dear friends, i thought i might use Friday to revive some of the stories i wrote in prose, before embarking on this poetic journey of mine.
i wrote these to to be read concurrently, each story informs the next, and the events seem unrelated until the end. it’s how it unfolded, as i lived it back in the 60′s and 70′s in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
please don’t feel compelled to read these on your busy Friday morning, feel free to if you want to read them at all to take them into the weekend. thank you and i hope you enjoy them.
the end of
Boy Pets a Monkey
Then, we both heard it, Rhhhhuuuurrrmmmm, rhuuurrmm, rhuuuuurrrrmmm, the screech of car tires and they sounded really close, too close. I wondered why Tony was coming home so late, it was well past midnight and why he was stopping outside this building?
Susan bolted to a standing position with terror in her wet eyes, put her hands on my shoulders and yelled,
the final chapter
And That’s Just How It Was.
Her mom heard the engine roar too, she opened the door, grabbed my shirt and pulled me into the bathroom and quietly closed the door. I could hear the scuff of chair legs across the linoleum floor, as she smartly sat down at the kitchen table. Their apartment was exactly like mine and all the other railroad apartments in this working class neighborhood, the bathroom was just 3 feet from the door and right there in the kitchen, as you entered.
With my heart pounding in my throat, terrified and barely breathing, standing in this bathroom, in the bathtub, the absurdity of my situation flashed for a millisecond in my head. Could this really be the last thing I see in this life of mine, the inside of a cheap, soap filmed shower curtain and the barrel of a .22 aimed at my head by a drunken, jealousy crazed, Irish red haired, rock star wanna be? Really?
And then I heard the heavy entry doors slamming and thunderous, bounding footsteps echoing in the narrow hallway coming swiftly up the stairs and Johnny, clearly drunk slurring,
‘Where is that f—-r. where is he? I knew you were cheatin’ on me Susan, you b—-, I’ll f—-n’ kill ‘em!’
The apartment door flung open and I could hear Susan trying to reassure him but he wasn’t listening, he wasn’t buying anything she was trying to sell. She screamed as she was tossed against the refrigerator, and in his rage began upturning every piece of furniture in the rooms and opening every closet as he moved through the apartment.
His voice got fainter, and just when it seemed he was in the last bedroom, maybe in the last closet and out of view, Susan’s mom opened the door and told me to run, and she didn’t have to tell me twice.
Oh no, I ran like I never ran before.
My long legs got down those 3 flights of stairs in 6 steps and once I reached the vestibule, saw Johnny’s red Chevelle facing east, I ran west as fast as I could. I knew every inch, every crevice of that neighborhood, every doorway, backyard and hiding spot and I used them all, because once Johnny heard me bounding down the stairs, he did the same. His car started up, the tires screeched and he spent the next 6 hours driving around, trying to find me.
‘If I find you f—-r, I’m gonna blow your f—-n’ head off!’
He never did find me that night or any night, although he tried hard. Johnny gunned his car through the streets of my neigborhood, yelling out the window and waking people up in the middle of the night.
I hid in my mom’s apartment, there was really no choice.
This went on for a few nights, and then it stopped. I hadn’t slept in days, I finally did get a little sleep that night. I woke up the next morning and there I was again, like I had for so many years, looking down at Tony lifting up the black, shiny hood of his Nova. When he finished fiddling around, he straightened up and paused for a long second before lifting his head slowly in the direction of my window. He stared up at me with his intense dark eyes, cocked his head and motioned downward with those eyes, which in Brooklyn speak meant come downstairs, now, so I did.
Still in my pajamas I flew down the stairs, I mean, this was Tony, and stood there on the sidewalk in my bare feet, not knowing what the heck to expect. Tony started up his car, I waited for him to get out to close the hood, he came over to me and put his mouth near my ear,
‘You don’t gotta’ worry ’bout dat red haired punk Johnny, no more, ‘ya hear what I’m tellin’ ya?’
He stepped away as I stood there absolutely dumfounded, closing the hood, he looked at me, lowering his head slightly for emphasis and raised his shiny, black eyebrows. And that was it.
Tony slipped into his slowly into his black, vinyl bucket seat and Rhhhhuuuurrrmmmm, slowly drove away.
I attended a few funerals the year following that summer of 1970, the summer of my education about people, their motivations and assumptions, their bigotry and loyalties and about the tenuous threads that connect us, whether we know those threads exist or not.
I began watching Tony start up his car, sitting alone in the shadowed corner on the top step of my stoop, when I was 12. I was 15 now, and word whispered on the street that Tony was bumped up to Captain, and this was his territory.
And all those years Tony never gave me a sideways glance, I didn’t think he even knew I existed until that morning. But in my most desperate hour, in that absurd and life threatening circumstance I found myself in, when I really needed a savior, Tony was there for me.
And all because I happened to have a vowel, at the end of my last name. And it really wasn’t about the noise in the middle of the night, or waking up working folks, it was about respect and it was about the red hair.
Three of my friends died that year, one in a huge heroin deal gone horribly wrong, one overdosed on the stuff and one in a shootout with the cops, when he was caught breaking into an apartment. Heroin was responsible for the eventual destruction of my neighborhood. The last I heard years later, none of the macho manboys from my gang ever left the old neighborhood and if they did leave, it was on a bus to prison.
I eventually came out of hiding after spending a few days in my window, behind the flimsy white curtains, summoning my courage.I always felt safe there watching the comings and goings, the backwards and forwards of the street and sidewalk traffic on my block. The old women still came out every morning to scrub the sidewalks at 7, Tony still woke everyone up with his Chevy Nova at 7:15, but I never did see Susan walking down my block again.
Word on the street whispered that Tony and his knit shirt and shiny shoe boys, paid a visit to Queens and as he waited in his car, parked right in the middle of the street, the bats, crowbars and sledgehammers pulled a Pontiac on Johnnys’ Chevelle.
It was totaled. Johnny was lucky Susan’s hair was blond.
Word also whispered that Susan got into a yellow Checker cab early one morning soon after, with a suitcase and the little bitty monkey.
Neither Johnny or Susan, were ever seen in the neighborhood again.
And that’s just how it was.