EXCERPT: Mr. Dynamite
forthcoming from Dalkey Archive this August.
Well Sean I’m back at Firewaters—It’s Friday around 7 in the evening though I imagine the days of the week / hours of the day don’t mean much to you in your present condition—well they do to me: Maude Privette’s coming home today so I’m officially no longer welcome Chez Ken—I’m still locked out of my studio—Olegarkis hasn’t returned any of my calls—I had a nasty hangover all day and work was horrible: Vincent the bossman is gradually morphing into a full blown psycho— “Jarleth! JARLETH!! Did I or did I not tell you yesterday to put toner in machine number 2? I did tell you. Are you drunk? Well? Are you on drugs? Well? Welllll?”—it’s all right—I shall be released… Yesterday Sean we started on a trip down Memory Lane—it was a big mistake—there’s obviously nothing to be gained by raking up the past but as Magnus the Grand Inquisitor on Mastermind used to say I’ve begun so I’ll finish: Amelia—that whole period of my life—is water under the bridge—that said I feel a FLASH BACK coming on: If this was a movie Sean there’d be a close up of my face with the screen blurring and rippling to underwater harps and strings as we dissolve back to the early ’90s a scene of domestic violence in a rundown apt. on Rivington St. starring Hurricane Martha and a cornered cowering Prendy—a scene identical in many respects to Martha’s recent atomic explosion re Raptor except the Otto hiding under the bed was still a kitten—he hadn’t yet swelled into the big furry football of today—Flashback Action Highlight: a black army boot connects with Jarleth’s testes as the boot’s owner screams:
—You son of a BITCH!! Why don’t you FUCK the little cunt if you love her so much?
The answer is: I would if I could. I would if I could. I would if I could if she’d let me (“let me let me let me…” a heartrending echo fading into the cold blue distance)
The little cunt = Amelia Jane Francesca Garrity (saint & martyr)
All right Sean you inquisitive spectre you twisted my arm—I’ll take you back further—back to The Night It All Began back to the fateful hour when The Little Freak shot me in the groin with her poison arrow—it was a night in late September—we were drinking a huge gang of us in some downtown bar—I was in the middle of recounting some totally fabricated escapade starring me and Bono and Philo and Steve Jones from the Pistols + a ton of coke and a bevy of European supermodels hijinks and bijinks blemming round the Wicklow hills at 4 in the morning in our Porsches and Beamers—not a care in the world drunk as a lord I let my gaze stray down that long wooden table into the trap of Amelia’s waiting eyes—a breeze blew out of heaven or hell or both and Prendergast found himself borne aloft by hosts of singing cherubim—a Mystic Curtain was lifted and I was allowed to glimpse the world as a glorious place full of endless possibilities—then the curtain came down the cherubs let go and I fell—down down down into Ye Deepe Darke Poole of Desyre—in other words Sean I fell in love with the little psychopath—I know I know: “little” sounds patronizing and God in Her Infinite Mercy will shrivel my bollocks to useless flaps of seaweed if I don’t retract—but the fact remains she was little—only 4 foot 8—125 lbs. (9 stone to you)—even wearing 6 inch platforms and a man’s overcoat she was minuscule—she had grey eyes Sean terrible amoral grey eyes and a mocking smile—it was a leer really—tiny hands like a child’s tiny breasts tiny cunt full of magic doorways into secret universes not that I was ever vouchsafed more than a glimpse
oh yes it’s all coming out now
I loved her madly
I loved her madly yet she sank
down into the cold ground
Singing (all together now):
Toi qui mets dans les yeux et dans le coeur des filles Le culte de la plaie et l’amour des guenilles
(Thou who puttest in the eyes and the heart of girls the cult of wounds and the love of rags o Satan)
I can’t hear you
Fuck off so
Miss—another pint please and a shot of your best sorrow
Firesnorters—1 in the morning—yes I’m still here—you know Sean I really like this bar—it doesn’t pretend to more than what it is which is a long dark room with a low nicotine stained tin ceiling half a doz. tables and chairs one pool table in the back and tucked away in one corner a really good jukebox—I finally got a hold of Olegarkis the absentee landlord half an hour ago—he said he was busy and he’d call me back—who knows if he will or not—meanwhile Crooklyn’s favourite punk rock saloon is getting mighty crowded—some citizens just walked in with foot tall mohawks— always a cheerful sight—brings me back to 1978 and my glue sniffing days on The Old Kent Rd—a moment ago Cindy the looney with the dog popped her head in—I hid behind my Daily News—when I peeped out she’d gone thank god—no sign of the woof woof—I’m sitting by myself in a dark corner—I’m pretty drunk Sean—I’ve had 4 pints of India Pale Ale plus a Guinness 3 Irish whiskeys and a pint of the house’s special bounce-me-off-the wall supercider—Be prepared: I’m in a grey velour leisure suit Michel LeGrand Windmills of Your Mind Scott Walker Walk On By sort of mood—it’s Amelia—I haven’t talked to anyone about her for ages—when I used to vent to Privette he always said the same thing: she’s crazy—she’ll mess you up—break off all contact immediately—thanks Ken you’re a bottomless pool of karmic wisdom—cue Scott crooning Windmills:
when she stole your movie camera were you suddenly aware
that the autumn leaves were turning to the colour of her hair?
The colour of her hair!—that was a sore point later on—but first I want to tell you about Our First Date: the first time Amelia and Prendy walked out together—it was the 16th of June 1904 no it wasn’t—we went to see Touch of Evil at the Film Forum—we bought popcorn and Raisinets and snuck in a hip flask of rum—we jeered at the trailers—we laughed out loud at Charleton Heston’s outlandish appearance (it’s Black Moses!)—I tried to cop a feel during the Janet Leigh and the bikers orgy scene but Amelia grabbed my paw and bit it—she drew blood too—oh we were both in high spirits that night!—I was deliriously happy Sean incredibly happy—I’d dreamt of being alone with her for months and months—I kept stealing reverent glances at the side of her face—her haunting profile—yes I was happy happy happy but at the same time incredibly nervous—Martha was out of town—she was up in the Catskills at a teachers’ conference—my rational mind kept saying “You have nothing to fear” but the rest of me wasn’t buying it—I was waiting for my wife to appear—to burst into the theatre and come stomping down the aisle in her black army boots and trap the pair of us in the beam of a powerful flashlight or—my god—a far more plausible scenario—what if someone in the audience recognized me!?—I hadn’t thought of that—so I sat in the dark seesawing between the agony and the ecstasy – at last bad cop Hank Quinlan’s great bloated bulk toppled backwards into the filthy water—pull back—music—The End—lights up—so soon?—No no no I want to stay here in dark with Amelia and watch Touch of Evil over and over and over again till judgment break excellent and fair—I knew Martha was waiting for us out in the lobby—or if not Martha-in-person then a stand-in-for-Martha one of her crunchy granola teacher pals—born informers every man jack o’ them—oh yes they’d be only too delighted to report back that they spotted Prendergast out and about with a pint-sized sex bomb dressed in thigh high red leather boots and a fake fur jacket—I was fool enough to confide these fears to Amelia—she laughed nastily and called me a coward and headed for the exit—at the door she turned around and shouted
—fucking come on Prendergast I’m thirsty!
Torn between desire and trepidation I sidled towards her crabwise up the aisle—she stood there leering at me and mockingly grinding her hips like a burlesque dancer—which of course she was—I just had time to pull my scarf up and pull my hat down as she pulled me out into the lobby’s glare—we repaired to a bar on Houston St. and drank some whiskey and later back at her place we did the business—or about 41 % of it—I woke up during the night and heard her crying out in the living room—of course thinking back it’s easy to see I should have gone out to her and comforted her but the fact is I didn’t—it’s too late baby it’s too late now and the rest is autumn leaves— autumn leaves and auburn hair—Time out: a moment ago a grinning mohawk dropped a shot glass of schnapps into my pint of cider—he claims to know me—says that 6 years ago I was his AD on a music video!!??—it’s clearly a case of mistaken identity but I’ve accepted Jimbo or Jumbo’s invitation to join him and his mates up at the bar for a round of submarine shots—it looks like I’m in for a night of serious networking Sean so slan leat agus adios amigo for the mo
Sunday Morning —Well Sean I finally got in— The 2 padlocks turned out to be the result of a silly misunderstanding: because I haven’t been using it much lately Olegarkis assumed I’d let the place go—he claims I owe him 8 months back rent!!!—at our meeting yesterday I disputed this hotly but in the end to avoid aggro I promised to pay him the arrears ASAP—of course I didn’t let on about my present homeless crisis—” OK Jar-a-leet. I give you da keys when you give me da money”—Easier said than done Christos my old flower—but I didn’t say that—Instead we shook hands and I tiptoed back here at 2 o’clock this morning armed with my bag of tools jimmied off the locks no problem they don’t call me Jock Genet for nothing—so I’m presently curled up in my sleeping bag on the hard slightly damp concrete floor wearing fisherman’s socks and my old Peruvian shepherd’s cap reading John Buchan by a combination of dawn’s early light and flashlight—There’s an oil heater here that wasn’t here before—no idea where it came from but never look a gift horse etc.—Of course Olegarkis and his brothers won’t be happy if they find out I’m squatting in their space—By the way I should point out that this isn’t one of your chic sundrenched hardwood floor 150000+ sq. ft. former factory spaces so popular with the gentleman carpenter class—no this is basically a garage that a candy wholesaler used to keep his van in—2 years ago he went bust and Olegarkis rented it to me—from the outside everything looks the same—except now those are MY padlocks—I actually don’t think there’s going to a problem staying here—Olegarkis lives in Queens and he’s normally never out this way—If I watch my exits and entrances I think I’ll be OK for a week or 2 maybe longer—In the meantime all my worldly possessions are still with Ken on E. 5th (Maude’s hopping mad about it)—Prendy’s future is tray uncertain: a month from now I might be living in Jersey City or Yonkers or—a horrible thought—Staten Island!!!—You never know—You never did know—which brings to mind My Favourite Poem of All Time:
Down life’s random path we all
stumble as strangers…
You never know though…
You never did know..
You never will know…
So what though…
One day, one day though
whoop whoop, boom-boom,
1-2-3 yer number’s up…
…straight back to the House of
Strangers, for your meeting with the
Big Guy with the Beard…
the original God though…
then you sit back and listen to the
brr brr whoo whoo nothing but wind, forever
Nice isn’t it? One night at the open mike on Stanton St. I used to frequent this gorgeous drunk-off-her-ass Middle Eastern woman was handing out flyers with that poem printed on it—the poet is George Rubin—he was an old New York guy who died in ’87—the flyer said his friends and neighbours were collecting money to put up a plaque in his memory outside the house on East 6th Street where he lived—well Sean I walked down 6th the other day and there’s no plaque—I’ve noticed dogooder schemes like that have a tendency to tart strong and then fizzle out—and of course one has to wonder: when the time comes who’s going to shake the can and put up a plaque for Trendy Prendy?
Well Sean so far so good—This is my 3rd night here—The Brothers Oleg. are none the wiser—I popped over to Ken’s earlier to pick up a few odds and ends—I was just walking out when Maude appeared out of nowhere and pounced on me: when was I going to take the rest of my stuff? This isn’t a storage space I feel that you’re taking unfair advantage of us etc.—Chill out Elvira (Maude looks like Elvira Mistress of the Dark but without the bust)—Anyway I danced around her and escaped with my CDs my tapes my boom box and my headphones—I was experiencing terrible cravings for my Scott Walker my Léo Ferré Boy George’s Greatest Hits Duke & Trane etc.—seeing as I’m going to be here for a while I’m trying to make the studio feel like home: to this end I’ve hung my photo of the Fleischer Brothers beside the little round window (you DO know the Fleischer Brothers = Betty Boop – Popeye – Koko – Gulliver’s Travels)— There they are Max and Dave standing outside 1600 Broadway c. 1924 in their shirt sleeves Max grinning Dave not—I must say it’s great to have the little heater—of course this being originally a garage there IS a lingering petrol smell not that I’m bothered by it I actually like it—The main thing is I’m having no trouble slipping in and out—I’m on a very quiet side street and there’s never anybody around—Had a bit of a close shave the other night or it might have been nothing: c. 3 in the morning I heard somebody poking around outside—I held my breath—after a few minutes they went away—One of the definite pros about living here is that I seem to have given Raptor the slip—She tracked me down to Ken’s of course—I hid in the toilet while he talked to her out in the hall—Last week she turned up twice at the copy shop but I saw her coming both times and ducked—I got one of the zombies to tell her I out sick while I hid behind the big Minolta in the back—Let me state in no uncertain terms that I have come to my senses at last: I intend to erase Raptor from my life once and for all—The woman has been nothing but trouble from day one—in other words she’s all yours Seamus—”Begorrah! At last!” cried Seamus O’Shem the Leprechaun Detective and Part Time Pimp. And in the wink of an eye sure hadn’t the cunning little man unzipped his emerald green tights and pulled them down: “Behold o mortal dame my candy cane of power!” “Oooooh!” gasped Gwyneth and promptly swooned (To Be Continued)
I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear Sean I took the bull by the horns this morning and called your former employer Aiden McGrath (please note that just because you’re dead I don’t jump to the conclusion that you know everything!)—anyway I asked him straight out about a cash advance—would he front me a couple of grand?—He told me straight he wouldn’t—Fair enough—At least it was a manly exchange and none of that namby pamby legal fuckology—no offense Sean—I asked if there was any chance of getting my inheritance before February—Who said February? he said—Mr. Reynolds I said—Oh no says he I’m afraid Mr. Reynolds was being unduly optimistic. I should think we’re looking at April at the earliest and then he launched into some bullshit explanation—I couldn’t listen to him—I hung up—Which showed amazing restraint because what I really wanted to do was extrude myself along 3 thousand miles of transatlantic cable like Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic 4 to pop out the other end and smash the phone down on his head—I mean he’s REALLY trying my patience—I know the loot is coming I know it’s just a matter of time but come on Sean I can’t go on like this forfuckingever!!
Atelier Jar-a-leet Night the 4th From time to time the thought does pop into my head: “I wonder what Martha’s doing right at this moment?”—Of course I know what she’s doing: she’s lying on the couch under the anglepoise in her black turtleneck and her red sweat pants smoking a Gitane correcting a stack of Spanish compositions—Otto is hovering around trying to hump her leg and she has to keep pushing him away—don’t give up old son friction is your birthright—for the first week I know she was on the blower day and night blackening my name across the world’s continents—she called her mother in San Isidro and her father in Barcelona and her halfwit brother the sculptor in San Fran and soul sister brown sugar Gabriella in Caracas and I’ve no doubt they all said the same thing: what a no-good rotten bastard I am and how they always knew I’d fuck her over again how they tried to warn her and she’s better off without me—that Suarez family Sean: a bunch of stick-up-the-arse parvenu dago customs inspectors spoilt priests and back street abortionists—not one of them with any breeding sensitivity table manners or couth except maybe Fernando the queer uncle who sadly had his mickey mangled by Fidel’s boys on the Isle of Pines—Nana the Bent Banana he was the only one who liked me
Firewaters—2 A.M.—I’m drunk—You’re dead—where does that get us?—NOWHERE—all right Sean stop lapping the waters of Lethe and pay attention—it’s time for another exciting episode of…
MY LIFE AS AMELIA’S DOG
Where was I?—oh yes I remember: me and Amelia became an item—Martha found out about the affair went ballistic and booted me out—I stayed for a couple of weeks with Ken and his then girlfriend Pippa (a very nice woman—a painter— 10,000 times nicer than Maude)—after that I lived for a month in an SRO up on 97th and B’way—the less said about that the better: stepping over junkies every night to get in my door— paper thin walls—nosey psycho neighbours—the whole Hubert Selby trip—at the start of March Amelia got kicked out of where she was living—moving in together seemed a logical step—we found a rundown little one bedroom on 9th between A and B—it was relatively cheap by the standards of the day—for a while I think we were actually quite happy—of course we had our fights—all the usual domestic shit plus she was stripping again and I didn’t want her to strip but she told me to fuck off and mind my own business—”If you don’t like it move out” etc.—so there was tension and moodiness and a good bit of shouting and door slamming but generally things were OK or Okish—one night Martha rang up and left a nasty phone message calling down the 7 plagues of Egypt on me and my “little white whore”—fortunately there was no follow through and after that she more or less left us alone—we ate a lot of takeout: Chinese Vietnamese Thai Mexican—in the evenings we’d load the bong and watch Hollywood classics on the VCR—Charles Laugton as Dr. Moreau in his spiffy white three piece cracking the whip—see the hedgehog-faced mutants cower and cringe!—Lugosi playing the pan pipes!— Basil Rathbone glaring at him!—make him well Frankenstein—bone stuck in throat—wonderful stuff—we’d go to bars to check out bands and get stinking drunk and shout The Cum Jerks Totally Rule Everybody Else Totally Sucks—we’d go for walks in the park at 3 in the morning and feed the squirrels potato chips—Saturday mornings were spent shopping in Chinatown midtown uptown maxing out the last of the Prendian plastic—yes Sean it was all rather idyllic in a downtown sort of way—and in a downtown sort of way it fell apart—One Fateful Night we were in bed: Amelia started getting frisky—putting her tongue in my ear biting my neck feeling me up etc.—it was great but at the same time almost shocking—it wasn’t like her at all: she usually just lay there in her ice queen trance and let me do all the work—anyway just as I was starting to really get into it she pulled away and sat down at the end of the bed and lit a fag—She said you’re probably wondering why I don’t do that stuff—What stuff I said?—Like why I never go down on you for example—Yes I said I had wondered—I can’t she said—Why not?—Because I was raped when I was 13. A friend of the family raped me repeatedly over a 2 year period. He made me suck his dick that’s why I can’t suck yours and I can’t do any of the other things you’d like me to do. I’m sorry Prendergast—I wonder Sean if you can imagine how I felt—An immediate insane flaming hatred for this man this total stranger exploded in my chest—I wanted to kill him—I actually decided there and then that I WOULD kill him—It took me 2 weeks to get her to tell me his first name—Peter—What’s his last name?—She shook her head—I kept at her tell me his last name—Peter what?—she kept shaking her head no Prendergast it’s not your problem which of course only made me all the more determined to escort the bastard down the primrose path and heave him on to the everlasting bonfire—I kept at her: What’s his last name? Tell me his last name—I thought I could wear her down I thought if I kept the pressure up she’d eventually cave in—one night I came home and there was a note taped to the fridge door: GOODBYE PRENDERGAST—she’s taken all her stuff Sean and cleared out—evidently I’d pushed too hard—I legged it round to the strip bar where she was working—the Fuzz Box up on 44th—they told me she hadn’t shown up for work and because she hadn’t phoned in she was probably going to get fired—one of the managers accosted me on my way out—dark blue suit big oily grin—he told me she was staying with a pal of hers up in Harlem this woman called Cheryl another stripper—you can picture it I’m sure: Prendy’s visit to the rundown semi-tenement building off Lex. Ave.—Prendy pounding on the door of the apt—Amelia open up! I know you’re in there!—old ladies in curlers peering down at me through the banisters—waiting—listening—then the depressing retreat down the dark hall—and next day my 20 second phone interview with friend Cheryl: Listen man she doesn’t want to see you. She doesn’t want you in her life. She’s doing fine now. Don’t call here again OK?—click—Next scene: I show up at the Harlem address with a huge bunch of violets only to be told that ‘the ballet dancers’ had moved!—no forwarding address—I made the rounds of the strip joints all the places she’d worked and a few she hadn’t—my attempts to question les girls / pass around her snapshot led to several violent clashes with fascist pig bouncers—Prendy grabbed by the scruff of the neck Prendy send flying through the air to kiss the concrete—Boris the Bouncer at Flutterbyes: And the next time you show your face in here sir not only am I going to kick the living shit out of you I’m going to make you eat it. Do I make myself clear?—as a bell Boris—the long and the short of it was that Amelia had vanished
Meredith Brosnan is a writer and musician. His novel Mr. Dynamite was published in 2004.