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Daydreaming in the Drinking Room
“Wakeup,” said Jerry, to Chick Evens, an echo bounced in Evens’ head-ear to ear-as if shot through a tunnel…
He had been staring into his cards for several minutes while the group gossiped, his mind had stepped into a dark storm of thoughts: he had been beating Larry’s cousin with a beer bottle over his face, they were over on Indian’s Mount, off Mississippi Street, across the old wooden bridge (this all took place several months ago), a gang of them-a few kids his age the rest a year or two younger, just graduating from High School-celebrating, not really the Donkeyland Gang, a few kids from Rice Street, a few from the East Side, all from a variety of different High Schools (Washington, Johnson, Central, etc)and a bonfire was burning high on top of the mound-the mound being the size of a football field, with an encircling embankment of a hundred feet or so, with old skeleton foundations of houses that used to be, reaching out of the soil, dotted all around the mound: and Mike L., had went into the foliage with Sandy-they had been eyeing each other up throughout the evening, right into the beginning of twilight until this moment, both standing on each side of the fire, across from one another and she followed him-and now several minutes had passed, and she was screaming rape from a hundred yards away in the foliage as music was blaring from a battery operated radio, and Evens went to find out what the sound was about, that sounded like either crying or sighing for help, and here was Mike L., on top of Sandy pinning her to the ground, he looked like some kind of savage beating the palm of his hand across her face to submit.
Everyone else, everyone at the campfire, was disbelieving anything was really happening-taking place, a few said they couldn’t hear a thing: Evens assuming, that if indeed they heard something as he was hearing something, she was just enjoying whatever Mike was doing, and they pretended to not hear-out of sight and out of mind that kind of mannerism: a spirit of unruliness diffused with those sitting around the bonfire, and to be frank, they could have cared less.
Evens remembered Sandy saying, “Please come to the party with me, I really want to go but I fear without you they’ll take advantage of me.” How right she was, especially now Evens looking down at the situation, and Mike saying “What the fuck do you want?” And Evens saying, “She’s telling you to get off her, you’re raping her, can’t you hear her, she’s protesting, she’s three inches from your fist!~”
Boldly, Mike said, as if not hearing a single syllable of what Evens had said, was telling him: “Get serious, fuck off,” and went back to his robustness in securing his lustful desires while Sandy continued to try and move, wiggle, push him away, to push him off of her-while she was crying and protesting-: actually she was in the middle of a dissent, that is to say: pleading now with Evens to stop him.
Evens now remembered several guys and a few girls by the campfire-why hadn’t they come to help, to stop Mike from doing this repulsive thing? Surely they all could hear this entire ruckus: all acting as if nothing was wrong-even the girls; matter-of-fact, he even had asked one of the guys: no two or three of the guys-yes, two or three before he left to investigate: leaving the campfire-and all the intoxicated, he said while in motion: “You hear anything, you hear someone crying for help?” No one heard a thing, or would admit hearing a thing, nor took a moment to go investigate, as if this was staged; perhaps they had on their minds a gangbang.
But he was raping, trying to rape Sandy-and that was the bottom line, his Sandy, well it wasn’t his Sandy then, they had parted ways, but parted well, they were still close friends, in a way, always to be friends.
The last rebuke was again, fruitless, and although Evens was more sober than Mike-perchance not all that much, he didn’t realize he had a beer bottle in his right hand, pulled Mike back by the hair with his left hand, pulled him off Sandy so she could escape his clutches-he resisted coldly jerking his hand and shoulder and all his weight forward, and then Evens hit him a few times with the bottle in the face, breaking the resistance. Now Mike had a confused puffy face, awakened but confused, not confused in what he was doing, he knew exactly what he was doing, but what Evens had done-perhaps he was a little delirious: he no longer had restraining influence over Sandy, Evens stepped back-saw the beer bottle in his hand and dropped it onto the ground, and Sandy stood up, completely.
‘Escape’ evidently raced through Sandy’s head because it didn’t Evens’, matter of fact, he just noticed he had the beer bottle in his hands, and had just dropped it, but Sandy was thinking: these are Mike’s friends over yonder over by the fire, more so than Evens’ and they were now coming to investigate, oh yes, now that Mike was in pain-screaming pain-perhaps wanting someone to rescue him, like Sandy wanted, forget Sandy, she was of no consequence to them, but Mike, yes, Mike, it was now a different story, justice must be done, prevail; funny how everyone heard Mike’s cries and not Sandy’s.
That night Chick slept badly, in the morning his mother received a phone call from Mike’s mother, she had said they were seeking compensation for the hospital bill, if not ready to call the police for the damages Evens had done to Mike-which they were contemplating; so she said in so many words: it was a crime what your son did to my son-and perhaps it was. But surely no less a crime what Mike had done to Sandy, but like two peas in a pod, she never mentioned the rape in progress.
It was a mild sunny morning, and Sandy’s mother called Chick Evens, saying:
“I admire your courage for standing up and stopping that animal from raping my daughter; I wanted to thank you personally.”
Diligently, Evens told her what Mike’s mother had told his mother-what she was intending to do-not sure why she was holding off on doing it, perhaps she had some good insight-and she said, “I’ll fix that, and if you talk to her before me, you can tell her I’ll call the police and tell them you were protecting my daughter who is seventeen years old, from this Mike who was trying to rape her, and he’ll be spending his days in Stillwater Prison,” Mike had turned eighteen, it was no longer St. Cloud Reformatory for such a crime, it was the big house. Now Mike’s mother, and Mike, and Mike’s father had food for thought, as they say.
“All right, swell!” said Chick feeling some weight lifted off his shoulders, and not feeling helpless, and as guilty as Mike’s mother portrayed him, if not redeemed, then told his mother, then made a phone call to Mike’s mother and all went silent, but the stifling of her hot breath over the phone.
(It would be twenty-years past, when Evens would bump into Mike L., again, walking down Rice Street near Lexington Avenue, when he’d say to Evens, ‘You didn’t need to use such force on me, that day. You could have beaten me with your hands, your fists, you were tougher than me.’ This was true, Chick said, ‘…if only I had known, or recognized, I had a beer bottle in my hands and was thinking rational at the time, but who’s to say what goes on in a person’s mind when you’re watching someone raping someone, and telling him several times to stop, and he says, Fuck off to you three times, I mean, you were no saint.’ But Mike just couldn’t get that next to last statement stabilized in his head, it was a mysterious voice telling him, Sandy was luring and that was justification for rape that his wrong was not as wrong as Chick’s, and although he might have done wrong, what Evens did was unjustified, that is to say, Evens’ excessive force was not necessary, Mike never apologized to Sandy or her mother. And as Mike walked away, evidently that monotonous voice, was repeating that over and over to him, because he was shaking his head every-which-way.)
Then Evens’ thoughts shifted to Mike Gulf, one side of his brain was telling the other side-so it seemed, each having its own voice, and he himself seemingly having an independent voice within that strange and hidden environment inside his head: I mean to say, he appeared to have a voice, somewhere in-between the other two: “Mike Gulf is full of shit,” said the right side, then the voice of the left side answered: “Perhaps you’re right, I know he was dating Sid’s sister Diane?” Then Evens tried to figure it out-intervene, “Yes,” he told the two parts: the Right Brain and Left brain (and as they were about to respond to Evens, they protested: ‘Why do you call us ‘the Right and Left’ can you not give us better names like: Mutt and Jeff, or Nick and Pick, or Tom and Jerry, you know something with a little more dignity than, Right Brain and Left Brain?”)
Said Evens hesitantly: “She was, still is, Don Quinn’s wife, separated of course, former wife. She’s rented out the house across the street from me on Cayuga Street, I mean from my Grandfather’s house. How could I be so blind,” he told himself, that is what it was; Mutt and Jeff listening to every word: “Mike bought that 1965 and a half Mustang, white Mustang and was showing it off, and no, Her name was not Diane, it was Carol, yes, that is it, that is what it was, Carol, that’s what it was”; thus, the left side Mutt said to the right side Jeff: both confirming at the same time, that Evens was correct.
“So, it was that Mike was detached from its consequences, and Don Quinn went to the bar to that musty air saloon, and found Mike bragging, perhaps saying: ‘I’ll kick his ass when I see him,’ just like Barb’s boyfriend, said to me, when I went over to the East Side of the city, to that bar and he was bragging.”
“Sure that’s what it was: big mouth Mike Gulf,’ both Mutt and Jeff confirmed, simultaneously: the once straggling thoughts were now in agreement with fact (Jerry started staring at Evens while in his deep thoughts, then caught the curve of Betty’s neck, which took his attention off Chick, lit a cigarette, pushed back his hair, rested his forearms against the edge of the table)…
“…but what about Richard Zacardy and Tom Fortuna?” said Mutt and Jeff-as if they were both liberated from a gloomy room and wanting to gossip more, like those friends of Evens’ were doing, had been doing around the table: they were in essence, today anyhow, companions playing a dark rainy game of recognizing the faults of others, as if on a rusty bicycle, riding over pumps, trying to get Evens to link it with Sandy.
“What about it,” said Evens? His mind was like a feeble lantern, trying to make light inside that dark part of his soul, as if it was night, to appease the two voices, the twin voices inside his brain-Mutt and Jeff, -consequently feeling as if he was in a dark muddy garden full of weeds trying to untangle himself from them, and make sense out of the past-no, it was as if he was examining porcelain, and had to tread easily on these thoughts lest he break the vase. Remembering with difficulty why they had joined together over this issue of current events, and not so current, perhaps they were tired them selves of the darkness. Who’s to say? I mean, one usually slept the day away, while the other was pestering, and at night, well, who’s to say was doing the talking, producing those half sleep nightmares, and dreams-racing here and there?
“What do I mean, you know what I mean, you knocked him out with one punch when you were fifteen, and they took Richard to the hospital, and his mother, no his father called up your mother and was going to call the police, but he was sixteen and a fight is a fight, over a stupid bat too, and Tom, he’s just like Richard, and like Mike L., they both went out and raped girls, no all three wanted to rape girls, and two did, at night and tied them to the bedposts, and Richard’s father had to mortgage his house to fight it in court, and won the court case, and Richard was free as a bee, and the idiot went back out and just visible enough again got caught doing the same thing all over: and then he as well got caught peeking through the windows up at your karate dojo-in that house next to the karate dojo, and you had to save his sorry ass, lest the neighbors kill him, or beat the shit out of him, and what happened next, you know, he ended up in prison. That is what I mean.”
‘Oh,’ said Evens, innumerable follies laid at his mind as he sat there, and the tedious intervening days came to and fro like bats out of a church’s bell tower. It was all monotonous child’s play, all this fussing over women, bazaar, when all you had to do is go out and find one, fifty-two percent of the world’s population were women: so Evens thought, and surely the right and left, I mean Mutt and Jeff, picked up on the humble and great murmur of those thoughts, lingered with them, useless thoughts, to make a lively day a drunken day more interesting, especially today.
“Slow down on the drinking,” said Mutt to Chick, “Oh yes,” confirmed Jeff, by adding “It makes you more depressed.”
Evens now gazing up into the darkness anguish and anger at his right and left thinkers-Mutt and Jeff, “Let me drink in peace,” he said.
He must have said that out loud, because a few heads turned towards Evens.
“O, what did you say?” asked Jim.
“Didn’t he say something,” said Bill.
“Yes,” said Betty, “but I don’t know what.”
I could not call my wandering thoughts together, they and I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life in the day, and they were between me and my desires-Mutt and Jeff that is, as if trying to invade the dark part of my soul, they wanted me to stay in the night mode, which seems to be on one hand more truth finding, but less realism, the good thing is, you can fly from one corner of the mind to the next, in the speed of light:
Janet Ridler, was very charitable, she owned a four acre farm, in North Saint Paul area side of town, of Minnesota, she was my first babysitter (1948-49), better than that, she took care of me and my brother Mike, five days out of the week-sometimes seven days out of the week, and twenty other kids, she owned what was called Kiddy-Corner, a night and day care center, perhaps the first one in Minnesota, always fighting with the county to allow kids to stay overnight. I was there for four years straight, as was my brother from the age of eighteen months old, to five and half years old, something like that. When I was twelve, I met her one day, and she invited my brother and I to stay with her free for two weeks, my brother was fourteen, that is when I met Laura, the secret love of my life, she was seventeen, dark hair, olive skin, dark eyes, she worked at the farm for children-a child care person: I always called it the Boarding Farm. Her and Mike and Steve got along well, Steve was Janet’s son, he was eighteen.
It was a warm and colorful summer, 1959, we played till our bodies glowed. But I was always the one trying to catch up. The shadow, not that my brother tried to eliminate me from the picture, perhaps it was the other way around he tried to have me part of it, but Steve teased my youth a little bet, and Laura, was always sweet, too sweet. Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft fasten of her hair tossed to and fro.
Every morning I lay waiting to catch a glimpse of her. Watching the door, checking the window, when she appeared on the doorstep, or in the lobby for work, my heart leaped. I ran with my eye, I seldom found words to say, but my eyes never failed me-foolish blood, that’s what I call it now, looking back.
Steve was not a handsome lad, but as the old saying goes: a woman, if she sees enough of you, usually she’ll fall in love with you, on the other hand, for a man, well he has to like what he sees. How true this was with Laura. She was according to my book, falling in love with the wrong guy, all she had to do according to me, was simply wait a few years and I’d grow and she and I could dance the polka, no not really, we could fall in love, that is how it was suppose to work out, so I told myself, or perhaps the right side or left side of my brain told me-sorry, I mean Mutt and Jeff, or I told them, who’s to say who told who, we seldom worked together.
In any case, I was having a hostile kind of romance, one she never knew about with her image. I dreamt, as perhaps I’m doing now, we walked through the flaring streets of Rome, I was pushing the drunks away from her-I was a Centurion, a Knight of the Roundtable, I held tight and onto and was swift with, my sword…all heroes have swords
(the sounds of dark rain of the evening was creeping into Evens’ ears, as he was daydreaming, impinging upon his focus of Laura)…
all my senses seemed to desire an unveiling of this secret romance of mine, to her, to tell her to slip into my dreams, it is were you belong-no that is not exactly what I wanted, that is Mutt and Jeff wanted, their opinions, talking nonsense as often they do: I wanted to speak to her, I was confused when those two weeks were up and I was at home upstairs in my attic bedroom, and thinking about her.
“Steve was kind of ugly,” said Mutt to Jeff, looking at me, as if it was a question, and not a statement.
“Oh that’s kind of harsh,” I said.
“Yes, for sure, I know,” said Mutt.
(The thoughts of Chick Evens were now indistinct and seemingly leaving his forehead, they had got stuck there somehow-, “Oh yes,” he said:)
“Oh yes, I met her and Steve years later, I was eighteen, a year ago: yes, he was still ugly, I mean, not all that handsome, and Laura and he had been married for five years, she looked it, matter of fact, she looked like she had been married for twenty-five years, living down by Lake Carnelian, down there by Stillwater Township-where I bought a plot of land.”
Observing, Mutt, saying, in a tone of voice not encouraging, “She glanced at you quite a lot, you didn’t glance back at her, why?”
“Good question: I saw myself as a creature obsessed at one time perhaps put down by her, but she didn’t really put me down, yet my eyes burned with anguish when I saw her, a year ago, as if to say after an intolerable delay: look at what you could have had, and look at what you ended up with. But I didn’t say that, I didn’t say anything like that, yes I did think that, it was a passing thought, perhaps yours Mutt and not mine, or Jeff’s. She was happy, and I was happy for her, and I was happy for me, we were two twinkling rivers, going different ways, and I was happy about that also.”
“Happiness is a byproduct, did you know that Evens?” said my left side of the brain, Mutt.
“Yes of course, I taught you that.”
“You also taught me, a byproduct is something you give, and observe after you give it, and that the giving makes you smile, it makes you happy-which is the byproduct, now what did you give her and she give you…?”
“Wakeup…!” said Jerry a second time, to Chick Evens, and he did, seemingly as if he had just stepped out of dark into light, he had appeared to have forgotten he was playing cards, even forgotten his recent move, so he had to recheck his cards, and that’s what he was doing.
“You were daydreaming,” said Jerry.
Evens looked up slyly over the cards in his hands.
“What would you do if someone was raping your ex girlfriend?” he asked.
Jim waited until the monologue paused, then he stood up abruptly, “I’d not betray a friend,” inferring he’d be obliged to go and protect her. Then Jim stepped out to go around the table, to relieve himself upstairs, without looking at Evens when he passed him, called out loudly across the living room as he went up the staircase to the bathroom, said: “I’d have kicked his ass good-with a beer bottle if that is what it took!” he had evidently already heard what had taken place, or previously happened.
#909 (5-3 & 5-2012)
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