Saturday, March 2, 2013

Death the Unknown


This story is part of a collection called US Delivery. You can find more of it here. I hope you will consider reading all the stories. Thanks. Pablo.


                                   Eddie turned around in Hustler's parking lot and headed out to Boylston. Eddie loved this part of town. It was home of the Boston Public Library. When he was first happy to be out on his own and shifting for himself, he was twenty, he loved that library. He used to walk among the downstairs stacks and bury himself in there for an afternoon. He had lived in a cellar room a few blocks away on Beacon. Copley Square and Trinity Church were toward town and the Pru next door away from town. The other side of Boylston from the Prudential Center was lined with cubbyhole places, restaurants, bars, stores.
  Only the commons from Brattle to Stewart, the blocks surrounding Boylston and Chinatown stations, created a more intense warmth in Eddie’s cogitations. On weekend nights he watched the dark ladies humorously carry on among the tourists, the theatre goers, the sight seers. Drunks, hanging out on the benches along the edge of the commons, staggered through the crowd. The cops reverently stood on street corners; the equine unit seemed to come out of the dark of the middle ages, their horses huge, calm and shining. Eddie used to park near the corner of Tremont and Boylston where there was a row of public telephones. While he took in the crowd, he made his calls, looking for one more long ride into the night.
  Now, next stop for US Delivery, a magazine and card store, was a block or two down Boylston from Mass Ave. Though the sky remained overcast, the afternoon had become stiller, less raw, and the folks on the sidewalk swung along smiling and chatting. Besides magazines and cards were also in the store amazing records and movies. It was a stop Eddie had been ducking all day. He was a little afraid. This could get really gross. The shop leaned toward the homosexual, but there was plenty that was heterosexual, too. The proprietors were well put up and constituted young men. Handsome, in fact.
  “Ah-ha, a true testament to freedom of expression,” Tom said. “I wouldn't miss it for the world.”
  An empty parking slot was nearby the shop to wiggle the van into.
  “There are two guys who run this place,” Eddie said, “and they are not jackasses, at least not complete jackasses.”
  “Oh yeah they are,” Tom said.
  Tom hustled out of the van, dived into the crowd, brusquely made his way toward the door. The dumb prick, Tom, his best friend, did not even offer to take the rags up for him. Eddie waited a minute. With all he had gone through already, he shouldn't embarrass himself by throwing up. He got out a big handful of the rags. He was supposed to deliver fifty. He guessed there must be fifty. Then he went upstairs.
  Tom, the proprietors and a squat, powerful, brown man were all in a loud circle, laughing their asses off. Then Tom disappeared into the back of the shop with the brown man. Eddie neatly dropped off the rags on the table beside the cash register.
  One of the young men stood nearby. “Oh, look what they've been up to,” he said. He looked all shiny as if he had just stepped out of the shower. He glanced at Max blowing Maxwell and laughed for a minute.
  “It's a wonder,” Eddie agreed.
  “I don't know why they do that,” the young fellow replied. “It gets everybody all in an uproar.”
  Eddie shrugged, turned and wandered around the place. Something about it was interesting. The paintings on the walls were primitive, blunt and almost cold in their depiction of the sex act. He stared at one picture for a long time, looking for a shred of meaning, found none. Was it his Catholic upbringal? He wondered why God could not have thought of a better way to do it. Eddie was always grateful when he got the opportunity, and he could never think about it in a cold way.
  There were fancy, well published books about porn, with large color glossy pictures of this and that. One section had novels in it that were supposedly pornographic. Eddie thought about buying one. He didn't know what a pornographic novel was. The way novels often were nowadays, it was hard for him to imagine one that was not pornographic. So Eddie was just slouching around trying to dig the scene when a young man silently approached beside him.
  “Anything I can help you with,” he said.
  He looked awfully young. Eddie understood that he must be an employee. He wasn't by any means handsome like the proprietors, though attractive in a friendly way. His voice was soft, intimate. Eddie turned to him, “No. Just observing.”
  “The owners do spend a lot of time getting this together.”
  “Seems so.”
  He was slightly shorter than Eddie. He turned up his eyes, now cool, matter of fact. “I don't belong to the store, really. A lot of people ask me when I get out. I'm here every day.”
  “Well,” Eddie sighed, “I'm busy all afternoon. I'm just generally busy.”
  “Okay. Well, I'll be around if you need anything.”
  Eddie hoped the kid had had eighteen good years before he started all this, but he doubted it. “That's enough,” Eddie thought. Casting a dry glance at the cash register counter, which had been abandoned, he sauntered out.
  Funny, he felt queasy, but he didn't feel like he was gonna throw up. It was a dry nausea. One time Eddie had taught this route to another man who, once he came out of the store, turned all red, then he barfed into the gutter. But this man was not cut out for delivery work. He couldn't find the roads. Eddie sat in the van waiting for Tom.
  Tom had a knack for slipping by. He may not be too hot about hugging a tree, but he turned his back on nothing, ever. That was different from ages before when educated persons were unenlightened in the displeasing details. Not Tom! He dug in and took a good look. Tom wasn't about to be the least bit nauseated. Tom liked to shake up people with expostulations on the poor and the desperate work of the common people.
  But at some point in his life Tom had come to believe that everything worked out for the best. It was the belief of bookish people. Eddie took it with him as undeniable fact that for a lot of people nothing worked out for the best. Then they were taken early in life as a sort of sacrifice. How could some people enjoy a long life unless other people suffered a short life?
  The possibility of a life consisting of ninety years of misery went over Eddie's head; twenty-five years of misery seemed to him more real.
  Tom came out grinning, jumped in.
  “The husky, brown guy,” Tom said, “he's really into it. He and his wife make tapes of their screwing. Do they ever turn it on! Then they press records out, sell them. Look!” He held up a brown manila envelope. “Ten bucks.”
  “And you don't see anything wrong with that?”
  “Sure I do. It's squat, but it's human. It didn't occur to me where he got the sounds, so I asked him. I was curious. He didn't seem too put out about telling me. He said it was a big surprise how many records he sold. They are really getting around.”
  Eddie pulled out. No traffic. He did a u-turn and headed back up Boylston toward Mass Ave and turned right, drove over the bridge past MIT into Cambridge.
  “I figure,” Tom said, “when I die, after I write the big masterpiece, some digbat scholar will find this record and he'll opine, humph, at least he was human. And anyway, what are you in such a mood about? Nobody dead, nobody transfigured. Jeese, it has been kind of boring.”
  “Kid up there hustling.”
  “Really. Damn. Wouldn't you know I missed it!”
  “Fifteen, sixteen, maybe.”
  “God's plan?”
  “Tommy, please!”
  Eddie would remember that confused, pale, damp little face for the rest of his life.

              ✻✻✻✻✻✻✻✻

  Not long afterwards Eddie moved into a brownstone on Hemenway only a few blocks from the Boston Museum of Art. But it didn't work out because he got sick on too much art. He had to keep some distance from it. He got really sick. Too many things were happening. He was just a neighborhood kid. So he went to the open clinic on Hemenway. Kate Hunt was the nurse. Nurse Kate, who was pregnant, a tall, gangling, loose jointed woman with a great mass of strawberry blond hair, bore a striking family resemblance to the boy in the porn shop, whose image was still, though months after the fact, bothering Eddie's nightmares. Just so happened while Eddie was chit-chatting with Nurse Kate, in sashays the boy! It was an odd coincidence. His name was Stevie. At that time Stevie was cross dressing. But Eddie recognized him immediately from the porn store on Boylston.
  “Hi,” he said to Eddie.
  “Oh, you two know each other,” says Kate.
  “Darling,” said Stevie, “I know everybody.”
  “We don't know each other,” Eddie said. He was feeling so sick from his overdose on art that he was in no mood for kidding. He just wanted some pills that would knock him out. He was gonna park the van for a month before he smashed a big dent in the dashboard with his head.
  Stevie smiled and giggled. He went to sit down out of the way, picked up a magazine.
  Kate took Eddie into an examination cubicle. “He's my brother, the little hustler,” she said. “He has been that way all his life. It's a miracle he's still alive.”
  Eddie met Kate on the streets every now and then because she got around. Stevie was sick, then Stevie was dying, and then he was dead. “He died,” she said. She and Stevie had the same eyes. Her eyes were big, dark, damp.
  “Do you think God forgives stupid people?” She said.
  “He must. Don't make much sense the other way.”
  In the case of Stevie Hunt an early tragic death. This is not a soap opera! If you want a soap opera, well then screw. His body started to shut down when he was twenty-five. He was incapable of taking care of himself, and the law does not dispense mercy to suicides, it doesn't dispense anything. He was in and out of the hospital, then he died in 1984 when he was twenty-seven. Maybe a twinkle of happiness, no sound and fury, but his life did signify nothing.
  The poor kid never had a notion, so he never had a chance. Eddie always thought a great monument should be erected over his body in memory, for Stevie was just one of the multitude of that period who died without knowing anything.