“Alright Klark, I’ve been sittin’ around on my kiester for the past six months waiting for you to get your ass in gear. You got yourself a new van to replace that old junk Love and Roll relic and then you sold it just ‘cause someone offered you a few thou more than you paid for it. Then you go out and buy that big green monster that has 180,000 miles on it, no shower like the almost new one, and then you spend three fuckin’ months making it just the way you want it. What about me? I thought we were equal partners in this ‘tour the forty-eight’ scheme you dreamed up. You’ve missed all sorts of opportunities to write for local papers, magazines, and even passed up a nice big advance to do a book. And look at the fix you got me in. I’ve quit my job, well took a year’s leave of absence, about the same as quitting, moved out of my home to live in this dump of yours, turned myself into a God-damn fuckin’ housefrau, and gave up drinking just because you did to keep from getting fat. I’ve about had it! If you don’t get off the pot and get us out of here I’m going to go crazy. I have to tell them at that ritzy private academy for those juvies with the silver spoons up their ass if I’m going to sign that damn year’s contract. Read my lovely full red lips, I have to tell them tomorrow morning if I take that job. Not next Tuesday, not in a week, not even the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I have to do it tomorrow, or start drawing food stamps and eating at the mission. The more I think about it the madder I get. I’m going to bed early, I don’t want to look like death warmed over for this interview. Goodnight Klarkie.”
That was my lovely friend Linda who seemed to be a little upset with me for absolutely no reason at all. I told her after our encounter with the local mafia types and crooked cops that we needed to rest and regain our collective composure, not to mention trying this cohabitation thing for awhile, and to see if we could stand being together for more than a week or so. Yes, I had sold ‘our’ almost new fancy camper van, the kind with the built in shower, flat screen television, tires that looked like a rubber bands stretched around a big chrome beer keg, and an insurance bill that would keep my agent cruising the Caribbean for three months at a time. I tried to tell her that a shower in a van was mold and mildew just waiting to attack, that an eight gallon RV water heater wouldn’t satisfy her need for cleanliness since she could exhaust my forty gallon water heater on one showering, and that the way she showered the whole darn van would be drenched just like the bathroom in my old house is after she is through. Anyway, how could I pass up a deal on one of the last LER vans in existence? It might have a few miles, but it has no rust, it has real solid steel chromed bumpers, high ground clearance to get over the curbs that I kill when I make a sharp right turn, and last but not least, I can modify it without feeling that I am committing a sin against the RV Manufacturers of America and Canada, where most of these things are made. And as far as selling the fancy newer van is concerned, she made out pretty well with half of the cash from the deal.
Oh, by the way, I hate it when she calls me Klarkie and that was the last time she did. She was up early the next morning and off for her job interview. I vaguely remember a quick morning kiss and a promise to be back for lunch before I drifted off to another hour or two of sleep.
Noon rolled around and there was no word from Linda and I was wondering where she was. The phone rang and I felt little chill run up my spine. I picked it up and said, “Hi Sweetie.”
“Don’t Sweetie me you lazy old son-of-a-procrastinator,” a throaty female voice rasped in my ear, “I calling to tell you the latest news from your ex-sweetie.”
That did it, the chill ran back down my spine and settled uncomfortably in my scrotum as I recognized Maggie’s voice. Maggie was an old friend of Linda’s who had retired to Florida after the murder of her husband almost a year ago.
“Hey Maggie, what’s happening?”
“I just got a call from Linda and she wanted me to call you with some big news. Two things actually, one good, and one bad, what’cha want first ole buddy.”
“Better give me the good news first, I’ve got a feeling the bad might make me get out my sword and fall on it before you get out the good news,” I said as I started looking around for my trusty, rusty old sword.
“She went for the interview with the ritzy private school people and they liked her so much they immediately offered the directorship of a new school they were opening in Honolulu next week.”
Without taking a breath Maggie continued on, “Now for the bad news. She has to fly out there tomorrow and wants to pack up the things she needs from your place ASAP and doesn’t want you to be there or she might lose her nerve and chicken out. She didn’t want to call you herself because she thought it was the time to split and didn’t want any upsetting scenes about it. I think she was a little unhappy about her relationship with you. You know how these young girls are.”
Maggie is in her sixties and those nearing forty are definitely young to her, I’m even considered semi youthful to her, and right now I feel pretty damn old.
“So anyway Klark, if you feel anything good for her, please go find yourself a nice motel for the night right now so she can get ready to fly out tomorrow morning. I’m flying in tomorrow to gather up the rest of her stuff and put it in storage until she knows what she needs in Honolulu. It’ll be fun to spend the time with the old gang and hoist a few at the new Harrigan’s. I’ll call you when the coast is clear and you can move back to your place.”
“Well, shit, fart, and away we go! I’ll be a cross-eyed son-of-a-bitch, I have to move out of my house so she can have you come in and rummage around through my drawers gathering up whatever and then she’ll just fly off without a damn goodbye!”
“C’mon Klark, I know this is a big shock, but look what she gave up for you, her career, her celibacy, she changed her life to travel the world with you and all you’ve done is sit on you butt for over six months. Let her get on with her life, she’s a damn good teacher once you get past her ghetto language. She started talking that way when she learned that was the only language those kids and their parents could understand. Put her in the suburbs with the Vassar educated moms and you wouldn’t recognize her. Where ever she is, the world will be a better place if she has some impact on today’s kids.”
How could I argue with that, the rich little shits in Honolulu need a teacher to look up to, I guess the one that swears a blue streak every time she opens up her mouth will fade into the sunset after a few weeks of rich, couth, moms kissing her feet and not waving a knife at her?
“OK Maggie, I’ll be out in fifteen minutes, if I can find my cell phone I’ll leave number on the fridge for you. Keep me informed, I’ll probably be in my van around here somewhere. There’s a key to the front door in the base of the yard light. Tell her to call me when she gets settled, tell her I’ll miss her, tell her I’m sorry,” I said as my vision got a little blurry from some silly watery stuff collecting there..
“Cheer up Klark, I’ve been a lonely widow for a while and maybe you need a little senior sex and not that young stuff. Hey, I gotta go and look for a cheap flight to Naptown, get outta there and let the poor girl get her stuff in piece.”
“I’m on my way Maggers, and oh, by the way, I like ‘em young and skinny.”
“Bye bye Klark, you have such a way with words, but I still like you. Talk to ya soon Babe.”
And that was it, I grabbed a few things and headed for the van and the local pub. It was time to get off of the wagon, which I had been on for much too long; six days, six years, whatever, all too long the way I felt. I thought I saw Linda’s little car parked around the corner as I headed for the old Harrigan’s. I didn’t look back.
Before long I reached the newly remodeled Harrigan’s Hangout, the place of my former employment now operated by some corporate entity that remains a mystery to one and all. The daughter of an old school chum of mine from Chicago owned it. She had inherited it when he was killed, after getting a little too involved with the wrong interests, for what they thought was an inexcusable indiscretion. Linda and I had ferreted out the story behind it all, which caused a big ripple in local politics and law enforcement. Mandy, Noel’s daughter, lived in an artists colony in Florida and had nary a thing to do with the new Harrigan’s.
Actually it wasn’t called Harrigan’s Hangout anymore, it was flourishing under the new name of Gordon’s. No one knew who Gordon was, I knew a few of the bartenders there and they didn’t know, or even care as long as the checks kept rolling in, which they did since Gordon’s was less than a year old and everyone who was anyone went there. It’ll be like that for a year, and then things will level off and maybe it will survive, maybe it won’t. A lot of “in” places fold after the newness wears off and something else opens down the block.
The afternoons are usually pretty slow and even though I had given up on that fattening booze I still stopped in for a diet soda or a tonic, sans the gin, and a chat with some of my old barfly friends who just couldn’t tear themselves away no matter how Yuppyfied it was. Linda usually didn’t go with me since she couldn’t stand to see me drink wimpy soda and under the new management she wasn’t allowed to swear at the top of her voice. I guess we all don’t have to worry about that anymore.
I walked in, ducking under the pots of greenery that now hung from the new false ceiling, sat down at the new granite bar, and ordered Jack neat.
“Oh shit,” said Sue, the barmaid, “looks like we’re in for a pity party. How come the long face Mr. Bent, has that new old van of yours been on the fritz again? You start drinking that Jack straight and you’ll be wasted in no time, you’re out of practice.”
“I’ve been kicked out of my house Sue, Linda’s got a job in Hawaii and has Maggie flying in to keep the peace and collect her stuff. I guess I should have seen it coming, I’ve been at sixes and sevens ever since all that business with Noel and haven’t been treating her very well.”
“Well, think of it this way Klark, you’re a free man again, I for one had given up all hope of ever getting all sweaty with you. I know at least three other youthful ladies who were getting ready to join a convent because you seemed to be spoken for, I can’t think of their names right now, but they’ll come to me.”
“Listen here Ms. Nahmi, now that you’ve become a famous photographer and are not a Victoria’s Secret saleslady anymore, given up the teaching job, and hustle drinks at a sterile Yuppy bar, doesn’t mean you can get sweaty with me. Can I stay with you tonight?”
“I think that was the quickest mourning period I’ve ever seen,” Sue said through her laughter. “You can stay with me anytime big boy, you know I’ve had the hots for you for years. But you sleep on the sofa and bring a sleeping bag, I’m not set up like a motel.”
I really was just making kidding around with Sue when I mentioned staying the night with her. I didn’t expect her to be so welcoming. It kind of rendered me without words, as in speechless. My mind bounced around in my skull as it tried unsuccessfully for a quick comeback and I said, “Hit me again with the Jack.”
“Oh boy, I sure got your Jockeys in a bind, didn’t I?” She said. “You haven’t had a real drink for a while and I’m going to have to cut you off after this one. And I did mean it, you can stay over tonight, and tomorrow night too if necessary. I see a man in need here, and I remember the time or two you had to take me home from Harrigan’s when I had a little too much to drink, and how nice and gentlemanly you were, just consider it a returned favor. And if you’re as good as Linda says, I might keep you locked up in the bathroom for a couple of months.”
I couldn’t tell where the compassion stopped and the BS took over, these younger women were more a mystery to me the more I got to know them. I told her that I was better than anything she had heard and she wasn’t old enough to ever find out firsthand. She gave me her new address and said she’d be home about six and I should give her a hour to make the place ready for guests and then I could take her out for sushi. Luckily I had some clean clothes in the van and might be able to make myself presentable enough to get in some fancy sushi place. Luckily I had just sold a short story to a local men’s magazine and had a few extra hundred bucks in my bank account. Yes, I’m a writer, full time, self supporting, haven’t made it to the best seller lists yet, but I will, one of these days.
I guess I’d better tell you a little bit about myself. I’ll make it short so you don’t get too bored. If you’ve been reading semi carefully you know my name is Klark Bent. The family name was Behendt and Americanized years ago. I was a reporter, wrote part time, tended bar the other part, did a few other things here and there, and finally made it as a full timer with a story based on my real life adventure and involvement with the old Harrigan’s Hangout and the murder of my old friend Noel Pulaski. I churned that tale out in three weeks so I could strike while the iron was hot. That’s a cliché you know. Good writers never use clichés, better writers know when to use them, and how to use them. We are all so familiar with clichés that they have become a staple to our everyday conversation. If we stopped using them we would have no words to use, and worse, we would not be able to fathom what we hear from others. The best place to find clichés is where you would least expect them, in the news broadcasts and the newspapers. Those writers know what will catch your eye, words and phrases that are familiar and will pop right out at you drawing you into whatever they are writing or saying. I digress; enough of me and my life! Back to what I was saying! What was it?
Crap, I thought, I had been barred from my house, my favorite bar, and all my friends were doing the nine to five thing; I went to the local restaurant with free wireless for computer users. Modern folks call it Wi-Fi. I spent a few hours drinking some coffee called Darkly Vibrating that my friend there, a lady of color, said was named after her. I told her that I’d like to have some of the original and she said that she didn’t think a white man could handle it. So, I had the Darkly Vibrating brown liquid cup of the stuff I could handle.
To keep my mind off of the woman who was moving out of my house, I thought of the woman whose house I was moving into for a night or two. Sue was in her late twenties or early thirties and was from Okinawa, part native and part USN. She had just started a new career having taught in the city school system since graduating from college. She had always been interested in photography; and had minored in it in school. She had finally achieved a fair amount of success as a freelance photographer for several local magazines. That led to enough publicity to get her work accepted in a few local art galleries in several of the artsy fartsy areas of town. Unlike most of today’s photographers Sue worked with chemicals and real paper except for the magazines that were only interested in digital submissions. I had tried the freelance photographer route once in a past life and could surely appreciate the speed and convenience of the digital world, which wasn’t even heard of when I was struggling away in the darkroom.
I went to the restaurant's washroom, feeling like some homeless guy, and cleaned up before heading for Sue’s and our dinner at the Yakuza House of Sushi. I arrived at Sue’s at the appointed time and we were off for our fish and rice. When we arrived at Yakuza’s there was a line of about ten people ahead of us. The bar was full and we waited on a long bench with the others who were there before us. I had expected to see the usual group of Yuppies that one finds around the more affluent suburbs of Indy and was a little surprised to see the group waiting with us was mostly Asiatic. Unlike many of the larger cities that Indianapolis liked to fit itself in with, we do not have any set ethnic area like a Chinatown and so-called ethnic restaurants are scattered all over with maybe a few more on the far north side. I’ve always wondered why some places are called “ethnic” and some are called “theme”. The eatery with the cowboy’s and the big horned heads mounted on the walls are called theme restaurants. The one with a big lobster over the door and a tank full of things that look like giant crawdads is called a theme restaurant. Put in a sushi bar and give the customers chopsticks and it’s an ethnic restaurant. Give the customers cushions and have them sit on the floor while they eat with their fingers and it becomes, guess what, an ethnic restaurant.
I guess since sushi is mostly fish, the décor of old pilings, heavy hawsers, that’s rope to you landlubbers, mounted fish, lobsters, and ship parts is appropriate. Finally our turn came and we decided to eat at a table and not sit at the sushi bar and watch the sushi chefs preparing the delectable delights of their trade.
I’m not much of a gourmet, especially with ethnic dishes, and I let Sue lead me to things like Dragon roll, California roll, Dagwood roll, Brickyard roll, Hay, roll in the, Pacers roll, Colt roll, and various hunks of raw fish strapped down to a square of sticky rice. Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail, Octopus, Eel, and a few unpronounceable critters I had never heard of. I didn’t see anything really Hoosier, like Carp, Buffalo, Bullhead, or Catfish; thank God for small favors.
Every once in a while the sushi chefs would holler out something fierce in their native tongue and bang the gong hanging behind the bar. I ducked the first time thinking that a bar fight was about to break out. Sue laughed her head off at the look on my face and patted my arm as if I were some terrified kid from the boonies out in the real world for the first time.
All in all it was a great dinner and Sue’s company took my mind off of what was happening at my house. She is very pretty and those dark and vaguely almond shaped eyes are very captivating. Her smile is warm and real, she speaks in a moderate tone and doesn’t swear loudly every fourth word, like someone I recently knew.
It was almost eleven when we arrived back at Sue’s place, a hundred year old brick castle-like fortress in the heart of an east side neighborhood that has been in the throes of regentrification for the last fifty years. Other neighborhoods have been thoroughly rebuilt several times while this one still struggles with its first rebuilding. A reporter friend of mine believes that the powers-that-be in real estate, politics, and finances have always swung their weight to the other areas because of who owns the lion’s share of the property there.
Sue had remodeled the old place with her living areas on the second floor and her photography setup on the first floor. Her darkroom was pretty old fashioned with no automatic anything. Her equipment was first class and would have cost a fortune if she bought it new a few years ago. She said with the onslaught of digital photography she was able to pick up all her equipment on eBay for a fraction of the cost. The most expensive part was having the plumbing and ventilation system installed, things she could not do herself. There was even a small separate room just for drying her photographs that had temperature and humidity controls just for that room. Sue did all her work by hand using her own formulas for the photographic chemicals, which were tailored to whatever film she used and what she wanted the photos to look like when finished. All her work was monochrome and the papers she used had to be imported. She did have one concession to the twenty-first century in the computer setup with the latest in software and hardware related to digital photography.
The living area on the second floor consisted of two bedrooms, rather large kitchen with a glassed in eating area overlooking the backyard, a fancy bathroom complete with a Jacuzzi tub big enough for two, a large room that was completely empty, and more closet area than one person could ever use. It didn’t have the look of a lot of rehabs, it looked like older rooms put to new use, but in a very tasteful manner. I asked if she had done all the rehab work and she looked at me as if I was crazy saying, “I can paint, I can paper, but I couldn’t do all this. It was done by a gay couple who were going to open a tearoom downstairs but couldn’t get it rezoned and then lost it in foreclosure. I was lucky and in the right place at the right time and picked it up for half of the appraisal, got myself a nice big mortgage, and hired several of my teacher friends who moonlighted in home remodeling to finish it up.”
I thought about my place that I had owned for several years and what it looked liked the day I bought it. Decorating was definitely not my forte.
After the royal tour I asked, “This is a long way from teaching little kids and selling skimpy underwear. Whatever made you change careers like this?”
“Well, I guess I never really liked teaching. I ended up in teaching because I had it drilled in to me that I should get a good old traditional job where there would always be a need for someone with the right credentials. I minored in photography and really loved it in school, I’ve always played around with it, teaching kids how to make pinhole cameras and developing pictures. I even shot some of the ads for the lingerie store I worked for part time. When teaching became more of a holding cell for errant Juveniles I started to look for a way to get out of it. I just didn’t have the masochistic dedication to put up with it.”
“I see your point.” I replied, “It would make a big difference if you could get some backing from administration and the school board. Lin--- another teacher I know has been telling me horror stories about her fights with system, it doesn’t sound like any fun or any kind of rewarding work.”
“Enough of teaching talk, you’ve had the grand tour, you can sleep on the futon down here or in the real bed in the spare bedroom up stairs. You’ll have the bathroom all to yourself down here and you’ll have to share the one upstairs with me; your choice. If you get scared down here all alone, little Suzi will let you come on up, but don’t expect me to share my bed, at least not on the first date.”
“Well shit Sue, I didn’t think this was a date, I thought it was payment for the night’s lodging.” I said raising my eyebrows in rightful indignation.
“Listen up Klark, going out to dinner with someone of the opposite sex is a date, no matter how you look at it. Even someone as old as you are is dating material. I think they were right about you, slow and slower. I’m tired, sleep where you want, goodnight.” And off she went.