Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Scotty Moore, 1931-2016, R.I.P.


Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Scotty Moore, who backed up Elvis Presley on guitar during the earliest part of the King's career, has died at the age of eighty-four.

Moore's lead guitar and Bill Black's bass (with D.J. Fontana on drums after a bit) were a perfect match for the young Presley's vocals. Beginning with That's All Right, Scotty Moore helped to create the rockabilly sound. (I'm over-simplifying a bit, as true music historians know, but so be it.)
.
 

(Those interested in Presley at the beginning of his career should pick up The Sun Sessions on RCA Records.)





Thanks for your time.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Planet Earth Is Blue, and There's Nothing I Can Do"


 
"SO, this guy walks into a bar... "

Wanting to collect his thoughts before going home to the wife and kids, Don had headed straight to his favorite bar after several hours of overtime. He ordered his usual mug of Miller draft, and gloried in the fact that the bar was deserted, except for a couple of patrons -- strangers -- who weren't likely to engage him in conversation.

He was wrong. The solitude didn't last long at all.

A short, rather nondescript man got up from a table, walked over to the bar, and sat down right next to Don. "Hello," he said.

Don barely glanced at him. He nodded in greeting.

"What's your name?" asked the man.

How do I get rid of this guy? Don wondered. "Don," he replied.

"Aren't you going to ask me mine?" said the man.

"No," said Don.

"It's just as well. You probably couldn't pronounce it anyway."

Don turned to look at the little fellow. Upon closer inspection, Don realized that the man looked a bit like a thirtyish Woody Allen, only with a fuller head of black hair. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"No offense, but you people generally tend to screw it up."

"And what do you mean, 'you people?' I'm German-Irish... not that it's any of your business."

"You... Earthlings."

"Say what?"

"I doubt you'll believe this, but... I'm what your people generally refer to as an alien. And I don't mean an illegal immigrant," the man added, laughing at his own unfunny joke.

Don didn't laugh at all. "So, what should I call you? Doctor Spock?"

"That's Mister Spock," said the man, correcting Don. He muttered, "Fifty years, and they still screw that one up. Sad."

Don looked at the man appraisingly, struck by the Woody Allen resemblance again. "How about... Woody?"

"No, thanks. Too Toy Story."

Don couldn't resist teasing the little man. "Okay... Buzz Lightyear, then? That's probably more appropriate, isn't it?" The man scowled. "Klaatu? Mork? Alf?"

"Spare me. How about... Don?"

"That's my name."

"I know."

"Alien mind-reading powers?"

"No. You told me yourself, just a few moments ago."

"Oh, yeah, that's right. Guess I wasn't paying attention. Too busy trying to escape this whole stupid conversation."

"I was trying to be amusing."

"Well, give it up. That was about as funny as your illegal immigrant line."

"I never did get the knack of the whole 'sense of humor' thing."

"Oh, that's right. You're an alien."

"Yeah. So... just call me Phil." Don said nothing. "Okay?"

"I'm Don, so you're Phil. Like the freakin' Everly Brothers. Fine. Whatever. Can you leave me the hell alone now... Phil?"

"But... Don't you have anything to ask me, considering what I've revealed to you?"

"Not really. Asking you any questions would imply that I believe you."

"Which you don't?"

"Which I don't."

"Why not?"

"That's got to be the king of stupid questions."

"Humor me."

"Why should I bother?"

"If for no other reason than... " Phil cleared his throat and tried to sit as tall on his barstool as possible. "If for no other reason than it might... might... convince me that all of you aren't as rude and inconsiderate as I've been led to believe you are by my years living among you."

"Well, I am rude and inconsiderate. Borderline obnoxious, in fact, if you catch me on a bad day. But that's just me. Not all of us... Earthlings."

"If you say so. But everyone we -- or our 'friends' -- have ever sent here thinks you're a bunch of self-centered, arrogant... pardon the expression... bastards."

"Arrogant?"

"Yes. Your people are intelligent enough to comprehend the concept that the size of the universe is more vast than your minds can truly appreciate, but far too many of you still stubbornly cling to the notion that only one planet in that universe -- your own -- has ever produced intelligent life!"

"Uh-huh. And you also called us self-centered?"

"Yes! Even in your television and motion picture depictions of us, the universe seems to revolve around you. Figuratively, that is. You can't help but show that attitude, even in the entertainments that try to focus on the good races you imagine to be out there... "

"What are you talking about?" asked Don, exasperated.

"I'll give you one example! Since you made that 'Doctor Spock' crack... Are you familiar with Star Trek?"

"A little. But I'll bet you know a lot about it!"

"Well, they deal with a plethora of planets which have joined together to promote peace, understanding, and harmony in an organization called the Federation... "

"Whatever. So?"

"If I understand it correctly, they say that the intelligent, space-travelling races knew of one another for years upon years. Yet it wasn't until your wonderful planet was thrown into the mix that anyone got the brilliant idea of banding together for the good of all!"

"Even if that's true, it's just one example... and you're really nit-picking... "

"And you wonder why you only see our spaceships by accident, and why we don't contact your leaders by landing on the lawns of the White House, or Buckingham Palace, or by showing up at the United Nations... "

"Why bother abducting private citizens like Zeke and his wife, and experimenting on them, then?"

"Oh, my stars! We don't do that! What, are you one of those dorks who reads stuff like the Weekly World News and believes it? Think wrestling is real, too, do you?"

"Nope. Simmer down, Phil," Don replied, calmly. "I was kidding. Figures the joke would sail right over your head."

Phil ignored Don's barb. Shaking his head, he continued. "None of us particularly want to talk to any of you."

"Except you, it seems," Don interjected. "Lucky me."

Phil continued. "You haven't even decided whether or not you collectively believe we exist, but in the meantime, you've spent over one hundred years insulting us by depicting us as tentacled monstrosities, or reptilian creatures, or gelatinous blobs, or ineffectual-looking, hairless... "

"I thought the green chick on Star Trek was kinda hot... But anyway, what are you saying? Aliens all look like Earthlings?"

"We do. That is, my people do... more or less."

"Oh." Don sounded disappointed. "And here I was, hoping you'd tell me that what I'm looking at is some sort of disguise, or holographic projection, or something. But you're telling me you look like me?"

Phil looked at Don, who was stocky and solidly built, with thinning brown hair and a bushy mustache. "I don't look anything like you at all!"

"I meant like us. You know, as far as the basics? Two arms, two legs... one mouth, one nose, two eyes... "

"Actually, I have two mouths. But the second one's where you can't see it."

"I won't ask." Don chuckled under his breath. "A second mouth, where I can't see it... Of course," he muttered.

"You're all alike, glossing over the essentials, making your narrow-minded little judgments... "

"Hey, lighten up, you!"

"Much of your fiction has assumed that we citizens of other worlds will someday confront your warlike race and seek to destroy you, or at least prevent you from developing starships with which to carry your nuclear explosives and other weapons of mass destruction to other planets, but once again, you over-state your own importance. We're fairly convinced that you'll blow yourselves to atoms long before you perfect travel beyond your own solar system. We're not afraid of what you're capable of, even by accident."

Don sighed. He'd finished his draft, and signalled the bartender for a refill. Then he looked at Phil. "Okay, are you done?"

"No!" Phil answered. "In fact... "

Stan, the bartender, interrupted Phil. "Actually, sunshine, you are done!" Phil and Don looked at Stan -- a long-haired, overweight, heavily-tattooed man who looked every inch like the biker he was -- who continued speaking to Phil. "I've told you before, I'll put up with this alien crap until you start tickin' off my customers." He pointed at Don. "And it's obvious that this guy's had enough for today. And so've I."

Phil dejectedly hopped down from the bar stool.

Don couldn't help throwing one last dig. "Is this where you shock us both, and prove it's all true, by getting beamed up to the mother ship, or teleporting away under your own power, or... "

"Nothing so dramatic, Don," Phil replied. "I just walk out, is all." He looked at Stan, and in a very non-threatening way, said "But I'll be back."

And he left.

Don watched the door close behind Phil as Phil exited, then Don looked at Stan. "Not sure I liked the sound of that 'I'll be back' crack. Remember the Terminator movies?"

Stan laughed. "Nahhh, he's harmless. And I put up with him cuz he usually spends a good amount of money. Not like today. He just gives this alien speech to one or two o'my customers every week. They all pretty much humor him. Like you did."

"Well, actually, I didn't give him the satisfaction of telling him this, but I believed him."

"You're kiddin', right?"

"No. I believed him, or at least gave him the benefit of the doubt and accepted that he could be one. It really is kind of arrogant for us to believe that in the entire universe, no other planet has developed intelligent life. So why couldn't he be an alien?"

Stan shook his head. "I never know when you're kiddin' and when you're bein' straight with me, Don. But if I did think there was even a chance he's legit, I'd keep him talkin' for hours!"

"Not me."

"And why not?"

"Haven't you ever heard his little spiel? He and 'his people' sound freakin' boring! If aliens really are like him, who needs them? Give me a good, brainless flick on the Syfy Channel any day! In fact, turn the set on, will you? I think they're running a marathon of Battlestar Galactica reruns. Now Tricia Helfer, that's my kind of alien!"

"Battlestar Galactica? I think my fifteen-year-old son watches that. So, she's an alien? I thought she played some kinda robot."

"Stan. Does it even matter?" said Don, as Stan nodded in agreement with Don's point and began looking for the TV remote.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"Player"

Here's something unusual for me: A one-part story!

*  *  *  *  *

 1983.

Kyle, a college sophomore, was what we in modern times would call a "player." The kind of guy who bought half a dozen -- or more --Valentine's Day cards for his many girlfriends, each of them bearing a sentiment similar to "To My One and Only..."

One Thursday morning in January, a knock on the door of Kyle's dorm room announced the arrival of his latest sexual conquest, a naivé freshman named Margie. Kyle had fit time in between his other three girlfriends to "de-virginize" Margie almost two months ago, after heavily laying on his usual patter of undying love and faithful dedication.

So, Kyle was Margie's first, and Margie was his... Well, by this time, he'd long lost count.

After exchanging their brief hellos, followed by a lackluster hug, Margie slumped down on the couch without even removing her coat.

"What's up?" he asked, feigning concern.

"I'm late."

Oh, terrific, thought Kyle. That again! These dumb broads like to use their silly little code words whenever there's a problem. So now this bimbo has gotten knocked up? Don't any of these idiots believe in birth control? He thought for a moment. Nahhh, only the sluts know how to protect themselves. These prissy young things don't.

Luckily, Kyle had a speech prepared for this moment.

"Hey, look, Margie, this isn't as bad as it seems. You chicks have all sorts of complicated crap going on in your plumbing, ya know? Hell, you're probably not even pregnant. But if you get checked out, and it turns out that you are, I'll... well, I'll try to help, if you wanna get rid of it. I can't afford much, though... college expenses, and all, ya know... but if I can, I will." Yeah, sure I will.

She wasn't speaking. No surprise there. She wasn't used to this sort of thing; he certainly was.

"Well?" he said, almost impatiently.

"Thanks," she said, nodding as if she'd come to some sort of agreement within herself.

"Thanks?" he repeated. Was she being sarcastic, or was she gullible enough to believe his well-rehearsed line of drivel? He remembered a line from the M*A*S*H TV show: "Sincerity. I can fake that." So, had she bought it? He suppressed a grin as he tentatively asked, "Thanks for what?"

She stood, and headed for the door. "Thanks... for showing me the real you." As she opened the door, preparing to exit Kyle's dorm room, she turned back to look at him, shaking her head.

"Wh-what...?" stammered Kyle.

"Not that you'd care, nor remember, but I told you I'd be here by ten, and it's almost eleven. So I'm late... you dumb-ass."

And out she went.

* * * * *

Thanks for your time.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day: A Dialogue (Part Four)




Previously: The ghost of Wayne's deceased father, Jerry, shows up in Wayne's apartment on Father's Day.

The two talk about the various transgressions Jerry had committed against his wife and their two sons before abandoning them outright. Jerry had cheated on his wife frequently, and had often ridiculed his older son, Matty, for not being "man" enough in Jerry's eyes.

The only outstandingly good thing Jerry had ever done -- saving several people trapped in a burning building -- had ironically cost him his own life.

Now, as Jerry and his younger son talk about their pasts and the afterlife, Jerry idly informs Wayne that the souls of the departed are less emotional than they'd been while alive. He goes so far as to say that he's spoken with the spirit of his estranged wife, who died only a year ago, and that she's more or less forgiven him for his sins against her. Only moments after Jerry says that, his ex-wife appears, brushing rudely past Wayne to slap Jerry in the face with all her ghostly might!

* * * * *

I had no idea that my Mom -- living or dead -- could ever have contained such rage. But she'd just slapped my Dad hard enough to knock him off balance.

In spite of myself, I found myself stepping toward him, asking "Are you okay?"

He nodded. "Yes, I'm fine. We ghosts can touch each other, but we can't hurt each other. Not really. It's... it's..." He hesitated.

"Let me guess. Complicated, again?" He nodded.

My Mom was standing there, trembling, looking almost homicidal. "And you are so lucky I can't hurt you, Jerry!" she screamed. "I swear, if you weren't already dead, I'd consider killing you!"

"Mom! Geez!" I protested.

She finally -- finally -- acknowledged me. "I am so sorry you had to be here to witness this, honey," she told me.

My Dad clearly didn't know why she was so upset, any more than I did. "Pam, what's the problem?"

"What's the problem? You selfish idiot, it's because of you that my son is dead!"

I suddenly got a cold chill. So, is that... I mean, this... whatever... what my Dad's visit was all about? I'm dead? (Damn that "last cigarette!") And some smartass jamoke in the heavenly Front Office decided to send Jerry to collect me, instead of one of my grandparents, or my Mom herself, or anyone else from the long list of people who were closer to me than Jerry?

"Mom... What are... what are you saying?"

She turned to face me again, tears streaking her face -- can ghosts cry? -- and said, "Oh, my poor baby, I'm so sorry you had to learn it this way!" She placed her hands on either side of my face, but of course, I felt nothing... physically, that is.

My Dad still looked befuddled. "Pam, please! What on earth are you talking about?"

She was still livid. "You despicable...! You really don't know, do you?" He shook his head, kind of nervously. "Matty killed himself tonight! And it's your fault!"

("Matty?" I whispered.)

"What?!?" he exclaimed. "He... he..."

"Yes, Jerry, our son is dead. Dead."

"But... Come on now, Pam! You can't blame me for that."

(So, I'd been way off base, thinking I'd died. But... "Matty?" I whispered again. "Oh, my God. Matty.")

"I've been watching over him as much as I could for the past few months, Jerry," Mom said. She seemed a bit calmer now, but something about this "calm" told me not to trust it. "I've learned far too much about his inner demons. Plus, Matty was kind enough to reference you in his suicide note."

"Pam, it's been over thirty years since Matty even saw me. Don't you think people need to take responsibility for their own actions, at some point?"

"To an extent, that's true, but..." She seemed to rile herself up again suddenly. "Oh! You're... you're doing it again!"

"Doing what?" he asked.

"What you always did! You can rationalize everything to make yourself look innocent, or even victimized!" She stepped closer to him, standing face to face with him. "You know I'll only be able to sustain this anger for a relatively short while, so you're just waiting for me to cool off." He stared at her, blankly. "Aren't you, Jerry?"

He didn't answer her, but I could see the faintest sign of a smirk on his lips. That was a big mistake, because if I could see it from three or four feet away, my Mom could definitely see it.

Her eyes narrowed, her lip curled back into a sneer, and she screeched "You killed my son!" at the top of her lungs. And out of nowhere came my Mom's punch. I not only heard it connect with my Dad's face, but I practically felt it. And I don't care what Jerry or anyone else would have told me about the way things worked for those in the spirit world... It had to have hurt.

Dad ended up on his knees, on the sidewalk. He looked up at Mom, as if he was expecting more. But all she did for a follow-up was look down at him, shaking her head. She smiled in a way that was almost scary. "I had to do that before I lost the mood, Jerry. After having read 'I'm tired of trying to live up to my father's expectations' in the midst of Matty's wordy final letter, I had to throw that punch."

Don't tell me that ghosts don't breathe. She was panting. For all intents and purposes, I was staring at a sixty-eight-year-old woman after she'd belted a forty-five-year-old man. She looked like she'd just done an hour on a treadmill. I was proud of her, in a weird way. Also kind of frightened by her, admittedly, but proud of her.

And then, with a sick little feeling in my stomach, I wondered how I'd feel if things were reversed, and my Dad's ghost had smacked my Mom's ghost around for some transgression(s) she'd made against him in their previous existence. Would I be cheering him on?

No. Of course not.

True, after all the things he'd done to my Mom, I figured she owed him one. Maybe I was justifying things in my way, even as my Dad had always been able to justify his actions.

Or maybe I was just glad someone was finally able to lay a hand on the elusive sonofabitch. Yeah, I guess he was right about years of built-up anger, after all.

Too much to think about, especially on a deserted street at two in the morning. So I decided to concentrate on the one thing that truly mattered at this point.

Matty.

"Mom, what happened to Matty? Did he really kill himself?"

She looked at me strangely. "Yes, Wayne." Like she'd lie about that, right?

"And... you actually read his suicide note?"

"Yes."

"And he really blamed Dad?"

"Well, in all fairness to Jerry... to your father... there were several other things. Matty was pretty 'messed up,' for lack of a better way to put it. And as I told your father, I've been spending a lot of time watching over your brother. I've seen things no one else saw. And regrettably, I saw where things were headed."

"Then why didn't you show yourself to him, like Dad did to me tonight, and try to stop him?"

"We can't interfere that way. It's..."

"Yeah, yeah, right. Complicated. No kidding." I sat down on the sidewalk.

She sat down next to me. "Don't be angry, Wayne. At least..."

"My brother's dead, and I can't be angry? And after what just happened here, who the hell are you to tell me that, anyway?" She looked hurt, and I couldn't blame her. I hadn't talked that disrespectfully to her since I'd outgrown my bratty teenage years.

But instead of becoming defensive -- like my Dad would have -- she just said, "You're right. I can't tell you how to feel."

"Hey, I hate to ask this, but have you been visiting me? You know, watching over me like you did with him?"

"Visits, yes. Occasionally. But you didn't need supervision. Outside of your broken marriage, things have always gone fairly well for you."

"So you saw this coming? Matty, I mean?"

"Oh, yes. I could sit and talk with you for hours about what he's been going through. Before I died -- obviously -- he'd visit me, and I always knew he had terrible things going on in his mind. I suggested therapy, I asked him to quit drinking..." She shook her head. "Did he ever let you know about any or all of the things he was dealing with?"

"No." I thought back to that Father's Day phone call. "Well... once," I said, correcting myself. Then I thought of her "I could sit and talk with you for hours" remark. "You know, I wouldn't mind if you'd come around every so often, so we could talk. And not just about Matty, of course."

Mom looked at me rather sadly. "This wasn't meant to be the start of anything. Your father's reasons for showing up had nothing to do with Matty. He didn't even know."

"Then why did Dad show up tonight?" She looked uncomfortable when I asked that. "I know, I know. It's complicated." Then something else occurred to me. "Hey! If Matty's dead -- and since I seem to be locking into this whole 'I see dead people' shtick -- why isn't he here with me... or maybe I should say, with us?"

"As you keep saying..."

"It's complicated!" I finished. She smiled. "More front office stuff? Paperwork for new arrivals, maybe?"

Mom laughed, almost girlishly. It was so good to hear and see her laughing again. "That's one way of describing it, I suppose." She stood up. "I have to go," she said. I didn't bother asking her where, or why. Kind of pointless, right?

I stood up, too. Mom brought her face close to mine, and if it hadn't been for that whole "plane of existence" b.s., she would have kissed me on the cheek.

Mom looked over at my Dad. He'd been standing about ten or twelve feet away from us, probably to give us a little privacy. "So long, Jerry. See you around."

"Good-bye, Pam. It was good seeing you again... believe it or not." I was looking at my Dad when he said that, and when I turned back to look at Mom, she was gone.

I sat back down on the sidewalk, and Jerry joined me moments later. "Just for the record," he said, "I never -- ever -- struck your mother."

"I knew that. Well... I didn't know that, actually, but... I assumed it. You may have had your faults -- still do, from the looks of things -- but you weren't a total scumbag." He found that funny, and laughed out loud.

Maybe I could get myself a new career as a stand-up comic at ghost gatherings.

"You know something, Wayne?" he asked.

"What's that?"

"Tonight didn't go at all like I expected it to go."

"Ha! You're telling me! When you showed up, you gave me this big build-up about wanting to discuss things I wouldn't have been 'ready' for before now, but I don't really see anything we talked about which fits in with that..."

"Yes. Well... it's complicated." We both laughed at that one.

"So does that mean we try to talk about those things now?"

"No..."

"No? Do we get a do-over?" I wasn't anywhere near as willing to have ongoing visits from him as I would have been with my Mom, but hey...

"I'm afraid not, son," he said, standing up.

I looked up at him. "So what's next? Do you wait until I look away from you, and you do a fade-out like Mom did?"

"No."

"So what, then?" I asked.

He smiled. "You just close your eyes..." And to my surprise, I did so, despite my total unwillingness to do it! "Good-bye, son." Then he said something I'd never heard anyone in my immediate family say to anyone else in my immediate family: "I love you."

* * * * *

The digital clock on my bureau said 5:52 when I opened my eyes. My CD player was still going; Ray Charles' "Busted" was winding down.

"No," I said aloud. "No way that was all just a freaking dream." Yeah, I sounded pretty sure (as I talked to myself), but I needed proof. Now where could I get that?

I thought for a second, and grabbed my cell phone.

I called Matty.

After five rings, I heard, "Hi. This is Matty. Can't come to the phone right now, so when you hear the beep, you know what to do."

This wasn't good. It wasn't even six yet! Where the hell could he be? Had he finally found a job, one that made him get up before dawn? Not bloody likely. And I doubted he was ignoring the phone because he had a girlfriend there, since his social life had been even worse than mine for quite some time...

I left a message. "Hey, Matty, it's me, Wayne. Call me back the instant you get this. It's very, very important!"

And I waited.

And waited.

And waited...

...

* * * * *

Th-th-th-that's all, folks! Thanks for your time, fellow babies.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Father's Day: A Dialogue (Part Three)


Previously: Wayne, 41, is awakened from a visit by the ghost of his father at just after midnight, on Father's Day. Wayne's dad -- and I promise you'll finally learn his name in this chapter! -- invites Wayne to go for a walk outside.

Wayne's dad left Wayne's mother (since deceased) and their two sons when Wayne was nine, and his brother Matty was fourteen. During the marriage, he'd cheated on his wife constantly.

The two men's angry conversation reveals that Wayne was the preferred son, having shown an early penchant for those things his dad considered "manly," such as sports, carpentry, fishing, and even clandestine cigarette smoking.

Matty wasn't interested in sports; he preferred reading. His father teased him about being girlish, or even gay -- which Matty was not -- going so far as to call him "Mathilda" to shame Matty into acting the way his dad thought he should act.

* * * * *

"You're angry about how I died?" my Dad repeated. "If anything, I thought you would have been proud!"

Proud, he says. Well, yeah, I guess other people would have been proud, under the circumstances.

When I was nine -- this was in 1978 -- my Dad finally found a floozy who made him keep some of his standard promises. So, for her, he left my mom, my brother, and me. We made out okay because my mom had spent the last ten years or so running the household -- finances and all -- anyway. She hardly fit the cliché of the helpless, abandoned woman, lucky for all of us.

Just over four years later, in February of 1983, he was walking home from work (because his car was at the mechanic's) through a seedier part of town, and he chanced upon a three-decker whose ancient, over-loaded furnace had literally ruptured less than five minutes earlier.

No one in the building -- and there were at least seven or eight apartments legally rented -- could afford a telephone. (Keep in mind, this was years before every Tom, Dick, and Harry had a cell phone glued to his ear.)

From the accounts in the local and national news, it was something out of a movie. Since the fire had started in the basement, escape routes for the upper-story dwellers were perilous at best. There were single moms hanging out of windows screaming "Save my baby!" and the like.

Long before the fire crews showed up, my Dad and another, younger guy whose name I can't remember were running in and out of the building trying to save people. They accomplished quite a bit in a short amount of time. Over a dozen people made it out of there alive.

My Dad wasn't one of them.

He wasn't quite forty-five years old.

In the days that followed, my Mom turned away about forty jillion reporters and more than half a dozen TV camera crews wanting more information about "Gerald St. Germain." My Dad's name wasn't Gerald, it was Jerry, but somebody somewhere got the name wrong and they all ran with it. Morons.

Mom shooed the reporters away because she didn't want to lie, but she also couldn't handle the job of telling people that the big "hero" had been a low-life, deadbeat dad who'd left his family for his latest piece of tail.

School was hell. Matty and I were faced with the same thing my Mom had been, only on a smaller scale.

"Hey, St. Germain, your Dad was a friggin' hero!" We got that crap all the time, several times a day, for the first few weeks. It died down gradually, of course, but still... it was a pain in the butt.

And "No, actually, he was kind of an asshole," doesn't sit well with people who only want to hear what they want to hear, if you know what I mean.

I tried explaining all of this to my Dad, and typically -- dead or not -- he didn't get it. I guess being part of the so-called afterlife doesn't change you from what you were in life, if "what you were in life" was a clueless dork.

Finally, I remembered something. When I was about eight or nine, my Dad sat me down for several nights to watch "The Godfather" on TV. It was some special version of the first two films that the director had edited together just for the network.

I loved "The Godfather" movies even more than my Dad had hoped. I borrowed my brother's copy of the original novel and read it over the weekend.

Yeah, I read a book. The Godfather, no less! And I was only nine. Can you believe it?

And now that I think of it, it kind of surprises me that Matty even owned that book.

Anyway, at the beginning of the story, The Godfather tells about how Michael Corleone doesn't really want anything to do with the family business. And while his father, Vito Corleone, is ready to pull all kinds of strings to keep Michael out of World War II, Michael goes and enlists! He becomes a big war hero, and when a friend of the family shows Vito an article about Michael's war exploits, the Don's reaction is "He performs these miracles for strangers," or something like that.

"He performs these miracles for strangers."

I told that little story to my Dad, complete with the quote at the end. After that, he got it. Amazing.

Things got a little calmer after that, and I started asking questions most people would have asked two hours earlier. Like, what's it like being dead?

My Dad got a little bit cagey, and said he couldn't tell me a lot. Just a few teasers, pretty much.

"One thing I will tell you, son," he said, "and that's that there's a distinct lack of emotion. Things you would have found incredibly funny, or infuriating, or sad... They don't bother you anywhere near as much." He smiled, somewhat wistfully. "And remember that crack you made about talking to your mother? Well, in the past year, since she died... I have talked with her. And as I said, there hasn't been any real anger in her for me. Not any more. The earthly side of things have faded somewhat."

"You've really talked to her? Funny, I wouldn't think you and Mom would be in the same social circles, you might say." I pointed up, then down, the traditional locations for Heaven and Hell. Just trying to be funny. And he smiled. "Or did dying in that burning building excuse a lot of the crap you pulled in your life?"

"It's... complicated. But I just wanted to tell you that, for all intents and purposes, your mother forgives me. No grudges whatsoever. I thought you'd feel better knowing that."

"Only for her sake, maybe. I'm glad she doesn't have any baggage about you mucking around with her little trip through eternity, or however you might want to phrase it."

I thought back to earlier, when I'd tried to grab him. "So... I can't touch you, and you can't touch me?"

"No. But I can touch those on my plane of existence, just like you can touch people who are still alive on your plane." I had to laugh, hearing him talk like that. Planes of existence. Geez. He wasn't a stupid man in life, but I'd never heard him talk this way. He sounded a bit too educated, for Jerry St. Germain, anyway.

Then something else occurred to me. "So... you ghosts don't do the day-to-day stuff we do, right? I mean, you don't eat or drink, or sleep... stuff like that?"

"No to all of that. We're dead. We don't act like you living do. As I said, it's..."

"Complicated. Yeah, I get that." I gestured with the cigarette I was smoking, my fourth in the last two hours (a record low for me). "No smoking either, I assume?"

"No smoking, no. Not even any breathing, Wayne."

"In other words, you may be able to touch each other, but there's no sex?" He almost laughed when I asked that. "Come on, Dad, I'm not nine any more. We can talk about that now."

"Well, it's like you said. There is no sex, so there's nothing to talk about." Suddenly, his eyes focused on something behind me. He look mildly surprised, disconcerted.

I turned around and saw my own mother, fourteen months on "his" side -- my Dad's side -- of life. She walked toward the two of us, looking like an oddly healthier version of the way she looked a year ago, at sixty-eight.

"Mom?" I heard myself say, in an uncharacteristically-soft voice. "Oh, my God... Mom?"

But she didn't even look at me. She walked right by me. She walked right up to her ex-husband, my father...

...and slapped him right across the face with a fury I'd never seen her show in the forty years I'd known her!

Well! So much for "no grudges whatsoever."

* * * * *

Next time: What's Mom so pissed about?

The conclusion to Father's Day will post on Father's Day, June 19th.

Thanks for your time.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Father's Day: A Dialogue (Part Two)


Last time: Wayne, 41, is visited by his dad at almost the instant that Saturday night becomes Sunday... a very special Sunday... Father's Day.
 
Wayne's dad left Wayne's mother (since deceased) and their two sons when Wayne was nine, and his brother Matty was fourteen. Sometime between the leaving of his wife and children and tonight's visit, Wayne's father died.

So... Wayne has just been invited to take an early morning walk... by a ghost.

* * * * *

I finished my cigarette, but took my sweet time getting dressed. We sure weren't going anywhere fancy -- and I was pretty sure only I'd be able to see him -- so I just threw on yesterday's clothes and ran a brush through my hair to make myself look moderately presentable.

I absolutely hate it in movies or TV shows when there's a character who's either a ghost, or invisible, whatever... and the poor guy stuck talking to the ghost either looks like he's talking to himself, or has to keep apologizing for things people think he said to them when they were actually things said to the ghost... Do you know what I mean? It's an over-worked bit, and I don't find it funny. So I made sure that the route we took was one where we weren't too likely to be walking past anybody... not that there were all that many people on the streets at one in the morning anyway.

(And by the way, I was kind of exaggerating when I complained about my neighborhood. It isn't that bad.)

Once we hit the night air, I was wide awake, alert. But I wasn't talking. That was his job, I figured... showing up exactly at midnight on Father's Day, like it was supposed to mean something. Hell, let him start the conversation, you know?

But he didn't. Not at first, anyway. No, it was only after we'd been walking together for five or six minutes when he asked, "Why so quiet, Wayne?" like I was supposed to be bubbling over with warmth.

"Just thinking," I replied.

"About what?"

"You, obviously. And us, 'us' meaning 'our family,' as you put it."

"Great. Talk to me, then. I mean, whether you have questions, or..."

I stopped dead in my tracks. "What is this sudden need for dialogue?" I demanded. "Why me? And why aren't you trying this b.s. with Matty?" He didn't reply (again!), so I pushed him a little. "Or did you try talking to him first?"

"No," he admitted. "I knew he wouldn't want to talk with me."

"Which means what, that I would? Like you'd know!"

"You and I always got along better than Matty, Wayne."

That's an understatement, I thought. Why I didn't just say it out loud, I don't know. I wasn't exactly in the mood to be sparing his feelings. "Yeah, well, I appreciated that then, but I didn't realize what you were doing to Matty."

"I didn't do--"

"Oh, please! You beat that poor kid into the ground!"

"That's not true! I hardly ever laid a hand on either of you."

"That's not what I meant, and you know it. I'm talking about all those mental head games you played on him." Then I hit him with his old, disparaging nickname for my older brother. "You do remember 'Mathilda,' right? "

He looked somewhat ashamed, but not nearly enough for me. I didn't let up. "Do you remember what the last thing was that you called him before you left? Matty, or Mathilda? Or maybe, just 'queer?' And after all that, the poor kid wasn't even gay!"

"Look, I was from an older generation than you two..."

"Obviously!"

He nodded. "I guess you'd call it... aversion therapy...? I was worried about the way he'd turn out."

"Oh, for...! I can't believe you can stand there and try to justify the way you teased him, just because he didn't fit your stupid standards of what a man was supposed to be."

"I never claimed to be perfect..."

"God! You are so freaking lame!"

"Look, Wayne, I'll be the first to admit that I screwed up -- badly -- with Matty. It was so much easier with you."

"Of course. Because I played baseball. I hardly ever picked up a book, but I could play infield like nobody's business. Too skinny for football, too short for basketball, but put me on the diamond, and I made you proud."

"You did. You did make me proud. Even at age six, and seven..."

"Yeah, and Matty's idea of sports was to read a book about Ruth or DiMaggio. But me, I liked to fish, and build stuff... Even when I was eight, and you caught me behind the house one day, smoking a clincher I swiped from an ashtray, you didn't smack me. I think it was just one more way you figured I was trying to be a real man. I didn't realize it until years later, but that was all such crap."

"Matty's done okay for himself..."

"Sure. No thanks to you, though." Something in the back of my mind suddenly zipped to the front of my mind, you might say. I stopped walking, and turned to face my father. We were walking past the town's public library, which was surrounded by a tall, wrought-iron fence. The fence was embedded in a concrete wall that bordered the sidewalk. As we faced each other, Dad's back was against the wall, and mine faced the street.

An unholy rage swelled up inside of me and I grabbed for the front of his shirt. Stupid. My hands closed on empty air.

I laughed, bitterly. "Guess you were right, Dad." I got a bad taste in my mouth, calling him "Dad" to his face after more than thirty years. "I do have a lot of anger in me. For you."

He shook his head, sadly. "I figured as much. But... what prompted that move?" he asked, with an irritatingly calm tone.

"Do you want to know what Matty did, about... oh... two, three years ago?" He nodded. "He called me in the the middle of the night, at about three a.m." I smiled slightly, in spite of myself. "On Father's Day, now that I think of it!"

"Why did he call you at that ungodly hour?"

I almost mentioned the fact that my Dad had also shown up at an "ungodly hour" to talk, but decided against it. "To talk about you, sort of. Actually, it wasn't much of a conversation. He apologized for waking me -- he hadn't, I'd had... company -- and I could tell he was drunk. Really drunk. And he'd been crying."

I almost expected my Dad to make a wisecrack about the crying part. Sissy stuff, don't you know. But he didn't. "And what did he say about me?"

"He said, 'You know, I've been thinking about Dad. He really was a shit.' "

My Dad looked... I think the old word for it would have been "sheepish." "I guess that's understandable, all things considered."

"Now we're in agreement."

"So, you're angry about Matty, and you resent the way I cheated on your mother... Isn't there any anger you have which is more personal?"

"You really are a glutton for punishment, aren't you?"

"Get it all out, son."

"Thanks for the permission," I said, sarcastically. I thought for a minute. He seemed so determined to have me deal with any and all emotions concerning him...

So I came up with something new. Something that had remained buried in me for almost thirty years. "Actually, now that you've nailed me down... Yeah. There is something else I'm angry about. Something you did that affected me personally."

He looked almost pleased. "And that would be...?"

"I'm angry with you for the way you died!"

* * * * *

Next time, more anger, of course, and -- shall we say -- a guest appearance by...?

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Father's Day: A Dialogue (Part One)

And now, the short first chapter of a Father's Day entry story entitled... well... "Father's Day." I originally posted this four-parter in June of 2009. I'll be running the four chapters every few days until part four arrives on June 19th, Father's Day. Hope you like it.
* * * * *


I rarely get to bed before two or three in the morning, but Saturday night, I was so damned tired that I left the poker game -- and roughly $700 dollars that were mine when I'd walked in -- at shortly after nine. I went straight home, opened and guzzled most of a cold beer, threw on some pajamas, smoked the night's final cigarette, finished the beer, and hit the sheets before ten.

I'd set up my CD player to help me drift off with random selections by Sonny Stitt, Lady Day, a little Bird, some Slim Gaillard, some Dexter Gordon... you get the picture. I was sawing wood in only a few minutes.

It wasn't long after midnight, however, that my eyes snapped open, acting on some sort of instinct. I saw a shadowy figure, slightly hunched over, seated at the foot of my bed. Startled, I screamed, even as my hand shot out to grab my cigarette lighter off of the nightstand.

In the flickering light of my Zippo, I saw who my visitor was. It was my Dad.

"Hello, Wayne," he said, all too matter-of-factly.

"What on earth are you doing here, after all this time?"

"I wanted to talk."

"That's a first. And your timing isn't exactly impeccable." My eyes searched for the digital clock on my bureau. "It's past midnight. Just."

"You don't seem too surprised to see me, considering..."

"No? Hell, I screamed, didn't I? What more do you want?"

"I'm sorry about the lateness of the hour, but..." He hesitated.

I got out of bed, and snapped on the tall lamp next to my nightstand. "But what?"

"Well, I showed up when I did for a reason. Today -- and I mean 'today' as of a few minutes ago -- is Father's Day."

"So what? Even if it was so all-fired important we talk on Father's Day, noon would have been just as good!"

"You're not going to wish me a Happy Father's Day?"

"You're kidding, right? No. No, I'm not. Were you planning on wishing me one?" Now it was his turn to look surprised. "I mean, you do know I have two daughters, right? Just because their mother took them when she left me four years ago..."

"Of course I know about them. You just caught me off guard, that's all."

"Fine. We're even. And I'm awake, so... What do you want to talk about?" I reached for the lighter again, only this time it was to light a cigarette from the pack I picked up at the same time.

"Us," said my Dad. "All of us."

"All, meaning...?"

"You, me, your mother, your brother. Our family."

"What do you care about our family? You walked out of our lives thirty-two years ago, when I was only nine, and Matty was fourteen."

"I don't blame you for being angry..."

"That's just it. I'm not. Truth be told, it was probably the best thing you could have done for Mom. Not for Matty and me, necessarily, but... I'm not angry."

"Then what are you feeling?"

"What are you, my psychologist? You never asked me questions like that when I was a kid."

"That's not the type of question I would have asked you when you were nine, or younger."

"Okay," I agreed, "but it's not like we ever had any heart-to-heart conversations. So why now?"

"You weren't ready before now."

"I wasn't? What about you?"

He ignored that. "There were things about your mother and myself that you didn't know about, say, at twenty... And things you still wouldn't have understood at twenty-five, or thirty, because of your lack of... certain life experiences."

"But in your humble opinion, I can understand those 'things' now? That's rather condescending, isn't it? Anyway, why do you have to justify yourself to me? Why don't you talk to Mom?"

"That's an odd thing to say."

"Why? Just because she died a year ago? I still talk to her, once in a while. The conversation's a bit one-sided, admittedly, but... Anyway, if I can talk to the dead, I know you can!"

"Look, Wayne, I'll admit that I made mistakes where your mother was concerned..."

"Mistakes? Is that what you called those... women? Mistakes? I hope you didn't call them that to their faces."

"There weren't that many. You make it sound like there were dozens!"

"Look who's getting defensive. What was the number, Dad? Or do you even remember?" He didn't answer. "You're pathetic, you know that?"

He sighed. "Look, Wayne, can we get out of here? Go for a walk?"

"At half-past midnight? In this neighborhood? Or do you have some magic powers that can protect us?"

"We'll be okay."

"Why do we have to go out anyway?" I gestured with the hand that held the almost-finished cigarette. "Is the smoke getting to you? Or do you just need some fresh air in general?" He shook his head, and didn't reply. "I guess those were both rhetorical questions anyway, right?" He still didn't answer. "Fine. Whatever. But you want to know something?"

"What's that?"

"You're more irritating now than when you were alive."

* * * * *

And, on that note, fellow babies... See you soon!

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Gonif ~~ A Blast from the Past

A little muse-less at ther moment, so I'm gonna repeat a seven-year-old story I wrote.... ummm... seven years ago. (Tolja my mind wasn't too clear, fellow babies!)

Seriously, I hope you like it. It's a little long, but most of my stuff is.

Thanks for your time.

Gonif



I dunno th'exact words, but there's some old sayin' like "Life's a comedy for th'man who thinks, an' a tragedy f'th'man who feels." Like I said, somethin' like that.

S'right now, I'm thinkin' -- thinkin' -- 'bout th'past couple o'days... an' laughin' my fool butt off.

Part One -- The Grab

Look, I'll be honest with ya. Whenever I got a choice 'tween doin' th'so-called "right" thing, an' doin' somethin' th'easy way, I go f'th'easy route. Even if -- hell, 'specially if -- th'easy way ain't necessarily legal. I get some weird kinda rush about breakin' th'law. It's almost a fever, or an addiction. I don't like gamblin', or binge eatin', or hookers or booze or drugs... none o'that crud. I get my rocks off doin' whatever it is that I wanna do when I know I ain't supposed t'be doin' what I wanna do!

Make sense? No? Ah, well.

Let's jus' say that in my time, ol' Lefty's done all sorts o'illegal things. Some's jus' small things, like runnin' a stop sign or a red light. Whenever I can, I'll do th'chew'n'screw bit at a diner or a reg'lar restaurant. Sometimes it's more serious stuff, like findin' a wallet an' keepin' it, or maybe cheatin' on taxes, when I bother declarin' income at all! But in sixty-plus years on this planet, I ain't never done nothin' real bad. Well... almost never.

So two days ago, I'm walkin' down by th'docks, gettin' th'simple kinda exercise that keeps me in shape like a boychik half my age... while wearin' my new suit, no less. A few feet ahead o'me, I see this homeless slob -- a tall schvartze -- trudgin' along carryin' a brand new, expensive-lookin' suitcase, an' I says t'myself, "Lefty, what's wrong with this freakin' picture?" y'know? I mean, Handsome here's sportin' a beard with th'remains o'his last few meals hangin' on it like Christmas tree ornaments, an' he's got long, kinky hair that looks like it ain't seen shampoo since they started sellin' Head & freakin' Shoulders! An' his clothes? Lord knows what color his pants were when they first came offa the rack, an' add t'them a pair o'broken vinyl shoes, no socks, an' a stained overcoat 'stead of a shirt. And this (th'overcoat) in mid-freakin'-August, no less.

So th'fancy briefcase sticks out like a sore thumb. It was a big sucker, too, an' all sorts o'possibilities started flashin' through my mind, y'know? It can't be his, I figger. He prob'ly swiped it. So even if I did have a normal-type conscience -- an' trust me, I don't -- I still woulda felt okay 'bout swipin' it from this guy.

And o'course, I did swipe it from 'im!

I followed 'im kinda discreetly for a while. He was walkin' away from th'waterfront an' toward th'city itself, so I figgered I hadda make my move soon or witnesses'd start pilin' up like pigeon droppin's on a statue. Luck'ly f'me, th'guy steps in 'tween a couple o'big crates t'take a leak, an' while he's doin' his business, I swoop by an' snatch th'case.

Nothin's ever too easy, o'course, so even as I'm makin' th'grab, Handsome's sixth-freakin'-sense or somethin' kicks in, an' he whips around -- still relievin' himself, only now on my shoes, fer cryin' out loud! -- t'take the case back. Luck'ly for ol' Lefty, the sun's in his eyes, so he doesn't get a good look at me, an' he don't see it comin' when I smack 'im as hard as I can right in the puss with th'case itself! Ha!

I take off like a bat outta hell, hearin' 'im moanin' and groanin' like a wounded animal as he lays there in his own urine. An' no, I don't look back, are you nuts? Lefty's no shmendrick.

Screw it, at least he's still alive, right?

Couldn't wait t'get home t'see what kinda goodies I got.

Part Two -- The Take

So here I was, in a fancy hotel room 'stead o'th'kinda motel rooms I'm used to, y'know, thanks t'the welcome run o'good luck I had at the track a few nights back. (It's how I bought my new suit, too, y'know?) I decide to be a fresser, an' call down t'room service an' order myself a thick'n'juicy hunk o'prime rib. After hangin' up th'phone I plunk Handsome's suitcase down on top o'th'bureau and start checkin' it out.

It ain't heavy, considerin' its size. An' not so surprisin', it's locked. The "locked" part just makes me laugh; I'm a pro, remember?

I get it open in a few secs, and find that somebody's wrapped an entire bedsheet 'round this whatever-it-is f'paddin', so it won't bang around too much in the suitcase. I take th'bundle out o'th'case and put it on th'bed t'give me more room t'work.

As I unwrap th'sheet, a funny smell -- like spoiled meat -- starts t'invade th'room. "Oy," says me, "This ain't good, Lefty!" Inside the sheet is somethin' long an' thick, wrapped up in some taped-up butcher paper. It ain't too big, and it's too long'n'narrow t'be, like, a human head or somethin', I figger, as I start laughin' nervously. "A freakin' head? You seen too many movies, Lefty!" I remember thinkin'. Then again, there was that rotten stink...

But it wasn't no head, o'course. Like I said, wrong shape. This thing was only a little bit bigger'n my...

Forearm.

I almost puke. Inside th'paper is some poor mamzer's left hand'n'lower left arm. It's pretty obvious that th'dear departed was a guy, from all the white hair on th'arm'... an' th'back o'th'hand, too. There's a fancy-shmantzy gold ring on his ring finger, which I don't pull off, fightin' all instinct, an' one more little detail I can't help but notice:

Whoever this unlucky soul was, he was one o'my people, an' he spent some time in one o'th'Nazi death camps... cuz there on his arm is one o'those damn tattoos I seen way too many of.

I ain't too religious, as y'mighta guessed, but this gave me the creeps. I hadda get rid of it. But since it was pretty freakin' obvious that th'luck I'd had at the track was now officially kaput, I figgered that if I just decided to toss it in th'nearest dumpster, some cop'd spot me disposin' o'th'evidence.

So I said t'myself, "Wonder if Handsome would want it back?" while I was callin' room service t'cancel my prime rib.

I'd kinda lost my appetite anyway, y'know?

Part Three -- The Meet

I wrapped that smelly sucker up in the sticky paper first, an' th'sheet second, and slammed that case shut. I took only a few secs t'wash my hands, an' off I went, headed right back t'the docks.

See, my mind was goin' a mile a minute, an' I was havin' all sorts o'creative flashes as t'exactly why this arm was in a suitcase like this. An' mixed in with th'flashes was all kindsa questions, some I could ask Handsome... but most he prob'ly woulda been clueless about. (I was still figgerin' he'd swiped th'case himself, y'know?)

The most unsettlin' thought was that this was some kinda freakin' trophy, maybe belongin' t'some professional hitman who'd kept it t'prove that he'd completed a mission, y'know? An' I sure as hell didn't want him lookin' for whoever'd ripped off his precious case, an' windin' up with me, right?

I was still on the outskirts o'th'heavier-trafficked streets, not yet even as far as th'docks, when I spotted Handsome, shufflin' along like the poor schnook he was. I hadn't been walkin' f'ten minutes! Maybe my luck wasn't totally gone, I figgered.

"Hey! Hey!" I yelled, when I'd almost caught up to 'im. A bunch o'people, Handsome included, looked t'see who I was yellin' at. I pointed right at 'im t'eliminate confusion, y'know? "You! Overcoat!"

He looked at me kinda funny for a sec, prob'ly wond'rin' what some old Jewish guy in a two-piece suit would be screamin' at him for. I mean, don't forget, he didn't really get a look at me when I snatched th'case. Then he saw th'case itself. His eyes bugged out an' he took off in th'other direction.

Maybe my spiffy suit made 'im think I was a cop, an' he figgered I wanted t'question him about the suitcase? Maybe he thought I was th'rightful owner, shall we say, an' that I wanted to "thank" him proper f'havin' ripped it off from me? Hell, did he even know what was in th'case?

I never had a chance to ask 'im any of that crap. I hadn't been chasin' Handsome for more'n a couple o'blocks before he darted into traffic an' got hit by one o'those brand-new Fords some wiseass decided to call a Mustang.

Damn.

I was far from the only one who crowded 'round 'im t'see if he was dead. An' yeah, he was. Shame.

Even as I was wond'rin' "Now what?" I got my freakin' answer. A voice outta nowhere yelled "Hey, you!" an' my head swivelled around like that broad in "The Exorcist," only to realize exactly how Handsome'd felt not two minutes earlier.

There were two guys in suits -- cheap suits, not a dandy like mine -- pointin' at me. "Yeah, you! With the suitcase!" shouted one of 'em, th'taller one. "Don't move!"

Cheap suits, I said. These weren't hitmen. These were detectives. An' when a cop tells me t'do somethin' -- anythin' -- I do the freakin' opposite, y'know?

So I took off like a raped ape... but like a schmuck, I held onto th'freakin' case, can you believe it?

Not only did that make it look like th'case'n'me were "connected," y'might say, but it slowed me down.

I keep in really good shape, like I said. So even at sixty-three, I could usually outrun a couple o'middle-aged cops. On a good day, anyway.

But as y'may o'noticed, this wasn't a particularly good day f'me!

I dunno which one caught up t'me first -- ignore th'crap Hollywood churns out, y'never turn around when you're bein' chased -- but he tackled me like a NFL pro. I went down hard'n'smacked my head on th'pavement... and blacked out.

Part Four -- The Grill

I woke up sittin' on a metal chair, an' cuffed to a long table in a room I'd seen more'n my share of over the years. I even recognized the guy who handed me a cold coffee when I opened my eyes. Known 'im since he was a rookie. No kiddin'.

"Hey, Lefty..."

"Officer Kyle? Long time, kid. I see this room got another paint job."

"Here," he said, pushin' the coffee closer t'me. "You'd better drink this. You'll need to have your wits about you. You're in big trouble this time, Lefty!"

"Nahh, don't you fret, boychik. I got an explanation f'all o'this."

One of the two detectives who'd chased me down earlier was in th'room with me'n'Officer Kyle. I just hadn't noticed 'im. "Don't be too sure of that, southpaw," he said.

"Southpaw? Why'd you call me that?"

"It's what they call a left-handed pitcher in baseball."

"No! Really?" I said, sarcastic-like. "Look, you yutz, I know what a freakin' southpaw is! I was a Sandy Koufax fan when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. But I ain't no southpaw!"

His eyebrows kinda knitted together as he looked at the copy of my rap sheet which was sittin' on the clipboard he was holdin'. "Then why the hell do they...? Oh. Allen Lefcowicz. Got it."

He studied my little resumé for a few secs, then dropped th'clipboard on th'table I was cuffed to. "So, what makes a small-time career criminal graduate to murder, Allen?" I sat silent for a bit, cuz I didn't have no lawyer there yet. The detective smiled liked he was readin' my mind. "Don't worry, that was just a rhetorical question, Allen. Nothing's official until your public defender arrives."

I couldn't keep my mouth shut, so I blurted out, "I didn't kill nobody! That dumb schvartze ran into an oncoming car! And don't freakin' call me Allen. Only people who knew me as a little pisher coulda got away with that, shmendrick!"

Th'guy came around t'my side of the table an' kicked the freakin' chair right out from under me. I was still cuffed t'the table, o'course, so I couldn't break my fall too good, an' landed hard. He bent down so we were face t'face, and his voice was like freakin' thunder in my ears. "I wasn't talking about the homeless man, Lefcowicz! I was talking about the man whose arm you severed, you sick little freak! And just for the record, yutz and shmendrick aren't going to cut it with me! It's Detective Streimekis to you, loudmouth! You hear me?"

"Yeah, I hear ya. An' you're breathin' in my face." He stepped away. "Well, help me up, willya?"

"Help yourself up, Lefcowicz." He glared at Kyle, who was gonna assist me, from th'looks o'things. "And don't you go near him, officer," he warned.

I picked up th'chair -- an' myself -- an' tried t'recapture a little bit o'dignity. "Streimekis, huh?" He nodded. "Lemme guess: Litvak?"

"Yup. Third generation Lithuanian Jew. Something to say about it?"

"Nope," I said, sitting down.

"Okay, here's what we've put together: For some reason -- and we're thinking robbery -- you decided to kill some old Jewish man... a Holocaust survivor, no less, you lousy...! We don't have an ID on him yet, but since you were so kind as to provide us with several fingerprints..." He laughed at his own little joke. "Anyway, keeping the arm was pretty stupid, don't you think?"

"Look, y'got this all wrong..."

"Shut up, Lefcowicz, I'm not done. That poor black guy somehow got the opportunity to steal the suitcase, and kept ahead of you for at least two days. And when one of our guys spotted a tramp with a pricey-looking suitcase, we decided to watch him as much as possible until the true owner showed up to reclaim his property. Which you did. So we didn't know of your involvement until you finally tracked down the guy who stole your grisly little souvenir, and chased him into traffic. So, Lefcowicz... Did you kill the old guy for his money? It would sure explain how you were able to afford the fancy digs advertised by the key in your suit pocket. Quite a notch above your usual accommodations, according to a few of the officers here. It'd explain the suit, too, for that matter." He inhaled and exhaled loudly. "Did I leave anything out?"

"Nope. Everythin's there. Course, s'all bullshit, but..." He looked like he was gonna come 'round th'table again an'smack me one, but he didn't. "Look, I paid f'th'hotel room and th'suit with dough I won at th'track a few nights ago." The detective chuckled, and even Officer Kyle smirked. "Look, guys, trust me on this one..."

That
got a big laugh.

Part Five -- The Punchline

Like I said, all that was a couple o'days ago. My lawyer strikes me as bein' a total putz, so I ain't feelin' too good about this at all.

You prob'ly wonder why I'm takin' this bum rap so well, ain'tcha? Well, remember when I said "I ain't never done nothin' real bad," an' then added, "Well... almost never?"

Quite a few years back, I robbed a guy of twenty-three dollars in an alley... an' unfortunately, I hit 'im too freakin' hard on the back of th'head with a pipe... and he died. An' no one ever came after me f'that, so I guess this is karma's way of havin' a nosh at the expense of my tuchus.

Author's note: Regardless of whether or not "Lefty" Lefcowicz's public defender was a putz, Lefty was acquitted of all but a few minor charges. He learned his lesson and became a productive member of society.

Yeah, right. You didn't really believe that second sentence, did you?

* * * * *

This story is dedicated to Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, Al Feldstein, Allan Sherman, Don Rickles, and countless additional Jewish comedians and comic book creators who gave me an appreciation for Yiddishkeit years before I ever heard the word.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails