Friday, January 31, 2014

Joey's Girl

“Don’t take any wooden nickels,” I said to Joey Franks as he let me and Bill out the back seat of his Rabbit.

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s just an expression, I guess.”

He made an oblivious little snort.

“Well, don’t fucking do anything I wouldn’t do!” he said as he closed the door. Then they walked the other way, away from us, him and his pissed-off girlfriend.

She was still pissed, half an hour after he picked her up on the way to the show. Late. He picked her up late. When we pulled into the parking lot where she worked she had her arms crossed over her tits and she was tapping her foot like she was counting the milliseconds he was late.

I thought, what a drag to have a girlfriend be so fucking pissed at you. It seemed intolerable, the hotness of her anger. She did not speak word one the entire ride from Manchester to Hartford. However, I thought, at least he’d probably get to fuck her after she cooled off later. She was tall and slim and had a big perm like Newhart’s secretary. Big working-girl glasses. Working skirt, working heels. Made-up face. It seemed weird that she would be attending a Grateful Dead concert tonight. But I’d have fucked her. Would have been nice to have a girlfriend, is what I guess I’m saying, even if she was fucking pissed at you. I’d never had a girlfriend.

The next time I saw Joey he was being forcibly escorted out of the Civic Center. Bill and I happened to be sitting at the railing, right above one of the yawning tunnels that led from the fluorescent concession area to the dark chasm of the arena. He was being hustled out good and strong by a not-fucking-around security guy. Joey had his arms up in a kind of “What’d I do?” pose. The guard was hustling his ass out so fast that Joey’s legs had to stumble and run to keep up. I lifted my hand up to wave, stupidly, as though that might mean something. Joey didn’t see. Out he went.

After the show Bill and I met them back at the car. This time Joey’s girlfriend wasn’t mute. Also, she got in the driver’s seat. Joey slouched beside her and began to moan.

“What happened, man?” I asked.

“Holy shit, I got my fucking ass kicked by a PIG!”

“Shut up,” his girlfriend said.

“You shut up, BITCH!”

Bill and I sat perfectly still in the back as Joey’s girl pulled out of the municipal parking lot and onto Asylum Street. The anger and ill will inside the car were intoxicating. There were periods of silence punctuated by violent, tormented exchanges.

“I can’t believe you LEFT ME and got WASTED!” she yelled.

“LEAVE ME ALONE! Goddammit! You CUNT!”

More silence.

“Serves you RIGHT!”

“Serves what?!”

“Serves you RIGHT getting your fucking ASS kicked out of the show!”

He got up in her face a little bit. Even though she was driving. He craned his head toward her, his chest hanging in the belt.

“Well I think you’re just a… little fucking whore,” he hissed.

She tilted her head away from his, as though she were bracing for him to spit or puke, or bite her. She kept her eyes on the road the whole time. She did a good job driving.

Later, on the highway, Joey’s head started bobbing around a lot.

“Pull over.”




She pulled over and he got out and he got on his hands and knees and he puked loud and long in the breakdown lane, on the skidmarks and the granulated glass. It seemed strangely safe and serene just then, with the night-riding semis barreling past and Joey's body on the other side, heaving with each spasm.

The whole time, she clutched the wheel and sighed. It almost seemed like there was supposed to be something for me or Bill to say. We said nothing.

When Joey got back in he was a little quieter. Sedate. After a period of silence he spoke up again, softly this time, murmuring.

"Baby," he pleaded.


"Baby. Baby!"


"You know I love you."


He dropped his hand between her thighs and she yanked it out and threw it back at him.

"Don't you fucking TOUCH ME!"

He rolled his head and made mewing, mocking sounds at her, fake little kisses. Then he stared at her awhile. From where I sat I could just see her mascara’d lashes over her rouged cheek, aglow in the oncoming traffic. She bore an expression of intense, dutiful concentration. Barely blinking. Joey collapsed back into his seat and rested his head on the window with a clunk.

"Where we going, Joey?" she asked, somberly. Reluctantly.

"I don't care," he mumbled.


Joey pinned his neck to the headrest and looked up.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!"

I let a moment pass and then I answered yes.

"Where we going?"

Joey knew where I lived. But I told him all the same. I was closer, so I'd get dropped off first. Finally, we pulled up to the apartment where I lived with my parents. I knew I was going to have to ask him to get out of the car to let me out. I was afraid. Just as I was about to open my mouth he turned around, hunched over, and peered at Bill with half-closed, dead, dark eyes.

“Hoosha fuck er you?”

Bill said nothing. He just sat there, his back stiffening a bit. Joey leaned in as far as he could, craning his head between the seats.

"No really man, who fuck are you? WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!?"

"Joey!" his girlfriend pleaded.

Bill just shrugged and shook his head slowly.

"Y'look like a fuckin' pussy," Joey told Bill.


"You shut up," he said to her.

"Jesus fucking Christ almighty," she said. She held her head with her left-hand fingers.

"You shut up and lemme SPEAK! BITCH!"

Her body gave a little shudder when he said bitch.

He turned back to Bill and beheld him with a puzzled sneer, shaking his head a bit.

"Yer juss a lil fuckin' pussy. Thass what."

Bill was silent and still. I wondered what might be going through his head.

"PUSSY!" Joey spat, his body convulsing.

"LET HIM OUT! LET HIM OUT, JOEY!" she yelled.

Joey promptly unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car. I lifted the passenger seat forward and put a foot on the blacktop.

"Thanks for the ride," I said to Joey’s girl.

"You're welcome."

Those were the only words I ever said to her. And the only ones she ever said to me.
Have you ever been so helpless that people—strangers—ran up to you gasping Oh my God! Oh my God! and tried to tend to you as best they could, fumbling with your shirt maybe, trying to lift you by the elbow, grasping you and losing you, lunging at you again, then darting away for some reason, fear or despair or something else, something like respect? Have you been flailing like an animal on the floor, or on the sidewalk, or in the middle of the street? Have you seen the look in other peoples’ eyes when they look into yours, really look, for the first time—the first time anyone has really seen you? The first time you’ve seen them? Have you?

I have not.


"Let them gather all her particulars,"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A dusting of snow fell last night while nobody was looking. In the morning you had to decide: Were those windshields clear yesterday? I suppose they were.

The Seventh Street crossing guard hasn’t been at her post lately. This morning I wondered: Does she stay home when it gets too cold? Did she get sick of it all and quit? Was she fired for letting someone walk against the light? Does she have pancreatic cancer? Has she coincidentally been on her cigarette break every time Jackie and I walk by? Or is she stationed at Sixth Street now?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Two nights ago the humidifier, recently cleansed, was making godawful gurgling and snorting sounds, angry-like, the mechanism suddenly choking and gasping for breath like a thing being born. I gazed at it across the darkness. I only saw its little green light.

“My,” said Sara.

“I think it’s alright,” I said.

After a minute it quieted down. Everything was normal once again.

Last night there were fireworks for no discernible reason at all. Sara spied them out our bedroom window, out on the East River somewhere. Jackie was stil awake so we opened the curtain in her room and watched together. It was your usual, full-on display, big bursts and little twirling flares, a veil of smoke and then the grand finale. Jackie began to bark like a dog.

“Woof! Woof! Woof!” she said.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


For a handsome young god, Apollo was
That imbecile Ronald Reagan wrote every day. That means I can, too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


my king is lost.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I found this morning that I could run faster but it would hurt. I hurried my pace, out of boredom almost, a desire to get home soon. It surprised me how much more it hurt—my lungs, my legs. But the air still smelled of pine needles from everybody dragging their Christmas trees to the curb and that felt good. When I got to the last crosswalk I quit and paced around, hands on hips, waiting for the light to change. I’d only run a mile.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


"You were quick," the man said

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Disturbing Memories of Youth, Part 1

There were two Jennys, Across-the-Road Jenny and Up-the-Road Jenny. Across-the-Road Jenny didn’t really live across the road. Two dark-haired girls lived across the road. I waited for the bus with them each morning, at the end of their driveway. The older one just kept looking at her shoes. I don’t even remember her face.

Across-the-Road Jenny lived across the road, two houses down. One day she came over to play. We must have been six or seven. I didn’t know what to do with her. She was a girl.

I found a pear, lying on the ground in my backyard. I held it up for her by the stem.

“Whose pear?” I asked. Then I threw it onto the roof of my family’s split-level ranch.

Jenny shrieked with laughter. We watched as it struck the shingles with a bonk, rolled back down, and landed in the grass.

I looked at her. She wore OshKosh B’gosh overalls, a white shirt with ruffled cuffs, blue Nike waffle trainers. It was 1975. She stood awkwardly, a little like she had to pee.

Suddenly she ran at the pear, picked it up like a hand grenade and turned to me.

“Whose pear!” she howled, and threw it back onto the roof.

We continued like this for an hour, taking turns, Whose pear? Whose pear? Whose pear?, the fruit deteriorating into brownish, mealy pulp as the sun sank over the ridge.

Around dinnertime she went back home.

Her mother committed suicide some years later.

Up-the-Road Jenny lived way up the road, the other way. She had a very nice mom and dad. They both wore thick glasses that made their eyes look big.

One day Up-the-Road Jenny told me her mom and dad liked to sit on the living floor, naked, and piss on each other.

“That’s how babies get made,” she declared.

I saw her dad wiping her ass one day. Her struggling on his lap, panties around her ankles. Him scolding her, too flustered and impatient to close the bathroom door. I wasn’t supposed to see this. But I did.

In high school Up-the-Road Jenny wore an elaborate neck and back brace for scoliosis. Later on she fell into a vegetative state. People visit her and talk to her. Read to her. Sometimes they think they see something flicker in her eyes.

She’s still alive today.

Friday, January 10, 2014


diminishing of these signature brands



Thursday, January 09, 2014


Kathy did not write back