"I know what you mean."
"Look, George is going down on her now." '
"He is, isn't he?"
"Look at them!"
"God o mighty!"
I grabbed Dawn. We stood there kissing. As we did her eyes went from
mine to them and then back to mine again.
Little Marty and little Anna were watching too.
"Look," said Marty, "they're going to make it. We might as well make
it. Even the big folks are going to make it. Look at them!"
"Did you hear that?" I asked Dawn. "They said we're going to make it.
Is that true?"
"I hope it's true," said Dawn.
I got her over to the couch and worked her dress up around her hips. I
kissed her along the throat. "I love you," I said.
"Do you? Do you?"
"Yes, somehow, yes . . ."
"All right," said little Anna to little Marty, "we might as well do it
too, even though I don't love you."
They embraced in the middle of the coffeetable. I had worked Dawn's
panties off. Dawn groaned. Little Ruthie groaned. Marty closed in on Anna.
It was happening everywhere. I got the idea that everybody in the world was
doing it. Then I forgot about the rest of the world. We somehow walked into
the bedroom. Then I got into Dawn for the long slow ride. . . .
When she came out of the bathroom I was reading a dull dull story in
"It was so good," she said.
"My pleasure," I answered.
She got back into bed with me. I put the magazine down.
"Do you think we .can make it together?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, do you think we can make it together for any length of time?"
"I don't know. Things happen. The beginning is always easiest."
Then there was a scream from the front room. "Oh-oh," said Dawn. She
leaped up and ran out of the room. I followed. When I got there she was
holding George in her hands.
"Oh, my god!"
"What happened?"
"Anna did it to him!"
"Did what?"
"She cut off his balls! George is a eunuch!"
"Get me some toilet paper, quickly! He might bleed to death!"
"That son of a bitch," said little Anna from the coffeetable, "ifI
can't have George, nobody can have him!"
"Now both of you belong to me!" said Marty.
"No, you've got to choose between us," said Anna.
"Which one of us is it?" asked Ruthie.
"I love you both," said Marty.
"He's stopped bleeding," said Dawn. "He's out cold." She wrapped George
in a handkerchief and put him on the mantle.
"I mean," Dawn said to me, "if you don't think we can make it, I don't
want to go into it anymore."
"I think I love you. Dawn."
"Look," she said, "Marty's embracing Ruthie!"
"Are they going to make it?"
"I don't know. They seem excited."
Dawn picked Anna up and put her in the wire cage.
"Let me out of here! I'll kill both of them! Let me out of here!"
George moaned from inside his handkerchief upon the mantle. Marty had
Ruthie's panties off. I pulled Dawn to me. She was beautiful and young and
had insides. I could be in love again. It was possible. We kissed. I fell
down inside her eyes. Then I got up and began running. I knew where I was. A
cockroach and an eagle made love. Time was a fool with a banjo. I kept
running. Her long hair fell across my face.
"I'll kill everybody!" screamed little Anna. She rattled about in her
wire cage at 3 a.m. in the morning.

LOVE FOR $17.50
Robert's first desire -- when he began thinking of such things -- was
to sneak into the Wax Museum some night and make love to the wax ladies.
However, that seemed too dangerous. He limited himself to making love to
statues and mannequins in his sex fantasies and lived in his fantasy world.
One day while stopped at a red light he looked into the doorway of a
shop. It was one of those shops that sold everything -- records, sofas,
books, trivia, junk. He saw her standing there in a long red dress. She wore
rimless glasses, was well-shaped; dignified and sexy the way they used to
be. A real class broad. Then the signal changed and he was forced to drive
Robert parked a block away and walked back to the shop. He stood
outside at the newspaper rack and looked in at her. Even the eyes looked
real, and the mouth was very impulsive, pouting just a bit.
Robert went inside and looked at the record rack. He was closer to her
then and sneaked glances. No, they didn't make them like that anymore. She
even had on high heels.
The girl in the shop walked up. "Can I help you, sir?"
"Just browsing, miss."
"If there's anything you want, just let me know."
Robert moved over to the mannequin. There wasn't a price tag. He
wondered if she were for sale. He walked back to the record rack, picked up
a cheap album and purchased it from the girl.
The next time he visited the shop the mannequin was still there. Robert
browsed a bit, bought an ashtray that was moulded to imi-tate a coiled
snake, then walked out.
The third time he was there he asked the girl: "Is the mannequin for
"The mannequin?"
"Yes, the mannequin."
"You want to buy it?"
"Yes, you sell things, don't you? Is the mannequin for sale?"
"Just a moment, sir."
The girl went to the back of the shop. A curtain parted and an old
Jewish man came out. The bottom two buttons of his shirt were missing and
you could see his hairy belly. He seemed friendly enough.
"You want the mannequin, sir?"
"Yes, is she for sale?"
"Well, not really. You see, it's kind of a display piece, a joke."
"I want to buy her."
"Well, let's see . . ." The old Jew went over and began touching the
mannequin, touching the dress, the arms. "Let's see ... I think I can let
you have this ... thing... for $17.50."
"I'll take her." Robert pulled out a twenty. The storekeeper counted
out the change.
"I'm going to miss it," he said, "sometimes it seems almost real.
Should I wrap it?"
"No, I'll take her the way she is."
Robert picked up the mannequin and carried her to his car. He laid her
down in the back seat. Then he got in and drove off to his place. When he
got there, luckily, there didn't seem to be anybody about and he got her
into the doorway unseen. He stood her in the center of the room and looked
at her.
"Stella," he said, "Stella, bitch!"
He walked up and slapped her across the face. Then he grabbed the head
and kissed it. It was a good kiss. His penis began to harden when the phone
rang. "Hello," he answered.
"Yeah. Sure."
"This is Harry."
"How you doing. Harry?"
"O.k., what you doing?"
"I thought I'd come over. Bring a couple of beers."
Robert hung up, picked up the mannequin and carried her to the closet.
He pushed her back in the corner of the closet and closed the door.
Harry really didn't have much to say. He sat there with his beer-can.
"How's Laura?" he asked.
"Oh," said Robert, "it's all over between me and Laura."
"What happened?"
"The eternal vamp bit. Always on stage. She was relentless. She'd turn
on for guys everywhere -- at the grocery store, on the street, in cafes,
everywhere and to anybody. It didn't matter who it was as long as it was a
man. She even turned on for a guy who dialed a wrong number. I couldn't go
it anymore."
"You alone now?"
"No, I've got another one. Brenda. You've met her."
"Oh yeah. Brenda. She's all right."
Harry sat there drinking beer. Harry never had a woman but he was
always talking about them. There was something sickening about Harry. Robert
didn't encourage the conversation and Harry soon left. Robert went to the
closet and brought Stella out.
"You god damned whore!" he said. "You've been cheating on me, haven't
Stella didn't answer. She stood there looking so cool and prim. He
slapped her a good one. It'd be a long day in the sun before any woman got
away with cheating on Bob Wilkenson. He slapped her another good one.
"Cunt! You'd fuck a four-year-old boy if he could get his pecker up,
wouldn't you?"
He slapped her again, then grabbed her and kissed her. He kissed her
again and again. Then he ran his hands up under her dress. She was well-
shaped, very well-shaped. Stella reminded him of an algebra teacher he'd had
in high school. Stella didn't have on panties.
"Whore," he said, "who got your panties?"
Then his penis was pressed against the front of her. There was no
opening. But Robert was in a tremendous passion. He inserted it between the
upper thighs. It was smooth and tight. He worked away. For just a moment he
felt extremely foolish, then his passion took over and he began kissing her
along the neck as he worked.
Robert washed Stella with a dishrag, placed her in the closet behind an
overcoat, closed the door and still managed to get in the last quarter of
the Detroit Lions vs. L.A. Rams game on T.V.
It was quite nice for Robert as time went on. He made certain
adjustments. He bought Stella several pairs of underpants, a garter belt,
sheer long stockings, an ankle bracelet.
He bought her earrings too, and was quite shocked to learn that his
love didn't have any ears. Under all that hair, the ears were missing. He
put the earrings on anyhow with adhesive tape. But there were advantages --
he didn't have to take her to dinner, to parties, to dull movies; all those
mundane things that meant so much to the average woman. And there were
arguments. There would always be arguments, even with a mannequin. She
wasn't talkative but he was sure she told him once, "You're the greatest
lover of them all. That old Jew was a dull lover. You love with soul,
Yes, there were advantages. She wasn't like all the other women he had
known. She didn't want to make love at inconvenient moments. He could choose
the time. And she didn't have periods. And he went down on her. He cut some
of the hair from her head and pasted it between her thighs.
The affair was sexual to begin with but gradually he was falling in
love with her, he could feel it happening. He considered going to a
psychiatrist, then decided not to. After all, was it necessary to love a
real human being? It never lasted long. There were too many differences
between the species, and what started as love too often ended up as war.
Then too, he didn't have to lie in bed with Stella and listen to her
talk about all her past lovers. How Karl had such a big thing, but Karl
wouldn't go down. And how Louie danced so well, Louie could have made it in
ballet instead of selling insurance. And how Marty could really kiss. He had
a way of locking tongues. So on. So forth. What shit. Of course, Stella had
mentioned the old Jew. But just that once.
Robert had been with Stella about two weeks when Brenda phoned.
"Yes, Brenda?" he answered.
"Robert, you haven't phoned me."
"I've been terribly busy, Brenda. I've been promoted to district
manager and I've had to realign things down at the office."
"Is that so?"
"Robert, something's wrong ..."
"What do you mean?"
"I can tell by your voice. Something's wrong. What the hell's wrong,
Robert? Is there another woman?"
"Not exactly."
"What do you mean, not exactly?"
"Oh, Christ!"
"What is it? What is it? Robert, something's wrong. I'm coming over to
see you."
"There's nothing wrong, Brenda."
"You son of a bitch, you're holding out on me! Something's going on.
I'm coming to see you! Now!"
Brenda hung up and Robert walked over and picked up Stella and put her
in the closet, well back in one corner. He took the overcoat off the hanger
and hung it over Stella. Then he came back, sat down and waited.
Brenda opened the door and rushed in. "All right, what the hell's
wrong? What is it?"
"Listen, kid," he said, "it's o.k. Calm down."
Brenda was nicely built. Her breasts sagged a bit, but she had fine
legs and a beautiful ass. Her eyes always had a frantic, lost look. He could
never cure her eyes of that. Sometimes after love-making a temporary calm
would fill her eyes but it never lasted.
"You haven't even kissed me yet!"
Robert got up from his chair and kissed Brenda.
"Christ, that was no kiss! What is it?" she asked. "What's wrong!"
"It's nothing, nothing at all . . ."
"If you don't tell me, I'm going to scream!"
"I tell you, it's nothing."
Brenda screamed. She walked to the window and screamed. You could hear
her all over the neighborhood. Then she stopped.
"God, Brenda, don't do that again! Please, please!"
"I'll do it again! I'll do it again! Tell me what's wrong, Robert, or
I'll do it again!"
"All right," he said, "wait."
Robert went to the closet, took the overcoat off Stella and 'if led her
out of the closet.
"What's that?" asked Brenda, "what's that?"
"A mannequin."
"A mannequin? You mean? . . ."
"I mean, I'm in love with her."
"Oh, my god I You mean? That thing? That tiling?"
"You love that thing more than me? That hunk of celluloid, or
whatever the shit she's made of? You mean you love that thing more
than me?"
"I suppose you take it to bed with you? I suppose you do things to ...
with that thing?"
"Oh . . ."
Then Brenda really screamed. She just stood there and screamed. Robert
thought she would never stop. Then she leaped at the mannequin and started
to claw and beat at it. The mannequin toppled and fell against the wall.
Brenda ran out the door, got in her car and drove off wildly. She crashed
into the side of a parked car, glanced off, drove on.
Robert walked over to Stella. The head had broken off and rolled under
a chair. There were spurts of chalky material on the floor. One arm hung
loosely, broken, two wires protruding. Robert sat down in a chair. He just
sat there. Then he got up and went into the bathroom, stood there a minute,
and came back out. He stood in the hallway and could see the head under the
chair. He began to sob. It was terrible. He didn't know what to do. He
remembered how he had buried his mother and his father. But this was
different. This was different. He just stood in the hallway, sobbing and
waiting. Both of Stella's eyes were open and cool and beautiful. They stared
at him.


I was in my 20's and although I was drinking heavily and not eating, I
was still strong. I mean, physically, and that's some luck for you when not
much else is going right. My mind was in riot against my lot and life, and
the only way I could calm it was to drink and drink and drink. I was walking
up the road, it was dusty and dirty and hot, and I believe the state was
California, but I'm no longer sure. It was desert land. I was walking along
the road, my stockings hard and rotted and stinking, the nails were coming
up through the soles of my shoes and into my feet and I had to keep
cardboard in my shoes -- cardboard, newspaper, anything that I could find.
The nails worked through that, and you either got some more or you turned
the stuff around, or upsidedown, or reshaped it.
The truck stopped alongside of me. I ignored it and kept walking. The
truck started up again and the guy rode along beside me.
"Kid," the guy said, " you want a job?"
"Who've I got to kill?' I asked.
"Nobody," said the guy, "come on, get in."
I went around to the other side and when I got there the door was open.
I stepped up on the running board, slid in, pulled the door shut and leaned
back in the leather seat. I was out of the sun.
"You wanna suck me," said the guy, "you get five bucks."
I put the right hand hard into his gut, got the left somewhere in
between the ear and the neck, came back with the right to the mouth and the
truck ran off the road. I grabbed the wheel and steered it back. Then I cut
the motor and braked. I climbed out and continued to walk along the road.
About five minutes later the truck was running along next to me again.
"Kid," said the guy, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I didn't mean you
were a homo. I mean, though, you kind of half-look like a homo. Is there
anything wrong with being a homo?"
"I guess if you're a homo there's not."
"Come on," said the guy, "get in. I got a real honest job for you. You
can make some money, get on your feet."
I climbed in again. We drove off.
"I'm sorry," he said, "you got a real tough face, but look at your
hands. You got ladies' hands."
"Don't worry about my hands," I said.
"Well, it's a tough job. Loadin' ties. You ever loaded ties?
"It's hard work."
"I've done hard work all my life."
"O.k.," said the guy, "o.k."
We drove along not talking, the truck rocking back and forth. There was
nothing but dust, dust and desert. The guy didn't have much of a face, he
didn't have much of anything. But sometimes small people who stay in the
same place for a long time achieve minor prestige and power. He had the
truck and he was hiring. Sometimes you have to go along with that.
We drove along and there was an old guy walking along the road. He must
have been in his mid-forites. That's old for the road. This Mr. Burkhart,
he'd told me his name, slowed his truck and asked the old guy. "Hey, buddy,
you want to make a couple of bucks?"
"Oh, yes sir!" said the old guy.
"Move over. Let him in," said Mr. Burkhart.
The old guy got in and he really stank -- of booze and sweat and agony
and death. We drove on until we came to a small group of buildings. We got
out with Burkhart and walked into a store. There was a guy in a green
sunshade with a bunch of rubber bands around his left wrist. He was bald but
his arms were covered with sickly long blond hair.
"Hello, Mr. Burkhart," he said, "I see you found yourself a couple more
"Here's the list, Jesse," said Mr. Burkhart, and Jesse walked about
filling orders. It took some time. Then he was finished. "Anything else, Mr.
Burkhart? A couple cheap bottles of wine?"
"No wine for me," I said.
"O.k.," said the old guy, "I'll take both bottles."
"It'll come off your pay," Burkhart told the old guy.
"It doesn't matter," said the old guy, "take it off my pay."
"You sure you don't want a bottle?" Burkhart asked me.
"All right," I said, "I'll take a bottle."

We had a tent and that night we drank the wine and the old guy told me
his troubles. He'd lost his wife. He still loved his wife. He thought about
her all the time. A great woman. He used to teach mathematics. But he'd lost
his wife. Never a woman like her. Blah blah blah.
Christ, when we woke up the old guy was sick and I wasn't feeling much
better and the sun was up and out and we went to do our job: stacking
railroad ties. You had to stack them into ricks. The bottom stacking was
easy. But as we got higher we had to count. "One, two, three," I'd count and
then we'd let her go.
The old guy had a bandanna tied around his head and the booze poured
out of his head and into the bandanna and the bandanna got soaked and dark.
Every now and then a sliver from one of the railroad ties would knife
through the rotten glove and into my hand. Ordinarily the pain would have
been unbearable and I would have quit but fatigue dulled the senses, really
properly dulled them. I just got angry when it happened -- like I wanted to
kill somebody, but when I looked around there was only sand and cliffs and
the overn dry bright yellow sun and no place to go.
Every now and then the railroad company would rip up the old ties and
replace them with new ones. They left the old ties laying beside the tracks.
There wasn't much wrong with the old ties but the railroad left them laying
around and Burkhart had guys like us stack them into ricks which he toted
off in his truck and sold. I guess they had a lot of uses. On some of the
ranches you'd see them stuck in the ground and strung with barbed wire and
used as fences. I suppose there were other uses too. I wasn't much
It was like any other impossible job, you got tired and you wanted to
quit and then you got more tired and forgot to quit, and the minutes didn't
move, you lived forever inside of one minute, no hope, no out, trapped, too
dumb to quit and nowhere to go if you did quit.
"Kid, I lost my wife. She was such a wonderful woman. I keep thinking
of her. A good woman is the greatest thing on earth."
"If we only had a little wine."
"We don't have any wine. We gotta wait until tonight."
"I wonder if anybody understands winos?"
"Just other winos."
"Do you think those slivers in our hands will creep into our hearts?"
"No chance; we've never been lucky."
Two Indians came by and watched us. They watched us a long time. When
the old guy and I sat down on a tie for a smoke one of the Indians walked
"You guys are doing it all wrong," he said.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"You're working at the height of the desert heat. What you do is get up
early in the morning and get your work done while it's cool."
"You're right," I said, "thanks."
The Indian was right. I decided we'd get up early. But we never made
it. The old guy was always too sick from the night's drinking and I could
never get him up on time.
"Five minutes more," he'd say, "just five minutes more."
Finally, one day, the old man gave out. He couldn't lift another tie.
He kept apologizing about it.
"It's all right, Pops."
We got back to the tent and waited for evening. Pops layed there
talking. He kept talking about his ex-wife. I heard about his ex-wife all
through the day and into the evening. Then Burkhart arrived.
"Jesus Christ, you guys didn't do much today. You figure to live off
the fat of the land?"
"We're through, Burkhart," I said, "we're waiting to get paid."
"I got a good mind not to pay you guys."
"If you got a good mind," I said, "you'll pay."
"Please, Mr. Burkhart," said the old guy, "please, please, we worked so
god damned hard, honest we did!"
"Burkhart knows what we've done," I said, "he's got a count of the
ricks and so have I."
"72 ricks," said Burkhart.
"90 ricks," I said.
"76 ricks," said Burkhart.
"90 ricks," I said.
"80 ricks," said Burkhart.
"Sold," I said.
Burkhart got out his pencil and paper and charged us for wine and food,
transport and lodging. Pops and I each came up with $18 for five day's work.
We took it. And got a free ride back to town. Free? Burkhart had fucked us
from every angle. But we couldn't holler law because when you didn't have
any money the law stopped working.
"By god," said the old guy, "I'm really going to get drunk. I'm going
to get good and drunk. Aren't you, kid?"
"I don't think so."

We went into the only bar in town and sat down and Pops ordered a wine
and I ordered a beer. The old guy started in on his ex-wife again and I
moved down to the other end of the bar. A Mexican girl came down the
stairway and sat down next to me. Why were they always coming down stairways
like that, like in the movies? I even felt like I was in a movie. I bought
her a beer. She said, "My name is Sherri," and I said, "That's isn't
Mexican," and she said, "It doesn't have to be," and I said, "You're right."
And it was five dollars upstairs and she washed me off first, and then
later. She washed me off out of a little white bowl that had painted baby
chickens chasing each other around the bowl. She made the same money in ten
minutes that I had made in a day with some hours thrown in. Monetarily
speaking, it seemed sure as shit you were better off having a pussy than a
When I came down the stairay the old guy already had his head down on
the bar; it had gotten to him. We hadn't eaten that day and he had no
resistance. There was a dollar and some change by his head. For a moment I
thought of taking him with me but I couldn't take care of myself. I walked
outside. It was cool and I walked north.
I felt bad about leaving Pops there for the small town vultures. Then I
wondered if the old guy's wife ever thought about him. I decided that she
didn't, or if she did, it was hardly in the same way he thought about her.
The whole earth crawled with sad hurt people like him. I needed a place to
sleep. The bed I had been in with the Mexican girl had been the first I had
been in for three weeks.
Some nights earlier I had found that when it got cold the slivers in my
hand began to throb. I could feel where each one was. It began to get cold.
I can't say that I hated the world of men and women, but I felt a certain
disgust that separated me from the craftsmen and tradesmen and liars and
lovers, and now decades later I feel that same disgust. Of course, this is
only one man's story or one man's view of reality. If you'll keep reading
maybe the next story will be happier. I hope so.


It had gotten extensive press coverage and T.V. coverage and the lady
was to write a book about it. The lady's name was Hester Adams, twice
divorced, two children. She was 35 and one guessed that it was her last
fling. The wrinkles were appearing, the breasts had been sagging for some
time, the ankles and calves were thickening, there were signs of a belly.
America had been taught that beauty only resided in youth, especially in the
female. But Hester Adams had the dark beauty of frustration and upcoming
loss; it crawled all over her, the upcoming loss, and it gave her a sexual
something, like a desperate and fading woman sitting in a bar full of men.
Hester had looked around, seen few signs of help from the American male, and
had gotten onto a plane for South America. She had entered the jungle with
her camera, her portable typewriter, her thickening ankles and her white
skin and had gotten herself a cannibal, a black cannibal: Maja Thurup. Maja
Thurup had a good look to his face. His face appeared to be written over
with one thousand hangovers and one thousand tragedies. And it was true --
he had had one thousand hangovers, but the tragedies all came from the same
root: Maja Thurup was overhung, vastly overhung. No girl in the village
would accept him. He had torn two girls to death with his instrument. One
had been entered from the front, the other from the rear. No matter.
Maja was a lonely man and he drank and brooded over his loneliness
until Hester Adams had come with guide and white skin and camera. After
formal introductions and a few drinks by the fire, Hester had entered Maja's
hut and taken all Maja Thurup could muster and had asked for more. It was a
miracle for both of them and they were married in a three-day tribal
ceremony, during which captured enemy tribesmen were roasted and consumed
amid dancing, incantation, and drunkenness. It was after the ceremony, after
the hangovers had cleared away that trouble began. The medicine man, having
noted that Hester did not partake of the flesh of the roasted enemy
tribesmen (garnished with pineapple, olives, and nuts) announced to one and
all that this was not a white goddess, but one of the daughters of the evil
god Ritikan. (Centuries ago Ritikan had been expelled from the tribal heaven
for his refusal to eat anything but vegetables, fruits, and nuts.) This
announcement caused dissension in the tribe and two friends of Maja Thurup
were promptly murdered for suggesting that Hester's handling of Maja's
overhang was a miracle in itself and the fact that she didn't ingest other
forms of human meat could be forgiven -- temporarily, at least.
Hester and Maja fled to America, to North Hollywood to be precise,
where Hester began procedings to have Maja Thurup become an American
citizen. A former schoolteacher, Hester began instructing Maja in the use of
clothing, the English language, California beer and wines, television, and
foods purchased at the nearby Safeway market. Maja not only looked at
television, he appeared on it along with Hester and they declared their love
publicly. Then they went back to their North Hollywood apartment and made
love. Afterwards Maja sat in the middle of the rug with his English grammar
books, drinking beer and wine, and singing native chants and playing the
bongo. Hester worked on her book about Maja and Hester. A major publisher
was waiting. All Hester had to do was get it down.
One morning I was in bed about 8:00 a.m. The day before I had lost $40
at Santa Anita, my savings account at California Federal was getting
dangerously low, and I hadn't written a decent story in a month. The phone
rang. I woke up, gagged, coughed, picked it up.
"This is Dan Hudson."
Dan ran the magazine Flare out of Chicago. He paid well. He was
the editor and publisher.
"Hello, Dan, mother."
"Look, I've got just the thing for you."
"Sure, Dan. What is it?"
"I want you to interview this bitch who married the cannibal. Make the
sex BIG. Mix love with horror, you know?"
"I know. I've been doing it all my life."
"There's $500 in it for you if you beat the March 27 deadline."
"Dan, for $500,1 can make Burt Reynolds into a lesbian."
Dan gave me the address and phone number. I got up, threw water on my
face, had two Alka-Seltzers, opened a bottle of beer and phoned Hester
Adams. I told her that I wanted to publicize her relationship with Maja
Thurup as one of the great love stories of the 20th century. For the readers
of Flare magazine. I assured her that it would help Maja obtain his
American citizenship. She agreed to an interview at 1:00 p.m.
It was a walk-up apartment on the third floor. She opened the door.
Maja was sitting on the floor with his bongo drinking a fifth of medium
priced port from the bottle. He was barefooted, dressed in tight jeans, and
in a white t-shirt with black zebra-stripes. Hester was dressed in an
identical outfit. She brought me a bottle of beer, I picked up a cigarette
from the pack on the coffee table and began the interview.
"You first met Maja when?"
Hester gave me a date. She also gave me the exact time and place.
"When did you first begin to have love feelings for Maja? What exactly
were the circumstances which tripped them off?"
"Well," said Hester, "it was . . ."
"She love me when I give her the thing," said Maja from the rug.
"He has learned English quite quickly, hasn't he?"
"Yes, he's brilliant."
Maja picked up his bottle and drained off a good slug.
"I put this thing in her, she say, 'Oh my god oh my god oh my god!' Ha,
ha, ha, ha!"
"Maja is marvelously built," she said.
"She eat too," said Maja, "she eat good. Deep throat, ha, ha, ha!"
"I loved Maja from the beginning," said Hester, "it was his eyes, his
face ... so tragic. And the way he walked. He walks, well, he walks
something like a tiger."
"Fuck," said Maja, "we fuck we fucky fuck fuck fuck. I am getting
Maja took another drink. He looked at me.
"You fuck her. I am tired. She big hungry tunnel."
"Maja has a genuine sense of humor," said Hester, "that's another thing
that has endeared him to me."
"Only thing dear you to me," said Maja, "is my telephone pole piss-
"Maja has been drinking since this morning," said Hester, "you'll have
to excuse him."
"Perhaps I'd better come back when he's feeling better."
"I think you should."
Hester gave me an appointment at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon the next
It was just as well. I needed photographs. I knew a down-and-out
photographer, one Sam Jacoby who was good and would do the work cheap. I
took him back there with me. It was a sunny afternoon with only a thin layer
of smog. We walked up and I rang. There was no answer. I rang again. Maja
answered the door.
"Hester not in," he said, "she gone to grocery store."
"We had an appointment for 2:00 o'clock. I'd like to come in and wait."
We walked in and sat down.
"I play drums for you," said Maja.
He played the drums and sang some jungle chants. He was quite good. He
was working on another bottle of port wine. He was still in his zebra-
striped t-shirt and jeans.
"Fuck fuck fuck," he said, "that's all she want. She make me mad."
"You miss the jungle, Maja?"
"You just ain't just shittin' upstream, daddy."
"But she loves you, Maja."
"Ha, ha, ha!"
Maja played us another drum solo. Even drunk he was good.
When Maja finished Sam said to me, "You think she might have a
beer in the refrigerator?"
"She might."
"My nerves are bad. I need a beer."
"Go ahead. Get two. I'll buy her some more. I should have brought
Sam got up and walked into the kitchen. I heard the refrigerator door
"I'm writing an article about you and Hester," I said to Maja.
"Big-hole woman. Never fill. Like volcano."
I heard Sam vomiting in the kitchen. He was a heavy drinker. I knew he
was hungover. But he was still one of the best photographers around. Then it
was quiet. Sam came walking out. He sat down. He didn't have a beer with
"I play drums again," said Maja. He played the drums again. He was
still good. Though not as good as the preceding time. The wine was getting
to him.
"Let's get out of here," Sam said to me.
"I have to wait for Hester," I said.
"Man, let's go," said Sam.
"You guys want some wine?" asked Maja.
I got up and walked into the kitchen for a beer. Sam followed me. I
moved toward the refrigerator.
"Please don't open that door!" he said.
Sam walked over to the sink and vomited again. I looked at the
refrigerator door. I didn't open it. When Sam finished, I said, "O.k., let's
We walked into the front room where Maja still sat by his bongo.
"I play drum once more," he said.
"No, thanks, Maja."
We walked out and down the stairway and out to the street. We got into
my car. I drove off. I didn't know what to say. Sam didn't say anything. We
were in the business district. I drove into a gas station and told the
attendant to fill it up with regular. Sam got out of the car and walked to
the telephone booth to call the police. I saw Sam come out of the phone
booth. I paid for the gas. I hadn't gotten my interview. I was out $500. I
waited as Sam walked toward the car.


Harry had just gotten off the freight and was walking down Alameda
toward Pedro's for a nickel cup of coffee. It was early morning but he
remembered they used to open at 5 a.m. You could sit in Pedro's for a couple
of hours for a nickel. You could do some thinking. You could remember where
you'd gone wrong, or where you'd gone right.
They were open. The Mexican girl who gave him his coffee looked at him
as if he were a human being. The poor knew life. A good girl. Well, a good
enough girl. They all meant trouble. Everything meant trouble. He remembered
a statement he'd heard somewhere: the Definition of Life is Trouble.
Harry sat down at one of the old tables. The coffee was good. Thirty-
eight years old and he was finished. He sipped at the coffee and remembered
where he had gone wrong -- or right. He'd simply gotten tired -- of the
insurance game, of the small offices and high glass partitions, the clients;
he'd simply gotten tired of cheating on his wife, of squeezing secretaries
in the elevator and in the halls;
he'd gotten tired of Christmas parties and New Year's parties and
birthdays, and payments on new cars and furniture payments -- light, gas,
water -- the whole bleeding complex of necessities.
He'd gotten tired and quit, that's all. The divorce came soon enough
and the drinking came soon enough, and suddenly he was out of it. He had
nothing, and he found out that having nothing was difficult too. It was
another type of burden. If only there were some gentler road in between. It
seemed a man only had two choices -- get in on the hustle or be a bum.
As Harry looked up a man sat down across from him, also with a nickel
cup of coffee. He appeared to be in his early forties. And was dressed as
poorly as Harry. The man rolled a cigarette, then looked at Harry as he lit
"How's it going?"
"That's some question," said Harry.
"Yeah, I guess it is."
They sat drinking their coffee.
"A man wonders how he gets down here."
"Yeah," said Harry.
"By the way, if it matters, my name's William."
"I'm called Harry."
"You can call me Bill."
"You got the look on your face like you've reached the end of
"I'm just tired of the bum, bone-tired."
"You want to get back into society, Harry?"
"No, not that. But I'd like to get out of this."
"There's suicide."
"I know."
"Listen," said Bill, "what we need is a little cash the easy way so we
can get a breather."
"Sure, but how?"
"Well, there's some risk involved."
"Like what?"
"I used to do some house burglaring. It's not bad. I could use a good
"O.k., I'm just about ready to try anything. I'm sick of watery beans,
week-old doughnuts, the mission, the God-lectures, the snoring..."
"Our problem is how to get where we can operate," said Bill.
"I got a couple of bucks."
"All right, meet me about midnight. Got a pencil?" "No." "Wait. I'll
borrow one."
Bill came back with a stub of pencil. He took a napkin and wrote on it.
"You take the Beverly Hills bus and ask the driver to let you off here.
Then walk two blocks north. I'll be there waiting. You gonna make it?"
"I'll be there."
"You got a wife, kids?" asked Bill. "Used to have," Harry answered.
It was cold that night. Harry got off the bus and walked the two blocks
north. It was dark, very dark. Bill was standing smoking a rolled cigarette.
He wasn't standing in the open but was back against a large bush.
"Hello, Bill."
"Hello; Harry. You ready to start your new lucrative career?"
"I am."
"All right. I've been casing these places. I think I've got us a good
one. Isolated. It stinks of money. You scared?"
"No. I'm not scared."
"Fine. Be cool and follow me."
Harry followed Bill along the sidewalk for a block and a half, then
Bill cut between two shrubs and onto a large lawn. They walked to .the back
of the house, a large two storey affair. Bill stopped at the rear window. He
sliced the screen with a knife, then stood still and listened. It was like a
graveyard. Bill unhooked the screen and lifted it off. He stood there
working at the window. Bill worked at it for some time and Harry began to
think: Jesus. I'm with an amateur. I'm with some kind of nut. Then the
window opened and Bill climbed in. Harry could see his ass wiggling in. This
is ridiculous, he thought. Do men do this?
"Come on," Bill said softly from inside.
Harry climbed in. It did stink of money and furniture polish.
"Jesus. Bill. I'm scared now. This doesn't make any sense."
"Don't talk so loud. You want to get away from those watery beans,
don't you?"
"Well, then be a man."
Harry stood while Bill slowly opened drawers and put things in his
pockets. They appeared to be in a dining room. Bill was stuffing spoons and
knives and forks into his pockets.
How can we get anything for that? thought Harry.
Bill kept putting the silverware into his coat pockets. Then he dropped
a knife. The floor was hard, without a rug, and the sound was definite and
"Who's there?"
Bill and Harry didn't answer.
"I said, who's there?"
"What is it, Seymour?" said a girl's voice.
"I thought I heard something. Something woke me up."
"Oh go to sleep."
"No. I heard something."
Harry heard the sound of a bed and then the sound of a man walking. The
man came through the door and was in the dining room with them. He was in
his pajamas, a young man of about 26 or 27 with a goatee and long hair.
"All right, you pricks, what are you doing in my house?"
Bill turned toward Harry. "Get into that bedroom. There might be a
phone there. See that she doesn't use it. I'll take care of this one."
Harry walked toward the bedroom, found the entrance, walked in, saw a
young blonde about 23, long hair, in a fancy nightgown, her breasts loose.
There was a telephone by the night stand and she wasn't using it. She flung
the back of her hand to her mouth. She was sitting up in bed.
"Don't scream," said Harry, "or I'll kill you."
He stood there looking down at her, thinking of his own wife, but never
a wife like that. Harry began to sweat, he felt dizzy and they stared at
each other.
Harry sat down on the bed.
"Leave my wife alone or I'll kill you!" said the young man. Bill had
just walked him in. He had an arm lock on him and his knife was poking into
the middle of the young man's back.
"Nobody's going to hurt your wife, man. Just tell us where your
stinking money is and we'll leave."
"I told you all I've got is what's in my wallet."
Bill tightened the arm lock and drove the knife in a bit. The young man
"The jewelry," said Bill, "take me to the jewelry."
"It's upstairs ..."
"All right. Take me there!"
Harry watched Bill walk him out. Harry kept staring at the girl and she
stared back. Blue eyes, and the irises were large with fear.
"Don't scream," he told her, "or I'll kill you, so help me I'll kill
Her lips began to tremble. They were the palest pink and then his mouth
was upon hers. He was bewhiskered and foul, rancid, and she was white, soft
white, delicate, trembling. He held her head in his hands. He pulled his
head away and looked into her eyes. "You whore," he said, "you god damned
whore!" He kissed her again, harder. They fell back on the bed together. He
was kicking his shoes off, holding her down. Then he was working his pants,
getting them off, and all the time holding and kissing her. "You whore, you
god damned whore . . ."
"Oh No! Jesus Christ, No! Not my wife, you bastards!"
Harry had not heard them enter. The young man let out a scream. Then
Harry heard a gurgle. He pulled out and looked around. The young man was on
the floor with his throat cut; the blood spurted rhythmically out on the
"You've killed him!" said Harry.
"He was screaming."
"You didn't have to kill him."
"You didn't have to rape his wife."
"I haven't raped her and you've killed him."
Then she began to scream. Harry put his hand over her mouth.
"What are we going to do?" he asked.
"We're going to kill her too. She's a witness."
"I can't kill her," said Harry.
"I'll kill her," said Bill.
"But we shouldn't waste her."
"Go ahead then, get her."
"Stick something in her mouth."
"I'll take care of it," said Bill. He got a scarf out of the drawer,
stuck it in her mouth. Then he ripped the pillow slip into shreds and bound
the scarf in.
"Go ahead," said Bill.
The girl didn't resist. She seemed to be in a state of shock.
When Harry got off. Bill got on. Harry watched. This was it. This was
the way it worked all over the world. When a conquering army came in, they
took the women. They were the conquering army.
Bill climbed off. "Shit, that sure was good."
"Listen, Bill, let's not kill her."
"She'll tell. She's a witness."
"If we spare her life, she won't tell. It'll be worth it to her."
"She'll tell. I know human nature. She'll tell later."
"Why shouldn't she tell on people who do what we do?"
"That's what I mean," said Bill, "why let her?"
"Let's ask her. Let's talk to her. Let's ask her what she thinks."
"I know what she thinks. I'm going to kill her."
"Please don't, Bill. Let's show some decency."
"Show some decency? Now? It's too late. If you'd only been man enough
to keep your stupid pecker out of there ..."
"Don't kill her. Bill, I can't. .. stand it.. ."
"Turn your back."
"Bill, please . . ."
"I said, turn your god damned back!"
Harry turned away. There didn't seem to be a sound. Minutes passed.
"Bill, did you do it?"
"I did it. Turn around and look."
"I don't want to. Let's go. Let's get out of here."
They went out the same window they had entered. The night was colder
than ever. They went down the dark side of the house and out through the
"I feel o.k. now, like it never happened."