Monday, January 24, 2011
In a month or so I’ll grow bedsores. What will she say to that?
—Let me smooth some elbows on your cream. Feel better?
—Delightful. Some here?
—I see. . . .
—And my shoulder blades.
—I see. Why don’t I just give you a rub? So tell me what you did today.
—Well, after long deliberation the gods have seen fit to ratify my proposition. We’ll be raising the new constellation on the evening of the fifteenth.
—You don’t say. Congratulations.
—Draco’s out of town ’til the thirteenth, Hercules enters the clinic on the seventeenth. The most crucial obstacle, filling those two vacant spaces, was finally hurdled late last Saturday when the Big Man made a show and came ’round to granting us a couple stars.
—Quite an accomplishment.
—I’d say. He won long applause. And then you know, the entire chamber turned ’round and applauded me. The Big Man too! Although He didn’t stand. You know I have to admit I was a bit choked up. Then Cepheus tapped me on the shoulder, and guess what? Cassiopeia kissed me on the cheek! Hercules invited me out for a drink, but I declined. You know what happened the last time we went out drinking two-o’clock in the morning.
—A national disgrace!
—I’d say. I got off easy. The press has yet to forgive Herc.
—Do you suppose those women’ll ever get their lives back in order?
“How I Became Verbal Sadistic”
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is what I ate and what TV shows I watched, how they plopped me in front of Bozo and filled my bottle with Pepsi, how I suckled ragged the corners of my pillows and bit off the noses of my teddy bears, how those teeth marks I left in Grandma’s kitchen chair sent my father into a seizure, how he beat me, then, and how I would not shit or speak to him for weeks, how my father flew for a commercial airline and could see me only once a week, and how I always managed to have diarrhea on the nights he took me out, how he stopped bringing home his girlfriends, and all the sitters that I had, and how Aunt Gloria saw after us for a while at the beginning, and why I bit her, and how she said I was possessed and got this Catholic priest to talk to me, and how he said I was too headstrong to be possessed and started all that commotion about my welfare when I asked if he knew of any nuns who were wet-nursing, and how they put me away and I was forced to make confession and damn nearly gagged on my Communion wafer.
—It’s a sign! Auntie said.
How I showed up one morning at Newark Airport and nearly got my father fired, how he took me up to Boston where he had an apartment and said we were gonna start fresh, how the doctors said I was sick, and how they gave me insulin, and how the blonde nurse sat with me and showed me where with the syringe, and how I never bit again but learned to sublimate the urge by saying fuck!
It lived downstairs, in the Men’s room, at the old Brunswick alleys where my league used to bowl. Some boys, my age—twelve or thirteen, probably a little older—lured me down there and instructed me on how to coax it from its slumbers. You had to stand on a particular spot, and jump up a bit to catch hold of this metal bar that was a part of the stalls. Then, dangling for an instant, you reached for the hot-air blower and pushed its Onbutton.
This simultaneous action—of holding to the bar whilst engaging the blower button—resulted, more often than not, in the delivery of an electrical shock. And for an instant you’re made helpless, dangling there like an idiot while the boys gathered ’round you have a fit.
“The Guido Boys”
Joey Guido had this nervous energy condition in his face, his jaws were constantly in motion, chomping up and down, restlessly gnashing his molars. We all made believe we didn’t notice it but as kids are wont to fix upon one another’s afflictions and make of them descriptive handles and all it was inevitable that Joey would in no time come to be known as Joey Jaws. The popular psychology had it that Joey was caught in the act of masturbating, and the jaws action was some sort of self-administered contrition. Catholic boys, you know, are dearly aware—if not haunted—of their shortcomings. The post-naughty-boy-guilt-stress-factor makes of all a heaven or hell predicament. As for myself, I always believed that if you didn’t get caught you may just as well forget about it. This is the lie-and-deny tack. Of course if God really is omniscient then we don’t stand a chance, in which case there’s always the confessional, I suppose.
After school one day Joey snuck out his air rifle and started taking out the birds in the trees. The skittish ones were startled off by the puffs, but then this one rather hardy starling with a big oily head wouldn’t so much as budge. Joey aimed and fired and clipped its wing. His brother Tommy hollered, What the fuck ya doin’! But Joey was having himself a fit. There was no way stopping him. The bird fluttered down into the gutter. Joey stood right over it, severing off its head. It took about a hundred pellets.
The Guidos owned a restored townhouse just a block south of Sutton Place. Father Guido owned a contracting company. He built high-rise apartment buildings. The Guidos bought a new blue Wagoneer every two years, but that was just for the family, father Guido had himself a black Mercedes-Benz, with gold trim. On Saturdays Joey accompanied his father to the work site. He was being introduced into the business. Mother Guido was very strict with her boys, if one of them said anything critical or disparaging about somebody, she’d reprimand him on the spot. Once while we were watching TV in their basement, Joey remarked that the singer looked like she had breast implants. Mother Guido heard him from her kitchen. She came down and smacked him on the head. That evening Joey ran away, he said he was fed up with her riding him all the time. He came to my apartment with his sleeping bag. In the morning mother Guido rang the buzzer. She made us breakfast and she did all the dishes. Then Tommy came over and we all wound up at the Central Park zoo. Joey remarked that the gorilla looked like one of the janitors at school and mother Guido smacked him on the head for it. When Tommy got cancer and lost his leg, mother Guido gave him marijuana. She picked it up at the work site. It helped him with the chemotherapy.
My first real fist fight was with Joey Guido. It happened on Christmas Eve, during midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. See, Tommy was a confirmed Mets fan and he wore his Mets cap religiously, even during the winter. He had his Mets cap on and Joey insisted that he remove it saying it was some sort of sacrilegious to wear a baseball cap in church. Tommy said he was praying for the Mets, and that the cap was his way of showing God that he meant it. Joey smacked him on the head and knocked it off. Now I was seated between them and as Joey did this his arm sort of rubbed against my nose, and as I always had a cold during Christmas some of my snot rubbed off onto his sleeve. Tommy said, there, it’s good for you! And Joey, this time from behind me, smacked him on the head again. Tommy told him to lay off, and I said yeah, leave him be! Joey said Child, shut up and wipe your nose! I said you’re just like your mother, riding him all the time! Then Joey got this stunned expression on his face and proceeded to pommel me right there in the pew. Hey! I said, just wait ’til I get you outside! By the end of the Mass I wasn’t angry anymore, but Joey was secretly fuming. The second we got to the outside doors he proceeded to pommel on my head. Tommy, prosthesis and all, jumped him from behind and rolled with him down the steps. This was going on in front of everybody. They said take it across the street as though they didn’t mind us fighting just don’t do it on the steps of St. Patrick’s, for Chrissake. I managed to get my balance and as Joey had by now thrown Tommy off we proceeded to exchange punches to the face. My nose was gushing snot and blood. Joey was bleeding from his ear. I don’t recall throwing punches at his ears but as these things go you take what you can get. Then Joey somehow had me in a headlock and was doing this wrestling move he saw on TV. I was amazed at how strong he had become. I suppose it was from all that lifting he was doing every Saturday at the work site. He managed to get me into an abominable backbreaker hold and was about to smash me down when Tommy landed one straight for his solar plexus. That knocked the wind out of him. Then Mr. and Mrs. Guido made it over to us and Joey caught a smack on the head.
Now Joey’s in the contracting business. We still call him Joey Jaws when we talk about him but we don’t call him it to his face anymore. Tommy got real sick and we called on him every day while he was in the hospital. He died on Joey’s birthday. I’ve never been to Joey’s office, but I hear he has a fresh bouquet of flowers on his desk every morning.
Thanks to Pindeldyboz and to New York Tyrant.