the museum of americana

a literary review

Obituaries for Unthinking New York City Pedestrians—Fiction by Natalie Sayth

Sandra Bates Arnold, 49, died Sunday. She had been walking on the sidewalk along 8th Avenue in alternating diagonal patterns—not for any medical or safety reason, but just because she felt like it—when a flock of pigeons knocked her out. Her family mourns that the city’s mercurial birds weren’t able to anticipate Sandra’s movement patterns and redirect in time. In her honor, the two-mile caravan to her burial site will meander over three days.

Syd Barkley, 32, was rolling an extra-large suitcase next to Ronni Tyson, 35, also rolling a gigantic suitcase. Neither of them thought to get their bearings before traversing the length of 34th Street three times, unable to identify Penn Station. They were subsequently trampled by a crowd of unpaid non-profit interns chasing a rumor of free samples at Sephora.

Eugene D. Filius, 53, passed away Tuesday. He was fatally scalded by an oat milk latte he knocked out of the hands of a passerby when he flung his arms out in excitement upon seeing a new ad for the CBS hit drama FBI. Eugene is remembered for his habit of stopping abruptly in the middle of a crowded sidewalk to wait for digital billboards to change images. His death comes as a shock to his loved ones who saw him as a restrained person, at least restrained enough to contain his excitement for advertisements until he was out of crowded spaces. Not since a billboard for the film Three Billboards had a public advertisement caused him to tremble so uncontrollably, waiting for the following two billboards to appear. Burial will be private and unadvertised.

Kyle Doherty, 16, stopped at the top of the subway stairs to check his phone.

Justine Brandt-Williams, 51, died holding onto both railings of an escalator, even though basic etiquette dictates you leave room on the left for people to pass. She felt so comfortable in this public space that she forgot to step off and was sucked in by the electronic stair. Her last words were, “This is going to be my year!” She is survived by the seven founding members of her motivational book club.

John Samuel Smith, 42, walked out of a store without yielding right-of-way to the sidewalk traffic. He was swept into a herd of prep school students racing from one Duane Reade to another Duane Reade in search of the new Skittles flavor. He screamed for help, but no one heard him over the children’s jeers at the TikToks they were watching in transit. John ultimately found freedom when he fell into an open manhole. In a gesture of grace from the community, that portion of the street will henceforth be known as the entrance to the Smith Memorial Sewer.

The Fischers of Loanoke, Wisconsin, a family of five visiting the Big Apple for a long weekend, were holding hands in one unbreakable chain in Times Square when they suffered fatal ice stares from a Queen Elsa who lost a photo sale because of their obstruction. Their demise rang all the more cruel in light of the fact that they had survived several other potentially lethal hazards in New York that day—a new iPhone release, a Taylor Swift pop-up shop, and the F train. In lieu of flowers, please send sidewalk salt to the scene of the crime outside M&M’s World.

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Natalie Sayth is an LA-based humorist and TV writer whose work has been published in McSweeney’s, Weekly Humorist, and Little Old Lady. The Washington Post once lauded her ability to portray “withering scorn,” and she’s fine if her face freezes that way. You can check out more of her work at nataliesayth.com or her shockingly adorable streams of consciousness on Twitter @NatalieSayth.