a few lights could be seen from the homes of the Manhattan Beach families, waiting anxiously for the next hurricane.
It was quite peaceful.
The building was a dull weathered red, with once-white doors and window frames. Inside were cobwebs, mice, rats, mold, and rotting dampness. A sign hung off the roof that said “Sal’s Fried Fish. All you can eat-$5.96.
“That’ll be the day,” said Bringer. “You can’t get a latte for under $7.00 in Brooklyn anymore.
“I hate it,” complained Fossil Leaf. “You can hear the dead. Not to mention wildlife.”
“Would you two please stop?” Griffin was really tired. He now owed Golem a favor for finding this place for them, and you didn’t owe favors lightly to golems.
“According to the golem, some dead geezer owns the place and will let us live here, no questions asked, for five hundred a month. There’s a toilet in the back, and a phone line. I checked and there are plenty of Italian places around, so you two will be well supplied with pizza. What do you say?”
“I still hate it,” said Fossil Leaf. “Too much water.”
“You don’t go anywhere, so why do you care?” said Bringer of Dreams. He sniffed the salty air. “I mean, a person could come up with some really nice dreams here. All watery and drowny. Tangled up in nets. Getting lost in a storm. I like it.”
“I guess it’s okay,” mumbled Fossil Leaf.
The place put Bringer in a good mood. He had grown up in high desert, and the ocean breeze was a refreshing change.
Griffin flew them back to Vinegar Hill and gathered up their few possessions. They went down to DeKalb and got the D train out to Sheepshead Bay. It was 4 AM and no one on the train noticed them, or if they did, they didn’t care. Or if they cared, they pretended they didn’t. New York subways, for goodness sakes. Everyone rides it.
It took them a couple of hours to settle in. Friday morning the rising sun streamed in the front window of their new place. Fossil Leaf, in spite of himself, went to bask on the ledge in a planter that held the dead shriveled leaves of a rubber plant. It still had some dirt; he dug himself a comfy little depression.
Bringer found an upstairs room where the former owners used to take their mistresses. It still held a large gilded mirror and a cedar closet.
Griffin found a balcony that faced the inlet. The wind ruffled his neck feathers. He stretched his claws, flexed his tail, and lay down with a large sigh.
All the mice and rats left rapidly.
He thought, you know, sometimes if you have to move, you can actually find a nicer place. He closed his eyes, contented.
© 2018 by Marcy Arlin
Author’s Note: BROOKLYN FANTASIA began as a writing prompt by Betsy James in one of her amazing online workshops. She suggested we look at an altar we have, or one created by one of the other participants. Fellow SF writer Kathy Kitts uploaded a photo of hers that included, um, a miniature griffin, a Hopi katchina doll, and a fossil leaf. Now what would those three creatures do together? My husband and I had just moved into a new place in Brooklyn. The four months of hellish apartment hunting came to mind. Hence, the story.
Marcy studied at the Gunn Center with Chris McKitterick, Andy Duncan, & Kij Johnson, and with Betsy James. She is a fellow at the Writer’s Institute (NYC) and is a Fulbright scholar to the Czech Republic and Romania. Marcy is Artistic Director of the OBIE-winning Immigrants’ Theatre and has taught theatre at CUNY, Yale, Brown, University of Chicago (her alma mater), Pace. Marcy’s theatre work with immigrants, interculturalism and social justice is a strong influence on her spec fiction. Publications: Daily Science Fiction, perihelionsf.com, Kaleidocast 1 & 2, Broad Universe Sampler, Man.In.Fest. Experimental Theatre Journal. She is a producer/host for the BSFW podcast and is editor of Czech Plays: 7 New Works, Immigrant Artist Interviews (tcgcircle.org),Eas
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