Although he was standing in a safe place on the street car island in the center of San Francisco’s Market Street, the ever cautious Boris decided to retreat behind the island’s railing. There was a slight mizzle of rain, the pavement was wet, he was wearing a new pair of leather-soled shoes, and as he reached for the railing his hand slipped, he stepped backward, his heel struck the curb, his hand missed his grip, his slick leather-soled shoe slipped on the wet paving and Boris fell as inexorably as though on ice. As he slid toward the street car tracks his other leg gave way, the toe of his shoe caught on a rail-stanchion and Boris was thrown prone across the tracks. Grabbing wildly he struck his head violently on the brick paving between the tracks. He had just time with a frenzied movement to turn on his back with his body between the tracks, his neck on the track and his head outside the track.. And as he turned over he saw the woman street car driver’s face, white with horror above her blue shirt as she bore down on him with irresistible force and speed.
A woman in a brown coat explained the rather spectacular decapitation to people waiting for the green light at the cross-walk said, “It wasn’t rain that caused it, it was Anna. Anna was on the island and dropped a quart of sunflower-seed oil she was carrying and it dropped and broke on the island as she was getting on the street car. It splashed and went all over her shoes and stockings and ruined her skirt. It was terrible. That poor man must have stepped on the oil and that’s why he fell under the street car.”
While Boris’ head and body were communing at the coroner’s, his apartment was instantly coveted, and the letters of supplication poured in, some most winsome.
They contained entreaties, threats, intrigue, denunciations, and promises to redecorate the apartment, remarks about overcrowding and the impossibility of sharing an apartment with hoodlums. Among them was a description, shattering in its literary power, of the theft of some meatballs from someone’s jacket pocket in apartment No. 31, two threats of suicide and one confession of secret pregnancy.