FICTION

Big Party at the Crumps: Book Excerpt

By: Barry Finnerty
So here it is. The moment I’ve been waiting all my life for. I step up to the microphone, brush my hair back, pull up my pants a little bit. Tap the mic. OK, it’s on. We finish up the medley with a rousing version of Jimmy Durante’s “One Of Those Songs” with four or five upward modulations at the end. Hardwell points at me. “Let’s go, let’s go!” he shouts. Even a ten second break between tunes is too long for him. And now – it’s Star Time at the Apollo, ladies and gentlemen! At least for a split second in some parallel fantasy universe. I break into my best James Brown impersonation. Which for at least this one first word is quite convincing. If I do say so myself.
 
HEY!
 
I play the first five notes of a C ninth chord, going up: C-E-G-Bb-D!
 
“I said, HEY!
 
The horn section joins in, playing those same notes again. C-E-G-Bb-D!
 
HEY!” 
 
C-E-G-Bb-D again, this time in harmony. You know what those notes are. They are instantly recognizable. World famous. They’re the intro to…
 
“I Feel Good.”  Dadaladaladala. Like I knew that I would. Dadaladaladala. Etc. etc. etc. Awright. We’re rolling now.
 
The crowd is up and dancing. So I do a few more numbers. Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock N’ Roll”. Michael Bolton’s “Love Is A Wonderful Thing”. That is the tune the Isley Brothers recently sued him for. Copyright infringement, they claimed. Bolton fought it all the way. “Hey, I wrote that tune all by myself. I never heard of their version.” Sorry, Michael. Your song had the exact same melody, the same beat, and even the same title of the Isleys’ single that was released in 1964!  I am willing to concede that you might not have consciously known that you were stealing their tune. But a subconscious rip-off is still a rip-off. Pay up, white boy!
 
We do “My Girl”, and then Hardwell sits me down so they can serve the birthday cake that took them the last 20 minutes to slice up. But you know what was amazing? You know who was checking me out and giving me some serious eye contact while I was up there just now? You are not going to believe this!
 
It was Yuvana Crump! That’s right. You probably know who I am talking about. The statuesque blond Hungarian former fashion model and ex-wife of the notorious New York billionaire real estate tycoon, Ronald Crump. I am sure you know who he is. He is the guy whose haircut loudly and unmistakably proclaims: “I am the biggest prick on the face of the earth!” And if his hair doesn’t totally convince you, just look at his face and listen to him talk for about thirty seconds. That will close the deal.
 
One time a few years back we played a job for him down in Florida, at that huge glitzy mansion he bought in Palm Beach that used to belong to the Post Toasties heiress lady. A party for all the real “old money” people down there that he was trying to ingratiate himself with. The parking lot was filled with Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. And the food? Conspicuous consumption at its most ostentatious. The band was playing in a big tent just outside the main house. And, after a time, I had to take a crap. So I got up and walked up the stairs, past the marble columns, to the door, where I was stopped by a servant, a tall middle-aged black man, not coincidentally also in a tuxedo, but his was with white tie and tails. 
 
“Can I help you, suh?” 
 
“Yeah, I’m in the band,” I said. “I just wanted to use the bathroom for a minute.”
 
“Sorry, suh, only Mr. Crump’s guests are allowed inside,” he said. “There are some porta-potties down at the other side of the lawn.”
 
I was incredulous. “But that’s like 300 yards away!”
 
“Sorry, suh.”
 
I never forgot that.
 
It was like he was telling me, “You de yard niggas! You gots to stay in de yard! Only de house niggas gets to go in de house!”
 
Thanks, Ronald, I thought as I trudged the length of three football fields to relieve myself. And back. Thanks for reminding me that all servants need to know their place.
 
This guy is truly a symbol and a symptom of the dried heart and dead conscience of our age. Of the worship of money above all else. People don’t matter. Right and wrong don’t matter. They’re just abstract ideas.  Only dollars and cents matter. Only money, money, money, and continually battling to accumulate more of it. No amount is ever enough. You have to get it all. It doesn’t matter who you screw. Or what you have to do to do it. The only thing that matters is that you are the one who comes out on top. Of that big steaming pile of cash.
 
I read recently that after he bought that apartment building at 7th Avenue and Central Park South – you know, the big one that kind of curves around the corner – that there were a bunch of elderly people that had been living there for over 20 years. They had rent control. So what did Mr. Crump do? He hired some thugs to go around to these peoples’ apartments and intimidate them. To tell them that if they didn’t  accept his settlement offer and move out, that something bad might happen to them. I’m telling you, these bastards will stop at nothing to squeeze every last dollar out of a situation. Even muscling and bullying old people. Yet he is revered in the business community. A shining example of success in America, the land of opportunity. It´s truly amazing how much you can accomplish if your dad starts you off with about $50 million and you have absolutely no morals or scruples whatsoever.
 
But enough about him. The world is full of money-grubbing assholes. In fact, there’s a good number of them in the house tonight! In any case, she’s not married to him anymore. They divorced a few years back. She’s probably four or five years older than me. And still a very good looking woman. Tall and elegant, with that model’s figure. I can see her shoes sparkling from here. Those heels look like they are encrusted with diamonds. Had to cost at least a grand. Probably more. They are definitely some CMFM (IYAB) shoes. I believe you are already acquainted with the first acronym. The second one? It stands for “If You’re A Billionaire”.
 
I’m up at the mic again, grinding out some more rock chestnuts. “Brown Eyed Girl”. “Wooly Bully”.
“Just What I Needed”. “Satisfaction”. The floor is packed. And she’s out there, dancing with some stockbroker type. Oh-oh! She’s looking at me again. I give her a tiny wink out of the corner of my eye. And the quickest smile I can manage while also singing “cause I tried… and I tried… and I tried… and I tried but I just can’t get no!” And holy shit! Yuvana is smiling right back at me! Hmm. Maybe this really could be the start of something big! Yeah, right. In your dreams, buddy.
 
We are now into the only slow number I’ll be doing tonight, Rod Stewart’s “Have I Told You Lately”. Hardwell hates ballads. Except the solo piano ones he plays for dinner music. Which is crazy because people love to dance to them. But he likes to keep everything moving, moving, moving, up tempo all the time. No sense of pace. But he can’t deny that right now, that floor is full. So he is allowing it. This is actually a pretty enjoyable song to sing. I take a nice melodic rock guitar solo in the middle of it, then we modulate up a half step after the second bridge. I can get fairly soulful on it. About as good as it gets on a job like this.
 

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Drug Run

By: Dr. Rocket with Ms. Gonzo

The capacity crowd at Wild Bill’s Saloon were wildly yet amiably drunk that late August night, and some had also gotten high out in the parking lot. All were on their feet. The sweaty young Texas hipsters knew that this was the final performance of Suze’s band, and many in the crowd were her loyal fans that had packed the dive full every Friday for the last three months. They shouted, driven into a frenzy that was electrifyingly tribal.

Suze, inspired, threw every last trick she had at the revelers. Her vocal chops were up, and she felt locked in with the band as they pounded out tune after tune in sequence, barely stopping between the songs. Suze grinned in triumph. They had never sounded better.

“You’ve got to shake your money maker” she shouted, wagging her Continue reading

Story Girls

By: Michael Chin

Jackson and Lily went to St. Peter’s because their father wanted to steer them from the bad influences of a public high school. He told them getting an education was not about smoking in bathrooms or fist fights or winding up pregnant before graduation.

Jackson knew the rationale, and remembered it one week into Catholic school, after his class watched a video to commemorate the tenth anniversary of terrorists crashing planes into the World Trade Center, and pimply-faced Johnny Reds spread his arms like an air craft and spiraled head first into Jinder, the only brown-skinned kid in school. Johnny made crashing sounds as he reenacted the terrorist attacks,like they were some big joke.

Jackson remembered what he had heard about bad influences, too, when he followed Johnny and friends out of the convenience store after school, ugly blue and gold school ties bunched up in their right pockets, stolen one-pound bags of M&Ms crammed in the left.

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Almost-Rape, American Tourists, and Pope Garbs

by Teddy Fuentes

The Mexican Dream: Almost Getting Raped, American
Asshole Tourists, and Nostalgia Dressed in Pope Attire.

I was inside a home.

This place was downtrodden but very enticing.

White walls now a cream color. Brown stains like cigarette smoke made art, staining glass never meant to be seen through.

Furniture looked stale, but with the intense feeling of always having been there. Filled with purpose laced with antiquity.

Dust converged and sat on every flat surface. Coating the place with calm and stillness I longed for inside.

It was not my home, but it was Mexico and it felt like home.

The dichotomy of my idea of safety in Mexico means I was aware of all lurid possibility, yet remained jubilant as fuck to have the feeling of belonging.

Outside, through a tiny metal cased window, I saw something very Yin to the home’s sweet Yang.
Something alive, loud, and dark.

The Pope, and a parade for his majesty, was passing by.

All costumes and serious faces with smiles whose corners emit distrust.

It gave me very evil vibes, but surprisingly little sense of foreboding.

As curiosity killed the cat, I gravitated.

Like Esoteric and hidden knowledge obsessed moth to a very endearingly paradoxical flame, I went outside intrigued.

The spectacle had drawn crowds of people who had never been in a dominantly Catholic country.
Americans wearing pastels and sandals.

Also wearing dubious intent glares through Western-lens stares that definitely had roots in mangled psyche’s which repeat to the brainwashed mind “the rest of the world is a twisted work of Art”, “A work of art to be coveted or looked down upon.”

Little did I stare at the Pope and the crowd before I was done and gone.

Intrigue at the parade turned to monotone boredom.

Then that turned into a longing to explore the Mexican streets.

To be honest, the Catholic charade was an all too familiar sight.

Having studied at least some of every facet of ancient “knowledge” and growing up Catholic, I didn’t feel impressed.

I just innately felt that visually, it was just all a ritual to steal others energy.

I very much HI-BYE’ed the scene.

I took my positive energy in my tight black jeans’ pocket and became resolute in crossing.

My Mexican butt was just happy to be in Mexico.

I was filled with nostalgia and I wanted more.

I wanted street vendors and the smell of Churros.
I wanted urban filth and all the lovely shades of brown faces of my people. I wanted Spanish coursing through my brain soothing the harshness of the English language I had been previously subjected to for over a decade.

I wanted the vibrations of a kinder more forgiving and one hundred percent Mexican place to make love to my incessant nostalgia.

I wanted HOME.

This is when I crossed through the parade. My body literally dodging bishops and silly jester-like people carrying heavy metal objects in all religious shapes and sizes.

I felt very avant-garde, breaching a procession like this in a super obvious aloof yet determined manner. It was art.

I was wearing the most typically grungy, all black outfit, too.

I was thinking, “I look a god damned fool cutting through this, oh mother fucking well, let God, let God.” and very much feeling my self.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” and YOLO type feeling.

Anyways, when I did reach the other side, I was birthed into a crowd of tourists.

To be frank, they were all light skinned American, wide eyed, giving me a feeling that this was not the sea of people my way-too-forgiving soul should navigate.

The parade was at it’s tail end and only a sprinkle of actually low key terrified Them remained.

(They probably felt their pack thinning out and were afraid of what the reverse of “stronger in numbers” means in Mexico.)

I looked no one in the eye, big head held high, as if their judgement meant nothing to me.

While having these very thoughts of “I don’t care, but I do” , I found myself past the river of eyes and walking on a beaten sidewalk.

My step grew calm and my eyes travelled to the natives walking towards me.

No, Shel Silverstein fans? This is not where the sidewalk ends.

The sun was setting orange tones and the city backdrop was grey buildings crawling with graffiti and soul .

I did not get too far down the concretely contorted and govern-mentally forgotten sidewalk until two men came into view.

They had strange mannerisms, dipping and swaying to the troughs and valleys of the ground.
I knew this drunk dance all too well. Public and full of disregard.

My immediate feeling was “be careful but sweet.”

The ominous and bittersweet tone of the surroundings swirled into the smell of alcohol they emanated.

Their aura was mysterious. But I could sense some intention beneath their red-glazed eyes attempting to seem cordial.

Using drunkenness as a buffer to fucked up things is also something I am sadly familiar with.
I said “hola, como estan” or something happy go lucky, a smile on my lips and my misandry gun on my hip.

My youthful tone was “don’t fuck with me, supposedly kind sir.”

But, like any story about men fucking up and worth telling, they did.

The drunker, muscular, towering one grabbed me from behind as soon as I was a mere inch past them.

I was in a choke-hold. One arm around my chest slash neck, and the other around my stomach.
I semi-panicked, knowing that this was typical kidnapping procedure in Mexico. Aware that it would more than likely end in violent rape and my body never found would rot six feet in a mass grave dug by elements of the Police who work with drug traffickers.

My female survival instinct kicked in. Before I even had the stench of my rotting corpse hit my mental nose, I looped my stronger left leg around his drunken spaghetti both-legs.

His knees buckled. He fell. Swift justice was candid and heard.

His skull possibly cracked. His head definitely smashed.

ssssss CRUK was the sound of his slipping and colliding with a little dose of reality.

You can’t burger king have it your way, forever, fucker.

A pool of instant-karma-blood oozed as his face lay unconsciously in a crimson lake of Don’t Fuck With Me.

Here’s the plot twist – I did not run . I did not take my unforgiving steel toed black boot and obliterate his face into a million skull fractures and brain dismemberment.

I didn’t panic. I didn’t walk away full of Pride. I didn’t revel at how quickly I disarmed his disgusting and misguided phallic-y. I mean, fallacy. I didn’t put my middle fingers in his face, pressing down on his sweaty, maybe decaying because of me skin, in contempt and as a final Fuck You.

This might disappoint some feminists of revolutionary and war-like thought, but, a Motherly sense grew within in.

The sight of his blood and his eye lids closed posed the idea of me maybe having killed another.

Another human who used to be a baby. Another brother. Another son. Another someone who was raised to become this monster I so gallantly and possibly slayed into the eternal abyss.

I felt panic at that thought. That realizing mistakes and redemption are only ideas that can be manifested with life. That we all have potential coursing through our veins, and that his was spilling endlessly at my very feet.

I turned to his partner, who is now just looking just in disbelief.

He was frozen and my mind went from “I’m getting kidnapped to get raped then murdered” to “Oh my fuck I think I almost killed this human being, I need to get help for him.”

I was showered in no guilt, but a sense of urgency to restore him back to Life.

I walked back the sidewalk the way I came. There were a few tourists still lingering.

The closest people I spotted were a mother in her mid 30’s with her small child of probably seven.

I was pacing fast and when I got about fifteen feet away I started explaining clearly but in a hurry that “someone’s hurt, I need a towel, a napkin, something-” . I was pointing behind me with a super expressive face of someone is in danger, please help, but

the white woman had a very apprehensive look. Maybe as if this was some type of con. Maybe as if she was trying to protect her child?

I am around five feet mother fucking tall…

Maybe my teenage angst black outfit spoke a little.

I didn’t care. In my mind, the tone of urgency spoke for itself.

I was keeping enough of a distance to not make then flee.

She reached for a napkin out of an American invention that looks silly as fuck but is useful and holds small objects.

Here’s where my gratefulness turned into full on external hatred- she leaned over, hand outstretched, face still bitchy, and the mother blessed napkin slipped out of her clean but nasty little bony hand. She did it with PURPOSE. She did it with subconscious malice dressed in supposed caution.
I boiled over in Mexican Pride. I boiled over and her condescending actions was heat enough to warrant an explosion.

My face filled with blood and I literally forgot what the napkin was for. My body tensed up and my throat let out steam.

“DO I NOT LOOK WHITE?” Thunder. Fire.

She was shocked, standing still, as if no one had ever called her out on that deeply ingrained Interpersonal Nastiness Americans use as a self centered tool to deflect.

Her frozen expression of fear told me the deer in the headlights stance and look was, one: not suitable for her facial structure, two: great for stabbing at anciently racist, pathological entities.
I stabbed, “This is my fucking HOME, not a ZOO, go throw your pity napkins some where else, GO GAWK AND TRAMPLE WITH YOUR EXPENSIVE SANDA-”

That’s all I remember.

Where my vocal disdain for the unsuspecting lady cut off, I now wonder if the man laying in the pool of blood survived.

Yes, I completely forgot about the man.

Yes, I am not as benevolent as previously thought.

Yes, my nerves and memory are tied and cut where racist tendencies and me collide

Yes, I felt accomplished even if I delivered a thousand degrees of Mexican defense and it was perhaps a tad unwarranted.

My native and light skin was just happy to be there, kissed by the Mexican sun, soaking in all the intensity.

Posi Negi, deadly, vivacious, touristy, unforgiving, eclectically magic and always intense, Mexico energy.

Now I sit here writing this. Longing for Mexico fills the spaces of my soul where the United States is a blessing but could never fill the cracks.

Even the tourists, the pope, and the surmounting statistical chance to be raped, kidnapped, and murdered, the location still made me feel complete.

Now I am filled with nostalgia and I want more.

I want street vendors and the sweet smell of Churros.

I want urban filth and all shades of brown painted on my Paisa people.

I want español coursing it’s friendly melodies through my brain. I want it to soothe the edgy and confusing harshness of the english language I have been subjected to for over a decade.

I want the vibrations of one hundred percent Mexican place to make love to all my senses.

I want the incessant nostalgia that creeps in daily to fade, but only because when I look out, I can see the piques of a Catholic church and can hear the Mariachi music of a crowd of six serenading a lady next door.

It’s a trip that the intricacies of my ethnic roots could come down to location. It’s crazy that I need to travel to feel closer to my Self.

I long for Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

I want so motherfucking much, and I want it so motherfucking deeply;

But in truth?

I just want Home.