PART TWO: HERO APOMIXIS

Hero2

 

Synopsis of Hero Apomixis by C.A. Seller

Hero Apomixis is a work of stream of consciousness written over 22 months while the author was incarcerated in Attica Correctional Facility in 2000/01. A story of tortuous experience at the hands of a broken social services system, bad parenting, and the Prison Industrial Complex, Hero begins to lose his mind as evidenced by fantacide and dreamories only interrupted by prison feedings. Hero is either a victim or a sociopath. The book challenges us to ask, “What would you do?”

“If you like Dante, if you like Bosch, if you like Burroughs, you’ll dig the brutally dark brilliance of C.A. Seller’s HERO APOMIXIS. A rare stroke of ever darkening courage. Welcome to hell.” Ron Whitehead

 

https://www.amazon.com/Hero-Apomixis-mr-chares-seller/dp/1517359465?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

 

 

 

CHAPTER  2

 

“Whats’a matta’ wit’ choo? You get up on da’ wrong side

o’ da cell or sumpthin’?”

Sunday 7:00 A.M. The count buzzer buzzed Hero awake to

remind him of his mandatory invitation to participation

in the first of the two standing counts held everyday in

Attica and every other penitentiary in

the State of New York. Before he’d made it out of his rack

he started thinking about how mind numbingly repetitive

each morning was getting even though he’d only been in Attica

six months that week. First the buzzer. Then get up, piss,

gargle, spit, brush, spit, gargle, spit, splash the face,

blow the nose, turn on the light, face the gate, “thirty-three

cell, chow and yard,” except Hero was on keep lock

so he wouldn’t be going anywhere but to the front of the

gallery to get his morning meds and then back to his cell.

The porter would bring hot water to the cells and fill the

buckets. Hero would wash his face and hands, maybe wash a

pair of his dirty state-boxers in the leftover hot water.

He’d brush his hair and inspected his weather beaten pockmarked face in a plastic mirror the size of a postcard that was held on to the wall by a rubberized magnet glued to its

back by little yellow people far, far away. Between the

stress, and a diet that gave him enough gas to burn down

the as yet un-burnt half of the Bronx, Hero’s face was constantly

oily and always breaking out with blackheads and

pimples. He didn’t think his liver was helping either. Diagnosed

a year earlier with Hep C, he was doing ok, lately,

but last winter he’d gotten really sick and then even sicker

at what he’d discovered in his own medical records – at .25¢

a page.

A gastroenterologist he’d seen had ordered a liver biopsy

eight months earlier.  NYSDOCS, who’d sent him to the specialist in the first place, decided he didn’t need one. Hero

began to do a little research and wrote to the NIH. The

info he received said that a biopsy was one of the first

things most doctors did to assess a patient’s liver damage

with Hep C or any number of other liver ailments. In cases

where the patient had both Hep C and B, it was strongly

recommended that a biopsy be performed. When he read the

blood test results Hero got scared. It seemed that he had

Hep B in his blood, too, except no one at either  Rikers Island, Downstate, Groveland, or Attica had ever bothered to tell him.

Anytime a prisoner became ill the medical staff treated

them as in inconvenience and with the thinnest veneer of

tolerance. The majority of the nurses were blatantly negligent

and rude – especially in cases like Hero’s where the

problem involved an incurable infectious disease associated

with IV drug use. There were plenty of nightmare

stories about prisoners with AIDS, too many. Derision was

the only word that rose from an anchor of hard hearted hate

caught somewhere in his soul. The current treatment for

Hep C cost somewhere around $10,000 a year and was

effective only twenty percent of the time. NYSDOCS issued

a protocol for the use of the drug which was called “Interferon.”

Hero read it and realized, without any effort at

all, that it had less to do with the health of the inmate

than with the state’s own insane, and par for the course,

twisted ideas about what constituted “adequate medical

attention.”

The state’s doctors in Albany had allegedly written the

NYSDOCS protocol (five pages) from the very same 30 page NIH policy statement Hero had read. Only they didn’t match.

Corrections displayed an incredible capacity for always

interpreting even the most remotely ambiguous language,

no matter how absurd and resultantly wrong, to their own

advantage. For instance if the NIH said that a patient,

“ … may need a biopsy,” NYSDOCS transliterated this portion

of the sentence or paragraph as a policy statement eliminating

the need for all biopsies based upon the use of the

single word “may” regardless of any of the other available

information presented within the report indicating

the use of contextual guidelines for any interpretations.

Hero wrote a grievance which, after seven weeks, reached

its third and final incarnation as an appeal in the NYSDOCS

Central Office Review Committee (CORC) in Albany where the

same scumbags who’d written the protocol were drinking beer

after work with the scumbags from grievance. He laughed

bitterly at a vision: a gigantic circle of state offices

filled with smarmy low caste bureaucrats who spent the

entire day sending memos back and forth to each other so

that in the end – although nothing of any substantial importance

was ever accomplished – they sure looked busy and

spent a lot less money than their Democratic predecessors had.

To take an issue to court required that the inmate first

exhaust all administrative remedies. Between the DOCSPEAK

(official ambiguous double talk and sometimes less than

even that) and the grievance protocol. Just getting the

issue into court would, hell, by then he’d be ready for

a liver transplant – which created yet another troublesome

and time consuming bevy of unanswerable questions and arguments.

Getting to court usually took about a year and even

then medical negligence cases were very difficult to prove

requiring solid evidence that NYSDOCS had exhibited what

the court called  “arbitrary and capricious behavior.” The

inmate had to prove that the medical staff knew he was sick

or injured and did nothing about it. That was the beauty

of DOCSPEAK, it blamed everything on the inmate, no ifs

ands or buts about it, whatever it was, it was his fault.

Hero realized that he was trapped in an early morning

nightmare of mean half-truths composed by

shitty men in cheap suits with cruel, barely tolerant grins

for their victims who they considered subhuman; of less

value than farm animals. He knew the lies used to keep

the prison budget down were perverse and that they began

with DOCSPEAK: NYSDOCS ability to reinterpret any single

word of a sentence so far out of its intended context that

the original meaning wasn’t merely diluted, it was changed

in the way the numbers of an elevator in tall buildings

go from 12 to 14 only NYSDOCS never admitted there was a

13 to begin with. In the end, faces set in stone over expressions

of abject indifference shared freely with the prisoners,

by the gallons: urine.

“Here, drink this, asshole.” That’s what Hero thought

he heard them say each time before he’d even begun to

give voice to any complaint. He was distracted by two other

thoughts; the first of which was that he felt the room moving

and was afraid he might fall if it got any worse. The second

was: who would know? This drove home the fact that

he was as alone as he could be, even worse than alone.

Once a person went to prison they were never the same

again. Like seeing a bad car wreck with all its blood,

torn flesh, and mangled limbs the occasion changed a person

and that change took its time manifesting a new perception

of reality as it assimilated into that person’s total being;

just one more fearful direction to be followed.

 

Breakfast was three small cold waffles and eight ounces

of cold cereal – that is – eight fluid ounces. Hero had

measured the cereal compartment in a feed-up tray and quickly

learned why the menu read “8 oz. ladle” when it described

the cereal portions. Eight ounces – eight fluid ounces.

 

Not very much cereal. But it sure sounded like a lot.

That was the beauty of DOCSPEAK in motion. The only accurate analogy he could think of was if you went to go buy a

horse and the man you went to see sold you a donkey instead

but told you it was a horse even though everybody knew it

was a fucking donkey. But you still bought it ’cause he

was the only guy around with a horse for sale.

The rest of breakfast was some singed soggy bread the

menu called “toast.” One-third of a styrofoam coffee cup

of orange juice; a lousy cup’a state-coffee; six packets

of sugar of which he saved three for a cup of tea he’d have

later on – and a spork.

Hero ate everything and made himself that cup of tea to

drink while he smoked his second roIly of the morning. Glancing

up he saw that the fly was still up there on the patch

of frayed cardboard and hopping around so much that he supposed there must be something awfully tasty up there,  well,

to the fly anyway. He speculated on how long the fly could

stay up there, upside down like that, and that it might

die and fall into the plastic food bowl sitting on his locker

or maybe into one of the empty plastic peanut butter jars

he used to keep his pens and pencils in. He could’ve killed

the fly dead but figured, “Why bother?” And besides, that

fly wasn’t bothering anyone. He decided that he would take

a nap and wished the fly, “good day,” before he did.

When he woke up lunch had just come.

Chicken ribs, boiled potatoes (still in the skin) and

(cold) split string beans. Dessert was Jello and the beverage

a styrofoam cup of yellow bug juice that everyone

erroneously called “Kool-Aid” as a result of DOCSPEAK.

“And just what the fuck is a chicken rib? Anyone around

here ever see a chicken’s ribs?” And then he waited for

a moment before crying out,

“I rest my case!”

Someone in the governor’s cost efficient Cook/Chill program,

not Cook/Freeze but Cook/Chill; some idiot who stayed up

way too late at night with nothing better to do had decided

that if he took some chicken by products and ground them

up real good so you couldn’t tell what they were, added some

funky, chunky chemical emulsifiers and lots of starch to

make it all stick together (sort of), molded it so that

it looked exactly like weathered old railroad ties

and then cut it into six inch lengths before spraying on

some horrible tasting artificial BBQ flavoring – singed it

with a blow torch just a little bit for color – and – voila’!

CHICKEN RIBS a la NYSDOCS!!

Hero wished that the brilliant fellow who’d invented this

most detestable of canine culinary treats would one day

be force fed a five gallon bucket of it through a feeding

tube shoved down his throat connected to a pump. If he puked they could always pull the tube out and re-install it on

the other end. The shit really assaulted Hero in that the smell reminded him of a house fire the fire department has just left: burnt, wet, nasty and useless.

Instead he ate the boiled potatoes with butter and salt,

followed by a small cup of tasty red Jello and washed it

all down with yellow bug juice. The H man smacked his lips,

let out a half-a-burp of satisfaction because he felt, very

honestly, that he was only half satisfied with this messy

snack that someone else’d had the nerve to call lunch.

“Scummmbaaag,” Hero intoned like a mantra .. He tried to

nap again but only nipped and was soon disturbed by Jughead’s

booming voice anyway. He was standing right in front of

Hero’s cell bellowing, “Yo! HUNTA’! Thirty-four, Hunta’!

THIRTY-FOUR!!”

The sound filled Hero’s cell and rattled around in his

head like lug nuts in a hubcap. He laid

motionless on his rack looking at the ugly fucking bastard

who, after yelling, he could’ve sworn had turned and looked

directly into his cage and smirked. Hero had come to

believe that Jughead was no more than a spiteful ball breaking

creep. He had some good qualities but Hero could never

remember what they were because they were always so overshadowed by all the bad ones. Whenever he so much as heard him, Hero would see a very big, homely, bad mannered, balding, thirty-six (going on nine) year old kid badly in need of

a shave. Hunter, the 8 company steady, cracked Jug’s cell and in

he went to undress for the quick shower Hunter let him have

to get some of the football dirt off. His loser’s aura was another story. That was a question of genetically bad karma.

Depressed and lazy, Hero figured it was about time to

get up and take the piss that had been keeping him from

napping in the first place. He waited for Jughead to go

to the shower but even after he did Hero still didn’t feel

like moving. Sadly, he considered how depressed he was;

the fucking toilet bowl was less than 18 inches from his rack.

Jughead bitched about the game from the shower all the

way back to his cell. “Yeah! Right! Blame it ALL on the

white boy!” He really was such a pathetic crybaby.

“You’re a sore fucking loser,” Hero had told him once.

A big, ugly, screaming, crying, tantrum throwing brat. Jughead

was so retardedly prejudiced that Hero came to believe he

sincerely did not have a clue. Just another jailhouse racist

who was certain – certain – that the Black Panthers required

new members to pick up white hitchhikers and murder them

in order to join.

When he got back to his cell, Jughead slammed his

gate closed behind him and Hero couldn’t help but think

that this hadn’t been the first time that week the lumbering

moron had done it – at least today he had a half-assed excuse.

Attica allowed full contact football during the regular

pro season. The Buffalo Bills had donated their old practice

equipment: helmets, pads, cleats – the works – and the prison

games got pretty seriousl. Every block had it s own team. Forget

The Longest Yard.” Burt Reynolds would have ended up in a body cast if he’d taken the field with these animals. Bruno (5’8”

3251bs. with .8% body fat) Batz played. Mel (225 to Life)

Murder played. Paddy (Wire to Wire) McGuire played. It was

an ugly team, the C-block team. (Jug was in A-block.) Nothing

but violent criminal misfits. All the biggest guys played –

many just to have the chance to hurt someone without having

to do the usual two weeks keep lock for it. A lot of the

lesser skilled players talked mad shit but once they were

out there on that field it was a whole n’other story altogether:

Survival.

Jughead quieted down quickly as losers usually do. Hero

rolled off his rack and took the leak he’d been holding

for so long. Standing there, pissing, he got the impression

that the floor was moving ever so slightly beneath his feet.

Shaking his dick he thought about what an annoying piece

of shit Jughead was. It just seemed like such a natural relationship.

When he’d first moved to the company, Hero was

disturbed at how loose Jughead was with his mouth: it was

always, “niggers,” this, and, “tootsoons,” that, and, “Ya’ms,”

he would say whenever he was referring to anyone who was

black: “Yeah, like sand-niggers, them, too.” This last one,

“Yam:” was his own version of “Yom,” which was derogatory

slang derived from the Italian word for eggplant.

It didn’t take a week of that shit for General to begin

an all out offensive of nocturnal assaults with the loudest,

most obnoxious dub tapes he had or could borrow. Hero saw

a match made in heaven and prayed that the two scumbags

would annihilate each other. Then, on second thought, he

just wished they’d both go away because as their beef would

invariably escalate so would the number of participants

of which he would be obligated to become one.

Miraculously, and after a lot of careful fat-mouthing

on their gates, Jughead and General hammered out a poor

man’s version of a compromise. This was done via a silent

negotiation process Hero’d seen a lot of in prison where

the actual offenses aren’t discussed – they merely sort

of fade away. General eased up on the music but no farther

back than where his original levels had been and Jughead

stopped talking like he was the Imperial Grand Dragon of

the Ku-Klux-Klan. It was during this episode that Hero had

seen in Jughead a very real capacity to stir up shit to the point of rioting for no better reason than his own ill inspired amusement. He really found the guy terribly creepy. Contemptible even. Jughead was a con’s con and, Hero believed, destined to spend most of his life in prison. Besides, Jughead liked it there. He finally fit in someplace. Finally. State-raised is what they called it and he had the greatest excuse a whining crybaby and consummate sore loser could ask for: he was locked-up.

A few months earlier  Hero had made the mistake of getting

into what he thought would be some “light” intellectual

conversation with Jughead. (They locked right next door to

each other with the silent Q locking on Hero’s other side.)

He discovered, quite rudely, too, that not only was Jughead

never wrong but he also took great personal exception to

being told so. Even when he knew it. He wouldn’t let up

either. When someone reversed their position and agreed

with his twisted logic they were still bombarded with “Jugfacts”

supporting whatever particular brand of foolish nonsense

he was currently espousing.

“When it comes to academics – I don’t really think there’s

anyone who can fuck with me.”

Hero came to believe the man was a basket case – a certifiable

psychopath. He believed everything he read and often

used words incorrectly. His favorite was “capitulate.”

People were always, “capitulating,” against his wishes,.

One night he told Hero, “I’m not prejudiced! You don’t want

to face the facts!”

Whatever the “facts,” were, Hero never bothered to find

out. According to Jughead, “You,” were always in denial.

“You,” could present him with solid, irrefutable evidence

that he was wrong and he would always find a way to knock

at least one absurdly wrong hole in it with which to hang one of his insane versionary theories on the ill fitting wooden peg he’d force into it. Every fucking , time – Hero just had to remind himself – every fucking time he’d started any kind of intelligent

conversation with Jughead he’d become so insulted

and so frustrated  that he’d end up wanting to push the son of

a bitch in front of a subway train. Hero guessed that

he had some kind of combative personality disorder because

Jughead thought it was so hilarious to wind him up – but

he wasn’t choosy – anyone would do. He took genuine pleasure

in yanking someone’s chain with his bullshit. Hero saw this

in his face just once and decided that the man was toast.

Burnt fucking toast.

“You just don’t wanna’ face the facts! America’ s entire

foreign policy is being dictated by your people – The Jews!”

“Yup, cheap, blood-sucking, penny-pinching misers, that’s

us alright. “

Hero had seen this before, it was some sort of anti-semetic

gene, or possibly atavistic behavior, a lot of working class

Irish developed right from the moment they were conceived.

Their parents, going ballistic at the thought of having

yet another mouth to feed – God Bless The Pope – believed

that surely someone must be to blame for all their woes began,

and ended with money and booze – in that order – so naturally

they blamed the Jews.

“For Christ’s sake! They killed Jesus! Or didn’t yew know?!”

Hero hoped that someone would do a study about it someday.

He also thought that Jughead might have a smattering of

cocker spaniel in his DNA, too, and then retracted his theory

on the basis that not only were cocker spaniels much, much

easier to look at they were also smarter and tended to

argue a whole lot less. Jughead was that evil little kid

from that weird family that lived over the funeral parlor

a few blocks away, in the wrong direction, who set someone’s

house on fire and got caught pissing on the smoldering

embers while grinning demonically at everyone. His face

was a series of chiseled angles only the angles were in

all the wrong places and went in all the wrong directions.

His name fit though: Jughead. His ‘noggin was shaped like

a large, rough-hewn wooden pitcher. The kind that eventually

goes all mushy inside the longer it stayed wet; a mushy

container for a mushy brain. His eyes were dirty dry ice

blue and once Hero had seen them turn into snakes eyes

when Jughead had punched this guy in the back of the head

as a favor to Paddy McGuire. Jughead’s nose was pretty unremarkable but his mouth, his mouth was this narrow, thin-lipped, lizard-like affair. In an instant of reflection, Hero saw

Jughead for exactly what he was in the way the Chinese equate

a person’s looks and personality with a particular

animal: Jughead was a reptile. A walking, talking, troublemaking

snake-lizard with a sticky forked tongue all curled

up in a mouth full of sour lies and negative comments.

Lately, Hero had heard Jughead and General betting with

each other on football. They were a couple of real rocket

scientists. Neither one of them collected more than the

$2.75 idle pay that Uncle George was giving all of the unassigned prisoners every two weeks. He thought it was funny

the way these two slimy snakes had been gearing up to kill

each other one day – and then kicking the willy-bo-bo like

homeys the next. Slithering and sliding all over each other

like lovers. It really defied logic and even pushed the

envelope of believable bullshit. Truly, it did.

They weren’t much more socially evolved than any two dogs

who’d sniffed each other’s assholes and then went off

to frolic in the grass. Again, Hero didn’t think that was

very fair to dogs because dogs didn’t lie to you or flip

on an i.o.u. and then try to cut your face open so that your

teeth had a picture window to peek out of whenever you ate.

Sort of like personalized open air dining, sort of.

And Hero knew the program could change real fast between

Jughead and General and then all that lovey dovey shit would

go right out the window in less time than it took to say,

“One love, Mon.

Then it would be,

“I never liked that nigger, I told you that. I was just

tryin’ to be nice but their kind don’t understand that.

Just look’it how they live?!”

Hero felt a zit coming up right where the frame of his

state glasses rubbed against the skin below his left eyebrow.

One had recently come and gone there. He hadn’t been capable

of mustering the self-control required to keep his dirty

fingers from finding their way to the spot and instead

he’d tried to squeeze the offending particle of dirt, and

its concomitant little off white noodle of congealed oil,

to the surface. Sometimes this worked and he would avoid

a pimple. Other times, when it hadn’t, the pimple might

bust a ways down under his skin creating a boil or he might

squeeze so hard that his skin would let loose a few clear

droplets of fluid that, he supposed, were originally intended

to help lubricate the way for the dirt and its noodle.

This time it was: D. none of the above and he only managed

to aggravate the area with his now extra oily squeezing

fingers leaving a slightly swollen mark on his face

that hurt like a motherfucker.

Dinner sucked worse than lunch. It was Turkey a la King

that looked and smelled exactly like some fancy-shmancy

cat food he’d once seen. The rest was white rice and some

unidentifiable slimy white vegetables; some greens that

did not look right at all – their color was way too dark

and they stank like a pair of dirty sweat socks that someone’d

left inside a locked car on a hot day; a small piece

of watermelon (colloquially referred to as “Alabama Weddin’

Pie) which he ate first; the usual four slices of state-bread

with two pats of state-butter and a spork:

“State-Food, Baby!!”

Hero was grateful to Q for letting him trade some

tobacco for a jar of peanut butter. (His commissary privileges

had been suspended for the duration of his keep lock.)

If he wound up in the box he’d be in some real shit because

ever since getting sick his appetite had become so

finicky particular. It was so bad that when he did his last

keeplock, 90 days worth, he’d lost almost 15lbs starving

rather than try to put any state-food in his mouth, never mind

swallowing any of it.

Hero had been running his fingers over the top of his

new pimple, teasing himself with the pain, little wisps

of pain not too unlike the sensation he got whenever he

put a Q-Tip in his ear. He rolled a cigarette while listening

to Tom waits on the college station and drifted off

to New Jersey and into JoJo’s house where he’d tried to

kick his first real mondo dope habit in what would become

a series of dope habits he’d have over a ten year period.

Maybe it was just one big one with a few interruptions?

It was still too early to tell.

Fat Anthony had been keeping an eye on him, just in case,

and it wasn’t for Hero’s safety either. JoJo wanted Hero

to work with him and his crew except he wasn’t too keen

on the idea; the boys weren’t very receptive to outsiders

joining the family. It was heard of, but he would have to

fight an uphill battle all the way to where? He’d never

be anything but a very loyal, trusted, and expendable errand boy.

Albeit, a very well paid errand-boy, but an errand boy

nonetheless. It was no wonder then that he never finished

kicking at JoJo’s and they’d lost respect for him as a result.

He was already halfway down to standing in front of the

bank on Second Avenue and St. Mark’s Place with a paper

coffee cup in his hand, bumming change while The Great Iraqi

Turkey Shoot was going on.

Hero felt dirty like he had with that thin layer of

exhaust he used to get all over his body when he was

a bike messenger in Manhattan. “Fucking gross,” he’d say,

and spit trying to clear his mouth, nose, and throat but

it always took hours and even then he could still taste

  1. Hero’d heard about dirt that people said you could never

wash off. No matter how clean you looked you still felt

all dirty. Now the grown man saw how the drama of someone

else’s suffering mattered because one day it might happen

to you, too, Hero. You, too.

“You pay now or you pay later – either way, you pay.”

He didn’t care to delude himself the way he had when he

was younger, always banking on a brighter future that lay

somewhere right around the next corner and just out of

sight because, quite naturally, he hadn’t come to that particular bend in the road yet surely it was there like the

phantoms he used to chase in and out of the separate entrances

of his ex-girlfriend’s kitchen back when he was shooting

cocaine and “collecting” the change from “Meals

On Wheels” cans to support his habit.

Hope is a fear of? ”The fucking truth,” he said aloud.

Older now – and faced with some rather uncomfortable and,

to a greater extent, irreversible circumstances – Hero saw

reality in the shape of a brand spanking new, dark red brick

with very sharp edges and perfectly pointed corners. Not

one of those worn and faded bricks like the ones he and

his friends used to throw at each other when they were

kids. No, this brick meant fucking business, Jack.

“Fuck it,” he whispered to the cool humid air – it was

time to: POLKA! Every Sunday night he always enjoyed listening to an hour of polka music which was, he thought, a lot

like ice-cream: a little was nice but a lot sucked because

you got so sick but it was always better than the brick.

Way better. Hero couldn’t think of too many kinds of music he didn’t like. Polka was corny and fun and had a great beat and fabulous horns. He wondered about the pogroms the Pole’s had

and how a peoples music – their culture – was like their

language, their flavor in the same way dance from a particular

part of the world told if its people came from a

mountainous terrain or a flat one; by the length of the

steps: mountain people danced in short steps and plains

people in long ones. Those Holy Christian Polelocks spearing

Jewish babies. He tried very hard to hear any of that in

the polkas he heard that evening but it just wasn’t there.

“Dey Kill Christ! Da?!”

Hero saw it all on the inside of his head: the poor hungry

Poles on their murderous mission endorsed by God and the

politically fascist hate mongers who published the Hate Sheets:

one page propaganda sold like newspapers before the

turn of the last century; they detailed all the devious

doings of those pesky Jews who were, without a doubt, surely

to blame for Everything.

“Dey Kill Christ, Da!”

The Hate Sheets delivered invaluable, informative, and enlightening facts and warnings such as those advising Poles

to guard small children  well – and especially babies around

the full moon because this was when the Jews liked to steal

them, drink their blood, and then eat them. Hero’d once

heard a joke about a very poor old Jew living in a Shtetl

in Poland who buys a Hate Sheet. His wife says,

“Oy gevalt! Hyman! How can you waste the little bit of

money we have on such a thing?!”

And the man answered his wife as if it were no big deal

even though he knew they were practically starving,

“Oh, I just wanted to see how we were doing.”

The Hate Sheets were notorious for blaming the Jews for

the country’s economic problems, poor crops, bad weather,

sick cows, lost cats – you name it. It was even reported

in them that the Jews were hoarding Polish gold and only

living and dressing so poorly so as to deceive everyone

else. The problem with that great theory is that there was

no Polish gold.

Hero liked being Jewish. He wasn’t at all religious but

appreciated the culture and a bit of the philosophy. His

parents had been atheists which, he’d decided, just meant they

were Jews who were angry at God for losing the argument. They’d celebrated Hanukah and Passover confusing the then eleven year old Hero who asked many, too many, questions. Hero Sr. spoke Hebrew and Yiddish but much more Yiddish than Hebrew. He was American born and his father, Hero’s grandfather, had worked for Meyer Lansky, “way back when.”

“Way back when, when, Dad?”

“Nevermind when. When, that’s all you need to know.”

“Grandma, who was Meyer Lansky?”

“Just a business man!” his grandmother had snapped at

him just like the turtle of the same name that she resembled

so much.

When Hero heard the, “Just a business man,” line

in other places, he felt he’d missed out on the humor of

the exchange all those years ago. “No wonder my mother laughed at the old woman so hard.”

Hero’s mother would regularly put him up to asking such

questions designed expressly to drive her mother-in-law

crazier with denture gnashing rage than she already was.

By the time he’d turned twelve, Hero thought they were all

fucking crazy. He’d been a little slow on the pick-up but

eventually he caught the drift.

His Grandma Mildred and her two sons, Hero’s father and

his brother, Hero’s uncle, had been invited to Mr. Lansky’s

funeral. They didn’t go. Mildred’s husband, Benny, was long

gone over twenty something years by then otherwise they

would’ve gone. Hero had heard enough of his father’s horror

stories about Benny and Mildred that over time he came to

be haunted by them, too, the way his father had been for

over fifty years. Truly, in the words of Grandma Mildred,

“Familiarity breeds.”

During one of his ibogaine visions, Hero saw his grandmother,

her downy white (yellowing) hair, all silken with

a flat curl pressed against the side of her head and then

she became a small river otter or aquatic cat because he

remembered that she’d had whiskers. She was swimming in

a dark green river of fast moving cold water between banks

covered with thick long leaning grasses.

She struggled to keep a sack with two tiny babies like herself in it above the waterline.

In another version of the same vision (they repeated themselves

with subtle differences although always on one

theme ) he saw two miniscule babies, skinny little golden

embryos with skullcaps and believed they were his father

and uncle as yet unborn and the river the persecution and

turmoil of Europe. Hero wished he could’ve learned more

about these people. He knew his mother’s grandfather had

been a farmer in Connecticut somewhere near New Canaan and

that was about it. Hero Sr. hardly ever spoke about his

own father and when he did it was with the uneasy air of

someone who had barely escaped being drowned – not once

– but several times. Of his mother he’d always said, “My

mother? She’s crazy.”

As for his father he said practically nothing, less than

nothing. When Hero saw his parent’s wedding picture, he

thought his Grandma Mildred looked more like Bella Lugosi’s

bride than the mother of the groom. Twenty-five years later

she still looked the same: old, pale, short, white-haired,

mean, and ugly. She never smiled either. He thought it

was against her religion or something. She was always white

as a sheet, too. His mother often reminded him that her

in-laws had never bought her a wedding present. That was

the Polish side of the family even though the Jews weren’t

allowed to go to the state run Polish schools back then.

That’s what his mother told him, and that’s why she said

that the blue eyed fair haired boy wasn’t Polish. And her parents? Not too much was said of them either. Hero figured his sister, also known as, “that fucking witch,” having been so christened at the tender age of sixteen by their father, might know something

as she had appropriated all of the family photo albums after

their mother had been unplugged.

Hero’s sister looked a lot like Grandma Mildred: old,

pale, short, mean, and ugly. When their mother “died “

she left his sister a bank account containing the bulk of

the joint savings that she and their father kept together:

$44,000; Hero’s brother got $5,000, and he got $1,200. Hero Sr.

flipped the fuck out. He told Hero that, “ … a few days

after I put your mother in the hospital, I checked her room

(they were legally separated by one floor and 1,600 gallons

of bilious spite) for the bank books .. because .. you know ..

your mother always took care of all that crap like the mortgage

and  all the bills – I couldn’t believe it, I thought

there was some kind of mistake, I mean, oh my God – what

did she do?! Well, I took the bank books with me to

the hospital and I asked her, ‘Alice, what’s this?’ and

she didn’t say a word, Hero. Not one word. Can you believe

it? I just can’t get over it. She left all of my money to

your sister, that fucking witch. I told John Miller, that

excellent lawyer I found in Winstead – if you ever have

trouble getting hold of me you call him – and he tried to

find a way to straighten this whole thing out – but he says

there’s nothing he can do .. so your sister, that fucking

witch, god almighty she looks so much like my mother … “

and he had spoken the last word with such hatred that for the first time in his life, Hero had honestly felt sorry for the man.

A day later, Hero’s mother was unplugged from the machines

that had been breathing for her. His father told him that

the doctors had given her a mixture of Fentanyl and Morphine

and that she had cried and been afraid to die but that

she hadn’t felt any pain. At the time, Hero was locked up

doing six months on Rikers Island. His sister, that fucking

witch, made their father’s lawyer send her a copy of anything

related to their mother’s estate that she was entitled to

ask for and he had to pay for all of the office time,

copies, and mailings that resulted. It wasn’t a one shot

deal either, the witch had recently begun taking courses

to become a paralegal; so what better opportunity to exercise

her new skills? Every time she discovered something new

that she could request – she did. One-item-at-a-time. Years

later Hero wondered about what else she’d been left and

then began wondering what else he’d been left? Starting

with his grandmother, and the succeeding two generations

thereafter, the entire fucking family was a greedy pack

of inveterate thieves and liars. It just blew him away because

they only stole from each other. His mother had stolen

stocks that her mother had left

him when he was just a boy. Hero thought that to disrespect

her mother’s dying wishes, and worse, to rip-off

her own nine year old son, was perverse. More than perverse.

It presented a clear and utterly unobstructed view into

the woman’s heart. It was hollow. A thirsty wet black hole

quietly sucking in everything of value around it without

any consideration for anyone but herself.

Hero got sick from thinking about her. He had recently decided, after a short but very thorough review, that his mother was no good. Bad. In the red in his books and a definite risk.

Hero Sr. had his wife cremated and used her ashes to cleanup

oil stains in the driveway. Hero had seen the short, fat,

clear plastic bag full of fine dark ash sitting just inside

the garage on the right hand side between some rat poison

and a gallon container of Ortho Weed-Be-Gone. He wasn’t

at all surprised. There had been no funeral and that was

appropriate, too, since she didn’t appear to have much in

the way of a soul (or any friends) and no one had anything

good to say about her anyway – except that fucking witch,

her daughter. Hero wished she’d had a regular burial and

that he could’ve went just to push his sister, that fucking

witch, right into the hole with her.

“That fucking witch.”

“Which one?”

“Take your pick,” and then he’d spit.

Hero got out of jail about four months after his mother’s

murder; that really was much more apropos when one considered

that had the woman survived whatever deadly lung ailment

she’d had there was absolutely no way in hell she could

have returned to the same house after he’d

found those bank books. Then again he wasn’t so sure. The

woman had been frail and quiet but with a set of balls –

one made of lead and the other of brass. She was a veritable

dynamo of silent psychotic motherhood. A real piece of work. Once he was out of jail, Hero called his sister, that fucking witch, to ask her for some help. He was broker than a broke-dick-dog and eating in soup kitchens. At night he

slept on a friend’s couch in Astoria.

“Hello?”

“It’s me, Hero.”

“Hero? Oh, hi, Hero,” her voice would drop full of patronizing

sarcasm as she’d say his name – and he heard it.

“What are you doing?”

“I just got out of jail. I want to go to Mommy’s bank

up in Connecticut as soon as everyone signs the signature

cards they sent and get this money.” A telling silence passed,

“I was hoping you could give me some help in the mean

time .. “

“What kind of help?”

“I need money to eat .. and look for a job, I’m eating in

soup kitchens and staying with friends but..” And he let

his sentence fade, the question asked.

“What do you want? Money?”

And the “No” had been stamped on the words themselves. The

witch was so sarcastic that she could never be accused of

being merely ironic ever again.

“Yeah, just a small loan till I can go get this money

Mommy left me.”

“What do you need money for?”

“To look for a job, [witch].”

“Why do you need money to look for a job?”

“That’s it,” Hero said to himself, “listen, I’ll talk

to you later,” and then he hung up the phone and mumbled,

“That fuckin’ witch .. “

Eventually Hero did get the money his mother left him, bought himself a beeper and started delivering heroin until he’d parlayed a $100 investment into a $22,000 a month net profit.

That first summer, after his mother died, Hero’s brother

committed suicide. He killed himself. He was a tortured

schizophrenic and consciously chose to take a header off the roof of his eighth floor government subsidized

Boston apartment. He’d lived there for almost seven years

because it allowed him to be close to Boston General, the

hospital where doctors had helped him to finally leave the

psych ward – after 2 years – and live on his own. With

SSI to pay the bills he’d spent most of his time working

as a volunteer at the hospital. Hero hadn’t seen him in

almost fifteen years. He’d been doing his thing about

four months when one day his beeper went off, it was an old

friend, Chris, and his was the only number that witch had to get

hold of him. Hero called him on his brand new celly

and found out it  that fucking witch was trying to get in

touch with him.

“She said it was an, ‘Emergency.’“

“For who?”

Hero’s mind went into hyper-drive remembering how she’d

played him for a real sucker when he’d asked her for help.

“Ugly-crab-bitch,” he spat in the middle of thick afternoon

traffic on 14th Street and Third Avenue. The heat,

the exhaust and the heroin were all combining in him and

turning Hero into a real nasty motherfucker; throw in that

fucking witch and the day was ruined. Shot. Fucked and without

any possibility of salvage. Turned-to-shit. Someone must

have died – which presented no emergency to him because

if they were dead, well, there wasn’t a fucking thing he,

or anyone else for that matter, could do about it even if

they wanted to. Hero guessed it was his father who he thought

was overdue to checkout anyway. On his deathbed maybe?

“Fuck’em,” Hero said out loud, and then,

“FUCK – HIM,” nice and long like the tall bottle of cold

store bought water he would’ve liked right there on his

bicycle in the, fuckin’ heat.

He stopped for the bottle of water and then rode to his

next delivery: a lawyer – eleven bags for $100, C.O.D.

The words, “Emergency for who?” came out of his mouth, again,

and somewhere along Park Avenue South near 22nd Street, he

decided to, “Let that fucking witch wait a few days.”

He fantasized that maybe she’d gotten one of her fat little

fingers stuck up her nose. All the way into her mid twenties,

he disgustedly recalled that fucking witch always picking

her nose and eating it in front of him like it was perfectly

normal and he didn’t think she’d stopped now well into

her forties.

He waited two days before his curiosity – and a very

alien sense of familial obligation – got the better of him;

it was either that, “or plain boredom,” as he would say

later. He called her on the celly.

“Hello?”

“So, what’s the emergency?”

“Hero?”

“Yeah, it’s me – what’s the emergency?”

“Peter killed himself.”

Just like I said, Hero thought: emergency for who?

“How’d he do that?”

He jumped off the roof of his apartment building.

“How many stories?”

“Eight.”

“Boy, I’ll bet he changed his mind on the way down,” he

said without missing a beat. Fuckin’ witch, he thought:

Gotcha !

Hero listened to his sister tell the story of how their

brother had left a note, a de facto will, in which he’d

outlined who got what. Most of it was personal, for his

friends. Then “Daddy” arrived and totally disregarded Peter’s

final wishes even going so far as to throw all his grieving

ends out of the apartment in a hostile rage. She fabricated the entire story. Hero thought it was too bad. A sad story indeed, and had he not been so ripped out of his gourd on heroin and Xanax he might have felt something else. But he was and he didn’t. He’d

enjoyed talking to his sister like the piece of shit she

was but he felt bad for his brother and surprisingly his

father also in the midst of so much pain.

“Compassion,” he’d said. What had happened didn’t

make any sense and after Peter’s suicide their father never

spoke to either Hero or his sister ever again. His father’s

pain, he could only imagine, must have been immeasurable.

Three days later Hero broke down in the middle of traffic.

He hadn’t been at all close with his brother or even seen

him in almost seventeen years but Peter was his brother

and Hero was sorry he’d suffered so much and hurt himself

so badly.

The next time Hero and that fucking witch spoke was in October of the same year. He’d flown down to Key West

in a futile effort to bring his habit under control,

check out the island, and think. (At the time, Hero’s habit

was $325 a day or five bundles @ $65 wholesale.- One third

of his average net take – daily.) He only called to rub

her face in it.

“Fuckin’ witch,” he said before and after he’d used the

pay-phone. Then, the trip turned into a disaster, no doubt

the curse of that fucking witch.

Hero had run out of methadone too quickly and as a result

did no real sightseeing save walking around a lot. He saw

the plaque on Ernest Hemingway’s home, looked up at the

shuttered business there now (genuine shark’s oil scented

bee’s wax candles decorated with faux pearls) and imagined

the famous author adventurer gazing out at the ocean from his second floor balcony through a big pair of binoculars;

a bottle of booze and a highball glass on his desk right

next to his latest  unfinished  novel tentatively titled,

“ A Farewell To Brains.”

He wasn’t so sure if ol’ Ernie would’ve appreciated his

ribald humor, but so what? Hemingway was dead, and a long

time, too. Hero knew being dope sick will do that to you,

your idea of “funny” could become quite maudlin.

Upset that he had enjoyed no sea food or glass bottom

boat rides, Hero wired a few hundred dollars to this chick

he knew in the East Village whose apartment he’d dealt

out of while he was “The Man.” She, in turn, was to have

sent him two bundles (20 bags) of dope taped inside a magazine

via FedEx except, “the skank,” so christened by Hero

right about that time, flaked.

“Fuckin’ skank,” he hissed having wasted over twenty-four

hours fucking around with, “[that] fucking skank.”

And she was pretty skanky: much too skinny and with the

wailing lament of all chicks who got strung out: no tits.

They’d just up and disappeared while her flesh was turning

an ethereally, eerie, cold cadaverous gray that

enveloped her entire body so that it very much resembled

an old wet vacuum cleaner bag someone had turned inside-out

and then draped over a skeleton .

She had dull flat hair that was extra oily and eyes

that shined like a couple of dirty 30 watt light bulbs. Very

used goods indeed, he’d thought, and never fucked her for

fear of maybe catching pneumonia should he have ever slid

his dick up inside of her cold clammy pussy.

Hero decided not to fuck around. It had gotten too late

in the day to arrange another FedEx for the morrow – so

he went on a mission.

He was a firm believer of ancient junkie folk lore

which in this case stated: “If there is dope you will find

  1. In the middle of the Amazon Fucking Rain Forest or Rock

Hill, South Carolina. If there is dope you will find it.”

Sick as a dog, Hero hooked-up with 6’3”, balding,

Mustachioed hippy crack head in his too late thirties who’d

just been released from the Key West Jail that morning.

He took them into Bahama Village – the area of the island

tourists were warned to stay out of – in search of the elusive

Key West doojie. Together they looked for Dilaudids, Valium,

pills of almost any kind – just on spec – and dope, of which

there was rumored to be some around but mostly what they

found was lots of crack. When they finally did track some

down, 3 hours after starting out on their tour of Key West’s

Worst, it turned out that it had been only one block away

from Hero’s hotel room (just past the Key West Police Department) the entire time. He copped five bags: $250 worth of

some really weak tan shit someone had done The Tango on

and then very sloppily packaged in tinfoil (a major no-no);

$50 for the busted old ‘ho and the crack head who had found

where the dope was – not including

the fancy lunch Hero’d bought them. All that and the

shit was garbage. Hero booked a flight back to NYC on the

next thing smokin’ – he left at six o’clock that evening:

Key West to Miami and then Miami to JFK.

As soon as he was back in town he took a cab to 21st and Lexington  where he paid a visit on one of his customers whose family owned the hotel at that address. The Gramercy Towers East. They’d given the guy a $300 a day stipend and a one-bedroom suite rent free.

Within an hour of his arrival, Hero had twenty bundles of

dope waiting for him downstairs in his connec’s Explorer.

He climbed in to pick up the package and told his man from

the Bronx that Key West was, “Beautiful, just gorgeous,”

which is what it was – so long as you weren’t dope sick

the entire time you were there.

Back upstairs, he shot six bags of his own product just

to get straight, and then another four of some new shit

they wanted him to check out, smoked a joint and ate a del-

icious dinner of room service lamb chops. He loved the fucking

room service there and if it wasn’t for the middle-aged

neurotic lunatic junkie whose suite it was he might have

thought he’d died and gone to junkie heaven.

The next day, Hero went and collected his money from the

Skank. Boy, was she ever surprised to see him.

 

Hero stared out the window through two sets of bars at

the passing sunset. Above the long tree covered hills that

were the horizon, the sky was dark with gradient purples

and deep blues over a few shiny clouds spinning shapes like

whirlpools reflecting the warm nuclear orange of the

great sinking disc and all of the other colors of the autumn

twilight as well. The sun was way behind the hill, but

the sun did that when she dropped out of his sight before

popping up in another prison window somewhere on the other

side. It gave him a strange sort of hope and even if it

wasn’t always so realistic hope could carry you a long,

long way – sometimes too far. Hero knew that like a guy

who walked over hot coals with his bare feet, or people

who beat cancer, or lifted an automobile off a trapped kid

all by themselves – hope was a motherfucker.

The sky was getting very dark now. He saw the bars on

the window much more clearly without the sun behind them

although without enough light they were darker on the inside,

too, and there were little lumps in them just like his thoughts:

older, tireder, brittle, and more fearful with hot

tears to spare. The coming years towered over him the way

it felt when you stood with your belly against a tall building

and looked straight up at the passing clouds and sky;

it made you very dizzy is what it did, and it made you think

the building was going to fall over right on top of you.

 

 

 

Low blood sugar. Maybe it was low blood sugar. But he

knew that feeling and this wasn’t it. This was like you

were sitting in a boat that was moving ever so gently up

and down on very, very small waves. There hadn’t been any

sick call slips down in the A-block lobby the night before.

(The C.O.s didn’t put any out – it only created more work.)

At meds, he’d refused the Wellbutrin, a mild antidepressant

a psychiatrist friend had recommended the previous year

for anxiety. As for the lithium, Hero figured that if he

started eliminating the most obvious causes for whatever

was making him feel so strange then maybe he could discover

the reason and put a stop to it. Unceasingly he examined

the exact nature of the disturbance and best likened it

to how it felt when he’d stepped onto the moving floor of

the spinning tunnel inside the Fun House at the carnival.

Only the feeling wasn’t so strong, so consistent.

He was lost in the hot half-a-minute he’d spent as a carney

right after finishing that eight month parole violation

5 years earlier.

Hero’d collected a $7,000 settlement for a fractured heel

he’d suffered in a motorcycle accident in late August of

’91. He was riding back from the methadone clinic and on

his way to cop a twenty of coke that he intended to shoot

in an apartment he’d sublet – illegally – in the East Village.

Alone, and p-noid, he’d do two or three shots and then, if

he didn’t flush the rest down the toilet afraid the police

were coming in up through the floorboards, he might hide

the shit so well that his cocaine addled brain usually wasn’t

able to find it again.

As it all turned out he never did get to cop any coke because while riding his 1978 750cc Yamaha XSF, he was hit by a van driven by some straight off the boat Italian marble guy.

Hero’d had the right-of-way, travelling straight through

a green light as he headed south on Avenue A at Eleventh

Street. He clearly remembered slowing down a little just

to play it safe, but halfway through the intersection the

van was right on top of him anyway. He tried twisting the

throttle to get out of the van’s way; at best he thought

he might only get clipped. All the way down he worried that

his left leg was surely going to be broken. The van lurched

to a stop when it hit the bike, the driver’s attention back

where it should have been in the first place – in front of

the fucking vehicle. He knew

a part of him had been directly between the bike and the

van and the only question he had now was how badly was

that part hurt? Dazed, he sat up and stared at the accident

scene: the van in mid-turn, his bike on its side, him on

his ass and pedestrians recommending that he scoot back

away from it for safety’s sake.

The Italian guy got out of the van and slammed the door.

His name was Geussepi, and everyone he knew called him Pepi.”

He was short and thick and had a mustache and a flannel shirt.

He looked as if he sprinkled tile grout on everything he

ate or wore. He looked pissed, too. As soon as he opened

his mouth, Hero knew he was a graduate of the “Yell If You’re

Right (and especially if you’re wrong) School of Driving.”

Hero told him, “If I could stand up, I’d bust your shit!

SHUT THE FUCK UP! .. You hit ME!! I had the light! !  Who

the fuck are YOU yelling at?! I had the fuckin’ light and

you know it!!”

Hero knew his left foot was hurt, and possibly his ankle,

too, so he pulled off his mc boot to save it from being

cut off at the hospital as the limb would be swelling up

presently. (He’d always attested to the wearing of those

biker boots as the only reason he avoided having a transmission

bolt imbedded deep inside his heel that day.) The

bike’s frame had a 2 inch “U” shaped indentation in it

at the van’s point of impact on the rear left side. Later,

Hero realized that this had been accomplished with the exact

same amount of force as that which had fractured his heel.

The police arrived and pushed his bike across Avenue A

where they chained it to a No Parking sign. Then they walked

back to where Hero was sitting on the ground with a huge

bag of ice on his foot and proceeded to write him one ticket

after another for everything except blocking traffic and

loitering and that was only because one of the cops remembered

that he was waiting for an ambulance. They even wrote

him a ticket for running a red light.

Now, Hero hadn’t looked too good on paper before the accident,

what with the riding around and ticket collecting

he’d been doing: no license, no insurance, not even a current

registration – but – three years, forty-eight dozen phone

calls, twenty-one months in prison followed by a seven month

coke and dope binge, an eight month parole violation, and

one very nasty letter later – he received a check for seven-thousand dollars: compensation for the fractured heal he’d

suffered. He’d hired a biker lawyer he saw in a Sleazy Rider

magazine advertisement. By the time things got rolling,

slowly, very .. slowly, he’d had to go to the hospital for

them to get the medical reports – and the same thing went

for the accident report; all the way downtown to the DMV

because the lawyer’s office was in Connecticut. At one point, he called from Riker’s Island to notify them of his new address. All the young attorney assigned

to Hero’s obviously pooh-putt case had to say was,

“Good luck,” and then he’d hung up. He recalled bitterly

how frustrated he’d become after asking his parents to please

follow up with the lawyer for him. He’d signed a contingency

agreement they’d mailed him earlier that summer.

His mother, “Oh Hero’ed” him and – with her trademark

incredulousness – told him, “They aren’t going to give you

any money!” without ever having been told what was happening.

No amount of pleading would move her to help him. He did

manage to get his father to call twice, but after realizing

the degree of involvement that would be required he suddenly

employed the feigned befuddled distancing that was the signature of his shtick, commonly referred to as the “Absentminded Professor” routine. Hesitatingly, his father told

him over the phone, “Oh, the lawyer? Yeah .. I called him,

Hero, [pause] no one ever called me back,” and then, “I,

I don’t know ..” and then dead silence. His words had been

the plaintive, practically whining demand of his sincere

desire that Hero shouldn’t ask him to call the lawyer again.

Hero thought the absent minded professor routine was pretty

lame – as opposed to what one short flat “NO” would have

accomplished in a fraction of the time especially when

he considered that his father not only fed and dressed himself

each morning but then drove either the late model

Buick sedan or Subaru wagon he owned from the parking garage

under the building of his three-bedroom co-op apartment,

to his tenured teaching position at a large university so

nearby that in the warm weather he’d ride his bicycle there.

When Hero finally did get his $7,000 settlement, he was

in Riverview Correctional Facility: “No river and no view

– so fuck you – welcome to Riverview,” two months short

of maxing-out on the eight month parole violation. And who

do you think was the first person with their hot little

hand out asking for money? Why, it was Mrs. “You’re

not going to get any money!” herself. Hero’s mother said

he owed her $360, and although he couldn’t for the life of him

figure out for what – he paid her anyway.

His father was even crazier. He told Hero, after having

said no more than, “hello,” and, “here’s your mother,” over

the phone for the last six months, “Hero, do you remember

the $4,000 I gave you last time you got out of jail?”

The key operative word in that sentence being “gave.”

“Yeah, Dad, why?”

“Well, I need $2,000 of it back.”

“What for?”

“Nevermind, ‘what for,’ I just need it .”

Hero decided to twist the greedy old bastard’s balls six

ways to Sunday and then back again.

“Ok, Dad, I’ll send out a disbursement on Monday morning.”

“Ok, Hero, g’bye.”

That old fucker’s tone hadn’t changed a bit. He was all

keyed up and subtly attempting to intimidate Hero by raising

the pitch of his voice ever so slightly shortening

all his words into monotones of three-four-four syllaballistic

time; “Hero” was then pronounced “Heee-Rowww” in a nasally

Jewish New Yorkese only practiced and ready flowing, dripping with the short tempered distaste that only prison guards,

welfare case workers, and South American Death Squad interrogators had towards their too many victims at the height

of busy season.

“Verk! Verk! Verk! Nut’ting but verk!”

Hero saw his father in the baggy, ill fitting, gray wool

uniform of a shysty Nazi Noodnik; the swastika armband tight

against his bicep, a smudged, patent leather officer’s hat

pushed snugly down on his brow. Sweat ran down his back

under his shirt and into the crack of his ass making the

lips of his anus itch ferociously. Hero was strapped to

a wooden restraining chair not unlike the ones at Bellevue

only this one had a hole in the bottom of the seat with

fresh blood on it over older darker blood that had dried

and was now chipping off like so many layers of paint. His

fingers and toes hung freely over the ends of grooved channels

disfigured by the deep chopping block wedges that were

missing. He looked up and spit in the older man’s eye causing

his geriatric sphincter to clench, which made it itch

even worse. The old man scratched his asshole through his

pants by rising up slightly on the balls of his poorly polished

jackboots, leaning backwards so as to bow his body

for a greater degree of unimpeded access.

Hero couldn’t tell if the expression on his father’s face

was a snarling rage directed at him or just the frustrated

look of someone with very bad hemorrhoids who didn’t have

the good sense to keep his fingers out of his ass.

“Ah!” the old bastard cried in sighing relief as he dug

up inside his filthy stinging butt-hole through his underwear.

When he stopped, he looked at his fingers and sniffed

at them, seemingly enjoying the aroma immensely.

“Done mit von ahsshole – und now .. on-to-anudder!” he yelled

with urgent finality to Hero. He took out a short pair of

pruning shears, tipped his son’s chair way back and, after

cutting all of Hero’s fingers and toes off one at a time,

talking mad shit throughout the quick crude surgery, he

snipped his testicles off.

“Shnip, Shnip, Hero!”

And then: SNIP! SNIP!

“Daht’s von teshticlei und .. daht’s,”

SNIP! SNIP!

“two teshticles. Vaht’s der matter? Did zat hurt? Funny,

I didn’t feel a t’ing! How about a nice, cold, popshicle,

eh, Hero? Rhymes mit ‘teshticle,’ jah? I make a funny! ha,

ha; but, you, you are not laffing, Hero. Vaht is wrong?”

And then Hero’s father stepped on his bloody scrotum lying

there on the floor, smiled at him, and said,

“SShh, Hero, listen, shush – vill you? You big cries-baby,

and listen, list-en!”

SQUISH-POP! !POP! !

“Ahh, ha,!”

Then, pointing down with an expression of mock surprise –

he said,

“Look’ Hero’ I break your balls! Ha, Ha, Ha  I make anudder

funny, yes?! Of course I do!”

Hero hung up the telephone dizzy from all of

the malodorous bullshit he’d just listened to thinking,

“There is no way in fucking hell I’m sending that greedy

old bastard two G’s or even two dollars out of my paltry

little 7G settlement.” Especially when his father was sitting

in a $250,000 custom built second home while asking for it.

“Never-mind what it’s for – I just need it,” Hero would

parrot him for years to come for nothing more than his own

amusement.

During the eight month parole violation, Hero’d literally

had to fight for a Suicide Prevention Aid (SPA) job in

C-95, on Rikers that paid $20 a week. Twenty-bucks he sorely

needed – and got. Anything could have happened he could’ve

been cut or killed it wasn’t as if there were any rules

to how these things went down.

A group of young Puerto Rican boys, members of an organization, had monopolized all the SPA and house-gang jobs and, although the C.O., a guy named Nick Niglaccio, had approached Hero for the job. The kids told him, “You know you can’t take that spot?” more as a statement of fact than any question.

Seeing as how the kid who was up for the spot was

technically next in line (not that it really had very much

to do with anything) Hero said, “No problem, I’d just expect

the same respect when my turn comes up,” which was bull-

Hero spoke to Nick about the fact that someone else’d said

they were up for the job next. Nick told him, “I decide

who’s up next and if anybody has a problem with that they

can pack their shit and leave [to another dorm].”

By the time everything got sorted out, Hero’d had to step

into the bathroom with the kid. He poked him in his left

eye after the suave stick and move, two fingers dead in

his socket. Scram’s hands went straight to his face and that’s when Hero knocked him out cold with the proper uppercut

to the chin. Just as he connected, the word, “chill,” was coming out of the asshole’s mouth, except it sounded more like, “chrill.”

After that, Hero did something very few white boys had:

he ran the dorm. The phones, the chow, all of it. They used

to call him the HHIC. Head-Honkey-In-Charge. It was different.

From C-95 he went to C-73, from C-73 he went to Ulster, and from Ulster he went to Riverview, and from Riverview he went home.

When Hero hit the bricks he had about $6,000 left and

promptly proceeded to sniff up a good portion of it in the

form of heroin he was buying from the Puerto Rican kids

who were dealing out of the building on 7th Street and Avenue

C where he was staying with an under-age lap dancer from

New Mexico named Rosie.

He’d put the moves on her the first night he crashed at

her apartment after being invited over by her boyfriend,

a Skinhead bike messenger who Hero used to hang out with

before he went up north to do his second bid.

Rosie was too cute-sexy-sweet like the shiny, red patent

leather Mary Jane’s she loved to wear. She was seventeen.

“She lied, OK?!” he’d said shortly afterwards to someone

who teased him about it.

“Sure, Hero, sure,” his man, Bags, told him in knowing

collusion as he was after her and would get her, too.

“Your body,” Rosie told Hero, touching his right nipple

with the tip of her cool beautiful forefinger, pushing

it in and then waiting for it to pop out and grow erect

so that she could suck on it.

“You know Michelangelo’s ‘David?’ You know? The statue?”

Hero nodded yes.

“Well, your body looks exactly like his, like David’s ..

you are, like,  so buff – I can’t believe it! My God, you’re

SO HOT!! “

And Hero did look good after twenty-one months of working

out and then eight more months of non-stop calisthenics

running and working the heavy-bag he’d developed a great

build. He was cut-up real nice. He felt good. Confident.

He liked the way he looked. Girls went ga-ga right in front

of him. He loved it.

Rosie dropped to her knees after some really sensual kissing,

soul kissing, sucking and gentle biting telling Hero,

“I wanna suck you  bad.”

She whined-he’d told her, “no,” and but for the fickle

finger of fate, Hero might have had a wonderful evening;

this girl’s pussy was so sweet and soft – like the dew

of a tulip’s petals.

“No,” Hero’d said.

Later he would tell a friend who’d met her, “Rosie’s pussy

is hot 17 year old pussy. Pussy that hasn’t been all abused

and stretched out, all thick and leathery, like, by a harsh

fucked up lifestyle. She’s got a soft, young, delectable

body and a pretty face, too. A very intelligent  young woman.

Did you know she was one of GG Allin’s Murderettes? That’s

Rosie and her fine, soft, cushion-pillow ass. “.

Alas, a blow-job was not to be had that evening because

two days previous, the day before Hero had been discharged

from prison, he’d had minor surgery to remove a small line

of genital warts from underneath the skin on the head of

his previously perfect penis. He’d bitched about them for

the entire three months he was in Riverview. The doctor

there was either an Indian from India or a Pakistani from

Pakistan, Hero wasn’t sure which, who he showed his penis

to and, after a very quick glance and the attending nurse’s

fit because the doctor hadn’t warned her to leave the examination

room before he had Hero pull his pants down – he

told him that, “You half verricoze veins frrom bahk prressurre.”

Hero looked at him and said, “Bahk prressurre? I half

neverr hearrd off ver’cose veins on the tip of a man’s

penis frrom bahk prressurre, orr any otherr kind off prressurre.

What bahk prressurre? I rrelease the prressurre at

everry available opportunity I get.”

Hero wrote a grievance and the doctor took more English

lessons. (The doctor got the better deal.) The grievance

pointed out the fact that the doctor had never bothered

to turn on the examination room lights, instead telling

Hero to, “Pull yourr pahnts down and step closerr to the

window wherre therre is morre light,,”

Hero did it – almost breaking his neck in the process.

The doctor’s diagnosis was not only based on a purely visual

inspection, it was also wrong. Dead-ass wrong. A request

for a resolution resulted in an appointment with a specialist,

preferably a dermatologist. The prison administration sent

him to a urologist instead.

“Close enough,” he said.

This particular Indian from India told him that he had

genital warts, and that they would have to be, “surgically

removed.”

Having no other criteria with which to judge the man’s

competence – save his ability to pronounce words in English

without grossly rolling his R’s – Hero decided to trust

him.

Sixty-five days later, and two days before his release

date, Hero was called to the prison clinic to meet a young

doctor, with fingers like sausages, who only identified

himself as “the surgeon.”

“I’m the surgeon,” he said very matter-of-factly. Hero

didn’t care for his, cavalier? no, condescending my shit never

stank attitude, and the fact that he wore an un-kept

red beard that he was using to try and hide his second and

third chins. Hero thought it would have looked more appropriate

on a plumber. Then again, he could see how surgery

and plumbing weren’t too distantly related, give or take

a little sewing and smaller fittings and decided to let

young red beard have his way with him.

“We can schedule you for .. two .. maybe three weeks from

now. “

“I go home the day after tomorrow,” Hero said nervously.

“Oh, in that case, I guess you won’t want it done, right?”

That warden was one cheap sum’a bitch and now he knew

why they’d waited so long.

“No, I want it done,” he said as the first step towards

what would turn out to be a very poor judgement call.

The next day the tiny pen dots that were the warts on

Hero’s pecker were “surgically removed” by an instrument

– probably a fucking soldering iron that left him with

something that looked a lot like a lump of coal or a charred

cinder hanging from the top most left hand side of his

previously beautiful and perfect penis.

Years later Hero wondered if he wouldn’t have scarred

so badly had he not insisted on trying to fuck Rosie, frustrating

her, torturing himself and opening his wound up

more than once.

“Well, it still works,” he’d said to his friend, Harry,

on their way to Wigstock. That afternoon, as providence

would dictate, Hero was approached by a cute guy with a few

cameras hanging around his neck who wanted to know if he

could take a picture of his cock. It was a sweet pick-up

line and Hero figured he was looking for just the right

one. Ever the showoff, he opened his pants willingly and

gave that oh so less than subtle little offbeat pervert

voyeur the photograph of his fucking lifetime. He imagined

the shot would end up hanging in some art gallery in San Francisco or Soho, who knew? Who cared?

Promising himself to see a better doctor next time (next

time?!) anything like that should ever happen from then

on Hero tried to be a little more particular about

where he dipped his wick. Personally, he believed – even

if no one ever asked him – that he’d caught the warts from

a toilet bowl seat. No shit. One day he’d noticed that whenever

he took a crap, his johnson hung slightly to the left

and that the affected area of his Fig Newton’s helmet always

rested ever so delicately against the inside rim of the

seat. Not too farfetched (for a theory) considering how

many different toilet bowls he’d sat on in so many different

prisons.

By the time Hero’s willy had healed up enough to let him

fuck Rosie ragged, they were both totally strung-out and

at each other’s throats. She threw him out of the apartment

– her ex-boyfriend was long gone, Hero having brokered a

reconciliation between the Skinhead and his wife who was

losing her mind trying to raise the jerk’s three young daughters

all by herself.

That was right about the time he ran into Baldheaded

Scott. Scott used to come to the Aztec, a seedy bar

on East Ninth Street, when Hero was dealing coke there in

the late 80’s. Scott told him, “I just finished kicking,

man. “

“Oh, yeah? What are you doing?”

“Trying to cop, do you know what’s open? What’s good?

and then he sneezed twice. No ordinary sneezes either, Hero

knew them all too well; these were some really serious dope sick

sneezes and they made you think you’d either swallowed

a jar of bee pollen or sniffed a gram of quicklime.

He laughed at Scott and said, “C’mon, I’ll get you straight.”

To see the expression on Scott’s face, someone might have

thought he’d experienced a spiritual revelation, the way

he said, “Well, a1right!”

After they’d copped and got off Hero asked Scott what

he’d been up to? It had been five years since the Aztec

had closed.

“The carnival, man, the carnival. I was importing exotic

animals for a little while but things started to get a

little hot if you know what I mean. You know, if you’re

not doing anything, you should check out the carnival, you’d

fit right in.”

“Oh, yeah? There’s money there?”

“Heck yeah! Sure, are you kidding?”

They kicked it around for a few more hours and from what

Scott had told Hero, he figured he could sell dope from

NYC to all of Scott’s carny pals up and down the East coast.

In theory, the idea was great, that’s if you were anybody

but Hero and not strung out from the get go. Once he got

selling it had been a fucking miracle he wasn’t pulled

off a Greyhound somewhere below the Mason Dixon and hauled

off to jail for transporting anywhere from ten to twenty

bundles of heroin at a time; the drivers were always on

the lookout, they got a reward or something, and nodding

in the back of the bus wasn’t one of the swiftest moves.

He’d been extremely lucky – riding with the Patron Saint

of Fools n’ Drunks (and drools n’ funks) and seeing as how

Hero never drank very much that only left him the other

category.

Scotty, who came from what the folks back home in Minnesota

would have described as “good stock” hailed from

an upper middle-class family the matriarch of which was

his mother. Old money. She’d cut him off years ago and the

old crone told Scott if he came home

he could even have money. But he either had to be squeaky

clean or on methadone. He once said that dead he wouldn’t

go back there.

Scott showed Hero the “G” to all the different games. The

G was the trick, the way the mark was played: how he lost

his money. Usually, Scott worked the alibis, games so called

because they offered the agent an excuse to serve up to

the mark when he lost. Alibis were their carney name but

almost any “game of skill and chance” that the mark couldn’t

win without the carney letting him was called an alibi.

There were so many different kinds of joints with G’s it

was insane. Scott worked a joint called the Flukey Ball

but the sucker name for it was Over The Rail Bank-A-Ball.

The game consisted of a board with a rail like a towel rack

on it that had just barely enough room for a hollow, white

plastic ball about the size of a Spaulding to fit behind

it and then it would fall into a shallow laundry bucket

(just the right size for washing your feet in) and then

through a hole in the bottom of that and down into a trough

made of a long piece of dark heavy cloth hung end to end

the width of the joint. Normally, two units were set up

this way, both sharing the same trough. The boards, 6 ft tall sandwich affairs, were placed about 2 to 3 feet

from where the marks stood outside the joint with their

knees against the front rail. The agents always let them

lean way over the front rail because it gave them the impression

that the game would be easier than they’d originally thought.

The real money to the Flukey Ball was that the mark had

to make ten balls -though not one after another. This was

what was known as “ten pointing” and it described

how an agent was operating his or her joint; to ten point

a mark was applicable to a lot of different joints but

the Flukey Ball was by far the best.

The first serious G of the Flukey Ball where an agent

was ten pointing the marks kept them constantly chasing

their own money. The first ball was only two dollars. If

the mark made it, he kept on throwing balls without charge

until he made ten. But, if he missed, he had to, “match

your bet,” which meant he had to give the agent another

two dollars to throw again. That made the bet four dollars.

The progression went as follows: two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two,

sixty-four, one-twenty-eight, two-fifty-six, five twelve

– which was usually rounded off to five-hundred.

Hero had seen marks go higher though. A thousand dollars.

even, and although friends back in NYC told him that only an idiot would play and pay a game like that he just shook his head and stuck to his story ’cause he’d seen it up close and personal.

The second serious G to the Flukey Ball, was so serious

Hero saw agents go to jail for it, get assaulted because

of it, and even get murdered as a result of it. Every agent

had three of the white plastic balls except one of them

had been carefully stuffed with cotton; this was called

the “cop ball” because it always went behind the rail without

a hitch, the cotton deadened the ball’s bounce against the

board. Hero discovered that if he listened very closely

to the board as the balls bounced off it, he could literally

hear the difference. But, with the noise of the midway,

the marks never could.

The third serious G of the Flukey Ball were the agents

themselves: only the smoothest and most seasoned carnies

worked this type of joint. It looked easy but required

years of experience in the business to really know your shit.

“Hey thar, fella! Win one fer the little lady! What’s

a’ matter? Ya’ angry at’er?” they’d shout out in what was

referred to as, “duking the suckers.” A “sucker” was

anyone who wasn’t a carney. Hero supposed that had come

from the Gypsy’s who were very big in the carnivals and

maintained as a matter of law that anyone who wasn’t a Gypsy

was fair game to rob, cheat, burglarize – you name it. They

were the masters of the G and had more game than Milton

Bradley.

To properly duke a mark into a joint required a little

more finesse than you might think and it was a living if

the agent was any good at it usually paying on average

ten percent of the take for each mark duked.

“Hey there, buddy, how ’bout it? Only takes a throw and the

first one’s on me, hey! Mr. Heart, give this man a free

game on me, will you, please? Here you go, sir.”

As he steps forward, you put the ball in his hand and

gently guide him right up to the rail for the agent to take

over. He isn’t given time to think.

“Here you go win one for the lady?” the agent says

pointing at the dozens of large stuffed animals strung over

and around the entire joint as close together as possible

for a mesmerizing effect that Hero guessed played on the

mark’s sub-conscious childhood memories.

The mark looks at his girl, who’s hanging off his arm

and jumping  and down, pointing at a gigantic fucking panda

bear inside a huge, clear plastic bag hung way up high on

one of the inside walls of the joint.

“ Ok, what do I have to do?” he says and the agent shows him

how to lean over the front rail and throw the ball just

right. He makes one. The average mark is not dumb though,

he’s just stupid for the period of time he’s in front of

the joint from all the noise and the distraction of his desire

to believe. He has been duked in and now he will be suckered.

“Oh! You made it! You made it! What’d we win?!” his girl

screams in his ear moronically. The mark looks at the agent

who says to him,

“Nine more like that and you can have any prize you like,

and your money back, now what’d I say?” and the mark repeats

it, “I  win any prize and my money back, right?”

“Right, and remember, you don’t have to make ten in a

row, just make ten, got it?”

“Yeah, how much?”

“Well, you already made one and that one was on the house,

give me two dollars and we’ll just keep that first one between

you and me, ok? (Just buy me a beer when you win, only don’t

tell the boss) [wink].”

Now the mark thinks the agent is his friend and that he’s

got a slight advantage so he antes up the two bucks; he

makes it, he’s got two now and he only needs eight more

– it really doesn’t seem to be that difficult. He throws

and misses then it’s four dollars; and then he makes one,

then he misses again and it’s eight dollars, sixteen, thirty-two,

sixty-four, one-twenty-eight, and on and on it went

because, “Remember, when you win you get any prize you like

and all your money back.”

The closer the mark got to ten the easier it was for

him to keep on playing, to keep chasing after his own money.

The din of the midway, the stress of the Flukey Ball, it

all combined to dull the senses and at some point the mark

always looked at his girl and said, “Should I do it?” on

a $256 throw of a little plastic ball and then be torn

over whether to leave without their money or not because

by now he’s had to borrow $52 bucks from his girl just to

stay in the game. The prize? Fuck the prize, they had to

get the car insurance back! In fact, the giant panda now

looks very much like some kind of evil come-to-life stuffed

animal from that show, Tales From The Fucking Crypt, as

it was now leering at them with the most sinister expression

$256 could conjure.

If the mark beefed the real skill of the agent was in

knowing how much, if any, of his money to give him back.

Usually, whether the mark beefed or not, the agent gave him

the prize he’d been after before he started losing his

shirt: a $256 stuffed fucking panda.

Hero never heard any of those chicks screaming, “We won!

We won!”

No, they just moped away with their boyfriends who had

to carry the fucking panda, an oversized reminder of their

“fun” night at the carnival.

The first time Hero watched the Flukey Ball he’d had

to walk away because he was laughing so damn hard. He simply

could not believe anyone would actually continue to

give someone their money like that. But, he learned, they

wanted to believe. To believe.

He hung around the different joints and fit in quickly

just like Scott told him he would. The carnival was the

last stop for a lot of ex-cons, people on the run, and social

rejects. The rules were a lot like those in prison, too.

Even so, the more he saw of the carnival, the funnier he

thought the whole thing was. Especially the old slang and

middle-aged joint owners. They all dressed like it was still

  1. Fat lapels, bell bottoms, polyester sport suits with

silk shirts worn open to show off their chest hair and gold chains.

Always lots of gold. Gold chains, gold pinky rings and gold

watches. Just so long as it was gold. And they all wore

different variations of Elvis sunglasses, too. They called

the cops “the fuzz” and it made it very hard for Hero to

talk to them and still take them serious1y sometimes. Almost

all of his own slang was a combination of the latest NYC

vernaculars used by the assorted subcultures including –

but not limited to – junkies, Blacks, Hispanics (in Spanish,

English and Spang1ish), homeboys, wise-guys, and the indefatigable prison slang. Every state had its own prison

slang and words overlapped in the same way they did within

different dialects of the same language. The carnies spoke

a lingo stuck somewhere in between the late nineteenth

century and the mid 1970’s. They used a lame-ass

pig latin they called “Carny” to speak in front

of the marks. Hero guessed that a lot of the slang was accumulative but that the styles of dress changed by jumps in

an odd game of leap-frog with every generation as the carnies

who grew older established themselves on the lots sporting

whatever style of dress that had survived along with them.

Hero met entire families of carnies, generations of them.

It was haunting to see. He learned about the big shows and

listened to stories about fortunes made and lost in the

carnival. Stories about freaks like Lobster Boy, whose hands

were deformed from birth and resembled lobster claws exactly,

though not so much that they kept him from freebasing like

a wild Banshee and pulling the trigger of the pistol he

used to shoot his own father, Lobster Man, with – killing him for making time with Lobster Boy’s girl. Scott speculated that it was

no wonder their hands were deformed. Both father and son

were similarly affected and quite well off as a result.

Hero met “The World’s Smallest Woman.” And she was small,

too, standing not even a whole two feet. He’d just had to

ask Scott what he thought her pussy looked like.

“I don’t know, small, I guess. Really small!” and then

they laughed, stoned out of their gourds until Hero felt

kind of sorry for the little woman who was too small for

even midget dick. Her face was so tiny that when she stood

still it was easy to mistake her for an expensive doll.

Scott said her trailer had been built to scale and that

she was flush with scratch, wealthy even. She owned and

ran her own sideshow and had a guy running a couple of

joints out on the lot for her and the carnival didn’t get

much better that.

Scott told Hero about a friend of his named Cheech, a

carny who used to work the Flukey Ball with him who was

last seen on “America’s Most Wanted” for rape and murder.

Cheech had met a couple of very mature fourteen year old

girls on the midway and they made a date to get together after

the lot closed to go drink some beer and party in a nearby

corn field. Only the girls weren’t as mature as Cheech thought

and it wasn’t long before the party got out of hand and

he raped and tried to murder both girls with a claw hammer except one of them survived.

With carnies, there were as many weird stories as there

were ways of making money on or off the lot. “Creeping”

was one of the seedier methods that was very popular in

the off season or any other time some quick scratch was

needed. A group of carnies, no less than two ,but one could

get away with it in a pinch, would rent a room in a motel

near an interstate. Once they got settled in one played

chicky at the window while another strolled outside smoking

a cigarette. Meanwhile the third disassembled the

knob lock on the door of the room. Next, he took apart

the cylinder and with a small file and a blank key and made

a master-key for all of the rooms in the motel. Afterwards,

he’d put everything back together and everyone would come

inside and stay well out of sight while taking turns watching

from behind the curtains to see who was staying in which

room, whether they had expensive luggage or not, and what

kind of car they were driving. When a potentially good mark

went out for dinner, preferably taking their car, two of

the carnies would let themselves into the room and search

it thoroughly for any valuables while the third looked out.

Jewelry, cash, traveler’s checks, cameras, suits, electronics

and anything else that happened to catch their eye they

took. Hero met a carny named Airhead Joe who, it was rumored, had eaten a piece of a wedding cake he’d found in a room.

He also stole a gift wrapped toaster-oven, a wedding gift,

and four of those little bars of complimentary motel soaps.

(Scott said it was all true ’cause he was there and saw Joe do it).

Another scam consisted of setting up a joint so hot with

the fuzz that the carnies usually had to do it in a flea-market,

although Hero had seen joints go up anywhere they

could get away with it: out of a trailer at roadside , in gas

station parking lots, and in NYC he saw a “flat store

go up in the back of a plexiglass shop on Canal Street.

Flat stores normally involved a fast G and a game that

could be set up on a flat table hence the name flat store.

The most popular one Hero saw was called “The Razzle.” The

marks called it  “Trade Bank” ’cause that’s what the sign

in front of the joint said, but Razzle was a much better

description. Primarily, it consisted of a box with a board

chart on the table. In the box version, a hand-full of marbles

were thrown into the box and the mark’s score was then “added”

up by the agent. In another version, a multi-sided die covered

with numbers was rolled instead. The numbers were added at

breakneck speed and compared to a

chart which had boxes with numbers one through one hundred

on it. Each box also had instructions in it such as, “Win

$50.00 Go Forward 3 Boxes,” or, “Pay $50.00 Go Back 3 Boxes,” and then a few that paid ridiculously large amounts of money and sent the mark as many as 50 boxes ahead, and vice versa.

The G of The Razzle wasn’t just in the counting, it was

in the agent’s familiarity with the board and his sense

for what he could push the mark to do as he lead him along

like a horse after a carrot chasing his own money

in a futile attempt to get to one hundred. Large stacks

of “cash” kept in a bag or briefcase were in reality

nothing more than bundles of currency sized colored paper

with fifties and hundreds on top. This was the “Bank”

in “Trade Bank” and when the mark won he would then take

possession of the bank. There were stuffed animals, sometimes

as few as one, hanging over the joint or even in front of it and sometimes there would be cheap household appliances like a new vacuum cleaner (or maybe just a vacuum cleaner box).

There were true stories of very stupid marks who’d went

home, dug up their life’s savings, and came back to keep

playing the game. One agent was said to have caught a mark

for ten-thousand dollars and, after what Hero’d seen on the

lots, he was inclined to believe it.

In the long run he didn’t have the stomach for any of

  1. The looks on the mark’s faces when they lost, they were

like a character right out of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon

who’d suddenly been transformed into a giant Tootsie Pop

with a sign hanging on it that read: “SUCKER!”

Hero didn’t like losing and had a bad childhood memory

from when he was about eleven or twelve and had played some

game of “skill and chance” and lost the three dollars his

father had given him for treats and goodies in two throws

of a little plastic ball at a washtub or some other equally

rude device of deception. He’d felt like crying.

“Go on, beat it!” the man growled. It had ruined his whole

afternoon at the carnival.

“Scumbag,” Hero called back to the creep nearly twenty-five

years later and,

“Scumbag,” once more just  for good measure ..

Every time he saw a mark lose all those emotions welled

up in his eyes like so many little hidden tears because

he knew how awful they felt, how stupid – and as adults

– how embarrassed. Hero believed that even if you gave the

mark back all his scratch and a free panda, it could never

erase the pain, that selfsame knowledge that he’d been

had. Suckered like a real chump. And that wasn’t good for

his heart, his soul, or his spirit.

Hero learned that the carnival was a dying animal that

was on its way to becoming extinct, a suicide killed off

by its own greed and honest theme parks. A relic.

 

Breakfast arrived and he popped the cover off the feed-up

to find a veritable potpourri of cereals in the

second smallest compartment of the dirty, beige plastic

tray; a mix of rice-crispies, cornflakes, and bran. He added

milk and dug his spork in. With the very first bite he

realized the reason for the mish-mosh of grains at the bottom

of the cereals was a fine dust that he guessed had once

been bran-flakes. The texture of all these once enjoyable

breakfast staples was now a strange tasting crunchy-wet-

cold mush. Exercising a long ago learned talent essential

to doing time he ate without thinking and tried as best

he could to avoid the bottom of the tray. Instead, he thought

about the trip he and Scott had made from NYC to Virginia,

but he couldn’t for the life of him remember where in Virginia.

He could see a large paper “Oliver North For U.S. Senate”

sign with big blocked white letters on a navy blue background

that had a very bad picture of Ollie on it.

They’d rode the bus down and Hero’d brought six bundles

of dope to sell on the lot. Scotty got himself a spot working

the Flukey while Hero hooked up with a One Ball joint run by

a coked crazed couple in their thirties who tried to beat

him out of his money and ended up trying to pay him in

loose change until they realized who the losers were in that one!

The One Ball was a fairly straight up joint where to win,

the mark had to knock down a pyramid of three milk bottles

from about twelve feet away with a softball. The G was that

the bottles were made of cast iron and weighed about 2 lbs.

a piece. It was possible, provided the mark didn’t mind

spending $30 throwing his arm out to get it right. The

softballs were pretty shot, too. At two bucks a ball or three for five dollars it was what it was: a crappy carnival game.

Hero was high the entire time he worked the joint, it made

duking the marks that much easier. He skimmed about twenty

percent off the gross take, in effect stealing from himself, too, but it all worked out in the end and stealing was an accepted part of the business, just so’s long as you weren’t caught.

“Hey there, Dad! Let the kids try one time!” he yelled

to a tired, work-worn, middle-aged fellow with three almost

half-grown kids and Hero thought that even in better clothes

they still would have looked poor. They had that tired

aching look that some poor people get from always being

hungry no matter how much they ate; there was something

forever gaunt and hollow about them, something unmistakable,

and Hero wondered if it wasn’t the knowledge that they’d

be hungry again later. He saw all of them standing there

looking at the game. Their father, who’d taken them to the

carnival as a treat (and a break for the Mrs.), stood a few

minutes examining the bottles from a distance and thinking.

Hero saw how hard the guy had to think about it and how

he must’ve been weighing his chances of winning against

the hour of work it had taken to earn the five dollars it

was going to cost him to find out. The kids, somewheres

around seven, nine and thirteen: a boy and two girls, were

all standing practically one on top of the other while they

patiently waited for their Dad to make a decision.

Hero set the bottles so that if he’d farted too close

they would have fallen right over. He gave the guy a conspiratorial wink that made it a little easier for the old

boy to make up his mind and, when he still hesitated, Hero

said,”C’mon, Dad, somebody’s got to win,” and then handed

him the first ball. Dad gave him the fin and let’er rip.

Hero almost cried for real when he saw how happy those

kid s were, so proud of their old man who’d won them a large

stuffed lizard, or whatever it was, but it didn’t matter,

no, sir, because that night – they were winners.

Dad thanked Hero with a humble smile and a firm handshake.

“Thanks a lot,” he said, and he meant it, too. Hero figured

they’d take that old stuffed lizard-ma-call-it home to Mom

and she’d get infected, too, and the kids wouldn’t talk

about nothin’ else – nonstop – for at least the next two

weeks and for years to come they’d reminisce because that

night, that lone fucking sweaty night on a dirty midway

in some miserable carnival, they had won. Hero was so high,

he started imagining that the vibe might take one of those

kids to college or who knew where? It was right then and

there that he knew that the carnival wasn’t for him.

In the carnival, someone would always ask him,” You with it?”

To which he was supposed to reply, “with it and for it.”

But he did not feel as though he were “with it” or “for

it” because “it” was not too cool at all. The whole thing

was nothing but at dirty, rotten, time intensive cheat.

Just setting up and tearing down the joints took countless

hours. Stocking them, helping with the other joints, it

sucked. A lot of the older joints were called “stick joints”

because of their hinged and painted two-by-four lumber,

over seventy-five pieces to each joint that were then covered

with a 200 lb. canvas tarp (when dry). Hero discovered that

whenever he worked there would be very few hours for himself.

The entire thing was a racket. Food on the lot was expensive.

“Grab Joints,” so called because the marks “grabbed” their

food after paying and then more grabbed their food after

them and the joints stayed busy so naturally the name

fit. Corndogs, hotdogs, soda-pop, fries, specialty items

like chili, elephant ears and tacos; all of it over-priced,

unhealthy and more often than not – dirty.

“Finger food, man. That’s what killed Elvis, here – want

some onion-rings?” Scotty practically lived on the shit.

Hero worked his way through a few different joints: One

Ball, Free Throw (basketball), Dime Toss, and Balloon Store,

and he hated every last one of them before the season was

even halfway over. The Balloon Store was by far the most

crooked of the four. He shared one with a carny who went

by the name Steve The Jag, which translated from carny was Steve The Asshole. The man was a menace. A drunk menace

from Boston who’d seen the last of his glory days sometime

during the 1980’s. An Irishman and asshole bar none, The

Jag showed Hero how a balloon store really worked: the agent

fed the mark darts at two dollars each or three for five,

then he had to bust a number of balloons that were tacked

to a board with either a letter or star underneath them.

There were myriad variations, but basically they were all

alike in that the mark had to either spell a word by hitting

balloons with a letter under each one or accumulate certain

colored stars and so on, and then he won a prize: a stuffed

animal literally the size of a mouse.

“The first one’s the worst one,” the agent always told

the mark. To win bigger prizes, the mark could play again

and “trade up.” The agent’s job was to keep feeding him

darts until he got him up to about sixteen just to

trade up to a stuffed toy hippo the size of a roll of toilet

paper. (Well, actually, a little smaller than a roll of

toilet paper.) That was thirty-two bucks. They threw the

dart and heard that – POP! – and the more they heard it,

the more they wanted to throw them. Every now and then,

one of the marks would flip out when the agent stopped handing

them darts and with a fan of two dozen of them between his

fingers and say, “That’s thirty-two dollars, sir.”

Almost all the marks Hero’d played – paid. He thought

it was simply amazing how they would do practically

anything he told them to, denying any semblance of common

sense that would have otherwise said, “This guy is here to make money, there’s no way he wants to help me win that big prize.”

But they wanted to believe. And the sound of those balloons

popping drowned out everything else.

Hero tried to get in on the alibis and flat stores and

even though he was being “promoted” by Scott and some other

Flukey Ball agents, it required more experience than he

had just then. He’d hang around and watch but agents he

wasn’t so cool with would chase him away; the less agents

that knew the joint the better – more work for those who did.

Hero met agents with names like Baldheaded Scott, FBI

Steve, Airhead Joe, New York Nicky, Junky John, Carney Bill,

Coney Island Sue, Basketball Joe and the father and son

team of Riverboat and Paddleboat.

Paddleboat was a good friend of Scott’s and when they

were all at Military Circle in Virginia, Hero met him and

they took an immediate liking to one another. Not long after

they were both part of a crew of seven carnies who headed

up to Atlantic City (AC) after J.D. Firona’s Flukey Ball was shut down as the result of a family dispute between J.D. and his brother John, both sons of the Four Firona Brothers Carnival.

The famous Four Firona Brothers ran the largest carnival outfit

in North America. They had four separate units that all

ran out of New England, each one of them a full sized carnival.

They worked from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi,

from Florida all the way up to Canada and then across Canada

from Toronto to Winnipeg. They’d started out forty years

earlier in Providence with one ride and now boasted owning

over a hundred. They were as crooked as the edges of a broken

plate and tough as nails, big long nails.

In AC the agents shared one tiny third floor hotel room that was cheap, dingy and very, very dirty. Hero remembered

that the entire room was covered with a dark, brownish yellow

film of sticky grime and accumulated tar and nicotine.

Even the light switches were gooey with it all up inside

of them. The bed was a double, a fold-out from an old ratty

couch and nothing more than a cheap piece of dry foam rubber.

After they’d opened it, one of them sat on it at the corner and it broke, almost catching the unlucky carney’s foot and ankle underneath it when it collapsed. This was remedied with a few New Jersey Bell telephone books. The bathroom was, let’s just say the room was bad enough and the bulb was blown in the toilet.

Two days after they arrived, everyone was dope sick. Monkey,

the lease holder of a covered pier on the Boardwalk,

hadn’t put the joints up yet. This was what Paddleboat and·

a few of the others referred to as “The Monkey Trap.”

The Monkey Trap was very simple: every year Monkey told

a few agents that if they came to AC he would let them

open a flat store and or an alibi in the arcade on his pier.

Only once they were there he usually had two-dozen reasons

why he wasn’t ready that he hadn’t mentioned over the phone

to agents who had traveled there from places as far

away as Tennessee, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

Desperate for scratch or, as in this case, dope sick,

the agents often ended up working with Monkey’s low I.Q.

flunkies to get the arcade and the joints in it all cleaned

  1. Ostensibly in late preparation for the season which

was about to open in only a matter of days.

The G to The Monkey Trap was that since the agents were

supposed to build their own joints in Monkey’s arcade, then

it wasn’t unusual for Monkey to ask them to lend a hand

getting the rest of the place together, too. There was a

Machine Gun, a couple of coin operated video games, a Ring

Toss and a psychic chicken who would answer YES or NO by pecking at a light. In the evening she played Tick-Tack- Toe.

Now, if any of the agents told Monkey, “no,” that he couldn’t

give him a hand, well, then he risked pissing Monkey off

and although he wouldn’t say anything then – or ever for

that matter – once the joints went up, you could be sure

that agent found he wasn’t only getting the least amount

of time in them but also the worst. With six agents and

two games they’d jump in and out by the hour when the marks

were hot enabling all of them to see some of the best money.

Of course the biggest question was how long before Monkey

would get the joints up?

He was never called Monkey to his face but was by everyone

– behind his back – because of his physical appearance.

He looked exactly like a short, pudgy, white skinned chimpanzee

with a wide squat torso, high shoulders, and arms

that hung almost to his knees that hinged spindly ape-like

legs; and all of this was covered with a coarse mat of stiff,

curly black hair. When he walked he resembled a monkey

trying very desperately to imitate a man. A drunk agent

once suggested that Monkey, and he addressed him by

this name, could maybe open up a Geek pit and make himself

the main attraction. No doubt, there had been some degree

of unmeasured tension between this agent and the fifty-two

year old Monkey. (Even Paddleboat couldn’t recall his

real name.) The agent was just about to go fetch Clara Del

Poyo to show Monkey how he could use her in his new pit

act when he was shot with one of the machine guns

loaded with greased BB’s. The mouthy agent only lost

an eye but they also had to throw him a life-preserver

as the force of the BB entering his head sent him right over

the rail of the pier and down into the Atlantic. Monkey

quietly tuned away and went to sit with Clara Del Poyo,

the psychic chicken who’s honor he had sworn he would not

abide to be slandered.

Dope sick and broke, Hero had learned why this dilemma

was known as the infamous and dreaded Monkey Trap. It wasn’t

always this way but it only took one time to really fuckup

a carny’s program whether he was strung out or not.

Getting high one afternoon, Paddleboat told Hero his story

about having been born into the carnival and how not even

a year before his father was shot and killed one night

by an angry mark who’d followed him back to his motel room

after the lot closed. They sat on the Boardwalk in the

warm summer breeze and the ocean rolled in like a familiar

ache in Paddleboat for his father who had taught

him everything he knew. Hero learned from the careful behavior

of the agents who worked the alibis and flat stores that

it was not uncommon for marks to confront them off the lot,

on the lot, in the joint or anywhere else they happened

to be when they began to lose it; when they saw that giant

neon sign blinking brightly inside their head that read:

“ SUCKER! SUCKER! SUCKER! SUCKER! SUCKER! SUCKER! SUCKER! SUCKER!SUCKER!”

In Rock Hill, South Carolina, Hero watched a mark go right

over the rail and into the joint trying to get at the balls

in the trough. The “SUCKER!” light in this particular mark’s

pea sized brain must have illuminated the obvious fact that

any “game”in which one could lose one’s entire $250 paycheck

(and another $32 of his wife’s) in less time

than it took to say, “Damn, Yankees!,” had to be rigged!

“I know yew bin ginin’ me! Yew Yankee motherfucka’s! Lemme’

back thar! Goddammit! Out’a mah way, I say!”

Scotty pushed him back with his left forearm while raising

a short bat embedded with nails in his right in an effort

to back the mark down until they could get the “Fixer” over

to help straighten it all out.

The Fixer was normally one of the lot men, they worked

for the owners and wore a few different hats. They were

also older men, easily in their sixties, and once they said

something it was respected like law by agents and owners

alike. To disobey the Fixer was like asking to be run off

the lot. If an agent could help it, he was never supposed

to let a beef leave from under his joint’s awning. Sometimes,

even the Fixer couldn’t fix it and the mark went for the

fuzz. Hero watched as this exchange took place somewhere

in Tennessee.

“Now hold yer horses there and let me get this straight,

You gave the man $600 and then you threw the ball, is

that right?”

“Yeah, that’s right, but they was ginin’ me, officer,

and every time I missed I had to give’m more money just to

keep playin’ and git back what I already got in! My wife

had to go to the ATM, dammit! Now …. “

“OK, OK, now, settle down there. So what your tellin’

me is that you gave the man your money, and then you threw

the ball. Is that right?”

“Well, sure that’s right, I already told you that, what

I want to know is … “

“Listen here, fella’, you  say you gave the man your money and

then you threw the ball, you admit that yerfself. Ain’t

no crime been committed here, you paid and then you played.

What do you want me to do? Lock the man up because you lost!?”

The cops picked up about a hundred a piece for every night

the Flukey Ball was up. As of late, it couldn’t go

up in a lot of places, everyone knew about it from the nightmare

stories their friends told them. You could always tell

a mark who’d been had because he walked around the lot with

the $256 panda under his arm wearing a donkey face. They

could be seen pointing to the joint as they warned their

friends. It was pretty sick alright.

Out of sight under the counters the agents kept axe handles,

cut down baseball bats, tire irons, golf clubs, broken pool

cues and other various personalized versions of all types

of sporting goods equipment. Scotty explained,” Well, sometimes the Fixer is a little slow getting here, ya’ know what

I mean?” The signal for trouble was, “Hey, Rube!” and carnies came out of the woodwork ready to kick ass. Oft times the agent

was holding hundreds of dollars of the mark’s scratch right

in front of his face – money he’d been chasing for the last

thirty minutes, sweating like a pig as he watched it

suddenly grow wings and fly south as the result of his own

stupidity without even waving, “Bye, bye, SUCKER!”

 

 

The morning moved on uneventfully. Nothing out of the

ordinary.

The early autumn sky was white and hazy with dirty

clouds, the air cool and a little damp so that Hero’s feet

felt cold inside his boots from not moving them enough.

Contemplating. “Wash my dirty socks?” he asked quizzically,

knowing full well he wouldn’t. Shave with the leftover luke

warm water he’d  washed up with earlier? “No,” he told himself, I’ll do that this evening when the next porter brings

more hot water around on the cart but he never did.

Hero didn’t talk too much from his cell. It was better

that way because prisoners had a tendency to scrutinize

each other’s conversations a bit too closely sometimes. Prison

was a lot of time and time unoccupied left men to their

own devices which usually weren’t too benevolent to begin

with. And so they watched each other very closely, and listened

even closer, looking more for doors to the offense than

the defense and it became second nature in the joint. Hero

saw this as a terrible waste of everyone’s – time – but

there wasn’t anything he could do to change it. To have

ever divulged to anyone what he truly thought inside of

this dogs-eat-dog kennel would have been ten times more

dangerous here behind the wall than it would have been anywhere on the other side of it. Out in the world people

had either added his name to their pay-me-no-mind list or

said he was crazy. A very select few said he was a genius

but it never accounted for very much to him; maternal abandonment he’d said. That very small percentage who liked what he said and listened saw Hero a brilliant fool and only wanted to share his shimmering glances of what freedom really looked like – without ever having to make any commitment to support its validity. Hero always wanted to ask where he could

take the freedom he’d been given as a “gift” so that he

might bring it back and exchange it or maybe get a Gift

Certificate instead that he could hold onto until he found

something else he wanted. He’d hypothesized a long time

ago that if you could imagine a world full of fun, salads

and sun, did it mean that only a fool would say that? Later

on he’d discover that they weren’t always so desirable.

He found wisdom hidden inside silence and music. It was

very rare inside people, only there, and it’s residue was

poetry, art, and literature, just to name a few. Great constructs

of thought, ideas, good design – and bad – all waved

their flags so that a lot of serious sifting was necessary.

To Hero it was like the difference between a Mack Bolan

adventure novel and the Bagadavagita; both were written

accounts of men in life and death battles with themselves

and the worlds around them, only Mack Bolan hadn’t inspired

any great spiritual following that Hero was aware of. He

amused himself, thinking, what if he read the entire Mack

Bolan series, could he then examine the man and catalog

his strengths and weakness to arrive at some legitimate

spiritual evaluation of him? A conclusion to inclusion

amongst the greatest prophets? What kind of religious icon

would Mack Bolan create?

In The Steel Cage Match Of All Eternity

! !TONIGHT: KRISHNA VS. MACK BOLAN!!

The Man. The Myth. The Legends.

Main Event: 11:00P.M. Only on Pay Per View.

Joseph Campbell had spoken about the recurring themes of stories and myth down through the ages. The victims were all too easily accessed – all we have to do

is turn on our television, or go to the video

rental store, and we can see them anytime we like. Legends

in your face. These new fairy tales told Hero to be like

Mike, to drive the same car and wear the same sneakers he

wore – even though he knew it was bullshit; he wanted to

believe.

Hero thought that we bought a God greater than our previously lame God: the one who played golf in plaid knickers and didn’t

sweat the divot. Hero heard a voice, no, a revelation of

his own from within, from without: “We were talking .. about

the space between ourselves and..” icons, temples and idols

are now the videos, the wrestling arenas, the World Wide

Web and action figures for the likes of Madonna, The Terminator,

Presidential Barbie and The Artist Formerly Known

As Prince.”

Hero liked Campbell immensely. He too had seen these things

as a cause for alarm: a virus of thought and easy answers

to selfish questions that would all be wrong anyway. He’d

talked about the void that included no rites of passage

or maybe new ones? A driver’s license, a credit card

and they were off and running. As for the poor: their first

baby and or arrest, what else? Campbell warned of a coming

breakdown of American society and Hero’d said, “What?!

Another one?!” to his TV and laughed at the man’s perceptions

of something Hero saw as having already taken place.

He agreed with the apocalyptic sense and missed Campbell’s

point which may have been about a new method of living,

of civilization, of interaction, rapidly changing values,

the whole shebang. Change too quick to even bother recording

because life was happening to us faster and faster and faster.

Hero had first heard the interviews when he was in

his mid-twenties. At first it looked like nothing more than

a couple of old dudes sitting around talking. It was a revelation

that came right about the time he had a strange

spiritual enlightenment on his way to a full blown coke

and dope habit that finally landed him in front of the bank

on Second Avenue and St. Mark’s Place.

It began when he was released from prison after doing

eighteen months for attempted robbery. He’d rented a room

from a girl he knew downtown who’d moved to East Harlem.

She played guitar in a band called King Missile and years

later, in Attica, Hero would hear them on the radio. They

had a very popular song called “Detachable Penis” which

was getting a great deal of air-play on the Alternative

and College radio stations. Besides playing guitar she

also sang the chorus which was the same over and over:

“ .. detachable penis .. detachable penis .. “

The song told the story of the lead singer’s detachable

penis and how he lost it while out partying one night in

the East Village only to find it the next day being sold

alongside a bunch of other worthless crap on a blanket

right around the corner from the bank Hero would panhandle at.

As for Rebecca, she was no slouch on the guitar, the girl

had chops and talent. She was driven to make it and it sounded

as if she had.

A week into his stay Hero met the landlord on the third floor

landing of the staircase. He was thirty-one and an NYU grad

with an MBA originally from Providence. He wasn’t the stereotypical version of any Yuppie that Hero’d ever seen, no.

And, after about a month of working for Mark Scarpelli,

he’d decided the man was a guerrilla yuppie. The kind who

would evict an old blind widow with one leg if he thought

he could get away with it. Hero once joked that if NYU’s

Business School was teaching what Scarpelli was practicing

then it was no wonder the country was so fucked up. His

paper games were notorious for resembling Dick Dastardly

type affairs, real robber baron type shit.

Scarpelli hired Hero right there on the staircase after

talking to him a whole hot six minutes (if it was that long).

Starting the following Monday he would assume management

of four 5 story tenement buildings on 133rd Street between

Broadway and Amsterdam in an area of West Harlem Scarpelli

called “Santo Domingo” because of its large Dominican population.

Other colonized territories were “Africa” or 145th

Street between Convent and St. Nicholas and “Puerto Rico”

or East Harlem where Hero lived with Rebecca and Scarpelli

kept his office. East Harlem was also known as “EI Barrio”

and “Spanish Harlem” but mostly everyone called it “El Barrio.”

As part of his deal, Scarpelli gave Hero a large two-bedroom

apartment in the same building as his office on top of the

$400 a week cash he paid himself out of the rents he

collected. He fixed the place up, he felt good about everything;

it was like a reward for all the shit he’d had to

eat while he was in prison those last eighteen months.

His first day on the job one of his crack head tenants

set fire to his apartment and later that afternoon

the stock market crashed in what was to be known forever after

as “Black Monday.”

Hero was worried about how the crash would affect his

new job. Scarpelli stopped by to see how he’d handled the

balance. For the younger man, financially dependent on the

older, it was unnerving. He was equally as perplexed at

Carcerine, Scarpelli’s sister, and her instant and aggressive desire to marry him.

She’d told Mark and her older sister, Kay, about it before

they were even seeing each other. Things got stickier as

time went on. Hero got extremely stressed out as he began

to learn the full extent of Mark’s business practices which

included – but were never limited to – screwing tenants,

employees, partners, banks, and even his own lawyer and

to Hero, anyone who could screw his own lawyer was a bad

motherfucker.

One day someone came into Hero’s office and served him

papers which indicated that the names on it were to cease

and desist from all activities pertaining to the management

of his four buildings: first and foremost being the collection

of any and all rents. The papers also said that the buildings

had been in receivership for almost five months – and that

meant that they were legally the bank’s “property” two months

before Hero took them over. On parole, and not very familiar

with real estate law, he got scared.

Mark said, “Ignore it, I’ll take care of it, here – gimme

those,” and took the papers. Hero knew he was full of shit

but he really wanted to believe.

“How could everything go so wrong?” he asked himself.

“It was all just starting to fall into place!”

(This was a compensated delusion. Actually, things were

a fucking mess.)

A few days later Hero got really worried when another

set of papers arrived this time with his own name added to

the list of Mark’s various partners and a plumbing company

who owned shares in exchange for work they’d done.

In another two days the court appointed receiver showed

  1. Hero could tell right away that the guy was a real duck.

A foreign exchange duck from Guyana or someplace. The duck

stirred up the dumber more easily manipulated tenants by

beefing about broken mailboxes in buildings that hadn’t

had heat or hot water before Hero got there. Buildings that

Hero’d had to use an aluminum baseball bat just to clear

the crack heads off the staircases at least three times a

week. The drug dealers, who made up close to forty percent

of his paying tenants, fell back to watch in silent trepidation.

Hero had negotiated with each one of them until

they’d accepted the idea of  paying rent each month and for drug dealers making a quick buck, he thought they were just about the cheapest motherfuckers he’d ever met.

The dealers were finally getting used to

him, they trusted him because he got things done in the

buildings and, since it was by then well known that he’d

recently gotten out of prison, they’d all relaxed and got

with the program.

Mark came over and told Hero to give the duck all the keys

the next day. There was a method to his madness. Mark knew

that before Hero had come on the scene those buildings

had been managed by three different dudes and over a ten month

period  none of them had lasted more than three weeks. Usually

the dealers paid the neighborhood guapos (handsomes) to run them off or the dudes collected all the rent they could before either the guapos or Mark got hold of them and then split. Hero

had faced down the guapos, the dealers, the junkies, the

crack heads, every lunatic on the block and probably a few

from the surrounding blocks. When he’d arrived there were

no lights in the staircases or halls, leaks, broken windows,

no heat or hot water, and crack heads everywhere. They smoked anywhere they could get away with it: on the stairs, in the empty

apartments, the basements, and on the roofs. After two weeks

of the duck the buildings looked exactly as they had when

Hero’d seen them for the first time a little over three

months before. The tenants and dealers put together a delegation

to go over to the east side and ask him if he would,

“Please, please come back, Hero . We need you – everything’s

all fucked up, there’s no hot water or nothin’. This African

guy, he don’t know what he’s doing … “

They’d even brought their rent money with them but Mark

said he couldn’t go.

Hero told them.

Hero told them,“My hands are tied.” The duck collected a month’s rent and then he split back

to his office on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

It wasn’t too long after this that Hero fell ill and

he and Mark had an intense argument that ended in a minor

scuffle over a deposit for an apartment Hero’d accepted

two days before the duck had rolled in. Mark wanted to fuck

them out of it: three-hundred dollars. He told Hero he could

pay her if it really bothered him so much otherwise,

“Fuck you and her!”

After a two hour verbal assault and an attempt by the

sick as a dog Hero to slam Mark into a chain link fence,

he finally relented and gave up the woman’s money.

Hero got sicker within days. Carcerine took him to the

emergency room at Bellvue. He’d developed a wet festering

sore on the right side of his face the size of a silver

dollar that was all yellow, green and crusty around the

edges. He had night sweats, diarrhea, oral thrush and

experienced a sudden and dramatic loss of weight.

A male nurse, who looked to Hero like an easier on the

eyes version of A1 Franken (with black hair), told him that

he should get a blood test; he just never sad for what though.

Hero called his parents who referred him to his mother’s

internist who gave him an appointment to come see him early

that week. He drew Hero’s blood, bottled it, put a numbered

sticker on it, and then had him deliver it to the Department

Of Health on First Avenue and 29th Street where it was tested

for the HIV antibody. Before he left the doctor told him

that he thought Hero had AIDS Related Complex (ARC), which

was a short preview of full blown AIDS; very short. Very,

very short indeed.

Hero told Carcerine to break-out. He sulked and moped

for a couple of days and then headed downtown to Save The

Robots, an after-hours club whose owners were old

acquaintances, and got fucked-up. Really good and fucked up and he stayed that way for almost three days.

The next time he saw the doctor, three weeks had passed,

Hero was starting to put on a little weight and

looked much healthier in general. The test came back negative

but the doctor never bothered to find out why he’d gotten

sick in the first place figuring, since Hero was looking

and feeling so much better, that whatever it was had passed.

Looking back now he understood why his mother had only

lived to sixty-eight. He wished he could kick that doctor

square in his bony little ass; Hero believed he’d contracted

either hepatitis B or C because now he had them both. Had

he known, he might have made some kind of an effort to have

avoided drugs and alcohol in earnest. It was the only really

serious illness he’d ever had. Some of his friends from downtown

came to visit him up in Harlem. They told him later,

after he’d recovered, that he looked like he were dead

and just didn’t know enough to lay down …

“You were on your deathbed, man! You look better now though,” Thumper had told him. They were all scared for Hero – who appeared brave – but was probably just too stupid to be afraid and was secretly enjoying all the attention and pity he was

getting so that when he did get well he even missed it a little.

“Plumbing,” he said, “was probably most likely to blame,”

but there had also been a needle stick accident while cleaning

up a backyard, so either way. Hero’d done a fair amount

of waste related plumbing without gloves and was cut at

least once on almost every job. At the time he speculated

that it was the stress of trying too hard to believe. His

buildings were gone. He’d been pocketing an extra one-thousand

dollars a month in fees and side jobs like the cement filled

steel frame doors he’d been installing for all the drug

dealers and now that was gone. He’d also been arguing with

Carcerine about some of Mark’s business practices and she

defended her brother vehemently proclaiming as a matter

of fact, “Yeah, but whose got the money?”

And Hero got sick to his stomach because he just wasn’t

that way, he couldn’t screw people in the place they slept.

Dealers? Sure, but regular folks – never. No way.

Mark wanted Carcerine to stay away from Hero and his

illness was all it had taken to do just that.

One day, while he was still sick, he approached Mark and

before he had a chance to speak Mark told him,

“I don’t want to talk to you, you’re gonna’ die,” just as he

was walking out of the plumber’s offices. Everyone heard

  1. That Mark was wrong didn’t matter. Hero felt everyone’s

pity for him, their compassion wasted because he had discovered

that it didn’t mean a fucking thing – it was worthless.

It couldn’t change Mark or Carcerine or make Mark respect

him enough not to say something so cruel and coarse in front

of all those people that Hero now had to work with everyday.

(He was dispatching for the plumbing company until he regained his health.) Hero wondered about how it felt when he was looking at someone‘s intended back – the way Mark had walked by swiveling his shoulders to pass him on his way to the carpeted stairs before Eli, the owners, office. This was a place of business, Hero reminded himself and Mark was a valued business associate of Eli’s and anybody upsetting that order was the problem. Right or wrong it didn’t mean jack-shit. Hero stood

for a moment soaking up all the wasted pity he could absorb

trying to exploit everyone’s feelings, trying to convince

himself to believe; believe the improbable unlikelihood

that someone, the bookkeeper – anyone – that someone would

come and comfort him with kindness and soft purring pity

as they led him to a big comfy chair where they would wrap

him in a warm fuzzy blanket and serve him hot cocoa with

marshmallows and a tray of graham crackers that he could

dunk in the chocolate while they cooed to him that Mark

was wrong and not to worry because they had all seen it

and no one was angry at Hero for dying.

“But it’s not my fault,”

“We know, Hero, we know, dear. Fuck mean old Mark, he’s

an asshole anyway. Warm enough, darling? Relax. Here, smoke

some of this black Nepalese hash and take a nap. Take a

nap, Hero, and we’ll wake you for dinner; go on and close

your tired eyes, baby, that’s it, there now, sshhh, sshhh,

sleep, baby, sleep,” and then the bookkeeper might kiss

his forehead and hold his hand and gently stroke it until

he fell asleep.

But that’s not what happened. The pity and compassion

quickly turned to revulsion at the sight of Hero’s exposed

and scabbed facial flesh; upset at his disruptive skeletal

presence and silently hostile that he hadn’t left yet;

this was a place of business and not a psychotherapist’s office.

Hero left, ashamed and embarrassed, and got very drunk

back in the apartment Mark had given him and then drove himself downtown with one eye open ’cause he was too drunk to drive with two.

When things settled down a bit, Mark gave Hero an apartment

in a building downtown that he’d been asking about for some

time. He guessed that Mark’s relief at the fact that he

hadn’t given his sister AIDS, combined with their recent

break-up, hadn’t hurt the negotiation process either. Hero

was to take over as the live-in super in what had only up

until recently been a Section 8 building on Fifth Street

near Avenue C – only he thought the deal was a bit too steep

and agreed solely on the secret premise that once he was

in  Mark could kiss his ass in Macy’s window because Hero

could quit and legally retain possession of the apartment

after thirty days just like a regular tenant. He checked

the files in Mark’s office and discovered the deal he’d

given Hero, which consisted of a two year lease at $500

a month, minus the $100 Mark would knock off for super’s

duties, was not such a good deal after all. When Hero read

the file he learned that the last tenant had paid no more

than $254 a month. In what could only be described as

one of his more brilliant moves at this tumultuous juncture

in his life Hero kept his mouth shut, moved in, and then

told Mark that since he’d read the file the new deal would

consist of Hero paying no rent and he’d think about supering

the building so long as Mark stayed the fuck out of his

hair. Hero told him, “I don’t want to talk to you, you’re losing all your buildings,” but he wasn’t so sure if Mark had caught the reference. Strangely enough Hero began to see Mark as torn between doing the right thing and making a quick easy buck. A few years earlier he’d designed and executed a deal in East

Harlem that permitted the tenants in two of his buildings

to buy their own apartments with long term mortgages

that also provided them with incredibly low rates of interest

and he still came out smelling like a rose. Their “rents”

went up only slightly and their mortgages were with the

same bank that had held Mark’s original note on the buildings.

Hero suspected that Mark had actually avoided some very

serious trouble with the bank but he wasn’t sure of its exact

nature. He made the cover of The New York Times Metro Section for it though Hero’s suspicions lingered and he couldn’t

help but suspect that Mark  had an ulterior motive far

beyond that of helping poor little old Puerto Rican ladies

to buy their own apartments for cheap.

Mark’s not so secret plan was to gentrify Harlem by co-oping

all the buildings he could which in turn would auto-

matically increase the value of the surrounding properties

and attract money from downtown and beyond. The Russians

were already doing it with rental properties in West Harlem.

Mark had intended to do it by creating an artificial buying

panic  exploiting the greed of the city’s wealthiest real

estate speculators: Wall Street. It would have probably

taken at least five years to see any real significant neighborhood

impact, but as Mayor Koch had told the gentrifucked

residents of the Lower East Side during the early 80’s,

“The poor will just have to find another place to live.”

And Mark’s scheme would have worked but for his auto-greed

always tying his left and right shoelaces together.

Hero sat on his rack still amazed by the shear genius of it some twelve years later. When he’d figured it out and asked him about it, Mark behaved as though he were speaking backwards in ancient Greek and quickly changed the subject.

Hero would have surfed those waves with Mark because

despite the intrinsic moral wrong of RENT and he saw himself

as being dwarfed by the system, unable to attack it from

any realistic angle – and that’s why he’d always bent over

backwards for his tenants. With this, if nothing else, the

tenants could make some money or keep their “new” secure

apartments as an investment and a piece of Harlem would

be a cleaner, better place to live in: pride through ownership

is what Hero saw. White folks were already living on

116th Street and way up in Washington Heights. Mark always

told him that Central Harlem would stay black forever. Hero didn’t think it would matter because the idea would’ve caught on there just the same, only later. If there were people paying rent,

then there was money – it only needed to be directed back

into the banks and the entire outlook on Harlem would change.

Mark’s angle was simple: his properties would go up in value

and he’d be in on the ground floor of the whole thing. It

was brilliant.

Hard feelings between the two men persisted. Hero was

one up on Mark right about then. To Carcerine’s credit, she

stuck with him, berating her brother for his ill treatment

of Hero – and she’d done this after they’d broken up. Hero

thought she was very noble. He missed the sex but not much

else. Carcerine’s capacity to carry on an argument over

the course of several days was legendary. Even when it was

over – it wasn’t over. Thus began Hero’s new usual method

for this type of trouble and he smoothly grew right into

it, always cognizant of its existence up to that very day:

when a chick started “getting shitty” with him he would

try desperately to hang on but by doing so he would develop

an intense resentment until the very thought of her disgusted

him unto genuine nausea. Then he’d break-out.

A few years later, Mark opened a restaurant in what was

to become the first in a series of three restaurants all

of which failed. While visiting one of them for a free meal

and some wine with Mark’s older sister, Kay, she’d told

Hero that Carcerine often remarked that of all the men

she’d ever slept with he was by far the greatest lover

she had ever known – notwithstanding Hero’s unasked question

of just how many men had she slept with, he felt secure

in his alpha-male prowess and even flattered. He

missed Carcerine, a little. Had she missed him? Yes and

No, he said to himself. Yes and No.

Hero stayed in the apartment downtown and supered until

Mark lost that building to another court appointed receiver.

There were times when Hero saw him in retrospect as a tiny car with a very high RPM engine with only two speeds: stop-and-go.

His wheels turned so fast that he could never get any decent traction with which to grip the road. Mark would just spin his little wheels spitting dangerously stinging gravel behind him everywhere while going practically nowhere but in circles and

making a great deal of smoke – and a terrible racket – while

he burned lots of gas doing it. And yet some of Mark’s deals

must have worked because he lived quite well, drove a late

model Porsche he’d gotten as part of a deal with Eli, and

took frequent vacations to Europe and L.A.

Hero settled in to 715 – the downtown building’s address

– finished regaining his health and spent the summer lazing

around Tompkins Square Park in a zoned funk. He was so depressed that had the idea of suicide even crossed his bunkered

mind it would have been dismissed as requiring too great

an investment of energy for something that would have undoubtedly panned out to result in an entirely overrated return.

He was, as they said in The Joint: shot-to –the-socks.

Laying on a bench under the great green canopy the trees

created on either side of the band shell, Hero absorbed the

heat and humidity screaming inside his head the way he’d

done throughout puberty – and later on in prison – or whenever

he was unable to come to any viable conclusion as to what

was happening to him. Never mind why. At this point, it

didn’t appear as though there was any good in anything.

Blankly, he assimilated all the experiences, thoughts, and

feelings from before he’d went to prison and then all the

way up until he was there – with only himself – on that

park bench, all stretched out under the curved black iron

armrests. There were no visible answers for any of it.

“Shit,” he said with a groaning.

“Shit, Shit, Shit,” and this was the cue that he was getting

ready to get up out of all the dust and dirt and shit he’d

been pulled down into over the last two years.

“I don’t understand,” Bob told him when Hero’d said, “I’m

depressed,” and his drunk friend, The Murderer, countered:

“The world is your oyster!”

Hero got a job as bike messenger, something he’d done

on and off since the first time he’d moved to Manhattan when

he was eighteen. And he was good at it, too. He kept two

bicycles: a 12 speed Raleigh Grand Prix with a racing cluster

and tires no wider than his thumb and an early Schwinn

mountain bike. He put toe clips (without their straps)on both

of them and then wrapped their forks and frames with

heavy, black bike tape which served not only to protect

them but also to deter the numerous bike thieves who ran

rampant in Midtown. He worked for a small company owned

by a Hardcore surfer named Johnny One Eye. In no time Hero became Johnny’s ace rider and was pulling down almost $500

a week riding like a fucking madman in the traffic’s August

heat of angry Midtown. After work he’d hang around

the park eating his pint of Chinese beef and broccoli takeout

to fuel up for the next day. He watched the Punks and

Skins who were still using the park as a social battleground

the same as they’d been when Hero’d first started hanging

out there six years earlier in ’83. A lot of them were new,

and Hero met one he found real new – and attractive, too.

Her name was Killjoy and she was the same age as

Hero, twenty-four, and he thought she was so sexy. She was

no more than 5’3” and a tad on the chunky side but it suited

her. She had one of those thick bodies all the painters

used to paint way back when in Europe. She was Jewish by

birth, which really wasn’t something Hero thought went into

her pro column, but she was bi-sexual, which was cool and

she sported three mohawks, all of them black, and the sex

was phenomenal for both of them. Her personality was something Hero could only compare to his first cigarette:

it was an acquired taste – very much like cow’s tongue.

Sexually, he saw Killjoy like candy-apple-cum. She was

extremely feminine and yet strangely butch? Or do they

call girls like that lipstick dykes? No matter, her open

bi-sexuality and androgynous nature excited Hero to a literally

jizzmatic frenzy and he pursued her relentlessly until she

gave in. He was juvenile, she was horny.

A cold flirt and hot tease who promised nothing and usually

delivered even less after torturing her suitors by nuance

and manipulation, Killjoy’s sexual aura was so alluring

to certain men that many of them felt aggressively provoked

by her very subtle – and self-professed ignorant – teasing.

Hero loved her? Lusted her? Her clitoris looked just like

a small penis no bigger than the last joint of his pinky

and when she came she would drown him so that he would drink

her. Overnight the two of them became entirely too sexually

charged – an accident looking for a place to happen. She

rejected his requests that she should come live with him,

she claimed to want an open relationship but couldn’t stand

the idea of Hero fucking other women to the point where

she became spitefully jealous of him doing so; going so

far as to take a verbally abusive and diminutive inventory

of all his new girlfriends under the guise of friendly “girl-talk”

In other words – she was nuts.

Killjoy wanted to travel. Hero was on parole. Hero wanted

a monogamous relationship. Killjoy thought she wanted an open one. Hero gave her what she wanted and only asked that when she came back, that she would come back to him. He loved her. She hated him. When things got good and crazy Hero broke every piece of glass and plastic on Killjoy’s car over a pot debt: the windows, lights, dashboard – everything. She called his parole officer who was very fond of him and, after crying for justice, the P.O. explained to Killjoy that if she had a complaint,

she should call the police – there was nothing she could do.

“Hero, where do you find all these crazy girls?” she’d

asked him, having already met Carcerine the year before.

“She had to know you were a Player when she hooked up

with you.”

Hero was sitting in one of the two old wooden chairs across

from her desk. He examined the deep gouges and irregular

scratch marks in the armrest where how many poor bastards

had been handcuffed to it after their paroles were violated?

He ran his fingers over the grooves while his P.O. waited.

He tried to cooly cook up some kind of reasonably plausible

bullshit story that he thought she might go for because

he secretly believed that she wanted to fuck him while she thought that he wasn’t really a bad-guy, maybe just a little too

horny. She’d watched him go to Harlem and run those buildings

full of lunatics, dealers, and crack heads. Watched him get

sick, get well and then move downtown and ride a bicycle

until he was in the best shape he’d ever be. Maybe she did

want to fuck him. Hero thought she was a nice lady and,

horny as he was, he thought how he’d have fucked her after

sucking her fat black pussy like an Olympic athlete. If

only she’d asked him to. She was no spring chicken but

Hero knew the pleasures of older women starting from when

he was sixteen and fucking the switchboard operator in Hawthorne.

Wisely, he’d elected to stay shut in the awkward silence

between them, the unspoken being the lesser of two evils,

figuring it was safer that way. And besides, he was going

to get away with it.

Towards the end of all that he began to spend his evenings

staying up late reading books like The Torah; The Koran;

The New Testament: The Bhagavad Gita; The Tibetan Book Of

The Dead; The Cabala; and anything and everything esoteric,

all while smoking lots of hashish. He mellowed in the reason

they delivered – all these different paths to God. Exploring

various states of awareness through meditation and

sleep deprivation, staring with his eyes wide open at the

grassy lot across the street from his apartment; he zoned

enlightened. While visiting a Buddhist crafts store he

became infatuated with Tibetan skull-beads: small skulls

carved out of yak bone into two faced beads no bigger than

a pencil eraser. He began making jewelry with them. Chokers,

earrings, necklaces and bracelets. He began having strange

dreams and also an out of body experience that scared the

living shit out of him when he met the ghost of an old

Jewish woman in his kitchen.

Hero had noticed a bit of cool air and a mild – although

not bad – vibe whenever he’d passed through the kitchen on

his way to the bathroom. Not too big on cooking, he hadn’t

cleaned or painted that part of the house since moving in

five months earlier. One day as he tried to nap in his loft bed,

Hero noticed he wasn’t asleep but he wasn’t laying on his

futon either. He was floating in the air just above his

bed. The sensation was so real that until he began to move

forward, he’d literally thought his physical body had been

floating in the air. Like an accepting sponge, the wall

slowly allowed him to pass through it. In the kitchen, he

was standing upright, trying to walk into the bathroom where

his girlfriend was taking a shower. The sound of the water

was a deafening roar, a cascade of sound. When he tried

to speak, this too was different and traveled as if

it were passing through something much thicker than air.

As he made to pass through the kitchen, he saw on his left

an old white haired woman no taller than 5′ standing before

the refrigerator. He asked her for some Hawaiian Punch

and she gestured to the big white box and looked at him

as if to intimate that she couldn’t open the door. He

explained to his girlfriend later, between sobs of fright,

that it was as if he were a child again so much of him

had been stripped away in this other place.

After the old woman, he’d felt compelled and even obligated

to bring the kitchen up to snuff. It felt right and made

him feel good. Over the next few days, Hero reasoned that

the  woman was surely the ghost of someone who had either

lived in the apartment and was still there, attracted to the activities she’d enjoyed in the quick, like cooking, or it was his Grandma Mildred. Hero opted for the former but wanted to be

as open minded about the whole thing as possible.

“Grandma,” as Hero liked to call her, hung out in the

kitchen ready to cook up a storm of kosher chicken livers,

potato lotka’s and borscht. Using visitors as a control group, Grandma’s presence was verified statistically. Hero always made it a point to say “hello”

or “goodbye” whatever the occasioned called for, and instructed everyone who came over to greet by her name and say “Excuse me, Grandma!” whenever they passed through the kitchen as loudly as they could because he was quite sure that sound traveled very differently in, and especially in between,

the worlds of the living and the dead.

Hero continued with his studies and meditation but lacked

a teacher to guide him, to help him balance all his new

impressions. Soon, he was meeting every nut in the East Village,

it was as though he’d become some kind of magnet for all

of them. He met Daniel Rakowitz in this way.

Rakowitz was a drifter who murdered his girlfriend/roommate

over possession of an apartment. (Talk about gentrification.) It was originally Daniel’s place and he was letting

her, a Swiss dancer, stay there with him. Except that

when the opportunity presented itself she signed a lease

for the space and told old Danny Boy to hit the bricks.

Furious, Daniel murdered her, dismembered her, and then

proceeded to cook her in a stew that he fed to a number

of unsuspecting homeless people in Tompkins Square Park.

Hero saw him deliver the “free lunch” but didn’t care for

Rakowitz and as such kept his distance. When he found out

all the details from friends of his who were supering the

building where Rakowitz had lived, Hero thanked Goddess

for his initial vibes about the creep. It made him begin

to look at everyone differently. He wanted to understand

why one man would chop up his girlfriend and feed her to

people and why another would want to stand on a filthy

corner in Times Square screaming through a bull horn that,

“THE END IS NEAR!!” with an old worn bible wrapped in dirty rubber bands in his hand? He had apocalyptic visions that inspired him to construct a set of steel shutters for his ground floor apartment out of discarded plywood and street lamp access covers because he was convinced that the residents of the housing projects along Avenue D would come westward to go “shopping” one day and destroy everything in their path.

Hero looked back with clarity and still believed in the

truth, the origin, and the genuine nature of those visions.

Now older and more discerning he examined their messages

within the references of time where he’d “traveled” into

the past. Not at all a concept that was easy to grasp, but

one that was correct nonetheless regardless of any suspicious

accusations of delusion or esoteric mumbo jumbo.

The future wasn’t something solid – solid was only a concept

guided by thought – an anticipated occurrence developed to

explain the creation of a continuing and seemingly endless

present. The past, on the other hand, was only half as ambiguous

as the future because having already been the present,

in what could only be described for Hero’s particular purposes

as its 15 nanoseconds of universal fame, was now

presently part of the past. So really, he philosophized

on brown hash and Benedictine & Brandy, the present may

be representative of the past – but the past will never

be present again.

And he would go on like this all night, warily skirting

the fringes of a dozen different schools of thought, twisting

Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity to fit the Sepheroth

of The Cabala with one hand – while busily smoking hash under-glass with the other. And he came close, too. But like any really good trip, he couldn’t bring back any of the amorphous answers that he’d found in any intelligible form – so he settled

for the blind babbling and false sense of comfort that God

did not play dice or have a personality.

Hero liked to sit at his window during the day and listen

to the roar of the city. One day, he made Killjoy do it

and asked her, “Do you know what that is? It’s progress.”

Killjoy, in turn, began writing graffiti all over the

East Village that read:

“WE LIVE IN DIN”

Hero often thought about Killjoy and even ten years later

in that filthy cell in Attica he believed that the girl

had, quite possibly, never had an original idea in her life.

For someone who’d wanted to be recognized as an artist –

or something – she didn’t possess the natural talent so

he’d taught her the electric bass and introduced her to

his old band, Missing Foundation, who he’d had to quit because

he couldn’t tour while he was on parole. He taught her good

mental and technical practice habits, too: to simply let

go and just play. And when she did get the spot Hero had

held, she fucked it up by asking one of the founding members,

Chris – the drummer, about a contract.

“A contract? Uh, ok. No problem, lemme’ talk to Pete,”

and they never called her again.

Hero liked to think, even if he were wrong (which he probably

was), that if Killjoy had listened to him and done her thing

traveling but just come back that his life would have

turned out radically different  “Yeah, right!”

Over time he saw that what he’d later learn was called

“co-dependency” was ok by him. All those fancy fucking ways

of saying that he should be totally self-contained, emotionally

self-sufficient, never needing nobody or nothing and with all

his desires in check, “Yeah, right!” before he could get

with someone else, was bullshit.

“Physician  heal thyself!” he’d howled in a prison drug

group on relationships. Everyone, including the counselor,

thought he was crazy.

“Way back when,” he continued, “people stayed together

as a consequence of economic necessity – you know, when

life really sucked!”

Hero was a lonely bastard back then, always feeling duped,

tricked by what he’d thought was in front of him. His big

love affair with heroin began after Killjoy left and

sometimes he had to wonder if she’d ever been there at all?

Fucking off in the street, buzzed and looking for trouble,

he found it and caught the beating of a lifetime while

hanging out on the corner of St Mark’s Place and Avenue A.

Some prick accused Hero of spitting at him. Hero argued

that he hadn’t. In fact no one had spit at the guy at all.

The bastard sucker punched him with a left, real soft like,

so that when Hero would hit the scumbag back he could then

break him up in a “fair fight.” Hero didn’t do anything,

seeing the man’s size and obvious bully brained tactics.

He’d learned a long time ago that when a dude this big hit

him easy like that it was nothing but a set-up. The scumbag

laughed at him and headed up the block towards First Avenue.

Hero got hot and broke an empty quart bottle of beer against

the curb.

“Don’t do it, Hero, it ain’t worth it!” someone shouted

after him as he started running full speed up the middle

of the street – and when he saw the bastard he began to

scream at him, certain he would punk and run – only he didn’t.

Hero leapt through the air aiming straight for the scumbag’s

face with the broken bottle held high at shoulder height.

But, when the scumbag saw him so close, he stepped to his

left and caught Hero with the first of what must have been

at least two dozen very serious blows to the left side of

his face and head while he was laid out on the sidewalk

from that first monster blow which had contained the combined

power of the scumbag’s punch and Hero’s running leap.

Hero suffered a broken nose, a fractured cheekbone, and

a dislocated jaw. A day later his head looked like a great big purple football with one bright red eye in it. Fearful of an attempted murder charge, he avoided the hospital; who knew what this scumbag might do? Friends watching from down the block never saw it but Hero had let go of the bottle at the top of his leap – it wasn’t worth it – but it had been too late. Almost ten years to the fucking day he could still feel that beating in

the form of some kind of fluid that sometimes sloshed around

in a cavity that was created when his cheekbone was fractured.

When he was healing, he could press on the bone and hear it

click; his gums were receding on that side of his face and

his teeth felt “funny,” too. His jaw was fine

having popped back into place while he was gnawing on a

spare rib in The Pyramid Club one night a few weeks later.

Hero didn’t like to admit to it too tough, not out loud

anyway, but it wasn’t worth it.

He called Killjoy for help: she’d said they were friends

and he didn’t consider anyone a friend unless they’d go

seriously out of their way for him – which was probably

why he didn’t have too many; he was truly institutionalized

in some of the worst ways. Hero asked her if she would get

some things from the store for him. He was in a lot of pain

and felt uncomfortable walking around looking like he should

be in a hospital – which he probably should have.

“No. “

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“I can’t,” as in, ‘I won’t,’ Hero heard – so she didn’t

and he’d cried after he hung up the telephone. He suspected

her of some lies after that. She’d never believed he was

as open and easy going as he was. Or maybe Hero was finally

realizing, so painfully slow – like a slug trying to cross

a salt lick –  that Killjoy wasn’t as open and easy going

as she’d said she was. Killjoy was a fucking hypocrite,

Hero thought all alone. A mind-fuck is what they used to

call chicks like that when he was growing up. And bitchy,

too. Hero still wanted her knowing full well that she was

poison to him. He wanted to believe. The feeling of being

naked next to her, her mannerisms, her way and the touch

of his face against hers. Kissing, sucking and sitting between

her legs watching videos. They used to really rock

together. She’d complained to him after she split that when

she was in bed with someone else all she could think of

was him. “Then why couldn’t she .. ?” It wasn’t something

he couldn’t have. “I would’ve taken her the way she was!”

he cried out in disbelief. So pretty, so sexy, and he

couldn’t have her. Not to possess, not to own, just to lay

next to and nuzzle his face so close in the crypt of her

shoulder and breast; cool with areole and nipples

red and brown and soft skin flesh. Hero dreamt awake and

recalled lonely times when he’d imagined that he lay next

to her again and it was a comfort to his spirit in all the

different prison beds he would have to sleep in.

He got to thinking about how Killjoy never walked with

him, she always rushed the pace, arguing, “This is how I

get my exercise, I always walk fast!” but he knew she didn’t.

It was her provocative .. ? Maybe he gave her too much credit

after all. “Fuck.” This was the only word he could clearly

see in his head whenever he went over The Bill of Particulars

that was Hero and Killjoy. He struggled to remove all the

hidden angles in all the secret alcoves he thought he’d

missed; possibly winding down to, “Honestly? Honestly? I

would have married that bitch.”

And such was their part of the New York Hardcore scene, “what

scene?” during the roughest year Punks N’ Skins had ever

seen until they saw the one that came after it. Killjoy:

Art Punk cum concrete, post-anarcho-[capitalist]- industrial-

“Yo, Hero, wasn’t she a FemiNazi, too?”

“Sort of, nah, know what? She was just plain evil, ya’

know what I mean?”

Hero didn’t know a woman that had lived in NYC who wasn’t

at least a little bit evil; they had to be in order to survive,

but that was only an opinion formulated over beers.

Thinking about Killjoy made him tired. He hoped that the

latest rumors of his “Death” had reached her wherever she

was so that one day, like all the other fat-mouthing, scared

to death, bitch-ass motherfuckers without a clue out there,

he could shake her up so bad that she’d piss herself at the

very sight of him. (Hero had “Died” of everything from an

od to being shot by the cops, Swine Flu, the list went on

and on and on – four times in just the last five years and

it was always bullshit. Totally baseless. The latest rumor

purported that he’d bit it in a knife fight in prison.)

“Funny, how much baggage you carry,” he said to himself,

and came to from his phased out fantasy.

“Ya’ know, Hero, the heroin probably didn’t help.”

“No,” he bled in his most whining, exasperated and

conciliatory voice, “it probably didn’t.”

The whole episode, all the way up to the bank door at

2nd Avenue and St. Mark’s and beyond, all the way into his

cold cell in Attica and even his cold feet; the whole thing

looked, felt, and smelled a lot like a cold damp closet.

Like the wet winter jackets in elementary school hanging

all day in the cloakroom quiet behind sliding wooden doors

that hid puddles on the floor. The cadence of words

in his head caused Hero to wince and fight back tears while

blurring eyes missed their mark; sniffling, shuffling fine

– someotherwhere – in a paper hospital gown left untied

at the rear with smiley face foam slippers on his feet. Worse

than naked, halls dominated by the fear and pain of never

knowing – and not pointing an accusing finger out – because

now he thought, “I know better.”

But it still hurt and that was ok, too, and as it should be.

“I know, I know,” the murmur of his own dreams answered

him back.

 

CA Seller
Art by Dan Reece


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