So Say the Winos, Part 13

Martin laughed, “Daniel? Heavens no. Daniel’s too pure. He left the church because he can’t stand to think that God loves him the best, which is what his mother drilled into him, because it means God loves the others less. The murderers, the rapists, the homeless. You get the picture? God, in other words, is a prejudicial old duffer who plays favorites. Isn’t that right, Daniel?”

From "The Mask of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe, illustration by Harry Clarke

From “The Mask of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe, illustration by Harry Clarke

They poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they become unclean by their acts, and played the harlot in their doings…

Martin clapped his hands together, “Bravo, old man, we’re all sooooo impressed that you’ve memorized the entire Bible. But, we’ve come to see the lady of the house and not to be saved….”

renwikruin

Renwick Ruin on Roosevelt Island, NYC. If this place isn’t haunted, there are no ghosts.

“What’s going on?” Marcia stood in the doorway of the bedroom dressed only in a man’s white dress shirt, her strawberry blonde hair like a fine spider web about her face, a flannel bathrobe over her shoulders like folded wings.

“Bitchen,” The albino snorted, clapping his hands together, “Now you’re talking.”

Her mouth snapped open. “Martin, I told you…”

“Hi Honey, you want ten thousand dollars?” The albino asked, taking a step towards her.

“What is this?”

“Marcia, Luv, I ran into this bloke at Ritchie’s. He’s just cut a record for Capital records. He just wants a good lay and he’ll pay…”

“Sweet Jesus!” gasped the Catholic’s daughter.

The albino turned and hissed at her. “Shut up you fucking virgins.”

“I’m not a virgin!”

“Well, of course you’re not. Look at you sweetie. You’re so horny you’d fuck a pole!”

“I think you’re disgusting!”

“Don’t worry, bitch. I don’t ball stupid little girlies anyway!” He turned back towards Marcia. “So, what do you say, Blondie? You look like someone who knows the score.”

Marcia fumbled with her words, then calmly she said. “Martin, get this guy out of here.”

“But Jamie has just signed a record contract, Luv. He’s going be famous someday.”

“Get him out of here.”

“Come on, Marcia, ten thousand dollars,” Martin urged.

“Not for a million dollars!”

“That does it,” the albino spun toward the door. “There are plenty of bitches in this town who won’t give me this kind of shit!”

“Wait, Jamie…” Martin tried to hold him but the albino twisted free and then stomped down the stairs.


Okay – you’re almost to the end.  If you’ve made it thus far, thank you kindly for sticking with it.  Tomorrow the climax and then a conclusion you may not see coming (at least I hope not).
You can read from the beginning here. 

So Say the Winos, Part 12

th-4Daniel awoke in the grey of early morning to find the girls sleeping on piles of clothes and pillows on the floor next to him, breathing their innocence in and out. Through the undraped windows was the silhouette of a city skyline preparing to greet the sun.

Slowly standing he tiptoed to the sink, stuck his mouth under the tap and sucked in the frigid water until his mouth no longer felt dry and salty. Then he grabbed the bread left out on the counter and ate until his empty stomach no longer retched.

The Catholic’s daughter slept with her face turned towards the setting moon, her head resting on a bundled up coat. She reminded him of his sister. She didn’t look like Francesca but she had the same sensuality, the same fiery contempt for all things Catholic and yet, like Fran, she slipped back on familiar symbols – like the crucifix – in times of distress. His sister, whose decline so young never touched his mother directly, entering through a secret crevice and exiting as a renewed calling. Her salvation became his mother’s calling.

thefactsinthecase

But Fran did not want to be saved. She wanted a pagan life, owing only to pagan gods and opium. She swathed herself in bright robes and painted violent scenes of pagan sacrifice, had abortions, and prayed to rocks.

He slumped into one of the bean bag chairs and considered going back to sleep as it was still dark outside, then he heard the clack, clack, clack of someone with taps on their shoes crossing the courtyard below.

It couldn’t be the Krishnas, he thought. It’s too early besides they don’t wear shoes. Then he heard the clacking in the staircase, too late to reach and lock the door. So he groped his way back into the kitchenette and searched for a knife.

The door opened, sending a slice of yellow light across the sleeping girls. Two people stood silhouetted in the doorway. One tall, the other short. The short man twitched like a marionette on the strings of an incompetent puppeteer. “What the fuck is that?” he asked, his voice annoyingly high pitched and nasal.

“Oh, those are the girls I told you about, mate. They ran away from Reno Nevahda and all those cowboys. Out to see the big world; meet the Beatles. The standard rot.”

“How fucking cute. Are they virgins cause I can’t stand balling virgins, man.”

Martin laughed, “Probably, old man, but this isn’t what I had in mind for you.”

Daniel ran his hand along the greasy wall until he found the light switch. The resulting burst of light caused the short man to jump. “Fuck!” He shrieked as he tried to shield his eyes from the light. He had Beatle-cut platinum hair and a face completely devoid of color. An albino. Perhaps to compensate, he was dressed in limes and lemony yellows as though he’d stolen the luggage of a middle-aged golfer from Tampa. “Shut off that fucking light!” he ordered.

“I thought you weren’t coming back, Martin.”

“A knife? Aren’t we just like a mother hen with our little chicks, Daniel?” Martin sneered, “How domestic, really, I think you’re ready for the suburbs, old chap.”

“Why did you bring a junkie back here?”

“SHUT OFF THE FUCKING LIGHT!!!” screamed the albino, stamping his foot. “I’m not a fucking junkie! But I am horny as fucking hell and this British asshole told me he could get me some prime tail… ”

“I think you should shut off the light Daniel. Our friend has very sensitive eyes, if you know what I mean.”

“I know exactly what you mean.”

“Who is this shit head?” The albino demanded.

murdersinrougemorque

“Oh, don’t pay any attention to him, Jamie, he’s an ex-priest. You know the type. One minute he’s sweating because he’s not doing God’s work and the next he’s trying to convince himself that he doesn’t believe in anything.”

Jamie snorted, “What did you get defrocked for, Father Holier than thou? Screwing the choirboys?”

So Say the Winos, Part 11

Daniel ignored him, addressing the girls. “I brought peanut butter and bread. Much healthier for you than halvah.”

thefactsinthecase

From “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” by Edgar Allen Foe, illustration by Harry Clarke

The rumblings of the first evening prayers sounded across the courtyard – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna,  Hare Hare – causing Martin to spin towards the Institute. “Oh my, they’re finished with their supper. That means it’s time for me to head off to work.”

“Are you coming back?” Daniel asked.

“I thought you didn’t live here any more, mate. I thought Marcia got tired of waiting for you to fuck her and kicked you out on your arse.”

The girls gasped. Don’t respond. He’s just trying to bait you.

“You’re such a funny old sod. This isn’t the bloody desert. You’re not the friggin’ savior and I’m not the devil. Although I do appreciate the honor of your, shall we say, compliment.”

“Are you coming back tonight?”

“I don’t think so, Danny Boy. Not because of you but it’s rather crowded with all of us sharing only one loo. I think I’ll crash somewhere else. Perhaps St. Mark’s – I hear they have a tasty breakfast,” he paused, then froze Daniel’s heart with a laugh like fingernails on chalkboard. “Look at Daniel’s face, girls! Hahaha! Oh the humanity – the Demon Martin sodomizing the blessed Virgin as stained glass depictions of the saints melt all around her. Candles emitting icy darkness in the void left by the absence of God – hahahaha! And in the quiet morning, the faithful arriving to find their beloved priests hanging by their wankers in the blood-red chapel.”

“Enough, Martin.”

“Enough, old man? I’d say you started it. Why don’t you pull out your crucifix and order me vanquished to Hell? Oh, that’s right. You’ve had a crisis of faith.” He waited for Daniel to say something then threw his hands into the air. “Well, I couldn’t care less although it’s been – what do you Yanks say? – a gas! Cheerio!”

houseusher

From “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe, illustration by Harry Clarke

With that Martin slipped through the door and down the staircase. Daniel stepped over to the window but saw nothing in the courtyard but shadows. He unscrewed the cheap bottle of wine he’d brought and took a swig.

Marcia emerged from the bathroom smelling of lavender “I’ve been thinking” she said to the girls, “we should call your parents. I bet they’re worried sick about you.”

“Oh yeah,” Daniel said. “Tell them their daughters are hunky dory. They just spent the night with the Devil.”

“Shit, Daniel! No wonder the girls look so freaked.”

“He killed someone.”

“How do you know that?”

“I just do.”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. He’s not coming back. Girls, eat something and then we’ll call your folks.”

Daniel hadn’t slept the night before. His sole window at the Y was cracked and provided little protection from the rain or the wails of the city, the walls so paper thin he could hear a fellow transient snoring in the next room. Two years he’d spent in New York City practically homeless figuring it would free him. But it hadn’t. And so the wine quickly gained on him until a dizziness – borne of eating little and guzzling cheap wine – soon overwhelmed him. In the distance he could hear the girls on the phone. Yes, we’re Ok. Yes we’re going to Uncle George’s. Further and further away they slipped down the rabbit’s hole until he passed out and dreamt of the Red Queen.


What do you think Readers?  Is Martin gone for good?

So Say the Winos, Part 10

th-7

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Victor Vasnetsov, 1887

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done,” Daniel began as he crossed the room and lay his contribution to dinner – a grocery bag containing Wonder bread, Skippy’s peanut butter, and some cheap screw-top wine for him – on the counter.

The girls stopped strumming their guitars and looked up at him bewildered. He continued,“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

“Revelations? Really, Daniel, how unfriendly,” Martin said as he slithered along the wall.

“Where’s Marcia?”

“Oh my. Marcia has had a nasty day dealing with the wretched underbelly of Manhattan. She’s in the shower, cleansing off their filth. And these three young ladies,” he said with a wink towards the girls huddled on the floor, “have been entertaining me with the stories of their travels. Did you know they are from Reno Nevahda? Have you ever met anyone from Nevahda? Quite unusual really, one only thinks of Nevahda as the home to sagebrush and jack rabbits, now doesn’t one? Not three lovely birds — but here they are.”th-1

“What are you doing back here?”

“You mean from Hell?” he chuckled. “Oh don’t be so Hollywood, Danny Boy. I’ve been evading coppers since I was fourteen. They’ll never catch me. They don’t even know my name. Speaking of stories, that was rather funny this morning, wasn’t it girls?”

“It was four in the morning.” The Catholic’s daughter grumbled peevishly.

“Sorry Luv! That’s when me shift at the docks ends. So funny, once they heard my English accent, they weren’t at all afraid of me. It’s those bloody Beatles. Made life ever so easy for us British blokes!”

“You work at the docks?” One of the girls asked.

“Longshoreman, we’re called,” was the reply.

It was a ridiculous lie, so ridiculous that Daniel couldn’t help but utter a loud “Ha!”

“Why do you scoff, Mate?” Martin asked, “I didn’t have the benefits of a seminary education — a mother who thought I was the Second Coming. I’ve been on me own since I was a lad and, aye, I’ve had to do things I’m not proud of but that’s life on the dole.”

theblackcat

From Poe’s “The Black Cat” – illustration by Harry Clarke

“If you’ve been on the streets all your life, how come you recognized the quote from Revelations?” The Catholic’s Daughter asked.

“The one book you can always get in any jail, Luv, is a Bible and I must confess, Revelations is my favorite chapter. Fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, haunted of every foul and hateful bird; for all nations have drunk the wine of impure passion and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the wealth of her wantonness. Lovely, hey? The sight of me evidently inspires Daniel to recite Revelations. Ask him why.”

So Say the Winos, Part 9

The Krishnas were sitting in a circle on the floor in preparation of their evening meal when Daniel arrived. Those assigned to serving carried bowls of rice and vegetables, placing them in the middle of the circle while others lit candles or passed out paper plates.  The crowd wasn’t very large, just four or five families, a couple of novitiates, the elders, and a hippie or two who’d wandered in for the free meal.  They let Daniel pass in silence. 

The week before six o’clock had been twilight with orange haze hanging over the city and just a whiff of decay.  Now six o’clock was dark and funereal.   He could hear the girls singing as he climbed the stairs to Marcia’s. girlguitarist They were off-key.  So off-key that Daniel began to dread having to sit and listen to them politely.  There were so many young people with guitars singing protest songs off-key, each believing they had talent or a gift.  Most ended up on the streets.  He thought of turning around and then a voice – God? – told him he must proceed.

Martin stood with his back to the poster of Che Guevara. The comparison between the two was vivid; Che, so full of passion that even in two dimension and long dead he made Martin look like a bloodless vapor.  Like all good demons, Martin claimed a familiarity:  “Daniel, old man. How splendid to see you.”

Marcia’d met Martin at the coin-operated, all-night laundromat down the street, a Tuesday date she generally shared with Daniel and Daniel alone but he’d been late.  He wasn’t generally late but a darkness had come over him and certain thoughts refused to budge from his head.  So he’d stopped and bought sunflowers, remembering they were Francesca’s favorite flower and hoping the sight of them would make Marcia smile and they would remember younger days and her smile would cast light into his dark soul.
th-1
And then he saw Martin through the fogged up plate glass window, one hand on a dryer and the other painting a lie for Marcia with long effeminate fingers.  Lies told in a British accent, lies about a Dickensian childhood, lies so thick they snaked over each other but Daniel was too late.  She’d already invited this Martin person, this devil,  back to her place to share in a post-laundry tea ritual which previously had been theirs and theirs alone. Couldn’t she see that he spoke in an accent reminiscent of Henry Higgins, not Alfred P. Doolittle, and his hands were too unblemished to be a dockworker, as he claimed?

After listening tensely for an hour, knowing every word out of his mouth was a lie, finally Daniel pulled his childhood friend aside and asked. “Where’s his laundry?” 

Of course she’d chided him, “So now demons are trolling for souls in all-night laundromats?” 

He couldn’t leave her and so he’d stayed until dawn when the demon sulked away into the mist. Funny he couldn’t remember much else about that night, other than the relief when Martin disappeared and now, after a year, he was back.

So Say the Winos, Part 8

To recap the story thus far:  Three young girls are rescued from a night on the mean streets of the lower east side of NYC by a troubled ex-Jesuit named Daniel.  He escorts them to a flat belonging to his childhood friend, Marcia, where he assumes they will spend the night before fleeing the city. To read from the beginning click here. 


By the time Daniel arrived at the gas station the next morning the car with the Nevada  plates was gone, retrieved, the boss explained, by three “pea-brained hippies.”

“Praise the Lord,” he sighed. Marcia must have convinced them to flee the city of broken glass and backed up sewers where the only people who seemed to make any sense, whirled and chanted until they fell into a stupor. He imagined them telling their adventures to mortified parents; gutters filled with piss and vomit, buildings where the unspeakable things happened on an hourly basis. It was a vile place, New York City. The girls would never return. He was sure.

th-12His good deed sustained him through a busy morning fixing tires for teamsters (their only customers) and helping the boss keep his ledgers balanced. If he hadn’t taken a lunch break, it would have sustained him for the whole day and beyond. It could have been a deed mentally rehashed for months as he assumed only the best of outcomes had resulted. He’d help save three girls from New York City, sent them back to the safety of their suburban lives. But corned beef called, corned beef stacked on rye bread with sauerkraut and a drizzle of the kind of cheesy mayonnaise found only at certain delis. An indulgence he couldn’t afford every day but would be his reward. Corned beef on rye.

He savored the thought for several blocks, noting the cool October breezes as his stomach growled. Winter had come early and it would be a long one. Long and cold. He pictured the inside of the deli, with white-coated salami and barrels of pickles, the musty smell of an old building as he turned onto Hudson. Maybe he’d just eat half the sandwich and give the rest to a street person, he thought, some poor soul seated on the curb or hunched in one of the alleyways. That would add to the goodness of the day.

th-14Alas like all moments too good to be true, this one wouldn’t last. Exiting the deli were two of the girls he thought he’d saved, Venus and young Eleanor (he couldn’t recall their real names). Big, guileless grins on their faces as they squealed in delight, “Daniel!”

“What are you girls still doing here? I thought you were leaving.”

“Oh Fiona is really sick. She barfed all night long and now she’s sleeping,” Eleanor Roosevelt declared, licking chocolate from her fingers.

“Fiona – she’s the Catholic’s Daughter?”

“Yeah. Marcia said we could stay another night, mostly cause she feels bad that we didn’t get much sleep cause of that guy. But tomorrow we’re definitely going up to Massachusetts. We have to figure out what’s wrong with her. Hey, why don’t you come over tonight since it will positively and absolutely be our last night?”

“What’s in Massachusetts?”

“Oh, my uncle. He’s a doctor. Fiona’s been sick to her stomach for too long that we think something’s wrong with her. Seriously Daniel, why don’t you come for dinner? Look, we’ve got some halvah and some donut holes.”

“For dinner?”

“Yeah, halvah’s a Jewish food so it’s got to be good for you, right? Say, Daniel, how far are we from Greenwich Village. Claire and I thought we’d at least check it out.”

“Oh, it’s about a twenty minute walk I’d say.”

“Darn it. That’s too long. Fiona’s alone with that weird guy. She’d kill us if we were gone that long.”

th-3

From Brownie Fright Night, October 2015

“What guy? Did the lawyer come back?”

“No, no. It was another guy.”

“Another guy?”

“Yeah, he said he knew you. He asked about you.” Claire added. “Said that he’d lived with you and Marcia. Bronte thought he was cute but then she thinks every guy with an English accent is cute! But he was creepy.”

“I do not think he was cute!”

“What was his name?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I think it started with an ‘M.’ Yeah, Martin.”

Now he knew why winter had come early. He knew why frantic birds had begun flying into the windows at the station, why the rain was not refreshing, why the stillness of deserted streets crawled into his blood stream as even the most hoary of winos whispered more and more of the ghost ships. Martin had returned.

“You look really strange, Daniel. my God. Is Fiona in danger?”

“If it’s who I think, he’s a night creature. Harmless during the day.”

“God, Daniel.”

“If it makes you feel any better, Marcia completely disagrees with me about Martin. She thinks he’s just another poor, damaged soul and I’m still brainwashed by my mother to see demons on every corner.”

“So you’ll come tonight?”

“I don’t know. By the way, not all Jewish food is good for you. Just because chicken soup is good for you it doesn’t mean blintzes will cure what ails you.”

So Say the Winos, Part 7

Marcia began grilling the girls in her best professional voice. Where had they come from?  How would they make money?  So on and so forth.  She finally ended with “…and you have to admit, coming to New York City not knowing anyone or having a place to stay is a very bad idea.”

“Thus sayeth the Social Worker!”  Daniel quipped as the bedroom door squeaked tenuously open. What emerged was a lawyer.  Of that fact, Daniel was 99% sure.  Brooks Brothers suit, well-shined shoes, monogrammed shirt, and a smug, superior look on his wishy-washy face.

“This is Bill, a friend from work,” Marcia reported clinically of the man.  “Bill, Daniel is the younger brother of my best friend in high school.  He has a tendency to appear without any warning but he’s harmless.  And these young ladies are in need of a place to crash for the night.  I guess you’d call them, castaways.” th

“Castaways, hey?  Like in Gilligan’s Island, ha!”

His joke fell so flat that not even Marcia attempted a giggle. Across the courtyard the chanting ballooned in intensity as though gallons of orgasmic god juice had been thrown upon the Institute.

“Shit, those Krishnas have gotten loud.” The lawyer continued, “Are they always like that?”

“Only until the moment of a shared cosmic orgasm, which — I’ve been assured in triplicate  — can only be achieved if you chant Hare Krishna and spin in circles for several hours.  After that, they’re quiet.” Daniel replied.

Marcia chuckled as she walked to the kitchenette to make a pot of tea.  Looking for chamomile, Daniel thought as he watched her.  Always chamomile in the evening.

“The noise ordinance specifically prohibits any sound louder than a trumpet at this hour and I’d say they’re getting close.”  Bill the Lawyer reported.

Again no one responded and so he continued to another subject, “So, Daniel, you and Marcia grew up together?  You’ll have to tell me what she was like when she was a little girl.”

th-3

My favorite slimy lawyer – Jerry Orbach in Chicago.

Aha! A married lawyer.  A married lawyer, playing around, Daniel assumed.  Did Marcia know?   He clutched the ironing board and, using it as a pulpit, began: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is hidden that will not be known.  Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” 

The lawyer looked to Marcia for explanation. 

“You should have heard him when he was a true believer,” she began.  “My God, all the girls adored him. Once his mother held this overnight retreat for troubled teens and the girls cornered Daniel in the kitchen.  His sister and I had to come save him!  Remember that Daniel?”

Before Daniel could repudiate her story, the lawyer said.  “Well listen, man, I could have never hacked it as a priest either.  All that abstinence BS.”  He stopped to check the time.  “Oh shit!  Is it 8:45 already?”

“Wife and child expecting you?”  Daniel asked.

“No, sorry Daniel.  Not married.” He replied, waving the naked ring-finger of his left hand as he grabbed his overcoat, “Listen, I’ve got to catch the nine o’clock express.  I’ll see you in dependency court, Marcia.  Good luck girls.”  With that, he left.

  “A fellow social worker?” Daniel asked, as he watched the lawyer try to make his way through the throng of Krishna disciples who’d spilled out into the courtyard for air. He stopped to talk to one of them. A mistake. Daniel laughed. “Looks like he’s trying to explain the noise ordinance to the Krishnas.”

He’s a public defender.” She mumbled.

“I knew it. Still going for that house on Long Island. Shall we try to save him from the Krishna’s?”

th-4“No. He can handle them.” Marcia absentmindedly replied and then quickly she changed the subject, “Listen, girls, I have to be at work very early tomorrow morning so, you can crash here on the floor for tonight but tomorrow you have to find another place, okay? I can help you, if you want, but you’ll have to find another place.” Mumbling their thanks, the girls dropped their things to the floor and slumped onto the resulting pile. They looked exhausted but relieved as they removed wet coats and kicked off shoes.

Daniel took a deep breath. His mission was over. “Daniel, are you staying here tonight too?” Marcia asked as she pulled mismatched cups from the cupboard. She was so predictable. Every event ending with a tea ceremony and a heart-to-heart. Something without caffeine, seductive, relaxing and healthy, of course.

“No, I have to go. I have things to do.” He replied, walking to the door.

“What things? Why haven’t I heard from you for over a year?” She snapped, “I was worried you know. What have you been doing?”

“I think this line of questioning falls into the same category as ‘why are you screwing men you hardly know and don’t care about,’ don’t you?” The teakettle began to whistle. Why had he said hurtful words to her? What right did he have to judge anything she did? He walked over to her and muttered an apology “Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips, their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood and in their paths are ruin and misery.”

She smiled. “You bastard.”

“Thank you.” “

You really know the Bible.” The Catholic’s daughter needlessly pointed out.

“If I remember correctly, Romans.”

“Why didn’t you become a priest?” He knew she would ask that question. It was always the first thing out of a girl’s mouth when they’d found out he’d been a seminarian. Particularly a Catholic girl. Before he could say something snide, Marcia intervened: “He didn’t want to be Daniel, Beloved of God.”

And she was right.


th-2Dear Readers – I’ll be back on October 20th to introduce Martin, who for reasons you’ll soon see could well have been the Devil. What do you think?  Does the Devil exist or is it all a fantasy developed by the church to keep worshippers in line?  That’s what I used to think.

Happy October!