by C.A. Seller
art by Dan Reece
(read from Chapter One)
Hero fell asleep pretty quickly and whatever he dreamt, he didn’t remember any of it, but was sure that he remembered one thing, the words:
“State Food, Baby!!”
written in pencil on a NYSDOCS Directive Revision Notice that had the words:
“Destroy This Notice”
printed at the bottom of it in big bold black letters. Yet, that had been a sleepy thought.
Hero woke up just before the count bell. He rolled over to get warmer, tucking the bedding in underneath him. A package of groggy solutions told him that he was safe and that he had nothing to worry about because Born Again Christians had mass produced a life-size inflatable version of him that children punched in the face from when he was a youngster.
The bell was long and Hero laid in bed until the very last minute to delay having to greet the cold. He thought it was Sunday – it wasn’t. It was Tuesday. He found this out when his cell was cracked for him to go get his meds at the front of the gallery. Hunter told him that he had two MHU (Mental Health Unit) call-outs; something the C.O. found very funny.
“Ha, ha, you must be really fucked up, Hero, they gotch’a down to see TWO shrinks! Ha, ha!”
On the way back to his cell, Hero made a loud mental note to make sure he kept his eyes open around Hunter, the man was unquestionably unbalanced from the 20 years he’d put in with the Teamsters and then the 14 he had in with NYSDOCS. Yeah, something was definitely not right with him at all.
Back in his cell, Hero thought about his last visit with the good doctor and was sure to be more careful this time. He certainly wouldn’t tell her about his weird vertigo-body displacement thing lest she lock him up in a strip-down cell and then pack his ass off to Marcy State Psychiatric Hospital for a three month visit with the shit eaters and the really crazy people.
“Better shave,” he ventured, “make a good impression,”
but the end of the last word came out like a cough of poorly stifled laughter. Hero was looking forward to the meeting; they’d wanted a lithium level the last time.
He wasn’t to blame. Not that they didn’t try though. The inmate was always at fault and guilty merely for being accused. Never mind whether he’d done anything wrong or not, the attention itself was cause for an indictment.
Breakfast was cold lumpy oatmeal and even colder powdered eggs, the latter of which he suspected Black, the A.M. porter, of having stolen some. His portion was ridiculously small. Hero had caught this delusion before with the cold cereal and it had taken a bit of effort to fight off his paranoid suspicions. He distracted himself with a sandwich of cold “toast” and powdered eggs warmed in between bites with measured sips of state-coffee so he wouldn’t finish the coffee before the eggs and have to eat them cold. He shaved, looking forward to Dr. Menendez’ frustration at the lack of a recent lithium level and her consternation, or was that constipation? with him when the true fact that – at least on the first occasion – he’d been busy giving the police the urine sample she’d ordered for drug testing; “chronic user” was the reason she’d given for her “suspicion” of drug use.
“When was the las’ time j’ou use herroin, Meestar Hero?”
Now he guessed that that must not have been good enough for her. The second time, the phlebotomist had asked Hero if he’d taken his A.M. dose, which he had, and said that therefore, there was no way she could get an accurate level – so she rescheduled him for another day.
The last time he’d seen that witch and her chubby little partner, Dr. Katzenjammer, the psychologist. He had written tabs to the both of them to express his disappointment and displeasure at their having lied to him through their crooked fucking teeth in regards to the confidentiality of his answer to the question about his most recent drug use; the answer of which had resulted in a NYSDOCS urinalysis that had come back positive for cannabinoids and was the reason for the 30 days of keep lock he was doing. His anger confused him, or actually, it made, it made him confusing to others; but today, today he would be smooth, cool as a cucumber and very, very careful because he’d also written to their bosses, too.
While he was shaving, Hero wondered if Menendez was Argentinian and not Mexican as he’d previously suspected; the granddaughter of some expatriate Nazi who’d escaped to South America? She was certainly pale enough and even more certainly mean enough.
At their first meeting, Hero had felt like shit, otherwise he would have remembered his fast-held rule that the person in authority sat behind the desk. The desk was a blunt rectangle shielding the person in authority and conversely threatening Hero. The office was usually a square or rectangle in a building that was a combination of multiple squares and rectangles. Cheap. Hero saw all these sharp 90 degree angles as being incredibly hostile to the body and spirit; the architectural result of the most rudimentary of intersecting lines. They smacked of fascist totalitarianism and waste. Hero yearned for an R. Buckminster Fuller psychotherapy. He saw all these sharp edged corners on the 90 degree angles as modern mans continuing exploitation of what were truly some very bad ancient rules of architecture.
The first line was the horizon, the second was man himself standing upright, and the resultant analogy was a 90 degree angle and, concomitantly, a way of thought, a mind-set unrecognized as being much more recent in our history than we might have thought – we not only built in 90 degree angles, recreating impossible mazes within huge invisible black iron prisons, we also thought in them. The Indians had lived in round houses set in small circles that were a part of the larger circle that was their world.
We live, predominantly, in squares and rectangles with myriad deviations thereof that attempt to hide the ugly we have all grown accustomed to. The waste of energy, materials and space. All these sharp edges – set in rows – one after another as we try desperately to avoid each other. The implications were manifold with tentacles that reached far and wide into everything we did. The Big Lie. Hero could follow this train of thought to the ends of everything that was wrong with the industrialized world. He examined the consumer’s attitude towards Africa – which had always been no more than a brief question of real estate and time.
The tenant’s lease would be cancelled. Then the landlord could repossess that which was not theirs to begin with. European pharmaceutical companies had been caught selling empty capsules of what were supposed to be antibiotics and other lifesaving drugs to several African countries. Meanwhile, 1 in 4 African’s had either HIV or AIDS.
“Why, that’s mighty White a’ yew, neighbor!”
No one knew what Hero was talking about so they just ignored him. They said he was “bugged-out.” And this, coming from wannabe gangsta’s late for their own funerals. He saw a big sign inside his head that read:
“EAT THE BIG LIE – BUY LIE!”
“I can’t talk to you! You’re a dope pusher!”
Hero wasn’t sure whether the man who’d said this was talking to him or not. Stepping back, he saw the implications, the dangers of, democracy?
“Oh, it’s all bullshit, “ Hero said.
“No it’s not – it’s Lyndon LaRouche!!!
… and the unsung Western Hero he killed an Indian or three hey, hey, hey to make his name in – Hollywood and set the White man – free now Jesus, save me … if Jesus saves well then He better save himself from the gory glory seekers who use His name in Death … well I saw him in the cities and on the mountains of the – moon yeah, yeah, yeah- His cross was rather – bloody- He could hardly roll his – stone now Jesus, save me … Jethro Tull
The right lens of Hero’s state-eyeglasses popped out 1/16th of an inch. They did that a lot. An inmate had to wait two years between visits to the optometrist. This pair he’d received about 14 months ago and he thought that his eyes had gotten worse since then. His vision was 20/200 without glasses and he had an astigmatism. All of Hero’s family wore glasses, even the cat was rumored to have a tiny pince nez stashed someplace and he’d heard his father’s brother was considered legally blind at the age of seventy-two. Hero thought that he might be ready for bifocals as his new trouble was with reading. He rolled and lit his third cigarette of the morning. Nervous, he supposed, and took a shit in the cold. When he leaned over to wipe his ass he experienced the sensation of the toilet lifting up behind him and tilting forward over some invisible fulcrum. Washing up, he thought the whites of his eyes were a little blue underneath.. Bilirubin – unremoved by the liver – caused jaundice. It was also the origin of bile. He didn’t feel very sick. Not as sick as he’d felt the previous winter when he’d had diarrhea four times a day and his face and eyes had turned piss-yellow for a few months. If anything, he felt pretty good, as good as he had during his last keep1ock.
Hours upon hours of sedentary rest agreed with him. The usual sharp pains in his right shoulder were gone but the joint still popped and thumped, audibly vibrating the upper half of his trunk whenever he raised his arm above his wing; the sack of protein based fluid that lubricated the ball and socket had been steadily depleted by attrition as his diseased liver struggled to manufacture enough for his body. Ideally,
Hero would have eaten no animal proteins and as much yogurt, tofu, sushi and soymilk as he could get his hands on. That and milk thistle. In Attica, he could get none of these things and had come to believe that he was only as healthy as he was as a result of his attitude. Plus, all he ever did was sit on his ass and listen to the radio.
Hero didn’t look forward to walking all the way to MHU. Normally, prisoners went everywhere in a formation of two lines that traveled in complete silence escorted by a C.O. who kept his nightstick in his hand the entire time. The forty men would pass each checkpoint where other C.O.s with their nightsticks out would count them as they passed, calling their count to the escort officer who walked at the rear.
Cell bock lobbies and a four-way “T” with a set of sliding electric gates known as “Times Square” because the security “bubble” there looked just like an IRT token booth with its “change” slots and thick panes of bulletproof glass. The gray steel bars and cement floor corridors didn’t hurt the effect either and if you didn’t know any better you might think it was a subway station; that is, until you went to look for a train. There were even fake subway signs painted in black on the outside of the bubble. One said
and under it there was another that said
“Eighth Ave and 42nd St.”
And Hero thought that these were a mocking torture to those men who would never see those places ever again.
“That’s why we put’em there!” he stated bluntly in his most sarcastic and obnoxious cop voice – always affected with bass – like a ten year old trying to sound like a grown-up.
Hero drank his half a styrofoam cup of apple juice down and waited in cold damp anticipation for his call-out to MHU.
This is what you want, this is what you get, this is what you want, this is what you get, this is what you want, what you want, what you want, what you want ….. PIL
Your choices made for you, Hero. Little pink triangles danced in time around his head. Jerry Falwell was standing behind TinkyWinky with his hands over the Teletubby’s crotch, nuzzling cheek to cheek, gently panting and cooing, “It’s alright thar’, lil fella, it’s jest Unkle Jerry!” with his small, wet flaccid penis dripping underneath cream colored polyester pants and ironed jockey shorts two sizes too tight. TinkyWinky’s wide eyes, confused at peepee sweet and sickly, now happy, now nauseous, nervous, now hardly hard at all. Butterflies, no, pigeons. Hero’s own memory of molestation cramped his belly and he began to get stiff at the idea of his penis inside the man’s toothless mouth, so wet and sucking; fat, dirty and disgusting with the odor of stale urine and b.o .
Under the pretense of fitting Hero with a scuba harness, the man had cupped him easily and finally sucked the boy, greedily swallowing all of his young, 13 year old semen. Soon, he would come to visit the man regularly in his filthy, garbage strew basement apartment – after his paper route, and then the man would tongue kiss Hero and blow him. The man had tried to get the boy to suck him off in the fat man’s version of a grotesque 69 but Hero thought he was too dirty and smelly, otherwise he would have, he was so inclined and now lay on his back with his eyes closed, fantasizing that his mouth was filled with the man’s cock. Excited and disgusted all at once, Hero sat bolt upright, swinging his feet off of the bed to the floor; too early for that, he told himself. Besides, it’s always so much better when I wait a day or two, he playfully teased himself, “Always better,” sweetly licking his mind’s erection.
“What’s ‘at yew said, lil fella?” Falwell asked TinkyWinky, “that’s what I thought yew said! Now don’t talk dirty fella’, ’cause it ain’t nice. Shame on yew.”
Hero’s cock grew softer, the tension wouldn’t have helped, but if he tied his blanket to the bars and got started, his gate would crack at the worst possible moment and he’d have to wash too quickly and end up feeling all gross and icky with the combination of sperm, vaseline, state-soap, and very cold water on his dick and balls. Of course, like a pot of water you watched to boil he would chill and they’d probably never call him for lack of an escort officer. (Inmates on keep lock had to have their own escort.)
“Well,” and he let out a little sigh like a guy who’s just found out his old lady is on the rag and not putting her mouth around anything except chocolate bonbons tonight.
“ … two fat backs you must cut clean, you take the escalator to the mezzanine, change and it’s on , super bonbon, super bonbon, super bonbon . “ rang Hero’s dome piece to that jigsaw jazz Beck had told him about.
“Cadence clap, you whining sap, you whining sap with the sap rap trap,” but couldn’t get any further so he didn’t press the issue. Hero whittled a literary maul-stick in an attempt to fake it that morning.
Walking around the body in the carpet cooling fast from the bullet in its head, EI Raton came to the house expecting a front – a big eight (125 grams) of some of the new shit. That is, until Hec put him on his knees in the middle of the carpet – bought special just for the occasion – in an other-wise empty room but for an old stereo and one giant speaker cabinet that was aimed right at them. Hector looked around while EI Raton looked up at him, all giant baby-eyes full of tears that were streaming down his cheeks and into his beard. He was had and he knew it. They knew it. He was fucked.
“I’m gonna give you two minutes, Mikey,” and Hec held his hand up with only two fingers showing, just to make sure Mikey understood what “two” meant, “two, see? Two minutes for you to make your peace, ok?”
Mikey nodded, yes, simpering with a wet nose leaking snot that was hanging down off of his chin he wiped it on his shirt-sleeve, figuring he’d never be wearing that sweater again anyways – and the thought made him bawl.
“Starting . NOW!” Hec shouted – looking at his watch when he brought his right arm down, as if signaling the beginning of a contest to see who could hold their breath the longest.
Hero walked in and saw Mikey praying, “a el dios de perico, probably, miserable piece of shit,” and he moved silently over to the stereo and gently started turning up the volume.
It was Tito Puente. Hec motioned with his hand, up, up, up, and when he thought it was loud enough (Mikey was now sobbing uncontrollably with his hands clasped tightly together in front of his face), Hec shot him holding the pistol not even an inch away from his forehead. Hero brought the music down and they both stared at Mikey, “he was still sittin’ up on his knees and blood was comin’ outta the bullet hole, but it was comin’ out like a fire hose – and it was makin’ the weirdest fucking whistling sound they’d ever heard and no one had seen no shit like that before.”
“Why’d Hec shoot’em early like that?”
“Yeah, what happened to his ‘two minutes?’“
“What are you two, a couple a’ Dick Fuckin’ Tracey’s?”
“Well, you know, you told the story, Hero “
“Alright, alright, this is what happened, see, Hec thought he might go soft if he had to keep watchin’ Mikey drowning in his own fuckin’ tears …. hyperventilating like some 8 year old kid with half a fuckin’ lung or something, so, eh, you know, he, uh, he took’em out a little early, that’s all .. Why? What’s the big deal ?Me personally? I always thought that Hec did Mikey a favor, ya’ know? He could’a poisoned him.
Later: “Lemme’ get some more coffee, will’ya, Rita? And, hey, are those crullers fresh?”
“Wouldn’t be up there if they wasn’t, Hero You want one, hon’?”
“Why, yes, Rita, thank you, I believe I do,” and Hero smiled, the patronizing patron, while he imagined his cock so deep inside of Rita’s snatch that she’d bite him if he let his face get too close to her’s. His cock was stiffening in his jeans and pointing to the left the way it always did. His stomach was all aquiver with the same sexual excitement that can hurt a man when he’s trying to move his bowels.
She must’ve been in her early forties, at least. Either that or just very well preserved. With heavy make-up around her eyes, those thick slutty eyelashes and gash-red come-fuck-my-mouth lips, Rita impressed Hero as a little uncomfortable whenever she passed him even with the counter between them. She was pouring coffee for some round black guy in a dirty flannel shirt with fat spilling out over his belt. It looked just like molasses. Hero saw a greasy sea lion in blue jeans sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee and a well-thumbed racing form. He watched Rita coming back and thought that maybe his eyes had given him away. They had and that was the source of his latest discomfort. Now he didn’t feel so good inside. Real deep in his torso, something like a vertical rod of dry-ice was being emptied very rapidly from inside a piece of PVC piping and Hero realized that his feet had become very cold. His entire body had caught a chill.
He finished his cruller and coffee so he could split. He noticed that the grill chef had turned up the volume of the radio. It was Tito Puente, again. That greasy old Rican had seen the whole thing: him and Rita, sheeit, him alone.
He didn’t want Hero hanging around any longer than he already had. The chef was no angel. In fact, he was as evil as they came – and that’s how he knew the counter looked up after she said, “$2.35, please.”
But either she wasn’t sure of exactly what she was or wasn’t letting Hero know. Foolishly, he thought that she liked him. He was wrong. Hero walked back engulfed in a stream of cold air that ran along the floor inside his head, gave Rita a dollar tip, turned again, and left without a word.
Black brought him his lunch-time feed-up: baked ziti (that had never been baked – not even close), a salad and rice pudding; only not only had the ziti never been baked but the salad was small and a third of it was brown and the rice pudding wasn’t pudding at all but a cold ball of cooked rice with cinnamon sprinkled on it and some sticky white shit holding it all together that Hero guessed was starch.
He picked through the ziti trying not to eat any of the globs of ground beef that looked worse than Gaines Burger. Next, he moved on to the warm salad inspecting each piece carefully for any brown before eating it. All that took him more time than it had taken those guys to murder what’s-his-name, whistler’s brother.
“Spooky,” Hero teased as he replaced the cover on the feed up tray before sliding it onto the shelf of his gate slot and then he drank the remainder of his breakfast milk from its container, the one with a smiling purple cow wearing a bell under her neck on the side of it. Hero suspected bovine growth hormones as being solely responsible for 12 year old tits and bleeding way too early. When he picked up the baby milk carton he read, “1% milk fat .. oh, that makes it ok, it’s only 1%,” with a rented contentment that was his best defense (his only defense) at that moment to all the rich people who would spend his very life, second only to an old worn out dollar bill, just to have a few extra vacation days and while they fed him cancer, Hero sincerely hoped that they would get Mad Cow Disease and immediately afterwards, wished he had some Laughing Cow Cheese in the little triangles of tinfoil with the red string that hung out to open them – and that laughing cow with an earring in her ear. The Laughing Cow didn’t have to worry about Mad Cow Disease because she was already crazy – just look at the way she’s always laughing. Those pieces of cheese reminded him of when he was a young boy and he’d eaten them with light green seedless grapes that glowed in the sunlight; they squished in Hero’s mouth now and the delicate bite of the cheese and dry dragging texture of the grapes skin on his tongue mixed together with all of the juice so that his mouth would pucker from the back of his cheeks to the sides where his top and bottom lips were hinged. And, if he’d been careful to mix just the right amount of each ingredient in every mouthful, it was a fine and pleasurable thing, all of these things in his mouth. His mother would always\ say, “Save some grapes for someone else.” As for the cheese, well, she’d stopped buying it right around the time he’d grown balls big enough to take what he wanted from the refrigerator. She hid the strawberries. Hero always thought it was strange how people with two houses, two mortgages and two cars wouldn’t buy a color t.v. until after they’d retired? Then she’d bought a satellite dish so fucking big that it looked like the bad news end of The Death Star from Star Wars.
“The mountains,” she’d said. The truth was that the woman was a television casualty, but it sure suited her. In fact, Hero thought she was related to the Walton’s (she sure did), the Jewish side of the family, up north – you know, “Uh, oh yeah, that’s right, twice removed, wasn’t it?”
The summer before Hero made it all the way down to the bank door, he rode his motorcycle up to visit The Wretched for the weekend with a take-home bottle of methadone in his pocket and a strong desire to put some space between himself and all that shitty coke he’d been shooting. He rented his favorite movie to show his mother, an Australian film called “Bliss” about a man who has a Near Death Experience and afterwards the scales fall from his eyes and he sees The Big Lie everywhere he looks. In the opening scene, Harry, the man, is telling one of his father’s stories of how there had been a terrible drought. (Harry was just an infant at the time.) And, how his mother had gone to church to pray for rain. When his father saw his mother next, she was standing in a boat piled high with things from the church. His father told him, “When your mother prays for rain, Harry, it rains,” His father also told him , “In New York City exists all good and evil and the Devil rides down Fifth Avenue in a long black limousine with dark windows and if you look very hard, you can see him sitting there in the back,”
“Oh, stop it, John! He believes everything you say!” Harry’smother cried.
“But, Patricia! You know it’s true!”
And such was the background of a very primal and naive man whose wife is fucking his partner; whose son is dealing cocaine; whose daughter performs fellatio on her brother for some of the cocaine; and the surreal circumstances of Harry’s life when he saw the truth and decided ….. to be good.
Harry leaves his family and is staying in an expensive hotel. As the senior founding partner of a very successful advertisement firm, many of whose clients are the makers of cancer causing products. Harry feels compelled to “fire” them one after another, dooming the firm and everyone around him to ruin. One of his client’s ad men comes to see him in a desperate attempt to get Harry to take his company back.
– Harry is considered an advertising genius by everyone.
“Har-ry! You’re looking well, Harry, how are you?”
“I haven’t been feeling well, John.”
“Harry, people are talking – and it’s not good. No, no,
Harry, not good at ‘tall.”
“I’m sorry, John, I must fire you .. “
“But, Harry! Why?! What have I ever done to you?!”
“It’s not you, John, it’s your company, the products you make – they have saccharine in them.”
“Oh, that? Har-ry! No one’s ever proven any positive connection between saccharine and cancer! Here, look at this.”
John opens his briefcase and pulls out a large map.
“This, Harry, is a cancer map. Have you ever seen one of these? No, of course not, only insurance companies and the government have them.”
John shows Harry their city and suburbs and the different types of cancer you got from living in which area.
“No one really knows what causes cancer, Harry, there’s just too much of it.”
Harry is terror struck with humble horror, he stands in awe holding the edges of the map gingerly.
“I’m sorry, John, but I must still fire you.”
“Harry, you’re worried about cancer? Well, I’ll tell you about cancer, Harry! My wife, Harry, (sobs) my wife has cancer!”
“Oh, John, I’m so sorry, you never said anything.“
“Oh, it’s alright, we thought she’d be ok, with all the radiation and chemotherapy, but when she got down to 6 stone and 4 (cries) she was afraid to leave the house. Our real friends stayed away so don’t you tell me about cancer, Harry! “
It was this interaction that Hero found so subtle, so scathingly accurate, that he felt compelled to watch the video again and again feeling very much like Harry who, surrounded by bad people, struggled to be good. Hero thought the ending was very beautiful, very beautiful indeed. He’d discovered “Bliss” while working in Harlem, it was just an interesting title, that was all, and he rented it and never returned it.
The only other movie Hero ever saw with his mother was “Tommy” by The Who. She’d taken him and one of his friends to the Zigfield for his 13th birthday. It still made him laugh. His mother: the iron maiden full of syringes! Uncle Ernie! “Fiddle about! Fiddle about!” The Pinball Wizard! Ann Fucking Margaret! She’d probably written him off right then and there; the Jewish version of Rosemary’s Baby.
When he was 27, Hero asked her if he’d been a mistake.
“Oh, I thought you knew that .. “
It would be the last time he saw her alive. Why couldn’t she have just leaned over, opened his door, and pushed him out of the moving car instead? It was a question that puzzled him for quite a few years to come.
Hero was strung-out and having some bad luck with the check that NYSDOCS had given him upon his release from Riverview. A week before leaving, he’d asked the jail for at least $1,500 in cash – if not the whole $6,000+. He was called to the sergeant’s office. Hero was itching to tell him, “’Cause it’s my money, you nosey fucking bastard, that’s what!” But instead, he tried to explain to the nice policeman that in Manhattan, without a place to stay, ample funds would be required until he could get the check cashed. As it stood, Hero didn’t know how he was going to cash it.
“Don’t you have any family you could stay with?”
It was always like this: you gave them the circumstances and then they proceeded to ask you the most inane questions.And you were expected to answer them! It was a primitive yet effective arrangement, merely a formality because you weren’t going to get any satisfaction anyway!
Hero sat in front of the sergeant’s desk imagining he had a sawed-off, double barrel shotty deep inside the policeman’s mouth.
“What about a friend? You don’t have any friends you could stay with?”
What’s with this guy?! What does he want? My life fuckin’story?
Eventually, Hero received $300 cash which lasted about “When I go down to New York to see the Yankees play, I don’t carry anywheres near that much money.”
Hero bit his tongue so hard it bled, “Well, Sarge, I guess you’re a cheap date, eh?” or “Well, Sarge, I need the extra cash so’s I can stop over at The Home Depot and pick up some fertilizer wink-wink).” Either of which would have been just as effective as anything he actually did say. The entire interview had degenerated into an investigation as to why Hero wanted his own money in cash.
“Fucking scumbag,” he muttered standing in the choking heat and exhaust, trapped again in Manhattan for August. And he had money! That was all it took to get out, like everyone else with a few bucks and a half-a-lick of sense.
Hero’d tried cashing the check by depositing it in a friend’s bank account only they would not honor a third party check. He spoke to the assistant manager, asking if he could open a new account – he’d had one there a few years before. She told him, “No.” He didn’t have proper I.D. Also, they were extremely reluctant to open large accounts (?) unless ‘they knew where the money came from because it might be drug money (?). She directed him to another bank across the street. They were as equally ambiguous. He tried The Lower East Side Credit Union, a grass-roots operation on Avenue B and 3rd Street, but they wouldn’t touch it either because it had already been endorsed. On the verge of a nervous fucking breakdown, Hero called NYSDOCS and in one of the rarest moments in all of his moments of having to deal with them a very important black woman with a large corner office in The State of New York NYSDOCS offices in the state building on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue called Riverview while Hero waited in her office and told them to issue another check in his mother’s name so she could deposit it and wire the money to him at the credit union.
This woman had more juice than anyone Hero had ever seen in all of NYSDOCS. She took the old check and told a tearful grateful Hero not to worry, that the new check would be there in a mere matter of days. She also told him to call if there were any problems. This, he felt wholeheartedly, was the equivalent of a miracle given the nature of NYSDOCS.
The next day, Hero’s mother drove 3 hours from her house in Connecticut to bring him some money. “Western Union is too dangerous, Hero, and I’m not comfortable sending all that money like that,” she’d said,
“ .. all that money … ,” being two-hundred-and-fifty dollars.
Hero knew that the truth was that his mother, one of the only Jewish WASP’s in that part of Connecticut, was embarrassed to use Western Union. It wasn’t like anyone there knew her, it was the principle. Hero had a special mental scream just for such occasions and employed it without reservation.
That morning, he took the subway from the L.E.S. out to Flushing to meet her so that she could avoid the traffic in Manhattan. Early by hours, he spent them in The Queens Botanical Gardens talking with an elderly man from China who was here visiting his daughter and her family. His English was not bad at all and Hero got the message, it was always the same: Live as best you can and try to enjoy life. The longer the two talked, the antsier Hero was getting for a fix and while there are as many different perceptions of time as there are states of awareness a human being can experience the widest most expanded version that can be exhibited by them all was Death. When you are dope-sick though, hope is a bag of powder that is never guaranteed until it is in your veins.
The old Chinaman noticed that something was a little off kilter but he never let on. Hero saw it in his eyes; they were alive and sparkled in there beneath slit lids. He carried himself like someone who could break you into pieces with only a few very graceful movements.
It was a mildly humid sunny morning full of bright light and the flowers of the gardens appeared sharp in witness to the day. So goddamn fucking bright it hurt Hero’s eyes. He was only a few blocks away from the hospital he was born, where he’d received numerous stitches as a child – where once they had x-rayed him to find a large packing staple he’d swallowed for some insane reason and where, as a 14 year old, he had seen his mother sitting up in a bed like something out of The Exorcist. She’d looked as if she had been hit by a truck. A heart attack had beat her up so badly that she was black and blue everywhere you could imagine.
After triple coronary bypass surgery, she wasn’t quite right as rain but she did live another 15 years and when she did die, well, it wasn’t her heart that gave out, that’s for sure. When she died it was from a lung ailment with a very, very long name which translated into English was: “your lungs are fucked.”
It wasn’t hard to believe it was finally her lungs because she’d never spoke up when she should have but instead – always waited until the damage was done to belatedly chime in with some subtle sarcastic snippet like the fellow who tells you not to fight back against some obvious injustice because he thinks it’s easier for him to live on his knees – and besides – your resistance is going to fuck-up his whole lame-ass program. And every time you lost a battle, he was always right there to remind you of it. People like that have a name, well, actually – they have a few names, but the one that always came to mind to Hero was: Traitor.
Hero didn’t think he hated his mother anymore, although he could have easily killed her dead just on GP had he ever known what she’d intended to do with the money she stole from his father, that other piece of shit.
“Cranky, I’m cranky,” and Hero thought it best that he take a nap just in case they called him to go see the psyches.
“Cold, I’m cold,” and Hero saw that the sky was overcast.
Seagulls hung-out on the roof of some nearby prefab office trailers dipping their beaks like scoops into the puddles on the tarpaper and squawking at what Hero couldn’t tell.
Speckled dirty gray winter slush and inky black, heavy garbage pickers to Jonathan Livingston Seagull and such a pretty dream that was that Hero wanted to read the book again 25 years later.