Out of order
Do not use
Lift the lid
Big turd floating
In aromatic brine
Frothing yellow stew
Like your life
So you sit
Add yours to
Humanity’s pot luck
Because when you
Have to go
You have to
Addressing the Board of Trustees and Other Assembled Cocksuckers
Perhaps we’re all insane. The only difference is that some of us know it and others don’t. Some of us can fake being normal for a while but it leaves us beleaguered, bedogged, bedraggled and ultimately bamboozled. I faked it for years but like a broken vessel my true personality would always leak out and leave a stain on the freshly shampooed and vacuumed carpet of my life.
When I was in the corporate world I had many occasions to address Executives. I had a reputation as an accomplished public speaker but, truth be known, this is how I always wanted to open:
“Please understand that I am not looking to offend any of you motherfuckers and those of you who know me well know that, at my best, I can be one charming sonofabitch so I’m asking, pleading for you assholes to ignore my lying, thieving and whoring side and to listen to me for just one goddamnminute.”
Rare Instances of Sound Judgment. Then and Now
Issue 1 Volume 1
Cleveland, Ohio. Early 80’s. A diner. She was 27? 28? Married. Five little kids. Five fucking kids! A dark Eastern European beauty with almond shaped eyes and a complexion like the way my mother took her coffee. Lots of cream.
I had stopped in on a Saturday after I’d been at Edgewater Park shooting pictures with what for the time was (and probably still is) a very expensive camera. A Leica M4P. Shots of gulls. The lake. The evening horizon aglow. I sat at the counter in the tiny diner still alert and alive from the bracing fall day and the sound of Erie erotically lapping at the breakwater still ringing in my ears.
What’s your name where do you live what do you do… she’s all over me. Sharing every detail of her life. Sharing too much. Ready to shed the apron and the cheap dress and the tacky ring and maybe even the kids. My own personal gypsy whore if I had wanted. At the peak of my power with my young good looks and good job and good money and good camera.
Had a nose for trouble then and knew where and when and what it was when I found it and took it or left it at my whim.
The scent of her disappointment followed me out the door and I knew that the substantial tip was far less than she was fishing for and as I went to find a drink I imagined the swarthy, disappointing husband who had better fill her with the sixth in a hurry because that was his only hope of keeping her.
Soft curves like a Sunday drive in the country. A sleepy murmur as I clasp her hip and pull myself close so I can bury my face in her thick hair and draw in the aroma that only she.
And only she
And only she
Awakened, she slips from the bed and pads on little feet with perfect toes that look the way you would draw them in art class. Shapely slender legs carrying her to the bathroom. I reach over to touch the warmth of her pillow and wonder in which lifetime she’ll return to snore or mumble nonsense or crowd me to the edge of the bed and make me smile in my luxurious discomfort.
Up early while she sleeps late. Aroused by every mislaid ponytail tie and bobby pin and pantie on the floor. Coffee brewing, watching a somber and brooding building backed by the grey morning sky. Waiting for her to rise so that I might live again.
Like a gale force wind it sweeps you away and deposits you in a foreign realm.
But you have no papers.
And if they find you out they’ll lock you away forever.
In solitary confinement.
And they’ve lost your luggage in which you had packed your wit and reason.
And change of underwear.
Your disorientation reminds you that you’ve never been to the Orient and how it feels.
To be kicked in the balls.
Learning a new language and rules ever changing. Lead then follow then lead again. Ill equipped for either so instead.
You take in the sights.
A terrain so treacherous and marshy that each misstep might be your last while skies darken.
With a new storm.
Her thumb on the scale as she calculates the price of her affection in a strange currency consisting.
Entirely of change.
You pay the price without argument because at least the pain.
Feels like something.
A very short story that I wrote for a woman I once loved.
At the corner of Terror and Desire is a house. It’s a small house but well appointed with shades that let in a precise and correct amount of light. And a porch relaxed from years of relaxing. The morning glory clings to trestles, smelling sweetly. Dew on lush purple petals. The door is open and welcoming. Music pours forth, bathing flower beds. The gentle embrace of a hedge.
The small house has known many inhabitants and all have loved her.
He passes, wandering, but is lost before his love drives him back in search. It will take many lifetimes for him to find her again. But when he does he will enter her and live forever.
At the store where he buys his lotry tickets. Hoping for two numbers in sequence because that’s luck as everybody knows. Let the machine pick the numbers because the machine decides who gets rich. Not you.
The girl at the lotry counter with butiful eyes. But she never smiles. He knows it’s not because the smile is lost, only withheld like something in her pocket that she secretly fondles. She has a tooth missing. Not a major tooth but one to the side by a moller. A minor tooth but one that matters. To her.
He lines up behind the old lady with a cane who calls out her numbers like they are majik. None of them in sequence he notices. He dances from leg to leg, shifting his weight. Impatient. He has a new stragy to employ. He would always smile and look into her dark, liquid eyes. She would avert her gaze and punch the auto-lotto button and out spits his ticket which she would hand to him and say “good luck”. She said good luck to every customer but for him she meant it.
But today he doesn’t look her in the eye and he doesn’t smile to try to coxe her own. And he can feel her looking at him with question marks and without wishing him good luck she hands him the ticket.
On his way out he looks at his numbers and sees not two numbers in sequence but three and this sine tells him something has changed and stops him by the shelf that has the chonklit cupcakes in a two pac with the frosting shiny and smooth as her skin but a bit darker. He breaks open the sellfane cover and lifts out a cupcake and bites deep so he reaches the creamy center that is like his own skin but whiter. He returns to the lotry counter where no one is in line to try their luck and he hands her the second cupcake. Which she reseeves and opens her mouth so he can see what has been lost and takes a bite leaving cake and crème on her full lower lip.
And she smiles.
Stick was disappointed with the world and, truth be known, the world was disappointed with Stick.
The Bangers named him. The band, that was first Bangers and Mash and then simply Bangers, that Stick hung with in a non-musician way, putting a few bucks in his pockets by occasionally helping them load in and out of a show. Kyle, the lead singer and rhythm guitar player who wrote the lyrics and had a lyrical frame of reference, gave him the nickname after saying he was no more substantial than a branch on a tree late in season. And the name Stick stuck.
Stick sat on a park bench under a putty sky on a Sunday in early November, a day much like the one Kyle had referred to, wearing baggy polyester athletic shorts that stopped at mid-calf and an Ocho Cinco football jersey and Converse All Star high tops without shoe laces. Squirrels gamboled about and Stick felt wrapped in an old blanket of pumpkin and spice and paste and crayons that soothed and excited in equal measure. A kid carried a paper funnel holding French fries sold by a vendor at the far end of the park and though there was a stirring breeze making the hairs stand up on his arms the air was humid and Stick could feel his genitals clinging to his thigh and the beginning of an erection not owing to his lack of underwear and the pretty girls in the park but to the smell of the fries.
On a bench across the asphalt path busy with strollers and bicyclers sat a woman with a book spread on her lap and her head hung low because she was dozing. At her hip was a purse, the fancy kind that you see in the best stores and in magazines with perfumed ads. Judging by the purse and the woman’s dress and the cut of her hair she was probably well heeled with a pretty good job or a rich husband or both which is how it was around here with older women like her. She looked to be over thirty, Stick thought.
Stick’s left bicep was bandaged from his new tattoo which itched as did his left earlobe inflamed from the recent piercing. He would ask Heather to steal a bottle of peroxide from the drug store. She was good at shoplifting, especially when she was in her uniform and looking like a well behaved working girl, though if they ever knew. Stick looked at his cell phone which was out of minutes so he couldn’t call Heather but it was a perfectly good clock and he could see that Heather wouldn’t get off work for another forty minutes which left him enough time to get a little work done himself as he looked at the older woman with the book and the purse that might as well be a juicy rump roast it looked so plump and delicious.
The bench fronted a hedge he could maybe reach through and while the slats fit tightly on the bench seat and back there was a wide enough space where the seat curved to become the back to slip the purse through. But first he needed a bag because he couldn’t go wandering through the park carrying a lady’s fancy purse.
A bum rummaged through the nearest Municipal trash can. Stick walked up to the bum and peered around him into the porridge of refuse and after the bum plucked a greasy, bulging fast food bag promising something edible, Stick could see a colorful bag from a store that might have been the very source of the purse. He reached in and retrieved the bag. The bum gave him a raw look and snatched the bag from his grasp but just as quickly threw it to his feet when he discovered it was empty.
Big trees lined the west side of the park and provided a nice shade on sunny days. The combination of the trees and the leaden sky diffused the light and made the park look like an old-timey photograph. The softness of the scene allowed Stick to wander behind the hedge unnoticed in his dark jersey and shorts and to stoop down like he was tying his non-existent shoelaces before dropping to the ground and crawling to the spot where he could see through the hedge and the bench slats. He could see the woman’s olive colored dress and her buttocks bulging a bit through the gap and he could see the purse and he really did have an erection either because of the woman’s ass or more likely the purse and the achievable mission since the smell of the French fries had long passed.
Damned if the woman wasn’t suddenly standing and looking all around in a frantic way with her hands to her mouth and the book open-faced on the ground like a bird brought down by a hunter. She gave out a shriek and a man stopped and in a moment the man was punching at his phone and Stick knew he didn’t have much time as he stood once again at the trash can with his hands in its bowels fumbling into the purse in the bag. Inside the purse, a cell phone and a wallet with not as much money as he had hoped but more money than had been in his possession in weeks.
The presence at his elbow caused his heart to flutter and leap at his chest like a bird in a cage but he saw it was only Heather which he should have known because he could smell the French fry grease wafting from her brown uniform. She would want to take a shower as soon as they got home though he preferred to fuck her while she was still a French fry with the hungers melded and confused within him.
“What are you doing?” Heather asked.
“Pay day,” said Stick as he thumbed through the bills, his hands still deep in the gut of the garbage can.
Heather peered into the can. “Oh my God! Someone threw a purse with money in the trash?”
“No, idiot. Shut up!” Stick could see an Officer talking with the woman and the helpful man. The cop’s eyes roamed the park as he spoke.
“You shut up! You’re the idiot,” Heather said with her tongue at her front teeth instead of the roof of her mouth, pronouncing idiot with a th rather than a hard d.
“Moron,” he hissed as he grasped his French fry girl by the elbow and pulled her away. Stick was clutching the bills and the cell phone in his other hand. His baggy athletic shorts didn’t have pockets so he shoved the money into a hip pocket of Heather’s uniform which caused her to jump back and a loose twenty fluttered to the ground. He tugged at her again and tried to guide her away casually because he thought the cop might be looking in their direction but Heather dug in her heels, turned and said, “You dropped money.”
“Shut up! Run!”
Stick and Heather bolted down the pathway.
“You shut up!”
As they rounded the bend to the pond the cell phone from the purse began to ring so Stick chucked it into the water.
They left the path and didn’t stop running until they were all the way to 4th St.
The police reports had been filed and the credit card and phone companies notified. Tom and Susan went to dinner at Baci’s, their favorite Trattoria, even though it required driving across town to Little Italy. A treat after a disaster.
“You can go to the driver’s license bureau tomorrow on your lunch hour. It’s just a purse honey. It’s just stuff,” Tom said as he reached across the table for Susan’s hand.
“It was the matching purse and wallet you bought me in Florence. In the little shop on the Ponte Vecchio.” Susan looked like she might cry.
“No it was the other one. The other shop a few blocks away. I can’t remember the name.”
“No it wasn’t”
“Yes it was.”
Susan glared through teary eyes.
“It doesn’t matter,” Tom said, “we’ll buy another one. We can probably find the exact same purse on line.”
“It won’t be the same,” Susan said, staring at her glass of wine as if inviting it to take sides in the debate, “I was so stupid. And I’d just withdrawn $200 before I walked to the park.”
“You fell asleep,” Tom said after taking a sip of the glass of Brunello and tipping the liquid to admire the ruby color. “It happens. Criminals are so brazen these days. A busy park in the middle of the day.” Tom shook his head and smiled wistfully at his wife who, he thought, looked much younger than her forty two years. “It could have been at gunpoint, you know. Better to just sleep through it.”
At this Susan forced a smile and held her wineglass aloft for a toast but her sourness showed through the smile like buckling plaster under fresh wallpaper.
At the apartment, Stick counted the money which amounted to $180 and would have been $200, he fretted, and then he went down the hall and bought what the lady still called a nickel bag though it cost a lot more. The neighbor lady had a dog and a kid and sometimes, especially at night, the shrieking kid and the barking dog went at it answering each other in tune and in the appropriate key until it sounded like a god damned tenement symphony but the entire floor tolerated them because she was nice and reliable and the product was very, very good.
Heather and Stick had sex, having convinced her to forego the shower with the inducement of the grass and their new found riches which he split with her 50/50 net expenses. They fucked on the old mattress on the floor even though she complained that the almost fresh sheets, the only set they owned, would smell like French fries until she did the wash again. They smoked and fucked and fucked and smoked until they could fuck nor smoke no more and Heather got up and took her shower while Stick lay sprawled on the mattress and contemplated his limp penis and the purse.
After Heather fell soundly asleep and began to snore in the soft, animal way she did, Stick rose and pulled on his baggy shorts and jersey and unlaced tennis shoes and walked all the way back to the park even though it was late and the park was technically closed and the restrictions were enforced more frequently now that rich people who liked to complain were moving into the Riverside District next door.
Much to his astonishment he found the purse and the wallet deep in the trash can where he left them. He purged the wallet of credit cards, which surely by now had no value though he was sorely tempted to try them just one time. He tossed the other identifying documents and make-up and other bric-a-brac into the can after the credit cards but held on to the driver’s license. He found a pen in the purse and a tiny notebook with addresses and he wrote down Susan Daniels, 123 Dorchester Street, from the license on a blank page where the z’s were supposed to go, tore out the sheet and tucked it into his sneakers. The license lingered in his hand for just a moment as he weighed its street value before he concluded that it had fulfilled its purpose and added it to the trash.
Stick awakened Heather and presented her with the buttery beige purse and matching wallet but she ground her fists at her eyes and stared at his tattoo. He had removed the bandage before liberally applying the last of a bottle of rubbing alcohol since they had been too harried and distracted to steal any peroxide. The tattoo was an American flag on a staff with a ball on the top where an eagle perched. The flag appeared to ripple in a breeze. Below the flag were letters in Olde English like the ones that spell out DETROIT on the Tiger’s uniforms (his dad’s hometown and favorite team) but these letters spelled out FREDOM and Heather, rather than kissing him and thanking him for the gifts, had the audacity to tell him his tattoo was spelled wrong. His first impulse was to find and murder Noodle who was a gifted tattoo artist but probably couldn’t spell his own real name if he could even remember it. Instead he flung the baby ass soft leather goods in Heather’s face and stomped off to see if there was anything left to smoke and said, “Fuck you,” under his breath but he didn’t really mean it because he loved Heather and just wanted to make her happy and despite his outward defiance also wished his new tattoo was spelled right.
The address was easy to find. Dorchester was two blocks east of the park and 123 was one of the new townhouses that filled the former vacant lots. Before the neighborhood renaissance, the old row-houses had begun to crumble and be torn down or collapse of their own fatigue. The Riverside District had recently become fashionable and rich people were busy rehabbing and building anew in order to live close to downtown and the night scene and the pretty park next door. The new houses were designed to blend in with the old but their pristine personages contrast them all the more with the quirky character of the old row houses and gave the street the impression of a smile where tooth whitener had been unevenly applied.
Stick walked up and down the street a couple of times but knew that lingering would mark him as suspicious. Across the street an old row-house was undergoing a facelift and a crew of workmen in jeans and t-shirts and ball caps milled around organizing materials. One of the men carried a clipboard and was not as dusty as the others so Stick figured him to be the boss.
Gunnar, as he introduced himself, owned the house with his new bride and served as general contractor. Stick admired the name and wished it were his own as it sounded strong and potentially dangerous. He silently practiced the name in the back of his mouth.
“I can carry those bags of cement and even paint a little if you need. Pay me whatever you can,” Stick said trying to look into Gunnar’s steely blue eyes that seemed to expect something more.
Gunnar studied the skinny, wiry strong, little man with the fresh tattoo who kept digging at his red left earlobe with a fingernail. “I like the rebellion where you spell freedom wrong but know everybody will still understand but if they don’t fuck ‘em because it’s up to them and that’s what freedom is all about,” Gunnar said in a gush that left Stick trying to keep up.
“Right,” Stick said committing the explanation to memory for use later on with Heather.
“Yeah I guess I can use you since we’re getting ready to pour the walk and I’ll pay you $40 for the day even though the day is already half over and depending on how things go we’ll talk about tomorrow so the work gloves and trowels are in the big red box over there,” Gunnar said while pointing to wooden forms outlining the artistically winding dirt path from the front porch steps to the street sidewalk. Galvanized tubs sat along either side of the forms and an old black guy who seemed to be working harder than anyone else was laying bags of concrete mix beside the tubs until Gunnar told him the new kid would do it. A thick green garden hose with no nozzle snaked to the tub closest to the front porch steps.
The work gloves were too big and almost as hard as concrete themselves and chafed his skin but felt good when he raked a knuckle against his inflamed earlobe. Stick sliced open the bags, one by one, with a carpet knife and dumped the dusty contents into the tubs. He added water from the garden hose into the tubs until told to stop and the men began churning at the grey mixture with hoes and he would hoe along himself until a workman would call out for more water and he would run over to the tub with the hose. After the sludge had achieved a uniform consistency the men grabbed shovels and started chucking the mess into the forms. Then they all dropped to the ground with trowels in hand and began to spread the concrete flat in a pleasant gritty rhythm. When the sidewalk was glassy smooth the black guy and another guy, each to a side, took their trowels and dragged them blunt end of the blade first along the edge to form a decorative boundary.
Stick had to admit it looked nice and wished he could plant his palm into the middle like he would have if he was still a kid. His admiration was tempered, however, by his cement encrusted Converse high-tops and his spackled gym shorts and Ocho Cinco jersey and he knew the $40 Gunnar had handed him wasn’t half enough to replace them. Stick didn’t complain since he had been invited back tomorrow and he had a bigger vision than this narrow little house and its stupid sidewalk. He looked over at the beaming Daniels’ residence which seemed to be gloating just as a Corolla pulled to the curb in front of him. A skinny girl greeted by the black guy as Ms. Nanette as she alighted from the car held a camera and walked over and gave Gunnar a kiss before she started snapping pictures of the new walkway. Stick looked on in the bemused and tolerant way one does when watching a parent fuss over an ugly child.
The tools were gathered into the workmen’s vans and pick-up trucks, except for the garden hose and galvanized tubs and the hoes and shovels and the red box with the gloves and trowels which were dragged around back of the house and locked up in a little shed that looked more like a play house than secure storage and even had flower boxes under two little windows but no flowers. Everyone dispersed including Gunnar and Nanette who weren’t living in the house during the renovation but Stick lingered in his ruined clothes without anyone seeming to notice or care and smoked a cigarette on the front porch while he watched the Daniels’ residence. It was 4:40 p.m. and it only took a half hour of dawdling before he saw Susan Daniels strolling down the sidewalk. She climbed the porch and let herself in and Stick noticed the alarm system sticker on the front door and another warning sign atop a stick in the ground on the tiny front lawn.
Stick studied the house for a few minutes more but he didn’t have another cigarette for a prop and he had started feeling conspicuous alone on Gunnar and Nanette’s front porch so he went home to Heather who would be wondering where he was but couldn’t call because he hadn’t bought minutes yet.
In the morning Stick was sorer than he ever remembered from helping the Bangers with a show but he was up before light because he wanted to watch Susan Daniels’ house before the work crew showed up. He pulled on old jeans, a t-shirt, a jacket and his hardened Converse All Stars and after kissing the sleeping Heather on the cheek walked from their Near North neighborhood, through the park, to Gunnar’s house where he was rewarded immediately.
Before he could take his position on the porch the garage door opened at 123 Dorchester and a black Lexus backed out onto the street, driven not by Susan but by, presumably, her husband. Only the new townhouses had garages that faced the street. The old row-houses either had a small garage in the back of the house accessed by narrow driveways cut between the tight clusters or there was no off-street parking at all. Many of the houses were stuck together like Siamese twins with no opportunity for a driveway between them. Stick didn’t understand why the Daniels would choose to live in such a cramped neighborhood when they could be comfortably sprawled in the suburbs. But then he never had understood rich people and maybe that was why he wasn’t one of them.
On Thursday they assembled scaffolding on the west side of Gunnar’s house and Stick enjoyed it very much because it was kind of like playing with big Tinker toys. Stick and two other workers were assigned to climb the scaffold and begin to scrape the bricks free of crumbling paint and other debris while the rest of the crew carried old sinks and cabinets and carpeting from inside the house to a dumpster that had been parked at the curb. Nanette took photographs and served the men ice water or lemonade and insisted on carrying things her small frame could tolerate and Stick liked watching the wisp of a girl who was no more than a stick herself and the way her feet never seemed to touch the ground as she glided through the scene and although he loved wrapping his arms around his somewhat more substantial French fry he was beginning to understand Nanette’s appeal.
Stick couldn’t watch the Daniels’ house from the scaffold but he knew it was dormant. Over the next several days he would be able to fix the couple’s schedules in his mind. Tom left early (he knew the name from an after work reconnaissance mission to look at their mail), sometimes as early as 6 a.m. but never later than 7 and returned in the same 6 to 7 time slot in the evening. Susan left for work after Tom but before 8:15 and was always home by 5:30. They went out after work at least twice a week and always on Friday when they would stay out until after 10 p.m. The gaps between the couple’s choreographed departures and arrivals would be occasions, Stick reasoned, when the alarm system would be disarmed. He had circled the house on one of his missions and had his eye on a basement window in the back that he was sure he could sliver through.
Apart from his mission, Stick was working hard and relating well with the crew and marveling at how time flew by and he had managed to put a few bucks away and reload his cell phone with minutes and he and Heather were eating fewer French fries and he was enjoying certain satisfactions despite himself.
Stick sat on a box marked Christmas tree bathed in the fading evening light through the basement window. He could hear footsteps and muffled voices upstairs in what must be the kitchen. It was 7:40 p.m. and the Daniels should have already left for their Friday dinner out but he had a bad feeling about this evening because he could hear music playing and the occasional banging of a pot or the thud of a closing cabinet drawer. And now he heard the doorbell and, soon after, new voices and additional footsteps.
He had been lucky. The basement window had been unlocked and the alarm system inactive as Mrs. Daniels awaited her husband. Stick had been able to slide through the open window and drop to the floor without commotion. But he could see that exiting through the same window was going to be more difficult. There was nothing to grab on to and hoist himself up and he couldn’t be sure that the alarm hadn’t been reactivated after the guests arrived.
Stick could smell the food cooking and his stomach growled for lack of a meal that day and he was grateful for the music to drown the sound of his own innards. Then his phone rang. He was able to fumble at the keyboard and cut off the call before the second ring and he sat there not breathing with his heart pounding in his chest. When he was sure the ring hadn’t been heard upstairs he quickly called Heather before she called him back which she would do over and over and in a hoarse whisper explained his predicament and told her he was shutting off his phone for the evening and would call her when the episode concluded.
“Idiot,” she said in her unique way and hung up.
Time crawled and Stick had fully explored the small basement where he found a water heater and furnace and boxes with Christmas ornaments and a smaller box with a lei and a grass skirt and a ukulele and a work table with a belt sander and electric drill and a toolbox with wrenches and screw drivers but not much else. He stared through the window at the bright half-moon in the cloudless sky and was delighted when the furnace kicked on because it was chilly in the basement and the rumble had a soothing effect.
With the cell phone off he couldn’t track the time but he must have drifted off atop the Christmas tree with his back to the cold wall and he awoke in a panic after having his usual dream of being in a fight with his punches slow and ineffective as if delivered under water. The house was silent. No music. No voices. No footsteps.
He ventured up the stairs and through the door into the dim, moonlit kitchen which was a mess with empty wine bottles and dirty dishes and pots and pans. He felt something bump against his leg and looked down to see a furry, flat faced cat that looked like a throw pillow with a tail scowling at him and issuing a silent meow.
He mounted the carpeted stairs to the second floor accompanied by the cat to find two large rooms, two bathrooms and a laundry room. One room was set up as an office with a desk and computer and bookshelves and a small sofa while the other large room with the door ajar held the largest bed he had ever seen with four naked bodies entwined like cooked linguini and the cat ran in and jumped on the bed while Stick beat a hasty retreat downstairs.
He thought he should take the cleaver from the butcher block and hack the perverts to pieces but instead he took three rolls from a basket on the dining room table and slices of roast beef and a bottle of water from the refrigerator and kicked at the squirming cat to keep her from following him to the basement. He ate the sandwiches and pissed into the open drain on the floor.
It was almost noon before the house was empty and Stick could turn on his phone to find seven text messages from Heather beginning with the angry ones and ending with the incoherent ones most likely the result of a visit to the lady down the hall. The kitchen was spotless and Stick admired the stainless steel appliances and the pots and pans with the copper bottoms hanging from the ceiling rack and the mahogany tables and plush furnishings and paintings on the walls in the adjoining living and dining rooms. He wished it was all his and he spun round and round until he was dizzy with his greed. He plucked two small signed paintings of a dirt road lined with trees that looked like morel mushrooms from the wall and carried them upstairs with the cat bumping at him all the way.
The bedroom with the bed as big as a football field bore no signs of last night’s orgy and he knew this was where he would find the mother-lode. He peeled back the blanket to expose silk sheets and on impulse he shed his clothes and climbed in to wallow, with the cat following, and he imagined what it would be like here with Heather wrapped in this bliss and overcome with his desires and against his better judgment he left his seed behind.
He found, as he knew he would, a jewelry box filled with gold and silver and precious gems and he stripped off a silk pillow case and fit the paintings and the box into it. He also found three expensive watches including a Rolex and in the drawer of the dresser a peach colored camisole that he liked and between the stacks of intimates an impressive dismembered penis that vibrated at various speeds when you turned the knob at the base. He put the camisole and the prosthetic cock in the pillow case and tossed in a pair of cuff links. In the office he found a display of fancy fountain pens and a portable Grundig short wave radio which completed a substantial haul but not so much that he couldn’t run with it if he had to.
Downstairs he made more roast beef sandwiches and even found a jar of horseradish before strolling out the back door tripping the alarm but knowing he would be safely home before the authorities could respond. He let the cat out the door with him for the hell of it.
“They took little Tommy,” Susan said as she stared into her underwear drawer.
“Huh?” asked Tom who with pen and notepad in hand was trying to catalog their losses while they waited for the police to arrive.
“Little Tommy for when you’re out of town on business.”
Tom stared at Susan without comprehension.
“They stole my vibrator,” Susan said with exasperation as she plopped down on the edge of the bed.
“I’m not going to report that,” Tom said as he left the bedroom to go to his office.
“Where’s Boogle?” Susan asked after him.
“Idiot,” Heather said but she said it softly and she said it while she was fingering the ear rings and the necklaces and the rings and bracelets and the diamond studded choker and the gold waist chain and the onyx scarab brooch.
“Gross,” she said when presented with the vibrating penis but before nightfall Heather and little Tommy had become acquainted and Stick enjoyed the dreamy, faraway look in her eyes as she worked it.
“Where’d you get these?” Nick asked.
Stick stood in the studio with his merchandise and Nick the drummer and Christie the pretty bartender from Ruby’s Cafe who was already starting to show and Kyle and Tonya who was equally pretty but had a nasty scar that ran down her cheek and throat but instead of being repulsive made you want to press your lips to it. He shrugged his shoulders at the question.
Christie and Tonya sorted through the jewelry Heather had rejected and Stick knew they wanted it though they pretended they didn’t.
“You can have all three for $200,” Stick said to Nick.
“They’re nice watches Stick but I’m not stupid enough to fence stolen merchandise for you.” With that the girls started putting the jewelry back in the box.
“What’s that?” asked Kyle.
“That. In the bag.”
“A little guitar thing.”
“Let me see it.”
Stick handed the ukulele to Kyle who began to strum it. Kyle pulled $10 out of his pocket and handed it to Stick. “Now get out of here,” Kyle said.
Stick went to work on Monday so as not to arouse suspicion. He was there early and so was Marcus who had befriended him and was only a couple of years older which made the two of them the youngest of the crew by far and they had gotten into the habit of smoking a couple of cigarettes on the front porch and talking while they waited for the older guys to show up. Stick made a point of not looking over at the Daniels’ house.
Around mid-day the police pulled up in an unmarked car but the kind of car that was obviously a police car and interviewed the crew. Gunnar told the cops they hadn’t worked on Saturday and everyone told the same story which was they had never noticed anything unusual or suspicious at the Daniels’ residence. Still, the police took down all their names and addresses and phone numbers and one of the cops seemed to have a special interest in Stick’s tattoo.
As Heather left work a passing black Lexus braked and waited for her to catch up and shadowed her at a crawl. She varied her walking speed but the Lexus hung with her. Ahead a meter cop was writing a ticket so Heather walked up to the meter reader and told her that a man in the black Lexus was following her. Tom had dropped the window. The meter reader looked back and forth between Heather and Tom.
“I’m sorry. I just wanted to ask the young lady where she got the purse. I think it’s a Fortunata. You know. For my wife,” Tom said.
The meter reader looked at Heather.
“It was a gift from my boyfriend. I don’t know where he got it,” Heather said this to the meter reader rather than Tom.
“Thanks anyway,” Tom said and he lifted the window and drove away. He would circle the block and pull up in front of the greasy spoon Heather had exited. He parked and went in the restaurant.
As he walked through the park the next morning on the way to work, Stick received a text from Marcus to inform him that the police car was across the street from Gunnar’s house. Stick hadn’t confided in Marcus but the young man had a sense. Stick took a seat on the same bench Mrs. Daniels had occupied so he could think. His earlobe was swollen and hot to the touch and had begun to ooze pus.
Little Tommy had been humming inside Heather and she had probably been humming along when the man came to the door. He had wavy dark hair with flecks of gray and a big crooked nose that had been broken more than once. He put a badge in her face and said, “I’m Detective Dexter Lewis. May I speak with you for a moment?”
Heather let him in though she was only wearing a peach camisole and panties so tiny they would not have covered her pubic hair had she any. Detective Lewis scanned the sparse room. He could see the vibrator on the mattress and the buttery beige purse on the floor.
“Are you Heather Garcia?”
Heather nodded and chewed at her lower lip.
“Does a George Malcolm Potts also live here?”
Heather looked at him with confusion.
“He also goes by the name Stick and he has a tattoo with the word freedom spelled with one e.”
“I guess freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose,” he sang teasingly but Heather didn’t get it. “Do you know where he is?”
“He’s at work.”
“No he isn’t. You know why I’m here don’t you?”
“I have to get dressed for work,” Heather said and pulled the camisole over her head to reveal broad breasts with pale aureole and tiny nipples. “It’s okay if you look,” she said without the hard t in it’s. And she stood motionless for a moment while the Detective’s gaze caressed her body. Heather had the soft curly hair and thick eyebrows and supple lips and chocolate milk complexion common to the Latin girls but despite being thicker in the midriff than she should be at her age there was nothing common about Heather’s beauty and Dexter felt something give way in the pit of his stomach. She took the brown uniform from the back of the only chair in the room and pulled it over her head. And Dexter was stopped short by her rancid sensuality. “I have to go,” she said.
“I’m not arresting you Heather. I’m not going to put you in jail but it’s in your best interests to tell me everything and come downtown to make a statement.”
For the first time Heather looked like what she was – a scared little girl.
“I’ll have my friend Alex. That’s Alexandra but she goes by Alex. She’s nice. She’s an attorney. I’ll have Alex meet us and she can help you stay out of trouble while you file your statement. You know it’s what you have to do. To protect yourself.”
Heather renewed the assault on her lower lip and looked at the purse on the floor.
“Let’s get a bag and gather up what’s left of the Daniels’ property and bring it with us. Don’t worry Heather. I’m going to take care of you,” Dexter said.
Heather carried the shopping bag as they stepped into the hall and Dexter reached back to close the door behind them. As they walked down the stairs he gently guided her with his hand at the small of her back.