Skip to content

Ass of Iron

I had never seen Jake drunk so this could be a whole a new show. We drew the Lime-green bikini as a waitress. Cheap joint – all the dancers had to take a shift on the floor slingin’ booze. This little girl was oogling Jake like he was the christmas turkey.

“Hi, guys. We drankin’ today?  Dranken. ” I’ll have a long island iced tea” sez Jake. ” Arnold Palmer” sez I. “Well, I can tell who’s driving”. “Whats your name ?” I ask ” Mona” she sez,” like the Mona Lisa”.  She showed her teeth again. I had never seen such a jumbled mess of dentin in my life. ” Don’t run off, now”, Mona said and wiggled back towards the bar. On stage was a long-legged Spanish girl with real tits and a tight set of hips. Blue sheer wrap over a butt-floss bikini, sporting an ass you could crack walnuts on. The bikini was white. Wow. She was moving the regular motions pretty much, but sexier. Beautiful mouth with lots of straight white teeth. Lots of ’em.  I’m wondering if she’s  married . Bad sign cause I know what comes next in my thoughts. Her eyes were shaped like almonds, half-lidded and jet black, as far as I could tell.

Mona came back and set the glasses down. “Eight dollars big boys”, this aimed right at Jake’s mug, which was agog by now. ” This one’s mine”, I said and reached for my pocket. ” Tell Solly that Jake is here with a friend from the north that want’s to meet him”, Jake says and stilled my hand. ” No problem” sez miss pickett-fence mouth, and she bobbled off. I watched her go. She went to a door in the back wall, knocked and was let in. I stopped watchin’ that and went back to the white bikini with ass of  iron. “Unbelievable ” is what I was thinking. This woman in a place called the Star’s Bar in little Havana and I see her now. I’m just in time for a fine romance, is what I’m thinking. I’m a fool but a stiff cock has no conscience. And I’m wondering who Solly is and why does Jake think I need new friends

Pooch’s dream

I’m dressed in jogging shorts and tank-top, standing at the top of a peak. Everybody is there; Noreen, Pops, scuffle, moms, Lois, Slats, all of ’em watching me, waiting, and many encouraging me. They want me to jump. Some look sure, others don’t care, yet others in the crowd look apprehensive. I jump and I’m flying. The ground below is not really the ground, but a layer of smoke, trapped in a trim of neon piping that follows the contours of what should be the earth. A big psychedelic blanket, with alternating lines of color that wash and undulate and fold and flow, never getting too far from the surface that is obscured beneath it. I soar and flap and dip downward in a dive, all of it beyond what might or might not be my conscious controls.
Then the peripheral sides of my path of flight draw in and become benevolent walls of tint and hue that don’t so much enclose me but free me to find a frame of reference and a way to go. My leonine head is beautiful and my hair has become a lustrous mane of butterscotch. It gives me the exhilarated feeling that all things are possible and that I can perform them beautifully. I begin a steep descent which frightens me with it’s suddenness and, even though terrified, there is a steel-hard awareness that the worst is never as bad as I expect. I give in to the terror and fall.

Mirrored Balls

Jake, the goombah, and I go dancing into this joint named “Star’s Bar”. Dark and cool and smells like smoke and beer and lipstick. There’s 4 mirrored balls on the ceiling, one in each corner of this not so big strip club. The habitues are in what are probably their regular chairs, strewn about the place and none sitting too close to one another. The girl on stage is writhing to old Led Zeppelin and I guessed that each girl got to choose whatever tunes they wanted, and this gal’s parents were hippies.  She is a very dark-skinned black girl with a stunner of a body and a set of teeth that belonged on a power saw. She’s givin’ it hell though and I had to stop and look for a bit. The lime green bikini she has on hides nothing.

Harvey patted my arm, “It gets better….much better” sez he. He steers me over to a booth close to the edge of the stage and we sit and wait to order, me all the while eyeing this fantastic body with the face to protect it. The girl sees me watchin’ and whips off the top of her bikini. Nipples like the erasers on a number 2 pencil and the tidiest little cupcake titties you ever saw. Now we’re gettin somewhere sez I.

Lil’ Havana

After all was said and done I went to Florida to cool out. Went to Jacksonville first but that place was full of jack-offs and hillbillys so I went on down to Miami. Pops had some friends there and I was staying with a ‘cousin’,  named Jake from Chicago. Big doofus goombah with money and connections. This dude was regular and had a collection of older restored cars. He had a Safari Wagon that I fell in love with.  It was a sixty-five. Cute little fins and clean as a whistle. We went cruising in it to Glenvar Heights cause Goombah said there was a bar there I needed to see. Fine with me.

puffy raggedy piles

The way the phone was ringing said as much as he wanted to know without even answering the call. Nobody  except her called this early, and the cat-box was dirty when he left the night before which meant that Cezanne reminded her of this fact in his usual way. Nothing like a cat for nastily effective communication. When they deign to communicate, that is. Passive-aggressive little fuck heads, the whole bunch, good only for mousing if the need exists and little more other than reminding you of your insignificance if there are no rodents in residence. The money was counted, banded in denominational stacks and sitting on the edge of the bed in puffy, raggedy piles, stinking like gray-green money , and softly purring, ” lets go, oh pal o’ mine, times’ a wasting.” He began to chuckle, getting the visual of her in her purple wrapper, standing next to the heap she called a bed,  toes in a puddle of cat-piss, calling to remind him that he forgot to empty the litter box. 

still chilly

Then a dull stomping thud, a flash, and down she went.

She awoke with a tough little ache at the base of her skull. It was abrupt and surprising, and moreover felt as if it were something she shouldn’t have had to have. But too late. She was awake and into today’s hell. Throwing off the blanket and swinging her feet over, she stood. Damned floor was always still chilly this early in the morning. But not usually wet. She was standing in cat piss.

cat piss

She realized the justifying rant about the money was simply him, again, building a wall between them, him thinking that she might buy it, him, not really giving a shit either way. Not satisfied with waiting for tomorrows’ hell, choosing todays’ hell as well, she threw back the covers and stood. The floor, usually still chilly this time of morning, was warm. She looked down. Blood was puddling around her toes, running in little streams down along the insides of her calves. She smelled copper and salt and cat piss.

pissed like that

She was shaking all over like a wet dog in a wind. So fuckin pissed off Lois was listening to Ma raging in the kitchen. Slowly I started to let go and caught a glimpse of the eyes poppin out her head. Bulging so big the only thing keeping them in were the fat red veins around the edges. Reminded me of the time Scuffle jumped Goosie down the yard when he got brought by to visit. Nunu was pissed like that then, peepers ready to explode watchin one half-wit attacking another. Must have been some kinda animal jealousy that Goose was gonna take his place made Scuffle go ape-shit. Nu’s eyes busting, he reaches around for the closest object and heaved it. Piece of an ax handle it was, bounced off Scuffle’s back and head and sent the ragged bastard out the shed door howling. Poor Goosie had been flailing with his powerless little hands and Sam had been frozen from disbelief from last nights wine.

Fully Jacked

By the time I got there all three of them were dead. My baby, blue eyes gone grey, sittin upright on the ratty sofa, her cute skirt up, panties ripped off. Shreds of white silk wrapped and pulled tight around her left thigh, with a bruise there from the tugging. Bloody wet spot in her pussy and red trickling out of her arm where they forced in the OD fix. Her head back, squeeze marks on the pale pale throat lustrous jet black hair matted against her head, mouth open, couple teeth knocked out.

Al is laying across the window sash like one of those motherfuckers had tried to throw him out but missed. Both his arms and his head are out the window and holding him in place, his legs on the floor, feet, sole up and turned inward. Seepy red puddle starting to harden on the crappy carpet. Back of his head open like a melon, hollow inside. Arched like a capital J against the wall.

 Stewie is face down on the kitchen table and a mound of foam surrounds his cheeks. Rig still in his arm is fully jacked and my guess is he was forced into fittin up some rat poison shaken down in alcohol. There’s a puddle of shit festering in his chair musta popped out of him when the poison hit his heart. I feel bad, sick and fuckin’ pissed off like nobody’s business. I look back now and see this was the first time I ever got a broken heart.

Simple touch

The pallor had set in. The nutrients necessary for hair follicles to maintain health were no longer being delivered, and my head was covered by a thatch of dry, whitening straw. Having become subtly taut and powdery, my skin bore witness to the march of the disease, ever onward, conquering all of the body’s systems. Frequent unexplained weariness, and simple colds that just hung on became the norm. Mucus like day-glo snails and coughing fits, day after day.

 Simply waking up and getting moving took twice as long and four times the Coffee. Lots of sugar, thanks. A couple of errands and back to bed for a 3 hour nap. In the evening I took food out of habit. Nothing tasted good. Nothing tasted like anything. This was the bulk of what my life had become. 

There was an old insurance policy that I cashed out. After many years of contributions, it had grown fat and the children didn’t need it, or so I decided, and it provided a surfeit of funds for the trip my son and I had agreed to take. Enough to book you along on the same flights, into the same hotels. I had not wanted to meet you when I did, however, fate deigned it, and who was I to disagree?  It was not too late for me to have a happy life. The boy didn’t know of you. The secrecy was a relish, heavily laden on a late-arriving and deeply craved delicacy.

Istanbul was uplifting, and Sam, my boy, searching band-width, and obsessively trying to play an on-line video game, only payed attention to what he saw when it was forced upon him. He did enjoy all he saw and has since mentioned how he enjoyed Turkey, but one would never know it from the his attitude when we were there. He therefore took no notice when my afternoon walks took longer each day. 

 I had begun on the long and terminal trudge to the ending all things share. Many times I wished to die, but this was when I was strong and young and had the world by the ass. Now I was older and weaker and in a secret place I would not admit existed, there was a wish to live. I played off the doctors’ concerns and the sincerity of my few friends as if I was not worried and felt that everyone had to go sometime, so now it was my turn. I did feel this way, but knowing that death was ordained, I secretly wanted to live. Ain’t that the way? I would not live, of course, and this made your appearance particularly fortuitous.

 You had made this trudge before with another. Rather than being soured up and embittered, or selfish and self-protective, you behaved lovingly and understandingly to one just engaging in the downhill march. I mused wether you had a convoluted martyr complex, were inexplicably desperate for love to the point of taking another hostage, and had bloated the feminine nurture instinct into some benign monster. An ” I’ll love you to death” fetish. After going through all these mental gymnastics within the first few days of our meeting, I concluded that it did not matter. It was what it was, and that was it. I needed companionship and attention and needed also to give it, to prove that my dying would matter, that I could do something outside myself and get a fair payoff. Do something good after all the years of selfishness.

 Never having had children, your body had not been forced into the anthropological distortions so often required of the woman of our species. Skin smooth, hips narrow, breasts still flaccid, stomach bearing some belly, but not nearly approaching my own. We never asked each other our ages. Odd in America. I learned from you what I had been missing for all those years since divorcing. The simple touch of another person. Not the licking, thrusting, sweating, rubbing or deep kissing, though all those were certainly longed for. I was just the simple loving touch, the miracle of communication that comes from plain skin-on-skin.   

the tree applauds

I took Noreen down the scrapyard to meet NuNu just before she went. We walked into the shed and Nu ’bout busted. I could tell, but Noreen didn’t know him enough to pick up the tell. I had a bag of chicken cutlet sanwiches and beers.

” Gimme kiss paulie” sez he. Fuck sez I to myself, but I go over to his chair for the old wet an sloppy. After, as I’m walking away from him wiping, I catch Noreen and she looks like she is gonna cry like a little baby but she catches herself up when she notices me looking. I know. Nobody ever really loved her enough. I decide I’m just the guy to change that.

“This is Noreen, Nu.”

“You no haf to tell me, you talk about this girl I know this the girl. No woory pretty girl, I no ask you for kiss……..YET.” The three of us just laughed and laughed.

Can’t teach these old farts a thing, I’m thinkin’. I never said a word to him about Noreen or any other girl.

” You come itsie-bitsie Noreen. Paulie and we show you the tree applauds at the river. We planted the Cottawoot tree when Paulie was born, me and his Daddy and Momma.” NuNu is hauling his heft out of the chair as Scuffle comes in.

“Who this Nu who?”

“You know my grannababy Paulie, Scuffa, don be inyoranda you know since he’s a little baby.”

This not Paulie, Nu, I know Paulie this not Paulie!” All my life, Scuffle, poor dumb-ass scuffle he never remembers anyone but NuNu.  

 

wrench and a rock

There was still a lock on a lock on the chain on the gate. Stead of just the lock on the chain there was always the lock on a lock.  I put the Crown Vic in park and while going to the gate a hairy head with an eyeball in it peeked through the chain-hole. I shit a little. I unlocked the lock on the lock with some caution, let the mess clang down on the tin covered gate noisily and pushed. As the gate clanked and scraped inward across the cinders I saw what the hairy headed eyeball holder was attached to. Fucking horror-show thing all dirty and floppy scootched sideways but not completely away. “What you doin here why you here youre not coming in here why you here??” Standing and looking at me and shaking and holding a wrench and a rock he says this. I says ” NuNu know you’re here. He’s gonna be pissed off you here an he don’t know.” “He knows you little stroonz, he knows everthing. How you know Nu?” “Its my Grampa NuNu…how you know ‘im?” “I know him” says the bag of rags with the rock and the wrench,” I know him a long time and you ain’t Paulie.” The hairy eyeball is now telling me who I am.  

plate sides

 The bridge I had crossed on all my life was closed for repairs is what the sign said but it didn’t look like it needed repairs to me. Same arched steel beams with fat rivets and plate sides and grating to drive on. I could see it from the new-looking concrete thing I crossed on, over to the other side where NuNu’s yard sat all alone. The lots that had once held a rivers life were peppered with for sale signs and flimsy temporary fences. “NEW RIVERSIDE DEVELOPMENTS ON THE WAY” said one sign. I looked both directions and the road was empty. Not a fuckin thing coming that I could see. I was there right then, I was there and nothing coming but me and I was headed for NuNu’s. That old crushed-coke driveway had pot-holes to swallow a sedan, half full of nasty-ass water and the gate was made of old corrugated, eight foot high, and the fence around the front of the yard was the same, all rusty in spots, but standing tall like the walls of a scrapyard castle is how it was to me that day. Front of the gate was painted the old advert, ‘All types of metal bought and sold, ton weight and assorted. engine blocks, cars partial and whole accepted. Certified scale on premises’ . My gramps turned no one away. Come give NuNu a big kiss. 

the greasy river

Drivin over was weird. I had not been behind the wheel in a while and this boat of Pops’ plus the thruway and that it was 4 when I went ,none of it helped, but people in cars are just fuckin weird. They cry, they eat, they yell at shit I can’t see, and the kids lap dance in the drivers seat to music that is not hearable or decipherable which shows that all music is more alike then different . And they talk on a phone. Fuck me, the fuckin phone…….might as well be watchin TV these assholes some of em. I got over closer to the yard and there was nothing standing. All the old houses, the warehouses and storefronts and cafes had been scraped off, but I could see the yard all by itself, stickin out like the lone tooth in a meth heads mouth, hard against the greasy river. And the Cottonwood tree NuNu and I had put along the fence was still there and it had got pretty tall. Made me laugh already.

just funk…not love-funk

Had got to wondering about NuNu’s scrapyard and if Pops had done anything with it or even had it still. Went on into the Frontroom and there he was, one burnin between his fingers while he held the papers and one still burnin in the ashtray on the side table. Somebody lives in a place for a good while and it becomes who they are and their odor and mood gets into the carpets and furniture. There’s no getting it out even after they die sometimes. Throw out the dead ones’ goods, pull up the rugs, paint the joint, that does it sometimes. Pops’ place was no different. The funk slapped you in the mug upon entering wherever he was. The Frontroom was that place right now, it was like a thorny caress. Real familiar and welcoming, but repulsive too in a way. Like I’ve gone into some people’s places and the stank just don’t sit good in the nostrils cuz they are not of my blood….then it’s just funk…not love-funk. ” Whats up with NuNus yard Pops ? ”   “Still got it….you wanna go down?” ” You wanna?”  “No, fuck no. They been tryin to get it from me but I ain’t interested to sell yet.”  “Yeah, I’d like to do down.”  Pops finally pulled down the paper and shot me a look. It was one of Pops’ ‘I ain’t askin’ but I’m askin’  looks.  So I answered him.  ” If I’m goin away, I want to have some stuff fresh in my mind, like waterin a plant half-dead, right?”  ” A boxin’ poet I got now?”  He smiles at his own joke and says “Yeah I know what you’re getting at. Heating up the memories like toppin off a cup o coffee.  ‘Member how to go?”  ” Yeah yeah” I sez.  He sez “Take the new River exit off the Skyway and you can’t miss it between the bridges cuz they flattened everything else. You’ll see.” He raises back up the paper after stubbin’ out the butt. “Keys to the Crown Vic are on the visor.” 

Noreen has gone off

I think I was 17 when it all happened. No, had to be 18, cause they tried me as an adult, but I fell into the minor category cause Pops got me a good lawyer who hooked it to a minor offense from a driving thing the year before. Whatever but I only did 18 months, no drugs, no priors. As I say, Pops got me a good lawyer. Good they didn’t take blood back then or check my arms. I might still be under the jail somewhere. I had gone to Mrs Matthews to pick up Noreen like any other friday night to go eat and go the movies or something and she wasn’t there. “Paul, she went with some young fellow I haven’t seen before, but between us, this is not the first time Noreen has gone off with some one else.” “No…..” I could feel my mouth sitting open. “Yes, Paul. You need to know” She is a good girl as far as that goes, but you’re not the only one who comes by to pick her up.” The kid started to heat up and get red. Mrs. Matthews saw that right off. “She is using drugs Paul”. Fuck me, like I didn’t? Like everyone we knew didn’t ? Poor Mrs. Matthews. She shoulda been. 

white as hosts

Few days of loafing and snivelling and I was ready. Pops says take a vacation, go someplace you know no one, and take a wad of dough, get laid, you know.  ” This set-up is over for you, kid, time to look around and smell some flowers.”  ” We ever find out where Lois is?”  The old pug, he does not even look at me.  “No. You?”  Not a good question, I see. Never had asked him much about Lois after she took off, where she was, what she was up to. He was mad and had his feelings hurt when she run away. I thought of Lois and remembered things. Pops had caught her fuckin with Vinnie on the cellar floor, she smoked too young and didn’t care if they knew, she yelled back at Ma. Both our questions about Lois laid on the rug like turds. I let ’em. I was doin homework at the kitchen table this one time and Ma was beating the crap out of a piece of round steak on the cutting board with a Nehi bottle. Lois sailed in smelling like a pack of Pall Mall straights with her clothes on wrong. Ma could smell alcohol breath and the cum in her panties the second she shambled through the back, slammin the screen door. ” Hey Ma, Lois says, all smarty-pants,” that piece of horse ain’t gonna turn to rib-eye if you smack it till kingdom come”. Moms stopped pounding and turned to look at Lois, breathin’ fire out her ears. “Who the fuck are you?” she spit out ” I don’t know where you come from just now, but I’m  gettin’ a good idea where you are going right quick, you nasty gutter-slut.” My pencil-point popped. Ma moved towards Lois, liftin’ up the Nehi bottle, moving steady and slow. Lois did not move, her tight fists white as hosts in a Chalice. There was an ugly cat fight coming and I did not want blood on my Geography book. I got up fast, ran at Lois, took her at the waist and pulled her out of the kitchen on the double. Out in the hall I hear Mom. “Thats a good boy Paulie, a good, good boy. Saved your Mommie one more time.” 

But Godammit, look at her….

When she finally come down I could see even in that dusky light that Noreen was pinned. Wasn’t like her to not at least offer me a taste, ‘cept she knew I had a fight in a couple months and was weaning off. That must have been it. Hard to say how long she had been loaded but at least now I knew why it took her so long to get ready. That exact second Miss Matthews turned on the porch light and I could really see how fucked up she was. Holdin a burned out butt and saggy face muscles, my Irish baby was a fuckin mess. Was right then I knew I cared about her a lot. More than the others, no matter how good a fuckin I got or how much money they had. Also I knew the truth that maybe I was kinda responsible for lettin her get this far by not being stronger to her and lettin her get close to Stewie. I almost hated Al for even introducing me to her at Blowhard’s Bar just cause I asked about her. But Godammit, look at her. That porch light dancing off her jet black hair and the skin like a piece of flawless white china and the deep blue eyes. Even fucked up to the max and standin on the gritty stoop, I woulda dropped to my knees and kissed her Converse if she asked.  ” What the fuck ya starin’ at Pooch….lets’ split.” is what she said. Fuck it man, I was in love and didn’t even know. 

warm blanket with fingers

So I’m sittin’ on the edge of the foldout in Pops’ TV room in my skivvies with my head in my hands, rubbin’ my mug, just wakin’ up. I got scratches from my skidding across the floor at the Boss’ place, my hands are raw and my knees are bruised from who knows what and I’m very afraid that my eyes are gonna leak any second. Way deep inside the Kid is very sad and upset. Pops booms in the back door.  “Paul, its all square. I seen who I needed to and talked to the guy that hires the guys”.It had started to rain last night right on cue. Never need to worry about the weather, it is always on time. He took off his jacket and shook it and the drops flew on my face and snapped me to. I looked up at the face that never changed.” Thanks Pop.” I started crying a bit, but if you didn’t know me you wouldn’t know it.” I love ya Pop….thanks”” Paulie, I told ya long time ago that I would love you whatever happened” He looked away for a cigarette in his jacket ” I ain’t always loved some shit you done, but you kid, always…always” Turning back he put the cigarette in his mouth and he smiled at me from his toes through his heart and on out the eyes. Then the old pug put that jaw-breakin’ right hand on the top of my head, felt like a fuckin’ warm blanket with fingers. Slowly he pulled my sorry blubberin’ head against his outside thigh and gently held it there while his baby son gushed out his grief and disappointment and humiliation, puttin a vertical puddle on the old guys trousers. The soul of good fortune was I right then with him next to me.

What is, is.

Spotlights meant for the beauty of the ancient Mosque lit a tunnel of Gulls, circling in the updraft. Hundreds of them, floating like a stream of cigarette smoke, lazing circularly and upwards. It was the call to prayer and the Muezzin chanted out his verses. His voice was hypnotic and unbroken; he seemed never to breathe. His verses were amplified by an ear – offending Public address system, penetratingly booming, sounding as if it went everywhere in this world. These two things created an effect so foreign that I became the one extraneous. I was now where they lived.

  I spotted the birds accidentally on the way back to my Hotel, returning from the Coffee bar that had a decent Internet connection and westernized Cakes. I paused to marvel at this sight and muse about what kept these spirits aloft and in that spot. I knew the physical principles of aviary floating.  Was it the presence of the deity? Maybe it was the streaming millennium of prayer, rising upwards to the place where I supposed a Deity would reside. My Christian instincts at this moment, were superfluous. These sights and sounds were enough to set off thoughts of things I had discarded as so much trash, time wasting and pointless introspection. What is, is, and that was enough.

 Prayers flowing from this place were from Muslims, and therefore aimed to the east. Another theory shot.

    Prayer goes where it goes, not where it is aimed. Mostly, it seems to go to somewhere to soothe some patch of ruffled spiritual feathers. One hopes it goes ultimately to somewhere other than to the penitents themselves.

 Still, on hovered the gulls, induced by the proximity of Bosporus and Marmara to live in this place and forced by necessity to survive on scraps and offal.

  My son was with me on the trip and in the haste of youth, only noticed the chanting Gull phenomenon when I had slowed him and pointed it out. He was not impressed. After 5 days of watching his ancient father embarrass himself and find wonder in what a young man considers  insignificant, He only wished to get back to his music and Turkish TV.  

 

I did not want to meet you now.

It was a small spot on my ear. Nothing very big, I scratched it intermittently and once it broke open, yet soon covered over. But it never completely went away either. A summer later, bubbly looking growths appeared on my shoulder. These and the ear thing were on the same side of my body; the car window side. Old sawbones cut and burned and stitched, and I knew for certain. The tests confirmed it.

  Having been through all phases of the plague with both parents and assorted friends, my feeling was that once you had it and were diagnosed, it never went away. It was busily moving around through the body and mind of the afflicted until it achieved ultimate victory. The plague always wins.

  I witnessed the battles and self-help groups and restorative surgeries all with the same gimlet eye. The proud herbs and defiant trips out of country, and prayers all resulted in the long dirt nap. Wasted insurance money, ignored prayers, lit candles and bedside vigils, the stuff of blind idiots, dancing to the skeleton music of the long foregone conclusion that you’re dead meat, sucker, read ’em and weep.

  All this feels differently knowing it’s me that’s on the short end. Yet now it is just a matter of years, (that’s what they all say), it does not feel so bad. Finally there is a finish line of sorts and the guessing has gone out of the game. Am I moved to right past errors or somehow attempt to make up for lost time? No. Am I spending hours musing over a life that could have been lived differently, or somehow better? No. By what measure would better be better? Am I foundering in an ocean of self-pity, blame, rage or frustration? Somewhat, I suppose, but a taste of these normal human reactions are certainly to be expected. I am not down and wallowing uselessly in the mire of defeat or tearing my garmet over the unkind lack of fairness of lifes’ caprice. Pay your nickel and take your chance.

  There are a few things I mean to do, but they are not out of the ordinary, nor anything I would not do anyway. I have no affairs to set right, and the day for settling old scores has long past. Nothing is not the way it should be. Do I have regrets ? Of course, yet who does not and what difference does it make, since loss and regret are as much a part of life as happy memories and fond by-gones. I did not want to meet you now, though, as pleasant as it is .

a Shriners’ sash

Anne-Marie and I slowed down a little getting close to the corner where the alley let onto the street, and a gimped up fucker appeared from nowhere. By the time I realized it was Rudy he had shot Anne and was swinging towards me, him all bunched up and squinty and definitely hurtin. Something suddenly took him right off his feet and landed him in a lump and the pistol slid away, popping along the bricks. It stopped in one of those reflecting light-puddles near my feet, the barrel facing back at Rudy, who was deader than Kelseys’ nuts. Was then I seen how bloody my shoes were.  Fuckin shoes were ruined like my jacket. Lost half a cow in one afternoon.

  Looking over to Anne-Marie was something I came later to wish I had never done at all. Little Slats was a fucking mess. Skirt somehow bunched up around her waist like a Shriners’ sash, scarlet panties torn, and a round hole without a bottom square in the middle of her solar plexus. No blood in front, all of it running out, a red river in the sunset, fast between the bricks and water and shitty stuff on the alley floor. The cop came round the corner, riot gun first

 “ Hands, man, now !”

The business end of his weapon faced me and I raised my hands in the air, but not too fast. The cop was shaking so bad his shotgun was dancing, and if he popped me by accident I would have been SO fuckin pissed off, mainly because the record would have shown that I was at fault in some way, and fuck that. I had not done one thing wrong all day except show up at the Bosses place on time like a good soldier.

like a Mary statue

Noreen’s little room was hot as hell in that summer we were hanging out. Was only a few months but tightly packed with stuff a guy never forgets. Not that I never had it better, but up to then I never had it so good. We would screw desperately and the sweat made a slick spot on our stomachs, us, riding up and back. The windows faced the afternoon sun and in the night you saw the harbor and lights and got the smells and breeze when it happened. She rented from a lady a couple avenues over from Pops. Her landlady and I shared some beer on her stoop once. I asked how long she lived in the house. 
” Awhile….I’m old now. I was young when I got it from my sister, and I have held on to it”. She watched me flick my butt out into the street. I felt how hard she was staring at me and my face got red as I remember. Kid on a bike ran the butt over and red-orange sparks swirled and scattered. Night was almost completely arrived and I was ready to eat.
” Noreen is a sweet girl, isn’t she”? sez she and finishes her cup.
“What I seen so far is pretty damn sweet. I hope it holds out”. I knew she was chuckling quiet cause her chest and belly were jumping up and down.
“Too sweet a flower to live long in this world, I’m sorry to say”. I did not like this, hearing this.
“Think so”? The kid was a bit put out.
“Know so. You don’t live to get old being sweet…or stupid”. 
“Noreen ain’t stupid”.
“No, she is by no means stupid, she is clever young girl, but maybe just too….clean. It’s a dirty old world and we have to get down and dirty some ways to stay in it.” She had taken out a toothpick and was fishing a scrap out of her back teeth. I’m sulky.
” I do not think Noreen has down and dirty in her.” Scrap got spit out. “She is too sweet”.
“Maybe I can teach her some things”, sez I. Miss Matthews, which was what she called herself, laughed out loud at this one, swept her lap clean, and got up grabbing, our cups.
” You’re already trying it sounds like, sometimes twice a day…God, I do miss my sex”. All the way standing now she looked down on me and smiled. Looked like a Mary statue or corny ceiling painting from St Cecilias.
“Paul, that meanness in you is what’s going to keep you alive. Give me an angry one every time…they try to knock the bottom out. You can’t teach her that mean, nor how to lie or punch or any of it”.
Miss Matthews turned and went in calling ” Noreen, your Man’s been waiting fifteen minutes”!

 

many of them do

But I realize also at this moment that the back of my jacket feels heavy, saggy like.
” Jeez, Marie” sez I as I turn, reaching up to my shoulder at the same moment. Some fuckin thing is sticking out of my trapezius muscle, and while I turn, stringy wads of goopy stuff are dropping off me, doing plop-plops on the tile. I grab the thing sticking out and it just falls out of me. A piece of wood which I toss. By now I have turned all the way and there is little Slats, a halo of light around her from the sun coming through the windows at the front of Boss’ place. Now she is Anne-Marie, holding a smoking gun. Boss is a load of dirty shirts at my feet, his back is blown out and its’ contents are splattered on the jacket I’m already taking off. Good leather, shot to shit.
” He got up and stabbed you with part of the table, Paulie. I had to. I had to do it”.
” Moved quick for a half-dead guy, huh? ” This I said while looking closely at the face of a killer. Distorted and stretched tight her skin was, lost like an old work glove I saw in a gutter uptown.
” Wipe the gun, Annie, we gotta go.”
The alley was stinking as many of them do. Small puddles standing around held water that reflected sweet light snuck down from between the buldings. We half trotted to the cross street at the top. Annie wiped the blood and stuff off my neck and out of my hair. She did the spit on her thumb thing to get a speck off my cheek. The most natural thing of love to do, it was. Oh, man.

the little skirt

She is not Anne-Marie now, she is Slats. Same one shot dope with Joey, stole his money, and dissed his Ma. Same one gave me puss in a filthy basement and wiped her snatch dry with another womans’ underwear. Same one just cracked my old partners back while he’s half passed out on a tile floor, and told him he couldn’t even fuck right, as if there’s a right way. One in the same as Rudy had called Slats for so long. Risin up on those shapely pins, smoothin out the little skirt and adjusting her shiney top, she hits me with the sideways grin, the one that always got me. She turns and I turn the other way. I’ll be beatin feet the opposite direction, on out the back and into the alley, thanks. I had not done anything illegal so far, so I am out. Couldn’t have been four, five minutes since the Boss grabbed the pistol off the table and all the shit went down….Time enough for the world to turn. I’m walkin fast and I feel a burn in my shoulder then a loud boom. Felt it before I heard it. Bitch shot me.

gettin goo-goo

” Lets go, Pooch…I’m hungry”.
And like that she turns for the door headed out. I wipe any possible prints off the .380 using the Boss’s suit coat, drop said gun in the blood puddle and walk. Not like I’m goin cause she says to go, it’s TIME to go. Fuck, this place is a shit-storm. Anne-Marie is waiting with her back to me. Boss has quieted down, probably comatose from blood loss and pain by now, but Rude is starting to wiggle. I look down. Anne-marie turns and moves over to him and kneels down on his spine, gatherin up that little skirt she’s wearin, and leaning in right above his ear. I hear the wind rush out of his chest when she leans. I see her panties and her inner thighs. No way she planned this – this is who she is – all live, all real. This ain’t no showboat.
” Rudy, you’re a bum fuck”, she says, “I think you need to go somewhere and practice. Wait for my call so you can take another shot at hittin the spot, know what I mean?” She begins to get up, her hand pushing down on the back of his melon. Then there’s the rush of air noise again. A crack in his backbone happens somewhere as she re-kneels. More panties, they’re red. Oh, man. She was nicer on the shit, now she’s plain tough.
“Don’t call us, we’ll call you. By the way, if you happen to scrape together a quarter and call and bother me again, I’m gonna have somebody fuck you up. Don’t worry, it won’t be Paul here, he’ll be busy givin’ me plenty of the good thang”. Thang….I’m havin a really tough time not getting goo-goo on the woman. Thang. Fuckin’ great.

little Slats

Sez I, ” So now what, Anne-Marie”?
” I got self-pride, Paulie, which I doubt you believe. The look you gave me out front woulda etched a line in a windowpane”. I don’t deserve that shit”.
” You looked happy as hell out there with Rudy beside you, and him yammering away”. I said this as I was getting to my feet, dusting off the shit. She put down what was left of the chair very carefully since I had not taken my eyes off her and I stlll held the pistol. Not stupid, little Slats, been around. Joey taught her some tricks. Now she says ;
“There’s a reason Rudy held his tongue most the time then obviously. When he opens his mouth he gets himself and everybody around him into shit”. I’d marry that doofus?…in Pigs’ eye”. She was moving closer, giving out with the grin. Pops flashed in my mind. I moved the gun slightly and she stopped right away. I got it right then, and I knew I got it.
” I didn’t hear you arguing when he said it”. I sez. From her, nothing, no reaction at all.
Boss gave out with another mewl of discomfort, which I myself would have done. The fat fuck was now leakin from two holes and building up what would no doubt turn out to be a very slippery puddle. Nothin life threatening if somebody patched him up soon.
” So what about your uncle ding-dong here”?
” That guy is NOT my uncle…” NOW she’s upset, I see.

Moms let fly

Spittin’ splinters and finishing my skid, I get the pistol. I look up and there by the door is Anne-marie, and she is giving me that sideways grin, and the remains of a chair are in her hands and that lyin fuck asshole Rudy is face down on the checkerboard tile. He is out like a light I’m thinkin. Life is beautiful. This girl is all of a sudden getting very close to an A plus for the day. Over a peroid of time she just keeps seeming to know exactly not only how to keep me guessing, but how to do the right thing at the most neccessary moment. Like Moms used to say sometimes, be still my fuckin’ heart. She said it once, I was layin on the floor under the ironing board with my little trucks and what not. She was slappin the Iron down, making it hiss from the starch-water she was sprinkling on Pops’ dress shirts. Another World War two movie was on and some soldier started kissin on a Nurse in a tunnel on the Phillipines, talking about ‘no matter what blah, blah, blah’, and Moms let fly. Be still my fuckin’ heart. I probably didn’t laugh, but I should’ve. I mean, I got it but I didn’t know I got it. BUT, at THIS moment I had the .380 and all Anne-Marie had was what’s left of a chair, and I knew that things could maybe go sideways anytime. Just to break the spell, Boss now went kiester up and started howling like a cat mashed under your Aunties’ garden gate. What an absolute asshole he turned out to be.

Little bit of Navel

Noreen was from Boston and all about little perky cup-cake titties and blue eyes and thick jet-black hair. Pale skin. I had not spent very much time at all with tough little girls like this. Lots of other tough little girls; high-haired greyhounds from the neighborhood, smooth brown babies that lived across the tracks, green-eyed generous Jewish girls, dying for a tough-fuck with a goy-boy from the Golden Gloves. A Mom once, and then her red-headed daughter about a month later. They both knew. They were tough, both of them, like little animals. Noreen. Neat, clean, outspoken, rounded flawless ass, just the right size, just a little too big. Lots of spirit and even more soul, but flawed. When I got close to her, after I decided to ride for a while, I saw it; a thing in her character, a hate-myself-I ain’t good enough thing. A how-dare-you-treat-me that-way thing. And I was steady, always, treating her better than she treated herself. She had a tight, flat belly and just a little bit of navel. She sat on me in her rented room, with the slivered light of the venetian blinds making us into a Zebra, I put my big hands across that plane of her body and I had never gone to that place before. I remember the sensation now, right out loud, after almost thirty years.

I am Marie Antoinette

I’m still crouched behind the Boss, there’s smoke and stench all around, I’m waitin’ for the next cap to pop when I see the .380 on the floor amidst the bloody splinters. I gotta see what’s happening by the door before I reach at the gun, but before I peek around this fat fuck and his tree-trunk legs, Boss starts to totter and let out little kitty-cat mews of pain and surprise. Took long enough. He’s givin out at the knees and my head is the most likely candidate for cushioning the drop. I see a guillotine of ass-cheeks and I am Marie Antoinette. No, Baby, not the pooch, not today. At this exact moment I hear a crash near the door. I figure fuck it….either I’m gettin’ shot or I’m gettin’ crushed….I go for shot…It’ll make for better stories in jail. I let him go and heave myself towards the pistol, sliding for home face-first.