OCR: Слава Янко

      Edna  was walking down the street with her bag of groceries  when  she
passed the automobile. There was a sign in the side window:
      She  stopped. There was a large piece of cardboard in the window  with
some  material pasted on it. Most of it was typewritten. Edna couldn't  read
it  from  where  she  stood on the sidewalk. She could only  see  the  large
      It was an expensive new car. Edna stepped forward on the grass to read
the typewritten portion:
     Man age 49. Divorced. Wants to meet woman for marriage. Should be 35 to
44.  Like television and motion pictures. Good food. I am a cost accountant,
reliably employed. Money in bank. I like women to be on the fat side.
      Edna was 37 and on the fat side. There was a phone number. There  were
also  three  photos of the gentleman in search of a woman. He  looked  quite
staid  in  a  suit and necktie. Also he looked dull and a little cruel.  And
made of wood, thought Edna, made of wood.
     Edna walked off, smiling a bit. She also had a feeling of repulsion. By
the  time she reached her apartment she had forgotten about him. It was some
hours  later, sitting in the bathtub, that she thought about him  again  and
this time she thought how truly lonely he must be to do such a thing:
      She thought of him coming home, finding the gas and phone bills in the
mailbox,  undressing, taking a bath, the T.V. on. Then  the  evening  paper.
Then into the kitchen to cook. Standing there in his shorts, staring down at
the  frying pan. Taking his food and walking to a table, eating it. Drinking
his  coffee. Then more T.V. And maybe a lonely can of beer before bed. There
were millions of men like that all over America.
      Edna got out of the tub, toweled, dressed and left her apartment.  The
car  was still there. She took down the man's name, Joe Light-hill, and  the
phone  number.  She  read the typewritten section again. "Motion  pictures."
What an odd term to use. People said "movies" now. Woman Wanted.  The
sign was very bold. He was original there.
      When  Edna  got home she had three cups of coffee before  dialing  the
number. The phone rang tour times. "Hello?" he answered.
     "Mr. Lighthill?"
     "I saw your ad. Your ad on the car."
     "Oh, yes."
     "My name's Edna."
     "How you doing, Edna?"
     "Oh, I'm all right. It's been so hot. This weather's too much."
     "Yes, it makes it difficult to live."
     "Well, Mr. Lighthill . . ."
     "Just call me Joe."
      "Well,  Joe,  hahaha, I feel like a fool. You know  what  I'm  calling
     "You saw my sign?"
     "I mean, hahaha, what's wrong with you? Can't you get a woman?"
     "I guess not, Edna. Tell me, where are they?"
     "Oh, everywhere, you know."
     "Where? Tell me. Where?"
     "Well, church, you know. There are women in church."
     "I don't like church."
     "Listen, why don't you come over, Edna?"
     "You mean over there?"
     "Yes. I have a nice place. We can have a drink, talk. No pressure."
     "It's late."
     "It's not that late. Listen you saw my sign. You must be interested."
     "Well . . ."
     "You're scared, that's all. You're just scared."
     "No, I'm not scared."
     "Then come on over, Edna."
     "Well . . ."
     "Come on."
     "All right. I'll see you in fifteen minutes."
      It  was  on the top floor of a modern apartment complex. Apt. 17.  The
swimming pool below threw back the lights. Edna knocked. The door opened and
there was Mr. Lighthill. Balding in front;
      hawknosed with the nostril hairs sticking out; the shirt open  at  the
     "Come on in, Edna . . ."
      She walked in and the door closed behind her. She had on her blue knit
dress. She was stockingless, in sandals, and smoking a cigarette.
     "Sit down. I'll get you a drink."
      It  was  a  nice  place. Everything in blue and green and  very
clean.  She  heard  Mr. Lighthill humming as he mixed the drinks,  hmmmmmmm,
hmmmmmmmm, hmmmmmmmmm . . . He seemed relaxed and it helped her.
      Mr.  Lighthill -- Joe -- came out with the drinks. He handed Edna hers
and then sat in a chair across the room from her.
     "Yes," he said, "it's been hot, hot as hell. I've got air-conditioning,
     "I noticed. It's very nice."
     "Drink your drink."
     "Oh, yes."
      Edna  had a sip. It was a good drink, a bit strong but it tasted nice.
She  watched  Joe  tilt  his head as he drank. He  appeared  to  have  heavy
wrinkles  around his neck. And his pants were much too loose. They  appeared
sizes too large. It gave his legs a funny look.
     "That's a nice dress, Edna."
     "You like it?"
     "Oh yes. You're plump too. It fits you snug, real snug."
      Edna  didn't say anything. Neither did Joe. They just sat  looking  at
each other and sipping their drinks.
      Why  doesn't  he talk? thought Edna. 'It's up to him  to  talk.  There
is something wooden about him. She finished her drink.
     "Let me get you another," said Joe.
     "No, I really should be going."
      "Oh,  come  on,"  he  said, "let me get you  another  drink.  We  need
something to loosen us up."
     "All right, but after this one, I'm going."
      Joe went into the kitchen with the glasses. He wasn't humming anymore.
He came out, handed Edna her drink and sat back down in his chair across the
room from her. This drink was stronger.
     "You know," he said, "I do well on the sex quizzes."
     Edna sipped at her drink and didn't answer.
     "How do you do on the sex quizzes?" Joe asked.
     "I've never taken any."
      "You  should, you know, so you'll find out who you are  and  what  you
      "Do you think those things are valid? I've seen them in the newspaper.
I haven't taken them but I've seen them," said Edna.
     "Of course they're valid."
      "Maybe  I'm no good at sex," said Edna, "maybe that's why I'm  alone."
She took a long drink from her glass.
     "Each of us is, finally, alone," said Joe.
     "What do you mean?"
      "I  mean, no matter how well it's going sexually or love-wise or both,
the day arrives when it's over."
     "That's sad," said Edna.
      "Of course. So the day arrives when it's over. Either there is a split
or the whole thing resolves into a truce: two people living together without
feeling anything. I believe that being alone is better."
     "Did you divorce your wife, Joe?"
     "No, she divorced me."
     "What went wrong?"
     "Sexual orgies."
     "Sexual orgies?"
      "You  know,  a sexual orgy is the loneliest place in the world.  Those
orgies -- I felt a sense of desperation -- those cocks sliding in and out --
excuse me ..."
     "It's all right."
      "Those cocks sliding in and out, legs locked, fingers working, mouths,
everybody clutching and sweating and determined to do it -- somehow."
     "I don't know much about those things, Joe," Edna said.
      "I  believe  that  without love, sex is nothing. Things  can  only  be
meaningful when some feeling exists between the participants."
     "You mean people have to like each other?"
     "It helps."
     "Suppose they get tired of each other? Suppose they have to stay
together? Economics? Children? All that?"
     "Orgies won't do it."
     "What does it?"
     "Well, I don't know. Maybe the swap."
     "The swap?"
      "You  know,  when  two couples know each other quite  well  and
switch  partners. Feelings, at least, have a chance. For example,  say  I've
always  liked Mike's wife. I've liked her for months. I've watched her  walk
across the room. I like her movements. Her movements have made me curious. I
wonder, you know, what goes with those movements. I've seen her angry,  I've
seen  her  drunk,  I've seen her sober. And then, the swap.  You're  in  the
bedroom with her, at last you're knowing her. There's a chance for something
real. Of course, Mike has your wife in the other room. Good luck, Mike,  you
think, and I hope you're as good a lover as I am."
     "And it works all right?"
      "Well, I dunno . . . Swaps can cause difficulties . . . afterwards. It
all  has to be talked out . . . very well talked out ahead of time. And then
maybe people don't know enough, no matter how much they talk . . ."
     "Do you know enough, Joe?"
      "Well,  these swaps ... I think it might be good for some . . .  maybe
good for many. I guess it wouldn't work for me. I'm toomuch of a prude."
      Joe  finished his drink. Edna set the remainder of hers down and stood
     "Listen Joe, I have to be going ..."
      Joe  walked across the room toward her. He looked like an elephant  in
those pants. She saw his big ears. Then he grabbed her and was kissing  her.
His  bad breath came through all the drinks. He had a very sour smell.  Part
of  his mouth was not making contact. He was strong but his strength was not
pure, it begged. She pulled her head away and still he held her.
     "Joe, let me go! You're moving too fast, Joe! Let go!"
     "Why did you come here, bitch?"
     He tried to kiss her again and succeeded. It was horrible. Edna brought
her knee up. She got him good. He grabbed and fell to the rug.
     ."God, god ... why'd you have to do that? You tried to kill me . . ."
     He rolled on the floor.
     His behind, she thought, he had such an ugly behind.
      She left him rolling on the rug and ran down the stairway. The air was
clean  outside.  She  heard people talking, she heard their  T.V.  sets.  It
wasn't a long walk to her apartment. She felt the need of another bath,  got
out  of  her blue knit dress and scrubbed herself. Then she got out  of  the
tub,  toweled herself dry and set her hair in pink curlers. She decided  not
to see him again.

      We  talked about women, peeked up their legs as they got out of  cars,
and  we  looked into windows at night hoping to see somebody fucking but  we
never  saw  anybody. One time we did watch a couple in bed and the  guy  was
mauling  his woman and we thought now we're going to see it, but  she  said,
"No, I don't want to do it tonight!" Then she turned her back on him. He lit
a cigarette and we went in search of a new window.
     "Son of a bitch, no woman of mine would turn away from me!"
     "Me neither. What kind of a man was that?"
      There  were three of us, me, Baldy, and Jimmy. Our big day was Sunday.
On  Sunday  we  met  at Baldy's house and took the streetcar  down  to  Main
Street. Carfare was seven cents.
      There  were  two burlesque houses in those days, the Follies  and  the
Burbank.  We  were in love with the strippers at the Burbank and  the  jokes
were a little better so we went to the Burbank. We had tried the dirty movie
house but the pictures weren't really dirty and the plots were all the same.
A  couple  of guys would get some little innocent girl drunk and before  she
got  over her hangover she'd find herself in a house of prostitution with  a
line  of sailors and hunchbacks beating on her door. Besides in those places
the  bums  slept night and day, pissed on the floor, drank wine, and  rolled
each other. The stink of piss and wine and murder was unbearable. We went to
the Burbank.
     "You boys going to a burlesque today?" Baldy's grampa would ask.
     "Hell no, sir, we've got things to do."
     We went. We went each Sunday. We went early in the morning, long before
the  show and we walked up and down Main Street looking into the empty  bars
where  the  B-girls sat in the doorways with their skirts up, kicking  their
ankles  in  the  sunlight that drifted into the dark bar. The  girls  looked
good.  But we knew. We had heard. A guy went in for a drink and they charged
his  ass off, both for his drink and the girl's. But the girl's drink  would
be watered. You'd get a feel or two and that was it. If you showed any money
the  barkeep would see it and along would come the mickey and you  were  out
over the bar and your money was gone. We knew.
      After our walk along Main Street we'd go into the hotdog place and get
our  eight  cent hotdog and our big nickel mug of rootbeer. We were  lifting
weights  and our muscles bulged and we wore our sleeves rolled high  and  we
each  had  a  pack of cigarettes in our breast pocket. We even had  tried  a
Charles  Atlas course. Dynamic Tension, but lifting weights seemed the  more
rugged and obvious
      While  we ate our hotdog and drank our huge mug of rootbeer we  played
the  pinball  machine, a penny a game. We got to know that  pinball  machine
very well. When you made a perfect score you got a free game. We had to make
perfect scores, we didn't have that kind of money.
      Franky  Roosevelt was in, things were getting better but it was  still
the  depression and none of our fathers were working. Where we got our small
amount of pocket money was a mystery except that we did have a sharp eye for
anything  that was not cemented to the ground. We didn't steal,  we  shared.
And  we invented. Having little or no money we invented little games to pass
the time -- one of them being to walk to the beach and back.
      This was usually done on a summer day and our parents never complained
when  we arrived home too late for dinner. Nor did they care about the  high
glistening blisters on the bottoms of our feet. It was when they saw how  we
had  worn out our heels and the soles of our shoes that we began to hear it.
We  were sent to the five and dime store where heels and soles and glue were
at the ready and at a reasonable price.
      The  situation  was  the same when we played tackle  football  in  the
streets. There weren't any public funds for playgrounds. We were so tough we
played  tackle football in the streets all through football season,  through
basketball  and  baseball seasons and on through the next  football  season.
When  you  get  tackled on asphalt, things happen. Skin rips, bones  bruise,
there's blood, but you get up like nothing was wrong.
      Our parents never minded the scabs and the blood and the bruises;  the
terrible  and unforgivable sin was to rip a hole in one of the  knees
of  your pants. Because there were only two pairs of pants to each boy:  his
everyday pants and his Sunday pants, and you could never rip a hole  in  the
knee  of  one of your two pairs of pants because that showed that  you  were
poor and an asshole and that your parents were poor and assholes too. So you
learned  to tackle a guy without falling on either knee. And the  guy
being tackled learned how to be tackled without falling on either knee.
      When we had fights we'd fight for hours and our parents wouldn't  save
us.  I guess it was because we pretended to be so tough and never asked  for
mercy,  they were waiting for us to ask for mercy. But we hated our  parents
so  we couldn't and because we hated them they hated us, and they'd walk out
on  their  porches and glance casually over at us in the midst of a terrible
endless  fight. They'd just yawn and pick up a throw-away advertisement  and
walk back inside.
      I fought a guy who later ended up very high in the United States Navy.
I  fought  him one day from 8:30 in the morning until after sundown.  Nobody
stopped us although we were in plain sight of his front lawn, under two huge
pepper trees with the sparrows shit-ting on us all day.
      It  was  a grim fight, it was to the finish. He was bigger,  a  little
older  and heavier, but I was crazier. We quit by common consent -- I  don't
know  how this works, you have to experience it to understand it, but  after
two  people  beat  on  each  other eight or nine hours  a  strange  kind  of
brotherhood emerges.
     The next day my body was entirely blue. I couldn't speak out of my lips
or  move any part of myself without pain. I was on the bed getting ready  to
die and my mother came in with the shirt I'd worn during the fight. She held
it  in front of my face over the bed and she said, "Look, you got bloodspots
on this shirt! Bloodspots!"
     "I'll never get them out! NEVER!!"
     "They're his bloodspots."
     "It doesn't matter! It's blood! It doesn't come out!"
      Sundays  were  our day, our quiet, easy day. We went to the  Bur-bank.
There  was  always  a bad movie first. A very old movie, andyou  looked  and
waited.  You  were  thinking of the girls. The three or  four  guys  in  the
orchestra  pit, they played loud, maybe they didn't play too good  but  they
played  loud, and those strippers finally came out and grabbed the  curtain,
the edge of the curtain, and they grabbed that curtain like it was a man and
shook  their  bodies  and went bop bop bop against that curtain.  Then  they
swung out and started to strip. If you had enough money there was even a bag
of popcorn; if you didn't to hell with it.
      Before the next act there was an intermission. A little man got up and
said, "Ladies and gentlemen, if you will let me have your kind attention . .
."  He was selling peep-rings. In the glass of each ring, if you held it  to
the  light  there was a most wonderful picture. This was promised you!  Each
ring  was  only  50  cents, a lifetime possession for just  50  cents,  made
available  only  to the patrons of the Burbank and not sold  anywhere  else.
"Just  hold it up to the light and you will see! And, thank you, ladies  and
gentlemen, for your kind attention. Now the ushers will pass down the aisles
among you."
      Two  ragass  bums would proceed down the aisles smelling of  muscatel,
each  carrying a bag of peep-rings. I never saw anybody purchase one of  the
rings. I imagine, though, if you had held one up to the light the picture in
the glass would have been a naked woman.
      The  band began again and the curtains opened and there was the chorus
line,  most of them former strippers gone old, heavy with mascara and  rouge
and  lipstick,  false eyelashes. They did their damndest to  stay  with  the
music  but they were always a little behind. But they carried on; I  thought
they were very brave.
      Then  came  the male singer. It was very difficult to  like  the  male
singer.  He sang too loud about love gone wrong. He didn't know how to  sing
and  when he finished he spread his arms, and bowed his head to the  tiniest
ripple of applause.
      Then  came the comedian. Oh, he was good! He came out in an old  brown
overcoat, hat pulled down over his eyes, slouching and walking like a bum, a
bum with nothing to do and no place to go. A girl would walk by on the stage
and  his eyes would follow her. Then he'd turn to the audience and say,  out
of his toothless mouth, "Well, I'll be god damned!"
      Another girl would walk out on the stage and he'd walk up to her,  put
his  face  close to hers and say, "I'm an old man, I'm past 44 but when  the
bed  breaks  down I finish on the floor." That did it. How we  laughed!  The
young  guys  and  the old guys, how we laughed. And there was  the  suitcase
routine.  He's trying to help some girl pack her suitcase. The clothes  keep
popping out.
     "I can't get it in!"
     "Here let me help you!"
     "It popped out again!"
     "Wait! I'll stand on it!"
     "What? Oh no, you're not going to stand on it!"
     They went on and on with the suitcase routine. Oh, he was funny!
      Finally the first three or four strippers came out again. We each  had
our  favorite  stripper and we each were in love. Baldy had  chosen  a  thin
French  girl  with asthma and dark pouches under her eyes. Jimmy  liked  the
Tiger  Woman (properly The Tigress). I pointed out to Jimmy the Tiger  Woman
definitely had one breast larger than the other. Mine was Rosalie.
      Rosalie  had a large ass and she shook it and shook it and sang  funny
little  songs, and as she walked about stripping she talked to  herself  and
giggled.  She was the only one who really enjoyed her work. I  was  in  love
with  Rosalie. I often thought of writing her and telling her how great  she
was but somehow I never got around to it.
      One  afternoon we were waiting for the streetcar after  the  show  and
there was the Tiger Woman waiting for the streetcar too. She was dressed  in
a tight-fitting green dress and we stood there looking at her.
     "It's your girl, Jimmy, it's the Tiger Woman."
     "Boy, she's got it! Look at her!"
     "I'm going to talk to her," said Baldy.
     "It's Jimmy's girl."
     "I don't want to talk to her," said Jimmy.
      "I'm  going  to  talk to her," said Baldy. He put a cigarette  in  his
mouth, lit it, and walked up to her.
     "Hi ya, baby!" he grinned at her.
      The  Tiger Woman didn't answer. She just stared straight ahead waiting
for the streetcar.
     "I know who you are. I saw you strip today. You've got it, baby, you've
really got it!"
     The Tiger Woman didn't answer.
     "You really shake it, my god, you really shake it!"
     The Tiger Woman stared straight ahead. Baldy stood there grin-ning like
an idiot at her. "I'd like to put it to you. I'd like to fuck
     you, baby!"
     We walked up and pulled Baldy away. We walked him down the street. "You
asshole, you have no right to talk to her that way!"
      "Well,  she  gets up and shakes it, she gets up in front  of  men  and
shakes it!"
     "She's just trying to make a living."
     "She's hot, she's red hot, she wants it!"
     "You're crazy."
     We walked him down the street.
      Not  long after that I began to lose interest in those Sundays on Main
Street.  I  suppose the Follies and the Burbank are still there. Of  course,
the  Tiger  Woman and the stripper with asthma, and Rosalie, my Rosalie  are
long  gone. Probably dead. Rosalie's big shaking ass is probably  dead.  And
when  I'm in my neighborliood, I drive past the house I used to live in  and
there  are strangers living there. Those Sundays were good, though, most  of
those  Sundays were good, a tiny light in the dark depression days when  our
fathers  walked the front porches, jobless and impotent and  glanced  at  us
beating  the  shit  out of each other, then went inside and  stared  at  the
walls, afraid to play the radio because of the electric bill.

      Jack  came  through the door and found the pack of cigarettes  on  the
mantle. Ann was on the couch reading a copy of Cosmopolitan. Jack lit
up, sat down in a chair. It was ten minutes to midnight.
      "Charley  told  you  not  to smoke," said Ann,  looking  up  from  the
     "I deserve it. It was a rough one tonight."
     "Did you win?"
      "Split  decision but I got it. Benson was a tough boy, lots  of  guts.
Charley says Parvinelli is next. We get over Parvinelli, we get the champ."
     Jack got up, went to the kitchen, came back with a bottle of beer.
     "Charley told me to keep you off the beer," Ann put the magazine down.
     '" 'Charley told me, Charley told me' . . . I'm tired of that. I won my
fight. I won 16 straight, I got a right to a beer and a cigarette."
     "You're supposed to stay in shape."
     "It doesn't matter. I can whip any of them."
      "You're  so  great, I keep hearing it when you get  drunk,  you're  so
great. I get sick of it."
     "I am great. 16 straight, 15 k.o.'s. Who's better?"
      Ann didn't answer. Jack took his bottle of beer and his cigarette into
the bathroom.
      "You didn't even kiss me hello. The first thing you did was go to your
bottle of beer. You're so great, all right. You're a great beer-drinker."
      Jack  didn't answer. Five minutes later he stood in the bathroom door,
his pants and shorts down around his shoes.
      "Jesus  Christ,  Ann, can't you even keep a roll of  toilet  paper  in
     She went to the closet and got him the roll. Jack finished his business
and walked out. Then he finished his beer and got another one. "Here you are
living  with  the best light-heavy in the world and all you do is  complain.
Lots of girls would love to have me but all you do is sit around and bitch."
      "I  know  you're good. Jack, maybe the best, but you  don't  know  how
boring it is to sit around and listen to you say over and over  again
how great you are."
     "Oh, you're bored with it, are you?"
     "Yes, god damn it, you and your beer and how great you are."
     "Name a better light-heavy. You don't even come to my fights."
     "There are other things besides fighting. Jack."
     "What? Like laying around on your ass and reading Cosmopolitan?"
     "I like to improve my mind."
     "You ought to. There's a lot of work to be done there."
     "I tell you there are other things besides fighting."
     "What? Name them."
     "Well, art, music, painting, things like that."
     "Are you any good at them?"
     "No, but I appreciate them."
     "Shit, I'd rather be best at what I'm doing."
      "Good,  better, best . . . God, can't you appreciate people  for  what
they are?"
     "For what they are? What are most of them? Snails, blood-
suckers, dandies, finks, pimps, servants . . ."
     "You're always looking down on everybody. None of your friends are good
enough. You're so damned great!"
     "That's right, baby."
     Jack walked into the kitchen and came out with another beer.
     "You and your god damned beer!"
     "It's my right. They sell it. I buy it."
     "Charley said . . ."
     "Fuck Charley!"
     "You're so god damned great!"
      "That's right. At least Pattie knew it. She admitted it. She was proud
of it. She knew it took something. All you do is bitch."
     "Well, why don't you go back to Pattie? What are you doing with me?"
     "That's just what I'm thinking."
     "Well, we're not married, I can leave any time."
      "That's one break we've got. Shit, I come in here dead-ass tired after
a  tough  ten  rounder and you're not even glad I took it.  All  you  do  is
complain about me."
      "Listen.  Jack, there are other things besides fighting. WTien  I  met
you, I admired you for what you were."
      "I  was  a  fighter.  There  aren't any  other  things  besides
      That's  what 1 am -- a hghter. That's my tile, and 1m good at it.  The
best.  I  notice  you always go for those second raters  .  .  .  like  Toby
     "Toby's very funny. He's got a sense of humor, a real sense of humor. I
like Toby."
     "His record is 9, 5, and one. I can take him when I'm dead drunk."
      "And god knows you're dead drunk often enough. How do you think I feel
at parties when you're laying on the floor passed out, or lolling around the
room  telling everybody, 'I'M GREAT, I'M GREAT, I'M GREAT!' Don't you  think
that makes me feel like an ass?"
      "Maybe you arc an ass. If you like Toby so much, why don't you go with
      "Oh,  1  just  said  I liked him, I thought he was funny,  that
doesn't mean I want to go to bed with him."
      "Well, you go to bed with me and you say I'm boring. I don't know what
the hell you want."
      Ann didn't answer. Jack got up, walked over to the couch, lifted Ann's
head and kissed her, walked back and sat down again.
      "Listen, let me tell you about this fight with Benson. Even you  would
have been proud of me. He decks me in the first round, a sneak right. I  get
up and hold him off the rest of the round. He plants me again in the second.
I  barely  get  up at 8. I hold him oft again. The next few rounds  I  spend
getting my legs back. I take the 6th, 7th, 8th, deck him once in the 9th and
twice  in the 10th. I don't call that a split. They called it a split. Well,
it's  45  grand, you get that, kid? 45 grand. I'm great, you can't deny  I'm
great, can you?"
     Ann didn't answer.
     "Come on, tell me I'm great."
     "All right, you're great."
      "Well, that's more like it." Jack walked over and kissed her again. "I
feel  so good. Boxing is a work of art, it really is. It takes guts to be  a
great artist and it takes guts to be a great fighter."
     "All right. Jack."
      "'All  right, Jack,' is that all you can say? Pattie used to be  happy
when  I  won. W^e were both happy all night. Can't you share it  when  I  do
something  good? Hell, are you in love with me or are you in love  with  the
losers, the half-asses? I think you'd be happier if I came in here a loser."
      "I want you to win. Jack, it's only that you put so much empha-sis  on
what you do . . ."
     "Hell, it's my living, it's my life. I'm proud of being best. It's like
flying, it's like flying off into the sky and whipping the sun,"
     "What are you going to do when you can't fight anymore?"
     "Hell, we'll have enough money to do whatever we want."
     "Except get along, maybe."
     "Maybe I can learn to read Cosmopolitan, improve my mind."
     "Well, there's room for improvement."
     "Fuck you."
     "Fuck you."
     "Well, that's something you haven't done in a while."
     "Some guys like to fuck hitching women, I don't."
     "I suppose Pattie didn't bitch?"
     "All women bitch, you're the champ."
     "Well, why don't you go back to Pattie?"
     "You're here now. I can only house one whore at a time."
      Ann  got  up  and went to the closet, got out her suitcase  and  began
putting  her  clothes  in there. Jack went to the kitchen  and  got  another
bottle  of beer. Ann was crying and angry. Jack sat down with his  beer  and
took a good drain. He needed a whiskey, he needed a bottle of whiskey. And a
good cigar.
     "I can come pick up the rest of my stuff when you're not around."
     "Don't bother. I'll have it sent to you."
     She stopped at the doorway.
     "Well, I guess this is it," she said.
     "I suppose it is," Jack answered.
     She closed the door and was gone. Standard procedure. Jack finished the
beer  and  went  over  to  the  telephone. He dialed  Pattie's  number.  She
     "Oh, Jack, how are you?"
      "I  won  the  big one tonight. A split. All I got to do  is  get  over
Parvinelli and I got the champ."
     "You'll whip both of them, Jack. I know you can do it."
     "What are you doing tonight, Pattie?"
     "It's 1:00 a.m. Jack. Have you been drinking?"
     "A few. I'm celebrating."
     "How about Ann?"
     "We split. I only play one woman at a time, you know that Pattie."
     "Jack . . ."
     "I'm with a guy."
     "A guy?"
     "Toby Jorgenson. He's in the bedroom . . ."
     "Oh, I'm sorry."
     "I'm sorry, too. Jack, I loved you ... maybe I still do."
     "Oh, shit, you women really throw that word around ..."
     "I'm sorry. Jack."
     "It's o.k." He hung up. Then he went to the closet for his coat. He put
it  on,  finished  the beer, went down the elevator to  his  car.  He  drove
straight  up  Normandie  at  65 m.p.h., pulled  into  the  liquor  store  on
Hollywood  Boulevard.  He  got out and walked  in.  He  got  a  six-pack  of
Michelob,  a pack of Alka-Seltzers. Then at the counter he asked  the  clerk
for  a  fifth of Jack Daniels. While the clerk was tabbing them up  a  drunk
walked up with two six-packs of Coors.
     "Hey, man!" he said to Jack, "ain't you Jack Backenweld, the fighter?"
     "I am," answered Jack.
      "Man,  I saw that fight tonight. Jack, you're all guts. You're  really
      "Thanks, man," he told the drunk, and then he took his sack  of  goods
and walked to his car. He sat there, took the cap off the Daniels and had  a
good  slug.  Then he backed out, ran west down Hollywood,  took  a  left  at
Normandie and noticed a well-built teenage girl staggering down the  street.
He stopped his car, lifted the fifth out of the bag and showed it to her.
     "Want a ride?"
      Jack was surprised when she got in. "I'll help you drink that, mister,
but no fringe benefits."
     "Hell, no" said Jack.
      He  drove  down Normandie at 35 m.p.h., a self-respecting citizen  and
third ranked light-heavy in the world. For a moment he felt like telling her
who  she  was  riding  with but he changed his mind  and  reached  over  and
squeezed one of her knees.
     "You got a cigarette, mister?" she asked.
     He flicked one out with his hand, pushed in the dash lighter. It jumped
out and he lit her up.

      At  L.A. City College just before World War II, I posed as a  Nazi.  I
hardly knew Hitler from Hercules and cared less. It wa just that sitting  in
class  and hearing all the patriots preach how we should go over and do  the
beast  in,  I grew bored. I decided to become the opposition. I didn't  even
bother  to read up on Adolf, I simply spouted anything that I felt was  evil
or maniacal.
      However, I really didn't have any political beliefs. It was a  way  of
floating free.
     You know, sometimes if a man doesn't believe in what he is doing he can
do a much more interesting job because he isn't emotionally caught up in his
Cause.  It wasn't long before all the tall blond boys had formed The Abraham
Lincoln  Brigade -- to hold off the hordes of facism in Spain. And then  had
their  asses  shot off by trained troops. Some of them did it for  adventure
and a trip to Spain but they still got their asses shot off. I liked my ass.
There  really wasn't much I liked about myself but I did like my ass and  my
     I leaped up in class and shouted anything that came to my mind. Usually
it  had  something to do with the Superior Race, which I thought was  rather
humorous.  I didn't lay it directly onto the Blacks and the Jews  because  I
saw  that  they were as poor and confused as I was. But I did get  off  some
wild  speeches  in and out of class, and the bottle of wine  I  kept  in  my
locker helped me along. I was surprised that so many people listened  to  me
and  how few, if any, ever questioned my statements. I just ran off  at  the
mouth and was delighted at how entertaining L.A. City College could be.
     "Are you going to run for student body president, Chinaski?"
     "Shit, no."
     I didn't want to do anything. I didn't even went to go to gym. In fact,
the  last  thing  I  wanted to do was to go to gym  and  sweat  and  wear  a
jockstrap and compare pecker-lengths. I knew I had a medium-sized pecker.  I
didn't have to take gym to establish that.
      We  were  lucky. The college decided to charge a two dollar enrollment
fee.  We  decided  --  a  few  of  us  decided,  anyhow  --  that  that  was
unconstitutional, so we refused. We struck against it. The  college  allowed
us to attend classes but took away some of our privileges, one of them being
      When  time  arrived for gym class, we stood in civilian clothing.  The
coach was given orders to march us up and down the field in close formation.
That  was  their revenge. Beautiful. I didn't have to run around  the  track
with  my  ass  sweating  or  try to throw a demented  basketball  through  a
demented hoop.
      We  marched around and made up dirty songs, and the good American boys
on  the  football  team threatened to whip our asses but somehow  never  got
around  to  it. Probably because we were bigger and meaner. To  me,  it  was
wonderful,  pretending to be a Nazi, and then turning around and proclaiming
that my consitutional rights were being violated.
      I  did sometimes get emotional. I remember one time in class, after  a
little too much wine, with a tear in each eye, I said, "I promise you,  this
will  hardly  be  the  last war. As soon as one enemy is eliminated  somehow
another is found. It's endless and meaningless. There's no such thing  as  a
good war or a bad war."
     Another time there was a communist speaking from a platform on a vacant
lot  south  of  campus.  He  was a very earnest boy  with  rimless  glasses,
pimples, wearing a black sweater with holes in the elbows. I stood listening
and  had  some  of  my disciples with me. One of them was a  White  Russian,
Zircoff,  his father or his grandfather had been killed by the Reds  in  the
Russian  revolution. He showed me a sack of rotten tomatoes. "When you  give
the word," he told me, "we'll begin throwing them."
      It occurred to me suddenly that my disciples hadn't been listening  to
the  speaker,  or even if they had been, nothing he had said  would  matter.
Their  minds were made up. Most of the world was like that. Having a medium-
sized cock suddenly didn't seem the world's worst sin.
     "Zircoff," I said, "put the tomatoes away."
     "Piss," he said, "I wish they were hand grenades."
      I  lost  control  of my disciples that day, and walked  away  as  they
started hurling their rotten tomatoes.

      I was informed that a new Vanguard Party was to be formed. I was given
an  address in Glendale and I went there that night. We sat in the  basement
of a large home with our wine bottles and our various-sized cocks.
      There was a platform and desk with a large American flag spread across
the back wall. A healthy looking American boy walked out on the platform and
suggested that we begin by saluting the flag, pledging allegiance to it.
      I  always disliked pledging allegiance to the flag. It was so  tedious
and  sillyass.  I always felt more like pledging allegiance to  myself,  but
there  we  were  and we stood up and ran through it. Then,  afterwards,  the
little  pause,  and  everybody sitting down feeling  as  if  they  had  been
slightly molested.
      The healthy American began talking. I recognized him as a fat boy  who
sat  in the front row of the playwriting class. I never trusted those types.
Sucks.  Strictly sucks. He began: "The Communist menace must be stopped.  We
are  gathered  here to take steps to do so. We will take lawful  steps  and,
perhaps, unlawful steps to do this . . ."
      I  don't  remember much of the rest. I didn't care about the Communist
menace of the Nazi menace. I wanted to get drunk, I wanted to fuck, I wanted
a  good meal, I wanted to sing over a glass of beer in a dirty bar and smoke
a cigar. I wasn't aware. I was a dupe, a tool.
      Afterwards,  Zircoff  and  myself and one  ex-disciple  went  down  to
Westlake Park and we rented a boat and tried to catch a duck for dinner.  We
managed  to get very drunk and didn't catch a duck and found we didn't  have
enough money between us to pay the boat rental fee.
      We  floated  around the shallow lake and played Russian Roulette  with
Zircoff's  gun  and  we all lucked through. Then Zircoff  stood  up  in  the
moonlight  drunk and shot the hell out of the bottom of the boat. The  water
started  coming in and we ran her for shore. A third of the way in the  boat
sank and we had to get out and get our assholes wet wading to shore. So  the
night ended up well and hadn't been wasted . . .

      I played Nazi for some time longer, while caring for neither the Nazis
nor  the  Communists nor the Americans. But I was losing interest. In  fact,
just  before Pearl Harbor I gave it up. The fun had gone out of it.  I  felt
the  war was going to happen and I didn't feel much like going to war and  I
didn't feel much like being a conscientious objector either. It was catshit.
It was useless. Me and my medium-sized cock were in trouble.
      I  sat  in  class  without speaking, waiting.  The  students  and  the
instructors needled me. I had lost my drive, my steam, my mox. I  felt  that
the  whole thing was out of my hands. It was going to happen. All the  cocks
were in trouble.
      My English instructor, quite a nice lady with beautiful legs asked  me
to stay after class one day. "What's the matter, Chinaski?" she asked. "I've
given  up,"  I  said. "You mean politics?" she asked. "I mean  politics,"  I
said. "You'd make a good sailor," she said. I walked out . . .

     I was sitting with my best friend, a marine, in a downtown bar drinking
a beer when it happened. A radio was playing music, there was a break in the
music. They told us that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed. It was announced
that  all  military personnel should return immediately to their  bases.  My
friend  asked that I take the bus with him to San Diego, suggesting that  it
might turn out to be the last time I ever saw him. He was right.

     I was sitting in a bar on Western Ave. It was around midnight and I was
in  my  usual  confused state. I mean, you know, nothing  works  right:  the
women, the jobs, the no jobs, the weather, the dogs. Finally you just sit in
a  kind of stricken state and wait like you're on the bus stop bench waiting
for death.
      Well, I was sitting there and here comes this one with long dark hair,
a  good  body, sad brown eyes. I didn't turn on for her. I ignored her  even
though  she  had taken the stool next to mine when there were a dozen  other
empty  seats.  In  fact, we were the only ones in the  bar  except  for  the
bartender. She ordered a dry wine. Then she asked me what I was drinking.
     "Scotch and water."
     "Give him a scotch and water," she told the barkeep.
     Well, that was unusual.
      She  opened her purse, removed a small wire cage and took some  little
people  out and sat them on the bar. They were all around three inches  tall
and  they were alive and properly dressed. There were four of them, two  men
and two women.
      "They  make these now," she said, "they're very expensive.  They  cost
around $2,000 apiece when I got them. They go for around $2,400 now. I don't
know the manufacturing process but it's probably against the law."
      The  little people were walking around on the top of the bar. Suddenly
one of the little guys slapped one of the little women across the face.
     "You bitch," he said, "I've had it with you!"
     "No, George, you can't," she cried, "I love you! I'll kill myself! I've
got to have you!"
      "I  don't care," said the little guy, and he took out a tiny cigarette
and lit it. "I've got a right to live."
      "If  you don't want her," said the other little guy, "I'll take
her. I love her."
     "But I don't want you, Marty. I'm in love with George."
     "But he's a bastard, Anna, a real bastard!"
     "I know, but I love him anyhow."
     The little bastard then walked over and kissed the other little woman.
     "I've got a triangle going," said the lady who had bought me the drink.
"That's Marty and George and Anna and Ruthie. George goes down, he goes down
good. Marty's kind of square."
     "Isn't it sad to watch all that? Er, what's your name?"
      "Dawn.  It's  a  terrible name. But that's what mothers  do  to  their
children sometimes."
     "I'm Hank. But isn't it sad . . ."
      "No,  it  isn't sad to watch it. I haven't had much luck with  my  own
loves, terrible luck really . . ."
     "We all have terrible luck."
      "I suppose. Anyhow, I bought these little people and now I watch them,
and  it's  like  having it and not having any of the  problems.  But  I  get
awfully hot when they start making love. That's when it gets difficult."
     "Are they sexy?"
     "Very, very sexy. My god, it makes me hot!"
      "Why  don't you make them do it? I mean, right now. We'll  watch  them
     "Oh, you can't make them do it. They've got to do it on their own."
     "How often do they do it?"
     "Oh, they're pretty good. They go four or five times a week."
      They were walking around on the bar. "Listen," said Marty, "give me  a
chance. Just give me a chance, Anna."
      "No,"  said Anna, "my love belongs to George. There's no other way  it
can be."
     George was kissing Ruthie, feeling her breasts. Ruthie was getting hot.
     "Ruthie's getting hot," I told Dawn.
     "She is. She really is."
     I was getting hot too. I grabbed Dawn and kissed her.
      "Listen,"  she said, "I don't like them to make love in  public.  I'll
take them home and have them do it."
     "But then I can't watch."
     "Well, you'll just have to come with me."
     "All right," I said, "let's go."
      I finished my drink and we walked out together. She carried the little
people  in  the small wire cage. We got into her car and put the  people  in
between  us  on the front seat. I looked at Dawn. She was really  young  and
beautiful.  She  seemed to have good insides too. How could  she  have  gone
wrong  with  her men? There were so many ways those things could  miss.  The
four  little people had cost her $8,000. Just that to get  away  from
relationships and not to get away from relationships.
      Her house was near the hills, a pleasant looking place. We got out and
walked  up  to  the door. I held the little people in the  cage  while  Dawn
opened the door.
      "I heard Randy Newman last week at The Troubador. Isn't he great?" she
     "Yes, he is."
      We  walked into the front room and Dawn took the little people out and
placed  them on the coffeetable. Then she walked into the kitchen and opened
the refrigerator and got out a bottle of wine. She brought in two glasses.
      "Pardon me," she said, "but you seem a little bit crazy. What  do  you
     "I'm a writer."
     "Are you going to write about this?"
     "They'll never believe it, but I'll write it."
     "Look," said Dawn, "George has got Ruthie's panties off. He's fingering
her. Ice?"
     "Yes, he is. No, no ice. Straight's fine."
      "I don't know," said Dawn, "it really gets me hot to watch them. Maybe
it's because they're so small. It really heats me up."
     "I know what you mean."
     "Look, George is going down on her now." '
     "He is, isn't he?"
     "Look at them!"
     "God o mighty!"
      I  grabbed Dawn. We stood there kissing. As we did her eyes went  from
mine to them and then back to mine again.
     Little Marty and little Anna were watching too.
      "Look,"  said Marty, "they're going to make it. We might as well  make
it. Even the big folks are going to make it. Look at them!"
      "Did you hear that?" I asked Dawn. "They said we're going to make  it.
Is that true?"
     "I hope it's true," said Dawn.
      I got her over to the couch and worked her dress up around her hips. I
kissed her along the throat. "I love you," I said.
     "Do you? Do you?"
     "Yes, somehow, yes . . ."
      "All right," said little Anna to little Marty, "we might as well do it
too, even though I don't love you."
      They  embraced in the middle of the coffeetable. I had  worked  Dawn's
panties  off. Dawn groaned. Little Ruthie groaned. Marty closed in on  Anna.
It  was happening everywhere. I got the idea that everybody in the world was
doing it. Then I forgot about the rest of the world. We somehow walked  into
the bedroom. Then I got into Dawn for the long slow ride. . . .
      When  she came out of the bathroom I was reading a dull dull story  in
     "It was so good," she said.
     "My pleasure," I answered.
     She got back into bed with me. I put the magazine down.
     "Do you think we .can make it together?" she asked.
     "What do you mean?"
     "I mean, do you think we can make it together for any length of time?"
     "I don't know. Things happen. The beginning is always easiest."
      Then  there was a scream from the front room. "Oh-oh," said Dawn.  She
leaped  up  and  ran out of the room. I followed. When I got there  she  was
holding George in her hands.
     "Oh, my god!"
     "What happened?"
     "Anna did it to him!"
     "Did what?"
     "She cut off his balls! George is a eunuch!"
     "Get me some toilet paper, quickly! He might bleed to death!"
      "That  son  of  a bitch," said little Anna from the coffeetable,  "ifI
can't have George, nobody can have him!"
     "Now both of you belong to me!" said Marty.
     "No, you've got to choose between us," said Anna.
     "Which one of us is it?" asked Ruthie.
     "I love you both," said Marty.
     "He's stopped bleeding," said Dawn. "He's out cold." She wrapped George
in a handkerchief and put him on the mantle.
      "I mean," Dawn said to me, "if you don't think we can make it, I don't
want to go into it anymore."
     "I think I love you. Dawn."
     "Look," she said, "Marty's embracing Ruthie!"
     "Are they going to make it?"
     "I don't know. They seem excited."
     Dawn picked Anna up and put her in the wire cage.
     "Let me out of here! I'll kill both of them! Let me out of here!"
      George moaned from inside his handkerchief upon the mantle. Marty  had
Ruthie's  panties off. I pulled Dawn to me. She was beautiful and young  and
had  insides. I could be in love again. It was possible. We kissed.  I  fell
down inside her eyes. Then I got up and began running. I knew where I was. A
cockroach  and  an eagle made love. Time was a fool with  a  banjo.  I  kept
running. Her long hair fell across my face.
      "I'll kill everybody!" screamed little Anna. She rattled about in  her
wire cage at 3 a.m. in the morning.

     LOVE FOR $17.50
      Robert's first desire -- when he began thinking of such things --  was
to  sneak  into the Wax Museum some night and make love to the  wax  ladies.
However,  that  seemed too dangerous. He limited himself to making  love  to
statues and mannequins in his sex fantasies and lived in his fantasy world.
      One  day while stopped at a red light he looked into the doorway of  a
shop.  It  was  one of those shops that sold everything --  records,  sofas,
books, trivia, junk. He saw her standing there in a long red dress. She wore
rimless  glasses, was well-shaped; dignified and sexy the way they  used  to
be.  A  real class broad. Then the signal changed and he was forced to drive
      Robert  parked  a  block away and walked back to the  shop.  He  stood
outside  at  the newspaper rack and looked in at her. Even the  eyes  looked
real, and the mouth was very impulsive, pouting just a bit.
      Robert went inside and looked at the record rack. He was closer to her
then  and sneaked glances. No, they didn't make them like that anymore.  She
even had on high heels.
     The girl in the shop walked up. "Can I help you, sir?"
     "Just browsing, miss."
     "If there's anything you want, just let me know."
      Robert  moved  over to the mannequin. There wasn't  a  price  tag.  He
wondered if she were for sale. He walked back to the record rack, picked  up
a cheap album and purchased it from the girl.
     The next time he visited the shop the mannequin was still there. Robert
browsed  a  bit,  bought an ashtray that was moulded to  imi-tate  a  coiled
snake, then walked out.
      The  third time he was there he asked the girl: "Is the mannequin  for
     "The mannequin?"
     "Yes, the mannequin."
     "You want to buy it?"
     "Yes, you sell things, don't you? Is the mannequin for sale?"
     "Just a moment, sir."
      The  girl  went to the back of the shop. A curtain parted and  an  old
Jewish  man  came out. The bottom two buttons of his shirt were missing  and
you could see his hairy belly. He seemed friendly enough.
     "You want the mannequin, sir?"
     "Yes, is she for sale?"
     "Well, not really. You see, it's kind of a display piece, a joke."
     "I want to buy her."
      "Well,  let's see . . ." The old Jew went over and began touching  the
mannequin, touching the dress, the arms. "Let's see ... I think  I  can  let
you have this ... thing... for $17.50."
      "I'll  take her." Robert pulled out a twenty. The storekeeper  counted
out the change.
      "I'm  going  to  miss it," he said, "sometimes it seems  almost  real.
Should I wrap it?"
     "No, I'll take her the way she is."
      Robert picked up the mannequin and carried her to his car. He laid her
down  in  the back seat. Then he got in and drove off to his place. When  he
got  there,  luckily, there didn't seem to be anybody about and he  got  her
into  the doorway unseen. He stood her in the center of the room and  looked
at her.
     "Stella," he said, "Stella, bitch!"
      He walked up and slapped her across the face. Then he grabbed the head
and  kissed it. It was a good kiss. His penis began to harden when the phone
rang. "Hello," he answered.
     "Yeah. Sure."
     "This is Harry."
     "How you doing. Harry?"
     "O.k., what you doing?"
     "I thought I'd come over. Bring a couple of beers."
      Robert hung up, picked up the mannequin and carried her to the closet.
He pushed her back in the corner of the closet and closed the door.
      Harry  really didn't have much to say. He sat there with his beer-can.
"How's Laura?" he asked.
     "Oh," said Robert, "it's all over between me and Laura."
     "What happened?"
      "The eternal vamp bit. Always on stage. She was relentless. She'd turn
on  for  guys everywhere -- at the grocery store, on the street,  in  cafes,
everywhere and to anybody. It didn't matter who it was as long as it  was  a
man.  She even turned on for a guy who dialed a wrong number. I couldn't  go
it anymore."
     "You alone now?"
     "No, I've got another one. Brenda. You've met her."
     "Oh yeah. Brenda. She's all right."
      Harry  sat  there drinking beer. Harry never had a woman  but  he  was
always talking about them. There was something sickening about Harry. Robert
didn't  encourage the conversation and Harry soon left. Robert went  to  the
closet and brought Stella out.
      "You  god damned whore!" he said. "You've been cheating on me, haven't
      Stella  didn't answer. She stood there looking so cool  and  prim.  He
slapped  her a good one. It'd be a long day in the sun before any woman  got
away with cheating on Bob Wilkenson. He slapped her another good one.
      "Cunt!  You'd fuck a four-year-old boy if he could get his pecker  up,
wouldn't you?"
      He  slapped her again, then grabbed her and kissed her. He kissed  her
again  and  again. Then he ran his hands up under her dress. She  was  well-
shaped, very well-shaped. Stella reminded him of an algebra teacher he'd had
in high school. Stella didn't have on panties.
     "Whore," he said, "who got your panties?"
      Then  his  penis was pressed against the front of her.  There  was  no
opening. But Robert was in a tremendous passion. He inserted it between  the
upper thighs. It was smooth and tight. He worked away. For just a moment  he
felt extremely foolish, then his passion took over and he began kissing  her
along the neck as he worked.
     Robert washed Stella with a dishrag, placed her in the closet behind an
overcoat,  closed the door and still managed to get in the last  quarter  of
the Detroit Lions vs. L.A. Rams game on T.V.
      It  was  quite  nice  for  Robert as time went  on.  He  made  certain
adjustments.  He bought Stella several pairs of underpants, a  garter  belt,
sheer long stockings, an ankle bracelet.
      He  bought her earrings too, and was quite shocked to learn  that  his
love  didn't  have any ears. Under all that hair, the ears were missing.  He
put the earrings on anyhow with adhesive tape. But there were advantages  --
he  didn't have to take her to dinner, to parties, to dull movies; all those
mundane  things  that  meant so much to the average woman.  And  there  were
arguments.  There  would always be arguments, even  with  a  mannequin.  She
wasn't  talkative  but he was sure she told him once, "You're  the  greatest
lover  of  them  all.  That old Jew was a dull lover. You  love  with  soul,
      Yes, there were advantages. She wasn't like all the other women he had
known. She didn't want to make love at inconvenient moments. He could choose
the  time. And she didn't have periods. And he went down on her. He cut some
of the hair from her head and pasted it between her thighs.
      The  affair was sexual to begin with but gradually he was  falling  in
love  with  her,  he  could  feel it happening. He  considered  going  to  a
psychiatrist,  then decided not to. After all, was it necessary  to  love  a
real  human  being?  It never lasted long. There were too  many  differences
between the species, and what started as love too often ended up as war.
      Then  too, he didn't have to lie in bed with Stella and listen to  her
talk  about  all  her past lovers. How Karl had such a big thing,  but  Karl
wouldn't go down. And how Louie danced so well, Louie could have made it  in
ballet instead of selling insurance. And how Marty could really kiss. He had
a  way of locking tongues. So on. So forth. What shit. Of course, Stella had
mentioned the old Jew. But just that once.
     Robert had been with Stella about two weeks when Brenda phoned.
     "Yes, Brenda?" he answered.
     "Robert, you haven't phoned me."
      "I've  been  terribly  busy, Brenda. I've been  promoted  to  district
manager and I've had to realign things down at the office."
     "Is that so?"
     "Robert, something's wrong ..."
     "What do you mean?"
      "I  can tell by your voice. Something's wrong. What the hell's  wrong,
Robert? Is there another woman?"
     "Not exactly."
     "What do you mean, not exactly?"
     "Oh, Christ!"
      "What is it? What is it? Robert, something's wrong. I'm coming over to
see you."
     "There's nothing wrong, Brenda."
      "You  son of a bitch, you're holding out on me! Something's going  on.
I'm coming to see you! Now!"
      Brenda hung up and Robert walked over and picked up Stella and put her
in  the closet, well back in one corner. He took the overcoat off the hanger
and hung it over Stella. Then he came back, sat down and waited.
      Brenda  opened  the door and rushed in. "All right,  what  the  hell's
wrong? What is it?"
     "Listen, kid," he said, "it's o.k. Calm down."
      Brenda  was nicely built. Her breasts sagged a bit, but she  had  fine
legs and a beautiful ass. Her eyes always had a frantic, lost look. He could
never  cure  her eyes of that. Sometimes after love-making a temporary  calm
would fill her eyes but it never lasted.
     "You haven't even kissed me yet!"
     Robert got up from his chair and kissed Brenda.
     "Christ, that was no kiss! What is it?" she asked. "What's wrong!"
     "It's nothing, nothing at all . . ."
     "If you don't tell me, I'm going to scream!"
     "I tell you, it's nothing."
      Brenda screamed. She walked to the window and screamed. You could hear
her all over the neighborhood. Then she stopped.
     "God, Brenda, don't do that again! Please, please!"
      "I'll do it again! I'll do it again! Tell me what's wrong, Robert,  or
I'll do it again!"
     "All right," he said, "wait."
     Robert went to the closet, took the overcoat off Stella and 'if led her
out of the closet.
     "What's that?" asked Brenda, "what's that?"
     "A mannequin."
     "A mannequin? You mean? . . ."
     "I mean, I'm in love with her."
     "Oh, my god I You mean? That thing? That tiling?"
      "You  love that thing more than me? That hunk of celluloid,  or
whatever  the  shit she's made of? You mean you love that thing  more
than me?"
      "I suppose you take it to bed with you? I suppose you do things to ...
with that thing?"
     "Oh . . ."
      Then Brenda really screamed. She just stood there and screamed. Robert
thought  she would never stop. Then she leaped at the mannequin and  started
to  claw  and beat at it. The mannequin toppled and fell against  the  wall.
Brenda  ran  out the door, got in her car and drove off wildly. She  crashed
into the side of a parked car, glanced off, drove on.
      Robert walked over to Stella. The head had broken off and rolled under
a  chair.  There were spurts of chalky material on the floor. One  arm  hung
loosely, broken, two wires protruding. Robert sat down in a chair.  He  just
sat  there. Then he got up and went into the bathroom, stood there a minute,
and  came back out. He stood in the hallway and could see the head under the
chair.  He  began to sob. It was terrible. He didn't know  what  to  do.  He
remembered  how  he  had  buried his mother and his  father.  But  this  was
different.  This  was different. He just stood in the hallway,  sobbing  and
waiting. Both of Stella's eyes were open and cool and beautiful. They stared
at him.

      I was in my 20's and although I was drinking heavily and not eating, I
was  still strong. I mean, physically, and that's some luck for you when not
much  else is going right. My mind was in riot against my lot and life,  and
the only way I could calm it was to drink and drink and drink. I was walking
up  the  road, it was dusty and dirty and hot, and I believe the  state  was
California, but I'm no longer sure. It was desert land. I was walking  along
the  road, my stockings hard and rotted and stinking, the nails were  coming
up  through  the  soles  of my shoes and into my feet  and  I  had  to  keep
cardboard  in my shoes -- cardboard, newspaper, anything that I could  find.
The  nails  worked through that, and you either got some more or you  turned
the stuff around, or upsidedown, or reshaped it.
      The truck stopped alongside of me. I ignored it and kept walking.  The
truck started up again and the guy rode along beside me.
     "Kid," the guy said, " you want a job?"
     "Who've I got to kill?' I asked.
     "Nobody," said the guy, "come on, get in."
     I went around to the other side and when I got there the door was open.
I  stepped up on the running board, slid in, pulled the door shut and leaned
back in the leather seat. I was out of the sun.
     "You wanna suck me," said the guy, "you get five bucks."
      I  put  the  right hand hard into his gut, got the left  somewhere  in
between the ear and the neck, came back with the right to the mouth and  the
truck ran off the road. I grabbed the wheel and steered it back. Then I  cut
the  motor  and braked. I climbed out and continued to walk along the  road.
About five minutes later the truck was running along next to me again.
      "Kid," said the guy, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I didn't mean you
were  a  homo. I mean, though, you kind of half-look like a homo.  Is  there
anything wrong with being a homo?"
     "I guess if you're a homo there's not."
      "Come on," said the guy, "get in. I got a real honest job for you. You
can make some money, get on your feet."
     I climbed in again. We drove off.
      "I'm  sorry," he said, "you got a real tough face, but  look  at  your
hands. You got ladies' hands."
     "Don't worry about my hands," I said.
     "Well, it's a tough job. Loadin' ties. You ever loaded ties?
     "It's hard work."
     "I've done hard work all my life."
     "O.k.," said the guy, "o.k."
     We drove along not talking, the truck rocking back and forth. There was
nothing  but dust, dust and desert. The guy didn't have much of a  face,  he
didn't  have  much of anything. But sometimes small people who stay  in  the
same  place  for a long time achieve minor prestige and power.  He  had  the
truck and he was hiring. Sometimes you have to go along with that.
     We drove along and there was an old guy walking along the road. He must
have  been  in his mid-forites. That's old for the road. This Mr.  Burkhart,
he'd  told me his name, slowed his truck and asked the old guy. "Hey, buddy,
you want to make a couple of bucks?"
     "Oh, yes sir!" said the old guy.
     "Move over. Let him in," said Mr. Burkhart.
      The old guy got in and he really stank -- of booze and sweat and agony
and  death. We drove on until we came to a small group of buildings. We  got
out  with  Burkhart and walked into a store. There was  a  guy  in  a  green
sunshade with a bunch of rubber bands around his left wrist. He was bald but
his arms were covered with sickly long blond hair.
     "Hello, Mr. Burkhart," he said, "I see you found yourself a couple more
      "Here's  the  list, Jesse," said Mr. Burkhart, and Jesse walked  about
filling orders. It took some time. Then he was finished. "Anything else, Mr.
Burkhart? A couple cheap bottles of wine?"
     "No wine for me," I said.
     "O.k.," said the old guy, "I'll take both bottles."
     "It'll come off your pay," Burkhart told the old guy.
     "It doesn't matter," said the old guy, "take it off my pay."
     "You sure you don't want a bottle?" Burkhart asked me.
     "All right," I said, "I'll take a bottle."

      We had a tent and that night we drank the wine and the old guy told me
his  troubles. He'd lost his wife. He still loved his wife. He thought about
her all the time. A great woman. He used to teach mathematics. But he'd lost
his wife. Never a woman like her. Blah blah blah.
      Christ, when we woke up the old guy was sick and I wasn't feeling much
better  and  the  sun  was up and out and we went to do  our  job:  stacking
railroad  ties.  You had to stack them into ricks. The bottom  stacking  was
easy. But as we got higher we had to count. "One, two, three," I'd count and
then we'd let her go.
      The  old guy had a bandanna tied around his head and the booze  poured
out  of his head and into the bandanna and the bandanna got soaked and dark.
Every  now  and  then  a sliver from one of the railroad  ties  would  knife
through  the rotten glove and into my hand. Ordinarily the pain  would  have
been  unbearable and I would have quit but fatigue dulled the senses, really
properly dulled them. I just got angry when it happened -- like I wanted  to
kill  somebody, but when I looked around there was only sand and cliffs  and
the overn dry bright yellow sun and no place to go.
      Every now and then the railroad company would rip up the old ties  and
replace them with new ones. They left the old ties laying beside the tracks.
There  wasn't much wrong with the old ties but the railroad left them laying
around  and Burkhart had guys like us stack them into ricks which  he  toted
off  in  his truck and sold. I guess they had a lot of uses. On some of  the
ranches  you'd see them stuck in the ground and strung with barbed wire  and
used  as  fences.  I  suppose  there were other  uses  too.  I  wasn't  much
      It was like any other impossible job, you got tired and you wanted  to
quit  and then you got more tired and forgot to quit, and the minutes didn't
move, you lived forever inside of one minute, no hope, no out, trapped,  too
dumb to quit and nowhere to go if you did quit.
      "Kid,  I lost my wife. She was such a wonderful woman. I keep thinking
of her. A good woman is the greatest thing on earth."
     "If we only had a little wine."
     "We don't have any wine. We gotta wait until tonight."
     "I wonder if anybody understands winos?"
     "Just other winos."
     "Do you think those slivers in our hands will creep into our hearts?"
     "No chance; we've never been lucky."
      Two  Indians came by and watched us. They watched us a long time. When
the  old  guy and I sat down on a tie for a smoke one of the Indians  walked
     "You guys are doing it all wrong," he said.
     "What do you mean?" I asked.
     "You're working at the height of the desert heat. What you do is get up
early in the morning and get your work done while it's cool."
     "You're right," I said, "thanks."
      The  Indian was right. I decided we'd get up early. But we never  made
it.  The  old guy was always too sick from the night's drinking and I  could
never get him up on time.
     "Five minutes more," he'd say, "just five minutes more."
      Finally, one day, the old man gave out. He couldn't lift another  tie.
He kept apologizing about it.
     "It's all right, Pops."
      We  got  back  to  the tent and waited for evening. Pops  layed  there
talking.  He  kept talking about his ex-wife. I heard about his ex-wife  all
through the day and into the evening. Then Burkhart arrived.
      "Jesus  Christ, you guys didn't do much today. You figure to live  off
the fat of the land?"
     "We're through, Burkhart," I said, "we're waiting to get paid."
     "I got a good mind not to pay you guys."
     "If you got a good mind," I said, "you'll pay."
     "Please, Mr. Burkhart," said the old guy, "please, please, we worked so
god damned hard, honest we did!"
      "Burkhart  knows what we've done," I said, "he's got a  count  of  the
ricks and so have I."
     "72 ricks," said Burkhart.
     "90 ricks," I said.
     "76 ricks," said Burkhart.
     "90 ricks," I said.
     "80 ricks," said Burkhart.
     "Sold," I said.
     Burkhart got out his pencil and paper and charged us for wine and food,
transport and lodging. Pops and I each came up with $18 for five day's work.
We  took it. And got a free ride back to town. Free? Burkhart had fucked  us
from  every  angle. But we couldn't holler law because when you didn't  have
any money the law stopped working.
      "By  god," said the old guy, "I'm really going to get drunk. I'm going
to get good and drunk. Aren't you, kid?"
     "I don't think so."

      We went into the only bar in town and sat down and Pops ordered a wine
and  I  ordered a beer. The old guy started in on his ex-wife  again  and  I
moved  down  to  the  other end of the bar. A Mexican  girl  came  down  the
stairway and sat down next to me. Why were they always coming down stairways
like  that, like in the movies? I even felt like I was in a movie. I  bought
her  a  beer.  She  said,  "My name is Sherri," and I  said,  "That's  isn't
Mexican," and she said, "It doesn't have to be," and I said, "You're right."
      And it was five dollars upstairs and she washed me off first, and then
later.  She  washed me off out of a little white bowl that had painted  baby
chickens chasing each other around the bowl. She made the same money in  ten
minutes  that  I  had  made in a day with some hours thrown  in.  Monetarily
speaking, it seemed sure as shit you were better off having a pussy  than  a
      When I came down the stairay the old guy already had his head down  on
the  bar;  it  had gotten to him. We hadn't eaten that day  and  he  had  no
resistance. There was a dollar and some change by his head. For a  moment  I
thought  of taking him with me but I couldn't take care of myself. I  walked
outside. It was cool and I walked north.
     I felt bad about leaving Pops there for the small town vultures. Then I
wondered  if the old guy's wife ever thought about him. I decided  that  she
didn't,  or if she did, it was hardly in the same way he thought about  her.
The  whole earth crawled with sad hurt people like him. I needed a place  to
sleep. The bed I had been in with the Mexican girl had been the first I  had
been in for three weeks.
     Some nights earlier I had found that when it got cold the slivers in my
hand  began to throb. I could feel where each one was. It began to get cold.
I  can't  say that I hated the world of men and women, but I felt a  certain
disgust  that  separated me from the craftsmen and tradesmen and  liars  and
lovers,  and now decades later I feel that same disgust. Of course, this  is
only  one  man's story or one man's view of reality. If you'll keep  reading
maybe the next story will be happier. I hope so.

      It  had gotten extensive press coverage and T.V. coverage and the lady
was  to  write  a  book  about it. The lady's name was Hester  Adams,  twice
divorced,  two  children. She was 35 and one guessed that it  was  her  last
fling.  The wrinkles were appearing, the breasts had been sagging  for  some
time,  the ankles and calves were thickening, there were signs of  a  belly.
America had been taught that beauty only resided in youth, especially in the
female.  But  Hester Adams had the dark beauty of frustration  and  upcoming
loss;  it crawled all over her, the upcoming loss, and it gave her a  sexual
something, like a desperate and fading woman sitting in a bar full  of  men.
Hester had looked around, seen few signs of help from the American male, and
had  gotten onto a plane for South America. She had entered the jungle  with
her  camera,  her portable typewriter, her thickening ankles and  her  white
skin  and had gotten herself a cannibal, a black cannibal: Maja Thurup. Maja
Thurup  had  a  good look to his face. His face appeared to be written  over
with  one thousand hangovers and one thousand tragedies. And it was true  --
he  had had one thousand hangovers, but the tragedies all came from the same
root:  Maja  Thurup was overhung, vastly overhung. No girl  in  the  village
would  accept  him. He had torn two girls to death with his instrument.  One
had been entered from the front, the other from the rear. No matter.
      Maja  was  a  lonely man and he drank and brooded over his  loneliness
until  Hester  Adams had come with guide and white skin  and  camera.  After
formal introductions and a few drinks by the fire, Hester had entered Maja's
hut and taken all Maja Thurup could muster and had asked for more. It was  a
miracle  for  both  of  them and they were married  in  a  three-day  tribal
ceremony,  during which captured enemy tribesmen were roasted  and  consumed
amid dancing, incantation, and drunkenness. It was after the ceremony, after
the  hangovers had cleared away that trouble began. The medicine man, having
noted  that  Hester  did  not  partake of the flesh  of  the  roasted  enemy
tribesmen (garnished with pineapple, olives, and nuts) announced to one  and
all  that this was not a white goddess, but one of the daughters of the evil
god Ritikan. (Centuries ago Ritikan had been expelled from the tribal heaven
for  his  refusal  to eat anything but vegetables, fruits, and  nuts.)  This
announcement caused dissension in the tribe and two friends of  Maja  Thurup
were  promptly  murdered  for suggesting that Hester's  handling  of  Maja's
overhang  was a miracle in itself and the fact that she didn't ingest  other
forms of human meat could be forgiven -- temporarily, at least.
      Hester  and  Maja fled to America, to North Hollywood to  be  precise,
where  Hester  began  procedings  to have Maja  Thurup  become  an  American
citizen. A former schoolteacher, Hester began instructing Maja in the use of
clothing,  the English language, California beer and wines, television,  and
foods  purchased  at  the nearby Safeway market. Maja  not  only  looked  at
television, he appeared on it along with Hester and they declared their love
publicly.  Then they went back to their North Hollywood apartment  and  made
love.  Afterwards Maja sat in the middle of the rug with his English grammar
books,  drinking  beer and wine, and singing native chants and  playing  the
bongo.  Hester  worked on her book about Maja and Hester. A major  publisher
was waiting. All Hester had to do was get it down.
      One morning I was in bed about 8:00 a.m. The day before I had lost $40
at  Santa  Anita,  my  savings  account at California  Federal  was  getting
dangerously low, and I hadn't written a decent story in a month.  The  phone
rang. I woke up, gagged, coughed, picked it up.
     "This is Dan Hudson."
      Dan ran the magazine Flare out of Chicago. He paid well. He was
the editor and publisher.
     "Hello, Dan, mother."
     "Look, I've got just the thing for you."
     "Sure, Dan. What is it?"
      "I want you to interview this bitch who married the cannibal. Make the
sex BIG. Mix love with horror, you know?"
     "I know. I've been doing it all my life."
     "There's $500 in it for you if you beat the March 27 deadline."
     "Dan, for $500,1 can make Burt Reynolds into a lesbian."
      Dan gave me the address and phone number. I got up, threw water on  my
face,  had  two  Alka-Seltzers, opened a bottle of beer  and  phoned  Hester
Adams.  I  told  her that I wanted to publicize her relationship  with  Maja
Thurup as one of the great love stories of the 20th century. For the readers
of  Flare magazine. I assured her that it would help Maja obtain  his
American citizenship. She agreed to an interview at 1:00 p.m.
      It  was  a walk-up apartment on the third floor. She opened the  door.
Maja  was  sitting on the floor with his bongo drinking a  fifth  of  medium
priced port from the bottle. He was barefooted, dressed in tight jeans,  and
in  a  white  t-shirt with black zebra-stripes. Hester  was  dressed  in  an
identical  outfit. She brought me a bottle of beer, I picked up a  cigarette
from the pack on the coffee table and began the interview.
     "You first met Maja when?"
     Hester gave me a date. She also gave me the exact time and place.
      "When did you first begin to have love feelings for Maja? What exactly
were the circumstances which tripped them off?"
     "Well," said Hester, "it was . . ."
     "She love me when I give her the thing," said Maja from the rug.
     "He has learned English quite quickly, hasn't he?"
     "Yes, he's brilliant."
     Maja picked up his bottle and drained off a good slug.
     "I put this thing in her, she say, 'Oh my god oh my god oh my god!' Ha,
ha, ha, ha!"
     "Maja is marvelously built," she said.
     "She eat too," said Maja, "she eat good. Deep throat, ha, ha, ha!"
       "I loved Maja from the beginning," said Hester, "it was his eyes, his
face  ...  so  tragic.  And  the way he walked. He  walks,  well,  he  walks
something like a tiger."
      "Fuck,"  said  Maja, "we fuck we fucky fuck fuck fuck.  I  am  getting
     Maja took another drink. He looked at me.
     "You fuck her. I am tired. She big hungry tunnel."
     "Maja has a genuine sense of humor," said Hester, "that's another thing
that has endeared him to me."
      "Only  thing dear you to me," said Maja, "is my telephone  pole  piss-
      "Maja has been drinking since this morning," said Hester, "you'll have
to excuse him."
     "Perhaps I'd better come back when he's feeling better."
     "I think you should."
      Hester  gave me an appointment at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon the  next
      It  was  just  as  well. I needed photographs. I knew  a  down-and-out
photographer,  one Sam Jacoby who was good and would do the  work  cheap.  I
took him back there with me. It was a sunny afternoon with only a thin layer
of  smog.  We walked up and I rang. There was no answer. I rang again.  Maja
answered the door.
     "Hester not in," he said, "she gone to grocery store."
     "We had an appointment for 2:00 o'clock. I'd like to come in and wait."
     We walked in and sat down.
     "I play drums for you," said Maja.
      He played the drums and sang some jungle chants. He was quite good. He
was  working  on  another bottle of port wine. He was still  in  his  zebra-
striped t-shirt and jeans.
     "Fuck fuck fuck," he said, "that's all she want. She make me mad."
     "You miss the jungle, Maja?"
     "You just ain't just shittin' upstream, daddy."
     "But she loves you, Maja."
     "Ha, ha, ha!"
     Maja played us another drum solo. Even drunk he was good.
      When Maja finished Sam said to me, "You think she might have  a
beer in the refrigerator?"
     "She might."
     "My nerves are bad. I need a beer."
      "Go  ahead.  Get  two. I'll buy her some more. I should  have  brought
      Sam  got up and walked into the kitchen. I heard the refrigerator door
     "I'm writing an article about you and Hester," I said to Maja.
     "Big-hole woman. Never fill. Like volcano."
      I heard Sam vomiting in the kitchen. He was a heavy drinker. I knew he
was hungover. But he was still one of the best photographers around. Then it
was  quiet.  Sam came walking out. He sat down. He didn't have a  beer  with
      "I  play  drums again," said Maja. He played the drums again.  He  was
still  good. Though not as good as the preceding time. The wine was  getting
to him.
     "Let's get out of here," Sam said to me.
     "I have to wait for Hester," I said.
     "Man, let's go," said Sam.
     "You guys want some wine?" asked Maja.
      I  got up and walked into the kitchen for a beer. Sam followed  me.  I
moved toward the refrigerator.
     "Please don't open that door!" he said.
      Sam  walked  over  to  the sink and vomited again.  I  looked  at  the
refrigerator door. I didn't open it. When Sam finished, I said, "O.k., let's
     We walked into the front room where Maja still sat by his bongo.
     "I play drum once more," he said.
     "No, thanks, Maja."
      We walked out and down the stairway and out to the street. We got into
my  car. I drove off. I didn't know what to say. Sam didn't say anything. We
were  in  the  business district. I drove into a gas station  and  told  the
attendant  to fill it up with regular. Sam got out of the car and walked  to
the  telephone  booth to call the police. I saw Sam come out  of  the  phone
booth.  I paid for the gas. I hadn't gotten my interview. I was out $500.  I
waited as Sam walked toward the car.

      Harry  had  just gotten off the freight and was walking  down  Alameda
toward  Pedro's  for  a nickel cup of coffee. It was early  morning  but  he
remembered they used to open at 5 a.m. You could sit in Pedro's for a couple
of  hours for a nickel. You could do some thinking. You could remember where
you'd gone wrong, or where you'd gone right.
      They were open. The Mexican girl who gave him his coffee looked at him
as  if he were a human being. The poor knew life. A good girl. Well, a  good
enough girl. They all meant trouble. Everything meant trouble. He remembered
a statement he'd heard somewhere: the Definition of Life is Trouble.
      Harry  sat down at one of the old tables. The coffee was good. Thirty-
eight  years old and he was finished. He sipped at the coffee and remembered
where  he  had gone wrong -- or right. He'd simply gotten tired  --  of  the
insurance game, of the small offices and high glass partitions, the clients;
he'd  simply  gotten tired of cheating on his wife, of squeezing secretaries
in the elevator and in the halls;
      he'd  gotten  tired  of Christmas parties and New Year's  parties  and
birthdays,  and payments on new cars and furniture payments --  light,  gas,
water -- the whole bleeding complex of necessities.
      He'd  gotten tired and quit, that's all. The divorce came soon  enough
and  the  drinking came soon enough, and suddenly he was out of it.  He  had
nothing,  and  he found out that having nothing was difficult  too.  It  was
another type of burden. If only there were some gentler road in between.  It
seemed a man only had two choices -- get in on the hustle or be a bum.
      As  Harry looked up a man sat down across from him, also with a nickel
cup  of  coffee. He appeared to be in his early forties. And was dressed  as
poorly as Harry. The man rolled a cigarette, then looked at Harry as he  lit
     "How's it going?"
     "That's some question," said Harry.
     "Yeah, I guess it is."
     They sat drinking their coffee.
     "A man wonders how he gets down here."
     "Yeah," said Harry.
     "By the way, if it matters, my name's William."
     "I'm called Harry."
     "You can call me Bill."
      "You  got  the  look  on  your face like you've  reached  the  end  of
     "I'm just tired of the bum, bone-tired."
     "You want to get back into society, Harry?"
     "No, not that. But I'd like to get out of this."
     "There's suicide."
     "I know."
      "Listen," said Bill, "what we need is a little cash the easy way so we
can get a breather."
     "Sure, but how?"
     "Well, there's some risk involved."
     "Like what?"
      "I  used to do some house burglaring. It's not bad. I could use a good
      "O.k., I'm just about ready to try anything. I'm sick of watery beans,
week-old doughnuts, the mission, the God-lectures, the snoring..."
     "Our problem is how to get where we can operate," said Bill.
     "I got a couple of bucks."
      "All  right, meet me about midnight. Got a pencil?" "No." "Wait.  I'll
borrow one."
     Bill came back with a stub of pencil. He took a napkin and wrote on it.
     "You take the Beverly Hills bus and ask the driver to let you off here.
Then walk two blocks north. I'll be there waiting. You gonna make it?"
     "I'll be there."
     "You got a wife, kids?" asked Bill. "Used to have," Harry answered.
     It was cold that night. Harry got off the bus and walked the two blocks
north. It was dark, very dark. Bill was standing smoking a rolled cigarette.
He wasn't standing in the open but was back against a large bush.
     "Hello, Bill."
     "Hello; Harry. You ready to start your new lucrative career?"
     "I am."
      "All right. I've been casing these places. I think I've got us a  good
one. Isolated. It stinks of money. You scared?"
     "No. I'm not scared."
     "Fine. Be cool and follow me."
      Harry  followed Bill along the sidewalk for a block and a  half,  then
Bill  cut between two shrubs and onto a large lawn. They walked to .the back
of the house, a large two storey affair. Bill stopped at the rear window. He
sliced the screen with a knife, then stood still and listened. It was like a
graveyard.  Bill  unhooked the screen and lifted  it  off.  He  stood  there
working  at the window. Bill worked at it for some time and Harry  began  to
think:  Jesus.  I'm with an amateur. I'm with some kind  of  nut.  Then  the
window opened and Bill climbed in. Harry could see his ass wiggling in. This
is ridiculous, he thought. Do men do this?
     "Come on," Bill said softly from inside.
     Harry climbed in. It did stink of money and furniture polish.
     "Jesus. Bill. I'm scared now. This doesn't make any sense."
      "Don't  talk  so loud. You want to get away from those  watery  beans,
don't you?"
     "Well, then be a man."
      Harry  stood  while Bill slowly opened drawers and put things  in  his
pockets. They appeared to be in a dining room. Bill was stuffing spoons  and
knives and forks into his pockets.
     How can we get anything for that? thought Harry.
     Bill kept putting the silverware into his coat pockets. Then he dropped
a  knife. The floor was hard, without a rug, and the sound was definite  and
     "Who's there?"
     Bill and Harry didn't answer.
     "I said, who's there?"
     "What is it, Seymour?" said a girl's voice.
     "I thought I heard something. Something woke me up."
     "Oh go to sleep."
     "No. I heard something."
     Harry heard the sound of a bed and then the sound of a man walking. The
man  came through the door and was in the dining room with them. He  was  in
his pajamas, a young man of about 26 or 27 with a goatee and long hair.
     "All right, you pricks, what are you doing in my house?"
      Bill  turned toward Harry. "Get into that bedroom. There  might  be  a
phone there. See that she doesn't use it. I'll take care of this one."
      Harry walked toward the bedroom, found the entrance, walked in, saw  a
young  blonde about 23, long hair, in a fancy nightgown, her breasts  loose.
There  was a telephone by the night stand and she wasn't using it. She flung
the back of her hand to her mouth. She was sitting up in bed.
     "Don't scream," said Harry, "or I'll kill you."
     He stood there looking down at her, thinking of his own wife, but never
a  wife  like that. Harry began to sweat, he felt dizzy and they  stared  at
each other.
     Harry sat down on the bed.
      "Leave  my wife alone or I'll kill you!" said the young man. Bill  had
just  walked him in. He had an arm lock on him and his knife was poking into
the middle of the young man's back.
      "Nobody's  going  to  hurt your wife, man. Just  tell  us  where  your
stinking money is and we'll leave."
     "I told you all I've got is what's in my wallet."
     Bill tightened the arm lock and drove the knife in a bit. The young man
     "The jewelry," said Bill, "take me to the jewelry."
     "It's upstairs ..."
     "All right. Take me there!"
     Harry watched Bill walk him out. Harry kept staring at the girl and she
stared back. Blue eyes, and the irises were large with fear.
      "Don't  scream," he told her, "or I'll kill you, so help me I'll  kill
     Her lips began to tremble. They were the palest pink and then his mouth
was  upon hers. He was bewhiskered and foul, rancid, and she was white, soft
white,  delicate, trembling. He held her head in his hands.  He  pulled  his
head  away  and looked into her eyes. "You whore," he said, "you god  damned
whore!" He kissed her again, harder. They fell back on the bed together.  He
was  kicking his shoes off, holding her down. Then he was working his pants,
getting them off, and all the time holding and kissing her. "You whore,  you
god damned whore . . ."
     "Oh No! Jesus Christ, No! Not my wife, you bastards!"
      Harry  had not heard them enter. The young man let out a scream.  Then
Harry heard a gurgle. He pulled out and looked around. The young man was  on
the  floor  with his throat cut; the blood spurted rhythmically out  on  the
     "You've killed him!" said Harry.
     "He was screaming."
     "You didn't have to kill him."
     "You didn't have to rape his wife."
     "I haven't raped her and you've killed him."
     Then she began to scream. Harry put his hand over her mouth.
     "What are we going to do?" he asked.
     "We're going to kill her too. She's a witness."
     "I can't kill her," said Harry.
     "I'll kill her," said Bill.
     "But we shouldn't waste her."
     "Go ahead then, get her."
     "Stick something in her mouth."
      "I'll  take care of it," said Bill. He got a scarf out of the  drawer,
stuck  it in her mouth. Then he ripped the pillow slip into shreds and bound
the scarf in.
     "Go ahead," said Bill.
     The girl didn't resist. She seemed to be in a state of shock.
      When Harry got off. Bill got on. Harry watched. This was it. This  was
the  way it worked all over the world. When a conquering army came in,  they
took the women. They were the conquering army.
     Bill climbed off. "Shit, that sure was good."
     "Listen, Bill, let's not kill her."
     "She'll tell. She's a witness."
     "If we spare her life, she won't tell. It'll be worth it to her."
     "She'll tell. I know human nature. She'll tell later."
     "Why shouldn't she tell on people who do what we do?"
     "That's what I mean," said Bill, "why let her?"
     "Let's ask her. Let's talk to her. Let's ask her what she thinks."
     "I know what she thinks. I'm going to kill her."
     "Please don't, Bill. Let's show some decency."
      "Show  some decency? Now? It's too late. If you'd only been man enough
to keep your stupid pecker out of there ..."
     "Don't kill her. Bill, I can't. .. stand it.. ."
     "Turn your back."
     "Bill, please . . ."
     "I said, turn your god damned back!"
     Harry turned away. There didn't seem to be a sound. Minutes passed.
     "Bill, did you do it?"
     "I did it. Turn around and look."
     "I don't want to. Let's go. Let's get out of here."
      They  went out the same window they had entered. The night was  colder
than  ever.  They went down the dark side of the house and out  through  the
     "I feel o.k. now, like it never happened."
     "It happened."
     They walked back toward the bus stop. The night stops were far between,
they'd probably have to wait an hour. They stood at the bus stop and checked
each  other  for blood and, strangely, they didn't find any. So they  rolled
and lit two cigarettes.
     Then Bill suddenly spit his out.
     "God damn it. Oh, god damn it all!"
     "What's the matter, Bill?"
     "We forgot to get his wallet!"
     "Oh fuck," said Harry.

      George  was lying in his trailer, flat on his back, watching  a  small
portable  T.V.  His  dinner dishes were undone, his  breakfast  dishes  were
undone,  he needed a shave, and ash from his rolled cigarettes dropped  onto
his undershirt. Some of the ash was still burning. Sometimes the burning ash
missed  the undershirt and hit his skin, then he cursed, brushing  it  away.
There  was  a  knock  on the trailer door. He got slowly  to  his  feet  and
answered the door. It was Constance. She had a fifth of unopened whiskey  in
a bag.
      "George, I left that son of a bitch, I couldn't stand that  son  of  a
bitch anymore."
     "Sit down."
      George  opened the fifth, got two glasses, filled each  a  third  with
whiskey,  two thirds with water. He sat down on the bed with Constance.  She
took  a  cigarette out of her purse and lit it. She was drunk and her  hands
      "I  took his damn money too. I took his damn money and split while  he
was at work. You don't know how I've suffered with that son of a bitch." "
      Lemme  have  a smoke," said George. She handed it to him  and  as  she
leaned near, George put his arm around her, pulled her over and kissed her.
     "You son of a bitch," she said, "I missed you."
      "I  miss  those good legs of yours , Connie. I've really missed  those
good legs."
     "You still like 'em?"
     "I get hot just looking."
      "I  could never make it with a college guy," said Connie. "They're too
soft,  they're milktoast. And he kept his house clean. George , it was  like
having  a  maid. He did it all. The place was spotless. You could  eat  beef
stew right off the crapper. He was antisceptic, that's what he was."
     "Drink up, you'll feel better."
     "And he couldn't make love."
     "You mean he couldn't get it up?"
      "Oh he got it up, he got it up all the time. But he didn't know how to
make a woman happy, you know. He didn't know what to do. All that money, all
that education, he was useless."
     "I wish I had a college education."
     "You don't need one. You have everything you need, George."
     "I'm just a flunkey. All the shit jobs."
      "I  said you have everything you need, George. You know how to make  a
woman happy."
      "Yes. And you know what else? His mother came around! His mother!  Two
or three times a week. And she'd sit there looking at me, pretending to like
me but all the time she was treating me like I was a whore. Like I was a big
bad whore stealing her son away from her! Her precious Wallace! Christ! What
a  mess!"  "He claimed he loved me. And I'd say, 'Look at my pussy, Walter!'
And  he  wouldn't look at my pussy. He said, 'I don't want to look  at  that
thing.' That thing! That's what he called it! You're not afraid of my pussy,
are you, George?"
     "It's never bit me yet." "But you've bit it, you've nibbled it, haven't
you George?"
     "I suppose I have."
     "And you've licked it , sucked it?"
     "I suppose so."
     "You know damn well, George, what you've done."
     "How much money did you get?"
     "Six hundred dollars."
     "I don't like people who rob other people, Connie."
      "That's why you're a fucking dishwasher. You're honest. But he's  such
an  ass, George. And he can afford the money, and I've earned it... him  and
his  mother and his love, his mother-love, his clean l;ittle wash bowls  and
toilets and disposal bags and breath chasers and after shave lotions and his
little  hard-ons  and  his  precious  love-making.  All  for  himself,   you
understand, all for himself! You know what a woman wants, George."
     "Thanks for the whiskey, Connie. Lemme have another cigarette."
      George filled them up again. "I missed your legs, Connie. I've  really
missed  those legs. I like the way you wear those high heels. They drive  me
crazy.  These  modern women don't know what they're missing. The  high  heel
shapes  the calf, the thigh, the ass; it puts rythm into the walk. It really
turns me on!"
      "You  talk like a poet, George. Sometimes you talk like that. You  are
one hell of a dishwasher."
     "You know what I'd really like to do?"
      "I'd  like to whip you with my belt on the legs, the ass, the  thighs.
I'd  like  to  make  you quiver and cry and then when you're  quivering  and
crying I'd slam it into you pure love."
     "I don't want that, George. You've never talked like that to me before.
You've always done right with me."
     "Pull your dress up higher."
     "Pull your dress up higher, I want to see more of your legs."
     "You like my legs, don't you, George?"
     "Let the light shine on them!"
     Constance hiked her dress.
     "God christ shit," said George.
     "You like my legs?"
      "I  love  your legs!" Then george reached across the bed  and  slapped
Constance hard across the face. Her cigarette flipped out of her mouth.
     "what'd you do that for?"
     "You fucked Walter! You fucked Walter!"
     "So what the hell?"
     "So pull your dress up higher!"
      "Do  what  I say!" George slapped again, harder. Constance  hiked  her
      "Just  up to the panties!" shouted George. "I don't quite want to  see
the panties!"
     "Christ, george, what's gone wrong with you?"
     "You fucked Walter!"
      "George,  I swear, you've gone crazy. I want to leave. Let me  out  of
here, George!"
     "Don't move or I'll kill you!"
     "You'd kill me?"
      "I  swear  it!"  George got up and poured himself a shot  of  straight
whiskey, drank it, and sat down next to Constance. He took the cigarette and
held  it  against  her wrist. She screamed. HE held it there,  firmly,  then
pulled it away.
     "I'm a man , baby, understand that?"
     "I know you're a man , George."
     "Here, look at my muscles!" george sat up and flexed both of his arms.
     "Beautiful, eh ,baby? Look at that muscle! Feel it! Feel it!"
     Constance felt one of the arms, then the other.
     "Yes, you have a beautiful body, George."
     "I'm a man. I'm a dishwasher but I'm a man, a real man."
     "I know it, George." "I'm not the milkshit you left."
     "I know it."
     "And I can sing, too. You ought to hear my voice."
      Constance  sat there. George began to sing. He sang "Old  man  River."
Then  he  sang "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen." He sang "The St.  Louis
Blues."  He sasng "God Bless America," stopping several times and  laughing.
Then  he  sat  down next to Constance. He said, "Connie, you have  beautiful
legs."  He asked for another cigarette. He smoked it, drank two more drinks,
then  put his head down on Connie's legs, against the stockings, in her lap,
and  he  said, "Connie, I guess I'm no good, I guess I'm crazy, I'm sorry  I
hit you, I'm sorry I burned you with that cigarette."
      Constance  sat  there.  She  ran her fingers  through  George's  hair,
stroking  him, soothing him. Soon he was asleep. She waited a while  longer.
Then  she  lifted his head and placed it on the pillow, lifted his legs  and
straightened them out on the bed. She stood up, walked to the fifth,  poured
a  jolt of good whiskey in to her glass, added a touch of water and drank it
sown.  She  walked to the trailer door, pulled it open, stepped out,  closed
it.  She walked through the backyard, opened the fence gate, walked  up  the
alley  under  the  one o'clock moon. The sky was clear of clouds.  The  same
skyful of clouds was up there. She got out on the boulevard and walked  east
and  reached the entrance of The Blue Mirror. She walked in, and  there  was
Walter sitting alone and drunk at the end of the bar. She walked up and  sat
down  next  to  him.  "Missed me, baby?" she asked.  Walter  looked  up.  He
recognized  her.  He  didn't answer. He looked  at  the  bartender  and  the
bartender walked toward them They all knew eachother.

      I am not sure where the place was. Somewhere north-east of California.
Hemingway  had just finished a novel, come in from Europe or somewhere,  and
he  was  in  the  ring fighting somebody. There were newspapermen,  critics,
writers  -- that tribe -- and also some young ladies sitting in the ringside
seats. I sat down in the last row. Most of the people weren't watching  Hem.
They were talking to each other and laughing.
     The sun was up. It was some time in the early afternoon. I was watching
Ernie. He had his man, was playing with him. He jabbed and crossed at  will.
Then  he  put the other fellow down. The people looked then. Hem's  opponent
was  up  at  8.  Hem moved towards him, then stopped. Ernie pulled  out  his
mouthpiece,  laughed, waved his opponent off. It was too easy a kill.  Ernie
walked to his corner. He put his head back and somebody squeezed some  water
in his mouth.
      I  got  up  from my seat and walked slowly down the aisle between  the
seats. I reached up and rapped Hemingway on the side.
     "Mr. Hemingway?"
     "Yes, what is it?"
     "I'd like to put on the gloves with you."
     "Do you have any boxing experience?"
     "Go get some."
     "I'm here to kick your ass."
      Ernie laughed. He said to the guy in the comer, "Get the kid into some
trunks and gloves."
      The guy jumped out of the ring and I followed him back up the aisle to
the locker room.
     "You crazy, kid?" he asked me.
     "I don't know. I don't think so."
     "Here. Try on these trunks."
     "Oh, oh ... they're too large."
     "Fuck it. They're all right."
     "O.k., let me tape your hands."
     "No tape."
     "No tape?"
     "No tape."
     "How about a mouthpiece?"
     "No mouthpiece."
     "You gonna fight in them shoes?"
     "I'm gonna fight in them shoes."
      I lit a cigar and followed him out. I walked down the aisle smoking  a
cigar.  Hemingway  climbed back into the ring and they put  on  his  gloves.
There  was  nobody  in my corner. Finally somebody came over  and  put  some
gloves on me. We were called into the center of the ring for instructions.
     "Now when you clinch," said the referee, "I'll. ..
     "I don't clinch," I told the referee.
     Other instructions followed.
     "O.k., go back to your corners. And at the bell, come out fighting. May
the better man win. And," he said to me, "you better take that cigar out  of
your mouth."
     When the bell rang I came out with the cigar still in my mouth. Sucking
in  a  mouthful of smoke, I blew it into Ernest Hemingway's face. The  crowd
     Hem moved in, jabbed and hooked, and missed both punches. I was fast on
my  feet.  I danced a little jig, moved in, tap tap tap tap tap, five  swift
left  jabs to Papa's nose. I glanced down at a girl in the front row, a very
pretty  thing, and just then Hem landed a right, smashing that cigar  in  my
mouth.  I felt it burn my mouth and cheek, and I brushed the hot ash off.  I
spit out the cigar stub and hooked one to Ernie's belly. He uppercut with  a
right  and  caught me on the ear with a left. He ducked under my  right  and
caught me with a volley up against the ropes. Just at the bell he dropped me
with a solid right to the chin. I got up and walked back to my corner.
     A guy came over with a bucket.
      "Mr. Hemingway wants to know if you'd care for another round?" the guy
asked me.
      "You  tell Mr. Hemingway that he was lucky. Smoke got in my eyes.  One
more round is all I need to do the job."
     The guy with the bucket went over and I could see Hemingway laughing.
      The bell rang and I came right out. I began landing, not too hard  but
with  good combinations. Ernie retreated, missing his punches. For the first
time I saw doubt in his eyes.
      Who  is  this kid?, he was thinking. I shortened my punches,  hit  him
harder.  I landed with every blow. Head and body. A mixed variety.  I  boxed
like Sugar Ray and hit like Dempsey.
      I  had Hemingway up against the ropes. He couldn't fall. Each time  he
started  to  fall  forward I straightened him with  another  punch.  It  was
murder. Death in the Afternoon.
     I stepped back and Mr. Ernest Hemingway fell forward, out cold.
     I unlaced my gloves with my teeth, pulled them off, and leaped from the
ring.  I  walked to my dressing room, I mean Hemingway's dressing room,  and
took a shower. I drank a bottle of beer, lit a cigar, and sat on the edge of
the  rubbing table. They carried Ernie in and put him on another  table.  He
was still out. I sat there naked, watching them worry over Ernie. There were
women in the room but I didn't pay any attention. Then a guy came over.
     "Who are you?" he asked. "What's your name?"
     "Henry Chinaski."
     "Haven't heard of you," he said.
     "You will," I said.
      All  the people came over. Ernie was left alone. Poor Ernie. Everybody
crowded around me. The women too. I was pretty starved-down, except for  one
place. A real class broad was really looking me up and down. She looked like
a  society  broad, rich, educated, and everything -- nice body,  nice  face,
nice clothes, all that.
     "What do you do?" somebody asked me.
     "Fuck and drink."
     "No, no, I mean what's your occupation?"
     "Do you have a hobby?"
     "Well, I don't know if you could call it a hobby. I write."

     "You write?"
     "Short stories. They're pretty good."
     "Have you been published?"
     "I haven't submitted."
     "Where are your stories?"
     "Over there," I pointed to a torn paper suitcase.
      "Listen, I'm a critic for The New York Times. Do you mind if  I
take your stories home and read them? I'll return them."
     "It's o.k. with me, punk, only I don't know where I'll be."
     The class society broad stepped forward. "He'll be with me."
      Then  she said, "Come on, Henry, get into your togs. It's a long drive
in and we have things to -- talk about."
     I got dressed and then Ernie regained consciousness.
     "What the hell happened?" he asked.
     "You met a pretty good man, Mr. Hemingway," somebody told him.
     I finished dressing and went over to his table.
      "You're  a  good man. Papa. Nobody wins them all." I shook  his  hand.
"Don't blow your brains out."
     I left with the society broad and we got into an open-topped yellow car
half  a  block long. She drove with the throttle to the floor and  took  the
curves sliding and screeching and without expression. That was class. If she
loved like she drove it was going to be a hell of a night.
     The place was up in the hills, off by itself. A butler opened the door.
      "George,"  she told him, "take the night oft. On second thought,  take
the week off."
     We walked in and there was a big guy sitting in a chair with a drink in
his hand.
     Tommy," she said, "get lost."
     We moved on through the house.
     "Who was the big guy?" I asked her.
     "Thomas Wolfe," she said, "a bore."
     She stopped in the kitchen for a fifth of bourbon and two glasses. Then
she said, "Come on."
     I followed her into the bedroom.
      The  next morning the phone awakened us. It was for me. She handed  me
the phone and I sat up in bed next to her.
     "Mr. Chinaski?"
     "I read your stories. I was so excited that I couldn't sleep all night.
You're surely the greatest genius of the decade!"
     "Only of the decade?"
     "Well, perhaps of the century."
     That's better."
      The  editors of Harper's and Atlantic are here  with  me
now. You may not believe this but each of them has accepted five stories for
future publication."
     "I believe it," I said.
      The critic hung up. I lay down. The society broad and I made love  one
more time.

     Big Bart was the meanest man in the West. He had the fastest gun in the
West  and  he'd  fucked a larger variety of women in the West  than  anybody
else.  He  wasn't fond of bathing or bullshit or coming out second best.  He
was  also boss of a wagon train going West, and there wasn't a man  his  age
who had killed more Indians or fucked more women or killed more white men.
     Big Bart was great and he knew it and everybody knew it. Even his farts
were  exceptional,  louder than the dinner gong, and he was  well-hung.  Big
Bart's gig was to get the wagons through safely, score on the ladies, kill a
few  men and then head back for another wagon load. He had a black beard,  a
dirty bunghole, and radiant yellow teeth.
      He  had just hammered hell out of Billy Joe's young wife while he made
Billy Joe watch. He made Billy Joe's wife talk to Billy Joe while he was  at
it.  He made her say, "Ah, Billy Joe, all this turkeyneck stuck into me from
snatch  to throat, I can hardly breathe! Billy Joe, save me! No, Billy  Joe,
don't save me!"
      After Big Bart climaxed he made Billy Joe wash his parts and then they
all went out to a big dinner of hamhocks and limas with biscuits.
      The  next  day they came across this lone wagon running all by  itself
through  the  prairie. Some skinny kid of about sixteen with a bad  case  of
acne was at the reins. Big Bart rode over.
     "Say, kid," he said.
     The kid didn't answer.
     "I'm talkin' to ya, kid . . ."
     "Kiss my ass," said the kid.
     "I'm Big Bart," said Big Bart.
     "Kiss my ass, Big Bart," said the kid.
     "What's your name, son?"
     "They call me 'The Kid.' "
      "Look, Kid, there's no way a man can make it through this here  Indian
territory with a lone wagon."
     "I intend to," said the Kid.
      "O.k.,  it's your balls. Kid," said Big Bart, and he made to ride  off
when  the flaps of the wagon opened and out came this little filly with  40-
inch breasts and a fine big ass and eyes like the sky after a good rain. She
put  her  eyes upon Big Bart and his turkeyneck quivered against the  saddle
     "For your own good. Kid, you're a comin' with us."
      "Fuck  on",  old  man," said The Kid, "I don't take no  mother-fuckin'
advice from an old man in dirty underwear."
     "I've killed men for blinkin their eyes," said Big Bart.
      The  Kid  just  spit on the ground. Then reached up and scratched  his
      "Old  man, you bore me. Now lose yourself from my sight or I'll assist
you in resembling a hunk of swiss cheese."
     "Kid," said the girl, leaning over him, one of her breasts flopping out
and giving the sunlight a hard-on, "Kid, I think the man's right. We got  no
chance  against those motherfucking Indians alone. Now don't be an  asshole.
Tell the man we'll join up."
     "We'll join up," said The Kid.
     "What's your girl's name?" asked Big Bart.
     "Honeydew," said The Kid.
     "And stop staring at my tits, mister," said Honeydew, "or I'll belt the
shit out of you."
      Things went well for a while. There was a skirmish with the Indians at
Blueball  Canyon.  37 Indians killed, one captured. No American  casualties.
Big  Bart bungholed the captured Indian and then hired him on as cook. There
was  another  skirmish at Clap Canyon, 37 Indians killed, one  captured.  No
American casualties. Big Bart bungholed . . .
      It  was  obvious that Big Bart had hotrocks for Honeydew. He  couldn't
keep  his  eyes off her. That ass, mostly it was that ass. He fell  off  his
horse  watching one time and one of the two Indian cooks laughed. That  left
only one Indian cook.
     One day Big Bart sent The Kid out with a hunting party to score on some
buffalo. Big Bart waited until they rode off and then he made for The  Kid's
wagon.  He leaped up onto the seat and pushed the flaps back and walked  in.
Honeydew was crouched in the center of the wagon masturbating.
     "Jesus, baby," said Big Bart, "don't waste it!"
      "Get the hell out of here," said Honeydew, withdrawing her finger  and
pointing it at Big Bart, "get the hell out of here and let me do my thing!"
     "Your man ain't takin' care of you, Honeydew!"
      "He's  takin' care of me, asshole, it's just that I don't get  enough.
It's just that after my period I get hot."
     "Listen, baby . . ."
     "Fuck off!"
     "Listen, baby, lookee . . ."
      And  he pulled out the jackhammer. It was purple and flipped back  and
forth like the weight in a grandfather's clock. Driblets of spittle fell  to
the floor.
      Honeydew couldn't keep her eyes off that instrument. At last she said,
"You're not going to stick that god damned thing into me!"
     "Say it like you mean it, Honydew."
     "But why? Why? Look at it!"
     "I am looking at it!"
     "But why don't you want it?"
     "Because I'm in love with The Kid."
      "Love?" said Big Bart laughing. "Love? That's a fairytale for  idiots!
Look at this god damned scythe! That can beat love anytime!"
     "I love The Kid, Big Bart."
     "And there's my tongue," said Big Bart, "the best tongue in the West!"
     He stuck it out and made it do gymnastics.
     "I love The Kid," said Honeydew.
      "Well,  fuck you," said Big Bart, and he ran forward and threw himself
upon  Honeydew.  It was dog's work getting that thing in and  when  he  did,
Honeydew  screamed. He gave it about seven slices and then he  felt  himself
being roughly pulled off.
      "We  got your buffalo, motherfucker. Now if you'll pull up your  pants
and step outside we'll settle the rest."
     "I've got the fastest gun in the West," said Big Bart.
      "I'll blow a hole in you so big your asshole will look like a pore  in
your  skin,"  said  The  Kid. "Come on, let's get it done.  I'm  hungry  for
dinner. This hunting buffalo works up the appetite . . ."
      The  men  sat  around  the campfire watching.  There  was  a  definite
vibration in the air. The women stayed in the wagons, praying, masturbating,
and  drinking gin. Big Bart had 34 notches in his gun, and a bad memory. The
Kid  didn't have any notches in his gun. But he had confidence such  as  the
others had seldom seen before. Big Bart seemed the more nervous of the  two.
He  took  a sip of whiskey, draining half the flask, then walked up  to  The
     "Look, Kid . . ."
     "Yeah, motherfucka . . .?"
     "I mean, why you lost your cool?"
     "I'm gonna blow your balls off, old man!"
     "What for?"
     "You were messin' with my woman, old man!"
     "Listen Kid, don't you see? The female plays one man against the other.
We're just falling for her game."
     "I don't want to hear your shit, dad! Now back off and draw! You've had
     "Kid . . ."
     "Back off and draw!"
      The  men  at the campfire stiffened. A slight wind blew from the  West
smelling  of horseshit. Somebody coughed. The women crouched in the  wagons,
drinking gin, praying, and masturbating. Twilight was moving in.
     Big Bart and The Kid were 30 paces apart.
      "Draw,  you  chickenshit," said The Kid, "draw, you chickenshit  woman
      Quietly through the flaps of a wagon a woman appeared with a rifle. It
was  Honeydew.  She  put  the rifle to her shoulder and  squinted  down  the
     "Come on, you tinhorn rapist," said The Kid, "DRAW!"
      Big  Bart's  hand flicked toward his holster. A shot rang through  the
twilight. Honeydew lowered her smoking rifle and went back into the  covered
wagon. The Kid was dead on the ground, a hole in his forehead. Big Bart  put
his unused gun back in his holster and strode toward the wagon. The moon was

     The desert baked under the summer sun. Red jumped off the freight as it
slowed just outside the railroad yard. He took a shit behind some tall rocks
to  the  north, wiped his ass with some leaves. Then he walked fifty  yards,
sat  behind another rock out of the sun and rolled a cigarette. He  saw  the
hippies  walking toward him. Two guys and a girl. They had  jumped  off  the
train in the yard and were walking back.
      One  of  the guys carried a Viet Cong flag. The guys looked  soft  and
harmless. The girl had a nice wide ass -- it almost split her bluejeans. She
was  blond and had a bad case of acne. Red waited until they almost  reached
     "Heil Hitler!" he said.
     The hippies laughed.
     "Where you going?" Red asked.
     "We're trying to get to Denver. I guess we'll make it."
      "Well," said Red, "you're going to have to wait a while. I'm going  to
have to use your girl."
     "What do you mean?"
     "You heard me."
     Red grabbed the girl. With one hand grabbing her hair and the other her
ass,  he kissed her. The taller of the guys reached for Red's shoulder. "Now
wait a minute . . ."
      Red  turned and put the guy on the ground with a short left. A stomach
punch.  They guy stayed down, breathing heavily. Red looked at the guy  with
the Viet Cong flag. "If you don't want to get hurt, leave me alone."
     "Come on," he said to the girl, "get over behind those rocks."
     "No, I won't do it," said the girl, "I won't do it."

      Red  pulled  his switchblade and hit the button. The  blade  was  flat
across her nose, pressed it down.
     "How do you think you'd look without a nose?"
     She didn't answer.
     "I'll slice it off." He grinned.
     "Listen," said the guy with the flag, "you can't get away with this."
     "Come on, girly," said Red, pushing her toward the rocks.
      Red  and the girl disappeared behind the rocks. The guy with the  flag
helped his friend up. They stood there. They stood there some minutes.
     "He's fucking Sally. What can we do? He's fucking her right now."
     "What can we do? He's a madman."
     "We should do something."
     "Sally must think we're real shits."
     "We are. There are two of us. We could have handled him."
     "He has a knife."
     "It doesn't matter. We could have taken him."
     "I feel god damned miserable."
     "How do you think Sally feels? He's fucking her."
      They stood and waited. The tall one who had taken the punch was called
Leo.  The  other was Dale. It was hot in the sun as they waited. "We've  got
two cigarettes left," said Dale, "should we smoke?"
     "How the hell can we smoke when that's going on behind the rocks?"
     "You're right. My god, what's taking so long."
     "God, I don't know. You think he's killed her?"
     "I'm getting worried."
     "Maybe I'd better have a look."
     "O.k. but be careful."
     Leo walked toward the rocks. There was a small hill with some brush. He
crawled up the hill behind the brush and looked down. Red was fucking Sally.
Leo  watched.  It seemed endless. Red went on and on. Leo crawled  down  the
hill and walked over and stood next to Dale.
     "I guess she's all right," he said.
     They waited.
      Finally  Red  and  Sally came out from behind the rocks.  They  walked
toward them.
     "Thank you brothers," said Red, "she was a very fine piece."
     "May you rot in hell!" said Leo.
      Red  laughed. "Peace! Peace! ... He flashed the sign with his fingers.
"Well, I think I'll be going . . ."
      Red  rolled a quick cigarette, smiling as he wet it. Then he  lit  up,
inhaled, and walked off toward the north, keeping in the shade.
      "Let's hitchhike the rest of the way," said Dale. "Freights aren't any
     "The highway's to the west," said Leo, "let's go."
     They began moving toward the west.
     "Christ,' said Sally, "I can hardly walk! He's an animal!"
     Leo and Dale didn't say anything.
     "I hope I don't get pregnant," said Sally.
     "Sally," said Leo, "I'm sorry . . ."
     "Oh, shut up!"
      They  walked. It was getting along toward evening and the desert  heat
was dropping off.
     "I hate men!" said Sally.
      A  jackrabbit leaped out from behind a bush and Leo and Dale jumped as
it ran off.
     "A rabbit," said Leo, "a rabbit."
     "That rabbit scared you guys, didn't it?"
     "Well, after what happened, we're jumpy."
      "You're jumpy? What about me? Listen let's sit down  a  minute.
I'm tired."
     There was a patch of shade and Sally sat between them.
     "You know, though ..." she said.
     "It wasn't so bad. On a strictly sexual basis, I mean. He really put it
to me. On a strictly sexual basis it was quite something."
     "What?" said Dale.
     "I mean, morally, I hate him. The son of a bitch should be shot. He's a
dog. A pig. But on a strictly sexual basis it was something . . ."
      They sat there a while not saying anything. Then they got out the  two
cigarettes and smoked them, passing them around.
     "I wish we had some dope," said Leo.
      "God, I knew it was coming, said Sally. "You guys almost don't exist."
"Maybe  you'd  feel better if we raped you?" asked Leo. "Don't  be  stupid."
"You  think  I can't rape you?" "I should have gone with him. You  guys  are
nothing." "So now you like him?" asked Dale. "Forget it!" said Sally. "Let's
get down to the highway and stick our thumbs out."
     "I can slam it to you," said Leo, "I can make you cry."
     "Can I watch?" asked Dale, laughing.
     "There won't be anything to watch," said Sally. "Come on. Let's go."
      They stood up and walked toward the highway. It was a ten minute walk.
When  they got there Sally stood in the highway with her thumb out. Leo  and
Dale stood back out of view. They had forgotten the Viet Cong flag. They had
left  it  back  at  the freight yard. It was in the dirt near  the  railroad
tracks.  The war went on. Seven red ants, the big kind, crawled  across  the

      Margie was going to go out with this guy but on the way over this  guy
met another guy in a leather coat and the guy in the leather coat opened the
leather  coat and showed the other guy his tits and the other guy went  over
to  Margie's  and  said he couldn't keep his date because this  guy  in  the
leather  coat had showed him his tits and he was going to fuck this guy.  So
Margie  went  to see Carl. Carl was in, and she sat down and said  to  Carl,
"This  guy  was going to take me to a cafe with tables outside and  we  were
going  to drink wine and talk, just drink wine and talk, that's all, nothing
else, but on the way over this guy met another guy in a leather coat and the
guy  in  the leather coat showed the other guy his tits and now this guy  is
going  to fuck the guy in the leather coat, so I don't get my table  and  my
wine and my talk."
     "I can't write," said Carl. "It's gone."
      Then  he got up and went to the bathroom, closed the door, and took  a
shit.  Carl took four or five shits a day. There was nothing else to do.  He
took five or six baths a day. There was nothing else to do. He got drunk for
the same reason.
     Margie heard the toilet flush. Then Carl came out.
      "A man simply can't write eight hours a day. He can't even write every
day or every week. It's a wicked fix. There's nothing to do but wait."
     Carl went to the refrigerator and came out with a six-pack of Michelob.
He opened a bottle.
      "I'm the world's greatest writer," he said. "Do you know how difficult
that is?"
     Margie didn't answer.
      "I can feel pain crawling all over me. It's like a second skin. I wish
I could shed that skin like a snake."
     "Well, why don't you get down on the rug and give it a try?"
     "Listen," he asked, "where did I meet you?"
     "Barney's Beanery."
     "Well, that explains some of it. Have a beer."
     Carl opened a bottle and passed it over.
      "Yeah," said Margie, "I know. You need your solitude. You need  to  be
alone.  Except when you want some, or except when we split, then  you're  on
the  phone. You say you need me. You say you're dying of a hangover. You get
weak fast."
     "I get weak fast."
      "And  you're so dull around me, you never turn on. You  writers
are  so  ...  precious ... you can't stand people.  Humanity  stinks,
     "But every time we split you start throwing giant four-day parties. And
suddenly  you get witty, you start to TALK! Suddenly you're  full  of
life,  talking,  dancing, singing. You dance on the coffeetable,  you  throw
bottles through the window, you act parts from Shakespeare. Suddenly  you're
alive -- when I'm gone. Oh, I hear about it!"
     "I don't like parties. I especially dislike people at parties."
      "For  a  guy  who doesn't like parties you certainly throw  enough  of
      "Listen,  Margie,  you don't understand. I can't  write  anymore.  I'm
finished. Somewhere I made a wrong turn. Somewhere I died in the night."
     "The only way you're going to die is from one of your giant hangovers."
     "Jeffers said that even the strongest men get trapped."
     "Who was Jeffers?"
     "He was the guy who turned Big Sur into a tourist trap."
     "What were you going to do tonight?"
     "I was going to listen to the songs of Rachmaninoff."
     "Who's that?"
     "A dead Russian."
     "Look at you. You just sit there."
      "I'm  waiting. Some guys wait for two years. Sometimes it never  comes
     "Suppose it never comes back?"
     "I'll just put on my shoes and walk down to Main Street."
     "Why don't you get a decent job?"
      "There  aren't  any decent jobs. If a writer doesn't make  it  through
creation, he's dead."
     "Oh, come on, Carl! There are billions of people in the world who don't
make it through creation. Do you mean to tell me they're dead?"
     "And you have soul? You are one of the few with a soul?"
     "It would appear so."
      "It  would appear so! You and your little typewriter!  You  and
your tiny checks! My grandmother makes more money than you do!"
     Carl opened another bottle of beer.
      "Beer!  Beer! You and your god damned beer! It's in your stories  too.
'Marty lifted his beer. As he looked up, this big blonde walked into the bar
and  sat down beside him . . .' You're right. You're finished. Your material
is  limited, very limited. You can't write a love story, you can't  write  a
decent love story."
     "You're right, Margie."
     "If a man can't write a love story, he's useless."
     "How many have you written?"
     "I don't claim to be a writer."
      "But,"  said  Carl,  "you appear to pose as one  hell  of  a  literary
     Margie left soon after that. Carl sat and drank the remaining beers. It
was  true,  the  writing  had left him. It would make  his  few  underground
enemies happy. They could step one notch up. Death pleased them, underground
or overground. He remembered Endicott, Endicott sitting there saying, "Well,
Hemingway's  gone,  DOS  Passes is gone, Patchen is  gone.  Pound  is  gone,
Berryman  jumped off the bridge . . . things are looking better  and  better
and better."
     The phone rang. Carl picked it up. "Mr. Gantling?"
     "Yes?" he answered.
     "We wondered if you'd like to read at Fairmount College?"
     "Well, yes, what date?"
     "The 30th of next month."
     "I don't think I'm doing anything then."
     "Our usual payment is one hundred dollars."
     "I usually get a hundred and a half. Ginsberg gets a thousand."
     "But that's Ginsberg. We can only offer a hundred."
     "All right."
     "Fine, Mr. Gantling. We'll send you the details."
     "How about travel? That's a hell of a drive."
     "O.k., twenty-five dollars for travel."
     "Would you like to talk to some of the students in their classes?"
     "There's a free lunch."
     "I'll take that."
     "Fine, Mr. Gantling, we'll be looking forward to seeing you on campus."
     Carl walked about the room. He looked at the typewriter. He put a sheet
of paper in there, then watched a girl in an amazingly short mini skirt walk
past the window. Then he started to type:
      "Margie was going to go out with this guy but on the way over this guy
met another guy in a leather coat and the guy in the leather coat opened the
leather  coat and showed the other guy his tits and the other guy went  over
to  Margie's  and  said he couldn't keep his date because this  guy  in  the
leather coat had showed him his tits . . ."
     Carl lifted his beer. It felt good to be writing again.

      We  got to go to the exercise yard twice a day, in the middle  of  the
morning  and in mid-afternoon. There wasn't much to do. The men were friends
mostly  on  the basis of what had gotten them into jail. Like  my  cell-mate
Taylor had said, the child molestors and indecent exposure cases were at the
bottom of the social order while the big-time swindlers and the racket heads
were at the top.
      Taylor wouldn't speak to me in the exercise yard. He paced up and down
with  a big-time swindler. I sat alone. Some of the guys rolled a shirt into
a  ball and played catch. They appeared to enjoy it. The facilities for  the
entertainment of the inmates didn't amount to much.
      I sat there. Soon I noticed a huddle of men. It was a crap game. I got
up  and went over. I had a little less than a dollar in change. I watched  a
few  rolls.  The man with the dice picked up three pots in a row.  I  sensed
that  his run was finished and got in against him. He crapped out. I made  a
      Each  time  a  man got hot I laid off until I figured his  string  was
ended.  Then  I got in against him. I noticed that the other men  bet  every
pot.  I made six bets and won five of them. Then we were marched back up  to
our cells. I was a dollar ahead.
      The  next  morning I got in earlier. I made $2.50 in the  morning  and
$1.75  in  the afternoon. As the game ended this kid walked up to  me.  "You
seem to be going all right, mister."
      I  gave the kid 15 cents. He walked off ahead. Another guy got in step
with me. "You give that son of a bitch anything?"
     "Yeah. 15 cents."
     "He cuts the pot each time. Don't give him nothing."
     "I hadn't noticed."
      "Yeah.  He cuts the pot. He takes his cut each roll." "I'll watch  him
     "Besides, he's a fucking indecent exposure case. He shows his pecker to
little girls."
     "Yeah," I said, "I hate those cocksuckers."
      The  food  was very bad. After dinner one night I mentioned to  Taylor
that I was winning at craps.
     "You know," he said, "you can buy food here, good food."
      "The cook comes down after lights out. You get the warden's food,  the
best.  Dessert,  the works. The cook's good. The warden's got  him  here  on
account of that."
     "How much would a couple of dinners cost us?"
     "Give him a dime. No more than 15 cents."
     "Is that all?"
     "If you give him more he'll think you're a fool."
     "All right. 15 cents."
     Taylor made the arrangements. The next night after lights out we waited
and killed bedbugs, one by one.
     "That cook's killed two men. He's a great big son of a bitch, and mean.
He  killed one guy, did ten years, got out of there and was out two or three
days and he killed another guy. This is only a holding prison but the warden
keeps him here permanent because he's such a good cook."
      We  heard somebody walking up. It was the cook. I got up and he passed
the food in. I walked to the table then walked back to the cell door. He was
a big son of a bitch, killer of two men. I gave him 15 cents.
     "Thanks, buddy, you want me to come back tomorrow night?"
     "Every night."
     Taylor and I sat down to the food. Everything was on plates. The coffee
was good and hot, the meat -- the roast beef -- was tender. Mashed potatoes,
sweet peas, biscuits, gravy, butter, and apple pie. I hadn't eaten that good
in five years.
      "That  cook raped a sailor the other day. He got him so bad the sailor
couldn't walk. They had to hospitalize that sailor."
     I took in a big mouthful of mashed potatoes and gravy.
      "You don't have to worry," said Taylor. "You're so damned ugly, nobody
would want to rape you."
     "I was worrying more about getting myself a little."
     "Well, I'll point out the punks to you. Some of them are owned and some
of them aren't owned."
     "This is good food."
      "Sure as shit. Now there are two kinds of punks in here. The kind that
come in punks and the prison-made punks. There are never enough punks to  go
around so the boys have to make a few extra to fulfill their needs."
     "That's sensible."
      "The  prison-manufactured punks are usually a little punchy  from  the
head-beatings they take. They resist at first."
      "Yeah.  Then  they decide it's better to be a live punk  than  a  dead
      We  finished  our dinner, went to our bunks, fought  the  bedbugs  and
attempted to sleep.
     I continued to win at craps each day. I bet more heavily and still won.
Life  in prison was getting better and better. One day I was told not to  go
to  the  exercise yard. Two agents from the F.B.I, came to  visit  me.  They
asked a few questions, then one of them said:
     "We've investigated you. You don't have to go to court. You'll be taken
to  the  induction center. If the army accepts you, you'll go  in.  If  they
reject you, you're a civilian again."
     "I almost like it here in jail," I said.
     "Yes, you're looking good."
      "No  tension,"  I said, "no rent, no utility bills, no arguments  with
girlfriends, no taxes, no license plates, no food bills, no hangovers . . ."
     "Keep talking smart, we'll fix you good."
     "Oh shit," I said, "I'm just joking. Pretend I'm Bob Hope."
     "Bob Hope's a good American."
     "I'd be too if I had his dough."
     "Keep mouthing. We can make it rough on you."
      I  didn't answer. One guy had a briefcase. He got up first. The  other
guy followed him out.
      They  gave us all a bag lunch and put us in a truck. There were twenty
or  twenty-five of us. The guys had just had breakfast an hour  and  a  half
earlier  but  they  were  all into their bag lunches.  Not  bad:  a  bologna
sandwich,  a peanut butter sandwich and a rotten banana. I passed  my  lunch
down  to  the  guys. They were very quiet. None of them joked.  They  looked
straight ahead. Most of them were black or brown. And all of them were big.
     I passed the physical, then I went in to see the psychiatrist.
     "Henry Chinaski?"
     "Sit down."
     I sat down.
     "Do you believe in the war?"
     "Are you willing to go to war?"
      He  looked at me. I stared down at my feet. He seemed to be reading  a
sheaf  of papers in front of him. It took several minutes. Four, five,  six,
seven minutes. Then he spoke.
      "Listen,  I am having a party next Wednesday night at my place.  There
are going to be doctors, lawyers, artists, writers, actors, all that sort. I
can see that you're an intelligent man. I want you to come to my party. Will
you come?"
      He started writing. He wrote and he wrote and he wrote. I wondered how
he knew so much about me. I didn't know that much about myself.
      I  let him write on. I was indifferent. Now that I couldn't be in  the
war I almost wanted the war. Yet, at the same time, I was glad to be out  of
it.  The Doctor finished writing. I felt I had fooled them. My objection  to
war  was  not  that  I had to kill somebody or be killed  senselessly,  that
hardly mattered. What I objected to was to be denied the right to sit  in  a
small room and starve and drink cheap wine and go crazy in my own way and at
my own leisure.
     I didn't want to be awakened by some man with a bugle. I didn't want to
sleep  in a barracks with a bunch of healthy sex-mad football-loving overfed
wise-cracking  masturbating  lovable frightened pink  farting  mother-struck
modest  basketball-playing American boys that I would have  to  be  friendly
with, that I would have to get drunk with on leave, that I would have to lay
on  my  back with and listen to dozens of unfunny, obvious, dirty  jokes.  I
didn't  want  their itchy blankets or their itchy uniforms  or  their  itchy
humanity. I didn't want to shit in the same place or piss in the same  place
or  share the same whore. I didn't want to see their toenails or read  their
letters from home. I didn't want to watch their assholes bobbing in front of
me  in close formation, I didn't want to make friends, I didn't want to make
enemies,  I just didn't want them or it or the thing. To kill or  be  killed
hardly mattered.
     After a two-hour wait on a hard bench in a cesspool-brown tunnel with a
cold  wind blowing they let me go and I walked out, north. I stopped  for  a
pack  of  cigarettes.  I stopped in at the first bar, sat  down,  ordered  a
scotch  and water, peeled the cellophane from the package, took out a smoke,
lit  up,  got that drink in my hand, drank down half, dragged at the  smoke,
looked  at my handsome face in the mirror. It seemed strange to be  out.  It
seemed strange to be able to walk in any direction I pleased.
      Just  for  fun  I got up and walked to the crapper. I pissed.  It  was
another  horrible bar crapper; I almost vomited at the stench. I  came  out,
put  a coin in the juke box, sat down and listened to the latest. The latest
wasn't any better. They had the beat but not the soul. Mozart, Bach and  the
Bee  still made them look bad. I was going to miss those crap games and  the
good food. I ordered another drink. I looked around the bar. There were five
men in the bar and no women. I was back in the American streets.

      This guy Summerfield was on relief and hitting the wine bottle. He was
rather a dull sort, I tried to avoid him, but he was always hanging out  the
window half-drunk. He'd see me leaving my place and he always said the  same
thing,  "Hey,  Hank, how about taking me to the races?" and I  always  said,
"One  of these times, Joe, not today." Well, he kept at it, hanging out  the
window half-drunk, so one day I said, "All right, for Christ's sake, come on
. . ." and away we went.
      It  was January at Santa Anita and if you know that track, it can  get
real  cold out there when you're losing. The wind blows in from the snow  on
the  mountains and your pockets are empty and you shiver and think of  death
and hard times and no rent and all the rest. It's hardly a pleasant place to
lose. At least at Hollywood Park you can come back with a sunburn.
      So we went. He talked all the way out. He'd never been to a racetrack.
I  had  to  tell him the difference between win, place and show betting.  He
didn't even know what a starting gate was, or a Racing Form. When  we
got  out there he used my Form. I had to show him how to read  it.  I
paid his way in and bought him a program. All he had was two dollars. Enough
for one bet.
     We stood around before the first race looking at the women. Joe told me
he  hadn't  had a woman in five years. He was a shabby-looking guy,  a  real
loser. We passed the Form back and forth and looked at the women  and
then  Joe said, "How come the 6 horse is 14 to one? He looks best to me."  I
tried  to explain to Joe why the horse was reading 14 to one in relation  to
the  other horses but he wouldn't listen. "He sure as hell looks best to me.
I  don't understand. I just gotta bet him." "It's your two dollars, Joe,"  I
said, "and I'm not lending you any money when you lose this one."
     The horse's name was Red Charley and he was a sad-looking beast indeed.
He  came out for the post parade in four bandages. His price leaped to 18 to
one  when  they got a look at him. I put ten win on the logical horse.  Bold
Latrine, a slight class drop with good earnings and with a live jock and the
2nd leading trainer. I thought that 7 to 2 was a good price on that one.
     It was a mile and one sixteenth. Red Charley was reading 20 to one when
they  came out of the gate and he came out first, you couldn't miss  him  in
all those bandages, and the boy opened up four lengths on the first turn, he
must have thought he was in a quarter horse race. The jock only had two wins
out  of  40  mounts  and  you  could see why. He  had  six  lengths  on  the
backstretch.  The lather was running down Red Charley's neck; it  damn  near
looked like shaving cream.
      At  the  top of the turn six lengths had faded to three and the  whole
pack  was gaining on him. At the top of the stretch Red Charley only  had  a
length and a half and my horse Bold Latrine was moving up outside. It looked
like I was in. Half way down the stretch I was a neck off. Another lunge and
I  was  in. But they went all the way down to the wire that way. Red Charley
still had the neck at the finish. He paid $42.80.
      "I  thought  he looked best," said Joe and he went off to collect  his
      When  he came back he asked for the Form again. He looked  them
over. "How come Big H is 6 to one?" he asked me. "He looks best."
      "He may look best to you" I said, "but off the knowledge
of experienced horseplayers and handicappers, real pros, he rates about 6 to
      "Don't get pissed. Hank. I know I don't know anything about this game.
I  only mean that to me he looks like he should be the favorite. I gotta bet
him anyhow. I might as well go ten win."
      "It's your money, Joe. You just lucked it in the first race, the  game
isn't that easy."
      Well  Big H won and paid $14.40. Joe started to strut around. We  read
the  Form  at the bar and he bought us each a drink  and  tipped  the
barkeep  a  buck.  As  we left the bar he winked at the bar-keep  and  said,
"Bamey's  Mole is all alone in this one." Barney's Mole was the 6/5 favorite
so  I  didn't think that was such a fancy announcement. By the time the race
went off Barney's Mole was even money. He paid $4.20 and Joe had $20 win  on
     "That time," he told me, "they made the proper horse the favorite."
      Out  of the nine races Joe had eight winners. On the ride back he kept
wondering  how  he had missed in the 7th race. "Blue Truck  looked  far  the
best. I don't understand how he only got 3rd."
      "Joe you had 8 for 9. That's beginner's luck. You don't know how  hard
this game is."
     "It looks easy to me. You just pick the winner and collect your money."
      I  didn't talk to him the rest of the way in. That night he knocked on
my  door and he had a fifth of Grandad and the Racing Form. I  helped
him  with  the  bottle while he read the Form and told  me  all  nine
winners the next day, and why. We had ourselves a real expert here.  I  know
how  it  can go to a man's head. I had 17 straight winners once  and  I  was
going  to  buy homes along the coast and start a white slavery  business  to
protect my winnings from the income tax man. That's how crazy you can get.
      I could hardly wait to take Joe to the track the next day. I wanted to
see his face when all his predictions ran out. Horses were only animals made
out  of  flesh. They were fallible. It was like the old horse players  said,
"There are a dozen ways you can lose a race and only one way to win one."
      All  right,  it didn't happen that way. Joe had 7 for 9 --  favorites,
longshots,  medium  prices. And he hitched all the  way  in  about  his  two
losers. He couldn't understand it. I didn't talk to him. The son of a  bitch
could do no wrong. But the percentages would get him. He started telling  me
how  I  was betting wrong, and the proper way to bet. Two days at the  track
and he was an expert. I'd been playing them 20 years and he was telling me I
didn't know my ass.
      We went all week and Joe kept winning. He got so unbearable I couldn't
stand  him  anymore. He bought a new suit and hat, new shirt and shoes,  and
started smoking 50 cent cigars. He told the relief people that he was  self-
employed  and didn't need their money anymore. Joe had gone mad. He  grew  a
mustache and purchased a wrist watch and an expensive ring. The next Tuesday
I  saw him drive to the track in his own car, a '69 black Caddy. He waved to
me  from his car and flicked out his cigar ash. I didn't talk to him at  the
track  that  day. He was in the clubhouse. When he knocked on my  door  that
night  he had the usual fifth of Grandad and a tall blonde. A young  blonde,
well-dressed,  well-groomed, she had a shape and  a  face.  They  walked  in
     "Who's this old bum?" she asked Joe.
      "That's my old buddy. Hank," he told her, "I used to know him  when  I
was poor. He took me to the racetrack one day."
     "Don't he have an old lady?"
     "Old Hank ain't had a woman since 1965. Listen, how about fixing him up
with Big Gertie?"
      "Oh  hell, Joe, Big Gertie wouldn't go him! Look, he's  dressed
like a rag man."
      "Have some mercy, baby, he's my buddy. I know he don't look like  much
but we both started out together. I'm sentimental."
     "Well, Big Gertie ain't sentimental, she likes class."
      "Look,  Joe,"  I  said,  "forget the women. Just  sit  down  with  the
Form  and  let's  have a few drinks and  give  me  some  winners  for
      Joe  did  that. We drank and he worked them out. He wrote nine  horses
down  for me on a piece of paper. His woman. Big Thelma -- well. Big  Thelma
just looked at me like I was dog shit on somebody's lawn.
     Those nine horses were good for eight wins the next day. One horse paid
$62.60.  I couldn't understand it. That night Joe came by with a new  woman.
She  looked even finer. He sat down with the bottle and the Form  and
wrote me down nine more horses.
      Then  he told me, "Listen, Hank, I gotta be moving out of my place.  I
found me a nice deluxe apartment right outside the track. The travel time to
and from the track is a nuisance. Let's go, baby. I'll see you around, kid."
      I knew that was it. My buddy was giving me the brush-off. The next day
I  laid  it heavy on those nine horses. They were good for seven winners.  I
went  over  the  Form again when I got home trying to figure  why  he
selected the horses he did, but there seemed to be no understandable reason.
Some of his selections were truly puzzling to me.
      I  didn't see Joe again for the remainder of the meet, except once.  I
saw him walk into the clubhouse with two women. Joe was fat and laughing. He
wore  a  two-hundred-dollar suit and he had a diamond ring on his finger.  I
lost all nine races that day.
      It  was  two  years  later.  I was at Hollywood  Park  and  it  was  a
particularly hot day, a Thursday, and in the 6th race I happened to  land  a
$26.80  winner.  As I was walking away from the payoff window  I  heard  his
voice behind me:
     "Hey, Hank! Hank!"
     It was Joe.
     "Jesus Christ, man," he said, "it's sure great to see you!"
     "Hello Joe ..."
      He still had on his two-hundred-dollar suit in all that heat. The rest
of  us  were in shirt sleeves. He needed a shave and his shoes were  scuffed
and  the suit was wrinkled and dirty. His diamond was gone, his wrist  watch
was gone.
     "Lemme have a smoke. Hank."
      I  gave  him a cigarette and when he lit it I noticed his  hands  were
     "I need a drink, man," he told me.
     I took him over to the bar and we had a couple of whiskeys. Joe studied
the Form.
     "Listen, man, I've put you on plenty of winners, haven't I?"
     "Sure, Joe."
      We stood there looking at the Form. "Now check this race," said
Joe. "Look at Black Monkey. He's going to romp. Hank. He's a lock. And at  8
to one."
     "You like his chances, Joe?"
     "He's in, man. He'll win by daylight."
      We placed our bets on Black Monkey and went out to watch the race.  He
finished a deep 7th.
      "I  don't understand it," said Joe. "Look, let me have two more bucks,
Hank. Siren Call is in the next, she can't lose. There's no way."
      Siren  Call  did get up for 5th but that's not much help  when  you're
betting  on  the nose. Joe got me for another $2 for the 9th  race  and  his
horse  ran out there too. Joe told me he didn't have a car and would I  mind
driving him home?
      "You're not going to believe this," he told me, "but I'm back  on  the
     "I believe you, Joe."
      "I'll bounce back, though. You know, Pittsburgh Phil went broke half a
dozen times. He always sprung back. His friends had faith in him. They  lent
him money."
      When I let him off I found he lived in an old rooming house about four
blocks  from where I lived. I had never moved. When I let Joe out  he  said,
"There's a hell of a good card tomorrow. You going?"
     "I'm not sure, Joe."
     "Lemme know if you're going."
     "Sure, Joe."
      That  night I heard the knock on my door. I knew Joe's knock. I didn't
answer.  I had the T.V. playing but I didn't answer. I just laid real  still
on the bed. He kept knocking.
     "Hank! Hank! You in there? HEY, HANK!"
     Then he really beat on the door, the son of a bitch. He seemed frantic.
He  knocked and he knocked. At last he stopped. I heard him walking down the
hall.  Then I heard the front door of the apartment house close. I  got  up,
turned  off  the  T.V.,  went to the refrigerator, made  a  ham  and  cheese
sandwich,  opened  a  beer.  Then I sat down  with  that,  split  tomorrow's
Form open and began looking at the first race, a five-thousand-dollar
claimer for colts and geldings three years old and up. I liked the 8  horse.
The Form had him listed at 5 to one. I'd take that anytime.

      Now,  I'm a man of many problems and I suppose that most of  them  are
self-created.  I  mean with the female, and gambling,  and  feeling  hostile
toward  groups  of  people,  and  the larger  the  group,  the  greater  the
hostility. I'm called negative and gloomy, sullen.
     I keep remembering the female who screamed at me: "You're so god damned
negative! Life can be beautiful!"
      I  suppose it can, and especially with a little less screaming. But  I
want  to  tell  you  about  my doctor. I don't go to  shrinks.  Shrinks  are
worthless  and  too contented. But a good doctor is often  disgusted  and/or
mad, and therefore far more entertaining.
      I  went  to Dr. Kiepenheuer's office because it was closest. My  hands
were breaking out with little white blisters -- a sign, I felt, either of my
actual  anxiety  or possible cancer. I wore working-man's gloves  so  people
wouldn't  stare. And I burned through the gloves while smoking two packs  of
cigarettes a day.
      I walked into the doctor's place. I had the first appointment. Being a
man  of  anxiety I was thirty minutes early, musing about cancer.  I  walked
across  the  sitting room and looked into the office. Here  was  the  nurse-
receptionist  squatted on the floor in her tight white  uniform,  her  dress
pulled  almost  up to her hips, gross and thunderous thighs showing  through
tightly-pulled nylon. I forgot all about the cancer. She hadn't heard me and
I  stared at her unveiled legs and thighs, measured the delicious rump  with
my eyes. She was wiping water from the floor, the toilet had overrun and she
was  cursing,  she  was passionate, she was pink and brown  and  living  and
unveiled and I stared.
     She looked up. "Yes?"
     "Go ahead," I said, "don't let me disturb you."
     "It's the toilet," she said, "it keeps running over."
      She  kept  wiping  and  I  kept looking over the  top  of  Life
magazine. She finally stood up. I walked to the couch and sat down. She went
through her appointment book.
     "Are you Mr. Chinaski?"
     "Why don't you take your gloves off? It's warm in here."
     "I'd rather not, if you don't mind."
     "Dr. Kiepenheuer will be in soon."
     "It's all right. I can wait."
     "What's your problem?"
      The nurse vanished and I read Life and then I read another copy
of  Life  and then I read Sports Illustrated and  then  I  sat
staring  at  paintings of seascapes and landscapes and piped-in  music  came
from  somewhere. Then, suddenly, all the lights blinked off, then on  again,
and I wondered if there would be any way to rape the nurse and get away with
it  when the doctor walked in. I ignored him and he ignored me, so that went
off even.
      He  called me into his office. He was sitting on a stool and he looked
at me. He had a yellow face and yellow hair and his eyes were lusterless. He
was dying. He was about 42. I eyed him and gave him six months.
     "What's with the gloves?" he asked.
     "I'm a sensitive man. Doctor."
     "You are?"
     "Then I should tell you that I was once a Nazi."
     "That's all right."
     "You don't mind that I was once a Nazi?"
     "No, I don't mind."
     "I was captured. They rode us through France in a boxcar with the doors
open and the people stood along the way and threw stink bombs and rocks  and
all  sorts  of rubbish at us -- fishbones, dead plants, excreta,  everything
      Then the doctor sat and told me about his wife. She was trying to skin
him.  A real bitch. Trying to get all his money. The house. The garden.  The
garden  house.  The gardener too, probably, if she hadn't already.  And  the
car. And alimony. Plus a large chunk of cash. Horrible woman. He'd worked so
hard.  Fifty  patients  a day at ten dollars a head.  Almost  impossible  to
survive. And that woman. Women. Yes, women. He broke down the word for me. I
forget  if it was woman or female or what it was, but he broke it down  into
Latin and he broke it down from there to show what the root was -- in Latin:
women were basically insane.
      As  he talked about the insanity of women I began to feel pleased with
the doctor. My head nodded in agreement.
      Suddenly he ordered me to the scales, weighed me, then he listened  to
my  heart and to my chest. He roughly removed my gloves, washed my hands  in
some  kind of shit and opened the blisters with a razor, still talking about
the  rancor  and  vengeance that all women carried in their hearts.  It  was
glandular. Women were directed by their glands, men by their hearts.  That's
why only the men suffered.
      He  told  me to bathe my hands regularly and to throw the  god  damned
gloves  away. He talked a little more about women and his wife  and  then  I
      My  next  problem was dizzy spells. But I only got  them  when  I  was
standing in line. I began to get very terrified of standing in line. It  was
     I realized that in America and probably everyplace else it came down to
standing in line. We did it everywhere. Driver's license:
      three  or  four  lines. The racetrack: lines. The movies:  lines.  The
market:  lines. I hated lines. I felt there should be a way to  avoid  them.
Then  the  answer  came to me. Have more clerks. Yes,  that  was  the
answer.  Two  clerks for every person. Three clerks. Let  the  clerks
stand in line.
      I  knew  that  lines  were  killing me. I couldn't  accept  them,  but
everybody else did. Everybody else was normal. Life was beautiful for  them.
They  could  stand in line without feeling pain. They could  stand  in  line
forever.  They even liked to stand in line. They chatted and  grinned
and  smiled and flirted with each other. They had nothing else to  do.  They
could  think  of  nothing else to do. And I had to look at  their  ears  and
mouths  and  necks and legs and asses and nostrils, all that. I  could  feel
death-rays  oozing  from  their bodies like smog,  and  listening  to  their
conversations I felt like screaming "Jesus Christ, somebody help me! Do I
have  to suffer like this just to buy a pound of hamburger and a loaf
of rye bread?"
      The  dizziness would come, and I'd spread my legs to keep from falling
down;  the supermarket would whirl, and the faces of the supermarket  clerks
with their gold and brown mustaches and their clever happy eyes, all of them
going  to  be  supermarket  managers  someday,  with  their  white  scrubbed
contented  faces,  buying homes in Arcadia and nightly mounting  their  pale
blond grateful wives.
      I  made  an appointment with the doctor again. I was given  the  first
appointment.  I  arrived half an hour early and the toilet  was  fixed.  The
nurse  was dusting in the office. She bent and straightened and bent halfway
and then bent right and then bent left, and she turned her ass toward me and
bent over. That white uniform twitched and hiked, climbed, lifted; here  was
dimpled knee, there was thigh, here was haunch, there was the whole body.  I
sat down and opened a copy of Life.
     She stopped dusting and stuck her head out at me, smiling. "You got rid
of your gloves, Mr. Chinaski."
      The  doctor came in looking a bit closer to death and he nodded and  I
got up and followed him in.
     He sat down on his stool.
     "Chinaski: how goes it?"
     "Well, doctor . . ."
     "Trouble with women?"
     "Well, of course, but . . ."
     He wouldn't let me finish. He had lost more hair. His fingers twitched.
He seemed short of breath. Thinner. He was a desperate man.
      His  wife was skinning him. They'd gone to court. She slapped  him  in
court.  He'd  liked that. It helped the case. They saw through  that  bitch.
Anyhow,  it hadn't come off too badly. She'd left him something. Of  course,
you  know lawyer's fees. Bastards. You ever noticed a lawyer? Almost  always
fat.  Especially around the face. "Anyhow, shit, she nailed me. But I got  a
little left. You wanna know what a scissors like this costs? Look at it. Tin
with  a  screw.  $18.50. My God, and they hated the Nazis. What  is  a  Nazi
compared to this?"
     "I don't know Doctor. I've told you that I'm a confused man."
     "You ever tried a shrink?"
     "It's no use. They're dull, no imagination. I don't need the shrinks. I
hear they end up sexually molesting their female patients. I'd like to be  a
shrink  if  I  could  fuck all the women; outside of that,  their  trade  is
     My doctor hunched up on his stool. He yellowed and greyed a bit more. A
giant  twitch  ran through his body. He was almost through.  A  nice  fellow
     "Well, I got rid of my wife," he said, "that's over."
     "Fine," I said, "tell me about when you were a Nazi."
     "Well, we didn't have much choice. They just took us in. I was young. I
mean, hell, what are you going to do? You can only live in one country at  a
time.  You  go to war, and if you don't end up dead you end up  in  an  open
boxcar with people throwing shit at you . . ."
      I asked him if he'd fucked his nice nurse. He smiled gently. The smile
said  yes. Then he told me that since the divorce, well, he'd dated  one  of
his patients, and he knew it wasn't ethical to get that way with patients  .
. .
     "No, I think it's all right. Doctor."
     "She's a very intelligent woman. I married her."
     "All right."
     "Now I'm happy ... but .. ."
     Then he spread his hands apart and opened his palms upward . . .
      I  told him about my fear of lines. He gave me a standing prescription
for Librium.
     Then I got a nest of boils on my ass. I was in agony. They tied me with
leather straps, these fellows can do anything they want with you, they  gave
me a local and strapped my ass. I turned my head and looked at my Doctor and
said, "Is there any chance of me changing my mind?"
      There were three faces looking down at me. His and two others. Him  to
cut. Her to supply cloths. The third to stick needles.
      "You can't change your mind," said the doctor, and he rubbed his hands
and grinned and began . . .
      The last time I saw him it had something to do with wax in my ears.  I
could  see  his lips moving, I tried to understand, but I couldn't  hear.  I
could tell by his eyes and his face that it was hard times for him all  over
again, and I nodded.
      It  was warm. I was a bit dizzy and I thought, well, yes, he's a  fine
fellow  but  why  doesn't he let me tell him about my problems,  this  isn't
fair, I have problems too, and I have to pay him.
      Eventually my doctor realized I was deaf. He got something that looked
like a fire extinguisher and jammed it into my ears. Later he showed me huge
pieces  of  wax  ...  it was the wax, he said. And he pointed  down  into  a
bucket. It looked, really, like retried beans.
      I got up from the table and paid him and I left. I still couldn't hear
anything. I didn't feel particularly bad or good and I wondered what ailment
I  would  bring him next, what he would do about it, what he would do  about
his  17  year  old daughter who was in love with another woman and  who  was
going  to  marry  the  woman, and it occurred to  me  that  everybody
suffered  continually, including those who pretended they didn't. It  seemed
to  me  that  this  was quite a discovery. I looked at  the  newsboy  and  I
thought, hmmmm, hmmmm, and I looked at the next person to pass and I thought
hmmmm, hmmmm, hmmmmmm, and at the traffic signal by the hospital a new black
car  turned the corner and knocked down a pretty young girl in a  blue  mini
dress, and she was blond and had blue ribbons in her hair, and she sat up in
the street in the sun and the scarlet ran from her nose.

     It was a small office on the third floor of an old building not too far
from  skid  row. Joe Mason, president of Rollerworld, Inc., sat  behind  the
worn desk which he rented along with the office. Graffiti were carved on the
top  and sides: "Born to die." "Some men buy what other men are hanged for."
"Shit soup." "I hate love more than I love hate."
      The  vice president, Clifford Underwood, sat in the only other  chair.
There  was one telephone. The office smelled of urine, but the restroom  was
45  feet down the hall. There was a window facing the alley, a thick  yellow
window  that  let  in  a  dim light. Both men were  smoking  cigarettes  and
     "When'd you tell 'im?" asked Underwood.
     "9:30," said Mason.
     "It doesn't matter."
     They waited. Eight more minutes. They each lit another cigarette. There
was a knock.
      "Come in," said Mason. It was Monster Chonjacki, bearded, six foot six
and  392  pounds. Chonjacki smelled. It started to rain. You  could  hear  a
freightcar  going  by under the window. It was really 24  freightcars  going
north filled with commerce. Chonjacki still smelled. He was the star of  the
Yellowjackets,  one  of  the  best roller skaters  on  either  side  of  the
Mississippi, 25 yards to either side.
     "Sit down," said Mason.
     "No chair," said Chonjacki.
     "Make him a chair. Cliff."
      The vice president slowly got up, gave every indication of a man about
to  fart,  didn't  and walked over and leaned against the  rain  which  beat
against the thick yellow window. Chonjacki put both cheeks down, reached and
lit up a Pall Mall. No filter. Mason leaned across his desk:
     "You are an ignorant son of a bitch."
     "Wait a minute, man!"
      "You  wanna  be a hero, don't you sonny? You get excited  when  little
girls without any hair on their pussies scream your name? You like the  dear
old red, white and blue? Ya like vanilla ice cream? You still beat your tiny
little pud, asshole?"
     "Listen here, Mason . . ."
     "Shut up! Three hundred a week! Three hundred a week I been giving you!
When I found you in that bar you didn't have enough for your next drink .  .
.  you  had  the  d.t.'s and were livin' on hogshead soup and  cabbage!  You
couldn't lace on a skate! I made you, asshole, from nothing, and I can  make
you right back into nothing! As far as you're concerned, I'm God. And I'm  a
God who doesn't forgive your mother-floppin' sins either!"
      Mason  closed both eyes and leaned back in the swivel. He inhaled  his
cigarette; a bit of hot ash dropped on his lower lip but he was too  mad  to
give  a damn. He just let the ash burn him. When the ash stopped burning  he
kept his eyes closed and listened to the rain. Ordinarily he liked to listen
to  the rain. Especially when he was inside somewhere and the rent was  paid
and some woman wasn't driving him crazy. But today the rain didn't help.  He
not  only smelled Chonjacki but he felt him there. Chonjacki was worse  than
diarrhea. Chonjacki was worse than the crabs. Mason opened his eyes, sat  up
and looked at him. Christ, what a man had to go through just to stay alive.
      "Baby,"  he said softly, "you broke two of Sonny Welborn's  ribs  last
night. You hear me?"
     "Listen . . ." Chonjacki started to say.
     "Not one rib. No, not just one rib. Two. Two ribs. Hear me?"
     "But . . ."
     "Listen, asshole! Two ribs! You hear me? Do you hear me?"
     "I hear you."
      Mason  put out his cigarette, got up from the swivel and walked around
to  Chonjacki's chair. You might say Chonjacki looked nice. You might say he
was  a handsome kid. You'd never say that about Mason. Mason was old. Forty-
nine.  Almost bald. Round shouldered. Divorced. Four boys. Two  of  them  in
jail.  It  was  still raining. It would rain for almost two days  and  three
nights. The Los Angeles River would get excited and pretend to be a river.
     "Stand up!" said Mason.
      Chonjacki stood up. When he did. Mason sunk his left into his gut  and
when  Chonjacki's head came down he put it right back up there with a  right
chop.  Then  he  felt a little better. It was like a cup of  Ovaltine  on  a
coldass  morning in January. He walked around and sat down again. This  time
he  didn't  light a cigarette. He lit his 15 cent cigar. He lit  his  after-
lunch  cigar  before  lunch. That's how much better he  felt.  Tension.  You
couldn't  let  that  shit build. His former brother-in-law  had  died  of  a
bleeding ulcer. Just because he hadn't known how to let it out.
     Chonjacki sat back down. Mason looked at him.
      "This,  baby, is a business, not a sport. We don't  believe  in
hurting people, do I get my point across?"
      Chonjacki just sat there listening to the rain. He wondered if his car
would  start. He always had trouble getting his car started when it  rained.
Otherwise it was a good car.
     "I asked you, baby, did I get my point across?"
     "Oh, yeah, yeah . . ."
      "Two  busted ribs. Two of Sonny Welborn's ribs busted. He's  our  best
      "Wait! He plays for the Vultures. Welborn plays for the Vultures.  How
can he be your best player?"
     "Asshole! We own the Vultures!"
     "You own the Vultures?"
      "Yeah,  asshole. And the Angels and the Coyotes and the Cannibals  and
every  other  damn team in the league, they're all our property,  all  those
boys . . ."
     "Jesus . . ."
      "No,  not Jesus. Jesus doesn't have anything to do with it! But, wait,
you give me an idea, asshole."
     Mason swiveled toward Underwood who was still leaning against the rain.
"It's something to think about," he said.
     "Uh," said Underwood.
     "Take your head off your pud, Cliff. Think about it."
     "About what?"
     "Christ on rollerskates. Countless possibilities."
     "Yeah. Yeah. We could work in the devil."
     "That's good. Yes, the devil."
     "We might even work in the cross."
     "The cross? No, that's too corny."
      Mason  swiveled back toward Chonjacki. Chonjacki was still  there.  He
wasn't  surprised. If a monkey had been sitting there he wouldn't have  been
surprised either. Mason had been around too long. But it wasn't a monkey, it
was Chonjacki. He had to talk to Chonjacki. Duty, duty ... all for the rent,
an  occasional piece of ass and a burial in the country. Dogs had fleas, men
had troubles.
      "Chonjacki," he said, "please let me explain something to you. Are you
listening? Are you capable of listening?"
     "I'm listening."
      "We're a business. We work five night a week. We're on television.  We
support  families. We pay taxes. We vote. We get tickets  from  the  fucking
cops  like anybody else. We get toothaches, insomnia, v.d. We've got to live
through Christmas and New Year's just like anybody else, you understand?"
      "We even, some of us, get depressed sometimes. We're human. I even get
depressed. I sometimes feel like crying at night. I sure as hell  felt  like
crying last night when you broke two of Welborn's ribs . . ."
     "He was ganging me, Mr. Mason!"
      "Chonjacki, Welborn wouldn't pull a hair from your grandmother's  left
armpit. He reads Socrates, Robert Duncan, and W. H. Auden. He's been in  the
league  five  years and he hasn't done enough physical damage  to  bruise  a
church-going moth . . ."
     "He was coming at me, he was swinging, he was screaming . . ."
     "Oh, Christ," said Mason softly. He put his cigar in the ashtray. "Son,
I  told  you. We're a family, a big family. We don't hurt each other.  We've
got  ourselves  the  finest subnormal audience in sports.  We've  drawn  the
biggest  breed  of  idiots  alive and they put that  money  right  into  our
pockets,   get  it?  We've  drawn  the  top-brand  idiot  right  away   from
professional wrestling, / Love Lucy, and George Putnam. We're in, and
we don't believe in either malice or violence. Right, Cliff?"
     "Right," said Underwood.
     "Let's do him a spot," said Mason.
     "O.k.," said Underwood.
      Mason got up from his desk and moved toward Underwood. "You son  of  a
bitch," he said. "I'll kill you. Your mother swallows her own farts and  has
a syphilitic urinary tract."
     "Your mother eats marinated catshit," said Underwood.
      He  moved  away from the window and toward Mason. Mason  swung  first.
Underwood rocked back against the desk.
      Mason  got a stranglehold around his neck with his left arm  and  beat
Underwood over the head with his right fist and forearm.
      "Your sister's tits hang from the bottom of her butt and dangle in the
water when she shits," Mason told Underwood. Underwood reached back with one
arm and nipped Mason over his head. Mason rolled up against the wall with  a
crash.  Then  he  got up, walked over to his desk, sat down in  the  swivel,
picked  up his cigar and inhaled. It continued to rain. Underwood went  back
and leaned against the window.
      "When  a  man works five nights a week he can't afford to get injured,
understand, Chonjacki?"
     "Yes, sir."
      "Now  look,  kid, we got a general rule here -- which is ...  Are  you
      ".  . . which is -- when anybody in the league injures another player,
he's  out  of a job, he's out of the league, in fact, the word goes  out  --
he's  blacklisted at every roller derby in America. Maybe Russia  and  China
and Poland, too. You got that in your head?"
      "Now we're letting you get by with this one because we've spent a  lot
of  time  and  money giving you this buildup. You're the Mark Spitz  of  our
league,  but  we can bust you just like they can bust him, if you  don't  do
exactly what we tell you."
     "Yes, sir."
      "But  that doesn't mean lay back. You gotta act violent without  being
violent,  get it? The mirror trick, the rabbit out of the hat, the full  ton
of  bologna.  They love to be fooled. They don't know the truth,  hell  they
don't  even  want the truth, it makes them unhappy. We make them  happy.  We
drive new cars and send our kids to college, right?"
     "O.k., get the hell out of here."
     Chonjacki rose to leave.
     "And kid . . ."
     "Take a bath once in awhile."
      "Well,  maybe that isn't it. Do you use enough toilet paper  when  you
wipe your ass?"
     "I don't know. How much is enough?"
     "Didn't your mother tell you?"
     "You keep wiping until you can't see it anymore."
     Chonjacki just stood there looking at him.
      "All  right, you can go now. And please remember everything I've  told
     Chonjacki left. Underwood walked over and sat down in the vacant chair.
He  took out his after-lunch 15 cent cigar and lit it. The two men sat there
for  five minutes without saying anything. Then the phone rang. Mason picked
it  up.  He  listened, then said, "Oh, Boy Scout Troop 763? How many?  Sure,
sure,  we'll  let  'em in for half price. Sunday night.  We'll  rope  off  a
section. Sure, sure. Oh, it's all right . . ." He hung up.
     "Assholes," he said.
     Underwood didn't answer. They sat listening to the rain. The smoke from
their  cigars made interesting designs in the air. They sat and  smoked  and
listened  to  the rain and watched the designs in the air.  The  phone  rang
again  and  Mason made a face. Underwood got up from his chair, walked  over
and answered it. It was his turn.

      When I first met Randall Harris he was 42 and lived with a grey haired
woman,  one  Margie  Thompson. Margie was 45 and not  too  handsome.  I  was
editing  the little magazine Mad Fly at the time and I had come  over
in an attempt to get some material from Randall.
      Randall was known as an isolationist, a drunk, a crude and bitter  man
but  his  poems were raw, raw and honest, simple and savage. He was  writing
unlike  anybody else at the time. He worked as a shipping clerk in  an  auto
parts warehouse.
      I sat across from both Randall and Margie. It was 7:15 p.m. and Harris
was  already  drunk on beer. He set a bottle in front of me.  I'd  heard  of
Margie  Thompson. She was an old-time communist, a world-saver, a do-gooder.
One  wondered  what  she was doing with Randall who cared  for  nothing  and
admitted it. "I like to photograph shit," he told me, "that's my art."
      Randall  had begun writing at the age of 38. At 42, after three  small
chapbooks  (Death Is a Dirtier Dog Than My Country, My Mother  Fucked  an
Angel, and The Piss-Wild Horses of Madness), he was getting  what
might be called critical acclaim. But he made nothing on his writing and  he
said,  "I'm nothing but a shipping clerk with the deep blue blues." He lived
in  an old front court in Hollywood with Margie, and he was weird, truly. "I
just don't like people," he said. "You know, Will Rogers once said, 'I never
met a man I didn't like.' Me, I never met a man I liked."
      But Randall had humor, an ability to laugh at pain and at himself. You
liked  him.  He was an ugly man with a large head and a smashed-up  face  --
only  the  nose  seemed to have escaped the general smashup. "I  don't  have
enough bone in my nose, it's like rub- her," he explained. His nose was long
and very red.
     I had heard stories about Randall. He was given to smashing windows and
breaking  bottles  against the wall. He was one nasty  drunk.  He  also  had
periods where he wouldn't answer the door or the telephone. He didn't own  a
T.V.,  only a small radio and he only listened to symphony music --  strange
for a guy as crude as he was.
      Randall also had periods when he took the bottom off the telephone and
stuffed toilet paper around the bell so it wouldn't ring. It stayed that way
for  months. One wondered why he had a phone. His education was  sparse  but
he'd evidently read most of the best writers.
      "Well, fucker," he said to me, "I guess you wonder what I'm doing with
her?" he pointed to Margie. I didn't answer.
      "She's  a good lay," he said, "and she gives me some of the  best  sex
west of St. Louis."
      This was the same guy who had written four or five great love poems to
a woman called Annie. You wondered how it worked.
      Margie just sat there and grinned. She wrote poetry too but it  wasn't
very good. She attended two workshops a week which hardly helped.
      "So  you  want some poems?" he asked me. "Yes, I'd like to  look  some
      Harris walked over to the closet, opened the door and picked some torn
and  crushed papers off the floor. He handed them to me. "I wrote these last
night."  Then he walked into the kitchen and came out with two  more  beers.
Margie didn't drink.
     I began to read the poems. They were all powerful. He typed with a very
heavy  hand  and the words seemed chiseled in the paper. The  force  of  his
writing always astounded me. He seemed to be saying all the things we should
have said but had never thought of saying.
     "I'll take these poems," I said. "O.k.," he said. "Drink up."
      When  you  came  to  see Harris, drinking was a must.  He  smoked  one
cigarette after another. He dressed in loose brown chino pants two sizes too
large and old shirts that were always ripped. He was around six feet and 220
pounds, much of it beerfat. He was round-shouldered, and peered out  at  you
from  behind slitted eyelids. We drank a good two hours and a half, the room
heavy with smoke.
      Suddenly Harris stood up and said, "Get the hell out of here,  fucker,
you disgust me!"
     "Easy now, Harris . . ."
     "I said NOW!, fucker!"
     I got up and left with the poems.
      I returned to that front court two months later to deliver a couple of
copies  of Mad. Fly to Harris. I had run all ten of his poems. Margie
let me in. Randall wasn't there.
     "He's in New Orleans," said Margie, "I think he's getting a break. Jack
Teller  wants  to publish his next book but he wants to meet Randall  first.
Teller  says he can't print anybody he doesn't like. He's paid the air  fare
both ways."
     "Randall isn't exactly endearing," I said.
      "We'll see," said Margie. "Teller's a drunk and an ex-con. They  might
make a lovely pair."
      Teller  put out the magazine Rifraff and had his own press.  He
did  very  fine work. The last issue of Rifraff had had Harris'  ugly
face on the cover sucking at a beer-bottle and had featured a number of  his
      Rifraff was generally recognized as the number one lit  mag  of
the time. Harris was beginning to get more and more notice. This would be  a
good  chance  for  him if he didn't botch it with his mean  tongue  and  his
drunken manners. Before I left Margie told me she was pregnant -- by Harris.
As I said, she was 45.
     "What'd he say when you told him?"
     "He seemed indifferent."
     I left.
     The book did come out in an edition of 2,000, finely printed. The cover
was  made  of  cork  imported from Ireland. The pages were vari-colored,  of
extremely good paper, set in rare type and interspersed with some of Harris'
India  ink  sketches. The book received acclaim, both  for  itself  and  its
contents. But Teller couldn't pay royalties. He and his wife lived on a very
narrow  margin.  In ten years the book would go for $75  on  the  rare  book
market.  Meanwhile Harris went back to his shipping clerk job  at  the  auto
parts warehouse.
      When  I called again four or five months later Margie was gone. "She's
been gone a long time," said Harris. "Have a beer."
     "What happened?"
      "Well, after I got back from New Orleans, I wrote a few short stories.
While  I  was  at work she got to poking around in my drawers.  She  read  a
couple of my stories and took exception to them."
     "What were they about?"
      "Oh, she read something about my climbing in and out of bed with  some
women in New Orleans."
     "Were the stories true?" I asked.
     "How's Mad Fly doing?" he asked.
      The  baby  was born, a girl, Naomi Louise Harris. She and  her  mother
lived in Santa Monica and Harris drove out once a week to see them. He  paid
child  support and continued to drink his beer. Next I knew he had a  weekly
column  in  the  underground newspaper L.A. Lifeline. He  called  his
colums  Sketches  of a First Class Maniac. His  prose  was  like  his
poetry -- undisciplined, antisocial, and lazy.
      Harris grew a goatee and grew his hair longer. The next time I saw him
he  was living with a 35-year-old girl, a pretty redhead called Susan. Susan
worked  in  an art supply store, painted, and played fair guitar.  She  also
drank  an occasional beer with Randall which was more than Margie had  done.
The  court seemed cleaner. When Harris finished a bottle he threw it into  a
paper  bag instead of throwing it on the floor. He was still a nasty  drunk,
      "I'm  writing a novel," he told me, "and I'm getting a poetry  reading
now  and  then at nearby universities. I also have one coming up in Michigan
and one in New Mexico. The offers are pretty good. I don't like to read, but
I'm a good reader. I give them a show and I give them some good poetry."
      Harris  was  also beginning to paint. He didn't paint  very  well.  He
painted  like a five-year-old drunk on vodka but he managed to sell  one  or
two  for  $40 or $50. He told me that he was considering quitting  his  job.
Three  weeks  later he did quit in order to make the Michigan reading.  He'd
already used his vacation for the New Orleans trip.
      I remember once he had vowed to me, "I'll never read in front of those
bloodsuckers,  Chinaski. I'll go to my grave without ever  giving  a  poetry
reading.  It's  vanity,  it's  a sell-out."  I  didn't  remind  him  of  his
     His novel Death in the Life of All the Eyes On Earth was brought
out by a small but prestige press which paid standard royalties. The reviews
were good, including one in The New York Review of Books. But he  was
still a nasty drunk and had many fights with Susan over his drinking.
      Finally,  after one horrible drunk, when he had raved and  cursed  and
screamed  all  night, Susan left him. I saw Randall several days  after  her
departure. Harris was strangely quiet, hardly nasty at all.
     "I loved her, Chinaski," he told me. "I'm not going to make it,
      "You'll make it, Randall. You'll see. You'll make it. The human  being
is much more durable than you think."
      "Shit," he said. "I hope you're right. I've got this damned hole in my
gut.  Women  have put many a good man under the bridge. They don't  feel  it
like we do."
     "They feel it. She just couldn't handle your drinking."
     "Fuck, man, I write most of my stuff when I'm drunk."
     "Is that the secret?"
     "Shit, yes. Sober, I'm just a shipping clerk and not a very good one at
that . . ."
     I left him there hanging over his beer.
      I  made the rounds again three months later. Harris was still  in  his
front  court. He introduced me to Sandra, a nice-looking blonde of  27.  Her
father  was a superior court judge and she was a graduate of U.S.C.  Besides
being  well-shaped she had a cool sophistication that had  been  lacking  in
Randall's other women. They were drinking a bottle of good Italian wine.
      Randall's goatee had turned into a beard and his hair was much longer.
His  clothes  were new and in the latest style. He had on $40 shoes,  a  new
wristwatch and his face seemed thinner, his fingernails clean . . . but  his
nose still reddened as he drank the wine.
      "Randall  and I are moving to West L.A. this weekend,"  she  told  me.
"This place is filthy."
     "I've done a lot of good writing here," he said.
      "Randall,  dear," she said, "it isn't the place that  does  the
writing, it's you. I think we might get Randall a job teaching  three
days a week."
     "I can't teach."
     "Darling, you can teach them everything."
     "Shit," he said.
      "They're thinking of doing a movie of Randall's book. We've  seen  the
script. It's a very fine script."
     "A movie?" I asked.
     "There's not much chance," said Harris.
     "Darling, it's in the works. Have a little faith."
      I  had  another  glass  of wine with them, then  left.  Sandra  was  a
beautiful girl.
      I wasn't given Randall's West L.A. address and didn't make any attempt
to  find  him. It was over a year later when I read the review of the  movie
Flower Up the Tail of Hell. It had been taken from his novel. It  was
a fine review and Harris even had an acting bit in the film.
      I went to see it. They'd done a good job on the book. Harris looked  a
little  more austere than when I had last seen him. I decided to  find  him.
After  a bit of detective work I knocked on the door of his cabin in  Malibu
one night about 9:00 p.m. Randall answered the door.
     "Chinaski, you old dog," he said. "Come on in."
      A  beautiful girl sat on the couch. She appeared to be about  19,  she
simply  radiated  natural  beauty. "This is Karilla,"  he  said.  They  were
drinking a bottle of expensive French wine. I sat down with them and  had  a
glass. I had several glasses. Another bottle came out and we talked quietly.
Harris didn't get drunk and nasty and didn't appear to smoke as much.
     "I'm working on a play for Broadway," he told me. "They say the theatre
is  dying  but  I have something for them. One of the leading  producers  is
interested. I'm getting the last act in shape now. It's a good medium. I was
always splendid on conversation, you know."
     "Yes," I said.
      I  left about 11:30 that night. The conversation had been pleasant ...
Harris  had  begun  to show a distinguished grey about the  temples  and  he
didn't say "shit" more than four or five times.
      The  play  Shoot  Your  Father, Shoot  Your  God,  Shoot  Away  the
Disentanglement  was  a  success. It had one  of  the  longest  runs  in
Broadway  history.  It  had everything: something for  the  revolutionaries,
something  for the reactionaries, something for lovers of comedy,  something
for  lovers of drama, even something for the in- tellectuals, and  it  still
made  sense. Randall Harris moved from Malibu to a large place high  in  the
Hollywood Hills. You read about him now in the syndicated gossip columns.
      I went to work and found the location of his Hollywood Hills place,  a
three-story  mansion  which  overlooked  the  lights  of  Los  Angeles   and
     I parked, got out of the car, and walked up the path to the front door.
It  was  around 8:30 p.m., cool, almost cold; there was a full moon and  the
air was fresh and clear.
      I  rang the bell. It seemed a very long wait. Finally the door opened.
It was the butler. "Yes, sir?" he asked me.
     "Henry Chinaski to see Randall Harris," I said.
      "Just a moment, sir." He closed the door quietly and I waited. Again a
long  time. Then the butler was back. "I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Harris  can't
be disturbed at this time."
     "Oh, all right."
     "Would you care to leave a message, sir?"
     "A message?"
     "Yes, a message."
     "Yes, tell him 'congratulations.' "
     " 'Congratulations?' Is that all?"
     "Yes, that's all."
     "Goodnight, sir."
      I  went back to my car, got in. It started and I began the long  drive
down  out of the hills. I had that early copy of Mad Fly with me that
I  had wanted him to sign. It was the copy with ten of Randall Harris' poems
in it. He probably was busy. Maybe, I thought, if I mail the magazine to him
with a stamped return envelope, he'll sign.
     It was only about 9:00 p.m. There was time for me to go somewhere else.

      Well, it was after an argument with Flo and I didn't feel like getting
drunk or going to a massage parlor. So I got in my car and drove west toward
the  beach.  It was along toward evening and I drove slowly. I  got  to  the
pier,  parked,  and  walked on up the pier. I stopped in the  penny  arcade,
played  a few games, but the place stank of piss so I walked out. I was  too
old  to ride the merry-go-round so I passed that. The usual types walked the
pier -- a sleepy indifferent crowd.
      It was then I noticed a roaring sound coming from a nearby building. A
tape  or  record, no doubt. There was a barker out front: "Yes,  ladies  and
gentlemen, Inside, Inside here . . . we actually have captured the devil! He
is  on display to see with your own eyes! Think, just for a quarter, twenty-
five  cents, you can actually see the devil . . . the biggest loser  of  all
time! The loser of the only revolution ever attempted in Heaven!"
     Well, I was ready for a little comedy to offset what Flo was putting me
through.  I  paid  my  quarter and stepped inside with six  or  seven  other
assorted suckers. They had this guy in a cage. They'd sprayed him red and he
had  something in his mouth that made him puff out little rolls of smoke and
spurts  of flame. He wasn't putting on a very good show. He was just walking
around in circles, saying over and over again, "God damn it, I've got to get
out of here! How'd I ever get in this friggin' fix?" Well, I'll tell you  he
did  look dangerous. Suddenly he did six rapid back flips. On his last  flip
he landed on his feet, looked around and said, "Oh shit, I feel awful!"
      Then  he saw me. He walked right over to where I was standing next  to
the wire. He was warm like a heater. I don't know how they worked that.
      "My son," he said, "you've come at last! I've been waiting. Thirty-two
days I've been in this fucking cage!"
     "I don't know what you're talking about."
     "My son," he said, "don't joke with me. Come back late tonight with the
wire-cutters and free me."
     "Don't lay any shit on me, man," I said
     "Thirty-two days I've been in here, my son! At last I have my freedom!"
     "You mean you claim you're really the devil?"
     "I'll screw a cat's ass if I'm not," he answered.
      "If you're the devil then you can use your supernatural powers to  get
out of here."
      "My powers have temporarily vanished. This guy, the barker, he was  in
the drunk tank with me. I told him I was the devil and he bailed me out. I'd
lost  my powers in that jail or I wouldn't have needed him. He got me  drunk
again and when I woke up I was in this cage. The cheap bastard, he feeds  me
dogfood and peanut butter sandwiches. My son, help me, I beg you!"
     "You're crazy," I said, "you're some kind of nut."
     "Just come back tonight, my son, with the wire-clippers."
      The barker walked in an announced that the session with the devil  was
over  and if we wanted to see him anymore it'd be another twenty-five cents.
I'd seen enough. I walked out with the six or seven other assorted suckers.
      "Hey,  he  talked to you," said a little old guy walking next  to  me,
"I've  seen  him every night and you're the first person he has ever  talked
     "Balls," I said.
      The  barker stopped me. "What'd he tell you? I saw him talking to you.
What'd he tell you?"
     "He told me everything," I said.
      "Well, hands off, buddy, he's mine! I ain't made so much money since I
had the bearded three-legged lady."
     "What happened to her?"
     "She ran away with the octopus man. They're running a farm in Kansas."
     "I think you people are all crazy."
     "I'm just telling you, I found this guy. Keep off!"
      I walked to my car, got in and drove back to Flo. When I got there she
was sitting in the kitchen drinking whiskey. She sat there and told me a few
hundred times what a useless hunk of man I was. I drank with her a while not
saying much myself. Then I got up, went to the garage, got the wire-cutters,
put them in my pocket, got in the car and drove back to the pier.

      I broke in the back way, the latch was rusty and snapped right off. He
was  asleep on the floor of the cage. I began trying to cut the wire  but  I
couldn't cut through it. The wire was very thick. Then he woke up.
     "My son," he said, "you came back! I knew you would!"
      "Look,  man, I can't cut the wire with these clippers. The wire's  too
     He stood up. "Hand 'em here."
     "God," I said, "your hands are hot! You must have some kind of fever."
     "Don't call me God," he said.
      He  snipped the wire with the clippers like it was thread and  stepped
out.  "And now, my son, to your place. I've got to get my strength  back.  A
few  porterhouse steaks and I'll be straight. I've eaten so much dogfood I'm
afraid I'm going to bark any minute."
     We walked back to my car and I drove him to my place. When we walked in
Flo  was still sitting in the kitchen drinking whiskey. I fried him a  bacon
and egg sandwich for starters and we sat down with Flo.
     "Your friend is a handsome looking devil," she told me.
     "He claims to be the devil," I said.
     "Been a long time," he said, "since I had me a hunk of good woman."
      He leaned over and gave Flo a long kiss. When he let go she seemed  to
be  in  a state of shock. "That was the hottest kiss I ever had," she  said,
"and I've had plenty."
     "Really?" he asked.
     "If you make love anything like the way you kiss it, it would simply be
too much, just simply too much!"
     "Where's your bedroom?" he asked me.
     "Just follow the lady," I said.
     He followed Flo to the bedroom and I poured a deep whiskey.
      I never heard such screams and moans and it went on for a good fourty-
five  minutes.  Then he walked out alone and sat down and poured  himself  a
     "My son," he said, "you got yourself a good woman there."
      He  walked  to  the couch in the front room, stretched  out  and  fell
asleep. I walked into the bedroom, undressed, and climbed in with Flo.
      "My  god,"  she said, "my god, I don't believe it. He put  me  through
heaven and hell."
     "I just hope he doesn't set the couch on fire," I said.
     "You mean he smokes cigarettes and falls asleep?"
     "Forget it," I said.

      Well,  he  began taking over. I had to sleep on the couch.  I  had  to
listen to Flo screaming and moaning in there every night. One day while  Flo
was  at the market and we were having a beer in the breakfast nook I  had  a
talk with him. "Listen," I said, "I don't mind helping somebody out, but now
I've lost my bed and my wife. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
      "I believe I'll stay a while, my son, your old lady is one of the best
pieces I've ever had."
      "Listen,  man," I said, "I might have to take extreme means to  remove
      "Tough  boy, eh? Well look tough boy, I got a little news for you.  My
supernatural powers have returned. If you try to fuck with me you might  get
burned. Watch!"
      We've got a dog. Old Bones; he's not worth much but he barks at night,
he's  a  fair watchdog. Well, he pointed his finger at Old Bones, the finger
kind of made a sneezing sound, then it sizzled and a thin line of flame  ran
up and touched Old Bones. Old Bones frizzled-up and vanished. He just wasn't
there anymore. No bone, no fur, not even any stink. Just space.
      "O.k., man," I told him. "You can stay a couple of days but after that
you gotta leave."
      "Fry  me  up a porterhouse," he said, "I'm hungry, and I'm  afraid  my
sperm-count is dropping off."
     I got up and threw a steak in the pan.
      "Cook  me  up some french fries to go with that," he said,  "and  some
sliced tomato. I don't need any coffee. Been having insomnia. I'll just have
a couple more beers."
     By the time I got the food in front of him, Flo was back.
     "Hello, my love," she said, "how you doing?"
     "Just fine," he said, "don't you have any catsup?"
     I walked out, got in my car and drove to the beach.

     Well, the barker had another devil in there. I paid my quarter and went
in.  This devil really wasn't much. The red paint sprayed on him was killing
him  and he was drinking to keep from going crazy. He was a big guy  but  he
didn't  have any qualities at all. I was one of the few customers in  there.
There were more flies in there than there were people.
      The barker walked up to me. "I'm starving to death since you stole the
real thing from me. I suppose you got a show of your own going?"
      "Listen,"  I said, "I'd give anything to give him back to you.  I  was
just trying to be a good guy."
     "You know what happens to good guys in this world, don't you?"
      "Yeah, they end up standing down at 7th and Broadway selling copies of
the Watchtower."
      "My name's Ernie Jamestown," he said, "tell me all about it. We got  a
room in the back."
      I  walked to the room in the back with Ernie. His wife was sitting  at
the table drinking whiskey. She looked up.
      "Listen, Ernie, if this bastard is gonna be our new devil, forget  it.
We might just as well stage a triple suicide."
     "Take it easy," said Ernie, "and pass the bottle."
      I  told Ernie everything that had happened. He listened carefully  and
then  said, "I can take him off your hands. He has two weaknesses  --  drink
and women. And there's one other thing. I don't know why it happens but when
he's  confined, like he was in the drunk tank or in that cage out there,  he
loses his supernatural powers. All right, we take it from there."
     Ernie went to the closet and dragged out a mass of chains and padlocks.
Then he went to the phone and asked for an Edna Hemlock. Edna Hemlock was to
meet us in twenty minutes at the corner outside Woody's Bar. Ernie and I got
in  my car, stopped for two fifths at the liquor store, met Edna, picked her
up, and drove to me place.

     They were still in the kitchen. They were necking like mad. But as soon
as he saw Edna the devil forgot all about my old lady. He dropped her like a
pair  of stained panties. Edna had it all. They'd made no mistakes when they
put her together.
      "Why don't you two drink up and get acquainted?" said Ernie. Ernie put
a large glass of whiskey in front of each of them.
      The devil looked at Ernie. "Hey, mother, you're the guy who put me  in
that cage, ain't ya?"
     "Forget it," said Ernie, "let's let bygones be bygones."
      "Like hell!" He pointed a finger and the line of flame ran up to Ernie
and he was no longer there.
      Edna smiled and lifted her whiskey. The devil grinned, lifted his  and
gulped it down.
     "Fine stuff!" he said. "Who bought it?"
     "That man who just left the room a moment ago," I said.
      He and Edna had another drink and began eyeballing each other. Then my
old lady spoke to him:
     "Take your eyes off that tramp!"
     "What tramp?"
     "Just drink your drink and shut up!"
     He pointed his finger at my old lady, there was a small crackling sound
and she was gone. Then he looked at me:
     "And what have you got to say?"
      "Oh,  I'm the guy who brought the wire-cutters, remember? I'm here  to
run little errands, bring in towels, so forth . . ."
     "It sure feels good to have my supernatural powers again."
      "They  do  come  in handy," I said, "we got an overpopulation  problem
      He  was eyeballing Edna. Their eyes were so locked that I was able  to
lift  one of the fifths of whiskey. I took the fifth and got in my car  with
it and drove back to the beach again.

      Ernie's wife was still sitting in the back room. She was glad  to  see
the new fifth and I poured two drinks.
     "Who's the kid you got locked in the cage?" I asked.
      "Oh,  he's a third-string quarterback from one of the local  colleges.
He's trying to pick up a little spare change."
     "You sure have nice breasts," I said.
     "You think so? Ernie never says anything about my breasts."
     "Drink up. This is good stuff."
      I  slid over next to her. She had nice fat thighs. When I kissed  her,
she didn't resist.
      "I  get so tired of this life," she said, "Ernie's always been a cheap
hustler. You got a good job?"
     "Oh yeah. I'm head shipping clerk at Drombo-Western."
     "Kiss me again," she said.

     I rolled off and wiped myself with the sheet.
     "If Ernie finds out he'll kill us both," she said.
     "Ernie isn't going to find out. Don't worry about it."
     "You make great love," she said, "but why me?"
     "I don't understand."
     "I mean, really, what made you do it?"
     "Oh, I said, "the devil made me do it."
      Then  I lit a cigarette, laid back, inhaled, and blew a perfect  smoke
ring.  She  got up and went to the bathroom. In a minute I heard the  toilet


       It  was  one  of the outer rooms of the first floor.  I  stumbled  on
something  - I think it was a footstool - and I almost went down.  I  banged
into a table to hold myself up.
      "That's right," said Harry, "wake up the whole fucking household."
      "Look," I said, "what are we going to get here?"
      "Keep your fucking voice down!"
      "Harry, do you have to keep saying fucking?"
      "What are you, a fucking linguist? We're here for cash and jewels."
      I didn't like it. It seemed like total insanity. Harry was crazy; he'd
been  in and out of madhouses. Between that and doing time he'd spent three-
quarters  of  his  adult life in lockup. He'd talked me into  the  thing.  I
didn't have much resistance.
       "This  damn country," he said. "there are too many rich pricks having
it too easy." Then Harry banged into something. "Shit!" he said.
      "Hello? What is it?" We heard a man's voice coming from upstairs.
       "We're in trouble," I said. I could feel the sweat dripping down from
my armpits.
      "No," said Harry, "he's in trouble."
      "Hello," said the man upstairs.
      "Who's down there?"
      "Come on," Harry told me.
      He began walking up the stairway. I followed him. There was a hallway,
and  there was a light coming from one of the rooms. Harry moved quickly and
silently.  Then he ran into the room. I was behind him. It was a bedroom.  A
man and a woman were in separate beds.
       Harry  pointed his .38 Magnum at the man. "All right, buddy,  if  you
don't want your balls blown off, you'll keep it quiet. I don't play."
       The man was about 45, with a strong and imperial face. You could  see
he  had  had  it his own way for a long time. His wife was about 25,  blond,
long hair, truly beautiful. She looked like an ad for something or other.
      "Get the hell out of my house!" the man said.
      "Hey," Harry said to me, "you know who this is?"
      "It's Tom Maxson, the famous news broadcaster, Channel 7. Hello Tom."
      "Get out of here! NOW!" Maxson barked.
      He reached out and picked up the phone. "Operator-"
       Harry  ran up and slammed him across the temple with the butt of  his
.38. Maxson fell across the bed. Harry put the phone back on the hook.
       "You  bastards, you hurt him!" cried the blond. "You cheap,  cowardly
       She  was  dressed in a light-green negligee. Harry walked around  and
broke one of the shoulder straps. He grabbed one of the woman's breasts  and
pulled  it out. "Nice, ain't it?" he said to me. Then he slapped her  across
the face, hard.
       "You  address  me with respect, whore!" Harry said.  Then  he  walked
around and sat Tom Maxson back up. "And you: I told you I don't play."
      Maxson revived. "You've got the gun; that's all you've got."
       "You fool. That's all I need. Now I'm gonna get some cooperation from
you and your whore or it's going to get worse."
      "You cheap punk!" Maxson said.
      "Just keep it up, keep it up. You'll see," said Harry.
      "You think I'm afraid of it couple of cheap hoods?"
      "If you're not, you ought to be."
      "Who's your friend? What does he do?"
      "He does what I tell him."
      "Like what?"
      "Like, Eddie, go kiss that blond!"
      "Listen, you leave my wife out of this!"
       "And if she screams, I put a bullet in your gut. I don't play. Go on,
Eddie, kiss the blond-"
       The  blond was trying to hold up the broken shoulder strap  with  one
      "No," she said, "please-"
      "I'm sorry, lady, I gotta do what Harry tells me."
       I grabbed her by the hair and got my lips on hers. She pushed against
me,  but  she  wasn't very strong. I'd never kissed a woman  that  beautiful
      "All right, Eddie, that's enough."
       I pulled away. I walked around and stood next to Harry. "Why, Eddie,"
he said, "what's that thing sticking out in font of you?"
      I didn't answer.
       "Look, Maxson," said Harry, "your wife gave my man a hard-on! How the
hell are we supposed to get any work done around here? We came for cash  and
      "You wise-ass punks make me sick. You're no better than maggots."
       "And  what  have you got? The six o'clock news. What's so  big  about
that?  Political pull and an asshole public. Anybody can read  the  news.  I
make the news."
      "You make the news? Like what? What can you do?"
       "Any  amount  of numbers. Ah, let me think. How about, TV  newscaster
drinks burglar's piss? How's that sound to you?"
      "I'd die first."
       "You  won't.  Eddie,  go get me a glass. There's  one  there  on  the
nightstand. Bring me that."
       "Look," said the blond, "please take our money. Take our jewels. just
go away. What's the need for all this?"
       "It's  your  loudmouthed, spoiled husband, lady. He's getting  on  my
fucking nerves."
      I brought Harry the glass, and he unzipped his pants and began to piss
into  it. It was a tall glass, but he filled it to the brim. Then he  zipped
up and moved toward Maxson.
      "Now you're gonna drink my piss, Mr. Maxson."
      "No way, bastard. I'd die first."
      "You won't die. You'll drink my piss, all of it!"
      "Never, punk!"
      "Eddie," Harry nodded to me, "see that cigar on the dresser mantle?"
      "Get it. Light it. There's a lighter there."
       I  got the lighter and lit the cigar. It was a good one. I puffed  on
it. My best cigar. Never had anything like it.
      "You like the cigar, Eddie?" Harry asked me.
      "It's great, Harry."
      "OK. Now you walk over to the whore and get that breast out from under
the  broken  shoulder strap. Pull it out. I'm gonna hand this jerk-off  this
glass  full of my piss. You hold that cigar next to the nipple of the lady's
breast. And if this jerk-off doesn't drink all of this piss down to the very
last drop, I want you to burn that nipple off with that cigar. Understand?"
       I got it. I walked around and pulled out Mrs. Maxson's breast. I felt
dizzy looking at it- never had I seen anything like that.
       Harry handed Tom Maxson the glass of piss. Maxson looked over at  his
wife and tilted the glass and began to drink.
      The blond was trembling all over. It felt so good to hold her breast.
       The yellow piss was going down the newscaster's throat. He stopped  a
moment at the Halfway mark. He looked sick.
      "All of it," said Harry. "Go ahead; it's good to the last drop."
       Maxson put the glass to his lips and drained the remainder. The glass
fell from his hand.
      "I still think you're a couple of cheap punks," gasped Maxson.
       I  was still standing there holding the blond's breast. She yanked it
       "Tom," said the blond, "will you stop antagonizing these men?  You're
doing the most foolish thing possible!"
       "Oh,  playing the winners, eh? Is that why you married me? Because  I
was a winner?"
       "Of course that's why she married you, asshole," said Harry. "Look at
that fat gut on you. Did you think it was for your body?"
       "I've  got  something," said Maxson. "That's why I'm  Number  One  in
newscasting. You don't do that on luck."
       "But  if she hadn't married Number One," said Harry, "she would  have
married Number Two."
      "Don't listen to him, Tom," said the blond.
      "It's all right," said Maxson, "I know you love me."
      "Thank you, Daddy," said the blond.
      "It's all right, Nana,"
       "'Nana,'" said Harry, "I like that name, 'Nana.' That's class,  Class
an ass. That's what the rich get while we get the scrubwomen."
      "Why don't you join the Communist Party?" asked Maxson.
       "Man,  I  don't care to Wait Centuries for something that  might  not
finally work. I want it now."
      "Look, Harry," I said, "all we're doing is standing around and holding
conversations with these people. That doesn't get us anything. I don't  care
what  they  think.  Let's get the loot and split. The longer  we  stay,  the
sooner we draw the heat."
       "Now,  Eddie," he answered, "that's the first good bit of sense  I've
heard you speak in five or six years."
       "I don't care," said Maxson. "You're just the weak feeding off of the
strong.  If I weren't here, you'd hardly exist. You remind me of people  who
go around assassinating political and spiritual leaders. It's the worst kind
of  cowardice; it's the easiest thing to do with the least talent available.
It  comes  from  hatred and envy; it comes from rancor  and  bitterness  and
ultimate  stupidity; it comes from the lowest scale of the human ladder;  it
stinks and it reeks and it makes me ashamed to belong to the same tribe."
       "Boy,"  said Harry, "that was some speech. Even piss can't stop  your
flow of bullshit. You're one spoiled turd. You realize how many people there
are on this earth without a chance? Because of where and how they were born?
Because  they  had no education? Because they never had anything  and  never
will have and nobody gives a fuck, and you marry the best body you can find,
your age be damned?"
      "Take your loot and go," said Maxson. "All you bastards who never make
it have some alibi."
       "Oh,  wait,"  said Harry, "everything counts. We're making  now.  You
don't quite understand."
       "Tom," said the blond, "just give them the money, the jewelry ... let
them go ... please get off Channel 7."
       "It's  not Channel 7, Nana. It's letting them know. I've got  to  let
them know."
       "Eddie,"  said Harry, "check the bathroom. Bring back  some  adhesive
      I walked down the hall and found the bathroom. In the medicine cabinet
was a wide roll of adhesive. Harry made me nervous. I never knew what he was
going to do. I brought the tape back into the bedroom. Harry was yanking the
phone cord out of the wall. "OK," he told me, "shut off Channel 7."
      I got it. I taped his mouth good.
      "Now the hands, the hands in back," said Harry.
       He walked over to Nana, pulled out both of her breasts and looked  at
      Then he spit in her face. She wiped it off with the bedsheet.
       "OK,"  he  said,  "now this one. Get the mouth, but leave  the  hands
loose. I like a little fight."
      I fixed her up.
       Harry got Tom Maxson turned on his side in his bed; he had him facing
Nana.  He  walked over and got one of Maxson's cigars and lit it.  "I  guess
Maxson's right," said Harry. "We are the suckerfish. We are the maggots.  We
are the slime, and maybe the cowards."
      He took a good pull on the cigar.
      "It's yours, Eddie."
      "Harry, I can't."
       "You  can.  You  don't know how. You've never  been  taught  how.  No
education. I'm your teacher. She's yours. It's simple."
      "You do it, Harry."
      "No. She'll mean more to you."
      "Because you're such a simple asshole."
       I  walked over to her bed. She was so beautiful and I was so  ugly  I
fell as if my whole body was smeared with a layer of shit.
      "Go on," said Harry, "get it on, asshole."
      "Harry, I'm scared. It's not right; she's not mine."
      "She's yours."
       "Look  at  it  like a war. We won this war. We've  killed  all  their
machos,  all  their big-timers, all their heroes. There's nothing  left  but
women and children. We kill the children and send the old women up the road.
We  are  the conquering army. All that's left is their women. And  the  most
beautiful woman of all is ours . . . is yours. She's helpless. Take her."
       I  walked up and pulled back the covers. It was as if I had died  and
was  suddenly in heaven, and there was this magical creature in front of me.
I took her negligee and ripped it completely off.
      "Fuck her, Eddie!"
       All  the curves were absolutely where they were supposed to be.  They
were  there  and beyond. It was like beautiful skies; it was like  beautiful
rivers  flowing.  I just wanted to look. I was afraid. I stood  there,  this
horn of a thing in front of me. I had no rights.
       "Go ahead," said Harry. "Fuck her! She's the same as any other woman.
She plays games, tells lies. She'll be an old woman someday, and other young
girls will replace her. She'll even die. Fuck her while she's still there!"
       I pulled at her shoulders, trying to gather her to me. She had gotten
strength  from somewhere. She pushed against me, pulling her head back.  She
was completely repulsed.
      "Listen, Nana, I really don't want to do this ... but I do. I'm sorry.
I don't know what to do. I want you and I'm ashamed."
       She made a sound through the adhesive on her mouth and pushed against
me.  She was so beautiful. I didn't deserve that. Her eyes looked into mine.
They said what I was thinking: I had no human right.
      "Go ahead," said Harry, "slam it to her! She'll love it."
      "I can't do it, Harry."
      "All right," he said, "you watch Channel 7 then."
       I  walked over and sat next to Tom Maxson. We sat side-by-side on his
bed.  He was making small sounds through the adhesive. Harry walked over  to
the other bed. "All right, whore, I guess I'll have to impregnate you."
       Nana  leaped out of bed and ran toward the door. Harry caught her  by
the  hair,  spun her and slapped her hard across the face. She fell  against
the  wall and slid down. Harry pulled her up by the hair and hit her  again.
Maxson  made a louder sound through his adhesive and leaped up. He ran  over
and  butted Harry with his head. Harry gave him a chop along the back of the
neck, and Maxson dropped.
      "Tape the hero's ankles," he told me.
      I bound Maxson's feet and shoved him onto his bed.
      "Sit him up," said Harry. "I want him to watch."
      "Look, Harry," I said, "let's get out of here. The longer we stay-"
      "Shut up!"
       Harry  dragged the blond back to the bed. She still had on a pair  of
panties.  He ripped them off and threw them at Maxson. The panties  fell  at
his  feet.  Maxson moaned and began to struggle. I punched him a  hard  one,
deep into the belly.
      Harry took off his pants and undershorts.
       "Whore,"  he said to the blond, "I'm gonna sink this thing deep  into
you  and you're going to feel it and there's nothing you can do. You'll take
all of it! And I'm going to cream deep inside of you!"
       He  had her on her back; she was still struggling. He hit her  again,
hard. Her head fell back. He spread her legs. He tried to work his cock  in.
He was having trouble.
      "Loosen up, bitch; I know you want it! Lift your legs!"
      He hit her hard, twice. The legs rose.
      "That's better, whore!"
      Harry poked and poked. Finally, he penetrated. He moved it in and out,
       Maxson  began moaning and moving again. I sank another one  into  his
      Harry began to get up a rhythm. The blond groaned as if in pain.
       "You like it, don't you, whore? It's better turkeyneck than your  old
man ever gave you, ain't it? Feel it growing?"
       I  couldn't  stand  it.  I  stood up, took  out  my  cock  and  began
masturbating.  Harry  was  ramming the blond  so  hard  that  her  head  was
bouncing. Then he slapped her and pulled out.
      "Not yet, whore. I'm taking my time."
      He walked over to where Tom Maxson was sitting.
      "Look at the SIZE of that thing! And I'm going to put it back into her
now  and come right inside her, Tommy boy! You'll never be able to make love
to your Nana without thinking of me! Without thinking of THIS!"
       Harry put his cock right into Maxson's face, "And I may have her suck
me off after I'm finished!"
       Then he turned, went back to the other bed and mounted the blond.  He
slapped her again and began pumping wildly.
      "You cheap, stinking whore, I'm going to come!"
      Then: "Oh, shit! OH, MY GOD! Oh, oh, oh!"
      He fell down against Nana and lay there. After a moment he pulled out.
Then he looked over at me. "Sure you don't want some?"
      "No thanks, Harry."
       Harry began to laugh. "Look at you, fool, you've whacked off!"  Harry
got  back into his pants, laughing. "All right," he said, "tape up her hands
and ankles. We're gettin' out of here."
      I walked over and taped her up.
      "But, Harry, how about the money and jewels?"
      "We'll take his wallet. I want to get out of here. I'm nervous."
      "But, Harry, let's take it all."
       "No,"  he said, "just the wallet. Check his trousers. just  take  the
      I found the wallet.
      "There's only $83 here, Harry."
      "We take it and we leave. I'm nervous. I feel something in the air. We
have to go."
      "Shit, Harry, that's no haul! We can really clean them out!"
       "I  told  you: I'm nervous. I feel trouble coming. You can stay.  I'm
      I followed him down the stairway.
       "That  son  of  a  bitch will think twice before he  insults  anybody
again," said Harry.
       We  found  the window we had jimmied open and left the same  way.  We
walked through the garden and out the iron gate.
      "All right," said Harry, "we walk at a casual gait. Light a cigarette.
Try to look normal."
      "Why are you so nervous, Harry?"
      "Shut up!"
       We  walked four blocks. The car was still there. Harry took the wheel
and we drove off.
      "Where we going?" I asked.
      "The Guild Theater."
      "What's playing?"
      "Black Silk Stockings, with Annette Haven."
      The place was down on Lankershim.
      We parked and got out. Harry bought the tickets. We walked in.
      "Popcorn?" I asked Harry.
      "I want some."
      "Get it."
       Harry waited until I got the popcorn, large. We found some seats near
the back. We were in luck. The feature was just beginning.

     originally appeared in Hustler magazine, March 1979

      Like anybody can tell you, I am not a very nice man. I don't know  the
word.  I have always admired the villain, the outlaw, the son of a bitch.  I
don't  like the clean-shaven boy with the necktie and the good job.  I  like
desperate men, men with broken teeth and broken minds and broken ways.  They
interest  me.  They are full of surprises and explosions. I also  like  vile
women,  drunk cursing bitches with loose stockings and sloppy mascara faces.
I'm more interested in perverts than saints. I can relax with bums because I
am  a  bum. I don't like laws, morals, religions, rules. I don't like to  be
shaped by society.
      I  was  drinking with Marty, the ex-con, up in my room  one  night.  I
didn't have a job. I didn't want a job. I just wanted to sit around with  my
shoes off and drink wine and talk, and laugh if possible. Marty was a little
dull,  but  he  had workingman's hands, a broken nose, mole's eyes,  nothing
much to him but he'd been through it.
      "I  like you, Hank," said Marty, "you're a real man, you're one of the
few real men I've known."
     "Yeh," I said.
     "You got guts."
     "I was a hard-rock miner once . . ."
      "I  got in a fight with this guy. We used ax handles. He broke my left
arm  with his first swing. I went on to fight him. I beat his goddamned head
in.  When  he  came around from that beating, he was out of  his  head.  I'd
mashed his brains in. They put him in a madhouse."
     "That's all right," I said.
     "Listen," said Marty, "I want to fight you."
     "You get first punch. Go ahead, hit me."
      Marty  was sitting in a straight-backed green chair. I was walking  to
the  sink to pour another glass of wine from the bottle. I turned around and
smashed him a right to the face. He flipped over backwards in the chair, got
up  and came toward me. I wasn't looking for the left. It got me high on the
forehead and knocked me down. I reached into a paper sack full of vomit  and
empties,  came  out  with a bottle, rose to my knees and  hurled  it.  Marty
ducked  and I came up with the chair behind me. I had it over my  head  when
the  door  opened. It was our landlady, a good-looking young blonde  in  her
twenties. What she was doing running a place like that I could never  figure
out. I put the chair down.
     "Go to your room, Marty."
     Marty looked ashamed, like a little boy. He walked down the hall to his
room, walked in and closed the door.
     "Mr. Chinaski," she said, "I want you to know ..."
     "I want you to know," I said, "that it's no use."
     "What's no use?"
     "You're not my type. I don't want to fuck you."
     "Listen," she said, "I want to tell you something. I saw you pissing in
the lot next door last night and if you do that again I'm going to throw you
out  of  here.  Somebody's been pissing in the elevator too. Has  that  been
     "I don't piss in elevators."
     "Well, I saw you in the lot last night. I was watching. It was you."
     "The hell it was me."
     "You were too drunk to know. Don't do it again."
     She closed the door and was gone.
      I  was  sitting  there quietly drinking wine a few minutes  later  and
trying to remember if I had pissed in the lot, when there was a knock
on the door.
     "Come in," I said.
     It was Marty. "I gotta tell you something."
     "Sure. Sit down."
     I poured Marty a glass of port and he sat down.
     "I'm in love," he said.
     I didn't answer. I rolled a cigarette.
     "You believe in love?" he asked.
     "I have to. It happened to me once."
     "Where is she?"
     "She's gone. Dead."
     "Dead? How?"
      "This  one  drinks too. It worries me. She's always drunk.  She  can't
     "None of us can."
      "I  go  to A.A. meetings with her. She's drunk when she goes. Half  of
them down there at the A.A. are drunk. You can smell the fumes."
     I didn't answer.
     "God, she's young. And what a body! I love her, man, really love her!"
     "Oh hell, Marty, that's just sex."
     "No, I love her. Hank, I really feel it."
     "I guess it's possible."
      "Christ,  they've  got her down in a cellar room. She  can't  pay  her
     "The cellar?"
     "Yeah, they got a room down there with all the boilers and shit."
     "Hard to believe."
      "Yeah,  she's  down there. And I love her, man, and I don't  have  any
money to help her with."
     "That's sad. I been in the same situation. It hurts."
      "If I can get straight, if I can get on the wagon for ten days and get
my health back -- I can get a job somewhere, I can help her."
      "Well,"  I  said, "you're drinking now. If you love her,  you'll  stop
drinking. Right now."
     "By god," he said, "I will! I'll pour this drink into the sink!"
     "Don't be melodramatic. Just pass that glass over here."
      I  took  the elevator down to the first floor with the fifth of  cheap
whiskey  I had stolen at Sam's liquor store a week earlier. Then I took  the
stairway to the cellar. There was a small light burning down there. I walked
along  looking for a door. I finally found one. It must have  been  1:00  or
2:00  in  the morning. I knocked. The door opened a notch and here  stood  a
really fine-looking woman in a negligee. I hadn't expected that. Young,  and
a strawberry blonde.
      I  stuck my foot in the door, then I pushed my way in, closed the door
and looked around. Not a bad place at all.
     "Who are you?" she asked. "Get out of here."
     "This is a nice place you got here. I like it better than my own."
     "Get out of here! Get out! Get out!"
     I pulled the fifth of whiskey out of the paper bag. She looked at it.
     "What's your name?" I asked.
     "Look, Jeanie, where do you keep your drinking glasses?"
      She  pointed to a wall shelf and I walked over and got two tall  water
glasses.  There was a sink. I put a little water in each, then walked  over,
set them down, opened the whiskey and mixed it in. We sat on the edge of her
bed  and  drank. She was young, attractive. I couldn't believe it. I  waited
for  a  neurotic  explosion, for something psychotic. Jeanie looked  normal,
even  healthy. But she did like her whiskey. She drank right along with  me.
Having  come  down  there in a rush of eagerness,  I  no  longer  felt  that
eagerness. I mean, if she had had a little pig in her or something  indecent
or  foul  (a  harelip, anything), I would have felt more like moving  in.  I
remembered a story I had read in the Racing Form once about  a  high-
bred  stallion they couldn't get to mate with the mares. They got  the  most
beautiful  mares  they could find, but the stallion only  shied  away.  Then
somebody,  who  knew  something, got an idea. He  smeared  mud  all  over  a
beautiful mare and the stallion immediately mounted her. The theory was that
the  stallion  felt inferior to all the beauty and when it  was  muddied-up,
fouled,  he  at least felt equal or maybe even superior. Horses'  minds  and
men's minds could be a great deal alike.
      Anyhow, Jeanie poured the next drink and asked me my name and where  I
roomed. I told her that I was upstairs somewhere and I just wanted to  drink
with somebody.
      "I  saw  you at the Clamber-In one night about a week ago," she  said,
"you  were  very  funny, you had everybody laughing,  you  bought  everybody
     "I don't remember."
     "I remember. You like my negligee?"
     "Why don't you take off your pants and get more comfortable?"
      I  did  and  sat  back on the bed with her. It moved  very  slowly.  I
remember telling her that she had nice breasts and then I was sucking on one
of them. Next I knew we were at it. I was on top. But something didn't work.
I rolled off. "I'm sorry," I said.
      "It's  all right," she said, "I still like you." We sat there  talking
vaguely and finishing the whiskey.
      Then she got up and turned off the lights. I felt very sad and climbed
into  bed and lay against her back. Jeanie was warm, full, and I could  feel
her breathing, and I could feel her hair against my face. My penis begain to
rise and I poked it against her. I felt her reach down and guide it in.
     "Now," she said, "now, that's it. . ."
     It was good that way, long and good, and then we were finished and then
we slept.
      When I woke up she was still asleep and I got up to get dressed. I was
fully  clothed when she turned and looked at me: "One more time  before  you
     "All right."
     I undressed again and got in with her. She turned her back to me and we
did it again, the same way. After I climaxed she lay with her back to me.
     "Will you come see me again?" she asked.
     "Of course."
     "You live upstairs?"
     "Yes. 309.1 can come see you or you can come see me."
     "I'd rather you came to see me," she said.
      "All  right," I said. I got dressed, opened the door, closed the door,
walked up the stairway, got in the elevator, and hit the 3 button.
      It  was about a week later, one night, I was drinking wine with Marty.
We talked about various things of no importance and then he said, "Christ, I
feel awful."
     "What again?"
     "Yeah. My girl, Jeanie. I told you about her."
     "Yes. The one who lives in the cellar. You're in love with her."
      "Yeh.  They kicked her out of the cellar. She couldn't even  make  the
cellar rent."
     "Where'd she go?"
      "I  don't know. She's gone. I heard they kicked her out. Nobody  knows
what  she did, where she went. I went to the A.A. meeting. She wasn't there.
I'm sick. Hank, I'm really sick. I loved her. I'm about out of my head."
     I didn't answer.
     "What can I do, man? I'm really torn apart.. ."
     "Let's drink to her luck, Marty, to her good luck."
     We had a good long one to her.
     "She was all right. Hank, you gotta believe me, she was all right."
     "I believe you Marty."
      A week later Marty got kicked out for not paying his rent and I got  a
job  in  a meat packing plant and there were a couple of Mexican bars across
the  street. I liked those Mexican bars. After work, I smelled of blood, but
nobody  seemed to mind. It wasn't until I got on the bus to go  back  to  my
room that those noses started raising and I got the dirty looks, and I began
feeling mean again. That helped.

      Ronnie  was  to meet the two men at the German bar in the  Silver-lake
district. It was 7:15 p.m. He sat there drinking the dark beer at the  table
by  himself. The barmaid was blond, fine ass, and her breasts looked  as  if
they were going to fall out of her blouse.
      Ronnie  liked  blondes. It was like iceskating and rollerskating.  The
blondes  were  iceskating,  the rest were rollerskating.  The  blondes  even
smelled  different. But women meant trouble, and for him the  trouble  often
outweighed the joy. In other words, the price was too high.
      Yet a man needed a woman now and then, if for no other reason than  to
prove he could get one. The sex was secondary. It wasn't a lover's world, it
never would be.
      7:20.  He waved her over for another beer. She came smiling,  carrying
the  beer  out  in front of her breasts. You couldn't help liking  her  like
     "You like working here?" he asked her.
     "Oh yes, I meet a lot of men."
     "Nice men?"
     "Nice men and the other kind."
     "How can you tell them apart?"
     "I can tell by looking."
     "What kind of man am I?"
     "Oh," she laughed, "nice, of course."
     "You've earned your tip," said Ronnie.
      7:25. They'd said 7. Then he looked up. It was Curt. Curt had the  guy
with him. They came over and sat down. Curt waved for a pitcher.
     "The Rams ain't worth shit," said Curt, "I've lost an even $500 on them
this season."
     "You think Prothro's finished?"
      "Yeah, it's over for him," said Curt. "Oh, this is Bill. Bill, this is
     They shook hands. The barmaid arrived with the pitcher.
     "Gentlemen," said Ronnie, "this is Kathy."
     "Oh," said Bill.
     "Oh, yes," said Curt.
     The barmaid laughed and wiggled on.
      "It's good beer," said Ronnie. "I've been here since 7:00, waiting.  I
ought to know."
     "You don't want to get drunk," said Curt.
     "Is he reliable?" asked Bill.
     "He's got the best references," said Curt.
     "Look," said Bill, "I don't want comedy. It's my money."
     "How do I know you're not a pig?" asked Ronnie.
     "How do I know you won't cut with the $2500?"
     "Three grand."
     "Curt said two and one half."
     "I just upped it. I don't like you."
      "I  don't care too much for your ass either. I've got a good  mind  to
call it off."
     "You won't. You guys never do."
     "Do you do this regular?"
     "Yes. Do you?"
     "All right, gentlemen," said Curt, "I don't care what you settle for. I
get my grand for the contract."
     "You're the lucky one, Curt," said Bill.
     "Yeah," said Ronnie.
      "Each  man  is  an  expert in his own line,"  said  Curt,  lighting  a
     "Curt, how do I know this guy won't cut with the three grand?"
      "He  won't or he's out of business. It's the only kind of work he  can
     "That's horrible," said Bill.
     "What's horrible about it? You need him don't you?"
     "Well, yes."
      "Other  people need him too. They say each man is good  at  something.
He's good at that."
     Somebody put some money in the juke and they sat listening to the music
and drinking the beer.
      "I'd really like to give it to that blonde," said Ronnie. "I'd like to
give her about six hours of turkeyneck."
     "I would too," said Curt, "if I had it."
     "Let's get another pitcher," said Bill. "I'm nervous.
      "There's  nothing  to worry about," said Curt. He  waved  for  another
pitcher  of  beer. "That $500 I dropped on the Rams, I'll  get  it  back  at
Anita. They open December 26th. I'll be there."
     "Is the Shoe going to ride in the meet?" asked Bill.
     "I haven't read the papers. I'd imagine he will. He can't quit. It's in
his blood."
     "Longden quit," said Ronnie.
     "Well, he had to; they had to strap the old man in the saddle."
     "He won his last race."
     "Campus pulled the other horse."
     "I don't think you can beat the horses," said Bill.
      "A  smart man can beat anything he puts his mind to," said Curt. "I've
never worked in my life."
     "Yeah," said Ronnie, "but I gotta work tonight."
     "Be sure you do a good job, baby," said Curt.
     "I always do a good job."
      They  were  quiet and sat drinking their beer. Then Ronnie said,  "All
right, where's the god damned money?"
      "You'll  get it, you'll get it," said Bill. "It's lucky I  brought  an
extra $500."
     "I want it now. All of it."
     "Give him the money. Bill. And while you're at it, give me mine."
     It was all in hundreds. Bill counted it under the table. Ronnie got his
first, then Curt got his. They checked it. O.k.
     "Where's it at?" asked Ronnie.
      "Here," said Bill, handing him an envelope. "The address and  key  are
     "How far away is it?"
     "Thirty minutes. You take the Ventura freeway."
     "Can I ask you one thing?"
     "Yes, why?"
     "Do you care?"
     "Then why ask?"
     "Too much beer, I guess."
     "Maybe you better get going," said Curt.
     "Just one more pitcher of beer," said Ronnie.
     "No," said Curt, "get going."
     "Well, shit, all right."
      Ronnie  moved around the table, got out, walked to the exit. Curt  and
Bill  sat  there  looking  at him. He'walked outside.  Night.  Stars.  Moon.
Traffic. His car. He unlocked it, got in, drove off.
      Ronnie checked the street carefully and the address more carefully. He
parked  a  block and a half away and walked back. The key fit the  door.  He
opened  it and walked in. There was a T.V. set going in the front  room.  He
walked across the rug.
      "Bill?"  somebody asked. He listened for the voice.  She  was  in  the
bathroom. "Bill?" she said again. He pushed the door open and there she  sat
in the tub, very blond, very white, young. She screamed.
      He got his hands around her throat and pushed her under the water. His
sleeves were soaked. She kicked and struggled violently. It got so bad  that
he had to get in the tub with her, clothes and all. He had to hold her down.
Finally she was still and he let her go.
      Bill's  clothes didn't quite fit him but at least they were  dry.  The
wallet was wet but he kept the wallet. Then he got out of there, walked  the
block and one half to his car and drove off.

     This is what killed Dylan Thomas.
     I board the plane with my girlfriend, the sound man, the camera man and
the  producer.  The  camera is working. The sound man  has  attached  little
microphones to my girlfriend and myself. I am on my way to San Francisco  to
give  a  poetry  reading. I am Henry Chinaski, poet. I  am  profound,  I  am
magnificent. Balls. Well, yes, I do have magnificent balls.
      Channel 15 is thinking of doing a documentary on me. I have on a clean
new shirt, and my girlfriend is vibrant, magnificent, in her early thirties.
She  sculpts,  writes, and makes marvelous love. The camera  pokes  into  my
face. I pretend it isn't there. The passengers watch, the stewardesses beam,
the  land is stolen from the Indians, Tom Mix is dead, and I've had  a  fine
      But  I can't help thinking of the years in lonely rooms when the  only
people  who  knocked were the landladies asking for the back  rent,  or  the
F.B.I. I lived with rats and mice and wine and my blood crawled the walls in
a  world I couldn't understand and still can't. Rather than live their life,
I  starved;  I ran inside my own mind and hid. I pulled down all the  shades
and  stared at the ceiling. When I went out it was to a bar where  I  begged
drinks,  ran  errands, was beaten in alleys by well-fed and secure  men,  by
dull  and comfortable men. Well, I won a few fights but only because  I  was
crazy.  I  went for years without women, I lived on peanut butter and  stale
bread and boiled potatoes. I was the fool, the dolt, the idiot. I wanted  to
write but the typer was always in hock. I gave it up and drank...
     The plane rose and the camera went on. The girlfriend and I talked. The
drinks arrived. I had poetry, and a fine woman. Life was picking up. But the
traps,  Chinaski, watch the traps. You fought a long fight to put  the  word
down  the  way  you wanted. Don't let a little adulation and a movie  camera
pull  you  out of position. Remember what Jeffers said -- even the strongest
men can be trapped, like God when he once walked on earth.
      Well, you ain't God, Chinaski, relax and have another drink. Maybe you
ought  to  say something profound for the sound man? No, let him sweat.  Let
them  all sweat. It's their film burning. Check the clouds for size.  You're
riding with executives from I.B.M., from Texaco, from . . .
     You're riding with the enemy.
      On  the  escalator out of the airport a man asks me, "What's  all  the
cameras? What's going on?"
     "I'm a poet," I tell him.
     "A poet?" he asks, "what's your name?"
     "Garcia Lorca," I say. . . .
      Well, North Beach is different. They're young and they wear jeans  and
they  wait around. I'm old. Where's the young ones of 20 years ago?  Where's
Joltin' Joe? All that. Well, I was in S.F. 30 years ago and I avoided  North
Beach.  Now I'm walking through it. I see my face on posters all  about.  Be
careful, old man, the suck is on. They want your blood.
      My  girlfriend  and I walk along with Marionetti. Well,  here  we  are
walking along with Marionetti. It's nice being with Marionetti, he has  very
gentle eyes and the young girls stop him on the street and talk to him. Now,
I think, I could stay in San Francisco . . . but I know better; it's back to
L.A.  for  me  with that machinegun mounted in the front court window.  They
might have caught God, but Chinaski gets advice from the devil.
      Marionetti leaves and there's a beatnick coffeeshop. I have never been
in  a beatnick coffeeshop. I am in a beatnick coffeeshop. My girl and I  get
the  best -- 60 cents a cup. Big time. It isn't worth it. The kids sit about
sipping  at  their coffees and waiting for it to happen. It isn't  going  to
      We  walk across the street to an Italian cafe. Marionetti is back with
the  guy from the S. F. Chronicle who wrote in his column that I  was
the best short story writer to come along since Hemingway. I tell him he  is
wrong; I don't know who is the best since Heming- way but it isn't H.C.  I'm
too careless. I don't put out enough effort. I'm tired.
      The wine comes on. Bad wine. The lady brings in soup, salad, a bowl of
raviolis.  Another  bottle of bad wine. We are too  full  to  eat  the  main
course.  The talk is loose. We don't strain to be brilliant. Maybe we  can't
be. We get out.
      I walk behind them up the hill. I walk with my beautiful girlfriend. I
begin to vomit. Bad red wine. Salad. Soup. Raviolis. I always vomit before a
reading.  It's a good sign. The edge is on. The knife is in my gut  while  I
walk up the hill.
     They put us in a room, leave us a few bottles of beer. I glance over my
poems.  I am terrified. I heave in the sink, I heave in the toilet, I  heave
on the floor. I am ready.
      The biggest crowd since Yevtushenko ... I walk on stage. Hot shit. Hot
shit  Chinaski. There is a refrigerator full of beer behind me. I  reach  in
and  take  one. I sit down and begin to read. They've paid $2 a  head.  Fine
people, those. Some are quite hostile from the outset. 1/3 of them hate  me,
1/3  of  them love me, the other 3rd don't know what the hell. I  have  some
poems  that  I know will increase the hate. It's good to have hostility,  it
keeps the head loose.
     "Will Laura Day please stand up? Will my love please stand up?"
     She does, waving her arms.
      I  begin  to get more interested in the beer than the poetry.  I  talk
between  the  poems,  dry  and banal stuff, drab.  I  am  H.  Bogart.  I  am
Hemingway. I am hot shit.
     "Read the poems, Chinaski!" they scream.
      They are right, you know. I try to stay with the poems. But I'm at the
refrigerator  door  much  of the time too. It makes  the  work  easier,  and
they've  already  paid. I'm told once John Cage came out on  stage,  ate  an
apple,  walked off, got one thousand dollars. I figured I had  a  few  beers
      Well,  it  was  over. They came around. Autographs. They'd  come  from
Oregon, L.A., Washington. Nice pretty little girls too. This is what  killed
Dylan Thomas.
      Back upstairs at the place, drinking beer and talking to Laura and Joe
Krysiak. They are beating on the door downstairs. "Chinaski! Chinaski!"  Joe
goes  down to hold them off. I'm a rock star. Finally I go down and let some
of  them  in.  I  know  some  of them. Starving  poets.  Editors  of  little
magazines. Some get through that I don't know. All right, all right --  lock
the door!
      We  drink. We drink. We drink. Al Masantic falls down in the  bathroom
and crashes the top of his head open. A very fine poet, that Al.
      Well,  everybody is talking. It's just another sloppy beerdrunk.  Then
the editor of a little magazine starts beating on a fag. I don't like it.  I
try to separate them. A window is broken. I push them down the steps. I push
everybody down the steps, except Laura. The party is over. Well, not  quite.
Laura and I are into it. My love and I are into it. She's got a temper, I've
got  one  to match. It's over nothing, as usual. I tell her to get the  hell
out. She does.
      I wake up hours later and she's standing in the center of the room.  I
leap out of bed and cuss her. She's on me.
     "I'll kill you, you son of a bitch!"
      I'm  drunk.  She's  on  top of me on the kitchen  floor.  My  face  is
bleeding. She bites a hole in my arm. I don't want to die. I don't  want  to
die!  Passion be damned! I run into the kitchen and pour half  a  bottle  of
iodine over my arm. She's throwing my shorts and shirts out of her suitcase,
taking  her airplane ticket. She's on her way again. We're finished  forever
again. I go back to bed and listen to her heels going down the hill.
      On  the plane back the camera is going. Those guys from Channel 15 are
going  to  find out about life. The camera zooms in on the hole in  my  arm.
There is a double shot in my hand.
      "Gentlemen," I say, "there is no way to make it with the female. There
is absolutely no way."
     They all nod in agreement. The sound man nods, the camera man nods, the
producer nods. Some of the passengers nod. I drink heavily all the  way  in,
savoring  my sorrow, as they say. What can a poet do without pain? He  needs
it as much as his typewriter.
      Of  course,  I make the airport bar. I would have made it anyhow.  The
camera follows me into the bar. The guys in the bar look around, lift  their
drinks and talk about how impossible it is to make it with the female.
     My take for the reading is $400.
     "What's the camera for?" asks the guy next to me.
     "I'm a poet," I tell him.
     "A poet?" he asks. "What's your name?"
     "Dylan Thomas," I say.
      I  lift my drink, empty it with one gulp, stare straight ahead. I'm on
my way.

     I had a jumpy stomach and she took pictures of me sweating and dying in
the  waiting area as I watched a plump girl in a short purple dress and high
heels shoot down a row of plastic ducks with a gun. I told Vicki I'd be back
and  I  asked the girl at the counter for a paper cup and some water  and  I
dropped my Alka Seltzers in. I sat back down and sweated.
      Vicki  was  happy. We were getting out of town. I liked  Vicki  to  be
happy.  She deserved her happiness. I got up and went to the men's room  and
had  a good crap. When I got out they were calling the passengers. It wasn't
a  very large seaplane. Two propellers. We were on last. It only held six or
      Vicki  sat in the co-pilot's seat and they made me a seat out  of  the
thing  that folded over the door. There we went! FREEDOM. My seatbelt didn't
      There was a Japanese guy looking at me. "My seatbelt doesn't work,"  I
told  him.  He grinned back at me, happily. "Suck shit, baby," I  told  him.
Vicki kept looking back and smiling. She was happy, a kid with candy -- a 35
year old seaplane.
      It  took twelve minutes and we hit the water. I hadn't heaved.  I  got
out.  Vicki told me all about it. "The plane was built in 1940. It had holes
in  the  floor.  He  worked the rudder with a handle  from  the  roof.  'I'm
scared,' I told him, and he said, 'I'm scared too.' "
      I  depended  on Vicki for all my information. I wasn't  much  good  at
talking  to  people. Well, then we packed onto a bus, sweating and  giggling
and  looking  at each other. From the end of the bus line to the  hotel  was
about two blocks and Vicki kept me informed:
      "There's a place to eat, and there's a liquor store for you, there's a
bar, and there's a place to eat, and there's another liquor store ..."
     The room was all right, in front, right over the water. The T.V. worked
in a vague and hesitant way and I flopped on the bed and watched while Vicki
unpacked. "Oh, I just love this place!" she said, "don't you?"
      I  got  up and went downstairs and across the street and got beer  and
ice.  I  packed the ice in the sink and sunk the beer in. I drank 12 bottles
of  beer, had a minor argument of some sort with Vicki after the tenth beer,
drank the other two and went to sleep.
      When  I woke up, Vicki had bought an ice chest and was drawing on  the
cover. Vicki was a child, a Romantic, but I loved her for it. I liad so many
gloomy devils in me that I welcomed it.
      "July 1972. Avalon Catalena" she printed on the chest. She didn't know
how to spell. Well, none of us did.
     Then she drew me, and underneath: "No neck and bad as hell."
      Then she drew a lady, and underneath: "Henry knows a good ass when  he
sees one."
     And in a circle: "Only God knows what he does with his nose."
     And: "Chinaski has gorgeous legs."
      She also drew a variety of birds and suns and stars and palm trees and
the ocean.
      "Are you able to eat breakfast?" she asked. I'd never been spoiled  by
any  of my past women. I liked being spoiled; I felt that I deserved  to  be
spoiled. We went and found a fairly reasonable place where you could eat  at
a  table  outside.  Over breakfast she asked me, "Did  you  really  win  the
Pulitzer Prize?"
     "What Pulitzer Prize?"
      "You  told  me last night you'd won the Pulitzer Prize. $500,000.  You
said you got a purple telegram about it."
     "A purple telegram?"
      "Yes,  you  said  you'd beat out Norman Mailer,  Kenneth  Koch,  Diane
Wakoski, and Robert Creeley."
      We finished breakfast and walked around. The whole place didn't add up
to more than five or six blocks. Everybody was seventeen years old. They sat
listlessly  waiting.  Not  everybody.  There  were  a  few  tourists,   old,
determined  to have a good time. They peered angrily into shop  windows  and
walked, stamping the pavements, giving off their rays: I have money, we have
money, we have more money than you have, we are better than you are, nothing
worries  us;  everything is shit but we are not shit and we know everything,
look at us.
      With  their pink shirts and green shirts and blue shirts,  and  square
white rotting bodies, and striped shorts, eyeless eyes and mouthless mouths,
they  walked along, very colorful, as if color might wake up death and  turn
it  into life. They were a carnival of American decay on parade and they had
no idea of the atrocity that they had inflicted upon themselves.
      I  left Vicki, went upstairs, crouched over the typewriter, and looked
out the window. It was hopeless. All my life I had wanted to be a writer and
now I had my chance and it wouldn't come. There were no bullrings and boxing
matches or young senoritas. There weren't even any insights. I was fucked. I
couldn't get the word down and they'd backed me into a corner. Well, all you
had  to  do  was die. But I'd always imagined it differently.  I  mean,  the
writing. Maybe it was the Leslie Howard movie. Or reading about the life  of
Hemingway  or D. H. Lawrence. Or Jeffers. You could get started  writing  in
all sorts of different ways. And then you wrote a while. And met some of the
writers.  The good ones and the bad ones. And they all had tinkertoy  souls.
You  knew  it when you got into a room with them. There was only  one  great
writer  every  500 years, and you weren't the one, and they  most  certainly
weren't the ones. We were fucked.
     I turned on the T.V. and watched a bag of doctors and nurses spew their
love-troubles. They never touched. No wonder they were in trouble. All  they
did was talk, argue, bitch, search. I went to sleep.
     Vicki woke me up. "Oh," she said, "I had the most wonderful time!"
      "I  saw  this man in a boat and I said 'Where are you going?'  and  he
said,  'I'm  a  boat taxi, I take people in and out to their boats,'  and  I
said,  'o.k.'  and it was just fifty cents and I rode around  with  him  for
hours while he took people to their boats. It was wonderful."
     "I watched some doctors and nurses," I said, "and I got depressed."
      "We  boated for hours," said Vicki, "I gave him my hat to wear and  he
waited while I got an abalone sandwich. He skinned his leg when he fell  off
his motorcycle last night."
     "The bells ring here every fifteen minutes. It's obnoxious."
     "I got to look in all the boats. All the old drunks were on board. Some
of  them  had young women dressed in boots. Others had young men.  Real  old
drunken lechers."
     If I only had Vicki's ability to gather information, I thought, I could
really  write something. Me: I've got to sit around and wait for it to  come
to  me.  I  can manipulate it and squeeze it once it arrives but I can't  go
find it. All I can write about is drinking beer, going to the racetrack, and
listening to symphony music. That isn't a crippled life, but it's hardly all
of  it  either. How did I get so limited? I used to have guts. What happened
to my guts? Do men really get old?
      "After I got off the boat I saw a bird. I talked to it. Do you mind if
I buy the bird?"
     "No, I don't mind. Where is it?"
     "Just a block away. Can we go see him?"
     "Why not?"
     I got into some clothes and we walked down. Here was this shot of green
with  a  little red ink spilled over him. He wasn't very much,  even  for  a
bird. But he didn't shit every three minutes like the rest of them, so  that
was pleasant.
      "He  doesn't have any neck. He's just like you. That's why I want him.
He's a peach-faced love-bird."
      We  came back with the peach-faced love-bird in a cage. We put him  on
the table and she called him "Avalon." Vicki sat and talked to him.
      "Avalon, hello Avalon . . . Avalon, Avalon, hello Avalon . . . Avalon,
o, Avalon . . ."
     I turned on the T.V.
      The  bar  was all right. I sat with Vicki and told her I was going  to
break  the  place up. I used to break up bars in my early days, now  I  just
talked about breaking them up.
     There was a band. I got up and danced. It was easy to dance modern. You
just kicked your arms and legs in any direction, either held your neck stiff
or  whipped  it like a son of a bitch and they thought you were  great.  You
could fool people. I danced and worried about my typewriter.
      I  sat down with Vicki and ordered some more drinks. I grabbed Vicki's
head  and  pointed  her toward the bartender. "Look, she's  beautiful,  man!
Isn't she beautiful?"
     Then Ernie Hemingway walked up with his white rat beard.
     "Ernie," I said, "I thought you did it with a shotgun?"
     Hemingway laughed.
     "What are you drinking?" I asked.
     "I'm buying," he said.
     Ernie bought us our drinks and sat down. He looked a little thinner.
      "I  reviewed  your last book," I told him. "I gave it  a  bad  review.
     "It's all right," said Ernie. "How do you like the island?"
     "It's for them," I said.
     "The public is fortunate. Everything pleases them: icecream cones, rock
concerts,  singing, swinging, love, hate, masturbation,  hot  dogs,  country
dances,  Jesus Christ, roller skating, spiritualism, capitalism,  communism,
circumcision,  comic  strips,  Bob  Hope,  skiing,  fishing  murder  bowling
debating, anything. They don't expect much and they don't get much. They are
one grand gang."
     "That's quite a speech."
     "That's quite a public."
     "You talk like a character out of early Huxley."
     "I think you're wrong. I'm desperate."
      "But,"  said Hemingway, "men become intellectuals in order not  to  be
     "Men become intellectuals because they are afraid, not desperate."
     "And the difference between afraid and desperate is ..."
     "Bingo!" I answered, "an intellectual! . . . my drink . . ."
     A little later I told Hemingway about my purple telegram and then Vicki
and I left and went back to our bird and our bed.
      "It's no use," I said, "my stomach is raw and contains nine tenths  of
my soul."
      "Try  this,"  said  Vicki and handed me the glass of  water  and  Alka
     "You go and toddle around," I said, "I can't make it today."
     Vicki went out and toddled and came back two or three times to see if I
was  all  right. I was all right. I went out and ate and came back with  two
six-packs  and  found  an  old movie with Henry  Fonda,  Tyrone  Power,  and
Randolph  Scott.  1939.  They were all so young. It was  incredible.  I  was
seventeen years old then. But, of course, I'd come through better than them.
I was still alive.
      Jesse  James. The acting was bad, very bad.  Vicki  came
back  and  told me all sorts of amazing things and then she got on  the  bed
with  me  and watched Jesse James. When Bob Ford was about  to  shoot
Jesse  (Ty Power) in the back, Vicki let out a moan and ran in the  bathroom
and hid. Ford did his thing.
     "It's all over," I said, "you can come out now."
     That was the highlight of the trip to Catalina. Not much else happened.
Before  we left Vicki went to the Chamber of Commerce and thanked  them  for
giving  her  such  a good time. She also thanked the woman in  Davey  Jones'
Locker  and bought presents for her friends Lita and Walter and Ava and  her
son  Mike and something for me and something for Annie and something  for  a
Mr. and Mrs. Croty, and there were some others I have forgotten.
      We  got on the boat with our bird cage and our bird and our ice  chest
and our suitcase and our electric typewriter. I found a spot at the back  of
the  boat and we sat there and Vicki was sad because it was over. I had  met
Hemingway  in  the  street and he had given me the hippie handshake  and  he
asked  me  if I was Jewish and if I was coming back, and I said  no  on  the
Jewish and I didn't know if I was coming back, it was up to the lady, and he
said,  I  don't  want to inquire into your personal business,  and  I  said,
Hemingway  you sure talk funny, and the whole boat leaned to  the  left  and
rocked  and  leaped  and a young man who looked as if he  had  recently  had
electro-therapy  treatment walked around passing  out  paper  bags  for  the
purpose of vomiting. I thought, maybe the seaplane's best, it's only  twelve
minutes  and  far  less  people,  and San Pedro  slowly  worked  toward  us,
civilization,  civilization, smog and murder, so much nicer so  much  nicer,
the  madmen  and the drunks are the last saints left on earth. I have  never
ridden  a horse or bowled, nor have I seen the Swiss Alps, and Vicki  looked
over  at me with this very childish smile, and I thought, she really  is  an
amazing woman, well, it's time I had a little luck, and I stretched my  legs
and  looked straight ahead. I needed to take another shit and decided to cut
down on my drinking.

     It was a hotel near the top of a hill, just enough tilt in that hill to
help you run down to the liquor store, and coming back with the bottle, just
enough  climb to make the effort worthwhile. The hotel had once been painted
a  peacock  green, lots of hot flare, but now after the rains, the  peculiar
Los  Angeles  rains that clean and fade everything, the hot green  was  just
hanging on by its teeth -- like the people who lived inside.
      How  I  moved in there, or why I'd left the previous place,  I  hardly
remember.  It  was probably my drinking and not working very much,  and  the
loud  mid-morning arguments with the ladies of the street. And by midmorning
arguments  I do not mean 10:30 a.m., I mean 3:30 a.m. Usually if the  police
weren't  called  it ended up with a little note under the  door,  always  in
pencil on torn lined paper: "dear Sir, we are going to have to ask you to
move  quick  as  poscible." One time it happened in  mid-afternoon.  The
argument  was  over. We swept up the broken glass, put all the bottles  into
paper sacks, emptied the ashtrays, slept, woke up, and I was working away on
top  when  I  heard a key in the door. I was so surprised that I  just  kept
fanning  it  in. And there he stood, the little manager, about 45,  no  hair
except  maybe around his ears or balls, and he looked at her on the  bottom,
walked up and pointed, "You -- you are OUT OF HERE!" I stopped stroking  and
laid  flat, looking at him sideways. Then he pointed at me. "And YOU'RE outa
here  too!" He turned around, went to the door, closed it quietly and walked
down  the  hall. I started the machine again and we gave it a farewell  good
      Anyway, there I was, the green hotel, the faded green hotel, and I was
there  with my suitcase full of rags, alone at the time, but I had the  rent
money,  was  sober,  and I got a room in the front facing  the  street,  3rd
floor,  phone  outside my door in the hall, hotplate in  the  window,  large
sink,  small  wall refrigerator, a couple of chairs, a table, bed,  and  the
bathroom  down the hall. And although the building was very old,  they  even
had  an  elevator -- it had once been a class joint. Now I  was  there.  The
first thing I did was get a bottle and after a drink and killing two roaches
I  felt  like I belonged. Then I went to the phone and tried to call a  lady
who I felt might help me but she was evidently out helping somebody else.
     About 3 a.m. somebody knocked. I put on my torn bathrobe and opened the
door. There stood a woman in her bathrobe. "Yeah?" I said. "Yeah?"
      "I'm your neighbor. I'm Mitzi. I live down the hall. I saw you at  the
telephone today."
     "Yeah?" I said.
     Then she came around from behind her back and showed it to me. It was a
pint of good whiskey.
     "Come on in," I said.
     I cleaned out two glasses, opened the pint. "Straight or mixed?"
     "About two thirds water."
      There was a litle mirror over the sink and she stood there rolling her
hair into curlers. I handed her a glass of stuff and sat down on the bed.
      "I  saw you in the hall. I could tell by looking at you that you  were
nice. I can tell them. Some of them here are not so nice."
     "They tell me I am a bastard."
     "I don't believe it."
     "Neither do I."
     I finished my drink. She just sipped on hers so I mixed myself another.
We  talked  easy talk. I had a third drink. Then I got up and  stood  behind
     "OOOOOOh! Silly boy!"
     I jabbed her.
     "Ooouch!! You ARE a bastard!"
      She  had  a curler in one hand. I pulled her up and kissed  that  thin
little  old  lady's mouth. It was soft and open. She was ready.  I  put  her
drink in her hand, took her to the bed, sat her down. "Drink up." She did. I
walked over and fixed her another. I didn't have anything on under my  robe.
The  robe fell open and the thing stuck out. God, I'm filthy, I thought. I'm
a  ham. I'm in the movies. The family movies of the future. 2490 A.D. I  had
difficulty not laughing at myself, walking around hung to that stupid prong.
It  was really the whiskey I wanted. A castle in the hills I wanted. A steam
bath.  Anything but this. We both sat with our drinks. I kissed  her  again,
ramming  my  cigarette-sick tongue down her throat. I came  up  for  air.  I
opened  her robe and there were her breasts. Not much, poor thing. I reached
down with my mouth and got one. It stretched and sagged like a balloon half-
filled with stale air. I braved on and sucked at the nipple as she took  the
prong  in her hand and arched her back. We fell backwards like that  on  the
cheap bed, and with our robes on, I took her there.
      His  name was Lou, he was an ex-con and ex-hard rock miner.  He  lived
downstairs in the hotel. His last job had been scrubbing out pots in a place
that  made  candy. He had lost that one -- like all the others --  drinking.
The  unemployment insurance runs out and there we are like rats -- rats with
no place to hide, rats with rent to pay, with bellies that get hungry, cocks
that  get  hard, spirits that get tired, and no education, no  trade.  Tough
shit,  like  they say, this is America. We didn't want much and we  couldn't
get that. Tough shit.
      I  met Lou while drinking, people walking in and out. My room was  the
party  room.  Everybody  came.  There was an Indian,  Dick,  who  shoplifted
halfpints  and  stored them in his dresser. Said it gave him  a  feeling  of
security. When we couldn't get a drink anywhere we always used the Indian as
our last resort.
      I wasn't very good at shoplifting but I did learn a trick from Alabam,
a  thin  mustached thief who had once worked for the hospital as an orderly.
You  throw  your meats and valuables into a large sack and then  cover  them
with potatoes. The grocer weighs the lot and charges you for potatoes. But I
was  best  at  getting Dick for credit. There were a lot of  Dicks  in  that
neighborhood and the liquor store man was a Dick too. We'd be sitting around
and  the  last drink would be gone. My first move would be to send  somebody
out. "My name's Hank," I'd tell the guy. "Tell Dick, Hank sent you down  for
a pint on the cuff, and if there's any questions to phone me." "O.k., o.k.,"
and  the guy would go. We'd wait, already tasting the drink, smoking  pacing
going  crazy. Then the guy would come back. "Dick said 'no!' Dick said  your
credit's no good anymore!"
     "SHIT!" I would scream.
      And  I  would rise in full red-eyed unshaven indignation.  "GOD  DAMN,
      I would really be angry, it was an honest anger, I don't know where it
came from. I'd slam the door, take the elevator down and down that hill  I'd
go  ...  dirty mother, that dirty mother! . . . and I'd turn into the liquor
     "All right, Dick."
     "Hello, Hank."
      "I  want TWO FIFTHS!" (and I'd name a very good brand.) "Two packs  of
smokes,  a  couple  of those cigars, and let's see . .  .  a  can  of  those
peanuts, yeah."
     Dick would line the stuff up in front of me and then he'd stand there.
     "Well, ya gonna pay me?"
     "Dick, I want this on the bill."
      "You  already  owe me $23.50. You used to pay me, you used  to  pay  a
little  every week, I remember it was every Friday night. You ain't paid  me
anything in three weeks. You aren't like those other bums. You got class.  I
trust you. Can't you just pay me a dollar now and then?"
      "Look, Dick, I don't feel like arguing. You gonna put this stuff in  a
bag or do you want it BACK?"
      Then I'd shove the bottles and stuff toward him and wait, puffing on a
cigarette  like  I  owned the world. I didn't have any  more  class  than  a
grasshopper. I felt nothing but fear that he'd do the sensible thing and put
the  bottles back on the shelf and tell me to go to hell. But his face would
always  sag  and he'd put the stuff in the bag, and then I'd wait  until  he
totalled  the  new bill. He'd give me the count; I'd nod and walk  out.  The
drinks  always tasted much better under those circumstances.  And  when  I'd
walk in with the stuff for the boys and girls, I was really king.
     I was sitting with Lou one night in his room. He was a week be- hind in
his  rent and mine was due. We were drinking port wine. We were even rolling
our  cigarettes. Lou had a machine for that and they came out  pretty  good.
The thing was to keep four walls around you. If you had four walls you had a
chance.  Once  you were out on the street you had no chance, they  had  you,
they  really had you. Why steal something if you can't cook it? How are  you
going to screw something if you live in an alley? How are you going to sleep
when  everybody in the Union Rescue Mission snores? And steals  your  shoes?
And  stinks?  And is insane? You can't even jack-off. You need  four  walls.
Give  a  man  four walls long enough and it is possible for him to  own  the
world.  So we were a little worried. Every step sounded like the landlady's.
And she was a very mysterious landlady. A young blonde nobody could screw. I
played her very cold thinking she would come to me. She came and knocked all
right,  but only for the rent. She had a husband somewhere but we never  saw
him.  They lived there and they didn't. We were on the plank. We figured  if
we  could fuck the landlady our troubles would be over. It was one of  those
buildings where you screwed every woman as a matter of course, almost  as  a
matter  of  obligation. But I couldn't get this one  and  it  made  me  feel
insecure. So we sat there smoking our rolled cigarettes, drinking  our  port
wine and the four walls were dissolving, falling away. Talk is best at times
like that. You talk wild, drink your wine. We were cowards because we wanted
to live. We did not want to live too badly but we still wanted to live.
     "Well," said Lou, "I think I got it."
     I poured another wine.
     "We work together."
      "Now  you're a good talker, you tell a lot of interesting stories,  it
doesn't matter if they're true or not -- "
     "They're true."
      "I mean, that doesn't matter. You got a good mouth. Now here's what we
do.  There's a class bar down the street, you know it, Molino's. You  go  in
there.  All you need is money for the first drink. We'll pool for that.  You
sit  down, nurse your drink and look around for a guy flashing a roll.  They
get  some  fat ones in there. You spot the guy and go over to him.  You  sit
down  next to him and turn it on, you turn on the bullshit. He'll  like  it.
You've even got a vocabulary. O.k. so he'll buy you drinks all night,  he'll
drink  all night. Keep him drinking. When closing time comes, you  lead  him
toward Alvarado Street, lead him west past the alley. Tell him you are going
to  get him some nice young pussy, tell him anything but lead him west.  And
I'll be waiting in the alley with this."
     Lou reached around behind the door and came out with a baseball bat, it
was a very large baseball bat, I think at least 42 oz.
     "Jesus Christ, Lou, you'll kill him!"
      "No,  no, you can't kill a drunk, you know that. Maybe if he was sober
it'd kill him, but drunk it'll only knock him out. We take the wallet, split
it two ways."
     "Listen, Lou, I'm a nice guy, I'm not like that."
      "You're  no  nice guy; you're the meanest son of a bitch I  ever  met.
That's why I like you."
      I  found one. A big fat one. I had been fired by fat stupidities  like
him all my life. From worthless, underpaid, dull hard jobs. It was going  to
be  nice. I got to talking. I didn't know what I was talking about.  He  was
listening  and  laughing and nodding his head and buying drinks.  He  had  a
wrist  watch, a handful of rings, a full stupid wallet. It was hard work.  I
told   him  stories  about  prisons,  about  railroad  track  gangs,   about
whorehouses. He liked the whorehouse stuff.
     I told him about the guy who came in every two weeks and paid well. All
he  wanted was a whore in a room with him. They both took off their  clothes
and played cards and talked. Just sat there. Then after about two hours he'd
get up, get dressed, say goodbye and walk out. Never touch the whore.
     "God damn," he said.
      I  decided that I wouldn't mind Lou's slugger bat hitting a  homer  on
that fat skull. What a whammy. What a useless hunk of shit.
     "You like young girls?" I asked him.
     "Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah."
     "Around fourteen and a half?"
     "Oh jesus, yes."
      "There's one coming in on the 1:30 a.m. train from Chicago. She'll  be
at my place around 2:10 a.m. She's clean, hot, intelligent. Now I'm takin' a
big chance, so I'm asking ten bucks. That too high?"
     "No, that's all right."
     "O.k., when this place closes up you come with me."
      2  a.m.  finally  made it, and I walked him out of there,  toward  the
alley. Maybe Lou wouldn't be there. Maybe the wine would get to him or  he'd
just  back  out. A blow like that could kill a man. Or make him  addled  for
life.  We  staggered along in the moonlight. There was nobody  else  around,
nobody in the streets. It was going to be easy.
      We  crossed into the alley. Lou was there. But Fatso saw him. He threw
up an arm and ducked as Lou swung. The bat got me right behind the ear.
     Lou got his old job back, the one he had lost drinking, and he swore he
was only going to drink on weekends.
     "O.k., friend," I told him, "stay away from me, I am drunk and drinking
all the time."
      "I  know. Hank, and I like you, I like you better than any man I  ever
met,  only  I  gotta  hold the drinking down to weekends,  just  Friday  and
Saturday nights and nothing on Sunday. I kept missing Monday mornings in the
old  days and it cost me my job. I'll stay away but I want you to know  that
it has nothing to do with you."
     "Only that I'm a wino."
     "Yeah, well, there's that."
      "O.k.,  Lou,  just  don't come knocking on my door  until  Friday  and
Saturday night. You may hear singing and the laughter of beautiful seventeen
year old girls but don't come knocking on my door."
     "Man, you screw nothing but bags."
     "They look seventeen through the eye of the grape."
      He  went  on to explain the nature of his job, something  to  do  with
cleaning  out the inside of candy machines. It was a sticky dirty  job.  The
boss  only hired ex-cons and worked their asses to death. He cussed the  ex-
cons brutally all day long and there was nothing they could do about it.  He
shorted  them on their checks and there was nothing they could do about  it.
If  they hitched they were fired. A lot of them were on parole. The boss had
them  by the balls. "Sounds like a guy who needs to be killed," I told  Lou.
"Well,  he likes me, he says I am the best worker he ever had, but  I  hadda
get  off  the booze, he needed somebody he could depend on. He even  had  me
over  to  his  place  one time to do some painting for him,  I  painted  his
bathroom,  did a good job too. He's got a place in the hills, a  big  place,
and  you  oughta  see his wife. I never knew they made women  that  way,  so
beautiful  --  her  eyes, her legs, her body, the way  she  walked,  talked,
      Well,  Lou was true to his word. I didn't see him for some  time,  not
even on weekends, and meanwhile I was going through a kind of personal hell.
I was very jumpy, nerves gone -- a little noise and I'd jump out of my skin.
I  was  afraid to go to sleep: nightmare after nightmare, each more terrible
than  the  one  which preceded it. You were all right if you went  to  sleep
totally  drunk, that was all right, but if you went to sleep half-drunk  or,
worse,  sober, then the dreams began, only you were never sure  whether  you
were  sleeping or whether the action was taking place in the room, for  when
you  slept  you  dreamed the entire room, the dirty dishes,  the  mice,  the
folding  walls, the pair of shit-in pants some whore had left on the  floor,
the  dripping  faucet, the moon like a bullet out there, cars  full  of  the
sober  and  well-fed,  shining headlights through your  window,  everything,
everything,  you were in some sort of dark corner, dark dark,  no  help,  no
reason,  no no reason at all, dark sweating corner, darkness and filth,  the
stench  of  reality,  the  stink of everything: spiders,  eyes,  landladies,
sidewalks,  bars,  buildings,  grass, no grass,  light,  no  light,  nothing
belonging  to you. The pink elephants never showed up but plenty  of  little
men  with  savage tricks or a looming big man to strangle you  or  sink  his
teeth  into the back of your neck, lay on your back and you sweating, unable
to move, this black stinking hairy thing laying there on you on you on you.
      If it wasn't that it was sitting during the days, hours of unspeakable
fear,  fear opening in the center of you like a giant blossom, you  couldn't
analyze  it,  figure  why it was there, and that made  it  worse.  Hours  of
sitting  in  a  chair  in  the middle of a room, run through  and  stricken.
Shifting  or  pissing  a major effort, nonsense, and combing  your  hair  or
brushing your teeth -- ridiculous and insane acts. Walking through a sea  of
fire.  Or pouring water into a drinking glass -- it seemed you had no  right
to  pour water into a drinking glass. I decided I was crazy, unfit, and this
made me feel dirty. I went to the library and tried to find books about what
made  people feel the way I was feeling, but the books weren't there  or  if
they were I couldn't understand them. Going into the library was hardly easy
--  everybody seemed so comfortable, the librarians, the readers,  everybody
but  me. I even had trouble using the library crapper -- the bums in  there,
the  queers  watching me piss, they all seemed stronger than I --  unworried
and  sure.  I  kept going out and walking across the street,  up  a  winding
stairway  in  a  cement building where they stored thousands  of  crates  of
oranges. A sign on the roof of another building said JESUS SAVES but neither
Jesus  or  oranges were worth a damn to me walking up that winding  stairway
and  into  that cement building. I always thought, this is where  I  belong,
inside of this cement tomb.
      The  thought  of suicide was always there, strong, like  ants  running
along  the  underside  of the wrists. Suicide was the only  positive  thing.
Everything  else  was negative. And there was Lou, glad  to  clean  out  the
inside of candy machines to stay alive. He was wiser than I.
      At  this  time  I met a lady in a bar, a little older  than  me,  very
sensible. Her legs were still good, she had an odd sense of humor,  and  had
very expensive clothes. She had come down the ladder from some rich man.  We
went  to  my place and lived together. She was a very good piece of ass  but
had  to  drink all the time. Her name was Vicki. We screwed and drank  wine,
drank  wine and screwed. I had a library card and went to the library  every
day. I hadn't told her about the suicide thing. It was always a big joke, my
coming  home from the library. I would open the door and she would  look  at
     "What no books?"
     "Vicki, they don't have any books in the library."
      I'd  come in and take the wine bottle (or bottles) out of the bag  and
we'd begin.
      One  time after a week's drinking I decided to kill myself.  I  didn't
tell  her.  I  figured I'd do it when she was in a bar looking for  a  "live
one."  I didn't like those fat clowns screwing her but she brought me  money
and  whiskey and cigars. She gave me the bit about me being the only one she
loved.  She called me "Mr. Van Bilderass" for some reason I couldn't figure.
She'd  get  drunk  and keep saying, "You think you're hot stuff,  you  think
you're Mr. Van Bilderass!" All the time I was working on the idea of how  to
kill  myself.  One  day  I was sure I would do it. It  was  after  a  week's
drinking, port wine, we had bought huge jugs and lined them up on the  floor
and behind the huge jugs we had lined up ordinary-sized winebottles, 8 or  9
of  them, and behind the ordinary-size bottles we had lined up 4 or 5 little
bottles.  Night  and  day  got lost. It was just screwing  and  talking  and
drinking, talking and drinking and screwing. Violent arguments that ended in
love-making. She was a sweet little pig of a screw, tight and squirming. One
woman  in  200. With most of the rest it is kind of an act, a joke.  Anyhow,
maybe  because  of it all, the drinking and the fact of the fat  dull  bulls
screwing Vicki, I got very sick and depressed, and yet what the hell could I
do? run a turret-lathe?
      When  the  wine  ran out the depression, the fear, the uselessness  of
going on became too much and I knew I was going to do it. The first time she
left  the room it was over for me. How, I was not quite sure but there  were
hundreds of ways. We had a little gas jet stove. Gas is charming. Gas  is  a
kind  of a kiss. It leaves the body whole. The wine was gone. I could hardly
walk.  Armies  of fear and sweat ran up and down my body. It  becomes  quite
simple. The greatest relief is never to have to pass another human being  on
the  sidewalk,  see them walking in their fat, see their  little  rat  eyes,
their  cruel  2-bit faces, their animal flowering. What a  sweet  dream:  to
never have to look into another human face.
     "I'm going out to look at a newspaper, to see what day it is, o.k.?"
     "Sure," she said, "sure."
      I  walked out the door. Nobody in the hall. No humans. It was about 10
p.m.  I  went down in the urine-smelling elevator. It took a lot of strength
to  be  swallowed by that elevator. I walked down the hill. When I got  back
she  would be gone. She moved quickly when the drinks ran out. Then I  could
do  it.  But first I wanted to know what day it was. I walked down the  hill
and  there by the drugstore was the newspaper rack. I looked at the date  on
the  newspaper. It was a Friday. Very well, Friday. As good a  day  as  any.
That meant something. Then I read the headline:
      I  didn't quite get it. I leaned closer and read it again. It was  the
      This  was in black type, large type, the banner headline. Of  all  the
important things that had happened in the world, this was their headline.
      I  crossed the street, feeling much better, and walked into the liquor
store. I got two bottles of port and a pack of cigarettes on credit. When  I
got back to the place Vicki was still there.
     "What day is it?" she asked.
     "O.k.," she said.
      I  poured two glasses full of wine. There was a little ice left in the
small wall refrigerator. The cubes of ice floated smoothly.
     "I don't want to make you unhappy," Vicki said.
     "I know you don't."
     "Have a sip first."
     "A note came under the door while you were gone."
      I  took  a  sip, gagged, lit a cigarette, took another sip,  then  she
handed  me the note. It was a warm Los Angeles night. A Friday. I  read  the
     Dear Mr. Chinaski: You have until next Wednesday to get up the rent. If
you  don't, you are out. I know about those women in your room. And you make
too  much  noise.  And  you  broke your window.  You  are  paying  for  your
privileges.  Or supposed to be. I have been very kind with you.  I  now  say
next  Wednesday or you are out. The tenants are tired of all the  noise  and
cussing  and  singing night and day, day and night, and so am I.  You  can't
live here without rent. Don't say I didn't warn you.
      I drank the rest of the wine down, almost lost it. It was a warm night
in Los Angeles.
     "I'm tired of fucking those fools," she said.
     "I'll get the money," I told her.
     "How? You don't know how to do anything."
     "I know that."
     "Then how are we going to make it?"
     'That last guy fucked me three times. My pussy was raw."
      "Don't  worry, baby, I'm a genius. The only trouble is,  nobody  knows
     "A genius at what?"
     "I don't know."
     "Mr. Van Bilderass!"
      "That's me. By the way, do you know that Milton Berle's cousin was hit
on the head by a falling rock?"
     "Today or yesterday."
     "What kind of rock?"
     "I don't know. I imagine some kind of big buttery yellow stone."
     "Who gives a damn?"
     "Not I. Certainly not I. Except -- "
     "Except what?"
     "Except I guess that rock kept me alive."
     "You talk like an asshole."
     "I am an asshole."
     I grinned and poured wine all around.

      "no  man's  suffering  is ever larger  than  nature  intended."  --

conversation overheard at a crapgame 1. It was the ninth race and the horse's name was Green Cheese. He won by 6 and I got back 52 for 5 and since I was far ahead anyhow, it called for another drink. "Gimme a shota green cheese," I told the barkeep. It didn't confuse him. He knew what I was drinking. I had been leaning there all afternoon. I had been drunk all the night before and when I got home, of course, I had to have some more. I was set. I had scotch, vodka, wine and beer. A mortician or somebody called about 8 p.m. and said he'd like to see me. "Fine," I said, "bring drinks." "Do you mind if I bring friends?" "I don't have any friends." "I mean my friends." "I do not give a damn," I told him. I went into the kitchen and poured a water glass %'s full of scotch. I drank it down straight just like the old days. I used to drink a fifth in an hour and a half, two hours. "Green cheese," I said to the kitchen walls. I opened a tall can of frozen beer. 2. The mortician arrived and got on the phone and pretty soon many strange people were walking in, all of them bringing drinks with them. There were a lot of women and I felt like raping all of them. I sat on the rug, feeling the electric light, feeling the drinks going through me like a parade, like an attack on the blues, like an attack on madness. "I will never have to work again!" I told them. "The horses will take care of me like no whore EVER did!" "Oh, we know that Mr. Chinaski! We know that you are a GREAT man!" It was a little greyhaired fucker on the couch, rubbing his hands, leering at me with wet lips. He meant it. He made me sick. I finished the drink in my hand and found another somewhere and drank that too. I began talking to the women. I promised them all the endearments of my mighty cock. They laughed. I meant it. Right then. There. I moved toward the women. The men pulled me off. For a worldly man I was very much the highschool boy. If I hadn't been the great Mr. Chinaski, somebody would have killed me. As it was, I ripped off my shirt and offered to go out on the lawn with anybody. I was lucky. Nobody felt like pushing me over my shoelaces. When my mind cleared it was 4 a.m. All the lights were on and everybody was gone. I was still sitting there. I found a warm beer and drank it. Then I went to bed with the feeling that all drunks know: that I had been a fool but to hell with it. 3. I had been bothered with hemorrhoids for 15 or 20 years; also perforated ulcers, bad liver, boils, anxiety-neurosis, various types of insanity, but you go on with things and just hope that everything doesn't fall apart at once. It seemed that drunk almost did it. I felt dizzy and weak, but that was ordinary. It was the hemorrhoids. They would not respond to anything -- hot baths, salves, nothing helped. My intestines hung almost out of my ass like a dog's tail. I went to a doctor. He simply glanced. "Operation," he said. "All right," I said, "only thing is that I am a coward." "Vel, ya, dot vill make it more difficult." You lousy Nazi bastard, I thought. "I vant you to take dis laxative der Tuesday night, den at 7 a.m. you get up, ya? and you gif yourself de enema, you keep gifiing dis enema until der wasser is clear, ya? den I take unudder look into you at 10 a.m. Vensday morning." "Ya whol, mine herring," I said. 4. The enema tube kept slipping out and the whole bathroom got wet and it was cold and my belly hurt and I was drowning in slime and shit. This is the way the world ended, not with an atom bomb, but with shit shit shit. With the set I had bought there was nothing to pinch the flow of water and my fingers would not work so the water ran in full blast and out full blast. It took me an hour and a half and by then my hemorrhoids were in command of the world. Several times I thought of just quitting and dying. I found a can of pure spirits of gum turpentine in my closet. It was a beautiful red and green can. "DANGER!" it said, "harmful or fatal if swallowed." I was a coward: I put the can back. 5. The doctor put me up on a table. "Now, chust relox der bock, ya? relox, relox . . ." Suddenly he jammed a wedge-shaped box into my ass and began unwinding his snake which began to crawl up into my intestine looking for blockage, looking for cancer. "Ha! Now if it hurts a bit, nien? den pant like a dog, go, hahaha- hahaaaa!" "You dirty motherfucker!" "Vot?" "Shit, shit, shit! You dog-burner! You swine, sadist . . . You burned Joan at the stake, you put nails in the hands of Christ, you voted for war, you voted for Goldwater, you voted for "Nixon ... Mother-ass! What are you DOING to me?" "It vill soon be over. You take it veil. You will be good patient." He rolled the snake back in and then I saw him peering into something that looked like a periscope. He slammed some gauze up my bloody ass and I got up and put on my clothes. "And the operation will be for what?" He knew what I meant. "Chust der hemorrhoids." I peeked up his nurse's legs as I walked out. She smiled sweetly. 6. In the waiting room of the hospital a little girl looked at our grey faces, our white faces, our yellow faces . . . "Everybody is dying!" she proclaimed. Nobody answered her. I turned the page of an old Time magazine. After routine filling out of papers . . . urine specimens . . . blood, I was taken to a four bed ward on the eighth floor. When the question of religion came up I said "Catholic," largely to save myself from the stares and questions that usually followed a proclamation of no religion. I was tired of all the arguments and red tape. It was a Catholic hospital -- maybe I'd get better service or blessings from the Pope. Well, I was locked in with three others. Me, the monk, the loner, gambler, playboy, idiot. It was all over. The beloved solitude, the refrigerator full of beer, the cigars on the dresser, the phone numbers of the big-legged, big-assed women. There was one with a yellow face. He looked somehow like a big fat bird dipped in urine and sun-dried. He kept hitting his button. He had a whining, crying, mewing voice. "Nurse, nurse, where's Dr. Thomas? Dr. Thomas gave me some codeine yesterday. Where's Dr. Thomas?" "I don't know where Dr. Thomas is." "Can I have a coughdrop?" "They are right on your table." "They ain't stoppin' my cough, and that cough medicine ain't any good either." "Nurse!" a whitehaired guy yelled from the northeast bed, "can I have some more coffee? I'd like some more coffee." "I'll see," she said and left. My window showed hills, a slope of hills rising. I looked at the slopes of hills. It was getting dark. Nothing but houses on the hills. Old houses. I had the strange feeling that they were unoccupied that everybody had died, that everybody had given up. I listened to the three men complain about the food, about the price of the ward, about the doctors and nurses. When one spoke the other two did not seem to be listening, they did not answer. Then another would begin. They took turns. There was nothing else to do. They spoke vaguely, switching subjects. I was in with an Oakie, a movie cameraman, and the yellow piss-bird. Outside of my window a cross turned in the sky -- first it was blue, then it was red. It was night and they pulled our curtains around our beds a bit and I felt better, but realized, oddly, that pain or possible death did not bring me closer to humanity. Visitors began arriving. I didn't have any visitors. I felt like a saint. I looked out of my window and saw a sign near the turning red and blue cross in the sky. MOTEL, it said. Bodies in there in more gentle attunement. Fucking. 7. A poor devil dressed in green came in and shaved my ass. Such terrible jobs in the world! There was one job I had missed. They slipped a showercap over my head and pushed me onto a roller. This was it. Surgery. The coward gliding down the halls past the dying. There was a man and a woman. They pushed me and smiled, they seemed very relaxed. They rolled me onto an elevator. There were four women on the elevator. "I'm going to surgery. Any of you ladies care to change places with me?" They drew up against the wall and refused to answer. In the operating room we awaited for the arrival of God. God finally entered: "Veil, veil, veil, dere isss mine friend!" I didn't even bother to answer such a lie. "Turn on der stomach, please." "Well," I said, "I guess it's too late to change my mind now." "Ya," said God, "you are now in our power!" I felt the strap go across my back. They spread my legs. The first spinal went in. It felt like he was spreading towels all around my asshole and across my back. Another spinal. A third. I kept giving them lip. The coward, the showman, whistling in the dark. "Put him to sleep, ya," he said. I felt a shot in the elbow, a stinger. No good. Too many drunks behind me. "Anybody got a cigar?" I asked. Somebody laughed. I was getting corny. Bad form. I decided to be quiet. I could feel the knife tugging at my ass. There wasn't any pain. "Now dis," I heard him say, "dis iss the main obstruction, see? und here . . ." 8. The recovery room was dull. There were some fine-looking women walking around but they ignored me. I got up on my elbow and looked around. Bodies everywhere. Very very white and still. Real operations. Lungers. Heart cases. Everything. I felt somewhat the amateur and somewhat ashamed. I was glad when they wheeled me out of there. My three roomies really stared when they rolled me in. Bad form. I rolled off the thing onto the bed. I found that my legs were still numb and that I had no control over them. I decided to go to sleep. The whole place was depressing. When I woke up my ass was really hurting. But legs still dull. I reached down for my cock and it felt as if it wasn't there. I mean, there wasn't any feeling. Except I wanted to piss and I couldn't piss. It was horrible and I tried to forget it. One of my ex-loves came by and sat there looking at me. I had told her I was going in. Quite what for, I don't know. "Hi! How you doin'?" "Fine, only I can't piss." She smiled. We talked a little about something and then she left. 9. It was like in the movies: all the male nurses seemed to be homosexual. One seemed more manly than the others. "Hey, buddy!" He came over. "I can't piss. I want to piss but I can't." "I'll be right back. I'll fix you up." I waited quite a while. Then he came back, pulled the curtain around my bed and sat down. Jesus, I thought, what's he gonna do? Gimme a head-job? But I looked and he seemed to have some kind of machine with him. I watched as he took a hollow needle and ran it down the piss-hole of my cock. The feeling that I thought was gone from my cock was suddenly back. "Shit o baby!" I hissed. "Not the most pleasant thing in the world, is it?" "Indeed, indeed. I tend to agree. Weeowee! Shit and jesus!" "Soon be over." He pressed against my bladder. I could see the little square fish-bowl filling with piss. This was one of the parts they left out of the movies. "God o mighty, pal, mercy! Let's call it a good night's work." "Just a moment. Now." He drew the needle out. Out the window my blue and red cross turned, turned. Christ hung on the wall with a piece of dried palm stuck at his feet. No wonder men turned to gods. It was pretty hard to take it straight. "Thanks," I told the nurse. "Any time, any time." He pulled the curtain back and left with his machine. My yellow piss-bird punched his button. "Where's that nurse? 0 why o why doesn't that nurse come?" He pushed it again. "Is my button working? Is something wrong with my button?" The nurse came in. "My back hurts! 0, my back hurts terrible! Nobody has come to visit me! I guess you fellows noticed that! Nobody has come to see me! Not even my wife! Where's my wife? Nurse, raise my bed, my back hurts! THERE! Higher! No, no, my god, you've got it too high! Lower, lower! There. Stop! Where's my dinner? I haven't had dinner! Look . . ." The nurse walked out. I keep wondering about the little pissmachine. I'll probably have to buy one, carry it around all my life. Duck into alleys, behind trees, in the back seat of my car. The Oakie in bed one hadn't said much. "It's my foot," he suddenly said to the walls, "I can't understand it, my foot just got all swelled-up overnight and it won't go down. It hurts, it hurts." The whitehaired guy in the corner pushed his button. "Nurse," he said, "nurse, how about hustling me up a pot of coffee?" Really, I though, my main problem is to keep from going insane. 10. The next day old whitehair (the movie cameraman) brought his coffee down and sat in a chair by my bed. "I can't stand that son of a bitch." He was speaking of the yellow piss-bird. Well, there was nothing to do with whitehair but talk to him. I told him that drink had brought me pretty much to my present station in life. For kicks I told him some of my wilder drunks and some of the crazy things that had happened. He had some good ones himself. "In the old days," he told me, "they used to have the big red cars that ran between Glendale and Long Beach, I believe it was. They ran all day and most of the night except for an interval of an hour and a half, I think between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m.. Well, I went drinking one night and met a buddy at the bar and after the bar closed we went to his place and finished something he had left there. I left his place and kinda got lost. I turned up a deadend street but I didn't know it was deadend. I kept driving and I was driving pretty fast. I kept going until I hit the railroad tracks. When I hit the tracks my steering wheel came up and hit me on the chin and knocked me out. There I was across those tracks in my car K.O.'d. Only I was lucky because it was in the hour and a half that no trains were running. I don't know how long I sat there. But the train horn woke me up. I woke up and saw this train coming down the tracks at me. I just had time to start the car and back off. The train tore on by. I drove the car home, the front wheels all bent under and wobbling." "That's tight." "Another time I am sitting in the bar. Right across the way is a place where the railroadmen ate. The train stopped and the men got out to eat. I am sitting next to some guy in this bar. He turns to me and he says, 'I used to drive one of those things and I can drive one again. Come on and watch me start it.' I walked out with him and we climbed into the engine. Sure enough, he started the thing. We got up good speed. Then I started thinking, what the hell am I doing? I told the guy, 'I don't know about you but I'm getting off!' I knew enough about trains to know where the brake was. I yanked the brake and before the train even stopped I went out the side. He went out the other side and I never saw him again. Pretty soon there is a big crowd around the train, policemen, train investigators, yard dicks, reporters, onlookers. I am standing off to one side with the rest of the crowd, watching. 'Come on, let's go up and find out what's going on!" somebody next to me said. 'Nah, hell,' I said, 'it's just a train.' I was scared that maybe somebody had seen me. The next day there was a story in the papers. The headline said, TRAIN GOES TO PACOIMA BY ITSELF. I cut out the story and saved it. I saved that clipping for ten years. My wife used to see it. 'What the hell you saving this story for? -- TRAIN GOES TO PACOIMA BY ITSELF.' I never told her. I was still scared. You're the first one I ever told the story to." "Don't worry," I told him, "not a single soul will ever hear that story again." Then my ass really began to kick up and whitehair suggested I ask for a shot. I did. The nurse gave me one in the hip. She left the curtain pulled when she left but whitehair continued to sit there. In fact, he had a visitor. A visitor with a voice that carried clear down through my fucked-up bowels. He really sent it out. "I'm going to move all the ships around the neck of the bay. We'll shoot it right there. We're paying a captain of one of those boats $890 a month and he has two boys under him. We've got this fleet right there. Let's put it to use, I think. The public's ready for a good sea story. They haven't had a good sea story since Errol Flynn." "Yeah," said whitehair, "those things run in cycles. The public's ready now. They need a good sea story." "Sure, there are lots of kids who have never seen a sea story. And speaking of kids, that's all I'm gonna use. I'll run 'em all over the boats. The only old people we'll use will be for the leads. We just move these ships around the bay and shoot right there. Two of the ships need masts, that's all that's wrong with them. We hand them masts and then we begin." "The public is sure ready for a sea story. It's a cycle and the cycle is due." "They are worried about the budget. Hell, it won't cost a thing. Why -- " I pulled the curtain back and spoke to whitehair. "Look, you might think me a bastard, but you guys are right against my bed. Can't you take your friend over to your bed?" "Sure, sure!" The producer stood up. "Hell, I'm sorry. I didn't know . . ." He was fat and sordid; content, happy, sickening. "O.k.," I said. They moved up to whitehair's bed and continued to talk about the sea story. All the dying on the eighth floor of the Queen of Angels Hospital could hear the sea story. The producer finally left. Whitehair looked over at me. "That's the world's greatest producer. He's produced more great pictures than any man alive. That was John F." "John F.," said the piss-bird, "yeah, he's made some great pictures, great pictures!" I tried to go to sleep. It was hard to sleep at night because they all snored. At once. Whitehair was the loudest. In the morning he always woke me up to complain that he hadn't slept. That night the yellow piss-bird hollered all night. First because he couldn't shit. Unplug me, my god, I gotta crap! Or he hurt. Or where was his doctor? He kept having different doctors. One couldn't stand him and another would take over. They couldn't find anything wrong with him. There wasn't: he wanted his mother but his mother was dead. 11. I finally got them to move me to a semi-private ward. But it was a worse move. His name was Herb and like the male nurse told me, "He's not sick. There isn't anything wrong with him at all." He had on a silk robe, shaved twice a day, had a T.V. set which he never turned off, and visitors all the time. He was head of a fairly large business and had gone the formula of having his grey hair short-cropped to indicate youth, efficiency, intelligence, and brutality. The T.V. turned out to be far worse than I could have imagined. I had never owned a T.V. and so was unaccustomed to its fare. The auto races were all right, I could stand the auto races, although they were very dull. But there was some type of Marathon on for some Cause or another and they were collecting money. They started early in the morning and went right on through. Little numbers were posted indicating how much money had been collected. There was somebody in a cook's hat. I don't know what the hell he meant. And there was a terrible old woman with a face like a frog. She was terribly ugly. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe these people didn't know how ugly and naked and meaty and disgusting their faces looked -- like rapes of everything decent. And yet they just walked up and calmly put their faces on the screen and spoke to each other and laughed about something. The jokes were very hard to laugh at but they didn't seem to have any trouble. Those faces, those faces! Herb didn't say anything about it. He just kept looking as if he were interested. I didn't know the names of the people but they were all stars of some sort. They'd announce a name and then everybody would get excited -- except me. I couldn't understand it. I got a little sick. I wished I were back in the other room. Meanwhile, I was trying to have my first bowel movement. Nothing happened. A swath of blood. It was Saturday night. The priest came by. "Would you care for Communion tomorrow?" he asked. "No, thank you, Father, I'm not a very good Catholic. I haven't been to church in 20 years." "Were you baptized a Catholic?" "Yes." "Then you're still a Catholic. You're just a bum Catholic." Just like in the movies -- he talks turkey, just like Cagney, or was it Pat O'Brien who sported the white collar? All my movies were dated: the last movie I had seen was The Lost Weekend. He gave me a little booklet. "Read this." He left. PRAYER BOOK, it said. Compiled for use in hospitals and institutions. I read. O Eternal and ever-blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with all the angels and saints, I adore you. My Queen and my Mother, I give myself entirely to you; and to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without reserve. Agonizing Heart of Jesus, have mercy on the dying. O my Cod, prostrate on my knees, I adore you... Join me, you blessed Spirits, in thanking the God of Mercies, who is so bountiful to so unworthy a creature. It was my sins, dear Jesus, that caused your bitter anguish . . . my sins that scourged you, and crowned you with thorns, and nailed you to the cross. I confess that I deserve only punishment. I got up and tried to shit. It had been three days. Nothing. Only a swath of blood again and the cuts in my rectum ripping open. Herb had on a comedy show. "The Batman is coming onto the program tonight. I wanna see the Batman!" "Yeah?" I crawled back into bed. I am especially sorry for my sins of impatience and anger, my sins of discouragement and rebellion. The Batman showed up. Everybody on the program seemed excited. "It's the Batman!" said Herb. "Good," I said, "the Batman." Sweet Heart of Mary, be my savior. "He can sing! Look, he can sing!" The Batman had removed his Batsuit and was dressed in a street-suit. He was a very ordinary looking young man with a somewhat blank face. He sang. The song lasted and lasted and the Batman seemed very proud of his singing, for some reason. "He can sing!" said Herb. My good Cod, what am I and who are you, that I should dare approach you? I am only a poor, wretched, sinful creature, totally unworthy to appear before you. I turned my back on the T.V. set and tried to sleep. Herb had it on very loud. I had some cotton which I stuck into my ears but it helped very little. I'll never shit, I thought, I'll never shit again, not with that thing on. It's got my guts tightened, tightened . . . I'm gonna go nuts for sure this time! O Lord, my Cod, from this day I accept from your hand willingly and with submission, the kind of death that it may please you to send me, with all its sorrows, pains, and anguish. (Plenary indulgence once daily, under the usual conditions.) Finally, at 1:30 a.m. I could submit no longer. I had been listening since 7 a.m. My shit was blocked for Eternity. I felt that I had paid for the Cross in those eighteen and one-half hours. I managed to turn around. "Herb! For Christ's sake, man! I'm about to have it! I'm about to go off my screw! Herb! MERCY! I CAN'T STAND T.V.! I CAN'T STAND THE HUMAN RACE! Herb! Herb!" He was asleep, sitting up. "You dirty cunt-lapper," I said. "Whatza? whatz??" "WHY DON'T YOU TURN THAT THING OFF?" "Turn .. . off? ah, sure, sure ... whyn't ya say so, kid?" 12. Herb snored too. He also talked in his sleep. I went to sleep about 3:30 a.m. At 4:15 a.m. I was awakened by something that sounded like a table being dragged down the hall. Suddenly the lights went on and a big colored woman was standing over me with a clipboard. Christ, she was an ugly and stupid looking wench, Martin Luther King and racial equality be damned! She could have easily beat the shit out of me. Maybe that would be a good idea? Maybe it was Last Rites? Maybe I was finished? "Look baby," I said, "ya mind telling me what's going on? Is this the fucking end?" "Are you Henry Chinaski?" "I'm afraid so." "You're down for Communion." "No, wait! He got his signals crossed. I told him. No Communion." "Oh," she said. She pulled the curtains back and turned off the lights. I could hear the table or whatever it was going further down the hall. The Pope was going to be very unhappy with me. The table made a hell of a racket. I could hear the sick and the dying waking up, coughing, asking questions to the air, ringing for the nurses. "What was that, kid?" Herb asked. "What was what?" "All that noise and lights?" "That was the Dark Tough Angel of the Batman making ready The Body of Christ." "What?" "Go to sleep." 13. My doctor came the next morning and peered up my ass and told me I could go home. "But, my boy, you do not go horseback riding, ya?" "Ya. But how about some hot pussy?" "Vot?" "Sexual intercourse." "Oh, nein, nein! It vill be six to eight weeks before you vill be able to resume anything normal." He moved on out and I began to dress. The T.V. didn't bother me. Somebody on the screen said, "I wonder if my spaghetti is done?" He stuck his face into the pot and when he looked up, all the spaghetti was stuck to his face. Herb laughed. I shook hands with him. "So long baby," I said. "It's been nice," he said. "Yeah," I said. I was ready to leave when it happened. I ran to the can. Blood and shit. Shit and blood. It was painful enough to make me talk to the walls. "Ooo, mama, you dirty fuck bastards, oh shit shit, o you come-crazy freaks, o you shit-mauling cocksucker heavens, lay off! Shit, shit shit, YOW!" Finally it stopped. I cleaned myself, put on a gauze bandage, pulled up my pants and walked over to my bed, picked up my traveling bag. "So long. Herb, baby." "So long, kid." You guessed it. I ran in there again. "You dirty mother-humpin' cat-fuckers' Oooooo, shitshitshit-SHIT!" I came out and sat awhile. There was a smaller movement and then I felt that I was ready. I went downstairs and signed a fortune in bills. I couldn't read anything. They called me a taxi and I stood outside the ambulance entrance waiting. I had my little sitz bath with me. A dishpan you shit in after you filled it with hot water. There were three Oakies standing outside, two men and a woman. Their voices were loud and Southern and they had the look and feel that nothing had ever happened to them -- not even a toothache. My ass began to leap and twinge. I tried to sit down but that was a mistake. They had a little boy with them. He ran up and tried to grab my dishpan. He tugged. "No, you bastard, no," I hissed at him. He almost got it. He was stronger than I was but I kept hold- ing on. O Jesus, I commend to you my parents, relatives, benefactors, teachers, and friends. Reward them in a very special way for all the care and sorrow I have caused them. "You little jerkoff! Unhand my shitpot!" I told him. "Donny! You leave that man alone!" the woman hollered at him. Donny ran on. One of the men looked at me. "Hi!" he said. "Hi," I answered. That cab looked good. "Chinaski?" "Yeah. Let's go." I got in front with my shitpot. I kind of sat on one cheek. I gave him directions. Then, "Listen, if I holler pull behind a signboard, a gas station, anywhere. But stop driving. I might have to shit." "O.k." We drove along. The streets looked good. It was noontime. I was still alive. "Listen," I asked him, "where's a good whorehouse? Where can I pick up a good clean cheap piece of ass?" "I don't know anything about that stuff." "COME ON! COME ON!" I hollered at him. "Do I look like the fuzz? Do I look like a fink? You can level with me. Ace!" "No, I'm not kidding. I don't know about that stuff. I drive daylight. Maybe a night cabbie might line you up." "O.k., I believe you. Turn here." The old shack looked good sitting down there between all the highrise apartments. My '57 Plymouth was covered with birdshit and the tires were half-flat. All I wanted was a hot bath. A hot bath. Hot water against my poor asshole. Quiet. The old Racing Forms. The gas and light bills. The letters from lonely women too far away to fuck. Water. Hot water. Quiet. And myself spreading through the walls, returning to the manhole of my goddamned soul. I gave him a good tip and walked slowly up the driveway. The door was open. Wide. Somebody was hammering on something. The sheets were off the bed. My god, I had been raided! I had been evicted! I walked in. "HEY!" I hollered. The landlord walked into the front room. "Geez, we didn't expect you back so soon! The hot water tank was leaking and we had to rip it out. We're gonna put in a new one." "You mean, no hot water?" "No, no hot water." O good Jesus, I accept willingly this trial which it has pleased you to lay upon me. His wife walked in. "Oh, I was just gonna make your bed." "All right. Fine." "He should get the watertank hooked up today. We might be short of parts. It's hard to get parts on Sunday." "O.k., I'll make the bed," I said. "I'll get it for you." "No, please, I'll get it." I went into the bedroom and began making the bed. Then it came. I ran to the can. I could hear him hammering on the water-tank as I sat down. I was glad he was hammering. I gave a quiet speech. Then I went to bed. I heard the couple in the next court. He was drunk. They were arguing. "The trouble with you is that you have no conceptions at all! You don't know nothing! You're stupid! And on top of that, you're a whore!" I was home again. It was great. I rolled over on my belly. In Vietnam the armies were at it. In the alleys the bums sucked on wine bottles. The sun was still up. The sun came through the curtains. I saw a spider crawling along the windowledge. I saw an old newspaper on the floor. There was a photo of three young girls jumping a fence showing plenty of leg. The whole place looked like me and smelled like me. The wallpaper knew me. It was perfect. I "was conscious of my feet and my elbows and my hair. I did not feel 45 years old. I felt like a goddamned monk who had just had a revelation. I felt as if I were in love with something that was very good but I was not sure what it was except that it was there. I listened to all the sounds, the sounds of motorcycles and cars. I heard dogs barking. People and laughing. Then I slept. I slept and I slept and I slept. While a plant looked through my window, while a plant looked at me. The sun went on working and the spider crawled around. 1. I remember jacking-off in the closet after putting on my mother's high- heels and looking at my legs in the mirror, slowly drawing a cloth up over my legs, higher and higher as if peeking up the legs of a woman, and being interrupted by two friends coming into the house -- "I know he's in here somewhere." My self putting on clothes and then one of them opening the closet door and finding me. "You son of a bitch!" I screamed and chased them both out of the house and heard them talking as they walked away: "What's wrong with him? What the hell's wrong with him?" 2. K. was an ex-showgirl and she used to show me the clippings and photos. She'd almost won a Miss America contest. I met her in an Alvarado St. bar, which is about as close to getting to skid row as you can get. She had put on weight and age but there was still some sign of a figure, some class, but just a hint and little more. We'd both had it. Neither of us worked and how we made it I'll never know. Cigarettes, wine and a landlady who believed our stories about money coming up but none right now. Mostly we had to have wine. We slept most of the day but when it began to get dark we had to get up, we felt like getting up: K: "Shit, I c'd stand a drink." I'd still be on the bed smoking the last cigarette. Me: "Well, hell, go down to Tony's and get us a couple of ports." K: "Fifths?" Me: "Sure, fifths. And no Gallo. And none of that other, that stuff gave me a headache for two weeks. And get two packs of smokes. Any kind." K: "But there's only 50 cents here!" Me: "7 know that! Cuff him for the rest; whatsamata, ya stupid?" K: "He says no more -- " Me: He says, he says -- who is this guy? God? Fast-talk him. Smile! Wiggle your can at him! Make his pecker rise! Take him in the back room if necessary, only get that WINE!" K: "All right, all right." Me: "And don't come back without it." K. said she loved me. She used to tie ribbons around my cock and then make a little paper hat for the head. If she came back without the wine or with only one bottle, then I'd go down like a madman and snarl and bitch and threaten the old man until he gave me what I wanted, and more. Sometimes I'd come back with sardines, bread, chips. It was a particularly good period and when Tony sold the business we started on the new owner who was harder to beard but who could be had. It brought out the best in us. 3. It was like a wood drill, it might have been a wood drill, I could smell the oil burning, and they'd stick that thing into my head into my flesh and it would drill and bring up blood and puss, and I'd sit there the monkey of my soul-string dangling over the edge of a cliff. I was covered with boils the size of small apples. It was ridiculous and unbelievable. Worst case I ever saw, said one of the docs, and he was old. They'd gather around me like some freak. I was a freak. I'm still a freak. I rode the streetcar back and forth to the charity ward. Children on streetcars would stare and ask their mothers, "What's wrong with that man? Mother, what's wrong with that man's face?" And the mother would SHUUSSSHHH!!! That shuussshhh was the worst condemnation, and then they'd continue to let the little bastards and bastardesses stare from over the backs of their seats and I'd look out the window and watch the buildings go by, and I'd be drowning, slugged and drowning, nothing to do. The doctors for lack of anything else called it Acne Vulgaris. I'd sit for hours on a wooden bench while waiting for my wood drill. What a pity story, eh? I remember the old brick buildings, the easy and rested nurses, the doctors laughing, having it made. It was there that I learned of the fallacy of hospitals -- that the doctors were kings and the patients were shit and the hospitals were there so the doctors could make it in their starched white superiority, they could make it with the nurses too: -- Dr. Dr. Dr. pinch my ass in the elevator, forget the stink of cancer, forget the stink of life. We are not the poor fools, we will never die; we drink our carrot juice, and when we feel bad we can take a pop, a needle, all the dope we need. Cheep, cheep, cheep, life will sing for us, Big-Time us. I'd go in and sit down and they'd put the drill into me. ZIRRRR ZIRRRR ZIRRRR, ZIR, the sun meanwhile raising dahlias and oranges and shining through nurses' dresses driving the poor freaks mad. Zirrrrrrr, zirrr, zirr. "Never saw anybody go under the needle like that!" "Look at him, cold as steel!" Again a gathering of nurse-fuckers, a gathering of men who owned big homes and had time to laugh and to read and go to plays and buy paintings and forget how to think, forget how to feel anything. White starch and my defeat. The gathering. "How do you feel?" "Wonderful." "Don't you find the needle painful?" "Fuck you." "What?" "I said -- fuck you." "He's just a boy. He's bitter. Can't blame him. How old are you?" "Fourteen." "I was only praising you for your courage, the way you took the needle. You're tough." "Fuck you." "You can't talk to me that way." "Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you." "You ought to bear up better. Supposing you were blind?" "Then I wouldn't have to look at your goddamned face." "The kid's crazy." "Sure he is, leave him alone." That was some hospital and I never realized that 20 years later I'd be back, again in the charity ward. Hospitals and jails and whores: these are the universities of life. I've got several degrees. Call me Mr. 4. I was shacked with another one. We were on the 2nd floor of a court and I was working. That's what almost killed me, drinking all night and working all day. I kept throwing a bottle through the same window. I used to take that window down to a glass place at the corner and get it fixed, get a pane of glass put in. Once a week I did this. The man looked at me very strangely but he always took my money which looked all right to him. I'd been drinking heavily, steadily for 15 years, and one morning I woke up and there it was: blood streaming out of my mouth and ass. Black turds. Blood, blood, waterfalls of blood. Blood stinks worse than shit. She called a doctor and the ambulance came after me. The attendants said I was too big to carry down the steps and asked me to walk down. "O.k., men," I said. "Glad to oblige -- don't want you to work too hard." Outside I got onto the stretcher; they opened it for me and I climbed on like a wilted flower. One hell of a flower. The neighbors had their heads out the windows, they stood on their steps as I went by. They saw me drunk most of the time. "Look, Mabel," one of them said, "there goes that horrible man!" "God have mercy on his soul!" the answer came. Good old Mabel. I let go a mouthful of red over the edge of the stretcher and somebody went OOOOOhhh-hhhooooh. Even though I was working I didn't have any money so it was back to the charity ward. The ambulance was packed. They had shelves in the ambulance and everybody was everywhere. "Full house," said the driver, "let's go." It was a bad ride. We swayed, we tilted. I made every effort to hold the blood in as I didn't want to get anybody stinking. "Oh," I heard a Negro woman's voice, "I can't believe this is happening to me, I can't believe it, oh God help me!" God gets pretty popular in places like that. They put me in a dark basement and somebody gave me something in a glass of water and that was that. Every now and then I would vomit some blood into the bedpan. There were four or five of us down there. One of the men was drunk -- and insane -- but he seemed strong. He got off his cot and wandered around, stumbled around, falling across the other men, knocking things over, "Wa wa was, I am wawa the joba, I am juba I am jumma jubba wasta, I am juba." I grabbed the water pitcher to hit him with but he never came near me. He finally fell down in a corner and passed out. I was in the basement all night and until noon the next day. Then they moved me upstairs. The ward was overloaded. They put me in a dark corner. "Ooh, he's gonna die in that dark corner," one of the nurses said. "Yeah," said the other one. I got up one night and couldn't make it to the can. I heaved blood all over the middle of the floor. I fell down and was too weak to get up. I called for a nurse but the doors to the ward were covered with tin and three to six inches thick and they couldn't hear. A nurse came by about once every two hours to check for corpses. They rolled a lot of dead out at night. I couldn't sleep and used to watch them. Slip a guy off the bed and pull him onto the roller and pull the sheet over his head. Those rollers were well- oiled. I hollered, "Nurse!" not knowing especially why. "Shut up!" one of the old men told me, "we want to sleep." I passed out. When I came to all the lights were on. Two nurses were trying to pick me up. "I told you not to get out of bed," one of them said. I couldn't talk. Drums were in my head. I felt hollowed out. It seemed as if I could hear everything, but I couldn't see, only flares of light, it seemed. But no panic, fear; only a sense of waiting, waiting for anything and not caring. "You're too big," one of them said, "get in this chair." They put me in the chair and slid me along the floor. I didn't feel like more than six pounds. Then they were around me: people. I remember a doctor in a green gown, an operating gown. He seemed angry. He was talking to the head nurse. "Why hasn't this man had a transfusion? He's down to ... c.c.'s." "His papers passed through downstairs while I was upstairs and then they were filed before I saw them. And, besides Doctor, he doesn't have any blood credit." "I want some blood up here and I want it up here NOW!" "Who the hell is this guy," I thought, "very odd. Very strange for a doctor." They started the transfusions -- nine pints of blood and eight of glucose. A nurse tried to feed me roast beef with potatoes and peas and carrots for my first meal. She put the tray before me. "Hell, I can't eat this," I told her, "this would kill me!" "Eat it," she said, "it's on your list, it's on your diet." "Bring me some milk," I said. "You eat that," she said, and walked away. I left it there. Five minutes later she came running into the ward. "Don't EAT THAT!" she screamed, "you can't HAVE THAT!! There's been a mistake on the list!" She carried it away and came back with a glass of milk. As soon as the first bottle of blood emptied into me they sat me up on a roller and took me down to the x-ray room. The doctor told me to stand up. I kept falling over backwards. "GOD DAMN IT," he screamed, "YOU MADE ME RUIN ANOTHER FILM! NOW STAND THERE AND DON'T FALL DOWN!" I tried but I couldn't stand up. I fell over backwards. "Oh shit," he said to the nurse, "take him away." Easter Sunday the Salvation Army band played right under our window at 5 a.m. They played horrible religious music, played it badly and loudly, and it swamped me, ran through me, almost murdered me. I felt as close to death that morning as I have ever felt. It was an inch away, a hair away. Finally they left for another part of the grounds and I began to climb back toward life. I would say that that morning they probably killed a half dozen captives with their music. Then my father showed with my whore. She was drunk and I knew he had given her money for drink and deliberately brought her before me drunk in order to make me unhappy. The old man and I were enemies of long standing -- everything I believed in he disbelieved and the other way around. She swayed over my bed, red-faced and drunk. "Why did you bring her like that?" I asked. "Why didn't you wait until another day?" "I told you she was no good! I always told you she was no good!" "You got her drunk and then brought her here. Why do you keep knifing me?" "I told you she was no good, I told you, I told you!" "You son of a bitch, one more word out of you and I'm going to take this needle out of my arm and get up and whip the shit out of you!" He took her by the arm and they left. I guess they had phoned them that I was going to die. I was continuing to hemorrhage. That night the priest came. "Father," I said, "no offense, but please, I'd like to die without any rites, without any words." I was surprised then because he swayed and rocked in disbelief; it was almost as if I had hit him. I say I was surprised because I thought those boys had more cool than that. But then, they wipe their asses too. "Father, talk to me," an old man said, "you can talk to me." The priest went over to the old man and everybody was happy. Thirteen days from the night I entered I was driving a truck and lifting packages weighing up to 50 pounds. A week later I had my first drink -- the one they said would kill me. I guess someday I'll die in that goddamned charity ward. I just can't seem to get away. 5. My luck was down again and I was too nervous at this time from excessive wine-drinking; wild-eyed, weak; too depressed to find my usual stop-gap, rest-up job as shipping clerk or stock boy, so I went down to the meat packing plant and walked into the office. "Haven't I seen you before?" the man asked. "No," I lied. I'd been there two or three years before, gone through all the paper work, the medical and so forth, and they led me down steps four floors down and it had gotten colder and colder and the floors had been covered with a sheen of blood, green floors, green walls. He had explained the job to me -- which was to push a button and then from this hole in the wall there came a noise like the crushing of fullbacks or elephants falling, and here it came -- something dead, a lot of it, bloody, and he showed me, you take it and throw it on the truck and push the button and another one comes along. Then he walked away. When he did I took off my smock, my tin hat, my boots (issued three sizes too small) and walked up the stairway and out of there. Now I was back. "You look a little old for the job." "I want to toughen up. I need hard work, good hard work," I lied. "Can you handle it?" "I'm nothing but guts. I used to be in the ring, I've fought the best." "Oh, yes?" "Yeah." "Umm, I can see by your face. You must have been in some fierce ones." "Never mind my face. I had fast hands. Still have. I had to take some dives, had to make it look good." "I follow boxing. I don't recall your name." "I fought under another name. Kid Stardust," "Kid Stardust? I don't recall a Kid Stardust." "I fought in South America, Africa, Europe, the islands, I fought in the tank towns. That's why there're all these gaps in my employment record - - I don't like to put down boxer because people think I am kidding or lying. I just leave the blanks and to hell with it." "All right, show up for your med. at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow and we'll put you to work. You say you want hard work?" "Well, if you have something else . . ." "No, not right now. You know, you look close to 50 years old. I wonder if I'm doing the right thing? We don't like you people to waste our time." "I'm not people -- I'm Kid Stardust." "O.k., kid," he laughed, "we'll put you to WORK!" I didn't like the way he said it. Two days later I walked through the passgate into the wooden shack where I showed an old man my slip with my name on it: Henry Chinaski and he sent me on to the loading dock -- I was to see Thurman. I walked on over. There were a row of men sitting on a wooden bench and they looked at me as if I were a homosexual or a basket case. I looked at them with what I imagined to be easy disdain and drawled in my best backalley fashion: "Where's Thurman. I'm supposed to see th' guy." Somebody pointed. "Thurman?" "Yeah?" "I'm workin' for ya." "Yeah?" "Yeah." He looked at me. "Where's yor boots?" "Boots? Got none," I said. He reached under the bench and handed me a pair, an old hardened stiff pair. I put them on. Same old story: three sizes too small. My toes were crushed and bent under. Then he gave me a bloody smock and a tin helmet. I put them on. I stood there while he lit a cigarette, or as the English might say: while he lighted his cigarette. He threw away the match with a calm and manly flourish. "Come on." They were all Negroes and when I walked up they looked at me as if they were Black Muslims. I was over six feet but they were all taller, and if not taller then two or three times as wide. "Hank!" Thurman hollered. Hank, I thought. Hank, just like me. That's nice. I was already sweating under the tin helmet. "Put 'im to WORK!!" Jesus christ o jesus christ. What ever happened to the sweet and easy nights? Why doesn't this happen to Walter Winchell who believes in the American Way? Wasn't I one of the most brilliant students in Anthropology? What happened? Hank took me over and stood me in front of an empty truck a half block long that stood in the dock. "Wait here." Then several of the Black Muslims came running up with the wheel- barrows painted a scabby and lumpy white like whitewash mixed in with henshit. And each wheelbarrow was loaded with mounds of hams that floated in thin, watery blood. No, they didn't float in the blood, they sat in it, like lead, like cannonballs, like death. One of the boys jumped into the truck behind me and the other began throwing the hams at me and I caught them and threw them to the guy behind me who turned and threw the ham into the back of the truck. The hams came fast FAST and they were heavy and they got heavier. As soon as I threw one ham and turned, another was already on the way to me through the air. I knew that they were trying to break me. I was soon sweating sweating as if faucets had been turned on, and my back ached, my wrists ached, my arms hurt, everything hurt and I was down to the last impossible ounce of limp energy. I could barely see, barely summon myself to catch one more ham and throw it, one more ham and throw it. I was splashed in blood and kept getting the soft dead heavy flump in my hands, the ham giving a little like a woman's butt, and I'm too weak to talk and say, "hey, what the HELL'S the matter with you guys?" The hams are coming and I am spinning, nailed like a man on a cross under a tin helmet, and they keep running up barrows full of hams hams hams and at last they are all empty, and I stand there swaying and breathing the yellow electric light. It was night in hell. Well, I always liked night work. "Come on!" They took me into another room. Up in the air through a large entrance high in the far wall one half a steer, or it might have been a whole one, yes, they were whole steers, come to think of it, all four legs, and one of them came out of the hole on a hook, having just been murdered, and the steer stopped right over me, it hung right over me there on that hook. "They've just killed it," I thought, "they've killed the damn thing. How can they tell a man from a steer? How do they know that I am not a steer?" "ALL RIGHT -- SWING IT!" "Swing it?" "That's right -- DANCE WITH IT!" "What?" "O for christ's sake! George come here!" George got under the dead steer. He grabbed it. ONE. He ran forward. TWO. He ran backwards. THREE. He ran far forward. The steer was almost parallel to the ground. Somebody hit a button and he had it. He had it for the meat markets of the world. He had it for the gossiping cranky well- rested stupid housewives of the world at 2 o'clock in the afternoon in their housecoats, dragging at red-stained cigarettes and feeling almost nothing. They put me under the next steer. ONE. TWO. THREE. I had it. Its dead bones against my living bones, its dead flesh against my living flesh, and the bone and the weight cut in, I thought of a sexy cunt sitting across from me on a couch with her legs crossed high and me with a drink in my hand, slowly and surely talking my way toward and into the blank mind of her body, and Hank hollered, "HANG HER IN THE TRUCK!" I ran toward the truck. The shame of defeat taught me in American schoolyards as a boy told me that I must not drop the steer to the ground because this would prove that I was a coward and not a man and that I didn't therefore deserve much, just sneers and laughs, you had to be a winner in America, there wasn't any way out, you had to learn to fight for nothing, don't question, and besides if I dropped the steer I might have to pick it up, and I knew I could never pick it up. Besides it would get dirty. I didn't want it to get dirty, or rather -- they didn't want it to get dirty. I ran it into the truck. "HANG IT!" The hook which hung from the roof was dull as a man's thumb without a fingernail. You let the bottom of the steer slide back and went for the top, you poked the top part against the hook again and again but the hook would not go through. Mother ass!! It was all gristle and fat, tough, tough. "COME ON! COME ON!" I gave it my last reserve and the hook came through, it was a beautiful sight, a miracle, that hook coming through, that steer hanging there by itself completely off my shoulder, hanging for the housecoats and butchershop gossip. "MOVE ON!" A 285 pound Negro, insolent, sharp, cool, murderous, walked in, hung his meat with a snap, looked down at me. "We stays in line here!" "O.k., ace." I walked out in front of him. Another steer was waiting for me. Each time I loaded one I was sure that was the last one I could handle but I kept saying one more just one more then I quit. Fuck it. They were waiting for me to quit, I could see the eyes, the smiles when they thought I wasn't looking. I didn't want to give them victory. I went for another steer. The player. One last lunge of the big-time washed-up player. I went for the meat. Two hours I went on then somebody hollered, "BREAK." I had made it. A ten minute rest, some coffee, and they'd never make me quit. I walked out behind them toward a lunch wagon. I could see the steam rising in the night from the coffee; I could see the doughnuts and cigarettes and coffeecakes and sandwiches under the electric lights. "HEY, YOU!" It was Hank. Hank like me. "Yeah, Hank?" "Before you take your break, get in that truck and move it out and over to stall 18." It was the truck we had just loaded, the one a half block long. Stall 18 was across the yard. I managed to open the door and get up inside the cab. It had a soft leather seat and the seat felt so good that I knew if I didn't fight it I would soon be asleep. I wasn't a truck driver. I looked down and saw a half- dozen gear shifts, breaks, pedals and so forth. I turned the key and managed to start the engine. I played with pedals and gear shifts until the truck started to roll and then I drove it across the yard to stall 18, thinking all the while -- by the time I get back the lunch wagon will be gone. This was tragedy to me, real tragedy. I parked the truck, cut the engine and sat there a minute feeling the soft goodness of that leather seat. Then I opened the door and got out. I missed the step or whatever was supposed to be there and I fell to the ground in my bloody smock and christ tin helmet like a man shot. It didn't hurt, I didn't feel it. I got up just in time to see the lunch wagon driving off through the gate and down the street. I saw them walking back in toward the dock laughing and lighting cigarettes. I took off my boots, I took off my smock, I took off my tin helmet and walked to the shack at the yard entrance. I threw the smock, helmet and boots across the counter. The old man looked at me: "What? You quittin' this GOOD job?" "Tell 'em to mail me my check for two hours or tell 'em to stick it up their ass, I don't give a damn!" I walked out. I walked across the street to a Mexican bar and drank a beer and then got a bus to my place. The American school-yard had beat me again. 6. The next night I was sitting in a bar between a woman with a rag on her head and a woman without a rag on her head, and it was just another bar -- dull, imperfect, desperate, cruel, shitty, poor, and the small men's room reeked to make you heave, and you couldn't crap there, only piss, vomiting, turning your head away, looking for light, praying for the stomach to hold just one more night. I had been in there about three hours drinking and buying drinks for the one without the rag on her head. She didn't look bad: expensive shoes, good legs and tail; just on the edge of falling apart, but then that's when they look the sexiest -- to me. I bought another drink, two more drinks. "That's it," I told her, "I'm broke." "You're kidding." "No." "You got a place to stay?" "Two more days on the rent." "You working?" "No." "What do you do?" "Nothing." "I mean, how have you made it?" "I was a jockey's agent for a while. Had a good boy but they caught him carrying a battery into the starting gate twice. They barred him. Did a little boxing, gambling, even tried chicken farming -- used to sit up all night guarding them from the wild dogs in the hills, it was tough, and then one day I left a cigar burning in the pen and I burned up half of them plus all my good roosters. I tried panning gold in Northern California, I was a barker at the beach, I tried the market, I tried selling short -- nothing worked, I'm a failure." "Drink up, she said, and come with me." That "come with me" sounded good. I drank up and followed her out. We walked up the street and stopped in front of a liquor store. "Now you keep quiet," she said, "let me do the talking." We went in. She got some salami, eggs, bread, bacon, beer, hot mustard, pickles, two fifths of good whiskey, some Alka Seltzer and some mix. Cigarettes and cigars. "Charge it to Willie Hansen," she told the clerk. We walked outside with the stuff and she called a cab from the box at the corner. The cab showed and we climbed in back. "Who's Willie Hansen?" I asked. "Never mind," she said. Up at my place she helped me put the perishables in the refrigerator. Then she sat down on the couch and crossed those good legs and sat there kicking and twisting an ankle, looking down at her shoe, that spiked and beautiful shoe. I peeled the top off a fifth and stood there mixing two strong drinks. I was king again. That night in bed I stopped in the middle of it and looked down at her. "What's your name?" I asked. "What the hell difference does it make?" I laughed and went on ahead. The rent ran out and I put everything, which wasn't much, into my paper suitcase, and 30 minutes later we walked back around a wholesale fur shop, down a broken walk, and there was an old two story house. Pepper (that was her name, she finally gave me her name) rang the bell and told me -- "You stand back, just let him see me, and when the buzzer sounds I'll push the door open and you follow me in." Willie Hansen always peeked down the stairway to the halfway point where he had a mirror that showed him who was at the door and then he made up his mind whether to be home or not. He decided to be home. The buzzer rang and I followed Pepper on in, leaving my suitcase at the bottom of the steps. "Baby!" he met her at the top of the steps, "so good to see you!" He was pretty old and only had one arm. He put the arm around her and kissed her. Then he saw me. "Who's this guy?" "O, Willie, I want you to meet a friend of mine. This is The Kid." "Hi!" I said. He didn't answer me. "The Kid? He don't look like a kid." "Kid Lanny, he used to fight under the name Kid Lanny." "Kid Lancelot," I said. We went on up into the kitchen and Willie took out a bottle and poured some drinks. We sat at the table. "How do you like the curtains?" he asked me. "The girls made these curtains for me. The girls have a lot of talent." "I like the curtains," I told him. "My arm's getting stiff, I can hardly move my fingers, I think I'm going to die, the doctors can't figure what's wrong. The girls think I'm kidding, the girls laugh at me." "I believe you," I told him. We had a couple of more drinks. "I like you," said Willie, "you look like you been around, you look like you've got class. Most people don't have class. You've got class." "I don't know anything about class," I said, "but I've been around." We had some more drinks and went into the front room. Willie put on a sailing cap and sat down at an organ and he began playing the organ with his one arm. It was a very loud organ. There were quarters and dimes and halves and nickles and pennies all over the floor. I didn't ask questions. We sat there drinking and listening to the organ. I applauded lightly when he finished. "All the girls were up here the other night," he told me, "and then somebody hollered, RAID! and you should have seen them running, some of them naked and some of them in panties and bras, they all ran out and hid in the garage. It was funny as hell! I sat up here and they came drifting back one by one from the garage. It was sure funny!" "Who was the one who hollered RAID?" I asked. "I was," he said. Then he walked into his bedroom and took off his clothes and got into his bed. Pepper walked in and kissed him and talked to him as I walked around picking the coins up off the floor. When she came out she motioned to the bottom of the stairway. I went down for the suitcase and brought it up. 7. Everytime he put on that sailor's cap, that captain's cap, in the morning we knew we were going out on the yacht. He'd stand in front of the mirror adjusting it for proper angle and one of the girls would come running in to tell us: "We're going out on the yacht -- Willie's putting on his cap!" Like the first time. He came out with the cap on and we followed him down to the garage, not a word spoken. He had an old car, so old it had a rumble seat. The two or three girls got in front with Willie, sitting on laps, however they made it, they made it, and Pepper and I got in the nimble seat, and she said -- "He only goes out when he doesn't have a hangover, and when he's not drinking. The bastard doesn't want anybody else to drink either, so watch it!" "Hell, I need a drink." "We all need a drink," she said. She took a pint from her purse and unscrewed the cap. She handed the bottle to me. "Now wait until he checks us in the rearview mirror. Then the minute his eyes go back on the road take a slug." I tried it. It worked. Then it was Pepper's turn. By the time we reached San Pedro the bottle was empty. Pepper took out some gum and I lit a cigar and we climbed out. It was a fine looking yacht. It had two engines and Willie stood there showing me how to start the auxiliary motor in case anything went wrong. I stood there not listening, nodding. Some kind of crap about pulling a rope in order to start the thing. He showed me how to pull anchor, unmoor from dock, but I was only thinking about another drink, and then we pulled out, and he stood there in the cabin with his captain's cap on steering the thing, and all the girls got around him. "O, Willie, let me steer!" "Willie, let me steer!" I didn't want to steer. He named the boat after himself: THE WILLHAN. Terrible name. He should have called it THE FLOATING PUSSY. I followed Pepper down to the cabin and we found more to drink, plenty to drink. We stayed down there drinking. I heard him cut the engine and he came down the steps. "We're going back in," he said. "What for?" "Connie's gone into one of her moods. I'm afraid she'll jump overboard. She won't speak to me. She just sits there staring. She can't swim. I'm afraid she'll jump over." (Connie was the one with the rag around her head.) "Let her jump. I'll go get her out. I'll knock her out, I've still got my punch and then I'll pull her in. Don't worry about her." "No, we're going in. Besides, you people have been drinking!" He went upstairs. I poured some more drinks and lit a cigar. 8. When we hit dock Willie came down and said he'd be right back. He wasn't right back. He wasn't back for three days and three nights. He left all the girls there. He just drove off in his car. "He's mad," said one of the girls. "Yeah," said another. There was plenty of food and liquor there though, so we stayed and waited for Willie. There were four girls there including Pepper. It was cold down there no matter how much you drank, no matter how many blankets you got under. There was only one way to get warm. The girls made a joke of it -- "I'm NEXT!" one of them would holler. "I think I'm outa come," another would say. "You think YOU'RE outa come," I said, "how about ME?" They laughed. Finally I just couldn't make it anymore. I found I had my green dice on me and we got down on the floor and started a crap game. Everybody was drunk and the girls had all the money, I didn't have any money, but soon I had quite a bit of money. They didn't quite understand the game and I explained it to them as we went along and I changed the game as we went along to suit the circumstances. That's how Willie found us when he got back -- shooting craps and drunk, "I DON'T ALLOW GAMBLING ON THIS SHIP!" he screamed from the top of the steps. Connie climbed up the steps, put her arms around him and stuck her long tongue into his mouth, then grabbed his parts. He came down the steps smiling, poured a drink, poured drinks for us all and we sat there talking and laughing, and he talked about an opera he was writing for the organ. The Emperor of San Francisco. I promised him I'd write the words to the music and that night we drove back into town everybody drinking and feeling good. That first trip was almost a carbon of every trip. One night he died and we were all out in the street again, the girls and myself. Some sister back east got every dime and I went to work in a dog biscuit factory. 9. I'm living in someplace on Kingsley Street and working as a shipping clerk for a place that sold overhead light fixtures. It was a fairly calm time. I drank a lot of beer each night, often forgetting to eat. I bought a typewriter, an old second-hand Underwood with keys that stuck. I hadn't written anything for ten years. I got drunk on beer and began writing poetry. Pretty soon I had quite a backlog and didn't know what to do with it. I put the whole works into one envelope and mailed it to some new magazine in a small town in Texas. I figured that nobody would take the stuff but at least somebody might get mad, so it wouldn't be wasted entirely. I got a letter back, I got two letters back, long letters. They said I was a genius, they said I was startling, they said I was God. I read the letters over and over and got drunk and wrote a long letter back. I sent more poems. I wrote poems and letters every night, I was full of bullshit. The editoress, who was also a writer of sorts, began sending back photos of herself and she didn't look bad, not bad at all. The letters began getting personal. She said nobody would marry her. Her assistant editor, a young male, said he would marry her for half her inheritance but she said she didn't have any money, people only thought she had money. The assistant editor later did a stretch in a mental ward. "Nobody will marry me," she kept writing, "your poems will be featured in our next edition, an all- Chinaski edition, and nobody will ever marry me, nobody, you see I have a deform- ity, it's my neck, I was born this way. I'll never be married." I was very drunk one night. "Forget it," I wrote, "I will marry you. Forget about the neck. I am not so hot either. You with your neck and me with my lion-clawed face -- I can see us walking down the street together!" I mailed the thing and forgot all about it, drank another can of beer and went to sleep. The return mail brought a letter: "Oh, I'm so happy! Everybody looks at me and they say, 'Niki, what happened to you? You're RADIANT, bursting!!! What is it?' I won't tell them! Oh, Henry, I'M SO HAPPY!" She enclosed some photos, particularly ugly photos. I got scared. I went out and got a fifth of whiskey. I looked at the photos, I drank the whiskey. I got down on the rug: "O Lord or Jesus what have I done? What have I done? Well, I'll tell you what, Boys, I'm going to devote the rest of my life to making this poor woman happy! It will be hell but I am tough, and what's a better way to go than making somebody else happy?" I got up from the rug, not too sure about the last part. . . . A week later I was waiting in the bus station, I was drunk and waiting for the arrival of a bus from Texas. They called the bus over the loudspeaker and I got ready to die. I watched them coming through the doorway trying to match them up with the photographs. And then I saw a young blonde, 23, good legs, live walk, and an innocent and rather snobbish face, pert I'd guess you'd call her, and the neck was not bad at all. I was 35 then. I walked up to her. "Are you Niki?" "Yes." "I'm Chinaski. Let me have your suitcase." We walked out to the parking lot. "I've been waiting for three hours, nervous, jumpy, going through hell waiting. All I could do was to have some drinks in the bar." She put her hand on the hood of the car. "This engine's still hot. You bastard you just got here!" I laughed. "You're right." We got into the old car and made it on in. Soon we were mar- ried in Vegas, and it took what money I had for that and the bus fare back to Texas. I got on the bus with her and I had thirty-five cents left in my pocket. "I don't know if Poppa's gonna like what I did," she said. "0 Jesus o God," I prayed, "help me be strong, help me be brave!" She necked and squirmed and twisted all the way to that small Texas town. We arrived at 2:30 a.m. and as we got off the bus I thought I heard the bus driver say -- "Who's that bum you got there with you, Niki?" We stood in the street and I said, "What did that busdriver say? What'd he say to you?" I asked, rattling my thirty-five cents in my pocket. "He didn't say anything. Come on with me." She walked up the steps of a downtown building. "Hey, where the hell you going?" She put a key in the door and the door opened. I looked above the door and carved in the stone were the words: CITY HALL. We went on in. "I want to see if I received any mail." She went into her office and looked through a desk. "Damn it, no mail!! I'll bet that bitch stole my mail!" "What bitch? What bitch, baby?" "I have an enemy. Look, follow me." We went down the hall and she stopped in front of a doorway. She gave me a hairpin. "Here, see if you can pick this lock." I stood there trying. I saw the headlines: FAMED WRITER AND REFORMED PROSTITUTE FOUND BREAKING INTO MAYOR'S OFFICE! I couldn't pick the lock. We walked on down to her place, leaped into bed and went at what we had been working toward on the bus. I'd been there a couple of days when the doorbell rang about 9 a.m. one morning. We were in bed. "What the hell?" I asked. "Go get the bell," she said. I climbed into some clothes and went to the door. A midget was standing there, and every once in a while he shook all over, he had some type of malady. He had on a little chauffeur's cap. "Mr. Chinaski?" "Yeah?" "Mr. Dyer asked me to show you the lands." "Wait a minute." I went back on in. "Baby, there's a midget out there and he says a Mr. Dyer wants to show me the lands. He's a midget and he shakes all over. "Well, go with him. That's my father." "Who, the midget?" "No, Mr. Dyer." I put on my shoes and stockings and went out on the porch. "O.k., buddy," I said, "let's go." We drove all over town and out of town. "Mr. Dyer owns that," the midget would point, and I'd look, "and Mr. Dyer owns that," and I'd look. I didn't say anything. "All those farms," he said, "Mr. Dyer owns all those farms and he lets them work the land and they split it down the middle." The midget drove to a green forest. He pointed. "See the lake?" "Yeah." "There's seven lakes in there full of fish. See the turkey walking around?" "Yeah." "That's wild turkey. Mr. Dyer rents all that out to a fish and game club which runs it. Of course, Mr. Dyer and any of his friends can go anytime they want. Do you fish or shoot?" "I've done a lot of shooting in my time," I told him. We drove on. "Mr. Dyer went to school there." "Oh, yeah?" "Yup, right in that brick building. Now he's bought it and restored it as a kind of monument." "Amazing." We drove back in. "Thanks," I told him. "Do you want me to come back tomorrow morning? There's more to see." "No, thanks, it's all right." I walked back in. I was king again. . . And it's good to end it right there instead of telling you how I lost it, although it's something about a Turk who wore a purple stickpin in his tie and had fine manners and culture. I didn't have a chance. But the Turk wore off too and the last I heard she was in Alaska married to an Eskimo. She sent me a picture of her baby, and she said she was still writing and truly happy. I told her, "Hang tight, baby, it's a crazy world." And that, as they say, was that.

Популярность: 25, Last-modified: Tue, 22 May 2001 07:26:48 GMT