"Iss' not easy," says the green man who isn't any taller than my forearm nestled in a crossbeam-crevace on the Manhattan side of the 59th Street Bridge. "Iss' real tough sometimes. Ever-body thinks dey so tolerent of greens, but tha's shit. Dey only tolerent when we're livin' in the forrest, y'know? Dey don' like us so much when we're right up in dare faces, right? When we come inna the city, the city, suddeny the city's jus' for humans."
The elf, who tells me to call him "Vinny", rolls back his shoulders against the wet November chill whistling off the East River. The shreded plastic bag he's tied around himself rattles faintly while I pop the collar of my greasy trench. The night is getting dark and angry--fast--so I have to pull my tiny notepad up to my nose to see my dictation in the shivering light of a streetlamp twenty feet away. I can see Vinny perfectly, though; he started giving off a faintly phosphorescent glow just as the light began to fail and the surge of commuters rushing home over the bridge had dwindled down to a trickle.
"I'm very sorry that you feel that way," I tell him. "Do any specific incidents stand out for you?"
Vinny snorts and pulls half a cigarette out from somewhere in his plastic swaddling. He swipes a green finger against the iron girding; there's a spark, and the elf's wide green eyes glow a nasty brown as they reflect the orange embers at the end of the cigarette.
"Which ones you wanna hear 'bout?" he asks, blowing smoke in my face. "I should stawt at the beginin', right? Howsabout dere bein' no seats fuh green on the train into the city, huh? Hadda ride in back, wit the bags and gawbage and shit. Dis was in fawty-seven, fawty-eight y'know, coupla years back. Iss' not ancien' histry I'm talking 'bout."
"Oh," I say, and scribble. "Well, have you experienced any anti-elfin discrimination in New York City? Er, recently?"
Vinny pulls his cigarette out of his mouth and stares at me.
"Any, uh, employment issues, or service--"
'The fuck kinna question issat?"
"'The fuck you think I'm gonna say? Y'think I'm gonna say I wanna be campin' out in the awmpit of Manhadden wid' nothin' but a fuckin' plastic bag? Y'think I wanna be eatin' gawbage outta dumpsters an' stealin' smokes offa the fuckin' sidewalk?"
"Fuckin' reportuh." Vinny pinches out his cigarett and gets to his feet, plastic bag snapping angrily in the wind. "The hell d'you think I came t'this damn city for, anaways, huh? Huh? Y'think I got nothin' back in the ol' country? Joisy's got ever-thing a green needs, but me-- I had dreams!"
The elf's eyes burn toward me through the foggy river darkness; I step backward, clutching my tiny notepad against my chest, but Vinny's voice is soft and raspy now.
"I was gonna make it. Dey all said so, ever-body in my tree. I wan'ned t'be a reportuh, like you. T'inneview humans, and greens too. Write stories. But nobudy..." There's a sound from Vinny's throat like a small branch cracking in two. "Nobody'd gimme a job. Not ev'n paperboy. They said... they said I was too green."
There's a long moment of near silence, little gulps coming from the girder in front of me and the warning whine of the wind.
"Vinny," I say, and my heart swells with pride that I can help this sad little green, "Don't worry. There's a new organization to help wayward elves like you. It's called Back to the Trees, and they take greens back to Jersey, where they belong. They say--"
I'm interrupted by a dark, hoarse chuckle in the darkness in front of me.
"Well thank you, Miz Reportuh," says the elf. A dark shape moves against iron-darkness, and I can hear the quiet splash of green feet on the pooling pavement. "I appreeshate your chartible intentions, but your services are nawt neccesary." Vinny moves away, fading deeper into the jungled pavements of Manhattan. "I've chosen this fuckin' city, and this fuckin' city and all'a it's fuckin' humans are just gonna hafta deal with me."
"But where will you go?"
Again the angry chuckle, and the words, lifted to my ears by the city's mercurial breezes,
"I'm goin'a Central Pawk. There'sa buncha girls there that remine' me of what I'm not missin' back home."