Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 401 - Robert Crisman

HARD KNOCKS - ROBERT CRISMAN

Some guys have it so rough you beg God to throw them a solid.

Like two guys I knew back in ’72, a ’60s hangover year that saw the world at low ebb. The Cuyahoga River kept catching on fire. Junkies came out of the woodwork. Nixon was top dog. Four More Fucking Years loomed like interminable stretches of sheer sawtoothed hell.

The guys were Joey and Danny, the dumbest two crooks who ever drew breath.

Joey, a thinker as well as a doer, kept mapping these stone nitwit capers. Lazy-ass Danny’d just shrug and say sure.

Joey had zeal for an army. Thirty years old, he lived with his mother, the Battleship Bismarck. She wanted him gone like last year. Okay by Joey: he wanted to move in with his squeeze the Lovely Danielle and be homeless at her place, with luck for the rest of his life.

But first he had to rustle up scratch. He kept telling his mom he was pounding the bricks and looking for work like a dog. He told Danielle the same thing.

Danielle was a milk-and-cookies kind of a girl and wouldn’t put up with that crook shit.

But—cop a 9-5 slave? Joey’d rather cut off his nuts! Which meant he had to do crook shit...

Trouble was, he kept getting busted. Sometimes even worse stuff would happen.

Before we get started, lets get descriptions out of the way. Joey looked just like my man Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs. Danny? Steve Baldwin, the short, stocky blond guy in The Usual Suspects.

Joey’s mom, like I said, was the Battleship Bismarck. Danielle? Nicole Kidman, To Die For—but finer! And seeing as Joey looked like spina bifida on good days, doesn’t that piss you right off?

Anyway, Joey was hot to break his bad luck, and he and Danny burgled this house out in Ballard in northend Seattle one night. They’re rifling the house and Joey goes into the kitchen. There’s some EX-LAX there on the counter. Joey thinks it’s a Hershey Bar, man, and powers it right the fuck down. A little bit later his bowels start belting out rap tunes—in 1972!—just as the folks who live in the place come home from Love Story or something.

Little Jenny, the daughter, screams like a banshee jacked on cocaine! Three houses are leveled! NORAD gets ready for war! FEMA can’t find its butt with its hands! Hell just won’t have it!

Joey and Danny scoop up their stuff and break for the weeds! They hit the back yard! Joey falls down! He loses his sack! Danny keeps going! The guy in the house calls the cops!

Joey shoots up a tree, bowels drumming away like a ’60s rock solo! They blow blow blow blow! Ka-FLOOOOM on the lawn and the bushes! Toxic brown onrush of death and destruction! New mutant species arise! Earth is now theirs for the taking!

What happened next—long fucking story. Suffice it to say that things got so weird that aliens came sniffing around to see what the deal was.

Cops and the Toxic Waste Crew came. They torched the place and left quick. Joey slunk down the alley, a miasmic green haze in his wake that left cats for dead.

*

Danny stayed at the Old Goat Hotel, a downtown flopola for drifters and grifters, Room 307. Joey, his ass finally wiped with a blast hose, sat slumped in a chair.

“You didn’t get nothin’? Not even the toaster?” Danny, sprawled on the bed, looked ready to cry.

“Not after the Toxic Waste Crew showed up.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“Hey, man, they’re torchin’ the place! What do I tell ’em? ‘Hold on a sec, guys, till I get my shit out of your way’?”

“Well...” Danny said.

“And what about you?” Joey said. “Your fucking bags broke?”

“I told you, man, yeah! All over the sidewalk! An’ don’t come at me! That shit was heavy! It’d been nice if you’d been there or somethin’, help out with the load. I mean, your shit’s where you dropped it an’ your hands’re free, am I right? Fuck yeah, I’m right—but. I look around, you ain’t there! You’re up in a tree takin’ dumps on the cops! EX-LAX, for Christ fuckin’ sake! You dumb—”

“Hey, man, how’d I know—”

“If you’da waited till I got back down I coulda told you! You an’ your greedy pig ass, man, I swear!”

Joey, abashed, said, “Okay, okay. I didn’t know. I’m a pig. I was hungry! I’ll never do it again, man, I swear.”

Danny was tired. “Yeah, man, alright… So what now?”

“Well, the thing at the house, I think we oughta look at it as sort of a dry run.”

“Dry run.” Danny snorted. “Rivers of liquid shit rainin’ down on the whole fuckin’ world an’ you’re talkin’ dry run.”

“C’mon, man. You know what I mean. Dry run! Like a practice! We did this thing and it didn’t work out, but the game, man, is yet to be played!”

“Oh, for Chrissake,” Danny said. “You sound like the coach of the retards. Dry run… We went in that house to get shit an’ came out with nothin’. An’ meanwhile they had to evacuate Ballard! What’s next? We go in a place an’ Qaeda takes over the world?”

“Jesus, Danny! Qaeda? That’s thirty years off! Are you loaded?”

“The guy who’s writin’ this stuff is for damn sure. He sniffed that shit you let loose in the yard an’ now he’s in orbit.”

“And he’ll be there as long as it takes to finish this story! And so, time’s a-wasting! He wants to come back to Earth, I want to get into Danielle’s, and you’d like to meet a girl sometime that don’t throw up when you’re squeezing her tit and—“

“Hey, man!”

“Alright, alright, I’m sorry, man, really. I’ll leave that alone.” Danny was seeing a speedfreak chippie named Lulu who did have the habit of ralphing inopportunely. She did it once on his dick. Danny had issues on this one.

“Danny, look,” Joey said. “Next house, no EX-LAX, I promise.”

“Man, I dunno.”

“Danny, Danny! You got anything else?”

“No.”

*

They hit a place on Alki the next night, a bungalow right on the beach.

They drove away in this beater they’d rented, from Jimmy, a guy who had tons of them piled in his yard, hoping to sell them to fools. This one was a ’58 Lincoln all beat to shit. The previous owner, a speedfreak with palsy, had plowed the thing into storefronts and houses and pilings and light poles and guard rails. His sex life consisted of slamming the car into ditches at high rates of speed. This over 14 long years. The Lincoln sounded like Panzers chewing through Poland. It veered ultra-left like Maoist contingents. It sputtered and died at green lights, again like Maoist contingents.

Jimmy had wanted to sell it to Joey. Joey had actually wanted to buy it—a Lincoln, hot damn!—but broke as he was he just couldn’t. A half a lid, though, bought use of the thing for a couple of days. The bud was way weak, but Jimmy’d been loaded so long his brain was like mulch. You could have given him ear wax to smoke and had any car in the yard.

Him being king of the dead beater business, you might have figured that, right? He hadn’t sold one of those fuckers in six goddamn years. His yard looked like Dresden after the war. His neighbors wanted him gone gone gone gone. They’d finally decided that only a death squad could get the job done.

The car was burnt toast and a bust in the making. For one thing, Joey had gotten his license suspended last June. He’d run a Chevy onto a lawn and plowed through a garden of beautiful roses, then sideswiped the house that the lawn and the roses belonged to. He’d been loaded like dump trucks and mislaid a cross street.

The house belonged to a judge whose views on criminal justice would soon be compared to Khomeini’s. The judge’s wife had won prizes growing those roses.

The cop ate Joey’s license.

But so far so good on this night. They’d cracked a house and actually gotten away with the goods! The Lincoln chugged down the road.

“See?” Joey said. “No EX-LAX, no problem!”

“Oh, hell no,” Danny said. “Crime of the Century we just pulled off. Eight thousand steaks, an old cuckoo clock, an’ a five-dollar roll of fuckin’ goddamned dimes. What a haul. Jesus.”

Eight thousand steaks. The guy’d had a freezer full of the things. The rest of the pickings were sparse and so, steaks it was. The question was, where did the guy come up with the fuckers? Were there cows out in back?

“I can’ just see us tryin’ to rope cows,” Danny said as they stared at the steaks in the freezer. “We couldn’t rope tree stumps. Let’s just do this.”

It took them an hour to shag the steaks out to the car.

But they’d scored, man, goddamn! Didn’t Danny see what that meant?

“Those steaks,” Joey said, “we can sell ’em, the clock’s an antique, and five bucks is five bucks. The point is, man, we broke luck! It’s a start!”

“Start of what?” Danny said. “A career in house-to-house sales? Like Avon Ladies or somethin’? Bing-bong, Sirloins R Us? An’ also, them steaks’re frozen right now, but give ’em a coupla days, they’ll turn green an’ stink like that yard out in Ballard. We’re gonna have to bust ass to get rid of them things, an’ after all that, whadda we got, maybe two hundred bucks? The clock, what, a bill? An’ the dimes—hey, that makes it! Another house, maybe two, we can retire!”

“Danny—”

“Danny nothin’. Burglary sucks. I ain’t gonna do it no more. Somethin’ else maybe, but this shit, uh-uh.”

Joey sighed, for the moment defeated. “Alright.”

They drove awhile. “Okay, man,” Danny said, “I’ll flip you.” He dug in his pocket. “Who gets the steaks an’ who gets the clock. Heads, tails, you call it.”

“Okay,” Joey said, “and we split the dimes down the middle. Steaks, I call heads.”

Joey wound up with the clock.

*

That weekend the Lincoln pulled slowly into an alley. Two-thirty A.M. A deserted stretch in the south end of town. Warehouses and weeds all the way.

Danny was not happy. “It’s still a burglary, man.”

“Jesus, Danny, this is a warehouse! No EX-LAX, no steaks, no old fucking clocks. No toasters! Just nine fucking tons of black leather coats! Waiting for us! We can dump ’em up at the pool hall in six fucking minutes! We’ll be rich!”

Slowly the Lincoln tooled down the alley.

Danny ripped a huge belch. Then he shrugged. “Guess it beats shaggin’ steaks. How much further?”

“Right up there on the left. Let me pull in by this dumpster.”

“We’re kinda close to the place, don’t you think?”

“I know. But there’s ten million coats in that place, and the point of this thing’s not to drop dead while we’re schlooping the coats to the car.”

“I can dig that,” Danny said.

Joey pulled up in back of the dumpster and they got out of the car.

They stood and looked at the warehouse. Two stories of windows, and off to their left was a porch with stairs that led to a door. “Fuck the door,” Joey said. “Six locks on the fucker, I bet.”

Another dumpster stood at the right of the warehouse, immediately below the first-story windows. “We’ll climb up on that thing,” Joey said, “and go in the window.”

He went to the dumpster. “Give me a boost.”

Danny gave him a boost. Joey straightened and surveyed the window a moment.

He looked down at Danny. “Give me a rock.”

“Tape the window first, man.”

“Why, for Chrissake? Nobody around for 6,000 miles.”

“The alarm, man. What about that?”

“Billy fixed it.”

“Billy?”

“Cabrero. He works here, remember?”

“Oh, yeah. Say, what’s he gettin’ outta the deal?”

“Danny, what are you, loaded? I told you, a third.”

“A third? Jesus Christ! I musta been loaded! That’s steep, man, don’t you think?”

“That’s what I had to agree to, man. Little too late to be worrying about that now. Hand me the rock.”

“All we got’s bricks.”

“Let’s pretend it’s a rock, man, c’mon!”

Danny passed Joey the brick. Joey busted the window. He reached in, unlocked it and raised it on up. It went up two feet like somebody’d greased it, then stuck.

Joey crawled through, got halfway—and the window slammed down! It was a big, heavy fucker. Joey was stuck like a pig in a meat packing plant.

He kicked and he flailed and he screamed. “Oh shit! Danny, help me!”

Danny stared awestruck, open-mouthed, helpless.

A car pulled up by the dumpster. A cop car, unmarked.

Plainclothes detectives Edwards and Kleinfelt stepped out.

Edwards and Kleinfelt, scutbusters supreme. They’d busted Joey and Danny some eight million times. Mostly for pud-whacking offenses.

Descriptions. Edwards: Harvey Keitel to the dime. Bad Lieutenant, remember that flick? Cold fucking flick! You ever see it? It’s this coke-sucking cop. He’s a killer, a gambler, he cheats on his taxes and kicks ass for fun—and this one time, he rousts these two teeny-bops, right? They’re maybe 16 and he’s got them boxed in their car, and fucking Keitel—this is no shit—he turns them around on the front fucking seat, has them flip up their skirts, drop their drawers and show ass—right where they’re parked on the street in mid-town Manhattan!—and he spanks the monkey right there!

The guy was a junkyard dog’s dick!

Edwards was cooler than that but, Jesus Christ!

Kleinfelt, his partner, was tall, stolid, gray, with paper-thin lips and a chin like a shovel. Sort of like any cop partner, so pick one. Except Harry Morgan in Dragnet. Harry’s alright, you know, M.A.S.H. and all that. My mother loved him. But cop he is not. So, someone else. How about Ben Alexander, Joe Friday’s partner from back in the ‘50s? Kleinfelt down to the brogans, except Alexander was fat.

So anyway, Edwards and Kleinfelt got out of their car—and both fell down laughing.

They got up and walked over to Danny, who looked like that Edward Munch painting, The Scream. They looked up at Joey and fell down laughing all over again.

Klienfelt had never laughed in his life.

They finally got up. Edwards wiped the tears from his eyes. “This isn’t a job, it’s a Looney Tunes special! In front of us now we have Cluck Number One! And, up in the window, Cluck Number Two-o-oo!”

Danny kept swallowing the flies that buzzed by the dumpster.

“Uh-huh,” Edwards said. He nodded his head as if some final truth had revealed itself to the world. He scanned the warehouse as if he were searching for clues. His eyes stopped at the door. He climbed the steps to give it a closer look.

He got to the door and saw it was open a sliver. A note stuck under the door read, “Joey! In here! Don’t bust the window!” A childish scrawl. Signed, “Billy C.”

Cluck Number Three.

Edwards turned, grinning like toothpaste commercials. He pulled the door open and laughed. “Hey, fellas, we’re in!”

Down below, Danny closed his eyes slowly.

Edwards went into the warehouse. A dark, gloomy room, enormous, and empty as George Bush’s suit.

Nothing but coat racks and hangers for miles.

And dust motes and cobwebs and rat shit.

Edwards fell on the floor.

And there on the floor, a ratshit-splotched note: “Thanks, Billy! Your buddy, Ben.”

The prize went to Cluck Number Four! Edwards went into spasms.

He got up and walked over to Joey. He couldn’t stop laughing. Joey was gasping and purple as grapes.

Edwards took hold of himself. He bent level with Joey and whispered, “Bad news, my man. You got here too late. Ben’s been and gone.”

Joey wheezed curses and pleas.

Edwards put his hand to his ear. “What’s that, my friend? Get you loose? Why, of course!” He called down to Kleinfelt. “The dumpster, man. Lift the lid, would you?”

He straightened and yanked on the window. Joey slid out and dropped like a stone. He screamed all the way and splooshed into six tons of nasty, wet garbage. His screams turned to burbles. He sank three feet.

Kleinfelt flipped the lid shut.

*

There was this one time that Joey’d been busted, out in the streets of downtown Seattle, Saturday noon. He’d been up for five days, jacked on speed playing pool. He lost all his money, went back to the can, fell asleep standing straight up—and the manager, Slim, came in, wrote “FOOL” on his forehead in big block letters with chalk, and sent him outside chasing dopefiends who, Slim informed him, had just made off with his hat.

Joey went, Huh, what the fuck? He’s feeling around on the top of his head. Where the fuck is his hat? His hat’s gone! Those knick-knacks took off with his hat!

Joey’d never once had a hat in his life!

He went tearing on out to the sidewalk, to catch the cocksuckers who’d ripped off his hat. Millions of people out shopping, all the grandmas and teenybops, right? And here is this wild man out on the sidewalk, hopping around like a zoo full of monkeys, white shit slathered all over his lips, shock treatment hair, eyes like he came from a psych ward on Neptune, and “FOOL” on his forehead big as a billboard.

They scooped Joey up with a net. What happened next was straight out of the circus. They figured that he came from space, so they charged him with starting a War of the Worlds. Orson Welles showed at the trial. So did Rod Serling. He made the covers of Newsweek and Omni, and Foreign Affairs devoted three issues to “What It All Means” and “Why Now?”

He got marriage proposals from Zsa Zsa Gabor and Salvador Dali. Halloween Night was refigured forever. Stephen King owes him.

And all this was nothing, mere blips on the way to finis.

You should have been there the day Joey’s mom, The Battleship Bismarck, showed up at the jail to bail his ass out. He heard she was coming and begged them to send him to prison. He said he’d sold secrets to Russia. He confessed to axe-murders. He told them he’d spanked it in church.

They probably believed that he’d whacked off in church—he looked like the type—but, Mom was out there, right in the lobby and ready to blow like St. Helens.

They told him, if they had their way, they’d shovel him under the jail, but, “Sorry, son, you’ve got to go.”

They weren’t going to fuck with the Battleship Bismarck.

They turned him over.

She howitzed his ass through downtown. More World War headlines.

An ordeal for sure. Welts make for bad memories, man...

This time again they refused to ship Joey off to the joint. “But I financed Osama bin Laden!” he wailed. The jailers just laughed.

“You couldn’t finance a mouse to a meal,” they rejoined, and chucked his ass out.

Into the arms of his mom.

The first stoplight they came to walking through town it was bombs away with her cane.

“Just like your father!” Ka-whack! “I bailed him out of jail so often they started in giving me discounts!” Ka-whack! “I’m like a frequent flier down there!” Ka-whack-whack-ka-whack!

“At least your father he was a drunk! And now here you are—” She brought the cane down— “a felonious retard who breaks into places with nothing to steal!” She broke the cane over his head.

“I can see headlines!” she bellowed. “Burglars make off with 3,000 coathangers, eight tons of dust, a spider named Fred with a thing for young flies, and a roach who boogied on into the place by mistake!” She kicked him! He squealed!

“And then you go rolling in garbage! Is that your signature, Junior? Like those assholes who shit on the rug before they make off with the silver? And what pray tell was your take? Three rats and a roach and that spider named Fred, and all the dust in the world! No wonder you couldn’t make bail!” She kicked him three blocks!

They reached the house, Joey by now on all fours. “Well, mister,” Mom said. “You can hose yourself off in the back yard, and then you can sleep there tonight! And in the morning, we’re going to have a long-needed heart-to-heart talk!”

Words that signaled the end of the world. Perhaps not a bad thing...

She fetched him a good one upside his ear and stalked into the house.

Meanwhile, back at the jail, the question of questions was, “Who in the fuck is Osama bin Laden?”

*

Shivering and shaking, Joey lay swaddled under a tree in the tiny, fenced-in back yard. He’d thought the tree would give him some shelter. Until the rains came.

The leaves all dripped down...

Two cats on the fence, either fighting or fucking, provided the soundtrack to this, the latest installment of Joey’s Scythian Hell.

Joey muttered, “Why not? It’s perfect. The winner gets to shit on my head. Thanks a lot, Mom. Dad got drunk for a reason, you know.” And so on like that for two solid hours.

At long last the cat fight broke off. Or maybe one of them just dropped his load. Now, ominous sounds, something big, beastlike, shuffling around on the other side of the fence.

“Ah fuck, what now?” Joey moaned. “Lions? Son of Sam maybe?”

The shuffling receded.

Joey lay back with a sigh and looked up at the leaves dripping, dripping. Water got in his nose. The wind had picked up. Weather like this down in Hell would prompt sit-ins, revolts. The Devil would flee back to Utah.

“This is not gonna work,” Joey muttered. “I can’t even die, this story’s not over! That fucking Crisman. So I sold him some bunk that one time. What’s 12 bucks? The fucker was trying to short me!”

Just for the record, what I want to say is, 12 bucks is 12 bucks, motherfucker!

In the morning, Joey busted a move.

He crawled out from under his blanket and shook himself off like a dog. Water sprayed. He stayed sopped.

His hair hung like moss in a toxic rain forest. He smelled like an aardvark who’d died in coitus. His clothes? Suffice it to say, they were not bonaroos...

He’d slept in his socks and his shoes. His shoes had shrunk. As he splorched toward the house, he teetered and tottered like drag queens on quaaludes. His feet were in agony, man! The way things stood now, he’d need a blowtorch to get those shoes off.

His gameplan was, try and get Mom on his side for once. Somehow, some way. His hopes relied on the clock he had clutched in his arms as he lurched toward the house. The old cuckoo clock he’d burgled that night and—

Oops! I think I fucked up!

You’re asking, where’d the clock come from? He didn’t have it up at the jail. And he sure didn’t make any stops coming home, not while Mom was kicking his ass through his shirt. So where did he get it? Was the fucking thing stashed? In the tree? The bushes? A gopher hole maybe? Three feet up his ass?

A plot hole! Disaster disaster disaster!

...!

Ah, fuck it, who cares? Let’s just move on and—what’s that you’re saying? Publishers hate plot holes? You’ve got to be kidding! Look at Dan Brown! Besides, I’ll put in some tits and ass later, along with a soul-baring contest or two. Publishers love that kind of shit.

We’ve got to keep moving! We stop and they’ll bust us! If I were to freak over something like this, the next thing you know, some smart-ass like you, a New York Times critic or some fucking thing, would smell all the blood and start taking potshots.

I can just hear it:

“Hey, Bozo, I thought this was supposed to be real! So, what, the clock came by spaceship or reappeared, poof, like things do in cartoons, out of nowhere? God sent it Fed-Ex? I mean, how did it get here, alright? The question of questions—and you blow it off!

“And you want to get this thing published! Good luck, you hack motherfucker!”

Then I go off: “Are you done, you coke-sniffing warlock? I hope to Christ! And who signed your press pass? Who are you? Hemingway? Mickey Spillane? How about Alice B. Toklas, you snatch-bumping mud pig! I’ll have you shot like a dog in a kennel!”

See? One of us winds up in jail. So, fuck Sturm und Drang. I’ve got a prostate the size of a boa constrictor, like I’m 90 years old or some goddamned thing. I don’t have time for this shit.

Joey hit the back porch. The porch for some reason refused to hit back. Joey crept in the door.

He sucked in a breath and slithered on into the kitchen.

He squeaked out, “Mom?” No response.

He tipped toward the livingroom, slow as a bucket of scared-ass molasses. Sheer desperation prodded him forward.

He reached the livingroom entry and peered cautiously into the room. Mom sat on the couch reading a piece in Soldier of Fortune and gnawing on bon-bons. The article, “Torture: Refining Techniques,” held her spellbound.

The piece was authored by Dan Mitrione, an American cop and intelligence agent who’d taught the Brazilian police how to do it. The basic idea in this line of work, he propounded, was practice—on winos and dopefiends you dragged off the street. Practice makes perfect and nobody’d miss them, capiche? The Brazilian police saw the wisdom, of course—American leadership covers all fields, or did in those days—and they threw themselves into the work with a gusto. They snatched up the winos and dopefiends. Booze sales nosedived in Rio. You couldn’t give smack away...

That’s not really true. Dopefiends don’t care. They’ve got a monkey that’s bending them over and making them bleed out the butthole. All those thumbscrews and shit? Glass tubes up your dick that they break with a hammer? Like that’s some big deal!

Dopesick is now and that stuff is nothing but some other time.

Mitrione moved on to Uruguay later and promptly got scragged by some rebels. The Brazilians kept going and branched out from hobos to rude teenage kids and guys who laid pipe with cops’ wives. They got famous, and death squads all over picked up their techniques.

Dan Mitrione! They gave him a sendoff up in Ohio. Sinatra belted out show tunes and ballads as gravediggers shoveled him under.

Joey’s mom loved it! She’d often thought of boxing up Joey and shipping him down to Brazil.

Now here he was. She looked up and smiled, a smile with all the warmth of an icepick. It was time for that heart-to-heart talk.

He plastered a shit-eating grin on his face. “Hi, Mom,” he said.

She gave him stinkeye.

“I—I brought you something.”

She noticed the package tucked under his arm. “What’s that you’ve got there?”

He brought out the clock.

She stared at the thing. “Where’d you get that?”

“Huh?”

Why these tough questions?

“You did it again, you little cocksucker!”

“Huh? Wha—Mom! No! I—”

“You’re not out of jail one goddamned day and you’re off stealing clocks!”

“Mom, no, I swear to God, I—”

“No? Then where did you get it? An estate sale or something? You were just driving by in your new Coupe de Ville and the thing caught your eye?”

“No! No! I...”

“C’mon, son, make it a good one.”

“I—I found it.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “I said a good one. Christ on a crutch! My son the clock thief. And certified hat-trick moron to boot! How in the hell can—”

“Mom Mom Mom Mom! I—I—I—Mom! You gotta listen!”

He tried to say more but he couldn’t. He gasped for air, eyes wide as saucers.

Mom cupped her hand to her ear and trilled, “Ye-e-es?”

Joey took a deep breath. “Mom, I know I’ve let you down—”

“Since you were three, you little cocksucker!”

“I—uh, yeah, Mom, I know. I’ve been rotten. And it bothers me, really, and—”

“Son, cut to the chase. I can sing the whole jingle. I read the damn thing word for word in the last cheesy novel I cracked. The son was just out of prison and trying to weasel back into the will. You aren’t getting a dime. So what do you want?”

Joey stared, shocked. How could his very own Mom be so cold? And so smart?

“I—I—I just wanted to give you this clock.”

He held the thing out like a supplicant begging forgiveness from some pope or other. Any one of the cold-blooded fuckers would do.

Mom stood there a moment laying the stinkeye on thick, then took one more look at the clock. Her gaze softened. “It’s oak...”

Joey’s eyes turned to heaven and silently offered up prayers to a whole raft of gods. Most of the gods were more noted for blowoffs than help in hard times.

“Yeah, Mom, it’s oak.”

With a bit of reluctance Mom took the clock in her arms.

She looked at Joey. “You found it, huh?”

“Honest to God, Mom.”

“Don’t blaspheme, son.” She cradled the clock. “It’s beautiful,” she cooed.

She loved the clock!

Joey drew breath for the first time in possibly years.

Mom studied the fireplace mantel. “That would be perfect.”

She placed the clock on the mantel. “Yes, perfect.”

“Oh yeah, Mom, perfect!”

“Joey?” Mom said. She didn’t take her eyes off the clock.

“What, Mom?”

“It’s gorgeous.” Mom looked at the clock a long moment more. “You have a week to come up with a job or your ass is gone.”

A reprieve! Thank God! Joey trundled off to his room. He spent that night in his room planning capers.

Stone nitwit capers! He and Danny kept getting busted and falling down manholes. Their take in all this? Split lips and nerf balls.

After awhile the cops wouldn’t take them to jail. Like Edwards told Kleinfelt, “These guys are for laughs, so let’s let ’em run! We can take pictures or something. Sell ’em, make millions.”

And that’s what they did. One time they caught Joey up in a tree, naked as jaybirds and stoned to the tits on bad acid. Don’t ask. They sold the pix to some tabloid, then dumped their wives and hooked up with bimbos who spent all their money in seconds.

Joey and Danny kept going.

*

Up on Cloud Nine, St. Peter just shook his head. These guys Joey and Danny below. The fuckers were dumber than plywood.

St. Pete turned to God and said, “Boss, these guys, I don’t know. Can you help them or something?”

God said to St. Pete, “Let me give it some thought. They might be beyond me. I’ll let you know.”

In the end, God came through. He does that every Pleistocene Era or so. He let Joey boil in oil for awhile, then scooped him out, and then, via abra-cadabra-like hijinks and stuff, got him hitched to Danielle, the Lovely Danielle, who took Joey in hand and shaped him right up.

They had four kids and moved to the country and lived happy as clams in a Walt Disney movie.

And Danny? He married Lulu the speedfreak, thinking for some unfathomable reason she’d straighten up and fly right. Once again, his dick steered him wrong. She puked in his hair about 5,000 times and he had to broom her at last. As of this writing, Danny’s still looking for love.

But all that’s a story for later. This one is done.

BIO: Robert Crisman writes crime and noir fiction. He spent 15 years on streets in downtown Seattle and has some idea of what really goes on in these realms. He’s had stories posted on A Twist of Noir, and on Yellow Mama and Darkest Before Dawn. A movie he scripted, Chasing the Dopeman, is currently in post-prod down in L.A. and, with luck, it’ll be ready to go sometime this fall. He maintains a blog, chock full of stories, at 6S.

11 comments:

teresa cortez said...

This piece weaved in and out of reality, talked to God, Mom and the publishing industry. I LMAO over and over again, lovin' every edgy minute! As I always say, you have the newest brightest voice in town.

Richard Godwin said...

Excellent piece, Rob. Vivid dialogue, real characters, finely struck balance between the latent comedy of a tough guy mommy's boy and the darkness you portray. Great pace. I enjoyed the background politics.

Robert187 said...

TLC & RG,
Thanks for what you had to say about the story. It means a lot to me that people like you like my stuff. By the way, RG, every word on Mitrione is historically documented truth, including the fact that Sinatra sang at his funeral. Is this a great country or what?

the beaten dog barks said...

Tense, hilarious & surreal.
Really enjoyed this one, well done!

Jason

Paul D. Brazill said...

Arf. What a ride that was!Mr C, you are a mentalist!

Michael Solender said...

wow. another epic crisman. the man is like a factory. a very high quality factory..

Gita said...

RC Cola (forget the 187, murder's not your game right now). I loved and hated these guys. Danny deserves better than Lulu. No good can come from trying to have sex with a tweaker. Loved "The Lincoln sounded like Panzers chewing through Poland."
Lovely bits of dialogue propel this forward, but I wish for you an editor's eye to know when too much is too much. It's "schlepping,"not "schlooping," by the way. I like that you like your misbegotten heroes and redeem them in the end. Agree with teresa about God, Mom and the Publishing Industry. They are the true holy triumvirate, are they not? Thanks for nagging me to read this.

Robert187 said...

Gita,
Thanks for reading the thing. Couple points: too much, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The editor who tries to "lessen" this dies. Also, it's schlooping if I say it is. Besides, they're not exactly synonymous: schlep means, simply, carry; schloop means carrying or simply slogging through liquid mud, Joey's usual state of existence.

Robert187 said...

Gita,
Thanx for reading the story. Couple things: I think that sometimes "too much" is in the eye of the beholder, not always but sometimes. If others who've read this had said the same thing I'd have to take a look at it, but in this case I think everything is okay.

Christopher Grant said...

Gita,

The reason HARD KNOCKS is as lengthy as it is is because I learned a long time ago to allow the storyteller to tell the story.

Granted that five thousand words (or a little over) is the limit but it is the limit and, if the storyteller is going to push the limit, they'd better have a story to tell.

I also learned a long time ago that Robert not only has a story to tell, he tells his tales so damn well that I don't even think about taking a scissors to it or informing him to do so himself.

If I think one of his stories has a problem with it, an error with it, I run it by him, as I do every writer that writes for ATON. If he (or any other writer) disagrees, I listen to what he has to say, weigh it against my own thoughts and try to come up with a compromise (unless the writer's idea is better).

Most times lengthy is better than clipped.

Jared said...

very interesting. such a well-woven web of oddly endearing miscreants. and the "fumble" in the middle... never turn back, baby! 'twas quite a lengthy read, but worth it in the end.