Sunday, February 22, 2009

Soul Spy

by Regina Edelman

Bad energy rebels surf in waves of time to devour young universes. We good energies found Earth full of such young universes in development. We don’t know if the animals on this farm will have time to grow for good or bad. I’m in charge of studying the minds of human beings, and send messages of goodness.

Humans are fearless. They fear death, don’t fear to kill. They drink alcohol. They’re dangerous animals eating other animals. They attack in order to pleasantly survive , but nothing pleases them. The power and weakness in their mind can damage the mind system of the universe, or not, but time slides away and they are yet to see their ideas are combustible gas and their buildings and heroes catch fire. We good gods of the universe want to help, but prejudiced by old ideas, humans don't hear because they fear death. They don’t hear time and can’t see it will drive them forever out of time and space, but we good hope to save the mind of humankind so we also study their books, for people's minds are also gracious and intelligent. From here where I spy, I study these families to see what good could come of them.


“Eh, Tudé, you can’t eat sugar. You’re diabetic.”

“Who said I am?”

“You know you are. Why you think the malign varicose wounds in your chins don’t ever heal? Now cataracts attacked your right eye. In hope you’re not diabetic, you refuse to go to a doctor because they’ll put you on a diet, but you can’t stop eating, can you? You don’t want to feel better because you’re a rare stubborn primitive species who don’t care about nobody and nothing but your selfish pleasures, do you?” Grandma said.

“What doctor am I going to go to in the public hospital? They’ll give me midnight tea to feel better, and in fifteen minutes I’ll be walking through the gates of heaven, my pain surely dead with me. Where’s my coffee, Elga? Put lots of sugar in my coffee,” Tudé said willfully.

“I’m coming, Papai,” my mom said, test tasting his coffee, pouring more sugar, stirring it fast with a spoon, then trying it again.

“You must be highly intoxicated to think you’ll walk through the gates of heaven,” Grandma needled.

“O, Mama, Papai deserves heaven,” my mom said, bringing coffee to her father at the table.

“Arminda, I’m getting very angry with this conversation about me being diabetic, a disease you know nothing about. Is my fried polenta ready? I’m hungry,” old Grandpa complained.

“Here, suffer more,” Grandma said dragging her feeble body carrying another plate of fried polenta to the table.

Grandpa’s soiled nails fumbled to pick a slice from the plate in front of him. Anxiously, his tongue flicked right and left. He ate half a slice in one bite, and pleased, swallowed a large gulp of coffee. “Ah! Now it tastes right!” he said.

Delighted flies landed on his plate.


The church bell tolled four times and Grandpa’s bedroom door screeched open. Lying at the foot of the bed in front of the doorway, I could see Grandma limp across the living room to the kitchen, carrying her chamber pot. She opened the kitchen door to the backyard, stayed outside for a while, and soon came back inside, starting the day moving by blowing the first fire in the stove.

Her moves came clear to my ears over the unfinished wall only three-quarters to the ceiling between bedroom and kitchen. I heard her old lungs fill with air and slowly empty her breath across kindling. Nervously, she scraped the tray of the chimney damp to and fro for the smoke to go, but smoke billowed inside our house again as she blew, blew, blew. “Thank heavens!” she murmured with a sigh, tiles in the roof aglow. The wood cracked hot and the smoke stayed inside the house, suffocating lungs and burning sane eyes. Mom next to me in bed and my two brothers in their bed next to us snored loudly. Smoke apparently didn’t disturb their lungs or sight, and they didn’t hear the crickets, crows, cars, and radios outside.

The church bell tolled five times. Slowly, the sun lit our smoky dark rooms pale silver. Grandpa crossed my sight, bare-chested in ragged flannel short pants, shins wrapped in grimy bandages. He limped from his bedroom to the kitchen with the help of his imaginary spyglass, a fist wrapped in front of his eye. He coughed pacing from his bedroom to the threshold of mine. “When do you think this disgraceful smoke will leave my lungs alone? All I need is to have an asthma attack,” he said disappearing from my sight to the kitchen and then reappearing in the living room. “Damn, how many times I told you to start the fire earlier since I have no more strength to clean the clogged chimney?” he demanded, his feared dark figure darker, detached in the gray smoke once more in the living room.

“I got up as the church bell tolled four and I won’t get up earlier! Bet on it, pest! And stop feigning coughing! I know you very well!”

“Four? Then smoke should not be suffocating my lungs now. You didn't start the fire like I taught you. Did you blow it slowly and patiently?”

“Yes, Tudé.”

“I don’t think you did. You have to blow kindling like an oboist blows a long soft note in an orchestra solo. You can’t blow too slowly, or harshly in a hurry. A real musician understands the importance of time to not spoil the beauty of a composition of art. Fire is the same. The softer you blow, the faster the flame will grow vivid, belo, and the faster the smoke will go away. There's no need for smoke to accumulate inside. If there’s smoke after five o’clock, it’s because you impatiently started a lousy fire.”

“Look here, Tudé, things are not always as easy as for an oboist in an orchestra blowing his solo thousands of times into the head of someone before the concert like you've done in my head for years. Our wood is wet. This house is on top of a rotten bog. The wood gets humid and don’t burn as fast as you wish, master.”

“Whatever!” he trumped and went on to the next subject that disturbed his nervous system. Do you think the breadman is on the way?” he asked, and not waiting for a reply, he limped to the front door.

I was excited to have bread.

“Damn dogs don’t shut up! I need to focus my ears to hear a signal the breadman is on his way.”

“Why you want to hear that? You just lectured me about time, but seemingly your lecture isn’t exactly clear in your old head. The breadman will be here when it’s time for him to be here. We won’t miss him. We hear his trap half a kilometer away besides the commotion of others waiting for fresh bread, impossible not to notice him.”

I heard the breadman far away.

“Warm bread! Warm bread!” he rang his bicycle bell. “Warm bread! Warm bread!”

“Thank heavens the man is on the way! Arminda, go fast! Be the first customer. Get the warmest loaf, the biggest. Here, take the money! Run! Run!” he shouted anxiously, and Grandmother ran from the kitchen as fast as her feeble legs allowed.

“Jesus, Is that as fast as you can run? You took almost an hour to get less than ten steps from the kitchen to the front window. O, Jesus lord, we won’t have the warmest and biggest loaf!”

“Quit the illusion! The man passed at least twenty streets before ours. The bread won’t be so warm; and the biggest loaf was first to go.”

“Just run! Do what I tell you!”

When Grandma returned to the kitchen, Grandpa followed.

“Let me touch the bread,” he said, unwrapping the paper. “That’s it? The biggest loaf you could get is this small one? I should make you go back and change it for bigger!”

“Tudé, they're all the same size. Don’t make mental trouble!”

“Reinforce to your daughter Elga then that I buy fresh bread Saturday. Her sprouts are allowed to have a slice then and another slice Sunday. The rest of the days, they eat corn flour flakes. The bread is for me, a sick man. In addition, till Elga’s junk husband gets out of jail, I’m the only breadwinner here. God knows what I went through to earn my monthly retirement check, struggling ten to eleven hours Monday to Saturday over fifty-five years in that English cotton mill. The owners there and all around here are filthy rich, and what did I get? Open wounds in my shins, turned into a miserable slave that has to pay the mill rent every month. I deserve to have more bread than everybody else.”

“Yes, Tudé, food is your motivation, right? What you mean is don’t touch the bread or you'll belt them!”

“You know what I mean! True, food is the only motivation. You didn’t boil water for the coffee yet? Jesus!”

“Fire makes water boil, not me, creature."

“My Saturday will be delayed because you started this lousy fire.”

The smell of coffee warmed my spirit.

“Aw! Finally coffee is ready! Pour it for me in the big mug, the one I made out of a preserved figs can, with lots of sugar,” Grandpa instructed.

“You can’t eat sugar, Tudé.”

“O, there we go again. Who said I can’t?”

“You have diabetes, man.”

“Who said I have?”


The salvation is with the girl. I’ll invest in her.

©2009 Regina Edelman

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Handsome in America

by Regina Edelman
“You don’t look fifty, Joey, such a slim body and beautiful skin,” my friend Americus said as I stepped out of my black Beetle that sunny and humid summer day in Fairfield, Connecticut. A mild wind hissed through the sycamore, pin oak, and magnolia darkly shading our way, and willows hissed ahead.
My friend Americus did the best thing in his life not bringing a child to his world. Single, fifty-two, Italian background, short, ball-bellied, his face was wax yellow-green at the time, seriously concerned, bags of flaccid skin under his wide green eyes almost jumping outside their sockets. His lips stretched straight in a small trace. In the past, his lips weren't normally like that; the trace of his mouth used to draw like a Chinese bowl in a good mood, talking, talking, loudly joking, laughing at his own jokes, but lately the man was overwhelmed in misfortune, and had called me once more to cry out his miseries. He only called me when he thought things were too wrong for him to bear alone.
I felt some sort of gratitude to this man because when I emigrated from São Paulo to New York he gave me a job and shelter in his tiny office where we worked as agents representing a paper manufacturer in the Amazon. He gave me the job because he couldn’t stand the Brazilian mentality of doing business. He was tired of losing, and was headed to bankruptcy. “Jesus! Brazilians can’t import a container without being late at least twenty days,” he’d say, he the one who had to pay for the losses or lose the customer. When I came to work for him, I put order in that confusion, and worked my ass off to meet time tables. I made good enemies and did a good job while Americus spent his time playing Solitaire on his computer. In two years, I accomplished his wish to have a million dollars. I worked for him until the day my first book was published, a work I did in silence, on the side, on my own, because I dearest dreamed to become someone with voice in this crude world. Americus cried heartily when I announced my victory. He didn’t want me to leave. I said I wanted to be a star. He said I was too old to be a star, said I was a traitor, said that if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t know English to write any book, which isn’t true. I learned English because I always wanted too, and because I read and read, and paid attention to everyone speaking in the city, went to free English as Second Language classes twice a week night times, the only days I stopped working at eight in the evening. Then I met my adorable husband. On the day we met the first thing he said to me was, “The best way to learn English is to have a native speaker for a boyfriend.” We’ve been together for eight years.
“I can’t let you go!” Americus sobbed when I quit, but I had to go. He knew there was nothing he could do to stop me, so I went, and promised he would have my friendship forever. Without me, he closed his business, scared he would lose his millions of dollars I worked so hard to earn him. Now the man called to tell me his pain, to complain about his mother’s huge underwear he had to launder. On account of that, he lost his appetite for having sex with women, not that he was looking for any women. “Women in America are the most expensive cold bitches!” he usually moaned. His sexual preferences were wild; prostitutes from Brazil he liked the best when he used to travel there thrice a year. With his mother bedridden, he hadn’t traveled for two years in a row.
“Joey, there's no sadder thing on this earth than to find out too late you’re pretty fucking stupid,” Americus Rindo cried his sad confession. I answered he was right in a manner to cheer him up, but his eyes crossed mine, blank and indecipherable. He walked down the porch through the backyard and stopped at the margin of the pond, throwing rocks to shoo the geese, which, squawking, flew weary to the front of the house, a million dollar house he earnestly dreamed to own. His mother promised it to him if he’d take care of her until her last breath, and he had sworn he’d take care of her.
“Are you mad at me?” I asked.
“Joey, you’re the cruelest friend ever!”
“Why?” I asked, and wanted to add that cruelty is throwing rocks at the geese, but I didn’t say that because I was a visitor, and the man was already so depressed with the latest news about his hepatitis c. Before this latest news, when he found out he had the dread disease, he panicked for the end of his life, then his doctor told him he could be cured with new medications, but it would eat a couple thousand dollars from his fortune if his insurance didn’t cover the treatment. He said he couldn’t afford such expensive medicines. What is a couple thousand from your millions to save your life was my question. I don’t know, my money is invested, was his reply, greed glinting in his immense mysterious eyes. It took a month for him to find out his health insurance covered the interferon injections and ribavarin pills needed to eradicate the virus eating his liver, and until then the man called me at least three times a day to tell he couldn’t sleep or eat so anxious scared of death he was, and now that his chances to die of that disease diminished to twenty percent, he had some other trouble not yet quite clear in my mind.
“You confirmed I’m stupid!” he cried, his tales of misery filling my head.
“No, I just said that what you’re saying is absolutely right. I remember being pretty stupid myself, and the older I get, stupid I remain. Now, come on, cheer up. Isn’t it wonderful you don’t have to pay for the medicine that can cure your liver?” I asked, walking down the stairs to be close to him. He wrenched to get his pack of cigarettes in the pocket below the knees of his cargo-shorts, lit his menthol, put the lighter back in the cigarette pack and wrenched again to return it to the far pocket. He belched gray smoke, pacing around, one hand in the pocket of his cargos, silent, sad. I respected his silence and pain and patiently waited for him to speak up. In the interim, I compared his lawn, trimmed but rare, dried, weedy, bare-spotted here and there, with the other houses’ lawns, tender, hydrate, dark green and full. Birds ate in a seeder swinging in the sycamore on the edge of the road. A wind-bell tinkled somewhere. His cigarette long gone, Americus continued to pace, but now dabbed at the bundle of hair at the back of his neck as he’s done since I met him in Brazil, a mania he has every time he thinks someone’s looking at the plugs of hair on top of his head, not that I was looking at his gruesome scalp, red and irritated where the fake hair was planted.
“I’m sorry, Joey, I shouldn’t of called you and worry you with my fucking dilemma.”
“Where your dilemma lies wasn’t much clear to me so I came to talk in person with my delightful friend, Americus.”
“You call me delightful sarcastically. I bore you to death. I’m sorry. I felt so lonely today I wanted someone to talk to over the phone. There was no need for you to come from Manhattan to spare any time with me. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a burden and ruin your Saturday.”
“Look, you’re not a burden. You don’t ruin my Saturday. Your mood worried me. What’s a friend for? I came to talk to you, so talk.”
“Well, the insurance covers the medicine as you know. The doctor guarantees eight percent the medicine will work for me. After a year, we’ll see how my body reacts.” He stopped talking to light another cigarette. “Doctor warned the counter effect of the drugs will put me in an ill mood, lazy to the point of not wanting to get up from bed, and it’s possible I’ll lose my hair.”
That's his latest worry? Losing his hair?
“I don't want to lose my hair, Joey!” he cried and shook his head so hard that I thought it would roll in the pond to fulfill the vengeance of the geese.
Suddenly, an impatient buzzer cracked the air.
“Mom, mom’s calling,” Americus said and checked his watch. “Two o’clock. She needs her bladder medicine and food.”
I followed Americus to the house to attend his bedridden mother. In the kitchen, he chose a pill bottle among an ocean of other pill bottles set on a round tray on the counter. He picked a glass inside the cabinet, filled it with water from a Britta pitcher he took from the fridge, then picked a glass jar with some sort of baby-papinha with vegetables in it, set the microwave to hit it, picked salt crackers from a jar on the counter, and after all, set everything on a tray and hurried to his mother’s bedroom.
I waited in their large living room decorated with cat bibelot and white china on top of a caramel-colored credenza that matched a wood dinner table and six chairs; pillows in five tones of hibiscus from pink to faint red adorned each seat, and the same hibiscus pattern colored the huge couch in front of the only modern thing in the house, an immense HDTV in the corner of the room. Clean white lace drapes fell nicely down the four floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto the lawn in front of the house, which was greener and fuller than the backyard.
“Americus, I heard voices in the house. Do you have visitors?” I heard his mother say in a low, tired, thick, and groggy voice.
“Yes.”
“I don’t want to see anyone!”
“You won’t.”
“Don’t go anywhere. My blood pressure medicine's due at four. Fix the clock!”
“Yes, mother,” Americus said, came out the bedroom, closed the door behind him, and walked quickly to the living room. “Do you mind going back outside with me? I need to smoke. Mom doesn’t know I smoke. O! I’m sorry; you’re sitting comfortably on the sofa. Let’s stay here in the fresh air-conditioning.”
“No, no. Let’s go out,” I said and stood from the sofa, patting my skirt on the butt. He protested again that there was no need to go out in the heat and humidity, but the truth was that he badly needed to talk and couldn’t do without his cigarettes. “Forgive me…” He went ahead, unloaded the tray on the counter, filled a glass with diet coke, and asked if I wanted anything to drink. Prejudice of their glasses, afraid I’d catch his or her disease, I declined and then I followed him back to the backyard. He shooed the geese once more, and once more they ran mad from the lake, from him.
“What does your doctor say about hepatitis c and cigarettes? Are they compatible?” I asked.
“Doctor knows I smoke, said I have to quit. He gave me drugs to quit, but I’ll start the tablets when I start the liver medication the end of next week.”
“Good! Seems everything's under control then for better health and your future.”
“My future?” he considered, head cocked left. “My freedom is gone. I may die before mom, and my dream to inherit this house all for myself, only a winged illusion,” he muttered, nerves blooming out of his skin, head cocked right.
“How old is she now?”
“Ninety-two. The woman has a lust for life. She might live at least ten more years and I’ll be fucking sixty-five,” he said, gazing gracelessly to the sycamore, then turned to me and must have read in my forehead that I thought his mother a burden to him. “O, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want mom dead. I love mom!” he excused himself, shame appearing red in his flaccid cheeks. “The woman's strong…,” he continued enigmatically low, almost to himself, and tapped the bundle of hair at the back of his head.
“What’s the deal with your hair?”
“Curing my liver might be a disaster to the rest of my natural hair. You ever notice I have hair plugs?”
I nodded slowly and he looked shocked that his gruesome head was obvious to anyone. Who knows what he thinks? I’d known the man for nineteen years, and I noticed the plugs when my eyes first landed on top of his head, moreover, there's a certain pleading look in the eyes of a man with hair plugs, as if begging everyone not to look at his scalp. “I think you shouldn’t worry in anticipation,” I said, “and if the worst happens for sure, shave your head.”
“I can’t shave my head, no,” Americus said, nervously shaking his head, “for two reasons,” he paused, pensive, “one, plastic surgery to smooth my scalp the way it used to be costs a fortune, and two, there're holes in the back of my head. Plastic surgery may not resolve a thing at first, so more surgery, more money down the drain. If my scalp can ever be repaired is a question mark, surgeons say. I’ve investigated.”
“Too expensive? Holes in the back of your head?” I asked helplessly.
“Yes, the reason why I said lately I found I'm sooo stupid!” Americus said, his big eyes revealing suffering with no end.
What could I say to that man? “O! Don’t worry with your hair. If hair was a good thing, it wouldn’t grow in the asshole for us to shit on top of it.”
The man cocked an eyebrow and carried his thumb to his mouth, then bit the edge of its nail, pondering my dumb saying. Witless, indeed sad, a captive cockatoo picking on its fleshy foot is a happier picture. He went on, “To be handsome in America, you ought to keep your hair no matter if hair grows in the asshole.”
Madonna mia, he considered himself handsome! “Well, that’s a strange opinion. I rather my man bald than with fake hair, toupee, or those hair-do’s where they comb all the hair over the bald spot and harden with spray not strong enough to support a light breeze, and the hair lifts, floating like a strange satellite attached to the gravity of a strange vain head. For God's sake, who in hell says fake hair is handsome? What devil blew this in your ears?”
“O! It’s a long story. Do you wanna know? I’ll tell ya the whole thing,” Americus said, his eyes encouraging me to let him reveal the depth of his pain.
I nodded for him to him go on, and then heard a revelation.
“I didn’t need to get hair plugs. I was too young, twenty. I had hair, Joey! I swear I had fine hair, thin, but just fine. I did it all because of a girl! A girl! She turned out to be a turn-off like mom’s huge underwear.”
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind. I dearly loved this girl. I was so horny for her. She was so cute, nineteen, blonde, blue hypnotic eyes, short hair, tiny cute ears, skinny, small bulbs I fantasized sucking till she orgasmed and I came. She promised hot sex, teased my cock and I had wet dreams for months. One day, an elderly man, late thirties probably, walked past the two of us in our college cafeteria. He had thin hair on the sides like mine, but was bald on top, and she said, ‘I'd never go out with a bald man. Your hair is just like his and falls out fast. It’s getting thinner and thinner. If I were you, I’d get a hair transplant now before your hair’s gone.' Madly in love with her, I fretted about what she said for days, figured she meant we’d be lovers if I wasn’t damn bald. It was all in my head, but it sure seemed my hair was falling out faster than ever. I fantasized about having a rich infallible crop of hair and considered getting a transplant to win over the girl who consumed my thoughts with sickening desire night and day. I requested several hair transplant clinic brochures by mail. They didn’t convince me, and the prices were high. The hair in every picture seemed unnatural, but then one shiny morning the TV announced a fair-priced transplant service. It could save my life, I reckoned, and the clinic was located conveniently in a town seven miles from here. The process was something new at the time. They took shanks of natural hair from the back of the head, and implanted them on top of the bald spot. I drove there and they put me in a room to watch videos of men. I was so impressed, those men with no hair and then with hair after the surgery, perfectly handsome, natural, and smiling.”
“The male models convinced you?” I asked. What a simpleton, I thought.
“They did, Joey. I went home happy, took more videos with me of the surgery procedures, and saw more models, each happy with the result. The pictures in the new brochures suited me better than the others I’d seen. I called for an appointment for the surgery, and didn’t tell mom or my two brothers I was about to get a hair transplant.
“Why?”
“I didn’t want nobody to convince me not to do it.”
“So you already knew your foolishness, didn’t you?”
He nodded bizarrely. “On the day of the surgery, the nurse called me outside to the front yard to hide from the surgeons. She told me if either of the two doctors saw her, she would certainly be fired. She badly needed to support her two kids. She told me to give up of the surgery. ‘You have just perfect hair,’ she said, ‘and it will be twenty years at least until your hair falls out.’ Until then, she hoped I was mature enough to decide not to get a hair transplant, but I was suspicious of the blonde woman, maybe in her middle-forties with a voice hoarse from cigarettes and beer. You know the kind I’m talking about?” I nodded. “She looked crazy with her weary fast talk. I barely understood her. I thanked her, and went inside the clinic. She came after me, embarrassed.” He stopped to light another cigarette.
“Do you understand that nurse risked her job to give you a good piece of advice?”
“Now I do. Now I know I clearly heard every word she said. Now I know my indomitable, vicious libido. Now I know I forced myself to believe she was crazy, but I was crazy, now let me finish,” he pleaded with one hand on his chest, the other up front in the air. “So, after the surgery, which took four hours, they put me in front of a mirror, disappointment hazing my thoughts, the top of my head red and swollen. Then I had even less hair on top, and holes in the back from where they took the hair to put on top. I was told that my head would be back to normal and my hair handsome in three or four days. Shit! Shit! I fucked up was all I could think, and could say nothing. When I got home, and mom saw it, she ran after me to beat me. My two brothers said I was loony. I ran outside the house to the fields, but had to come back home at some point, so end of the day I came back home. Mom moaned in grief, gave me a mirror and a recent picture of myself, then asked me to truly compare, and I admitted to her I fucked up. Mom cried for a few more days, but time put everything back. The shock healed in a week or two, and my family accepted to live in peace with me. So that’s the story of my implanted hair.”
“Hold on, what happened to the girl of your dreams?”
“O! She dumped me!” Vexed, he lit another cigarette. I couldn’t hold myself and started to laugh. “Are you fucking laughing at me?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t…mean…to laugh…. but your hair story is the most absurd story I ever heard… she fucking dumped you…”
“She did, the minute she saw me she fled like I ported some contagious disease. I don’t know. I’m cursed to kill everything nice I have, and I’m not talking about trifle nice things like bones dogs bury. I’m talking about nice big things of heavy importance, of real value, like youth I wasted for want of this house, like my hair, like my liver, it’s only all my holy fucking fault.”
“How did you get hepatitis c?
“I don’t know, too much unsafe sex, cocaine excess. Who knows? I ain’t a saint. I kill nice important things like I even killed this lawn.” Pensive, he looked to the dreary lawn under our feet.
“What? The lawn? Why?”
“Because I’d be fined and in financial trouble if I didn’t clean the bottom of this pond, accused of being responsible for sand and mud clogging the neighborhood pipes somehow, this pond the very cause of the last flood. The town argued with mom and me. We had a month deadline to clean the pond and present the documents of service done to the town. The correct thing to do would have been to clean the bottom of the pond and dump the gunk some place around town. Ten G’s to do the work, but my Mexican gardener tossed in my head he'd do the work at night while nobody's looking, for 3G’s, and he’d spread the dirt from the bottom of the pond on my back lawn, then roll a machine after to set the dirt in the ground, so ditto, my lawn never grew anymore. Who’d a thought grass is a sentimental thing? Now my lawn is like this, sentimental.”
“Pretty much like you hair," I said, holding my laughter to not hurt poor Americus’ head even more.
“Like my hair, yes, yes. Am I old and stupid?”
“Well, yes, but, but that don’t mean the end of the world. If you can look into all this with regret it means you can chart a different destination for a better future. You have the force to move, to change directions, and there’s always time to change if you wish to.”
“You talk philosophy.”
“What isn’t philosophy in the human universe—gods, money, Aristotle’s ideas, million dollars skyscrapers that wind or fire can knock down one minute to the other? Our intelligent world comes from our superstitious small heads; everything meant to fit us humans are only ideas of other humans, old ideas that aren’t necessarily ideal any more.” He conceded my words with a nod. “Can’t you have your life independent away from this house? You can go any time you want to, just manage things right before you leave.”
“Yes, but who’d care for mom?”
“Pay a nurse to be with the woman, Americus.”
“Too expensive! Mom don’t trust strangers!” he said exasperated.
“Look, don’t you have two brothers? Didn’t they come out through the same womb and sucked her same nipples? Talk to them. Make a new plan. Maybe they can alternate with you to take care of mom, and you could travel off for two weeks to Brazil for fun. Don’t you think you deserve a break?”
“Mom’s will is that I take care of her in order to have this house. I agreed. I can’t blow off a million dollar house. My brothers and their wives would fight me in court to sell the house and split the money with them, but mom already gave them their portions. Mine is the house if I take care of her.” His dismal face snarled greedily.
“Americus, look, I think your well being is worth more than a million dollar house. If the house is so much more important to you, then I don’t know how to tranquilize your troubles. Meditate.”
He cocked his head to understand and look at me. “I’d like to die if I lose my natural hair,” he cried.
I didn’t think he heard or believed a thing I said, so I reassured him. “You see at this moment how much more important your hair is to you than the house? Wouldn’t you give up the house if you could have your hair back with no menace of it falling out?” I think he sketched a nod, but cocked his head again with no answer for me. “Look, you must calm down and wait for real things to happen in the right time, then you’ll see what attitude to take to remedy whatever afflicts you. Don’t precipitate any act that you may regret later or make some loved one cry for you. Didn’t you learn from your past? Enjoy this backyard. Sit on the ground. Close your eyes and breathe. Think of nothing, think of yourself as a piece of the whole universe, a sacred important piece. Hold in this position for three minutes at least. That will calm you and help you to go through hard time or not. Today you’re not sure if you will lose your hair, so don’t worry with that at this moment,” I said, looking at the time on my cellular. 3:30. “I have to go, Americus. Follow me to my car.”

Three days later, the phone rang. “Hello, Joey? This is Ignacio. How are you?” I heard an urgency in Americus’ brother’s voice.

“O! Hi, Ignacio. I’m doing great. You?”
“Terrible! My brother was found hanged this morning. When mom buzzed for her six o’clock kidney medication, he didn’t come. She sensed something terrible could happen to her if her medication was not perhaps administered at the usual time, so she called 911. Americus left a note for you:
“I couldn’t take it, Joey, and sent myself to oblivion. I precipitate against my life too. One thing I learned in this life, I was coward to live, but not coward to die. You talked so deeply true when visiting me three days ago. I meditated. I was calm for a while, but the old anxiety took me, and I felt peace isn’t for a tired and vicious soul like mine unless you’d be around me night and day, for your voice pretty much comforted me. I know you were tired as hell of my nonsense through this life. Forgive me whatever I did to annoy you. I also know of your loyalty to me. I was glad I encountered you. You’re right. A million dollar house is not worth any exchange for well being.”
©2009 Regina Edelman

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Busy as a Call Girl on Valentine's Day - 4 of 4


I woke disturbed by the same bad dream I always have of being chased by the police because someone told a lie about me. Janey and I showered together then dried each other off with threadbare bath house towels from a warm pile on top of the hot water pipes. Then bundled again, somewhere between Williamsburg and Greenpoint, we walked silently west toward the East River, Manhattan skyline red and gold beyond. She knew a man on the sidewalk and they talked a few steps away from me.

Walking away with her, I asked, did you sleep with him?

Just figure I slept with every man I talk to.

On the subway ride under the river into the city, I chewed on that pill and the last three days. We ate breakfast in a greasy spoon in the East Village before Janey said, I have to go.

Where?

A job.

Where?

Can’t say. I’m not sure. My work is irregular.

What do you do?

Help friends.

Help friends?

Like I said, it’s irregular. People don’t always need help.

I picked up the check and we split our ways.

I waited for Janey to call, but she didn't, busy as a call girl on Valentine’s Day, so I went back out for a drink to fill in the time until I die.

My carrot-topped friend Constance sat on a bar stool at the far end of my favorite haunt, a brilliant purple octopus tattoo engulfing her freckled left shoulder. I bought a round and told her, I been seeing this girl. She’s a stripper. I been taking her out. She won’t tell me where she works since the strip joints closed.

I can tell you, she dates men for money.

We went to the steam baths with a stripper friend of her’s.

Let me put this nice. You’re a trick.

She gave me this jacket.

I think a guy named John had the jacket before. Watch out. There’s two of them. They’ll steal all your money they can.

They don’t got to steal. I’ll give it to them. I don't care.


You should.

That night, the phone rang and Janey said, I have to talk to you.

I don’t want to talk anymore.

I have to see you.

What do you want?

I don’t want anything. I have to see you, Big Daddy. You know where to meet me. I have to see you now. I need to see you. I can’t tell you over the phone.

You got it. I’m leaving.

I trudged uptown from Chinatown through the slush and was surprised to see Tommy and Banana sitting in the window of an Italian restaurant on the way. They waved me in.

Where you going, Big Daddy? Tommy asked.

You look tired, Big Daddy, Banana said. Sit down. Have a drinkypoo.

I’m going to see Janey for the last time.

Have a little nibble, Big Daddy, Banana urged, hoisting a forkful of spaghetti under my nose. Tomato and meatballs. Your favorite.

I’m not hungry, I said, chomping the spaghetti. She could have taken me for more if she wanted. I tell you, a prostitute can fake love better than a frigid woman can fake she likes being touched. I don’t know.

At least a whore let’s you off the hook, Tommy said.

Shut up, Banana said.

I schooled Tommy, you know they beat you with oak branches for twenty bucks at the Russian baths.

Drink a little, he said.

I ain’t thirsty. Where you get that sweater?

Banana.

Nice. You’re lucky. You like this leather jacket? You can have it. You need something funky.

What’s the matter, Big Daddy?

I know exactly how this is going to turn out, I said, got up and took a taste of Tommy’s bitter black beer, then tramped the last blocks to the Starbucks in the East Village where Janey wanted to play our story out.

In back on a plush seat, she made herself small again on my chest, on my lap, and asked, remember you said you want me to be safe and happy?

Sure.

I need money, however much you can give me. I hate to ask.

I gave her nine hundred cash, more than I really had, and said, I ain’t no sugar daddy.


No, you’re not the type. You’ll pretend you don’t know me if you see me on the street tomorrow, but I’ll remember you for the rest of my life. She kissed me and said, Happy Valentine's Day.

Next: Handsome in America by Regina Edelman

Friday, February 13, 2009

Busy as a Call Girl on Valentine's Day - 3 of 4

Janey called and said, I stayed over my friend Carson’s last night, didn’t get home till this morning. We stayed up, talked all night. I told her about you. You’ll love Cars.

She a stripper too?

Yeah? So?

You got a lot of stripper friends?

She’s my only friend. She knows what being a society dropout is like. She says I shouldn’ta told you and your friends I strip, but I like to be honest. You want to meet her, meet us at the baths later?

When I got there, Janey was sitting in front on the top step. She wore the gray hood of her sweatshirt low over her brow like a boxer, a white towel around her throat. She looked down and smiled at me, squeezing lemon halves into a plastic gallon jug of spring water between her legs.

This is the secret not to dehydrate, she said.

I hiked up the steps, kissed her lips, her eyes.

Carson’s coming later, Janey said and jumped up. Let’s go in! She took my hand and led me up to the counter. This is my friend, she told the desk clerk. Treat him good.

I leaned my elbow on the countertop and gawked at nothing much, old Russian couples drinking vegetable juice at linoleum tables, a wrinkled Rembrandt print captioned Bathsheba at her Bath hung in a pine frame on the wall behind them. The clerk banged a long metal box across the battered desktop.

Put valuables in box, he said blandly.

Janey flirted with him, and then rolling a thick rubber band with a locker key up over my bicep, pulling the little hairs on my arm along the way, she muttered in my ear, Jackass won’t give us a discount. You pay later. Men’s locker's to the left. I’ll meet you back here. A layer of hot wet air slowly rolled over my face and made me sleepy.

Exhausted from the heat, a skinny Japanese boy slept naked in a chair in a corner of the men’s locker. I stripped, slipped into a thin robe from a stack of robes, put a brown washcloth on top of my head, then waited for Janey in the hall.

I wasn't the only one who noticed when she came out the women’s locker in a macramé bikini. Guys herded around her.

C’mon baby, she said and took my hand, cutting them off. Those guys wanted me dead, maybe Janey did too. I always get what I want from men, she went on. A couple days ago, I saw a man I know at the front desk. I rubbed up on him and asked can I get in on his ticket. I always get in free or half price at least.

She tugged my hand downstairs where robed men and women milled from one steam room to the next. Pushing past cedar doors into a great brick room, moist eucalyptus seared my lungs. Half naked bathers sat spaced like broken teeth on three tiers of wet leaf-covered stone steppes. The hot air got hotter the higher we climbed to the top row where we hunkered down next to an old goat with more hair on his back than on top of his head. He turned a spluttering spigot in the stone wall, splashing cold water into a twenty gallon plastic bucket. Across the great hot hall, a girl moaned, two brawny men flogging her with long leafy branches. One beat her back; the other whipped the bottoms of her feet.

What a way to go! the old goat bleated, pouring the bucket of cold water over his pate. Rapture! he shivered.

At the bottom of the circled steppes, in the center of the wet concrete floor, the eucalyptus-steeped water made a hollow sound dropping down the drain. Strangely, a cantor across the way wailed an eerie song that echoed though my body like a ghost. The bathers broiled, hypnotized. I surrendered to the heat, lowering my head between my legs, and closed my eyes. Red dots swam in ink. My bones warmed, I spaced out when suddenly shocking ice water splashed my neck.

Wow! I shouted, jumping.

You like that? Janey asked, giving a drum solo of karate chops to my neck. Hey, look who’s here!

Baby girl! a mousy brunette squealed in a Bronx accent and clambered up the steps in shocking pink flip flops two sizes too big. Who’s the handsome man?

Big Daddy, Janey said, Carson Welch. Cars, this is Big Daddy I was telling you about.

Sizing me up with a grin, the perky mouse ran her fingers through her short curly hair. Hi. Nice to know you, she said. First time here? Purifies the system, don’t you think? Gets the dirt out. All this hot air, I mean.

I feel good, I said a little dizzy.

You’re flushed, Carson said.

You’re not used to it, Janey said. Me and Cars can stay in heat for hours.

We got practice, Carson added. You don’t.

See how soft my skin is? That’s from coming here for years, Janey said, offering her leg on my lap. Feel.

I rubbed her thigh, her calf.

Carson leaned over, exposing long nipples lolling in loose hammocks under my nose. You seem like a nice guy. I don’t see many.

Isn’t she beautiful, Janey said, caressing Carson’s cheek. We had it tough. Me and Cars are used to dating creeps. That’s what I like about you. You don’t look at other girls. Janey moved a hand under my thin shorts and Carson kissed my neck.

I’m not making this stuff up. It’s true; two hot women paid all their attention to me in the sauna. I wasn't handsome or rich, except for a hundred thousand dollars I inherited from my stepfather when he died, so is it possible I'm good?

It’s too hot, I said. I can’t take it. I’m stepping out a sec.

Drink some lemon water, Janey said. I left the bottle at the far end of the long bench in the hall. You got to stay hydrated.

I kissed her salty lips and shambled down and out the blonde double doors. Sitting at the end of the bench in the middle of the spa, I tried to focus, and tugged the plastic jug of lemon water tucked in our towels from under the bench and took a swig. I tried to think, but felt lazy. A sleepy walrus dropped his towel from round his droopy waist and dove deep into a pool the size of a mattress. Chicks showered together and men shaved in a row of sinks and mirrors. A twink in nothing but blue mud on his face brushed the back of his hand across his boyfriend’s nipples. The walrus pulled his pinkened body from the icy pool, elbows akimbo, and the floor said

Janey blew in my ear from behind. C’mon in the wet steam with us. It’s Car’s favorite room, she said and gulped and gulped the lemon water before passing the jug to Carson. Then they took my hands and we padded like mad, me and my girls, into another sauna, just the three of us. I couldn’t see my nose or the shape of the room in the thick steam then found a tiled bench under my hand. Someone touched my knee.

Be careful what you wish for, Carson said. Steam bath makes you feel like a millionaire. You know? Everyone feels good in the womb. A body is a body, more or less. Who got money anyway? You? I never did, or if I did, I always blew it. Orphans never have money.

I know what you mean.

Maybe you do if you're a real writer. Maybe you don’t. Lemme tell you, I been doing this life alone. Everyone asks what I get out of it. They ask if I do it because I’m a drug addict, but I don’t live for that. I can show those phony do-gooders in so-called nice society knowledge I got out of this life that they couldn’t get if they wanted. They can’t get understanding in straight life because they're too afraid and never saw nothing and never had any sympathy for what they saw unless it profited them. I get money that comes and goes in this life, sure, but I see what's going on. You know? Because, see, there's lots of things you have to know that you can't know in society. It’s a different way to stand up and see how people really are. I knew a writer like you once who was slave to bosses who gave payola to school administrators so they'd buy the salesman's schoolbooks. Writer had to shut up about his bosses' crimes if he wanted to eat. He hated being slave to thieves and liars, slave to retarded bosses who didn't know they were slaves too, just slaves who stole from other slaves. That writer just couldn't believe eveyone he turned to thought it was okay to steal from innocents, everywhere he turned those cynical good ones who don’t do anything but work a thieving nine to five, send their kids they're embarrased by to school if they go, come home, cook dinner, and go to meaningless sleep or maybe go to a movie once a week or out to McDonald’s and cheat on their wives. The writer can't get a job because everyone—everyone everywhere—is in cahoots hiding their crimes. They care less he's innocent, because the society of companies like liars and cowards. What do you think? Who wants to be in that society? It's better to work for yourself, b
ut if you’re going to do it, you got to do it the right way. You can’t do it the wrong way. I’m twenty-two. On Eleventh Avenue and Forty-Fifth Street there’re some girls who are so pretty and smart they could do anything they want with their power, but they got a fucking curly haired pimp riding around in a big old fucking car, Rolls Royce, a Mercedes, a big Cadillac, all souped up. She’s been working five years. Sure, she dresses nice. She got nice comforts, but when she leaves him she gets none of that. You understand me? He gets it all, just like the school book salesman who thinks his vices are his virtues. After five years, what does she have when she leaves or he puts her out? You know what? The same thing she came in with. Nothing and no references. Anyway, before I buy some tricky punk a Mercedes Benz, this that and the other, I’m gonna work for myself. You know what I'm saying?

Yeah. I could write a book about it.

You two just relax, Janey said. Breathe it in. Forget about creeps. Let's go ahead into the future.

We slowed our breathing some before I bowed out and drifted upstairs to dress. I paid for everyone then waited at the juice bar, sipping a coke, scrutinizing Bathsheba at Her Bath, and wondering about the upsidedown world.

It was raining and snowing when we got outside. Warm and relaxed inside, we kissed Carson goodbye then started to walk to the subway.

I don’t want to take the subway, I said. Let’s take a cab.

Bougie, she said. Bourgeois, bourgeoisie.

We held hands in the cab over the Manhattan Bridge to Greenpoint, then tromped against the sleet and slush to the back of an old house, and down her basements steps. I waited silent in the dark next to an old boiler while she unlocked her apartment door.

Warm inside, hot water pipes pinged and hissed. Under a snow-filled window well, a cozy crazy quilt smothered a thick mattress on top of giant iron bedsprings, a black rotary phone in a bramble of bills and letters on a card table beside a torn pleather reclining chair. In the far corner, tiny toys, marbles, charms, stuffed animals, and greeting cards taped to the wall formed an altar on two sides of a small futon mattress on the floor, new age and inspirational magazines and paperbacks with titles like Psychic Sapian and Stars Inside Your Head strewn everywhere.

I like to sleep in both beds, Janey explained then played her messages, smiling at me like I’m in on a joke. A guy on the machine said he’s in town and can he see her for a drink.

Stupid prick, she said, hasn’t called in months. Now he wants a fuck.

She showed me a photo of a guy with long blonde hair like Fabio running on a beach. Then she showed me one of her on the same beach in the macramé bikini, flashing her tits for the guy, his thumb on the camera lens.

Yale boy, she said, sitting on the tall bed, taking her boots off. Thought he was so big, so full of himself and his apartment on the upper east side.

I’m on your side, I said, rubbing her ass as she laid on her stomach. I mean, in the class war.

You can rub my ass all you want. It relaxes me. That’s why I don’t mind when men rub my ass at work. It’s my sleeping pill.

Your skin is soft.

That’s what they say.

This will keep me alive for at least another week.

I feel alive now too, like I can see things. All life in the universe is vibrating energy. I can feel the vibrations changing my molecular structure right now. Everything is vibrating. Everything is alive, even that chair.

A chair can’t have children. A chair doesn’t eat. Chairs aren’t alive.

Janey unbuttoned my jeans. You don't know what you're talking about.

You a call girl?

That’s a personal question, don’t you think? You worried it’s gonna cost you or you get off thinking you get it for free and everyone else got to pay? Lots of men fall in love with me for the wrong reasons. Janey got off the bed and went to her closest. Here, I got something for you, she said, tossing a beautifully battered tan leather coat with giant lapels on the bed. It’s cheesy, she said, an artist’s coat. You need something funky besides me. It’s got two buttons missing. Janey got on top. Put your legs together and stay still, she coaxed. Let me milk you. Then she heated up, flushing red.

©2009 Daryl Edelman

To be continued...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Busy as a Call Girl on Valentine's Day - 2 of 4


Next morning, Janey and I loitered in bed. Sun through the windows splashed her uncovered body.

You’re beautiful.

What’s beautiful? Some guys like chocolate, some, vanilla. You like Rocky Road.

Are you kidding? You could be a movie star.

I know. Maybe I had a chance a long time ago, but I blew it, always pissing my karma away.

What are you saying? You're a beautiful young woman with your whole life ahead of you. I’m happy you’re here now.

I wish I didn’t stay over. I’m trying to break my pattern sleeping with men the first night.

Suddenly hungover, I rested my head between her full breasts that smelled like peaches.

You touch me like it’s no big deal. You should hesitate a little. I mean, I wish my skin felt too good for a man to stand so much pleasure at once. I hope someday some guy will feel like that about me. Let’s get out, she said abruptly. I’m hungry.

I tagged after her into the shower. Don’t be mad. I’d do anything for you, I said, poking my head in under the spray.


Shampoo my hair. Wash me.

I lathered Janey up and down and kissed her sweet toes. Where do you live? I asked. I want to send you flowers.

I’m not the kind of girl men give flowers to.

I don’t believe that.

She lifted my face in her hands and kissed me with pity in her eyes before she stepped out of the shower and left to dry off in the other room. Suddenly, Smells Like Teen Spirit exploded from the CD player.

Sorry! Janey shouted over the thumping bass, lowering the volume.

Toweling off, I squinted out the bathroom door at Janey on the couch at the far end of the loft, naked from the waist down in one of my old UNC T shirts. She pulled one sock on, then the other.

You’re too good to be true, I said, yanking my shorts up. I’m starving!

I don’t want to go to some stuffy restaurant where I can’t be myself dressed like I am.

I think I know a close place that’s not too bad. If we don’t like it, we can leave. Don't worry. We can go anywhere. I have money.

Bundled up, we held hands all the way from Chatham Square to the Odeon in Tribeca, sun rising on our backs.

Just like I pictured, Janey said in the foyer. White tablecloths, peaked napkins, and clean pitchers of clear ice water to cleanse our dirty shame. You like nice places. We look out of place in these giant mirrors.

A waiter in a starched white smock showed us to the back where we smeared in the same side of a booth. After long silence, I asked, does your family know you strip?

Everyone knows what I do. Daddy’s a pervert.

Whada’ya mean? Something happen?

Nah, don’t get crazy. Daddy’s proud of me. He used to say I’m so beautiful, boys would pay to see me and take my picture. He was right.

What about the rest of your family?

I love my sister. Her husband’s a biker. He abandons her and their kids for weeks at a time to orgy in the Massachusetts woods with the Sons of Excellence motorcycle club. Once he got up drunk in the middle of dinner and said he was going to rob a convenience store. Sissy cried and begged him to stay at the table, but the badass was back in time for pie and ice cream, his pockets stuffed with cash. All kinds in my family. Got a brother’s a preacher. He tried to stop me from stripping my first time, came to the joint and caused a scene. We ain’t talked since.

How’d you start stripping?

Got fired from my job by my boyfriend, then he kicked me out of his house. Left high and dry, I thought of a place I could make money, just like Daddy said, just outside the city limits. Mrs. Peleg, sweet lady that owned the bar, paid me by the hour. She didn’t have to.

She didn’t have to pay you?

That’s the diff between stripping in the city and in the country. In the city, you gotta pay the house fee to use the stage and dance the floor. Mrs. Peleg didn’t charge the girls; she paid us five dollars an hour. Also, farm boys are different than city men. Those farm boys felt blessed, grateful to see a naked woman. They happily tipped all they could. They were sweet. Businessmen treat women like whores. Everyone knows salesmen don’t know the difference between right and wrong.

You still see your family?

My mom and dad, my sister last Christmas. Hey! I got an idea! Let’s surprise my brother, go see him sermonize. I never saw him preach. I bet he’s good! We could camp out, sleep in the woods.

Maybe we could, I said, proud of our fast intimacy, and traced my finger in the air after breakfast to tell the waiter to bring the bill.

Back on the sidewalk, I remembered the seven hundred bucks I gave Janey last night. I couldn’t remember if she gave me the money back or not, but couldn’t bring myself to ask or even check my knee pocket in front of her, and so I put her in a taxi headed uptown.

I’ll call you later! she shouted, hanging out the cab window to her waist, blowing kisses.

Tramping my way home, I tore into the Velcro pocket on my knee and found the crisp seven hundred simoleons deep inside. Janey didn't care about my money. We were together because we were both born outsiders who needed each other.

©2009 Daryl Edelman

To be continued…

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Busy as a Call Girl on Valentine's Day - 1 of 4

by Daryl Edelman

This story originally appeared in Sex and Guts, a website and magazine edited by Gene Gregorits and Lydia Lunch in 2003.

Our dizzy little party laughed, drunkenly sashaying through fat falling snowflakes past the Russian and Turkish Baths on East Tenth Street. I had my arm around Tommy’s beautiful Japanese girlfriend, Banana. Twenty years ago, me and Tommy roomed together at college in a stinking Colorado cow town named after the huckster who said, go west, young man. Tommy used to practice his flute in our blue enamel dorm cell, high-pitched spears of sound ricocheting from wall to wall, splitting my skull whenever I tried to get some shut-eye. Nowdays, Tommy gets top dollar piercing ears on Broadway, usually showing up for after hours drinks wearing a tuxedo with slim sexy Banana on his arm. God-damn handsome Tommy.

How you doin’, lil sister? Tommy carried on, his sure fire charm aimed at a bundled-up redhead wearing horn-rim glasses coming down the snow covered concrete steps in front of the baths. You like to join us for dinner? C’mon, it’s just across the street.

On me, I said and sucked in my gut. You don’t gotta pay.

I am hungry, the redhead said.

We’re safe as TV, Banana coaxed, girl to girl. I’m Banana. Tommy and Banana always reeled them in for me.

Well, okay. I’m Janey. So what’s for dinner?

Shabu-Shabu, Banana said. Vegetables and sliced steak in boiling seaweed stock with two sauces, sesame soy and radish vinegar.

Wow! Sounds fun! Sounds great!

I held the paper door open to the Japanese restaurant. Tommy and Banana sat on one side of the white cedar table, Janey and me on the other. Janey’s glasses tumbled off when she wriggled like a caterpillar out of her pullover sweatshirt, long red hair falling over her pretty freckled shoulders. I’m parched, she said, puckering her plump red lips.

Hot sake, I waved to the waiter. All around.

Thank you, Big Daddy! ebullient Banana shouted.

Big Daddy is a good writer, Tommy talked me up, slapped my cheek. He’s real smart.

I’d like to be a writer, Janey said.

Tommy plays flute. Banana studied violin at Julliard, I said, and put my arm around Janey’s shoulders, leaned in, and filled her tiny cup with sake. You smell nice like peaches. Reminds me of something, someone. Where have I seen you before? You look familiar.

Uhh, ever have a lap dance?

Sure.

Janey said, I shouldn’t say, but I’ll be honest. I’m a stripper.

People could get the wrong idea, Banana said, understanding.

I overfilled Janey's cup, spilling sake on the lacquer tabletop. Thoughtfully, Tommy broke the surface tension of a tiny alcoholic puddle with a fingertip, parting the rice wine sea in half like Moses.

Actually, I haven’t danced since November when Giuliani closed the clubs, Janey said, lacing her soft fingers through mine on the bench between us. So lately, I’m broke. Thank you so much for inviting me to dinner.

My pleasure, I assured.

Absolutely, Tommy agreed. I see why you’re a stripper. You got gorgeous knockers. They’re huge! Are they real?

Banana shot Tommy the hairy eyeball. You’re rough, she rebuked, her delicate nostrils flaring. Low class.

You got a mean streak, Tommy, I said.

Everyone gotta pile on me? he complained. You think I’m cold hearted?

After a while of confused stares, waiters brought more sake and platters of food. Banana sifted the strange colorful vegetables through her slender fingers into the pot of boiling water in the center of the table. I mixed in a fistful of steak and Banana skimmed the gray scum from the top of the bubbling stew with a big wooden spoon.

I know what it’s like to be busted, Tommy said. When I first came to the good city, after a couple lean months without a gig, I filed a police report, said my flute was stolen at Grand Central Station to get the insurance money. What else could I do? Got to eat.

I asked Janey, how much do you need?

Seven hundred bucks, she said. This month’s rent. What’s today?

Eleventh, I said, unraveling our fingers, and then pulled out my wallet, counting seven crisp green portraits of Benjamin Franklin on the table. I can help.

What’re you doing? Tommy asked.

I like to help, I said. I’m a patron of beauty.

You don’t even know me, Janey said, sliding the money back under my sake cup.


I know I want you safe and happy, and not to worry, I said, pressing the bills under the water bottle in Janey’s open knapsack. Forget about it.

Janey wrapped her warm arms around my neck and kissed me full on the lips. I can’t, really, angel, she said. You should keep your money.

Are you ready for your vegetables, Big Daddy? Banana asked, distracting me with a ladle full of broccoli.

Nothing green! I shouted, shaking my palm over my plate.

Don’t force him, Tommy said. He’s carnivorous.

My grandfather also only likes to eat meat; I let him get away with it too, Banana said, setting stained brown broccoli over white rice on Tommy’s plate. The old pervert cheated on my grandmother. He kept young women in the pool house. Year in, year out, they came and went. Everyone in our family knew. No one ever said a thing, not my father, mother, me, my brothers or sisters.

How awful, Janey said, playing with the pocket on my knee, tearing and retearing the Velcro flap.

Your grandfather paid the cost to be the boss, Tommy said.

That was how it was. Before she died, my grandmother lost her mind. She rolled rice balls out of her own shit and tried to serve them at dinner in a bowl.

Ha!

Senile, Tommy explained.

Maybe she didn’t lose her mind. Maybe she was angry for revenge on the family for ignoring the truth.

I need a smoke, Banana said, waving two fingers across her lips. How about you, Janey?

Janey gave me a wink then nipped my earlobe, slipping out her side of the bench to go outside with Banana.

What do you think of her? I asked Tommy after the girls stepped out to smoke. She’s out of my league, right?

What are you crazy?

I think she likes you more than she likes me. You asked her to join us.

She likes you, she likes you. What’s the matter with you?

I’m nuts.

You just think you’re nuts. Tommy clapped my shoulder.

I ordered more sake when the girls came back. We drank until no one could talk straight. Then I showed off and paid the check.

Thank you, Big Daddy, Banana said.

Yeah, thanks, Big Daddy, Tommy said.

Janey said, I’ll thank you later.

T, B, and J had a couple last smokes together on the street corner before everyone kissed goodbye. Then Tommy and Banana caught a cab uptown and I asked Janey out for a nightcap.

We made out at a bar. Janey slipped in between my thighs, making her body small and vulnerable on my chest. Already stinking drunk, we left half our drinks on the bar, staggered out, then took a cab to my place down in Chinatown.

Where are we? she asked, lying back on the cool flannel sheets of my bed, kicking one battered cowboy boot off with the other. I guess it don’t matter. It don’t matter where we come from or if there is a god. Questions like that just drive a person crazy. We eat. We fuck. With a graceful leg, she slung her elastic sweatpants across the room.

Ahab never harpooned Moby Dick like I speared Janey. She pushed a pinky in my ass.

I love you, I blurted.

Don’t say that, she said, her eyes hesitating, her thoughts running dead end to dead end, hunting for the right thing to say.
I love you too, she repeated.

I pulled out and took a loving mental snapshot of my snot on her surprisingly red rug.

To be continued...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Edelman-Eggers Letters 10

Patiently, I waited until the end of August to see what art Dave and his followers would design to humiliate and offend me more, and so:

On Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 2:34 PM, Regina Edelman wrote:

Hi, Michelle,

I hope your summer was good and you are well. Is it possible for you to give me an update about my Garments of Fleas? I thank you.

Ciao,
Regina

----- Original Message -----
From: Michelle Quint
To: Regina Edelman
Sent: Thursday, August 28, 2008 8:00 PM
Subject: Re: Dave Eggers

Hi Regina~
You'd have to check with Eli. His email is [redacted]. Thanks!
Michelle


On Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 8:16 PM, Regina Edelman wrote:

Hi Michelle,

You're the best! Thank you.

Ciao,
Regina

----- Original Message -----
From: Regina Edelman
To: Eli Horowitz
Sent: Monday, September 01, 2008 4:31 PM
Subject: Fw: Dave Eggers

Dear Eli,
I hope you're doing well. I believe you already know who I am. I'm kind of confused if I should introduce myself or not, anyhow, I'm the author of Garments of Fleas, looking forward for a follow-up about my work. Michelle, Dave's assistant, gave me your e-mail address so that I can check with you.

Thank you so much for your attention.

Yours,
Regina Edelman

I sent the e-mail to Mr. Horowitz on Labor Day, September 1st. I understood that he probably wouldn’t be working in the office on that day, and maybe that was why he didn’t reply to me then, but seven days passed, and knowing that I was dealing with educated people who learned somewhere to ignore who they think worthless, I patiently waited those days before I e-mailed him again to find out what his offense to me would be:


On Mon, Sept 8, 2008 at 5:53 PM, Regina Edelman wrote:

Dear Eli,

I hope you are well. I'm resending the e-mail below to you, because when I sent it for the first time last Monday 9/1 it was Memorial Day, and I assume that you were not in the office on that day. Have a good evening, and thank you for your attention.

Yours,
Regina

After I sent the last e-mail, I noticed that I wrote Memorial Day instead of Labor Day. Well, it was too late to fix, and two days later:

----- Original Message -----
From: Eli Horowitz
To: Regina Edelman; Jordan Bass
Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 8:52 AM
Subject: Re: Dave Eggers


Hi there. We get thousands of these each year, so I need a bit more info. Was your manuscript hard-copy or emailed? When was it sent? And did you include a return envelope.

I’m on the road at the moment, so I’m also copying Jordan Bass, who may be able to help as well.
Eli

It was clear the Dave and Michelle didn’t really want to help because neither of them told Eli that I was sending my manuscript to their shit pile for a second time. His careless insult, that they "get thousands of these" was a slap that I understood to mean: I’m going to reject you, idiot!


Besides having the power to reject me, I also knew that Dave and his followers are regardless of others’ time, dear reader, and so I patiently typed again in effort to clarify their confusion, and cc'd Dave so he could see that what I said was true, and to see if he would stand up like a man and my supporter like he said he was:

On 9/10/08 4:42 PM, "Regina Edelman" wrote:

Dear Eli and Jordan:
It’s a pleasure to read from you. Because time seems even shorter when on the road like you are at the moment, I'll briefly tell you about myself and how I was brought to your attention.


Firstly, because I've been having a friendly relationship through letters with Mr. Eggers for almost two years. How? In April 2007 Dave Eggers came to Manhattan to promote What Is The What at Donnell Library. I wrote him a letter at my husband's direction, Daryl Edelman (Google him so you can be more familiar with his talent), who is the editor and mentor of my project Garments of Fleas, which I truly believed was under your attention. So, at the library, my husband and I sat in the first row on the left. When Mr.Eggers finished the show and left the stage my heart sank with melancholy for I thought I'd never be able to deliver the letter to introduce myself nor my work to him. Turned out that magically Mr. Eggers came back to the stage, alone, to retrieve his computer cables, I think. The moment turned back to me again, and perfectly it was possible to deliver Mr. Eggers my letter. Time went on; about a month latter Dave Eggers answered me, his subject line, Great Letter, and he told me that I wrote him an intriguing letter, then solicited me to submit my project to him, so I did. He wrote he probably needed until last December to read it, but Mr. Eggers' busy time didn't allow him to accomplish his good intentions, but he held my hopes then by writing that he still intended to read my manuscript, and to check with him a few months after December. For a period of our e-mail exchanges I believed I was a miserable vermin beggar with no true gold and of weak mind with no understanding to negotiate for the greatness of intelligence. But no, I'm a serious woman, fifty years old, an observer, a self-taught student of men's mind behavior and life's intelligence on earth, born in Brazil in poverty and ignorance, run away from karmic doom of generations at age forty to try better in America. $3,700 was all in my pocket. I learned English in free schools in America. So, in sorrow, I exchanged some more e-mails with Mr. Eggers. I can send you all the e-mails we've exchanged if you need. Finally, April 21st 2008, Michelle wrote in his name the e-mail below to solicit my work for the second time, and Michelle and I exchanged some few more e-mails (scroll down please, so, you can read to understand).

I sent you hard copy, signed for at your office on April 25th at 10:55AM by D.Franich, and no, I didn't send any return envelope. I can send you a third copy.

Thank you for your time.

Yours,
Regina




----- Original Message ----
From: Jordan Bass
To: Regina Edelman; Eli Horowitz
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:22 AM
Subject: Re: Dave Eggers

Hi Regina,

it looks like we do have your manuscript here—sorry about our slow response. We’ll try to have an answer for you soon—thanks for sending it in—

Jordan

On 9/11/08 7:48 PM, "Regina Edelman" wrote:

Dear Jordan,
Thank you very much for your reply. Sorry if it looks like I sounded like I was rushing everyone. I didn't mean to be pushy, for patience is one of my virtues, and so patiently I'll wait for your fair answer. I just wanted an update. You gave me one, so thank you. Your words however aren't exactly clear to me if you have my manuscript or not, anyway I understood you do, but let me know if you don't and I'll send you a third copy asap.

It's a pleasure to communicate with you. Have a good evening.

Regards,
Regina

And a few days later, I received from Jordan Bass the expected “kill this flea for me” punch line for the end of Dave Egger’s I Love Lucy drop dead comedy plot:

----- Original Message -----

From: Jordan Bass
To: Regina Edelman
Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 6:58 PM
Subject: Re: Dave Eggers

Hi Regina--thanks for checking in on this, and sorry it’s taken us so long to respond. We rely on submissions like yours, since a good portion of what we publish comes to us unsolicited. Unfortunately, we won't be able to publish your book--we're a very small company, and can only put out a few each year. Thanks again for your efforts, though, and best of luck with it,

Jordan

Dave always knew the size of his publishing company, didn’t he? As you can testify, dear reader, I was told by him first to submit my work, then his assistant asked for it again, and so twice I sent the manuscript to satisfy their bizarre motivation. Why did I deserve this treatment from you, Dave? No one even read my manuscript through.

Like you said in What is the What, “If you knew what I’ve been through, you wouldn’t treat me like this.”

On 9/24/08 7:00 PM, "Regina Edelman" wrote:

Dear Jordan,

Thank you for your fair answer. If you can spare a little more time with me, please tell Mr. Eggers and Michelle that I very much appreciated the hope they seeded in my ideas. To struggle for a chance with no hope isn't smart, so thank you to abort my hopes sooner than I thought.

Yours,
Regina

And that, dear reader, was my first try to interact in the world of educated man, and so I close this chapter with this open letter:

Dear Reader and Dave,
I remember, at young age, I helped mom wash clothes for the six miserable people who shared my poverty stricken home. I watched the fleas from our covers floating dead in the dirty water after mom finished her hard work. I was happy to see my tormenters killed, but was soon sad to see that in the clothes hung on clothesline for the sun to dry, armies of fleas came back to life, jumping out of the hot blankets, looking for nourishment on my hot blood.

Those parasites marked hard lessons on me. They made so much trouble in my brain that I believed a life without fleas impossible, until I saw that the girls and boys from church and school didn’t have fleas taking a walk in their neck or head like I had. Those children didn’t have to kill any fleas like I did when the fleas bit me unbearably and never ending. I had to hunt the vampires inside my blouse, and bring them to light to burst between the nails of my thumbs, regardless of peoples’ nauseous startled eyes on me. Soon, people targeted me as worthless because of the fleas.

My father had a horrible predestination; his mother cast him away in a sugar cane field on the day he was born. He survived and married mom, but became a drunkard and deserted his family now and then. Mom piously served church several times everyday. She was nervous, angry, and severe, whips in fists. She blamed her misfortunes on my cursed father’s soul, but the truth was that that he was a perfect match to her. Her mulatto father lay wounded in bed, angrily complaining day and night until he died. Europeans hunted his mom in Angola then brought her on board the Navio Negreiro to be sold as slave in Brazil.

“Do you know what the Navio Negreiro was, Regina?” grandma, mom’s mother who also lived in the same flea nest I did, asked once, mockingly.

“No.”

“Worse than any Holocausto!”

“What would Holocausto be, grandma?”

“More atrocity of man against man—because men are powerful fearless beasts who can make liquor, dreadful toys, and crazy ideas such as money to condemn men’s minds anyway they can to affliction and ruin. Once we learn ill, ill will we teach our suckling for generations and generations. There is no salvation for man. We can’t learn. You won’t learn!”

Until she died, grandma hated me since I was six and went to live in that horror house with her. Every time her sick eyes landed on me, she screamed from the top of her lungs, “Bitch in heat! You’ll die too! You’re condemned to the same death sentence as I am!

At the time, I had no idea what bitch in heat could be, and I feared to ask.

When I finally could leave home, finally got mature to understand, and had courage to write about my knowledge and the troubles of barriers of human being to another human being, when I finally had the courage to write in order to try for better life for every being, I encountered you in power, who taught me good lessons, and taught me this strange lesson too; you teach kids.

I don’t believe grandma was right. She was a humiliated woman like I am. I think it is possible to teach better and learn better. It was just too late for her.

Yours,
Regina Edelman

Earth is one country and we must be united …

Get up giant daughter of sun and earth! Get up! Write, if it’s all that can be done for the sake of human comprehension and evolution. We are star suns!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Edelman-Eggers Letters 9

I was wrong thinking that I’d never hear from Dave again. He sent me a message by emissary two days later:

----- Original Message -----
From: Michelle Quint
To: Regina Edelman
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 12:46 PM
Subject: Dave Eggers

Hi Regina~

My name is Michelle and I'm Dave Eggers's assistant. I help out with emails when Dave is swamped with too many things, which he is at the moment. He's taking some time away to write right now, and will be out of touch for a bit. I know Dave would like to help you, but we have a policy at McSweeney's that all manuscripts must go through the same channels. So yes, please do send a copy to Eli Horowitz and he will be in touch. Thanks so much for your understanding and good luck!

Michelle

Michelle Quint
McSweeney's Staff

Reason isn’t easy to put in the head of a guilty man. In fact, they're making more confusion to hide his guilt. He, cowardly, had defeated me, in power as he is with a business and an assistant who he can direct to write this unclear e-mail full of misleading possible understandings. He is in power and can hide behind the skirts of an assistant.

What channels is she talking about? Doesn't Dave, the owner of McSweeney's, the channel I was invited to go through in the first place, have authority in his own company to recommend a manuscript? The address she told me to send my manuscript to is same address Dave asked me to send to nine months ago. Did Dave break the policy of his own channels by accepting my work? Is it true that it is against policy for Dave to first recommend a manscript at McSweeney's? If he has my manuscript, why do I have to send another manuscript to the same address I already sent to at his request long ago? What happened to the first manuscript that I sent? Moreover, this is the same address on McSweeney’s website for anyone who wants to submit an unsolicited manuscript, but he solicited my work nine months ago, repeatedly encouraging me that he planned to read it. Wouldn’t it be easier, if Dave has my manuscript, for him to earnestly recommend it to his editor to read, and give in the hands of his editor? How is he swamped all the sudden? How does Michelle know that Dave would like to help? Strange help. Why did he even bother answering the letter I gave him at Donnell Library in the first place?

Why did his assistant write to me like I never talked to Dave before? It seemed to me that Dave wanted me to forget about our affairs. Why would he think I’d forget who he was and what happened between us? Why, what was his motivation? Simply because he lost my manuscript and isn't capable of saying so?

“The truth is that Dave Eggers owes you an apology,” Daryl said. “He’s thoughtless. Based on how he treated you, I don't think he cares about downtrodden people unless they’re recommended by Jane Fonda. He doesn’t care if you waste your hope, time, and money on his say so again and again. Who gives a shit about Brazil? Let that undeclared civil war go to hell and all the kids shoot each other. Sudan is more fashionable for celebrities to care about, but what are they really teaching there, more tired old philosophies?”

Daryl and I gave up believing Dave Egger’s channels would lead me to my goals, but I had nothing to lose going to the end of his charade, if only to learn another lesson in cruelty. Though knowing where he was leading me, I decided to go on in the game of Dave Egger’s design, and to go on, I needed to try to decipher Dave’s assistant’s language for the sake of truth, so everyone can see without unnecessary subterfuges:

On Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 3:09 PM, Regina Edelman wrote:

Hello Michelle,
I hope you are doing well. When Dave answered my letter accepting my work around a year ago, he gave me the following address to send to:
849 Valencia StreetSan Francisco CA 94110
Is this the address of the same channels you mention? Let me know, and I'll prepare a new package to the attention of Mr. Eli Horowitz, although I noticed that this address Dave e-mailed me is the same address on McSweeney's web site to send unsolicited submissions to. I'm double-checking because I want to make sure my manuscript will be reaching Mr. Horowitz's hands as per the policy you explained. Thank you for your wishes of good luck

Yours,
Regina

----- Original Message -----
From: Michelle Quint
To: Regina Edelman
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 6:16 PM
Subject: Re: Dave Eggers

Yes! That's the right address. Just put Attn: Eli Horowitz. Thanks!

Michelle
On Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 6:23 PM, Regina Edelman wrote:

Thank you Michelle!

Regina

I tracked my manuscript delivered at McSweeney’s, and wanted to inform Michelle:

On Mon, Apr 25, 2008 at 7:44 AM, Regina Edelman wrote:

Good morning, Michelle,

First, I'd like to apologize for not asking you to express my sincere thanks to Dave for giving me a chance of my life. Please tell him that there are not enough words to express my gratitude to him. Thank you.

Second, I'd like to inform that my manuscript was delivered at your office yesterday at 10:55AM, signed for by D.Franich.

Have a nice day.

Regina

On Mon, Apr 25, 2008 at 10:24 AM, Michelle from McSweeney’s wrote:

Thanks, Regina!

Michelle

To be continued…

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Edelman-Eggers Letters 8

Nonetheless, I went ahead; it isn’t time for me to die yet!

Analyzing Dave’s reply, I didn’t understand what he meant by “great people.” Whatever he meant, I must say that all people on earth are great, no matter how wretched.

I didn’t understand why Dave again gave me his resume and the schedule of his duties. What makes him insist on thinking that I don’t know who he is and what he does? What do I have to do with his duties? When he answered my letter, I presumed he knew all about his duties. Does he answer everyone who writes to him, thoughtless of each affair? My affairs are so many and full of difficulties, but I can’t count all my condemned misfortunes to him in this matter between him and I. Crying to him isn’t my goal. I just want a chance to show no matter how late, I learned to read and write and understand, and all great people can learn in this conflicting ocean of prejudice, love, and hate. There are a lot of miseries in my true story, but nonetheless it’s a story of triumph about the endeavors of a human being who had nothing to lose but go in search of knowledge; and no matter when, maybe even after I am dead, I’ll do everything in my power to make my story go through gods’ pitiful ears. I’ll work hard to see my books read by everyone. I’ll work hard to contribute for the best of us great people. Isn’t Dave a publisher? His wife isn’t listed in his to-do list as his little child is. At least he is my supporter, and said I will get what I want. He might have read the excerpts of my novel then, so why wouldn’t he tell me his opinion of them?

“Who knows what he read or didn’t read?” Daryl reminded me. “I think he lost your work and would rather blame you and cast you away because he is too proud to admit he lost your manuscript.”

“He’s a teacher for kids, Daryl! If he lost my work, all he had to do is say he lost it. I don’t believe Dave would reprove an innocent pupil for his own mistake. Would he, my Daryl?”

“Regina,” Daryl answered, “its human nature to hide personal mistakes. People stubbornly blame their mistakes on anyone instead of admitting their shortcomings.”

What a strange supporter, then… All I needed was for him to be a peaceful judge and read my work and tell me his honest judgment so I could fix anything possibly wrong, because I want to do right. On the Internet, Dave says he likes new art. Is he prejudice of my new art?

Isn’t he a writer, teacher, builder, and philanthropist? Don’t I have enough dignity for his giving nature? I sent my work to him by mail because he asked me to. What did he mean that he can’t read every work that comes through the mail to him? Did he forget that he asked me to send my work to him? His excuses sound like those of Homer Simpson.

So, now, of course, I must reply to him. I couldn’t tell Dave about my frustration, frustration he unnecessarily caused me. He may not accept his defect, but I needed to light the mind of my teacher toward his own reason. I knew he finally said no, but I started to compose my last e-mail after all this deep meditation, careful not to say a word out of reason to my professor. I don’t want his hate against me after all, but just his conciliation:

From: "Regina Edelman"
To: "Dave Eggers"
Sent: Friday, April 19, 2008 6:50 PM
Subject: Enid News & Eagle, Enid, OK 7.12.1998

Good heavens you didn't cast me out! It's such good news for me, it really is. You couldn't be a crazy philanthropist... Thank you very much to be already my supporter. On the other hand is sad to know your little girl sees the father she dearest love, I can assure, for so short period of time, for to do business requires much trouble in our time. I like your writing pretty much, if you allow me an advice, you should keep being as a writer, but I know you are a challenger of time and want as well the business. Master time with no forgiveness reckless don't wait for nothing or any of us and when you see your girl won't be little anymore.

As for my book, can you recommend me to Eli Horowitz that he read my book in submission to your publishing company? It doesn't need editing, my husband already edited, maybe needs a light proof though. Don't you have any opinion about the two excerpts I've sent to you? Can't you recommend me to your agent to read my whole work? How much that could take of your busy time? Dave, you know how hard it is to get a positive answer as I got from you from other writers, editors, publishers or peers who could help to publish my book, and I thought you are a publisher with editors scheduled to read what was accepted almost a year ago, unless you don't want to publish my book? I assure you, you will be the most famous philanthropist around earth if you do so. Can you reasonably ponder my questions and let me know your thoughts on them?

Again, thank you for your time. If you need my manuscript, I will send again.

Yours,
Regina

Long experience has taught me this about the status of mankind with regard to matters requiring thought: the less people know and understand, the more positively they attempt to argue, while on the other hand, to know and understand a multitude of things renders men cautious in passing judgment upon anything new.

Galileo


To be continued…

Friday, February 6, 2009

Edelman-Eggers Letters 7

From: "Dave Eggers"
To: "Regina Edelman"
Sent: Friday, April 18, 2008 9:03 PM
Subject: Re: Enid News & Eagle, Enid, OK 7.12.1998

I would never cast you out! I will always be your supporter, but I'm afraid it will have to be from a distance. There's just no way I can communicate how much stuff I have on my plate right now. I honestly have to edit two books in the next week and send them to press. I teach a class once a week for high schoolers. I oversee 9 nonprofits in 7 cities. I oversee a publishing company with three periodicals, 100,000 words of reading each week, with 11 employees. I'm helping to build a school in southern Sudan. I have a two-year-old at home. And between all this, I sometimes get 3-4 hours a week to write. I really need that time to write. So right now the choice for me is either I remain a writer (somehow, even with 3 hours a week), or I give up writing to read/edit manuscripts that great people like yourselves send me. I wish so much I could do it all, but I can't. I just can't. The thing I've had to give up, lest I never write again, is the direct helping/reading/editing of manuscripts that come to me through the mail. It's on average 10-12 hours work minimum, which means I wouldn't be able to write for 2-3 weeks every time I agree to work on someone's book. And again, I've recently just had to admit to myself that I need to write. That I need to carve out time for my own writing. I think I give a lot of time to others, and so it's my one area that I need to protect -- the few hours a week where I can work on my own stuff.

But again, I wish you the best in all you do. I know there are 100s of other writers, editors, publishers and peers who will help you with your book. I just know you'll get all you're looking for!

Yours,
Dave

One more of those hard moments—I can easily understand why one takes one’s own life like John Kennedy Toole did.

Can’t you understand? What is bravery then, to die, or to live waiting for you to kill me and bury me with laughs?

O little thing in need to go ahead!

To be continued…