D. Austin Nash - Stories like John Fante

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54 Stories by D. Austin Nash

v1. 12/11/99

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Assholes in The Sky

The phone rang and Cruthers put down his plastic pinball game and answered.

"Cruthers? This is Mr. Doublina."
"Good morning Sir."
"Come in here now. I would like to speak with you."

Cruthers dragged his feet through the office, stepping on the heels of his worn through brown corduroy pants. He stopped and looked out the window from the 38th floor of the building over the commercial district of Boston, and watched the fog roll in from the sea as a helicopter flew by below. Probably doing the traffic and weather report, he thought. Every 10 minutes. He entered Mr. Doublina's office.

"Sit down Cruthers." Mr. Doublina said extinguishing a large cigar. Doublina shuffled a few papers like he was doing something important. He pulled out a Technicolor underground rock magazine and threw it in front of Cruthers and it fell open to page 18. "Cruthers," he said taking a deep breath, "How long ago was it that I hired you on as a label agent?" He asked.

"About ten years...don't remember exactly Sir." Cruthers replied.
"Have you seen this?" He said tapping a finger on the magazine.
"Yes I have.""And what do you have to say for yourself?"
"I don't understand Sir."

"Come on now...I have reliable sources that tell me you wrote this."

Cruthers leaned over and studied the rag closely. A fiction column entitled 'Assholes in the sky'.

"Cruthers...don't you know that it's customary to at least change the names of the innocent, especially when you put your own boss and co-workers in it?" Doublina asked.
"There are no innocent Sir."
"This makes me look really bad, Cruthers. I could sue for this. I can't say I'm pleased about this. Not at all. I can't have this kind of publicity. Haven't I taken care of you Cruthers? Look at you. Slovenly, drunk most of the time, no other ambitions in life except for this one I thought you had for the music business. I have to say that I'm very disappointed in you Cruthers."

"Sorry Sir. But I do have an ambition to be a writer Sir." Cruthers said quietly.
"SORRY? You're sorry. Oh I see. Writers are a worse lot than any hair farmer in a band. And don't you play straight forward with me. You know how I hate that. Let me ask you something. What are the names of the last three acts you signed to Sodomy Records." Doublina asked accusingly.
"You know the answer to that sir." Cruthers said leaning back into the chair.
"I want you to tell me though."
"O.k. They were BonorFarm, Gravel Ax, and Dog Fart."

Doublina re-lit the cigar and had a few contemplatory puffs, making a small cloud in the office. Cruthers drifted back to when he and the other kids used to stand around in a circle at the bus stop in the cold and all breath heavily and make a cloud.

"Those are punk bands, Cruthers. Straight and simple punk bands. You know how I hate straight and simple."
"Yes Sir...I do."
"You know what we say about the market for punk around here?"
"Yes Sir. Give them a piece of bubble gum and tell them they're chewing on punk."
"Right." Said Doublina puffing on the cigar. "Cruthers? When was the last time you had a good piece of ass?"
"Sir?" "WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HAD A GOOD PIECE OF ASS!?" he said standing and slamming both palms down on the green stained oak desk.

"Sir, the worst piece of ass I ever had was good!" Cruthers said a bit startled.
"Yes, I know, but the last time?" Doublina said sitting back down slowly.
"That would have been the summer of '90."
"But you have a girlfriend! I checked up on you!" Doublina said bolting upright and pointing a finger. "I like to know about my employees personal lives." He said resettling in the chair. "It helps me feel better about mine." He ashed the cigar and took a deep breath.
"She's been missing for two months sir. She wouldn't fuck me. Said I was too ugly. And she hated me anyway."
"What did you do to her?"
"I hated her back."
"Are you worried? Do you know where she is? Do you know what happened to her? Don't you care?" Doublina stammered.

"No Sir. She'll be all right. She was a whore when I met her. She'll make her way. That's what she gets for wandering the streets with wearing burlap and carrying a sign in her hand that says 'Will Blow For Tickets To See The Gerry Band'.
"No shit!?"
"I shit you not Sir."
"But he's dead?"
"She's a nut."
"Apparently. So Cruthers...what do you do to keep yourself sane, I mean with no sex and all. Even I get it, being the bastard that I am. You see Emily out there in the lobby?" Doublina said pointing. His head bobbed up and down like it did when he got excited. Emily sat with beautiful posture.
"Yes Sir."
"I can have her any time I want. Even here at work."
"Well Sir...not to discredit, but I heard you can't keep her dress down with a cinder block anchor."
"You're right about that. She's seen more suckers than Mrs. Brachs." Doublina paused. "But that's not the point here."
"No Sir." Was Cruther's reply.

Doublina spun his chair around to look out the window. He breathed cigar smoke like an awakening dragon under a mountain. His head began to bob up and down again. He adjusted his tie, toyed with his answer all eight ball, and then threw it across the room. He turned with both arms extended out as if in question and Cruthers said:

"If you must know Sir, I used to frequent the porno block in China Town Sir. The Pilgrim Theater, Naked Eye, small peep show shops."
"They're tearing that down to put in a parking lot you know Cruthers."
"Yes Sir, I know. Another fine example of a few right winged ignorants making decisions for everybody based on their own preferences Sir. They'll take it all away and give nothing in return if they can Sir."
"You're disappointed then, I assume."
"I don't remember voting Sir. They were my favorite places for a while. Love you like a virgin Sir." Cruthers said in finality. "I started drawing dirty pictures for punk rock rags six months ago. Some of them are in The Sodomy Pit paper."
"Page 19 Sir."

Cruthers pulled a magazine from his drawer and rattled through it. The cover said 'Hot Fashion Tips From Eddie Vedder and Jay Lenno'.

"Cruthers! This looks a lot like my wife!"
"The other looks a lot like Emily too, doesn't it?" Cruthers said without expression. "I've never made it through a drawing without feeling a compulsive urge for pulling the ears off my mouse."
"I ought to kick your ass Cruthers!" Doublina said fuming. His face turned red and his head began to bob up and down again. He paced rapidly back and forth behind the desk, ugly against the sky. Cruthers made ready to jump for the door and said:
"It's over Sir. Don't worry. I finally did it."

"DID WHAT!" Doublina said half climbing over the desk.
"I cut them off."
"Cut them off?! Cut what off?! Your balls?!"
"Yes Sir. My balls. It became too much. I am no longer capable of bending to the will and playing the game Sir. I have made my escape. I made a marble sack out of it and gave it to somebody I owed them to. Of course I had to go to New Hampshire to get it done. Got a tattoo while I was there. Two small children watching a bum and a whore screw in the grass on the Esplinade. (Scott, Kerry, how the hell do you spell Esplinade?) Want to see it?"
"No Cruthers. I trust you on that." Doublina said sitting back down, lowering himself down into the chair with both hands on the arm rests. He was shaking a little. "The problem is that I can't trust you with anything else. You're finished here Cruthers."
"I understand Sir."
"Do you? You know what failing me means, don't you?"
"Sitting in the room with the skeletons watching Lawrence Welk reruns reading the latest Dean Koontz novels and eating nothing but Pizza Rolls and drinking Bonus Mocha Cappuccino Grande coffees with a least favorite ex-girlfriend for two weeks?"
"Yes. I found her you know."
"I'm not surprised Sir. You always do."
"I gave her tickets to see Terry Farmer and The Bead Band." Doublina said in passing. "There is, however, the alternative, Cruthers."
"Yes Sir. I know. The corporate Punk Plank. I'll take the death Sir."
"As you see it Cruthers. From the 38th floor out the window." Doublina said sternly pointing a finger and setting the terms. "From a sitting position on toilet number three."

"My favorite Sir."
"Nobody's ever survived the Punk Plank."
"I hope not to Sir."
"Any last requests Cruthers?"
"Yes Sir. May I take that magazine with me?" Cruthers said nodding to the crumpled zine in Doublina's pale fist.
"No...I'm going to look at it." Doublina said in a more calming tone.
"Right Sir. I'm ready then."

Doublina called in the office security and they took Cruthers away to his glorious death. Doublina got on the speaker phone. "Emily!"

"Yes Mr. Doublina?" The sweetest voice in Boston answered.
"Bring me back issues of The Sodomy Pit from the last six months."
"Right away Mr. Doublina." She answered.

Doublina looked over the top of the city from the empire he had created. The pigeons had shit all over everything but the sun was shining. He leaned forward, elbows on knees, and stared at the magazine in his hand while dragging the cigar to its death. He opened The Sodomy Pit wide to page 19. Outside one pigeon strutted and preened in front of another for a mere thirty seconds before hopping on top, and it was only March.

The stinkiest dumpster in town

Ironic isn't it, that I should use a bottle of red to celebrate St. Patrick's day.
Well, green wine probably isn't too good.
The forty million Irish Americans, are out in force tonight,
have been since around 5:30 pm.
Singing about leprechauns and green beer, and lucky charms, isn't
lucky an Irish word? Fuk, I dunno either.

What if I decided to write a stinker about it. The immortal stinker.
That's easy enough to do.
To talk of the pretty girls turned loose in tight green sweaters,
of the things on their minds, probably sex or fear of it.
I'm with the fear part, and with all of the stinker toys that exist.

Stinker o' stinker, how do thee fare on the ground in china's darkest
ally. The
stinkiest dumpster in town.

It's Easier This Way

Usually when I can't write, It's because I'm thinking too hard and my fingers can't keep up with my brain. Or I drank too much or not enough. My bus makes too many stops. At these times I play with the she-feline and get drunker and think of the women I once knew. Each of them took a piece of me with her when she left and sometimes I love them to have it.

One threw it down a sewer and stood and looked at it before turning away, and another got married with it, and used it to stay that way. One keeps it in a small heart shaped box of soapstone and lavender, but she never looks at it. A last harbors it between her legs in tender reservoirs of hate to keep it warm. Bless her crooked soul. But for every girl who took a piece of me, she left one too.

One I threw down a sewer and never saw it drop. One I let go to the desert in Arizona, and she touches it to her sympathetic breast and whispers, "You don't want to be married." Another I keep in the bathroom on a small shelf of brine to keep me company when I'm alone. But one I keep in a small box made of straw by my bed, and I never look at it.

Every so often, I kneel in fallen blossoms on warm earth and I sing it a sad song, quietly in the dark where it doesn't hurt so much. And even though she is fifteen thousand miles away, I can feel her small hand, and I know she feels me. I can see her there, staring at that small luminescent heart shaped box, in the dark. It's easier this way.

Carolyn, if you can hear me, I'm sorry I only told you I loved you once.

This is my eradication fucker

Standing at the top of the steps to the T-rail in Kendall square. The cold January Boston wind at my back, the wet, sandy steps leading down to warmth before me. They yawn and invite with the curling tongue of the sweetest Orangutan. I can feel the warm air on my face and down the front of my shirt. One hand in my pants, the other in my pocket. They can't trick me. I know why it's warm down there. You can't see the flames till you're down around the corner. It's really a gateway to hell down there.

"I'm onto YOU, you bastard. Just can't wait till I die, can you? Death would be fair enough. I don't need to die rich, famous, or even happy. Just give it to me cold.

It's been a few minutes now and the bum with the Spare Change newspaper for sale has stopped harassing people as they pass by with no clue, and he thinks I'm strange. I head down the steps and take a deep breath. I cough from the smoke and have to pull the hand out of my pocket to cover my mouth. Mom.

On the deck I wander among the faceless condemned. Condemned to the grind and the ever worsening train ride home. This is the red line. It figures. People moan and slouch, there is absolutely nothing comfortable. A man drops his newspaper, hands shaking. A young girl screams and slaps her hand to her mouth. Nobody does, or can ask why. Everybody is limited to his or her own demons and to share them is more than

unwelcome. There are no saints here. They double and puke and won't make this call. Fidget, turn, the first woman graduated MIT in 18??, and went on to teach there for 37 years. A tough whore she was.

When the train finally came and those who will pushed to be first in line did, I finally did puke. Down the side of one of the new digital signboard trains that are quiet enough to get hit by and never know it. There's an idea. Pushing to be first into the most silent region of hell.

We are all waiting, but not exactly in line.

Falling Together

The city at night is like a woman being raped loudly by everyone in it, and there is nothing wrong in specific to make it a crime. The people each contribute their own piece of madness and make a mockery of the sum total of their hate. The cardboard box entombed by brick hardness and the marble palace lined with brass railings, breed wellness and ill in equal extremes. One no better than the other. We all have the same fears and desires in different forms melting into the instinct of a mangy dog pissing against a monument.

I can hear the small pockets of air escaping from the ice cubes in my glass of bourbon, the universe expanding to hope and a future. The glass is three quarters full and my mind is half empty. Now the glass is half empty and my mind one quarter full. The cars pass my window with a dry incessant hiss on the pavement and are forever relentless and unforgiving. Each one sees only its own intrusion and not that of the others. They don't realize the composite sickness inherent in their drone. A match lit with a short stroke is more quiet in the dark, but there is something to be said for a match lit on the first stroke. There is nothing to be said for a shot of whiskey that has to be worked on over time.

Sell me an ice cream, blue and yellow and red, dripping on the brown grass, deprived of snow white purity and try to tell me it's OK. I dare you. The worms are far underground, under our soft feet in the park, because they know better. They have eight hearts and they don't all have to work at the same time. When the first snow flake falls, i will step

onto the life giving side walk at 1330 Comm Ave. in Boston and catch it on my tongue; and it will hold my love in its palm.

The flowers here wilt in November and i pick up the last silken petal to fall from an orange Iris and paste it back on. When i fail, i can see the degradation of the final moments of life in an accelerated state that transposes onto everything else. It so symbolizes death, and rest is what it needs. I come and go in the steely cover of trains that shriek and crawl and the beast that struggles from the harbor just won't die. I am numb to all vibrations in an earthquake zone.

Lovers quarrel on the steps of an apartment building, living more than lovers who never quarrel at all. They taste the hate and the fear and cannot discern that it is not real. I have argued with someone i love and it is a spice that if missing would leave the amber wine pale. I have warm dreams of a woman i fight with and leave every night, or she leaves me. But i know where to find her and she knows where I go, and the love grows stronger like an ancient oriental man re-breaking the bones in his hand until they've grown back together strong enough to break a brick.

I can get drunk under this pretense and seek solace in confession with the priest and his candy chandelier. Her crosses of madness creep and strain from ground that aches with the bodies of the damned. Scraping dirt into their mouths so they can move upward in an

air tight tomb toward the night sky five and one half feet above. When they reach the surface and the new shadows shuffling in the beams of light thrown through barren trees is when they will be free. Free of the commitment to anything, the living or the dead. They will be sick and puke and see me hovering above, alone in a glow of pale green. They will giggle at their own coming and dance with the fluidity of a pasty faced ballet dancer while their body parts fall to sodden ground. They laugh at me and the majesty of the soul is only too short.

At that time of the night is when we stir in sleep in each others arms. And we hear them on the lawn. They watch for us in the window every night till we look and recognize and read from their carnival cue cards. Your perfume vents of African violet. The wave of emotion enshrines us and breaks into the new day where we rise with light the savior, and drink memosa and eat honey dew melon for it's wetness and life. Skinned from the vine and held holy to our tongues like the last drop from a waterfall that is ever to surrender to the quivering pool below.

I'll show you salvation in the mountains of glass that shatter under the stress of that which makes us disagree and come back together. Back together, have you ever wanted to play a game with that? I have been back together so many times that i can never again fall apart completely. The phosphorescent bones pirouette in the yard for me and trace tears of horror that cry on my glass in the dying of summer. When we fell apart the final time

was when i invited the fear of loneliness inside from the cold. She married me, then left me to fend for myself, which i do every day.

Femme (you whore)

into the pillow
and live child's play

of the swallow
take what you want

onto the rim of a challis
onto anywhere, the Fidra Lighthouse

what you hold close
how far, your time

the ritual of the cold
dog, dig, dig, dig

if I can make you
i got a horn all the time

you whore.

one of the good many

it was a sunny day and I decided to cut the hair farmer down
outside of the Berkley Institute of Music on Massatwoshits Ave.
he was a big son of a bitch and when it was over,
only I was standing
feeling a need for decisiveness, I got down and screwed him
in the ass on the sidewalk in front of everybody

on the way home, a dog attacked from out of a mechanics
garage, where some young children were playing
I fought the dog and won, breaking it's neck
and I screwed the dead dog in the ass to the applause of few

arriving at home and feeling tough, laughing sickly, and cut and bleeding
I tried to screw my girlfriend in the ass
she got me a good one in the balls and left the
front door open on her way out

now why, do you think, the gods felt it necessary to put my balls
on the outside?
natures rules state that an organism must be capable of
proliferating at every second if the species is to survive,
and them being on the outside is merely a method of delicate
temperature control

nature doesn't realize that I rarely get the opportunity to proliferate

I lay behind the couch, laughing and crying, and staring at the
plaster ceiling waiting for it all to fall in, for god knows how long


Standing on the B-train, riding home after work.
Thinking sad things, usually. The same average, pallid, fish faced youth
terrorized by the world, fighting for a chance
that guarantees them only a chance to rise in the
morning and face the horrors that face them back.

Cover the floor with soil and plant a wheat field.
We all stand in it, knee deep, and say as little
and sway with the same inertia in the same manner as it does.
Question: What is to keep us from being wheat?
Answer: Nothing.

The faces clench in hope, the train breaks down, the courage breaks
down, charisma and faith divide, the divided are conquered. The conquered
fall and can no longer be seen from where the standing still stand.
The wretched become peaceful and fall out of the game.

They give way to an age old friend called death, and
fall as men will fall, in ultimate timeliness and playmanship.
It is hard to live an existence over and over, having
the same fucking end every time.

It is said that the Fool was suppressed effectively after around
1600ad, but I can tell you that he lived on and still does today.
Anybody who is able to see themselves from an ultimate
perspective must realize that they have no ultimate purpose,
no bloody destination, no Gods to please, and no war to win.
We are all Fools trying to escape revelation.

Here it comes

After dropping the hitchhiker off
where I found her
I walked to the store to get a beer and a
chocolate mint.
Standing in line behind a
woman who's had a
bad day,
not unlike the rest of us beat dogs and
thinking about how I haven't had a good crap since Easter
Outside the sidewalk is as gray as the backs of my poor hands
and I watch the pretty girls with a striding want
that does not understand
A wind picks up and feels wet against my face
a sea breeze
they say it's raining in New York
and coming this way
as the city raises its volume in the coming of storm
and I think, yeah...yeah
here it comes.

Kill me, then crawl inside

The phone rang and I picked it up, heard an inhale of bad breath, and a recorded voice say, "If you would like a quote on a health insurance plan--" before I could hang up. Then the woman said "Come on! Get it going. I thought we were going out tonight!" before I could put my fingers in my ears. I raised a beer to my dry lips and it burped in my eye before I could drink it. I could tell it was going to be a hell of a night.

At the bar the first thing she says to me over a Cape Cod, she was usually on Cape Cods, is "Tell me about the first girl who loved you." I said "You mean the only." She said "I love you dummy," taking a swing at me and spilling her drink. "I know you do baby. I know."

I said, "Why don't you want to know about the first girl I loved? I mean--they're the same thing and all...but how come you think about what some other woman thought about me?"

She said, "Because I want to know if she was crazy or not."

"That's easy...she was," I told her. "It goes something like this. I was eighteen and in beer school, and I got high and went to a party at a friends house where they poured beer over a plaster mask and made anybody new to the party kiss it on the cold

wet lips. I didn't want to and almost started a fight--but I was too buzzed out and so I ended up doing it and felt like a fool. The next time I saw her, we got high together with her slob boyfriend. Come to think of it, I can't believe I followed that guy up," I said in tender thought.

"Anyway...she was nineteen, could drink more than me which is a feat for men made of stone, and she was a whore in the making. She told me that she was voted 'most likely to be laid' in her high school, that she almost ran off and married a 57 year old rich man on a vacation to Mexico with her parents...but settled for screwing him instead. This was at seventeen."

"She told me there was a certain circle of guys when she was growing up that she would let fuck her any time. I let her leave me twice, and screw one guy in between, and I went on to decide that after a year it didn't hurt. A year was what I needed I thought. The last time we slept together, she cried and said that it was because she thought she could fuck me one last time before we left school and never saw each other again without feeling it. She said she had been wrong. I almost cried and said she was an average fuck, a little dysfunctional, and that that was no way to treat a sucker who was so much of a friend."

"That wasn't very nice of you to say...her either," the woman said.

"I called her mom's number two years later when I found it on a wrinkled piece of paper, part of a cigarette box. Her mom said that I must not have been around for a while and I answered 'no, I haven't', and she said that the girl had been married three months after the last time I would have seen her and that she would mention that I had called. I said don't bother."

"Why did you love this girl?" she asked. "Because I didn't know any better."

Outside the bar a skinny and mangy dog barked at a pigeon and pissed up against a monument that stood for beauty, peace, and love...vibrating under the cool blue moonlight.

Will you pick me? Like a flower I will

a friend once told me, 'All ya have ta do is find a hobby, and then
find a way to make it your job and you're in heaven for life.'

--well...hobbies have proven very hard to find for me
once I could play a decent if not contrived and practiced
and I tried the guitar a few times but it never stuck
I guess I've got not soul
I have tried the beautiful art of calligraphy
but it lacks a certain purpose
I can't tell a joke to save the Holy Father
in his throes
and I have found through very small experience
and a little better advice that painting is actually
a little too much like work to be fun

shit sticks and flowers don't and I think hobbies
are a little more separate of an entity than my old
(old) friend may have suspected
because the one you are now reading seems to have
had more say in the matter than I alone could be responsible
just know that I am proud of you who chose freely as a
hobby to sit and read it on the lighter side of the night

they say we all have our price--which means to me that
indirectly we are
all whores
of the burning
city lights
happiness is when all of my fingers are broken
I have several cold bottles of beer
a warm breeze at 9:30am in April
the magic mentality of a six year old
some free pussy that smells of rainfall
and a newly found talent for arranging flowers

Oh, Those Horses On The Plain Do Cry

Joe had moved around a lot most of his life. He had lived here in the outskirts of Boston now for several years, representing his longest stay in one room since he was 17 in Louisiana. He had a 1983 Dodge pickup that was too big to park, no furniture, and very few friends. He spent most of his time alone staring out the window at the bricks across the side street, or in the window at the fat Mexican lady disrobing. He was no longer young but feeling old before his time, helped along by the drink and the hard times and lack of a proper diet. He wore old clothes and hadn't had a job for eight years now. Not a steady one anyhow. He worked small hard labor jobs like hacking tobacco when it was in season, or riding a trawler in the cold months of the year, to keep himself alive and away from people. Joe was good for conversation, but disliked any amount of contact with crowds, so he was only good for it once in a while.

Joe liked to play piano. He had a nice upright he had saved money to buy several winters ago. He was a natural on the keyboard and fell in love again. That was the main reason he hadn't moved in a few years. He grew tired of moving the thing. It weighed close to a thousand pounds and he had paid dearly just to have it moved in to the place. His place was painted 'Misty Rose' and 'Pee Green' and complimented the polished black lacquer finish of the piano.

Joe would get two or three quarts of wine in the evening, turn the lights off save for a few candles around the room, and proceed to play the night away with the windows open till he was too drunk to see the keys anymore. Then he would continue a little longer because he didn't necessarily need to see them. At a relatively old 50 years, Joe could play with the best and people often gathered on warm summer evenings on the balconies and porches around the block in Allston just to listen to him play. His favorite thing to do was to take his shorts off so his balls could rest on the cool black of the bench and rumble out a mighty rendition of Mendholsson's Fugue in F major. This was a crowd pleaser and Joe needed no sheet music for most any piece he played. He became fairly well known in the Allston/Brighton region of lesser Boston in the late eighties for his notes played in minor key hanging over the courtyards at dusk. Nothing was more important to him than his lovely piano. Not food, not love, not an occasional piece of ass.

People who had lost, or won, or just had nothing better to do always knew that they could adjourn to a rooftop, then called the 'Allston Beaches', for an evening of whiskey and relaxation and music. It was said that many lovers professed their faith and even proposed marriage under the soft sounding blanket of old Joe Ert.

Though people wrote him long letters telling him he should play in public places and get the recognition he deserved, he never wrote them back or called when they left numbers.

"I play for myself", he proclaimed, though he enjoyed bringing happiness to those who listened outside at night. He couldn't see them, that's what made the difference. He never answered the door when people knocked and went unrecognized outside on the walks and the streets as no one ever really saw him play, so they could not put the music and the face together. He did answer the door one time when he was expecting the piano tuner. He found a young girl around 18-19 yeas of age in a soft blue dress cut up high on the hip.

"You're not the regular person they send out. Where's McGee?" said Joe.

"My name is Lila, and I apprentice under McGee. I have for some time now and he trusts me a little more every day", She replied.

"Well...come in I guess, I'm not used to guests as you can see", said Joe, waving about the messy apartment. "Would you like something to drink?"

"Do you have any dark wine by chance?" Lila asked.

"Coming right up", said Joe.

In the kitchen pouring the wine, Joe noticed he was shaking a bit. Nice, he thought, to have company in the house, especially a girl as pretty as she. He poured the wine, poured himself one, and returned to the living room.

"Here you go young lady, careful not to spill on that pretty dress", said Joe.

"Thank you. McGee really likes coming over and talking with you. He was sorry that he could not come this evening, but he decided that there was more I could do here than he could. I'll get started if it's all right with you?" she blushed shyly.

"Oh yes..yes. Go right ahead. I'll be over rocking in my second favorite chair and try to stay out of the way" replied Joe as he lit up the frayed end of a half cigar and slid one hand down his pants..

Joe entered back into the kitchen and poured another wine. He was feeling warm and not so old as usual. He took up the bottle and a fresh port and headed for his chair by the window. He placed one bottle on the coaster on the upright for Lila and took the other for himself.

Joe's mind drifted with the incessant pinging of the keys and the people, hearing it's drone, knew there would be no music till later on this windy July night and so did not

gather to decorate the porch railings with their life and blood. Not if Joe's life and blood were missing. They felt limp and useless on their own. He thought of how his life had been spent so far. Spent so far he could no longer see the beginning. He could not see the end either. This, he found disturbing. To be caught in the middle of this hell and not being able to see backwards or frontwards. He felt lost and the only thing that kept him sane and alive were occasional welfare checks and his beloved piano. It sang for him and he sang for it in unison. The weighted keys felt like polished angel teeth from long ago under his soft fingers. He smiled gently and slowly rocked in peace.

Lila was close to being finished with the piano and the bottle of wine an hour and a half later and the sun was beginning to go down. She reminded him of his high school sweetheart whom he married at 23, and gave up to Tuberculosis at 27. She was slight with long blond hair, large, high breasts, and she held herself very gracefully.

"I'm done over here Joe. Do you care to give it a try?" Lila asked.

"Sure do. Been lonely all night", Joe came back sitting down next to her on the bench. He laid out a beautiful piece by Lizt, and another short piece he had written himself called "Love Alive, But With No Birds", and sat silent for a few moments staring down at the keys. All of that time, that frustration spent here made him feel dizzy and the presence beside him made him feel sad.

"It sounds beautiful, maybe even more so that when McGee comes over", Joe said to Lila. "I'll even up McGee as usual, and won't hold you up any longer young lady, as I would have other things to do if I were you."

"Yes." Lila whispered. "My work here is almost done," she said rising from the bench. Lila reached behind herself and drew her shoulder blades together gently and the thin drapy dress slid down her body making the sound of the kiss of a warm wind against her skin. She was now naked and soft with her hands folded quietly below her navel. She stared at him with warm almond eyes while he stared up at her in a moment of lost divinity. The crying sun, the beaches of Normandy, the songbirds of the Canary Islands of Africa; none of it mattered. She brushed the hanging spider plant from the keys and and the lock of sandy hair from her face. She took Joe's hand and placed in on her warmpth just below the apex of her rounded hip. She twisted and untwisted. She smiled silkily. She sighed. She laughed. She grew quiet. She smiled. She still smiled.

Joe couldn't break away. He whispered "please...no?" she said "allright." Joe began to cry.

She led Joe to the bedroom and mounted his loneliness for half an hour before lettting him breath back to life. And back to life he was. Joe was not capable of stopping her.

He'd been in hell for a long time, and figured on hell afterward, maybe one day in heaven was too much to ask now. He feared the lang syne of mind.

She spoke few words as she dressed gently and kissed him good bye. Maybe McGee would let her come again sometime, she said. Joe thought maybe he would like this. It had been twenty three years since Joe had felt, and his thoughts were like strong horses cresting a windy hill on a Texas plain during drought. He closed the door behind her and sat to the piano. He stared into it and saw himself staring back. He brushed back the hanging plant. He felt he had found something missing and proceeded to play inpromptu notes with such a teary laden sadness that the crowds outside began to collect and look up to Joe's eighth floor apartment window, aglow with the weak light of candle flame out of season.

The notes hung still like iridescent soap bubbles in calm air, and if you looked, you would have seen the bewildered look on the people's faces as they recognized something different. Something they all felt in themselves. Something more powerful in the sound than any had ever heard from Joe or any other. People stopped on the sidewalks and sat on steps, and soon there was a crowd over a hundred, standing mesmerized in the twilight in Boston In July. They heard swallows swooping, and tears leeching eyes; martins skimming cool waters and squirrels lapping the rime from an early morning window pane. Then the music stopped.

Joe stepped forward onto his balcony, and looked down at the people quietly, who in turn looked up at him with the wonderment of children on a first Halloween. Joe put both hands down on the rail and spoke. "The music catches my soul and falls and dies like any other, with the last flower to wilt, in November." And he turned back into his room.

Two days later, when a few people on the street saw a body being carried out of 187 Jamaica Way Lane, they knew what they were seeing. 'Death by piano wire', the papers read. An anonymous legend had closed down the mill.

The piano was too large and heavy to move, as there was no one to claim it. Neither relatives nor friends. And some years later, a young woman moved there, and the people had forgotten and moved on themselves. She sat and stared out the window and saw what Joe must have seen. It looked quite the same as that which others in the city must view. She sipped French red wine and her eyes did not sway and she remembered the nights she listened as a girl in a small dress under the stars wanting to see who it was that could make such beautiful music. She sat at the ebony bench and felt the nicks in the ivory and wood. She was alone almost all of the time now, and she talked to her mother often, who questioned her happieness out of love.

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