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Neighbors

Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 in pulp, Stories

A lonely man sat in a fat, white depressing house and did not understand. Here were the things. He had always been in the house. In the house were many memories that clogged and infected his brain like yellow pus. So many memories. Of young girls in print dresses dancing, of cool blue swimming pools, of friends, music and laughter and good food. Times had been good, yeah. Oh, death had been in the house once or twice, and naturally death had left its mark. But that was not the problem.

The Lonely Man looked at his face in the mirror. It made no sense. What of his old face was left? Were there actually any molecules left from the old/young face…the face that had been? Of course not. Meanwhile, the house was cracked…streaked with brown and soot and dust. Shards of glass lay about waiting to poke through an unsuspecting foot. A spider scooted through the dust gathering in a corner, laughing insanely.

The man wandered about the house daily, trying different positions, different angles, different couches, different beds (once, long ago he had lived for a time in a furniture store) to see if he could get a new perspective on things. But the thing was, he had seen all the angles. They were all used up. Yet still he tried. Over the years, the house seemed to have shrunk. Where it once seemed large and full of possibilities, now it was small and insignificant. A kitchen, a bathroom, a couple of sad little rooms with sad little TV’s. You know the deal.

Nonetheless, the house was still a fortress house. It’s crumbling blue walls provided the Lonely Man protection from the evil death dance outside its walls. Ah, but death had entered already you said. That is not the point! He needed protection. That is all.

So the man posted a sign on his front door.  NO ADMITTANCE, NO SMOKING, NO CANCER, NO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES. He always kept his front door locked with two deadbolts. He purchased a fantastic alarm system and put bars on all the windows. Inside the house he kept a gun in each room—also a couple of spiked baseball bats, and some brass knuckles, just for good measure. Oh yeah—he was Ready, Teddy!

It was night and it was day. It didn’t matter. Inside the house he wandered in dreams—dreams of hugging young skinny girls, throwing them down on the floor laughing, dreams of budding new biceps, of a pimple, dreams of suntans…of black and white TV and David Janssen all in 60’s drag, with his big Gable Ears hidden by overlong, bushy sideburns. Dreams of young beautiful Elvis side-stepping by that pool with bigtits girls laughing white-toothed and oh—who could know that the King would fall—pants down around his knees—in front of the toilet clutching a Jesus book in his hand? He weighed nearly 300 lbs and his hair was snow white.

CORNERS

But let’s get to the point here, shall we? After all that had happened, all that had taken place in forty-some odd years, after all that—what was important were—well, corners. That is, not the corners themselves, but the angle brought about by standing at a specific corner and then gazing at things from that point of view. In that alone—that shifting of view—there was still magic, still hope of some sort. There was, to put it correctly, still the possibility of a SEARCH.

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET

Across the street from the Lonely Man lived an insane man who kept bees in his backyard in big cages. The Bee Man would walk around all day muttering to himself. He wore some kind of crazy bee helmet and he would have his garden hose and would spray strangers that passed by his house. The Bee Man had a terrible little wiener dog named Blitzen that ran around barking short, ugly little barks and nipping at his heels, and he would spray and slap it, and the dog would bark with delight and pee wildly. Oh, It was a sight to see!

The Bee Man had once lived with his mother, who back in 1963 had been dubbed Tit Woman by the Lonely Man in his fortress house because once she had bent over while watering the lawn and he and the Pinsky Twins had seen her breasts, which were delightful, to say the least. Upon spying the breasts, the boys clapped and howled with laughter and ran away skipping.  But Tit Woman had grown old and crazy and her son—who was about the same age as the Lonely Man—stayed in the house. When Tit Woman died, there was much speculation in the neighborhood that her son had poisoned her (they were always yelling at each other and stuff) because she had died suddenly and horribly, her once proud tits now old and saggerty. After she died, the Bee Man seemed to change. He would play hideous rock ‘n’ roll music real loud at all hours of the day and night, and strange crude friends with acne ridden faces and tattoos could be seen coming and going from his house. The lawn was dry.

THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR

Right next to the Lonely Man’s house, sat a very neat picture perfect house. This was the house of Sid and Ruth. Like the Lonely man, Sid and Ruth never ventured outside their house. Ruth had bright orange/sienna died hair and was deaf. Sid always wore a little cap and cheap polyester shirts and he had long tufts of hair growing out of his ears.

All day long, Sid and Ruth sat in the house not talking to each other. They sat in matching green recliner chairs and watched TV and smoked cigarettes. Sid once told the Lonely Man (in one of their few conversations) that between them, they smoked 50 packs a day. Also Sid consumed only peanut butter. That was it, I swear!

Dear, deaf Ruth would watch game shows and she had the sound up so loud that the Lonely Man was forced to wear earplugs all day. The smoke would waft right through the walls of Sid and Ruth’s house and into the Lonely Man’s house. Sometimes it made him feel like fainting. But this was made up for by the fact that he received a curious pleasure by wondering about Sid and Ruth and their strange smoke/dead lives. Who had created them? Did they ever fuck? What did they think about? Of course, there were many such alive/dead people—people who shared houses and yet who never spoke to another—in the world. Still, thinking of Sid and Ruth right next door—their very proximity, their cheap green chairs and their cheap TV lives—filled the lonely man with a certain sense of wonder and pleasure.

THE THOUGHTS THAT OCCUPIED THE LONELY MAN’S MIND

Since the lonely man had no outer life to speak of—he had deigned long ago to cultivate “the life of the mind”—it is urgent here for us to list the things which occupied his mind. Here they are—not listed in any order of importance or preference.

1) Demons. 2) God. 3) the sound of hair popping out of your face. 4) chalky bowel movements. 5) large quantities of shiny entrails. 6) quick fast fights/the slap slap noise. 7) thin girls with no breasts. 7.5) why child TV stars became pathetic and tended to kill themselves. 7.6) notes of a flat 3rd and flat 7th nature (though these were rapidly becoming boring). 9) conjugating the world Negro 10 )Dear dead Elvis 11) Dead father. 12) Dead everybody. 13) the stars on Saved By the Bell. 14) nothing. 15) the colors blue and dark green.16) French people and why they stunk. 17) combination lockers. 18 )poisonous molecules. 9) whether the Jews were a sign of the Second Coming. 20) punching people in the throat and the pleasant sound it would make. 21)teeth splattering—splooey!—out of your mouth.  22) a bra coming off—zip—real fast. 23) tapped phones. 24) shooting a cow in the eye. 25) the unimportance of music. 26) Marcia Brady. 27) out- of-sequence numbers. 28) 7-Eleven bums on rollerskates. 29) wieners floating around in a glass of milk. 30) killing red ants for fun! 31) slightly burnt pork chops and how good they are with barbequed beans. 32) a pig bladder. 33) how much he hated trucks and their sounds. 34) why things in print seemed more real. 35)girls with a little bit of hair under their arms—just stubble. 36) ground glass in your face—cool! 37) the stupidity of a penis going into a cunt. 38) the fact that people kill over a penis going into a cunt. 39) a man named Lino Lopez—the first Texan to die of bee stings. 40) $3.75 million dollars for a stupid book by a guy that can’t write. 41) punching people in the face as they shopped for records in Tower Records. 42) a girl named Annie Banana with lots of hair on her forearms. 43 )a guy name Gabriel Nedzesky, who he knew in the 6th grade and who had cool hair. 44) how this guy named Lon Morton, who was in his Hebrew School class, once told him not to chew his gum so fast because it didn’t look cool. 45) looking down Kathy’s dress and seeing her flat breast and long nipple. 46) an old man in Shaker Square with his head between his knees. 47) how he couldn’t stand for someone to say the word “cheese” —especially if it was a French person (this could drive him to murder!)  48) why beautiful little Anne had become a Pizza queen and why she often fell down for no reason. 49) a weiner floating around (the song) 50) why pussy didn’t interest him. 51) why he felt like he’d seen everything before. 52) why people were all just cheap versions of other people (this was called “The Version Theory”). 53) who lived above those buildings on Hollywood Boulevard? Was there an air conditioner there? Who paid the bill? Did the cops come to the door?  56) why some guys could hang out with their moms and it was OK but others were just Big Baby Men. 58) why he hated the LA Times. 59) why he couldn’t raise his hands in Church. 60) why everything was backwards. 61) why people believed stuff. 62) why people were sent to jail by people who are as evil and fucked up as themselves. 63) who invented all this shit?  64) why most people’s lives didn’t matter. 65) why he loved the feel of a .38 in his hand. 66) why small women were so cool. 67) Sofia Coppola and her red car with the rag hanging out of the gas tank in her Hollywood hillhouse garage. 67) rolling down a hill with Jeannie Clausen while her father played wild violin music. 68) why the Jews on Fairfax stunk to high heaven. 9) why black people in the movie and record business were celebrated for promoting illiteracy and stupidity and why they could call themselves niggers, but why you couldn’t call them niggers. 70) why people refused to face the fact of evil. 71) who created evil? 72) why he loved the smell of his own farts. 72) a particular bottle of coke he’d drunk at a wedding when he was 4 years old.  73) bottles of 12 oz. Coke stacked up in Uncle Norm’s garage. 74) Uncle Norm stumbling through the house naked and he had cancer and how he said “I hope I’ll be OK,” and then he died.75) the bottom of Julie Kaufman’s breast as it slipped out of her bathing suit top.76) going upsidedown underwater in Maryanne Jones’ pool. 77) smashing a read-haired kid named Dougie’s face against the pavement and how good it felt. 78) tricking a kid into picking up dog doody from a puddle by telling him there was a bar of gold hidden in there. 79) peeing off the roof on Rick Phillip’s head. 80) smelling underneath Bobbie’s armpits; the wonderful putrid smell, and seeing her naked breasts in his face and thanking God for them.  81) being in jail with a bunch of niggers. 82) why psychiatrists were all dry. 83) Billy Batson. 84) a smaller kid in the 6th grade punching another kid down real fast into the bushes and how he had got a boner at the sight of it. 85) lies lies lies and more lies…

I could go on but I think you get the idea by now—

THESE WERE THE THINGS THAT FILLED THE LONELY MANS REFRIGERATOR

four radishes in a glass of water, taco sauce, several blackened half bananas,  a vial of blood, an old Super Taco, a cucumber, Smucker’s strawberry jam, a jar of something, olive oil, Oatios, a bag of old dried out potatoes, a Snicker’s bar, some lard, Mott’s apple juice,  Passover Matzos, a six pack of cokes with the plastic torn off, some old carrots, some old beans, some old other shit, 47 things of Top Ramen, soy sauce, soy sauce and more soy sauce, pretzels (lots of pretzels!) pork chops…yum yum, Niblets corn (that’s not true…I just wanted to say Niblets), some batteries, Paul Newman popcorn, margarine, orange juice, diet seven-up in a bottle,  a bean.

AND THESE WERE THE THINGS THAT FILLED THE LONELY MAN’S MEDICINE CABINET IN ONE BATHROOM (THE OTHER ONE WAS FILLED ONLY WITH CUE TIPS)

Oil Of Olay, six bottles of Excedrin,Valium (2 bottles), Prozac (four bottles), Anafranil (2 bottles) Codeine (26 bottles), Vaseline, Narcosis, 2 scissors (one broken), Thrifty’s lip ointment, Benzedrine, Aspergum, Diazepam,  Zantac, Vicodin (43 bottles), Tylenol #4 (18 bottles), Klonopin, Restoril, Lamitcal,  Ambien, Halcion, Serax, Xanax, Tagamet, Imodium, Cephlex, Ben Gay, Erythromycin, Advil, Breathe Free, chapstick, Johnson’s Baby Oil, Murray’s Superior Pomade, Clearasil, Lotramin (that’s for athlete’s foot). Underneath the medicine in the cabinet were many more things: Brylcreem, Vitalis, 14 different kinds of deodorant (deodorant was a must!), Dentyne gum in small packs, combs, brushes, extra toothbrushes. Extra, extra extra!  (having extra EVERYTHINGS was a very important factor in the Lonely Man’s life) In his closet there were fifty spanking new white shirts still in the cellophane, and in his drawers, fresh new underwear and several packs of dark blue socks which he never intended to wear).

A STRANGE  THING THAT HAPPENED

One day came a knocking at the door. Knock knock knock. Pound Pound Pound. Ring ring ring (went the bell). The Lonely Man partially opened the door just enough so that he could see through the crack. On the front porch stood a man wearing a cheap black polyester suit, white shirt, and black tie. The man had a pencil thin moustache. Under his arm, he was carrying a little stack of  magazines. The Lonely Man glanced at the magazines. He saw the that the cover of the magazines said Watchtower.

“I don’t want any,” said the Lonely Man, and began to close he door. But for some reason, he didn’t close it all the way. There was something oddly familiar bout the man standing on the other side of the door. It took another moment, but then the Lonely Man saw—

“Excuse me” said the Lonely Man, “but aren’t you Val Kilmer?”

The man’s face went kind of red.

“Well, yes,” he said, haltingly. “I am.”

Poor Val Kilmer was barely recognizable. He must have gained at least 50 pounds since the Lonely Man had last seen him in a film. Besides the fleshy face, Val Kilmer’s hairline was receding badly.

“If I could just have a moment of your time,” Val Kilmer said. He  was sweating profusely, the little beads of sweat trickling down on the collar of his shirt.

How the hell had Val Kilmer become a Jehovah’s Witness? He looked so pitiful and sad that the Lonely Man opened the door a bit further.

“Please,” said Val Kilmer. He looked as if he were about to cry.

“Well, OK,” said the Lonely Man. “You can come in….but only if you promise not to try to talk tome that Jehovah’s Witness stuff. I’m Jewish, you know,” he added.

“Of course” said Val Kilmer. “I understand…”

Val Kilmer came in and sat down at the kitchen table.

Despite his weight gain and balding head, he was still a handsome man.

“Take off your coat,” the Lonely Man said. “It’s awfully hot today”

“Thank you very much,” said Val Kilmer.

When he took off his coat, the Lonely Man saw that Val Kilmer had big yellow sweat stains under his armpits.

For a moment neither of the men said anything.

“Would you like a cold drink?” asked the Lonely Man.

“Yes, that’d be nice,” said Val Kilmer.

The Lonely Man opened his refrigerator. “I’m afraid all I have is water.”

“Water would be fine,” said Val Kilmer.

The two men sat down across from one another. The Lonely Man didn’t want to ask Val Kilmer how he had gone from being a bigtime movie star to recruiting for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, so he tried to think of something to say. Unfortunately, he could not.

“It’s a real scorcher out today,” the Lonely man offered.

“Yes it is,” said Val Kilmer.

The two men sat there for another 30 seconds without saying anything.

Finally, the Lonely Man simply couldn’t stand it any longer. He looked at Val Kilmer imploringly.

“Will you say the line for me?

“The line?” asked Val Kilmer.

“Tombstone,” The Lonely Man said.  “I must’ve seen that damn picture at least fifty times…”

Val Kilmer looked down at the ground. He seemed terribly embarrassed. “Well, unnnnh…I really….”

“Please,” implored the Lonely Man. “It would really mean a lot to me…”

Val Kilmer looked up. He straightened his shoulders, and sucked in his cheekbones. Then he tightened his eyes…making them into little slits. Even though his face was much fatter, when Val Kilmer did this, hew was—at that moment—a dead ringer for Doc Holliday.

Kilmer’s lips edged into a smile. He licked his fingers, and then—with a wicked gleam in his eye—he twisted the corners of his moustache.

“Ah’m your huckleberry,” Val Kilmer said.

A long silence ensued.

“Thank you,” said the Lonely Man. He had tears in his eyes.

“You’re quite welcome,” said Val Kilmer. He took sip of his water. Another bead of sweat trickled onto his collar.

‘Well…I’d better get going,” Val Kilmer said. “I have a lot of pamphlets to deliver.”

“Allright” said the Lonely Man.

Kilmer got up from the table, picking up his stack of magazines.

The Lonely Man walked to the door and opened it. Val Kilmer stepped outside onto the front porch.

For a moment, neither of the two men said anything.

“Well, it was very nice meeting you,” said Val Kilmer.

“Likewise,” said The Lonely man.

Then, Val Kilmer turned on his heel and began to walk down the driveway.

“Good luck, ” said the Lonely Man at Val Kilmer’s back. As soon as he’d uttered the words, he regretted them.

The Lonely Man watched Val Kilmer as he walked down the driveway. His walk was really more of a shuffle. As he reached the sidewalk, he tripped over a crack in the pavement….almost falling down.

Then, limping a little, he made his way down the street.

The Lonely Man stood watching Val Kilmer until he disappeared around the corner.
After another moment, the Lonely Man closed the front door.

He locked the top deadbolt.

Then the bottom one.

Then he just stood there.

“Ah’m your huckleberry…” The words resounded in his head.

All things considered—it  hadn’t been such a bad day after all.

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