Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyNot Coming to a Theater Near You Anytime Soon

  • Mon, 16 Feb 2015 03:59:30    Permalink
     II Kelly shambles out of his living quarters as if he’d been hibernating there. He’s dressed, but might have slept in his clothes. Needs a shave. Jarkey, who also needs a shave, is sitting at one of the two desks in the front office, pecking the typewriter, scowling at the article he’s writing about Radio Row, the Lower West Side neighborhood recently obliterated to clear the way for the new World Trade Center. He’s wondering if anyone cares. The whole place was a rathole anyway. Kelly sits at the other desk, rummages through the top drawer, finds a packet of Brioschi, takes it to the water cooler beside the filing cabinet, dumps the powder into a greasy glass and fills the glass, watching the bubble travel up the tall transparent jug from the spout to the top, where it pops with a blurp. He tosses off the Brioschi in a single gulp, pours another glass, watches another bubble, returns to his desk with the full glass. From a side drawer he removes a bottle of Tang, dumps some orange powder into the water glass, stirs with a pencil, drinks. Then he walks back to the filing cabinet, on top of which sits a hotplate with a recently perked pot of coffee. He pours a cup of coffee, returns to his desk, removes a quart of Wilson’s “That’s All” blended whiskey from the Tang drawer, pours the whiskey into the coffee, straightens his tie, and leans back in his chair with a satisfied half smile. Breakfast.Jarkey has been trying not to pay attention, but finds irresistible the vacant, catlike manner with which Kelly moves through the universe. For the thousandth time he wonders whether Kelly is an idiot sustained by luck and stubbornness, or a genius attuned to forces unperceived by mortals. For the thousandth time he rejects those limiting axes. The man is, as they say, “something else.”Just now, for example, he has somehow read Jarkey’s mind. Or, no. More like he picked a crumpled piece of paper from Jarkey’s mental wastebasket, unfolded it, and read it. Radio Row is a rathole.Kelly puts his cup on the desk and says, “Did you know there are 100 million rats born in this city every year?”“How do you know that?”“Larry told me. You know? Over in sanitation.”“Well, Larry should know, if anyone does.”“Larry says there’s a new kind of rat,” Kelly continued. “A super rat. It’s immune to rat poison.”“You’re kidding.”“No, really. Larry says they’ve found them up in the Bronx. Rat poison is an anti-coagulant, see? The rats bleed out internally. But these new rats are resistant to anti-coagulants on account of high concentrations of certain vitamins in their bloodstreams.”Jarkey stares at Kelly. Genius or moron? He realizes Kelly has just given him the lead for a new story. A more interesting story than the demolition of an area that should have been cleaned up decades ago.He is a reporter by trade, but ever since the Herald Tribunewent down he’s been freelancing and, for complex reasons, serving as Kelly’s assistant-in-training in detectivization – or whatever contorted expression might characterize whatever it is Kelly actually does, which has something to do with people and their problems, and not getting killed, and getting paid. Some years before, Jarkey, wounded by his career stumble and a marriage that went bad on account of it, found refuge with Kelly and almost immediately began resenting him for it. Then the resentment faded into something more like bemusement. Kelly, that colossal idiot, kept getting paid for being a detective, and kept not getting killed, and Jarkey got into the rhythm of it, enjoying the way his job as a sub-detective meshed with his career as a has-been journalist. He finishes his coffee, grabs his coat from the rack near the door. “I’m gonna get a shave.”“Get me one, too,” Kelly mumbles, studying the writing on the back of the Tang jar.“Then I'm going to go see Larry.”“Larry?”But Jarkey is gone.
    IIIKelly pursues his analysis of the percentage of daily requirements of various vitamins and minerals afforded by a single serving of Tang, until he discovers what has been bothering him about those authoritative numbers on the back of the label. He weighs 225. But lots of kids drink Tang, and they might only weigh a half or a third of that. So if Tang provides 45% of the vitamin A a person needs every day to stay healthy, are they talking about him or some twelve year old who weighs half as much as he does? Because if it's 45% for him, it could be 90% or even 135% of what a kid needs. He recalls from his conversation with Larry that it was primarily an excess of vitamin A that made the rats immune to anti-coagulants. Maybe they chewed their way into a Tang factory. Or maybe a mutant strain of teenagers will come forth, immune to rat poison.By this time he is headed down the ravine of glass and steel that is 53rd Street. He passes humans on the sidewalk mirrored in glass fronts of buildings reflecting buildings reflecting building’s reflections. He senses, does not think about, the irregularities behind the gleam, the jags that cause the sparkles. Fissures glossed over by architectural fantasies of rectilinear perfection. The smallest imaginable cracks running to nodes gathering in dark wells. Infinitesimal displacements. A guy on the second floor flirting with his new secretary receives the slightest nudge, a butterfly wing in the Amazon, and his hand is on her shoulder. Then drinks, and the next thing you know he’s cheating on his wife, lying about all the work he has to do at the office instead of sitting at home with his kids watching The Beverly Hillbillies. Or not. Maybe not ever for that guy. But maybe the cleaning lady and the open desk drawer. The bookkeeper behind in his car payments. An infinity of uncommitted crimes seeking human vectors, crimes on the cusp, human crimes. Are there any other kind? Kelly takes a breath and his breath takes the world in. To be criminal is to be human. Lets it out slowly. Or is it the other way round? After a few blocks the sky opens up and buildings come to ground, friendlier brick and brownstone, just part of the street’s mess. Of which there is plenty this morning. Windrows of uncollected garbage up and down as far as Kelly can see. He picks his way through the barrier of trash cans and garbage bags on Ninth Avenue and descends half a flight of stairs for a shave at Walter’s. The pleasure of warm lather. The ping of the blade mowing each whisker. Deadly steel so close to blood, Walter thoughtlessly observing the boundary, yammering away, steam radiator knocking in time. Outside, a chilly breeze off the river makes his raw cheeks tingle. He proceeds to a deli on the west side of Tenth Avenue in which, at a dirty table, Rory huddles inside a trench coat big enough for two of him. Rory needs a shave.Kelly sits down. “There’s a good barber over on Ninth. An old man. Old fashioned prices. The only problem is you’ve got to listen to him. Commie this and Kike that. You know what I mean?”“Fuck you, Kelly. I’m sitting here half an hour and you’re getting a shave?” Rory is first generation and has inherited a mild Irish lilt. Bad teeth, too.“You okay, Rory?” Kelly is looking harder at the sagging, sallow man. Caries and TB.“I just can’t get warm, is all. This fucking weather.”Kelly was born in a car on the way to Roosevelt Hospital, and he still has relatives in Hell’s Kitchen. Rory is his mother’s sister’s stepson. Kelly has that by rote, but finds the actual relationship confusing. He does, however, remember pushing Rory down the porch stairs at a Christmas party when they were six. He suspects Rory’s request for an interview has something to do with the ancient family suck. And he knows that, if left to his own devices, Rory will roll out ten minutes of Irish bullshit before he gets to the point. Life is too short. “So, what do you want?”Rory blanches at this breach of conduct. “Nothing to do with any of us, thank God. It’s this guy Robert that I work for. Someone’s putting the screws to him.”“What do you mean?”“What the fuck do you think I mean? He’s getting hassled.” The neighborhood teems with punks and two bit crooks – legbreakers and bag men for the Westies. To the best of Kelly’s knowledge Rory is not one of them. If this is a plea for help, it’s probably legit. “So, this Robert. Is he in trouble? Owe money?”“No. His trouble is that he’s making money, not owing it. Somebody’s shaking him down.”“How is he making his money?”“Cookies.”“Cookies?”Rory fishes a stiff lump of Kleenex out of the trenchcoat, wipes it on the clear, glistening patch beneath his nose. “Robert is quite a fellah. He sells a line of pre-packaged organic baked goods. It's his girlfriend got him into it, but that's another story. Her name is Rachel so they're called Rachel's Rations. Maybe you've seen them. They're all the rage in the East Village.”“No, I don't think I have.”“You got Rachel’s Date Bars, Rachel’s Bran Muffins. It’s cute. Give your man a wink and out come the special cookies.”“Cookies.”“Marijuana cookies. Chocolate chip, peanut better, and oatmeal.”Kelly lets it sit until an image arrives. A skinny, long-haired boy and a girl with armpit hair getting stoned, then getting the munchies, then eating those cookies and getting more stoned, hungrier, more cookies. He smiles. “I like it.”“Yeah. Well, it’s a good gig. They’ve got a little bakery set up over in Talman.”“And someone’s putting the bite on him?”“Not exactly like you think. A guy comes in and says he’s assessing the property for removal by eminent domain. A shakedown if ever there was one, because Robert has already bribed the health and building inspectors. So he tells the guy to fuck off. And the guy says, fine. If that’s the way you want to do it. But you’ll be a lot better off if you go along with us. Then last week Robert gets a phone call from somebody else about the same thing. Wants to know if Robert’s thought it over.”“Anything bad happen yet?”“Not yet, but you can see what’s coming. So Robert asked me if I knew anybody who might help. I thought of you and he told me to go ahead and talk to you.”“Talk to me? What am I supposed to do?”“I don’t know,” Rory sniffles. “You’re the fucking detective.”

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