26 August, 2009

New Poem: Dialogue of a Functional Relationship

Will we be alright? She lights a cigarette,

watches him carefully for contradictory

body language. Yes, he says. We’ll be okay.

She’s nervous and blows smoke like a factory.

Are you sure?

Yes, he says.

Are you lying to me?

He lights a cigarette,

feigns offense. No.

Why’d you ask me that? Would I lie?

She smiles. You might, she says.

To make me feel better.

He smiles, leans over to kiss her.

As long as you know.

24 August, 2009

Those Who Can

Your problem, Nicky,” G told me over the lip of his martini glass, “is that you’re too much of a philosopher to ever be a writer.”

That was his way of being kind. I said nothing and drank my beer. Not so much because I agreed or disagreed with him, but because I wasn’t really listening. He liked to sit at the bar, drink martinis, and trash talk the local art scene, pontificate on national politics, and complain about the state of American Culture. I usually let him talk and he usually let me let him. I was trying to get the attention of a particularly luscious girl with auburn hair who was sitting on the other side of G. She was dressed to impress – wearing a short and tight black dress that left little to the imagination, but had mine working overtime. Her hair was long and thick and she had tied back in a cute pony tail; there was a long strand falling beside her face. She looked like the sort of person who should have been smoking a Virginia Slim with one of those long elegant cigarette holders.

A girl like that shouldn’t have to wait on anybody. If anything, some chump bastard should’ve been sitting and waiting on her with a sense of gratitude. But I couldn’t get her to look at me.


G was looking at me with his annoyed and disapproving look. Vodka made him sensitive. “I WAS talking, you know.”

“Sorry,” I mumbled, tearing my eyes off the auburn goddess and focusing again on his narrow, wide-eyed face.

“Christ,” he sneered a little too loudly. “Are you ever NOT gonna think with your DICK?”

G and I had known one another since elementary school. We grew up in the same shit hole town in southern Ohio, right on the river. The only thing New Leeds, Ohio had going for it was a steel mill that was shut down, a nuclear power plant that was converted to coal because of hordes of protestors worried about radioactive waste in the septic smelling rivers, and a lot of foreclosed farms. His dad worked for the power plant. My dad worked at the steel mill; he got his job when the union went on strike and the company brought scabs in to keep the place going. He, like the other replacement workers, had to ride in on prison busses because the windows had metal grates over them.

Wilbur was this sickly looking kid with huge eyes and no muscle. He told me he lived the first five years of his life in a bubble; he was so sick that he couldn’t even breathe regular air. And even after he was let out of the bubble, his mother was afraid to let him outside, and she spent her days cleaning the house so the dust wouldn’t kill him. He laughed once and told me about how she scrubbed the walls and even the ceilings, trying to protect her baby boy from the dust bunnies. He wasn’t good at sports. The other kids didn’t like him. He had a lot of problems with people.

“I’m getting the hell outta this place, Nicky,” he’d tell me. “I’m getting out just as fast as I can and I’m NEVER coming back!”

I don’t even really remember how we started talking. All I knew was one day he started hanging around. That didn’t make people like him more; but it did make people leave him a lone. People liked me okay. Sometimes the sons of the union workers gave me hard time, but after one or two fights they learned to leave me alone. I was decent at sports, and even played JV football. I felt the same way he did, though with far less passion. I wanted to get out of New Leeds for all the reasons that teenage boys want to escape their hometowns. Big city girls had more class, more style, and more reasonable parents. There was more to do in the city. Plus, I was tired of living in a town that boasted the oldest Tastee Freeze in the state and where the streets rolled up at five o’clock.

Back then I thought I was a writer; I was always scribbling defiant poems and hackneyed stories in composition books, and reading novels by writers nobody heard of. I quit the JV football team and grew my hair. When the coach asked me why I wanted to quit, I told him it was because I wanted to be a writer. I still remember the perplexed look on his face. My dad was heartbroken. My mom, though, beamed and started calling me her “little poet.”

G like to bring up the writing shit. It was his way of reminding me that he’d actually become an artist. He’d gone to college for it. I went to college, too; except the only thing I learned when I got there was that I wasn’t much of a writer. I did just enough to get through. When I got out, I found an entry level job in a downtown office. I had a cubicle decorated with ironic signs and slightly but not too offensive off color jokes. I wore a tie everyday. I put money in the NCAA basketball tourney pool every year. I did the same with the Superbowl pool. I took advantage of Casual Friday. Once at a company Christmas party I fucked the cutie college intern in the copy room – bent her over some boxes of computer paper. She writhed and moaned while the boss was in the outer office toasting holiday.

G didn’t work much. And when he did, he never worked very long. He always got shit jobs that didn’t pay and that would inevitably offend his artistic sensibilities. He called me when he got hired. He called me when he got fired or quit. Once or twice he invited to his “studio” – that was what he called the attic space he appropriated in the house he was renting a room in near the university. The entire house was old and smelled like burnt wires and old cheese.

“Well,” he asked me, presenting his latest masterpiece. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know. What’s it supposed to be?”

“It’s not supposed to BE anything!” He rolled his eyes. “THAT is THE POINT!”

I didn’t press it. I mean, what the hell did I know about art? Not a damn thing.

I finished my beer. Vic, the bartender, happened to look over as I set the glass down. I nodded at him and he started me another Guinness. Vic was a fantastic bartender. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the local music scene and of everybody’s drink of choice; once he learned your name, you never had to tell him what you wanted – unless you changed it up. And then he just added to what he knew and moved on. Nothing phased him. He was friendly, but not inclined to put up with bullshit. Polite, but not a pussy. Tarbull’s was my favorite downtown bar; I was there most every night after work because it was so close. I could walk there after work, have a few, relax, then walk back to my car and drive home. And if I got too drunk, I could take the bus – I lived across the river in Erlanger. That meant an early start the next day; but still, it was nice to have the option. Tarbull’s boasted that it was the oldest bar in the city. It was, at first look, a tiny place. A hole in the wall. But what a bar! The bar took up most of space: all hardwood, worn from years of people propping themselves up on it; it survived prohibition and the anti-German waves during both world wars. There were high tables pushed up against the opposite wall for more private conversations. Dim lights, decent food, nice staff. No television. It was meant for people to be social, and unlike all the new bars cropping up downtown and across the river in Newport, it was gimmick free; Tarbull’s didn’t try to be anything other than what it was, and it was glorious.

Then I had to start taking G. In my defense, though, I hated the places G wanted to go; they were pretentious. The kind of places that wanted to act like they were in New York or London instead of Cincinnati.

Vic brought my beer and eyed me. G was getting too loud. Again. I nodded and checked the time. The auburn goddess was gone. Maybe to the restroom. Maybe she gave up waiting and left. I really wanted her to come back.

“This guy,” G said, “doesn’t know good art from his dirty asshole!” He laughed. Actually it was more like a cackle. “You can tell by the shit he hangs on the walls of his gallery.”

“But you have a show there,” I pointed out. “Right?”

“YES,” G rolled his eyes and shook his head. “But MY show is sculptor. Painting is a dead form.” He looked at me like I was supposed to know that.

I shrugged. “Still,” I said, “he IS giving you a show. Don’t you think…”

“Not because that pig fucker has any taste. He gave me a show because he read the article and remembered me.”

The article. That was his claim to fame. The article. That’s what he called it. The god damned fucking article. When he talked about it, he made the whole thing sound way more impressive than it actually was. If you’d just met him and heard him talk about it (which if you just met him, he would) you’d think he was interviewed and featured in some high class art magazine. In actuality, G – whose given name was Wilbur G. Schenk (He would never tell me what the G actually stood for; I guess it was even worse than the rest of his name.) was quoted in a page 33 article about the last art show at a failed co-op gallery. His work wasn’t even part of the show – he thought he was too good for the co-ops; no, he was just there. To Be Seen. His quote was small and nobody remembered it but him.

“Pig fucker,” G cackled. “He’s such a god damn PIG FUCKER!”

For a brief second, the bar went silent, then returned to it’s usual level of innocuous noise. Vic brought the tab and looked at me. That meant it was time to go. I agreed. G plus five martinis equals obnoxious asshole.

But he insisted on paying. I let him. The only time he allowed himself such a grand gesture was when he was drunk. I’d end up paying in the long run; he’d end up calling in a couple of days, trying to get me to take him out to lunch or something. There was always something. You have to love karmic retribution.

We finished our drinks and left. On the way out, I looked over and saw the auburn goddess. She was sitting at one of the high tables with a guy in very expensive looking suit and ivory white teeth. Her back was to me; but I could tell by the way she was leaning in and tossing her hair around that she was really enjoying herself. I could tell by the look on his well kept face that he was too. Dumb chump bastards have all the luck.

17 August, 2009

Poems: Classified Ad and Cigarettes at Sunset

Classified Ad

Packaging is what counts;
small boxes with
sharply defined lines
filled with simple words in




to better highlight
the curves and cleavage
and cast sexy shadows
on the less desirable remainder.

Amenities included.
Price firm,
just like her ass.
Money back guarantee,
if you can catch a woman
running in stiletto heels.

We tell ourselves looking
in the mirror every morning
that whores do it just for money
We tell our selves we’re not
on our knees for the money –
we’re there for the big screen
TV’s, nice car in the garage,
nice house in the best
neighborhood with good schools
for the kid, and close
to the interstate and
all the best shopping malls.

Then we splash cool water on our face
gargle out the sour flavor
and flash a smile
to complete the perfect picture
of our parents’ American Dream.

Cigarettes at Sunset

We talk about our dreams in the alley. We
smoke and talk. Listen to the traffic speed by
apathetic and (always) in such a damn hurry.

She talks. Something’s not right.
I nod. I listen. I wait
for my turn to talk, leaning against

the crumbling apartment complex,
orbited by little lost boys
riding second-hand stolen bicycles

screaming war cries and other childish threats.
We talk. Next door, the neighbors
are fighting again. Sounds like they’ll be at it

all night. Slamming doors. Yelling. Baby crying.
The thwarted innocence disturbs me – but not enough
to call the cops or ask them to stop. It is what it is.

It doesn’t change anything. The universe
is fucking with us. You smoke. I smoke.
The words sound familiar –

rerun deja vu moment I know
I will notice later…

13 August, 2009

Some New Poems and Other Minutiae

[Note for the 1 or 2 of you who actually read: I'm in the process of revising the novel that I have posted bits over the past few months. Although I've decided to stop posting bits of the novel, though, I haven't forgotten you -- my one or two true followers who are either up late at night and drunk or wasting time at work.(Either of these, by the way, I consider a good and noble use of time.) These poems, written altogether, are my part of concretewolf.com's 2009 August Poetry Postcard List. I've always been a poet, first and foremost, and it's a good way to keep writing whilst I revise said previously mentioned tome. But, as usual, I'm late. Money, lack of postage, etc, has put me a full 13 days behind in the August Poetry Postcard Challenge. I will be sending these 10 to unuspecting folks in today's mail; but I wanted to share them with you, my one or two loyal readers, as well. Though chances are I could just give you copies when I see you at the bar. With Warmest Regards, Mick]

Postcard Poems (Aug 09) –Batch 1


Chance of rain
and the world
is washed away –
precipitated participation
in mock end time trials.
We are told by the only one
who sees, and we dismiss him –
the bastard’s just one more
old stinking drunk.


Spare a dime for your destiny,
or a quarter for the secret
of quantum space; all knowledge
is summed up
in the vague ramblings
of a dirty old man
who lives under the bus stop
and assaults little girls
like the troll
in one of Hans Christian Andersen’s
badly written nightmares.


(We have lost the language
to describe crucial events.)
In the desert, when it rains,
people stand aghast, staring
at the sky, and drown.

On television they call it the Rapture.
God comes with a gurgling noise
and then disappears.


Brown shirts in the streets
skinheads on the news.
At least we’re honest now
about who we are
beneath all our polite smiles
and coquettish gazes.


The library is an air-conditioned hell.
The print is quickly fading from the books
no one reads; the magazines are all
ghastly pictorials of dead pedophiles
and other mummified media creations.
Small children play tag
in the reference section,
using dictionaries and outdated encyclopedias
as traps for more literate playmates,
who will trip over the tomes
and break their necks.


Old men saddle up in bars
drink dirt out of cracked mugs
and reminisce about a time
when the taps weren’t dry
and the bar maids were young
and worthy of masturbatory fantasy.


Bereft of the bloody religion of our forefathers,
we have dug up previously interred bones,
painted them with the make up left behind
by ex-wives, old girlfriends, and dead mothers,
then salute ourselves
for our very American ingenuity.


Outside, pacing on the sidewalk,
one more wandering prophet
begs for pennies
and blesses those who ignore him.
Three blocks up, near the pawn shop,
tired old hookers ply their pussies
and drink rot gut memories
from broken condoms
and old Styrofoam cups.


A tidbit of interesting news:
the symphony rolled through town,
set up, and tried to play. In grand appreciation,
the gathering crowd attacked,
gang raped the flutists and players of reed instruments,
repeatedly sodomized the director,
and lopped off the percussionists' hands
with rusty pitchforks. (The brass players
were bludgeoned to death.) Then they were all run
out of town naked, into the desert
where they are sure to die of exposure.

The Sheriff was later quoted,
calling it a textbook example
of quality mob justice.


Sort memos to strangers
describing (narrowly)
what the afterlife consists of.

Rawhide hands whose calluses
are filled with dust
drop tired quill pens and sigh
as the ages of the Earth
contract and prepare
a repetitive rendition.

04 August, 2009

Let Fancy Paint the Tyrant of My Heart (or, The Happy Travelers)

Rent was due, I was out of booze, and the only food I had left was half a jar of off brand jam. There wasn’t any work to be had. I tried several places that had placed ads for unskilled labor; but none of them would interview me on the spot and they all refused to even accept my application because I didn’t have a phone. I tried going back to Ready Labor, but they kept turning me away. I even tried the plasma bank; but the pillar legged phlebotomist who tried to toss me without paying me for my time was working the desk and she had no intention of letting me through. Vindictive bitch.

With the couple of bucks I had left in my pocket, I bought a half stale loaf of bread and a bottle of cheap wine. That didn’t solve my rent problem; so I knew it was only a matter of time. I could’ve slipped off; but I didn’t relish the idea of sleeping outdoors. Especially in August. Better to hold out and leave when I was forced to – which, I figured, gave me a day. Maybe half a day at the most.

I managed to sneak upstairs without anybody in the front office seeing me. The rush of air conditioning washed over me as I slammed the door behind me and locked the deadbolt and chain. I told myself I was getting ready for a stand off. “If they want me out,” I said to the empty room, “They’ll have to break down the door to get me out.”

After I sat down, I wanted a cigarette. Only two left. I needed to conserve, so I decided to hold off. I made myself a jam sandwich instead. At first, I was only going to eat one slice of bread, so that I could make the loaf last as long as possible. But then I told myself there wasn’t any point. I may not even get through the whole loaf anyway, before it goes bad or they kick me out. I wondered briefly if Monkey Man would be the one to boot me, or if they’d send a plain uniform to do it. I took out a pocket knife that I’d found in the parking lot outside of the bar. It was a decent, clean blade. I used it to spread the jam over one piece of bread. Then I wiped the blade on another piece of bread and put it on top. After I closed up the loaf of bread and the jam jar, I sat down to enjoy my dinner feeling oddly self-satisfied.

When you’re hungry, you want to eat really fast. You want to gobble up food in front of you and every bit of food that’s near you, without even bothering to chew it first, much less taste it. I fought the urge. I ate my sandwich in small, careful bites. There was no point in behaving like an animal until there was no other option. Sometimes the simplest food has the best flavor, and I had learned to treat every meal – regardless of the quality or quantity – like my last. When you do that, you enjoy it just a little more.

I finished my sandwich and cracked open the bottle of vino. The label said merlot. The price tag said rot gut. But it would work. I found my coffee cup – they only kitchenware I owned besides the pocket knife – filled it halfway and drank it down slowly, letting it pour down my gullet. Then I poured another half cup, lit a cigarette, and turned on the radio. It was tuned to the classical station. Dvorćek was playing. I closed my eyes, inhaled the smoke along with the music, keeping the flavors of everything in my mouth.

A knock on the door interrupted my revelry.

Fuck, I thought. They came for me sooner than I expected. I hadn’t even bothered to pack up the little bit of shit I had.

I sat for a moment, hoping it was a fluke. Maybe it was somebody looking for Loyce. Maybe it was a lost pizza boy. I told myself there was no need to panic.

There was another knock. This one was more insistent.

I turned off the radio. Maybe they’d take the hint and go away.

The knocking came again with even greater urgency.

“Well fuck,” I said aloud and standing up. “All right,” I called out. “All right, goddammit. Let me pack my shit before you make me homeless, you bastards.”

I opened the door expecting to see a not-so-smiling Smiling Dave or an grumpier than usual Fat Marta. Instead I found a couple kids dressed in white button down shirts, dark ties, dark pants, and gym shoes. Each of them had a rectangular plastic name tag pinned to their shirt pocket, identifying themselves as Latter Day Saints.

Fuckin’ hell.

“Good day,” the taller Sandy haired one said. “Have you heard the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

“Uh. No.” I moved to close the door.

“Well,” the dark haired one said. He was shorter and little pudgy. “Have we come at an inconvenient time?”

Yes. I didn’t want to stand there with the door open. For one, it was letting in the summer heat; more importantly (maybe) I didn’t want to chance being seen by Smiling Dave or Fat Marta. “Yeah. I mean, no. Listen,” I said looking around to make sure there was no one out and about. Naturally there wasn’t that time of day. “You guys want to come in? I don’t want to let the air conditioning out.”

I had no idea why I let them in, but it seemed to please them and they agreed immediately. The minute the words left my mouth, I regretted them. Why didn’t I slam the door in their round, beardless little faces and tell them to fuck off? I had this image of Dad standing on the front porch of the old house screaming at a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses to get off of his property. Why didn’t I follow suit?

They thanked me as they stepped in. “It’s pretty hot out there,” the tall one said.

I sat down in the chair and motioned for them to use the bed. No point in not being a good host, I guess. Then I drank down the last of my wine and poured more, filling the cup. I lit my last cigarette. “No worries, I said. I knew I had to get rid of them quickly and hope that Dave or Marta didn’t notice the opening and closing of the door. The pudgy one coughed a little when the cigarette smoke reached him. The other eyed it like he wanted one. This might be more interesting than I thought. I pointed to the wine bottle. “You guys want some? It’s quality stuff. Guaranteed to sprout hair on your balls.”

They laughed uncomfortably in unison. I was going to ask if they shared a brain when the sandy haired one – his name tag identified him as Bartholomew Romney – pulled a bible out of his knapsack. “We just wanted to talk to you about God,” he said, “and about letting Him into your life.”

“I doubt God would want to live here,” I said. “The walls are being held up by legions of mutant cockroaches bent on world domination.”

The dark haired one – Amos Sanford – looked around nervously. I thought I heard him make a nervous squeaking sound.

“Don’t worry,” I smiled. “They only come out at night.”

“Well,” Bartholomew continued. “God made the cockroaches, too. But you’re special. We’re all special – all people that is – because…”

I hadn’t intended to give him an intro. Have to keep them off script. “Let me ask you something,” I asked, draining my cup and pouring another. “So you’re traveling around, knocking on doors, trying to convert people. Right?”

“Right,” Amos squeaked.

“Riiight,” I echoed. I stamped out my last cigarette in the ash tray. “So you endure the weather, lousy food, rude people, and risk bodily harm. Right?”

“Right.” That time it was Bartholomew.

“Riiight,” I echoed. “So why do it?”

“We’d really like to focus on this,” Bartholomew said, trying to focus on the bible in his lap. He opened it in preparation the hard sell.

I catch him mid-sentence while he’s quoting John 3:16. “Sure sure sure,” I said. “We can get to all that. But really. This is important to me. I want to know. Why go through all the shit? What’s the point?”

“Faith,” Amos finally found something to say. “We do it for our faith. Because of our faith.”

“And the Great Commission,” Bartholomew added.

“Faith,” I echoed. “Commission. Riiight.” I down the cup of wine I had just poured. It was going down easier and easier. “You guys SURE you don’t want some of this? You look thirsty.”

“We’re sure,” Bartholomew answered. His tone was unconvincing.

I kind of felt bad for them. Kind of. I mean, they looked more like bad door to door vacuum cleaner salesmen than missionaries from God. I didn’t think they’d be much help if Smiling Dave or Fat Marta kicked in the door. I thought maybe they’d at least be reliable witnesses to what I saw as my eventual unlawful beating and subsequent arrest. After all, it was a sin to lie. Right?

“Suit yourself,” I said, and sat back.

Bartholomew let the silence settle for half a beat before he went into his bit. I didn’t feel like talking to them anymore, and clearly I wasn’t offending their moral sensibilities enough to make them leave. I either had to listen to them talk or I had to it up.

The thing that amazed me was how little it had all changed. Verse after verse. Salvation. Damnation. Obligation. I watched more than I listened to them they were babbling on and telling bible stories – using the old parable approach, I guess, because it worked so well for Jesus. In the past, when other well intended people went out of their way to save my soul and used the parable method to make it all sound so circular and reasonable, I pointed out (if you took the book seriously, which I didn’t) that it hadn’t worked out so well for Jesus in the end. I didn’t bother pointing that out this time, though. Bartholomew did most of the talking. Amos mostly interrupted with qualifiers and addendums – sometimes to his partner’s annoyance. The sandy haired kid was moving on to the compelling lives of prophets, like Stephen (who was stoned) and Moses (who made the mistake of taking too much credit) and John the Baptist (beheaded). Then the disciples, like Peter (who was crucified upside down.) But mostly Paul (died in prison.) The only ones who focus on Peter are the Catholics. Bartholomew spoke about these characters the way some people talk about celebrities. “Oh, wasn’t Angelina Jolie just WONDERFUL in that film?” or “I wish Paris Hilton would get a real job,” or “I really liked Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele; but James Bond? Give me Sean Connery!”

After a while I got more tired of listening than I had been of talking. “So,” I interrupted another great story of faith and a bloody awful death, “what about Joseph Smith?”

Amos seemed to get more animated. Apparently that was his part of the show. He dove straight into the story of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the great Mormon Revival. Eden was in Missouri. Native Americans were lost Israelites. Special secret languages, mystical rocks, angelic visions. I wanted to ask about the wonders of polygamy and the castration of boys in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; but he didn’t give me a chance. He talked and talked. It was Bartholomew’s turn to fidget and look uncomfortable. I drank.

“Listen,” I finally interrupted. “I don’t suppose one of you has a cigarette, do you?”

Amos looked over at his partner, who had been staring off into outer space – whether he was seeing angelic visions or fantasizing about Mary Magdalene I couldn’t tell. “How about you, Bart?” His attention snapped back to the present. “You don’t happen to have a smoke, do you? ONE cigarette for a poor sinner, please? Pretty please?”

He hesitated, but (much to his partner’s annoyance) he pulled a pack with two cigarettes left out of his knapsack. He stopped short of giving me the pack – mostly because he felt Amos glaring at him – but he handed it over nonetheless.

I tapped out one and handed it back. He promptly put his last cigarette in his mouth. After I lit mine, I let him use the lighter. “Thanks, man,” I said. “You know how it is.” I pointed at the quickly dissipating bottle of vino. “You sure you don’t want a taste?”

Bartholomew inhaled and shook his head. But Amos, apparently sick of his partner being the only one to indulge, said “I will.”

“Greeat,” I smiled, handing him the bottle. “Take a swig. I only have the one cup, I’m afraid.” Amos looked at me; I wasn’t sure if he worried he might catch something from the bottle or if he found it impossible to believe I didn’t have a whole cabinet of dinnerware. “Go on,” I encouraged. “No worries. Really.” I smiled. For a second I thought the smile changed his mind. He took a healthy swig and handed it back to me, trying not to look like he was gagging on the stuff.

“Be careful, man,” I said. “It’s not for the faint of heart.” I held it up to Bart. “You’re welcome, too,” I said. He took the cigarette out of his mouth, grabbed the bottle, and tipped it back. At first I thought he was going to choke, too. But he didn’t.

“Listen,” I said to both of them, “you don’t happen to have any money do you? If the three of us are going to drink, we might as well get more. Don’t you think?”

“I…” Amos was fumbling through his book.

I stood up. “Listen. I don’t suppose either of you is actually 21. Are you?”

“I am,” Bart answered.

“Bart!” I crowed. “My boy Bart! And you have money? right?”

Bart nodded. “Uh huh.”

“Greeat! Why don’t you go up to that liquor store on the corner and get is a big jug of wine. Amos’ll stay here and keep trying to convert me. He’s close, I can tell ya. I want to hear all about Jesus and Joseph Smith and magical underwear.”

Bart stood up. Amos looked up like he was nervous, but it was clear that Bart was the one in charge. “Sure. I guess that’s ok…”

“Good good good!” I slapped him on the shoulder. It was bony. “While you’re there, get a couple packs of smokes too, okay?” He nodded. “Alllrightee then!”

Bart left on the booze run and I offered Amos another drink. He took a bigger drink than before. I filled my cup and offered him the bottom of the bottle.

“Listen kid,” I said. “How old are you?”

Amos hiccupped. “Eight… eight… eighteen.”

“And you LIKE this gig?”

For a second he looked defensive. But for only a second. “Sure,” he said. “It’s import… hic…import…hic… impor’nant to …”

“Right right right,” I interrupted him. “Faith and works and all that.”


“Have you ever gotten laid?”

He looked shock, but I could tell by the crimson color his face was developing that he hadn’t. “Laid? You know? Sex? Gettin’ some? Shooting your load? Getting your rocks off? Pussy?” With every derivation his complexion got redder and redder. “What?” I asked finally. “You don’t like girls?”

That got him to talk. “I like girls,” he said. “I just… we’re not s’pose to…”

“Ah. I see. Tell me kid,” I slapped him on the knee. It made him jump a little. “Is there a particular girl you have in mind?”

“Amy.” He sighed. God, what romantic crap.

“Is she back home?”

He shook his head. After a few deep breathes and some more hiccups he told me she was the daughter of the family they were staying with locally. He didn’t describe her; but I could tell by the mushy dreamy look in his big round eyes that she was the most beautiful thing in the world for him. At the moment.

“You know,” I went on, “girls usually like a little experience. Know what I mean?” I leaned in. “You know… there’s a woman two doors down… a nice woman. Her name’s Loyce. And I bet if you went over there and asked real nice, she might, eh… loosen you up a little.” Amos almost looked horrified. Almost. I didn’t push it. “Whatever, man,” I said. “It’s all you.”

Bart got back not long after that. He brought a huge jug of burgundy wine, a twelve pack of beer, and a carton of cigarettes. Blessed be the young and the egomaniacal. For they shall over do themselves every time.

“Great timing, Bart!” I chirped. We’d run out of wine and were talking about Amos’s girl troubles.”

Bart smiled and Amos looked ashamed. I cracked open a beer, tore open one of the new packs of smokes, and went on. “I was telling Amos here that there’s a really nice lady two doors down who might like a couple of guys like you. And, if you was to treat her nice and pay her for her trouble, she might unburden you of your virginity. I can almost bet that she’s probably never seen a virgin before… let alone met one.”

Amos and Bart each drank a beer. Then Bart had another. Amos tried to smoke a cigarette, but he ended up coughing and putting it out half spent. “Those things are expensive,” I cautioned. “Don’t waste ‘em like that.” I kept on with the sex talk. It became clear pretty quickly that while young Amos fancied the daughter, Bart thought himself man enough for the mother. Naturally I encouraged them. Amos and Bart were both blushing and coughing and looking around. And the more uncomfortable it got for them, the more they drank. Blessed are the virginal. For they shall be better entertainment than television.

Finally, after some prodding, I had them prepared to go see Loyce. I got them on their feet, gave them their knapsacks and the rest of the beer – minus one for me – and ushered them out the door. “Be sure and tell her I sent you,” I told them. Both of them nodded. “You treat her nice, okay? She’s a nice person.” I looked around again and made sure that Smiling Dave or Fat Marta wasn’t around. The coast was clear. I turned them in the right direction and reminded them of which door it was. “Be nice,” I told her. “Offer her a beer. Be friendly. Save the Jesus and Joseph Smith stuff for another time.” They both nodded like they were being sent off on a dangerous mission.

I closed the door I heard them talking to Loyce. Then I heard the door close. She let them in. I knew she would. Good ol’ Loyce. I looked around. The big jug of wine hadn’t even been cracked open yet, and there was most of a carton of smokes left. I sat down, opened the beer, turned on the radio, took a drink, and closed my eyes. Debussy was playing.