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Fiction

"Remember the time when David Muller's Brother pantsed you and threw your underwear up into the tree?" said Matt after taking a sip of his Matte Black Latte.

"Uh, no. You must be remembering someone else," I said looking around uncomfortably.

"He did. We were living in Los Gatos at the time. I'll never forget how all the girls screamed when they saw you without your pants on. Ha! Ha! Ha!"

"Oh God you're right, I now remember I was eight years old and that was…Glen or Don, right? I said.

"You do remember! It was Don. Glenn was my best friend back then."

"Well, whoever he was, he was an asshole," I said.

It was 2022 and one of those rare occasions that my brother, Matt, met me for coffee at a trendy cafe in West Hollywood.

The place was packed with beautiful people who all seemed more interested in impressing their table mates than actually drinking their coffee or trendy beers in front of them.

"Marty just loved me in his last picture. He sent me a Christmas card last Christmas personally thanking me for my "brilliant" performance."

"Those bitches said they didn't have a reservation for me. I told the Hostess - Girl! Do you know who I am? I'm sure you have one of my records at home!  She immediately apologized and got us a table."

"I don't know if I'll go to the next Academy Awards. You know these things are so cliche and boring."

Snatches of conversations like that choked the air. All paeans celebrating Southern Cal terminal hubris and one's inflated importance

Total Snoresville.

Listening to this bullshit caused me to periodically pretend I had something stuck in my teeth. It's hard to laugh when half your hand is stuck in your mouth.

Now, usually, I didn't mind chewing the fat over our shared past as I rarely got to see Matt and it was fun to reminisce at times.

But, memories are a funny thing. You don't know if you are correctly remembering all the little details or the order of how stuff happened. What you remember the most is how you felt then. And add a case of mental editing  - it all comes out sounding like a bad game of telephone. 

So as we sat in the cafe I thought I'd run a few memories past my brother, just to see if I could pick his brain a bit. Also as a writer, I was curious to see if he could help me with some ideas for future stories based on our childhood.

You see…

Nowadays everybody calls me "Charles." 

And I mean everybody. 

My wife, my friends, my coworkers, and even the Korean lady who does my dry cleaning. Actually, she has trouble pronouncing my name as it comes out sounding more like "Chars" -  so she gets a pass.

Anyway, it's really annoying.

Because after livin' sixty-seven years,  I don't know who the fuck "Charles" is half the time.

But I do remember being Charlie.

And so did my brother. 

*

After I said goodbye to Matt at the cafe, I went back to my hotel room at El Rancho Cheapo and excitedly wrote down some new ideas for future stories  

Here were some of the working titles:

It's Never Sunny in Sunnyvale.

Gimme Shelter. 

Road Trippin' in England.

One Double Burger, One Plain. 

Frat Boy.

Sell Out!

Loco Mama.

"Holy crap these are all great," I said.

Okay, which one should I write about first? I wondered.

Ah, what the hell - spin the wheel.

*

Gimme Shelter

It was the Fall of 1987, and I found myself living in a small basement apartment in Marine Park, Brooklyn, New York.

To this day why the hell I was living so far from Manhattan remains a mystery to me.

I'm sure there were several reasons I endured my ridiculous two-hour daily commute from there to the City - my buddy, Joey D. helped me find the place, affordable rent, nice landlords, Italian neighborhood, killer pizza parlor nearby, blah, blah, blah. 

Still, attempting to save money by living on the cheap was blown by my taking expensive cab rides from the Big Apple when traveling by subway train was not safe at night. In other words, it would have been cheaper to live in Manhattan.

All the houses were red brick and many of them faced, well, a park. Hence the name Marine Park.

The neighborhood was safe and kept neat and I think that was partly due to not only working-class pride but also because several "made" guys lived there. 

At one point, one of the Goodfellas must have pissed off the wrong people because he was wacked in front of his house in a mob-style shooting very near my apartment.  

Now, there was nothing random about his assassination, the hit was cleverly orchestrated. The deceased (who I'll refer to as "John") had received a call from one of his mob buddies, who wanted to know if he wanted to play racquetball in the park. When John went to the courts, his "friend'' never showed.  Meanwhile, his killers let the air out of the tires of his car which was parked out in front of his home. So when John returned to his place, he naturally tried to change his flat tire which made him an easy target for his assassins.

BLAM-BLAM!! went two handguns, The poor sap was deader than bacon before his body hit the pavement. When the police arrived to investigate the shooting - no one in the immediate area had "seen nuthin.' "

That was my neighborhood back then. 

My landlords were a nice married couple named Joe and Marie. Joe had a construction job and a carpet cleaning business on the side. Marie stayed at home and pushed a vacuum nonstop while screaming obscenities at her husband and kids for hours on end. 

Since I lived in the basement apartment below, I could hear EVERYTHING. A typical morning sounded like this:

RAWWWWWWRRRRR went the vacuum, STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! clomped Marie's oversized feet. Followed by -

 "Buncha of filthy beasts, who act like my home is some kind of barn, tracking muddy hooves all over my beautiful floors. Rugs who I inherited from my dear,  departed mother. I'm going to kill you, DO YOU GUYS HEAR ME? YOU'RE ALL DEAD!"

RAWWWWR. STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! "Who in the hell left their dirty boxers on the kitchen counter? ANIMALS! JOE! Where the hell are you going? Work? It's Saturday, you moron. Don't you dare leave. GET BACK HERE YA BUM BEFORE I CHOP OFF THAT MISERABLE EXCUSE OF A PECKER!"

RAWWWRR. STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! "JOSEPH JUNIOR!  I'm going ta do the same thing to you -  IF YA DON'T CLEAN THAT PIGSTY OF A ROOM RIGHT FREAKING NOW!"

"Could somebody PLEASE tell me where Anna Marie is hiding? OUT?! Out with who? ABDUL! His name is Tommy - not freakin'  "Abdul" and he's a lowlife degenerate drug dealer! UGH, I'M GOING TO MURDER THAT LITTLE TRAMP WHEN SHE GETS HOME!

"EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE FUCKING QUIET! YOU'RE ALL DISTURBING,  CHARLES!!"

*

Despite Marie's rather crass morning wake-up calls, I liked her. She was a no-nonsense Brooklyn lady who had a heart of gold.

Case in point, when I first moved into my tiny studio, Marie noticed that I had nothing to stock my kitchen with. 

"Look Joe, the poor kid has no plates or cutlery. He doesn't even own a frickin' coffee pot!" she exclaimed.

The very next day, I found a whole set of dishes, knives, forks, glasses, and a coffee pot neatly packed in a box waiting for me on my doorstep when I returned home from work.

That's the kind of lady she was.

*

I had been living in my apartment with Nietzsche, my siamese cat for a couple of months when things took a dire turn.

A bartending job in the City had gone dry money-wise, I wasn't able to save much money from the tips I had been receiving and it looked like I was going to be late paying my month's rent.

I figured I'd better say something to Joe before the rent's due date. Just to cover my ass ya know.

Now Joe was a big hirsute man with a disposition of a grumpy bull which was in direct opposition to Marie's short stature and spit fire like nature.

When I explained my situation to Joe his response was to grumble "That ain't good," before slamming his front door in my face.

Okay, that kinda sucked. 

Yeah, it looked like it was time for me to start packing.

*

"So, I hear ya gonna be late paying this month's rent," said Marie a few hours later.

"Yeah, I'm sorry Marie. I told Joe and he seemed pissed. I'll try to get this month's rent to you in a couple of days," I said.

"Okay, I'll handle this. Follow me upstairs Charlie."

I followed Marie upstairs like a reluctant balloon on a windy day to confront her husband Joe.

Flinging her front door she walked up to her seated husband and announced - "Awright Joe, it's all settled,  Charles is moving into The Homeless Shelter tomorrow. "

"What?" said Joe.

I practically burst out laughing in surprise. 

"Noooo, he doesn't have to move into The Shelter," said Joe.

"Yeah, he does. We both talked about it and tomorrow he's moving into The

Shelter." 

"Why is he moving?" said Joe.

"Well, if you're gonna get pissy all the time about him being late paying his rent then he's gotta go," said Marie.

"No, it's okay. He don't gotta move. Are you gonna pay us this week, Charles?"

"Yeah, no problem, Joe," I said.

"Okay, he can stay, then."

"You sure? Cause if not - it's off to The Shelter." 

"Yeah, it's fine," said Joe.

Marie walked me back to my apartment and said "See, problem solved."

"I really appreciate your help with Joe, Marie."

"You know, as long as I can remember I've been married to that moody man," said Marie lighting up a Virginia Slim cigarette. 

"But knowing what I know now if I had to do it all over again…things would have been different. Cause I'm tellin' ya Charlie, if he had been the Last Man on the Earth and I was the Last Woman on the Earth - that's exactly what we'd be - the Last Man on the Earth and the Last Woman on the Earth."

I laughed over that one.

"Next month be on time with the rent, kid," said Marie, finishing her cigarette.

"Absolutely."

I ended up staying six more months in Marine Park before moving in with a bartender buddy over in Greenpoint to cut my expenses and be closer to work.

And while I continued to have my financial ups and downs I made certain of one thing.

 I never had to move into "The Shelter."

July 22, 2022 22:51

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