11,041 vagabonds plus:
THIS is the city
My name is Friday.
I carry a badge.
It was cold in Los Angeles. I was working the graveyard shift in burglary. Scheduling mishap according to my captain.
The night shift sure is long. At 1:47 A.M., with no calls and nothing coming over the teletype, I wandered downstairs into the evidence cage. A lot of strange, bizarre articles carefully preserved in there. All of it tagged and neatly stored on shelf after shelf - a dusty magpie single nailed to a hunk of wood, two left clown shoes, a mannequin with jockey shorts wrapped around its head - stuff like that. One item, not on a shelf but leaning against the wall, sent a cold chill through me even though I’d already drunk two pots of coffee and was hallucinating. It was a stick. Yeah, that’s right, some fancy cane. A cylindrical piece of wood. Tag says June 14th.
June 14th, it was a clear day in Los Angeles. My partner, Frank Smith, was on the phone sitting across from me in homicide, laughing. He hangs up, tells me the story. A lady wants to report a murder. We get that a lot. A lady wanting to report a murder. But this one is different. It was 11:23 A.M. when we arrived at the address. We talked to the landlady of the Willow Manor Apartments. She tells us there’s a guy tap dancing in room 7 on the 3rd floor. Yes, Ma’am, we’ll go look. Sure enough, it sounds like a guy tap dancing on the other side of the door of room 7. We knock and there’s no answer. But now there’s a slow wooden tapping sound. We knock louder. The tapping continues. Frank wants to go get some donuts. He loves donuts. I say we should stay. My watch says 11:32. I kick in the door, 38 drawn.
A man and an orangutan, both dressed in top hat and tails, dancing canes over their shoulders in unison, are in the middle of the room, furniture pushed back up against the walls. Record player is blasting Puttin’ On The Ritz. The man looks horrified, eyes ablaze, face the color of bones. The surprised rang shows its teeth. I fire one slug into the ceiling, cheap plaster rains down. The man jumps through the window. Frank runs down three flights, moves pretty good with that donut belly, cuffs him winded. I look at the rang and it dejectedly looks at me and drops this cane. I reach for my cuffs, then change my mind.
Charge: a 922b, Section1 Felony, unlawful possession of a rang within city limits.
I shiver and my palms are sweating. It’s 2:11 A.M. and at least the coffee’s fresh. I can still see that rang’s teeth. The fact is…not sure if it was a smile, grimace, or the relief of being freed from learning to tap dance. The phone is ringing. It's 2:13 A.M.
Nothing better to do, floppy lake hat in the up position, she drifted out on the calm water in an open canoe the color of coffee, christened The Sitting Duck, for she only wants her life to drift, leg flopped over the port side, big toe breaking the calm coldness. And she is calm, not letting the blues seep into her boat. Quiet is broken from on shore, the echoing sound of a little girl screaming, tormented by a confused black magpie trying to steal peanuts from her little grubby fist.
A ‘V’ of barking impatient geese circle above as though waiting for permission to land from the control tower. She traces a traveling vagabond cloud above with pointed finger, a shape similar to Marilyn’s infamous fluttering skirt from that delicious subway breeze. And then another cloud enters stage left, one that must be a bridge, she says, perhaps the bridge across leading to where angels dwell as Van Morrison sings about.
Now, a bit sad, floppy hat in the down position, could it be the pull of the Moon, or the fact that she hasn’t had a First Kiss since way back when? A complete waste of time, she says. An ancient saying comes to mind - men make watches, God makes time. Just as that overwhelming loneliness hits her again a wayward goose suffering from vertigo wearing goggles with a malfunctioning parachute splashes nearby. She swears like a sailor.
shut up and kiss me
Sit down. No over there in my favorite chair. You’ve changed your hair. I like it, yes. When you pull it back like that it exposes more of your lovely skin. You know, Grace, I should call you Redbud. Why? Because your rose-colored blush is the same as its blossoms in the Spring, and that lipstick you’re wearing - yes! That lipstick is the exact shade of a redbud tree in all its summer glory. Sometimes, I have this repetitive nightmare of a woman laughing like a horse with lipstick missing her lips with chunks of stick streaking around her cheek. Ah, but we’ll leave my worse dreams for another day now that you are here.
Yes, it has been a warm week. Warm enough to tire magpies that hang around here. That’s why they’re walking about I guess. Once, one walked up to me carrying a box of matches - don’t laugh! - really, I’ll tell you sometime. Did you see the white moon this evening? It looks like the mischievous grin of the Joker.
Oh no, she likes you, My Little Girl. Yes, that’s her name. I can just tell. How? She’s never been a happy-tail-wagger. Just then, when she laid her head upon you lap, made eye contact, and let out that long sigh. Now you have a friend for life, believe me. There’s a certain balance there - as though your heartbeat rates match perfect. The same with your breathing. A man walks into a bar. He can try every pickup line in the book, but all he has to do is get into the same breathing pattern of a woman and she’s all his. No, I never tried it. Just one of my theories. Enough though, I wanted to share a lucid passage from this book of poetry you might like.
curio shop sketch
[The Orson Welle’s 360 Zoom Deluxe Model camera crane sweeps down the street from on high, scanning the fronts of three building - The Grand Theater, darkened with an ancient Greta Garbo movie poster peeled away from the brick wall, The Egg Mustard Deli with a man sitting on a bench below the front window furiously chewing tobacco working on a crossword puzzle, a little girl with a strawberry ice cream cone amused at the toothless chewing, the town Cocker Spaniel, Muffin, smiling as she licks the low level ice cream cone of the oblivious little girl, and the small blue stone front of The Curio Shop, a frowning wooden Indian beside the door.
Camera stops on the neon sign out front.
The proprietor curiously scanning an item with a magnifying glass, owner of curio watching him.]
‘There’s a hairline fracture.’
‘I know. Nephew hit it with a slingshot playing indoors.’
‘That’s no problem. What else?’
‘I want something different on the face.’
‘I hate that scene of the white man gypping the Indian.’
‘I don’t see any white man. Unless the bird…fleeing.’
‘I hate it. I see it there, and in Marlon Brando’s eyes in every movie. The mistrust, the disgust.’
‘Even Guys And Dolls?’
‘Well, no, I guess not Guys And Dolls.’
[Shop owner sets it down gently. Man looks over proprietor’s shoulder at crooked bird calendar pinned to wall with a high heeled shoe. June with a magpie. Shakes his head in disgust.]
‘I hate magpies.’
‘What do you want on the face?’
[Man takes old sepia photo of woman’s face from his wallet. Close up - she’s laughing.]
‘My dead wife.’ [Pausing] ‘I can’t remember why she was laughing.’
‘She’s lovely. I bet she never gypped anyone.’
‘I can’t remember why she was laughing. You know, I met her at a party. I was wearing a lamp shade the shape of a weeping willow and lost my balance, spilling my beer bottle down her white blouse. She slugged me with a mean left hook. We got married two weeks later.’
‘What a smile she had. And she reminds me of Zasu Pitts!’
‘That’s what I want.’
‘Yes, and laughing.’
All original designs and text created by the author of this blog, Phil L., are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike3.0 License. All other materials remain the property of their respective owners and/or creators, unless of course they are part of the public domain.