very expensive clothes. She had come down the ladder from some rich man. We
went to my place and lived together. She was a very good piece of ass but
had to drink all the time. Her name was Vicki. We screwed and drank wine,
drank wine and screwed. I had a library card and went to the library every
day. I hadn't told her about the suicide thing. It was always a big joke, my
coming home from the library. I would open the door and she would look at
"What no books?"
"Vicki, they don't have any books in the library."
I'd come in and take the wine bottle (or bottles) out of the bag and
we'd begin.
One time after a week's drinking I decided to kill myself. I didn't
tell her. I figured I'd do it when she was in a bar looking for a "live
one." I didn't like those fat clowns screwing her but she brought me money
and whiskey and cigars. She gave me the bit about me being the only one she
loved. She called me "Mr. Van Bilderass" for some reason I couldn't figure.
She'd get drunk and keep saying, "You think you're hot stuff, you think
you're Mr. Van Bilderass!" All the time I was working on the idea of how to
kill myself. One day I was sure I would do it. It was after a week's
drinking, port wine, we had bought huge jugs and lined them up on the floor
and behind the huge jugs we had lined up ordinary-sized winebottles, 8 or 9
of them, and behind the ordinary-size bottles we had lined up 4 or 5 little
bottles. Night and day got lost. It was just screwing and talking and
drinking, talking and drinking and screwing. Violent arguments that ended in
love-making. She was a sweet little pig of a screw, tight and squirming. One
woman in 200. With most of the rest it is kind of an act, a joke. Anyhow,
maybe because of it all, the drinking and the fact of the fat dull bulls
screwing Vicki, I got very sick and depressed, and yet what the hell could I
do? run a turret-lathe?
When the wine ran out the depression, the fear, the uselessness of
going on became too much and I knew I was going to do it. The first time she
left the room it was over for me. How, I was not quite sure but there were
hundreds of ways. We had a little gas jet stove. Gas is charming. Gas is a
kind of a kiss. It leaves the body whole. The wine was gone. I could hardly
walk. Armies of fear and sweat ran up and down my body. It becomes quite
simple. The greatest relief is never to have to pass another human being on
the sidewalk, see them walking in their fat, see their little rat eyes,
their cruel 2-bit faces, their animal flowering. What a sweet dream: to
never have to look into another human face.
"I'm going out to look at a newspaper, to see what day it is, o.k.?"
"Sure," she said, "sure."
I walked out the door. Nobody in the hall. No humans. It was about 10
p.m. I went down in the urine-smelling elevator. It took a lot of strength
to be swallowed by that elevator. I walked down the hill. When I got back
she would be gone. She moved quickly when the drinks ran out. Then I could
do it. But first I wanted to know what day it was. I walked down the hill
and there by the drugstore was the newspaper rack. I looked at the date on
the newspaper. It was a Friday. Very well, Friday. As good a day as any.
That meant something. Then I read the headline:
I didn't quite get it. I leaned closer and read it again. It was the
This was in black type, large type, the banner headline. Of all the
important things that had happened in the world, this was their headline.
I crossed the street, feeling much better, and walked into the liquor
store. I got two bottles of port and a pack of cigarettes on credit. When I
got back to the place Vicki was still there.
"What day is it?" she asked.
"O.k.," she said.
I poured two glasses full of wine. There was a little ice left in the
small wall refrigerator. The cubes of ice floated smoothly.
"I don't want to make you unhappy," Vicki said.
"I know you don't."
"Have a sip first."
"A note came under the door while you were gone."
I took a sip, gagged, lit a cigarette, took another sip, then she
handed me the note. It was a warm Los Angeles night. A Friday. I read the
Dear Mr. Chinaski: You have until next Wednesday to get up the rent. If
you don't, you are out. I know about those women in your room. And you make
too much noise. And you broke your window. You are paying for your
privileges. Or supposed to be. I have been very kind with you. I now say
next Wednesday or you are out. The tenants are tired of all the noise and
cussing and singing night and day, day and night, and so am I. You can't
live here without rent. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I drank the rest of the wine down, almost lost it. It was a warm night
in Los Angeles.
"I'm tired of fucking those fools," she said.
"I'll get the money," I told her.
"How? You don't know how to do anything."
"I know that."
"Then how are we going to make it?"
'That last guy fucked me three times. My pussy was raw."
"Don't worry, baby, I'm a genius. The only trouble is, nobody knows
"A genius at what?"
"I don't know."
"Mr. Van Bilderass!"
"That's me. By the way, do you know that Milton Berle's cousin was hit
on the head by a falling rock?"
"Today or yesterday."
"What kind of rock?"
"I don't know. I imagine some kind of big buttery yellow stone."
"Who gives a damn?"
"Not I. Certainly not I. Except -- "
"Except what?"
"Except I guess that rock kept me alive."
"You talk like an asshole."
"I am an asshole."
I grinned and poured wine all around.


"no man's suffering is ever larger than nature intended." --

conversation overheard at a crapgame
It was the ninth race and the horse's name was Green Cheese. He won by
6 and I got back 52 for 5 and since I was far ahead anyhow, it called for
another drink. "Gimme a shota green cheese," I told the barkeep. It didn't
confuse him. He knew what I was drinking. I had been leaning there all
afternoon. I had been drunk all the night before and when I got home, of
course, I had to have some more. I was set. I had scotch, vodka, wine and
beer. A mortician or somebody called about 8 p.m. and said he'd like to see
me. "Fine," I said, "bring drinks." "Do you mind if I bring friends?" "I
don't have any friends." "I mean my friends." "I do not give a damn," I told
him. I went into the kitchen and poured a water glass %'s full of scotch. I
drank it down straight just like the old days. I used to drink a fifth in an
hour and a half, two hours. "Green cheese," I said to the kitchen walls. I
opened a tall can of frozen beer.
The mortician arrived and got on the phone and pretty soon many strange
people were walking in, all of them bringing drinks with them. There were a
lot of women and I felt like raping all of them. I sat on the rug, feeling
the electric light, feeling the drinks going through me like a parade, like
an attack on the blues, like an attack on madness.
"I will never have to work again!" I told them. "The horses will take
care of me like no whore EVER did!"
"Oh, we know that Mr. Chinaski! We know that you are a GREAT
It was a little greyhaired fucker on the couch, rubbing his hands,
leering at me with wet lips. He meant it. He made me sick. I finished the
drink in my hand and found another somewhere and drank that too. I began
talking to the women. I promised them all the endearments of my mighty cock.
They laughed. I meant it. Right then. There. I moved toward the women. The
men pulled me off. For a worldly man I was very much the highschool boy. If
I hadn't been the great Mr. Chinaski, somebody would have killed me. As it
was, I ripped off my shirt and offered to go out on the lawn with anybody. I
was lucky. Nobody felt like pushing me over my shoelaces.
When my mind cleared it was 4 a.m. All the lights were on and everybody
was gone. I was still sitting there. I found a warm beer and drank it. Then
I went to bed with the feeling that all drunks know: that I had been a fool
but to hell with it.
I had been bothered with hemorrhoids for 15 or 20 years; also
perforated ulcers, bad liver, boils, anxiety-neurosis, various types of
insanity, but you go on with things and just hope that everything doesn't
fall apart at once.
It seemed that drunk almost did it. I felt dizzy and weak, but that was
ordinary. It was the hemorrhoids. They would not respond to anything -- hot
baths, salves, nothing helped. My intestines hung almost out of my ass like
a dog's tail. I went to a doctor. He simply glanced. "Operation," he said.
"All right," I said, "only thing is that I am a coward."
"Vel, ya, dot vill make it more difficult."
You lousy Nazi bastard, I thought.
"I vant you to take dis laxative der Tuesday night, den at 7 a.m. you
get up, ya? and you gif yourself de enema, you keep gifiing dis enema until
der wasser is clear, ya? den I take unudder look into you at 10 a.m. Vensday
"Ya whol, mine herring," I said.
The enema tube kept slipping out and the whole bathroom got wet and it
was cold and my belly hurt and I was drowning in slime and shit. This is the
way the world ended, not with an atom bomb, but with shit shit shit. With
the set I had bought there was nothing to pinch the flow of water and my
fingers would not work so the water ran in full blast and out full blast. It
took me an hour and a half and by then my hemorrhoids were in command of the
world. Several times I thought of just quitting and dying. I found a can of
pure spirits of gum turpentine in my closet. It was a beautiful red and
green can. "DANGER!" it said, "harmful or fatal if swallowed." I was
a coward: I put the can back.
The doctor put me up on a table. "Now, chust relox der bock, ya? relox,
relox . . ."
Suddenly he jammed a wedge-shaped box into my ass and began unwinding
his snake which began to crawl up into my intestine looking for blockage,
looking for cancer.
"Ha! Now if it hurts a bit, nien? den pant like a dog, go, hahaha-
"You dirty motherfucker!"
"Shit, shit, shit! You dog-burner! You swine, sadist . . . You burned
Joan at the stake, you put nails in the hands of Christ, you voted for war,
you voted for Goldwater, you voted for "Nixon ... Mother-ass! What are you
DOING to me?"
"It vill soon be over. You take it veil. You will be good patient."
He rolled the snake back in and then I saw him peering into something
that looked like a periscope. He slammed some gauze up my bloody ass and I
got up and put on my clothes. "And the operation will be for what?"
He knew what I meant. "Chust der hemorrhoids."
I peeked up his nurse's legs as I walked out. She smiled sweetly.
In the waiting room of the hospital a little girl looked at our grey
faces, our white faces, our yellow faces . . . "Everybody is dying!" she
proclaimed. Nobody answered her. I turned the page of an old Time
After routine filling out of papers . . . urine specimens . . . blood,
I was taken to a four bed ward on the eighth floor. When the question of
religion came up I said "Catholic," largely to save myself from the stares
and questions that usually followed a proclamation of no religion. I was
tired of all the arguments and red tape. It was a Catholic hospital -- maybe
I'd get better service or blessings from the Pope.
Well, I was locked in with three others. Me, the monk, the loner,
gambler, playboy, idiot. It was all over. The beloved solitude, the
refrigerator full of beer, the cigars on the dresser, the phone numbers of
the big-legged, big-assed women.
There was one with a yellow face. He looked somehow like a big fat bird
dipped in urine and sun-dried. He kept hitting his button. He had a whining,
crying, mewing voice. "Nurse, nurse, where's Dr. Thomas? Dr. Thomas gave me
some codeine yesterday. Where's Dr. Thomas?"
"I don't know where Dr. Thomas is."
"Can I have a coughdrop?"
"They are right on your table."
"They ain't stoppin' my cough, and that cough medicine ain't any good
"Nurse!" a whitehaired guy yelled from the northeast bed, "can I have
some more coffee? I'd like some more coffee."
"I'll see," she said and left.
My window showed hills, a slope of hills rising. I looked at the slopes
of hills. It was getting dark. Nothing but houses on the hills. Old houses.
I had the strange feeling that they were unoccupied that everybody had died,
that everybody had given up. I listened to the three men complain about the
food, about the price of the ward, about the doctors and nurses. When one
spoke the other two did not seem to be listening, they did not answer. Then
another would begin. They took turns. There was nothing else to do. They
spoke vaguely, switching subjects. I was in with an Oakie, a movie
cameraman, and the yellow piss-bird. Outside of my window a cross turned in
the sky -- first it was blue, then it was red. It was night and they pulled
our curtains around our beds a bit and I felt better, but realized, oddly,
that pain or possible death did not bring me closer to humanity. Visitors
began arriving. I didn't have any visitors. I felt like a saint. I looked
out of my window and saw a sign near the turning red and blue cross in the
sky. MOTEL, it said. Bodies in there in more gentle attunement. Fucking.
A poor devil dressed in green came in and shaved my ass. Such terrible
jobs in the world! There was one job I had missed.
They slipped a showercap over my head and pushed me onto a roller. This
was it. Surgery. The coward gliding down the halls past the dying. There was
a man and a woman. They pushed me and smiled, they seemed very relaxed. They
rolled me onto an elevator. There were four women on the elevator.
"I'm going to surgery. Any of you ladies care to change places with
They drew up against the wall and refused to answer.
In the operating room we awaited for the arrival of God. God finally
entered: "Veil, veil, veil, dere isss mine friend!"
I didn't even bother to answer such a lie.
"Turn on der stomach, please."
"Well," I said, "I guess it's too late to change my mind now."
"Ya," said God, "you are now in our power!"
I felt the strap go across my back. They spread my legs. The first
spinal went in. It felt like he was spreading towels all around my asshole
and across my back. Another spinal. A third. I kept giving them lip. The
coward, the showman, whistling in the dark.
"Put him to sleep, ya," he said. I felt a shot in the elbow, a stinger.
No good. Too many drunks behind me.
"Anybody got a cigar?" I asked.
Somebody laughed. I was getting corny. Bad form. I decided to be quiet.
I could feel the knife tugging at my ass. There wasn't any pain.
"Now dis," I heard him say, "dis iss the main obstruction, see? und
here . . ."
The recovery room was dull. There were some fine-looking women walking
around but they ignored me. I got up on my elbow and looked around. Bodies
everywhere. Very very white and still. Real operations. Lungers. Heart
cases. Everything. I felt somewhat the amateur and somewhat ashamed. I was
glad when they wheeled me out of there. My three roomies really stared when
they rolled me in. Bad form. I rolled off the thing onto the bed. I found
that my legs were still numb and that I had no control over them. I decided
to go to sleep. The whole place was depressing. When I woke up my ass was
really hurting. But legs still dull. I reached down for my cock and it felt
as if it wasn't there. I mean, there wasn't any feeling. Except I wanted to
piss and I couldn't piss. It was horrible and I tried to forget it.
One of my ex-loves came by and sat there looking at me. I had told her
I was going in. Quite what for, I don't know.
"Hi! How you doin'?"
"Fine, only I can't piss."
She smiled.
We talked a little about something and then she left.
It was like in the movies: all the male nurses seemed to be homosexual.
One seemed more manly than the others.
"Hey, buddy!"
He came over. "I can't piss. I want to piss but I can't."
"I'll be right back. I'll fix you up."
I waited quite a while. Then he came back, pulled the curtain around my
bed and sat down.
Jesus, I thought, what's he gonna do? Gimme a head-job?
But I looked and he seemed to have some kind of machine with him. I
watched as he took a hollow needle and ran it down the piss-hole of my cock.
The feeling that I thought was gone from my cock was suddenly back.
"Shit o baby!" I hissed.
"Not the most pleasant thing in the world, is it?"
"Indeed, indeed. I tend to agree. Weeowee! Shit and jesus!"
"Soon be over."
He pressed against my bladder. I could see the little square fish-bowl
filling with piss. This was one of the parts they left out of the movies.
"God o mighty, pal, mercy! Let's call it a good night's work."
"Just a moment. Now."
He drew the needle out. Out the window my blue and red cross turned,
turned. Christ hung on the wall with a piece of dried palm stuck at his
feet. No wonder men turned to gods. It was pretty hard to take it straight.
"Thanks," I told the nurse.
"Any time, any time." He pulled the curtain back and left with his
My yellow piss-bird punched his button.
"Where's that nurse? 0 why o why doesn't that nurse come?"
He pushed it again.
"Is my button working? Is something wrong with my button?"
The nurse came in.
"My back hurts! 0, my back hurts terrible! Nobody has come to
visit me! I guess you fellows noticed that! Nobody has come to see me! Not
even my wife! Where's my wife? Nurse, raise my bed, my back hurts!
THERE! Higher! No, no, my god, you've got it too high! Lower, lower! There.
Stop! Where's my dinner? I haven't had dinner! Look . . ."
The nurse walked out.
I keep wondering about the little pissmachine. I'll probably have to
buy one, carry it around all my life. Duck into alleys, behind trees, in the
back seat of my car.
The Oakie in bed one hadn't said much. "It's my foot," he suddenly said
to the walls, "I can't understand it, my foot just got all swelled-up
overnight and it won't go down. It hurts, it hurts."
The whitehaired guy in the corner pushed his button.
"Nurse," he said, "nurse, how about hustling me up a pot of coffee?"
Really, I though, my main problem is to keep from going insane.
The next day old whitehair (the movie cameraman) brought his coffee
down and sat in a chair by my bed. "I can't stand that son of a bitch." He
was speaking of the yellow piss-bird. Well, there was nothing to do with
whitehair but talk to him. I told him that drink had brought me pretty much
to my present station in life. For kicks I told him some of my wilder drunks
and some of the crazy things that had happened. He had some good ones
"In the old days," he told me, "they used to have the big red cars that
ran between Glendale and Long Beach, I believe it was. They ran all day and
most of the night except for an interval of an hour and a half, I think
between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m.. Well, I went drinking one night and met a buddy
at the bar and after the bar closed we went to his place and finished
something he had left there. I left his place and kinda got lost. I turned
up a deadend street but I didn't know it was deadend. I kept driving and I
was driving pretty fast. I kept going until I hit the railroad tracks. When
I hit the tracks my steering wheel came up and hit me on the chin and
knocked me out. There I was across those tracks in my car K.O.'d. Only I was
lucky because it was in the hour and a half that no trains were running. I
don't know how long I sat there. But the train horn woke me up. I woke up
and saw this train coming down the tracks at me. I just had time to start
the car and back off. The train tore on by. I drove the car home, the front
wheels all bent under and wobbling."
"That's tight."
"Another time I am sitting in the bar. Right across the way is a place
where the railroadmen ate. The train stopped and the men got out to eat. I
am sitting next to some guy in this bar. He turns to me and he says, 'I used
to drive one of those things and I can drive one again. Come on and watch me
start it.' I walked out with him and we climbed into the engine. Sure
enough, he started the thing. We got up good speed. Then I started thinking,
what the hell am I doing? I told the guy, 'I don't know about you but I'm
getting off!' I knew enough about trains to know where the brake was.
I yanked the brake and before the train even stopped I went out the side. He
went out the other side and I never saw him again. Pretty soon there is a
big crowd around the train, policemen, train investigators, yard dicks,
reporters, onlookers. I am standing off to one side with the rest of the
crowd, watching. 'Come on, let's go up and find out what's going on!"
somebody next to me said. 'Nah, hell,' I said, 'it's just a train.' I was
scared that maybe somebody had seen me. The next day there was a story in
the papers. The headline said, TRAIN GOES TO PACOIMA BY ITSELF. I cut out
the story and saved it. I saved that clipping for ten years. My wife used to
see it. 'What the hell you saving this story for? -- TRAIN GOES TO PACOIMA
BY ITSELF.' I never told her. I was still scared. You're the first one I
ever told the story to."
"Don't worry," I told him, "not a single soul will ever hear that story
Then my ass really began to kick up and whitehair suggested I ask for a
shot. I did. The nurse gave me one in the hip. She left the curtain pulled
when she left but whitehair continued to sit there. In fact, he had a
visitor. A visitor with a voice that carried clear down through my fucked-up
bowels. He really sent it out.
"I'm going to move all the ships around the neck of the bay. We'll
shoot it right there. We're paying a captain of one of those boats $890 a
month and he has two boys under him. We've got this fleet right there. Let's
put it to use, I think. The public's ready for a good sea story. They
haven't had a good sea story since Errol Flynn."
"Yeah," said whitehair, "those things run in cycles. The public's ready
now. They need a good sea story."
"Sure, there are lots of kids who have never seen a sea story. And
speaking of kids, that's all I'm gonna use. I'll run 'em all over the boats.
The only old people we'll use will be for the leads. We just move these
ships around the bay and shoot right there. Two of the ships need masts,
that's all that's wrong with them. We hand them masts and then we begin."
"The public is sure ready for a sea story. It's a cycle and the cycle
is due."
"They are worried about the budget. Hell, it won't cost a thing. Why --
I pulled the curtain back and spoke to whitehair. "Look, you might
think me a bastard, but you guys are right against my bed. Can't you take
your friend over to your bed?"
"Sure, sure!"
The producer stood up. "Hell, I'm sorry. I didn't know . . ."
He was fat and sordid; content, happy, sickening.
"O.k.," I said.
They moved up to whitehair's bed and continued to talk about the sea
story. All the dying on the eighth floor of the Queen of Angels Hospital
could hear the sea story. The producer finally left.
Whitehair looked over at me. "That's the world's greatest producer.
He's produced more great pictures than any man alive. That was John F."
"John F.," said the piss-bird, "yeah, he's made some great pictures,
great pictures!"
I tried to go to sleep. It was hard to sleep at night because they all
snored. At once. Whitehair was the loudest. In the morning he always woke me
up to complain that he hadn't slept. That night the yellow piss-bird
hollered all night. First because he couldn't shit. Unplug me, my god, I
gotta crap! Or he hurt. Or where was his doctor? He kept having different
doctors. One couldn't stand him and another would take over. They couldn't
find anything wrong with him. There wasn't: he wanted his mother but his
mother was dead.
I finally got them to move me to a semi-private ward. But it was a
worse move. His name was Herb and like the male nurse told me, "He's not
sick. There isn't anything wrong with him at all." He had on a silk robe,
shaved twice a day, had a T.V. set which he never turned off, and visitors
all the time. He was head of a fairly large business and had gone the
formula of having his grey hair short-cropped to indicate youth, efficiency,
intelligence, and brutality.
The T.V. turned out to be far worse than I could have imagined. I had
never owned a T.V. and so was unaccustomed to its fare. The auto races were
all right, I could stand the auto races, although they were very dull. But
there was some type of Marathon on for some Cause or another and they were
collecting money. They started early in the morning and went right on
through. Little numbers were posted indicating how much money had been
collected. There was somebody in a cook's hat. I don't know what the hell he
meant. And there was a terrible old woman with a face like a frog. She was
terribly ugly. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe these people didn't
know how ugly and naked and meaty and disgusting their faces looked -- like
rapes of everything decent. And yet they just walked up and calmly put their
faces on the screen and spoke to each other and laughed about something. The
jokes were very hard to laugh at but they didn't seem to have any trouble.
Those faces, those faces! Herb didn't say anything about it. He just kept
looking as if he were interested. I didn't know the names of the people but
they were all stars of some sort. They'd announce a name and then everybody
would get excited -- except me. I couldn't understand it. I got a little
sick. I wished I were back in the other room. Meanwhile, I was trying to
have my first bowel movement. Nothing happened. A swath of blood. It was
Saturday night. The priest came by. "Would you care for Communion tomorrow?"
he asked. "No, thank you, Father, I'm not a very good Catholic. I haven't
been to church in 20 years." "Were you baptized a Catholic?" "Yes." "Then
you're still a Catholic. You're just a bum Catholic." Just like in the
movies -- he talks turkey, just like Cagney, or was it Pat O'Brien who
sported the white collar? All my movies were dated: the last movie I had
seen was The Lost Weekend. He gave me a little booklet. "Read this."
He left.
PRAYER BOOK, it said. Compiled for use in hospitals and
I read.
O Eternal and ever-blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with
all the angels and saints, I adore you.
My Queen and my Mother, I give myself entirely to you; and to show my
devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my
heart, my whole being without reserve.
Agonizing Heart of Jesus, have mercy on the dying. O my Cod, prostrate
on my knees, I adore you...
Join me, you blessed Spirits, in thanking the God of Mercies, who is so
bountiful to so unworthy a creature.
It was my sins, dear Jesus, that caused your bitter anguish . . . my
sins that scourged you, and crowned you with thorns, and nailed you to the
cross. I confess that I deserve only punishment.
I got up and tried to shit. It had been three days. Nothing. Only a
swath of blood again and the cuts in my rectum ripping open. Herb had on a
comedy show.
"The Batman is coming onto the program tonight. I wanna see the
"Yeah?" I crawled back into bed.
I am especially sorry for my sins of impatience and anger, my sins of
discouragement and rebellion.
The Batman showed up. Everybody on the program seemed excited. "It's
the Batman!" said Herb.
"Good," I said, "the Batman." Sweet Heart of Mary, be my savior.
"He can sing! Look, he can sing!"
The Batman had removed his Batsuit and was dressed in a street-suit. He
was a very ordinary looking young man with a somewhat blank face. He sang.
The song lasted and lasted and the Batman seemed very proud of his singing,
for some reason.
"He can sing!" said Herb.
My good Cod, what am I and who are you, that I should dare approach
I am only a poor, wretched, sinful creature, totally unworthy to appear
before you.
I turned my back on the T.V. set and tried to sleep. Herb had it on
very loud. I had some cotton which I stuck into my ears but it helped very
little. I'll never shit, I thought, I'll never shit again, not with that
thing on. It's got my guts tightened, tightened . . . I'm gonna go nuts for
sure this time!
O Lord, my Cod, from this day I accept from your hand willingly and
with submission, the kind of death that it may please you to send me, with
all its sorrows, pains, and anguish. (Plenary indulgence once daily, under
the usual conditions.)
Finally, at 1:30 a.m. I could submit no longer. I had been listening
since 7 a.m. My shit was blocked for Eternity. I felt that I had paid for
the Cross in those eighteen and one-half hours. I managed to turn around.
"Herb! For Christ's sake, man! I'm about to have it! I'm about to go
Herb! Herb!"
He was asleep, sitting up.
"You dirty cunt-lapper," I said.
"Whatza? whatz??"
"Turn .. . off? ah, sure, sure ... whyn't ya say so, kid?"
Herb snored too. He also talked in his sleep. I went to sleep about
3:30 a.m. At 4:15 a.m. I was awakened by something that sounded like a table
being dragged down the hall. Suddenly the lights went on and a big colored
woman was standing over me with a clipboard. Christ, she was an ugly and
stupid looking wench, Martin Luther King and racial equality be damned! She
could have easily beat the shit out of me. Maybe that would be a good idea?
Maybe it was Last Rites? Maybe I was finished?
"Look baby," I said, "ya mind telling me what's going on? Is this the
fucking end?"
"Are you Henry Chinaski?"
"I'm afraid so."
"You're down for Communion."
"No, wait! He got his signals crossed. I told him. No

"Oh," she said. She pulled the curtains back and turned off the lights.
I could hear the table or whatever it was going further down the hall. The
Pope was going to be very unhappy with me. The table made a hell of a
racket. I could hear the sick and the dying waking up, coughing, asking
questions to the air, ringing for the nurses.
"What was that, kid?" Herb asked.
"What was what?"
"All that noise and lights?"
"That was the Dark Tough Angel of the Batman making ready The Body of
"Go to sleep."
My doctor came the next morning and peered up my ass and told me I
could go home. "But, my boy, you do not go horseback riding, ya?"
"Ya. But how about some hot pussy?"
"Sexual intercourse."
"Oh, nein, nein! It vill be six to eight weeks before you vill
be able to resume anything normal."
He moved on out and I began to dress. The T.V. didn't bother me.
Somebody on the screen said, "I wonder if my spaghetti is done?" He stuck
his face into the pot and when he looked up, all the spaghetti was stuck to
his face. Herb laughed. I shook hands with him. "So long baby," I said.
"It's been nice," he said. "Yeah," I said. I was ready to leave when it
happened. I ran to the can. Blood and shit. Shit and blood. It was painful
enough to make me talk to the walls. "Ooo, mama, you dirty fuck bastards, oh
shit shit, o you come-crazy freaks, o you shit-mauling cocksucker heavens,
lay off! Shit, shit shit, YOW!"
Finally it stopped. I cleaned myself, put on a gauze bandage, pulled up
my pants and walked over to my bed, picked up my traveling bag.
"So long. Herb, baby."
"So long, kid."
You guessed it. I ran in there again.
"You dirty mother-humpin' cat-fuckers' Oooooo, shitshitshit-SHIT!"
I came out and sat awhile. There was a smaller movement and then I felt
that I was ready. I went downstairs and signed a fortune in bills. I
couldn't read anything. They called me a taxi and I stood outside the
ambulance entrance waiting. I had my little sitz bath with me. A dishpan you
shit in after you filled it with hot water. There were three Oakies standing
outside, two men and a woman. Their voices were loud and Southern and they
had the look and feel that nothing had ever happened to them -- not even a
toothache. My ass began to leap and twinge. I tried to sit down but that was
a mistake. They had a little boy with them. He ran up and tried to grab my
dishpan. He tugged. "No, you bastard, no," I hissed at him. He almost got
it. He was stronger than I was but I kept hold- ing on.
O Jesus, I commend to you my parents, relatives, benefactors,
teachers, and friends. Reward them in a very special way for all the care
and sorrow I have caused them.

"You little jerkoff! Unhand my shitpot!" I told him.
"Donny! You leave that man alone!" the woman hollered at him.
Donny ran on. One of the men looked at me. "Hi!" he said. "Hi," I
That cab looked good. "Chinaski?"
"Yeah. Let's go." I got in front with my shitpot. I kind of sat on one
cheek. I gave him directions. Then, "Listen, if I holler pull behind a
signboard, a gas station, anywhere. But stop driving. I might have to shit."
We drove along. The streets looked good. It was noontime. I was still
alive. "Listen," I asked him, "where's a good whorehouse? Where can I pick
up a good clean cheap piece of ass?"
"I don't know anything about that stuff."
"COME ON! COME ON!" I hollered at him. "Do I look like the fuzz? Do I
look like a fink? You can level with me. Ace!"
"No, I'm not kidding. I don't know about that stuff. I drive daylight.
Maybe a night cabbie might line you up."
"O.k., I believe you. Turn here."
The old shack looked good sitting down there between all the highrise
apartments. My '57 Plymouth was covered with birdshit and the tires were
half-flat. All I wanted was a hot bath. A hot bath. Hot water against my
poor asshole. Quiet. The old Racing Forms. The gas and light bills. The
letters from lonely women too far away to fuck. Water. Hot water. Quiet. And
myself spreading through the walls, returning to the manhole of my goddamned
soul. I gave him a good tip and walked slowly up the driveway. The door was
open. Wide. Somebody was hammering on something. The sheets were off the
bed. My god, I had been raided! I had been evicted!
I walked in. "HEY!" I hollered.
The landlord walked into the front room. "Geez, we didn't expect you
back so soon! The hot water tank was leaking and we had to rip it out. We're
gonna put in a new one."
"You mean, no hot water?"
"No, no hot water."
O good Jesus, I accept willingly this trial which it has pleased you to
lay upon me.
His wife walked in.
"Oh, I was just gonna make your bed."
"All right. Fine."
"He should get the watertank hooked up today. We might be short of
parts. It's hard to get parts on Sunday."
"O.k., I'll make the bed," I said.
"I'll get it for you."
"No, please, I'll get it."
I went into the bedroom and began making the bed. Then it came. I ran
to the can. I could hear him hammering on the water-tank as I sat down. I
was glad he was hammering. I gave a quiet speech. Then I went to bed. I
heard the couple in the next court. He was drunk. They were arguing. "The
trouble with you is that you have no conceptions at all! You don't know
nothing! You're stupid! And on top of that, you're a whore!"
I was home again. It was great. I rolled over on my belly. In Vietnam
the armies were at it. In the alleys the bums sucked on wine bottles. The
sun was still up. The sun came through the curtains. I saw a spider crawling
along the windowledge. I saw an old newspaper on the floor. There was a
photo of three young girls jumping a fence showing plenty of leg. The whole
place looked like me and smelled like me. The wallpaper knew me. It was
perfect. I "was conscious of my feet and my elbows and my hair. I did not
feel 45 years old. I felt like a goddamned monk who had just had a
revelation. I felt as if I were in love with something that was very good
but I was not sure what it was except that it was there. I listened to all
the sounds, the sounds of motorcycles and cars. I heard dogs barking. People
and laughing. Then I slept. I slept and I slept and I slept. While a plant
looked through my window, while a plant looked at me. The sun went on
working and the spider crawled around.


I remember jacking-off in the closet after putting on my mother's high-
heels and looking at my legs in the mirror, slowly drawing a cloth up over
my legs, higher and higher as if peeking up the legs of a woman, and being
interrupted by two friends coming into the house -- "I know he's in here
somewhere." My self putting on clothes and then one of them opening the
closet door and finding me. "You son of a bitch!" I screamed and chased them
both out of the house and heard them talking as they walked away: "What's
wrong with him? What the hell's wrong with him?"
K. was an ex-showgirl and she used to show me the clippings and photos.
She'd almost won a Miss America contest. I met her in an Alvarado St. bar,
which is about as close to getting to skid row as you can get. She had put
on weight and age but there was still some sign of a figure, some class, but
just a hint and little more. We'd both had it. Neither of us worked and how
we made it I'll never know. Cigarettes, wine and a landlady who believed our
stories about money coming up but none right now. Mostly we had to have
We slept most of the day but when it began to get dark we had to get
up, we felt like getting up:
K: "Shit, I c'd stand a drink."
I'd still be on the bed smoking the last cigarette.
Me: "Well, hell, go down to Tony's and get us a couple of ports."
K: "Fifths?"
Me: "Sure, fifths. And no Gallo. And none of that other, that stuff
gave me a headache for two weeks. And get two packs of smokes. Any kind."
K: "But there's only 50 cents here!"
Me: "7 know that! Cuff him for the rest; whatsamata, ya
K: "He says no more -- "
Me: He says, he says -- who is this guy? God?
him. Smile! Wiggle your can at him! Make his pecker rise! Take
him in the back room if necessary, only get that WINE!"
K: "All right, all right."
Me: "And don't come back without it."
K. said she loved me. She used to tie ribbons around my cock and then
make a little paper hat for the head.
If she came back without the wine or with only one bottle, then I'd go
down like a madman and snarl and bitch and threaten the old man until he
gave me what I wanted, and more. Sometimes I'd come back with sardines,
bread, chips. It was a particularly good period and when Tony sold the
business we started on the new owner who was harder to beard but who could
be had. It brought out the best in us.
It was like a wood drill, it might have been a wood drill, I could
smell the oil burning, and they'd stick that thing into my head into my
flesh and it would drill and bring up blood and puss, and I'd sit there the
monkey of my soul-string dangling over the edge of a cliff. I was covered
with boils the size of small apples. It was ridiculous and unbelievable.
Worst case I ever saw, said one of the docs, and he was old. They'd gather
around me like some freak. I was a freak. I'm still a freak. I rode the
streetcar back and forth to the charity ward. Children on streetcars would
stare and ask their mothers, "What's wrong with that man? Mother, what's
wrong with that man's face?" And the mother would SHUUSSSHHH!!! That
shuussshhh was the worst condemnation, and then they'd continue to let the
little bastards and bastardesses stare from over the backs of their seats
and I'd look out the window and watch the buildings go by, and I'd be
drowning, slugged and drowning, nothing to do. The doctors for lack of
anything else called it Acne Vulgaris. I'd sit for hours on a wooden bench
while waiting for my wood drill. What a pity story, eh? I remember the old
brick buildings, the easy and rested nurses, the doctors laughing, having it
made. It was there that I learned of the fallacy of hospitals -- that the
doctors were kings and the patients were shit and the hospitals were there
so the doctors could make it in their starched white superiority, they could
make it with the nurses too: -- Dr. Dr. Dr. pinch my ass in the elevator,
forget the stink of cancer, forget the stink of life. We are not the poor
fools, we will never die; we drink our carrot juice, and when we feel bad we
can take a pop, a needle, all the dope we need. Cheep, cheep, cheep, life
will sing for us, Big-Time us. I'd go in and sit down and they'd put the
drill into me. ZIRRRR ZIRRRR ZIRRRR, ZIR, the sun meanwhile raising dahlias
and oranges and shining through nurses' dresses driving the poor freaks mad.
Zirrrrrrr, zirrr, zirr.
"Never saw anybody go under the needle like that!"
"Look at him, cold as steel!"
Again a gathering of nurse-fuckers, a gathering of men who owned big
homes and had time to laugh and to read and go to plays and buy paintings
and forget how to think, forget how to feel anything. White starch and my
defeat. The gathering.
"How do you feel?"
"Don't you find the needle painful?"
"Fuck you."
"I said -- fuck you."
"He's just a boy. He's bitter. Can't blame him. How old are you?"
"I was only praising you for your courage, the way you took the needle.
You're tough."
"Fuck you."
"You can't talk to me that way."
"Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you."
"You ought to bear up better. Supposing you were blind?"
"Then I wouldn't have to look at your goddamned face."
"The kid's crazy."
"Sure he is, leave him alone."
That was some hospital and I never realized that 20 years later I'd be
back, again in the charity ward. Hospitals and jails and whores: these are
the universities of life. I've got several degrees. Call me Mr.
I was shacked with another one. We were on the 2nd floor of a court and
I was working. That's what almost killed me, drinking all night and working
all day. I kept throwing a bottle through the same window. I used to take
that window down to a glass place at the corner and get it fixed, get a pane
of glass put in. Once a week I did this. The man looked at me very strangely
but he always took my money which looked all right to him. I'd been drinking
heavily, steadily for 15 years, and one morning I woke up and there it was:
blood streaming out of my mouth and ass. Black turds. Blood, blood,
waterfalls of blood. Blood stinks worse than shit. She called a doctor and
the ambulance came after me. The attendants said I was too big to carry down
the steps and asked me to walk down. "O.k., men," I said. "Glad to oblige --
don't want you to work too hard." Outside I got onto the stretcher; they
opened it for me and I climbed on like a wilted flower. One hell of a
flower. The neighbors had their heads out the windows, they stood on their
steps as I went by. They saw me drunk most of the time. "Look, Mabel," one
of them said, "there goes that horrible man!" "God have mercy on his soul!"
the answer came. Good old Mabel. I let go a mouthful of red over the edge of
the stretcher and somebody went OOOOOhhh-hhhooooh.
Even though I was working I didn't have any money so it was back to the
charity ward. The ambulance was packed. They had shelves in the ambulance