Marc D. Goldfinger

Heroes And Villains by Lewis Shiner

Heroes And Villains by Lewis Shiner. Published by Subterranean Press, PO Box 190106, Burton, MI 48519, www.subterraneanpress.com / www.lewisshiner.com

“Heroes And Villains” is a wonderful book containing three short novels and a fable. Lewis Shiner is a master of creating alternate universes of many varied types. First, let’s talk about Lewis Shiner. He is a fabulous writer who deals excellently with different genres. He has been publishing his works through many different publishing houses. I’ve just read “Heroes And Villains” and my two favorite stories in the collection are “The Black Sun” and “The Next.” But “Doctor Helios” is also a pretty close third. The story called “Doglandia” was good, but didn’t live up to the expectations of the other three tales.

“The Black Sun” is about five stage magicians who are so threatened by Adolph Hitler in 1934 that they concoct a plan to destroy him. The story is filled with major twists and turns and had me totally engrossed. This is alternate history at its best and all the characters were well fleshed out. At times, I was frightened by the magnitude of the task they had set out to accomplish.

I don’t want to reveal much about the story, because I’m sure you will be on the edge of your seat as I was. We all know the damage that Adolph Hitler wreaked upon the world and Lewis Shiner does a masterful job of creating and describing the realities of all characters, both good and evil, in “The Black Sun.”

In “The Next”, Lewis Shiner creates a world where humanity is broken up into two species. One human type is just like us and the other is a deadly predator that lurks among us and takes the best of what we have. Tom Davis is a lawyer, middle-aged, with two teenage boys. He is a single dad. Tom is a lawyer but he’s one of the good guys. He gets handed a case that everyone says is open and shut; about a crazy biker who kills a young woman outside a bar. His firm gives him the case because they want the biker to go down for the crime. But there are so many extenuating circumstances that Tom gets really suspicious. Tom doesn’t like the biker, but he feels that the guy is really being set up for a fall. So he begins to investigate, which is exactly what he was not supposed to do. Things get really dark as the story goes on and I’m not one to give you spoilers. I want you to enjoy the tale and be as surprised as I was when you find out the true nature of the bad guys. By the way, the bad guys are not all men!

The story called “Doctor Helios” is about a secret agent whose job it is to take down a guy who has visions of world domination in Egypt in the year 1963. At first it’s a mystery as to who the guy really is, but you find out soon enough. The women involved with secret agent York are targeted by the mysterious Doctor Helios, who owns a majority of the oil fields and shipping companies that move his oil around the world. Things get rather tense as York and Helios square off against each other. It certainly appears that Helios is more than York can handle, but York attracts people who are on his side. I’ll leave the destructive details for you to discover.

“Doglandia” resembles an “Animal Farm” tale and was the shortest of the four stories in the book. It’s about a band of junkyard dogs and what they have to contend with when a big Rottweiler decides he’s going to run things like a military unit. And then there are the cats, who appear to be the smartest of them all. Actually, as I think about it, it really was a good tale and I’m not giving it enough credit. All the stories in the book “Heroes And Villains” are a great read. After you finish that book you might want to leap to his next book, written in 1993, called “Glimpses”, which brings you back to the hard rock era of Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, and the nostalgia of the late sixties and seventies. It’s one of his best books, in my opinion, but then I grew up in that era so I’m attached to it.

“Glimpses” is about a guy named Ray Shackleford, who makes a living fixing stereos in his workshop on the upper level of his home. Suddenly he begins to hear music by Jim Morrison and the Doors that these groups never made. But the music really sounds like theirs. Then he hears the Beatles album that they never finished. The music is in his head, and when he turns on his tapes, the music is recorded there. But that’s not all folks. I’m only thirty pages into the book and I’m hooked. His wife is a teacher and she thinks he’s going crazy. But the proof is on the tapes. Lewis Shiner is a miracle worker as an author. He has just finished a book called “Outside The Gates of Eden” and George R. R. Martin of “Game of Thrones” fame loves his work. Martin has this to say about the upcoming book which will be published by Subterranean Press: “‘Outside The Gates of Eden’ is a powerful piece of work.

Shiner writes about music, and the making of music, better than anyone I know. He gets across the tremendous excitement of the early days of rock n’ roll, the peace movement, Woodstock and the Summer of Love—but also the heartbreak of failure, betrayal, and loss. The prose is terrific, and the sense of time and place is first rate. This book is a brilliant requiem for our generation and our dreams.” I figured, on “Outside The Gates of Eden” I’d let George Martin take you there because I haven’t read it yet. But I’m totally looking forward to it. You can get all these books through the Subterranean Press or Amazon. “Heroes and Villains” is a great book and so far, so is “Glimpses.” I hope I have intrigued you enough to give Lewis Shiner a look over. I know you’ll find him to be a wonderful creator of visions.

Why I Still Go To Meetings: Two Pieces

She Haunts Me

She haunts me. When the hunger is in me, I think of her.
The other day I saw a man with the hunger in his eyes. I was standing
outside the Bank of America, selling the Spare Change News. Two men came
up quickly, one man Black, one man white. The white man went into the bank
while the Black man stood outside and paced. At times he muttered to himself.
I could not make out much of the words. He was in a hurry and on his way even
while he was waiting.

The white man reappeared with a sheaf of twenties in his hand and
counted two or three off into the Black man’s hand. The hunger was beaming
from his eyes as the money hit his hand. He clutched it tightly and ran across
the street. I watched him disappear into the subway. I knew where he was
going.

Those of us with the hunger recognize each other.
I see her almost every day. I can tell you where she hangs out, which bar
she frequents. She always catches my eye.

Does she know that I watch her? Maybe, maybe not. People hand her
money, she disappears into the subway. She comes back and goes to the
saloon where they wait.

The relapse is in me. It waits for me, whispering into the ear of my mind,
and it wants to catch me in a weak moment.

She? She is tall, skin color of mixed blood, wears jeans, sometimes a
dress, sometimes a kerchief on her head. Short hair. There are freckles on her
face and she is almost pretty.

I once saw her drop two packets into the hands of a friend.
There are many things that I forget. Names. I hear them, suddenly they
are gone. Appointment times. I must write them on the calendar otherwise they
disappear. I will forget to stop at the store to pick up juice. My memory is
flawed.

My addiction is genius. Never forgets. This woman has stayed in my
memory since the summer of 1995, when she dropped two packets into the
hand of a friend, yet we have never spoken. She stands out in the crowd. I
watch her move down the street.

Suddenly, when she appears, all thoughts disappear from my mind. Only
the hunger remains. Sweet pestilence that rages through the ghettoes of my
mind. Sometimes I get so hungry that my bones ache. I taste the heroin in the
back of my throat, my body memory slaps my recovery down the street.
She haunts me. When the hunger is in me, I think of her.

What Brings Me Back To Hell

She haunts the dusty eye of my
mind swirling down the streets of Central
Square dope in her empty pockets she
can bring me nothing arching her
back like a cat she is one of us has
never left my sight closer than
I want she will always be
everywhere the only running is the option
of suicide who can tell the future relapse
is too close to think of it like
a vise it encircles my being there
will be no coming back she
sits in the bar and waits for me to
come to her it will not be long
until I am gone.

Talk to me of shadows I will
show you who
I was the light
will not shine through me when
I touch her hand.

What brings me back to hell
is the memory of heaven all
the gods are liars.

The Dangerous Ones

I was one of the dangerous ones.
Believed in love, that flowers
in the barrel of a gun would stop the bullets.
Believed that Peyote would sit
me down with Mescalito, that acid
was the frontier beyond dark
airless space, would breathe me
a new consciousness, that opium
dreams would water the desert of my
aching, bring flowers to my soul, rest
me when the asteroid storms would cloud
the interstellar space of the mind. There
was a time when any pad was home, we sat and smoked
marijuana on the seats
of our souls, only violence
was turned away at every door, anyone
else was welcome.

I was one of the dangerous
ones, sharing hope, drugs, gonorrhea,
needles with one and all, hepatitis
was only one by-product of hope. Believed
in costume, poetry, dancing on
moon-light beaches, Olatunji’s
drums of passion, flowers
growing in the dark. I heard
them all.

I was one of the dangerous
ones, believed down to
the splinters of my shaking
heart that peace was catching, it
would leap from soul to soul; all
we had to do was join hands, pass
the pipe, the only shotgun
we used was mouth to mouth
intimate smoke. We danced
as the barbed wire went up
around us, we knew that rust was real.

I was one, a dangerous
one, stumbled, took the wrong
yellow brick road, wandered
into the poppy fields of Oz, fell
dangerous sleep, thought dreams
were doom, lost in the television
land of heroin, situation horrors, dropped
my danger in the land of nod. Had a
hard return, held in the hand
of miracles, came to believe
that a power, a hope fiend, the right
word in place is a flower
in the barrel of. How do I
change the world, I begin
with me, found my danger
in the pocket of myself. Whipped
it out, dropped it on you
like I was Sandoz Pharmaceuticals
or Owsley Blue.

I’m dangerous as hell, I believe we
can change the world, bloom you
dangerous too; all flowers in the
barrel of a gun.

The Mistake

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and each time expecting a different result.”Common saying in the recovery community.

When I woke up I didn’t know what time it was, what day it was or what city I was in. A police officer is knocking on the window of my car. I startled and realize that I am sitting in the middle of a town road at a traffic light. His rapping increases in fury and his mouth is moving, flecks of saliva spray out on the window of my car. Then I hear him yelling. It is like my senses are coming back to me one by one. I move my hand and start to unroll the window and he reaches in, yanks the door handle and pulls me out of the car. “But wait,” I shout and he kicks me to the ground and one of my teeth chips off on the asphalt beneath me. I can feel the blood running out of my lip as my hands are pinned behind my back and the cold metal cuffs click into place.

I know I am under arrest for something; the charges would unfold later. I wonder where the drugs are, if I have any left, or if I will get a chance to do any before they are found. As two other police cars whine to a stop the cop jerks me to my feet, pushes me against a police car and pats me down. The dark of the early morning beats against the sky. Only maniacs, beasts, thieves and drug addicts (who are composites of the previous three) are up at this time of day. And of course, police, whose job it is to protect people like you from people like me. One of the police takes my keys from the ignition while I watch and opens the trunk and that is when I remember where I was going. The expression on his face changes when he sees the body in the trunk. “But I can explain,” I scream and one of the officers turns to me and says, “I’ll bet you can,” and suddenly the facts seem bizarre even to me and Mickey was too stiff to tell the tale.

When Mickey’s heart exploded the stem of the crack pipe was still wedged between his lips. He hit the floor and never went so far or to no place at all. That’s what they told me. I came flying into the dope house hot to fix with the monkey screaming my name backwards and they were shoving Mickey into the refrigerator because they didn’t have a clue as to what to do with the body and the pipe was still going around and no one wanted to stop to figure it out because, let’s face it, priority one is, when the pipe is going around — whether your lips are on it or your eyes are on it and fuck anything else. The good side of this was that there was nothing in the fridge. The bad side of it was that the electric was shut off and the body wouldn’t keep for long. Anyway, I didn’t think those thoughts until later because my mind was on the primary, that is getting this dope into my vein where it belonged because this monkey had its hand on my balls. I spit some bile into the sink, filled a glass half full of water and went into the bathroom to fix. I would have fixed right in the kitchen but the on button for my asshole was on monkey-time and I yanked my pants down just in time.

That’s the only reason I wear jockey shorts, so I don’t have to throw away my trousers every day.

Anyway I fixed and then, I’m not sure how much time had passed, I heard some asshole asking me for my cotton shot. I looked into the watery eyes of Mike da Leech and didn’t want to put up with two hours of whining and pleading so I just pushed the cooker over to him. “Uh, can I use your works too?” he asked. I rolled my eyes and pushed the water glass with the blood-filled rig sitting in it over to him. I left the bathroom and went back to the kitchen where a discussion was in progress as to what to do with what once was Mickey who was not referred to as “the body in the fridge.”

That was when someone came up with the bright idea to let me take it because I was the only one there at the time with a car. “Hey, forget about it, the fucker was dead when I walked in.” I was adamant about not wanting to take on the burden and then I went into the living room to catch a nod.

Three days later, out of dope, with the monkey tickling my sphincter with a soddering iron, it seemed like a good idea to take the body because all the SSI checks had come in and everyone had chipped in to score me a brick of dope to take the body. They agreed that having a body in the refrigerator that didn’t work in a dope house was a bad idea. The only thing I wanted to do was fix a right proper amount before I took the body and I might have taken a little too much to stay awake behind the wheel and that’s why I nodded off at the traffic light at 4 in the morning. Which brings me back to this spot, cuffed and stuffed into the back of a Judas car and charged with possession of heroin, hypodermics, and the body of what was once a crackhead named Mickey.

First let me tell you the good news. The police were so excited about the body that they didn’t find the heroin that was in the seam of my shirt and when they put me in the holding cell I snorted three bags before they came running in. The bad news was I forgot about the goddamn suicide cameras that they installed in all the holding cells and they had me as the star of my own Saturday Night Live tv show.

I don’t regret snorting the bags. My mistake was that I should have waited until they moved me out into population. Maybe my mistake was doing so much before I left the dope house. Maybe I shouldn’t have decided to take the body after all. But hey, I was dopesick. Fifty bags for moving a body from one place to another isn’t bad payment. What the fuck, wouldn’t you have done it too?

After all was said and done I took two, 2 and 1/2 year bids, to run on and after, which means consecutively instead of concurrently, but I made parole after doing just three years. I learned a lot from my mistakes and my whole attitude has changed. I’m going to get a straight job. No more hustling, maybe find a good woman and settle down. I’m never going to go back to jail again. I’ll get started on my new life right away. But first I’m going to go out and cop just one good high. After doing three years on chump charges, I owe it to myself, don’t I? I’m just going to do it differently this time. You’ll see.

Her Other Son


The little beads of sweat were always on Paulie’s forehead by the time he called his mother. She always gave up the money. “Mama, I’m sick.” “I can’t help you this time.” “If you can’t help me, I’ll kill myself. It’s the only thing left.” A pause. I would watch Paulie. He wouldn’t look at me. No knowing wink. Nothing. Then I would see his head pick up. “Thanks ma. I love you. This will be the last time. Honest.” I had to hand it to Paulie. He always sounded sincere when he said that. Every time. We would hop in my truck and fly over to the house. Claire would hand us a check and a bag with two or three sandwiches in it. “You boys always look so skinny,” she would say. “You should eat more.” Then she would look at me. Pat my arm. “Take care of Paulie. You know Dean, when he’s with you I always feel like he’s okay. You are like a son to me. If Paulie had a brother, I know he would have been like you.”

I really did love Claire. I just want to make that clear. She still writes to me on a regular basis. And thank God for that. Hardly anyone else does. She came to visit me not long ago. I know she’d come more often but there would be trouble if her family found out. I guess it’s hard for them to understand. They knew Paulie at the bank. It was kind of a regular thing. No I.D. necessary. Once one of the bank people called Claire up. She must have given them hell. After all, Paulie was her son. One time Paulie was too sick to even go to the bank. Claire made out the check to me and gave me a note explaining that I could always cash her checks. She treated me just like I was Paulie’s brother. Naturally I didn’t abuse the privilege I picked up the cash and headed right into the Great Brook Valley Projects for the dope. The dealers all knew me. So did the cops. I took care of business and headed back home. If no one else was home Claire would let Paulie and me take off there.

Paulie started getting sicker and sicker. He was always depressed, even after getting high. It was like the dope had stopped working for him but he only did it because that was all he knew. He didn’t even like to hustle with me anymore after we got high. I started doing scams with Jackie while Paulie kicked back at the apartment. Jackie was a guy in his mid-twenties who worked as a plumber when he wasn’t out hustling with me. He had built up a good business but it was all going down the tubes because he spent more time running to feed his habit. This was one monkey that never had enough to eat. Jackie looked straight. In the projects people were always mistaking him for a cop. He’d usually send me in to score because of the hassle he had. It was always risky going in but it was worth it because if I could get a deal it meant a few extra bags. It’s split the extra dope with Paulie.

Paulie’s morning call to Claire got to be routine. It was the jump start so Jackie and I could go out and get paid. Jackie would never come with me to meet with Claire. She would want us to stay and talk sometimes. Paulie would start to cry. Clair hugged him and gave him the check. “Dean, take care of him. Make sure he doesn’t get in trouble,” she would say. “I sure will, ma. Don’t worry.” She liked it when I called her ‘ma.’ She’d give me a hug and slip me a ten spot.

“Just in case,” she would say. I had a bad feeling when Claire first mentioned Al-Anon. She went to her first meeting one day right after she gave us some money. Jackie picked up a little street heater and brought it home. It was a twoshot snub-nose .38. He and I went out to a dope house on Charlton Street and posed as undercover. We picked up seven bricks of heroin. Paulie didn’t have to call Claire for a little while. The time blurred past. I came up sick one morning and there were burns all over the place from dropping cigarettes when I nodded out. I had one burn on my fingers that looked like it went down to the bone. Paulie was dry-heaving in the bathroom. Jackie must have saved a wake up shot because he didn’t look as bad as us. The pistol was on the table by the telephone.

The telephone. Paulie got on the telephone with Claire. “Mama. You gotta help me. I’m sick. Gotta come over for a check.” There was silence for a few moments. “What? Mama, I can’t believe you’re telling me that.” It was like the tears rushed to his eyes and spilled down his cheeks so hard that I thought they were going to cut furrows in his face. “No, no, mama. I’m too sick. I’ll kill myself if you don’t help me. I swear I will.”

Same old play. I started putting my old sneakers on. I knew we would be heading to get the check any minute. I heard Paulie whining into the phone. “I don’t care what they told you at the meeting mama. I have a gun in my hand and if you don’t say you’ll help med, I’ll do myself. I swear I will.” At that I looked up. I don’t know what she said next. All I know is that he lifted the gun to his head. The noise shook the house and there was blood and brains all over the room. The day before the funeral I called Claire early. Told her I was sick. She said for me to come right over. It was a closed casket funeral. Claire was crying all morning. I hugged her. She slipped a fifty into my hand and told me to take care of myself. “Thanks ma,” I said. She looked at me through the tears. She looked right into my eyes.. “Anytime son,” was what she said.

Almost two years have passed since then. Between Jackie and I, Claire gave us fifty large. Emptied one of her accounts. Had her bouncing checks too. She would do anything just to keep me from following Paulie. After all, I was the only son she had left. Jackie and I went to jail for extortion after her remaining family pressed charges. Claire was hospitalized a couple of times. Jackie got out of prison after a year. He always like to bang up two bags. Never tested the dope first with a small shot. Never. He died of an overdose his first day out of prison. Claire is sneaking in to see me today. I hope they don’t stop her. Maybe she’ll leave some money on my books. I’m getting out soon.

A Trip To The Pharmacy

“Look down, LOOK DOWN along that junk road before you travel there and get in with the Wrong Mob” — A word to the wise guys — William S. Burroughs

Heather took the gun from her pocketbook, pumped one bullet into the chamber, spun the cylinder and placed the gun to her temple. She pulled the trigger. There was a hollow click and her laughter filled the air. As usual I watched her with a mixture of amazement and fear. How the hell can she do it? It was like she tempted fate with every turn of the screw. She filled the gun with bullets and tucked it into her jeans and the dangling blouse concealed the weapon. I parked the car around the corner from the pharmacy. It was early evening and the small country town was quiet. The mom and pop pharmacy, almost legendary in its rarity, beckoned to us with hidden promise. The neon sign flashed the word “drugs” over and over. Heather pointed to the sign and chuckled with soft sensuous laughter. We entered the store. The old woman was near the cash register and the bespectacled, gray haired gent was behind the prescription counter. Heather strutted up to the register and, with one swift practiced movement, put the gun in the elderly woman’s face.

“If you want to live, you’d better give,” Heather said and looked at the old man in the back. “We just want the dope. You can keep your money and your worthless lives.” Heather held the gun to the bridge of the old woman’s glasses. The old lady’s eyes were bugging out of her head. The pharmacist stared at the gun and pleaded with us not to shoot his wife. His wife didn’t say a word. She couldn’t take her eyes off the gun. I moved quickly behind the counter and handed the pharmacist a pillow case. I told him to fill it with just narcotics. I just wanted him to do it so we could all go home alive. As he opened the narcotics cabinet and began filling the case I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. The old lady was moving. I heard the shot and she slammed back against the cough syrup counter. Blood covered the old woman’s face and she fell to the floor. The gun in Heather’s hand looked like it was smoking. My mind went wild. The pharmacist was staring in shock and disbelief.

I leaped toward the old man before he could react and pushed him down. I grabbed the pillow case from his hands and swept the contents of the narcotics cabinet into the bag. The pharmacist struggled to rise. Heather ran towards us and all I could see was the gun in her hand. I yelled for her not to shoot but the sound of gunfire echoed in my ears again. The old man jerked backwards and crumpled up like an old rag doll. A wave of paralysis washed over me. The drug bag dangled from my hand. My eyes were glued to the wreckage around me and I couldn’t believe what my vision was telling me. I stood immobilized until someone grabbed my arm. Heather pulled me to the door.

We jumped into the car. My hands were shaking as I fumbled the keys into the ignition. The engine roared into life and we raced down the street. I looked at Heather and she looked back at me. I asked her to fix me because my nerves were blown into the cosmos. She started laughing and pulled the morphine shakers from the bag. She popped the plungers out of two syringes and dropped three tabs into one, two tabs into another, and drew water into both syringes from our drinking jug. She whipped a belt around her arm. Her veins rose like rivers during flood season. She plunged the spike into her arm, drew back the plunger; blood register, she slammed it home. Her eyelids looked heavy and she smiled as she cleaned the blood out of the hype. She lit a smoke and handed me the belt. I tied off and she tapped the point into my vein. I kept one hand on the wheel. My heart was pounding as red blood ballooned into the barrel. She slipped the plunger and loosened the belt with one quick motion. I felt myself moving away from the world and my vision became blurry. I heard a horn blow. There was a screech of brakes but no impact. Heather was shouting at me and I forced myself to a state of partial attention.

Heather reached over and placed a lighted cigarette between my lips. She smiled at me. Her face was glowing. The excitement of the past events had brought us to a state of arousal and she made a soft, growling sound in my ear. I looked at her and her pinned eyes were gleaming. She fondled the gun; she spun the cylinder. She was so beautiful. She placed the barrel to her temple. She pulled the trigger and the roar of the gun filled the car.

On The Boulevard: The Dumpster

It was 3:30 in the morning. Simone and Dum-Dum sat at the entrance to the alley-way watching the late night traffic on the boulevard. Dum-Dum reached into his trousers and took out his stash bottle of Maddog 20-20, uncapped it and took a long pull on the jug. Rivulets of red ran down his whiskered chin. Simone tapped him on the shoulder and motioned toward the bottle. Dum-Dum thought about the long, dreary night ahead without liquid warmth and shook his head. He took another hit off the jug. Simone stared into the street, looked back into the alley and saw the dumpster. He fingered the blade in his pocket. With what passed for a thought to a ravaged wino, Simone withdrew the shank from his pocket, unsheathed it, and in what seemed to be one fluid movement, grabbed the jug of wine from Dum-Dum and plunged the blade into the old man’s chest. He steadied the bottle and stabbed Dum-Dum again, again and again.

The passion slipped away. There was a death rattle that issued forth from DumDum’s throat. Simone leaned back and took a long pull from what was now his bottle, wiped the blade on the other wino’s shirt and put it away. He rifled the dead man’s pockets for cash and smokes. Half a pack of cigarettes and two buck. Great night. He sucked on the bottle again.

He carefully placed the jug by the wall, grabbed the body by the feet and dragged it towards the dumpster. At the dumpster he paused. He examined DumDum’s shoes with care and pulled them off. Checked to see if they fit. Too damn small. Disgustedly, he tossed them into the dumpster. Hefted the frail body, and there was a thump and the rustling of garbage as the body disappeared into it’s metal grave in the dark alley.

Simone grabbed the jug and took one last pull, draining the spider. He looked at the bottle reverently and, like the symbolic handful of dirt thrown into a new grave, he tossed the empty jug into the metal tomb. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Simone casually meandered down the boulevard. Sweet wine dreams drifted through his head. He disappeared into the early morning dark. The sun was just tipping over the horizon as Jake and Anna wheeled their shopping cart down the boulevard, both of them keeping a keen eye out for deposit bottles. They arrived at the entrance to the alley and saw the dumpster in the light of the dawn.

Jake signalled to Anna, winked and made his way down the alley to the dumpster and peered in. He saw it. A case of empty beer cans. Couldn’t quite reach it so he climbed into the dumpster. His foot struck something soft as he reached down for the cans. Something was in his way. He rolled it aside. Dum-Dum’s blank eyes stared up at him. Jake paused for a minute. Looked down the alley to check on Anna and then rifled the pockets of the dead man. Shit, empty. He reached for the cans, rolled the body out of the way. Using Dum-Dum’s face as a stepping stone, he climbed out of the dumpster. He hefted the case of cans and smiled as he walked toward Anna. They had enough deposit cans for a jug of wine. It was going to be a great day.

On The Boulevard: Angels In The Snow

“We save things when it is perhaps ourselves we mean to save from extinction, from time; we hold on to what we have lived, hoping to stall the hangman.”Dan Woods.

The frigid wind whipped Bobby’s face as he pushed open the door of the package store. Sleet beat a staccato rhythm on his skin and he clutched the bottle tightly against his body. His worn winter coat was no defense against the biting cold. The temperature had plummeted into the sub-zero zone as the day wore on. The sky darkened and the city became a neon freezer. Bobby ducked into a nearby alley and took a long pull from his jug. He walked down the boulevard as the storm came in, the powdery snow blanketing the city with a vengeance. As Bobby trekked the boulevard, he saw Anna moving slowly toward him, laboriously pushing her heavy shopping cart through the freshly fallen snow. He greeted her with a nod and a toothless grin. She stared blankly ahead and moved her lips soundlessly.

A few days past, or was it weeks now? It was hard for Anna to remember. She had been roused from her chemical stupor by the feeling of weight and wetness. Her long time lover and partner, Jake, was lying across her body, the odor of stale urine had been overpowering. She rolled him off of her. His face was frozen into a horrifying grimace. Jake was dead.

The screaming had started in her head. Anna remembered being taken away in the haze. The screaming would not stop. They stuck her with needles, strapped down in a windowless room, her tongue swollen from Haldol. She choked. They gave her Cogentin to alleviate the muscle-stiffening side effects of the powerful tranquilizer. Her screaming had shaken the psych ward. One day her vocal cords simply wore out. She could no longer scream out loud. Thinking Anna had finally come to grips, they gave her a bottle of pills and sent her home to the streets.

Anna walked past Bobby. He was like a ghost in the night. Something wet and cold peppered her face. Her lips moved bu no sound came out. The screaming still echoed in the stripped corners of her mind. She found herself hoping Jake would come back soon. Bobby walked past and shook his head. The snow was getting deeper, soft powdery fluff. He remembered when he was a child. This was his favorite kind of snow. He used to lie down and make angels in the snow. Bobby moved down the boulevard, occasionally taking a tug from the bottle. He felt so overwhelmingly lonely. He could no longer feel his feet; he seemed to be walking on wooden blocks. He rubbed his face and stared at his reflection in a darkened store window. There were white blotches all over his cheeks. He shivered violently and almost dropped the bottle. His fingers were numb.

He moved into the alley to get out of the biting wind. The thought of a shelter briefly crossed his mind, but he cast it out of his mind immediately. They wouldn’t let him finish his bottle there. He felt so tired. He sat down in the snow that covered the floor of the dark alleyu, held the jug between his palms, and drank deeply of the liquid relief. His fingers no longer ached from the cold. In fact, he could no longer feel them. The wind howled, the snow fell and the temperature continued to drop. The snow piled up around Bobby and he began to feel a new warmth. He remembered when he was a child. This was great stuff, this kind of snow. Bobby used to make angels in the snow. He stretched out, extending and moving his arms and legs in his head. The bottle vanished in the snow. He felt so wonderfully warm. He dreamed he was making angels in the snow, and like the snow, he drifted. He lay still and the snow covered his face. Bobby was an angel in the snow.

 

On The Boulevard: Just A Working Girl

“Their eyes stay open. Nothing can carry them into the sleep they want. Over and over I prepare the potion to take the sisters into the other world. They can’t get enough of obllivion.”from the poem Snow White published in the book “Resurrection” by Nicole Cooley, 1996

Dawn felt for the door handle. She could feel the john staring at her. There was no way she was going to meet his pig eyes with hers. The money was in her pouch. She opened the car door and stepped out onto the boulevard. She heard the car pulling away and spit twice in rapid succession but the foul taste lingered in her mouth. The boulevard was quiet. The sun was just peeking over the horizon. It was just past 5:30 in the AM. Dawn was having trouble getting rid of the feelings, the heroin just wasn’t working like it once did. Maybe she should up her dose. No, no, not again. It was hard to keep up her nine bag a day habit as it was. If she increased it, then it would mean one more date a night. She was having trouble dealing with those creepy, night-crawling johns now. The last thing she wanted to do was to add one more to her agenda. She felt tears coming to her eye corners, rubbed them away. She wished it was as easy to wipe away the hollow ache in her chest.

Dawn saw the newspaper truck pull up and dump its load in front of the smut and tobacco shop. She passed the pile of papers and looked at the front page. It was the 7th of August. The old feelings came like a mighty flood. For one thing, it was the anniversary of her grandmother’s death. She headed toward the old stone church and twisted the Rosary that hung on her wrist.

As Dawn entered the church, she smelled the incense. It brought her back to when she was younger. She remembered attending Mass with her grandmother. She would sit and watch the pomp and ceremony in quiet fascination. Those were happier days. It seemed that, all of a sudden, her grandmother began to experience rapid weight loss. One day she had been rushed to the hospital. She had never come out. Dawn’s life had changed from that day on. She was placed in foster home after foster home. She remembered the strange smelling stepfather coming in and touching her private places in the middle of the night. Then there was the running from place to place, bus station to train station. No matter how fast and far she went, there was no way to get away from the feelings that felt like they were stabbing her heart. Then she came to the big city. There was the man who whispered; the heroin, the heroin, and the feelings retreated into the dark night of
her dying soul.

Dawn was sitting in the rear pew. She heard a noise and looked up. A priest was walking towards her. She sat still and watched him approach for a moment. She wanted to stay, to talk to him, she felt the tears coming. Then the panic slammed into her like a locomotive. The priest was a man. If he pulled down his zipper he would be like all the others. She was crying, she was running, she was flying through the door of the church. Dawn ran down the street. Her high heels twisted her ankles as she ran. She was dope-sick. Her feelings rose from the burial ground. Tears blurred her vision. She was gutwrenched with the agony of her long submerged awareness. She didn’t see Anna pushing her shopping cart, mumbling to herself. She didn’t see the garbage on the boulevard. An alley cat jumped quickly out of her way as she ran.

She wasn’t running fast enough, her feelings were keeping the pace. They passed her. They overwhelmed her. She saw the alley. She rounded the corner and entered it, ran past the dumpster, and she was hidden by the dumpster from the street. Dawn sobbed those deep cries wrenched from the depth of her gut. She fell to her knees next to the dumpster and clutched the rosary tightly. She was praying to a God that she did not understand. She prayed for the soul that was dying daily within her. She was crying into the sad empty morning. A fix, she needed a fix. She knew it was the only birthday present she was going to get.

Her body was wracked with convulsive crying as she remembered that her grandmother had died on her birthday. Yes, it was her birthday today, a celebration of sorrow. After all, she was just a working girl, only time for a fix and a prayer between the johns and the tears. How fitting a present for a working girl on her fifteenth birthday. Dawn kneeled in the shade of the dumpster in the alley. Nearby, a tattered alley cat cleaned it’s paws with a rough tongue.