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The Working Dead


“I’ve got an idea for a t.v. show. The Working Dead. It’s like The Walking Dead but in an office setting. The zombies stumble around their cubicles dropping files and trying unsuccessfully to pour cups of coffee in the break room. At lunchtime they eat each other.”

“Zombies don’t eat other zombies, Dude. They want warm, living flesh.”

“Oh. Okay. Then they have a subsidiary company of living people they feast on.”

“Good for a couple of episodes. But what happens when the subsidiary all become zombies?”

“Well, see. They are a giant multinational corporation that gobbles up smaller companies worldwide in an effort to kill off all life.”

“Old news, Dude. Old news.”

###

Exit with a Smile

Play Russian Roulette with 6 bullets in the chamber

Agree to go first

Treat your suicide as performance art

You’ll miss the applause

There won’t be an encore

Find a Nazi to make of you

nice lampshades, cakes of soap

overstuffed pillows

Donate your organs to be harvested

while you watch

with a martini

Shove a stick of dynamite up your ass

Light the fuse with the help

of a mirror

Try not to fart

Join Anna K. under the wheels

of a moving locomotive

after you’ve checked your bags

in the coin locker

Or with Sylvia, your head

in a cold oven

gas turned high

Take a nap in the car

purring in the closed garage

with Leonard Cohen on the stereo

Asphyxiate by drowning or noose

or dry cleaner bag

or face-up under the cheeks of a fat girl

who has trouble “getting off”

A shoving match with a vending machine

over a lost quarter

A high speed road trip

with a fifth of Jack Daniel’s

and a friend for company

for eternity

Finish all your prescriptions

at one time

so they don’t go to waste

Don’t bother to consult the dosages

You won’t need refills

On safari among the big cats

naked

slathered in bacon grease

without weapon, ammunition or remorse

A non-stop diet of cured meats and liver pate

washed down with diet soda

The long way home

Practice your high wire act

for the first time

while a little tipsy

carrying a shifting load

Tell your girlfriend she probably should

go to the clinic

to get tested

Fuck yourself to death

explode with multiple orgasms

That’s the ticket

Enter with a cry

 

Exit with a smile

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Categories: Uncategorized

Late Night Lori, in all her glory


Lori’s is a beacon in the night, as easy to miss as a fireworks display. A brightly lit ramshackle roadhouse a half hour out of town to the east. A big neon roof sign reads “Late Night Lori” in huge cursive red letters and “in all her glory” in smaller block lettering beneath. The parking lot is nearly full but Spence manages to squeeze the borrowed B.M.W. between a Dodge pickup truck and an old Toyota Celica with one fender of a mismatched color.

The bar is long, backed by an enormous tarnished mirror rippled like the surface of a pond. Navigate through the mismatched wood tables and chairs painted vibrant colors – red, green, blue, yellow, orange – to the bar where you stand western style. No stools to encourage malingerers. A place where serious, production drinking is encouraged. designed for frequent enough turnover to keep everybody alert and on their toes. A Wurlitzer jukebox is cranked loud but not too loud to talk over. A Tube’s song is playing.

Step right up and don’t be shy

You will not believe your eyes

The walls are cluttered with mounted and framed centerfolds of Lori in various states of undress. Vintage. When centerfolds were more art than smut. No full-on crotch shots. No spread eagle gaping vulvas. Just coquettishly posed Lori flesh. Big, juicy Lori breasts. Smooth, round mounds of Lori ass. Long, shapely Lori legs. Her nakedness often punctuated by a pair of heels.

Spence particularly likes the one on the beach in a straw hat. Lori holding a beach ball strategically at her waist. Lush honey-blonde shoulder length hair. Demure, almost innocent despite taunting nipples and fetching thighs. She looks like she can’t believe what she is doing. Like on a dare. An “am I doing this right?” expression. You want to protect rather than defile.

one in a million girls

she’s a beauty

Why would I lie?

The pin-ups are arranged chronologically. The ones from the tail-end of her modeling career show a more wizened, perhaps cynical Lori. Sprinkled among the centerfolds are photos of fully clothed Lori in the company of celebrities. With Ed Begley on a movie set where she made a cameo appearance. Arm in arm with baseball player Mike Schmidt. Having lunch with Dick Cavett. An endearing photo of Lori holding the hand of a child wearing a frilly dress and white socks trimmed with lace, her daughter Lucy presumably. Still shots from T.V. commercials for a soap manufacturer. An out of date poster for The Odd Ball charity event that Spence had attended several days ago.

There are also campaign posters. Lori is running for office under the slogan – Nothing to Hide – a playful jab at her centerfold history and serious corruption allegations against her opponent.

Spence finds a spot at the busy bar. A chubby bar maid with a pert nose, perhaps a former pin-up girl herself before the life-style and age took its toll. A smoker’s voice. A smoker’s skin. She’s looking like a strip of beef jerky but with striking green eyes and a warm, sweet, though nicotine stained smile.

“Lori isn’t here tonight,” the bartender says to Spence,  the new guy, the stranger she had watched studying the centerfolds and photos. “Tourists always expect to see her but she’s not here tonight.”

“Okay. A beer then. What’s on tap?”

“Miller. Miller Light. Bud. Bud Light. Coors. Coors Light. Heineken.”

“A High Life, I guess.”

Spence turns his back to the bar, leans back and rests his elbows on the bar as support, surveying the crowd. Mostly regulars he’s guessing. A cluster of Yuppies in business attire, keeping to themselves. A group of construction guys in dirty jeans, work shirts and baseball caps sit at a large round table in the center of the room. They laugh too loud and ogle the female customers and servers who are badly outnumbered. A foursome is engaged in a game of euchre. “Stay home. I’m going alone,” a man says to his partner who lays her cards face down on the table and pumps her fist. An arched doorway leads to an open-air grotto that Spence will check out later. He doesn’t want to lose his spot at the bar just yet.

A young, pretty server with a very round tight bottom squeezed into black tights scurries about the room delivering drinks and picking up empty glasses. You could bounce a quarter off her ass, Spence thinks.

A man in a leather jacket with star shaped studs strides authoritatively to the bar. Under the unzipped jacket he wears a “wife beater” tee-shirt. Customers move aside without resistance to allow him access to the bar. A red bandana tied to his shaved noggin, jeans, boots and a wallet attached to his waist with a chain.

The chubby bartender puts a beer in front of “leather jacket” without being asked. Mug to mouth, he drains the beer without a pause, his Adam’s apple pumping vigorously. “Chubby” wordlessly refills his mug. Again, mug to mouth, mug drained, empty mug on the bar for a refill. This happens three times in quick succession. The barmaid enters the walk-in cooler at the far end of the bar and brings forth a twelve pack of Budweiser. Leather jacket tucks the beer under a burly arm and walks out the door. No money is exchanged. In a moment the distinctive rumble of a Harley. Motorcycle and rider must have been there, somewhere, when Spence arrived. He wouldn’t have missed it pulling in.

Spence catches Chubby’s eye and points to his empty mug. He’s down three to one against the biker. Chubby lays down a fresh mug. She is assembly-line quick.

“The big guy that was beside me,” Spence says to her. “That was impressive.”

“What was?”

“He put three mugs away in, like, less than ten minutes.”

“Tic gets thirsty.”

“So, that was Tic. I should have known. Sounds like a guy I should meet.”

“Tic is Lori’s brother. He’s a decorated Vietnam war hero. He’s here almost everyday at some point. If you become a regular you’ll meet him. But don’t expect to become buddies.” She walks a way.

###

Lori sits in the small office. Alone, having issued instructions to the staff that she is not to be disturbed. She should be working on the books but instead, after her meeting with her brother, she is in the endless thought loop that has dominated her mind for the last several days. Ever since the L’il Bruno incident at The Liz.

They paid her to take her clothes off. How easy was that? Stand. Sit. Recline. Bend-over. Try not to sweat under the lights. Nothing to it at all, really. Look at the camera. Smile sweetly but knowingly. Click, click, click of the shutter.

When the magazines came out she could hardly recognize herself. Like looking at a slightly prettier twin. A completely different, glossy, two dimensional person.

They wanted more, of course. But even at her tender age she was smart, she understood. She gave of herself freely, too freely, but in private and only to people who mattered. She would not do porn no matter the money offered and it was often substantial. She understood that what is scarce is valuable and what is plentiful is cheap. She would not become plentiful. She would control how much of her, and in what form, was in the marketplace.

The acting career never took off. She almost landed a stripper part in The Exotic Ones, but she could

t dance for shit. The trashy, cheap Ron Ormond horror-comedy film with Sleepy LaBeef. What interesting men, both Ron and Sleepy. She made another attempt with Swamp Thing which wasn’t quite a remake or even a sequel but was inspired by The Exotic Ones. That didn’t work out either. By that time she was getting a little too old and who could compete with Adrienne Barbeaux’s tits anyway. So she stuck with the gentleman’s magazines for as long as her body would allow.

It was Tyler who had helped her understand that she was a brand. The soap company certainly thought of her as a product although they bought her when she was nothing more than a Sears catalog model and dumped her as soon as she showed up in nudie magazines. The movie studios liked the naughty girl next door image she had cultivated and gave her bit parts in B movies but her lack of acting, dancing and singing ability stymied her progress into more meaningful films and roles.

Tyler was supposed to manage her career but all he managed was to drain her bank account and fill up her womb. The pregnancy ruined her figure and her career not that Tyler gave a shit. He wasn’t interested in Lucy’s arrival at all. He split soon thereafter and there was never a chance at reconciliation. His foolish lifestyle made that a certainty.

The little Alpha Romeo didn’t bounce off the galvanized steel guardrail the way a regular car would have but wedged itself underneath taking off the top of the car, the top of Tyler and the top of the floozy who was stupid enough to ride with him.

Lucy romanticized her father as she grew older. In her mind he was James Dean and she was James Dean’s daughter and that brought with it certain privileges and obligations. Lucy became as reckless as had been Tyler. She thought the rules didn’t apply to her. She lived in a world without consequences. Lori knew all about consequences. You pay for everything sooner or later. When the balance comes due you’re lucky if you can pay in installments without too much interest but you pay none-the-less.

Lori had hoped that Michael, the older man, the experienced man, might be a stabilizing influence on Lucy. But he is as much the opportunist and corrupter that Tyler was. He connected her with the crowd that saw only her exterior beauty. Lucy as object. Lucy used her beauty as a medium of exchange. Parties, drugs, gifts and money in the bank.

Lori was down and out, broke and abandoned with child when she met Arnold, her Impresario. Arnold offered to bankroll the roadhouse expecting nothing but a financial partnership in return. He inspired her to get involved in charities and politics. He found the late, ill fated L’il Bruno. He saved her life.

She had been distraught over the bear. Saw it as a disaster but Arnold had a different view. The newspaper and television coverage were free advertisement for the charity, the movie, the roadhouse, the restaurant and her political campaign. Almost any publicity is a good thing if you know how to spin it, he said. Contributions to the charity were rolling in. The movie would open to record crowds, Arnold assured her. People were asking about franchise opportunities for Bruno’s Beastro. She led in the polls by a wide margin.

It was Arnold who told her to consult with her brother about Lucy’s boyfriend. Tic would know what to do with Michael, he said. She knew that was true by the look in Tic’s eyes as he left their meeting earlier. It’s a weird, weird, warped, wonderful world. And she is only now learning how to live in it.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Odd Ball


In the ballroom of the Elizabeth Hotel, nicknamed the Liz. Situated at the edge of run-down Near North and the adjacent, resurgently affluent Riverside District. Technically, The Liz is in Near North although the River-siders have claimed it as their own. The hotel is a luxurious, restored, historic Italianate structure comprised of what were once three separate buildings that share common walls, as was the nature of building efficiencies in the 19th century.

Large tables, each with six chairs with assigned seating, arranged on the perimeter, leaving an area in the center for dancing and performances. With Spence and Jeanine, in the far corner next to a portable bar, sit Officer Tommy Henkel (Jeanine’s police officer colleague), Tommy’s chubby and chatty wife Rhonda, George Miller, the owner of a successful local printing company, and his wife Maureen, a shy woman known for mumbling to herself. Balding George, whose remaining hair sprouts randomly on his scalp like tufts of grass poking through beach sand looks like a newborn chick. George is one of the communities leading philanthropists.

A cover band plays on the stage at the far end of the hall. The Passage (a makeshift band cobbled together for the evening) is led by front man, vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Stevie, with a mullet haircut and a high pitched, falsetto voice. They are fond of Journey and Cars covers. Their version of  Anyway You Want It, to Spence’s mind, needs a ukelele since Stevie sounds vaguely like Tiny Tim.

“The lead singer, I think his name is Stevie, is ‘Cinda’s cast-off boyfriend,” says Rhonda.

“Cinda?” Jeanine asks.

“Lucinda. Lori’s daughter. She goes by ‘Cinda. I wonder if she’s coming tonight. Stevie still carries a torch. It could be awkward for both of them. He licks his wounds in public.”

“You mean Lucy,” Jeanine says.

“Yes, Cinda uses that name also. Strange girl.”

Wishing to gossip but not getting many bites, Rhonda continues. “Lucy is involved with a much older man,” she says to Maureen in a conspiratorial whisper meant to be heard by all.

Spence, Tommy and George go to the bar for drinks. Tommy isn’t drinking because he’s on-call at the police station. He’s in uniform and armed. Jeanine wants a gin and tonic and Spence orders the same, passing on the crappy Budweiser and Miller. The gin and tonics are expensive and watered down. Spence doesn’t mind buying, even though he’s counting nickels these days, because all the proceeds go to Lori’s charity and he is riding on Jeanine’s dime. He learned the tickets had cost $100 each. He wouldn’t have accepted Jeanine’s invitation if he’d known how much she would be out. But, anyway, she’s the one with the good job.

When the men return to the table with the round of drinks Rhonda is still spinning gossip. “We don’t know who he is but rumor has it that he’s got about three decades on Cinda.” Jeanine and Maureen are rapt in attention. The Mullet scans the room as he croons hoping to spot Cinda or hoping not to if she is with her new beau.

The Impresario, (Lori’s business partner, Rhonda explains) in tails and top hat, works the room with witty pronouncements and disparaging one-liners to roast the more prominent guests. A juggler rotates colored balls. A unicyclist wearing a jester’s hat weaves in and out of dancing couples. The cyclist can stay in place by alternating forward and backward pedaling, occasionally dipping toward the floor like the yellow bird toy that takes a sip of water out of a glass before bouncing upright.

Moon, a palm reader, stops at their table. She reads Jeanine and Spence’s palms as a couple, a dubious description of their new relationship. Moon is a fat, middl-aged woman with unnatural brassy hair. She wears a muumuu as big as a tent, inky blue satiny material adorned with moons and stars and the ringed planet Saturn. She traces the lines on their hands with a long, garnet fingernail. Jeanine and Spence will both live to a ripe old age, she announces, although Jeanine will outlive Spence. Not exactly going out on a limb, Spence thinks. Women usually outlive men especially if the man is a decade older. They are extremely compatible Moon assures them though they should be wary of external influences in the  relationship. “True love is within their grasp but they will be sorely tested.” Jeanine blushes, squirms and avoids eye contact with Spence. Moon clasps both of their hands tightly and closes her eyes as if in prayer. She rises with difficulty from the chair she had pulled forward for the reading. Spence fishes a buck out of his pants and hands it to Moon. She refuses payment and floats away like a colorful barge down a river.

“I’m sorry,” Jeanine mouths silently to Spence as if she were responsible for the spectacle. She takes him by the hand and drags him to the dance floor for a slow dance. Nick the drummer takes over on vocals while The Mullet takes a smoke break, probably looking for Cinda. Nick’s voice isn’t bad, thinks Spence. He’s heard him before with another band called The Bangers.

Spence wraps an arm around Jeanine’s little waist. He extends his free arm for hers in the traditional dance pose but she throws both arms around his neck and pulls him close like a teenager at a sock hop. She’s a lightweight drinker and the weak gin and tonics are getting to her already. Her cheek rests on his shoulder. Her hair smells fresh and clean like after a rain storm.

“Thanks for coming. I hope this isn’t awkward for you,” she says.

“Only in the sense of the ticket expense. Let me reimburse you,” Spence says while hoping she’ll decline his offer. He suspects she will.

“Don’t be silly. I invited you. Please don’t be the chauvinist guy who thinks he’s supposed to pay for everything.”

“Okay but you call the shots. We’ll dance all you want and even have another session with Moon if you like.”

“If Moon thinks we’re a couple we probably should play along,” Jeanine says a little more suggestively than she would have liked so she quickly changes the topic. “These guys are pretty bad aren’t they?” she says referring to The Passage.

“Yeah but they’re better without the Mullet. What’s the deal with Cinda?”

“A child. 19 maybe 20. Always been a handful. We’ve hauled her in a few times.”

“For?”

“Juvenile stuff. Underage drinking. Disorderly conduct. Shoplifting. We rarely actually charge her. Lori is important but she can’t control her daughter. The only person Lucy listens to is her Uncle Lars. He mostly goes by the nickname Tic.”

“I’ve heard of him. How did he get his nickname?”

“It’s short for Lunatic. Lars is a Vietnam war vet with violent tendencies. Well meaning but violent. He’d kill for Lucy and Lori. That’s not an exaggeration.”

“Lunatic. Literally moon sick, you know. The ancients believed the moon could drive one mad.”

Jeanine snuggles closer. Spence can feel her heat. “Hopefully Lucy is cleaning up her act. We’re going to stop treating her like a kid some day,” she says.

###

Jeanine had pulled Spence over months ago on his way home from Ruby. Ruby Cafe is only about eight blocks away from Spence’s apartment. He should have walked per his usual but, for whatever reason, he hadn’t that night. BWOOP! BWOOP! Lights in his rearview mirror. He waited for a long time until a small officer of the law, a female cop, approached his window with a flashlight large enough to serve as a weapon. The light shined in his eyes as he dug in his pocket for his license and in the glove compartment for the registration thinking all the while that he was throughly fucked. He didn’t feel drunk but most assuredly was in the yes of the law.

“What did I do?” he asked.

“You were driving too slow.”

“Isn’t slow a good thing?” he asked, not argumentatively. She didn’t respond.

The police woman with a blonde pony tail poking out the back of her police cap stared at Spence’s license for the longest time before the inevitable question, “Mr. Croft, have you been drinking?” Spence sat clutching the steering wheel like he thought you were supposed to wondering how she knew his name until realizing, duh, she’s looking at his driver’s license. Maybe I’m drunk after all, he thought. Thinking he had nothing to lose he answered honestly, “Yes. And I’m less than a block from home.” He pointed ahead toward home and looked at her but couldn’t make out her expression because of the glaring light. She said, “Ok. I’ll follow you,” and handed him his documents. The world is still full of miracles.

Spence drove slowly but not as slow as before with the cop car on his tail. Pulled to the curb in front of his apartment as did the cop, probably making sure he had told the truth because the address on his license was the previous one before he moved to Near North. Concentrating extra hard not to stagger or stumble he walked toward the steps but turned around and went back to the cop car with the window down and the pony tail inside and said, “Would you like a cup of coffee? I know I could use one.” The second miracle of the night when she said, “I’m due for a break,” and called it in on the radio. Followed him up the steps and inside the apartment which thankfully wasn’t in its usual condition having been tidied the day before. He brewed strong coffee in his parent’s old electric percolator he’d had since college. He poured cups while Officer Jeanine (he’d learned her name by then) looked around the way cops are probably trained to. Scanning for dead bodies or drugs or contraband.

Over coffee they talked about the neighborhood and how it was changing in some ways for the better and in other ways not but it was definitely safer now though there were still dicey pockets and one shouldn’t wander around alone at night especially if one is inebriated, she stressed. Jeanine was pretty but not beautiful in the way Spence was good looking but not handsome. He thought, however, that she looked silly in the uniform like she was going to a Halloween party.

Jeanine talked about being a cop because her father was a cop and while she liked the steady work and good pay she didn’t really have a passion for law enforcement and wished she had more time for her art. Spence reciprocated with tales of his life as failed musician and failed novelist but successful drinker and womanizer. He said all this because she’d opened up to him and he’d kicked the evening off  by being honest and it had worked so far so why stop now.

The full moon bright through the kitchen window. He told her the moon is very gradually pulling away from the earth and was much closer and appeared much bigger in prehistoric times but scientists are divided on its eventual fate. None of it really matters because we’ll all be long dead by then and have more immediate concerns.

Officer Jeanine was finding all of this interesting and inspiring from an artist’s point of view when her radio cackled and she had to go because of a hit and run involving a pedestrian at the corner of Rubicon and Madison. She had overstayed her break anyway.

A few weeks later Jeanine pulled him over again while he was innocently returning from the grocery store and hadn’t had a drink all day and wasn’t driving too slow. This time, in broad daylight and without the giant flashlight, she approached the car with a smile and asked Spence if he would like to accompany her to a charity ball. He said sure why not because he was flattered. An officer of the law had never asked him for a date before. She wrote her phone number on a warning ticket and suggested they get together in advance of the charity event for a drink.

The met at the bar in Baci, a nice Italian restaurant in the Riverside District. Spence had to admit that Jeanine was much prettier in civilian clothing. Her hair was full and shiny when not hidden and smashed by the cop hat. She had been drawing pictures of the moon and stars, she told him, and she would show them to him sometime. Spence thought this was a clever way of suggesting an encounter in the intimacy of her home so he said he would enjoy it very much.

They met again to play pool at the Lap Dog Brewpub. She wore an alarmingly short skirt that showed all the way up her smooth and creamy, but substantial, thighs while she stretched over the table for a difficult shot. A view of panties and full bottom giving Spence a new appreciation of the tremendous variety of female terrain and charms.

That’s how Spence found himself at the Odd Ball with a woman he hardly knew but felt he had known all his life.

###

The Passage steps aside to allow Lori center stage. She thanks a long list of people who made the fundraiser for needy children a success. A unicyclist is pedaling from table to table depositing pledge envelopes. Jeanine puts a twenty in her envelope. Spence does the same with his, silently fretting over his dwindling resources. Lori points to a big thermometer poster that tracks fundraising results. The red is just short of the top of the thermometer. She recites the list of events that led up to the Odd Ball. Trotting for Tots, the annual charity marathon. Bikes for Tykes, the bicycle/tricycle give away for disadvantaged youth. Bids for Kids, the annual charity auction. Spence is into yet another pricey watered down gin and tonic. Jeanine has stopped drinking. When he is lubricated his imagination kicks in.

Yids for Kids, organized by the local synagogue. Dykes for Tykes, promoted by the lesbian community. Sots for Tots, sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous. Spence laughs at his own witticisms, tearing up and shaking in his seat with Jeanine asking, “What? What?” Spence knows this is not an occasion for mirth but risks whispering his inventions into her ear. She puts her hand to her mouth and leaves the ballroom as if going to the restroom. He follows her, concerned, and finds her laughing in the hall. He realizes he is in love with a woman who can laugh at his silliness, big thighs and all, at least for the moment. He kisses her and gets that familiar jolt in the pit of his stomach. They reenter the ballroom together as Lori is announcing a special guest.

Through a door at the far end of the ballroom emerges a man wearing a safari outfit. He looks like a demented Boy Scout. Behind him a bear wearing a vest and a tasseled Fez. The bear, looking like a hairy Shriner, walks upright, ungainly on his hind legs. A small bear as bears go, Spence thinks, although he has never before been this close to a live bear. The bear appears to smile. Demented Boy Scout and Shriner Bear waltz around the room. Spence looks at his drink and all the faces at his table, making sure they are seeing the same thing.

Lori introduces L’l Bruno, the wildlife star of her soon to be released major motion picture – The Adventures of Billy and L’il Bruno. A share of the movie’s profits will be donated to her charity, she says. There will also be a restaurant named Bruno’s Beastro. Lori is an extremely ambitious woman, Spence is thinking.

The Impresario cuts in to dance with L’il Bruno. Boy Scout bows and steps aside.The Impresario and L’il Bruno waltz near a table next to the stage where Moon had been reading palms before L’il Bruno’s grand entrance. L’il Bruno sniffs at the air with his greasy bear nose and the smile erodes from his bear snout. Moon is the object of his olfactory attention.

L’il Bruno pushes the Impresario to the floor and drops to his natural four legged stance. Guests at the nearby tables scramble. Moon snags her muumuu on the rough edge of the makeshift stage as she attempts to flee. The muumuu is swept from her shoulders and falls, in a heap, at her feet like collapsing firmament. Mullet leaps from the stage to rescue Moon. L’il Bruno sees him as a rival and swats him aside. Guest race out the door into the hall.

Moon’s bare breasts hang like saddlebags, her thong of thin cords buried deep in her supple hips and the crack of her ass make her look like a trussed rump roast. She drops to the floor in a defensive position with her face down, hands to her head and her white moon ass high in the air. An unfortunate stance. L’il Bruno, thinking his celebrity status has earned him a prize, sniffs vigorously at the delectable bottom, preparing to mount.

The unicyclist, frantically pedaling away from the melee, head cocked to watch the bear, crashes into the wheel chair bound wife of a dignitary, burying his face in her lap. She screams and beats him frantically with her purse. L’il Bruno, spooked by the commotion, abandons his conquest and bounds into the hallway of panicked guests.

Jeanine looks at Spence with an alarmed expression. Spence stands with arms raised, ready to applaud. But doesn’t.

Officer Tommy dispatches L’il Bruno with two precise shots to the head at the entrance to Chez Simone, the hotel restaurant and the source of additional enticing aromas.

The Boy Scout, believing the execution unwarranted, weeps over the bleeding mound of fur.

###

Eventually, Jeanine takes Spence home with Steve Miller’s Abracadabra blaring on her B.M.W. stereo to distract her and calm her nerves. Not his home. Hers. She makes him take a handful of aspirin and drink a large glass of water. She strips him and wrestles him into bed. Spence keeps one foot on the floor to stop the spinning. Jeanine undresses to her panties and pulls on a tee-shirt that reads Isla Mujeres. Crawls in beside him. A train rhythmic on rails passes nearby. The last thing Spence remembers is Jeanine hovering and kissing him on the mouth, nose and forehead.

She listens to the  train’s clack, clack, clack and whistle and looks at the waning, imperceptibly receding moon.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Telford and Quinn and the Ficus Tree


“Where are we taking the plant?” Junior asks.

“Not we. I. Where am I taking the plant? I’m dropping you off at Ruby and dropping the ficus at Quinn’s. She loves house plants,” Telford says.

“Oh man! I need to go home, man.”

“If you bum a ride you go where the driver says. Your place is in the opposite direction.”

“I thought you and Quinn were done. Watchoo see in that bucktoothed little girl anyway?”

“Show me a physically perfect woman and I’ll show you how fast to run the other way.”

“You mean the way I need to go?’

“Shut up Junior.”

“I imagine with the buck teeth she can maybe, you know, do a job on your knob.”

“Be careful Junior. I allow you certain indiscretions because you’re a friend and also because you don’t know any better.”

Junior looks at Telford unsure if he has been insulted. “What’s a finka?” Junior turns to examine the potted plant resting comfortably in the plastic pot on the back seat,  leaves bouncing happily as the old Buick rolls over pocked city streets.

“Ficus not finka. A common house plant also known as a weeping fig. Native to southeast Asia and Australia.”

“How do you know shit like that?”

“I read. I look shit up. I listen. I pay attention, Junior. We exist in a deep sea of information. I am swimming laps around you. You, Junior, are drowning.”

“I pay attention,” Junior says, looking wounded.

“Nothing you learn goes to waste even if it doesn’t seem important at the time. Even the name of a house plant. Names are important. They are specific and distinctive. A ficus tree is a houseplant but it is not a rubber tree, though related I think. I’ll have to look that up. People’s names, especially first names, are not scientifically anchored but still say a lot about you. Some argue that a person’s name influences their destiny.”

“I never heard the name Telford until I met you.”

“It’s a rare first name. As is Quinn. At least for a woman. My parents endowed me with a certain uniqueness from the get-go, name-wise. Telford is an old French name referring to the iron piercing profession. Not relevant because my family is Irish and aren’t piercers but an interesting name nonetheless.”

Junior is captivated by the ficus tree, draping his big arm over the seat back so he can talk to Telford and keep an eye on the ficus at the same time.

“Your name on the other hand…,” continues Telford.

“What’s wrong with my name?”

“Junior. Has anyone of note ever had the name Junior? I mean as a first name.”

“My real name is Frank. Like my father. I’m Frank Jr.”

“Use Frank. Junior rocks on the front porch, whittling and picking his nose. Lonely, dark, inbred Kentucky hollers are the images I get.”

Junior scowls not at Telford but at the ficus and its shimmering leafy smile. He feels upstaged and mocked by arrogant vegetation.

“Where’d you get the, the, uh, tree?” Junior asks.

“Ficus, Junior. Bought it for a buck from some bum walking down the street. Probably stole it off somebody’s sun porch. It looks like it needs a good home.”

###

“Frank Jr., here we are.” Telford pulls to the curb. “The Ruby.  Because it’s on Rubicon Avenue. A descriptive name but also evocative because it’s a woman’s name. Double entendre.”

“What’s a tonday?”

Telford ignores him.

“Tel how am I going to get home?” Junior says from the curb as he leans into the open passenger window. He imagines the ficus waving goodbye.

“First of all, never call me Tel again. I’ve told you that before. Secondly, I can’t solve all of your problems.” Telford pulls away.

“She’s a little bucktoothed whore,” Junior yells at the exhaust.

###

In less that an hour Telford is back at Ruby. He carries the ficus into the bar and sets it on a stool. A trail of leaves from the back seat of the Buick to the bar. He orders a beer, a whiskey and a glass of water. He takes a drink of the whiskey, a sip of the beer and pours the glass of water on the ficus. The plant slurps the water down in a single gulp.

“Why’d you bring the plant back?” asks Junior.

“Quinn isn’t home.”

“Why’d you bring it in the bar?”

“Leave her in the car to get stolen? Anyway, she’d be lonely. And she needed a drink.” Telford asks for another glass of water and dumps it into the pot.

“Me too,” Junior says.

Telford sighs. “Get Junior another beer. On me,” he says to Nick the bartender.

Telford likes Ruby. He likes the old tin ceiling. He likes the cheap simulated wood grain paneling, brick laminate and linoleum floors. He likes the cracked bar stools that spin so you can turn to see who walked in. He likes the regulars who show up as soon as the bar opens at 7:30 a.m. and who hang around most of the day spending their pension or welfare checks or the proceeds from a sale to West Side Pawn. He likes the lack of pretty people in suits or dresses asking for fancy cocktails. He likes the pizza cut into little strips with a unique taste from a layer of Swiss cheese under the sauce and toppings. He likes the prostitutes and transvestites though he has never made use of either. He likes the beer served with a juice glass topping the long neck. He likes Ruby a lot, a little less now that Quinn no longer tends bar. But he likes it a little more too for the very same reason.

“You believe in reincarnation Junior?”

“In what?”

“You know. That you come back after you die as something or someone else. Like a tree or a sparrow. Maybe a ficus tree?” Telford looks over at his squat, shedding friend.

“I don’t know. Do you?” asks Junior with one eye on the plant. Junior has always feared wrong answers.

“Not really. But it’s fun to think about.”

“I s’pose.”

“Would you rather come back as an oak tree or a sparrow?” Telford asks.

“What?”

“Suppose you could choose your reincarnate, your new form, but those were your only two options.”

“I don’t know. A tree’s bigger.”

“A tree is bigger and you’d live for about a hundred and fifty years but you wouldn’t have much fun I imagine because you’d be stuck in one spot your whole life. And the sparrow would shit on you out of spite for its own terribly short life span.”

“So a bird then.”

“And yet to be solid and stately and part of a cool, tranquil forest. Your leaves tickled by gentle breezes.”

“So a tree then.”

“I’ve always wanted to fly. Under my own power. I don’t like airplanes much. And the long life span of an oak tree is not guaranteed. You could just as easily end up as a coffee table.”

“So, which one? I’m confused.”

Telford pays his tab and rises to leave. He puts a twenty on the bar in front of Junior. “Don’t drink it all up. You still have to get home.”

“I can walk.”

“It’s a long walk Junior. I can give you a ride but it has to be right now.”

“I’ll stay.” Junior says. Looks lovingly at the twenty.

“Your choice.” Telford gathers the ficus in his arms. He looks at the leaves on the floor, shrugs and walks out the door. The door tinkles when it opens.

Twenty minutes later Quinn arrives at Ruby. She doesn’t walk, she glides. Her feet never seem to touch the floor. Her shoulders thrown back. A presence larger than her 110 pounds. Quinn suffers from high self esteem, a quality she shares with Telford. It makes their relationship thrilling but frequently untenable.

Quinn looks at the floor, sits down beside Junior and asks, “Who made the mess?”

“Telford,” Junior says. Quinn terrifies him so he usually says nothing at all or musters false bravado. He is still thinking of trees and sparrows.

“Has Telford turned into a tree?” Quinn asks with a smile that frames her endearing overbite.

“He might,” says Junior. Or more likely a sparrow, he thinks. “He bought a fukus tree. For you.”

“A what? Nick, I’ll have a gin and tonic.”

Junior knows he fucked up the plant’s name but can’t quite fathom how. So he goes for broke. “Maybe we could, you know, go over to my place and hang out. We’ll talk about carnation and trees and sparrows.” Junior is angling for a ride and an insight into the mystery of Quinn. Or more, although seduction and romance has never been Junior’s strong suit.

“You’re out of your mind.” Quinn takes her g and t and moves away.

“I could buy you a plant,” Junior says, motioning toward his remaining $15 on the bar.

###

Telford arrives home at dusk, the failing light accenting rather than muting the details of his small apartment. Like a drawing in charcoal. A tiny physical realm that he embraces one minute and escapes in desperation the next. The quality of the light and the cool temperature foretells a change of season. Telford can see it, smell it and feel it. He places the ficus on the kitchen island and drops into the old leather club chair that he inherited from his grandfather through his father. Someday he will pass it on but his progeny is non-existent and his living relatives few and unworthy. Most likely he’ll just leave it where it is forever.

The ficus looks out onto the empty street from its perch. Telford should assemble dinner but his appetite has failed him as it so often does. Without lifting the lights against the encroaching gloom he looks at the potbellied stove vented through an old disused fireplace. He thinks about cherry or apple firewood aromas and a glass of Scotch or Port of which he has neither. He wants to bask before the hot cast iron stove with a book when the season is willing. He reaches over and pulls the chain on the lamp. Wishes he had wine, cheese and crusty bread. A meagre meal he could tolerate. Indecisiveness and a form of existential paralysis grip him on evenings like this. Shortly he dozes.

Quinn enters like the ghost Telford sometimes imagines her to be. Wordlessly she approaches. He smells her before he can fully comprehend her form. Not perfume. An honest, authentic scent, like yeasty bread, that never fails to arouse him. She hikes up her skirt and straddles him. Gamey naked sex on his lap. Takes his face into her palms. Leans forth and presses her warm, moist mouth to his own. Mingled meaty lips and tongues. She never closes her dark, almond shaped eyes during their lovemaking. His own personal Hun he likes to joke.

Light on his lap. Fumbles at his belt and zipper. Inserting deftly when he is presented. Slow, slippy – slidey. Her fragrant syrup coats him. Palms pressed on his shoulders. He pulls her forth for the perfect angle for lubricated friction. He leans forward. Captures a small breast in his mouth, licking at the puffy areola and small stiffened nipple. A shuddering spasm under his ministrations. He has learned that her orgasms can arrive even without penetration through such tender attention to her many erogenous zones. Quinn seems to have more zones than most women. Her releases are predicated by rhythmic breathing. He hurried to catch up but so fascinated by the bundle of nerves and moisture and heat on his lap that he found it hard to concentrate on himself. Her eruption complete, she slips to her knees and finishes him with her mouth, his seed bubbles forth on her chin.

A word has yet to be spoken. She rises and moves soundlessly to the bathroom. After the flush and wash, on to the bedroom. He finds her atop the covers still clothed to the degree that she is ever clothed. Asleep and snoring softly. Telford undresses her, then himself and snuggles to her backside with his arm draped around her small but supple waist. Pulls the loose sheet over them.

###

He awakens with the breaking dawn with an ache to relieve himself. Her side of the bed is abandoned yet an echo of her remains. He sits at the kitchen island with the ficus. Notices a partial bottle of red wine that had escaped his attention the evening before. A few days old but drinkable. Despite the early hour he uncorks and pours.

“Coupling pleasure and procreation is a brilliant scheme,” he says aloud to himself, “without the pleasure, sex would be pointless work.”

The ficus leaves shimmer in the gathering morning light.

I wouldn’t know. My woody nature exempts my kind from such concerns. Are you talking evolution or intelligent design?”

“Let’s not bring religion into this. The church’s perverse and warped attitudes on sex. I’m fascinated by the impulse to breed wherever it comes from. The joys and disappointments.”

“You’re concerned aren’t you?’

“About what?”

“Something sent you down this path? A leaf quivers and falls.

“Okay. Maybe a little. She doesn’t practice birth control.”

“Religious reasons? She wants to be with child? She is of the age when such impulses dominate, you know.”

“More a matter of not interfering with her natural processes and rhythms, she claims. She’s a wholesome girl. A wholesome and horny girl.”

“Spiritual. A hippie. The everything happens for a reason type?”

“More about personal control of some type, I think. Whatever happens, she would know what to do.”

“Which would be?”

Telford doesn’t respond.

“She’s complicated. Beware of complicated beings. Stick with trees.”

Or sparrows.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind. Yes. Quinn is complicated. You don’t know the half of it.”

“Nor should I. I only met her yesterday. We didn’t even talk.”

“Plenty of time for that. You’ll get along famously. She’s well grounded. Like you. Fucking Quinn is one of the great joys of my existence. Great joys I’ve learned rarely last.”

“Ah. There’s the heart of it. Nothing lasts. Fornication. Orgasms. It is all fleeting and doomed from the start.”

“Blow jobs. Cunnilingus.”

“Anal sex. Hand jobs.”

“Menage-a-trois. Rim jobs. Hey, how does a ficus tree know of such things?”

“They’re carried in the wind.”

With the sparrows, Telford thinks. It is fully dawn. He stifles a yawn.

“You need to either go back to bed or shave and shower.”

“Yes. Time to get a move on. Do you need a glass of water?”

“I’m fine. Thank you.”

###

Showered and dressed, Telford examines his watch. It’s almost 8 a.m. He picks up the ficus. Stares into its expressive leaves.

“Want to go to Ruby?”

“Sounds good to me.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Randomania


  • How to pick up women: Make sure you lift from your legs instead of with your back so you don’t strain something.
  • If you are expelled from a membership organization does it mean you have been dismembered?

###

I remember a kid in grade school (I don’t remember which grade) arriving in the fall missing the majority of fingers on his dominant hand. Fireworks were the culprit. He loved playing baseball but his baseball days were pretty much over in a flash. Literally.

I blew up a 1968 Pontiac GTO with firecrackers. Not a real GTO. A plastic model I had built and painted. I remember the glue making me feel funny but I never considered misusing it. In a few years I got bored with the model cars. That’s when I blew up the GTO. A friend of mine, who had gone through a similar model building phase, and I got together one evening for a demolition derby.

I’ve been systematically demolishing things ever since.

However you choose to demolish, be careful with explosives. Both the literal and figurative kind. I blow something up at least once a week. There are often consequences but, so far, I’ve maintained all my digits.

I saw the worst band of all time at MOTR recently. That’s called hyperbole. I’m old enough to have borne witness to an army of bad bands so I’m not really sure where this one would rank, all time. But they were rank. I was with a very dear friend of mine who was also a friend of the band. I told her they stunk. She didn’t offer an opinion and I don’t know how she took my assessment. Another attempt to blow something up on my part.

She could have said that it was only my opinion, a typical rejoinder to a comment like my mine. And yes, it would have been an opinion but all opinions are not created equally. I could have the opinion that a new Cadillac is superior to a rusty, 80’s vintage K-Car whereas you could have the opposite opinion. All that would prove is you’re an idiot. When our media presents an unfounded opinion as equal to a fact based one, in the interest of fairness, they do us a disservice. That isn’t journalism. I don’t know what it is but it isn’t journalism. There is a real, measurable, scientifically based world out there that is sometimes at odds with the universe in our heads. It’s okay to call out the deluded. Including me.

Back to the bad music. I’ve been purging cd’s. I have too many that I never listen to and I added to the mess by buying about a hundred from a guy on the street for $5. I probably enabled a thief. Most of the c.d’s need to go. I’ve always been a minimalist but I’m now taking it to a new level. I want to get to the point where I have very, very few possessions.

When I was a teenager my  favorite uncle (the one who told me “nothing I would learn would go to waste” as I was complaining about irrelevant schoolwork) payed a visit while I was in my room playing a Deep Purple record. He told me the music was crap. I was offended and thought, “What does this old fart know?” although I didn’t say it out loud in order not to get one up-side-the-head. He owned a radio station and hosted a program with classical music. It turned out he was right. A lot of music that I listened to as a kid, that I listen to today, is, relatively speaking, not very good. Nostalgic but not good.

I started my cd review by listening to Gorecki’s 3rd symphony and reading the liner notes about Poland and the Nazi attempt at genocide (it wasn’t just the Jews, the Nazi monsters had an even larger appetite than we give them credit for). Wonderful music. Beauty can be inspired by horror. Can the reverse be true? Anyway, immediately after Gorecki I popped in a Grateful Dead 1972 Europe tour live cd (among the pile I bought from the homeless guy). Ugh! I was never a stoner (remember the glue?) which might help explain why I was never a Dead Head. There was also  a lot of 80’s pop in the bag. Double ugh, for the most part. Some of the rejected cd’s went into the garbage, especially if they were in less that ideal condition, the rest I’ll sell off at APOTF.

I’ve always committed to reading well, I’ll extend that philosophy to listening well.

Our culture is hip deep in garbage. The opinion of many is that it is not garbage which is how garbage gets propagated, I suppose. I’m going to assume that every generation generates its fair share of garbage. It’s up to each of us to educate ourselves and objectively reject the garbage in favor of the, uh, not garbage. I think being able to identify quality is a skill that can be attained. Just my opinion.

I finished the evening listening to Paolo Conte and Randy Newman and Dark Side of the Moon and Sibelius in order to reset my mood. My uncle would have approved.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Cliff

October 8, 2015 1 comment

Cliff had a small gun collection. I don’t remember how many weapons were stored in the locked gun cabinet with the glass front. There were three shotguns including a Browning pump action 16 gauge. A .30-.06. A regular .22 and a .22 magnum. Two Winchester .30-.30’s, one with a low serial number meaning it was a collector’s gun. There were other rifles I don’t remember and a couple of pistols. A big silver revolver that looked like it belonged in a Western movie and a snub nosed Smith and Wesson .38 suitable for a private dick. The guns were rarely used but kept oiled and cleaned and beautiful in their own gun-way.

Cliff liked to hunt but worked too much to practice the sport with much regularity. Depending on the season, there might be venison or rabbit in the freezer. Sometimes quail. Occasionally squirrel, my least favorite because the meat is dark and oily. A squirrel is basically a rat with a cute tail.

Speaking of vermin, Cliff and I would sometimes go to the dump which was an open pit filled with refuse – stained mattresses, broken furniture and appliances, tin cans, scraps of food and other garbage. Garbage disposal wasn’t easy and convenient in the country side in those days. We’d sit on a rock or the hood of the car or the back of my uncle’s pick-up truck and use the occasional emerging rat for target practice. A .30-.06 could pretty much disintegrate a rat. I have to admit it was a good time but I had less of a fondness for hunting deer and small edible animals. I had no qualms about eating them however.

As I said, Cliff went hunting rarely and I went with him even less frequently. I was more interested in baseball and books and girls.

Cliff was an N.R.A. member but I never heard mention of the 2nd Amendment or gun rights of any kind or the need to protect ourselves from criminals or an oppressive government. I also never heard of mass shootings at schools and churches and other gatherings. Maybe these things happened back then but, if they did, it was most assuredly with less frequency and media coverage since I don’t remember them at all. Most people weren’t angry and afraid and strident in their  beliefs except for the local Baptist Minister who insisted we were all going to hell but nobody paid him much mind.

Cliff was a trucker and also belonged to the Teamsters. Belonging to a union and the N.R.A. was no contradiction in those days. Cliff was a conservative  who always voted Democrat but behaved like an Eisenhower Republican. In those days the two major political parties had differences in philosophy but shared an interest in governing for the greater good. As a result, the nation experienced the greatest prosperity it ever had or likely ever will. Did I mention that unions were strong and had built a middle class that drove the economic engine with buying power that allowed a truck driver to live a good life, buy a house, drive a good car and help send his son to college? The advantaged, the privileged, the economy elite, the wealthy, however they acquired their wealth, paid very high marginal tax rates and that was viewed as the appropriate order of things.

Bad things had already taken root and would soon fester like an untreated wound. The Vietnam war. The Moral Majority. Supply side/trickle-down economics and a philosophy that greed is good with a sort of resurgent Calvinism that preached that the poor and oppressed were getting exactly what they deserved through God’s will.

Cliff didn’t live long enough to witness the worst of it. And, in a way, I’m grateful for that.

Cliff was my father.

Categories: Uncategorized

Randomania


In research and repair mode. Four flawed stories that aren’t ready to be shared. One is a story without an ending. Nothing seems to work. I tried the surprise ending but it felt stupid and contrived. I tried the French film, “What? It’s over? What just happened?” ending?. But I’m not French, though I sometimes wish I was. Another story has a hook and an ending but no body. It’s more an outline. The last one may not be a short story at all. It’s at 6,000 words with no end in sight. I’ve learned what to do in these circumstances. Set all aside and try again later.

###

So. Your humble narrator hasn’t much to share with you.

The MLB playoffs are here. The hated Yankees lost to the Astros last night. Yay! Not that I’m much of an Astros fan because Houston is a shit hole and is in Texas which needs to be given independence or returned to Mexico. The Pirates play the Cubs tonight, I think. I like both cities but Cubs fans, for all their Quixotic charm, can be assholes so I’m rooting for the Pirates. Pittsburgh is a lovely town, a mixture of Cincinnati (size and topography) and Cleveland (eastern European heritage). Mets vs. Dodgers. Ugh! Which has the higher payroll? Dodgers. OK Mets then. Rangers against Blue Jays. Blue Jays, obviously. And not just because of the Texas thing. Who was it that said living in Canada is like having a really nice apartment above a crack house?

###

I’ve been thinking about the ingredients for a healthy, happy and successful (not in terms of money and possessions) existence. Here is my tentative list. I intend to explore each item in turn in future posts. If you have additional suggestions or elaborations, please, let me know. Here goes:

  1. Observant/Mindful. Observing is not the same as seeing. Paying attention is not the same as being aware.
  2. Curiosity/Open-mindedness. One of the chief ingredients of intelligence, I think. If you aren’t forever curious it means your mind is made up. Only the truly stupid believe they have it all figured out.
  3. Flexibility/Roll-with-the-punchedness. Probably a by product of curiosity.
  4. Passion/Lovingness. If you’re not in love with the world it should divorce you. Sooner than planned.
  5. Fearlessness/Risk-taking.   No one is, nor should they be, completely fearless but if you’re terrified of failure you’ll fail in the most extreme, existential sense.
  6. Humor. If you can’t laugh, nothing else really matters.

My list is predicated on the assumption that each of these characteristics can, to some degree, be cultivated unlike raw intelligence and height. I was about to add attractiveness among the uncontrollables but realized that would be a falsehood in the extreme. Some of the most attractive women I have known have not been beauties in the physical sense.

###

Great quote of the day:

“Being disintegrated makes me very angry. Very angry indeed.” – Marvin the Martian

###

I don’t eat sweets. Have no appetite for them. I give my morning Dojo caramel at Findlay to Amy at Market Wines. I am a sucker, however, for salty snacks. Cheddar and Sour Cream potato chips. Salt and Vinegar. Barbecue. Ranch. You can get potato chips in almost any flavor, except the one I want. Maybe freshness is the issue.

I’m still working on number 5.

Categories: Uncategorized