Tracks in The Neighborhood

On one of those walks through the neighborhood he saw imprints of shoes left on the cement of the sidewalk, filled with water. At some point, judging from the size of them, a man — not a woman, must have stepped into the freshly poured mass to make a point of some sort — a statement, though, that was drowned in last night’s rain and no longer recognizable. There were exactly three footprints: right, left, right, each filled to the brim. He would have to come back to this place with his cell phone which he’d left at home, to send pictures to a friend who was a publisher of a journal called Tracks.

The debut issue, which had featured on its cover the 3-foot footprint of a –saur of some kind found in the Gobi Desert, was sold out. It had been a small print run; his friend had failed to foresee the pull of paleozooic beasts. The unintended transformation, that was the word to use, of a footprint into a diminuitive public puddle was right down his friend’s alley.

His friend would be hooked. But here and now, without a GPS, without a smart phone, he couldn’t even record the position of the puddles within the framework of the earth. He wrote down the names of the intersecting streets on the back of a crumbled ATM receipt. He made a mental note not to throw the ATM receipt away. He would need to come back on another rainy day for a shoot. But puddles and birdbaths were forbidden in all five burroughs because of the moquitoes carrying the plight of West Nile. By extension of this rule, stepping into wet cement with one’s shoes was strictly forbidden as it created indentations waiting to be filled by the inclement elements.

Strictly speaking, he was required to make a report to the Department of Sanitation, Birdbath Division, but that entire department had fallen out of his favor when his car was towed on account of a 12 inch infraction into a no-parking zone, posted by same Sanitation. One whole Saturday morning had been lost at Pier something or other. On account of his age, four hours amounted to a significant percentage of the time he had left. He would certainly not resist a subpoena to testify in court about the discovery of the man-made puddles, but he saw no reason to volunteer this information either.

Actually, nobody had observed him discovering the puddles, this much he knew. He made another mental note, this time to ask his friend, the publisher of Tracks, to publish the picture he was going to take under a pseudonym. Safe is safe, this was a safe motto to live by.

Joachim Frank