WRITTEN FOR AND DURING
by Bruce Hesselbach
Take a look at yourself! I’m talking to you, Miss Victoria Smith! Your eyes are baggy; your hands are red and clammy; your tongue tastes like cotton; there’s stringy hair in your face; why, your very breath is evil! How long has it been since you’ve had a bath?
Get a hold of yourself, girl; grab that pencil tightly; sit up; close mouth; wipe away that -- Now, now girl! Chin up! You’re shacking up at the old man’s. Cold – cold – Oh the hell with it!
Goddam mirror never worth a shit anyhow.
Funny story how I got here. Tell the story, girl! Oh, well, you know, I’m weird. So my old man says. Isn’t that strange when you look in the mirror and you can see two faces inside your eyes looking out at you, all distraught and pale, just faces disconnected? Well, never mind that.
I was feeling pretty bad. No sleep, no food, no water. Threw up once into a paper cup laying outside an ice cream store. Nobody even wanted to look at me, I could see that. It was terribly cold, though I couldn’t stop sweating; it felt like it was freezing on my back. What a mess. Then I went over into the lobby of the Manchester Hotel. Cramps, as if I was having my period two weeks early. I could hardly walk for being drug down, yanking at me all inside.
The paper boy was there. “Hey P-P-Powlo,” I siz, “throw me a f-f-few pills for Chrissake, anything.”
“No go, Vicki. I’m broke.”
“You can get me s-some, Powlo.”
“Sorry my ass.”
So I got out of there fast. Crummy place. The bar there sucks. Mostly only bums go there, cheap as all hell. But outside the hotel was what I wanted. Cabs usually come down there at nights. A cold wet night like that, nobody there but me. Coat I had on was too short. Shoes pinched, gave me a sore. The room I live in is so lousy I use my shoes to kick the big rats when we had them but they all died they starved to death.
Waiting seemed like hours for a cab. Hell it was about the Phone company gets off then and cabs go away. Felt very cold and wet. I was shaking and sat on the sidewalk. God I wished I had some prune juice at least. That was colder and it hurt my back. Maybe I should go back inside the Hotel. If they threw me out it would be worth it and not freeze my ass off. But just then a cab came. Young cab driver, pretty good looking, so I said, get up, kid, do your stuff.
“Okay, Lady, get in! Where ya going?’
He had this long black hair, combed back at the sides. Out of the 50’s, you know. His face was cute and he was young for a cabbie.
“Take me down ta
Furrows Road in Goodwich.” The car had already taken off. Then he had to call up because Goodwich was
far out of the city limits. A set rate
to go there. I forget how much. I was just wishing I could fool around with
his hair from the back and I would too if he’d stop talking and trying to get
me to talk. Hell, I couldn’t follow what
he was saying, the motion of the car made my stomach too tied up I could
puke. Something about a new road needed
in Goodrich to cut down on consumer traffic or something. I siz, “Yeah.” “Yeah right.”
“Yeah sure.” Eventually we
started getting close to where I wanted.
I siz, “Juh-just over dis hill.”
“Okay; where’s the house?” he siz, stopping quickly. Then he stared at me like I was some kind of nut.
I stared right back.
Then I siz, “You can let me out here if ya want.”
He dint know what to do. It’s so many dollars, he siz, repeating what he said before. He was getting nervous and afraid.
“I can’t pay you,” I siz. “I ain’t got no money.”
Now he started to act sore, like rays of lightning and fire shooting out from his mouth.
“Listen,” I siz, “you’ll get paid if you take me down ta the other side of the cemetery. I ain’t got no money on me.”
He pulled the car up to the front entrance of the almost endless, rotted cemetery. It was black as hell in there. No stars were out because of fog and clouds, and in Goodwich it gets so dark you can’t see in front of your face although you think you can. The graves were all white and shadowy and the highbeams showed trees with no leaves, they died too, and no sounds except a little from toads and stuff. There are some snakes and birds and raccoons in the cemetery that people will mistake for stiffs that were just buried there by accident and hadn’t really died yet. They revived and broke out, though not in their right minds of course.
This happened years ago to my twin sister.
And then there’s some kids in Goodwich that hitch around in the dark and one kid got drunk on a bottle of straight Southern Comfort and slept on a grave all night then he woke up and thought he was dead because he was so stiff and couldn’t move, his body was asleep and numb.
There’s things in the cemetery by and by that nobody ever sees. Nobody lives long enough to, it happens very slow, from year to year. All the people taking out what’s not theres for laughs or else putting in things that they want to get rid of, like dead babies and five year olds beaten to death and dogs run over by cars with their guts bashed out and strangled cats and suicides go there and they sort of decay while the animals get to them and spread things around in the leaves and the mud, where the greenflies, the slugs, the maggots, the millipedes, the ants all live in the stinking purple flesh like spaghetti.
It’s all a big mystery with three or four skeletons exposed by erosion running through a little grove, the skulls have graffiti on them and headstones back from the 1700’s where the bodies were dug up and now there are no names on those headstones.
I ain’t superstitious you can tell. Most people are really scared as hell to go in there at night because the knotted trees and branches look like they’re half alive and then you thinks of ghouls and partly rotted flesh and dried up brown blood like shit, and the darkness all surrounding with no ending as if you could never find your way back out again; but that’s only how it looks to a corpse.
After some time the young cabbie made up his mind. He probably worked hard for his money, for his family, who knows? He wasn’t old enough and dint have enough guts to go back without the money.
“Okay, I’ll take you to the other side,” he siz and jams down his foot and leaves a patch. This cab whips through the cemetery from zero to sixty in ten seconds and it was a narrow bumpy little road and he lops off a few branches as he goes through.
Then way at the end of the cemetery he saw a little light; it was a very little house, and he slammed on the brakes , and some more lights went on outside the house. An aging balding man came out .
“I’ll pay you the fare,” the man siz. “She lives here with me. I’m her father. She’s on drugs and when she runs out of money she comes home. I think she likes to make fun of cab drivers this way.”
“You mean, for kicks?”
“Yes, I think so. If she knows what she’s doing.”