Feeds:
Posts

Posts Tagged ‘pulp fiction’

Blog photo 31

 

“Hole in the World” 

Ma was never the same after Bill left. She took to the pills and the cheap booze, didn’t matter what kind.

So I’m sitting here watching the fishing show and trying to avoid looking at Mama. I mean, check out her white, fringy cowgirl boots, they’re too much. But after a while I’m getting a crick in the neck so I stretch and turn my head from side to side and come eyeball to eyeball with the Indian guy and he’s smiling at me. 

“You like fishing?” he asks me, saying it nice and friendly.

“I never caught one of them walleyes before, like that guy,” I say, gesturing up at another ‘nice fish’ being netted on the tube. “I haven’t fished in a long time. One of those fly-in trips to Canada would be a kick.”

“Shit, man,” the guy comes back. “You can catch fish like that right around here, if you know the right places. Too bad there’s not much going on now… maybe trout or salmon if you can get out on the big lake. It’ll be better in a few weeks.”

“Nah, I won’t be around that long. I’m just here waiting for my car to get fixed—over at Carlson’s. I’m not staying around. But that Lake Superior is something, though.”

Then we get to talking about fishing and sports and all that for a while and I kind of get to liking the Indian guy. Even Mama ain’t bad with time. She smiles too much and wears too much lipstick and makeup, but she’s all right. After a couple more shots and beers we order-up hamburgers and fries that Mama cooks up to a delicious result. I’m feeling so good and generous that I pay for the meal and order another round. Mama (by now she’s sipping pink wine from a champagne glass and insisting we call her Ethel) starts spinning yarns about her days as a stripper. Even brings out some yellowed old newspaper clippings with stories about her “dancing” at places called the Saratoga and the Classy Lumberjack and the Silver Slipper, under the moniker Ethyl Flame—sometimes Ethyl Fire. Her real name is Ethel Hawley, but what’s in a name?

So we carry on for a time, like good-natured drunks. At one point Mama is down at the other end of the bar waiting on a couple of guys in blue coveralls and the Indian guy asks me if I want to go outside and smoke a joint. He tells me it isn’t that great, just some homegrown, but it tastes good, and it’s the least he can do after I bought dinner. So I say yes, and after we finish our drinks he puts on his jacket that he’s been sitting on and we go out to the alley. 

After we finish the jay I pull a little chunk of black hash out of my pocket and inquire into the availability of a pipe and he says, “Yeah, I got one in my car but we better go inside and say goodbye to Mama first.” 

I say, “Fuck Mama.”

And he says, “I did once.” 

I laugh; he winks.

“I can’t stand anymore pink,” I say.

“Just a quick in and out,” he says. “I need a pack of smokes.”

I want a pack of Kools myself so I go back in. 

The place is overwhelming this time around. The walls look hideous and Mama’s scent hangs everywhere like a lethal, tobacco- smoke-laced nerve gas. My throat constricts and I can’t breathe. I swear the picture behind the bar of Mama Hawley in fringe pasties is doing the shimmy. Sweat breaks out on my forehead and I walk fast for the door. As soon as I get outside I’m all right. I smoke my last cigarette while I’m waiting and then Roy comes out with a pack of Kools he flips over to me. I say thanks and we go over to his beaten down old Lincoln and smoke the hash in a little pipe made out of a red stone he calls pipestone. He says it’s sacred to the Indians and leaves it at that. 

So we’re sitting there staring out at nothing and pretty soon he says, “We gotta go find us some pussy. You up for that, my friend? What was your name again?”

“Don Enrico. What’s yours?”

“Roy Hollinday. I already told you that.”

“I forgot.”

“How could you forget, man? I told you what it meant back in the bar. My original family name was Hole-In-The-Day. Remember now? I told you about the white school people changing it to Hollinday. And Roy was for Roy Rogers, because my mother had this alarm clock with Roy and his horse Trigger on the face. When the clock was working, they clicked back and forth like they were riding across the prairie. I told you all that.”

“Now I remember. Before I didn’t. Sometimes I got a lot of things on my mind.” An Indian named after Roy Rogers—I really should’ve remembered that. Sometimes I just ain’t listening, I guess.

Roy shrugs slightly and says, “No problem, Don. Whattaya say we sample the nightlife around here. It’s the only life in this town.”

“Yeah, I could do that,” I answer. Guy has a way about him.

We cruise down to the main drag in Roy’s rusty Continental, hang a right and head toward what Roy calls the North End: bars, massage parlors, an out-of-business hardware store, cab company and more bars. A few more bars and then an all-night cafe. 

Roy rubs his forehead and stares out at the gaudy neon as we bump across the railroad tracks. Out in front of the Cave Cabaret, I see a burly bouncer type punching on somebody. Then three chicks burst out of the darkness and dash arm-and-arm across the street in front of us. Roy hardly slows. “Dykes,” he says, and gives me a wicked grin. 

Next comes a flashing Girls Girls Girls sign and an old bum vomiting on the sidewalk. People and cars move by in a slow blur.  I’m feeling pretty vacant but starting to feel like something good is going to happen. The pressure begins to lift.

He seems so calm and sincere. 

(To be continued)

ebook only $3.99

Amazon/Kindle: https://amzn.to/3AzETuy

Barnes and Noble Nook:  https://bit.ly/3u24Y2O

Apple: https://apple.co/3D4kb6T

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3isQyUP

Scribd: https://bit.ly/3oskPXN

Indigo: https://bit.ly/2Yo4PeC

 

 

Read Full Post »

BLog photo 1

“Hole in the World” 

EXCERPT TWO

I’m thinking maybe I should get some food in my belly, until I hit the pavement and catch a breath of this stink in the air, like Limburger cheese. A real god-awful stench hangs thick in the air in this dirty old town. 

The sound of the answering machine keeps echoing in my head as I walk. And the smell in the air is so bad that I go quickly to the yellow concrete box that is Mama’s Bar and Grill. I glance through the little parallelogram window on the red door for an instant and then push my way inside.

Pink. 

Except for the obligatory Green Bay Packers poster and a couple of beer signs, the whole place is pink. Top of the bar is mahogany or cherry wood—some nice stuff— with pink vinyl padding around the edges. Behind three rows of pink-lit liquor bottles is a mirror ringed in fluffy, padded, pink satin. The faded red walls have little pink dots and bows painted on them. A pink hue clings to the window trim, the pool table felt, and the vinyl tops of the chrome barstools. Sugar sweet, like cotton candy.  

I’m kind of overwhelmed at first, especially after I catch a gander of the aging, poof-haired broad with Howdy Doody cheeks and peroxide-silver hair standing behind the bar in a shiny white pantsuit with pink powder puff wristlets, her lips as big and red as her teeth are big and white.

I sit down and try not to look too fucking mind-blown. I order a shot of Wild Turkey and a Budweiser. The Bud comes in a can, the Turkey in a two ounce shot glass about three-quarters full. Mama’s perfume is strong and cheap. I whack down the shot and shove the tin can to my lips for a wash. Goddamn. Sonofabitch.

The fucking Mosers better answer their phone pretty goddamn soon.

A couple of stools to my left there’s an Indian guy wearing a wrinkled blue pinstriped dress shirt and jeans He’s got swarthy, lightly pockmarked skin, heavy lidded eyes and some kind of Coca-Cola drink sitting in front of him.. About five-ten and a middleweight, he’s checking out a fishing show on the wall tube behind the bar. His profile is exactly like the face on those old buffalo nickels, guy’s grandfather must’ve been the model. 

There’s a blonde, bearded guy in a flannel shirt on the TV hammering the walleyes on some Canadian lake. I always liked fishing; my old man used to take me fishing. In fact that’s the last time I ever saw the asshole—the time he took me fishing—years ago, when I was eleven. 

When you go after catfish in the summertime, you go at night.  Build a fire by the river, boil a pot of coffee and throw out setlines with bells fastened to the rods so you can hear the fish take the bait. My old man always used a glob of chicken livers on a big hook.

We bagged a couple of nice cats that night. I fell asleep by the fire on an old canvas chaise lounge. Then at first light I woke up and my daddy was gone and one of the rods was busted, the line broken. At the time I don’t remember what pissed me off the most: having to walk all the way home, breaking the rod, or losing ol’ Bill. Couldn’t say I’d miss the Saturday night slap arounds so I guess it was the rod, walking home a close second.

(To be continued)

ebook only $3.99

Amazon/Kindle: https://amzn.to/3AzETuy

Barnes and Noble Nook:  https://bit.ly/3u24Y2O

Apple: https://apple.co/3D4kb6T

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3isQyUP

Scribd: https://bit.ly/3oskPXN

Indigo: https://bit.ly/2Yo4PeC

 

Read Full Post »

BLog photo 1

 

“Hole in the World” 

EXCERPT TWO

I’m thinking maybe I should get some food in my belly, until I hit the pavement and catch a breath of this stink in the air, like Limburger cheese. A real god-awful stench hangs thick in the air in this dirty old town. 

The sound of the answering machine keeps echoing in my head as I walk. And the smell in the air is so bad that I go quickly to the yellow concrete box that is Mama’s Bar and Grill. I glance through the little parallelogram window on the red door for an instant and then push my way inside.

Pink. 

Except for the obligatory Green Bay Packers poster and a couple of beer signs, the whole place is pink. Top of the bar is mahogany or cherry wood—some nice stuff— with pink vinyl padding around the edges. Behind three rows of pink-lit liquor bottles is a mirror ringed in fluffy, padded, pink satin. The faded red walls have little pink dots and bows painted on them. A pink hue clings to the window trim, the pool table felt, and the vinyl tops of the chrome barstools. Sugar sweet, like cotton candy.  

I’m kind of overwhelmed at first, especially after I catch a gander of the aging, poof-haired broad with Howdy Doody cheeks and peroxide-silver hair standing behind the bar in a shiny white pantsuit with pink powder puff wristlets, her lips as big and red as her teeth are big and white.

I sit down and try not to look too fucking mind-blown. I order a shot of Wild Turkey and a Budweiser. The Bud comes in a can, the Turkey in a two ounce shot glass about three-quarters full. Mama’s perfume is strong and cheap. I whack down the shot and shove the tin can to my lips for a wash. Goddamn. Sonofabitch.

The fucking Mosers better answer their phone pretty goddamn soon.

A couple of stools to my left there’s an Indian guy wearing a wrinkled blue pinstriped dress shirt and jeans He’s got swarthy, lightly pockmarked skin, heavy lidded eyes and some kind of Coca-Cola drink sitting in front of him.. About five-ten and a middleweight, he’s checking out a fishing show on the wall tube behind the bar. His profile is exactly like the face on those old buffalo nickels, guy’s grandfather must’ve been the model. 

There’s a blonde, bearded guy in a flannel shirt on the TV hammering the walleyes on some Canadian lake. I always liked fishing; my old man used to take me fishing. In fact that’s the last time I ever saw the asshole—the time he took me fishing—years ago, when I was eleven. 

When you go after catfish in the summertime, you go at night.  Build a fire by the river, boil a pot of coffee and throw out setlines with bells fastened to the rods so you can hear the fish take the bait. My old man always used a glob of chicken livers on a big hook.

We bagged a couple of nice cats that night. I fell asleep by the fire on an old canvas chaise lounge. Then at first light I woke up and my daddy was gone and one of the rods was busted, the line broken. At the time I don’t remember what pissed me off the most: having to walk all the way home, breaking the rod, or losing ol’ Bill. Couldn’t say I’d miss the Saturday night slap arounds so I guess it was the rod, walking home a close second.

(To be continued)

ebook only $3.99

Amazon/Kindle: https://amzn.to/3AzETuy

Barnes and Noble Nook:  https://bit.ly/3u24Y2O

Apple: https://apple.co/3D4kb6T

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3isQyUP

Scribd: https://bit.ly/3oskPXN

Indigo: https://bit.ly/2Yo4PeC

 

 

Read Full Post »

Northwoods Pulp Reloaded 2021 Cover

ebook only $3.99

Friendly campfires and twinkling stars can conceal a vast darkness in the great northern forest. Some say it’s in the land itself. Others point to the people who live there. The raw and plaintive stories in T.K. O’Neill’s Northwoods Pulp Reloaded allow for both possibilities, featuring three reloaded short stories (“Hole in the World,” “Snowmobile Stick-up,” “The Devil You Say”) and a new short novel (“My Ship Comes In”).

“Hole in the World” Accompanied by an Indian guide with special skills, a renegade member of the trench coat gang heads north for his share, his woman and his freedom.

“Snowmobile Stick-up” Outlaw snowmobilers heist a bank during a driving blizzard and discover pursuers other than the law.

“The Devil You Say” A down-on-his-luck reporter believes he’s found his ticket to the big time with his investigation of devil worship in a small, Wisconsin town.

“My Ship Comes In” Two dead men in his wake, a Minnesota man flees to every northerner’s preferred hideout: Florida. But temptation is everywhere in the Sunshine State and soon he finds himself waiting on a remote beach for a sailboat loaded with contraband. Complications ensue.

Amazon/Kindle: https://amzn.to/3AzETuy

Barnes and Noble Nook:  https://bit.ly/3u24Y2O

Apple: https://apple.co/3D4kb6T

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3isQyUP

Scribd: https://bit.ly/3oskPXN

Indigo: https://bit.ly/2Yo4PeC

 

 

Read Full Post »

Layout 1

ebook only $3.99

Friendly campfires and twinkling stars can conceal a vast darkness in the great northern forest. Some say it’s in the land itself. Others point to the people who live there. The raw and plaintive stories in T.K. O’Neill’s Northwoods Pulp Reloaded allow for both possibilities, featuring three reloaded short stories (“Hole in the World,” “Snowmobile Stick-up,” “The Devil You Say”) and a new short novel (“My Ship Comes In”).

“Hole in the World” Accompanied by an Indian guide with special skills, a renegade member of the trench coat gang heads north for his share, his woman and his freedom.

“Snowmobile Stick-up” Outlaw snowmobilers heist a bank during a driving blizzard and discover pursuers other than the law.

“The Devil You Say” A down-on-his-luck reporter believes he’s found his ticket to the big time with his investigation of devil worship in a small, Wisconsin town.

“My Ship Comes In” Two dead men in his wake, a Minnesota man flees to every northerner’s preferred hideout: Florida. But temptation is everywhere in the Sunshine State and soon he finds himself waiting on a remote beach for a sailboat loaded with contraband. Complications ensue.

Amazon/Kindle: https://amzn.to/3AzETuy

Barnes and Noble Nook:  https://bit.ly/3u24Y2O

Apple: https://apple.co/3D4kb6T

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3isQyUP

Scribd: https://bit.ly/3oskPXN

Indigo: https://bit.ly/2Yo4PeC

 

 

Read Full Post »

Layout 1

 

“Hole in the World” 

EXCERPT ONE

Northern Wisconsin, 1999

 I was just passing through. At least that was my intent. But the car broke down outside of town and now I’m still here waiting. I’m trying to get up to the Great White American North—Hovland, Minnesota, to be exact. Going to meet with my partner Stuart Moser and his wife Ginny, a.k.a. Virginia Burns, and pick up my final share of the take from the twenty-seven bank jobs me and Stu pulled off over the last eight years—should be around eight hundred K. 

Ginny and Stu have been up there for over a year, laundering our money through the Indian casinos a little bit at a time. They buy a bunch of chips and gamble for a few days and then cash-in a big load on their way out. Works like a charm they say.

After I settle up with them; I’m out of the life for good. Get me some nice wheels and travel around the country like Jack fucking Kerouac. Roll all over hell like a goddamn tumbleweed. But every time I call those two lovebirds at their brand new log home in the woods up there, I get the answering machine. And I’m beginning to think they‘re not picking up on purpose. If I think about it too much, it drives me nuts.

So I’m here waiting in an upstairs room of a boarding house because I just don’t like motels. Maybe it’s the memories of all the weird shit I’ve done in motel rooms, hard to say for sure. 

The good people of Carlson Chevrolet Olds Geo have ordered the parts I need for the ABS system on the Olds 98 I bought from a coke dealer back in Chi-town. He took it in as payment on an overdue account and sold it to me for four large, half of book.

This boarding house reminds me in some strange way of a place I crashed in down in New Orleans, a long time ago. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the old metal-framed bed with the faded yellow quilt and the military-style mattress. Or the paint-speckled dresser. Or maybe the little yellow Formica table and the two square-back wood chairs over in the corner by the windows where you can look out at Ogden Avenue. If you press your face against the window on the left and look down past the parking lot, you can see a sign that says Mama’s Bar. Next door to Mama’s there’s this little house with a jungle for a yard. ANTIQUES it says in black hand-painted letters on an old red serving platter nailed to a tree on the far corner of the jungle of a yard. I call the whole deal New Orleans Corner. In Northern Wisconsin. In late winter. And the weather ain’t too bad.

But they’re taking too goddamn long with the car. First it was the diagnosis; then there was the wait while they sent to Detroit for a new master cylinder. A rare one, I guess. And now they tell me it’s not going to get here until next week. That one got to me. That and the answering machine up there in the woods. It’s Ginny’s voice, her silly little bird voice: “You have reached 462-3952. No one can come to the phone right now, so please leave your name and number and we’ll call you right back.” After you’ve heard that a few too many times, you need a drink. But drinking always seems to lead to trouble for me.

Most of the time I just lie here on the bed staring up at the cracks in the ceiling, pretending they’re lines on a map depicting the roads I’m going to travel down after I get my money from the Mosers. Sometimes I look in the mirror on the dresser and see too many gray hairs and too much flab around the middle. The eyes look tired. But how can you resist Mama’s Bar? God knows I try, if there is a God. 

Believe me, I know the trouble that can happen. 

I just need to get out of this town, get out of this whole part of the world—not start drinking and meeting people. 

I know what can happen, believe me. 

But you know, time just inches along and pretty soon I just really need to meet Mama and feel the sting of alcohol on my tongue and the heat of it sloshing in my belly. 

And, y’know, what bad could happen in a place called Mama’s, anyway? The more I think about it, the better it sounds. So I get my jacket and head down the stairs to the outside world. 

(To be continued)

ebook only $3.99

Amazon/Kindle: https://amzn.to/3AzETuy

Barnes and Noble Nook:  https://bit.ly/3u24Y2O

Apple: https://apple.co/3D4kb6T

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3isQyUP

Scribd: https://bit.ly/3oskPXN

Indigo: https://bit.ly/2Yo4PeC

 

Read Full Post »

Layout 1

 

https://books2read.com/u/mlEM1B  (all ereaders)

Amazon/Kindle: https://amzn.to/3AzETuy

Barnes and Noble Nook:  https://bit.ly/3u24Y2O

only $3.99

 

Friendly campfires and twinkling stars can conceal a vast darkness in the great northern forest. Some say it’s in the land itself. Others point to the people who live there. The raw and plaintive stories in T.K. O’Neill’s Northwoods Pulp Reloaded allow for both possibilities.

“Hole in the World” Accompanied by an Indian guide with special skills, a renegade member of the trench coat gang heads north for his share, his woman and his freedom. 

“Snowmobile Stick-up” Outlaw snowmobilers heist a bank during a driving blizzard and discover pursuers other than the law.

“The Devil You Say” A down-on-his-luck reporter believes he’s found his ticket to the big time with his investigation of devil worship in a small, Wisconsin town.

“My Ship Comes In” Two dead men in his wake, a Minnesota man flees to every northerner’s preferred hideout: Florida. But temptation is everywhere in the Sunshine State and soon he finds himself waiting on a remote beach for a sailboat loaded with contraband. Complications ensue.

https://books2read.com/u/mlEM1B  (all ereaders)

Amazon/Kindle: https://amzn.to/3AzETuy

Barnes and Noble Nook:  https://bit.ly/3u24Y2O

 

Read Full Post »

Layout 1

Friendly campfires and twinkling stars can conceal a vast darkness in the great northern forest. Some say it’s in the land itself. Others point to the people who live there. The raw and plaintive stories in T.K. O’Neill’s Northwoods Pulp Reloaded allow for both possibilities.

“Hole in the World” Accompanied by an Indian guide with special skills, a renegade member of the trench coat gang heads north for his share, his woman and his freedom. 

“Snowmobile Stick-up” Outlaw snowmobilers heist a bank during a driving blizzard and discover pursuers other than the law.

“The Devil You Say” A down-on-his-luck reporter believes he’s found his ticket to the big time with his investigation of devil worship in a small, Wisconsin town.

“My Ship Comes In” Two dead men in his wake, a Minnesota man flees to every northerner’s preferred hideout: Florida. But temptation is everywhere in the Sunshine State and soon he finds himself waiting on a remote beach for a sailboat loaded with contraband. Complications ensue.

Northwoods Pulp Reloaded coming this month to online bookstoresebook $3.99!

Read Full Post »

BLUEROAD3

 

Buy ebook or paperback now at

Amazon.com direct link http://amzn.to/2CPeDPT

CHAPTER 29

Frank drove home in a fog with the edge of anticipation ticking in his gut. His limbs were heavy. His mind was wasted and filled with things he hoped didn’t become clear until he was long gone from Zenith. Going into his little rental house for the last time was weird, only a single kitchen chair and a mattress on the living room floor, his footsteps echoing in the empty rooms of what had been his home for many years.

And now all the memories were coming back to haunt him and he knew he’d never get to sleep, the bare walls closing in on him one last time.

He sat in the chair and opened Waverly’s going away gift. On top was a little note. Figured you’d never be able to wait until you were on the road, Frank. Was I right? Best of luck and I hope these items make your journey a real trip.

Underneath a wadded up hunk of newspaper, Frank discovered a plastic pill vial with three large black capsules inside, the original label on the vial peeled off, Stay Awake Pills scratched on the cap with a ballpoint pen. There was also a cassette tape labeled Travelin’ Tunes, which Frank didn’t know how he’d play because Betty’s old Ford wagon didn’t have a tape player, two wrinkled, dog-eared paperbacks, On the Road by Jack Kerouac and The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler, and, Waverly being Waverly, a joint as big as your thumb. At the bottom of the box was a sheet of paper containing names, addresses and phone numbers, all from Phoenix, Arizona. At the top of the list Waverly had scrawled, “In case you wander south of Route 66, man, these old college friends of mine will show you a good time.”

Frank smiled to himself and was again hit with a surge of sentimentality and fondness for a past that he hadn’t liked that much in the first place. Fearing that he might sink into nostalgia and change his mind, he opened the pill vial, took out one of the black Dexedrine caps, went into the kitchen and put water in a plastic coffee cup and swallowed the capsule.

Hell, if he was lucky, he could be out of the state by the time the sun came up.    

 

(The Real End of Dive Bartender: Sibling Rivalry)

 

Ebook and paperback now available at all online bookstores for $2.99 and $15.95!

BarnesandNoble.com direct link  https://bit.ly/2KrFGEh

Amazon.com direct link http://amzn.to/2CPeDPT

Ebookit.com direct link https://goo.gl/xDC1yi

 

Read Full Post »

enger 3

 

Buy ebook or paperback now at

Amazon.com direct link http://amzn.to/2CPeDPT

CHAPTER 28, EXCERPT 2

The next few days went by slowly, Frank constantly looking over his shoulder or anticipating a phone call from the police. There were some nights that sleep didn’t come easy, but the cops never gave him so much as a sniff, the Zenith Police Department evidently overburdened by the massive onslaught of national media pouring into the Twin Ports to cover the Pillsbury murders, as the press was calling them.

One national tabloid ran the headline: Diabolical duo does dirty deeds to pharmaceutical heir, pays price.

Another: Down and dirty double team does in pharmaceutical tycoon.

Frank, taking a little something from Keith Waverly’s bag of tricks, had one of his own: Drug douchebag dies from dope dose. Demonic dames did it.

From what Frank could ascertain from the newspapers and the television news, the ZPD had pieced together a scenario remarkably close to what he’d hoped for. The cops theorizing that Richard Pillsbury somehow became aware that his new bride, the former Judy Bruton, and her twin sister, Lisa Semke—previously unknown to Pillsbury, the girls separated shortly after birth—had conspired to gain his affection, trust and matrimonial bond in order to carry out an elaborate masquerade designed to make him dependent on drugs and sex and thus create the opportunity for his eventual overdose death. His death in this manner would have cleared the way for the wife (Bruton) to inherit the massive Pillsbury fortune, as she was listed in Richard’s recently revised will as the principal heir, as well as a partner in Pillsbury Enterprises, the family corporation. And continuing, that Richard became so enraged and distraught upon his discovery, already emotionally unstable from intravenous drug use and sexual excess, that he killed both sisters and then fell into despondency, committing suicide by drug overdose and completing the sisters’ “destructive drug and death spiral,” the police department showing that it too, could alliterate.

Frank thought they had it just right enough.

Sitting at his kitchen table gazing out at the rain, he quickly switched gears to fantasize about California sunshine and California girls and California everything, not wanting to think about his approaching return to the Metro tonight. Jesus, it was going to feel weird. He could already see the looks on their faces, the lushes thinking they knew something about Frank Ford.

*   *   *

In his temporary return to the Metropole, Frank worked day shift, afternoon shift, late shift, Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays—whatever he could get. And three weeks in he asked Betty for two additional weeks because he needed more money to buy a car for his trip. Not only did Betty agree, but she also offered to sell him her ’71 Ford station wagon at a nice price, an offer Frank couldn’t refuse, a station wagon the perfect vehicle for hauling things out West.

Things had changed at the Metro. The Underground Lounge, the downstairs bar, was closed do to declining business, the DJ thing Betty introduced as a last-ditch effort to bring in customers having failed miserably. Now Tom Meagher was working upstairs and he and Frank were the only tenders on the payroll. Betty had fired Ron, the guy who replaced Frank, for beating up too many customers, and Sack, of course, had already been sacked.

Meagher and Frank ran the bar with just enough control to keep it tolerable and also profitable. Frank enjoyed the time but realized that a big part of his enjoyment came from knowing he’d soon be leaving.

Time moved along, and soon Frank’s final week at the Metro arrived. He was working the day shift on a Monday when Waverly walked in the bar at four in the afternoon, Keith smiling and looking fit and healthy. Frank had put in some time practicing positive thinking and visualization—even some yoga moves—in preparation for his future immersion in California culture, but as Waverly related the latest buzz on the street concerning the Pillsbury murders—what Keith referred to as The demise of Pills and his pussies—Frank was getting little jolts of fear in his gut. According to Waverly, the murmur currently making the rounds was that the cops had determined Pillsbury Manor to be abnormally clean of fingerprints, which had lead them to consider the possibility of an as yet unidentified fourth party involved in the murders. And although most everyone believed that fourth person was either Doughboy Loy or Artie Autry, the cops, Waverly said, were seeking input from the local barroom denizens, with a possible reward if any information led to an arrest of this unknown suspect.

This, of course, ramped up Frank’s anxiety level and got him back to walking on pins and needles—bed of nails—broken glass, you name it. The time wouldn’t go fast enough. He’d seen the cops in the bar a few times applying their manipulative, good-cop-bad-cop methods on the vulnerable types (those they had something on or snitches) but so far they hadn’t confronted him. But how long could it be?

He soldiered on and tried to stay busy. He had a rummage sale at his house. He took the stuff that didn’t sell to the dump and Goodwill. He had his newly acquired Ford Station wagon tuned up. He changed the oil. He paid the hospital bill for his concussion stay, the exorbitant amount eating at him, but mostly he just worked the bar and worried, the time dragging on slower than those last days of school before summer vacation when he was a kid. But he endured and persevered and finally his final day at the Metropole dawned.

His friends and loyal customers were throwing him a Bon Voyage party after close, and Betty had offered the use of the shuttered downstairs bar for the occasion. Betty saying it wasn’t a time to mourn but more a time to celebrate Frank’s contribution to the “Metropole family.”

Jesus.

Coming into the Underground for the party, Frank was surprised how many people showed up, even though a good third of them had only come for the free beer, Betty letting them drain the taps of the recently closed saloon as a gesture of gratitude for Frank’s years of service to the “Family.” Frank thought it was a backhanded gesture—the beer in the lines borderline stale—but about as good as you were going to get from Betty, the woman getting even tighter with the bucks the older she got.

One of those free-beer drinkers was Daniel Moran, who acted uncomfortable and nervous in Frank’s presence and couldn’t stop talking about the murders while giving Frank the evil eye. In spite of that, the party was fun. And surprisingly emotional. Somewhere around two a.m. Frank got hit with second thoughts and feelings of regret, because, shit, what guarantee was there he’d ever find a bunch like this, a group that genuinely liked and appreciated him? You just couldn’t predict the future. Who knew, California might be too crowded for his liking? He might be too impatient for driving in heavy traffic. He’d probably miss the changing of the seasons. And goddamnit, man, three different women came up to him at the party and got physical, touching and rubbing up against him and letting him know in not uncertain terms that he missed out on their bounty.

But it was too late for that kind of regret. It was just separation anxiety, as Nikki might say. And speaking of the blond, blue-eyed one, Frank had seen her on the street driving in her little red Honda, bringing to mind a line from an old Velvet Underground song.

What he had but couldn’t keep—linger on your pale blue eyes.

.And now he conceded that his heart was broken.

But what better treatment for a broken heart than California sunshine?

The going-away bash careened on until after three in the morning. Watching his old friends wander out, Frank had a lump in his throat and a tear in his eye. But at least the cops weren’t waiting out there for him. Then he was about to leave, thinking he wouldn’t sleep tonight with tomorrow’s drive on his mind, when Waverly called to him from the back office, Meagher and Keith the only partiers left in the building. Frank went back there and of course there were lines of coke on the desk and of course they offered him some. He declined. But then Waverly lit a bomber and passed it to him and he partook. It just seemed appropriate to break the law on his last day as part of the “Metropole family.” So he and Keith shared the joint, Meagher abstaining, and Waverly said the weed was just like they had out in Cali these days and Frank was sure lucky to be going there. As the joint hit the halfway mark, Frank felt a shroud drop over his head and the weight of the last few months come down on his shoulders. He was exhausted and anxious, excited and just a little bit scared, all at the same time. “I got a long day ahead of me, gentlemen,” he said, “ so I’m afraid I have to mosey. You guys have been great. It was a great party. But I gotta split before I sink into nostalgia and sentimentality and beg Betty for my job back.”

“No, you sure as hell don’t want to do that, Frank,” Meagher said with a big grin as he rose from behind the desk and extended his hand. Frank shook his hand and then turned to Waverly. Keith was holding out a shoebox wrapped in a piece of the comic section of the Sunday paper. Very colorful, even had a little red bow stuck on the top. “Got a little going away gift for you, Franko, as a token of my appreciation for all the fun you’ve let me in on. How dull my life’s gonna be without you around, man. But I wish you the best of luck wherever you land, and I must admit I’m a little jealous. Going somewhere that doesn’t have winter sounds pretty good to me. Drop me a line when you get settled and maybe I’ll come out and visit. And don’t open the box until your on the road, man, stuff in there will make your journey a little more enjoyable, I think. At least I hope. Really, man, I don’t have a fuckin’ clue.”

Frank took the box and felt compelled to give Keith a hug. And then found himself on the verge of tears, months of suppressed emotion seemingly ready to come slamming out of him at any moment. But he held it together and soon all three of the men were standing and grinning and Frank knew it was time. He turned away and walked out on his Metropole family for the last time.

Probably.

On his way to the door, stumbling by the stage in a state of anticipatory excitement and sentimental longing, Frank glanced down at a couple stacks of albums the former record spinner had yet to haul out. On top of one of the stacks was a Led Zeppelin record, “Physical Graffiti,” lying loose and out of its cover. Frank glanced down at the label and saw his old companion and tormentor—the winged beast. There it was, the inspiration for his nightmare, the image of a naked human with large white wings— the logo for Swan Song Records. Only had one head though.

He couldn’t help but smile. So that’s where it came from. What drugs’ll do for you, eh?

(End of Dive Bartender: Sibling Rivalry)

Ebook and paperback now available at all online bookstores for $2.99 and $15.95!

BarnesandNoble.com direct link  https://bit.ly/2KrFGEh

Amazon.com direct link http://amzn.to/2CPeDPT

Ebookit.com direct link https://goo.gl/xDC1yi

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: