Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Going to Meet the Boss

Everybody knew who he was.
We all knew where he lived.
He was a private kind of guy.
Had a big car.
A Lincoln.

One day, Cheese stops me on the sidewalk.
He was called Cheese because of his wierd smile.
He worked for you know who.
He says his boss wants to talk to me.
I am thinking that I don't know why.
I was not into anything.
Nothing at all.
Just a guy in the neighborhood.
But I was real curious.
So I said Ok.
Cheese said to stop by tomorrow at noon.

I went over there.
He liked to work out of an old house.
I rang the door bell.
Cheese answers the door.
The house was kind of dark inside.
Lots of curtains.
I was starting to regret my coming over.
Well I was there.
It was too late now.

We walked into the dining room.
He used it as his office.
He asked me to sit down at the table across from him.
Cheese walked out and shut the door.

He starts talking to me.
Just small talk.
Weather, sports and such.
Then he says that he has had his eye on me for awhile.

Now, I am beginning to feel a little squirmy.
There are a lot of stories about this guy.
But nothing sexual, if you know what I mean.
Well he clarifies things.
He says that I am an upright guy by reputation.
Whatever that means.
Maybe it means I have not been caught yet.

He then says that he called me in to thank me.
I said for what.
He says that I should know.
I said I don't know.

He says don't I remember last Saturday.
He says that I helped an old lady,
who had tripped on the sidewalk in front of the Safeway.
She was carrying a sack of groceries.
The paper sack had ripped open and stuff had spilled all over.
I had helped her pick up her groceries.
Then I carried it the two blocks to her house.
He says that lady was his godmother.

He says that I can come to him if I need something.
Just ask.
That's all.
I said I don't need anything right now.
But I will remember.

Cheese came in and walked me to the door.

I never got to collect on that debt.
I moved out of town for a few years.
When I got back I heard that Cheese and his boss left town one night and nobody knows nothing about what happened to them.

One Stop Gun Shop

A couple of years ago.
A friday it was.
I stopped at El Napolito.
A bar by the bean processing plant.
I just wanted a beer.

I walked up to the bar.
Nodded at the other guys on both sides of me.
Ordered a Negra Modelo from Luis.
Squeezed the lime wedge
and the juiced trickled into the bottle.
Opened the salt packet.
Poured a little on the rim of the bottle.
Nursed the beer for an hour, maybe.
Made a few handshake bets on the upcoming De La Hoya title fight.

Two guys at the corner of the bar had been talking to one of the bar tenders.
I recognized one of the guys.
By reputation he was one step up from a street dealer.
By dress and swagger he was king of the world.
They other guy...never seen him before or since.
The two guys got up and left.

I moved over to that corner of the bar.
The two guys had been in my regular spot.
I liked it because I can see the whole place.
Who comes in.
Who goes out.
The pool tables.
The dance floor.
And everybody else at the bar.
It is dark in that corner.
So, other people can't see me that well.

The two guys had left some garbage on the bar.
A couple of beer bottles.
Coors Lite.
Some lime wedges.
Salt packets.
Empty Marlboro pack.
And a napkin with some writing on it.

I turned the napkin around so I could read it.
It was a list of guns and prices.
Like "9mm 550" and "25mm 175".

The bartender that had been talking to them,
came over and cleaned up the garbage and wiped the bar clean.
Took the price list, too.

I did not get a chance to finish reading the list.
That bartender was gone the next time I came in.
Luis said he never even called in to quit.
Luis said the guy was from someplace else.
The king of the world was pulled over the next week.
Cops found something.
He will be in the Lincoln Nebraska Home for Retired Pharmaceutical Salesmen for the next twenty tears.

Those People are Dead Now

You walk the neighborhood.
You look at houses.
You look at street corners.
You look down alleys.
You look behind stores.
There are a some people that you will not see.
Those people are dead now.

Sammy use to live in that house over there.
They had a real small swimming pool.
Heart attack.

The Rabbi and his wife lived in that corner house.
The neat little white one.
They always took long walks.
She was run over and was DOA.
He remarried and later died.

Greg lived in that yellow house.
The one that needs a new roof.
Came home from Vietnam in a coffin.

In the alley behind that restaurant,
some drug dealer from New Orleans,
was killed by a local competitor.

Three blocks east there is a tall skinny house.
Two guys were shot dead.
AK-47 and a Glock 9.
Somebody owed somebody.
The debt was paid.

Louie lived in a house where that park is now.
He was a bully when he was young.
But he turned out OK.
Died of a heart attack down in Texas.

Up that street is a Baptist church.
Use to be a synagogue.
Last winter a school bus stopped.
Let the kids out.
One kid slid on some ice.
Fell under the bus.
He was crushed.
The driver did not see him.
My wife heard the death cry.

Thomas was the youngest of five.
He was waiting to get on disability.
Died at home in his bed.
Got approved for disability the next week.

Ripp was driving too fast.
His car flipped over.

Same with Mike.

Ron had polio when he was a kid.
Was in an iron lung for awhile.
Heart attack got him.

Rick went to a party when he was 16.
Never came home.
Died at 44.
Paper said heart attack in Denver.
We all know he OD'd.
Loved that needle.

Aids got them.

I know I am forgetting someone.
I am sorry.
But that is not my job.
I am not an obit writer.
You will have to fill in the details yourself.

Look, I'm not obsessed with the dead.
I just wanted you to know about
those that you cannot see.
And what happened to them.
You are reading this.
You are not one of them.
Go do the stuff that the dead can't.
That is your job.
Pray for the dead.
But do your job.

Those people are dead now.
You won't see them in the neighborhood.
Not in the houses.
Not on the street corners.
Not down the alleys.
Not behind the stores.
Those people are dead now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stealing Candy

This is the way that we use to do it.
We would walk into Meyer's Deli.
I use to like that place.
There is a laundromat there now.
They sold all kinds of stuff.

As you walked in, the butcher's case was on the left.
They had all kinds of meats, cold cuts and cheeses.
On the right was the bread and pastries.
My mom use to send me there to buy the Russian Rye bread.
It was dark from the molasses.
It had lots of caraway seeds in it.
The loaves were small and dense.
Me, I liked the Bohemian light rye the best.

The butcher could make you a nice sandwich right there.
Pastrami, bologna, swiss cheese, mayo.
Whatever you wanted.
Then he would wrap it up in white paper
and write the price on it.
Then you would pay for it.
Maybe get a 7 ounce Coke with it.

They sold lots of other stuff.
Fried grasshoppers and chocolate covered ants.
Good stuff to buy and dare the other guys to eat.

Now they had 2 aisles down the middle of the place.
We would walk in and act normal.
I am not going to tell you who exactly was with me.
Some of them are dead.
Some of them have grown up.
Some of them are no longer into petty theft.
They have graduated you might say.

One of the guys would go over and ask the butcher how much something was.
Another guy would go over and look at the comic books.
Me and "Tommy" would walk down the center of the store.
Right to the candy.
I would turn around and look at the potato chips.
Then I would push "Tommy" into the candy with my butt
and he would say "watch it" as he stuffed his pockets.
I would go over to the freezer where the fudge bars were.
We would all walk out seperately.
We never got caught.
"Tommy" was always the guy who would actually take the candy.
We would walk around the back
and over to the retaining wall by the
First Methodist Church.
We would split the loot.

I would like to digress a moment
and analyze the economic rationale for my participation in this crime.
See, I was getting an allowance of twentyfive cents a week.
That was in 1958. Or maybe 1959.
I could buy fudge bars for five cents each.
Candy bars were the same.
Comic books were a dime.
Well the price of fudge bars went up to seven cents each.
My mom would not raise my allowance.
So that is why I did it.

I liked the people at the store.
I knew it was wrong.
But I needed candy.
That is all that I can offer in my defense.
Please forgive me.

Bernie's Song

A rootie toot toot.
A rootie toot toot.
We are the boys from the institute. We don't smoke and we don't drink.
And we don't go with girls that stink.

Bernie went away to reform school. I don't remember what he did to earn his time there. He was a few years older than me. But when he came back he was always singing this song. If there is anyone out there that knows the origin of this little ditty please make a comment.