Every man needs a witness and your my choice, so keep your mouth shut ….”
by ed markowski
He said, “ The years have flown by kid, and I never spilled what I’m about to spill
in your ear. I’m spillin’ it on you because it’s the bottom of the ninth, there’s two
out, I’m down to my last strike, and nobody but nobody, including the birthday boy
and his old man has ever hit Daddy Tick Tock’s fastball. Between now and then kid,
you can burn the city down, steal all your baby brother’s candy, steal your neighbor’s
wife, walk a blind man over a cliff, and you’ll still get everything you ask for because
every man needs a witness and your my choice, so keep your mouth shut and your
wax wells open. When I’m done talking and your done listening, you’ll receive an
extremely rare gift as a token of our appreciation when you turn fifty forty – four years
up the road. It’s inda like pickin’ a new Pope kid, and you’re my one and only.
And FYI buddy, The Birthday Boy, Davey Crockett, Karl Marx and his best friend
Doc Holliday, Houdini, Zorro, D. B. Cooper, The Card Trick King of Fifty – Second
Diamond Eyes Mike, Felix The Cat, Wayne Newton and his daddy Big Al Desalvo,
Lawrence Welk, Charlie Manson, The Birthday Boy’s Ma Miss Squeaky Clean, Miss
Squeaky Fromme, Cher, Imelda Marcos, Lucille Ball, Desi, Oprah, Bobby Flay, Rod
Serling, Rodney Dangerfield, Rachel Ray, The Snake Lady, The Fat Lady, Lil Jimmy
Baker, Big Jimmy Swaggert, Tammy Faye, Pee Wee Herman, and the Grand Dame
Of Golden Gate Park . . . . Grace Slick taught me everything I know.
The man shifted in his throne, pointed at the Neiman Marcus Store across the hall
and repeated a question no one had asked . . . . Am I part of a Communist plot ?
Red sleigh, red suit, red cheeks, incessant giving, the equal distribution of material
goods, proletarian craftsmen and women imprisoned in an Arctic sweat shop working
seventeen hours a day for the good of my reputation, knocking back Jell – O shots
with Kim Jong – IL, Shrimp Egg Foo Young, Cold Sesame Noodle, and General
Tso’s Chicken carry outs from Chou’s Great Hall Of The People Buffet on Engels
Avenue in St Petersburg, and my enduring love and devotion to Sitting Bull for
sending two riders who told me to stay put in Judith Gap that day. So, am I a
Mao mouthpiece ? Well . . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if I was.
After a quick slurp of Orange Julius, he went on. Look, if you think a band of
happy fools pound, paint, sand, sew, wax, buff, and assemble this toxic junk at
a toy factory located in some ice bound Shangri – La, guess again. All of my
guys bust their baby bags, and do their things in a masterful way. But, due to
the current God Is Greed epidemic, none of it gets done without the sweat of
my seventy – five twelve year old Cambodian Queens I bought from the dragon
lady who operates the Poppy Paradise Hotel on Wu Jin Road in Shanghai.
Hot pretzel with mustard in hand, the man segued into a new topic. Twenty
years back we were running out of junk. We touched down in Brooklyn. We
walked into Tringali’s Club Roma. Met a guy named Vito. An hour later we
walked out with plenty for everyone. When we covered President Street last
year, I left this note on Vito’s kitchen table . . . .
Goomba, when me and my night crew were five – hundred feet above your roof I
immediately spotted your new herd of rustled Coup de Villes, BMW’s, Lincolns,
El Dorados, and Electra’s. On this frigid night my heart was warmed by many
memories of the best days of my life. I still can’t believe we managed to avoid
becoming zip gun tycoons at that fuckin’ pinch palace in Attica. That we’re still
in business is God’s blessing, and a testament to our creativity, know how, and
Omerta. When people ask where the furs, diamonds, lobster tails, Cuban Cigars,
Brioni Suits, and the other toys come from, I tell them to stop with the fuckin’
questions because my knuckles are brass, and the gun in my belt ain’t a squirt
gun, BB gun, or cap gun. Omerta is always sacred, honored, and enforced. With
that in mind, just remember Carlo I get fifty – five percent of the car cash, and
just so you don’t forget it, I’ll say it one more time, the bullets in my chamber
ain’t made of fuckin’ rubber or cork. With all of my respect, Sal Capelli.
A woman carrying a Burger King bag walked by. He looked at her, shook his head
back and forth, then closed his eyes. Look kid, the revolution was still a hundred
years up the road, so I’m talking about the dark ages here. Well, we did what we
do in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. From there, we plotted a south by
southeast course. We’re a good hundred and fifty miles northwest of Yakusk when
the ride starts to shimmy and vibrate. We stopped in a Siberian forest. We sipped
snow. We didn’t have any food. Our hunger devoured all reason. We drew straws.
When the sky filled with stars we salted, peppered, roasted, sliced, and feasted on
our beloved Donner.
He took off his glasses, dried his eyes, and stared at my mother’s legs. That was
the low point kid. Siberia was colder than my home town if you can believe it.
That red head in the black skirt reminds me of something I need to clear up while
I still have the time . . . . So, here’s how that tradition started . . . . Back in
in eighty – nine, we off loaded Philadelphia’s swag in a fine mist that turned to ice
Three full hours of brutal labor in brutal weather. After we delivered the last package,
we bee lined straight into the original City Tavern. Twenty mugs later, we crawled
and wobbled down Second Street. We take off. Everything’s smooth. We’re headed
southwest. Well, we’re over the town of Matewan, West Virginia, and I made a
real big navigational mistake. Lucky I didn’t kill us all. I looked down. The roof
top I thought we were landing on was the adit of the Ruby Coal Mine. We were
down there for a good lick of time. I figured it’ll keep the kids in line, Ma and Pa
can stack a little silver, and every member of the family, dogs, cats, sheep, and asses
included, will enjoy the heat. I had no idea the idea of sticking stones in stockings
would become loved the whole world over.
Three blonde bikini clad mannequins filled the display window at Helen’s House Of Heart
He stared at the window. His laughter almost shattered it. Oh Christ kid, I have to tell
you this one. Back in the Age Of Precarious, we were working San Diego’s Mission Beach
neighborhood. I walked real quiet. I dropped down real quiet. I kicked up a small cloud
of ash. When the air cleared, I saw an eye freezing naked Jane and her skinny wheezing
male stain doing the dirty version of the Jingle Bell Mingle. They’re pounding the floor
and screaming for more under a blue spruce cut from the Polyurethane National Forest
surrounding the pet department at Wal Mart. The guy’s got gold, silver, blue, and red
tinsel decorating his hitching post, and she’s got gold glitter stars decorating her slot
machine. When they came up for air and saw me standing on the hearth the guy says,
‘ I’ve been a bad boy all year long, can I have an erection set ?’ Now it’s Jane’s turn.
‘ I’ve committed adultery twice a day for the last three years, and I’ve wrecked thirty
marriages in the last six months. I want a Ken Doll Dildo, and, I want you to be
the caboose of this three car train so I can be the oil that greases two dip sticks. ‘
I called the crew on the roof and told them I’d be at least an hour late.
The muzak version of My Favorite Things filled every square inch of vacant shopping
space and the scarlet clown riffed knuckleball crazy about an annual blizzard in Little
Rock. Every year at 77 Delta Circle in Little Rock, the Preston Family leaves a dozen
peanut butter cookies, a glass of ice cold milk, two neon pink circus straws, and
two grams of fresh powder. In return, I leave all of their gifts as ordered in a cloud
of euphoria because regardless of how they live, the six of us are luminous examples
of how nice naughty can be when naughty is done right naughty’s so much nicer
Two girls swinging DKNY bags bounced by giggling about some rebel boy named
Johnny. His eyes tagged along with the girls until they blended into the mannequins
at Patty The Punk’s Fast Lane Of Fashion. He handed me a candy cane. Look kid,
Miracle On Thirty – Fourth Street is a myth but crazy things always happen around
there. A guy named Twain was the original. He stepped down in 1887. Twain told
me what to expect. I’ve been the sideshow at Macy’s since 1888. The day before
the big day in 1978, I did the job. I went to the lingerie department to pick up
my check. The manager tells me the attendance numbers were down seventy – five
percent. He asks me why. I answered you tell me. Ten minutes later I’m on the
A Train. This guy’s sitting under a d – con roach roust ad. His metallic eyes
slalom up, down, across, and beyond my body. His jelled red corkscrew curls
twist in twenty different directions. The guy has two one drink too many black
eyes that burn neon bright because his skin is vintage Dracula white.
The cherry on top of this skid row parfait is a sweat soaked sneaker stench the EPA
needs to investigate. The guy pops some pills. He winks. He says, fresh Percodan
from the Right Aid up the street Mister Goody Fucking two shoes. Me and Sid
broke in through the roof. Here, have some. I’m quiet. Then the punk says, You
look like the last fuckin’ survivor of the Haight Ashbury Ho Show. You could
be an alien from the planet 12194 – 25. Come on brother, in the name of love,
let’s cop some junk and wander through the wasteland.
When we stopped at Spring Street he said, Really man, your brand hasn’t sold since
the disco ball rose and blossomed. All the hippies are either addicted, dead, dying, or
demented. This town’s so tough I broke a canine biting into a custard donut. You’re
you’re in bad need an update man. You need a look that’ll catch people like fly strips
catch flies. The hair and the beard are obsolete.
He scribbled a number on the king of cups. Call me when you’re ready to be sanded,
bondoed and repainted. And old man, before I forget, here’s a handful of the dope I’ve
I’ve been eating. The punk gave me a box of sour worms, swept the d – Con ad with
a spritz of black spray paint, and made his way up the steps to Spring Street. I never
saw the guy again but if I do, I owe him.
The old man wiped away a tear with a ball of cotton snow and fixed his eyes on
my mother. And next week, I’ll leave the same the same note on Molly Clark’s
night stand I’ve left for the past six years, thanking her for the English Cheddar,
Black Forest Ham, French Brandy, bed, and fine and beautiful son she brought into
this old gypsy’s woeful world. “
Ed Markowski lives and writes in Auburn Hills, Michigan. More of Ed’s stories can be found in the Vault of Smoke.