August 8, 2013
Almost every weekend I am set upon by young people to contribute to their cause. Swimming, scouts, cancer, summer camps, air cadets. Sometimes I say yes and sometimes I rush by. At times they look like the most bored beings on the planet.
SOMEWHERE IN THE DISTANCE A COCK CROWED TWICE
Luiza smiled, hand out, looking for some loose change. As the young couple entered the drug store. Those sliding doors. Passed the magazine stand, passed the hand creams and relief from heart burn, passed her and her friend Madeleine.
Luiza and Madeleine. Two Air Cadets, dressed in blue perky uniforms. Women flying over London, freshly pressed into service, their hair tied up in a bun, not hot crossed, like a bob, tuckled neatly under their caps, with small metal merit badges stapled to the sides, like they’d saved humanity. Cleaning up the neighbourhood, participation, is important. Just ask Adam and Eve.
Out to raise money. And awareness. There’s nothing a girl can’t do after a pat on the bum, and a legal tampon for the ides of March.
Blood red lipstick. Eyebrows plucked. Fresh pale foreheads. Fashionably young. Scare crow looks. Alanis Morissette in a turban.
The young couple had stared straight ahead, hands in their pockets, pretending that no one was there. Pretending not to see the Air Cadets, pretending to be preoccupied. What if there is a little Oscar on the way? Doctor’s bills. Hospital bills. All those paper. Diapers. Got to think about paying off that mortgage. Or those teeth. Capped.
“Cheap fuckers,” Luiza swore under her breath. Watching the couple disappear passed the nail polish removers. And pest control items.
“This sucks.” Madeleine stepped over to Luiza’s side of the door. “I knew this drugstore was a mistake. People aren’t in a generous mood when they enter a drugstore. They’re too busy thinking why they came. Too busy wheezing. Rubbing those corns. Aches in your back. That dripping nose. Bile in your stool. There is too much damn purpose. Oh, I wish we’d gone to the liquor store.”
“Why didn’t you say anything then?” Luiza asked.
“I didn’t want to get in any more shit with Cooper.” Luiza smiled. Holding it like it was her breath. As a middle-aged woman stepped up to them.
“You girls look just stunning in those uniforms,” she said and stepped into the drug store without dropping a coin in their box.
“Then why don’t you give us a fucking cuntribution,” Luiza muttered between clenched teeth. Luiza didn’t like swearing. In a drugstore. It was bad karma. She was sure nothing good could come of cursing in God’s house. And surely a drugstore was God’s house since people arrived hoping to buy something to relieve their distress. And wasn’t that the definition of the Supreme Being. The great solution. To pain. If not that then what?
“How’d you get in trouble with Cooper?” Madeleine asked. Taking a moment to check the cell phone that she kept inside the left breast of her Air Cadet vest.
“It was so lame,” Luiza responded. “Hardly worth telling.”
An elderly man stepped up to the girls. Bent over. Looking more like a question mark every day. He looked at each of them and smiled. His teeth were bright. Even if they weren’t his. Then he dropped a five dollar bill in Luiza’s box and walked off.
“Pervert!” Luiza said. She turned to Madeleine. “Did you see that?”
“After he dropped the bill in my box he grazed my breast with the back of his hand.”
“Shit!” Madeleine began to giggle. “Was it good for you?”
Luiza smirked. “I’ve had better.”
The girls giggled. A woman in a pink dress sashaying toward them, bobbing her head, listening to some Cab Calloway in her head phones, dropped some change in their boxes. Liked to hear that rattle, like a doctor to the patient with leukemia.
A couple of teenage boys stepped up to the girls and dropped a quarter in the box.
One of the boys elbowed the other in the ribs, to get his attention, to remind him of their wager.
“I will, man.” The boy unsure of what to do, undecided moment to moment, then turned to Luiza. “Do you girls date?”
Luiza looked at Madeleine and back at the boy. Grinned. Flattered.
“I guess,” she said.
The boy turned to his friend and cried. “I told you they were lesbos.”
The two boys bent over laughing. One slapped the other on the back. The other reached into his friend’s pocket and retrieved his wager.
“Morons.” Madeleine spat out. Took a turn. For the worse.
A middle-aged man wearing a Blue Jay hat. Fumbled a large bill into Luiza’s box. What a blunder. Too embarrassed to ask for it back. A young couple with a baby. Change in the girls’ box. Two nuns dressed as waitresses arguing over husbands placed an offering in their basket.
When there was a lull in the traffic, Madeleine turned to Luiza.
“So what happened that pissed off Cooper?”
Luiza turned to Madeleine. Made her promise not to repeat the tale to anyone else. Madeleine promised. Falsely.
“Well, you know how Cooper is always dressed so pristine.” Luiza began. Madeleine nodded. “Every little thing must be in its place. It’s like he’s obsessed with order and cleanliness.”
“Ya.” Madeleine nodded. For the second time.
“Well,” Luiza moved closer to Madeleine. “I asked him which side of his trousers he put it on.”
Madeleine looked at Luiza with a puzzled expression on her face. Somewhere in the distance a cock crowed twice.
“I was told,” Luiza leaned closer to Madeleine before continuing, “that when a man gets a suit tailored for him, the tailor cuts a little more material on one side of his trouser legs so that the guy has a place to comfortably put it.”
“By it you mean…”
Madeleine howled with laughter.
“And I said to him,” Luiza continued almost in tears, “Cooper, I think you put it on the wrong side.”
July 4, 2013
New novel. Thought I’d workshop it on the blog. Gives me a better feeling for it. I think its about a serial killer. Or a killer who eats cereal. (stupid joke or no joke at all.)
Chapter One: The Bench
I don’t know if this is the start of my story. Only know this is how I have to tell it. I have a bench on the sidewalk in front of Millers Restaurant. I liked to stand behind it. Sometimes I would sit but mostly I liked to stand there. There is an empty lot across the street with a makeshift snow fence around it. There is nothing on the lot except weeds, some stones, and a scattering of bricks from the building that stood there. It had been a grocery store for fifty years but had recently been torn down.
Occasionally a car, truck or bus would pass along Dundas Street but the scene was basically stark, the bare essentials. Which is the way I write. Which is the way I live. Which is the way I think. The bare essentials. Hopefully I will be able to pare everything down to two elements. Me and God. And then the real conversation would begin. If I could get out of the quick sand of my first page.
It’s a good place to think. To mull over ideas. That’s my madness. Everywhere I look I see patterns. Patterns are someone’s idea, someone’s creation. Order is recklessly rearranging the furniture around us. Giving birth in the ashes of death. Music and discord are the same notes. There is a certain chaotic frenzy in order. Order is my God. Patterns are His skin. I need a universe in which everything makes sense. What else is consciousness for? Why does God need us as witnesses? Why does God need us at all?
Things like that.
I took a seat on the bench.
“You look like a man whose been left behind.”
I looked up. A thin young man, well dressed with a swath of wispy blonde hair that fell over his eyes, took a seat on the bench beside me. I looked at him suspiciously. Creeped me out, to tell you the truth.
He smiled. “Supposed to be another hot one.”
He had an odd accent that I couldn’t place. American, I thought. Somewhere down south.
“Summer is going out with a bang,” I said.
The strange young man looked across the street at the empty lot.
“It was a grocery store,” I said anticipating his question.
“I was going to say that it looked peaceful in a odd way.”
“You’re from out of town,” I said, stating the obvious.
“A strange place for a tourist,” I said. “Not many people are attracted to the sights of the Six Points.”
“In town on business. Thought I’d go for a walk. Get a lay of the land.”
“What do you do for a living?”
He turned to me. “I’m a hired assassin.”
My mouth dropped.
He laughed. “You’ll have to forgive my sense of humour. I’m a professional photographer. Magazines. Fashion mostly. Looking for shooting locations. And new talent. How do you turn a dollar?”
I hesitated for a minute. “Work at Shopper’s. Wanna be a writer.”
The young man nodded. “Write anything I would know?”
I shook my head.
“What do you write?”
“Murder mysteries,” I replied.
He laughed. “That’s certainly a popular genre these days. Murder mysteries all over the newsstands. Cheap novels written to scare the pants off middle-aged women. What do you figure is the attraction?”
I shook my head.
The stranger smiled. “I think everyone wants to be murdered. And survive to talk about it.”
June 22, 2013
A small episode from my novel SNOW. You can download it or have a look. Its free. A bargain at twice the price.
SNOW is part of a series of novels involving an aging police officer in the suburbs of Toronto. In this novel weather plays a key role in the novel. In the previous novels The Hole and H&R (HER) a bottomless well and a asteroid play key roles. There are a couple of short books that have evolved from this. One is about serial killer. But I haven’t gotten my head around that one yet.
25. Brothers and Partners
“Did you notice the Chrysler following us?” Michael said as he laid his clothes carefully out in the dresser drawer.
David was playing with the television. He slammed the top of the set with the palm of his hand. “Cable is out! Must be this fucking storm.What Chrysler?”
“The one that was sitting on our ass all the way here.”
“Who would be following us? And what was all that Irish accent stuff in that bar? I felt ridiculous talking like a Mic. And Sean. What kind of name is that?”
“It’s all I could think of at the time,” Michael responded, continuing to lay his clothes in precise rows. “Why’d you call me Michael? The idea was that we wouldn’t use our real names, brother.”
“Well, you could have told me that before we walked into that dump.” David kept pushing the buttons on the remote. “If we have a plan, tell me the fucking plan. And that bar! Zig Zag? What kind of fucking name is that? And the smug look on that bartender’s face. I’d like to wrap his grin around my fist.” David threw the remote against the wall. It smashed into pieces.
Michael turned and looked at the pieces of the remote on the floor. He grinned.
“Fuck!” David roared. “Are we going to be locked up in here all evening with nothing to do? I hate being bored. I don’t know why we couldn’t have stayed downtown where there’s a little action. Out here in the sticks! God! We should have brought that girl back from the Zig Zag. She looked like she was up for a party.”
“She’s old enough to be our mom,” Michael responded.
David got up from in front of the television and walked over to the window. He parted the Venetian blinds and stared out into the snow at the car parked across the street.
“And this weather! I thought we left this shit behind in Russia. Your Chrysler is sitting across the street.”
“What’s he doing?”
David pressed closer to the window. “Nothing. Maybe I should go out and ask him what he wants.”
Michael picked up several pairs of dark blue socks and placed them like napkins in the top drawer. “What if it’s a cop?”
“Why would it be a cop?”
“Why would it be anyone else?” Michael responded. “Right now the cops have nothing on us. Let the fuckers stay out there all night and freeze their balls off.”
“I don’t care if it is the cops, I don’t like to be watched. Never liked it. This is the New World.”
“Stay focused, brother. We’ve got other fish to fry. We’ll check out the other motels on the airport strip. This Lombardo guy has got to be hiding somewhere.”
“You think he’ll be signed in under his own name, Michael?”
“No. But what else can we do? Let’s check around and see if there are any games. Guys like Lombardo are addicted to gambling. Someone must have seen him.”
David looked back from the window. “What are we gong to do about Mazudo?”
“I told you not to play with that cocksucker,” Michael responded.
David returned to the other bed and opened his bag, dumping his clothes into a drawer. “Shit! I had some good dope here. How was I supposed to know that Mazudo was holding a flush?”
Michael shook his head. “Because it was his game, brother.”
“You think he was cheating?”
Michael glanced at his brother’s clothes piled in his dresser drawer. “Look at the mess you’ve made. Why can’t you pack your things away neatly like any normal human being?”
“I had some good dope in here,” David said rummaging through his bag. He laughed. “Here it is.” He took out a lunch bag of dope and papers and started rolling a joint. “So now we have to find this Lombardo prick to pay off our debt to Mazudo. I’m getting tired of doing other people’s laundry.”
“Your debt,” Michael corrected David.
“There is an easier solution to all of this.” David lit up a joint. “Let’s just whack Mazudo. The guy is a slime ball.”
Michael closed the drawer to his dresser. “That’s plan B, brother.” Michael looked at the joint in David’s fingers. “Let me have some of that.”
April 9, 2013
The Death of Lou Grant has done very well for itself. Originally it was part of a much larger piece of work. But I got bored of that expedition. And settled for this short run.
I have created books that I felt sure could never be made into movies. The characters, scenes, themes were surreal bordering on animation. I felt that so much of American literature (as opposed to the Latin American writers) was 2 dimensional. It had become a genre driven fiction. And it bored me.
I still enjoy reading The Death of Lou Grant. Perhaps you will too.
A Drink After Work Hours At The Brass Rail
It’s all so brief. Life. A mere glimpse. I was going to say a wet fart but that would have been tasteless. You think moths have a short life. God, we must seem like moths to the sun. And you can’t appreciate how brief until you are at the end. A long weekend would seem an eternity. Does that make any sense? What I’m trying to say is that I feel like I might have missed it. I was out there in left field waiting for that sky ball when the guy had laid down a bunt. Jesus, I’m hungry. You get like that at the end. Hunger, appetite, that’s what makes us human. When I think of the last moments of Marilyn Monroe, I get a raging… I can’t help myself.
You’re probably wondering why I’m meeting people in bars all the time. Well, at the Corporation, that was pretty much our mode of operation. We met in bars to interview for jobs. To hire, to fire. To go over ideas. To marshal our thoughts. To brain storm. God, any excuse to have a drink.
This particular bar was the Brass Rail. Tacky. Cheap beer. Women who’d open their legs for you. After they finished their cigarette. And one more beer. Bad lighting. Sometimes you’d get up in the morning and look across the bed at someone who looked like your own mother. That’s what I heard. Not that it ever happened to me. Once. It happened once. She was someone’s mother. But not recently. Most of the patrons were guys. Poor bastards on their lunch break. Hoping for something to happen. Hoping more that it wouldn’t. Just leave me alone with my beer. Who wanted to face something new. Sometimes there were strippers in the bar. Afternoons the strippers mostly sat at tables and drank like everyone else. If you were lucky they might put their hand in your lap. That’s what I heard. There was a kitchen. The food wasn’t too bad. Ted and I were having burgers and fries. The place was known for its fries.
TED: I heard some stories, Lou… (giggling) …anecdotes… you don’ t have to tell me, Lou. I really mean that, Lou. It is certainly not something I have to know. Everyone should have…
LOU: Get to the point, Ted.
TED: Are you seeing a shrink?
LOU: I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, Ted.
TED: So how’s your golf game, Lou?
LOU: I don’t play golf, Ted.
TED: What a coincidence, Lou. Neither do I. Not since the Celebrity Tournament when I hit Maury Reese with my ball. It wasn’t my fault. (God, these burgers are good.) The guy takes a size 9 hat. I mean he’s got a real melon on those shoulders. How could you help but hit it.
LOU: Didn’t Maury die?
TED: Complications, Lou. Doc said that his heart was ready to burst at any moment. He could have taken a spell while driving home in his car, or taking the elevator, or just…
LOU: You gave Maury sugar, Ted.
TED: He was unconscious. (You shouldn’t talk with your mouth full, Lou.) How was I supposed to know that he was allergic to sugar?
LOU: It was a sugar cube, Ted. He choked!
TED: So, Lou, are you as looney as they say?
LOU: You don’t want to know, Ted.
TED: I want to know, Lou. Honest.
Lou looks around to make sure that no one can hear him. He leans toward Ted and whispers.
LOU: I hear voices in my head, Ted.
TED: Well, that’s not so bad. We all hear voices from time to time. I heard voices the other day in the grocery store. Something about my car being parked in a handicap zone. Everyone heard it. You can’t believe those people. Making a mountain out of a… There was no one using the space, Lou. Besides. How can you be sure those people are handicapped? A sticker on your windshield doesn’t mean you’re handicapped. I could make one up myself. Not that I did. Would.
LOU: It’s the booze talking, Ted. I hear voices when I’ve been drinking too much. They are voices that I don’t want to hear. Voices of someone called Harry.
TED: A relative of yours?
TED: Is it Harry the security guard. Nice fellow. Did you know that he has this amazing collection…
LOU: I hear the voice all the time. Sometimes when I’m having dinner I can hear the salad talking.
TED: You never eat salad, Lou.
LOU: I hear his voice when I’m driving to work in the morning.
TED: I like to listen to tapes on my way to work. I’m learning French. Parlez-vous francais. You should try it sometimes, Lou. They say that your mind is still working, even when you’re asleep. Sometimes I like to wake up in the middle of the night. To find out what I’m thinking.
LOU: This is scaring me, Ted.
TED: (giggles) I told myself the funniest joke the other night.
LOU: With murder in our hearts, the only sane man is the porter at the gate.
TED: You drink scotch, Lou.
LOU: Do you own a gun, Ted?
TED: A gun!
LOU: You must have a gun. Considering how…
TED: Ah, Lou. I’ve got to get going. I just remembered a date I had with…
LOU: Ted, sit down!
TED: I’m sorry, Lou. I’m just not good at this. This kind of talk. You should talk to Murray. I’ve got to go.
LOU: Get back here, Ted!
TED: Please, Lou.
LOU: Listen to me, Ted. The wife wants me to seek out professional help. I don’t need a psychiatrist to tell me that hearing a voice in my head isn’t normal. It’s a trick. I’m supposed to be having a fantasy. If you’re pretending to be someone, that someone shouldn’t be having psychiatric problems. That should be the litmus test for reality. This is my test, Ted.
TED: I was never good at tests… Who are you pretending to be, Lou? Is it one of those… role playing fantasies.
LOU: One. If you’re feeling pain than you’re real. Two. Lou Grant is feeling pain. Three. I’m feeling pain as Lou Grant. Therefore I am Lou Grant.
TED: Well now that that is settled, I’ll be off.
LOU: I have cold sweats. In the morning my pillow case is soaking wet. One night I cried out Mary’s name.
TED: Mary’s name? Why would you do that, Lou?
LOU: The wife was pretty upset by that. Once I interviewed a fellow in prison who claimed that he had painted several masterpieces. When I asked him where he kept them, he smiled and pointed to his head. Everything is in the head, Ted. Why am I hearing these voices, having this dream? I am not alone.
TED: I never dream, Lou. I get too excited.
LOU: Millions of people are dreaming their lives away. Fantasies. Dreaming about winning a million dollars. Dreaming about becoming famous. Dreaming about getting that girl. Dreaming as much as they can, trying to find some reason for staying alive. Ted…
TED: Yes, Lou.
LOU: I don’t want to die, Ted.
TED: (giggling) Oh, is that all it is? You can’t die, Lou. Unless they cancel the show of course.
February 15, 2013
I’ve been working on the great novel for 50 years. More or less. Every writer wants to write War and Peace. I was big on form. The architecture of fiction. But I’d get bored and mothball the work. Or break it down for parts. The Death of Lou Grant was the orphan of such an enterprise. It was suppose to be one part of a large novel about Marshal McLuhan. Or someone like him. The Death of Lou Grant is a story about the characters in the Mary Tyler Moore Show appearing in the dieing moments of a man’s life. It is a tragedy dressed up as a sitcom. The piece below is one chapter.
Lou In The Elevator With Ted
LOU: I am back in the real world, in the middle of my backyard, in a lounge chair, having a stroke. I can feel my chest melting. The low sizzle of skin. Drops of perspiration tickling my breasts. A low breeze moves the trees slightly…
Ted looks around the elevator as if he thought we were on Candid Camera. There was always someone trying to pull a fast one on Ted and though he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, Ted knew that people were constantly trying to put one over on him. I was having a nervous breakdown.
LOU: The sun slips behind some leaves and for a brief moment a chill crawls across me. I have known this feeling all my life. It is death. Death is a young girl skipping rope, reciting an old chant… I’m tired.
TED: Lou, are you feeling alright?
LOU: A few yards behind, the compost is groaning, the low growls and farts of digestion.
TED: Lou, are you quoting someone? I could give you my reading of Hamlet. I got glowing reviews in college.
LOU: Perhaps when we die, the spirit of the body is sucked into the soul like a star collapsing into itself. We have become a single moment, a thought. The definition of homo-sapiens: I am here… Everything is spinning. Round and round. Like its going to spin right out of…
TED: Excuse me, Lou. Am I supposed to be writing this down?
LOU: Murray already used that joke.
TED: Well, how was I supposed to know that, Lou. It’s not like you guys let me know what’s going on.
I started to babble on about modern consciousness and amino acids. And communications. God, I could hear myself. It was embarrassing. Without being interesting. Or profound. And all the time Ted kept looking around the elevator. At one point he reached for the emergency phone. I grabbed his hand.
LOU: Anger is the engine of despair. What is the rage that my soul sheaves? What is this drunken muttering in my soul? Let’s blame it on the fucking ozone layer. I have to get out of the sun. God, why can’t I stop talking. Talking like my mind is out of control. Stop me from talking, Ted!
Ted began to giggle nervously as the elevator doors opened
TED: Lou. You kill me!
January 12, 2013
The main character in Reality Strikes Back is based partially on a school friend. He was an intelligent fellow but there was something odd about him. Sometimes he would forget why he was doing something. Not uncommon in later life. But he was a teenager. And he looked like a famous racing car driver. Nothing odd about that. I don’t for the life of me know why I mentioned that. He was like that. Random thoughts popping up in conversation.
Check out my ebook Reality Strikes Back.
I sat on the bed after Ann and Claude had left thinking about when I was a child. I would climb the steps to my room late at night and I would pause, having forgotten momentarily why I was on the staircase. My mother would awake, one eye open, laying in her bed, and wait for me to discover why I had begun to climb the stairs. Only when I had continued my journey could she fall back asleep. That’s how I remembered my mother. A solitary moment. One image in an album of images. There is no relationship between the images, no cause and effect, no chronology in my memory. All the images of my life were like a deck of cards, shuffled, appearing by chance. There is no sense of the past, no movement, no flow, no highway leading to my present state, passing me by, and disappearing into the distant future. My memories were free floating, without gravity or God, existing by themselves like planets drifting through space or children asleep in an orphanage. There is a postcard of Niagara Falls, stilled by the power of the camera, and there is a man in a barrel, going over the falls. The man is the moment, the falls are eternal. I seem only aware of the water going over the falls. I cannot find the man and I don’t understand the concept of the falls. I remember my mother, frozen in that bed, frozen in that moment of anticipation, waiting for me to decide. I remember nothing else about her. My mother in a bed waiting. A bed in a dark room. Water over the falls. And a man stuck in a wheel barrel.
January 5, 2013
I worked in a pastry as a part time job in my teens. The baker thought of himself as quite a tough guy. He had a honey on the side (which I learned about years later when he divorced his wife.) My dad warned me about tough guys, guys who boasted and bragged. They were the first ones to start crying when the shells began falling and your buddies began dieing.
This story is from a collection called The Graveyard Shift. It is the third of a series. The first two have already been e-released.
BOB’S CAKE AND PASTRY SUPPLIES
“Your heart sounds fine,” the doctor said. He wanted to say jolly. But jolly went out with black and white television. He put away his stethoscope. The doctor has a slight lisp. And limp. But only slight.
Mr. Chambers smiled. Well you wouldn’t call it a smile. He was almost laughing as he put on his shirt. A nice plaid shirt. That he wore with a nice plaid tie. Different clans. Mr. Chambers was a grey haired man. Grey hair on his head and his chest. Short tiny grey hairs in his nose. And ears. Heavy set with a quick pointed nose. He would have been described, even in his sixties, as a handsome man. A distant cry from the toad like appearance of his younger days. When he was compared to all sorts of low life. No, there had been a flattering evolution in Mr. Chambers’ appearance. Life liked Mr. Chambers. It always had. He was no cream puff. Granite. Truck tough. There were muscles in his face.
“The two little buggers thought I was a goner.”
Mr. Chambers shook his head. And smiled.
“Out there. Right now dividing up my garments. Their rosy cheeks filled with chipmunk ambition. Fighting like two old women. Who was going to replace me. Take my dough. Spend it on broads. Booze. At the track. Leave their wives at home. Oh my sweet little boys”
“Ironic. Peggy and Theresa, their wives, look a bit like horses. Should hear those two whinny. When they’re in the thralls of making love. As they like to describe their machinations. Their legs up in the stirrups. Ninnies.”
“Nothing I abhor more. A spouse complaining. About their men’s wild ways. Wives want me to put them in their place. I wasn’t the one that bed them. Don’t ask me to do your work. My sons are head strong. Not that I don’t understand. They’ve got their wild oats. To spread. Had my own. Still up to do a little spilling. Nothing wrong with that. Boys better watch themselves now. I’m back. They ain’t going to get their share. Not yet. Have to wait. I might outlive them both. Just for spite. No, they want to have a time. It won’t be on my sweat. Not on my time. Not with my hard earned cash. You can put that in the bank. And smoke it.”
Mr. Chambers did up each button like it was the period at the end of each one of his sentences in a stump speech by a politician who realizes that no one would dare run against him. His jaw set. His chest pumped. Shoulders expanding. Hands in his fists.
“I have only myself to blame. Boys are spoiled. By their mother. I was too busy working. Well, hey. You want kids. You take your chances. Like a lottery ticket. Maybe I should have had daughters. They might have had more balls. Gone for breeders instead of rodents. My poor boys. My sons. Weasels.”
“Shows they care,” the doctor said. He rolled up the blood pressure wrap. Nice and tidy. He liked things neat. It made him feel that all was well. His summary. The compendium of things previously stated.
Mr. Chambers shook his head.
“Well, some times even death can be an eye opener. I never thought that the threat of my demise would make things so clear. Mortality has awakened the lion. Clear to me now. Used to walk in the shade. How refreshing is the sunlight. Before I was clouded by sentimentality. I wanted my boys to be like the old man. Now I can leave all those thoughts behind me. Neither one of my sons is prepared to take over the reins. They don’t have the balls. They have the power of their kidneys. But not of the will. Taken me a lifetime to build up my business. You’d think that a man like me would have spun some sons with a backbone. Do you know what I did when my old man died, doc? I laughed. He had a full life and now he was dead. What a joke, eh? No tears for my old man. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It wasn’t avarice on my part. But drive. Now these two marshmallows are fighting over my empire. Like it was carrion.”
Mr. Chambers fell into his own thoughts. What if I started over again. With a new woman. Younger. New sons. I might get lucky. Mr. Chambers turned back to the doctor.
“What do you think it was that gave me the scare?”
“Indigestion,” the doctor offered.
Mr. Chambers laughed.
“I guess that’s why they call it heart burn, eh doc?”
The doctor nodded. “You might think about losing some weight though, Mr. Chambers.”
Mr. Chambers stood up and stepped toward the doctor.
“You think I’m fat?”
The doctor stepped back. He looked down at his clipboard.
“I think you could lose a little weight, Mr. Chambers. Hard on the heart carrying around extra pounds.”
Mr. Chambers laughed as he shook his head.
“You really think I’m fat. You don’t know a real man when you see one, doc.”
“I wasn’t trying to upset you, Mr. Chambers.”
“Is that right?” Mr. Chambers responded. “I’m not fat, doc. I can do the work of two men any day of the week.”
“I’m sure you can.”
“What the fuck is this all about then?” Mr. Chambers moved toward the doctor.
The doctor put out his hand to stop Mr. Chambers approach.
“Telling me I’m fat!” Mr. Chambers continued. “I think you’re stupid. Do you like that?”
“I think we’ve had enough of this conversation, Mr. Chambers.” The doctor holding his clipboard in one hand, crossed his arms in front of him. Waiting. For what he was not sure. Except that it was sure to be unpleasant.
“Can’t take it when it’s tossed your way, eh doc? I swallow guys like you every day, then spit them out.” Mr. Chambers chuckled.
The doctor sighed.
“You’re a bully, Mr. Chambers.”
Mr. Chambers leaned threateningly forward, clenching his chin like a fist.
“You’re calling me a what?” he cried.
“A bully, sir.” The doctor held his ground.
Mr. Chambers stared at the doctor for a moment. Then he stepped back. He laughed. He reached out and slapped the doctor affectionately on the arm.
“You’re alright, doc,” he said. “I was just having a little fun. You’ve got to lighten up.”
Mr. Chambers stepped past the doctor and out of the room.
Outside in the office his two grown sons waited. Terry, the youngest stood up when he saw his father.
“So what’s the verdict, dad?”
Mr. Chambers laughed. He put on his jacket.
“I’ll outlive both you bastards,” Mr. Chambers replied.
The doctor trailed Mr. Chambers. The boys looked at the doctor.
“Your father is as strong as an ox,” the doctor said.
Both boys looked dismayed. Mr. Chambers grabbed both of his boys by the necks and pushed them out the door. He followed behind. Bob’s Pastry and Cake Supplies. Written across his back.
December 27, 2012
The first time I saw Bogart on television was an interview he and his wife Bacall did with Edward R. Murrow. It was floss. But there was something about the actor. I’ve seen most of his movies that are easily available. I’ve watched The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca over a 100 times. And some of his other films like Sahara, The Big Sleep, etc dozens of times. His characters always exemplify something weak, incredible flaws, as well as redeeming strengths. He is a romantic hiding under a cynic.
This excerpt is from my book The Black Bird. Have a look.
excerpts from bogart’s diary #1-37
huston decided to hold a costume ball before we began shooting the falcon . we call john the ambassador of dreams eyes in envelopes, umbrella prays for rain (so she won’t feel so useless) . bullet proof ears. he cannot hear death—he only knows it by smell he met each guest at the door. dressed up as fatty arbuckle & holding a jar filled with oysters anyone know i asked. the ambassador winked winked & sprinkled stardust on each of us as we entered while singing WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHO YOU ARE. i was dressed up as the invisible man . no one noticed … sydney stayed close to the bar or was it the reverse . he looked like the election returns . he said he was disguised as mt. everest . several young starlettes were clustered like small villages around his feet. one was wearing skis and reciting the koran . backwards . another wore two tablets and a long beard that began below the waist … mouth open oven a creampuff danced around the room looking for horny dps especially tall first lieutenants from toronto who read ts eliot. jeffery longstreet said he had a cake for her throat. unleavened, bruised, and circumcised… lorre sat at the piano playin’ popular tunes with a german accent. dressed up as hitler’s bitch in heat. his tail kept falling off. the great dictator received his instructions from his dog . the bitch would open her mouth and hitler would bark … the apaches are waiting at the edge of the desert waiting for the storm to pass . dying of tb . & learning how to square dance … cattle lena in a tux. practicing her courses. digging a plot in her pocket. spitting out cigars. & pinching any ass that grazes by… a pageant of people bursting with beginnings . yankee optimism . parmenides was right we never leave the beginnings, unless you put up your wrist and slash for permission to leave . there is only this solid mass of oneness . we are like creatures, extinct, & frozen in me NOW … why do i always feel like i’m sitting on the edge of the world spitting seeds into the emptiness, flushing the nothingness out of my soul … two colored girls showed up. or was it a costume . everyone gathered around to see them make love in the potato salad. i spent some time in a closet with one of them . she had eyes like a cathedral. i felt like st. francis begging on the front steps for one chance to light a small red candle. i told her she was very tight. she said she felt claustrophobic . being colored is like living in a box. all white women should be blind, peeling off her skin she placed it on a hanger. that i could hardly control … someone handed me a manhattan. i finished a cigarette and flew around the room , solo. i was hoping that it wouldn’t rain. i asked if everyone would mind cease burning their words until i could clear up this mystery. i ran into sydney who was rehearsing as a zeppelin in a bath tub. he asked me to leave . he already had some passengers . easy flo said that she now understood . everything i promised had been part of some plan . to lay her out like an airport and then land… laughing from the chandeliers tequila dorothy in feathers that fell off like snow swung above the drifts of faces. raymond the parrot told her to be careful . someone else screamed — melt … is there any alternative to feeling haunted . a little kid staring out through dusty windows, broken glass on the floors . mice in the rafters . eaves troughs filled with tears. perhaps it is my work . am i nothing more than a series of poses. movement is the illusion they love. i am the offspring of magic and mechanics . cameras have cataracts. they see only what they wish to see … is god some machine projecting home movies in his basement. he is in almost every shot. boring us with the details . all i want to know is, if i slept with you would it make any difference … i feel layered. schizophrenia is an oversimplification . consciousness is not the census taker asking embarrassing questions about your health & the brand of toothpaste you wear. consciousness is a series of skins . i am the latest skin . the snake is crawling back toward paradise
another cigarette … another drink … who is this woman leaning on my arm dressed up as robespierre . she says leave everything to me . i have sharpened my teeth. the basket is ready for your disbelief … i hardly know how to love . only the innocent can love. the rest of us are just flushing out our hearts … a guy called trotsky served champagne. said the revolution was a mistake. people’s stomachs were bored . there was nothing for them to do … beyond all this negativity i keep looking and smiling . smiling has become a task. my agent says that when i laugh on the screen it looks contrived . he wants to have my grin lifted … people swallow answers like pills . kills the pain for a while . once in a crowd of fans i was almost swallowed whole … all i want is flesh between my teeth. fingernails tracing the veins in my vanity. something fragile and warm . a dress thrown over a chair. legs wrapped around my spine . feel the darkness sleeping beside me … is comfort all we are to each other… a child star dressed up as a fire hydrant showed up with her mother. the mother was bela lugosi . huston said that he was offered the kid spread eagled for the weekend if he could find room for her in the falcon . said the mother had a bunker between her legs. louie said it was a machine gun nest … mary asked if i read the script . one scene was being cut. censorship . would i like to shoot it privately.., dash showed up. a head like a silver porcupine, he was not in costume . all he talks about is the war. hitler is the devil’s fallen angel . acting ,he remarked ,was protracted suicide. burying yourself six feet beneath someone else’s dream … does anyone still believe in the self … i remember the first time i gave up myself. she was a big girl . i was seventeen, said i was a saint as i knelt down beside her. i could not stop praying … someone asked me to dance. my feet ran away…
Bogart. Actor. Celebrity. Husband. As Sam Spade. In the movie The Maltese Falcon. Baring of a soul. Stripping down of a life. Reaching beyond the point of death. To Bogart as a boy. Steeped in mythic reality. Originally published in 1982 by The Porcupine’s Quill. Finalist in the 2004 Eppie Awards for Poetry.
December 16, 2012
Occasionally we looked over at him. The old drunk, sitting alone, was chuckling. Enjoying the greatest joke he’d ever heard. And it creeped us out.
And then we started talking.
I said that there was always hope.
Eddy shook his head. “We’re fucked.”
Vic just sat there and drank his beer. And listened. And wondered what the hell the drunk was chuckling about.
And then it happened.
The drunk gave out a terrible cry. We looked over. There was the drunk’s dinner laying on the table in front of him. Vic almost barfed himself. The waiter came over to see what the problem was.
“Jesus, Billy. Why’d you have…” the waiter began. But was stopped by the drunk’s hysterical laughter.
The drunk reached over and picked up his barf. It was rubber. A trick.
The waiter shook his head and walked off. The drunk continued to laugh. He put the rubber barf in his pocket.
“Anyone want to get a bite to eat?” I asked.
December 14, 2012
This is an excerpt from my novel ‘Snow’. The book is written from many viewpoints/voices. This section is a young teenager who had his father shot by his mother. The stories themselves move through genres. Murder mystery, to mainstream, to surreal. Snow is the last in a series about a cop, solving crimes at the same time as he moves from bachelor to married man to father.
I’m always being dragged down to the counselor’s office. Like talking to me is going to bring my old man back. Always asking me if I sleep all right. Course I sleep, I tell them. What do they think I’m going to tell them? And why should I? What did they ever do for me before my old man got knocked off? I was one of those invisible kids in school until I did something wrong. You could be the biggest asshole in high school and as long as you’re showing up for class and doing your work, everyone is happy. Jumping through hoops, that’s what school is all about.
They said I stole an essay off the net, that I plagiarized it. There wasn’t any proof. Just figured that someone like me couldn’t write that well. Mr. Brennan has always had it in for me. Who knows why? Maybe cause I didn’t suck up to him. So I get dragged down to Mrs. Fleming, the VP. Old lady Fleming started ranting about the theft of intellectual thought. There’s a bitch who never had an original idea in her life, not even one that was stolen. She shows me my essay on Martin Luther like it was a smoking gun. She asked me where I stole the essay. Like I would have given up a friend to her. I ain’t no rat. Okay, maybe my sister helped me, but it’s not like she wrote it for me. Mary is an A student and she helped me with some of the ideas about the Reformation. I told old lady Fleming to go fuck herself. Suspended! For what? Telling the truth?