Story: “There’s a Hole in the City” by Richard Bowes
(Originally published in Sci Fiction, June 15, 2005)
On the evening of the day after the towers fell, I was waiting by the barricades on Houston Street and LaGuardia Place for my friend Mags to come up from Soho and have dinner with me. On the skyline, not two miles to the south, the pillars of smoke wavered slightly. But the creepily beautiful weather of September 11 still held and the wind blew in from the north east. In Greenwich Village the air was crisp and clean with just a touch of fall about it.
I’d spent the last day and a half looking at pictures of burning towers. One of the frustrations of that time was that there was so little most of us could do about anything or for anyone.
Downtown streets were empty of all traffic except emergency vehicles. The West and East Villages from Fourteenth Street to Houston were their own separate zone. Pedestrians needed identification proving they lived or worked there in order to enter.
The barricades consisted of blue wooden police horses and a couple of unmarked vans thrown across LaGuardia Place. Behind them were a couple of cops, a few auxiliary police and one or two guys in civilian clothes with I.D.’s of some kind pinned to their shirts. All of them looked tired, subdued by events.
At the barricades was a small crowd, ones like me waiting for friends from neighborhoods to the south, ones without proper identification waiting for confirmation so that they could continue on into Soho, people who just wanted to be outside near other people in those days of sunshine and shock. Once in a while, each of us would look up at the columns of smoke that hung in the downtown sky then look away again.
A family approached a middle aged cop behind the barricade. The group consisted of a man, a woman, a little girl being led by the hand, a child being carried. All were blondish and wore shorts and casual tops. The parents seemed pleasant but serious people in their early thirties, professionals. They could have been tourists. But that day the city was empty of tourists.
The man said something and I heard the cop say loudly, “You want to go where?”.
Richard Bowes was born in Boston in 1944 and has lived for most of the last 50 years in Manhattan. Bowes has published six novels, four story collections, and seventy-five short stories. He has won two World Fantasy and a Lambda Award.
“There’s a Hole In the City” won The Million Writer and International Horror Guild Awards when it appeared in 2005, and was nominated for a Nebula Award in 2006. The story has been reprinted in many anthologies and translated into a dozen languages. WBAI Radio in New York City annually broadcasts the author reading his own story on the anniversary of 9/11.
About the Narrator:
Chris Lade is a Leipzig-based orchestral conductor, pianist, and English teacher by day, and an avid reader by night. When not doing either of the four, you can usually find him listening to music, reading classical music blogs, riding his bike, or trying to cook something Italian in his kitchen. Life goals include motorcycling through Europe on a Triumph Bonneville and owning a Bernese Mountain Dog, preferably at the same time.