Friday, October 13, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

Is she cold in the night when she feels alone, red dress on black boots in the tepid warmth of the streetlight? Does she remember, then, that she was once a dream. She was once the living embodiment of hope, and that was the first addiction. When you finally do kick hope, it leaves you a different person. You are full of holes. The holes need to be stopped up or all of you will leak out of you.

Does she tie back her blonde hair showing black roots? Does she hide her heritage, becoming blonde and hiding her black roots? Is she America? Is this what she's trying to tell you? Look at me, I'm you! I'm the ideals you claimed to have, do you feel them now?

Will she die for your sins, though? Can you pound nails into her hands, and build belief systems around her? Can we make them kill for her? Will they do anything for her attentions, her approval? Do they think it will stop the lonely misery for even one measly second?

They buy her hourly, and she sells, not herself, she keeps that close. She sells the ugliness that you bring to the ghetto. She sells the sticky glances the morally upright cast. She sells the lie that there is love for you. Comfort. She sells you a brief window of time, too grimed to look through. She sells you your soul back, for just a moment, so you can sell it all over again.


  1. Harold had been on a winning streak at the track, so he was late getting home. When he pulled the Packard up to the house and checked his watch, he figured there was just enough time to change out of his clothes that reeked of cigar smoke and sweat, grab a bite with his folks, then go meet Lola for a night on the town.

    But his father had other ideas. Harold had barely made it through the door when there was Pop, overcoat over one arm, hat in hand. “We gotta go.”

    Harold’s shoulders slumped. “Aw, you’re kidding me!” He’d already canceled twice on Lola for stuff Pop needed, and he didn’t want to have to do it again. Last time she was so mad—she’d bought a new dress for the occasion, did her hair special—and it took a lot of promises to cool her down. “I got a date.”

    The flint in his father’s eyes made him feel ten years old again, powerless and squirming. “Not tonight you don’t. There’s a guy we gotta meet up in Bensonhurst.”

    “But Pop…”

    “Quit your whining, for God’s sake. This move’s got earning potential. Which is more important than chasing some skirt. If you want to get your feet wet in the business, like you keep busting my balls about, you gotta get your head on straight about priorities.”

    Harold tried for some indignance, or at least to sound less whiny. “Lola’s not just some skirt, Pop, she’s—”

    “Yeah, yeah, she’s an angel. If she’s that important, she’ll wait.” His mouth flattened into a kind of grin—or the closest Pop ever came to a grin—and gave Harold’s cheek two firm pats. “And you’ll buy her something sparkly to make up for it. Like I do with your mother. Speaking of which.” Pop turned toward the kitchen. “Lillian. We’re leaving. Don’t wait up.”

    She clopped toward them, brows arched. “Both of you? Again? But I have this nice roast beef…It’s Rosie’s night off and I made it myself!”

    “It came up sudden,” Pop said. “We’ll get something out.”

    “Yeah, we’ll—or we’ll make sandwiches after.” Harold brightened, putting on a smile for his mother. He could at least try to make one woman in his life happier tonight. “We could have sandwiches from the roast beef. I bet they’ll be great.” He wanted to say more, but his father was already railroading him out the door.

    Harold sat on his words until Pop’s car pulled away from the curb and headed toward Fulton Avenue. “You could have let me say goodbye proper. At least say sorry that we’re missing her nice dinner.”

    “She understands.” Pop sniffed. “One day, god willing, you’ll have a wife that understands that when it comes to business you gotta make…accommodations.”

    Harold remembered all the dinners where his father’s seat at the head of the table remained empty. When his mother tried to fill the space with bright chatter until it failed her. When Harold made jokes to try to get her to smile. He felt bad his parents hadn’t had another child, because it meant he had to do all the work to try to make her happy when Pop crapped out. Some days this made him mad, resentful. Then angry with himself for feeling that way.

    He shoved all this away and looked out the window at the blocks going past, as they headed toward the seedier side of town. One thing Pop told him about the business is that it was better to meet people where they lived. Yeah, there was an illusion of power and control if you could get them to come by you, but nothing said trust like coming down to the neighborhood. Setting up the meet in the back room of someone’s establishment. You make it easy on them starting out, so they felt they owed you next time. Harold would never have thought about that on his own. Maybe he should be more grateful to his Pop. Should listen more when he talked business, instead of being mad about the monkey wrench a meeting would throw into his plans.

    Maybe Pop was right about Lola. That if she was the woman for him, she’d wait.

    “So whaddya think?” Harold asked his father. “Like earrings or something?”

    “Yeah,” Pop said after a pause. “But make sure they got diamonds.”


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