Confession of a Coward
     God, she thought lying in bed naked and re-reading Aldington's Portrait
of  a  Genius, But... he's an impostor! Not D.H. Lawrence, but her  husband-
Henry-with  his bauble of a belly and all the hair he never combed  and  the
way  he  stood around in his shorts, and the way he stood naked  before  the
window like an Arabian and howled; and he told her that he was turning  into
a  toad and that he wanted to buy a Buddha and that he wanted to be old  and
drown in the sea, and that he was going to grow a beard and that he felt  as
if he was turning into a woman.
      And Henry was poor, poor and worthless and miserable and sick. And  he
wanted to join the Mahler Society. His breath was bad, his father was insane
and his mother was dying of cancer.
     And besides all this, the weather was hot, hot as hell.
      "I've  got a new system," he said. "All I need is four or five  grand.
It's  a  matter  of investment. We could travel from track  to  track  in  a
      She felt like saying something blas+ like, "We don't have four or five
grand," but it didn't come out. Nothing came out: all the doors were  closed
and  all  the windows were down, and it was in the middle of the  desert-not
even  vultures-and they were about to drop the Bomb. She should have  stayed
in  Texas, she should have stayed with Papa-this man is a goon, a gunnysack,
a  gutless  no-nothing in a world of doers. He hides behind  symphonies  and
poetic fancies; a weak and listless soul.
     "Are you going to take me to the museum?" she asked.
     "They're having an Art Exhibit."
     "I know."
     "Well, don't you want to see Van Gogh?"
     "To hell with Van Gogh! What's Van Gogh to me?"
     The doors closed again and she couldn't think of an answer.
     "I don't like museums," he continued. "I don't like museum-people."
      The fan was going but it was a small apartment and the heat held as if
enclosed in a kettle.
      "In  fact," he said, peeling off his T-shirt and standing in just  his
shorts, "I don't like any kind of people."
     Amazingly, he had hair on his chest.
      "In  fact," he continued, pulling his shorts down and over the end  of
one  foot, "I'm going to write a book some day and call it Confession  of  a
     The doorbell rang like a rape, or the tearing of ripe flesh.
     "Jesus Christ!" he said like something trapped.
      She  jumped off the bed, looking very white and unpeeled. Like a candy
banana. Aldington and D.H. Lawrence and Taos fell to the floor.
      She  ran  to the closet and began stuffing herself inside  the  flying
cloth of female necessaries.
     "Never mind the clothes," he said.
     "Aren't you going to answer?"
     "No! Why should I?"
     It rang again. The sound of the bell entered the room and searched them
out, scaled and scalded their skins, pummeled them with crawling eyes.
     Then it was silent.
     And the feet turned with their sound, turning and guiding some monster,
taking it back down the stairwell, one two three, 1, 2, 3; and then gone.
     "I wonder," he said, still not moving, "what that was?"
      "I  don't know," she said, bending double at the waist and pulling her
petticoat back over her head.
     "Here!" she yelled. "Here!" holding her arms out like feelers.
     He finished yanking the petticoat off over her head with some distaste.
     "Why do you women wear this crap?" he asked in a loud voice.
      She  didn't  feel  an answer was necessary and went  over  and  pulled
Lawrence out from under the bed. Then she got into bed with Lorenzo and  her
husband sat on the couch.
     "They built a little shrine for him," he said.
     "Who?" she asked irritably.
     "They have a picture of it in that book."
     "Yes, I've seen it."
     "Have you ever seen a dog-graveyard?"
     "A dog-graveyard."
     "Well, what about it?"
      "They always have flowers. Every dog always has flowers, fresh, all in
neat little clusters on each grave. It's enough to make you cry."
      She  found  her place in the book again, like a person  searching  for
solitude in the middle of a lake: So the bitter months dragged by miserably,
accompanied by Lorenzo's tragic feeling of loss, his-
      "I  wish I had studied ballet," he said. "I go about all slumped  over
but that's because my spirit is wilted. I'm really lithe, ready to tumble on
spring  mattresses of some sort. I should have been a frog, at least. You'll
see. Someday I'm going to turn into a frog."
      Her lake rippled with the irritating breeze: "Well, for heaven's sake,
study ballet! Go at night! Get rid of your belly! Leap around! Be a frog!"
     "You mean after WORK?" he asked woefully.
     "God," she said, "you want everything for nothing." She got up and went
to the bathroom and closed the door.
      She  doesn't understand, he thought, sitting on the couch  naked,  she
doesn't  understand that I'm joking. She's so god-damned serious. Everything
I  say is supposed to carry truth or tragic import, or insight or something.
I've been through all that!
     He noticed a pencil-scrawled piece of paper, in her handwriting, on the
side table. He picked it up:
     My husband is a poet published alongside Sartre and Lorca;
     he writes about insanity and Nietzsche and Lawrence,
     but what has he written about me?
     she reads the funnies
     and empties garbage
     and makes little hats
     and goes to Mass at 8 AM
     I too am a poet and an artist, some discerning critics
     say, but my husband wrote about me:
     she reads the funnies...
     He heard the toilet flush, and a moment later, out she came.
     "I'd like to be a clown in a circus," he greeted her.
     She got back on the bed with her book.
      "Wouldn't  you like to be a tragicomic clown stumbling  about  with  a
painted face?" he asked her.
     She didn't answer. He picked up the Racing Form:
     POWER 114 B.g.4, by Cosmic Bomb-
     Pomayya, by Pompey
     Breeder, Brookmeade Stable.
     1956 12 2 4 1 $12,950
     July 18-Jam I I/16 1:45 1/5ft. 3 122 2
     1/2 3 2h GuerinE'Alw 86
     "I'm going to Caliente next Sunday," he said.
     "Good. I'll have Charlotte over. Allen can bring her in the car."
      "Do  you believe she really got propositioned by the preacher in  that
movie like she claimed?"
     She turned the page of her book.
     "God damn you, answer me!" he screamed, angry at last.
     "What about?"
      "Do  you think she's a whore and making it all up? Do you think  we're
all  whores? What are we trying to do, reading all these books? Writing  all
the  poems they -send back, and working in some dungeon for nothing  because
we're not really interested in money?"
     She put the book down and looked back over her shoulder at him. "Well,"
she said in a low voice, "do you want to give it all up?"
      "Give WHAT all up? We don't have anything! Or, do you mean Beethoven's
Fifth or Handel's Water Music? Or do you mean the SOUL?"
     "Let's not argue. Please. I don't want to argue.
     "Well, I want to know what we are trying to do!"
     The doorbell rang like all the bells of doom sweeping across the room.
     "Shhh," he said, "shhh! Be quiet!"
      The  doorbell rang again, seeming to say, I know you are in  there,  I
know you are in there.
     "They know we're in here." she whispered.
     "I feel that this is it, " he said.
     "Never mind. Just be quiet. Maybe it will go away."
      "Isn't it wonderful to have all these friends?" she took up the  joke-
     "No. We have no friends. I tell you, this is something else!"
      It  rang again, very short, flat and spiritless. "I once tried to make
the Olympic swimming team," he said, getting completely off the point.
     "You make more ridiculous statements by the minute, Henry."
     "Will you get off my back? Just for that!," he said, raising his voice,
     There was no answer.
      Henry  rose  wide-eyed, as if in a trance, and flung  the  door  open,
forgetting  his  nakedness. He stood there transfixed in  thought  for  some
time, but it was obvious to her that nobody was therein his state of undress
there  would  have  been  quite a commotion or,  at  the  very  least,  some
sophisticated comment.
      Then  he closed the door. He had a strange look on his face, a  round-
eyed  almost  dull look and he swallowed once as he faced  her.  His  pride,
      "I've decided," he announced, "that I'm not going to turn into a woman
after all."
     "Well, that will help matters between us considerably, Henry."
      "And  I'll even take you to see Van Gogh. No wait, I'll let  you  take
     "Either way, dear. It doesn't matter."
     "No," he said, "you'll have to take me!"
     He marched into the bathroom and closed the door.
     "Don't you wonder," she said through the door, "who that was?"
     "Who what was?"
     "Who that was at the door? Twice?"
     "Hell," he said, "I know who it was."
     "Who was it, then?"
     "I said, 'Ha!' I'm not telling!"
      "Henry,  you simply don't know who it was, anymore than I  do.  You're
simply being silly again."
      "If  you promise to take me to see Van Gogh, I'll tell you who was  at
the door."
     "All right," she humored him along, "I promise."
     "O.K., it was me at the door!"
     "You at the door?"
      "Yes,"  he  laughed  a silly little laugh, "me looking  for  me!  Both
     "Still playing the clown aren't you, Henry?"
      She  heard  the water running in the basin and knew he  was  going  to
     "Are you going to shave, Henry?"
     "I've decided against the beard," he answered.
     He was boring her again and she simply opened her book at a random page
and began reading:
     You don't want any more of me?
     I want us to break off-you be free of me, I free of you.
     And what about these last months?
     I don't know. I've not told you anything but what I thought was true.
     Then why are you different now?
     I'm not-I'm the same-only I know it's no good going on.
     She closed the book and thought about Henry. Men were children. You had
to  humor  them. They could take no hurt. It was a thing every  woman  knew.
Henry tried-he was just so-all this playing the clown. All the poor jokes.
     She rose from the bed as if in a dream, walked across the floor, opened
the  door and stared. Against the basin stood a partly soaped shaving  brush
and  his still wet shaving mug. But the water in the basin was cold  and  at
the  bottom,  against the plug, green and beyond her reach at last  and  the
size of a crumpled glove, stared back the fat, living frog.
     Black Sparrow "New Year's Greeting" 1995

      Cass  was the youngest and most beautiful of 5 sisters. Cass  was  the
most  beautiful girl in town. 1/2 Indian with a supple and strange  body,  a
snake-like  and  fiery body with eyes to go with it. Cass was  fluid  moving
fire.  She was like a spirit stuck into a form that would not hold her.  Her
hair  was  black and long and silken and whirled about as did her body.  Her
spirit  was either very high or very low. There was no in between for  Cass.
Some  said she was crazy. The dull ones said that. The dull ones would never
understand  Cass. To the men she was simply a sex machine  and  they  didn't
care  whether she was crazy or not. And Cass danced and flirted, kissed  the
men,  but except for an instance or two, when it came time to make  it  with
Cass, Cass had somehow slipped away, eluded the men.
      Her  sisters accused her of misusing her beauty, of not using her mind
enough, but Cass had mind and spirit; she painted, she danced, she sang, she
made  things of clay, and when people were hurt either in the spirit or  the
flesh,  Cass  felt a deep grieving for them. Her mind was simply  different;
her  mind was simply not practical. Her sisters were jealous of her  because
she  attracted their men, and they were angry because they felt  she  didn't
make the best use of them. She had a habit of being kind to the uglier ones;
the  so-called handsome men revolted her- "No guts," she said, "no zap. They
are  riding on their perfect little earlobes and well- shaped nostrils...all
surface and no insides..." She had a temper that came close to insanity, she
had  a  temper that some call insanity. Her father had died of alchohol  and
her mother had run off leaving the girls alone. The girls went to a relative
who  placed  them in a convent. The convent had been an unhappy place,  more
for  Cass  than the sisters. The girls were jealous of Cass and Cass  fought
most  of  them.  She had razor marks all along her left arm  from  defending
herself in two fights. There was also a permanent scar along the left  cheek
but the scar rather than lessening her beauty only seemed to highlight it. I
met  her  at  the  West End Bar several nights after her  release  from  the
convent. Being youngest, she was the last of the sisters to be released. She
simply  came in and sat next to me. I was probably the ugliest man  in  town
and this might have had something to do with it.
     "Drink?" I asked.
     "Sure, why not?"
      I  don't  suppose there was anything unusual in our conversation  that
night, it was simply in the feeling Cass gave. She had chosen me and it  was
as  simple as that. No pressure. She liked her drinks and had a great number
of them. She didn't seem quite of age but they served he anyhow. Perhaps she
had  forged  i.d., I don't know. Anyhow, each time she came  back  from  the
restroom  and sat down next to me, I did feel some pride. She was  not  only
the  most beautiful woman in town but also one of the most beautiful  I  had
ever seen. I placed my arm about her waist and kissed her once.
     "Do you think I'm pretty?" she asked.
      "Yes, of course, but there's something else... there's more than  your
     "People are always accusing me of being pretty. Do you really think I'm
     "Pretty isn't the word, it hardly does you fair."
      Cass  reached  into her handbag. I thought she was  reaching  for  her
handkerchief. She came out with a long hatpin. Before I could stop  her  she
had  run  this  long  hatpin  through her nose,  sideways,  just  above  the
nostrils. I felt disgust and horror. She looked at me and laughed,  "Now  do
you  think  me pretty? What do you think now, man?" I pulled the hatpin  out
and  held  my handkerchief over the bleeding. Several people, including  the
bartender, had seen the act. The bartender came down:
      "Look,"  he said to Cass, "you act up again and you're out.  We  don't
need your dramatics here."
     "Oh, fuck you, man!" she said.
     "Better keep her straight," the bartender said to me.
     "She'll be all right," I said.
     "It's my nose, I can do what I want with my nose."
     "No," I said, "it hurts me."
     "You mean it hurts you when I stick a pin in my nose?"
     "Yes, it does, I mean it."
     "All right, I won't do it again. Cheer up."
      She  kissed  me,  rather grinning through the  kiss  and  holding  the
handkerchief to her nose. We left for my place at closing time. I  had  some
beer and we sat there talking. It was then that I got the perception of  her
as  a  person  full  of kindness and caring. She gave herself  away  without
knowing it. At the same time she would leap back into areas of wildness  and
incoherence. Schitzi. A beautiful and spiritual schitzi. Perhaps  some  man,
something, would ruin her forever. I hoped that it wouldn't be me.  We  went
to bed and after I turned out the lights Cass asked me,
     "When do you want it? Now or in the morning?"
     "In the morning," I said and turned my back.
      In  the morning I got up and made a couple of coffees, brought her one
in bed. She laughed.
     "You're the first man who has turned it down at night."
     "It's o.k.," I said, "we needn't do it at all."
     "No, wait, I want to now. Let me freshen up a bit."
      Cass  went  into  the  bathroom. She came out shortly,  looking  quite
wonderful, her long black hair glistening, her eyes and lips glistening, her
glistening... She displayed her body calmly, as a good thing. She got  under
the sheet.
     "Come on, lover man."
     I got in. She kissed with abandon but without haste. I let my hands run
over  her body, through her hair. I mounted. It was hot, and tight. I  began
to  stroke  slowly, wanting to make it last. Her eyes looked  directly  into
     "What's your name?" I asked.
     "What the hell difference does it make?" she asked.
      I  laughed and went on ahead. Afterwards she dressed and I  drove  her
back  to  the  bar but she was difficult to forget. I wasn't working  and  I
slept until 2 p.m. then got up and read the paper. I was in the bathtub when
she came in with a large leaf- an elephant ear.
     "I knew you'd be in the bathtub," she said, "so I brought you something
to cover that thing with, nature boy."
     She threw the elepahant leaf down on me in the bathtub.
     "How did you know I'd be in the tub?"
     "I knew."
      Almost  every day Cass arrived when I was in the tub. The  times  were
different but she seldom missed, and there was the elephant leaf.  And  then
we'd  make love. One or two nights she phoned and I had to bail her  out  of
jail for drunkenness and fighting.
      "These  sons of bitches," she said, "just because they buy you  a  few
drinks they think they can get into your pants."
     "Once you accept a drink you create your own trouble."
     "I thought they were interested in me, not just my body."
      "I'm  interested in you and your body. I doubt, though, that most  men
can see beyond your body."
      I  left  town  for  6 months, bummed around, came back.  I  had  never
forgotten  Cass, but we'd had some type of arguement and I felt like  moving
anyhow,  and when I got back i figured she'd be gone, but I had been sitting
in the West End Bar about 30 minutes when she walked in and sat down next to
     "Well, bastard, I see you've come back."
      I ordered her a drink. Then I looked at her. She had on a high- necked
dress. I had never seen her in one of those. And under each eye, driven  in,
were  2 pins with glass heads. All you could see were the heads of the pins,
but the oins were driven down into her face.
     "God damn you, still trying to destroy your beauty, eh?"
     "No, it's the fad, you fool."
     "You're crazy."
     "I've missed you," she said.
     "Is there anybody else?"
      "No there isn't anybody else. Just you. But I'm hustling. It costs ten
bucks. But you get it free."
     "Pull those pins out."
     "No, it's the fad."
     "It's making me very unhappy."
     "Are you sure?"
     "Hell yes, I'm sure."
     Cass slowly pulled the pins out and put them back in her purse.
     "Why do you haggle your beauty?" I asked. "Why don't you just live with
      "Because people think it's all I have. Beauty is nothing, beauty won't
stay.  You  don't know how lucky you are to be ugly, because if people  like
you you know it's for something else."
     "O.k.," I said, "I'm lucky."
      "I  don't mean you're ugly. People just think you're ugly. You have  a
fascinating face."
     We had another drink.
     "What are you doing?" she asked.
     "Nothing. I can't get on to anything. No interest."
     "Me neither. If you were a woman you could hustle."
     "I don't think I could ever make contact with that many strangers, it's
     "You're right, it's wearing, everything is wearing."
     We left together. People still stared at Cass on the streets. She was a
beautiful  woman, perhaps more beautiful than ever. We made it to  my  place
and I opened a bottle of wine and we talked. With Cass and I, it always came
easy.  She  talked  a while and I would listen and then i  would  talk.  Our
conversation simply went along without strain. We seemed to discover secrets
together.  When we discovered a good one Cass would laugh that  laugh-  only
the  way  she  could. It was like joy out of fire. Through  the  talking  we
kissed and moved closer together. We became quite heated and decided  to  go
to  bed. It was then that Cass took off her high -necked dress and I saw it-
the ugly jagged scar across her throat. It was large and thick.
      "God  damn you, woman," I said from the bed, "god damn you, what  have
you done?
     "I tried it with a broken bottle one night. Don't you like me any more?
Am I still beautiful?"
      I  pulled  her  down on the bed and kissed her. She  pushed  away  and
laughed, "Some men pay me ten and I undress and they don't want to do it.  I
keep the ten. It's very funny."
     "Yes," I said, "I can't stop laughing... Cass, bitch, I love you...stop
destroying yourself; you're the most alive woman I've ever met."
     We kissed again. Cass was crying without sound. I could feel the tears.
The long black hair lay beside me like a flag of death. We enjoined and made
slow  and  sombre  and wonderful love. In the morning  Cass  was  up  making
breakfast. She seemed quite calm and happy. She was singing. I stayed in bed
and enjoyed her happiness. Finally she came over and shook me,
      "Up,  bastard! Throw some cold water on your face and pecker and  come
enjoy the feast!"
      I drove her to the beach that day. It was a weekday and not yet summer
so  things  were splendidly deserted. Beach bums in rags slept on the  lawns
above the sand. Others sat on stone benches sharing a lone bottle. The gulls
whirled  about, mindless yet distracted. Old ladies in their 70's  and  80's
sat on the benches and discussed selling real estate left behind by husbands
long ago killed by the pace and stupidity of survival. For it all, there was
peace  in the air and we walked about and stratched on the lawns and  didn't
say  much.  It  simply  felt  good being together.  I  bought  a  couple  of
sandwiches, some chips and drinks and we sat on the sand eating. Then I held
Cass  and  we  slept  together about an hour. It  was  somehow  better  than
lovemaking. There was flowing together without tension. When we awakened  we
drove  back  to my place and I cooked a dinner. After dinner I suggested  to
Cass that we shack together. She waited a long time, looking at me, then she
slowly  said,  "No." I drove her back to the bar, bought  her  a  drink  and
walked out. I found a job as a parker in a factory the next day and the rest
of  the  week  went to working. I was too tired to get about much  but  that
Friday night I did get to the West End Bar. I sat and waited for Cass. Hours
went  by  .  After I was fairly drunk the bartender said to me,  "I'm  sorry
about your girlfriend."
     "What is it?" I asked.
     "I'm sorry, didn't you know?"
     "Suicide. She was buried yesterday."
      "Buried?"  I  asked. It seemed as though she would  walk  through  the
doorway at any moment. How could she be gone?
     "Her sisters buried her."
     "A suicide? Mind telling me how?"
     "She cut her throat."
     "I see. Give me another drink."
      I  drank until closing time. Cass was the most beautiful of 5 sisters,
the  most  beautiful  in town. I managed to drive to my  place  and  I  kept
thinking, I should have insisted she stay with me instead of accepting  that
"no."Everything  about her had indicated that she had cared.  I  simply  had
been  too  offhand about it, lazy, too unconcerned. I deserved my death  and
hers.  I  was a dog. No, why blame the dogs? I got up and found a bottle  of
wine  and  drank from it heavily. Cass the most beautiful girl in  town  was
dead  at  20. Outside somebody honked their automobile horn. They were  very
loud  and  persistent.  I sat the bottle down and screamed  out:  "GOD  DAMN
YOU,YOU  SON  OF  A  BITCH ,SHUT UP!" The night kept coming  and  there  was
nothing I could do.


     **A Lovely Love Affair**

      I  went  broke --- again --- but this time in the French Quarter,  New
Orleans,  and Joe Blanchard, editor of the underground paper OVERTHROW  took
me  down to this place around the corner, one of those dirty white buildings
with  green storm windows, steps that ran almost straight up. It was  Sunday
and  I  was  expecting a royalty, no, and advance from a dirty  book  I  had
written for the Germans, but the Germans kept writing me this bullshit about
the  owner, the father, being a drunk, they were deep in the red because the
old  man had withdrawn their funds from the bank, no, overdrawn them for his
drinking  and  fucking bouts and therefore, they were broke  but  they  were
kicking the old man out and as soon as-
     Blanchard rang the bell.
      This old fat girl came to the door, and she weighed about between  250
and  300  pounds. She kind of wore this vast sheet as a dress and  her  eyes
were  very small. I guess that was the only small thing about her.  She  was
Marie  Glaviano, owner of a caf+ in the French Quarter, a very  small  caf+.
That was another thing that was not very big about her --- her caf+. But  it
was  a  nice caf+, red and white tablecloths, expensive menus and no  people
about.  One of those old-time black mammy dolls standing near the  entrance.
The  old  black mammy doll signified good times, old times, good old  times,
but  the good old times were gone. The tourists were walkers now. They  just
liked to walk around and look at things. They didn't go into the cafes. They
didn't  even  get  drunk. Nothing paid anymore. The good  times  were  over.
Nobody  gave a shit and nobody had any money and if they had any, they  kept
it.  It  was  a  new age and not a very interesting one. Everybody  kind  of
watched  the revolutionaries and the pigs rip at each other. That  was  good
entertainment and it was free and they kept their money in their pockets, if
they had any money.
      Blanchard said, "Hello, Marie. Marie, this is Charley Serkin. Charley,
this is Marie."
     "Hi," I said.
     "Hello," said Marie Glaviano.
     "Let us come in a minute, Marie," said Blanchard.
      (There  are only two things wrong with money: too much or too  little.
And there I was down at the "too little" stage again.)
     We climbed the steep steps and followed her down one fo those long long
sideways-built places ---I mean all length and no width, and then we were in
the  kitchen, sitting at a table. There was a bowl of flowers.  Marie  broke
open 3 bottles of beer. Sat down.
     "Well, Marie," said Blanchard, "Charley's a genius. He's up against the
knife. I'm sure he'll pull out, but meanwhile- meanwhile, he's got no  place
to stay."
     Marie looked at me. "Are you a genius?"
     I took a long drag at the beer. "Well, frankly, it's hard to tell. More
often,  I feel like some type of subnormal. Rather like all these great  big
white blocks of air in my head."
     "He can stay," said Marie.
      It  was Monday, Marie's only day off and Blanchard got up and left  us
there in the kitchen. Then the front door slammed and he was out of there.
     "What do you do?" asked Marie.
     "Live on my luck," I said.
     "You remind me of Marty," she said.
     "Marty?" I asked, thinking, my god, here it comes. And it came.
      "Well, you're ugly, you know. Well, I don't mean ugly, I mean beat-up,
you  know.  And you're really beat-up, you're even more beat-up  than  Marty
was. And he was a fighter. Were you a fighter?"
     "That's one of my problems: I could never fight worth a damn."
      "Anyhow,  you  got that same look as Marty. You been beat  but  you're
kind. I know your type. I know a man when I see a man. I like your face. You
got a good face."
      Not  being able to say anything about her face, I asked, "You got  any
cigarettes, Marie?"
      "Why  sure, honey," she reached down into that great sheet of a  dress
and  pulled a full pack out from between her tits. She could have carried  a
week's  worth  of groceries in there. It was kind of funny.  She  opened  me
another beer.
      I took a good drain, then told her, "I could probably fuck you until I
made you cry."
     "Now look here, Charley," she said, "I won't have you talking that way.
I'm  a  nice girl. My mother brought me up right. You keep talking that  way
and you can't stay."
     "Sorry, Marie, I was just kidding."
     "Well, I don't like that kind of kidding."
     "Sure, I understand. You got any whiskey?"
     "Scotch is fine."
      She brought out an almost full fifth. 2 waterglasses. We had ourselves
some  scotch and water. That woman had been around. That was obvious.  She's
probably been around ten years longer than I. Well, age wasn't any crime. It
was only that most people aged badly.
     "You're just like Marty," she said again.
     "And you're not like anybody I've ever seen," I said.
     "Do you like me?" she asked.
      "I've got to," I said, and she didn't give me any snot over that  one.
We drank another hour or two,. Mostly beer but with a bit of scotch here and
there, and then she took me down to my bed. And on the way down we passed  a
place  and she was sure to say, "That's my bed." It was quite wide.  My  bed
was next to another one. Very strange. But it didn't mean anything. "You can
sleep in either bed," said Marie, "or both of them."
     There was something about that that felt like a putdown-
     Well, sure, I had a head in the morning and I heard her rattling in the
kitchen but I ignored it as any wise man would, and I heard her turn on  the
tv  for the morning news, she had the tv on the breakfast nook table, and  I
heard the coffee perking, it smelled rather good but the smell of bacon  and
eggs  and potatoes I didn't like, and the sound of the morning news I didn't
like, and I felt like pissing and I was thirsty, but I didn't want Marie  to
know  that I was awake, so I waited, mildly pissed (haha, yes), but  wanting
to  be  alone,  wanting to own the place alone and she kept  fucking  around
fucking around and finally I heard her running past my bed-
     "Gotta go, " she said, "I'm late."
     "Bye, Marie," I said.
      When  the  door slammed I got up and walked to the crapper and  I  sat
there  and I pissed and I crapped and I sat there in New Orleans,  far  from
home, wherever my home was, and then I saw a spider sitting in a web in  the
corner,  looking at me. Now that spider had been there a long time,  I  knew
that. Much longer than I had. First, I thought of killing him. But he was so
fat  and  happy  and ugly, he owned the joint. I'd have to wait  some  time,
until  it  was proper. I got up and wiped my ass and flushed. As I left  the
crapper, the spider winked at me.

      I  didn't want to play with what was left of the 5th, so I sat in  the
kitchen,  naked, wondering, how can people trust me so? Who  was  I?  People
were crazy, people were simple. That gave me and edge. Hell ys, it did.  I'd
lived  for ten years without a trade. People gave me money, food, places  to
stay. Whether they thought I was an idiot or a genius, that didn't matter. I
knew  what  I  was.  I was neither. What made people give  me  gifts  didn't
concern  me. I took the gifts and I took them without a feeling  of  victory
or/and  coercion. My only premise was that I couldn't ask for  anything.  On
top of it all, I rather had this little phonograph record spinning around on
top  of my brain and it kept playing the same tune: don't try don't try.  It
seemed like and all right idea.
      Anyhow, after Marie left I sat in the kitchen and drank 3 cans of beer
I  found  in  the refrigerator. I never cared much for food.  I'd  heard  of
people's love for food. But food only bored me. Liquid was o.k. but bulk was
a  dragdown.  I liked shit, I liked to shit, I liked turds but it  was  such
terrible work creating them.
      After the 3 cans of beer I noticed this purse on the seat next to  me.
Of  course,  Marie  had taken another purse to work. Would  she  be  foolish
enough  or  kind  enough to leave money? I opened the purse.  There  at  the
bottom was a ten dollar bill.
     Well, Marie was testing me and I'd prove worthy of her test.
      I  took  the ten, walked back to my bedroom and dressed. I felt  good.
After all, what did a man need to survive? Nothing. It was true. And I  even
had the key to the place.
      So  I  stepped  outside and locked the door to keep out  the  thieves,
hahaha, and there I was out on the streets, the French Quarter, and  what  a
stupid place that was, but I had to make it do. Everything had to serve  me,
that's  the way it went. So-oh yes, I was walking down the street,  and  the
trouble  with  the  French Quarter was that there just  weren't  any  liquor
stores  around  like  in  other decent parts of  the  world.  Maybe  it  was
deliberate.  One had to guess that it helped those horrible  shit  holes  on
every  corner that were called bars. The first thing I ever thought of  when
walking into one of those "quaint" French Quarter bars was vomiting.  And  I
usually did, running back to some urine-stinking pisspot and letting  go  --
tons  and  tons of fried eggs and half-cooked greasy potatoes.  And  walking
back  in,  after heaving, and looking upon them: the only thing more  lonely
and  inane  than the patrons was the bartender, especially if he also  owned
the place. O.k., so I walked around, knowing that the bars were the lie, and
you know where I found my 3 six packs? A little grocery with stale bread and
all about it, even peeling into the paint, this half-sex smile of loneliness-
help me, help me, help me-terrible, yes, and they can't even light the place
up,  electricity costs money, and here I was, the first guy to buy three six
packs  in  18 years, and my god, she almost came across the top of the  cash
register-It was too much. I grabbed my change and 18 tall cans of  beer  and
ran out into the stupid French Quarter sunlight-

      I  placed  the  remainder  of the change back  in  the  purse  in  the
breakfastnook and then left the purse open so Marie could see it. Then I sat
down and opened a beer.
      It  was good being alone. Yet, I wasn't alone. Each time I had to piss
I'd  see that spider and I thought, well, spider, you've got to go, soon.  I
just don't like your looks in that dark corner, catching bugs and slies  and
sucking the blood out of them. You see, you're bad, Mr. Spider. And I'm o.k.
At  least,  that's the way I like to see it. You're nothing but  a  frigging
dark brainless wart of death, that's what you are. Suck shit. You've had it.
      I  found a broom in the backporch and came back in there and I crashed
him  out  of his web and brought him his own death. All right, that was  all
right,  he  was out there ahead of me, somewhere, I couldn't help that.  But
how  could Marie put her big ass down on the rims of that lid and  shit  and
look at that thing? Did she even see it? Perhaps not.
     I went back in the kitchen and had some more beer. Then I turned on the
tv.  Paper people. Glass people. I felt as if I were going insane and turned
the  thing  off. I drank some more beer. Then I boiled 2 eggs and fried  two
strips of bacon. I managed to eat. You forgot about food sometimes. The  sun
came  through  the  curtains. I drank all day. I threw the  empties  in  the
trash. Time went. Then the door opened. It flew open. It was Marie.
     "Jesus Christ!" she screamed, "you know what happened?"
     "No, no, I don't."
     "Oh, god damn it!"
     "Whatssa matta, honey?"
     "I burned the strawberries!"
     "Oh, yes?"
     She ran around the kitchen in little circles, that big ass bobbing. She
was crazy. She was out of it. Poor old fat cunt.
      "I  had this pot of strawberries going in the kitchen and one of these
tourists  came in, rich bitch, first customer of the day, and she likes  the
little  hats I make, you know-Well, she's kinda cute and all the  hats  look
good  on  her  and so she's got a problem, and then we get to talking  about
Detroit,  she  knew  somebody in Detroit that I knew, you  know,  and  we're
talking and then all of a sudden I SMELL IT!!! THE STRAWBERRIES ARE BURNING!
I  ran  into  the kitchen, but it's too late-.what a mess! The  strawberries
have  boiled  over and they are everywhere and it stinks, it's burned,  it's
sad, and nothing can be saved, nothing! What hell!"
     "I'm sorry. But did you sell her a hat?"
     "I sold her two hats. She couldn't make up her mind."
     "I'm sorry about the strawberries. And I killed the spider."
     "What spider?"
     "I didn't think you'd know."
     "Know what? What's this spiders? They're just bugs."
      "They tell me a spider isn't a bug. Something to do with the number of
legs- I really don't know or care."
     "A spider ain't a bug? What kinda shit is that?"
     "Not an insect. So they say. Anyhow, I killed the damn thing."
     "Sure. You left it there. I had to have beer."
     "You have to have beer all the time?"
     "You're going to be a problem. You had anything to eat?"
     "2 eggs, 2 slices of bacon."
     "You hungry?"
     "Yes. But you're tired. Relax. Have a drink."
     "Cooking relaxes me. But first I gotta have a hot bath."
     "Go ahead."
      "O.k.,"  she reached over and turned on the tv and then  went  to  the
bathroom. I had to listen to tv. A news broadcast. Perfectly ugly bastard. 3
nostrils.  Perfectly  hateful bastard dressed  like  a  little  inane  doll,
sweating,  and  looking  at me, saying words I hardly  understood  or  cared
about.  I  knew that Marie would be looking at tv for hours,  so  I  had  to
adjust  to  it. When Marie came back I was looking directly into the  glass,
which  made  her  feel  better.  I looked  as  harmless  as  a  man  with  a
checkerboard and the sports page.
      Marie  had  come  out, dolled in another outfit. She might  have  even
looked  cute, but she was so god damned fat. Well, anyhow, I wasn't sleeping
on a park bench.
     "You want me to cook, Marie?"
     "No, it's all right. I'm not so tired now."
     She began preparing the food. When I got up for the next beer, I kissed
her behind the ear.
     "You're a good sport, Marie."
     "You got enough drink for the rest of the night?" she asked.
     "Sure, kid. And there's still that 5thy. Everything's fine. I just want
to sit here and look at the set and listen to you talk. O.k?"
     "Sure, Charley."
     I sat down. She had something going. It smelled good. She was evidently
a  fine  cook. The whole walls crawled with this warm smell of  cooking.  No
wonder  she  was so fat: good cook, good eater. Marie was making  a  pot  of
stew.  Every  now and then she'd get up and add something  to  the  pot.  An
onion.  A piece of cabbage. A few carrots. She knew. And I drank and  looked
at  that big sloppy old gal and she sat there making these most magic  hats,
her hands working into a basket, picking up first the color, then that, this
length  of ribbon, then that, and then twisting it so, sewing it so, placing
it  against the hat, and that 2 bit straw was just more magic. Marie created
masterpieces that would never be discovered --- walking down the  street  on
top of bitches' heads.
     As she worked and tended stew, she talked.
     "It's not like it used to be. People don't have any money. Everything's
Traveler's  checks and checkbooks and credit cards. People just  don't  have
money.  They don't carry it. Credit's everything. A guy gets a paycheck  and
it's  already taken. They mortgage their whole lives away to buy one  house.
And  then  they've got to fill that house with shit and have a car.  They're
hooked  on  house and the legislators know this and tax them to  death  with
property taxes. Nobody has any money. Small businesses just can't last."
     We sat down to the stew and it was perfect. After dinner we brought out
the  whiskey  and she brought me two cigars and we looked at tv  and  didn't
talk much. I felt as if I had been there for years. She kept working on  the
hats, talking now and then, and I'd say, yeh, that's right, or, is that  so?
And the hats kept flying off of her hands, masterpieces.
     "Marie," I told her, "I'm tired. Got to go to bed."
     She told me to take the whiskey with me, so I did. But instead of going
down  to my bed, I threw back the cover of Marie's bed and crawled in. After
undressing, of course. It was a fine mattress. It was a fine bed. It was one
of  those  old-fashioned highpost jobs with a wooden roof, or whatever  they
call them. I guess if you fucked until the roof came down, you made it.  I'd
never bring that roof down without help from the gods.
     Marie kept looking at tv and making hats. Then I heard her turn off the
set,  switch out the kitchen light and she came into the bedroom, right past
the bedroom and she didn't see me, she went right n down to the crapper. She
was  in  there a while and then I watched her switch out of her clothes  and
into this big pink nightie. She fucked with her face a bit, gave up, put  on
a  couple of curlers, then turned around and walked toward the bed  and  saw
     "My god, Charley, you're in the wrong bed."
     "Uh, uh."
     "Listen, honey, I'm not that kind of woman."
     "O, cut the horseshit and climb in."
      She  did.  My god, she was nothing but meat. Actually,  I  was  a  bit
frightened.  What  did  you do with all that stuff?  Well,  I  was  trapped.
Marie's whole side of the bed sank down.
     "Listen, Charley-"
     I grabbed her head, turned it, and she seemed to be crying, and then my
lips  were on hers. We kissed. Damn it, my cock was getting hard. Good  god.
What was it?
     "Charley," she said, "you don't have to."
     I took one of her hands and placed it around my cock.
     "O shit," she said, "o shit!"
     Then she kissed me, tongued me. She had a small tongue ---at least that
was small ---and it ripped in and out, rather full of saliva and passion.  I
pulled away.
     "Whatza matta?"
     "Wait uh minute."
      I reached over and got the fifth and took a good long pull, then I sat
it  down  again and I reached on under and lifted that huge pink nightie.  I
got  to  feeling and I didn't know what I had but it seemed to be  it,  very
small  though, but in the right place. Yes, it was her cunt. I poked  at  it
with  my  pecker.  Then she reached down and guided me in. Another  miracle.
That  thing  was  tight. It almost ripped the skin off  of  me.  We  started
working. I was looking for the long ride but I didn't care. She had  me.  It
was  one of the best fucks of my life. I moaned and hollered, then finished,
rolled  off. Unbelievable. When she came back from the bathroom we talked  a
while, then she went to sleep. But she snored. SO I had to go down to my own
bed. And I awakened the next morning as she went to work.
     "Gotta hurry, Charley," she said.
     "Sure, baby."
      As  soon as she left I went to the kitchen and drank a glass of water.
She'd left her purse there. Ten dollars. I didn't take it. I walked back  to
the bathroom and took a good crap, without the spider. Then I took a bath. I
tried  to  brush  my  teeth, vomited a bit. I dressed and  walked  into  the
kitchen. I'd gotten hold of a piece of paper and pen:

     I love you. You are very good to me. But I must leave. And I don't know
exactly why. I'm crazy, I guess. Goodbye.

     I propped the note up against the television set. I didn't feel good. I
felt  like  crying. It was quiet in there, it was quiet in there the  way  I
liked  it.  Even the stove and the refrigerator looked human,  I  mean  good
human  ---  they seemed to have arms and voices and they said, hang  around,
kid, it's good here, it can be very good here. I found what was left of  the
5th  in  the  bedroom.  I drank that. Then I found a  can  of  beer  in  the
refrigerator. I drank that. Then I got up and made the long walk  down  that
narrow  place, it seemed like A hundred yards. I got to the door and then  I
remembered I had the key. I walked back and put the key with the note.  Then
I  looked  at the ten in the purse again. I left it there. I made  the  walk
again.  When I got to the door, I knew that when I closed it there would  be
no  going  back. I closed it. It was final. Down those steps.  I  was  alone
again  and nobody gave a damn. I walked south, then took a right.  I  walked
along,  I  walked along and got out of the French Quarter. I  crossed  Canal
Street. I walked along for some blocks and then I turned this way and then I
crossed another street and turned that way. I didn't know where I was going.
I  passed  a place to my left and a man was standing in the doorway  and  he
     "Hey, man, you want a job?"
      And I looked into the doorway and here were these rows of men lined up
at  wooden  tables and they had hammers and they were hitting at  things  in
shells,  they  looked like clam shells and they broke  the  shells  and  did
something with the meat, and it was dark in there; it seemed as if  the  men
were  beating at themselves with hammers and tossing away what was  left  of
them, and I told the man,
     "No, I don't want a job."
     I was facing the sun as I walked.
     I had 74 cents.
     The sun was all right.


     **My Big-Assed Mother**

      they were tow good girls, Tito and Baby. they both looked near 60  but
they  were close to 40. all that wine and worry. I was 29 and looked  closer
to  50.  all that wine and worry. I had gotten the apartment first and  then
they  had moved in. it worried the apartment house manager who kept  sending
the  cops up when we made the least bit of noise. it was jumpy. I was afraid
to piss in the center of the bowl.
     the best time was the MIRROR, watching myself, bloated belly, with Baby
and  Tito,  drunk and sick for nights and days, all of us, the  cheap  radio
playing, tubes all worn-out sitting there on that worn-down rug, ah my,  the
MIRROR, and I'd be watching, and I'd say:

     "Tito, it's in your ass. feel it?"
     "oh yes, oh my yes - SHOVE! hey! where ya GOING?"
      "now,  Baby, you got it in front here, umm? feel it? big purple  head,
like a snake singing arias! feel me love?"
     "oooh, dahling, I think I'm gonna c-..HEY! where ya GOING?"
      "Tito,  I  am back in your rumble seat. I am parting you in  two.  you
don't have a chance!"
     "oooh god ooooh, HEY where ya GOING? get back in there!"
     "I dunno."
      "I  dunno  who I want to catch it. what can I do? I want you  both,  I
can't HAVE you both! And while trying to make up my mind I am in a terror of
demise  and  agony  trying  to  hold  it!  doesn't  anybody  understand   my
     "no, just give it to me!"
     "no, me, me!"
     "bang! BanG! BANG!
     "hey, what's going on in there?"
      "nothing?  what's all that moaning and hollering and  screaming?  it's
3:30 a.m. you've got four floors of people wide awake and wonderin-"
      "please  go away. my mother has a bad heart. you are terrorizing  her.
and she's down to her last pawn."
     "and YOU are too, buddy! In case you don't know, this happens to be the
Los Angeles Police Department-"
     "christ, I'd have never guessed-"
     "now you've guessed. o.k. open up or we'll kick it down!"
      Tito and Baby ran into the far corner of the dining room, crouched and
shivering, holding, hugging their aging wrinkled and wino and insane bodies.
they were stupidly lovely.
     "open up here, buddy, we been up here four times in the past week and a
half  on the same call. you think we like to go around just throwing  people
in jail just because it makes us feel good?"
     "Captain Bradley says he doesn't care whether you are black or white."
     "you tell Captain Bradley that I feel the same way."
      I  kept  quiet. the two whores shivering and clutching their  wrinkled
bodies  by the corner lampshade. the bland and smothering silence of  willow
leaves in a chickenshit and unkind winter.
     they had gotten the key from the manager and the door was open 4 inches
but  it  was being held by the chain which I had on there. one of  the  cops
talked  to me while the other pushed with a screwdriver, trying to work  the
chain  out of the slot-holder. I'd let the cop get it almost out,  then  I'd
push  the  end of the chain all the way back in. while standing there  naked
with this hard-on.
      "you are violating my rights. you need a search warrant to enter here.
you  can't  force entry just on your own behest. What the hell's wrong  with
you guys."
     "which one of those is supposed to be our mother."
     "the one with the biggest ass."
      the other cop almost had the chain off again. I pushed it back with my
     "come on, let us in, we'll just talk."
     "what about? the wonders of Disneyland?"
     "no, no, you sound like an interesting man. we just want to come in and
     "you must think I'm subnormal. if I ever get queer enough for bracelets
I'll buy them at Thrifty's. I'm not guilty of a damn thing but a hard-on and
a loud radio and you haven't asked me to shut either of them off."
     "just let us in. all we want to do is talk."
      "listen, you are attempting to break and enter without a permit.  now,
I've got the best lawyer in town-"
     "a lawyer? whatta you got a lawyer for?"
      "I've  used  him  for years - draft dodging, indecent exposure,  rape,
drunk  driving, disturbing the peace, assault and battery, arson ---all  bad
     "he won all those cases?"
     "he's the best. now look, I'm giving you three minutes. either you stop
trying  to  force the door and leave me in peace of I'm getting him  on  the
phone. he won't like to be awakened at this time of the morning. he'll  have
your badges."
     the cops stepped back, a little way down the hall. I listened.
     "you think he knows what he's talking about?"
     "yes, I think he does."
     They came back.
     "your mother sure has a big ass."
     "too bad you can't have it, eh?"
     "all right, we're leaving, but you keep it quiet in there. we want that
radio off and all that moaning and hollering stopped."
     "all right, we'll turn off the radio."
      they left. what a pleasure to hear them leave. what a pleasure it  was
to have a good lawyer. what a pleasure it was to stay out of jail.
     I closed the door.
      "all  right, girls, they're gone. 2 nice young boys on the wrong path.
And now look!"
     I looked down. "it's gone, all gone away."
     "yes, it's all gone." said Baby. "where does it go? it's so sad."
     "shit," said Tito, "it looks like a dad little vienna sausage."
      I  walked  over and sat in a chair, poured a wine. Baby  rolled  us  3
     "how's the wine?" I asked.
     "down to 4 bottles."
     "fifths or gallons?"
     "jesus, we gotta get lucky."
      I  picked up a 4 day old newspaper. read the funnies. then went to the
sports section. while I was reading, Tito came on over, dropped down to  the
rug.  I  felt her working. she had a mouth like one of those toilet plungers
that unstopped toilets. I drank my wine and puffed at my cigarette.
      they'd  suck your brains out if you let them. I think they did  it  to
each other when I wasn't around.
      I  got  to  the horse page. "look here," I told Tito, "this horse  cut
fractions  of 22 and one fifth for the quarter, he's 44 and 4/5ths  for  the
half,  then  one  o nine for 6 furlongs, he must have thought  it  was  a  6
furlong race---"
     vurp virp slooom
     vissaaa ooop
     vop bop vop bop vop
      "---it's  a mile and a quarter, he's trying to sprint away from  these
routers, he's got 6 lengths turning the last curve and backing up, the horse
is dying, he wants to be back in the stable---"
     sllurrrr vip vop vop
     vip vop vop
      "now  check  the jock --- if it's Blum he'll win by a  nose;  if  it's
Volske he'll win by 3/4's of a length. it's Volske. he wins by 3/4's  a  bet
down  from  12  to 8. all stable money, the public hates Volske.  they  hate
Volske and Harmatz. so the stables use these guys 2 or 3 times a meet on the
goodies to keep the public off. if it weren't for these two great riders, at
the right time, I'd be down on East 5th Street ---"
      "oooh,  you  bastard!" Tito lifted her head and screamed, knocked  the
newspaper out of my hand. then went back to work. I didn't know what to  do.
she  was really angry. then Baby walked over. Baby had very good legs and  I
lifted  her  purple  skirt and looked at the nylons. Baby  leaned  over  and
kissed  me, gave me the tongue down the throat. I got my palm on her haunch.
I  was  trapped. I didn't know what to do. I needed a drink. 3 idiots locked
together. o moaning and the flight of the last bluebird into the eye of  the
sun, it was a child's game, a stupid game.
      first quarter, 22 and 1/4, the half in 44 and 1/5, she smoked it  out,
victory  by  a  head, Calif. Rain of my body. figs broken lovely  open  like
great  red guts in the sun and sucked loose while your mother hated you  and
your father wanted to kill you and the backyard fence was green and belonged
to the Bank of America. Tito smoked it out while I fingered Baby.
      then  we seperated, each waiting the bathroom's turn to wipe the  snot
from  our  sexual noses. I was always last. I came out and took one  of  the
winebottles and went over to the window and looked out.
     "Baby, roll me another smoke."
      we  were on the top floor, the 4th. Floor, high up on a hill. but  you
can  look  out  on Los Angeles and get nothing, nothing at  all.  all  those
people down there sleeping, waiting to get up and go to work. it was stupid.
Stupid,  stupid  and  horrible. we had it right: eye,  say,  blue  on  green
staring deeply through shreds of beanfields, into each other, come.
     Baby brought me the cigarette. I inhaled and watched the sleeping city.
we  sat  and waited on the sun and whatever there was to be. I did not  like
the world, but at cautious and easy times you could almost understand it.
     I don't know where Tito and Baby are now, if they are dead or what, but
those  nights  were  good, pinching those high-heeled  legs,  kissing  nylon
knees.  all  that color of dresses and panties, and making the  L.A.  Police
Force earn the green.
     Spring or flowers or Summer will never be like that again.

     -charles bukowski -
      from  the  books:  The  Most Beautiful Woman in  Town  and  Erections,
Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness



     "Dear Mr. Bukowski:
     Why don't you ever write about politics or world affairs?"

     "Dear M.K.:
     What for? Like, what's new? --- everybody knows the bacon is

      our raving takes place quite quietly while we are staring down at  the
hairs of a rug --- wondering what the shit went wrong when they blew up  the
trolley full of jellybeans with the poster of Popeye the Sailor stuck on the
     that's all that matters: the good dream gone, and when that's gone it's
all  gone.  the  rest is horseshit games for the Generals and  money-makers,
speaking  of which --- I see where another U.S. bomber full of H-bombs  fell
out  of the sky again --- THIS time into the sea while SUPPOSEDLY protecting
my  life.  the  State Dept. says the H-bombs were "unarmed,"  whatever  that
means.  then we continue to read where one of the H-bombs (lost)  had  split
open   and  was  spreading  radioactive  shit  everywhere  while  supposedly
protecting  me  WHILE  I  hadn't even asked for protection.  the  difference
between a Democracy and a Dictatorship is that you don't have to waste  your
time voting.
      getting  back to the H-bomb dropout --- a little while back  the  same
thing  happened off the coast of SPAIN. (we are everywhere, protecting  me.)
again the bombs get lost --- careless little toys. it took them 3 months ---
if  I remember properly --- to find and lift that last bomb out of there. it
may  have  been 3 weeks but to the people in that coast town  it  must  have
seemed  3  years. that last bomb --- the god damned thing had gotten  itself
wedged  on  the  edge of a sandhill far down in the sea. and everytime  they
tried to hook the thing, so tenderly, it would shake loose and roll a little
further  down  the hill. meanwhile, all the poor people in that  coast  town
were  tossing in their beds at night wondering if they'd be blown  to  hell,
courtesy of the Stars and Stripes. of course, the U.S. State Dept. issued  a
state ment saying the H-bomb had no detonation fuse, but meanwhile the  rich
had  left  for  other parts and the American sailors and townspeople  looked
very  nervous.  (after all, it the things couldn't blow up  what  were  they
flying  them  around  for?  might as well carry 2-ton  salamis.  fuse  means
"spark"  or  "trigger," and "spark" can come from any where,  and  "trigger"
means  "jolt" or any similar action that will set off the firing  mechanism.
NOW the terminology is "unarmed," which sounds safer but is the same thing.)
anyhow, they hooked at the bomb but as the saying goes, the thing seemed  to
have a mind of its own. then a few undersea storms came about and our lovely
little bomb rolled further and further down its hill. the sea is very  deep,
much deeper than our leadership.
      finally, special equipment was designed just to haul bomb-ass and  the
thing  was  pulled from the sea. Palomares. yes, that's where  it  happened:
Palomares. and you know what they did next? ---
     the American Navy had a BAND CONCERT in the town park in celebration of
finding  the  bomb - if the thing wasn't dangerous they were really  cutting
loose.  yes, and the sailors played the music together, one big  sexual  and
spiritual release. whatever happened to the bomb they pulled out of the sea,
I  don't know, nobody (except the few) knows, and the band played on.  while
1,000  tons of radio- active Spanish topsoil was shipped to Aiken,  S.C.  in
sealed containers. I'll be the rent is cheap in Aiken, S.C.
      so  now  our  bombs are swimming and sinking, chilled and "un-  armed"
about Iceland.
      so  what do you do when you've got the people's minds on something not
so  good?  easy, you get their minds on something else. they can only  think
about one thing at a time. like, all right, head line of Jan. 23, 1968: B-52
      anyhow,  suddenly, Jan. 24, headline: NORTH KOREANS  SEIZE  U.S.  NAVY
      oh  boy, patriotism is back! why, those dirty bastards! I thought THAT
war was over! ah ha, I see --- the REDS! Korean puppets!
      it  says  under the A.P. wirephoto, something like this ---  the  U.S.
intelligence shop Pueblo --- formerly an army cargo ship, now converted into
one  of  the Navy's secret spy ships equipped with electric monitoring  gear
and  oceanographic equipment was forced into Wonsan Harbor off the coast  of
North Korea.
     those dirty Red bastards, always fucking around!
      but  I  DID notice that the lost H-bomb story got shoved into a  small
space: "Radiation Detected at B-52 Crash Site; Split Bomb hinted."
      we  are  told that the president was awakened between 2 a.m. and  2:30
a.m. and told of the capture of the Pueblo.
     I presume he went back to sleep.
      the U.S. says the Pueblo was in international waters; the Koreans  say
the shop was in territorial waters. one country is lying, one is not.
     then one wonders, what good is a spy ship in international waters? it's
like wearing a raincoat on a sunny day.
     the closer you can get on in, the better your instruments pick up.
     headline: Jan. 26, 1968: U.S. CALLS UP 14,700 AIR RESERVISTS.
      the lost H-bombs off Iceland have completely disappeared from print as
if it had never happened.
      Sen. John C. Stennis (D.-Miss.) said Mr. Johnson's decision (the call-
up of Air Reserves_ was "necessary and justified" and added, "I hope he will
not hesitate to mobilize ground reserve components as well."
      Senate  minority  leader, Richard B. Russell (D.-Ga.):  "In  the  last
analysis,  this country must get the return of that ship and  the  men  that
were  seized.  after  all, great wars have started from  much  less  serious
incidents than this."
      House Speaker John W. McCormack (D.-Mass.): "The American people  have
to  wake  up  to  the  realization that communism is  still  bent  on  world
domination. there is too much apathy about it."
      I  think  that if Adolph Hitler were around now he would  pretty  much
enjoy the present scene.
      what's  there  to  say about politics and world  affairs?  the  Berlin
Crisis,  the  Cuban crisis, spy planes, spy ships, Vietnam, Korea,  lost  H-
bombs,  riots in American cities, starvation in India, purge in  Red  China?
are there good guys and bad guys? some that always lie, some that never lie?
are  there  good  governments and bad governments? no, there  are  only  bad
governments and worse governments. will there be a flash of light  and  heat
that  rips  us apart one night while we are screwing or crapping or  reading
the  comic strips or pasting blue-chip stamps into a book? instant death  is
nothing  new, nor is mass instant death new. but we've improved the product;
we've  had  these centuries of knowledge and culture and discovery  to  work
with;  the libraries are fat and crawling and overcrowded with books;  great
paintings  sell  for  hundreds of thousands of dollars; medical  science  is
transplanting the human heart; you can't tell a madman from a sane one  upon
the  streets,  and suddenly we find our lives, again, in the  hands  of  the
idiots.  the  bombs  may never drop; the bombs might  drop.  eeney,  meeney,
miney, mo-
     now if you'll forgive me, dear readers, I'll get back to the whores and
the  horses and the booze, while there's time. if these contain death, then,
to me, it seems far less offensive to be responsible for your own death than
the  other  kind which is brough to you fringed with phrases of Freedom  and
Democracy and Humanity and/or any of all that Bullshit.
      first  post,  12:30. first drink, now. and the whores will  always  be
around. Clara, Penny, Alice, Jo-
     eeny, meeney, miney, mo-



      The  President  of  the  United States of  America  entered  his  car,
surrounded  by  his  agents. He sat in the back seat.  It  was  a  dark  and
unimpressive morning. Nobody spoke. They rolled away and the tires could  be
heard on a street still wet from the preceding night's rain. The silence was
more unusual than it had ever been before.
     They drove along a while and then the President spoke:
     "Say, this isn't the way to the airport."
      His agents didn't answer. A vacation had been scheduled. Two weeks  at
his private home. His plane was waiting at the airport.
      It  began  to drizzle. It looked as if it might rain again.  The  men,
including the President, were dressed in heavy overcoats; hats; it made  the
car seem very full. Outside, the cold wind was steady.
     "Driver," said the President, "I believe you're on the wrong course."
     The driver didn't answer. The other agents stared straight ahead.
      "Listen," said the President, "will somebody tell that man the way  to
the airport?"
      "We're  not  going to the airport," said the agent to the  President's
     "We're not going to the airport?" the President asked.
     The agents were again quiet. The drizzle became rain. The driver turned
the wipers on.
     "Listen, what is it?" asked the President. "What's going on here?"
      "It's been raining for weeks," said the agent next to the driver.  "It
gets depressive. "I'll certainly be glad to see a little sunshine."
     "Yes, me too," said the driver.
     "Something's wrong here," said the President, "I demand to know-"
      "You  are  no longer in a position to demand," said the agent  to  the
President's right.
     "You mean?-"
     "We mean," said the same agent.
     "Is it to be an assassination?" asked the President.
     "Hardly. That's old-fashioned."
     "Then what-"
     "Please. We have orders not to discuss anything."

     They drove for some hours. It continued to rain. Nobody spoke.
     "Now," said the agent to the President's left, "circle again, then turn
in. We're not being followed. The rain has been very helpful."
      The  car  circled the area, then turned up a small dirt road.  It  was
muddy  and now and then the tires spun, slipped, then gripped again and  the
car  went on. A man in a yellow raincoat held a flashlight and directed them
into  an  open  garage. It was an isolated area with  many  trees.  A  small
farmhouse sat to the left of the garage. The agents opened the car doors.
      "Get  out," they told the President. The President did so. The  agents
kept  the  President carefully between them, although there wasn't  a  human
within miles except for the man with the flashlight and the yellow raincoat.
      "I don't see why we couldn't have done the whole thing here," said the
man in the yellow raincoat. "It certainly seems much riskier the other way."
     "Orders," said one of the agents. "You know how it is. He's always gone
a lot on intuition. He does so now, more than ever."
     "It's very cold. Do you have time for a cup of coffee? It's ready."
     "That's good of you. It's been a long drive. I presume the other car is
all ready to go?"
      "Of  course. It's been checked again and again. Actually, we're  about
ten  minutes  ahead  on  the timetable. That's one reason  I  suggested  the
coffee. You know how he is about precision."
     "O.K., then, let's go in."
      Keeping  the  President  carefully  between  them,  they  entered  the
     "You sit there," one of the agents told the President.
     "It's good coffee," said the man in the yellow raincoat, "hand-ground."
      He  walked around with the pot. He poured himself one, then sat  down,
still in the yellow raincoat, only the headpiece thrown on the stove.
     "Ah, it is good," said on of the agents.
     "Cream And sugar?" one of them asked the President.
     "All right," he said-

      There wasn't much room in the old car but they all managed to get  in,
with  the President again in the back seat-The old car also slipped  in  the
mud  and rutholes but made it to the road. Again, it was a silent ride  most
of the way. Then one of the agents lit a cigarette.
     "Damn it, I just can't stop smoking!"
     "Well, it's a hard thing to do, that's all. Don't worry about it."
     "I'm not worried about it. Just disgusted with myself."
     "Well, forget all that. This is a great day in History."
     "I'll say so!" said the one with the cigarette.
     Then he inhaled-

     They parked outside an old roominghouse. It continued to rain. They sat
there some moments.
      "Now,"  said the agent next to the driver, "get him out.  It's  clear.
Nobody on the streets."
      They  walked the President between them, first through the front door,
then  up 3 flights of steps, always keeping the President between them. They
stopped and knocked at 306. The signal: one knock, pause, two knocks-
      The  door was opened and the men quickly pushed the President  inside.
The door was then locked and bolted. Three men were waiting inside. Two were
in their 50's. The other sat in an outfit that consisted of an old laborer's
shirt,  2nd-hand trousers that were too large and ten dollar shoes,  scuffed
and  unpolished. He sat in a rocker in the center of the room. He was in his
80's  but  he smiled-and the eyes were those same eyes; the nose, the  chin,
the forehead hadn't changed much.
     "Welcome, Mr. President. I've waited a long time on History and Science
and You, and all have arrived, on schedule, today-"
      The President looked at the old man in the rocker. "Great God! You're-
you are-"
      "You've  recognized me! Others of your citizens have made jokes  about
the similarity! Too stupid to even realize that I was-"
     "But it was proven that-"
      "Of course, it was proven. The bunkers: April 30th, 1945. We wanted it
that way. I've been patient. Science was with us but at times I had to speed-
up  History. We wanted the right man. You are the right man. The others were
too  impossible --- too alienated from my political philosophy- You are  far
more  ideal. By working through you it will be easier. But as I said, I  had
to speed-up the reel of History a bit-my age-I had to-"
     "You mean-?"
     "Yes. I had your president Kennedy assassinated. And then, his brother-
     "But why the 2nd assassination?"
      We had information that that young man would have won the presidential
      "But what are you going to do with me? I've been told that I'm not  to
be assassinated-"
     "May I introduce Drs. Graf and Voelker?"
     The two men nodded at the President and smiled.
     "But what is going to happen?" asked the President.
      "Please.  Just a moment. I must question my men. Karl, how did  it  go
with The Double?"
      "Fine.  We phoned from the farm. The Double arrived at the airport  on
schedule.  The  Double  announced, that due to weather  conditions,  he  was
canceling the flight until tomorrow. Then The double announced that he would
take a pleasure drive-that it pleased him to be driven about in the rain-"
     "And the rest?" asked the old man.
     "The Double is dead."
      "Fine. Let's get on with it then. History and Science have arrived  on
      The agents began walking the President toward one of the two operating
tables.  They  asked him to disrobe. The old man walked to the other  table.
Drs.  Graf  and Voelker climbed into their medical gowns and made ready  for
the task-
      The young-looking of the 2 men arose from one of the operating tables.
He  dressed  himself in the President's clothing, then walked to  the  full-
length  mirror  on  the north wall. He stood for a good 5 minutes.  Then  he
     "It is miraculous! Not even any operating scars-no recuperating period.
Congratulations, gentlemen! How do you do it?"
      "Well,  Adolph," answered one of the doctors, "we've come a  long  way
      "WAIT!  I am never to be addressed as 'Adolph' again-until the  proper
time,  until I say so!-Until then, there will be no German spoken-I  am  now
the President of the United States of America!"
     "Yes, Mr. President!"
     Then he reached and touched above his upper lip:
     "But I do miss the old mustache!"
     They smiled.
     Then he asked:
     "And the old man?"
      "We've placed him in the bed. He will not awaken for 24 hours. At this
moment-everything-all  appendages of the oper- ation  have  been  destroyed,
dissolved.  All  we  need  do is walk out of here," said  Dr.Graf.  "But-Mr.
President, it is my suggestion that this man be-"
     "No, I tell you, he's helpless! Let him suffer as I have suffered!"
      He  walked  over to the bed and looked down at the man. A white-haired
old man in his 80's.
     "Tomorrow I'll be in his private home. I wonder how his wife will enjoy
my lovemaking?" he gave a small laugh.
     "I'm sure, mein Fuhrer-I'm sorry! Please! I'm sure, Mr. President, that
she will enjoy your love-making very much."
      "Let's leave this place, then. The doctors first, to go their way.then
the  rest of us-one or two at a time-a transfer of cars, then a good night's
sleep at the White House."

      The old man with the white hair awakened. He was alone in the room. He
could  escape.  He got out of the bed in search of his clothing  and  as  he
walked across the room he saw an old man in a full-length mirror.

     No, he thought, oh my god, no!
      He  raised an arm. The old man in the mirror raised an arm.  He  moved
forward. The old man in the mirror enlarged. He looked down at his hands ---
wrinkled,  and not his hands! And he looked down at his feet!  They  weren't
his feet! It wasn't his body!
     "My God!" he said aloud, "OH MY GOD!"
      Then  he  heard  his  voice.  It wasn't even  his  own  voice.  They'd
transferred  the  voice  box also. He felt his throat,  his  head  with  his
fingers. No scars! No scars anywhere. He got into the old man's clothing and
ran  down the stairway. At the first door he knocked on the door was  marked
     The door opened. An old woman.
     "Yes, Mr. Tilson?" she asked.
      "'Mr.  Tilson?'  Lady,  I am the President of  the  United  States  of
America! This is an emergency!"
     "Oh, Mr. Tilson, you're so funny!"
     "Look, where's your telephone?"
      "Right where it has always been, Mr. Tilson. Just to the left  of  the
entrance door."
      He  felt in his pockets. They had left him change. He looked into  the
wallet. $18. He put a dime in the phone.
     "Lady, what's the address here?"
      "Now,  Mr. Tilson, you know the address. You've lived here for  years!
You're  acting  very  strange today, Mr. Tilson. And  I  want  to  tell  you
something else!"
     "Yes, yes- what is it?"
     "I want to remind you that your rent is due today!"
     "Oh, lady, please tell me the address here!"
     "As if you didn't know! It's 2435 Shoreham Drive."
      "Yes,"  he  said into the phone, "cab? I want a cab at  2435  Shoreham
Drive.  I'll be waiting on the first floor. My name? My name? All right,  my
name is Tilson-"
      It's  no  use  going to the White House, he thought,  they  have  that
covered-I'll  go  to the largest newspaper. I'll tell them.  I'll  tell  the
editor everything, everything that happened-

      The  other patients laughed at him. "See that guy? The guy that  kinda
looks  like that dictator-fellow, what'-his-name, only a lot older.  Anyhow,
when he came in here a month ago he claimed that he was the President of the
United  States of America. That was a month ago. He doesn't say it too  much
now. But he sure likes to read the newspapers. I never saw a guy who was  so
eager  to  read  a newspaper. He does know a lot about politics,  though.  I
guess that's what drove him crazy. Too much politics."
     The dinner bell rang. All the patients responded. Except one.
     A male nurse walked up to him.
     "Mr. Tilson?"
     There wasn't any answer.

     "It's time to eat, Mr. Tilson!"
      The  old  white-haired man rose and walked slowly toward the patients'
dining room.

     -charles bukowski -
      from  the  books:  The  Most Beautiful Woman in  Town  and  Erections,
Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness


     **Trouble with a Battery**

      I  bought her a drink and then another drink and then we went  up  the
stairway  behind the bar. there were several large rooms there. she  had  me
hot.  sticking  her  tongue out at me. and we played  all  the  way  up  the
stairway. I took the first one, standing up, inside the door. she just  slid
back her panties and I put it in.
      then we went into the bedroom and there was some kid in the other bed,
there were two beds, and the kid said, "hello."
     "it's my brother," she said.
      the kid looked real thin and vicious, but then almost everybody in the
world looked vicious when you thought about it.
      there were several bottles of wine along the headboard. they opened  a
bottle  and  I  waited until they both drank from the bottle, then  I  tried
     I threw a ten on the dresser.
     the kid really drank at the wine.
     "his big brother is the great bullfighter, Jaime Bravo."
     "I've heard of Jaime Bravo, he fights mostly out of T.," I said,
     "but you don't have to give me any bullshit."
     "o.k.," she said, "no bullshit."
      we  drank and talked for some time, just small easy talk. and then she
turned out the lights and with the brother there in the other bed, we did it
again. I had my wallet under her pillow.
      when we finished she hit the light and went to the bathroom while  her
brother  and I passed the bottle. while the brother wasn't looking  I  wiped
off on the sheet.
      she  came out of the bathroom and she still looked good, I mean  after
two  shots  at it, she still looked good. her breasts were small  but  firm;
what there was of them really jutted. and her ass was big, big enough.
     "why did you come to this place?" she asked, moving toward the bed. she
slid in beside me, pulled up the sheet, pulled from the bottle.
     "I had to get my battery charged across the street."
     "after that one," she said, "you'll need a charge."
     we all laughed. even the brother laughed. then he looked at her:
     "is he all right?"
     "sure he's all right," she said.
     "what's all that?" I asked.
     "we have to be careful."
     "I don't know what you mean."
      "one  of  the  girls was almost murdered up here last year.  some  guy
gagged  her so she couldn't scream and then took a pen knife and  cut  these
crosses all over her body. she almost bled to death."
      the  brother dressed very slowly, then left. I gave her  a  five.  she
threw it on the dresser with the ten.
     she passed the wine. it was good wine, French wine. you didn't gag.
     she put her leg up against mine. we were both sitting up in bed. it was
very comfortable.
     "how old are you?" she asked.
     "damn near half a century."
     "you can sure go, but you look real beat-up."
     "I'm sorry. I'm not very pretty."
     "oh no, I think you're a beautiful man. didn't anybody ever tell you?"
     "I'll bet you say that to all the men you fuck."
     "no, I don't."
     we sat there a while, passing the bottle. it was very quiet except that
you  could hear a little music from the bar downstairs. I passed into a kind
of dream-trance.
     "HEY!" she yelled. she jammed a long fingernail into my bellybutton.
     "ow! god damn!"
     "LOOK at me!"
     I turned and looked at her.
     "what do you see?"
     "a fine-looking Mexican-Indian girl."
     "how can you see?"
      "how  can  you see? you don't open your eyes. you keep  your  eyes  in
little slits. why?"
     it was a fair question. I took a good pull at the French wine.
      "I don't know. maybe I'm afraid. afraid of everything. I mean, people,
buildings, things, everything. mainly people."
     "I'm afraid too," she said.
     "but your eyes are open. I like your eyes."
      she was hitting the wine. hard. I knew those Mexican-Americans. I  was
waiting for her to get nasty.
      then there was a rapping on the door that damn near shitted me out. it
was flung open, viciously, American-style, and there was the bartender - big
red brutal banal bastard.
     "ain't you through with that son of a bitch yet?"
     "I think he wants some more," she said.
     "do you? asked Mr. Banal.
     "I think so," I said.
      his  eyes  eagled over to the money on the dresser and he slammed  the
door. a money society. THEY thought it was magic.
     "that was my husband, sort of," she said.
     "I don't think I want to go again," I said.
     "why not?"
      "first, I'm 48. second, it's kind of like fucking in the waiting  room
of a bus station."
      she  laughed. "I'm what you guys call a 'whore.' I must fuck 8 or  ten
guys a week, at least."
     "that sure doesn't help my cause."
     "it helps mine."
     we passed the bottle back and forth.
     "you like to fuck women?"
     "that's why I'm here."
     "how about men?"
     "I don't fuck men."
     she pulled at the bottle. she must have taken a good one-quarter of it.
      "maybe you'd like it in the ass? maybe you'd like a man to fuck you in
the ass?"
     "you're talking crazy now."
      she  looked  straight ahead. there was a little silver Christ  on  the
further wall. she kept looking at the little silver Christ on his cross.  he
was very pretty.
      "maybe you've been hiding it. maybe you want somebody to fuck  you  in
the ass."
     "o.k., have it your way - maybe that's what I really want."
      I  got  the  corkscrew and pulled out the top of a  new  French  wine,
meanwhile  getting a bunch of cork and shit into the wine as I  always  did.
only a waiter in the movies could open a French wine without that trouble.
      I took the first good gulp. cork and all. I handed her the bottle. her
leg  had dropped away. she had a fish-like look on her face. She took a good
      I  took the wine back from her. the little splints of cork didn't seem
to know where to go in the bottle. I got rid of some of them.
     "you want me to fuck you in the ass?" she asked.
     "I can DO it!"
      she  got  out  of  bed and went to the top drawer of the  dresser  and
strapped this belt around her waist and then faced me ---and there,  looking
at me, was this BIG celluloid cock.
      "ten  inches!" she laughed, pushing out her belly, jutting  the  thing
toward me, "and it never gets soft and it never wears out!"
     "I liked you better the other way."
       "you   don't  believe  my  big  brother  is  Jaime  Bravo  the  great
      there  she was standing there with this celluloid cock on,  asking  me
about Jaime Bravo.
     "I don't think Bravo could cut it in Spain," I said.
     "could you cut it in Spain?"
      "hell,  I can't cut it in Los Angeles. Now please take that ridiculous
artificial cock off-"
     she unhooked the thing and put it back in the top dresser drawer.
     I got out of bed and sat in a straight-backed chair, drinking the wine.
she  found  another chair, and there we sat across from each  other,  naked,
passing the wine.
      "this reminds me somehow of an old Leslie Howard movie, although  they
wouldn't  shoot this part. wasn't Howard in the Somerset Maugham  thing?  OF
     "I don't know those people."
     "that's right. you're too young."
     "did you like this Howard, this Maugham?"
     "they both had style. plenty of style. but, somehow, with both of them,
hours or days or years later, you felt gypped, finally."
     "but they had this thing you call 'style'?"
     "now you're learning."
      then I got back into bed. she came on in. I tried it again. I couldn't
make it.
     "you suck?" I asked.
     she took it in her mouth and got it out of me.
      I gave her another five, dressed, took another drink of wine, and made
it  down the stairway, across the street to the gas station. the battery was
fully-charged. I paid the attendant and then backed on out, hit up 8th  ave.
a  cop  on the bike finally gave up and tailed after a Jap who made a sudden
left  turn  without blinkers or hand signal on Wilshire blvd. they  deserved
each other.
      when I got to my place the woman was asleep and the little girl wanted
me  to read to her from a book called BABY SUSAN'S CHICKEN. it was terrible.
Bobby  found a cardboard carton for the chicks to sleep in. he set it  in  a
corner  behind the kitchen stove. and Bobby put some of Baby Susan's  cereal
in  a  little dish and set it carefully in the carton, so the little  chicks
could  have  some dinner, and Baby Susan laughed and clapped her fat  little
      it turns out later that the 2 other chicks are roosters and Baby Susan
is  a  hen,  a hen who lays a most wondrous egg. I'll say. I put the  little
girl down and went into the bathroom and let the hot water run into the tub.
then I got into the tub and thought, the next time I get a dead battery I'll
go  to  a  movie.  then  I  stretched out into  the  hot  water  and  forgot
everything. almost.



      The  bar  had closed and they still had to make the walk to therooming
house, and there it was --- the hearse had driven up across the street where
the Stomach Hospital was.
      "I  think this is THE night," said Tony "I can feel it in my blood,  I
really can!"
     "The night for what?" asked Bill.
     "Look," said Tony, "we know their operation well by now. Let's get one!
What the fuck? You got the guts?"
     "Whatsa matta? You think I'm coward because that runtysailor whipped my
     "I didn't say that, Bill."
     "You're the coward! I can whip you, easy-"
      "yeah.  I know. I'm not talking about that. I say, let's grab a  stiff
just for laughs."
     "Shit! Let's grab TEN stiffs!
      "Wait. You're drunk now. Let's wait. We know the operation.We know how
they operate. We been watching every night."
     "And you're not drunk, eh? You wouldn't have the GUTS otherwise!"
      "Quiet now! Watch! Here they come. They've got a stiff. Some poor guy.
Look at that sheet pulled over his head. It's sad."
     "I am looking. And it is sad-"
     "Okay, we know the operation: if it's just one stiff, they toss him in,
light  their  cigarettes and drive off. But if it's two stiffs,  they  don't
bother locking the hearse door twice. They're real cool boys. It's just  old
stuff  with them. If it's two stiffs, they just leave the guy on the  roller
there  behind the hearse, go in and get the other stiff, then toss  them  in
together. How many nights have we watched it?"
     "I dunno," said Bill, "sixty, at least."
      "Okay, now there's the one stiff. If they go back for another --- that
stiff belongs to us. You game for grabs if they go in for another stifff?"
     "I'm game! I got double your guts!"
     "okay, then, watch. We'll know in a minute-Oops, there they go! They're
going in for another stiff!" said Tony. "You game?"
     "Game," said Bill.
      They sprinted across the street and grabbed the corpse by the head and
feet.  Tony had the head, that sad head wrapped so tight in the sheet, while
Bill grabbed the feet.
      Then  they  ran across the street, the pure white sheet of the  corpse
floating  in the momentum --- sometimes you could see an ankle, an elbow,  a
thigh of flesh, and then they ran it up the room- ing house front steps, got
to  the  door  and Bill said, "Jesus Christ, who's got the  key?  Look,  I'm
     "We don't have much time! Those bastards are gonna be out soon with the
other  stiff!  Throw him in the hammock! Quick! We gotta  find  a  goddamned
     They tossed the stiff into the hammock. It rocked back and forth in the
hammock under the moonlight.
      "Can't  we  take  the body back?" asked Bill. "Good God  oh  Mother  o
Mighty, can't we take the body back?"
      "No  time! Too late! They'd see us. HEY! WAIT!" yelled Tony. "I  found
the key!"
      They unlocked the door, then grabbed the thing on the hammock and  ran
up  the  stairway with it. Tony's room was closest. second floor. There  was
quite a bit of bumping with the corpse along the stairway wall and railing.
      Then  they had it outside Tony's door and stretched it out while  Tony
looked  for his door key. They got the door open, plopped the stiff  on  the
bed and then went to the refrigerator and got hold of Tony's cheap gallon of
muscatel, had half a waterglass full each, then refilled, came back  to  the
bedroom, sat down and
     looked at the stiff.
     "Do you suppose anybody saw us?" asked Bill.
     "If they had, I think the cops would be up here by now."
     "Do you think they'll search the neighborhood?"
      "How  can they? How can they go knocking on doors at this time of  the
morning, asking, 'Do you have a dead body?'"
     "Shit, I guess you're right."
      "Sure, I'm right," said Tony, "still, I can't help wondering how those
two  guys felt when they came back and saw the body gone? It must have  been
kind of funny."
     "Yeah," said Bill, "it musta been."
      "Well,  funny or not, we've got the stiff. There he is, right  on  the
     They looked at the thing under the sheet, had another drink.
      "I  wonder when they begin to stiffen up? I wonder when they begin  to
     "That rigor mortis takes a bit of time, I think," said Tony.
      "But he'll probably begin to stink pretty soon. It's just like garbage
left  in  the sink. I don't think they drain the blood until they reach  the
     So, two drunks, they went on drinking the muscatel; they even forgot at
times  about  the  body, and they spoke of those vague and  important  other
things in their rather inarticulate way. Then it was back to the body again.
     The body was still there.
     "What we gonna do with it?" asked Bill.
     "Stand it up in the closet after it stiffens up. It seemed pretty loose
when we were carrying it. Probably died about a half and hour ago or so."
      "So,  okay, we stand it up in the closet. Then what do we do  when  it
starts to stink?"
     "I never thought about that part," said Tony.
     "Think about it," said Bill, pouring a good one.
      Tony tried to think about it. "You know, we might go to jail for this.
If we get caught."
     "Sure, so?"
     "Well, I think we made a mistake, but it's too late."
     "Too late," repeated Bill.
      "So," said Tony, pouring a tall one, "if we are stuck with this  stiff
we might as well have a look at him."
     "Look at him?"
     "Yeah, look at him."
     "You got the guts?" asked Bill.
     "I dunno."
     "You scared?"
     "Sure. No training in this sort of thing," said Tony.
      "All  right. You pull the sheet back," said Bill, "only fill my  glass
first. Fill my glass, then pull the sheet back."
     "Okay," said Tony.
     He filled Bill's glass. Then walked over.
     "All right," said Tony, "here GOES!"
      Tony  pulled the sheet straight back over the body. He kept  his  eyes
     "Good GOD!" said Bill, "it's a woman! A young woman!"
      Tony  opened  his eyes. "Yeah. Was young. Christ, look  at  that  long
blonde  hair,  goes way down past her asshole. But she's DEAD! terribly  and
finally dead, forever. What a shame! I don't understand it."

     "How old you figure she was?"
     "She doesn't look dead to me," said bill.
     "She is."
      "But  look at those breasts! Those thighs! That pussy! That pussy:  it
still looks alive!"
      "Yeah," said Tony, "the pussy, they say: it's the first thing to  come
and the last thing to go."
      Tony  walked over to the pussy, touched it. then he lifted  a  breast,
kissed the damned dead thing. "It's so sad, everything is so sad --- that we
live all our lives like idiots and then finally die."
     "You shouldn't touch the body," said Bill.
     "She's beautiful," said Tony, "even dead, she's beautiful."
      "Yeah, but if she were alive she wouldn't even look at a bum like  you
twice. You know that, don't you?"
     "Sure! And that's just the point! Now she can't say, 'NO!'"
     "What the hell are you talking about?"
     "I mean," said Tony, "that my cock is hard. VERY HARD!"
     Tony walked over and poured a glassful from the jug. Drank it down.
      Then he walked over to the bed, began kissing the breasts, running his
hands  through her long hair, and then finally kissingthat dead mouth  in  a
kiss from the living to the dead. And then he mounted.
      It  was GOOD. Tony rammed and jammed. Never such a fuck as this in all
his days! He came. Then rolled off, toweled himself with the sheet.
      Bill  had watched the whole thing, lifting the gallon muscatel jug  in
the dim lamplight.
     "Christ, Bill, it was beautiful, beautiful!"
     "You're crazy! You just fucked a dead woman!"
      "And  you've been fucking dead women all your life --- deadwomen  with
dead souls and dead pussies --- only you didn't know it!
     I'm sorry, Bill, she was a beautiful buck. I have no shame."
     "Was she that good?" asked Bill.
     "You'll never believe it."
     Tony walked to the bathroom to take a piss.
      When  he  got  back, Bill had mounted the body. Bill was  going  good.
Moaning  and  groaning a bit. Then he reached over, kissed that dead  mouth,
and came.
     Bill rolled off, hit the edge of the sheet, wiped off.
     "You're right. Best fuck I ever had!"
     Then they both sat in their chairs and looked at her.
     "Wonder what her name was?" asked Tony. "I'm in love."
      Bill laughed. "Now I know you're drunk! Only a damn fool falls in love
with a living woman; now you gotta get hooked on a dead one."
     "Okay, I'm hooked," said Tony.
     "All right, you're hooked," said bill, "whatta we do now?"
     "Get her the hell outa here!" answered Tony.
     "Same way we got her in --- down the stairway."
      "Then into your car. We drive her down to Venice Beach, throw her into
the ocean."
     "That's cold."
     "She won't feel it any more than she felt your cock."
     "And how about your cock?" asked Bill.
     "She didn't feel that either," answered Tony.
     There she was, double-fucked, dead-laid on the sheets.
     "Let's make it, baby!" screamed Tony.
     Tony grabbed the feet and waited. Bill grabbed the head. As they rushed
out  of Tony's room the doorway was still open. Tony kicked it shut with his
left  foot as they moved toward the top of the stairway, the sheet no longer
wound  about the body but, more or less, flopped over it. Like a wet dishrag
over a kitchen faucet. And again, there was much bumping of her head and her
thighs and her big ass against the stariway walls and stairway railings.
     They threw her into the back seat of Bill's car.
     "Wait, wait, baby!" screamed Tony.
     "What for?"
     The muscatel jug, asshole!"
     "Oh, sure."
     Bill sat waiting with the dead cunt in the back seat.
     Tony was a man of his word. He came running out with the jug of muski.
      They got on the freeway, passing the jug back and forth, drinking good
mouthfuls.  It  was  a warm and beautiful night and the Moon  was  full,  of
course.  But it wasn't exactly night. By then it was 4:15 a.m. A  good  time
      They parked. Then had another drink of the good muscatel, got the body
out  and carried it that long sandy dandy walk toward the sea. Then they got
down  to that part of the sand where the sea reached now and then, that part
of  the  sand that was wet, soaked, full of little sand crabs and  airholes.
They  put  the  body down and drank from the jug. Now and then an  excessive
wave rolled a bit over all of them: Bill, Tony, the dead Cunt.
      Bill  had to get up to piss and having been taught nineteenth  century
morals  he  walked a bit up the shore to piss. As his friend  did  so,  Tony
pulled  back the sheet and looked at the dead face in the seaweed twist  and
swirl, in the salty morning air. Tony looked at the face as Bill was pissing
offshore.  A  lovely kind face, nose a little too sharp,  but  a  very  good
mouth,  and  then  with her body stiffening already, he leaned  forward  and
kissed her very gently upon the mouth and said, "I love you, dead bitch."
     Then he covered her with the sheet.
     Bill finished pissing, came back. "I need another drink."
     "Go ahead. I'll take one too."
     Tony said, "I'm going to swim her out."
     "Can you swim good?"
     "Not too well."
     "I'm a good swimmer. I'll swim her out."
     "NO! NO!" screamed Tony.
     "Goddamn it, stop yelling!"
     "I'm going to swim her out!"
     "All right! All right!"
      Tony  took  another drink, pulled the sheet aside, picked her  up  and
carried  her  step  by  step toward the breakers. He  was  drunker  than  he
figured. Several times the big waves knocked them both down, knocked her out
of  his arms, and he had to get to his feet, run, swim, struggle to find the
body.  Then  he'd  see  her --- that long long hair. She  was  just  like  a
mermaid.  Maybe she was a mermaid. finally Tony floated her out  beyond  the
breakers.  It  was quiet. halfway between moon and sunrise. He floated  with
her  some  moments. It was very quiet. A time within time and a time  beyond
      Finally,  he  gave  the  body a little shove. She  floated  off,  half
underwater, the strands of long hair whirling about the body. She was  still
beautiful,  dead  or  whatever she was. She began to float  away  from  him,
caught in some tide. The sea had her.
      Then suddenly he turned from her, tried to swim back toward the shore.
It seemed very far away. He made it in with the last stroke of his strength,
rolling  in with the force of the last breaker. He picked himself up,  fell,
got up, walked forward, sat down beside Bill.
     "So, she's gone," said Bill.
     "Yeh. Shark meat."
     "Do you think we'll ever be caught?"
     "No. Give me a drink."
     "Go easy. We're getting close to the bottom."
     They got back to the car. Bill drove. They argued over the final drinks
on the way home, then Tony thought about the mer- maid. He put his head down
and began to cry.
     "You were always chickenshit," said Bill, "always chickenshit."
     They made it back to the rooming house.
      Bill  went to his room. Tony to his. The sun was coming up. The  world
was  awakening. Some were awakening with hangovers. some were awakening with
thoughts  of  church.  Most were still asleep. A  Sunday  morning.  And  the
mermaid,  the mermaid with that dead sweet tail, she was well  out  to  sea.
While  somewhere  a  pelican dove, came up with a glittering,  guitar-shaped

     -charles bukowski -
      from  the  books:  The  Most Beautiful Woman in  Town  and  Erections,
Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness



      Mason  had her on the phone. "yeh, well, listen, I was drunk. I  don't
remember WHAT I said to you! maybe it was true and maybe it wasn't! no,  I'm
NOT  sorry, I'm tired of being sorry-you what? you won't? well, god damn you
      Henry Mason hung up. it was raining again. even in the rain there  was
always trouble with women, there was always trouble with -
     it was the intercom buzzer. he picked up the phone.
     "there's a Mr. Burkett, a James Burkett-"
      "will  you tell him that his manuscripts have been returned? we mailed
them back yesterday. so sorry, all that."
     "but he insists on seeing you personally."
     "you can't get rid of him?"
     "all right, send him in."
      a  bunch of damned extroverts. they were worse than clothing salesmen,
brush salesmen, they were worse than-
     in came James Burkett.
     "sit down, Jimmy."
     "only my friends call me 'Jimmy.'"
     "sit down, Mr. Burkett."
      you could tell by looking at Burkett that he was insane. a great self-
love  covered  him like a neon paint. there was no scrubbing it  off.  truth
wouldn't do it. they didn't know what truth was.
      "listen,"  said Burkett, lighting a cigarette and smiling  around  his
cigarette  like a temperamental & goofy bitch, "how come ya didn't  like  my
stuff? your secretary out there sez ya sent it back?"
      then  Mr. Burkett gave him the direct, the so direct look in the  eye,
playing at having SOUL. you were supposed to LOVE to do, so very hard to do,
and only Mr. Burkett didn't realize this.
     "it just wasn't any good, Burkett. that's all."
     Burkett tapped his cigarette out in the ashtray. now, he rammed it out,
jamming  it and twisting it in the tray. then he lit another cigarette,  and
holding the match out in front of him, flam- ing, he said:
     "hey, listen, man, don't give me that SHIT!"
     "it was terrible writing, Jimmy."
     "I said only my FRIENDS call me 'Jimmy'!"
     "it was shitty writing, Mr. Burkett, in our opinion, only, of course."
      "listen, man, I KNOW this game! you SUCK up right and you're  in!  but
you've got to SUCK! and I don't SUCK, man! my work stands alone!"
     "it certainly does, Mr. Burkett."
      "if  I  were a Jew or a fag or a commy or black it would be all  over,
man, I'd be in."
      "there  was a black writer in here yesterday who told me that  if  his
skin were white he'd be a millionaire."
     "all right, how about the fags?"
     "some fags write pretty good."
     "like Genet, huh?"
     "like Genet."
     "I gotta suck dick, huh? I gotta write about sucking dick, huh?"
     "I didn't say that."
      "listen, man, all I need is a little promotion. a little promotion and
I'll go. people will LOVE me! all they gotta do is SEE my stuff!"
      "listen, Mr. Burkett, this is a business. if we published every writer
who  demanded that we do so because his stuff was so great, we  wouldn't  be
here  very long. we have to make the judgment. if we're wrong too many times
we're finished. It's as simple as that. we print good writing that sells and
we  print bad writing that sells. we're in the selling market. we're  not  a
charity,  and frankly, we don't worry too much about the betterment  of  the
soul or the betterment of the world."
     "but my stuff will GO, Henry-"
     " 'Mr. Mason,' please! only my friends-"
     "what are trying to do, get SHITTY with me?"
      "look, Burkett, you're a pusher. as a pusher, you're great. why  don't
you sell mops or insurance or something?"
     "what's wrong with my writing?"
      "you can't push and write at the same time. only Hemingway was able to
do that, and then even he forgot how to write."
      "I  mean,  man,  what  don't you like about my  writing?  I  mean,  be
DEFINITE! Don't give me a lot of shit about Hemingway, man!"
     "1955? whatcha mean?"
      "I  mean,  you  were good then, but the needle's stuck.  you're  still
playing 1955 over and over again."
      "hell, life is life and I'm still writing about LIFE, man! there isn't
anything else! what the hell you giving me?"
      Henry  Mason  let out a long slow sigh and leaned back.  artists  were
intolerably dull. and near-sighted. if they made it they believed  in  their
own greatness no matter how bad they were. if they didn't make it they still
believed in their greatness no matter how bad they were. if they didn't make
it, it was somebody else's fault. it wasn't because they didn't have talent;
no  matter  how they stank they always believed in their genius. they  could
always  trot  out  Van Gogh or Mozart or two dozen more who  went  to  their
graves  before having their little asses lacquered with Fame. but  for  each
Mozart  there  were 50,000 intolerable idiots who would keep on  puking  out
rotten work. only the good quit the game - like Rimbaud or Rossini.
      Burkett lit another cigarette, once again holding the flaming match in
front of him as he spoke:
      "listen, you print Bukowski. and he's slipped. you know he's  slipped.
admit it, man! hasn't Bukowski slipped, huh? hasn't he?"
     "so, he's slipped."
     "he writes SHIT!"
      "if shit sells then we'll sell it. listen, Mr. Burkett, we aren't  the
only  publishing house. why don't you try somebody else? just  don't  accept
our judgment."
     Burkett stood up. "what the hell's the use? you guys are all alike! you
can't  use good writing! the world has no use for REAL writing! you couldn't
tell  a human being from a fly! because you're dead! DEAD, ya hear? ALL  YOU
     Burkett threw his burning cigarette on the rug, turned about, walked to
the door, SLAMMED it and was gone.
      Henry  Mason got up, picked up the cigarette, put it in the tray,  sat
down, lit one of his own. no way of giving up smoking on a job like this, he
thought. He leaned back and inhaled, so glad that Burkett was gone --- those
guys  were dangerous --- absolutely insane and vicious --- especially  those
who were always writing about LOVE or SEX or the BETTER WORLD. Jesus, jesus.
he exhaled. the inter- come buzzer rang.
     he picked up the phone.
     "a Mr. Ainsworth Hockley to see you?"
      "what's  he  want? we sent him his check for LUSTS AND  BUSTS  ON  THE
     "he says he has a new story."
     "fine. tell him to leave it with you."
     "he says he hasn't written it."
     "o.k., have him leave the outline. I'll check it out."
     "he says he doesn't have an outline."
     "wutz he want, then?"
     "he wants to see you personally."
     "you can't get rid of him?"
     "no, he just keeps staring at my legs and grinning."
     "then, for Christ's sake. pull your dress down!"
     "it's too short."
     "all right. send him in."
     in came Ainsworth Hockley.
     "sit down," he told him.
      Hockley sat down. then jumped up. lit a cigar. Hockley carried  dozens
of  cigars.  he  was afraid of being a homosexual. that is, he  didn't  know
whether  he  was  a  homosexual or not, so he smoked the cigars  because  he
thought it was manly and also dynamic, but he still wasn't sure of where  he
was. he thought he liked women too. it was a mix-up.
     "listen," said Hockley, "I just sucked a 36 inch COCK! gigan- tic!"
      "listen, Hockley, this is a business. I just got rid of one nut.  what
do you want with me?"
     "I want to suck your COCK, man! THAT'S what I want!"
     "I'd rather you didn't."
      the  room was already smoggy with cigar smoke. Hockley really shot  it
out. he jumped out of the chair. walked around. sat down. jumped out of  the
chair. walked around.
      "I think I'm going crazy." said Ainsworth Hockley. "I keep thinking of
cock.  I  used to live with this 14 year old kid. huge COCK! god.  HUGE!  he
beat  his meat right in front of me once, I'll never forget it! and  when  I
was  in college, all these guys walking around the locker rooms, real  cool-
like  ya know? why one guy even had BALLS down to his KNEES! we used to call
him  BEACH- BALLS HARRY. after BEACHBALLS HARRY came, baby it was all  OVER!
like a waterhose spurting curdled cream! when that stuff dried- why, man  in
the  morning  he'd have to beat the sheets with a baseball  bat,  shake  the
flakes off before he sent it to the laun- dry-"
     "you're crazy, Ainsworth."
     "I know, I know, that's what I'm telling YA! have a cigar!"
     Hockley poked a cigar at his lips.
     "no, no, thank you."
     "maybe you'd like to suck MY cock?"
     "I don't have the slightest desire. now what do you want?"
     "I've got this idea for a story, man."
     "o.k., write it."
     "no, I want you to hear it."
     Mason was silent.
     "all right," said Hockley, "this is it."
      he walked around shooting smoke. "a spaceship, see? 2 guys and 4 women
and  a  computer. here they are shooting through space, see? days, weeks  go
by. 2 guys, 4 women, the computer. the women are getting real hot. they want
it, see? got it?
     "got it."
     "but you know what happens?"
      "the two guys decide that they are homosexuals and begin to play  with
each other. they ignore the women entirely."
     "yeah, that's kind of funny. write it."
      "wait.  I'm not done yet. these two guys are playing with each  other.
it's disgusting. no. it isn't disgusting! anyhow, the women walk over to the
computer and open the doors. and inside this computer there are 4 HUGE  cock
and balls."
     "crazy. write it."
     "wait. wait. but before they can get at the cocks, the machine shows up
with assholes and mouths and the whole damned machine goes into an orgy with
ITSELF. god damn, can you imagine?"
     "all right. write it. I think we can use it."
      Ainsworth  lit  another  cigar, walked up  and  down.  "how  about  an
     "one guy already owes us 5 short stories and 2 novels. he keeps falling
further and further behind. if it keeps up, he'll own the company."
     "give me half then, what the hell. half a cock is better than none."
     "when can we have the story?"
     "in a week."
     Mason wrote a check for $75.
      "thanks, baby," said Hockley, "you're sure now that we don't  want  to
suck each other's cocks?"
     "I'm sure."
      then Hockley was gone. Mason walked out to the receptionist. her  name
was Francine.
     Mason looked at her legs.
     "that dress is pretty short, Francine."
     he kept looking.
     "that's the style, Mr. Mason.
      "just  call me 'Henry.' I don't believe I ever saw a dress quite  that
     "they get shorter and shorter."
      "you keep giving everybody who comes in here rocks. they come into  my
office and talk like crazy."
     "oh, come on, Henry."
     "you even give me rocks, Francine."
     she giggled.
     "come on, let's go to lunch," he said.
     "but you've never taken me to lunch before."
     "oh, is there somebody else?"
     "Oh, no. but it's only 10:30 a.m."
     "who the hell cares? I'm suddenly hungry. very hungry."
     "all right. just a moment."
      Francine  got out the mirror, played with the mirror a bit. then  they
got  up and walked to the elevator. they were the only ones on the elevator.
on  the  way  down,  he  grabbed Francine and kissed her.  she  tasted  like
raspberry  with  a  slight  hint of halitosis. he  even  pawed  one  of  her
buttocks. she offered a token resistance, pushing against him lightly.
     "Henry! I don't what's gotten into you!" she giggled.
     "I'm only a man, after all."
      in  the  lobby  of  the building there was a stand which  sold  candy,
newspapers, magazines, cigarettes, cigars-
     "wait a moment, Francine."
      Mason  bought 5 cigars, huge ones. he lit one and let out  an  immense
spray of smoke. they walked out of the building, looking for a place to eat.
It has stopped raining.
     "do you usually smoke before lunch?" she asked.
     "before, after and in between."
      Henry  Mason  felt  as if he were going just a bit insane.  all  those
writers. what the hell was wrong with them?
     "hey, here's a place!"
     he held the door open and Francine walked in. he followed her.
     "Francine, I sure like that dress!"
     "you do? why thank you! I've got a dozen similar to this one"
     "you have?"
     "umm hummm."
      he  pulled up her chair and looked at her legs as she sat down.  Mason
sat down. "god, I'm hungry. I keep thinking of clams, I wonder why?"
     "I think you want to fuck me."
     "I said, 'I think you want to fuck me.'"
      "I'll  let  you.  I think you're a very nice man,  a  very  nice  man,
      the  waiter came up and waved the smoke away with his menu  cards.  he
handed one to Francine and one to Mason. and waited. and got rocks. how come
some guys got nice dolls like that while he had to beat his meat? the waiter
took their orders, wrote them down,
     walked through the swinging doors, handed the orders to the cook.
     "hey," said the cook, "whatcha got there?"
     "whadya mean?"
      "I  mean,  ya got a horn! In front there! stay away from ME with  that
     "it's nothing."
      "nothing?  you'll kill somebody with that thing! go  throw  some  cold
water on it! it just don't look nice!"
     the waiter walked into the men's room. some guys got all the broads. he
was  a  writer. he had a whole truck full of manuscripts. 4 novels. 40 short
stories.  500  poems.  nothing  published. a  rotten  world.  they  couldn't
recognize  talent. they kept talent down. you have to have an  "in,"  that's
all  there was to it. rotten cocksucking world. waiting on stupid people all
      the  waiter  took  his cock out, put it in the hand  basin  and  began
splashing cold water on it.


     **Life and Death in the Charity Ward**

      The  ambulance was full but they found me a place on top and  away  we
went. I had been vomiting blood from the mouth in large quantities and I was
worried that I might vomit upon the people below me. We rode along listening
to  the siren. It sounded far off, it sounded as if the sound weren't coming
from  our ambulance. We were on the way to the county hospital, all  of  us.
The poor. The chariy cases. There was something different wrong with all  of
us  and many7 of us would not be coming back. The one thing we had in common
was  that we were all poor and didn't have much of a chance. We were  packed
in there. I never realized that an ambulance could hold so many people.
     "Good Lord, oh good Lord," I heard the voice of a black woman below me,
"I  never thought this would happen to ME! I never thought nothing like this
would Lord-"
     I didn't feel that way about it. I had been playing with death for some
time.  I  can't say we were the best of friends but we were well acquainted.
He  had moved a little close a little fast on me that night. There had  been
warnings: pains like swords stuck in my stom- ach but I had ignored them.  I
had  thought  I  was a tough guy and pain to me was just like  bad  luck:  I
ignored  it.  I  just poured whiskey on top of the pain and  went  about  my
business. My business was getting drunk. The whiskey had done it;  I  should
have stayed on the wine.
      Blood  that  comes from the inside is not the bright  red  color  that
comes,  say,  from  a cut on the finger. The blood from inside  is  dark,  a
purple,  almost  black, and it stinks, it stinks worse than shit.  all  that
life giving fluid, it smelled worse than a beer shit.
      I  felt  another vomiting spasm coming on. It was the same feeling  as
throwing  up food and when the blood came out, one felt better. But  it  was
only an illusion-each mouthful out brought one closer to Pappa Death.
     "O good Lord God, I never thought-"
      The blood came up and I held it in my mouth. I didn't know what to do.
Up there on the upper tier I would have wetted my friends down quite good. I
held  the  blood in my mouth trying to think about what to do. The ambulance
turned  a corner and the blood began to dribble out the corners of my mouth.
Well,  a man had to maintain decencies even while he was dying. I got myself
together,  closed my eyes and swallowed my blood back down. I was  sickened.
But  I had solved the problem. I only hoped we got some- place soon where  I
could let the next one go.
     Really, there wasn't any thought of dying; the only thoughts I had were
(was) one: this is a terrible convenience, I am no longer in control of what
is happening. They narrowed down your choices and pushed you around.
      The ambulance got there and then I was on a table and they were asking
me  questions: what was my religion? Where was I born? did I owe the country
any  $$$ from earlier trips to the hospital? when was I born? Parents alive?
Married?  all  that,  you know. They talk to a man as  if  he  had  all  his
faculties;  they don't even pretend that you are dying. And they are  hardly
in  a hurry. It does have a calming effect but that's not their reason: they
are  simply bored and they don't care whether you die, fly or fart. No, they
rather you didn't fart.

      Then I was on an elevator and the door opened into what appeared to be
a  dark  cellar.  I  was rolled out. They placed me on a bed  and  left.  An
orderly appeared out of nowhere and gave me a small white pill.
      "Take this," he said. I swallowed the pill and he handed me a glass of
water and then vanished. It was the kindest thing that had happened to me in
some time. I leaned back and noticed my sur- roundings. There were 8 or  ten
beds,  all occupied by male Ameri- cans. We each had a tin bucket  of  water
and a glass on the night stand. The sheets seemed clean. It was very dark in
there and cold, much the feeling of an apartment house cellar. There was one
small  light bulb, unshaded. Next to me was a huge man, he was old,  in  his
mid  fifties, but he was huge; although much of the hugeness was fat, he did
give  off the feeling of much strength. He was strapped down in his bed.  He
stared straight up and spoke to the ceiling.
     "-and he was such a nice boy, such a clean nice boy, he needed the job,
he  said he needed the job, and I said, 'I like your looks, boy, we  need  a
good fry cook, a good honest fry cook, and I can tell an honest face, boy, I
can  tell character, you work with me and my wife and you got a job here for
life, boy-' and he said, 'All right, sir,' just like that he said it and  he
looked  happy about getting' that job and I said, 'Martha, we got us a  good
boy here, a nice clean cut boy, he ain't gonna tap the till like the rest of
those  dirty  sons  of bitches.' Well, I went out and  got  a  good  buy  on
chickens,  a  real good buy on chickens. Martha can do more  things  with  a
chick- en, she's got that magic touch with chicken. Col. Sanders can't touch
her with a 90 foot pole. I went out and bought 20 chickens for that weekend.
We  are going to have a good weekend, a chicken special. 20 chickens I  went
out  and  got.  We  were going to put Col. Sanders out of business.  A  good
weekend like that, you can pull 200 bucks clear profit. That boy even helped
us  pluck  and cut those chickens, he did it on his own time. Martha  and  I
didn't  have  no children. I was really taking a liking to that  boy.  Well,
Martha fixed the chicken in the back, she got all that chicken ready-we  had
chicken  19  different ways, we had chicken coming out of our assholes.  All
the boy had to do was cook up the other stuff like burgers and steak and  so
forth.  The chicken was set. And by god, we had a big weekend. Friday night,
Saturday  and Sunday. That boy was a good worker, and pleasant too.  He  was
nice to be around. He made these funny jokes. He called me Col. Sanders  and
I  called him son. Col. Sanders and Son, that's what we were. When we closed
Saturday night we were all tired but happy. Every damned bit of chicken  was
gone. The place had been packed, people waitin' on seats, you never saw any-
thing  like it. I locked the door and got out a 5th of good whiskey  and  we
sat  there,  tired and happy, having a few drinks. The boy  washed  all  the
dishes  and swept the floor. He said, 'All right, Col. Sanders,  when  do  I
report  tomorrow?' He smiled. I told him 6:30 a.m. and he got  his  cap  and
left.  'That's a hell of a nice boy, Martha,' I said and then I walked  over
to  the till to count the profits. The till was EMPTY! That's right, I said,
'The  til  was  EMPTY!' And the cigar box with the other 2 days  profit,  he
found  that too. Such a clean cut boy-I don't understand it-I said he  could
have a job for life, that's what I told him. 20 chickens-Martha really knows
her  chickens-And that boy, that dirty chickenshit, he ran off with all that
damned money, that boy-"
      Then he screamed. I've heard a great many people scream but I've never
heard  anybody scram like that. He rose up against his straps and  screamed.
It looked as if those straps were going to break. The whole bed rattled, the
wall  roared the scream back at us. The man was in total agony. It wasn't  a
short scream. It was a long one and it went on and on. Then he stopped. We 8
or ten male Ameri- cans, ill, stretched in our beds and enjoyed the silence.
      Then  he  began talking again. "He was such a nice boy,  I  liked  his
looks. I told him he could have the job for life. He made these funny jokes,
he was nice to be around. I went out and got those 20 chickens. 20 chickens.
On  a good weekend you can clear 200. We had 20 chickens. The boy called  me
Col. Sanders-"
     I leaned out of bed and vomited out a mouthful of blood-

      The  next  day a nurse came out and got me and helped me on a  rolling
platform. I was still vomiting up blood and was quite weak. She rolled me on
the elevator.
     The technician got behind his machine. They poked a point into my belly
and told me to stand there. I felt very weak.
     "I'm too weak to stand up," I said.
     "Just stand there," said the technician.
     "I don't think I can," I said.
     "Hold still."
     I felt myself slowly beginning to fall over backwards.
     "I'm falling." I said.
     "Don't fall." He said.
     "Hold still," said the nurse.
     I fell over backwards. I felt as if I were made of rubber. There was no
feeling when I hit the floor. I felt very light. I probably was.
     "Oh god damn it!" said the technician.
      The  nurse helped me up and stood me up against the machine with  this
point jamming into my stomach.
      "I  can't stand it," I said, "I think I'm dying. I can't stand up. I'm
sorry but I can't stand up."
     "Stand still," said the technician, "just stand there."
     "Stand still," said the nurse.
     I could feel myself falling. I fell over backwards.
     "I'm sorry," I said.
      "God damn you!" the technician screamed, "you made me waste two films!
Those god damned films cost money!"
     "I'm sorry," I said.
     "Take him out of here," said the technician.
     The nurse helped my up and put me back on the roller. The humming nurse
rolled me back to the elevator, humming.
      They  did take me out of that cellar and put me into a large  room,  a
very large room. There were about 40 people dying in there. The wires to the
buttons had been cut and large wooden doors, thick wooden doors coated  with
slabs  of  tin on both sides closed up away from the nurses and the doctors.
They  had  put the sides up around my bed and I was asked to use the  bedpan
but I didn't like the bedpan, especially to vomit blood into and far less to
shit into. If a man ever invents a comfortable and usable bedpan he will  be
hated by doctors and nurses for eternity and beyond.
      I kept having a desire to shit but not much luck. Of course, all I was
getting  was milk and the stomach was ripped open so it had offered me  some
tough  roast  beef  with  half-cooked carrots and  half-mashed  potatoes.  I
refused. I knew they just wanted another empty bed. Anyhow, there was  still
this  desire to shit. Strange. It was my second or third night in  there.  I
was very weak. I managed to unattach one side and get out of bed. I made  it
to the crapper and sat there. I strained and sat there and strained. Then  I
got  up.  Noth- ing. Just a little whirlpool of blood. Then a merry-go-round
started  in my head and I leaned against the wall with one hand and  vomited
up  a  mouthful of blood. I flushed the toilet and walked out. I got halfway
to  my bed and another mouthful came up. I fell. Then on the floor I vomited
up  another  mouthful of blood. I didn't know that there was so  much  blood
inside of people. I let go another mouthful.
      "You son of a bitch," an old man hollered at me from his bed, "shut up
so we can get some sleep."
     "Sorry, comrade," I said, and then I was unconscious-
      The  nurse was angry. "You bastard," she said, "I told you not to take
down the sides of your bed. You fuckin' creeps sure make my night a drag!"
     "your pussy stinks," I told her, "you belong in a Tijuana whore house."
     She lifted my head by the hair and slapped me hard across the left side
of my face and then backhanded me across the right.
     "Take that back!" she said. "Take that back!"
     "Florence Nightingale," I said, "I love you."
     She put my head back down and walked out of the room. She was a lady of
true spirit and fire; I liked that. I rolled over into my own blood, getting
my smock wet. That'd teach her.
      Florence Nightingale came back with another female sadist and they put
me in a chair and slid the chair across the room toward my bed.
     "Too much god damned noise!" said the old man. He was right.
      They got me back into bed and Florence put the bed side back up.  "Son
of  a  bitch,"  she said. "stay in there now or next time I'm gonna  lay  on
     "Suck me off," I said, "suck me off before you leave."
      She  leaned  over the railing and looked into my face. I have  a  very
tragic  face. It attracts some women. Her eyes were wide and passionate  and
looked  into mine. I pulled the sheet down and pulled up my smock. She  spit
into my face, then walked out-
     Then the head nurse was there.
      "Mr.  Bukowski," she said, "we can't let you have any blood. You don't
have any blood credit."
     She smiled. She was letting me know that they were going to let me die.
     "All right," I said.
     "Do you want to see the priest?"
     "What for?"
     "We have on your admissions card that you are a Catholic."
     "I just put that down."
      "I used to be. You put down 'no religion', people always ask a lot  of
     "We have you down as Catholic, Mr. Bukowski."
     "Listen, it's hard for me to talk. I'm dying. All right, all right, I'm
a Catholic, have it your way."
     "We can't let you have any blood, Mr. Bukowski."
      "Listen,  my  father works for the county. I think they have  a  blood
program. L.A. County Museum. A Mr. Henry Bukowski. He hates me."
     "We'll check it out."

      There was something about my papers going down while I was upstairs. I
didn't  see  a  doctor until the fourth day and by then they found  that  my
father who hated me was a good guy who had a job and who had a drunken dying
son  without a job and the good guy had given blood to the blood program and
so  they  hooked up a bottle and poured it to me. 13 pints of blood  and  13
pints  of  glucose without stop. The nurse ran out of places  to  stick  the
     I awakened once and the priest was standing over me.
     "Father," I said, "please go away. I can die without this."
     "You want me to leave, my son?"
     "Yes, Father."
     "Have you lost the faith?"
     "Once a Catholic always a Catholic, my son."
     "Bullshit, Father."
     An old man in the next bed said, "Father, Father, I'll talk to you. You
talk to me, Father."
     The priest went over there. I waited to die. You know god damned well I
didn't die then or I wouldn't be telling you this now-
      They  moved me into a room with a black guy and a white guy. The white
guy  kept  getting fresh roses every day. He raised roses which he  sold  to
florists.  He wasn't raising any roses right then. The black guy had  busted
open like me. The white guy had a bad heart, a very bad heart. We lay around
and the white guy talked about breed- ing roses and raising roses and how he
could sure use a cigarette, my god, how he needed a cigarette. I had stopped
vomiting blood. Now I was just shitting blood. I felt like I had it made.  I
had just emptied a pint of blood and they had taken the needle out.
     "I'll get you some smokes, Harry."
     "God, thanks, Hank."
     I got out of bed. "Give me some money."
     Harry gave me some change.
     "If he smokes he'll die," said Charley. Charley was the black guy.
     "Bullshit, Charley, a couple of little smokes never hurt any- body."
      I  walked  out  of the room and down the hall. There was  a  cigarette
machine in the waiting lobby. I got a pack and walked back. Then Charley and
Harry  and I lay there smoking cigarettes. That was morning. About noon  the
doctor came by and put a ma- chine on Harry. The machine spit and farted and
     "You've been smoking, haven't you?" the doctor asked Harry.
     "No doctor, honest, I haven't been smoking."
     "Which one of you guys bought him these smokes?"
     Charley looked at the ceiling. I looked at the ceiling.
     "You smoke another cigarette and you're dead," said the doc- tor.
      Then he took his machine and walked out. As soon as he left I took the
pack out from under the pillow.
     "Lemme have one," said Harry.
     "You heard what the doctor said," said Charley.
      "Yeah," I said, exhaling a sheath of beautiful blue smoke, "you  heard
what the doctor said: 'You smoke another cigarette and you're dead.'"
     "I'd rather die happy than live in misery," said Harry.
      "I can't be responsible for your death, Harry," I said, "I'm going  to
pass these cigarettes to Charley and if he wants to give you one he can."
     I passed them over to Charley who had the center bed.
     "All right, Charley," said Harry, "let's have 'em."
     "I can't do it, Harry, I can't kill you Harry."
     Charley passed the cigarettes back to me.
     "Come on, Hank, lemme have a smoke."
     "No, Harry."
     "Please, I beg you, man, just one smoke just one!"
     "Oh, for Christ's sake!"
     I threw him the whole pack. His had trembled as he took one out.
     "I don't have any matches. Who's got matches?"
     "Oh, for Christ's sake," I said.
     I threw him the matches-

      They  came  in and hooked me to another bottle. About ten  minutes  my
father arrived. Vicky was with him, so drunk she could hardly stand up.
     "Lover!" she said, "Lover boy!"
     She staggered up against the edge of the bed.
     I looked at the old man. "You son of a bitch," I said, "you didn't have
to bring her up here drunk."
      "I  warned  you  not to get involved with a woman like  that."  "She's
broke. You bastard, you bought her whiskey, got her drunk and brought her up
     "I told you she was no good, Henry. I told you she was a bad woman."
     "Don't you love me anymore, lover boy?"
     "Get her out of here- NOW!" I told the old man.
     "No, no, I want you to see what kind of a woman you have."
      "I know what kind of woman I have. Now get her out of here now, or  so
help  me  Christ I'm going to pull this needle out of my arm and  whip  your
     The old man moved her out. I fell back on my pillow.
     "She's a looker," said Harry.
     "I know," I said, "I know."
      I  stopped shitting blood and I was given a list of what to eat and  I
was  told that the first drink would kill me. They had also told me  that  I
would  die without an operation. I had had a terrible argument with a female
Japanese doctor about operation and death. I had said "No operation" and she
had walked out, shaking her ass at me in anger. Harry was still alive when I
left,  nursing his cigarettes. I walked along in the sunlight to see how  it
felt. It felt all
      right.  The traffic went by. The sidewalk was as sidewalks had  always
been.  I was wondering whether to take a bus in or try to phone somebody  to
come and get me. I walked into this place to phone. I sat down first and had
a smoke.
     The bartender walked up and I ordered a bottle of beer.
     "What's new?" he asked.
      "Nothing much," I said. He walked off. I poured the beer into a glass,
then  I  looked at the glass a while and then I emptied half of it. Somebody
put  a  coin  in  the juke box and we had some music. life looked  a  little
better.  I  finished that glass, poured another and wondered  if  my  pecker
would ever stand up again. I looked around the bar: no women. I did the next
best thing: I picked up the glass and drained it

     -charles bukowski -
      from  the  books:  The  Most Beautiful Woman in  Town  and  Erections,
Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness



      it  was  a  hell  of  a night. Willie had slept in the  weeds  outside
Bakersfield the night before. Dutch was there, and a buddy, the beer was  on
me.  I made sandwiches. Dutch kept talking about literature, poetry; I tried
to  get  him off it but he laid right in there. Dutch runs a bookshop around
Pasadena  or Glendale or somewhere. then talk about the riots came up.  they
asked  me what I thought about the riots and I told them that I was waiting,
that  the thoughts would have to come by themselves. it was nice to be  able
to wait. Willie picked up one of my cigars, took the paper off, lit it.
      Somebody said, "how come you're writing a column? you used to laugh at
Lipton for writing a column, now you're doing the same thing."
     "Lipton writes a kind of left-wind Walter Winchell thing. I create Art.
There's a difference."
     "hey, man, you got any ore of these green onions?" asked Willie.
      I went into the kitchen for more green onions and beer. Willie was one
right  out of the book---a book that hadn't been written yet. he was a  mass
of  hair, head and beard. bluejeans with patches. one week he was in Frisco.
2  weeks later he was in Albuquerque. then, somewhere else. He carried  with
him,  everywhere,  this  batch of poems he had accepted  for  his  magazine.
whether the crazy maga zine ever evolved or not was anybody's guess.  Willie
the  Wire, slim, bouncy, immortal. he wrote very well. even when he put  the
knock  on  somebody it was a kind of without hatred knock. he just laid  the
statement down, then it was yours. a graceful carelessness.
      I  cracked some new beers. Dutch was still on literature. he had  just
published "18th Dynasty Egyptian Automobile Turnon" by D. R. Wagner.  and  a
nice  job  too. Dutch's young buddy just listened --- he was the new  breed:
quiet but very much there.
      Willie  worked  on  an  onion. "I talked to Neal  Cassady.  he's  gone
completely crazy."
      "yeah,  he's  begging for busts. it's stupid. building a forced  myth.
being in Kerouac's book screwed up his mind."
     "man," I said, "there's nothing like a bit of dirty literary gossip, is
     "sure," said Dutch, "let's talk shop. everybody talks shop."
      "listen, Bukowski, do you think that there's any poetry being  written
now? by anybody? Lowell made time, you know."
      "almost all the great names have died recently --- Frost, cum-  mings,
Jeffers,  W.C.  Williams,  T.S. Eliot, the rest. a  couple  of  nights  ago,
Sandburg.  in a very short period, they all seemed to die to- gether,  throw
in  Vietnam and the ever-riots and it has been a very strange and quick  and
festering and new age. look at those skirts now, almost up around  the  ass.
we are moving quickly and I like it, it is not bad. but the Establishment is
worried about its culture. culture is a steadier. there's nothing as good as
a  museum, a Verdi opera or a stiff-neck poet to hold back progress.  Lowell
was rushed into the breach, after a careful check of credentials. Lowell  is
interesting enough not to put you to sleep but diffuse enough so as  not  to
be  dangerous. the first thoughts you have after reading his work  is,  this
baby  has never missed a meal or even had a flat tire or toothache.  Creeley
is  a near similarity, and I imagine the Establish- ment balanced Creely and
Lowell  for some time but had to finally come up with Lowell because Creeley
just didn't seem like such a very good dull guy, and you couldn't trust  him
as  much --- he might even show up at the president's lawn party and  tickle
the guests with his beard, so, it had to be Lowell, and so it's Lowell we've
     "so who's writing it? where are they?"
     "not in America. and there are only 2 that I can think of. Harold Norse
who  is  nursing  his  melancholia-hypochondria  in  Switz-  erland,  taking
handouts  from rich backers, and having the running shits, fainting  spells,
the fear of ants, so forth. and writing very little now, kind of going crazy
like the rest of us. but then WHEN he writes, it's all there. the other  guy
is  Al Purdy. not Al Purdy the novelist, I mean Al Purdy the poet. they  are
not the same people. Al Purdy lives in Canada and grows his own grapes which
he  squeezes Into his own wine. he is a drunk, an old hulk of a man who must
now  be somewhere in his mid-forties. his wife supports him so he can  write
his poetry, which, you've got to admit, is some wonderful kind of wife. I've
never met one like that or have you. but, anyhow, the Canadian government is
always  laying  some kind of grant on him, $4,000 here and there,  and  they
send  him  up to the Pole to write about life there, and he does  it,  crazy
clear  poems about birds and people and dogs. god damn, he wrote a  book  of
poems  once called "Songs for All the Annettes" and I almost cried  all  the
qay  through the book reading it. it's nice to look up sometimes, it's  nice
to have heroes, it's nice to have somebody else carrying some of the load."
     "don't you think you write as well as they?"
     "only at times. most of the time, no."
      the  beer ran out and I had to take a shit. I gave Willie a  five  and
told  him  it'd  be good if he got 2 six packs, tall, Schlitz  (this  is  an
advertisement), and all 3 of them left and I went in and sat down. it wasn't
bad  to be more or less asked questions of the age. it was better yet to  be
doing  what  I  was doing. I thought about the hospi- tals, the  racetracks,
some  of the women I used to know, some of the women I had buried, outdrunk,
outfucked but not outargued. the lcoholic madwomen who had brought  love  to
me especially and in their own way. then I heard it though the wall:
      "listen,  Johnny,  you ain't even kissed me in a week.  what's  wrong,
Johnny? listen, talk to me, I want you to talk to me."
      "god damn you, get away from me. I don't want to talk to you. LEAVE ME
      "listen, Johnny, I just want you to talk to me, I can't stand it.  you
don't  have to touch me, just talk to me, jesus christ Johnny I can't  stand
      he  hit her a good one, a real good one. open hand. I almost fell  off
the stool. I heard her choking the crap and walking off.
      then Dutch and Willie and crew were back. they ripped open the cans. I
finished my business and walked back in.
      "I'm gonna get up an anthology," said Dutch, "an anthology of the best
living poets, I mean the real best."
     "sure," said Willie, "why not?" then he saw me: "enjoy your crap?"
     "not too much."
     "you need more roughage. you ought to eat more green onions."
     "you think so?"
      I  reached over and got 2 of them, jammed them down. maybe  next  time
would be better. meanwhile there were riots, beer, talk, literature, and the
lovely  young  ladies were making the fat million- aires  happy.  I  reached
over, got one of my own cigars, took off the paper, took off the cigar band,
jammed  the  thing into my screwed- up and complex face, then  lit  it,  the
cigar. bad writing's like bad women: there's just not much you can do  about



      I was in the rear, stuck in with the Rumanian bread, liverwurst, beer,
soft  drink;  wearing a green necktie, first necktie since the death  of  my
father  a  decade  ago. Now I was to be best man at a  Zen  wedding,  Hollis
driving 85 m.p.h., Roy's four-foot beard flowing into my face. It was my '62
Comet,  only I couldn't drive--- no insurance, two drunk-driving  raps,  and
already  getting drunk. Hollis and Roy had lived unmarried for three  years,
Hollis  support- ing Roy. I sat in the back and sucked at my beer.  Roy  was
explain- ing Hollis' family to me one by one. Roy was better with the intel-
lectual  shit.  Or  the tongue. The walls of their place were  covered  with
these many photos of guys bending into the muff and chewing.
      Also a snap of Roy reaching climax while jacking off. Roy had done  it
alone.  I mean, tripped the camera. Himself. String. Wire. Some arrangement.
Roy claimed he had to jackoff six times in order to get the perfect snap.  A
whole  day's  work:  there it was: this milky glob: a work  of  art.  Hollis
turned off the freeway. It wasn't too far. Some of the rich have driveways a
mile  long.  This  one  wasn't too bad: a quarter of a  mile.  We  got  out.
Tropical  gardens. Four or five dogs. Big black woolly stupid slobbering-at-
the-mouth  beasts. We never reached the door---there he was, the  rich  one,
standing  on the veranda, looking down, drink in hand. And Roy yelled,  "Oh,
Har- vey, you bastard, so good to see you!"
     Harvey smiled the little smile: "Good to see you too, Roy."
      One  of the big black woollies was gobbling at my left leg. "Call your
dog off, Harvey, bastard, good to see you!" I screamed.
     "Aristotle, now STOP that!"
     Aristotle left off, just in time.
      We  went up and down the steps with the salami, the Hungarian  pickled
catfish, the shrimp. Lobstertails. Bagels. Minced dove ass- holes.
      Then we had it all in there. I sat down and grabbed a beer. I was  the
only  one  with a necktie. I was also the only one who had bought a  wedding
gift. I hid it between the wall and the Aristotle- chewed leg.
     "Charles Bukowski-"
     I stood up.
     "Oh, Charles Bukowski!"
     "Uh huh."
     "This is Marty."
     "Hello, Marty."
     "And this is Elsie."
     "Hello, Elsie."
      "Do you really, she asked, "break up furniture and windows, slash your
hands, all that, when you're drunk?"
     "Uh huh."
     "You're a little old for that."
     "Now listen, Elsie, don't give me any shit-"
     "And this is Tina."
     "Hello, Tina."
     I sat down.
     Names! I had been married to my first wife for two-and-one- half years.
One  night some people came in. I had told my wife: "This is Louie the half-
ass  and this is Marie, Queen of the Quick Suck, and this is Nick, the half-
hobble."  Then I had turned to them and said, "This is my wife- this  is  my
wife-this is-" I finally had to look at her and ask: "WHAT THE HELL IS  YOUR
     "This is Barbara," I had told them-
     The Zen master hadn't arrived. I sat and sucked at my beer.
     Then here came more people. On and on up the steps. All Hollis' family.
Roy  didn't seem to have a family. Poor Roy. Never worked a day in his life.
I got another beer.
      They kept coming up the steps: ex-cons, sharpies, cripples, Dealers in
various  subterfuges,  Family  and  friends.  Dozens  of  them.  No  wedding
presents. No neckties.
     I pushed further back into my corner.
      One  guy was pretty badly fucked-up. It took him 25 minutes to get  up
the  stairway.  He  had especially-made crutches, very  power-  ful  looking
things with round bands for the arms. Special grips here and there. Aluminum
and rubber. No wood for that baby. I figured it: watered-down stuff or a bad
payoff. He had taken the slugs in the old barber chair with the hot and  wet
shaving towel over his face. Only they'd missed a few vital spots.
      There were others. Somebody taught class at UCLA. Some- body else  ran
in shit through Chinese fishermen's boats via San Pedro Harbor.
     I was introduced to the greatest killers and dealers of the century.
     Me, I was between jobs.
     Then Harvey walked up.
     "Bukowski, care for a bit of scotch and water?"
     "Sure, Harvey, sure."
     We walked toward the kitchen.
     "What's the necktie for?"
      "The  top of the zipper on my pants is broken. And my shorts  are  too
tight. End of necktie covers stinkhairs just above my cock."
      I  think  that  you are the modern living master of the  short  story.
Nobody touches you."
     "Sure, Harvey. Where's the scotch.
      "I  always  drink this kind since you always mention it in your  short
     "But I've switched brands now, Harv. I found some better stuff."
     "What's the name of it?"
     "Damned if I can remember."
     I found a tall water glass, poured in half scotch, half water.
     "For the nerves," I told him. "You know?"
     "Sure, Bukowski."
     I drank it straight down.
     "How about a refill?"
      I  took  the  refill and walked to the front room, sat in  my  corner.
Meanwhile there was a new excitement: The Zen master had ARRIVED!
      The  Zen  master had on this very fancy outfit and kept his eyes  very
narrow. Or maybe that's the way they were.
     The Zen master needed tables. Roy ran around looking for tables.
      Meanwhile,  the Zen master was very calm, very gracious. I  downed  my
drink,  went in for a refill. Came back. A golden-haired kid ran  in.  About
eleven  years old. "Bukowski, I've read some of your stories. I  think  that
you are the greatest writer I have ever read!"
     Long blond curls. Glasses. Slim body.
      "Okay,  baby. You get old enough. We'll get married. Live off of  your
money.  I'm getting tired. You an just parade me around in a kind  of  glass
cage with little airholes in it. I'll let the young boys have you. I'll even
     "Bukowski! Just because I have long hair, you think I'm a girl! My name
is Paul! We were introduced! Don't you remember?"
      Paul's father, Harvey, was looking at me. I saw his eyes. Then I  knew
that  he had decided that I was not such a good writer after all. maybe even
a bad writer. Well, no man can hide forever.
     But the little boy was all right: "That's okay, Bukowski! You are still
the  greatest  writer I have ever read! Daddy has let me read some  of  your
      Then all the lights went out. That's what the kid deserved for his big
      But  there  were  candles everywhere. Everybody was  finding  candles,
walking around finding candles and lighting them.
     "Shit, it's just a fuse. Replace the fuse," I said.
      Somebody said it wasn't the fuse, it was something else, so I gave  up
and while all the candle-lighting went on I walked into the kitchen for more
scotch. Shit, there was Harvey standing there.
     "Ya got a beautiful son, Harvey. Your boy, Peter-"
     "Sorry. The Biblical."
     "I understand."
     (The rich understand; they just don't do anything about it.)
      Harvey  uncorked  a new fifth. We talked about Kafka.  Dos.  Turgenev,
Gogel.  All  that  dull shit. Then there were candles every-where.  The  Zen
master  wanted  to get on with it. Roy had given me the two rings.  I  felt.
They were still there. Everybody was waiting on us. I was waiting for Harvey
to  drop to the floor from drinking all that scotch. It wasn't any good.  He
had matched me one drink for two and was still standing. That isn't done too
often.  We  had  knocked  off half a fifth in the  ten  minutes  of  candle-
lighting. We went out to the crowd. I dumped the rings on Roy. Roy had  com-
municated, days earlier, to the Zen master that I was a drunk --- unreliable
--- either faint-hearted or vicious ---therefore, during the ceremony, don't
ask  Bukowski for the rings because Bukowski might not be there. Or he might
lose the rings, or vomit, or lose Bukowski.
      So  here it was, finally. The Zen master began playing with his little
black book. It didn't look too thick. Around 150 pages, I'd say.
     "I ask," said the Zen, "no drinking or smoking during the ceremony."
      I  drained my drink. I stood to Roy's right. Drinks were being drained
all over the place.
      Then  the Zen master gave a little chickenshit smile. I knew Christian
wedding  ceremonies  by the sad note of experience.  And  the  Zen  ceremony
actually  resembled the Christian, with a small amount of  horseshit  thrown
in.  Somewhere along the way, three small sticks were lit. Zen had  a  whole
box  of  the things --- two or three hundred. After the lighting, one  stick
was  places in the center of a jar of sand. That was the Zen stick. Then Roy
was  asked to place his burning stick upon one side of the Zen stick, Hollis
asked to place hers on the other.
      But the sticks weren't quite right. The Zen master, smiling a bit, had
to reach forward and adjust the sticks to new depths and elevations.
     Then the Zen master dug out a circle of brown beads.
     He handed the circle of beads to Roy.
     "Now?" asked Roy.
     Damn, I thought, Roy always read up on everything else. Why not his own
      Zen reached forward, placed Hollis' right hand within Roy's left.  And
the beads encircled both hands that way.
     "Do you-"
     "I do-"
     (This was Zen? I thought.)
     "And do you, Hollis-"
     "I do-"
      Meanwhile, in the candlelight, there was some asshole taking  hundreds
of photos of the ceremony. It made me nervous. It could have been the F.B.I.
     "Plick! Plick! Plick!"
      Of  course,  we were all clean. But it was irritating because  it  was
      Then  I  noticed  the  Zen  master's  ears  in  the  candlelight.  The
candlelight  shone  through them as if they were made  of  the  thinnest  of
toilet paper.
      The  Zen master had the thinnest ears of any man I had ever seen. That
was what made him holy! I had to have those ears! For my wallet or my tomcat
or my memory. Or for under the pillow.
     Of course, I knew that it was all the scotch and water and all the beer
talking to me, and then, in another way, I didn't know that at all.
     I kept staring at the Zen master's ears.
     And there were more words.
     "-and you Roy, promise not to take any drugs while in your relationship
with Hollis?"
      There  seemed  to be an embarrassing pause. Then, their  hands  locked
together in the brown beads: "I promise," said Roy, "not to-"
      Soon  it  was over. Or seemed over. The Zen master stood straight  up,
smiling just a touch of a smile.
      I  touched Roy upon a shoulder: "Congratulations." Then I leaned over.
Took hold of Hollis' head, kissed her beautiful lips.
     Still everybody sat there. A nation of subnormals.
     Nobody moved. The candles glowed like subnormal candles.
      I  walked over to the Zen master. Shook his hand: "Thank you. you  did
the ceremony quite well."
      He  seemed really pleased, which made me feel a little better. but the
rest  of  those gangsters --- old Tammany Hall and the Mafia: they were  too
proud  and  stupid  to shake hands with an Oriental. Only one  other  kissed
Hollis. Only one other shook the hand of the Zen master. It could have  been
a  shotgun  wedding. All that family! Well, I'd be the last to know  or  the
last to be told.
      Now that the wedding was over, it seemed very cold in there. They just
sat  and stared at each other. I could never comprehend the human race,  but
somebody had to play clown. I ripped off my green necktie, flipped  it  into
the air:
      I  walked over and started grabbing at cheese, pickled-pigs' feet  and
chicken cunt. A few stiffly warmed up, walked over and grabbed at the  food,
not knowing what else to do.
     I got them to nibbling. Then I left and hit for the scotch and water.
     As I was in the kitchen, refilling, I heard the Zen master say, "I must
leave now."
      "Oooh,  don't  leave-" I heard an old, squeaky and female  voice  from
among  the  greatest gangland gathering in three years. And even she  didn't
sound  as if she meant it. What was I doing in with these? Or the UCLA prof?
No, the UCLA prof belonged there.
      There must be a repentance. Or something. Some action to humanize  the
      As  soon as I heard the Zen master close the front door, I drained  my
waterglass  full  of scotch. Then I ran out through the  candlelit  room  of
jabbering  bastards, found the door (that was a job, for a  moment),  and  I
opened the door, closed it, and there I was- about 15 steps behind Mr.  Zen.
We still had 45 or 50 steps to go to get down to the parking lot.
     I gained upon him, lurching, two steps to his one.
     I screamed: "Hey, Masta!"
     Zen turned. "Yes, old man?"
     Old man?
     We both stopped and looked at each other on that winding stairway there
in  the  moonlit  tropical  garden. It seemed  like  a  time  for  a  closer
      Then I told him: "I either want bother your motherfucking ears or your
motherfucking outfit --- that neon-lighted bathrobe you're wearing!"
     "old man, you are crazy!"
      "I  thought  Zen had more moxie than to make unmitigated  and  offhand
statements. You disappoint me, Masta!"
     Zen placed his palms together and looked upward.
       I  told  him,  "I  either  want  you  motherfucking  outfit  or  your
motherfucking ears!"
     He kept his palms together, while looking upward.
      I  plunged  down the steps, missing a few but still flying for-  ward,
which kept me from cracking my head open, and as I fell downward toward him,
I  tried  to swing, but I was all momentum, like something cut loose without
direction. Zen caught me and straightened me.
     "My son, my son-"
     We were in close. I swung. Caught a good part of him. I heard him hiss.
He  stepped  one step back. I swung again. Missed. Went way wide left.  Fell
into  some imported plants from hell. I got up. Moved toward him again.  And
in the moonlight, I saw the front of my own pants --- splattered with blood,
candle-drippings and puke.
     "You've met you master, bastard!" I notified him as I moved toward him.
He  waited. The years of working as a factotum had not left muscles entirely
lax.  I  gave him one deeply into the gut, all 230 pounds of my body  behind
      Zen  let  out  a  short  gasp, once again supplicated  the  sky,  said
something in the Oriental, gave me a short karate chop, kindly, and left  me
wrapped within a series of senseless Mexican cacti and what appeared to  be,
from  my  eye, man-eating plants from the inner Brazilian jungles. I relaxed
in  the  moonlight until this purple flower seemed to gather toward my  nose
and began to delicately pinch out my breathing.
      Shit,  it  took at least 150 years to break into the Harvard Classics.
There  wasn't any choice: I broke loose from the thing and started  crawling
up  the stairway again. Near the top, I mounted to my feet, opened the  door
and entered. Nobody noticed me. They were still talking shit. I flopped into
my corner. The karate shot had opened a cut over my left eyebrow. I found my
     "Shit! I need a drink!" I hollered.
      Harvey came up with one. All scotch. I drained it. Why was it that the
buzz  of  human beings talking could be so senseless? I no- ticed the  woman
who  had been introduced to me as the bride's mother was now showing  plenty
of  leg,  and  it  didn't look bad, all that long nylon with  the  expensive
stiletto heels, plus the little jewel tips down near the toes. It could give
an idiot the hots, and I was only half-idiot.
      I  got up, walked over to the bride's mother, ripped her skirt back to
her  thighs, kissed her quickly upon her pretty knees and began to  kiss  my
way upward.
     The candlelight helped. Everything.
     "Hey!" she awakened suddenly, "whatcha think you're do- ing?"
      "I'm  going to fuck the shit out of you, I am going to fuck you  until
the shit falls outa your ass! Whatch thinka that?"
      She pushed and I fell backwards upon the rug. Then I was flat upon  my
back, thrashing, trying to get up.
     "Damned Amazon!" I screamed at her.
      Finally,  three  or four minutes later I managed to get  to  my  feet.
Somebody laughed. The, finding my feet flat upon the floor again, I made for
the  kitchen.  Poured a drink, drained it. Then poured a refill  and  walked
     There they were: all the goddamned relatives.
     "Roy or Hollis?" I asked. "Why don't you open your wedding gift?"
     "Sure," said Roy, "why not?"
      The  gift  was wrapped in 45 yards of tinfoil. Roy just kept unrolling
the foil Finally, he got it all undone.
     "Happy marriage!" I shouted.
     They all saw it. The room was very quiet.
      It was a little handcrafted coffin done by the best artisans in Spain.
It  even  had  the pinkish-red felt bottom. It was the exact  replica  of  a
larger coffin, except perhaps it was done with more love.
      Roy  gave me his killer's look, ripped off the tag of instructions  on
how  to  keep the wood polished, threw it inside the coffin and  closed  the
      It  was  very  quiet. The only gift hadn't gone over.  But  they  soon
gathered themselves and began talking shit again.
      I  became silent. I had really been proud of my little casket.  I  had
looked for hours for a gift. I had almost gone crazy. Then I had seen it  on
the  shelf,  all alone. Touched the outsides, turned it up- side-down,  then
looked  inside.  The  price  was height but I was  paying  for  the  perfect
craftsmanship. The wood. The little hinges. All. At the same time, I  needed
some ant-killer spray. I found some Black Flag in the back of the store. The
ants  had built a nest under my front door. I took the stuff to the counter.
There was a young girl there, I set the stuff in front of her. I pointed  to
the casket.
     "You know what that is?"
     "That's a casket!"
     I opened it up and showed it to her.
     "These ants are driving me crazy. Ya know what I'm going to do?"
      "I'm going to kill all those ants and put them in this casket and bury
     She laughed. "You've saved my whole day!"
      You  can't  put it past the young ones anymore; they are  an  entirely
superior breed. I paid and got out of there-
     But now, at the wedding, nobody laughed. A pressure cooker done up with
a  red ribbon would have left them happy. Or would it have? Harvey, the rich
one,  finally, was kindest of all. Maybe because he could afford to be kind?
Then  I  remembered something out of my readings, something from the ancient
     "Would you rather be rich or an artist?"
      "I'd rather be rich, for it seems that the artist is always sitting on
the doorsteps of the rich."

      I sucked at the fifth and didn't care anymore. Somehow, the next thing
I  knew,  it was over. I was in the back seat of my own car, Hollis  driving
again, the beard of Roy flowing into my face again. I sucked at my fifth.
      "Look, did you guys throw my little casket away? I love you both,  you
know that! Why did you throw my little casket away?"
     "Look, Bukowski! Here's your casket!"
     Roy held it up to me, showed it to me.
     "Ah, fine!"
     "You want it back?"
     "No! No! My gift to you! Your only gift! Keep it! Please!"
     "All right."
      The  remainder of the drive was fairly quiet. I lived in a front court
near  Hollywood (of course). Parking was mean. Then they found a space about
a  half a block from where I lived. They parked my car, handed me the  keys.
Then I saw them walk across the street toward their own car. I watched them,
turned to walk toward my place, and while still watching them and holding to
the  remainder  of Harvey's fifth, I tripped one shoe into a  pantscuff  and
went  down.  As  I  fell backwards, my first instinct  was  to  protect  the
remainder  of that good fifth from smashing against the cement (mother  with
baby),  and  as  I fell backwards I tried to hit with my shoulders,  holding
both  head and bottle up. I saved the bottle but the head flipped back  into
the sidewalk, BASH!
      They  both  stood  and  watched me fall. I  was  stunned  almost  into
insensibility but managed to scream across the street at them: "Roy! Hollis!
Help me to my front door, please I'm hurt!"
      They  stood  a  moment, looking at me. Then they got into  their  car,
started the engine, leaned back and neatly drove off.
      I was being repaid for something. The casket? Whatever it had been ---
the  use  of my car, or me as clown and/or best man-my use had been outworn.
The  human  race  had  always  disgusted me.  essentially,  what  made  them
disgusting  was  the  family-relationship illness, which included  marriage,
exchange  of  power and aid, which neighborhood, your district,  your  city,
your  county,  your  state,  your  nation-everybody  grabbing  each  other's
assholes in the Honeycomb of survival out of a fear-animalistic stupidity.
     I got it all there, I understood it as they left me there, pleading.
      Five  more  minutes, I thought. If I can lay here  five  more  minutes
without  being bothered I'll get up and make it toward my place, get inside.
I  was  the last of the outlaws. Billy the Kid had nothing on me. Five  more
minutes. Just let me get to my cave. I'll mend. Next time I'm asked  to  one
of their functions, I'll tell them where to put it. Five minutes. That's all
I need.
     Two women walked by. They turned and looked at me.
     "Oh, look at him. What's wrong?"
     "He's drunk."
     "He's not sick, is he?"
     "No, look how he holds to that bottle. Like a little baby."
     Oh shit. I screamed up at them:
      They  both ran into the high-rise glass apartment. Through  the  glass
door. And I was outside unable to get up, best man to some- thing. All I had
to  do  was make it to my place --- 30 yards away, as close as three million
light  years. Thirty yards from a rented front door. Tow more minutes and  I
could  get  up.  Each time I tried it, I got stronger. An  old  drunk  would
always make it, given enough time. One minute. One minute more. I could have
made it.
     Then there they were. Part of the insane family structure of the World.
Madmen,  really, hardly questioning what made them do what  they  did.  They
left their double-red light burning as they parked. Then got out. One had  a
      "Bukowski," said the one with the flashlight, "you just can't seem  to
keep out of trouble, can you?"
     He knew my name from somewhere, other times.
     "Look," I said, "I just stumbled. Hit my head. I never lose my sense of
my  coherence. I'm not dangerous. Why don't you guys help me to my  doorway?
It's 30 yards away. Just let me fall upon my bed and sleep it off. Don't you
think, really, that would be the really decent thing to do?"
     "Sir, two ladies reported you as trying to rape them."
     "Gentlemen, I would never attempt to rape two ladies at the same time."
      The  one cop kept flashing his stupid flashlight into my face. It gave
him a great feeling of superiority.
     "Just 30 yards to Freedom! Can't you guys understand that?"
      "You're  the  funniest show in town, Bukowski! Give us a better  alibi
than that."
      "Well, let's see - this thing you see sprawled here on the pavement is
the end-product of a wedding, a Zen wedding."
     "You mean some woman really tried to marry you?"
     "Not me, you asshole-"
     The cop with the flashlight brought it down across my nose.
     "We ask respect toward officers of the law."
     "Sorry. For a moment I forgot."
     The blood ran down along my throat and then toward and upon my shirt. I
was very tired - of everything.
      "Bukowski," asked the one who had just used the flashlight, "why can't
you stay out of trouble?"
     "Just forget the horseshit," I said, "let's go off to jail."
      They  put on the cuffs and threw me into the back seat. Same  sad  old

      They  drove  along slowly, speaking of various possible and  in-  sane
things - like, about having the front porch widened, or a pool, or an  extra
room  in  the back for Granny. And when it came to sports - these were  real
men - the Dodgers still had a chance, even with the two or three other teams
right in there with them. Back to the family - if the Dodgers won, they won.
If a man landed on the moon, they landed on the moon. But let a starving man
ask  them a dime - no identification, fuck you, shithead. I mean, when  they
were  in civvies. There hasn't been a starving man yet who ever asked a  cop
for a dime. Our record is clear.
      Then  I  was, once again, in this type of long line of the  some-  how
guilty. The young guys didn't know what was coming. They were mixed up  with
this thing called THE CONSTITUTION and their RIGHTS. The young cops, both in
the  city tank and the coun- ty tank, got their training on the drunks. They
had  to  show  they had it. While I was watching they took  one  guy  in  an
elevator  and  rode him up and down, up and down, and when he got  out,  you
hardly knew who he was, or what he had been - a black screaming about  Human
Rights.  Then they got a white guy, screaming something about CONSTITUTIONAL
RIGHTS;  four or five of them got him, and they rushed him off his  feet  so
fast  he  couldn't  walk, and when they brought him  back  they  leaned  him
against a wall, and he just stood there trembling, these red welts all  over
his body, he stood there trembling and shivering.
     I got my photo taken all over again. Fingerprinted all over again.
      They took me down to the drunk tank, opened that door. After that,  it
was  just a matter of looking for floorspace among the 150 men in the  room.
One  shitpot. Vomit and piss everywhere. I found a spot among my fellow men.
I  was  Charles  Bukowski,  fea-  tured in  the  literary  archives  of  the
University  of California at Santa Barbara. Somebdy there thought  I  was  a
genius. I stretched out on the boards. Heard a young voice. A boy's voice.
     "Mista, I'll suck your dick for a quarter!"
     They were supposed to take all your change, bills, ident, keys, knives,
so  forth,  plus cigarettes, and then you had the property slip.  Which  you
either lost or sold or had stolen from you. But there was always still money
and cigarettes about.
     "Sorry, lad," I told him, "They took my last penny."
     Four hours later I managed to sleep.
      Best  man  at  a Zen wedding, and I'd bet they, the bride  and  groom,
hadn't even fucked that night. But somebody had been.


     **AN EVIL TOWN**

      Frank walked down the steps. He didn't like elevators. He didn't  like
many things. He disliked steps less than he disliked elevators.
      The  desk  clerk called to him: "Mr. Evans! Would you step over  here,
     The desk clerk's face looked like cornmeal mush. It was all Frank could
do  to  keep  from hitting him. The desk clerk looked about the lobby,  then
leaned very close.
     "Mr. Evans, we've been watching you."
      The  desk  clerk again looked about the lobby, saw that  there  wasn't
anybody near, then leaned forward again.
      "Mr.  Evans, we've been watching you and we believe that you're losing
your mind."
     The desk clerk leaned back then and looked right at Frank.
      "I  feel  like going to a movie," said Frank. "You know  of  any  good
movies in town?
     "Let's stick to the subject, Mr. Evans."
     "O.k., I'm losing my mind. Anything else?"
      The  clerk  reached  under the counter and came up  with  some-  thing
wrapped in cellophane.
     "Here it is, Mr. Evans."
      Frank dropped it in his coat pocket and walked outside. It was a  cool
autumn  night and he walked down the street, west. He stopped at  the  first
alley,  stepped  in. He reached into his coat and got the wrapped-up  thing,
peeled the cellophane off. It looked like cheese. It smelled like cheese. He
took  a bite. It tasted like cheese. He ate it all, then stepped out of  the
alley and walked down the street again.
      He  turned  into the first movie house he saw, bought his  ticket  and
walked  into  the darkness. He took a seat in the back. There  weren't  many
people in there. The whole place smelled like urine. The women on the screen
dressed  as  they did in the '20's and the men wore vaseline on their  hair,
combed  it back hard and straight. Their noses seemed very long and the  men
also seemed to have mascara under their eyes. It wasn't even a talkie. Words
showed  under the film: BLANCHE WAS NEW IN THE BIG CITY. A guy with straight
greasy  hair was making Blanche drink from a bottle of gin. Blanche appeared
      Frank  looked around. Everywhere heads seemed to be bob-  bing.  There
weren't  any  women in the place. The guys seemed to be sucking  each  other
off.  They  went  at it and at it. They never seemed to get tired.  The  men
sitting alone seemed to be jacking-off. The cheese had been good. He  wished
the clerk had given him more cheese.
      And  every time he looked around this guy was getting nearer  to  him.
Then  when  Frank looked back at the movie the guy would move 2 or  3  seats
nearer to him.
      He looked again. The guy was 3 seats away. Breathing heavily. Then the
guy was in the seat next to him.
      "Oh  shit," the guy said, "O, mys shit, ooo,ooo,oooo. ah, ah!  eeeyew!
      The  guy smelled as if he had never wiped his ass. The guy was leaning
toward him, bits of spit drooling from the sides of his mouth.
     Frank hit the button of the switchblade:
     "Careful!" he told the guy. "You get any closer you might hurt yourself
on this!"
      "Oh, my god!" said the guy. He got up and ran down the row of seats to
the  aisle,  then walked quickly down the aisle to the front row.  Two  guys
were  at  it. One guy was jacking-off the other guy as the guy went down  on
him. The guy who had been bothering Frank sat there and watched them.
      Then Frank had to urinate. He got up and walked toward the sign:  MEN.
He  went  in.  It really stank in there. He gagged, opened the toilet  door,
went  in.  He  took out his penis and started to piss. Then  he  heard  some
      "Ooooh ooooh, you filthy fuck!" said the guy. "ooh you beasly fiendish
piece of shit!"
     He heard the guy ripping off toilet paper and wiping his face. Then the
guy  began  to  cry. Frank stepped out of the toilet, washed his  hands.  He
didn't  want  to see any more of the movie. Then he was out on  the  street,
walking  back  toward his hotel. Then he was in the lobby.  The  desk  clerk
nodded him over.
     "Yeah?" asked Frank.
     "Look, Mr. Evans, I'm sorry. I was just kidding you."
     "About what?"
     "You know."
     "No, I don't know."
     "Well, about losing your mind. I've been drinking, you know. Don't tell
anybody or I'll lose my job. But I've been drinking. I know that you're  not
losing your mind. I was just joking."
     "But I am losing my mind," said Frank, "and thanks for the cheese."
      Then he turned and walked up the stairway. When he got to his room  he
sat down at the writing desk. He took out the switch- blade, hit the button,
looked  at the knifeblade. It was well sharp- ened down one entire side.  It
could stab or slice. He hit the button and put the knife back in his pocket.
Then Frank found pen and paper and began to write:

     "Dear Mother:
     This is an evil town. The Devil is in control. Sex is everywhere and it
is  not being used as an instrument of Beauty as God meant it to be, but  as
an  instrument of Evil. Yes, it has most certainly fallen into  the  devil's
hands,  into Evil hands. Young girls are forced to drink gin, then they  are
deflowered  by  these beasts and forced into houses of prostitution.  It  is
terrible. It is unbelievable. My heart is torn.
      I walked along the shore yesterday. Not along the shore, real- ly, but
up  along  on top of cliffs and then I stopped and sat there while breathing
in  the Beauty. The sea, the sky, the sand. Life be- came the Eternal Bliss.
Then  a  most miraculous thing happened. 3 small squirrels saw me  from  way
down  below  and  they began to climb the cliffs. I saw their  little  faces
peeking  at me from behind rocks and crevices in the cliffs as they  climbed
toward  me.  Finally they were at my feet. Their eyes looked at  me.  Never,
Mother,  have I seen more beautiful eyes - undiluted by Sin: the whole  sky,
the whole sea, Eternity was in those eyes. Finally I moved and they-"

     There was a knock on the door. Frank got up, walked over, opened it. It
was the desk clerk.
     "Mr. Evans, please, I must speak to you."
     "All right, come in."
      The  desk clerk closed the door and stood in front of Frank. The  desk
clerk smelled like wine.
     "Mr. Evans, please don't tell management about our misunder- standing."
     "I don't know what you're talking about."
     "You're a great guy, Mr. Evans. You know, I've been drink- ing."
     "You are forgiven. Now go."
     "Mr. Evans, there's something I've got to tell you."
     "Very well. What is it?"
     "I'm in love with you, Mr. Evans."
     "Oh, you mean my spirit, eh, my boy?"
     "No, your body, Mr. Evans."
     "Your body, Mr. Evans. Please don't be offended, but I want you to ream
      "REAM ME, Mr. Evans! I've been reamed by half the United States  Navy!
Those  boys know what's good, Mr. Evans. There's nothing like a bit of clean
     "You will leave my room immediately!"
     The desk clerk threw his arms about Frank's neck, then his mouth was on
Frank's mouth. The desk clerk's mouth was very wet and cold, it stank. Frank
pushed him away.
     "You rotten bastard! YOU KISSED ME!"
     "I love you, Mr. Evans!"
     "You filthy swine!"
      Frank had the knife, hit the button, the blade jumped out and he stuck
it into the desk clerk's stomach. Then pulled it out.
     "Mr. Evans- my god-"
      The  clerk fell to the floor. He was holding both hands over the wound
trying to stop the blood.
     "You bastard! YOU KISSED ME!"
      Frank reached down and unzipped the desk clerk's fly. Then he got  the
clerk's  penis, pulled it straight up toward him and sliced  it  off  three-
quarters of the way down.
     "Oh, my god my god my god my god-" said the clerk.
      Frank  walked to the bathroom, took the thing and threw  it  into  the
toilet. Then he flushed the toilet. Then he washed his hands very well  with
soap  and water. He came out, sat down to the disk again. He picked  up  the

     "-ran away but I had seen Eternity.
      Mother, I must move from this city, from this hotel - the Devil is  in
control of almost all the bodies. I will write you again from the next  city
-  perhaps San Francisco, Portland or Seattle. I feel like moving  north.  I
think of you continually and hope that you are happy and in good health, and
may the Lord be with you always.
     your son,

      He  wrote the address on the envelope, sealed it, added stamp and then
walked over and put it in the inside pocket of his coat which was hanging in
the  closet.  Then he took a suitcase from the closet, put it  on  the  bed,
opened it and began to pack.



     The bell rings and I open the side window by the door. It is
     night. "Who is it?" I ask.

     Somebody walks up to the window but I can't see the face. I
     have two lights over the typewriter. I slam the window but there is
     talking out there. I sit down to the typewriter but there is still
     talking out there. I get up and rip open the door and scream:
     I look around and there is one guy standing on the bottom of
     the steps and another guy standing on the porch, pissing; He is
     pissing into a bush to the left of the porch, standing on the edge of
     the porch, his piss arching in a heavy swath, upward and then down
     into the bush.
     "Hey, this guy is pissing into my bush," I say.
     the guy laughs and keeps pissing. I grab him by the pants, pick
     him up and throw him, still pissing, over the top of the bush and
     into the night. He doesn't return. The other guy says, "What did you
     do that for?"
     "I felt like it."
     "Drunk?" I ask.
     He walks around the corner and is gone. I close the door and sit
     down to the typer again. All right, I have this mad scientist, he's
     taught monkeys to fly, he's got eleven monkey's with these wings.
     The monkeys are very good. The scientist has even taught them to
     race. Race around these pylons, yes. Now let's see. Gotta make it
     good. To get rid of a story you gotta have fucking, lots of it, if
     possible. Better make it twelve monkeys, six male and six of the
     other kind. All right now. Here they go. There they go around the first
     pylon. How am I going to get them to fucking? I
     haven't sold a story in two months. I should have stayed in the
     goddamned post office. All right. There they go. Around the first
     pylon. Maybe they just fly off. Suddenly. How about that? They fly
     to Washington, D.C. and hang around the Capitol dropping turds on
     the public, pissing on them, smearing their turds across the White
     House. Can I have one drop a turd on the President? No, that's
     asking too much. Okay, make it a turd on the Secretary of State.
     Orders are given to shoot them out of the sky. That's tragic, isn't it?
     But what about the fucking? All right. All right. Work it in. Let's
     see. Okay, ten of them are shot out of the sky, poor little things.
     There are only two others. A male and one other kind. They can't
     seem to be found. Then a cop is walking through the park one night,
     and there they are, the last two of them, wings strapped on, fucking
     like the devil. The cop walks up. The male hears, turns his head,
      looks  up, gives a silly little monkey-grin, never missing  a  stroke,
     turns his head and goes back to banging. The cop blows his head off.
     The monkey's head, that is. The female flips the male off in disgust
     and stands up. For a monkey, she is a pretty little thing. For a
     moment the cop thinks of, thinks of - But no, it would be too tight,
     maybe, and she might bite, maybe. While he's thinking this, the
     bullet, she falls. He runs up. She is wounded but not dead. The cop
     looks around, lifts her up, takes it out, tries to work it in. No good.
     Just room for the head. Shit. He drops her to the ground, puts his
     gun to her brain and B A M! it's over.
     The bell rings again.
     I open the door.
     Three guys walk in. Always these guys. A woman never pisses
     on my porch, a woman hardly ever comes by. How am I going to get
     any sex ideas? I have almost forgotten how to do it. But they say it's
     like riding a bicycle, you never forget. It's better than riding a bi-
     It's Crazy Jack and two guys I don't know.
     "Look, Jack," I say, "I thought I was rid of you."
     Jack just sits down. The other two guys sit down. Jack has
     promised me never to come by again but he is on the wine most of
     the time, so promises don't mean much. He lives with his mother
     and pretends to be a painter. I know four or five guys living with or
     supported by their mother, and the guys pretend to genius. And all
     the mothers are alike: "Oh, Nelson has a painting hanging at the
     Warner-Finch Galleries this week. His genius is being recognized at
     last! He's asking $4,000 for the work. Do you think that's too
     much?" Nelson, Jack, Biddy, Norman, Jimmy and Ketya, Fuck.
     Jack has on blue jeans, is barefooted, no shirt, undershirt, just
     a brown shawl thrown over him. One guy has a beard and grins and
     blushes continually. The other guy is just fat. Some kind of leech.
     "Have you seen Borst lately?" Jack asks.
     "Let me have one of your beers."
     "No. You guys come around, drink all my shit, split and leave
     me on a dry shore."
     "All right."
     He leaps up, runs out and gets his wine bottle which he has
     hidden under the cushion on the porch chair. He comes back, takes
     off the lid, takes a suck.
     "I was down at Venice with this chick and one hundred rain-
     bows. I thought I spotted the heat and I ran up to Borst's place with
     this chick and the hundred rainbows. I knocked on the door and
     told him, "Quick, let me in! I've got one hundred rainbows and the
     heat is right behind me!" Borst closed the door, I kicked it in and ran
     in with the chick. Borst was on the floor, jacking off some guy. I ran
     into the bathroom with the chick and locked the door. Borst
     knocked. I said, "Don't you dare come in here!" I stayed in there
     with the chick for about an hour. We knocked off two pieces of ass
     to amuse ourselves. Then we came out."
     "Did you dump the rainbows?"
     "Hell no, it was a false alarm. But Borst was very angry."
     "Shit," I say, "Borst hasn't written a decent poem since 1955.
     His mother supports him. Pardon me. But I mean, all he does is look
     at TV, eat these delicate little celeries and greens and jog along the
     beach in his dirty underwear. He used to be a fine poet when he was
     living with those young boys in Arabia. But I can't sympathize. A
     winner goes wire to wire. It's like Huxley said, Aldous, that is, 'Any
     man can be a-'"
     "How you doing?" Jack asks.
     "Nothing but rejects," I say.
     The one guy begins playing the flute. The leech just sits there
     Jack lifts his wine bottle. It is a beautiful night in Hollywood, Cali-
     fornia. Then the guy who lives in the court behind me falls out of
     bed, drunk. It makes quite a sound. I'm used to it. I'm used to the
     whole court. All of them sit in their places, shades drawn. They get
     up at noon. Their cars sit out front dust-covered, tires going down,
     batteries weakening. They mix drink with dope and have no visible
     means of support. I like them. They don't bother me.
     The guy gets into bed again, falls out.
     "You silly damn fool," you hear him say, "get back into that
     "What's all that noise?" Jack asks.
     "Guy behind me. He's very lonely. Drinks a beer now and
     then. His mother died last year and left him twenty grand. He sits
     around and masturbates and looks at baseball games and cowboy
     shootums on TV. Used to be a gas station attendant.
     "We've got to split." says Jack, "want to come with us?"
     "No," I say.
     They explain that it is something to do with the House of
     Seven Gables. They are going to see somebody who had something
     to do with the House of Seven Gables. It isn't the writer, the produc-
     er, the actors, it is somebody else.
     "Well, no," I say, and they all run out. It is a beautiful sight.
     Then I sit down to the monkeys again. Maybe I can juggle
     those monkeys up. If I can get all twelve of them fucking at once!
     That's it! But how? And why? Check the Royal Ballet of London.
     But why? I'm going crazy. Okay, the Royal Ballet of London has
     this idea. Twelve monkeys flying while they ballet. Only before the
     performance somebody gives them all the Spanish Fly. Not the bal-
     let. The monkeys. But the Spanish Fly is a myth, isn't it? Okay,
     enter another mad scientist with a real Spanish Fly! No, no, oh my
     God, I just can't get it right!
     The phone rings. I pick it up. It's Borst:
     "Hello, Hank?"
     "I have to keep it short. I'm broke."
     "Yes, Jerry."
     "Well, I lost my two sponsors. The stock market and the tight
     "Uh huh."
     "Well, I always knew it was going to happen. So I'm getting
     out of Venice. I can't make it here. I'm going to New York City."
     "I thought that's what you said."
     "Well, I'm broke you see, and I think I can really make it
     "Sure, Jerry."
     "Losing my sponsors is the best thing that ever happened to
     "Now I feel like fighting again. You've heard about people
     rotting along the beach. Well, that's what I've been doing down here:
     rotting. I've got to get out of here. And I'm not worried. Except for
     the trunks."
     "I can't seem to get them packed. So my mother's coming
     back here."
     "All right, Jerry."
     "But before I go to New York I'm going to stop off at Switzer-
     land and perhaps Greece. Then I'm coming back to New York."
     "All right, Jerry, keep in touch. Always good to hear."
     Then I am back to the monkeys again. Twelve monkeys who
     can fly, fucking. How can it be done? Twelve bottles of beer are
     gone. I find my reserve half-pint of scotch in the refrigerator. I mix
     one-third glass scotch with two-thirds water. I should have stayed in
     the goddamned post office. But even here, like this, you have a
     minor chance. Just get those twelve monkey's fucking. If you'd been
     born a camel boy in Arabia you wouldn't even have this chance. So
     get your back up and get those monkeys at it. You've been blessed
     with a minor talent and you're not in India where probably two
     dozen boys could write you under if they knew how to write. Well,
     maybe not two dozen, maybe just a round dozen.
     I finish the half-pint, drink half bottle of wine, go to bed,
     forget it.
     The next morning at nine a.m. the doorbell rings. There is a
     young black girl standing there with a stupid-looking white guy in
     rimless glasses. They tell me that I have made a promise to go boat-
     ing with them at a party three nights ago. I get dressed, get into the
     car with them. They drive to an apartment and a black-haired kid
     met him at a party. He passes out little orange life-belts. Next I
     know we're down at the pier. I can't tell the pier from the water.
     They help me down a swinging wooden contraption that leads to a
     floating dock. The bottom of the contraption and the dock are
     about three feet apart. They help me down.
     "What the fuck is this?" I ask. "Does anybody have a drink?"
     I am with the wrong people. Nobody has a drink. Then I am in a
     small rowboat, rented, and somebody has attached a half-horse-
     power motor. The bottom of the boat is filled with water and two
     dead fish. I don't know who the people are. They know me. Fine,
     fine. We head out to sea. I vomit. We pass a suckerfish wrapped
     around a flying monkey. No, that's terrible. I vomit again.
     "How's the great writer?" asks the stupid-looking guy in the
     prow of the boat, the guy with the rimless galsses.
     "What a great writer?" asks the stupid-looking guy in the
     prow of the boat, the guy with the rimless glasses.
     "What great writer?" I ask, thinking he is talking about Rim-
     baud, although I never thought Rimbaud a great writer.
     "You," he says.
     "Me?" I say, "Oh, fine. Think I'm going to Greece next year."
     "Grease?" he says. "You mean up your ass?"
     "No," I answer, "up yours."
     We head out to sea where Conrad made it. To hell with Con-
     rad. I'll take coke with bourbon in a dark bedroom in Hollywood in
     1970, or whatever year you read this. The year of the monkey-orgy
     that never happened. The motor flits and gnashes at the sea; we
     plunge on toward Ireland. No, it's the Pacific. We plunge on toward
     Japan. To hell with it.


     10 jackoffs

     old Sanchez is a genius but I am the only one who knows it
     and it's always good to go see him. there are very few people I can
     stay in a room with more than 5 minutes without feeling gutted.
     Sanchez passes my tests, and I am very test, hehehehe, oh my god,
     anyhow, I go to see him now and then in his hand-built two story
     shack. he installed his own plumbing, has a free-feed line from a
     high-power voltage line, has connected himself up a telephone which
     feeds underground from a neighbor's installation, but he explains to
     me that he cannot call long distance or out of the city without
     exposing his sycophancy. he even lives with a young woman who
     says very little, paints, walks about looking sexy and makes love to
     him and him to her, of course. he bought the ground for very little
     and although the place is some distance from Los Angeles, you
     might call this an advantage. he sits among wires, popular mechanics
     magazines, tape recording sets, shelves and shelves of books on all
     subjects. he is concise, never rude; he is humorous and magic, he
     writes very well but is not interested in fame, once in a great while
      he will come out from his cave and read his poetry at some university,
     it is said that the walls and the ivy tremble and shake for weeks
     afterwards along with the co-eds, he has taped 10,000 tapes of con-
     versation, sounds, music-dull and undull, usual and otherwise.
     the walls are covered with photos, advertisements, drawings, hunks
     of rock, snake skins, skulls, dried rubbers, soot, silver and spots of
     "I'm afraid I'm cracking," I tell him, "eleven years on the
     same job, the hours dragging over me like wet shit, wow, and all the
     faces melted down to zeros, yapping, laughing at nothing. I'm no
     snob, Sanchez, but sometimes it gets to be a real horror show and
     the only end is death or madness."
     "sanity is an imperfection," he says, dropping a couple of pills
      into  his  mouth. "jesus, I mean, I'm taught at several  universities,
some prof is
     writing a book on me- I've been translated into several lan-
     "we all have. you're getting old, Bukowski, you're weakening.
     keep your moxie. Victory or Death."
     "large gamble, large loss."
     "right, or invert it for the common man."
     "well, fuck."
     "it gets quiet for a while, then he says, "you can come live with
     "thanks, sure, man. but I think I'll try a little more moxie
     "your game."
     "Over his head is a black sign upon which he has pasted in white

     -Dutch Schultz, on his deathbed.
     -Al Capone
     -Motto of Sitting Bull
     -George Jessel.
     -Detective Bucket.
     -Pico Della Mirandola,
     in his kabbalistic conclusions
     ANT IDEAL."
     -Wallace Stevens
     -Charles Bukowski.
     -Anthony Bloomfield.
     -Marcel Duchamp.
     -Taureg saying.
     -Admiral St. Vincent.
     -Christian Dior.
     -Stanislas Jerzy Lec.
     -Ludwig Wittgenstein.
     I am a bit gone on beer. "Say, I like that last one: "the object
     to be murdered does not have to be a yard long."
     "I think that's even better but it's not what is said."
     "all right. how's Kaakaa? that's baby-language for shit, and a
     more sexy woman I've never seen.
     "I know. and it started with Kafka. she used to like Kafka and
     I called her that. then she changed it herself." he gets up and walks
     to a photo. "come 'ere, Bukowski." I flip my beercan into the
     trashcan and walk on over. "what's this?" asks Sanchez.
     I look at the photo. it is a very good photo.
     "well, it looks like a cock."
     "what kind of cock?"
     " a stiff cock, a big one."
     "it's mine."
     "don't you notice?"
     "the sperm."
     "yes, I see it. I didn't want to say-"
     "why not? what the hell's wrong with you?"
     "I don't understand."
     "I mean, do you see the sperm or don't you?"
     "what do you mean?"
     "I mean, I'm JACKING OFF, can't you understand how hard
     that is to do?"
     "it's not hard, Sanchez, I do it all the time-"
     "oh, you ox! I mean I had the camera rigged-up with a string.
     Do you realize what an enactment it was to remain quietly in focus,
     ejaculate and trigger the camera at the same time?"
     "I don't use a camera."
     "how many men do? you miss the point, as usual. who the hell
     you are translated into the German, the Spanish, the French and so
     forth, I'll never know! look, do you realize that it took me THREE
     DAYS to make this SIMPLE photograph? do you know how many
     times I had to JACKOFF?"
     "4 times?"
     "TEN TIMES!"
     "oh, Lord! how about Kaakaa?"
     "she liked the photo."
     "I mean-"
     "good god, boy, I don't have the tongue to answer your sim-
     He goes on around back there and plops himself in his chair
     again. among his wires and pliers and translations and his huge BIT-
     TER-LEAP notebook, Adolph's nose glued to the black front with
     edgeworks of the Berlin bunker in the background.
     "I'm working on something now," I tell him, "short about me
     walking in to interview the great composer. he's drunk. I get drunk,
     there's a maid. we're on the wine. he leans forward and tells me,
     'The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth,'-"
     "and then he says, 'translated that means that the stupid have
     the greatest persistency.'"
     "kind of lousy." he says, "but it's all right for you."
     "but I don't know what to do with the story. I've got the
     maid walking around in a very short thing and I don't know what to do
     with it. I thought I might save the story by whiplashing the maid
     with my belt buckle and then sucking the composer's dick. but I've
      never sucked dick, never felt like it, I'm square, so I left the story
     the center and never finished it."
     "every man is a homo, a dick-sucker; every woman is a dyke,
     why do you worry so much?"
     "because if I'm happy I'm no good and I don't want to be
     no good."
     We sit there a while and then she comes from upstairs, the
     flaxen straight string hair.
     it's the first woman I could eat, I think.
     but she walks past Sanchez and his tongue licks his lips just a bit,
     she walks past me like separate ball-bearings of magic wavering crazy
     flesh, may the heavens kiss my balls if it is not so, and she waves
     through it all glorious as avalanche smashed by sun-
     "hello, Hank," she says.
     "Kaakaa," I laugh.
     she goes behind her table and begins her bits of painting and
     he sits there, Sanchez, beard blacker than black power, but calm
     calm, no claims. I begin to get drunk, say nasty things, say anything.
     then I begin to get dull. I mumble, I murmur. "Oh, sorry- ta spoil
     yr evening-so sorry, fuckers- ya-I'm a killer but I won't
     kill anybody. I got class. I'm Bukowski! translated into SEVEN
     I fall forward trying to look at the jackoff picture again, pitch
     over something. it is one of my own shoes. I have this god damn bad
     habit of taking off my own shoes.
     "Hank," she says, "be careful."
     "Bukowski?" he asks, "You all right?"
     he lifts me up. "man, I think you better stay here tonight."
     next thing I know he's got me over his shoulder, Sanchez has
     and he's carrying me to his upstairs pad, you know, where he and
     his woman do the thing, and then I'm down on the bed, he's gone.
     door closed, and then I hear some kind of music downstairs, and
     laughter, the both of them, but kind laughter, no malice, and I did
     not know what to do, one did not expect the best, luck or people
     everybody failed you finally, well, and then the door opened, a pop
     of light, and there was Sanchez -
     "hey, Bubu, a bottle of good French wine-sip it slowly, do
     you most good. you'll sleep. be happy. I won't say we love you,
     that's too easy. and if you want to come downstairs, dance and sing,
     talk, o.k. do what you want. here's the wine."
     he hands me the bottle. I lift it like some crazy cornet, again
     and again. through a ripped curtain a part of the worn moon leaps. it
     is a perfectly good night; it is not jail; it is far from that-
     in the morning when I awaken, go down to piss, come out
     from pissing, I find them both asleep on that narrow couch hardly
     enough for one body, but they are not one body and their faces
     together and asleep their bodies together and asleep, why be
     corny??? I only feel the tiny clutch at the throat, the automatic
     transmission blues of loveliness, that somebody has it, that they
     don't even hate me-that they even wish me what?-
     I walk out staunching and griefing and feeling and sick and
     blue and bukowski, old, starlit sun, my god, reaching into the final
     corner, the last midnight blast, cold Mr. C., big H, Mary Mary, clean
     as a bug on the wall, the heat of December a brainweb across my
     everlasting spine, Mercy like Kerouac's dead baby sprawled across
     Mexican railroad tracks in the everlasting July of suck-off tombs, I
     maybe writing this down by myself, leaving a few things out (I have
     been threatened by various powerful forces for doing things that are
     only normal and gaga gladful to do)
     and I get into my eleven year old car
     and now I have driven away
     find myself here
     and write you here a little illegal story of
     beyond myself
     but, perhaps, understandable to
     yours truly,
     Sanchez and Bukowski
     p.s. - this time the Heat missed. don't keep more than you
     can swallow: love, heat or hate.



     Vicki was all right, but we had our troubles. we were on the
     wine. port, that woman would get drunk and get to talking and she
     would make up some of the vilest imaginable stuff about me. and
     that tone of voice. shoddy and lisping and grating and insane. it
     would get to any man. it got to me.
     once she was screaming these insanities from the fold-down
     bed in our apartment. I begged her to stop. but she wouldn't. finally,
     I just walked over, lifted up the bed with her in it and folded
     everything into the wall.
     then I went over and sat down and listened to her scream.
     but she kept screaming so I walked over and pulled the bed
     out of the wall again there she lay, holding her arm, claiming it was
     "your arm can't be broken," I said.
     "it is, it is. oh, you slimy jackoff bastard, you've broken my
     I had some more drinks but she just kept holding her arm and
     whining. I finally had enough and telling her I'd be right back I went
     downstairs and outside and found some old wooden boxes behind a
     grocery store. I found good sturdy slats, ripped them off, pulled out
     the nails, got back on the elevator and rode back to our apartment.
     it took about 4 slats. I bound them around her arm with
     rippings from one of her dresses. she quieted down for a couple of
     hours. then she started in again. I couldn't take it anymore. so I
      called  a taxi, we went to the General Hospital, as soon as  the  taxi
     I took the boards off and threw them into the street. then they
     x-rayed her CHEST and put her arm in a cast. can you imagine that?
     I suppose if she broke her head they'd x-ray her ass.
     anyhow, she used to sit in the bars after that and say, "I am
     the only woman who has been folded into a wall in a wall bed."
     and I wasn't so sure of THAT either, but I let her go on saying it.
     now, another time she angered me and I slapped her but it was
     across the mouth and it broke her false teeth.
     I was surprised that it broke her false teeth. and I went out
     and got this super cement glue and I glued her teeth together for her.
     it worked for a while and then one night as she sat there drinking her
     wine she suddenly had a mouthful of broken teeth.
     that wine was so strong it undid the glue. it was disgusting. we
     had to get her some new teeth. how we did it, I don't quite remem-
     ber, but she claimed they made her look like a horse.
     we'd usually always have these arguments after we drank
     awhile, and Vicki claimed I'd get very mean when I was drunk but I
     think that she was the one who was mean. anyhow, sometime during
     the argument she'd get up, slam the door and run outside to some
     bar. "looking for a live one," as the girls would say.
     it always made me feel bad when she left. I've got to admit it.
     sometimes she wouldn't come back for 2 or 3 days. and nights. it
     wasn't a very nice thing to do.
     one time she ran out and I sat there drinking the wine, think-
     ing about it. then I got up and found the elevator and rode on down
     to the streets too. I found her in her favorite bar. she sat there
     holding a kind of purple scarf. I'd never seen the purple scarf before.
     holding out on me. I walked up to her and said quite loudly:
     "I've tried to make a woman out of you but you're nothing
     but a god damned whore!"
     the bar was full. every seat taken. I lifted my hand. I swung. I
     backhanded her off that god damned stool. she fell to the floor and
     this was at the back end of the bar. I didn't even turn to look
     at her. I walked the length of the bar to the exit. then I turned and
     faced the crowd. it was very quiet.
     "now," I said to them, "if there's anybody here who doesn't
     LIKE what I just did, just SAY something-"
     it was quieter than quiet.
     I turned around and walked out the doorway. the moment I
     hit the street I could hear them babbling and buzzing in there, buzzing
     and babbling.
     the SHITS! not a man in the boatload!
     - but, of course, she came back, and, well, anyhow to get on,
     this one night lately we are sitting around drinking the wine and the
     same old arguments started. this time I decided to go.
     she jumped in front of the door.
     "over my dead body, that's the only way you are getting out
     of here!
     "o.k., if that's the way it's gotta be."
     I slammed her a good one and she fell down in front of the
     doorway. I had to move her body to get out.
     I took the elevator down. feeling rather good. a good jaunty
     4-floor ride down. the elevator was kind of a cage-like contraption
     and smelled like old stockings, old gloves, old dustmops, but it gave
     me a feeling of security and power - somehow - and the wine rode
     all through me.
     but then I got outside and had a change of mind. I went to the
     liquor store. bought 4 more bottles of wine and went back to my
     place and rode the elevator back up. the same feeling of security and
     power. I walked into my place. Vicki was sitting in a chair crying.
     "I've come back to you, you lucky darling," I told her.
     "you bastard, you hit me. YOU HIT ME!"
     "umm, I said, opening a new bottle. "and you give me any
     more shit and I'll hit you again."
     "YEAH!" she screamed, "YOU'D HIT ME BUT YOU
     "HELL NO!" I screamed back, "I WOULDN'T HIT A MAN!
     that settled her for a bit and we sat for a bit and we sat
     drinking down the waterglassfuls of wine, port.
     then she started in on her abusive stuff again, mostly claiming
     I jacked off while she was asleep.
     well, even if it were true I figured that was my business and if
     it wasn't, then she was REALLY crazy. she claimed I jacked off in
     the bathtub, in the closet, in the elevator, everywhere.
     everytime I got out of the tub she'd run into the bathroom,
     "there! I SEE IT! LOOK AT IT!"
     "you crazy bat, that's just the dirt-ring."
     "no, that's "COME! that's COME!"
     or she'd run in while I was bathing under the arms or between
     the legs and say, "see, see, SEE! you're DOING IT!"
     "doing WHAT? can't a man wash his BALLS? those are MY
     balls, god damn you! can't a man wash his own balls?"
     "what's that thing sticking up there?"
     "my left index finger. now get the HELL OUT OF HERE!!!"
     or in bed, I'd be sound asleep and all of a sudden this hand
     grabbing my string and nuggets, man, sound asleep in the middle of
     the night, these FINGERNAILS!
     "you crazy bat, the next time you do that I SWEAR I AM
     "for christ's sake, go to sleep-"
     so this night she just sat there screaming her jackoff accusa-
     tions. I just sat there and drank my wine and didn't deny anything.
     this made her angry, angrier.
     and angrier.
     finally she couldn't stand it, all her talk about jackingoff, I
     mean ME supposedly jackingoff and me just sitting there smiling at
     her, and she jumped up and ran out the door.
     I let her go. I sat there and drank my wine, port.
     same old stuff.
     I thought it over, umm, umm, well.
     then very leisurely I got up and took the elevator down,same
     old feeling of power. I was not angry. I was very calm. it was just the
     same old war.
     I walked on down the street but I didn't go to her favorite bar.
     why repeat the same play? you are a whore; I tried to make a
     woman out of you. balls. after a while a man could get to sounding
     pretty silly. so I went to another bar and sat down on a stool near the
     door. I ordered a drink and took a slug, set the timing down, and then
     I saw her. Vicki. she was at the other end of the bar. for some reason
     she looked scared shitless.
     but I didn't go on down. I just stared at her as if I didn't know
     then I noticed something next to me in one of those old
     fashioned fox furs. the dead fox's head hung down over her breast
     looking at me. the breast looked at me.
     "your fox looks like it needs a drink, sweetie" I told her.
     "it's dead; it don't need a drink. I need a drink or I'm gonna
     well, a nice guy like me. who am I to spread death? I bought
     her a drink, her name, she told me, was Margy. I told her that I was
     Thomas Nightengale, shoesalesman. Margy. all these women with
     names, drinking, crapping, having monthlies. fucking men. getting
     folded into walls. it was too much.
     we had a coupla more, and already she was in her purse, flash-
     ing the photo of her children, an ugly demented boy and a girl
     without any hair, they were in some dull place in Ohio, the father had
     understanding. oh, one of THOSE? and he brought these women in
     the house and screwed them in front of her with all the lights on.
     "ah, I see, I see," I said. "yes, of course, most men are beasts,
     they simply do not understand. and you're SUCH a sweetie, what
     the hell, it ain't right."
     I suggested we go to another bar. Vicki's ass was twitching and
     she was half Indian.
     we left her there. we went around the corner. we had one
     around the corner.
     then I suggested we go to my place. do a little eating. I mean,
     get something to cook, bake, fry.
     I didn't tell her about Vicki, of course. but Vicki always
     prided herself on her god damned baked chickens. maybe it was
     because she looked like one. a baked chicken with horse teeth.
     so I suggested we get a chicken, bake it, bathe it in whiskey.
     she did not demur.
     so. liquor store. 5th of whiskey. 5 or 6 quarts of beer.
     we found an all night market. the place even had a butcher.
     "we wanta bake a chicken," I said.
     "oh, christ," he said.
     I dropped one of the quarts of beer. it really exploded.
     "christ," he said.
     I dropped another to see what he would say.
     "oh, jesus," he said.
     "I want THREE CHICKENS," I said.
     "THREE CHICKENS?" "jesus christ, yes," I said.
     the butcher reached in and got three very white-yellow chick-
     ens with a few long black unplucked hairs that looked like human
     hairs on them and he wrapped them all up a big big bundle, all in
     pink tough paper with this real gripping tape, and I paid him and we
     got out of there.
     I dropped 2 more quarts of beer on the way.
     I rode up the elevator, feeling my power rising. when we got
     inside my door I lifted Margy's dress to see what was holding her
     stockings up. then I gave her a big chummy whiskey-goose with
     long-finger right hand. she screamed and dropped the big pink bun-
     dle. it fell on the rug and the 3 chickens came out. those 3 chickens,
     all white-yellow with their 29 or 30 drooling dropping murdered
     human hairs sticking to them looked very strange gaping there on
     that worn rug of yellow and brown flowers and trees and Chinese
     dragons, under electric lights in los angeles at the end of the world
     near 6th street under Union.
     "oooh, the chickens."
     "fuck the chickens."
     her garter belt was dirty. it was perfect. I goosed her again.
     well, shit, so I sat down and peeled the whiskey bottle, poured
     a couple of tall waterglasses full, took off my shoes stockings pants
     shirt, took one of her cigarettes. sat in my underwear. I always do
      that,  right away. I like to be comfortable.. if the broad don't  like
     fuck her. she can go. but they always stay. I got a manner. some
     broads say I should have been a king. others say other things. fuck
     she drank most of her drink and started for her purse. "I have
     some children in Ohio. they're lovely children-"
     "forget that. we've been through that stage. tell me, do you
     suck dick?"
     "what do you mean?"
     "OH, BALLS!" I smashed my glass against the wall.
     then I got another one, filled it up, and we drank some more.
     I don't know how long we worked on the whiskey but it must
     have gotten to me because the next thing I know I was laying on the
     bed naked. staring up at the electric light and Margy was standing
     there naked and she was rubbing my penis quite rapidly with her fox
     fur. and while she was rubbing she was saying over and over, "I am
     going to fuck you, I am going to fuck you-"
     "listen," I said. "I don't know if you can fuck me. I jacked-off
     in the elevator earlier this evening. I think it was about 8 o'clock."
     "I will fuck you anyhow."
     she really speeded up that fox fur. it was all right. maybe I
     could get one for myself. I once knew a guy who put raw liver in a
     long drinking glass and screwed that. me, I didn't like to stick my
     thing into anything that could break or slice. imagine going to a
     doctor with a bloody cock and saying it happened while screwing a
     water glass. once while I was bumming in a small town in Texas I
     saw this well-built wonderful fuck of a young broad married to this
     little shriveled up old dwarf with a nasty disposition and some kind of
     malady that made him trembly all over. she supported him and
     pushed him around in a wheelchair, and I used to think of him
     pouncing on all that good meat. I'd get a picture of it, you know,
     and then finally I got the story. when she had been a younger girl
     she had gotten this coke bottle stuck all the way into her snatch and
     just couldn't get the thing out and had to go to a doctor. he got it
     out, and somehow the story got out. she was ruined in that town
     after that, and didn't have sense enough to get out. nobody wanted
     her except the nasty dwarf with the shakes. he didn't give a damn -
     he had the best piece of ass in town.
     where was I? oh, yeah.
     her fox fur went faster and faster and I finally got something
     going just as I heard a key go into the door. oh, shit, it was probably
     well, it's simple, I thought. I'll just boot her ass out and go
     about my business.
     the door opened and there stood Vicki with 2 cops standing
     behind her.
     "GET THAT WOMAN OUT OF MY HOUSE!" she screamed.
     COPS! I couldn't believe it. I pulled the sheet over my pulsa-
     ting and throbbing and giant sexual organ and pretended to be
     asleep. it looked like I had a cucumber under there.
     Margy was screaming back: "I know you, Vicki, this ain't your
     god damned house! this guy EARNS his way by licking your asshole
     hairs! he gets you babbling to heaven in Morse code with that long
     sandpaper tongue of his, you're nothing but a WHORE, a true
     blue turdy-gulping 2-dollar whore. and THAT went out with Franky
     D., and you were 48 THEN!"
     hearing that, my cucumber went down. both of these broads
     must have been 80 years old. singly, that is, together they might
     have reached back to suck-off Abe Lincoln, something like that.
     suck-off General Robert E. Lee, Patrick Henry. Mozart. Dr. Samuel
     Johnson. Robespierre. Napoleon. Machiavelli? wine preserves. God
     endures. the whores blow on.
     and Vicki screamed back: "WHO'S A WHORE? WHO'S A
     LAND. WHY YOU-"
     "listen, ladies," said one of the cops. "I will have to ask you to
     watch your remarks and lower the volume. understanding and kind-
     ness are the keynotes of Democratic thought. oh, I just DO love the
     way Bobby Kennedy wears that tickling blobbing knot of raunchy
     hair over one side of his darling head don't you just?"
     "why you fuckin' queer," said Margy, "is that why you wear
     them tight pants, to make your asshole sweeter? god, it DOES look
     NICE! I'd kinda like to do you in myself. I see you shits bending
     over into car windows giving out tickets on the freeways and I
     always feel like pinching your tight little asses."
     the cop suddenly got a brilliant flare in his dead eyes, he
     unhitched his club and tapped Margy along the side of the neck with
     it. she fell to the floor.
     then he slipped the bracelets on her. I could hear those clicks,
     and the bastards ALWAYS snapped them too tight. but they felt
     almost GOOD once you got them on. kind of forceful and heavy and
     you felt like Christ or something dramatic.
     I kept my eyes closed so I couldn't see whether they threw a
     robe or something over her.
     then the cop who snapped the bracelets said to the other cop,
     "I'll take her on the elevator. we'll go on the elevator."
     and I couldn't hear very well, but I listened as they went
     down, and I heard Margy screaming, "oooooh, oooooooh, you bas-
     tard. let go of me, let go of me!"
     and he kept saying, "shut up, shut up, shut up! you're only
     getting what you deserve! and you haven't seen ANYTHING yet!
     this-is just the-beginning!"
     then she really screamed.
     then the other cop walked over to me. through one narrowed
     eye I could see him put his big black shiny shoe up on the mattress,
     up on the sheet.
     he looked down at me.
     "is this guy a fag? he looks like a fag, sure as hell."
     "I don't' THINK he is. he might be. he can sure ball a broad,
     "you want me to run him in?" he asked Vicki.
     I had my eyes closed. it was a long wait. god, it was a long
     wait. that big foot there on my sheets. the electric light shining
     then she spoke. finally. "no, he's-.o.k. leave him there."
     the cop took his foot down. I heard him walk across the room,
     then wait at the door. he spoke to Vicki:
     "I'm going to have to charge you 5 bucks more for your
     protection next month. you're getting a bit harder to watch out
     then he was gone. I mean, out into the hall. I waited for him
     to get into the elevator. I heard it go down to the first floor. I
     counted to 64. then, I LEAPED OUT OF BED.
     my nostrils were flaring like Gregory Peck in heat.
     "NO, NO, NO!!!"
     I raised my hand to give her the old backhand.
     "I TOLD HIM NOT TO TAKE YOU!" she screamed at me.
     "ummm. that's right. I've got to consider that."
     I lowered my hand.
     then there was some whiskey left and some wine too. I got up
     and put the chain on the door.
     we turned off the lights and sat there and drank and smoked
     and talked about things. this, and that, easy and casual, then, like
     old times, we looked at the same red horse that flew and flew in red
     neon on the side of a building just downtown to our east. it flew and
     flew on the side of this building all night. no matter what happened.
     you know what it was, a kind of red horse with red wings of neon.
     but I told you that. a winged horse. anyhow, like always, we count-
     ed: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. the wings always flapped 7
     times. then the horse, everything, stood still, then, it started again.
     our whole apartment would be in this red glow. then when the horse
     stopped flying, somehow things would get white for a flash. I don't
     know why. I think that it was caused by an advertisement beneath
     the red winged horse. it said, some kind of product, buy this or buy
     that, in this WHITE. anyhow.
     we sat and talked and drank and smoked.
     later we went to bed together. she kissed very nicely, her
     tongue was kind of an apologetic sadness.
     then we fucked. we fucked as the red horse flew.
     7 times the wings flapped.. and in the center of the rug the 3
     chickens were still there. watching. the chickens turned red, the
     chickens turned white. 14 times they turned red. then they
     turned white. 21 times they turned red. then they turned white. 28
     it had ended a better night than most.



     we lived right across from McArthur park, Linda and I, and
     one night while drinking we saw a man's body fall past our window.
     it was an odd sight, something like a joke, but it wasn't any joke
     when his body hit the pavement. "jesus christ," I told Linda, "he
     plopped right apart like an old tomato! we are just made of guts and
     shit and slimy stuff!come 'ere! come 'ere! look at 'im!" Linda came
     to the window, then ran to the bathroom and vomited. she came
      out.  I  turned and looked at her. "honest ta christ, baby, he's  just
     a big spilled bowl of rotten meat and spaghetti, dressed in a ripped
     suit and shirt!" Linda ran back in and heaved again.
     I sat and drank the wine. soon I heard the siren. what they
     really needed was the Sanitation Dept. well, what the fuck, we all
     had our troubles. I never knew where our rent was coming from and
     we were too sick from drinking to look for work. everytime we
     worried, all we could do about our worries was to fuck. that made us
     forget for a while. we fucked a lot, and lucky for me, Linda was a
     good lay.that whole hotel was full of people like us, drinking wine
     and fucking and not knowing what and then one of them
     jumped out of the window.but the money always seemed to arrive
     for us from somewhere, just when all seemed like we'd have to eat
     our own shit, once $300 from a dead uncle, another time, a delayed,
     income tax refund. another time I was riding on a bus and on the
     seat in front of me where these 50 cent pieces. what it meant or who
     had done it, I didn't know, still don't understand. I moved one seat
     up and began stuffing the half bucks into my pockets. when the
     pockets got full, I pulled the cord and got off at the next stop.
     nobody said anything or tried to stop me. I mean, when you're
     drunk, you've got to be lucky, even if you're not one, you've got to
     be lucky.
     part of each day we would spend in the park looking at the
     ducks. you've got to believe me, that when your health is down
     from continual drinking and lack of decent food, and you're tired of
     fucking while trying to forget, you can't beat the ducks. I mean,
     you've got to get out of your place, because you can get the deep
     blue blues and it soon might be you out the window. it is easier to
     do than you might imagine. so Linda and I would sit on a bench and
     watch the ducks. the ducks didn't worry worth a damn - no rent, no
     clothes, plenty of food - just float around shitting and quacking.
     nobbling, nibbling, eating all the time. once in a while one of those
     from the hotel would catch a duck at night, kill the thing, take it to
     their room, clean it and cook it. we thought about it but never did
     it. besides they were very hard to catch; you just get so close and
     SLUUUSH!!! a spray of water and the motherfuckers would be gone!
     most of the time we ate small pancakes made of flour and water, or
     now and then we would steal some corn from somebody's garden -
     one guy specialized in a corn garden - I don't believe he got to eat a
     one of them, then there was always a bit of stealing from an outdoor
     market - I mean there was a vegetable stand in front of a grocery -
     store - this meant an occasional tomato or two or a small cucumber,
     but we were petty thieves, small time, and we needed mostly luck.
     the cigarettes were easiest - a walk at night - somebody always left
     a car window down and a pack or half-pack of smokes on the dash-
     board. of course, the wine and the rent were the real problems and
     we fucked and worried about it.
     and like all the days of final desperation, ours arrived. no more
     wine, no more luck, no more anything. no more credit with the
     landlady or the liquor store. I decided to set the alarm clock for
     5:30 a. m. and walk down to the Farm Labor Market, but even the
     clock didn't work right. it had broken and I had opened it to repair
     it. it was a broken spring and the only way I could get the spring to
     work again was to break a portion of it off, hook it up again, lock up
     the works and wind it up. now if you want to know what a short
     spring does to an alarm clock or I guess any kind of clock, I'll tell
     you. the shorter the spring is, the faster the minute and hour hands
     go around. it was some crazy clock, I'll tell you, and when we were
     worn out with fucking to stop from worrying we used to watch that
     clock and try to tell what time it really was. you could see that
     minute hand moving - we used to laugh at it.
     then one day - it took us a week to figure it - we found that
     the clock moved thirty hours for each actual twelve hours of time
     also it had to be wound every 7 or 8 hours or it would stop. some-
     times we'd wake up and look at the clock and wonder what time it
     was. "well, shit, baby," I'd say, "can't you figure out the thing? the
     clock moves 2 and one half times as fast as it should. it's simple."
     "yeah, but what time did it say when we last set the clock?"
     she'd ask.
     "damned if I know, baby, I was drunk."
     "well, you better wind it or it'll stop."
     I'd wind it, then we'd fuck.
     so the morning I decided to go to the Farm Labor Market I
     couldn't set the clock. we got hold of a bottle of wine from some-
     where and drank it slowly. I watched that clock, not knowing what
     it meant, and being afraid of missing the early morning, I just lay in
     bed and didn't sleep all night. then I got up, dressed and walked
     around waiting. there were quite a few tomatoes lying in the win-
     dows and I picked up two or 3 of them and ate them. there was a
     FIELD. FOOD AND LODGING. what the hell was that? cotton in
     Bakersfield, Calif? I thought Eli Whitney and the cotton gin had put
     all that out of the way. then a big truck drove up and it turned out
     they needed tomato-pickers. well, shit, I hated to leave Linda in that
     bed all alone like that. she could never stay in bed too long alone by
     herself like that. but I decided to try it. everybody started climbing
     into the truck. I waited and made sure that all the ladies were on
     board, and there were some big ones. everybody was in, and then I
     started to crawl up. a large Mexican, evidently the foreman, started
     putting in the tailgates - "sorry, senor, full up!" they drove off
     without me.
     it was almost 9 p.m. by then and the walk back to the hotel
     took an hour. I passed all the well-dressed stupid-looking people
     and was almost run over once by an angry man in a black Caddy. I don't
     know what he was angry about. maybe the weather. it was a hot
     day. when I got back to the hotel I had to walk up the stairway
     because the elevator was right by the landlady's door and she was
     always fucking with the elevator, shining the brass, or just plain-ass
     it was 6 floors up and when I got there, I heard laughing from
     my room. that bitch Linda hadn't waited too long to get started.
     well, I'd whip her ass and his too. I opened the door.
     it was Linda and Jeanie and Eve. "Sweetie!" said Linda, she
     came up to me. she was all dressed in highheels. she gave me a lot of
     tongue when she kissed. "Jeanie just got her first unemployment
     check and Eve is on the dole! we're celebrating!"
     there was plenty of port wine. I went in and took a bath and
     then came out in my shorts. I always like to show off my legs. I had
     the biggest most powerful legs I had ever seen on any man. the rest
     of me wasn't too much. I sat in my torn shorts and put my legs up
     on the coffee table.
     "shit! look at those legs!" said Jeanie.
     "yeah, yeah," said Eve.
     Linda smiled. I was poured a wine.
     you know how such things go. we drank and talked, talked
     and drank. the girls went out for more bottles. more talk. the clock
     went round and round. soon it was dark. I was drinking alone, still in
     my torn shorts. Jeanie had gone to the bedroom and passed out in
     the bed. Eve had passed out on the couch and Linda had passed out
      on  a  smaller leather couch in the hall that led to the  bathroom.  I
     couldn't understand that Mexican closing those tailgates on me. I
     was unhappy.
     I went into the bedroom and got into bed with Jeanie. she was
     a large woman, and naked. I began kissing on her breasts, sucking at
     them. "hey, what you doing?"
     "doin? I'm going to fuck you!"
     I put my finger into her cunt and moved it back and forth.
     "I'm going to fuck you!"
     "no! Linda would kill me!"
     "she'll never know!"
     I mounted and then very SLOWLY SLOWLY QUIETLY so
     the springs wound not rattle, so there would not be a sound. I slid it
     in and out in and out EVER SO SLOWLY and when I came I
     thought I would never stop. it was one of the best fucks of my life.
     as I wiped off on the sheets the thought occurred to me - it could
     be that Man has been fucking improperly for centuries.
     then I went, sat down in the dark, drank some more. I don't
     remember how long I sat there. I drank quite a bit. then I went over
      to  Eve. Eve of the dole. she was a fat thing, a little wrinkled,  but
     very sexy lips, obscene sexy ugly lips. I began kissing that terrible
     and beautiful mouth. she didn't protest at all. she opened her legs
     and I entered. she was a little female pig, farting and grunting and
     sniffling, wiggling, when I came it wasn't like with Jeanie - long and
     trembling - it was just splot splot and then over. I got off. and
     before I could get back to my chair I could hear her snoring again.
     amazing - she fucked like she breathed - nothing to it. each woman
     fucked just a bit differently, and that's what kept a man going, that's
     what kept a man trapped.
     I sat and drank some more thinking of what that dirty son of a
     bitch in control of the tailgqate had done to me. it didn't pay to be
     polite. then I began to think about the dole. could an unmarried
     man and woman get on the dole? of course not. they were supposed
     to starve to death. and love was a kind of dirty word. but that was
     something of what it was between Linda and I - love. that's why we
     starved together, drank together, lived together. what did marriage
     mean? marriage meant a sanctified FUCK and a sanctified FUCK
     that's what the world wanted: some poor son of a bitch, trapped and
     unhappy, with a job to do. well, shit, I'd move down to skidrow and
     move Linda in with Big Eddie. Big Eddie was an idiot but at least
     he'd buy her some clothes and put some steaks in her belly which
     was more than I was able to do.
     Elephant Legs Bukowski, the social failure.
     I finished off the bottle and decided I needed some sleep. I
     wound up the alarm clock and crawled in with Linda. she awakened
     and began rubbing up against me. "oh shit, oh shit," she said, "I
     don't know what's the matter with me!"
     "whatza matta, baby? you sick?you want me to call the Gen-
     Eral Hospital?"
     "oh no, shit, I'm just HOT! HOT! I'M SO HOT!"
     "I said, I'm burning up hot! FUCK ME!"
     "what? what?"
     "I'm so tired. no sleep for two nights. that long walk to the
     Labor Market and back, 32 blocks in the hot sun-useless. no job.
     fucking-ass tired."
     "I'll HELP you!"
     "whatcha mean?"
     she crawled halfway down the couch and began licking at my
     penis. I groaned in wearinesss. "honey, 32 blocks in the hot sun-
     I'm burned out."
     she kept working. she had a sandpaper tongue and knew what
     to do with it.
     "honey," I told her, "I'm a social zero! I don't deserve you!
     please relent!"
     like I say, she was good. some can, some can't. most just know
     the old-time headbob. Linda began with the penis, lift off, went to
     the balls, then off the balls, back to the penis again, barberpole, a
     wonderful amount of energy. ALWAYS LEAVING THE HEAD OF
     THE COCK, ITSELF, UNTOUCHED. finally, she had me moaning
     to the ceiling telling her all various sorts of lies about what I would
     do for her when I finally got my ass straightened out and stopped
     being a bum.
     then she came and took the head, put her mouth about a third
     of the way down, gave this little nip-suck of tooth pressure on, the
     wolf-nip and I came AGAIN - which made four times that night and
     I was completely done. some women know more than medical sci-
     when I awakened they were all up and dressed - looking good
     - Linda, Jeanie and Eve. they poked at me under the covers, laugh-
     ing. "hey, Hank, we're going down to look for a live one! and we
     need an eye opener! we'll be down at Tommi-Hi's!"
     "o.k., o.k., goodbye!"
     they all left, wiggling out the door.
     all Mankind was doomed forever.
     I was just about asleep when the extension phone rang.
     Mr. Bukowski?"
     "I saw those women! they came from your room!"
     "how do you know? you have 8 floors and about ten or twelve
     rooms to a floor."
     "I know all my roomers, Mr. Bukowski! we have all respec-
     table working people here!"
     "yes, Mr. Bukowski. I've been running this place for twenty
     years and never, never have I seen such goings on as at your place!
     we've always had respectable people here, Mr. Bukowski."
     "yes, they're so respectable that every two weeks some son of
     a bitch climbs up onto the roof and takes a header straight into your
     cement entranceway between those phony potted plants."
     "you've got until noon to get out, Mr. Bukowski!"
     "what time is it now?"
     "8 a.m."
     "thank you."
     I hung up. found an alka-seltzer, drank it out of a dirty glass.
     then found a touch of wine. I opened the curtains and looked out at
     the sun. it was a hard world, no news there, but I hated skidrow. I
     like little rooms, little places to make some kind of fight from. a
     woman, a drink, but no day by day job. I couldn't put it together. I
     was not clever enough. I thought of jumping out the window but
     couldn't do it. I got dressed and went down to Tommi-Hi's. the girls
     were laughing down at the end of the bar with two guys. Marty the
     bartender knew me. I waved him off. no money. I sat there.
     a scotch and water arrived in front of me. a note.
     "meet me at the Roach Hotel, room 12, at midnight. I'll have
     the room for us.
     love, Linda."
     I drank the drink, got out of the way, tried the Roach Hotel at
     Midnight. the desk clerk said, "nothing doing. no room 12 reserved
     for a Bukowski." I came at one a.m. I'd been in the park all day, all
     night, sitting. same thing. "no room 12 reserved for you, sir."
     "any room reserved for m under that name or under the
     name of Linda Bryan?"
     "nothing sir."
     "do you mind if I look into room 12?"
     "there's nobody there, sir. I told you, sir."
     "I'm in love, man. I'm sorry. please let me have a look!"
     he gave me one of those looks reserved for 4th class idiots,
     tossed me the doorkey.
     "be back within 5 minutes or you're in trouble."
     I opened the door, switched on the lights - "Linda!" - the
     roaches, seeing the light, all ran back under the wallpaper. there were
     thousands of them. when I put out the light you could hear them all
     crawling back out. the wallpaper, itself, seemed to be just a large
     I took the elevator back down to the desk clerk.
     "thanks," I said, "you were right. nobody in room 12."
     for the first time his voice seemed to take on some kind of
     "I'm sorry, man."
     "thanks," I said.
     when I got outside the hotel I turned left, which was east, which
     was skidrow, and as my feet moved me slowly toward there I won-
     dered, why do people lie? now I no longer wonder but I still remem-
     ber, and now when they lie I almost know about it while they are
      doing  it, but I'm stil lnot as wise as that desk clerk in  the  roach
     who knew that the lie was everywhere, or the people who dove past
     my window while I was drinking port on warm afternoons in Los
     Angeles across from McArthur park, where they still catch, kill, eat
     the ducks, and, the people.
     the hotel is still there and the room we stayed in and if you
     care to come by some day I will show it to you. but there's hardly
     sense in that, is there? let's just say that one night I fucked or got
     fucked by 3 women. and let that be story enough.


     The Gut Wringing Machine

     Danforth hung the bodies up one by one after they had been
     wrung through the wringer. Bagley sat by the phones. "how many
     we got?"
     "19, looks like a good day."
     "shit, yeah, yeah. that sounds like a good day. how many did
     we place yesterday?"
     "fair, fair. we-ll make it good if the way keeps up. I keep
     worrying they might quit the thing in Viet," said Bagley of the
     "don-t be foolish - too many people profit depend on
     that war."
     "but the Paris Peace Conference-"
     "you just ain-t yourself today, Bag. you know they just sit
     around and laugh all day, draw their pay and then make the Paree
     nightclubs each night. those boys are living good. they don-t want
     the Peace Conference to end anymore than we want the war to end.
      we-re  all  getting fat, and not a scratch. It-s sweet.  and  if  they
     the thing somehow by accident, there-ll be others. they keep hot
     points glowing all over the globe."
     "yeah, I guess I worry too much." one of the three phones on
     the desk rang. Bagley picked it up. "SATISFACTORY HELP
     AGENCY. Bagley speaking."
     he listened. "yeh, yeh. we got a good cost accountant. salary?
     $300 the first two weeks, I mean a week. we get the first two
     weeks- pay. then cut him to 50 a week or fire him. If you fire him
     after the first two weeks, we give YOU one hundred dollars. why?
     well, hell, don-t you see, the whole idea is to keep things moving. It-
     all psychological, like Santa Claus. when? yeah, we-ll send him right
     over. what-s the address? fine, fine, he-ll be there pronto, remember
     all the terms. we send him with a contract. bye."
     Bagley hung up. hummed to himself, underlined the address.
     "get one down, Danforth, a tired, thin one, no use shipping out the
     best on the first shot."
     Danforth walked over to the wire clothesline and took the
     clamps off the fingers of a tired, thin one.
     "walk him over here. what-s his name?"
     "Herman. Herman Telleman."
     "shit, he don-t look so good. looks like he still got a little
     blood in him, and I can see some color in his eye-I think. listen,
     Danforthm you got these wringers running good and tight? I want all
     the guts squeezed out, no resistance at all, you understand? you do
     your job and I-ll do mine."
     "some of these guys came in pretty tough, some men have
     more guts than others, you know that. you can-t always tell by
     "all right, let-s try him. Herman. hey, sonny!"
     "what-s up pops?"
     "how-d you like a nice little job?"
     "ah, hell no!"
     "what? you don-t want a nice little job?"
     "what the fuck for? my old man, he was from Jersey, he
     worked all his damn life and after that we buried him with his own
     money, ya know what he had left?"
     "15 cents and the end of a drab dull life."
     "but don-t you want a wife, a family, a home, respectability" a
     new car every 3 years?"
     "I don-t want no grind, daddy-o, don-t put me in no flip-out
     cage. I just want to laze around. what the shit."
     "Danforth, run this bastard through the wringer and make
     those screws tight!"
     Danforth grabbed the subject but not before Telleman yelled
     "up your old mother-s bunghole-"
     "and squeeze ALL THE GUTS OUT OF HIM, ALL OF THE
     GUTS! do you hear me?"
     "aw right, aw right!" answered Danforth. "shit, sometimes I
     think you got the easy end of the stick!"
     "forget sticks! squeeze the guts out of him. Nixon might end
     the war-"
     "there you go talking that nonsense again! I don-t think you
     been sleeping good, Bagley. something wrong with you."
     "yeah, yeah, you-re right! insomnia. I keep thinking we should
     be making soldiers! I toss all night! what a business that would be!"
     "Bag, we do the best with what we can, that-s all."
     "aw right, aw right, you run him through the wringer yet?"
     Danforth brought Herman Telleman back. he did look a bit
     different. all the color was gone from his eyes and he had on this
     utterly false smile. it was beautiful.
     "Herman?" asked Bagley.
     "yes, sir?"
     "what do you feel? or how do you feel?"
     "I don-t feel anything, sir."
     "you like cops?"
     "not cops, sir - policemen. they are the victims of our vicious-
     ness even though they at times protect us by shooting us, jailing us,
     beating us and fining us. There is no such thing as a bad cop. Police-
     man, pardon me. do you realize that if there were no policemen,
     we-d have to take the law into our own hands?"
     "and then what would happen?"
     "I never thought of that, sir."
     "excellent, do you believe in God?"
     "oh, yes sir, in God and Family and State and Country and
     honest labor."
     "jesus christ!"
     "what, sir?"
     "sorry, now, here, do you like overtime on a job?"
     "oh, yes sir! I would like to work 7 days a week if possible,
     and 2 jobs if possible."
     "money, sir, money for color tv, new autos, down payment on
     a home, silk pajamas, 2 dogs, an electric shave, life insurance, medi-
     cal insurance, oh all kinds of insurance and college educations for
     my children if I have children and automatic doors on the garage and
     fine clothes and 45 dollar shoes, and cameras, wrist watches, rings,
     washers, refrigerators, new chairs, new beds, wall-to-wall carpeting,
     donations to the church, thermostat heating and-"
     "all right. stop. when are you going to use all this stuff?"
     "I don-t understand, sir."
     "I mean, when you are working night and day and overtime,
     when are you going to enjoy these luxuries?"
     "oh, there-ll be a day, there-ll be a day, sir!"
     "and you don-t think your kids will grow up some day and
     just think of you as an asshole?"
     "after I-ve worked my fingers to the bone for them, sir! of
     course not!"
     "excellent. now just a few more questions."
     "yes, sir."
     "don-t you think that all this constant drudgery is harmful to
     the health and the spirit, the soul, if you will-?"
     "oh hell, if I weren-t working all the time I-d just be sitting
     around drinking or making oil paintings or fucking or going to the
     circus or sitting in the park watching the ducks. things like that."
     "don-t you think sitting around in the park watching the
     ducks is nice?"
     "I can-t make any money that way, sir."
     "o.k., fuck-off."
     "I mean, I-m through talking to you."
     "o.k., this one-s ready. Dan. fine job. give him the contract,
     make him sign it, he won-t read the fine print. he thinks we-re nice.
     trot him down to the address. they-ll take him. I ain-t sent out a
     better cost accountant in months."
     "Danforth had Herman sign the contract, checked his eyes again
     to make sure that they were dead, put the contract and the address
     in his hand, led him to the door and gave him a gentle push down
     the stairway.
     Bagley just leaned back with an easy smile of success and
     watched Danforth run the other 18 through the wringer. where the
     guts went it was hard to see but almost every man lost his guts
     somewhere along the line. the ones labeled: "married with family" or
     "over 40" lost their guts easiest. Bagley leaned back as Danforth ran
     them through the wringer, he heard them talking:
     "it-s hard for a man as old as I am to get a job, oh, it-s so
     "another one said::
     "oh, baby, it-s cold outside."
     "I get tired of booking and pimping, getting busted, busted,
     busted. I need something secure, secure, secure, secure, secure-"
     "all right, I-ve had my fun, now-"
     "I don-t have a trade. every man should have a trade. I don-t
     have a trade. what am I going to do?"
     "I-ve been all over the world - in the army - I know things."
     "if I had it to do all over again, I-d be a dentist or a barber."
     "all my novels and short stories and poems keep coming back.
     Shit, I can-t go to New York and shake the hands of the publishers! I
     have more talent than anybody but you-ve got to have the inside! I-ll
     take any kind of job but I am better than any kind of job that I take
     because I am a genius."
     "see how pretty I am? look at my nose? look at my ears? look
     at my hair? my skin? the way I act! see how pretty I am? see how
     pretty I am? see how pretty I am? why doesn-t anybody like me?
     because I-m so pretty. they-re jealous, jealous, jealous-"
     the phone rang again.
     "SATISFACTORY HELP AGENCY. Bagley speaking. you
     what? you need a deep-sea diver? motherfucker! what? oh, pardon.
     sure, sure, we got dozens of unemployed deep-sea divers. his first 2
     weeks- pay is ours. 500 a week, dangerous, you know, really danger-
     ous - barnacles, crabs, all that- seaweed, maidens on rocks. octu-
      pi,  bends. head-colds. fuck, yes. first 2 weeks- pay is ours. if  you
     him after 2 weeks we give you $200. why? why? if a robin laid an
     egg of gold in your front room chair would you ask WHY? would
     you? we-ll send you a deep-sea diver in 45 minutes! the address?
     fine, fine, ah, yes, fine, that-s near the Richfield Building. yes, I
     know. 45 minutes. thank you. goodbye."
     Bagley hung up. he was tried already and the day was just
     "yeah, mother?"
     "bring me a deep-sea diver type. bit fat around the belly. blue
     eyes, medium hair on chest, balding before his time, slightly stoical,
     cancer of the throat. that-s a deep-sea diver. anybody knows what a
     deep-sea diver is. now bring one, mother."
     "o.k., shithead."
     Bagley yawned. Danforth unclamped one. brought him forth,
     stood him before the desk.. his tag said, "Barney Anderson."
     "hello, Barney," said Bag.
     "where am I?" asked Barney.
     "boy, if you two ain-t a couple of greasy-looking mother-
     fuckers, I ain-t never ever seen none!"
     "what the fuck, Dan!"
     "I ran him through 4 times."
     "I told you to tighten those screws!"
     "and I told you some men have more guts than others!"
     "it-s all a myth, you damn fool!"
     "who-s a damn fool?"
     "you-re both damn fools," said Barney Anderson.
     "I want you to run his ass through the wringer three times,"
     said Bagley.
     "o.k., o.k., but first let-s you and me get straight."
     "aw right, for instance-ast this Barney guy who his heroes
     "Barney, hoose yr herows?"
     "well, lemme see - Cleaver, Dillinger, Che, Malcolm X,
     Gandhi, Jersey Joe Walcott, Grandma Barker, Castro, Van Gogh,
     Villon, Hemingway."
     "ya see, he i-dentifies with all LOSERS. that makes him feel
     good. he-s getting ready to lose. we-re going to help him. he-s been
     conned on this soul-shit and that-s how we get their asses, there ain-t
     no soul. it-s all con. there ain-t no heroes. it-s all con. there ain-t
     winners - it-s all con and horseshit. there ain-t no saints, there ain-
     no genius - that-s all con and fairytale, it makes the game go. each
     man jut tries to hang on and be lucky - if he can. all else is
     "aw right, aw right, I dig your losers! but what about Castro?
     he looked pretty fat, last photo I saw of him."
     "he subsists because the U.S. and Russia have decided to leave
     him in the middle. but suppose they really put the pack on the
     deck? what can he draw to? man, he don-t hold enough chips to get
     into a decaying Egyptian whorehouse."
     "fuck you two guys! I like who I like!" said Barney Anderson.
     "Barney, when a man gets old enough, trapped enough, hun-
     gry enough, weary enough - he-ll suck dick, tit, eat shit to stay
     alive; either that or suicide. the human race ain-t got it, man. it-s a
     bad crowd."
     "so we-re gonna change it, man. that-s the trick. if we can
     make it to the moon we can clean the shit out of the shitbowl, we
     just been concentrating on the wrong things."
     "you-re sick, kid, and a little fat around the belly. and balding.
     Dan, shape him up."
     Danforth took Barney Anderson and rang and wrung and
     screamed him through the wringer three times, then brought him
     "Barney?" asked Bagley.
     "yes sir!"
     "Who are your heroes?"
     "George Washington, Bob Hope, Mae West. Richard Nixon,
     the bones of Clark Gable and all the nice people I-ve seen at Disney-
     land. Joe Louis, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Babe Ruth, the Green
     Berets, hell the whole United States Army and Navy and especially
     the Marine Corps, and even the Treasury Dept., the CIA, the FBI,
     United Fruit, the highway Patrol, the whole god damned L.A. Police
     Dept., and the County Cops too. and I don-t mean -cops,- I mean
     -policemen.- then there-s Marlene Dietrich, with this slit up the side
     of her dress, she must be near 70 now? - dancing up at Vegas, my
     dick got big, what a wonderful woman. the good American life and
     the good American money can keep us young forever, don-t you
     "yeah, Bag?"
     "this one-s really ready! I ain-t got much feeling left, but he
     even makes me sick. make him sign his little contract and send him
     out. they-ll love him. god, what a man-s gotta do to just stay alive.
     sometimes I even hate my own job. that-s bad, ain-t it, Dan?"
      ******* "sure, Bag, and as soon as I send this asshole on his  way,  I
got just
     the little thing for you - a touch of the good ol- tonic."
     "ah, fine, fine-what is it?"
     "just a little quarter-turn through the wringer."
     "oh, it-s fine for the blues or for extemporaneous thinking
     stuff like that."
     "will it work?"
     "it beats aspirin."
     "o.k., get rid of the asshole."
     Barney Anderson was sent down the stairway. Bagley got up
     and walked toward the nearest wringer. "these old gals - West and
     Dietrich, still flashing tits and legs, hell t don-t make sense, they
     were doing that when I was 6 years old."
     "nuttin-. stretchers, girdles, powder, lights, false flesh cover-
     ings, padding, pudding, straw, horseshit, they could make your
     grandmother look like a 16 year old."
     "my grandmother-s dead."
     "they could still do it."
     "yeah, yeah, I guess you-re right." Bagley walked toward the
     "just a quarter turn now. can I trust you?"
     "you-re my partner, ain-t you, Bag?"
     "sure, Dan."
     "how long we been in business together?"
     "25 years."
     "so, o.k., when I say a QUARTER-TURN, I mean a QUAR-
     "whatta I do?"
     "just slip your hands in the rollers, it-s like a washing ma-
     "in there?"
     "yeah, here we go! whoopee!"
     "hey, man, remember, just a quarter of a turn."
     "sure, Bag, don-t you trust me?"
     "I gotta now."
     "you know, I been fucking your wife on the sly."
     "you rotten son of a bitch! I-ll kill you!"
     Danforth left the machine running, sat down behind Bagley-s
     desk, lit a cigarette. he hummed a little tune, "lucky lucky me, I can
      live  in luxury, because I-ve got a pocket full of dreams-I-ve  got  a
pocketful of
     he got up and walked over to the machine and Bagley.
     "you said a quarter-turn," said Bagley. "it-s been a turn and a
     "don-t you trust me?"
     "more than ever, somehow."
     "still, I been fucking your wife on the sly."
     "well, I guess it-s all right. I get tired of fucking her. every man
     gets tired of fucking his own wife."
     "but I want you to want me to fuck your wife."
     "well, I don-t care but I don-t know if I exactly want you to."
     "I-ll be back in about 5 minutes."
     Danforth went back, sat in Bagley-s swivel chair, put his feet
     up on the desk and waited. he liked to sing. he sang songs: "I got
     plenty of nuthin- and nuthin-s plenty for me. I got the stars, I got
     the sun, I got the shining sea-"
     Danforth smoked two cigarettes and went back to the machine.
     "Bag, I been fucking your wife on the sly."
     "oh, I want you to, man! I want you to! and ya know what?"
     I-d kinda like to watch."
     "sure, that-d be o.k."
     Danforth went to the phone, dialed a number.
     "Minnie? yeah, Dan. I-m comin- over ta fuck ya again. Bag?
     oh, he-s comin- too. he wants ta watch. no, we-re not drunk. I just
     decided to close shop for the day. we-ve made it already. with the
     Israel-Arab thing and all the African wars, there-s nothing to worry
     about. Biafra is a beautiful word. anyhow, we-re coming over. I want
     to bunghole you. you got those big cheeks, jesus. I might even
     bunghole Bag. I think his cheeks are bigger than yours. keep tight,
     sweetie, we-re on our way!"
     Dan hung up. another phone rang. he picked it up. "jam it you
     rotten motherfucker, even the points of your tits smell like wet
     dogturds in a Westerly wind." he hung up and smiled. walked over
     and took Bagley out of the machine. they locked the office door and
     walked down the steps together. when they walked outside the sun
     was up and looking good. you could see through the thin skirts of
     the women. you could almost see their bones. death and rot was
     everywhere. it was Los Angeles, near 7th and Broadway, the inter-
     section where the dead snubbed the dead and didn-t even know why
     it was a taught game like jumprope or dissecting frogs or pissing in
     the mailbox or jacking-off your pet dog.
     "we got plenty a nuthin-," they sang, "and nuthin-s plenty for
     arm and arm they made the underground garage, found Bag-s
     69 Caddy, got in, each lit a dollar cigar, Dan driving, got it out of
     there, almost hit a bum coming out of Pershing Square, turned West
     toward the freeway, toward freedom, Vietnam, the army, fucking
     large areas of grass and nude statues and French wine, Beverly
     Bagley leaned over and ran down Danforth-s zipper as he
     I hope he leaves some for his wife, Danforth thought.
     it was a warm Los Angeles morning, or maybe it was after-
     noon, he checked the dashboard clock - it read 11:37 a.m. just as
     he came. he ran the Caddy up to 80. the asphalt slipped underneath
     like the graves of the dead. he turned on the dash t.v., then reached
     for the telephone, then remembered to zip up. "Minnie, I love you."
     "I love you too, Dan," she answered. "is that slob with you?"
     "right beside me. he just caught a mouthful."
     "oh, Dan, don-t waste it!"
     he laughed and hung up. they almost hit a nigger in a pickup
      truck.  he  wasn-t black at all, he was a nigger, that-s all  he  was.
     wasn-t a nicer city in the world when you had it made, and only one
     worse when you didn-t have it made - the Big A. Danforth hit it up
     to 85. a motorcycle smiled at him as he drove by. maybe he-d call Bob
     later that night. Bob was always so funny. his 12 writers always gave
     him those good lines. and Bob was just as natural as horseshit. it was
     he threw out the dollar cigar, lit another, ran the Caddy up to 90,
     straight at the sun like an arrow, business was good and life, and the
     tires whirled over the dead and the dying and the dying-to-be.


     it was a hot night in Tony's. you didn't even think of fucking.
     just drink cool beer. Tony coasted a couple down to me and Indian
     Mike, and Mike had the money out. I let him buy the first round.
     Tony rang it up, bored, looked around - 5 or six others staring into
     their beers, dolts, so Tony walked down to us.
     "what's new, Tony?" I asked.
     "ah, shit," said Tony.
     "at ain't new."
     "shit," said Tony.
     "ah, shit," said Indian Mike.
     we drank at our beers.
     "what do you think of the moon?" I asked Tony.
     "shit," said Tony.
     "yeah," said Indian Mike, "guy's an asshole on earth he's an
     asshole on the moon, makes no difference."
     "they say there's probably no life on Mars," I said.
     "so what?" asked Tony.
     "oh shit," I said, "2 more beers."
     Tony coasted them down, then walked down for his money.
     rang it up. walked back. "shit it's hot. I wish I were deader than
     yesterday's Kotex."
     "where do men go when they die, Tony?"
     "shit, who cares?"
     "don't you believe in the Human Spirit?"
     "a bagga bullshit!"
     "how about Che? Joan of Arc? Billy the Kid? all those?"
     "a bagga bullshit!"
     we drank our beers, thinking about it.
     "look," I said, "I gotta take a piss."
     I walked back to the urinal and there, as usual, was Petey the
     I took it out and began to piss.
     "you sure got a little dick," he told me.
     "when I'm pissing or meditating, yeh, but I'm what you call
     the super-stretch type. when I'm ready to go, each inch I got now
     equals six."
     "that's good then, if you ain't lying, cause I see two inches
     " I just show the head."
     "I'll give you a dollar to suck your cock."
     "that ain't much."
     "you're showing more than head. you're showing every bit of
     string you got."
     "fuck you, Pete."
     "you'll be back when you run out of beer money."
     I walked back on out.
     "2 more beers," I ordered.
     Tony went through his routine, came back.
     "it's so hot, I think I'm going crazy," he said.
     "the heat just makes you realize your true self," I told Tony.
     "wait a minute! you calling me a nut?"
     "most of us are. but it's kept a secret."
     ? "all right, saying your bullshit is straight, how many sane men
     are there on earth? are there any?"
     "a few."
     "how many?"
     " out of the billions?"
     "yeh, yeh."
     "well, I'd say 5 or 6."
     "5 or 6?" said Indian Mike. "well, suck my cock!"
     "look," said Tony. "how do you know I'm nuts? how do we
     get away with it?"
     "well, since we are all insane there are only a few to control
     us, far too few, so they just let us run around insane. that's all they
     can do at this moment. for a while I thought they might find some
     place to live in outer space while they destroyed us. but now I know
     that the insane control space also."
     " how do you know?"
     "because they planted an American flag on the moon."
     "suppose the Russians had planted a Russian flag on the
     "same thing," I said.
     "then you're impartial?" Tony asked.
     "I am impartial to all degrees of madness."
     we became quiet. kept drinking. and Tony too, began pouring
     himself scotch and waters. he could. he owned the place.
     "jesus, it's hot," said Tony.
     "shit, yeh," said Indian Mike.
     then Tony began talking. "insanity," said Tony, "ya know,
     there's something very insane going on at this very minute!"
     "sure," I said.
     "no, no, no-I mean right HERE at my place!"
     "yeh. It's so crazy, sometimes I get scared."
     "tell me all about it, Tony," I said, always ready for somebody
     else's bullshit.
     Tony leaned real close. "I know a guy's got a fuck-machine. no
     crazy sex magazine shit. like you see in the ads. hot water bottles
     with replaceable cornbeef pussies, all that nonsense. this guy has
     really put it together. a German scientist, we got to him, I mean out
     govt. did before the Russians could grab him. now keep it quiet."
     "sure, Tony, sure-"
     "Von Brashlitz. our govt. tried to get him interested in
     SPACE. no go. a brilliant old guy, but he just has this FUCK MA-
     CHINE in mind. at the same time he thinks he's some kind of an
     artist, calls himself Michelangelo at times-they pensioned him off
     at $500.00 a month to kind of keep him alive enough to stay outa
     the nuthouses. they watched him a while, then got a little bored or
     forgot, but they kept the checks coming, and now and then an agent
     would talk to him ten or twenty minutes a month, write a report
     that he was crazy, then leave, so he just drifted around from
     town to town, dragging this big red trunk behind him. finally one
     night he come in here and begins drinking. tells me that he is just a
     tired old man, needs a real quiet place to do his research. I kept
     putting him off. lotta nuts come in here, ya know."
     "yeh," I said.
     "then, man, he kept getting drunker and drunker, and he laid
     it down to me. he had designed a mechanical woman who could give
     a man a better fuck than any woman created throughout the centu-
     ries! plus no Kotex, no shit, no arguments!"
     "I been looking," I said, "for a woman like that all my life."
     Tony laughed. "every man has. I thought he was crazy, of
     course, until one night after closing I went down to his rooming
     house with him and he took the FUCK MACHINE out of the red
     "it was like going to heaven before you died."
     " let me guess the rest," I asked Tony.
     Von Brashlitz and his FUCK MACHINE are upstairs at your
     place right now."
     "uh huh," said Tony.
     "how much?"
     "twenty bucks a piece."
     "20 bucks to fuck a machine?"
     "he's outdone whatever Created us. you'll see."
     "Petey the Owl will blow me for a buck."
     "Petey the Owl is o.k. but he ain't no invention that beats the
     I shoved over my 20.
     "so help me, Tony, if this is some crazy kind of hot-weather
     gag, you've lost your best customer!"
     "like you said earlier, we're all crazy anyhow. It's up to you."
     "right," I said.
     "I only get 50 percent, ya gotta understand. the rest goes to
     Von Brashlitz. 500 buck pension ain't much with inflation and
     taxes, and Von B. drinks schnapps like crazy."
     "let's make it," I said, "you've got 40 bucks. where's this
     immortal FUCK MACHINE?"
     Tony lifted a partition of the bar, said, "come through here.
     take the stairway to the back rear, just go up there, knock, say,
     'Tony sent us'."
     "any door #?"
     "door #69."
     "oh, hell yes," I said, "what else?"
     we found the stairway. walked up. "Tony will do anything for
     a gag," I said.
     we walked along, there it was: door #69.
     I knocked: "Tony sent us."
     "ah, do come in, gentleman!"
     here was this old horny-looking freak, glass of schnapps in his
     hand, double-lensed glasses. just like the old-timed movies. he ap-
     peared to be having a visitor, a young thing, almost too young,
     looking flimsy and strong at the same time.
     she crossed her legs, flashing all the bit: nylon knees, nylon
     thighs, and just that tiny part there where the long stockings ended
     and just that touch of flesh began. she was all ass and breast, nylon
     legs, clean blue laughing eyes-
     "gentleman, ---my daughter, Tanya-"
     "ah, yes, I know, I am so-old- but like the myth of the
     black man with the ever-huge cock, there is also the myth of dirty
     old Germans who never stop fucking, you may believe what you
     wish to. this is my daughter, Tanya, anyhow-"
     "hello, boys," she laughed.
     then we all looked toward the door which was labeled: FUCK
     he finished off his schnapps.
     "and so- you boys came over for the best FUCK ever, ya?"
     "Daddy!" said Tanya, "must you always be so crude?"
     Tanya recrossed her legs, higher this time, and I almost came.
     then the professor finished another schnapps, then got up and
     walked over to the door labeled FUCK MACHINE STORAGE
     ROOM. he turned and smiled at us, then very slowly opened the
     door. he walked on in and came out rolling this thing on what
     looked like a hospital bed on wheels.
     it was NAKED, a clod of metal.
     the prof rolled the damn thing right out in front of us, then
     began humming some rotten song, probably something from the
     a clod of metal with this hole in the center. the professor had
     an oil can in his hand, poked it into the hole and began punching in
     quite a quantity of this oil, meanwhile humming this insane German
     he kept punching the oil in, then looked back over his shoul-
     der and said, "nice, ya?" then he went back to work, pumping in the
     Indian Mike looked at me, tried to laugh, said, "god damn-
     we've been taken again!"
     "yeah." I said, "it seems like it's been 5 years since I been laid,
     but I'll be damned if I'll stick my cock into that mound of hard
     Von Brashlitz laughed. walked over to his liquor cabinet,
     found another 5th. of schnapps, poured a goody, sat down facing us.
     "as we in Germany began knowing that the war was lost, and
     the net began to tighten---down to the final battle of Berlin-we
     knew that the war had taken on a new essence---the real war then
     became who was to grab the most German scientists. If Russia got
     well, I don't know how it really came out- numerically or in
     terms of scientific brain-power. I only know that the Americans got
     to me first, snapped me up, took me away in a car, gave me a drink,
     put pistols to my head, made promises, talked madly. I signed every-
     "all right," I said, "so much for history. but I'm still not going
     to stick my dick, my poor little dick into that hunk of sheetmetal or
     whatever it is! Hitler must have really been a madman to nursemaid
     you. I wish the Russians had gotten to your ass first! I want my 20
     bucks back!"
     Von Brashlitz laughed, "heeeheeeheeehe-it is just my little
     joke, nien? heeeheeeheeeheee!"
     he shoved that mound of lead back into the closet.slammed
     the door. "oh, heheeehee!" had a bit more schnapps.
     Von B. poureed another schnapps. he really put them down.
     "gentlemen, I am an artist and an inventor! my FUCK MACHINE is
     really my daughter, Tanya-"
     "more little jokes, Von?" I asked.
     "joke nothing! Tanya! go over and sit in the gentleman's lap."
     Tanya laughed, got up, walked over and sat in my lap. a FUCK
     MACHINE? I couldn't believe it! her skin was skin, or so it seemed,
     and her tongue as it worked into my mouth as we kissed, it was not
     mechanical - each movement was different, responding to my own.
     I was busy at it, ripping her blouse from her breasts, working
     tangled; we somehow got to standing - and I took her standing up,
     my hands reaching down, spreading her asshole as I pumped, she came - I
     could feel the throbbing, and I joined.
     it was the best fuck I had ever had!
     Tanya went to the bathroom, cleaned-up and showered,
     dressed-up again for Indian Mike. I guess.
     "man's greatest invention," Von Brashlitz said quite seriously.
     he was quite right.
     then Tanya came out and sat on MY lap.
     she didn't seem to hear. and it was strange, even for a FUCK
     MACHINE, because, really, I had never been a very good lover.
     "do you love me?" she asked.
     "I love you. and I am so happy. and- I'm not supposed to
     be alive. you know that, don't you?"
     "god damn it!" screamed the old man, "this FUCKING MA-
     CHINE!" he walked over to this varnished box with the word
     TANYA printed on the side. there were these little wires sprouting
     out of it; there were dials, and needles that quivered, and many
     colors, lights that blinked on and off, things that ticked-Von B.
     was the craziest pimp I had ever met, he kept playing with the dials,
     then he looked at Tanya:
     "25 YEARS! damn near a lifetime to build you! I even had to
     hide you from HITLER! and now- you try to turn into a mere
     and ordinary bitch!"
      "I'm  not  25," said Tanya, "I'm 24." "you see? you see? just  like  a
common bitch!"
     he went back to his dials.
     "you've put on a different shade of lipstick," I said to Tanya.
     "you like it?"
     "oh, yes!"
     she leaned over and kissed me.
     Von B. kept playing with the dials. I felt that he would win.
     Von Brashlitz turned to Indian Mike. "it's just a minor kink in
     the machine. trust me. I'll get it straight in a minute, ya?"
     "I hope so," said Indian Mike, "I've got 14 inches waiting and
     am twenty bucks down.
     "I love you," Tanya told me, "I will never fuck any other
     man. If I can't have you, I won't have anybody."
     "I'll forgive you, Tanya, for anything that you do."
     the prof was getting pissed. he kept turning the dials but noth-
     ing was happening. "TANYA! It is time for you to FUCK the
     OTHER man! I am- getting tired-must have a bit of
     schnapps-be off to sleep-Tanya-"
     "ah," said Tanya, "you rotten old fuck! you and your
     schnapps, and then nibbling at my tits all night, so I can't even sleep
     while you can't even raise a decent hard! you're disgusting!"
     "you, Tanya, will pay for this! you are MY creation, I am not
     he kept turning his magic knobs, I mean, on the machine. he
     was quite angry, and you could see that, somehow, the anger gave
     him a vital brilliance beyond himself, "just wait, Mike. all I have to
     do it to adjust the electronics! Wait! a short! I see it!"
     then he leaped up. this guy they had saved from the Russians.
     he looked at Indian Mike. "it's straight now! the machine is in
     order! have fun!"
     then he walked over to his schnapps bottle, poured another
     goody, sat down to watch.
     Tanya got off of my lap and walked over to Indian Mike. I
     watched Tanya and Indian Mike embrace.
     Tanya worked Indian Mike's zipper down, got his cock out,
     and man he had plenty of cock! he'd said 14 inches but it looked
     more like 20.
     then Tanya put both her hands around Mike's cock.
     he moaned in glory.
     then she ripped the whole cock right out of and off of his
     body. threw it to the side.
     I saw the thing roll along the rug like an insane sausage, drib-
     bling little sad trailets of blood. It rolled up against a wall. then
     stayed there like something with a head but no legs and no place to
     go-which was true enough.
     next, here came the BALLS flying through the air. a heavy,
     looping sight. they simply landed upon the center of the rug and
     didn't know what to do but bleed.
     so, they bled.
     Von Brashlitz, the hero of the America-Russ invasion took a
     hard look at what was left of Indian Mike, my old beer-drinking
     buddy, very red on the floor, flowing from the center - Von B took
     the highroad, down the stairway-
     room 69 had done everything but that.
     and then I asked her: "Tanya, the heat will be here very quick-
     ly. shall we dedicate the room number to our love?"
     "of course, my love!"
     we made it, just in time, and the stupid heat ran in.
     one of the learned then pronounced Indian Mike dead.
     and since Von B. was a kind of U.S.Govt. product, there was a
     hell of a lot of people around - various chickenshit officials -
     firemen, reporters, the cops, the inventor, the C.I.A., the F.B.I., and
     various other forms of human shit.
     Tanya came over and sat in my lap. "they will kill me now.
     please try not to be sad." I didn't answer.
     then Von Brashlitz was screaming, pointing to Tanya - "I
     THE DAMN THING FROM HITLER! I tell you, it is nothing but a
     they all just stood there, nobody believed Von B.
     it was simply the most beautiful machine, and so-called wo-
     man, they had ever seen.
     "Oh shit! You idiots! Every woman is a fucking machine, can't
     you see that? They play for the highest bidder! THERE IS NO SUCH
     they still wouldn't believe.
     "THIS is only a machine! have FEAR! WATCH!"
     VonBrashlitz grabbed one of Tanya's arms.
     ripped it completely off her body.
     and inside - inside the hole of her shoulder - you could see it -
     there was nothing but wire and tubes - coiled and running things -
     plus some minor substance that faintly resembled blood.
     I saw Tanya standing there with this coil of wire hanging from
     her shoulder, where the arm used to be, she looked at me:
     "please, for me to! I asked you to try not to be too sad."
     I watched as they ganged her, and ripped and raped and tore.
     I couldn't help it. I put my head down between my legs and
     also, Indian Mike never got his 20 bucks worth.
     some months went by. I never went back to the bar. There was
     a trial but the govt. exonerated Von B. and his machine. I moved to
     another town. far away. and one day sitting in a barbershop, I
     picked up this sex mag. here was an ad: "Blow up your own little
     dolly! $29.95. Resistant rubber material, very durable. Chains and
     whips included in package. A bikini, bras, panties. 2 wigs, lipstick
     and small jar of love-potion included. Von Brashlitz Co."
     I sent him a money order. some box number in Mass. he had
     moved too.
     the package arrived in about 3 weeks. very embarrassing. I
     didn't have a bicycle pump, and then I got the hots when I took the
     thing out of the package. I had to go down to the corner gas station
     and use their air hose.
     it looked better as it blew up. big tits. big ass.
     "whatcha got there, pal?" the gas station man asked me.
     "look, man, I'm just borrowing a little air. don't I buy a lot of
     gas here, huh?"
     "o.k., that's o.k., you can have the air. I just damn well can't
     help wondering whatcha got there-"
     "just forget it!" I said.
     "JESUS! look at those TITS!"
     "I AM looking, asshole!"
     I left him there with his tongue hanging out, then threw her
     over my shoulder and made it back to my place. I carried her into
     the bedroom.
     the big question was yet to come?
     I spread the legs and looked for some kind of opening.
     Von B. hadn't completely slipped.
     I climbed on top and began kissing that rubber mouth. now
     and then I reached for one of the giant rubber tits and sucked upon
     it. I had put a yellow wig on her and rubbed the love-potion all over
     my cock. It didn't take much love-potion. maybe he'd sent a year's
     I kissed her passionately behind the ears, stuck my finger up
     her ass, kept pumping. then I leaped off, chained her arms behind
     her back, there was this little lock and key and then I whipped her
     ass good with the leather thongs.
     god, I gotta be nuts! I thought.
     then I flipped her over and put it back in. humped and
     humped. frankly, it was rather boring. I imagined male dogs screwing
     female cats; I imagined 2 people fucking through the air as they
     jumped from the Empire State Building. I imagined a pussy as large
     as an octopus, crawling toward me, wet and stinking and aching for
     an orgasm. I remembered all the panties, knees, legs, tits, pussies I
     had ever seen. the rubber was sweating; I was sweating.
     "I love you, darling!" I whispered into one of her rubber ears.
     I hate to admit it, but I forced myself to come into that lousy
     hunk of rubber. It was hardly a Tanya at all.
     I took a razor blade and cut the thing all to shit. dumped it
     out with the beercans.
     how many men in America bought those stupid things?
     or then you can pass half a hundred fuck machines in a 10
     minute walk on almost any main sidewalk of America - the only
     difference being that they pretended that they were human.
     poor Indian Mike. with that 20 inch dead cock.
     all the poor Indian Mikes. all the climbers into Space. all the
     whores of Vietnam and Washington.
     poor Tanya, her belly had been a hog's belly. veins the veins of
     a dog. she rarely shatted or pissed, she had just fucked - heart, voice
     and tongue borrowed from others - there were only supposed to be
     17 possible organ transplants at that time. Von B. was far ahead of
     poor Tanya, who had only eaten a little - mostly cheap cheese
     and raisins. she had had no desire for money or property or large
     new cars or overexpensive homes. she had never read the evening
     paper. had no desire for colored television, new hats, rain boots,
     backfence conversation with idiot wives; nor had she desired a hus-
     band who was a doctor, a stockbroker, a congressman or a cop.
     and the guy at the gas station keeps asking me, "hey, what
     happened to that thing you brought down here one day and blew up
     with the air hose?"
     but he doesn't ask anymore. I buy my gas at a new place. I
     don't even get my hair cut anymore where I saw that magazine with
     the Von Brashlitz rubber dolly sex ad. I am trying to forget every-
     what would you do?


      The first three months of my marriage to Sarah were acceptable but I'd
say a little after that our troubles began. She was a good cook, and for the
first  time in years I was eating well. I began to put on weight. And  Sarah
began to make remarks.
     "Ah, Henry, you're beginning to look like a turkey they're plumping for
     "Ats right, baby," I told her.

      I  was  a  shipping clerk in an auto parts warehouse and the  pay  was
hardly sufficient.
      My  only joys were eating, drinking beer and going to bed with  Sarah.
Not exactly a
     rounded life but a man had to take what he could get. Sarah was plenty.
     about her spelled S-E-X. I had really gotten to know her at a Christmas
party for the
     employees at the warehouse. Sarah was a secretary there. I noticed none
of the
      fellows got near her at the party and I couldn't understand it. I  had
never seen a sexier woman and she didn't act the fool either. I got close to
her  and  we  drank and talked. She was beautiful. There was  something  odd
about  her  eyes,  though. They just kept looking into you and  the  eyelids
didn't  seem to blink. When she went to the restroom I walked over to  Harry
the truckdriver.
      "Listen, Harry," I asked, "how come none of the boys make a  play  for
     "She's a witch, man, a real witch. Stay away."
      "There's no such thing as witches, Harry. All that has been disproven.
All those women they burned at the stake in the old days, it was a cruel and
a horrible mistake. There's no such thing as a witch."
      "Well,  maybe they did burn a lot of women wrongly, I can't  say.  But
this bitch is a witch, take it from me."
     "All she needs, Harry, is understanding."
     "All she needs," said Harry, "is a victim."
     "How do you know?"
      "Facts," said Harry. "Two guys here, Manny, a salesman. And Lincoln, a
clerk." "What happened?"
      "They just kind of disappeared in front of our eyes, only so slowly---
you could see them going, vanishng..."
     "What do you mean?"
     "I don't want to talk about it. You'd think I was crazy."

      Harry  walked off. Then Sarah came out of the lady's room. She  looked

     "What did Harry tell you about me?" she asked.
     "How did you know I was talking to Harry?"
     "I know," she said.
     "He didn't say much."
      "Whatever he said, forget it. It's bullshit. I won't let him have  any
and he's jealous. He
     likes to badmouth people."
     "I'm not concerned with Harry's opinions," I told her.
     "You and I are going to make it, Henry," she said.

      She  went to my apartment with me after the party and I'm telling  you
I've  never been laid like that. She was the woman of all women.  It  was  a
month  or so later that we were married. She quit her job right off,  but  I
didn't  say anything because I was so glad to have her. Sarah made  her  own
clothes, did her own hair. She was a remarkable woman. Very remarkable.

     But, as I said, it was after about 3 months that she began making these
remarks about my weight. At first they were just genial little remarks, then
she  began  to  get scornful about it. I came home one night and  she  said,
"Take off your damned clothes!"
     "What, my darling?"
     "You heard me, bastard! Strip!"

      Sarah was a little different then than I had ever seen her. I took off
my clothes and underwear and threw them on the couch. She stared at me.

     "Awful," she said, "what a lot of shit!"
     "What, dear?"
     "I said you look just like a big tub of shit!"
     "Listen, honey, what's wrong? You got the rag on tonight?"
     "Shut up! Look at that stuff hanging at your sides!"

      She  was right. There seemed to be a little pouch of fat on each side,
hanging  just above the hips. Then she doubled up her fists and hit me  hard
several times on each of the pouches.

     "We've got to punch that shit! Break up the fat tissues, the cells..."
     She punched me again, several times.
     "Ow! Baby, that hurts!"
     "Good! Now, hit yourself!"
     "Hit myself?"
     "Go ahead, damn you!"

      I hit myself several times, quite hard. When I was finished the things
were still there, though now they looked quite red.

     "We're going to get that shit off of you," she told me.

     I figured that is was love and decided to cooperate...
      Sarah began counting my calories. She took away my fried foods,  bread
and  potatoes, salad dressing, but I kept my beer. I had to show her who was
wearing the pants in our family.

      "No, damn it," I said, "I won't give up my beer. I love you very  much
but the beer stays!"
     "All right," said Sarah, "we'll make it work anyway."
     "Make what work?"
     "I mean, get that shit off you, get you down to a desirable size."
     "And what's a desirable size?" I asked.
     "You'll see."

     Each night when I got home she'd ask me the same questionl

     "Did you punch your sides today?"
     "Oh, hell yes!"
     "How many times?"
     "400 punches on both sides, hard."

     I would walk down the streets punching at my sides. People looked at me
but  it  didn't matter after a while because I knew that I was accomplishing
something and they weren't."

      Things  were working, marvelously. I came down from 225 to  197.  Then
from 197 to 184. I felt ten years younger. People remarked about how good  I
looked.  Everybody  except Harry the truck driver. Of course,  he  was  just
jealous because he never got into Sarah's panties. His tough shit.
     One night on the scales I was down to 179.
      I said to Sarah, "Don't you think we've come down enough? Look at me!"
The things on my sides were long gone. My belly hung in. My cheeks looked as
if I were sucking them in.
      "According to the charts," said Sarah, "according to my charts, you've
not yet reached a desirable size."
     "Look," I told her, "I'm six feet tall. What is the desireable weight?"
     And then Sarah answered me quite strangely.
      "I didn't say 'desirable weight'," I said, 'desireable size'. This  is
the New Age, the Atomic Age, and most important the Age of Overpopulation. I
am  the  Saviour  of  the  World. I have the answer  to  the  Overpopulation
Explosion.  Explosion. Let others work on Pollution. Solving  Overpopulation
is the root; it will solve Pollution and many other things too."
      "What the hell are you talking about?" I asked, ripping the cap off  a
bottle of beer.
     "Don't worry about it," she answered, "you'll find out."

     Then I began to notice, as I stepped on the scales, that although I was
still losing weight I didn't seem to be getting any thinner. It was strange.
And then I noticed that my pantscuffs were hanging down over my shoes---ever
so  slightly, and that my shirtcuffs were hanging down a bit over my wrists.
When  I drove to work I notcied that the steering wheel seemed further away.
I had to pull the car seat up a notch.
     One night I got on the scales.
     "Look here, Sarah."
     "Yes, darling?"
     "There's something I don't understand."
     "I seem to be shrinking."
      "Oh,  you fool! That's incredible! How can a man shrink? Do you really
think  that  your  diet  is  shinking your bones? Bones  melt!  Rduction  of
calories only reduces fat. Don't be an idiot! Shrinking? Impossible!"
     Then she laughed.
      "All  right," I said, "come here. Here's a pencil. Now I'm gonna stand
against  this wall. My mother used to do this with me as a kid  when  I  was
growing. Now put a line right there on the wall where the pencil hits  after
you place it straight across the top of my head."
     "All right, silly," she said.
     She drew the line.

     A week later I was down to 131. It was happening faster and faster.
     "Come here, Sarah."
     "Yes, silly boy."
     "Now, draw the line."
     She drew the line, I turned around.
      "Now see here, I've lost 24 pounds and 8 inches in the last week.  I'm
melting  away!  I'm  now five feet two. This is madness! Madness!  I've  had
enough.  I've caught you cutting my pants legs, my shirt sleeves.  It  won't
work.  I'm  going to begin eating again. I think that you are some  kind  of

     It was soon after that the boss called me into the office
     I climbed into the chair across from his desk.
     "Henry Markson Jones II?"
     "Of course, sir."
      "Well,  Jones, we've been watching you carefully. I'm afraid you  just
don't  fit this job anymore. We hate to see you go like this...I mean  ,  we
hate to let you go like this, but..."
     "Look, sir, I always do my best."
      "We  know  you do, Jones, but you're just not doing a man's  job  back
there anymore."
      He  let  me  go.  Of course, I knew that I would get  my  unemployment
     But I thought it was small of him to let me go like that...

     I stayed home with Sarah. Which made it worse---she fed me. It got so I
couldn't reach the refrigerator door anymore. And then she put me on a small
silver chain.
      Soon I was two feet tall. I had to use a potty chair to shit. But  she
still let me have my beer, as promised.
     "Ah, my little pet," she said, "you're so small and cute!"
     "I'm not a duck, I'm a man!"
     "Oh my little sweet man-y-man!"
     She picked me up and kissed me with her red lips...

      Sarah got me down to being 6 inches tall. She carried me to the  store
in  her  purse. I could look out at the people through the little air  holes
she  had  poked in her purse. I will say one thing for the woman. She  still
allowed me to have my beer. I drank it by the thimble. A quart would last me
a  month. In the old days it was gone in 45 minutes. I was resigned. I  knew
that  if  she  wished to do so she could make me vanish entirely.  Better  6
inches than nothing. Even a little life becomes very dear when you near  the
end  of  life. So, I amused Sarah. It was all I could do. She made me little
clothes and shoes and put me on top of the radio and turned on the music and
said, "Dance, little one! Dance, my dunce! Dance, my fool!"
      Well,  I couldn't collect my unemployment compensation so I danced  on
top of the radio while she clapped her hands and laughed.
      You  know, spiders frightened me terribly and flies were the  size  of
giant  eagles, and if a cat ever caught me it would torture me like a  small
mouse.  But  life was still dear to me. I danced and sang and  hung  on.  No
matter  how  little  a man has he will find that he will always  settle  for
less. When I shit on the rug I would get spanked. Sarah put little pieces of
paper  around  and I shit on them. And I ripped off little  pieces  of  that
paper  to  wipe  my  butt with. It felt like cardboard. I  got  hemorrhoids.
Couldn't  sleep nights. Feelings of inferiority, of being trapped. Paranoia?
Anyhow,  I felt good when I sang and danced and Sarah let me have  my  beer.
She kept me at an exact six inches for some reason. What the reason was,  it
was beyond me. As almost everything else was beyond me.
     I made up songs for Sarah, that's what I called them: Songs for Sarah:

     "o, I'm just a little snot,
     that's all right until I get hot,
     then there's nothing to stick it in
     except the fucking head of a pin!

     Sarah would clap her hands and laugh.

     "if ya wanna be an admir in the queen's navy
     just be a clark for the fuckin' nark,
     grow 6 inches tall and when the Queen goes to pee
     you can peek up inter drippin' pussy..."

      And Sarah would clap her hands and laugh. Well, that was all right. It
had to be...

      But  one  night something very disgusting happened. I was singing  and
dancing  and Sarah was on the bed, naked, clapping her hands, drinking  wine
and  laughing. I was putting on a good show. One of my best. But, as always,
the  top of the radio got hot and started burning my feet. I couldn't  stand
it anymore.
      "Look,  baby," I said, "I've had it. Take me down. Gimme  a  beer.  No
wine. You drink that cheapass wine. Gimme a thimble of that good beer."
      "Sure,  sweetie," she said, "you put on a wonderful show  tonight.  If
Manny and Lincoln had acted as nice as you, they'd be here tonight. But they
didn't  sing or dance, the brooded. And worst of all, they objected  to  the
Final Act."
     "And what was the Final Act?" I asked.
      "Now, sweetie, just drink your beer and relax. I want you to enjoy the
Final  Act.  You  are evidently a much more talented person  than  Manny  or
Lincoln. I do believe that we can have the Culmination of the Opposites."
      "O,  hell  yes," I said, draining my beer. "Now give me a refill.  And
just what is the Culmination of the Opposites?"
     "Enjoy your beer, little sweetie, you'll know soon enough."
      I  finished  my  beer and then the disgusting thing happened,  a  most
disgusting  thing. Sarah picked me up and placed me down between  her  legs,
which  she  spread open just a bit. Then I was facing a forest  of  hair.  I
hardened  my back and neck muscles, sensing what was to come. I  was  jammed
into  darkness and stench. I heard Sarah moan. Then Sarah began to  move  me
slowly  back  and forth. As I said, the stench was unbearable,  and  it  was
difficult  to  breathe,  but somehow there was air in there---various  side-
pockets  and  drafts of oxygen. Now and then my head, the  top  of  my  head
bumped The Man in the Boat and then Sarah would let out an extra-illuminated
      Sarah  began moving me faster and faster. My skin began  to  burn,  it
became harder to breathe; the stench became worse. I could hear her panting.
It  occured to me that the sooner I ended the thing the less I would suffer.
Each  time  I  was  rammed  forward I would arch  my  back  and  neck,  tilt
everything of me into this hooking curve of a thing, bumping The Man in  the
      Suddenly I was ripped out of that terrible tunnel. Sarah held me up to
her face.
     "Come, you damned fiend of a thing! Come!" she demanded.
     Sarah was totally drunk on wine and passion. I felt myself being rushed
back into the tunnel. She worked me rapidly back and forth. Then suddenly  I
sucked  air  into  my lungs to increase my size and then I  gathered  saliva
intlo my jaws and spit it out---once, twice, 3 times, 4, 5, six times,  then
I stopped...The stench increased beyond all imagination and then, at last, I
was lifted out into the air.
      Sarah  lifted me into the lamplight and began kissing me all  over  my
head and shoulders.
     "O, my darling! o, my precious little cock! I love you!"
     Then she kissed me with those horrible red and painted lips. I vomited.
Then,  spent  in  a  swoon of wine and passion, she placed  me  between  her
breasts. I rested there and listened to her heart beat. She had taken me off
of  her  damnd leash, that silver chain, but it didn't matter. I was  hardly
free.  One of her massive breasts had fallen to one side and I seemed to  be
right  over the heart. The heart of the witch. If I were the answer  to  the
Population  Explosion then why hadn't she used me as more than  a  thing  of
entertainment,  a  sexual toy? I stretched out there and  listened  to  that
heart. I decided that she was a witch. Then I glanced up. Do you know what I
saw? A most amazing thing. Up in that little crevice below the headboard.  A
hat pin. Yes, a hat pin, long with one of those round purple glass things at
the  end of it. I walked up between her breasts, climbed her throat, got  up
on  her  chin(after much trouble), then walked quietly across her lips,  and
then  she  stirred a bit as I almost fell and had to grab to a  nostril  for
support.  Very  slowly  I got up by the right eye---  her  head  was  tilted
slightly  to the left---and then I was up on the forehead, having gone  past
the  temple,  and  I was up into the hair---very difficult, wading  through.
Then  I  stood and stretched---reached up and just managed to grab  the  hat
pin.  Coming down was faster but more treacherous. I almost lost my  balance
several  times, carrying that hat pin. One fall and it was over.  I  laughed
several  times because it was so ridiculous. The outcome of an office  party
for the gang, Merry Christmas.
      Then  I  was down under that massive breast again. I laid the hat  pin
down  and  listened again. I listened for the exact sound of  the  heart.  I
determined it to be at a spot exactly below a small brown birthmark. Then  I
stood  up.  I picked up the hat pin with its purple glass end, beautiful  in
the lamplight. And I thought, will it work? I was 6 inches tall and I judged
the hat pin to be half again longer than 1.9 inches. The heart seemed closer
than that.
     I lifted the pin and plunged it in. Just below the birthmark.
      Sarah rolled and convulsed. I held onto the hat pin. She almost  threw
me  to the floor---which by comparative size seemed a thousand feet or  more
and would have killed me. I hung on. Her lips formed an odd sound.
     Then she seemed to quiver all over like a woman freezing.
     I reached up and jammed the remaining 3 inches of the pin down into her
chest  until  the beautiful purple glass head of the pin was up against  her
     Then Sarah was still, I listened.
     I heard the heart, one two, one two, one two, one two, one...
     It stopped.
      And  then  with my little killer's hands, I clutched and  gripped  the
bedsheet  and  made my way to the floor. I was 6 inches tall  and  real  and
frightened  and hungry. I found a hole in one of the bedroom  screens  which
faced east and ran from ceiling to floor. I grabbed at the branch of a bush,
climbed  on,  clambered along the branch to the inside of the  bush.  Nobody
knew that Sarah was dead but I. But that had no realistic good. If I were to
go  on, I would have to have something to eat. But I couldn't help wondering
how my case would be evolved in a court of law? Was I guilty? I ripped off a
leaf  and tried to eat it. No good. Hardly. Then I saw the lady in the court
to  the  south set out a plate of catfood for her cat. I crawled out of  the
bush  and  worked  my  way  toward the catfood,  watching  for  animals  and
movements.  It  tasted worse than anything I had ever eaten  but  I  had  no
choice.  I ate all the catfood I could---death tasted worse. Then  I  walked
over to the bush and climbed back into it.
      There  I  was, 6 inches tall, the answer to The Population  Explosionm
hanging in a bush with a bellyful of catfood.
      There are details I don't want to bore you with. Escapes from cats and
dogs  and  rats.  Feeling  myself growing bit by bit.  Watching  them  carry
Sarah's  body  out  of there. Going in there and finding myself  too  small,
still, to open the refrigerator door.
      The  day the cat almost caught me as I ate at his bowl. I had to break
      I  was then 8 or 10 inches tall, I was growing. I even scared pigeons.
When  you  scare pigeons you know that you are getting there. I  simply  ran
down  the  street  one day, hiding along the shadows of buildings  and  down
beneath hedges and the like. I kept running and hiding until I got outside a
supermarket  and I hid under a newspaper stand just outside the entrance  to
the  store. Then, as a big woman walked up and the electric door  opened,  I
walked  in  behind her. One of the clerks at a checkstand  looked  up  as  I
walked in behind the woman:
     "Hey, what the hell's that?"
     "What?" a customer asked him.
     "I thought I saw something," said the clerk, "maybe not. I hope not."
      I  somehow  sneaked back to the storeroom without being  seen.  I  hid
behind  some cartons of baked beans. That night I came out and  had  a  fine
feed.  Potato salad, pickles, ham on rye, potato chips and beer,  plenty  of
beer.  It  became about the same routine. Each day, all day, I  hid  in  the
storeroom and at night I'd come out and have a party. But I was growing  and
hiding  was becoming more difficult. I got to watching the manager  put  the
money in the safe each night. He was the last to leave. I counted the pauses
as  he  put the money away each night. It seemed to be---7 right, 6 left,  4
right,  6 left, 3 right, open. I went over to the safe each night and  tried
the  numbers. I had to make a kind of stairway out of empty cartons in order
to get up to the dial. It didn't seem to work but I kept trying. Each night,
I  mean. Meanwhile I was growing fast. Perhaps I was 3 feet tall. The  store
had  a small clothing section and I had to keep going into the larger sizes.
The  population problem was returning. Then one night the safe opened. I had
23  thousand dollars in cash. I must have hit them the night before  banking
time.  I  took  the  key the manager used in order to get  out  without  the
burglar alarm ringing. Then I walked down the street and got a week's  worth
of  lodging at the Sunset Motel. I told the lady I worked as a midget in the
movies. It just seemed to bore her.
     "No television or loud noises after ten p. m. That's our rule here."
     She took my money, gave me a receipt and closed her door.
      They  key  said room 103. I hadn't even looked at the room. The  doors
said  98,  99,  100,  101, I was walking north toward the  Hollywood  Hills,
toward  those mountains behind them, with the great and golden light of  the
Lord shining upon me, growing.


     ** 25 BUMS IN RAGS**

     you know how it is with horseplayers. you hit it hot and you
     think it's all over. I had this place in back, even had my own garden,
     planted all kinds of tulips, which grew, beautifully and amazingly. I
     had the green hand. I had the green money. what system I had
     devised I can no longer remember, but it was working and I wasn't
     and that's a pleasant enough way to live. and there was Kathy.
     Kathy had it. the old guy next door would actually slobber at the
     mouth when he saw her. he was always knocking at the door.
     "Kathy! oooh, Kathy! Kathy!"
     I'd answer the door, just dressed in my shorts.
     "ooooh, I thought-"
     "I thought Kathy-"
     "Kathy's taking a shit. any message?"
     "I-bought these bones for your dog."
     he had a big bag of dry chicken bones.
     "feeding a dog chicken bones is like putting broken razor
     blades in a child's cereal. you trying to kill my dog, fucker?"
     "oh, no!"
     "then jam the bones and split."
     "I don't understand."
     "stick that bag of chickenbones up your ass and get the hell
     out of here!"
     "I just thought Kathy-"
     "I told you, Kathy's taking a SHIT!"
     I slammed the back door on him.
     "you shouldn't be so hard on the old fart, Hank, he says I
     remind him of his daughter when she was young."
     "all right, so he made it with his daughter. let him screw swiss
     cheese. I don't want him at the door."
     "I suppose you think I let him in after you go to the track?"
     "I don't even wonder about that."
     "what do you wonder about?"
     "all I wonder is which one of you rides topside."
     "you son of a bitch. you can leave now!"
     I was getting on my shirt and pants, then socks and shoes.
     I won't be 4 blocks away before you're locked in embrace."
     she threw a book at me. I wasn't looking and the edge of the
     book hit me over the right eye. a cut started and a spot of blood hit
     my hand as I tied my right shoe.
     "I'm sorry, Hank."
     "don't get NEAR me!"
     I went out and got into the car, backed out the drive at 35
     miles an hour, taking part of the hedge with me, then some of the
     stucco from the front house with my left rear fender. there were
     blood on my shirt then and I took out my handkerchief and held it
     over the eye. it was going to be a bad Saturday at the track. I was
     I bet like the atomic bomb was on the way. I wanted to make
      ten grand. I bet longshots. I didn't cash a ticket. I lost $500. all I
     going to be a terrible Saturday night. I parked the car and went in
     the back door.
     "you look like death. what happened?"
     "I blew it. I blew the roll. 500."
     "jesus. I'm sorry," she said, "it's my fault." she came up to
     me, put her arms around me. "god damn, I'm sorry, daddy. it was
     my fault, I know it."
     "forget it. you didn't make the bets."
     "are you still mad?"
     "no, no, I know you're not fucking that old turkey."
     "can I get you something to eat?"
     "no, no, just get us a fifth of whiskey and the paper."
     I got up and went to the hidden money cache. we were down
     to $180. well, it had been worse, many times, but I felt that I was on
     my way back to the factories and the warehouses, if I could get that.
     I came out with a ten. the dog still liked me. I pulled his ears. he
     didn't care how much money I had or how little. a real ace dog.
     yeah. I walked out of the bedroom. Kathy was putting on lipstick in
     front of the mirror. I pinched her on the ass and kissed her behind
     the ear.
     "get me some beer and cigars too. I need to forget."
     she left and I listened to her heels clicking on the drive. she
     was as good a woman as I found and I had found her in a bar. I
     leaned back in the chair and stared at the ceiling. a bum. I was a
     bum. always this distaste for work, always trying to live off my luck.
     when Kathy came back I told her to pour a big one. she looked
     funny, and fine. we'd make love. we'd make love through the sad-
     ness. I just hated to see it go: car, house, dog, woman. it had been
     gentle and easy living.
     I guess I was shaken because I opened the paper and looked at
     the WANT ADS.
     "hey, Kathy, here's something. men wanted, Sunday. pay
     same day."
     "oh, Hank, rest up tomorrow. you'll get those horses Tuesday.
     everything will look better then."
     "but shit, baby, every buck counts! they don't run on Sunday.
     Caliente, yeah, but you can't beat that 25 percent Caliente take and
     the distance. I can get good and drunk tonight and then pick up this
     shit tomorrow. those extra bucks might make the difference."
     Kathy looked at me funny. she'd never heard me talk like that
     before. I always acted like the money would be there. that 500
     dollar loss had left me in shock. she phoned me another tall one. I
     drank it right off. shock, shock, lord, lord, the factories. the wasted
     days, the days without meaning, the day of bosses and idiots, and
     the slow and brutal clock.
     we drank until two a.m., just like at the bar, then went to bed,
     mad love, slept. I set the alarm for four a.m., was up and in the car
     and downtown skidrow at 4:30 a.m. I stood on the corner with
     about 25 bums in rags. they stood there rolling cigarettes and drinking
     well, it's money, I thought. I'll get back-some day I'll
     vacation in Paris or Rome. shit on these guys. I don't belong here.
     then something said to me, that's what they're ALL thinking
     I don't belong here. each one of THEM is thinking that about HIM-
     SELF. and they're right, so?
     the truck came along about 5:10a.m. and we climbed in.
     god, I could be sleeping along behind Kathy's fine ass about
     now. but it's money.
     guys were talking about just getting off the boxcar. they stank,
     poor fellows. but they didn't seem miserable. I was the only one
     who was miserable.
     I would be getting up about now, taking a piss. I would be
      having  a  beer  in the kitchen, looking for the sun,  seeing  it  get
     peeking at my tulips. then going back to bed with Kathy.
     the guy next to me said, "hey, buddy!"
     "yeah," I said.
     "I'm a Frenchman," he said.
     I didn't answer.
     "can you use a blowjob?"
     "no," I said.
     "I saw one guy blowing another in the alley this morning. this
     one guy had this LONG THIN white dick and the other guy was still
     sucking and the come was dripping out of his mouth. I watched and
     watched and god I'm hot as hell. let me suck your dick, buddy!"
     "no," I told him, "I don't feel like it right now."
     "well, if I can't do that, maybe you can suck mine."
     "get the hell out of here!" I told him.
     the Frenchman moved further back into the truck. by the time
     we'd gone another mile his head was bobbing. he was doing it righ
     in front of everybody, to some old guy who looked like an Indian.
     "GO, BABY, GET IT ALL!!!" somebody shouted.
     some of the bums laughed but most of them were just silent,
     drinking their wine and rolling their cigarettes. the old Indian acted
     like it wasn't even happening. by the time we got to Vermont the
     Frenchman had got it all and we all climbed out, the Frenchman, the
     Indian, myself and the other bums. they gave us each a little tab of
     doughnut and a coffee. the waitress held her nose up. we stank. dirty
     then somebody finally hollered, "everybody out!"
     I followed them out and we went into a big room and sat in
     these chairs like they used to have in school, or college rather, say
     like in Music Appreciation. with the big slab of wood for the right
     arm so you could open your notebook and write on it there. any-
     how, so there we sat for another 45 minutes. then some snot kid
     with a can of beer in his hand, said, "o.k., get your SACKS!"
     the bums all leaped up at ONCE and RAN to this large back
     room. what the hell? I thought. I slowly walked on back and looked
     in the other room. the bums were in there pushing and fighting for
     the best paper carriers. it was deadly and senseless battle. when the
      sack  I  found on the floor. it was very dirty and full  of  rips  and
     when I walked out into the other room the bums all had their paper
     carriers on their backs, wearing them. I found a seat and just sat
     there with mine in my lap. somewhere along the line I think they
     had gotten our names; I think it was before you get your coffee and
     doughnut tab you gave your name. so we sat there and were called
     out in groups of 5 or 6 or 7. this took, it seemed, another hour.
     anyhow, by the time I got into the back of this smaller truck with a
     few others, the sun was well up. they gave us such a little map.I
     recognized the streets all right: GOD OH MIGHTY, OUT OF THE
     I had the rep as drinker, gambler, hustler, man of leisure
     shack-job specialist. how could I be SEEN with that filthy dirty sack
     on my back? delivering newspapers full of ads?
     they put me out on my corner. very familiar surroundings,
     indeed. there was the flowershop, there was the bar, the gas station,
     everything-.around the corner my little house with Kathy sleep-
     in her warm bed. even the dog was asleep. well, it's Sunday
     morning, I thought. nobody will see me. they sleep late. I'll run
     through the god damned route. and I did.
     I ran up and down 2 streets very quickly and nobody saw the
     great man of class and soft white hands and great soulful eyes. I was
     going to get by with it.
     then up the 3rd street. it was going well until I heard the voice
     of a little girl. she was in her yard. about 4 years old.
     "hey, mister!"
     "oh, yes? little girl? what is it?"
     "where's your dog?"
     "oh, haha, he's still asleep."
     I always walked the dog up that street. there was a vacant lot
     there he always shit in. that did it. I took all my remaining news-
     papers and dumped them into the back of an abandoned car near the
     freeway. the car had been there for months with all the wheels gone.
     I didn't know what it meant. but I put all the newspapers on the rear
     floor. then I walked around the corner and went inot my house.
     Kathy was still asleep. I awakened her.
     "Kathy! Kathy!"
     "oh, Hank-everything all right?"
     the dog ran on in and I petted him.
     "you know what those sons of bitches DID?"
     "they gave me my own neighborhood to deliver papers in!"
     "oh, well, it's not nice but I don't think the people will mind."
     "don't you understand? I've built this REP! I'm the hustler! I
     can't be seen with a bag of shit on my back!"
     "oh, I don't think you have that REP! it's just in your
     "listen, are you going to give me a lot of shit? you've had your
     ass in this warm bed while I've been out there with a lot of cock-
     "don't be angry. I've got to pee. wait a minute."
     I waited out there while she took her sleepy female piss. god,
     they were SLOW! the cunt was a very inefficient pissing machine.
     dick had it all beat.
     Kathy came out.
     "please don't worry, Hank. I'll put on an old dress and help
     you deliver the papers. we'll finish fast. people sleep late on Sun-
     "but I've already been SEEN!"
     "you've already been seen? who saw you?"
     "that little girl in the brown house with the weeds on West-
     moreland st."
     "you mean Myra?"
     "I don't know her name!"
     "she's only 3."
     "I don't know how old she is! she asked about the dog!"
     "what about the dog?"
     "she asked where it WAS!"
     "come on, I'll help you get rid of the papers."
     Kathy was climbing into an old ripped dress."
     "I got rid of them. it's over. I dumped them into the back of
     that abandoned car."
     "will they catch you?"
     "FUCK! who cares?"
     I went into the kitchen and got a beer. when I got back Kathy
     was in bed again. I sat in the chair.
     "you just don't realize who you're living with! I'm class, real
     class! I'm 34 but I haven't worked 6 or 7 months since I was 18
     years old. and no money. look at my hands! I've got hands like a
     "Class? you OUGHT to HEAR yourself when you're drunk!
     you're horrible, horrible!"
     "are you trying to start some shit again, Kathy? I've kept you
     in furs and hundred proof since I dug you outa that gin mill on
     Alvarado st."
     Kathy didn't answer.
     "in fact," I told here, "I am a genius but nobody knows it but
     "I'll buy that," she said. then she dug her head into the pillow
     and went back to sleep.
     I finished the beer, had another, then went 3 blocks over and
     sat on the steps of a closed grocery store that the map said would be
     the meeting place where the man would pick me up. I sat there from
     10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. 9t was dull and dry and stupid and torturous
     and senseless. then the rotten truck came at 2:30 p.m.
     "hey. buddy?"
     "you finished already?"
     "you're fast!"
     "I want you to help this one guy finish his route."
     oh, fuck.
     I got into the truck and then he let me off. here was this guy.
     he was CREEPING. he threw each paper with great care upon each
     porch. each porch got special treatment. and he seemed to enjoy his
     work. he was on his last block. I finished the whole thing off in 5
     minutes. then we sat and waited for the truck. for an hour.
     they drove us back to the office and we sat in our school
     chairs again. then two snot-nosed kids came out with cans of beer in
     their hands. one called off names and the other gave each man his
     on a blackboard written in chalk behind the heads of the
     snot-noses was a message:
     A FREE

     I kept watching as each man was handed his money. it
     couldn't be true. it APPEARED that each man was given three one
     dollar bills. at the time, the lowest basic wage scale by law was one
     dollar an hour. I had been on that corner at 4:30 a.m. now it was
     4:30 p.m. to me, that was 12 hours.
     I was one of the last names called. I think I was 3rd from last.
     not a one of those bums raised hell. they just took the $3 and went
     out the door.
     "Bukowski!" the snot-nosed kid hollered.
     I walked up. the other snot-nosed kid counted out 3 very clean
     and crisp Washingtons.
     "listen," I said, "don't you guys realize that there is a basic
     wage law? one buck an hour."
     the snot-nose raised his beer. "we deduct for transportation,
     breakfast and so forth. we only pay for average working time which
     we figure to be about 3 hours or so."
     "I see twelve hours out of my life and I've got to take a bus
     downtown now to go get my car and drive in back in."
     "you're lucky to have a car."
     "and you're lucky I don't jam that can of beer up your ass!"
     "I don't set company policy, sir, please don't blame me."
     "I'm going to report you to the State Labor Board!"
     "Robinson!" the other snot-nose hollered.
     the next to last burn got p from his seat for his $3 as I walked
     out the door and on up to Beverly blvd. to wait for the bus. by the
     time I got home and got a drink in my hand it was 6 p.m. or so. I
     really got drunk then. I was so frustrated I banged Kathy 3 times.
     broke a window. cut my foot on broken glass. sang songs from
     Gilbert and Sullivan, which I once learned from an insane English
     teacher who taught an English class which began at 7 a.m. in the
     morning. L.A.City College. Richardson was his name. and maybe he
     wasn't insane. but he taught me Gilbert and Sullivan and gave me a
     "d" in English for showing up no sooner than 7:30 a.m. with hang-
     over, WHEN I showed. but that's something else. Kathy and I had
     some laughs that night, and although I broke a few things I was not
     as nasty and stupid as usual.
     and that Tuesday at Hollywood Park I won $140 at the races
     and I was once again the quite casual lover, hustler, gambler, re-
     formed pimp and tulip grower. I drove slowly up the driveway,
     savoring the last of the evening sun. then I strolled in through the
     back door. Kathy had on some meat loaf with plenty of onions and
     crap and spices in it just the way I liked it. she was bent over at the
     stove and I grabbed her from the back.
     "listen, baby-"
     she stood there with the large dripping spoon in her hand. I
     slipped ten into the neck of her dress.
     "I want you to get me a fifth of whiskey."
     "sure, sure."
     "and some beer and cigars. I'll watch the food."
     she took off her apron and went into the bathroom for a
     moment. I could hear her humming. a moment later I sat in my chair
     and listened to her heels clicking down the drive. there was a tennis
     ball. I took the tennis ball and bounced it on the floor so it hit the
     wall and zoomed high into the air. the dog who was 5 feet long and
     3 feet tall, + wolf, leaped into the air, there was the snap of teeth
     and he had that tennis ball, up near the ceiling. for a moment he
     seemed to hang up there. what a beautiful dog, what a beautiful life.
     when he hit the floor I got up to check the meatloaf. it was all right.
     everything was.



      so, the Hollywood Park meet has begun, and naturally I have been out a
couple  of  times, and the scene is not very variable: the horses  look  the
same  and  the  people a little worse, the horseplayer is a  combination  of
extreme  conceit,  madness  and greed. one of Freud's  main  pupils(I  don't
recall  his  name  right now, only remem- ber reading the  book)  said  that
gambling is a substitute for masturba- tion. of course, the problem with any
direct  statement is that it can easily become an untruth, a part  truth,  a
lie or a wilted gardenia. yet, checking out the ladies (between races) I  do
find  the same oddity: before the first race they sit with their skirts down
as  much as possible, and as each race proceeds the skirts climb higher  and
high-  er, until just before the 9th race it takes all one's facilities  not
to  commit  rape  upon  one  of the darlings.  whether  it  is  a  sense  of
masturbation  that causes this or whether the dear little things  need  rent
and  bean money, I don't know, probably a combo. I saw one lady leap over  2
or 3 rows of seats after getting a winner, and screaming, screeching, divine
as  an  iced-grapefruit vodka across the top of a hangover.  "she's  getting
hers now," said my girlfriend.
     "yeah," I said, "but I wish I had gotten there first."
      for  those  of  you  unfamiliar with the basic  principles  of  horse-
wagering,  allow me to divert you with a few basics. the difficulty  in  the
average  person leaving the track with any money at all is easily propounded
if  you  will follow this - the track and the state take roughly 15% out  of
each  dollar bet, plus breakage. the 15% is di= vided about in half  between
the  state  and  the track. in other words, 85 cents out of each  dollar  is
returned to the holders of winning tickets. breakage is the penny difference
on  the  ten  cent  breakdown of the payoff. in  other  words,  say  if  the
totalizer  machine  breaks  the payoff down to a  $16.84  payoff,  then  the
winning player gets $16.80, the 4 cents on each winning bet going elsewhere.
now  I  am not sure, because the thing in not publicized but I also  believe
that  on, say, a $16.89 payoff, the payoff is still $16.80 and the  9  cents
goes  elsewhere, but I am not positive of this and "Open City"  cer-  tainly
can't afford a libel suit now or ever and neither can I, so I will not  make
this a positive presumption, but if any "Open City" reader has the facts  on
this, I do wish he would write O.C. and advise me, this penny breakage alone
could make millionaires out of any of us.
      now take the average goof who has worked all week and is looking for a
little bit of luck, entertainment, masturbation, take 40 of them, give  them
each  $100, and presuming that they are average bettors, the general  medium
based  upon  a 15% take, forgetting breakage, would have 40 of them  leaving
with  $85.  but  it  doesn't work that way 0 35 of them  will  leave  almost
completely  broke, one or two of them will win $85 or $150 by sheer  fortune
of falling upon the right horses and not knowing why. the 3 or 4 others will
break even.
      all  right, then, who is getting all this money that the little bettor
who works a turret lathe or drives a bus all week, losers? easy: the betting
stables  who  send off bad-form horses in a spot that it is  profitable  for
them to win in. stables cannot make it upon purse money alone, that is, most
of  them  can't. give a stable a top handi- cap horse and they are  in,  but
even  they must resort to pulls and deliberately bad races in order  to  get
weight  off  for a top money race. in other words, say a top-weighted  horse
gifted  with  130 pounds by the track handicapper for an early $25,000  race
will  tend  to lose this race and get weight off on that performance  for  a
later  $100,000 race. now these statements cannot be proven but if you  will
follow  this  conjecture you might make a little money or at  least  save  a
little.  but it is the stables who must race in the lower class  races  with
lower purses who must maneuver their horses for a price. in some cases,  the
owner  of the horse or horses himself is not aware of the maneuvering;  this
is  because  trainers and grooms, hot-walkers, exercise  jocks  are  grossly
underpaid  (in  time and effort put in, com- pared to other industries)  and
their  only way to get out is to put one over. the racetracks are  aware  of
this and attempt to keep the game clean, to give it a holy sheen of honesty,
but  for all their efforts- barring tough guys, cons, syndicates, operators,
from the track, there are still "goodies" put over on the crowd, a so-called
pig who "wakes up" and wins by 3 to 10 lengths at odds of 5 to up to 50 to1.
but these are only animals, not machines. so there's an excuse, an excuse to
haul away millions in wheelbarrows from the racetrack, tax-free. human greed
will  not relent, it will continue to feed itself. the com- munist party  be
      all  right, that's bad enough. let's take something else. besides  the
public  being automatically wrong just by instinct (ask the stock- broker  -
when you want to know which way to move just move the opposite from the  big
crowd with the small, 'scared, tight money). but the something else is this:
a possible mathematic. taking the dollar base - you invest the first dollar,
you get back 85 cents. automatic take. second race, you have to ass15 cents,
then  another 15% take. now take 9 races and take a 15% take on a break-even
basis  -  upon your original dollar. is it just 9 times 15% or  is  it  much
more?  it would take one of these Caltaech cats to tell me and I don't  know
any  Caltech  cats.  anyway, if you have followed me up to  here,  you  must
realize  that  it is very difficult to make a "living" at the  racetrack  as
some starry-eyed dreamers would like to do.
      I am a "hard-nose": that is, any given day at any track you just ain't
gonna  take much money from me; on the other hand, I ain't gonna make  much.
naturally, I have some good plays and I'd be a damn fool to reveal  them  to
everybody  because  then  they would not work. once  the  public  gets  onto
something it is dead and it changes. the public is not allowed to win in any
game  ever invented and that includes the American Revolution. but for "Open
City"  readers I have a few basics that might save you a little money.  take
      a/  watch  your underlay shots. an underlay is a horse that closes  in
odds  under the trackman's morning line. in other words, the trackman  lists
the  horse 10 t0 1 and it is going off at 6 to 1. money is much more serious
than  anything else. check your under- lays carefully, and if  the  line  is
just  not a careless mistake by the trackman and the horse dos not show  any
recent  fast works or a switch to a "name" jockey, and if the horse  is  not
dropping weight and is running against the same class, you will probably get
a fairly good run for your money.
      b/ lay off the closers. this is a horse, that say closed from 5 to  16
lengths  from the beginning call to the last and still did not  win  and  is
coming  back  against  the same or similar. the crowd  loves  the  "closer,"
through fear $ tight money and stupidity, but the closer is generally a lard-
ass,  lazy  and only passes tired horses who have been running and  fighting
for  the front end. not only does the crowd love this type of junk-horse but
they will consistently bet him down to odds less than 1/3 of his worth. even
though  this type of horse continually runs out, the crowd out of fear  will
go  to him because they are tight up against the rent money and feel that  a
closer  possesses some kind of super stength. 90% of the races  are  won  by
horses  on  the  front  end or near the front end of  all  the  running,  at
plausible and reasonable prices.
      c/  if  you  must  bet a "closer" bet him in shorter  races,  6  or  7
furlongs,  where the crowd believes he does not have time "to get up."  here
they  go  for the speed and are stuck again. 7 furlongs is the best closer's
race  in  the  business because of only one curve. a speed  horse  gets  the
advantage  of being out in front and saving ground on the turns. 7  furlongs
with  one curve and the long backstretch is the perfect closer's race;  much
better than a mile and a quarter, even better than a mile and one half. I am
giving you some good stuff here, I hope you heed it.
      d/  watch  your toteboard - money in American society is more  serious
than death and you hardly get anything for nothing. if a horse is listed  at
6 to 1 on the morning line and he is going off at 114 to 25 to 1, forget it.
either  the  trackman had a hangover when he made his morning  line  or  the
stable  just  isn't  going that race. you don't get anything  free  in  this
world; if you don't know anything about racing, do bet horses that go off to
their  morning line. large overlays are nil and almost impossible.  all  the
little  grandmamas go home to eat bitter toast with gummed teeth upon Papa's
retire-ment death certificate.
      e/ only bet when you can lose. I mean without ending up sleeping on  a
park bench or missing 3 or 4 meals. the main thing, get the rent down first.
avoid pressures. you will be luckier. and remem- ber what the pros say,  "If
you've  got to lose, lose in front." in other words, make them beat you.  if
you're  going to lose anyhow, then to hell with it, get you a dancer out  of
the  gate, you've got it won until they beat you, until they pass  you.  the
price  is  usually  generous  because the public  hates  what  they  call  a
"quitter"  -  a horse that opens daylight on the pack and still  manages  to
lose.  this looks bad to them. to me a "quitter" is any horse that does  not
win a race.
      f/ any profit-loss venture is not based upon the number of winners you
have  but  upon the number of winners at the price. to basics, you can  have
three  6 to 5 winners in 9 races and wash out, but you can have one 9  to  1
and  one 5 to 1 and get over. this does not always mean that a 6 to 5  is  a
bad bet, but if you know little or next to nothing about racing, it might be
best to hold your bets between 7 to 2 and 9 to 1. or if you must indulge  in
wild fancies, keep your bets between 11 and 1q9 to 1. in fact, many 18 or 19
to 1's bounce in if you can find the right ones.
      but,  actually, a man can never know enough about horse  rac-  ing  or
anything  else.  just  when he thinks he knows he is  just  begin-  ning.  I
remember one summer I won 4 grand at Hollypark and I went down to Del Mar in
a  new car, cocky, poetic, knowledgeable, I had the world by the nuts, and I
rented  myself  a little motel by the sea and the ladies showed  up  as  the
ladies will when you are drinking and laughing and don't care and have  some
money  (a fool and his money are soon parted) and I had a party every  night
and  a new broad every other night, and it was a kind of joke I used to tell
them, the place was right over the sea, and I'd say, after much drinking and
talking, "Baby, I come with the WOOSH OF THE SEA!"


      the  harness racing season has been under way, as they say, for a week
or  2  now, and I have been out 5 or 6 times, perhaps breaking even for  the
course,  which  is a hell of a waste of time - anything is a waste  of  time
unless  you  are  fucking well or creating well or getting well  or  looming
toward  a kind of phantom love-happiness. we will all end up in the crud-pot
of  defeat - call it death or error. I am not a word-man. I do suppose, tho,
as  one keeps making adjustments to the tide, we can call it experience even
if  we are not so sure that it is wisdom. then too, it is possible for a man
to  live  a  whole life of constant error in a kind of numb  and  terrorized
state. You've seen the faces. I've seen my own.
      so  during  all the heat wave they are still out there,  the  bettors,
having gotten a little money somewhere, the hard way, and trying to beat the
15  percent  take. I sometimes think of the crowd as hypno- tized,  a  crowd
that  has  nowhere to go. and after the races they get into their old  cars,
drive to their lonely rooms and look at the walls. Wondering why they did it
---  heels  run down, bad teeth, ulcers, bad jobs, men without women,  women
without men. Nothing but shit.
      there  are some laughs. there have to be. walking into the men's  room
between  races the other day I came upon a young man gagging, then  shouting
in fury: "god damn son of a bitch, some god damn son of a bitch didn't flush
his  shit away! HE LEFT IT THERE! the son of a bitch, I walked in and  there
it WAS! I'll be he does that at home too!"
      this boy was screaming. the rest of us were standing there pissing  or
washing our hands, thinking about the last race or the next one. I know some
freaks  that  would  be delighted to come upon a potful of  fresh  turds.but
that's the way it works - the wrong guy gets it.
      another day I am sweating, battling, scratching, praying, jack- ing to
stay  10 or 12 bucks ahead, and it is a very difficult harness race, I don't
even  think  the drivers know who is going to win, and this big  fat  woman,
ponderous  whale  of healthy stinking blubber, walked up  to  me,  put  that
stinking fat against my body front, and squeezed 2 little eyes, a mouth  and
the rest into my face and said,
     "what are the hands on the first horse?"
     "the hands on the first horse?"
     "yes, what are the hands on the first horse?"
      "god  damn you lady, get away from me, and don't bother me. get  away!
get away!"
      she  did.  the whole track is full of crazy people. some of them  come
there  when the gates open. they stretch out on the seats or on a bench  and
sleep all through the races. they never see a race. then they get up and  go
home.  others  wall around just vaguely aware that a race of  some  kind  is
going  on. they buy coffee or just stand around looking as if life has  been
stunned and burned out of them. or sometimes you see one standing in a  dark
corner, jamming a whole hot dog down the throat, gagging, choking, delighted
with  the  mess of themselves. and at the end of each day you see one  or  2
with  their heads down between their legs. sometimes they are crying.  where
do losers go? who wants a loser?
      essentially, in one way or another, everybody thinks that he  has  the
key to beating the thing, even if it is only such an unjustified assumptions
that  their luck must change, some play stars, some play numbers, some  play
strictly time, others play drivers, or closers or speed r names or god knows
what.  almost all of them lose, contin- ually. almost all their income  goes
directly  into  the mutuel ma- chines. most of these people have  unbearably
fixed egos - the are tenaciously stupid.
      I  won a few dollars Sept. 1. let's go over the card. Andy's Dream won
the first at 9/2 from a morning line of 10. good play. unwarranted action on
beaten  horse running from outside post. 2nd race - Jerry Perkins,  14  year
old gelding nobody wants to claim because of age, drops into $15 claimer.  a
good  horse,  consistent within his class, but you had to take 8/5  under  a
morning  line of four. won easy. third race won by Special Product, a  horse
that  broke in his last four races at long odds. he broke stride again  this
time,  pulled up, righted himself and still came on to beat the 3/5 favorite
Golden  Bill.  a  possible  bet if you are in touch  with  God  and  God  is
interested. ten to one. in the fourth race, Hal Richard a consistent 4  year
old gelding won at three to one, beating out two shorter choices that showed
better times but no winning ability. a good bet. In the fifth, Eileen  Colby
wins after Tiny Star and Marsand break and the crowd sends off April Fool at
3/5.  April  Fool has only been able to win four races out of  32,  and  one
local handicapper tabs him "better than these by five lengths." all this  on
time  effort  of  last race in better class when April Fool  finishes  seven
lengths out. the crowd is taken again.
      then in the sixth race, Mister Honey is given a morning line of 10 but
is  sent off as second choice of 5/2 and wins easy, having won three out  of
nine  in tougher class at short odds. Newport Buell, a cheaper horse is sent
off  at  even money because he closed ground in last at nine to one.  a  bad
bet.  the crowd doesn't understand. in the seventh, Bills Snookums, a winner
of  seven out of nine in class and with the leading rider Farrington  up  is
made the new 8/5 favorite and justifiably so.
      the crowd bets Princess Sampson down to 7/2. this horse has won only 6
races out of 67. naturally, the crowd gets burned again.
      Princess  Sampson shows the best time in a tougher race but just  does
not  want to win. the crowd is time-happy. they do not realize that time  is
caused by pace and pace is caused by the discre- tion - or lack of it  -  of
the  lead  drivers. in the eighth, Abbemite win gets up in a  four  or  five
horse scramble. it was an open race and one I should have stayed out of.  In
the  ninth,  they let the public Have one. Luella Primrose.  the  horse  had
failed  consistently at short odds and today got on its own pace  without  a
challenger.  5/2. one for the ladies, and how they screamed. a pretty  name.
they'd been losing their drawers on the thing all through the meet.
     most of the cards are as reasonable as this, and it would seem possible
to  make  a living at the track against the 15 percent take. but the outside
factors  beat you. the heat. tiredness. people spilling beer on your  shirt.
screaming.  stepping  on your feet. women showing their  legs.  pickpockets.
touts. madmen. I was $24 ahead going into the ninth race and there wasn't  a
play in the ninth.
      being tired, I didn't have the resistance to stay out. before the race
went  off  I had dropped in $16, shopping, feeling for a winner that  didn't
show.  then they sent in the public play on me. I was not satisfied  with  a
$24  day.  I  once worked for $16 a week at New Orleans. I  was  not  strong
enough  to  take a gentle profit, so I walked out $8 winner. Not  worth  the
struggle: I could have stayed home and written an immortal poem.
      a  man  who can beat the races can do about any thing he makes up  his
mind  to do. he must have the character, the knowledge, the detachment. even
with  these qualities, the races are tough, especially with the rent waiting
and  your whore's tongue hanging our for beer. there are traps beyond  traps
beyond  traps. there are days when everything impossible happens. the  other
day  they  ran in a 50 to one shot in the first race, a 100 to  one  in  the
second, and crapped off the day with an 18 to one in the last race. when you
are  trying  to scrape up pesos for the landlord and potato and  egg  money,
this kind of day can very much make you feel like an imbecile.
      but  if  you  come back the next day they will give you six  or  seven
reasonable  winners at fair prices. it's there but most  of  them  don't  go
back.  It  takes  patience and it's hard work: you have  to  think.  It's  a
battlefield  and you can become shell-shocked. I saw a friend  of  mine  out
there the other day, glaze-eyed, punched-out. It was late in the day and  it
had been a reasonable card, but somehow they had gotten past him and I could
tell  that  he  had bet too much trying to get out.he walked  past  me,  not
knowing  where  he  was.  I watched him. he walked right  into  the  women's
crapper.  they screamed and he came running out. it was what he  needed.  it
pulled  him out and he caught the winner of the next race. but I  would  not
advise this system to all losers.
      there  are laughs and there is sadness. there is an old boy who walked
up  to me one time. "Bukowski," he said very seriously, "I want to beat  the
horses before I die."
      his  hair is white, totally white, teeth gone, and I could see  myself
there in 15 or 20 years, if I make it.
     "I like the six horse," he told me.
     "luck," I told him.
      he'd  picked a stiff, as usual. an odds-on favorite that had only  won
one  race  in 15 starts that year. the public handicappers had the horse  on
top  too. the horse had won $88,000 LAST year. best time. I bet ten  win  on
Miss  Lustytown, a winner of nine races this year. Miss Lustytown paid  4/1.
the odds-on finished last.
      the old man came by, raging. "how the hell! Glad Rags ran 2:01 and 1/5
last time and gets beat by a 2:02 and 1/5 mare! they oughta close this place
     he raps his program, snarling at me. his face is so red that he appears
to have a sunburn. I walk away from him, go over to the cashier's window and
cash in.
      when  I  get  home,  there is one magazine in  the  mail,  THE  SMITH,
parodying my prose style, and another magazine, THE SIX- TIES, parodying  my
poetic style.
      writing?what the hell's that? somebody is worried or pissed about m  y
writing. I look over ans sure enough there's a typewriter in the room. I  am
a  writer  of  some  kind, there's another world there  of  maneuvering  and
gouging and groups and methods.
      I  let  the  warm water run, get into the tub, open a beer,  open  the
racing formt phone rings. I let it ring. for me, maybe not for you, it's too
hot to fuck or listen to some minor poet. Hemingway had his pulls. give me a
horse's ass - that gets there first.



      There  were  quite a few meetings at Joe Hyans' house at first  and  I
usually  showed drunk, so I don't remember much about the inception of  Open
Pussy,  the  underground  newspaper, and I was  only  told  later  what  had
happened. Or rather, what I had done.
      Hyans: "You said you were going to clean out the whole place and  that
you  were going to start with the guy in the wheelchair. Then he started  to
cry and people started leaving. You hit a guy over the head with a bottle."
     Cherry (Hyans' wife): "You refused to leave and you drank a whole fifth
of whiskey and kept telling me that you were going to fuck me up against the
     "Did I?"
     "Ah, then next time."
      Hyans: "Listen, Bukowski, we're trying to get organized and all you do
is  come  around and bust things up. You're the nastiest damn drunk  I'veeve
     "OK, I quit, Fuck it. Who cares about newspapers?"
     "No, we want you to do a column. We think you're the best writer in Los
      I  lifted my drink. "That's a motherfucking insult! I didn't come here
to be insulted!"
     "OK, maybe you're the best writer in California."
     "There you go! Still insulting me!"
     "Anyhow, we want you to do a column."
     "I'm a poet."
     "What's the difference between poetry and prose?"
      "Poetry  says too much in too short a time; prose says too little  and
takes too long."
     "We want a column for Open Pussy."
     "Pour me a drink and you're on."
     Hyans did. I was on. I finished the drink and walked over to my skidrow
court  thinking about what a mistake I was making. I was almost fifty  years
old and fucking with these long-haired, bearded kids. Oh God, groovy, daddy,
oh  groovy! War is shit. War is hell. fuck, don't fight. I'd known all  that
for fifty years. It wasn't quite as exciting to me. Oh, and don't forget the
pot. the stash. Groove, baby!
      I  found a pint in my place, drank it, four cans of beer and wrote the
first column. It was about a three-hundred-pound whore I had once fucked  in
Philadelphia.  It was a good column. I corrected the typing  errors,  jacked
off and went to sleep-
      It started on the bottom floor of Hyans' two-story rented house. There
were  some  half-assed volunteers and the thing was new  and  everybody  was
excited  but me. I kept searching out the women for ass but they all  looked
and acted the same --- they were all nineteen years old, dirty-blonde, small
ass,  small  breasted, busy dizzy, and, in a sense, conceited without  quite
knowing why. When- ever I'd lay my drunken hands upon them they were  always
quite cool. Quite.
      "Look,  Gramps,  the only thing we want to seeyou  raise  is  a  North
Vietnamese flag!"
     "Ah, your pussy probably stinks anyhow!"
     "Oh, you are a filthy old man! You really are-so disgust- ing!"
      And then they'd walk off shaking those little delicious apple buttocks
at  me, only carrying in their hand --- instead of my lovely purple head ---
some  juvenile  copy about the cops shaking down the kids  and  taking  away
their  Baby Ruth bars on Sunset Strip. Here I was, the greatest living  poet
since Auden and I couldn't even fuck a dog in the ass-
      The paper got too big. Or Cherry got worried about my loung- ing about
on  the  couch  drunk and leering at her five-year-old daugh- ter.  When  it
really  got bad was when the daughter started sitting on my lap and  looking
up  into my face while squirming, saying, "I like you, Bukowski. Talk to me.
Let me get you another Beer, Bukow- ski."
     "Hurry back, sweetie!"
     Cherry: "Listen, Bukowski, you old letch-"
     "Cherry, children love me. I can't help it."
      The little girl, Zaza, ran back with the beer, got back into my lap. I
opened the beer.
     "I like you, Bukowski, tell me a story."
      "OK,  honey.  Well, once upon a time there was this old man  and  this
lovely little girl lost in the woods together-"
     "Cherry: "Listen, you old letch-"
      "Ta,  ta,  Cherry,  I do believe you have a dirty  mind!"  Cherry  ran
upstairs looking for Hyans who was taking a crap. "Joe, Joe, we've just  got
to move this paper out of here! I mean it!"-
      They  found  a vacant building up front, two floors, and one  midnight
while drinking portw wine, I held the flashlight for Joe while he broke open
the  phone  box on the side of the house and rear- ranged the  wires  so  he
could  have extension phones without charge. about this time the only  other
underground newspaper in L.A. ac- cused Joe of stealing a duplicate copy  of
their mailing list. Of course, I knew Joe had morals and scruples and ideals
--- that's why he quit working for the large metro daily. That's why he quit
working  for the other underground newspaper. Joe was some kind  of  Christ.
     "Hold that flashlight steady," he said-
     In the morning, at my place, the phone rang. It was my friend Mongo the
Giant of the Eternal High.
     "Cherry was over last night."
     "She had this mailing list. Was very nervous. She wanted me to hide it.
Said  Jensen was on the prowl. I hid it in the cellar under a pile of  India
ink sketches Jimmy the Dwarf did before he died."
     "Did you screw her?"
     "What for? She's all bones. Those ribs would slice me to pieces while I
     "You screwed Jimmy the Dwarf and he only weighed eighty- three pounds."
     "He had soul."
     I hung up-

      For  the  next four or five issues, Open Pussy came out  with  sayings
     They should have. They had their mailing list.
      One  night Jensen and Joe had dinner together. Joe told me later  that
everything was now "all right." I don't know who screwed who or what went on
under the table. And I didn't care-
      And  I soon found that I had other readers besides the beaded and  the
      In  Los Angeles the new Federal Building rises glass-high, insane  and
modern, with the Kafka-series of rooms each indulged with their own personal
frog-jacking-off  bit;  everything feeding off  of  every-  thing  else  and
thriving with a kind of worm-in-the apple warmth and ther I was given a time
ticket  for  that amount and I walked into the Federal Building,  which  had
downstairs  murals like Diego Rivera would have done if nine tenths  of  his
sensibilities had been cut away ---American sailors and Indians and soldiers
smiling  away,  trying to look noble in cheap yellows and  retching  rotting
greens and pissy blues.
      I  was  being  called  into personnel. I knew that  it  wasn't  for  a
promotion.  They took the letter and cooled me on the hard seat  for  forty-
five  minutes. It was part of the old you-got-shit-in-your- intestines.  And
we-don't-have routine. Luckily, from past experience, I read the warty sign,
and  I cooled it myself, thinking about how Each of the girls who walked  by
would  go  on  a  bed,  legs high, or Taking it in the  mouth.  Soon  I  had
something huge between my legs --well, huge for me --- and had to  stare  at
the floor.
      I  was  finally called in by a very black and slinky and well- dressed
and  pleasant Negress, very much class and even a spot of soul, whose  smile
said  she  knew that I was going to be fucked but who also hinted  that  she
wouldn't mind throwing me a little pee- hole herself. It eased matters.  Not
that it mattered.
     And I walked in.
     "Have a seat."
     Man behind desk. Same old shit. I sat.
     "Mr. Bukowski?"
     He gave me his name. I wasn't interested.
     He leaned back, stared at me from his swivel.
      I'm  sure  he  expected  somebody  younger  and  better-looking,  more
flamboyant, more intelligent-looking, more treacherous-look- ing-I was  just
old,  tired,  disinterested, hung-over. He was a bit gray and distinguished,
if  you know the type of distinguished I mean. Never pulled beets out of the
ground with a bunch of wet- backs or been in the drunktank fifteen or twenty
times. Or picked lemons at six a.m. without a shirt on because you knew that
at noon it would be 110 degrees. Only the poor knew the meaning of life; the
rich  and  the  safe had to guess. Strangely then, I began thinking  of  the
Chinese.  Russia  had softened; it could be that only the  Chi-  nese  knew,
digging up from the bottom, tired of soft shit. But then, I had no politics,
that was more con: history screwed us all, finally. I was done ahead of time
--- baked, fucked, screwed-out, nothing left.
     "Mr. Bukowski?"
     "Well, ah-we've had an informant-"
     "Yeh. Go ahead."
     "-who wrote us that you are not married to the mother of your child."
      I  imagined him, then, decorating a Christmas tree with a drink in his
     "That's true. I am not married to the mother of my child, aged four."
     "Do you pay child support?"
     "How much?"
     "I'm not going to tell you."
      He  leaned  back  again. "You must understand  that  those  of  us  in
government service must maintain certain standards."
     Not really feeling guilty of anything, I didn't answer.
     I waited.
     Oh, where are you, boys? Kafka, where are you? Lorca, shot in the dirty
road,  where are you? Hemingway, claiming he was being tailed by the  C.I.A.
and nobody believing him but me-
      The,  old distinguished well-rested non-beetpicking gray turned around
and  reached into a small and well-varnished cabinet behind him  and  pulled
out six or seven copies of Open Pussy.
      He  threw them upon his desk like stinking siffed and raped turds.  He
tapped them with one of his non-lemonpulling hands.
      "We are led to believe that YOU are the writer of these col- umns  ---
Notes of a Dirty Old Man."
     "What do you have to say about these columns?"
     "Do you call this writing?
     "It's the best that I can do."
      "Well,  I'm supporting two sons who are now taking journalism  at  the
best of colleges, and I HOPE-"
      He  tapped the sheets, the stinking turd sheets, with the bot- tom  of
his ringed and un-factoried and un-jailed hand and said:
     "I hope that my sons never turn out to write like YOU do!"
     "They won't," I promised him.
     "Mr. Bukowski, I think that the interview is finished."
     "Yeah," I said. I lit a cig, stood up, scratched my beer-gut and walked

     The second interview was sooner than I expected. I was hard at work ---
of  course --- at one of my important menial tasks when the speaker  boomed:
"Henry Charles Bukowski, report to the Tour superintendent's office!"
      I  dropped my important task, got a treavel form from the local  screw
and  walked on over to the office. The Tour-Soup's male secre- tary, an  old
gray flab, looked me over.
     "Are you Charles Bukowski?" he asked me, quite disappoint- ed.
     "Yeh, man."
     "Please follow me."
     I followed him. It was a large building. We went down several stairways
and  down  around a long hall and then into a large dark room  that  entered
into another large and very dark room. Two men were sitting there at the end
of  a  table that must have been seventy- five feet long. They sat  under  a
lone lamp. And at the end of the table sat this single chair --- for me.
     "You may enter," said the secretary. Then he shorted out.
      I  walked in. The two men stood up. Here we were under one lamp in the
dark. For some reason, I thought of all the assassina- tions.
      Then  I  thought, this is America, daddy, Hitler is dead.  Or  is  he?
     They both shook hands with me.
     "Sit down."
     Groovy, baby.
      "This is Mr. - - - - from Washington," said the other guy who was  one
of the local topdogturds.
     I didn't say anything. It was a nice lamp. Made of human skin?
      Mr.  Washington did the talking. He had a portfolio with quite  a  few
papers within.
     "Now, Mr. Bukowski-"
      "Your age is forty-eight and you've been employed by the United States
Government for eleven years."
      "You  were married to your first wife two and a half years,  divorced,
and you married your present wife when? We'd like the date."
     "No date. No marriage."
     "You have a child!"
     "How old?"
     "You're not married?"
     "Do you pay child support?"
     "How much?"
     "About standard."
      Then he leaned back and we sat there. The three of us said nothing for
a good four or five minutes.
     Then a stack of the underground newspaper Open Pussy ap- peared.
      "Do you write these columns? Notes of a Dirty Old Man?" Mr. Washington
     He handed a copy to Mr. Los Angeles.
     "Have you seen this one?"
     "No, no, I haven't"
      Across the top of the column was a walking cock with legs, a huge HUGE
walking  cock  with legs. The story was about a male friend of  mine  I  had
screwed in the ass by mistake, while drunk, believing that it was one of  my
girlfriends.  It took me two weeks to finally force my friend  to  leave  my
place. It was a true story.
     "Do you call this writing?" Mr. Washington asked.
      "I  don't  know about the writing. But I thought it was a  very  funny
story. Didn't you think it was humorous?"
     "But this-this illustration across the top of the story?"
     "The walking cock?"
     "I didn't draw it."
     "You have nothing to do with the selection of illustrations?"
     "The paper is put together on Tuesday nights."
     "And you are not there on Tuesday nights?"
     "I am supposed to be here on Tuesday nights."
     They waited some time, going through Open Pussy, looking at my columns.
      "You  know," said Mr. Washington, tapping the Open Pussies again  with
his hand, "you would have been all right if you had kept writing poetry, but
when you began writing this stuff-" He again tapped the Open Pussies.
      I  waited  two minutes and thirty seconds. Then I asked:  "Are  we  to
consider the postal officials as the new critics of literature?"
      "Oh,  no  no," said Mr. Washington, "we didn't mean that." I  sat  and
      "There is a certain conduct expected of postal employees. You  are  in
the Public Eye. You are to be an example of exemplary behavior."
      "It appears to me," I said, "that you are threatening my free- dom  of
expression  with  a  resultant loss of employment.  The  A.C.L.U.  might  be
     "We'd still prefer you didn't write the column."
      "Gentleman, there comes a time in each man's life when he must  choose
to stand or run. I choose to stand."
     Their silence.
     The shuffling of Open Pussies.
     Then Mr. Washington: "Mr. Bukowski?"
     Are you going to write any more columns about the Post Office?"
      I  had  written one about them which I thought was more humorous  than
demeaning --- but then, maybe my mind was twisted.
      I  let  them wait this time. Then I answered. "Not unless you make  it
necessary for me to do so."
      Then they waited. It was kind of an interrogation chess game where you
hoped the other man would make the wrong move: blurt out his pawns, knights,
bishops,  king, his queen, his guts. (And meanwhile, as you read this,  here
goes  my  goddamned job. Groovy, baby. Send dollars for beer and wreaths  to
The Charles Bukowski Rehabilitation Fund at-)
     Mr. Washington stood up.
     Mr. Los Angeles stood up.
     Mr. Washington said: "I think that the interview is over."
     Mr. Washington said: "Meanwhile, don't jump off of any bridges-"
     (Strange: I hadn't even thought about it.)
     "-we haven't had a case like this in ten years." (In ten years? Who was
the last poor sucker?) "So?" I asked.
     "Mr. Bukowski," said Mr. Los Angeles, "report back to your position."
      I really had an unquieting time (or is it disquieting?) trying to find
my  way  back to the work floor from that underground Kafka- esqueish  maze,
and  when  I  did,  here all my subnormal fellow workers (good  pricks  all)
started chirping at me:
     "Hey, baby, where ya been?"
     "What'd they want, daddieo?"
     "You knocked up another black chick, big daddy?"
     I gave them the Silence. One learns from dear old Uncle Sammy.
      They  kept chirping and flipping and fingering their mental  assholes.
They were really frightened. I was Old Kool and if they could break Old Kool
they could break any of them.
     "They wanted to make me Postmaster," I told them.
     "And what happened, daddieo?"
     "I told them to jam a hot turd up their siffed-up snatch."
      The  foreman of the aisle walked by and they all gave him  the  proper
obeisance  but me, but I, but Bukowski, I lit a cigar with an easy flourish,
threw  the match on the floor and stared at the ceiling as if I were  having
great and wonderful thoughts. It was con; my mind was blank; I only wanted a
halfpint of Grandad and six or seven tall cool beers-

      The fucking paper grew, or seemed to, and moved to a place on Melrose.
I  always  hated  to go there with copy, though, because  everybody  was  so
shitty,  so  truly shitty and snobby and not quite right, you know.  Nothing
changed.  The  history of the Man-beast was very slow. They  were  like  the
shifts  I'd  faced when I first walked into the copy room of the  L.A.  City
College  newspaper  in 1939 or 1940 ---all these little hoity-toity  dummies
with  little  newspaper  hats over their heads while writing  stale,  stupid
copy.  So  very  important  --- not even human enough  to  acknowledge  your
presence. Newspaper people were always the lowest of the breed; janitors who
picked up women's cuntrags in the crappers had more soul --- naturally.
     I looked at those college freaks, walked out, never went back.
     Now. Open Pussy. Twenty-eight years later.
      Copy  in  my  hand.  There was Cherry at a desk.  Cherry  was  on  the
telephone.  Very important. Couldn't speak. Or Cherry not at the  telephone.
Writing something on a piece of paper. Couldn't speak. the same old  con  of
always.  Thirty years hadn't broken the dish. and Joe Hyans running  around,
doing  big things, running up and down the stairs. He had a little place  on
top. Rather exclusive, of course. And some poor shit in a back room with him
there  where Joe could watch him getting copy ready for the printer  on  the
IBM. He gave the poor shit thirty-five a week for a sixty-hour week and  the
poor  shit was glad, grew a beard and lovely soulful eyes and the poor  shit
hacked out the third-rate piteous copy. With the Beatles playing full volume
over  the  intercom and the phone ringing contin- ually, Joe Hyans,  editor,
read  the  paper  the next week you'd wonder where he'd run.  It  wasn't  in
      Open Pussy went on, for a while. My columns continued to be good,  but
the paper itself was half-ass. I could smell the death-cunt of it-
      There was a staff meeting every other Friday night. I busted up a  few
of  them.  And after hearing the results, I just didn't go anymore.  If  the
paper  wanted  to live, let it live. I stayed away and just  slid  my  stuff
under the door in an envelope.
     Then Hyans got me on the phone: "I've got an idea. I want you to get me
together the best poets and prose writers that you know and we are going  to
put out a literary supplement."
      I  got it together for him. He printed it. And the cops busted him for
     But I was a nice guy. I got him on the phone. "Hyans?"
      "Since you done got busted for the thing, I'm a gonna let you have  my
column  for  free. That ten bucks you been paying me, it goes for  the  Open
Pussy defense fund."
     "Thanks very much," he said.
     So there he was, getting the best writing in America for noth- ing-
     Then Cherry phoned me on night.
      "Why  don't you come to our staff meetings anymore? We all  miss  you,
     "What? What the hell you saying, Cherry? You on the stuff?"
     "No, Hank, we all love you, really. Do come to our next staff meeting."
     "I'll think about it."
     "It's dead without you."
     "And death with me."
     "We want you, old man."
     "I'll think about it, Cherry."

      So,  I showed. I had been given the idea by Hyans, himself, that since
it  was  the first anniversary of Open Pussy the wine and the pussy and  the
life and the love would be flowing.
      But coming in very high and expecting to see fucking on the floor  and
love galore, I only saw all these little love-creatures busily at work. They
reminded  me  very  much, so humped and dismal, of  the  little  old  ladies
working  on piecework I used to deliver cloth to, working my way up  through
rope  hand-pulled elevators full of rats and stink, one hundred  years  old,
piecework ladies, proud and dead and neurotic as all hell, working,  working
to  make a millionaire out of somebody-in New York, in Philadelphia, in  St.
      And  these, for Open Pussy, were working without wages, and there  was
Joe  Hyans,  looking a bit brutal and fat, walking up and down behind  them,
hands  folded behind his back, seeing thateach volunteer did his (her)  duty
properly and exactly.
      "Hyans! Hyans, you filthy cocksucker!" I screamed as I walked in. "You
are  running a slave-market, you are a lousy pewking Simon Legree!  You  cry
for  justice  from the police and from Wash- ington, D.C. and  you  are  the
biggest  lousiest swine of them all! You are Hitler multiplied by a hundred,
you  slave-labor  bastard!  You write of atrocities  and  then  triple  them
yourself!  Who the fuck you think you're fooling, mother? Who the  fuck  you
think you are?"
      Luckily for Hyans, the rest of the staff was quite used to me and they
thought  that  whatever I said was foolishness and that Hyans Himself  stood
for Truth.
     Hyans Himself walked up and put a stapler in my hand.
      "Sit  down, he said, "we are trying to increase the circulation.  just
sit  down  and  clip  one of these green ads to each of newspapers.  We  are
sending out leftover copies to potential subscribers-"
      Dear old Freedom Loveboy Hyans, using big business methods to put over
his crap. Brainwashed beyond himself.
     He finally came up and took the stapler out of my hand.
     "You're not stapling fast enough."
      "Fuck  you, mother. There was supposed to be champagne all  over  this
place. Now I'm eating staples-"
     "Hey, Eddie!"
     He called over another slave-labor member --- thin-cheeked, wire-armed,
pnurious.  Poor  Eddie was starving. Everybody was starving for  the  Cause.
Except Hyans and his wife, and they lived in a two-story house and sent  one
of  their  children  to a private school, and there was old  Poppa  back  in
Cleveland, one of the head stiffs of the Plain Dealer, with more money  than
anything else.
      So  Hyans ran me out and also a guy with a little propeller on the top
of  a  beanie  cap,  Lovable Doc Stanley I believe he was called,  and  also
Lovable  Doc's  woman, and as the three of us left out the back  door  quite
calmly,  sharing a bottle of cheap wine, there came the voice of Joe  Hyans:
"And  get out of here, and don't any of you ever come back, but I don't mean
you Bukowski!"
     Poor fuck, he knew what kept the paper going-
     Then there was another bust by the police. This time for print- ing the
photo  of a woman's cunt. Hyan's at this time, as always, was mixed  up.  He
wanted to hype the circulation, by any means, or kill the paper and get out.
It  was  a  vise he couldn't seem to work properly and it drew  tighter  and
tighter.  Only the people working for nothing or for thirty-five  dollars  a
week seemed to have any interest in the paper. But Hyans did manage to lay a
couple of the younger female volunteers so he wasn't wasting his time.
     "Why don't you quit your lousy job and come work for us?"
     "How much?"
      "Forty-five dollars a week. That includes your column. You  will  also
distribute to the boxes on Wednesday night, your car, I'll pay the gas,  and
you  write  up  special assignments. Eleven a.m. to 7:30 p.m.,  Fridays  and
Saturday s off."
     "I'll think about it."

      Hyans' old man came in from Cleveland. We got drunk to- gether over at
Hyans'  house.  Hyans and Cherry seemed very un- happy with Pops.  And  Pops
could  put away the whiskey. No grass for him. I could put away the  whiskey
too. We drank all night.
      "Now  the way to get rid of the Free Press is to bust up their stands,
run  the peddlers off the streets, bust a few heads. That's what we used  to
do in the old days. I've got money. I can hire some hoods, some mean sons of
bitches. We can hire Bukowski.
      "God  damn it!" screamed young Hyans, "I don't want to hear your shit,
you understand?"
     Pops asked me, "What do you think of my idea, Bukowski?"
     "I think it's a good idea. Pass the bottle over here."
     "Bukowski is insane!" screamed Joe Hyans.
     "You print his column," said Pops.
     "He's the best writer in California," said young Hyans.
     "The best insane writer in California," I corrected him.
      "Son," Pops went on, "I have all this money. I want to put your  paper
over. All we gotta do is bust a few-"
     "No. No. No!" Joe Hyans screamed. "I won't have it!" Then he ran out of
the  house. What a wonderful man Joe Hyans was. He ran out of the  house.  I
reached  for another drink and told Cherry that I was going to fuck  her  up
against  the bookcase. Pops said he'd take seconds. Cherry cussed  us  while
Joe Hyans ran off down the street with his soul-
     The paper went on, coming out once a week somehow. Then the trial about
the photo of the female cunt came up.
      The  prosecuting  attorney  asked Hyans: "Would  you  object  to  oral
copulation on the steps of the City Hall?"
     "No," said Joe, "but it would probably block traffic."
     Oh, Joe, I thought, you blew that one! You shudda said, "I'd prefer for
oral copulation to go on inside the City Hall where it usually does."
     When the judge asked Hyans' lawyer what the meaning of the photo of the
female sex organ was, Hyans' lawyer answered, "Well, that's just the way  it
is. That's the way it is, daddy."
      They lost the trial, of course, and appealed for a new one. "A roust,"
said  Joe  Hyans to the few and scattered news media about, "nothing  but  a
police roust."
     What a brilliant man Joe Hyans was-
      Next  I  heard  from Joe Hyans was over the phone: "Bukowski,  I  just
bought a gun. One hundred and twelve dollars. A beautiful weapon. I'm  going
to kill a man!"
     "Where are you now?"
     "In the bar, down by the paper."
     "I'll be right there."
     When I got there he was walking up and down outside the bar.
     "Come on," he said, "I'll buy you a beer."
      We  sat  down. The place was full, Hyans was talking in  a  very  loud
voice. You could hear him all the way to Santa Monica.
      I'm going to splatter his brains out against the wall --- I'm going to
kill the son of a bitch!"
     "What guy, kid? Why do you want to kill this guy, kid?"
     He kept staring straight ahead.
     "Groovy, baby. Why ya wanna kill this sunabitch,huh?"
     "He's fucking my wife, that's why!"
      He stared some more. It was like a movie. It wasn't even as good as  a
      "It's a beautiful weapon," said Joe. "You put in this little clip.  It
fires ten shots. Rapid-fire. There'll be nothing left of the bastard!"
     Joe Hyans.
     That wonderful man with the big red beard.
     Groovy, baby.
      Anyhow  I  asked  him, "How about all these anti-war  articles  you've
printed? How about the love bit? What happened?"
      "Oh  come on now Bukowski, you've never believed in all that  pacifism
     "Well, I don't know-Well, I guess not exactly."
      "I've  warned this guy that I am going to kill him if he doesn't  stay
away,  and  I walk in and there he is sitting on the couch in my own  house.
Now what would you do?"
      "You're  making this a personal property thing, don't you  understand?
Just fuck it. Forget it. Walk away. Leave them there together."
     "Is that what you've done?"
      "After the age of thirty - always. And after the age of forty, it gets
easier.  But  in my twenties I used to go insane. The first  burns  are  the
      "Well,  I am going to kill the son of a bitch! I'm going to  blow  his
goddamned brains out!"
     The whole bar was listening. Love, baby, love.
     I told him, "Let's get out of here."

      Outside the bar Hyans dropped to his knees and screamed, a long  milk-
curdling four-minute scream. You could hear him all the way to Detroit. Then
I  got  him  up and walked him to my car. As he got to the car door  on  his
side,  he  grabbed the handle, dropped to his knees and let go another  hog-
caller  to Detroit. He was hooked on Cherry, poor fellow. I got him up,  put
him  in the seat, got in the other side, drove north to Sunset and then east
along  Sunset  and  at the signal, red, at Sunset and  Vermont,  he  let  go
another  one.  I lit up a cigar. The other drivers stared at the  red  beard
     I thought, he isn't going to stop. I'll have to knock him out.
     But then as the signal turned green he ended it and I shifted it out of
there.  He  sat  there  sobbing. I didn't know what  to  say.  There  wasn't
anything to say.
      I  thought, I'll take him to see Mongo the Giant of the Eternal  High.
Mongo's  full  of shit. Maybe he can dump some shit on Hyans. me,  I  hadn't
lived  with  a  woman for four years. I was too far out  of  it  to  see  it
      Next  time he screams, I thought, I've got to knock him out.  I  Can't
stand another one of those.
     "Hey! Where we going?"
      "Oh, no! Not Mongo's! I hate that guy! He'll only make fun of me! He's
a cruel son of a bitch!"
      It was true. Mongo had a good mind but a cruel one. It wasn't any good
going over there. And I couldn't handle it either. We drove along.
     "Listen," said Hyans, "I've got a girlfriend around here. Couple blocks
north. Drop me off. She understands me."
     I turned it north.
     "Listen," I said. "don't shoot the guy."
     "Because you are the only one who will print my column."
      I  drove to the place, let him out, waited until the door opened, then
drove off. A good piece of ass might smooth him out. I needed one too-.

     Next I heard from Hyans, he had moved out of the house.
      "I couldn't stand it anymore. Why, the other night I took a shower,  I
was  getting ready to fuck her, I wanted to fuck some life into  her  bones,
but you know what?"
     "When I walked in on her she ran out of the house. What a bitch!"
      "Listen,  Hyans, I know the game. I can't talk against Cherry  because
the  next  thing  you know, you'll be back together again  and  then  you'll
remember all the dirty things I said about her."
     "I'm never going back."
     "Uh huh."
     "I've decided not to shoot the bastard."
      "I'm  going  to  challenge him to a boxing  match.  Full  ring  rules.
Referee, ring, glove and all."
     "OK," I said.
      Two bulls fighting for the cow. And a bony one at that. But in America
the  loser  oftentimes got the cow. Mother instinct? Better  wallet?  Longer
dick? God knows what-
     While Hyans was going crazy he hired a guy with a pipe and a necktie to
keep  the  paper going. But it was obvious that Open Pussy was on  its  last
fuck.  And nobody cared but the twenty-five and thirty-dollar-a-week  people
and  the free help. They enjoyed the paper. It wasn't all that good  but  it
wasn't  all that bad either. You see, there was my column: Notes of a  Dirty
Old Man.
      And  pipe  and  necktie got the paper out. It  looked  the  same.  and
meanwhile  I  kept  hearing: "Joe and Cherry are together  again.  Joey  and
Cherry split again. Joe and Cherry are back together again./ Joe and Cherry-

     Then on chilly blue Wednesday night I went out to a stand to buy a copy
of  Open  Pussy. I had written one of my best columns and wanted to  see  if
they had had the guts to run it. The stand contained last week's Open Pussy.
I smelled it in the deathblue air: the game was over. I bought two tall six-
packs  of  Schlitz  and went back to my place and drank  down  the  requiem.
Always  being ready for the end I was not ready when it happened.  I  walked
over  and  took the poster off the wall and threw it into the  trash:  "OPEN
     The government wouldn't have to worry anymore. I was a splendid citizen
      Twenty  thousand circulation. If we could have made sixty ---  without
family  troubles, without police rouses --- we could have made it. We didn't
make it.
      I  phoned the office the next day. The girl at the phone was in tears.
"We  tried to get you last night, Bukowski, but nobody knew where you lived.
It's  terrible. It's finished. It's over. The phone keeps ringing.  I'm  the
only one here. We're going to hold a staff meeting next Tuesday night to try
to  keep  the paper going. But Hyans took everything --- all the  copy,  the
mailing  list and the IBM machine which didn't belong to him. We're  cleaned
out. There's nothing left."
      Oh,  you've got a sweet voice, baby, such a sad sad sweet  voice,  I'd
like to fuck you, I thought.
      "We  are thinking of starting a hippie paper. The underground is dead.
Please show at Lonny's house Tuesday night."
     "I'll try." I said, knowing that I wouldn't be there. So there it was -
--  almost two years. It was over. The cops had won, the city had  won,  the
government  had won. Decency was in the streets again. Maybe the cops  would
stop  giving me tickets every tiem they saw my car. and Cleaver wouldn't  be
sending us little notes from his hiding place anymore. And you could buy the
L.A. Times anywhere. Jesus Christ and Mother in Heaven, Life was Sad.
     But I gave the girl my address and phone number, thinking we might make
it on the springs. (Harriet, you never arrived.)
      But  Barney Palmer, the political writer, did. I let him in and opened
up the beers.
     "Hyans," he said, " put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger."
     "What happened?"
     "It jammed. So he sold the gun."
     "It takes a lot of guts just to try it once."
     "You're right. Forgive me. Terrible hangover."
     "You want to hear what happened?"
     "Sure, it's my death, too."
      "Well, it was Tuesday night, we were trying to get the paper ready. We
had your column and thank Christ it was a long one because we were short  of
copy.  It looked like we couldn't make the pages. Hyans showed, glassy-eyed,
drunk on wine. He and Cherry had split again."
     "Yeh. Anyhow, we couldn't make the pages. And Hyans kept getting in the
way.  Finally  he  went upstairs and got on the couch and  passed  out.  The
minute  he left, the paper began to get together. We made it and had  forty-
five  minutes  to  get to the printer's. I said I'd drive  it  down  to  the
printer's. Then you know what happened?"
     "Hyans woke up."
     "I'm that way."
      "Well,  he  insisted on driving the copy to the printer's himself.  He
threw the stuff in the car but he never made the printer's. The next day  we
came  in  and found the note he left, and the place was cleaned out ---  the
IBM machine, the mailing list, everything-"
      "I've heard. Well, let's look at it this way: he started the goddamned
thing, so he had a right to end it."
      "But  the IBM machine, he didn't own it. He might get into a jam  over
     "Hyans is used to jams. He thrives on them. He gets his nuts. You ought
to hear him scream."
      "But it's all the little people, Buk, The twenty-five-buck-a-week guys
who gave up everything to keep the thing going. They guys with cardboard  in
their shoes. The guys who slept on the floor."
     "The little guys always get it in the ass, Palmer. That's his- tory."
     "You sound like Mongo."
     "Mongo is usually right, even though he is a son of a bitch."
     We talked a little more, then it was over.

      A big black kitty walked up to me at work that night. "Hey, brother, I
hear your paper folded."
     "Right, brother, but where did you hear?"
     "It's in the L.A. Times, first page of the second section. I guess they
are rejoicing."
     "I guess they are."
     "We liked your paper, man. And your column too. Real tough stuff."
     "Thank you, brother."
      At lunchtime (10:24 p.m.) I went out and bought the L.A. Times. I took
it across the street to the bar over there, bouthg a dollar pitcher of beer,
lit a cigar and walked over to a table under a light:

      Open  Pussy, the second largest underground newspaper in Los  Angeles,
has  ceased  publication, its editors said Thursday. The  newspaper  was  10
weeks short of its second anniversary.
      Heavy  debts, distribution problems and a $!,000 fine on an  obscenity
conviction  in  October contributed to the demise of the weekly  newspaper."
Said  Mike  Engel, the managing editor. He placed final circulation  of  the
newspaper at about 20,000.
      But  Engel  and other editorial staff members said they believed  That
Open Pussy could have continued and that its closing was the decision of Joe
Hyans, its 35-year-old-chief-editor.
      When  the staff members arrived at the paper's office at 4369  Melrose
Ave. Wednesday morning they found a note from Hyans which declared, in part:
      "The paper has already fulfilled its artistic purpose. Politically, it
was  never  to  effective  anyway. What's been taking  place  in  its  pages
recently is no improvement over what we printed a year ago. "As an artist, I
must  turn away from a work which does not grow-even though it is a work  of
my own hand and even though it is bringing in bread (money)."

     I finished the pitcher of beer and went into my governmental
     A few days later I found a note in my mailbox:

     10:45 a.m., Monday


      I  found a note in my mailbox this morning from Cherry Hyans.  (I  was
away all day Sunday and Sunday night.) She says she has the kids and is sick
and  in  bad trouble at - - - - Douglas Street. I can't find Douglas on  the
fucking map, but wanted to let you know about the note.


      A  couple of days later the phone rang. It wasn't a woman with  a  hot
snatch. It was Barney.
     "Hey, Joe Hyans is in town."
     "So are you and I," I said.
     "Joe's back with Cherry."
     "They are going to move to San Francisco."
     "They ought to."
     "The hippie paper thing fell through."
     "Yeh. Sorry I couldn't make it. Drunk."
     "That's OK. But listen, I'm on a writing assignment now. But as soon as
I finish, I want to contact you."
     "What for?"
     "I've got a backer with fifty grand."
     "Fifty grand?"
      "Yeh.  Real  money.  He wants to do it. He wants to  start  an-  other
      "Keep  in touch, Barney. I've always liked you. Remember the time  you
and  I  started  drinking at my place at four in the afternoon,  talked  all
night and didn't finish until eleven a.m. the next morn- ing?"
     "So, when I clean this writing up, I'll let you know."
     "Yeh. Keep in touch, Barney."
     "I will. Meanwhile, hang in."
      I  went into the crapper and took myself a beautiful beershit. Then  I
went to bed, jacked off, and slept.

     -Charles Bukowski- The Most Beautiful Woman in Town



      I  walked  along  in the sun wondering what to do. I  kept  walk  ing,
walking.  I  seemed to be on the outer edge of something. I  looked  up  and
there were railroad tracks and by the edge of the tracks was a little shack,
unpainted. It had a sign out:
      I  walked  in.  A  little  old  guy was sitting  there  in  blue-green
suspenders and chewing tobacco.
     "Yeah?" he asked.
     "I, ah, I ah, I-"
     "Yeh, come on, man, spit it out! Whatcha want?"
     "I saw-your sign-help wanted."
     "Sign on? What?"
     "Well, shit, it ain't a spot as a chorus girl!"
     He leaned over and spit into his filthy spitoon, then worked at his wad
again, drawing his cheeks in over his toothless mouth.
     "What do I do?" I asked.
     "You'll be tole what to do!"
     "I mean, what is it?"
     "Railroad track gang, someplace west of Sacramento."
     "You heard me, god damn it. Now I'm a busy man. You wanna sign or not?"
     I signed the list he had on the clipboard. I was # 27. I even signed my
own name.
     He handed me a ticket. "You show up at gate 21 with your gear. We got a
special train for you guys."
     I slipped the ticket into my empty wallet.
      He  spit  again. "Now, well, look, kid, I know you're a little  goofy.
This  line  takes care of a lot of guys like you. We help human- ity.  We're
nice  folks. Always remember old - - - - - - - - - - lines and put in a good
word for us here and there. And when you get out on those tracks, listen  to
your foreman. He's on your side. you can save money out on that desert.  God
knows, there's no place to spend it. But on Saturday night, kid, on Saturday
     He leaned to his spitoon again, came back:
     "Why hell, on a Saturday night you go to town, get drunk, catch a cheap
blowjob from a wetback Mexican senorita and come back in feeling good. Those
blowjobs  suck themisery right out of a man's head. I started on  the  gang,
now I'm here. Good luck to you, kid."
     "Thank you, sir."
     "Now get the hell out of here! I'm busy!-"

     I arrived at gate 21 at the time instructed. By my train were all these
guys  standing there in rags, stinking, laughing, smoking rolled cigarettes.
I  went over and stood behind them. They needed haircuts and shaves and they
acted brave and were nervous at the same time.
     Then a Mexican with a knife scar on his cheek told us to get on. We got
on. You couldn't see through the windows.
      I  took the last seat in the back of our car. The others all sat up in
front, laughing and talking. One guy pulled out a half pint of whiskey and 7
or 8 of them each had a little suck.
      Then  they began looking back at me. I began hearing voices  and  they
weren't all in my head.
     "What's wrong with that sona bitch?"
     "He think he's better than us?"
     "He's gonna hafta work with us, man."
     "Who's he think he is?"
      I  looked out the window, I tried to, the thing hadn't been cleaned in
25  years.  The  train began to move out and I was on there with  them.  The
train began to move out and I was on there with them. There were about 30 of
them.  They didn't wait very long. I stretched out on my seat and  tried  to
      Dust  blew up into my face and eyes. I heard somebody under  my  seat.
There  was  the blowing sound again and a mass of 25 year old dust  rose  up
into my nostrils, my mouth, my eyes, my eyebrows. I waited. Then it happened
again. A real good blast. Whoever was under there was getting damned good at
      I leaped up. And I heard all this sound from under my seat and then he
was  out  from under there and running up toward the front. He threw himself
into a seat, trying to be part of the gang, but I heard his voice:
      "If he comes up here I want you fellows to help me! Promise to help me
if he comes up here!"
      I  didn't hear any promises, but he was safe: I couldn't tell one from
the other.
     Just before we got out of Louisiana I had to walk up front for a cup of
water. They watched me.
     "Look at him. Look at him."
     "Ugly bastard."
     "Who's he think he is?"
      "Son  of a bitch, we'll get him when we get him out over those  tracks
alone, we'll make him cry, we'll make him suck dick!"
     "Look! He's got that paper cup upsidedown! He's drinking from the wrong
end! Look at him! He's drinking from the little end! That guy's nuts!"
     "Wait'll we get him over those tracks, we'll make him suck dick!"
      I  drained  the  paper cup, refilled it and emptied  it  again,  wrong
Sideup. I threw the cup into the container and walked back. I heard:
     "Yeah," he acts nuts. Maybe he had a split-up with his girl friend."
     "How's a guy like that gonna get a girl?"
     "I dunno. I seen crazier things than that happen."-
      We  were  over  Texas when the Mexican foreman came through  with  the
canned food. He handed out the cans. Some of them didn't have any labels  on
them and were badly dented-up.

     He came back to me.
     "You Bukowski?"
     He handed me a can of Spam and wrote "75" under column "F." I could see
that I was charged with "$45.90" under column "T." Then he handed me a small
can of beans. "45" he wrote down under column "F.
     He walked back toward the front of the car.
      "Hey! Where the hell's a can opener? How can we eat this stuff without
a can opener?" somebody asked him.
     The foreman swang through the vestibule and was gone.

      There were water stops in Texas, bunches of green. At each stop 2 or 3
or  4 guys leaped off. When we got to El Paso there were 23 left out of  the
      In  El  Paso they pulled our traincar out and the train went  on.  the
Mexican  forman  came through and said, "We must stop at El Paso.  You  will
stay at this hotel."
     He gave out tickets.
      "These  are  your tickets to the hotel. You will sleep there.  In  the
morning  you  will  take  traincoach #24 to  Los  Angeles  and  then  on  to
Sacramento. These are your hotel tickets."
     He came up to me again.
     "You Bukowski?"
     "Here's your hotel."
     He handed me the ticket and wrote in "12.50" under my "L" column.
      Nobody  had  been able to get their cans of food open. They  would  be
picked up later and given to the next crew across.

      I threw my ticket away and slept in the park about two blocks from the
hotel.  I  was  awakened by the roaring of alligators, one in particular.  I
could  see 4 or 5 alligators in the pond, and perhaps there were more. There
were two sailors dressed in their whites. One sailor was in the pond, drunk,
pulling  at the tail of an alligator. The alligator was angry but  slow  and
could  not turn its neck enough to get at the sailor. The other sailor stood
on the shore, laughing, with a young girl. Then while the sailor in the pond
was still fighting the alligator, the other sailor and the girl walked away.
I truned over and slept.

      On  the ride to Los Angeles, more and more of them jumped off  at  the
waterstops. When we reached Los Angeles there were 16 left of the 31.
     The Mexican foreman came through the train.
      "We  will be in Los Angeles for two days. You will catch the 9:30 a.m.
train,  gate  21. Wednesday morning, traincoach 42. It is written  upon  the
cover  which goes around your hotel tickets. You are also being issued food-
ration coupons which can be honored at French's Caf+, Main Street."
     "He handed out 2 little booklets, one labeled ROOM, the other FOOD.
     "You Bukowsko?" he asked.
     "Yes," I said.
      He  handed me my booklets. And added under my "L" col umn:  12.80  and
under my "F" column, 6.00.

      I came out of Union Station and while I was cutting across the plaza I
noticed  2  small guys who had been on the train with me. They were  walking
faster than I and cut across to my right. I looked at them.
     They both got these big grins on and said, "Hi! How ya doin?"
     "I'm doin' all right."
     They walked faster and slid across Los Angeles street toward Main-
      In the caf+ the boys were using their food coupons for beer. I used my
food  coupons for beer. Beer was just ten cents a glass. Most  of  them  got
drunk  very fast. I stood down at the end of the bar. They didn't talk about
me anymore.
      I  drank up all my coupons and then sold my lodging tickets to another
bum for 50 cents. I had 5 more beers and walked out.
      I began walking. I walked north. Then I walked east. Then north again.
Then  I was walking along the junkyards where all the broken-down cars  were
stacked.  A  guy had once told me, "I sleep in a different car  each  night.
Last  night  I  slept in a Ford, the night before in a Chevy. Tonight  I  am
going to sleep in a Cadillac."
      I found a place with the gate chained but the gate door was bent and I
was  thin  enough to slide my body between the chains and the gate  and  the
lock.  I  looked around until I found a Cadillac. I didn't know the year.  I
got into the back seat and slept.
      It  must  have been about 6 a.m. in the morning when I heard this  kid
screaming. He was about 15 years old and had this toy base ball bat  in  his
     "Get out of there! Get out of our car, you dirty bum!"
      The  kid looked frightened. He had on a white t shirt and tennis shoes
and there was a tooth missing from the center of his mouth.
     I got out.
      "Stand back!" he yelled. "Stand back, stand back!" He point ed the bat
at me.
     I slowly walked toward the gate, which was then open but not very far.
      Then  an  old guy, about 50, fat and sleepy, stepped out of a tarpaper
     "Dad!" The kid yelled, "This man was in one of our cars! I found him in
the back seat asleep!"
     "Is that right?"
     "Yeah, that's right, Dad! I found him asleep in the back seat of one of
our cars!"
     "What were you doing in our car, Mr.?"
      The old guy was nearer to the gate than I was but I kept moving toward
     "I asked you, 'What were you doing in our car?'"
     I moved closer to the gate.
      The old guy grabbed the bat from the kid, ran up to me and jammed  the
end of it into my belly, hard.
     "oof!" I went, "god o mighty!"
      I  couldn't straighten up. I backed away. The kid took courage when he
saw that.
     "I'll get him, Dad! I'll get him!"
      The kid grabbed the bat from the old man and began swinging it. He hit
me  almost everywhere. On the back, the sides, all along both legs,  on  the
knees,  the  ankles. All I could do was protect my head. I kept my  arms  up
around  my  head and he beat me on the arms and elbows. I backed up  against
the wire fence.
     "I'll get him, Dad! I'll get him!"
     The kid wouldn't stop. Now and then the bat got through to my head.
     Finally the old man said, "O.k., that's enough son."
     The kid kept swinging the bat.
     "Son, I said, 'That's enough.'"
      I turned and held myself up by the wires of the fence. For a moment  I
couldn't  move. They watched me. I finally let go and was able to  stand.  I
limped toward the gate.
     "Let me get him again, Dad!"
     "No, son."
     I got through the gate and walked north. As I began to walk, everything
began  to  tighten.  Everything was beginning  to  swell.  My  steps  became
shorter.  I  knew that I wouldn't be able to move much further.  There  were
only  more junkyards. Then I saw a vacant lot between two of them. I  walked
into  the lot and turned my ankle in a hole, right off. I laughed.  The  lot
sloped  downwards. Then I tripped Over a hard brush branch which  would  not
give.  When I got up again my right palm had been cut by the edge of a piece
of  green glass. Winebottele. I pulled the glass out. The blood came through
the  dirt. I brushed the dirt off and sucked against the wound. When I  fell
the  next  time,  I rolled over on my back, screamed once  with  pain,  then
looked  up  into  the morning sky. I was back in my hometown,  Los  Angeles.
Small gnats whirled about my face. I closed my eyes.


     All The Pussy We Want

      Harry  and  Duke. The bottle sat between in a cheap hotel in  downtown
L.A.  It  was  Saturday night in one of the cruelest  towns  in  the  world.
Harry's  face  was quite round and stupid with just a tip of a nose  looking
out and you hated his eyes; in fact, you hated Harry when you looked at him,
so  you didn't look at him. Duke was a little younger, a good listener, with
just the slightest of smiles on when he listened. He liked to listen; people
were  his  biggest  show and there wasn't any admission  charge.  Harry  was
unemployed  and Duke was a janitor. They'd both done time and  would  be  in
jail again. They knew it. It didn't matter.
      The 5th was about one-third finished and there were empty beercans  on
the  floor. They rolled their cigarettes with the easy calm of men  who  had
lived  hard and impossible lives before the age of 35 and were still  alive.
They knew it was all a bucket of shit but they refused to quit.
      "See," said Harry, taking a drag, "I chose you, man. I can trust  you.
You  won't panic. I think your car can make it. We split it right  down  the
     "Tell me about it," said Duke.
     "You won't believe it."
     "Tell me."
     "Well, there's gold out there, laying on the ground, real gold. All you
gotta do is walk out and pick it up. I know it sounds crazy, but it's there,
I've seen it."
     "What's the catch?"
      "Well,  it's  an  army  artillery grounds. They  shell  all  day,  and
sometimes at night, that's the catch. It takes guts. But the gold is  there.
Maybe  the shells broke it out of the earth, I don't know. But they  usually
don't shell at night."
     "We go in at night."
      "Right.  And just pick the stuff up off of the ground. We'll be  rich.
All the pussy we want. Think of it --- all the pussy we want."
     "It sounds good."
      "In  case they start shelling we leap into the first shell hole.  They
ain't  gonna aim there again. If they hit the target, they're satisfied.  If
they haven't, the next shot will be somewhere else."
     "That sounds logical."
     Harry poured some whiskey. "But there's another catch."
      "There's  snakes out there. That's why we need two men. I know  you're
good  with a gun. While I pick up the gold you watch for the snakes and blow
their heads off. There are rattlers out there. I think you're the man to  do
     "Why the hell not?"
     They sat smoking and drinking, thinking about it.
     "All that gold," said Harry, "all that pussy."
     "You know," said Duke, "it mighta been that those guns blew open an old
treasure chest."
     "Whatever it is, there's gold out there."
     They thought about it a while longer.
      "How  do you know," asked Duke, "that after you gather all the gold  I
won't shoot you out there?"
     "Well, I just gotta take that chance."
     "Do you trust me?"
     "I don't trust any man."
     Duke opened another beer, poured another drink.
     "Shit, there's no use of me going to work Monday is there?"
     "Not now."
     "I feel rich already."
     "I kind of do too."
      "All a man needs is some kind of break," said Duke, "then people treat
him like a gentleman."
     "Where's this place at?" asked Duke.
     "You'll see when we get there."
     "We split down the middle?"
     "We split down the middle."
     "You're not worried about me shooting you?"
     "Why do you keep bringing that up, Duke? I might shoot you."
     "Jesus, I never thought of that. You wouldn't shoot a pal, would you?"
     "Are we friends?"
     "Well, yes, I'd say so, Harry."
      "There'll  be enough gold and pussy for both of us. We'll be  set  for
life.  No more parole officers. No more dish washing gigs. The Beverly Hills
whores will be chasing us. Our worries are over."
     "Do you really think we can bring it off?
     "Is there really gold down there?"
     "Listen , man, I told you."
      They  drank  and smoked some more. They didn't talk.  They  were  both
thinking  of the future. It was a hot night. Some of the roomers  had  their
doors  open.  Most  of  them had a bottle of wine.  The  men  sat  in  their
undershirts, easy and wondering and beaten. Some of them even had women, not
too much as ladies but they could hold their wine.
     "We better get another bottle," said Duke, "before they close."
     "I don't have any money."
     "I'll get it."
      They  got up and walked out the door. They turned right down the  hall
and  went  toward the back. The liquor store was down the alley and  to  the
left.  At  the top of the back steps a man in stained and wrinkled  clothing
was stretched across the back doorway.
      "Hey,  it's  my old pal Franky Canon. He really hung one  on  tonight.
Guess I'll move him out of the doorway."
     Harry picked him up by the feet and dragged him out of the way. Then he
bent over him.
     "Wonder if anybody's got to him yet?"
     "I don't know," said Duke, "check him out.
      "  Duke  pulled  all Franky's pockets inside out. Checked  the  shirt.
Opened his pants, checked him around the waist. All he found was a matchbook
that said:

     AT HOME

     Thousands of top pay
     jobs waiting

     "I guess somebody got him." said Harry.
     They walked down the back steps and into the alley.
     "Are you sure that gold is there?" asked Duke.
     "Listen," said Harry, "you're pissing me off! You think I'm crazy?"
     "Well, don't ask me that no more then!"
      They walked into the liquor store. Duke ordered a fifth of whiskey and
a tall six pack of malt beer. Harry stole a bag of mixed nuts. Duke paid for
his  stuff and they walked out. Just as they got to the alley a young  woman
walked  up; well, young for that area, she was about 30 with a good  figure,
but her hair was uncombed and she slurred a bit.
     "What you guys got in that bag?"
     "Cats' tits," said Duke.
     She got up near Duke and rubbed against the bag.
     "I don't wanna drink no wine. You got whiskey in there?"
     "Sure, baby, come on up."
     "Lemme see the bottle."
      She  looked  good to Duke. She was slim and her dress was tight,  real
shit ass tight, god damn. He pulled the bottle out.
     "O.k.," she said, "let's go."
      They  walked  up the alley, the girl between them. Her  haunch  bumped
Harry as she walked. Harry grabbed her and kissed her. She broke off.
     "You son of a bitch!" she screamed. "lemme alone!
     " "You're gonna spoil everything, Harry!" said Duke. "You do that again
and I'm gonna punch you out!"
     "You can't punch me out."
     "Just do it again!"
      They  walked up the alley and up the stairways, opened the  door.  The
girl  looked  at  Franky Cannon laying there but didn't say  anything.  They
walked  on up to the room. The girl sat down and crossed her legs.  She  had
nice legs.
     "My name's Ginny," she said.
     Duke poured the drinks.
     "I'm Duke. He's Harry."
     Ginny smiled and took her drink.
     "Some son of a bitch I'm stayin' with he kept me naked, kept my clothes
locked  in the closet. I was in there a week. I waited until he passed  out,
took the key off him, got this dress and ran off."
     "That's a nice dress."
     "It's alright."
     "It brings out the best in you."
     "Thanks. Hey, listen, what do you guys do?"
     "Do?" asked Duke.
     "Yeah, I mean how do you make it?"
     "We're gold prospectors," said Harry.
     "Oh, come on, don't give me that shit."
     "That's right," said Duke, "we're gold prospectors."
     "We've struck it. We're gonna be rich inside a week," said Harry.
     Then Harry had to get up to piss. The can was down the hall. When Harry
left  Ginny  said, "I wanna fuck you first, Honey. I'm not too  crazy  about
     "That's o.k.," said Duke.
     He poured three more drinks. When Harry came back Duke told him.
     "She's gonna lay me first."
     "Says who?"
     "Says us," said Duke.
     "That's right," said Ginny.
     "I think we ought to take her with us," said Duke.
     "Let's see how she lays first," said Harry.
      "I  drive  men crazy," said Ginny. "I make men scream.  I've  got  the
tightest pussy in the state of California!"
     "All right," said Duke, "let's find out."
     "Gimme another drink first," She said, draining her glass.
      Duke  gave her a refill. "I've got something too, baby, I'll  probably
rip you wide open!"
     "Not unless you stick your foot in there," said Harry.
     Ginny just smiled as she drank. She finished her drink.
     "Come on," she said to Duke, "let's make it."
      Ginny walked over to the bed and pulled her dress off. She had on blue
panties  and  a faded pink brassiere held together by a safety  pin  in  the
back. Duke had to undo the safety pin.
     "Is he gonna watch?" she asked Duke.
     "He can if he wants," said Duke, "what the hell."
     "O.k.," said Ginny.
      They  got into the sheets together. There were some minutes of  warmup
and  maneuvering as Harry watched. The blanket was on the floor.  All  Harry
could see was movement under a rather dirty sheet.
      Then  Duke  mounted. Harry could see Duke's butt  bobbling  under  the
     Then Duke said, "Oh shit!
     "What's the matter?" asked Ginny.
     "I slipped out! I thought you said you had a tight box!"
     "I'll put you in! I don't think you were in!"
     "I was in somewhere!" said Duke.
      Then Duke's butt was bobbing again. I never should have told that  son
of  a  bitch about the gold, thought Harry. Now we've got this bitch on  our
hands.  They might team against me. Of course, if he happened to get killed,
she might like me better. Then Ginny moaned and started talking. "Oh, honey,
honey! Oh, Jesus, honey, oh my gawd!"
     What a bunch of bullshit, thought Harry.
     He got up and walked over to the back window. The back of the hotel was
right  near  the  Vermont turnoff on the Hollywood freeway. He  watched  the
headlights  and  tail  lights of the cars. It always amazed  him  that  some
people  were in such a hurry to go in one direction while other people  were
in  such a hurry to go in another. Somebody had to be wrong, or else it  was
just  a dirty game. Then he heard Ginny's voice. "I'm gonna COME! O, my gawd
I'm gonna COME! O, my gawd! I'm :"
      Bullshit, he thought and then turned to look at them. Duke was  really
working.  Ginny's  eyes did seem glazed; she stared  straight  up  into  the
ceiling,  straight up into an unshaded lightbulb; glazed,  seemingly  glazed
she stared up past Duke's left ear:
      I  might have to shoot him out on that artillery field, thought Harry.
Especially if she's got a tight box.
     gold, all that gold.


     The Great Poet
      I  went  to see him. He was the great poet. He was the best  narrative
poet  since Jeffers, still under 70 and famous throughout the world. Perhaps
his  two  best-known books were My Grief Is Better Than Your Grief, Ha!  and
The  Dead Chew Gum In Languor. He had taught at many universities,  had  won
all the prizes, including the Nobel Prize. Bernard Stachman.
      I  climbed  the steps of the YMCA. Mr. Stachman lived in Room  223.  I
knocked.  "HELL, COME ON IN!" somebody screamed from inside.  I  opened  the
door  and walked in. Bernard Stachman was in bed. The smell of vomit,  wine,
urine,  shit and decaying food was in the air. I began to gag. I ran to  the
bathroom, vomited, then came out.
     "Mr. Stachman," I said, "why don't you open a window?"
     "That's a good idea. And don't give me any of that 'Mr. Stachman' shit,
I'm Barney."
      He  was  crippled, and after a great effort he managed to pull himself
out  of  the bed and into the chair at his side. "Now for a good  talk,"  he
said. "I've been waiting for this."

      At  his  elbow, on a table, was a gallon jug of dago red  filled  with
cigarette ashes and dead moths. I looked away, then looked back. He had  the
jug  to  his mouth but most of the wine ran right back out, down his  shirt,
down his pants. Bernard Stachman put the jug back. "Just what I needed."
     "You ought to use a glass," I said. "It's easier."
     "Yes, I believe you're right." He looked around. There were a few dirty
glasses and I wondered which one he would choose. He chose the nearest  one.
The  bottom  of  the glass was filled with a hardened yellow  substance.  It
looked like the remains of chicken and noodles. He poured the wine. Then  he
lifted the glass and emptied it. "Yes, that's much better. I see you brought
your camera. I guess you came to photograph me?"
      "Yes," I said. I went over and opened the window and breathed  in  the
fresh air. It had been raining for days and the air was fresh and clear.
     "Listen," he said, "I been meaning to piss for hours. Bring me an empty
bottle." There were many empty bottles. I brought him one. He didn't have  a
zipper, just buttons, with only the bottom button fastened because he was so
bloated. He reached in and got his penis and rested the head on the  lip  of
the  bottle.  The moment he began to urinate his penis stiffened  and  waved
about, spraying piss all over - on his shirt, on his pants, in his face, and
unbelievably, the last spurt went into his left ear.
     "It's hell being crippled," he said.
     "How did it happen?" I asked.
     "How did what happen?"
     "Being crippled."
     "My wife. She ran me over with her car."
     "How? Why?"
     "She said she couldn't stand me anymore."

     I didn't say anything. I took a couple of photos.
     "I got photos of my wife. Want to see some photos of my wife?"
     "All right."
     "The photo album is there on top of the refrigerator."
      I  walked  over and got it, sat down. There were just shots  of  high-
heeled  shoes  and  a woman's trim ankles, nylon-covered  legs  with  garter
belts,  assorted  legs in panty hose. On some of the pages were  pasted  ads
from the meat market: chuck roast, 89? a pound. I closed the album. "When we
divorced," he said, "she gave me these." Bernard reached under the pillow on
his  bed  and pulled out a pair of high-heeled shoes with long spike  heels.
He'd  had  them  bronzed. He stood them on the night table. Then  he  poured
another  drink. "I sleep with those shoes," he said, "I make love  to  those
shoes and then wash them out."
     I took some more photos.
      "Here, you want a photo? Here's a good photo." He unbuttoned the  lone
button  on his pants. He didn't have on any underwear. He took the  heel  of
the  shoe  and wiggled it up his behind. "Here, take this one."  I  got  the
      It  was difficult for him to stand but he managed by holding onto  the
night table.
     "Are you still writing, Barney?"
     "Hell, I write all the time."
     "Don't your fans interrupt your work?"
     "Oh hell, sometimes the women find me but they don't stay long."
     "Are your books selling?"
     "I get royalty checks."
     "What is your advice to young writers?"
     "Drink, fuck and smoke plenty of cigarettes."
     "What is your advice to older writers?"
     "If you're still alive, you don't need any advice."
     "What is the impulse that makes you create a poem?"
     "What makes you take a shit?"
     "What do you think of Reagan and unemployment?"
      "I  don't think of Reagan or unemployment. It all bores me. Like space
flights and the Super Bowl."
     "What are your concerns then?"
     "Modern women."
     "Modern women?"
     "They don't know how to dress. Their shoes are dreadful."
     "What do you think of Women's Liberation?"
      "Any time they're willing to work the car washes, get behind the plow,
chase  down the two guys who just held up the liquor store, or clean up  the
sewers,  anytime they're ready to get their tits shot off in the  army,  I'm
ready  to stay home and wash the dishes and get bored picking lint  off  the
     "But Isn't there some logic on their demands?"
     "Of course."
      Stachman poured another drink. Even drinking from the glass,  part  of
the wine dribbled down his chin and onto his shirt. He had the body odor  of
a  man  who hadn't bathed in months, "My wife," he said, "I'm still in  love
with  my wife. Hand me that phone, will you?" I handed the phone to him.  He
dialed a number. "Claire? Hello, Claire?" He put the receiver down.

     "What happened?" I asked.
      "The usual. She hung up. Listen, let's get out of here, let's go to  a
bar. I've been in this damned room too long. I need to get out."
      "But  it's  raining.  It's been raining for a week.  The  streets  are
     "I don't care. I want to get out. She's probably fucking some guy right
now.  She's probably got her high heels on. I always made her leave her high
heels on."
      I  helped  Bernard  Stachman get into an old brown overcoat.  All  the
buttons  were missing off the front. It was stiff with grime. It was  hardly
an L.A. overcoat, it was heavy and clumsy, it must have come from Chicago or
Denver in the thirties.
      Then  we  got  his  crutches and we climbed painfully  down  the  YMCA
stairway. Bernard had a fifth of muscatel in one of the pockets. We  reached
the entrance and Bernard assured me he could make it across the sidewalk and
into the car. I was parked some distance from the curbing.
      As I ran around to the other side to get in I heard a shout and then a
splash. It was raining, and raining hard. I ran back around and Bernard  had
managed  to  fall and wedge himself in the gutter between the  car  and  the
curbing.  The  water swept around him, he was sitting up, the  water  rushed
over him, ran down through his pants, lapped against his sides, the crutches
floating sluggishly in his lap.
     "It's all right," he said, "just drive on and leave me."
     "Oh hell, Barney."
     "I mean it. Drive on. Leave me. My wife doesn't love me."
     "She's not your wife, Barney. You're divorced."
     "Tell that to the Marines."
     "Come on, Barney, I'm going to help you up."
     "No, no. It's all right. I assure you. Just go ahead. Get drunk without

      I picked him up, got the door open and lifted him into the front seat.
He  was very, very wet. Streams of water ran across the floorboards. Then  I
went  around to the other side and got in. Barney unscrewed the cap off  the
bottle of muscatel, took a hit, passed the bottle to me. I took a hit.  Then
I  started  the car and drove, looking out through the windshield  into  the
rain for a bar that we might possibly enter and not vomit the first time  we
got the look and smell of the urinal.


     I shot a man in Reno

     Bukowski cried when Judy Garland sang at the N.Y. Philarmonic, Bukowski
cried  when Shirley Temple sang "I Got Animal Crackers in my Soup"; Bukowski
cried  in  cheap  flophouses,  Bukowski can't dress,  Bukowski  can't  talk,
Bukowski is scared of women, Bukowski had a bad stomach, Bukowski is full of
fears, and hates dictionaries, nuns, pennies, busses, churches, parkbenches,
spiders, flies, fleas, freaks; Bukowski didn't go to war. Bukowski  is  old,
Bukowski  hasn't flown a kite for 45 years; if Bukowski were an ape,  they'd
run him out of the tribe...
     my friend is so worried about tearing the meat of my soul from my bones
that he hardly seems to think of his own existence.
      "but  Bukowski  pukes real neat and I've never seen him  piss  on  the
      so  I  do have charm after all, you see. then he throws open a  little
door and there in a 3 by 6 room stacked with papers and rags is an out.
     "you can always stay here, Bukowski. you'll never want."
     no window, no bed, but I'm next to the bathroom. it still looks good to
      "but  you  may  have  to wear earplugs because of  the  music  I  keep
     "I can pick up a set, I'm sure."
     we walk back into his den. "you wanna hear some Lenny Bruce?"
     "no, thanks."
     "no, no."
     he had just to keep that tape machine going, or the record player. they
finally hit me with Johnny Cash singing to the boys at Folsom.
     "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die."
      it  seems to me that Johnny is giving them a little shit just  like  I
suspect Bob Hope does to the boys at Viet during Xmas, but I have this  kind
of  mind. the boys holler, they are out of their cells but I feel like  it's
something  like tossing meatless bones instead of biscuits to  the  hungered
and  the  trapped. I don't feel a damn thing holy or brave about it. there's
only one thing to do for man in jail: let 'em out. there's only one thing to
do for man at war: stop the war.
     "turn it off," I asked.
     "whatsa matta?"
     "it's a trick. a publicity man's dream."
     "you can't say that. Johnny's done time."
     "a lot of people have."
     "we think it's good music."
      "I like his voice. but the only man who can sing in jail, really, is a
man who is in jail, really."
     "we still like it."
      his  wife is there and a couple of young black man who play  combo  in
some band.
     "Bukowski likes Judy Garland. Somewhere over the rainbow."
      "I  liked her that one time in N.Y. her soul was up. you couldn't beat
     "she's overweight and a lush."
      it  was  the  same  old thing - people tearing meat  and  not  getting
anywhere. I leave a little early. as I do, I hear them put J.Cash back on.
     I stop for some beer and just make it in as the phone is ringing.
     "oh, hello Billo."
     "what are you doing?"
     "what are you doing Saturday night?"
     "I'm tied then."
     "I wanted you to come over, meet some people."
     "not this time."
     "you know, Charley, I am going to get tired of calling."
     "do you still write for that same scurrilous rag?"
     "that hippie paper..."
     " have you ever read it?"
     "sure. all tha protest stuff. you're wasting your time."
     "I don't always write to the paper's policy."
     "I thought you did."
     "I thought you had read the paper."
     "by the way, what have you heard from our mutual friend?"
     "yes, Paul."
     "I haven't heard from him."
     "you know, he admires your poetry very much."
     "that's all right."
     "personally, I don't like your poetry."
     "that's all right too."
     "you can't make it over Saturday."
     "well, I'm going to get tired of calling. take care."
     "yeah, good night."
      another meat tearer. what the hell did they want? well, Bill lived  in
Malibu and Bill made money writing - philosophical sex shit potboilers  full
of  typos  and  undergraduate Art work - and Bill couldn't  write  but  Bill
couldn't  stay  off the telephone either. He'd phone again. and  again.  and
fling his little scrubby shit turds at me. I was the old man who hadn't sold
his  balls to the butcher and it drove them screwy. their final victory over
me  could only be a physical beating and that could happen to any man at any
      Bukowski thought Mickey Mouse was a nazi; Bukowski made an ass out  of
himself at Barney's Beanery; Bukowski made an ass out of himself at Shelly's
Manne-Hole; Bukowski is jealous of Ginsberg, Bukowski is jealous of the 1969
Cadillac,  Bukowski can't understand Rimbaud; Bukowski wipes  his  ass  with
brown  hard toilet paper, Bukowski will be dead in 5 years, Bukowski  hasn't
written a decent poem since 1963, Bukowski cried when Judy Garland... shot a
man in Reno.
     I sit down. stick the sheet in the typer. open a beer. light a smoke.
     I get one or two good lines and the telephone rings.
     "hello, Marty."
      "listen,  I just ran across your last 2 columns. it's good writing.  I
didn't know you were writing so well. I want to run them in book form.  have
they come back from GROVE yet?"
     "I want them. your columns are as good as your poems."
     "a friend of mine in Malibu says my poems stink."
     "to hell with him. I want the columns."
     "they're with ---- ----."
       "hell,  he's  a  pornie-man.  if  you  go  with  me  you'll  hit  the
universities, the best book stores. when those kinds find you out, it's  all
over;  they're  tired  of  that  involute  shit  they've  been  getting  for
centiries.  you'll see; I can see bringing out all your back and unavailable
stuff and selling it for a buck, or a buck and a half a copy and going  into
the millions."
     "aren't you afraid that will make a prick out of me?"
      "I  mean, haven't you always been a prick, especially when you've been
drinking... by the way, hoh've you been doing?"
      "they say I grabbed a guy at Shelly's by the lapels and shook him up a
bit. but it could have been worse, you know."
     "how do you mean?"
     ""I mean, he could have grabbed me by the lapels and shook me up a bit.
a matter of pride, you know."
      "listen,  don't die or get killed untill we get you out in those  buck
and a half editions."
     "I'll try not to, Marty."
     "how's the 'Penguin' coming?"
      "Stanges  says  January. I just got the page proofs. and  a  50  puond
advance which I blew on the horses."
     "can't you stay away from the track?"
     "you bastards never say anything when I win."
     "that's right. well, let me know on the columns."
     "right. good night."
     "good night."
      Bukowski,  the big-time writer; a statue of Bukowski in  the  Kremlin,
jacking off; Bukowski and Castro, a statue in Havana in the sunlight covered
with birdshit, Bukowski and Castro riding a tandem racing bike to victory  -
Bukowski  in the rear seat; Bukowski bathing in a neat of orioles;  Bukowski
lashing a 19-years-old high-yellow with a tiger whip, a high-yellow with  38
inch busts, a high-yellow who reads Rimbaud; Bukowski kukoo in the walls  of
the  world,  wondering  who shut off the luck...  Bukowski  going  for  Judy
Garland when it was too late for everybody.
      then  I  remember the time and get back in the car. just off  Wilshire
Boulevard.  there's his name on the big sign. we once worked the  same  shit
job.  I  am  not too crazy about Wilshire blvd. but I am still a learner.  I
don't  block  out anything. he's half-coloured, from a white  mother,  black
father combo. we fell together on the shit job, something manual. mostly not
wanting to wade in shit forever, and although shit was a good teacher  there
were only so many lessons and then it could drown you and kill you forever.
     I parked in back and beat on the back door. he said he'd wait late that
night. it was 9:30 p.m. the door opened.
     TEN YEARS. TEN YEARS. ten years. ten years. ten. ten fucking YEARS.
     "Hank, you son of a bitch!"
     "Jim, you lucky mother..."
     "come on up."
      I  followed  him in. jesus, so you don't buy all that. but  it's  nice
especially with the secretaries and staff gone. I block nothing. he has 6 or
8 rooms. we go in to his desk. I rip out the two 6 packs of beers.
     ten years.
      he  is  43. I am 48. I look at least 15 years older than he. and  feel
some  shame. the sagging belly. the hang-dog air. the world has  taken  many
hours  and  ten  years from me with their very dull and  routine  tasks;  it
tells.  I feel shame for my defeat. the best revolutionary is a poor man;  I
am  not  even  a revolutionary, I am only tired. what a bucket of  shit  was
mine! mirror, mirror on the wall...
      he looked good in a light yellow sweater, relaxed and really happy  to
see me.
      "I've  been going through hell," he said, "I haven't talked to a  real
human being in months."
     "man, I don't know if I qualify."
     "you qualify."
     that desk looks twenty feet wide.
      "Jim, I been fired from so many places like this. some shit sitting in
a  swivel. like a dream upon a dream upon a dream, all bad. now I  sit  here
drinking beer with a man behind a desk and I don'y know anymore now  than  I
did then."
      he laughed. "baby, I want to give you your own office, your own chair,
your own desk. I know what you're getting now. I want to double that."
     "I can't accept it."
     "I want to know where my value would be to you?"
     "I need your brain."
     I laughed.
     "I'm serious."
      then he laid out the plan. told me what he wanted. he had one of those
stirring motherfucking brains that dreamed that sort of thing up. it  seemed
so good I had to laugh.
     "it'll take 3 months to set it up," I tell him.
     "then a contract."
     "o.k. with me. but these things sometimes don't work."
     "it'll work."
     "meanwhile I've got a friend who'll let me sleep in his broom closet if
the walls fall in."
      we  drink 2 or 3 more hours then he leaves to get enough sleep to meet
his  friend  for  a yachting next morning (Saturday) and I tool  around  and
drive out of the high rent district and hit the first dirty bar for a closer
or  two. and son of a bitch if I don't meet a guy I used to know down  at  a
job we both used to have.
     "Luke!" I say, "son of a bitch!"
     "Hank, baby!"
     another coloured (or black) man, (what do the white guys do at night?)
     he looks low so I buy him one.
     "you still at the place?" he asks.
     "man, shit," he says.
     "I couldn't take it anymore where you're at, you know, so I quit. ma, I
got a job right away. wow, a change, you know. that's what kills a man: lack
of change."
     "I know, Luke."
      "well, the first morning I walk up to the machine. it's a fibre  glass
place.  I've  got on this open neck shirt with short sleeves  and  I  notice
people  staring at me. well, hell, I sit down and start pressing the  levers
and  it's all right for a while and next thing you know I start itching  all
over.  I  call the foreman over and I say, 'hey, what the hell's  this?  I'm
itching all over! my neck, my arms, everywhere!' he tells me, 'it's nothing,
you'll  get used to it.' but I notice he has on this scarf buttoned  up  all
the  way around his throat and this long-sleeved working shirt. well, I come
in the next day all scarfed-up and oiled and buttoned but it's still no good
-  this  fucking glass is shiving off so fine you can't see it and it's  all
little  glass  arrows and it goes right through the clothing  and  into  the
skin.  then I know why they make me wear the protective glasses for my eyes.
could blind a man in half an hour. I had to quit. went to a foundry, man, do
you  know  that men POUR THIS WHITE HOT SHIT INTO MOLDS? they pour  it  like
bacon-grease  or gravy. Unbelievable! and hot! shit! I quit.  man,  how  you
      "that  bitch  there, Luke, she keeps looking at me  and  grinning  and
pulling her skirt higher."
     "don't pay any attention. she's crazy."
     "but she has beautiful legs."
     "yes, she has."
     I buy another drink, pick up, walk over to her.
     "hello, baby."
      she  goes into her purse, comes out, hits the button and she's  got  a
beautiful  6  inches swivel. I look at the bartender who looks  blank-faced.
the bitch says, "one step closer and you got no balls!"
      I  knock  her drink over and when she looks at that I grab her  wrist,
twist  the  swivel out, fold it, put it into my pocket. the bartender  still
looks neutral. I go back to Luke and we finish our drinks. I notice it's ten
to  2  and  get  2 six packs from the barkeep. we go out to my  car.  Luke's
without  wheels. she follows us. "I need a ride." "where?" "around Century."
"that's a long way." "so what, you motherfuckers got my knife."
      by the time I am halfway to Century I see those female legs lifting in
the  back  seat. when the legs come down I pull down a lond dark corner  and
tell Luke to take a smoke. I hate seconds but when first haven't been for  a
long  time  and you're supposed to be a great Artist and an understander  of
Life, seconds just HAVE to do, and like the boys say, with some, seconds are
better. it was good. when I dropped her off I gave her the switchblade  back
wrapped  in  a ten. stupid, of course. but I like to be stupid.  Luke  lives
around 8th and Irola so it's not too far in for me.
      as I open the door the phone begins ringing. I open a beer and sit  in
the  rocker and listen to it ring. for me, it's been enough - evening, night
and morning.
     Bukowski wears brown b.v.d's. Bukowski is afraid of airplanes. Bukowski
hates  Santa  Klaus.  Bukowski  makes deformed  figures  out  of  typewriter
erasers. when water drips, Bukowski cries. when Bukowski cries, water drips.
o,  sanctums of fountains, o scrotums, o fountaining scrotums, o man's great
ugliness everywhere like the fresh dogturd that the morning shoe did not see
again; o, the mighty police, o the mighty weapons, o the mighty dictators, o
the  mighty damn fools everywhere, o the lonely lonely octopus, o the clock-
tick  seeping  each  neat  one of us balanced and unbalanced  and  holy  and
constipated, o the bums lying in alleys of misery in a golden world,  o  the
children  to  become ugly, o the ugly to become uglier, o  the  sadness  and
sabres  and  the closing of the walls - no Santa Claus, no Pussy,  no  Magic
Wand, no Cinderella, no Great Minds Ever; kukoo - just shit and the whipping
of  dogs  and children, just shit and the whiping away of shit; just doctors
without  patients just clouds without rain just days without days, o  god  o
mighty that you put this upon us.
      when we break into your mighty KIKE palace and timecard angels I  want
to hear Your voice just saying once
     FOR YOURSELF and for us and for what we will do to You, I turned off of
Irola until I hit Normandie, that's what I did, and then came in and sat and
listened to the telephone ring.


     Night streets of madness

      the  kid and I were the last of a drunkman party at my place,  and  we
were sitting there when somebody outside began blowing a car horn, loud LOUD
LOUD  it  was,  oh sing loud, but then everything is axed through  the  head
anyway.  the  world is done, so I just sat there with my  drink,  smoking  a
cigar,  thinking  of  nothing - the poets were gone, the  poets  with  their
ladies  were  gone,  it  was fairly pleasant even with  the  horn  going.  a
comparison. the poets had each accused other of various treacheries, of  bad
writing,  of having slipped; meanwhile, each of them claiming they  deserved
better  recognition, that they wrote better than so and so and so  forth.  I
told them all that they needed 2 years in the coal mines or the steel mills,
but  on  they chattered, finky, precious, barbaric, and most of them  rotten
writers.  now they were gone. the cigar was good. the kid sat there.  I  had
just written a foreword to his second book of poems. or his first? well.
      "listen," said the kid, "let's go out there and tell them to fuck-off.
tell him to jam that horn up his ass."
      the  kid  wasn't  a  bad writer, and he had the ability  to  laugh  at
himself, which is sometimes a sign of greatness, or at least a sign that you
have  a  chance  to  end up being something else besides a stuffed  literary
turd.  the world was full of stuffed literary turds talking about  the  time
they  met  Pound  at  Spoleto or Edmund Wilson in  Boston  or  Dali  in  his
underwear  or  Lowell in his garden; sitting there in their tiny  bathrobes,
letting you have it, and NOW you wew talking to THEM, ah, you see. "...  the
last time I saw Burroughs..." "Jimmy Baldwin, jesus, he was drunk, we had to
trot him out on the stage and lean him on the mike..."
      "let's go out there and tell them to jam that horn up their ass," said
the  kid,  influenced by the Bukowski myth (I am really a coward),  and  the
Hemingway thing and Humphrey B. and Eliot with his panties rolled.  well.  I
puffed on my cigar. the horn went on. LOUDE SING KUKOOO.
      "the  horn's all right. never go out on the streets after you've  benn
drinking 5 or 6 or 8 or ten hours. they have cages ready for the like us.  I
don't  think  I  could take another cage, not one more god  damned  cage  of
theirs. I build enough of my own."
     "I'm going out to tell them to shove it," said the kid.
      the  kid was under the superman influence, Man and Superman. he  liked
huge  man, tough and murderous, 6-4, 300 pounds, who wrote immortal  poetry.
the trouble was the big boys were all subnormal and it was the dainty little
queers with the fingernail polish on who write the tough-boy poems. the only
guy  who  fit  the kid's hero-mold was big John Thomas and big  John  Thomas
always  acted as if the kid weren't there. the kid was Jewish and  big  John
Thomas  had the mainline to Adolph. I liked them both and I don't like  very
many people.
     "listen," said the kid, "I am going to tell them to jam it."
      oh  my god, the kid was big a little on the fat side, he hadn't missed
too  many  meals, but he was easy inside, scared and worried  and  a  little
crazy  like  the rest of us, none of us made it, finally, and I said,  "kid,
forget the horn. it doesn't sound like a man blowing anyway. it sounds  like
a  woman. a man will stop and start with a horn, make musical threats out of
it. a woman just leans on it. the total sound, one big female neurosis."
     ""fuck it!" said the kid. he ran out the door.
      what  does  this  have to do with anything? I thought.  what  does  it
matter?  people keep making moves that don't count. when you  make  a  move,
everything  must  be  mathematically set. that's what  Hem  learned  at  the
bullfights and put to work in his work. that's what I learn at the track and
put to work in my life. good old Hem and Buk.
     "hello, Hem? Buk calling."
     "oh, Buk, so glad you called."
     "thought I'd drop over for a drink."
     "oh, I'd love it, kid, but you see, my god, you might say I'm kinda out
of town right now."
     "but why'd you do it, Ernie?"
      "you've  read the books. they claim I was crazy, imagining things.  in
and  out of the bughouse. they say I imagined the phone was tapped,  that  I
imagined the C.I.A. was on my ass, that I was being tailed and watched.  you
know,  I  wasn't  really political but I always fucked with  the  left.  the
Spanish war, all that crap."
      "yeah, most of you literary guys lean left. it seems Romantic, but  it
can turn into a hell of a trap."
      "I  know. but really, I had this hell of a hungover, and I knew I  had
slipped, and when they believed in THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, I knew that  the
world was rotten."
     "I know. you went back to your early style. but it wasn't real."
      "I  know it wasn't real. and I got the PRIZE. and the tail on me.  old
age  on  me. sitting around drinking like an old fuck, telling stale stories
to anybody who would listen. I had to blow my brains out."
     "o.k., Ernie, see you later."
     "all right, I know you will, Buk."
     he hung up. and how.
     I went outside to check on the kid.
     it was an old woman in a new '69 car. she kept leaning on the horn. she
didn't  have  any  legs.  any  breasts.  any  brain.  just  a  '69  car  and
indignation,  great and total indignation. a car was blocking her  driveway.
she  had  her own home. I lived in one of the last slum courts on DeLongpre.
someday  the  landlord would sell it for a tremendous sum  and  I  would  be
bulldozed out. too bad. I threw parties that lasted until the sun  came  up,
ran  the  typer day and night. a madman lived in the next court.  everything
was sweet. one block North and ten blocks West I could walk along a sidewalk
that  had footprints os STARS upon it. I don't know what the names  mean.  I
don't  hit  the  movies. don't have a t.v. when my radio stopped  playing  I
threw  it out the window. drunk. me, not the radio. there is a big  hole  in
one  of  my windows. I forgot the screen was there. I had to open the screen
and  drop the radio out. later, whilst I was drunken barefoot my foot (left)
picked  up all the glass, and the doctor while slitting my foot open without
benefit of a shot, probing for ballsy glass, asked me, "listen, do you  ever
walk around not quite knowing what you are doing?"
     "most of the time, baby."
     then he gave me a big cut that wasn't needed.
     I gripped the sides of the table and said, "yes, Doctor."
      then he became more kindly. why should doctors be better than I am?  I
don't understand it. the old medicine man gimmick.
      so  there  I  was  out  on  the street, Charles  Bukowski,  friend  of
Hemingway, Ernie, I have never read DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON. where do I get a
      the  kid  said  to the crazy woman in the car, who was only  demanding
respectful  and stupid property rights, "we'll move the car, we'll  push  it
out of the way."
     the kid was talking for me too. now that I had written his foreword, he
owned me.
      "look, kid, there's no place to push the car. and I really don't care.
I'm  going  in for a drink." it was just beginning to rain. I  have  a  most
delicate skin, like an alligator, and soul to match. I walked off. shit, I'd
had enough wars.
      I  walked off and then just as I about got to my front court  hole,  I
heard screaming voices. I turned.
     then we had this. a thin kid, insane, in white t-shirt screaming at the
fat  Jewisj  poet I had just written a foreword to poems for. what  had  the
white  t-shirt  to  do with it? the white t-shirt pushed  against  my  semi-
immortal poet. he pushed hard. the crazy old woman kept leaning against  the
car horn.
      Bukowski, should you test your left hook again? you swing like the old
barn  door  and only win one fight out of ten. when was the last  fight  you
won, Bukowski? you should be wearing women's panties.
      well,  hell, with a record like yours, one more loss won't be any  big
      I started to move forward to help the Jewish kid poet but I saw he had
white t-shirt backing up. then out of the 20 million dollar highrise next to
my  slum hole, here came a young woman running. I watched the cheecks of the
ass wobble in the fake Hollywood moonlight.
     girl, I could show you something you will, would never forget - a solid
3  and  one quarter inches of bobbling throbbing cock, oh my, but she  never
gave  me  a  chance,  she asshole-wobbling ran to her little  68  Fiaria  or
however  you spell it, and got in, pussy dying for my poetic soul,  and  she
got  in, started the thing, got it out of the driveway, almost ran me  over,
me Bukowski, BUKOWSKI, hummm, and ran the thing into the underground parking
of  the 20 million buck highrise. why hadn't she parked there to begin with?
      the  guy in the white t-shirt is still wobbling around and insane,  my
Jewish  poet  has  moved back to my side there in the  Hollywood  moonlight,
which  was  like  stinking dishwater spilling over us  all,  suicide  is  so
difficult,  maybe  our luck will change, there's PENGUIN coming  up,  Norse-
Bukowski-Lamantia... what?
      now,  now, the woman has her clearence for her driveway but she  can't
make  it  in. she doesn't aven angle her car properly. she keeps backing  up
and  ramming a white delivery truck in front of her. there go the taillights
on  first shot. she backs up. hits the gas. there goes half a back door. she
backs up. hits the gas. there goes all the fender and half the left side, no
the  right  side,  that's it the right side. nothing adds. the  driveway  is
      Bukowski-Norse-Lamantia. Penguin books. it's a  damn  good  thing  for
those other two guys that I am in there.
      again  chickenshit steel mashing against steel. and in  between  she's
leaning on the horn. white t-shirt dangling in the moonlight, raving.
     "what's going on?" I asked the kid.
     "I dunno," he finally admitted.
     "you'll make a good rabbi some day but you should understand all this."
     the kid is studying to be a rabbi.
     "I don't understand it," he said.
      "I  need a drink," I said. "if John Thomas were here he'd murder  them
all. but I ain't John Thomas."
      I  was  just about to leave, the woman just kept on ramming the  white
pickup  truck  to pieces, I was just about to leave when an  old  man  in  a
floppy brown overcoat and glasses, a real old guy, he was older than I,  and
that's  old,  he  came  out and confronted the kid  in  the  white  t-shirt.
confronted? that's the right word ain't it?
     anyhow, as they say, the old guy with glasses and floppy brown overcoat
runs  out  with this big can of green paint, it must have been  at  least  a
gallon or 5 gallons, I don't know what it means, I have completely lost  the
plot  or the meaning, if there ever was any in the first place, and the  old
man  throws the paint on the insane kid in the white t-shirt circling around
on  DeLongpre ave. in the chickenshit Hollywood moonlight, and  most  of  it
misses  him and some of it gets him, mostly where his heart used  to  be,  a
smash  of  green  along the white, and it happens fast, like  things  happen
fast,  almost quicker than eye or the pulse can add up, and that's  why  you
get  such  diverent accounts of any action, riot or fist fight or  anything,
the eye and the soul can't keep up with the frustrating animal ACTION, but I
saw the old man go down, fall, I think the first was a push, but I know that
the second wasn't. the woman in the car stopped ramming and honking and just
sat  there  screaming, screaming, one total pitch of scream that  meant  the
same  thing as her leaning on the honker, she was dead and finished  forever
in  a  '69 car and she couldn't fathom it, she was hooked and broken, thrown
away,  and some small touch inside of her still realized this - nobody  ever
finally loses their soul - they only piss away 99/100ths of it.
      white t-shirt landed goon on the old man on the second shot. broke his
glasses. let him flopping and floundering in his own brown overcoat. the old
man  got  up  and the kid gave him another shot, knocked him down,  hit  him
against as he got halfass up, the kid in the white t was having a good  time
of it.
      the  young  poet said to me, "JESUS! LOOK WHAT HE'S DOING TO  THE  OLD
      "humm, very interesting," I said, whishing I had a drink or a smoke at
     I walked off back toward my place. then I saw the squad car and moved a
bit faster. the kid followed me in.
     "why don't we go back out there and tell them what happened?"
      "because nothing happened except that everybody has been driven insane
and  stupid  by life. in this society there are only two things that  count:
don't  be  caught without money and don't get caught high  on  any  kind  of
     "but he shouldn't have done that to the old man."
     "that's what old men are for."
     "but what about justice?"
      "but  that is justice: the young whipping the old, the living whipping
the dead. don't you see?"
     "but you say these things and you're old."
     "I know, let's step inside."
      I  brought out some more beer and we sat there. through the walls  you
could  hear  the radio of the stupid squad car. 2 twentytwo years  old  kids
with  guns  and  clubs  were going to be the immediate decision-makers  upon
2,000 years of idiotic, homosexual, sadistic Christianity.
      no wonder they felt good in their smooth and well-fed stretched black,
most policemen being lower-middle class servants given a steak in the frying
pan and a wife with halfway decent ass and legs, and a little quiet home  in
Shitland - they'd kill you to prove Los Angeles was right, we're taking  you
in, sir, so sorry, sir, but we've got to do this, sir.
      2,000  years  of  Christianity and what do you end up with?  squad-car
radios  trying to hold rotting shit together, and what else? tons  of  wars,
little air raids, muggers in streets, knifings, so many insane that you just
forget it, you just let them run the streets in policeman's uniforms or  out
of them.
     so we went inside and the kid kept saying,
     "hey, let's go out there and tell the police what happened."
      "no,  kid,  please.  if you are drunk you are guilty  no  matter  what
     "but they are right outside, let's go to tell them."
     "there's nothing to tell."
      the  kid looked at me as if I were some kind of chickenshit coward.  I
was.  the  longest he had ever been in jail was 7 hours under some  kind  of
east L.A. campus protestation.
     "kid, I think that the night is over."
      I  threw  him a blanket for the couch and he went to sleep. I  took  2
quarts  of  beer, opened both, set them on the headboard of my  rented  bed,
took  a big swallow, stretched out, waited on my death as Cummings must have
done, Jeffers, the garbage man, the newspaper boy, the tout...
     I finished off the beers.
      the  kid  woke  up  about 9:30 a.m. I can't understand  early  risers.
Micheline was another early riser. running around ringing doorbells,  waking
everybody up. they were nervous, trying to push down walls. I always figured
a  man  was a damn fool if he got up before noon. Norse had the best idea  -
sit around in silk robe and pajamas and let the world go its way.
      I  let the kid out the door and off he went into the world. the  green
paint was dry on the street. Maeterlinck's bluebird was dead. Hirschman  sat
in a dark room with a bloody right nostril.
      and  I  had  written  another FOREWORD to another book  of  somebody's
poetry. how many more?
      "hey, Bukowski, I've got this book of poems here. I thought you  might
read the poems and say something."
     "say something? but I don't like poetry, man."
     "that's all right. just say something."
      the  kid  was gone. I had to take a shit. the toilet was clogged;  the
landlord  gone for 3 days. I took the shit and put it in a brown paper  bag.
then  I  went outside and walked with the paperbag like a man going to  work
with  his  lunch. then when I got to the vacant lot I threw the  bag.  three
forewords.  3  bags  of  shit.  nobody would ever  understand  how  Bukowski
     I walked back toward my place, dreaming of supine women and everlasting
fame.  the  former would be nicer. and I was running out of  brown  bags.  I
mean,  paper  bags. 10 a.m. there was the mailman. a letter from  Beiles  in
Greece. he said it was raining there too.
      fine, then, and inside I was alone again, and the madness of the night
was  the madness of the day. I arranged myself upon the bed, supine, staring
upward and listened to the cocksucking rain.


     Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip

      I WALKED AROUND outside and thought about it. It was the longest one I
ever got. Usually they only said, "Sorry, this did not quite make the grade"
or  "Sorry,  this  did't quite work in." Or more often, the regular  printed
rejection form.
      But  this was the longest, the longest ever. It was from my story  "My
Adventures  in  Half a Hundred Rooming Houses." I walked under  a  lamppost,
took the little slip out of my pocket and reread it -

     Dear Mr. Bukowski:
     Again, this is a conglomeration of extremely good stuff and other stuff
so full of idolized prostitutes, morning-after vomiting scenes, misanthropy,
praise  for  suicide  etc.  that it is not  quite  for  a  magazine  of  any
circulation  at all. This is, however, pretty much a saga of a certain  type
of  person  and  in it I think you've done an honest job. Possibly  we  will
print you sometime, but I don't know exactly when. That depends on you.
     Sincerely yours,
     Whit Burnett

     Oh, I knew the signature: the long "h" that twisted into the end of the
"W," and the beginning of the "B" which dropped halfway down the page.
      I put the slip back in my pocket and walked on down the street. I felt
pretty good.
      Here  I  had  only been writing two years. Two short  years.  It  took
Hemingway  ten  years. And Sherwood Anderson, he was  forty  before  he  was
     I guess I would have to give up drinking and women of ill-fame, though.
Whiskey  was  hard  to get anyhow and wine was ruining  my  stomach.  Millie
though - Millie, that would be harder, much harder.
      ...But  Millie, Millie, we must remember art. Dostoievsky, Gorki,  for
Russia,  and  now  America wants an Eastern-European. America  is  tired  of
Browns and smiths. The Browns and the Smiths are good writers but there  are
too  many  of  them  and  they  all write alike.  America  wants  the  fuzzy
blackness,  impractical  meditations and repressed desires  of  an  Eastern-
      Millie, Millie, your figure is just right: it all pours down tight  to
the  hips and loving you is as easy as putting on a pair of gloves  in  zero
weather.  Your  room is always warm and cheerful and you have record  albums
and  cheese sandwiches that I like. And Millie, your cat, remember? Remember
when  he was a kitten? I tried to teach him to shake hands and to roll over,
and  you  said a cat wasn't a dog and it couldn't be done, Well, I  did  it,
didn't  I, Millie? The cat's big now and he's been a mother and had kittens.
We've  been  friends a long time. But it's going to have to go now,  Millie:
cats  and figures and Tschaikowsky's 6th Symphony. America needs an Eastern-
      I found I was in front of my rooming house by then and I started to go
in. Then I saw a light on in my window. I looked in: Carson and Shipkey were
at the table with somebody I didn't know. They were playing cards and in the
center sat a huge jug of wine. Carson and Shipkey were painters who couldn't
make  up  their minds whether to paint like Salvador Dali or Rockwell  Kent,
and they worked at the shipyards while trying to decide.
      Then I saw a man sitting very quietly on the edge of my bed. He had  a
mustache and a goatee and looked familiar. I seemed to remember his face.  I
had  seen  it  in  a book, a newspaper, a movie, maybe. I wondered.  Then  I
      When  I remembered, I didn't know whether to go in or not. After  all,
what did one say? How did one act? With a man like that it was hard. You had
to  be  careful  not  to say the wrong words, you had to  be  careful  about
      I  decided to walk around the block once first. I read someplace  that
that helped when you were nervous. I heard Shipkey swearing as I left and  I
heard somebody drop a glass. That wouldn't help me any.
      I  decided to make up my speech ahead of time. "Really, I'm not a very
good speaker at all. I'm very withdrawn and tense. I save it all and put  it
in  words on paper. I'm sure you'll be disappointed in me, but it's the  way
I've always been."
      I  thought that would do it and when I finished my block's walk I went
right into my room.
      I could see that Carson and Shipkey were rather drunk, and I knew they
wouldn't help me any. The little card player they had brought with them  was
also bad off, except he had all the money on his side of the table.
      The  man with the goatee got up off the bed. "How do you do, sir?"  he
      "Fine,  and  you?" I shook hands with him. "I hope  you  haven't  been
waiting too long?" I said.
     "Oh no."
     "Really," I said, "I'm not a verv good speaker at all -"
      "Except when he's drunk, then he yells his head off. Sometimes he goes
to  the  square and lectures and if nobody listens to him he  talks  to  the
birds," said Shipkey.
      The man with the goatee grinned. He had a marvelous grin. Evidently  a
man of understanding.
      The  other  two  went on playing cards, but Shipkey turned  his  chair
around and watched us.
     "I'm very withdrawn and tense," I continued, "and -"
     "Past tense or circus tents?" yelled Shipkey.
      That was very bad, but the man with the goatee smiled again and I felt
     "I save it all and put it in words on paper and -"
     "Nine-tenths or pretense?" yelled Shipkey.
      "-  and  I'm sure you'll be disappointed in me, but it's the way  I've
always been."
      "Listen, mister!" yelled Shipkey wobbling back and forth in his chair.
"Listen, you with the goatee!"
      "Listen, I'm six feet tall with wavy hair, a glass eye and a  pair  of
red dice."
     The man laughed.
      "You  don't  believe me then? You don't believe I have a pair  of  red
      Shipkey,  when  intoxicated always wanted, for some  reason,  to  make
people  believe he had a glass eye. He would point to one eye or  the  other
and  maintain it was a glass eye. He claimed the glass eye was made for  him
by his father, the greatest specialist in the world, who had, unfortunately,
been killed by a tiger in China.
     Suddenly Carson began yelling, "I saw you take that card! Where did you
get  it? Give it here, here! Marked, marked! I thought so! No wonder  you've
been winning! So! So!"
     Carson rose up and grabbed the little card player by the tie and pulled
up  on it. Carson was blue in the face with anger and the little card player
began to turn red as Carson pulled up on the tie.
     "What's up, ha! Ha! What's up! What's going on?" yelled Shipkey. "Lemme
see, ha? Gimme tha dope!"
      Carson was all blue and could hardly speak. He hissed the words out of
his  lips with a great effort and held up on the tie. The little card player
began to flop his arms about like a great octopus brought to the surface.
      "He crossed us!" hissed Carson. "Crossed us! Pulled one from under his
sleeve, sure as the Lord! Crossed us, I tell you!"
      Shipkey  walked behind the little card player and grabbed him  by  the
hair and yanked his head back and forth. Carson remained at the tie.
      "Did vou cross us, huh? Did you! Speak! Speak!" yelled Shipkey pulling
at the hair.
     The little card player didn't speak. He just flopped his arms and began
to sweat.
      "I'll take you someplace where we can get a beer and something to eat"
I said to the man with the goatee.
     "Come on! Talk! Give out! You can't cross us!"
     "Oh, that won't be necessary," said the man with the goatee.
     "Rat! Louse! Fish-faced pig!"
     "I insist", I said.
     "Rob a man with a glass eye, will you? I'll show you, fish-faced pig!"
      "That's very kind of you, and I am a little hungry, thanks," said  the
man with the goatee.
      "Speak!  Speak, fish-faced pig! If you don't speak in two minutes,  in
just two minutes, I'll cut your heart out for a doorknob!"
     "Let's leave right away," I said.
     "All right," said the man with the goatee.

      ALL the eating places were closed at that time of the night and it was
a long ride into town. I couldn't take him back to my room, so I had to take
a  chance on Millie. She always had plenty of food. At any rate, she  always
had cheese.
     I was right. She made us cheese sandwiches with coffee. The cat knew me
and leaped into my lap.
     I put the cat on the floor.
     "Watch, Mr. Burnett," I said.
     "Shake hands!" I said to the cat. "Shake hands!"
     The cat just sat there.
     "That's funny, it always used to do it," I said. "Shake hands!"
     I remembered Shipkey had told Mr. Burnett that I talked to birds.
     "Come on now! Shake hands!"
     I began to feel foolish.
     "Come on! Shake hands!"
      I  put my head right down by the cat's head and put everything  I  had
into it.
     "Shake hands!"
     The cat just sat there.
     I went back to my chair and picked up my cheese sandwich.
      "Cats are funny animals, Mr. Burnett. You can never tell. Millie,  put
on Tschaikowsky's 6th for Mr. Burnett."
      We listened to the music. Millie came over and sat in my lap. She just
had  on  a negligee. She dropped down against me. I put my sandwich  to  the
      "I  want  you  to notice," I said to Mr. Burnett, "the  section  which
brings forth the marching movement in this symphony. I think it's one of the
most beautiful movements in all music. And besides its beauty and force, its
structure is perfect. You can feel intelligence at work."
      The cat jumped up into the lap of the man with the goatee. Millie laid
her  cheek  against mine, put a hand on my chest. "Where ya been, baby  boy?
Millie's missed ya, ya know."
      The record ended and the man with the goatee took the cat off his lap,
got  up  and turned the record over. He should have found record #2  in  the
album. By turning it over we would get the climax rather early. I didn't say
anything, though, and we listened to it end.
     "How did you like it?" I asked.
     "Fine! Just fine!"
     He had the cat on the floor.
     "Shake hands! Shake hands!" he said to the cat.
     The cat shook hands.
     "Look," he said, "I can make the cat shake hands."
     "Shake hands!"
     The cat rolled over.
     "No, shake hands! Shake hands!"
     The cat just sat there.
      He put his head down by the cat's head and talked into its ear. "Shake
     The cat stuck its paw right into his goatee.
     "Did You see? I made him shake hands!" Mr. Burnett seemed pleased.
      Millie pressed tight against me. "Kiss me, baby boy," she said,  "kiss
     "Good Lord, ya gone off ya nut, baby boy? what's eatin' at ya? Sompin's
botherin' ya tonight, I can tell! Tell Millie all about ut! Millie'd  go  ta
hell for ya, baby boy, ya know that. Whats'a matter, huh? Ha?"
     "Now I'll get the cat to roll over," said Mr. Burnett.
      Millie wrapped her arms tight around me and peered down into my upward
eye. She looked very sad and motherish and smelled like cheese.
     "Tell Millie what's eatin' ya up, baby boy."
     "Roll over!" said Mr. Burnett to the cat.
     The cat just sat there.
     "Listen," I said to Millie, "see that man over there?"
     "Yeah, I see him."
     "Well, that's Whit Burnett."
     "Who's that?"
     "The magazine editor. The one I send my stories to."
     "Ya mean the one who sends you those little tiny notes?"
     "Rejection slips, Millie."
     "Well, he's mean. I don't like him."
      "Roll over!" said Mr. Burnett to the cat. The cat rolled over. "Look!"
he  yelled.  "I  made  the cat roll over! I'd like to  buy  this  cat!  It's
      Millie tightened her grip about me and peered down into my eye. I  was
quite  helpless. I felt like a still live fish on ice in a butcher's counter
on Friday morning.
     "Listen," she said, "I can get him ta print one a ya stories. I can get
him ta print alla them!"
     "Watch me make the car roll over!" said Mr. Burnett.
      "No,  no,  Millie,  you don't understand! Editors  aren't  like  tired
business men. Editors have scruples!"
     "Roll over!" said Mr. Burnett.
     The cat just sat there.
      "I know all about ya scruples! Don't ya worry about scruples Baby boy,
I'll get him ta print alla ya stories!"
     "Roll over!" said Mr. Burnett to the cat. Nothing happened.
     "No, Millie, I won't have it."
      She was all wound around me. It was hard to breathe and she was rather
heavy. I felt my feet going to sleep. Millie pressed her cheek against  mine
and rubbed a hand up and down my chest. "Baby boy, ya got nothin' to say!"
      Mr.  Burnett put his head down by the cat's head and talked  into  its
ear. "Roll over!"
     The car stuck its paw right into his goatee.
     "I think this cat wants something to eat," he said.
      With that, he got back into his chair. Millie went over and sat on his
     "Where'd ya get tha cute little goaty?" she asked.
     "Pardon me," I said, "I'm going to get a drink of water."
      I  went in and sat in the breakfast nook and looked down at the flower
designs on the table. I tried to scratch them off with a fingernail. It  was
hard  enough to share Millie's love with the cheese salesman and the welder.
Millie with the figure right down to the hips. Damn, damn.
      I kept sitting there and after a while I took my rejection slip out of
my  pocket  and  read it again. The places where the slip  was  folded  were
beginning  to get brown with dirt and torn. I would have to stop looking  at
it and put it between book pages like a pressed rose.
      I  began  to  think about what it said. I always had that trouble.  In
college,  even,  I  was  drawn  to  the fuzzy  blackness.  The  short  story
instructress took me to dinner and a show one night and lectured  to  me  on
the  beauties of life. I had given her a story I had written in which I,  as
the  main  character, had gone down to the beach at night on  the  sand  and
began  meditating on the meaning in Christ, on the meaning in death, on  the
meaning  and  fullness and rhythm in all things. Then in the  middle  of  my
meditations, along walks a bleary-eyed tramp kicking sand in my face. I talk
to  him,  buy him a bottle and we drink. We get sick. Afterward we go  to  a
house of ill-fame.
      After  the dinner, the short story instructress opened her  purse  and
brought  forth the story of the beach. She opened it up about halfway  down,
to the entrance of the bleary-eyed tramp and the exit of meaning in Christ.
      "Up  to  here,"  she said, "up to here, this was very good,  in  fact,
beautiful."  Then  she  glared  up at me  with  that  glare  that  only  the
artistically intelligent who have somehow fallen into money and position can
have. "But pardon me, pardon me very much," she tapped at the bottom half of
my story, "just what the hell is this stuff doing in here?"

      I  COULDN'T stay away any longer. I got up and walked into  the  front
     Millie was all wrapped around him and peering down into his upward eye.
He looked like a fish on ice.
      Millie  must  have  thought I wanted to talk to him  about  publishing
     "Pardon me, I have to comb my hair," she said and left the room.
     "Nice girl, isn't she, Mr. Burnett?" I asked.
      He  pulled  himself back into shape and straightened his tie.  "Pardon
me," he said, "why do you keep calling me 'Mr. Burnett'?"
     "Well, aren't you?"
      "I'm  Hoffman.  Joseph  Hoffman. I'm from the  Curtis  Life  Insurance
Company. I came in response to your postcard."
     "But I didn't send a postcard."
     "We received one from you."
     "I never sent any."
     "Aren't you Andrew Spickwich?"
     "Spickwich. Andrew Spickwich, 3631 Taylor Street."
     Millie came back and wound herself around Joseph Hoffman. I didn't have
the heart to tell her.
      I closed the door very softly and went down the steps and out into the
street. I walked part way down the block and then I saw the lights go out.
      I  ran  like hell toward mv room hoping that there would be some  wine
left  in  that  huge  jug on the table. I didn't think I'd  be  that  lucky,
though,  because  I am too much a saga of a certain type  of  person:  fuzzy
blackness, impractical meditations and repressed desires.

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