Friday, December 24, 2010

New Orleans Story Part Eight and a Half: The Party

Short Story Part Eight and a Half: The Party
And the guests, they did arrive.
Hinch was at the door in his Casablanca outfit of fez and caftan, acting as doorman and announcer. I thought that each guest was going to either throttle, choke, knife or put a bullet in him. Petey was behind the bar making Mojitos, Caipirinhas and pouring shots of Agave liquor, also there were papusas, mini tacos and fresh fruit with Pico de Gallo laid out and ready for the taking. And, I’ll tell you, after Hinch’s introductions the guests had eager hands for refreshments, both liquid and solid.
There was a soft knock at the door and Hinch went to answer it. He re-entered, clicked his heels together and said in a clear, well enunciated tone: “Announcing the arrival of ‘Anne the Fair’” Hinch began “Mistress of the young knowledge seekers and those fortunate literary swains who find exposure and experiences in all that she readily imparts and makes access to in various parts of her repositories of information and repose.” and with a lewd wink, backed out of the room, the perfect smart ass.
Anne came in looking like a fresh flower and as innocent as spring. She had on a simple scoop neck cotton shift with no shape other than the one she gave it; and she gave it. Her figure started with the daintiest of feet encased, bare, in low-slung walking heels. Her shape followed up athletic legs and thighs to pear shaped hips, a whisper of a waist and on to small, but perfect, breasts that did their best to seek freedom from confinement. Topping that, if you could get that far, was a shapely neck leading up to a perfect face. Her shockingly blond hair framed ice Blue eyes, the prettiest of pert noses and one of the most sensual mouths that wore the only make up on her that was apparent. The color of her lipstick, as well as her thong panties, nail and toe polish could only be described as arterial blood red; she wore no brassiere. She radiated heat and sexual pheromones that washed over the room like a gosling feathered storm surge. She was so stunning that she was unapproachable, that is, until she turned her light upon you with that ethereal smile.
She took in, and glided into, the room, melted the ice cubes with that smile and lifted a small glass of Agave liquor to her perfect mouth and slammed it. She looked at Petey first and quipped: “Long time, Soldier,” and sprawled her hot body into a grey knit colored, mid century Kai Kristiansen, Danish modern lounge chair that I had purchased through the Scandinavian Mafia, crossed her legs revealing the alabaster of her inner thighs and dropped her shapely arms down to the outsides of the arm rests. “Phew, the fucking traffic is horrendous!” she said and asked for a smoke. “Nice to see you again, Anna.” Hinch sweetly called from the doorway.
“How’d you like a knuckle sandwich, midget?” she snapped back, took a Players Oval that I offered and a light from my vintage Zippo lighter.
Nonplussed, Hinch turned back into the room and announced: “I give you now, ‘William the Conqueror’, leopard of lovers and defiler of the unsuspecting, bane of the fair sexes and with his knowledge of how to quickly slay with every aspect of his fine tuned physique, brings us the cleanest of bodies and the dirtiest of minds.”
Billy stalked in on velvet paws, eyeing the corners of the room for prey or adversaries. He was about the same height as Anne, five foot nine or so, but looked taller somehow. His finely polished alligator boots, pressed form fitted jeans and black muscle shirt ensemble was held together by a military Garrison Belt and matching leather vest. He fairly rippled with animal masculinity. His square features were topped by three quarter inches of dark hair that came low on his brow, razor cut. He radiated a ‘don’t fuck with me’ aura and he snatched Calistoga water out of the air that Petey had tossed in his direction faster than the eye could follow. A small diamond in his right ear lobe and a vintage Submariner Rolex watch were the only jewelry that he wore.
The only chink in his armor seemed to come from the frequent batting of his perfect dark eyelashes that fell across dark chocolate brown eyes that was an effect of his ill hydrated contact lenses. Petey started humming softly: a Carly Simon song which was entitled “You’re So Vain” and Billy eyed him suspiciously, not getting it, but knowing that a slight had been slung.
Billy turned to Hinch’s retreating back and muttered “asshole” to which the gnome replied brightly:
“Everybody’s got one!” and sniggered his way back to his post at the door.
More food was getting passed around by a young Tica girl; the one that I had seen nursing a baby earlier in the kitchen. It seemed that the greasy bastards (I was getting to like the sound of that) were from Costa Rica; I silently prayed that she had washed her hands. Billy was leaning against a doorway, Petey was grinning from behind the bar and sweet, evil Anne was still slouched as the effects of food and drink began to make their magic on prevailing moods. I had seen the sober Billy Price (everybody’s got one) slip a small tablet into his mouth, surreptitiously (I’m sure that he thought) and he relaxed perceptively also. Small talk was served up and nibbled on. I decided that I was the one who should break the ice, so to speak, and started with the easiest mark:
“So Petey, tell me, if Petey Pappas is not your real name, how did you come by it?”
Petey told us about how, “after I met, and spoke with Anne (with a solicitous nod in her direction) and with the semi clandestine encounters with her that included several elevating forms of attention that she had guided me through, she and I formed a plan.”
The plan was this: Petey would find where his sister had stashed the purloined birth certificates and pick an appropriate one that would show that he was old enough to join the U.S. Marine Corps and that her ‘friend’ Billy would do the rest. The name on the birth certificate that he found most suitable was Patroclaeus Papracapolis.
Anne smiled promiscuously in his direction and joined in: “Yeah, Petey was one of my earliest disciples, eh? Remember the hallway closet and the break room? Yum…. Some times, eh?” You could just about hear Billy’s scowl. Petey was lost in thought with a stupid grin on his face, evidently reliving some smutty tryst or other.
“Yum, yum.” He agreed.
Hinch came back with our next caller: “You unlock this door with the key of your imagination” he said slowly; I had to give it to him, he was back to his natural rare form. “Beyond it is another dimension, a dimension of sight, a dimension of sound, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the Brandi Zone.”
There was a smattering of applause as Brandi Mae entered; and she entered without seeming to touch the floor, you might say that she ‘swept in’. And she was here, the ocean’s daughter, dressed simply in sandals, jeans and one of those Oxford collar man tailored shirts open at the throat that she wore with her natural aplomb. Patricia Clarkson. Meryl Streep. Forgo formality and simply say that she was every inch Brandi Mae.
Her sable colored hair was cut shoulder length, with longish cut bangs and has natural curls, her eyes are wide, blue gray and set and open. Her hourglass figure spoke simply: ‘round, firm and fully packed’ and you knew that you had, in fact, always been her lover. She had Wayfarers perched on top of her head acting as a hair band and she matched Anne ounce for ounce in sensuality; even the sweet bangs of her hair set a fire going inside of me, her eyes drank in my being, and my inner animal screamed: “Dip me in honey and feed me to her!!! In fact my inner everything went on high alert.
She put her arm affectionately around Hinch who purred and molded himself to her right side, his head resting on her perfect hip.
“You know, Hinch” she quipped “I can help you out with that hump”
It was a famous line from Young Frankenstein and Hinch picked it up right away. He turned to her and looked up at her very seriously and replied: “Hump? What Hump?” They both giggled.
“And as they say:” said Billy sarcastically “they laughed like they didn’t have a lick of sense”.
“Now Billy,” said Brandi, flashing a most disarming smile “you’re not still angry at me are you?”
“Hah, Billy stays sore a long time, sweetie.” Threw in Anne
“But that was so long ago… “
There was another knock at the door and Hinch rolled out to answer it. In came Mo, I mean, Sylvinia.
Hinch came in, clapped his hands three times and said: “I give you now…”
The room fell silent; Hinch closed his mouth and backed up. We all knew what ‘snik’ meant. It meant that Sylvinia had let open her six-inch, pearl handled, Sicilian, early twentieth century stiletto. When you hear ‘snik’, you freeze; it is the sound of death. And dealing that fate with poker faced relish would be of course, Sylvinia Wolfpath. Syl liked to call it, the stiletto, ‘Little Zipper’ and none of us wanted to have a run in (no pun intended) with it. We had all heard tales of the thing.
She was dressed in the only color I had ever seen her in (besides au natural, but that’s another tale for another time): black. Flat, head to toe, unadorned and un-accessorized… black. Today it was leotard, turtleneck, leggings, hair-banded and light denim jacketed… black. She wore those eye glasses that changed hue from dark to light depending on the sunshine (or not) and on her feet a simple pair of Capezio dancing slippers, black of course. Her hair was back in a tight bun and she was a fine, lean and toned woman of about six foot four and a half. She reached back, seemingly to scratch her scalp and we heard the Little Zipper slide back up her sleeve. A collective sigh could be heard.
“You were saying, Little One?” She said to Hinch
“I am exalted by your presence, my Lady” Hinch bowed away from her and back to his post.
As Hinch turned he bumped into another, unexpected, guest. The room turned when we heard the little guy’s muffled exclamation. Considering their size differential, what happened, and what we saw was, Hinch with his face pressed against the crotch of our new arrival, she had her hands on both of his shoulders and was grinning from ear to ear.
“I love your approach, my little man, but shouldn’t I have a drink first?”
Hinch blushed furiously and our new guest smiled at the assemblage and cried out: “I was hoping that I’d find you all here; okay, who wants to be a millionaire?”
Petey was the first to speak: “why, as I live and breathe! What cat dragged you in and what scheme are you cooking up now?” He turned to us all and said: “I suppose you all know my sister Pearl and at this point my advice would be not to agree to purchase anything.”
“I take offense to that last remark and I’ll have you watch your tongue, Sir” commented Professor Morriarity, who had followed Pearl into the room.
Pearl pulled a small device from her shoulder bag and proceeded to reel us in like brook trout from an Arkansas creek on an August afternoon

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Valentines in New Orleans 2011

We interupt our story telling to post the February WhereY'at article before I lose it.
Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Hearts And Flowers
Hello, I Must Be Going
“ Love doesn’t come in a minit; sometimes it doesn’t come at all. I only know that when I’m init; it isn’t silly, it isn’t silly, love isn’t silly at aaaaaaaaallll.”
Yes Cats and Hats, it’s February and time to take love and Valentine’s Day for another spin around the block. So, kick the tires, check your gas gauge and fasten your seat belts.
To begin with: In the time of the Roman emperor Claudius the Cruel there was a priest named Valens or Valentine or something. Claudius the Cruel wanted to raise an army but guys didn’t want to leave their wives and families, so in a typical political maneuver the emperor outlawed weddings. He figured that if guys didn’t have wives and families that they would be more likely to give up their lives in battle for nuts like him. Typical political thinking. Rome was called a republic, which makes Claudius an early republican.
Well, Val was a priest that didn’t see eye to eye with Claude and went on marrying couples; so Claude had him bludgeoned to death with clubs and decapitated. The execution took place on February 14th, which was, by coincidence, the feast day of Juno, the goddess of childbirth and marriage. The Following day was the beginning of a festival called Lupercalia. (Actually Lupercalia was from Feb 13th-15th). Lupercalia was the celebration of purification and pregnancy, named for the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, for the Greek god Pan and all his lascivious antics, and for the cleansing ritual named Februatio (after the Roman God of purification and washing, Februus) for which the month February is named. What’s the point? The whole point of Valentine’s Day was for the church to subsume another pagan ritual with a feast day of a saint whom they would later defrock, along with others such as Christopher and Nicolas. In Euclidian geometry a point is something that has no parts. And if you think that I’m handing you a line, I’ll take it a step further by quoting Euclid again who said that a “line is a length without a breadth”. If you throw religion out (imagine) the whole pagan festival is like a big three-day pure nurturing love fest, complete with body fluids; or, a line with a point at both ends, a beast with two backs. It’s more like the arrival of spring weather and a reason to party like it’s nineteen ninety twenty-two. Think about it.
So, there you go; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. How’s your love life? Got your Valentine’s cards out yet? Got a Valentine? Want to beat them with clubs and cut their heads off?
Oh, before Val’s execution he passed a note to the jailer’s daughter, with whom he had developed a ‘friendship’ (yeah, right.); he signed it “your Valentine”. What was in the note is anybody’s guess. Supposedly, that was the beginning of the whole Valentines card thing.
So, let’s flog this horse another mile and touch on the subject of love. Love is, for the most part, a trickster, a shape-shifter and a mischief-maker; in all mythologies god and godlike beings personify these types of rascals and one thing they have in common is a proclivity and propensity for procreation. Like love, they also are not trustworthy. Eros, Loki, Kokopelli, Hermes, Ananse and Raven are prime examples. Not know many of those guys? Well here’s a story:
Once upon a time (it’s a ‘once upon a time’ story) there was a being born of the elements: fire, water, air and earth. This being was enormously unhappy because they did not have another crutial element, an element that was missing from their life, or so they thought---the element of LOVE.
This being was to wander the earth and spheres and witness the love that others had; the love of a mother as she suckles her babe, the love of a faithful and obedient pet, love to a just and merciful god, the love that comes from fealty to king and country and the love that the fortunate have for their local bartenders. There’s the love of arts and beauty, of food that is tasty and well prepared, and of the gifts of the muses: poetry, drama, dance and dirty jokes (just kidding); the love of a good book, a trusted friend, fauna and flora and a juicy piece of gossip.
Everywhere that this being looked they saw love: the love of toys and playthings, the love of a harmonic gathering of like minded individuals, of nature and of marshmallows toasted over a campfire at sunset. Then they saw the love that people have for being with other people: double Dutch rope jumping, card games, singing in harmony, playing dress up, playing undress up, doing shots together, group hugs and working together to achieve a common purpose.
Then they saw the love that a person has for themselves: in doing good deeds, in helping the less fortunate, in setting goals and reaching them, in tending the infirm, in preserving their natural surroundings, in those little ‘toys’ that are kept in the bedside drawer and in sticking it to BP for a butt load of money.
The being that was formed of the elements gave a big sigh (BBBBIIIIGGGGGSSSSIIIIGGGGHHHH!!!!!) and thought that there must be a down side to all of this love stuff, so they retreated to a mountain by the side of a lake and felt the breathing of the waves and listened to the whispers of the wind in the cool bright beatific shining of the sun and by the light of a pure moon and heavenly starlight. For a millennium they sat and pondered the human condition and came up with the insight and image of an insecure spirit trapped in a flawed body, greedy for power, materialistically oppressive, vindictive and cowardly petty; these belligerent bipeds, who infested the planet like a rash on a baby’s butt, thought that they were hot stuff armed with the belief that, if nothing else, being on top of the food chain made them something special.
The being that was formed from the elements came down from the mountain with this knowledge and was promptly bludgeoned with clubs and decapitated. It doesn’t pay to look too close at love. Happy Valentines.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Orleans Story Part Nine: the Caper

Short story Part 9: The Caper
And thus spoke Pearl: “Alright kids, this is the prototype, okay? That means there is only ONE of these babies, (plus plans). It’s like a kindle only this one actually reads to you and with you, if you hear a word that you don’t understand all you have to do is repeat the word and the machine will stop and explain the word; if you say the word and then say “thesaurus”, the machine will give you a lexicon. The machine is thin and the size of a folded newspaper and it is back-lighted, you sort of read along with it, you know?”
“Now”, she continued “the business section of The New York Times printed an article recently about a wireless router+ home backup hard drive+ digital picture frame. It (D-link DIR-683) will broadcast your internet connection wirelessly and will, with it’s strong Wi-Fi signal, turn your entire house into a Wi-Fi hotspot and give you port forwarding, Application Rules. Individual website blocking, a sophisticated firewall, UpnP, Multicast Streams, Wake on LAN, users and groups, network access lists, scheduled lockouts, log security formats like WPA and WEP and much more including the ability to inspect your router’s settings and the display of dozens of internet informational widgets; weather, headlines, sports, stocks, Twitter posts and- delightfully- photos from your Flickr or Facebook accounts. This baby kicks that one to the curb and spits on it”. She glanced around at suspicious faces: “ And guys, it’ll make a 6G network look like a field mouse in a Kansas wheat field! AND,” here she beamed a rare beam “ --wait for it”—“It comes with the option of background music!”
“It, also,” she continued “is ‘hand imprint’ operated; meaning that it is not opened by anyone but the owner who has been micro-chipped in perfect symbiosis with the thing. The machine can be kept as a diary, confidant, older sibling and shrink. It will tell you when not to drink and dial, correct you if you decide to text while tipsy and warn you if you’re about to facebook while you’re fucked up.
“A professor will be demonstrating the device as part of a panel at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival called… ‘Book Reading; Dead or Alive’”. She paused for a breath; “And that’s when we steal it… and him.”
She eyed the skeptical room. “My Chinese contacts will give me a hundred million dollars for it, no questions asked. Every kid in the world is gonna want one”
What she was describing was a system called ‘TUTOR’ it would make schools and learning institutions obsolete and the rest of the world irrelevant; you could be taught anything you wanted to learn by a patient teacher who would talk to you and not down to you and one that would explain again and again until you got your information in your own time; in you own language. You could learn to paint from the masters, read the sheet music of the maestros, fix your lawnmower or your love life and no, not every kid in the world would want one…. EVERYONE IN THE WORLD WOULD DEMAND ONE!
“Wait, wait, wait” interrupted Billy “before you go any futher, I got a few questions that you might want to answer.”
“Whoa, hold on Billy boy, let me finish.” Here she raised her hands and arms for silence and composure before she continued: “We can do this as a team or I can form another group but I really think that knowing eachother is important and we all have history together that I believe will act as grease for the gears that we’ll be spinning to pull this off. Of course, some of you will have to change your names.”
After a collective groan was heard she said: “just joking! But you see how you all act as a team already? How does two mil sound as a down payment for starters?” And she waved a small piece of paper.
There was a loud sound at this point that came from the bar area; it sounded like a POP (!) it sounded like a POW (!) it sounded like a BANG (!). Pearl hit the floor, Billy hugged the wall, Mo had a gun out and was at a crouch, Hinch had fainted and the girls, Anne and Brandi had their hands to their mouths in horror. Pearl went into a fit of Saint Elmo’s. It sounded like --and it was—the sound of Petey opening a bottle of champagne to make Pearl her favorite drink, a Kir Royale.
Petey jumped over the bar and yelled: “quick…Hinch!” and I sprang from my perch; together we pinned him down just as he went into spasms. Petey got some smelling salts under his nose and within seconds he was as right as rain, and everything settled back down.
Billy piped up again: “ that don’t look like no two million bucks to me!”
Pearl called for silence again “Okay, I’m gonna ‘splain it slow and don’t make me use no flash cards. We’ve got—assuming that we all agree to this—three months to pull this off. What we do is, we buy a house in the French Quarter and move in together and rehearse and train and plan our asses off until we can do this thing slicker than snot on a doorknob. We split ninety eight million dollars and fade to black, back to our lives or any other lives that we may wish. Now, c’mon guys, we’ll be perfect together, have some fun, some laughs and be rich by this time in April. Whaddya say?”
Billy piped up again: “ I don’t know where the big bucks are for starters and I don’t think that piece of paper that you’re waving looks like two million bucks; that looks to me like a lottery ticket, do you mean to tell me that the Chinese control the winning numbers on the American lottery?”
“Bingo! No flies on you Bill” said Pearl “This particular ticket will win the four mil pot on Wednesday and we cash it out for two and buy us a house, like I said, move in and work out the kinks for the heist. Perfect, eh?”’
“And who, exactly who, do all of us trust to cash in that ticket and not do a Houdini on us? Which one of us can be trusted enough to get the two big ones and not take a powder?” Asked Anne. “I’ll tell you right now, it’s not me!”
The company started eyeing eachother like curs surrounding a bone and with each second that pregnantly passed we all knew that none of us could be trusted.
Just at the time that the gang reached a unanimous stalemate, our eyes started focusing on the one person that we all could put our faith in; the one person that we knew would not double cross us. And then we all came to the same unanimous conclusion and our stares turned to the chump/champ that we could pick for our champ/chump; the one person that we could all agree upon. Hinch.
“Wha wha wha wha?” Hinch started to say
Brandi spoke up first and said it the best: “Of course! Hinch is the only one of us that has the capacity to put love before money.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Orleans Short story PartEight: Mo

Short Story Part Eight: Mo, the story
It was a clear dark night in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The sky was the color that the Scripto Ink Company calls Blue Black, there was a riot of stars in the sky and a 1950 Chevrolet pickup truck, brush-painted silver, with the name ‘Lazarus’ printed on the passenger side door slid to a stop on the gravel driveway outside of the Saint Dymphna Church of the Quiet Mind. Saint Dymphna is the patron saint of nervous breakdowns… but that’s another story for another time.
The Mescalero Apache, a small post middle aged, grizzled man named Luke Crazy-eye, who was the driver of that truck that sounded like honeymoon bedsprings in a cheap motel, opened his complaining driver’s side door, stepped down, crushed his cigarette out in the gravel with a scuffed Tony Lama boot that had seen better days and pulled a bundle from the orange crate that was sitting on the front seat. He carried the bundle to the door of the church and rapped loudly. It was Christmas Eve 1975, there was a definite chill in the air and Luke wasn’t breathing too well; Luke didn’t know that he had lung cancer and would be dead before Easter. But that’s another story.
One of the two women who ran the church, Sister Miriam, answered the door. There was a small fire going in the kiva oven and the thick adobe walls were doing their best to insulate the sparsely furnished room; Luke, as he had planned, said nothing and handed the bundle over to the first person that he came into contact with, which was the woman who opened the door, who was one of the two ministers of the church, the other being Sister Françoise
There was not a big Christmas turnout at the little church that year since the Holy Christian Church of the Bleeding Tortured & Beaten Caucasian Redeemer across town had started spreading rumors that the ministers at St. Dymphna’s were lesbian lovers who sought shelter from society behind the protection of the church.
The hand that reached out for the bundle had a number tattooed to the wrist from an unpleasant stay in Poland a few years previously and she stepped back into the room as Luke turned silently, walked back to ‘Lazarus’ and slowly drove away leaving clouds of smoke from a perpetual oil leak, a faulty carburetor and the steam from the temperature differential.
Sister Miriam brought the bundle to a table where she and Sister Francoise unwrapped it. (And no, they weren’t hiding behind the skirts of St, Dymphna and yes they might be happier in each other’s arms than anywhere else; but that’s none of our business.)
Inside the bundle they found a very newborn baby with a shock of black hair, bathed in a thin coat of mucus and with the umbilical cord still attached. The baby was curled in a fetal position and it would be a few minutes until they could determine that it was a little girl. They were doubtful that the child would live but they did what they could; they milked their nanny goat (a very apropos name) managed to feed the child and, after turning out the lights in the church, brought her to bed to sleep between them. Three virgins. Three naked virgins.
The Sisters talked into the night and decided to name the child, whether she lived or died, in a combination of their favorite writers: Sylvia Plath and Virginia Wollf. They tried many combinations and finally lit on Sylvinia Wolfpath. Sylvinia would later tell people who asked about her parents that her father was a traveler named Lazarus and that she had two mothers. Then she would transfix them with eyes that the Scripto Ink Company would call Blue Black (the same color of the sky on the night that she was born) and say “but that’s a story for another time”, and leave it at that.
Somewhere in the middle of that first night under New Mexican chilled skies, the baby, whether from warmth or pure love, stretched to her full length. Newly born as she was, her head rested between the minister’s breasts and her tiny olive skinned toes touched just above their knees. Sister Francoise awoke briefly and muttered: “Mon Dieu, someone, I think, has given us an anaconda!”
Christmas morning came and the baby still lived.
In fact the baby, partially thanks to the warmth and care of the two Sisters as well as a diet of good goats milk, thrived, grew and gave all indications of being hale, hearty and healthy. At two years of age she had outgrown her foal-like appearance and carried on more like a spider monkey; all arms and legs. She possessed the uncanny ability to scale furniture, climb anything vertical and box with the sister’s Tom kitten without getting a scratch; this she did with no change of expression on her sweet, but somber face. Her hair was long, straight and blacker than night, her skin took on a cafĂ© au lait/olive hue and her eyes were dark and piercing; her mouth appeared petulant but was actually the only way her mothers had ever seen her look. “It must have been the cold of that first night that froze her expression so” Sister Miriam often remarked. She potty trained early, although she preferred to use Mother Nature as her lavatory and she was late to utter any words with which to communicate her wishes. If little Sylvinia wanted anything she would sit and stare until someone noticed and guessed her needs correctly, more often than not it was Sister Francoise that could tune in most successfully.
By 1979 the small but perfect family had been driven out of the west by the good Christians of Las Cruces and had purchased a Creole Cottage in the Lower Garden district of New Orleans on a street named after the muse Terpsichore, the muse of dance.
Her mothers thought it fitting to enroll her in classes of gymnastics and ballet, which she showed an aptitude for and in fact excelled at. Later she took fencing lessons from the one remaining master in Exchange Alley.
By four years old she was reading, well, as much as her mothers could tell for a child that did not speak. She would carom around the rooms, up bookcases and into crannies to select things to look at, her favorites being Nation Geographic, the Times Picayune Metro Section and cookbooks that offered photographs of different dishes. It was Francoise that first gave her colored pencils and paper and watched her scrawl out words. Albeit primitive, her first written words were: “muthers good”, and drew a picture of their home as it had been in Las Cruces; she Sisters wept in each others arms, hugged the baby and put the masterpiece on the refrigerator with magnets. They, the mothers, worshipped their child and treated her with respect, patience and love. Sylvinia Wolfpath was a perfect child, gifted with natural intelligence and good sense with the self-actualized countenance of a poetess, which, of course she was.
At five years old she uttered her first words. She was perusing the obituaries in the newspaper and looked up to find Sister Miriam studying her.
She put her finger in the middle of the page and said: “These people are dead. Why are they smiling?”

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Orleans short story Part Seven: Me Me Me

New Orleans Short Story 7: Me Me Me
So now it’s four-thirty of the afternoon in question and the drugs have successfully kicking in; hell, they done kicked in hours ago and at this point they have taken me over. I looked over at the bed stand and saw the time and a half empty glass of Scotch. I feel good though, my head is clear, I feel rested and I’m only seeing one each of everything; however, I can still hear god laughing at what a fool I am.
Petey looked in on me from the bedroom door. “Morning Sunshine, rise up and join the world, you have a party to give in two hours.” He said cheerily.
“What the hell did you give me?” I queried
“A little thing that I mix up myself” he replied “kind of a variation of Desbutol*, you know Desoxin and Nembutal? This one starts with the downer, puts you out, mediates your nerve endings for relief of your sore-nesses and then time releases the upper so that you wake up feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed. You’re good to go for another twelve to fourteen hours Chum, by which time, with any luck at all, you should be three sheets to the wind and ready for a good nights sleep. Now, at and up ‘em Soldier!”
“Swell” I said and jumped out of bed; I immediately got a vertigo rush, staggering against his waiting arms.
“Whoa there Kimosabe, you not want move fast, might fall back in canyon.” He sounded just like that frigging Indian.
“Whew, thanks Tonto. Where’s m’horse?”
Petey handed me a glass of orange juice and a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. “Juice for head, gum for breath, you smell like horse and look like buffalo dung.” he said sagely “Time to pow wow later, after long stay in rain room, go shower; Lone Ranger sweat much while sleep; remind Tonto two pounds crushed coyote sphincter.”
Well, how do you argue with a man who channels a faithful Indian companion? Short answer: you do not.
After twenty minutes in a scalding shower I was almost as normal as I ever was and Petey filled me in. “Okay Bud, nix the poultry party, likewise the use of this side of the house. I’ve got a cleaning crew working on the wreckage and I’ve called Los Tres Bastardos Grasientos catering company with dinner to be served—Voila—next door-- in the billiard room which, with the creative use of plywood and your Mama’s damask rose patterned linen, some candles and air freshener we now have ‘Chez Pierre’; the hottest ticket private eating establishment this side of Elaine’s. Oh by the way, you’ve had some cancellations so we’re down to five including me; I’ve got a call into Mo, so I’m really expecting us to be a sixer, you, me, Billy, Brandi, Anne and hopefully Mo. Sorry I couldn’t scare up Julia Roberts or someone of that ilk, they’re in Cannes or some such place watching movies and dancing naked by the pool…go figure.
“Mo, Mo?” I queried: “Really, Mo is the only one you can get? I’d even take Pearl over Mo; I’ve already had my maximum daily requirement of downers for the day; couldn’t you get anyone else?” I moaned. “Even Pearl would be preferable!”
“So solly Cholly”, Petey retorted, “Miz Pearl is either making her own movies, run off with the circus or in a slammer somewhere south of Peoria. You know that wacky sister of mine: at ease with sleaze. Besides,” he continued “what’s wrong with Mo that we can’t and haven’t dealt with? AND… you didn’t talk like that when you had her behind closed doors!”
Getting back to real time, reader, of course you know that Mo is not her real name. Onward:
Alright, alright… Mo and I had had a brief but intense ‘thing’ until I found out that she was moody, cynical, sarcastic, vindictive, armed and full-blown bat shit crazy; those are her good qualities. Her bad qualities would send a saint to Smirnoff, Seconal, and smoker’s cough. We affectionately, and between ourselves only, call her ‘Mo’ because she looks like a painting by Modigliani, if you get my drift. She’s extremely intelligent, creative, imaginative and a really great canoodler; and that’s a story for another time.
Now with mere hours to go, I hitched up my britches, put on a tie, a smile and a pair of cheap sunglasses and, ignoring the commotion of the repairmen, trundled next door to my saloon/salon. Once again, I was glad to be alive.
Over in the saloon that I had named ‘L’auberge ne relachez pas’ or ‘The Don’t Drop Inn’ Petey had been setting things aright as I could see when I wandered out of my back door, which, again, was in the front of the building and over to the back of the pub, which was likewise. The caterers were busy in the kitchen and the smell of freshly squeezed citrus mingled with the scent of burning animal flesh; a woman in the corner was making fresh tortillas while another chopped vegetables and herbs. They were joined by a couple of scruffy children in diapers; barefoot. Three burly, Hispanic looking, men were wreathed in steam and smoke from the cooking appliances and fat cigars, they were wearing matching grease stained wife beater undershirts that did their best to cover hairy bellies and the sweat flowed like wine from their pores into the food. I started to say something but feared for my safety and judging from the look of their jailhouse tattoos of old English lettering, saviors on crosses and virgin mothers, rightly so. I averted my eyes just picturing the pleasure that they would have taking a scrawny gringo in white duck trousers and burgundy velvet smoking jacket and playing ‘dunking for French fries’ in the deep fryer that they had set up outside the door using what looked like old furniture (I hoped not mine) for fuel.
I found Petey at the bar going through my mail and asked him about the seeming culinary chaos. “Who are those guys?” I hissed.
“Oh, you mean them greasy bastards?”
“Shhhh!” I whispered, “don’t let them hear you talking about them like that!”
“Hee hee” Petey laughed “That’s the name of the catering company, paleface, ‘The Three Greasy Bastards’, oh, I told them no chicken; I figured that you had enough fowl play for one day” He really got the giggles over that one.
“Very punny” I retorted, not feeling amused.
“Okay, okay. Boy, everybody’s a critic these days. Listen, folks will be arriving soon; by the smell of it, grubs about done. Take a load off, I’ve set us up in the mode of ‘Uber Comfort’. Here, smoke some of this."

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Orleans Story Part Six: Billy

Part Six: Billy
Okay, who is Billy? Well, consistent with the other characters in this story, Billy is not his real name; in fact Billy has had several names that he’s used that are other than the name on his real birth certificate, which is, believe it or not, Melvin Tennabruso. As I said, or at least inferred, Billy had gone by a number of different names since shedding the (he thought) hideous names that he was given at birth, in baptism, communion and confirmation. As a kid he wanted to be called Frosty the Snowman. He once saw a name on a wooden pencil: Mandarin #2 and wanted that one, he tried on ‘Esquire’ and that didn’t stick. He tried a one-word name of: ‘Face’ but nobody wanted to call him that, especially in the pool hall. Jack Frost, Brady Brady, Charles Wright (he dreamed of “Sir Charles” but that was also Teflon), Aaron Presley (Elvis’ middle name), Philip Mann (it was easier at the dry cleaners) and then he was Thomas Katt for a while, before stumbling onto Billy the Kid.
Well, he couldn’t use Billy D. Kidd (too obvious) so he settled on William Price, it had a nice ring and he could call himself Billy Price; his inside joke about the last name of Price was that he figured that everybody had one, a price that is. So his running joke was, when introducing himself, he would say: “The name’s William Price, everybody has one… but you can call me Billy”. He took great pains to introduce himself as often as he could; it never failed to bring a smile to his face. Not many other people got it, though.
Mel was raised in Hoboken, New Jersey where his folks moved when he was seven, much to their shame. His family for years had lived in New York City, in tenements and slums, and when gentrification reared its ugly head in their neighborhood (Greenwich Village) the poor people were the first to go. And being his family was racially and ethnically biased (They didn’t like anyone that wasn’t Italian or Irish and certainly no one that wasn’t Catholic), they had nowhere to go except New Jersey, which to them was like living in exile.
Mel and his friends and young fellow big city refugees tried to make the streets of Hoboken as dangerous as possible, just so that they could feel at home. They formed gangs, vandalized property, got into fights and stole things. They were the first kids to smoke cigarettes and drop out of school. They were mean to anyone that they found weaker than themselves. They were sneaky, crafty, brutal and without exception, cowardly. They bullied young girls into ‘putting out’.
Melvin being a typical Irish Italian Catholic became an altar boy and did his time at religious instructions; he was given (in his estimation) hideous middle names; one at baptism and another for confirmation. He felt that his family hated him and wanted only to humiliate him. His old man beat him regularly but that was no big deal; his father would get drunk and beat everybody he came in contact with: his wife, his kids and other drunks. Mel didn’t make no federal case about his beatings; he knew that someday he’d be out of that place called home or big enough to kick his old man’s ass, if for no other reason than the way his father mistreated his mother, whom he loved like a saint.
His chance came soon enough. One night Mel TennisShoes (as he was called on the street) and Tommy TooTall broke into the neighborhood pawn shop to rob anything that they could put their hands on. They broke in through the skylight. They dressed in black and put shoe polish on their faces just like in that Robert Mitchum movie. They brought a rope that they lowered themselves into the shop with and started looking around with flashlights that they held in their teeth. They made the mistake by pulling the rope in after them.
The silent alarm went off and they couldn’t get out; the front door was barred and the skylight was too high to reach. The police sat outside and laughed at them while they waited for the owner to show up with the keys to let them in to nab the two seventeen year old amateurs.
Their mothers cried at the trial, their fathers got drunk and got into a fight, the other kids laughed at how stupid they were getting caught like that. “Yeah, dere dey wuz, like rats in a trap, stoopid reeeelie fockin’ stoopid.”
The judge gave them a choice (some cherse!); off to the big house or volunteer for the armed services. Thomas James Joseph Tatarino volunteered for the U.S. Navy and Melvin Alfred Aloysius Tennabruso chose the Marine Corps. Tommy spent four years drinking and getting laid, he did as little work as possible and squeaked by with an Honorable Discharge. Mel (call me Billy) spent the first two years getting his ass kicked and the next two working at a recruiting center in New Orleans.
After completing his basic training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Private First Class Tennabruso considered himself a trained killer; unfortunately he had his father’s propensity for not being able to hold his liquor and lose his temper, so Mel (call me Billy) would regularly go off base, off sobriety and off his rocker and get into fights that he never won. One day a fellow Marine, Deanjelo Dagostino (call me Dino) took him aside, talked sense into him and inspired him to lay off the booze. Actually, Dino introduced him to drugs, which they both liked a hell of a lot better than whiskey. Drugs did what you told them to do, either waking you up or putting you to sleep; they invariably made you feel good about yourself. Billy and Dino became fast friends and Dino taught him the two cardinal sins of drugs; one: don’t get caught with them and two: use just enough and no more. Both sins were punishable by dishonor, which both buddies feared more than death. Dino was from New Orleans and he was conniving, wheedling and manipulating a transfer to the recruiting station there, where a couple of the guys he knew were due to be discharged soon. He planned on getting his good buddy Billy to be transferred with him and it did come to pass that they did serve out the rest of their time in New Orleans, were discharged together and settled down for a spell. Dino and Billy shared an apartment in the French Quarter even while they were in the service of their country. They liked to troll the quarter at night looking for women that were a little worse for the wear of strong drink and ergo easy pickings.
Pat O’Brien’s bar was a favorite because it was raucous, loud and made a drink called a “Hurricane’ there, whose sole existence was to get people fucked up. Billy and Dino would hang around the bar until they spotted likely semi-disabled women, and having the advantage of being sober (albeit high) they made their moves and culled them from the herd for some hanky-panky at their place which was only two blocks away. Let it be known here, that the good times that the boys enjoyed was by mutual, although inebriated, consent. The buddies were well versed in that special point of weakness that came before moods became maudlin, and generally, a good time was had by all.
Billy had turned into a good looking man and as these things went, having doubted his attractiveness for most of his life, was insatiable in his lust for conquest. He often wandered off on his own picking up shop girls, waitresses and even a librarian or two. But, Billy was having sex, he was not making love; and this, shame that it was, would not occur to him until much later in his life.