Sitvar tore the package away in long strips, which he dropped on the floor. "Some." He smiled at the naked chocolate bar in his hand. He broke an end off and gave it to Frishta.

She began to lick it. Her half-closed eyes wandered over they doorway "Gentlemen." She slid her tongue in a circle. Her eyes widened at the padlock on the gate; she looked down the corridor. "Look, Sitvar."

The other end of the corridor was barred by an extendable steel gate. From it hung a yellow sign with black lettering: CLOSED. As Sitvar raised his chocolate bar to his mouth he said, "Damn."

They began to walk slowly down the corridor. Sitvar with his front teeth shaved small bits of the chocolate bar into his mouth. Frishta put her wet piece of chocolate into her mouth and rubbed it vigorously with her tongue. They ate loudly. At the gate they stooped and peered through.

Beyond the gate was a spacious, tenebrious pentagonal chamber; turnstiles and ticket machines and ticket windows cast shadows from sparse night-lights. Warm air ascended the escalator shafts and pressed its way out the four entrance corridors of the chamber, almost hooting. Frishta pressed her face against the wind and the gate. Before her the light from the corridor lay in criss-crossed diamonds cast by the diagonal steel bars of the gate. Yellow splotched selectively high piles of tomorrow's newspapers stacked, half a dozen, half as high piles of tomorrow's newspapers stacked, half a dozen, half as high as a man, ten feet from Frishta. She swallowed her chocolate. By craning her neck slightly she could see to her left a poster-sized Map of Underground Routes. In the dark, she could barely read the large letters of its title; the lines of the routes were obscure and complex. Frishta spoke to the map, softly, and tried, "Circle Line or District Line to St. James Park."


A harsh metallic screech grated across the chamber. Frishta started. Sitvar was looking at her, surprised. He swallowed his chocolate. The sound grated again, then continued regularly scraping. It came from behind the newspapers. Frishta took Sitvar's hand. Into the dappled light from behind the newspapers came a dwarfed man, a man with no legs. He pushed himself along on a wooden platform with metal wheels which shrieked against the concrete floor. He did not look up until he reached the bars of the gate. Sitvar stepped back; Frishta clung to him.

The man looked at them. He rested his arms before him as if he were standing at a counter; his hands, calloused fingers bent under, lay each in a diamond of light. The shadow of a bar split his face; he seemed to have two faces, whiskered, shriveled, independent of each other: he shut one watering eye, then the other; as he moved his head the bar gave his nose to one side of his face, then the other. He wore on his head a knit cap. The skirt of his heavy gray jacket hung over the edge of his platform, frayed. He pulled crooked lips away from dark teeth. He bent his head back to scrutinize Sitvar. He called to him wheezing, "what do you want?"

Sitvar smiled forcedly. He shuffled from foot to foot. Frishta clung to him more, wide-eyed. Sitvar stammered, "Tube, you know. Take the tube." The cripple did not replay, but stated at Sitvar. The wind gave the smell of the man to Sitvar. Sitvar grew anxious under his eye; in order to speak, he asked, "Do you" -- he broke eyes with the man -- "sell newspapers here?"

The man wheezed croaking laughter and Shrieked the wheels of his platform as he yanked himself clattering into the bars of the gate. He peered up at Sitvar and then at Frishta and locked his eyes on her and narrowed them, squinted them, grinning. "No." He spoke straining for air. "I don't sell newspapers. I am only here at night." Frishta turned away. The cripple yelled at Sitvar, "What do you want? What do you want?"

"The tube," Sitvar murmured. He saw that he stood beyond the cripple's reach.

"It's closed."

"Yes, when will it open?"

"It won't, I tell you, it's closed CLOSED."

Sitvar apologized quietly. "Oh, I didn't know." He looked wonderingly at Frishta.

She said. "Why did we come? It's closed." She pushed herself away from Sitvar and began to run down the corridor. Sitvar stood a moment. The cripple began to choke and scream in frenzied laughter. He pulled himself up against the bars, all the while chortling, gasping howling.