Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Twin Ports’

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

Chapter 1, Excerpt 6

Her first stop was at a Holiday station on 26th Avenue East and London Road. Frank pulled into the adjacent lot and left the Pontiac running. As Judy gassed up the Buick, he gazed out at the big lake, whitecaps rolling across it as night began to take over the sky. After a few minutes Judy came out of the store carrying a paper bag, got in the Electra and left in a hurry. He followed her to a brick apartment building in the Central Hillside neighborhood. He parked half a block back of the Buick and watched the nurse walk briskly up to the glass-paneled entrance doors of the building, a big black purse over her shoulder and the paper bag from Holiday cradled in her arms. Shortly after she disappeared inside, Frank saw a light come on in a top floor window.

He decided to wait.

A half hour went by with no further activity seen. Now the afternoon’s booze was wearing off and he was getting depressed, maybe a little grief coming in against his will. And he knew Betty would be getting anxious so he cranked the ignition. Nothing. Waited and tried again. Not a goddamn sound. Dead.

The Metropole was only a few blocks away—all downhill—so he thought What the hell and set out on foot in the rain after slamming the door on the Pontiac so hard a strip of chrome fell off.

Chapter 2, Excerpt 1

Damn bar was crowded, just like Frank had feared—why he no longer got scheduled for Friday nights. Thing about bartending, it was a pain in the ass if it was too busy and no good if it was too slow. What Frank wanted was a nice medium sized crowd of regulars whose drink preferences he was familiar with. Enough patrons to keep you busy but not so many you were chasing all night trying to catch up. Monday night during football season was good. Tuesday and Thursday nights were also good. Wednesday used to be good before Betty decided to have Quarter Taps on Hump Day, but now it was a goddamn zoo. Any day shift was fine with Frank, and he usually got to choose his shifts, one of the benefits given the bartender with the longest tenure.

Tenure. Shit, like this bar was a school and he was a teacher, Frank was thinking as he threaded his way through the crowd and the smoke. That was funny. Funny because ten years ago when he started working here he’d actually entertained ideas of doing good, putting his energies toward enlightening the unwashed masses dragging themselves up to the long oaken bar in an endless line. Yes, sir, Frank Ford would dispense his hipster wisdom and college knowledge for the uplift of all.

Jesus.

Just goes to show how youth, psychedelic drugs and a bit of a messiah complex can pull your shit off line. Christ, now Frank hated drunks. Was sick of looking at the impenetrable gazes, tired of hearing the same meaningless jabber. And that was the young ones. Your old drunks, your little old ladies, retired laborers, whatever—they never gave you much trouble—they were just sad. Lonely and sad. And it got to you once in a while, got you thinking about your own life, your future. Your old age. Your death. All kinds of troubling shit.

Frank nodded to familiar faces and glanced at Betty behind the bar, the squatty white-haired woman chewing her lower lip and looking half-crazy. Wondering how she’d stayed in this business so long, Frank watched her face relax when she saw him. She gave him a half-assed, tired smile and he smiled back at her, not feeling it, and walked behind the bar. He hung up his leather jacket on the wall hook next to the basement door, washed his hands in the bar sink, dug a clean towel out of a drawer, dried his hands and his rain dampened hair and put on his bartender’s face. The mask.

Betty thanked him again for coming in and then left without further ado. Who could blame her? Damn bar was full of young girls tonight and judging by the horde of dirty glasses crowding around the sink, they had ordered quite a few specialty cocktails, drinks Betty struggled with, usually getting behind—like now—with the washing of her limited supply of appropriate glassware.

Frank got busy at the sink. He greeted Jenny the waitress. Nice girl. Or woman. She was somewhere in between, another functioning alcoholic staying close to the source. Frank could tell she was already into the sauce but she usually held it together for the whole shift so he didn’t worry himself.

Took him about an hour to catch his groove and get a line on what people wanted. There was old Mrs. Eckman (Edna) down by the television set, shiny black patent leather purse on the bar in front of her next to a brandy Manhattan with a cherry. Frank always had the impression Edna was wearing white gloves even though her hands were bare. Down at the other end of the bar with a shot of Windsor and a snit was retired UMZ custodian Harold Lundquist. Joel Blackwell, mentally ill offspring of one of Zenith’s influential old families, was on a stool at the middle of the bar drinking Johnny Walker and arguing with invisible relatives. A group of bikers by the front door was taking turns checking IDs and drinking tap beer on Betty’s dime. College jocks at the pool tables were doing Budweiser, and now a cute blond honey of a college girl was ordering screwdrivers and greyhounds for her and her friends.

And on and on it went.

(To be continued)

Read Full Post »

 

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

http://amzn.to/2ENL6a

 

Frank turned up the collar on his leather jacket and started east on Michigan Street, edgy at every approaching recessed doorway, every hidden pocket of shadow. After passing the darkened storefronts of a plumbing supply company, auto parts wholesaler and an out-of-business cafe, he turned left onto First Avenue East, pushed uphill to Superior Street and got caught in the light show.

Spotlight on you, Frank Ford: Where were you on the night of April 7th? Is it true you and your brother didn’t get along? Did you ever threaten your younger brother’s life?

Yeah, Jesus, there was that time Ray was out at the house on Tischer Road hassling Frank’s wife. Scared out of her ass, Joanie called Frank at work, said Ray was drunk and out of control, out in the garage “trying to find your stash,” and breaking shit. Frank left work and blew out there to find Joan trying to get in her car and Ray trying to pull the keys out of her hand. So of course he beat hell out of the little shit. Of course he threatened him. Prick was muscling his wife. But Frank didn’t kill him, just punched him a few times. Same kind of shit they’d done for years, kind of shit brothers do.

Now a scene from that day was playing inside Frank’s head, Ray blowing out the driveway sending up dust clouds while Frank stood there watching the ratty old Chevy swerve at him. Frank jumped out of the way but not before seeing the hatred and the totally gone madness on little brother’s face. And behind that, the lost momma’s boy, trying to show his big brother who was tougher.

Feeling the one block uphill push in his legs now, Frank looked to his left across Superior Street and got hit with searing white light from the Coney Island Cafe. Squinting against the glare, he saw two darkly dressed customers lumbering around inside the diner and a thin man dressed in white behind a counter at the back of the place, the man’s skin looking buttered. And Jesus, now rivers of grease were rushing down the front window glass and torrents of hot oil were pouring down off the letters of the blinking Coney Island sign.

Frank rubbed his eyes and blinked and moved his gaze along to the next building, the Norshor Theater. The lights on the theater’s semi-circular marquee were blinking in rotation like a giant pinball machine. Way he felt, maybe he could stretch up there and play a game. Below the marquee, behind the glass doors, the lobby was dark and seemed to go on forever. Tonight’s feature was Star Wars, a movie Frank had seen just a month ago, and his mind went temporarily into a colorful landscape of light sabers, star ships, Ewoks and talking robots.

He kept moving.

Looking ahead to a crowd gathered in front of the Red Lion Lounge, half a block farther along on his side of the street, shouts, angry snapping voices and racial epithets came rumbling his way inside a dark cloud. And then in an instant he was eleven years old again and it was that warm summer night when the big kid chased him up the hill from Nelson’s Pharmacy, Frank on his way home after taking a leisurely stroll for a lime phosphate at Nelson’s soda fountain. He could feel it now as if he was there again, the fear in his gut and the searing pain in his lungs and legs from sprinting four blocks straight uphill with the dark shadow in pursuit. Eventually, back then, Frank turned around to discover that the big kid had abandoned the chase, but the fear had lingered on.

Was lingering on.

Pushing back at the rising panic, he came to a stop and peered at the crowd. He could feel the angry vibes, the ugliness and the ignorance, the pig-headed drunkenness.  

Come on, Frank, pull it together, you’re thirty-six years old, man, eleven is long gone.

But still, discretion is the better part of valor, they say, and one doesn’t feel much like violence while riding the lysergic train—peace and love, remember….

Hearing the words in his head Frank felt rumblings in the deep recesses, maybe coming from hundreds of years back in his DNA memory. He was sure there was a warrior gene lying half-dormant somewhere in there, just waiting for the wake-up call.

Nevertheless

(To be continued)

Read Full Post »

 

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

http://amzn.to/2ENL6a

 

Frank wanted to ask a few more questions but now the walls of the room were wrinkling and bending, his facial muscles were going slack and Meagher’s normally square head was taking on the look of a braying jackass. And Oberst was beginning to resemble some kind of large white worm.

Frank chugged the rest of the Michelob and stood up. “Well,” he said, “I’m outta here. Everything’s locked upstairs. Take it easy, boys.”

“Take it any way I can get it, Franko,” Meagher said.

“Have a good one, Frank,” Oberst said, wriggling in the chair now like a potato sausage on a griddle.

Frank was zipping his jacket when Meagher’s lips and large teeth seemed to separate from his jaw and hang in the air like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Cheshire Cat-type shit. Turning away from the image, Frank gritted his teeth and left the office. Going by the stage he noticed a pile of records on the floor and a turntable set up with speakers and an amp, the tools of trade of Betty’s new DJ, and signs of changes coming to the Underground. Frank started to fixate on the colorful album covers and artful record label logos but shook it off and continued through the blue-and-red-hued lounge thinking he was in a comic book frame, Revenge of Plastic Man.

On his way outside, passing through the vestibule, he glanced up at the narrow rectangle of glass above the fire doors and saw more red and blue lights. He was also becoming aware of a throbbing, pulsing energy at the bottoms of his feet that seemed to be chugging jerkily upwards,

Frank pushed the release bar on the fire door expecting to walk outside to the familiar streetlight-bathed emptiness of Lake Avenue and Michigan Street at two a.m. Instead he stepped out to the damp and cool air and was hit with spinning reds and blues, darting white beams, glaring headlights and metallic voices buzzing and murmuring. He froze, fear and paranoia spiking his head. He almost put his hands in the air, almost said, Don’t shoot. Fighting against the panic he blinked and struggled to focus on the source of the commotion.

Across Michigan Street in the small dirt parking lot, the headlights of a police car were framing the steam rising off a red and white Pontiac sedan, ’67 or ’68. The Poncho’s front end was caved in to a deep, ragged, inverted V, and two blue-uniformed cops were moving around shooting flashlight beams at the wreck and its surroundings.

Frank inhaled deeply, controlling his breathing, and felt his heart beginning to slow its hammering as he realized that the only one interested in him was the bum that lived in the hidey-hole over there beneath Superior Street where the steam pipe was, the dude’s mole face, long unkempt beard and scraggly hair seemingly hovering above and behind the wrecked Pontiac and the surrounding commotion. Caught in the ambient light, the guy’s tea saucer eyes seemed to be staring right at Frank.

Frank felt the muscles in his body relax; tiny fingers releasing their grip up and down his legs and torso. He took another deep breath, stuck his hands in his jacket pocket, felt the joint Waverly gave him still safely out of sight, and recalled that, shit, his station wagon was still up the hill across from the apartment building he’d seen Judy-Bruton-soon-to-be-Judy-Pills go into.

Judy Pills, man. Must’ve been written in the universe.

(To be continued)

Read Full Post »

 

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

http://amzn.to/2ENL6a

 

After Waverly finished his beer Frank let him out the front door then stepped outside to watch Keith walk down the boardwalk to a rusty, mid-sixties Oldsmobile, the driver-side mirror dangling down to the middle of the door on thin wire cables. Already feeling the internal stirrings signaling the beginnings of his acid trip, Frank watched the big Olds disappear around the corner before going back inside the Metropole.

Wanting to get out of here before the LSD hit him full on, Frank quickly totaled up the cash register, checked it against the beginning balance and put the numbers on Betty’s daily income sheet. Next step was to put the night’s profits in a bank bag along with the form and bring it downstairs to Tom Meagher, manager of the Underground Lounge, the meat market on the lower level.

Frank got his jacket from the wall hook and went down the stairs. Going through the glass-paneled doors into the Underground, he noticed that the blue and red stage lights were still on and it was starting to look very weird in here. The bar was empty but yellow light was slipping under the door of the office in back. Frank went back there and found Meagher and Burt Oberst sitting on chrome-and-plastic chairs holding Michelob bottles, a small pile of white powder on top of the green metal desk. Meagher said, ”Hey, Frank, care for a toot? You look like you could use one.”

“No thanks, Tom, I’ll pass. One is too many and a thousand not enough with that shit.” Frank set the bank sack on the desk as far from the powder as possible. “Will have a beer, though,” he said, eyeing the torn-open twelve-pack of Michelob on the floor by the desk.

“Knock yourself out, man,” Meagher said. “Busy upstairs tonight?”

“Pretty much. ‘Nother pile of money for Betty’s retirement fund.”

“That old hag’ll never retire,” Oberst, the Underground’s other bartender, said. “She’ll keep working until she falls the fuck over, long as the place is turning a profit.”

“I don’t know about that,” Frank said. “She’s worried about these new dram-shop laws they’re talking about. They say they’re going to hold the bars responsible if one of their customers gets drunk and plows into someone on the way home. Betty claims the insurance rates are going to skyrocket and the DWI fines are gonna rise with ’em. She seems to think it’ll be the death knell for places like this.” Frank leaned over and plucked a Michelob from the pack on the floor, twisted the top, sailed the cap into the wastebasket next to the desk and had a swallow, feeling something strange happening in his neck now.

“Betty’s an old lady,” Meagher said. “Old ladies worry about shit all the time. Doesn’t mean it will come true. And if it does, it’s not like we’re losing the golden-egg-laying goose.”

Frank knew that was true but still had a thread of unease in his stomach thinking about changing jobs. Getting set in his ways. Not good. Too soon for that. “Nah, you’re right, Tom,” Frank said, “but not many bosses out there are as easy as Betty to get along with, either. Look at the shit she lets Sack get away with.”

Oberst said, “I hear that, man. Sack her goddamn nephew or what?”

“Nah, I don’t think so,” Frank said. “I don’t know why she puts up with him. Feels sorry for the bastard, I guess.”

“Wouldn’t let me get away with that shit,” Meagher said. “I’d be on the street in a heartbeat. Fuckin’ Sack must be on his fifth last chance by now.”

“No shit,” Frank said. “I had to come in tonight because of that asshole. On the day of my brother’s fuckin’ funeral.”

Meagher looked down at the floor. “Sorry about your brother, Frank. Ray had a hard time of it, man. It’s a sad deal.”

“Yeah, sorry, Frank,” Oberst said.

“Thanks, Tom, Burt,” Frank said. “You and my mother must think alike, Tom. She’s always saying, ‘Ray had a hard time of it.’ And it’s true, I’m not arguing that, but Ray brought most of it on himself. I don’t believe he killed himself though. You guys heard any rumblings?”

Meagher said, “Kevin Andrews told me Artie Autry and the Doughboy were with your brother at the Paul Bunyan on the day Ray was last seen. He said Autry and Ray were arguing but Ray left before anything physical started up. Also said the cops came to the Bunyan to ask him about it.”

“The Bunyan is one of the few downtown bars that would still let Ray in,” Frank said. “He was probably afraid to lose his privileges. Kevin, say anything about Ray’s physical condition? Bruised up or anything like that?”

“No, man, nothing,” Meagher said.

(To be continued)

Read Full Post »

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

http://amzn.to/2ENL6a

 

“My current employer just walked in,” Moran said, toweling a beer glass. “Richard Pillsbury. Take a good look. Guy wears a sport coat to the Metropole…. I told him to come down here and have some fun—loosen up a little—guess that’s the best he could do.”

“He does have jeans on,” Frank said.

“Bet they’re designer jeans,” Moran said.

“Mr. Pills,” Frank said.

“Some people call him that. You know him?”

“Seen him around, I think. Heard some things about him, too. How’d you score the gig, man, old friend of the family?”

“Seems that Judy recommended me. Strange, eh? ‘My fiancé tells me you’re a fine craftsman,’ the guy says to me on the phone. Then he hires me to remodel the entire first floor on this big old house out on London Road. Should last me all summer if I play it right.”

“You banging her?” Frank said, watching Judy and Mr. Pills working through the throng.

“Hell no. Judy and I had our little thing a few years back, man, right after she divorced your brother. Fuckin’ chick was nuts, man. Had a fierce craving for pharmaceuticals. But that shit fueled some monumental sex, Franko, I’ll tell you that. After it was over was the problem. Talk about your loons. She was unreachable, man, in her-own private Idaho. She seems changed now though. I see her out at the house and she seems mellower somehow. But I just see her coming and going, she never says anything to me. Looks at me sometimes like she’s thinking I should thank her for the gig or something. Maybe I should, but fuck that.”

“Marrying the heir to a pharmacy chain must be a dream come true for Judy,” Frank said. “Visions of wedding cake frosted with jellied Quaaludes dancing in her head. Mr. Pills, for Christ sake.” He eyed the couple; they were almost to the bar. “Here she comes, man. You wanna take ’em, Danny?” Frank said it soft, almost a whisper.

Danny gave Frank a sharp look and started to say something—Frank thought it was a No—but Frank was already on his way to the cash register. He popped open the drawer and stood there with his back to Moran, Frank listening and neatening up the stacks of bills. Bar was in a rush; sometimes they got all gnarled up in there. “Evening Mr. Pillsbury,” Frank heard Moran say. “Glad you took my advice to come down.”

“Greetings, Daniel,” Pillsbury said, “Quell surprise. Didn’t expect you on that side of the bar. Aren’t I paying you enough?” Pills had the self-conscious, overly controlled speech of someone who was drunk or on drugs.

“Just helping out a friend, Mr. Pillsbury. What can I get you?”

“Please, Daniel, call me Richard, And I’ll have a Beefeater martini. How about you, Judy?”

Judy said, “A mart sounds good, Ricky. You always know what I want.”

But does he know what you need, Frank was thinking as he turned to look at Moran. “Two Beefeater martinis, Danny?”

“Right on, Frank,” Danny said. “You remember Frank, don’t you Judy?”

Frank watched the blonde’s eyes swing in his direction. He looked for the spark of recognition but didn’t see it. “Oh sure,“ she said. “Longtime no see, Frank.”

“Hi, Judy,” Frank said, thinking her speech was a little slow but not drugged to the max like he’d expected. “How’s it going?”

She said, “Oh, fair to partly cloudy, thanks,” avoiding Frank’s gaze and snuggling in next to Mr. Pills.

Frank said, “I’ll get the marts, Danny, if you go down and help Jenny. Looks like she needs it.” There was a phalanx of faces looking beseechingly at Frank but he ignored them and set to making martinis, grabbing the Beefeater bottle and wondering if it was actually Beefeater’s or some cheap shit Betty had switched out.

For some reason he wasn’t quite sure of, Frank took great care in the preparation, getting the gin and the vermouth just right in the shaker, cracking the ice, shaking it—not stirring—straining it into the stemmed glasses and bringing them to Judy and Mr. Pills.

(To be continued)

Read Full Post »

 

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

http://amzn.to/2ENL6a

 

Damn bar was crowded, just like Frank had feared—why he no longer got scheduled for Friday nights. Thing about bartending, it was a pain in the ass if it was too busy and no good if it was too slow. What Frank wanted was a nice medium sized crowd of regulars whose drink preferences he was familiar with. Enough patrons to keep you busy but not so many you were chasing all night trying to catch up. Monday night during football season was good. Tuesday and Thursday nights were also good. Wednesday used to be good before Betty decided to have Quarter Taps on Hump Day, but now it was a goddamn zoo. Any day shift was fine with Frank, and he usually got to choose his shifts, one of the benefits given the bartender with the longest tenure.

Tenure. Shit, like this bar was a school and he was a teacher, Frank was thinking as he threaded his way through the crowd and the smoke. That was funny. Funny because ten years ago when he started working here he’d actually entertained ideas of doing good, putting his energies toward enlightening the unwashed masses dragging themselves up to the long oaken bar in an endless line. Yes, sir, Frank Ford would dispense his hipster wisdom and college knowledge for the uplift of all.

Jesus.

Just goes to show how youth, psychedelic drugs and a bit of a messiah complex can pull your shit off line. Christ, now Frank hated drunks. Was sick of looking at the impenetrable gazes, tired of hearing the same meaningless jabber. And that was the young ones. Your old drunks, your little old ladies, retired laborers, whatever—they never gave you much trouble—they were just sad. Lonely and sad. And it got to you once in a while, got you thinking about your own life, your future. Your old age. Your death. All kinds of troubling shit.

Frank nodded to familiar faces and glanced at Betty behind the bar, the squatty white-haired woman chewing her lower lip and looking half-crazy. Wondering how she’d stayed in this business so long, Frank watched her face relax when she saw him. She gave him a half-assed, tired smile and he smiled back at her, not feeling it, and walked behind the bar. He hung up his leather jacket on the wall hook next to the basement door, washed his hands in the bar sink, dug a clean towel out of a drawer, dried his hands and his rain dampened hair and put on his bartender’s face. The mask.

Betty thanked him again for coming in and then left without further ado. Who could blame her? Damn bar was full of young girls tonight and judging by the horde of dirty glasses crowding around the sink, they had ordered quite a few specialty cocktails, drinks Betty struggled with, usually getting behind—like now—with the washing of her limited supply of appropriate glassware.

Frank got busy at the sink. He greeted Jenny the waitress. Nice girl. Or woman. She was somewhere in between, another functioning alcoholic staying close to the source. Frank could tell she was already into the sauce but she usually held it together for the whole shift so he didn’t worry himself.

Took him about an hour to catch his groove and get a line on what people wanted. There was old Mrs. Eckman (Edna) down by the television set, shiny black patent leather purse on the bar in front of her next to a brandy Manhattan with a cherry. Frank always had the impression Edna was wearing white gloves even though her hands were bare. Down at the other end of the bar with a shot of Windsor and a snit was retired UMZ custodian Harold Lundquist. Joel Blackwell, mentally ill offspring of one of Zenith’s influential old families, was on a stool at the middle of the bar drinking Johnny Walker and arguing with invisible relatives. A group of bikers by the front door was taking turns checking IDs and drinking tap beer on Betty’s dime. College jocks at the pool tables were doing Budweiser, and now a cute blond honey of a college girl was ordering screwdrivers and greyhounds for her and her friends.

And on and on it went.

(To be continued)

Read Full Post »

 

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

http://amzn.to/2ENL6a

 

Her first stop was at a Holiday station on 26th Avenue East and London Road. Frank pulled into the adjacent lot and left the Pontiac running. As Judy gassed up the Buick, he gazed out at the big lake, whitecaps rolling across it as night began to take over the sky. After a few minutes Judy came out of the store carrying a paper bag, got in the Electra and left in a hurry. He followed her to a brick apartment building in the Central Hillside neighborhood. He parked half a block back of the Buick and watched the nurse walk briskly up to the glass-paneled entrance doors of the building, a big black purse over her shoulder and the paper bag from Holiday cradled in her arms. Shortly after she disappeared inside, Frank saw a light come on in a top floor window.

He decided to wait.

A half hour went by with no further activity seen. Now the afternoon’s booze was wearing off and he was getting depressed, maybe a little grief coming in against his will. And he knew Betty would be getting anxious so he cranked the ignition. Nothing. Waited and tried again. Not a goddamn sound. Dead.

The Metropole was only a few blocks away—all downhill—so he thought What the hell and set out on foot in the rain after slamming the door on the Pontiac so hard a strip of chrome fell off.

(End of Chapter 1)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: