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Monthly Archives: February 2018

God’s Own Singer Of Songs Goes Home

A Short Story

by

R.E. Prindle

 

When Earth’s last picture is painted

And the tubes are twisted and dried,

When the oldest colours have faded,

And the youngest critic has died,

We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it

-Lie down for an aeon or two,

Till the Master of all Good Workmen

Shall put us to work anew.

And those that were good shall be happy;

They shall sit in a golden chair;

They shall splash at a ten league canvas

With brushes of comet’s hair.

They shall find real saints to draw from

-Magdalene, Peter and Paul;

They shall work for an age at a sitting

And never be tired at all!

And only the Master shall praise us,

And only the Master shall blame;

And no one shall work for money,

And no one shall work for fame.

But each for the joy of the working

And each in his separate star

Shall draw the Thing as he sees it

For the God of Things as they are.

  1. Kipling

 

I was on my hands and knees with the paper opened out before me on the floor when I came across a startling news item. Darius Trued had committed suicide. It was July 24, 1949. I remember the date clearly. The news blip said he had blown his head off with his step-father’s shotgun. I was speechless. How could somebody I knew commit suicide? By coincidence we had met in the public library just two weeks before where he told me his story since leaving the Orphanage.

If you remember, Darius was the little boy who had nearly hemorrhaged to death after his tonsil operation. I didn’t mention it then but as a result of ‘having saved his life’ Darius felt an obligation to me and we had to become friends.

He was something over two years younger than me, he was only nine when he tubed it, and so for the first part of my sojourn in the Orphanage he’d been down in the infant’s quarters. This was a very terrible pace; I have no idea what effect it had on his plastic young mind. God only knows what horrors were impressed on him down there. The horrors of the Orphanage were not the sort that you would find that obvious. The place wasn’t exactly like the death camps of Auschwitz or Dachau, there wasn’t killing and beating going on. It was more subtle than that but the effect was the same, if you came out, you came out with a different view of humanity. If you had been given a tour you would probably have said: This is really OK…for them. But not for you.

But we were young and impressionable, we needed positive reinforcement. We needed something to bolster our self-respect. As bad as it was up above in the older boy’s dorm it was a lot worse in the infant’s quarters. I would never go in there so I don’t know how many kids there were, I imagine thirty from the sound of their continual yowling and screaming. There were only two or three women to deal with those thirty infants. They were all demanding attention every minute of the time. It’s not that the women were not of the kindest disposition, it’s not that they didn’t try, but you can only spread one woman so thin. It was impossible to give each child the attention they needed so they just lay around and screamed. Once one got started they all began in sympathy. The cacophony was horrendous and very emotionally disturbing.

After a year of that they sent Darius upstairs with us Big Boys. I must have been nine at the time so Darius was maybe seven, probably sixish. Downstairs they had told Darius that I had saved his life so when he came upstairs the first person he wanted to meet was me.

When a new boy came in it was quite a thing so we were all gathered around to evaluate this new kid. The difference of two years between seven and nine is immense. The housemother came leading this little kid up to me by the hand. He had this big happy grin on his face like I don’t know what he expected. Maybe he was just happy to get out of the infant’s quarters. Maybe he thought I was going to be his big brother, I don’t know, I didn’t even care.

I do know that I didn’t need any little kid hanging on me all the time. I was alone and had withdrawn pretty far into myself. I didn’t want to come out for anybody. I was no longer looking for the ‘human’ touch; I’d had enough of that. I was trying to avoid it.

The woman led this little guy right up to me and introduces me as the guy who saved his life. Give me a break! All I did was open the door to the infirmary, look at all the blood spattered on the walls and went and got help. That wasn’t as easy as it sounds either; it was hard to get their attention. And then they made fun of me like I was always inventing things. I had to endure that humiliation for the little bastard. So now I was saddled with him.

You know…you know…all I knew up to this point were heart-rending stories of tragic situations. Darius’ story wasn’t any exception. I was too young to understand then but I knew something funny was going on. It all came together in later years. You see, the reason that Darius was in the Orphanage was because his mother was a prostitute. She put him in the Orphanage so he would be out of the way.

She hadn’t come around all the time Darius was in the infant’s quarters but she began popping in every couple weeks or so after he came upstairs. She always gave Darius a couple bucks so that between that which Darius was only too willing to share with the guy who ‘saved his life’ and this pop bottle money and whatever else I was able to scrounge we were the financial elite of the Orphanage.

You can feel the guilt building up, can’t you. I took from him and I didn’t quibble.

Now, Darius had a couple problems. He had some sort of skin ailment where his whole left arm from just above the elbow to his finger tips was crusted and thick kind of like sandpaper. I don’t know what it was and it wasn’t his fault. Everyone accused him of being unclean and not washing but that wasn’t true. They all ridiculed him and it was very hard on the kid. What can I say, everyone made fun of me too, everyone made fun of everyone else. I made fun of everyone in self-defense.

I was no slouch at giving insults either. It wasn’t just the Orphanage either; everyone in society is busy tearing the other guy down. I’m afraid I wasn’t very sympathetic which hurt Darius a lot but I had saved his life so he thought we were pals for life.

There wasn’t anyone in the Orphanage that could be called a happy soul. You already know my story there. I was one of the gang. We were all pretty dark but I wasn’t mean and nasty and neither was Darius. Darius expressed his distraction by composing little songs. He had a very sweet voice and could hit and sustain notes, stay in key, carry a tune and all those musical things. I’ve never been able to do those things, as much as I’ve wanted to. That was the only time I’ve ever known envy in my life.

I’m not going to try to reproduce any of his songs although I do remember lines of two or three but they wouldn’t make any sense now and without his plaintive sorrowful voice and despairing gestures the effect wouldn’t be the same. They were all sad songs anyway. The kid could improvise for hours. I don’t know how anybody with such a small vocabulary could express so much in so many different ways.

So, alright, so the kid is God’s own singer of songs and I wasn’t. So, what do I care. On top of my own problems his songs might as well have been hosing me down with acid. How much pain can anyone bear? Fortunately this only lasts for a year before I leave and coincidentally so does he. I went to the Wardens but his mother remarries some monster of a prick, as Darius told me, and takes him out of the Orphanage.

Before she does however she took Darius to this place where she lived and Darius insists that I go along. Why me? What did I ever do to anybody? Saving lives is perilous work, I would have thought twice if I’d known what was going to happen. The place his mother stays is not exactly a whore house. The place was merely the house out of which the women worked. I know what was going on there although I was too young to understand the implications then. It is only much later that I am able to reconstruct it and make sense of it. How much Darius understood of it I can’t say although he never discussed the visit or his mother with me again.

I only learned the nature of the place by accident. As it happened one of these women took a shine to me. She was a real beauty too. She must have been a real sensualist who wanted to induct a young boy like me into the mysteries. She had this beautiful room just filled with this enormous bed. Her colors were blue and white, everything in a becoming disarray; there were mountains of comforters, sheets and pillows. I was thoroughly enthralled. She could have done anything to me she wanted and I wouldn’t have been afraid.

She was leading me into this paradise when Darius’ mom spotted us. She hurried over and broke it up; acted real sanctimonious about it too. Too bad for me; I’m sure I would have been given a new slant on life that I would surely have appreciated. It might even have made a different man of me, so to speak.

Well, the madam, or house-mother, took the woman and Darius’ mom aside in my hearing admonished them. She told them that under no circumstances were men to be allowed in the house. For her thing to work, she said, there had to be an absolute appearance of propriety. The girls would have to have their ‘dates’ pick them up at the door and then do their business elsewhere.

The two women objected that Darius and I were only little boys but the Madam interjected that boys grew into men and no boys or men were allowed. Darius and I were not to be brought back. Darius’ mom wasn’t ready to leave so were sent out in the back yard to play.

You can be sure that the neighbors had a pretty good idea of what was going on so Darius and I were given the cold shoulder, anybody who was outside their house went in. I had had enough of rejection so I was only irritated the more. I took it out on Darius. I could say I wasn’t aware of what I was doing but if I did you would have little reason to believe me as I would you. Of course, we all know what we are doing but it’s not exactly like we willed it. It’s more like we just hoped that it would happen.

We were playing catch. I could hear this ferocious sounding German Shepherd in the yard behind Darius. I managed to throw the ball over the hedge into the nextdoor yard. Naturally it was Darius’ responsibility to retrieve it. He came back with wide open eyes to tell me that a giant ferocious German Shepherd was standing over the ball. Well, this Alsatian was not a meek dog. But just as everybody in the Orphanage was suffering from more hurt than they needed or deserved, the addition to Darius’ store of pain was perilously close to the top. I mean how much more could any of us stand, not that we stopped inflicting it on each other.

Then I really did it to Darius. I betrayed his trust in an unforgiveable way. You know, really, the unkindest cuts of all are those that don’t look like much to anybody else. You’ve got to remember that we all lived in the House of the Distraught, fourth floor.

I had a high school teacher who used to put these maxims on the blackboard. One of them was: When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. That guy was a homosexual so you know he knew what he was talking about. Well, I was kind of Darius’ knot; I was all there was between his holding on and his losing his grip. So when I failed him he fell.

No big deal really. I mean I lost the end of my rope too. The irony is that there is no place to fall. You just end up standing on your feet but living in a different reality that is inhabited by the same people but who look like other people. Who needs ‘em anyway? But then my reaction may not have the same as Darius’.

Darius and I went out and bought a goldfish and a bowl, his money. Cost a quarter each. We kept them on top of the bookcases down in the library where no one ever went but me, and now Darius. That way nobody would kill the goldfish.

Just as Darius wanted to be my friend more than I wanted to be his I wanted to be friends with the Darwan’s son Skippy more than he wanted to be friends with me. As he was the son of the Orphanage administrator everyone else avoided him and his brother Cappy. The Darwens had no use for me so I was actually toadying up. I could only expect from them what happened.

When you’re at the bottom you, or at least me, will do anything to acquire some respectability. Once again I knew what I was doing but as, on the same level that love is blind, I didn’t care.

I tried to hang around with the younger Darwen, Skippy, who was my age or maybe a year older. He took advantage of me but thought it was his due for tolerating me. He was a sadistic little bastard. He used to catch frogs then lay in his bed with one of those spring guns that shot suction cups and try to blow the frogs up. This was a really low point in my life. I used to retrieve the suction darts for him so he could try again. That was a long time ago and I only did it once, maybe twice. I stopped trying to hang around with him after that.

What caused this incident with Darius was that there was this movie about this wonder horse who, as this movie made you believe, single hoofedly defeated the Japs on some tropical South Pacific island. I either wanted to go or was made to believe I wanted to go. Skippy and Cappy were biking it down and I was allowed to go with them. Most expensive trip I’ve ever taken.

That I was allowed to go along with them indicates that some sadistic dirty trick was involved. That I went with them knowing that dirty tricks against we orphans was their stock in trade show my level of desperation. I knew better. All I can say in my defense is that I was trusting to my luck. My luck wasn’t trustworthy.

They had bikes and I didn’t. I was at an immediate disadvantage. To begin with Skippy suggested I hold onto the back of his seat and trot along beside him. Even I recognized the humiliation of that. Being of a resourceful turn of mind I suggested I ride on his back fender. Skippy vetoed that but suggested I ride on the crossbar. I thought that it would be possible that others could confuse me for his little brother; I declined so I could avoid humiliation. Riding the crossbar is a painful thing, especially when Skippy was taking every bump as hard as he could.

I soon objected to that.

Then Skippy suggested I could sit on the handlebars and rest my feet on the lugnuts of the front wheel. This was much more easy in the planning than the execution. The nuts were only about a quarter inch wide so no firm purchase was possible. As my feet continually slipped off as I tried to balance on the bars it was inevitable that my heel got caught in the spokes. I tore the heel off my shoe, breaking four spokes of Skippy’s wheel.

We were downtown, two blocks from the Temple theater when it happened. Skippy wobbled the bars, my feet came loose and I broke three or four spokes and well as taking the heel off my shoe. Skippy was mock irate and said I would have to pay for the damage. He calculated the damage to his bike and said I owed him five dollars. Five dollars was a lot of bottles at two cents each. While a dollar bought a lot in kid terms, five dollars was equivalent to the national debt. I had to tell him that I didn’t have five dollars and didn’t know where I could get it. He said I could owe it to him.

But, when we got to the Temple he took my seventy-five cents admission saying that I now owed him only four twenty-five. I had to walk back to the Orphanage alone crying in my heart over the impossible figure of four twenty-five.

Well, Skippy hounded me for the money every day. Darius was mad at me over the German Shepherd so he wouldn’t loan me any money at all. It’s slow work accumulating bottle money when you need a lot. Skippy suggested that I could offset the debt with some of my meager possessions. Needless to say he took them at less than ten cents on the dollar. So I was down to some few cents left to pay. Under Skippy’s constant hectoring I was desperate to pay him off. I had already given him my gold fish and bowl when in desperation I thought of Darius’ gold fish and bowl to discharge my so-called debt.

And then I didn’t have the guts to just come right out and tell Darius what I had done. I let him discover it. I didn’t think a twenty-five cent gold fish was too high a price for saving a guy’s life but in the orphanage where they’ve even taken away your pride whatever you do have assumes an exaggerated importance. Or maybe it was the principle of the thing.

Darius was hurt beyond all belief. He was really hysterical. To be honest I felt so ashamed. I knew I had done something really wrong. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Here we both were, despised by the outside world, outsiders within our own world falling out with each other. It was all my fault too. I couldn’t lay off even a particle of blame on someone else. It is true that Skippy was a sadistic scumbag but I knew that before I debased myself by forcing myself on him to go to the Temple. Every way I turned for a way out I found a closed door. The only refuge I had was that I’d saved his life, as Darius kept telling me, and I figured his life must have been worth a quarter.

That was what I figured. Darius thought I had betrayed his sacred trust. So, well, we all make mistakes. I was just miserable.

That all transpired in the fall of 1947 when my whole world was spinning so crazily I couldn’t even tell it was spinning. Like I said; when you let go of the rope you enter a new reality. Darius wouldn’t speak to me anymore while I put a big X on Skippy. Old Man Darwen got fired for embezzlement that spring, while in June 1948 Darius and I both left the Orphanage.

I went to the Warden’s of course while Darius’ mom remarried and he was taken to live with them.

I had no sooner walked away from the Orphanage when all that became a closed book that happened in another lifetime. The gold fish thing is one of those things that bothered me on a daily basis then as now but I forgot Darius.

 

-II-

 

I was living another life when I ran into Darius at the public library. The Wardens and I were down there for some reason, I don’t know, maybe they wanted to check out a book, when Darius touched my shirt in the most timid manner from behind.

I turned and around and actually didn’t recognize him. In only a year this kid had been beaten to a psychological pulp. He was totally distracted. He no longer had any personal identity left. He wasn’t even breathing the same air everyone else was. It wasn’t pleasant for me to be reminded of my own past so I was about to brush him off but with eyes that could no longer see outside his mental trauma he implored me in this strange birdlike voice to come with him as he had something to tell me.

My god, I saw into his anguished mind and could not refuse him.

Only a year, only a year had elapsed since we had left the Orphanage but our lives were so crowded with debilitating incident that it might as well have been three or four lifetimes. Things were moving so fast that I had no time for reflection to make some sense of it. Everything was just scenery passing by a train window. For Darius that year had been all the time he needed to complete his education in this world.

Darius, who then only nine, took me by the hand and led me into the children’s story telling room and holding both my hands he began telling me the story of his life since leaving the Orphanage. He didn’t really tell it to me but he sang me his adventures in that high birdlike twitter he was using in a series of sort of poetic lay. Darius had a real gift for putting his thoughts in poetic form. It was as though he had three of the Muses on his shoulders singing the words to him while he merely repeated them in a trancelike fashion.

I don’t know what a distracted picture I might have presented to him but Darius was no longer looking at the world through his windshield. He was completely withdrawn within himself. His eyes were turned inward. I’m sure he saw me and his surroundings but only in the most passive manner, sort of like seeing the reflection of the world inside of the train window at sixty miles per.

As before he spoke or sang in this high twitter through pursed lips as though he were whistling. He held me firmly but gently telling me he had to tell me this as I was his only friend. Only I would understand. I guess he’d forgotten the gold fish. I didn’t want to listen because Darius was an unwelcome intrusion from a past I did not want back in my life. I’m probably the only guy who could understand what he was talking about and be able to even partially sympathize. As he was holding onto me firmly and gently even imploringly I had no choice.

Darius’ mother remarried with full intentions of giving up her former profession but the guy she married didn’t have much character. He didn’t exactly mistreat Darius but there was a cold indifference in his attitude that dashed any hopes Darius had of having a decent family life.

Part of this Darius told me and part of this I conjecture. His step-father ran up some gambling debts that he didn’t have the money to pay. He turned to his wife for help suggesting that she ply her old trade. Following the precepts of her former Madam Darius’ mom had come through her experience without too much damage to her reputation. People knew but because of the Madam’s precautions not as many as you might think. Mainly her patrons. She had learned the lesson and was reluctant to practice in the Valley. So in that very summer he was released Darius’ family took a working vacation in Toronto, Canada.

Darius was unaware of the true situation as it unfolded. The truth only dawned on him later. Too bad for him, I would have suppressed it. The three of them checked into a motel. Darius’ mother walked over to the side of the road to begin soliciting right there and then. Darius saw this and was somewhat mystified as to what his mother was doing. Well, the motel manager was not mystified, he knew exactly what she was doing. He wasn’t going to have any of that done out of his motel either.

He accosted Darius’ mother and her husband in the courtyard. As Darius was standing by he informed his mother that he couldn’t have prostitutes working out of his motel. Darius had no idea that his mother had been or was a prostitute, so he became very angry with the manager, taking it as a personal insult, laying into him with both his little fists screaming that the man couldn’t call his mother a prostitute.

The manager was a pretty decent guy and when he realized that Darius was innocent of his mother’s and step-father’s doings he relented rather than humiliate the little boy. He said they could stay but to practice her trade somewhere else than in front of his motel.

My heart nearly broke at this story but it was only a preamble to a worse. The sequel made clear to Darius his mother’s true past. The poor little guy just couldn’t handle it. Of course, who knows how his mind was affected down in the hell hole of an infant’s dormitory. Dormitory? Heck, there was so much noise going on all the time down there who could sleep? The poor guy had probably been awake a whole year before he came upstairs, that certainly would have weakened his resistance.

There was a big change in the way Darius told the second story too. He had sung the first story in the first person. Strangely he never looked directly at me but off to the right with his head down.

In the second half he switched to the third person like he was telling about someone else. I guess it was too much for him to bear. I read a story by Jean Genet once in which five or six guys gang raped him. He tells the story as though he stood by watching some other get sodomized. You see, when it all bets bad enough in order to protect your sanity you just step outside yourself and let them do whatever they will to your body but you don’t let them touch your mind but you still have to live with the results. Darius did that although he wasn’t capable of actually maintaining the lie. Given enough time he would have suppressed the memory into his subconscious where it would have made him schizophrenic or maybe worse sometime later on.

Or, maybe he might have been able to turn it into something else like maybe his father dying. Or, who knows, maybe he’d have been able to manage his way out. Life is funny, you can’t never tell. Of course, also, maybe he might have become a serial killer, teach everyone a lesson.

Here the story gets really incredible. It took me years and years to figure this out but I finally did. I probably will not be believed but as Mark Twain said, of course truth is stranger than fiction, the truth doesn’t have to be plausible. How true that is. The finest stories in the world can’t be told because they require too great a suspension of belief.

Now, Darius didn’t know who David Hirsh was but he got the name right. I knew who David Hirsh was but a mental block prevented my dealing with him on a conscious level. So I didn’t know to whom Darius referred at the time but he gave me a very accurate physical description which I did remember and was able to connect up decades later.

Hirsh apparently had visited the house out of which Darius’ mother worked. Whether or not he had anything against Darius’ mother or his step-father, Hirsh’s perversity apparently followed diverse and devious channels so it’s difficult to figure. He must have had some strange variant of homosexuality that, while he didn’t violate little boys directly, he literally screwed their minds. You know my history with Hirsh. Hirsh now came after little nine year old Darius. Aww, didn’t Hirsh have anything else to do? Didn’t he have enough money to entertain himself in other ways?

As I said, Hirsh was seen around the Orphanage so perhaps he saw Darius there, or maybe Darius’ mom had mentioned him to Hirsh on a ‘date.’ Perhaps he took a perverse delight in adding to the torments of a disadvantaged child. Perhaps he was saying that as a little Jewish kid he had felt tormented by others. Maybe he felt he had been in the exact same situation and no one had taken pity on him. Perhaps he thought he was just passing it on. Madness lasts a lifetime and takes many forms.

The setup he organized was incredibly elaborate but he was able to control all the variables to make it work. I’m sure he saw himself as a man of consummate genius, some sort of Einstein of perversity.

First, unknown to Darius, of course, he went to Darius’ mom to proposition her. She declined at first because she was sincerely trying to go straight. But, as Hirsh pointed out to here it wasn’t like he was asking her to do what she had never done before. One more time wouldn’t hurt. The pay was good and he wanted her to be sure to bring her son along.  I’m afraid I can’t tell about golden hearted prostitutes, Darius’ mom had no scruples to overcome, she was only too glad to do it. She just asked the details then went along.

There was an old decrepit amusement park just North of Bay City called Winona Beach. The place was within a few months of shutting down. On weekdays there was virtually no one there, they didn’t even operate the rides.

This was a Wednesday, Darius’ mom showed up at Winona Beach with Darius in tow. The day itself was sultry and overcast threatening a rain shower which it didn’t deliver. There was literally no one in sight when Darius and his mom arrived save for a few employees. The merry-go-round was still and there was no mirth in the Fun House.

Following Hirsh’s instructions Darius was left on the boardwalk. It was a real boardwalk elevated about twelve to fifteen feet above the beach forming the midway. Darius’ mom entered a door to the side of the Fun House, mounting a flight of stairs leading to a room over the Fun House where Hirsh awaited her. Darius was told to wait outside.

Doing this in an amusement park over the Fun House was a capital joke for Hirsh’s mad criminal mind as he was having fun in so many ways at someone else’s expense. He was really a shameless guy.

He brought along his son Michael and that gang to torment Darius. Even though I was outnumbered by them in my encounters I was at least he same age but at nine they were much bigger and more savvy than he. Hirsh had no business turning big kids like that loose on a nine year old kid. Hirsh had already demonstrated his shamelessness and would again but he was so base in this that my mind just boggles. It’s like he wasn’t human and if he was he had found ways to distort ‘human’ out of all recognition.

Darius said, or rather sang, that they didn’t lay a hand on him but butted and jostled him with their shoulders hoping he would fall off the boardwalk. Of course, Hirsh was watching from his window over the Fun House with Darius’ mom making her laugh at Darius’ plight. How perverse do you have to be to take pleasure in making a boy’s mother laugh at his tortures? Shameless whore that she was she respected Hirsh’s power more than her son’s welfare and laughed heartily.

Then one of the Hirshes suggested that people often dropped money through the boardwalk to the sand below. Sid Cohen showed Darius seventy-five cents he said he found down there. As much to get away from them as anything else Darius went down below the boardwalk. Then as a big joke all the Hirshes stood over him and peed on him through the gaps in the slats. As they did they looked up at Hirsh’s window where they were rewarded with peals of laughter from Hirsh and Darius’ mom.

Darius had no idea why he was being treated so badly by complete strangers. There was no way he could get away from them. When he went back up they hustled him into the dance hall. The hall was adjacent to the Fun House. The owners had built a viewing place behind some slats like a venetian blind high up so they could monitor activity on the dance floor from above the Fun House. You know, either keep fights to a minimum or watch their stooges start them. Darius was by now thoroughly unhappy. As he was trying to escape the taunts and jostling of the Hirshes the bartender, or whatever he was, big burly guy, charged at him shouting get out of here you little bastard, we don’t want your kind around here.

Darius almost broke down when he had to tell how frightened he was as he fled the place while the little Hirshes rolled on the floor laughing at him. Darius actually told me that he heard his mom’s voice laughing but as he told it he seemed to edit it out so that he seemed to forget, or suppress it, as he told it. It was bad enough that I had betrayed his trust over the gold fish; his mother’s betrayal was so much worse. I guess he had to go through some pretty deep denial to keep his mental balance, such as he had. Even then he hadn’t seen the worst yet.

So, this fat old bartender comes out and shouts at him that he couldn’t be much of a boy or he wouldn’t have scattered like that. Did Darius think, he said, that he would actually hurt him? Well, Darius did think that and I don’t blame him. The Hirshes didn’t follow Darius outside so he sat on this bench around a big oak tree next to the merry-go-round looking down the boardwalk wondering when this nightmare was going to end and feeling like he really was a failure because he ran from the big fat bartender.

Now, the boardwalk curved along the beach in a manner that Darius was looking directly at the window behind which Hirsh, delirious with delight at Darius’ distress, was screwing his mother for a few dollars. Whether it was a happy inspiration or Hirsh’s devious projection of reality actually happening, as Darius watched the blinds were pulled up where Darius could see his mother facing him on her hands and knees while Hirsh worked her behind doggy style. Maybe she was embarrassed finally and didn’t know what to do but she laughed out loud at Darius, stuck out her tongue and wagged it at him.

I don’t know for sure that Darius was even aware of what he was telling. I mean, I don’t know how much he consciously remembered and much was just welling up from his subconscious where it would return unremembered by Darius’ conscious mind. I mean, the kid was hurting so bad that I didn’t want to be near him let alone share in his terrible anguish.

Shortly after his mother came down the stairs motioned to him to get in the car telling him they were finished and were going home. They were finished! Who were they? Darius and his mom or the Hirshes and Darius’ mom. Finished at what? Demolishing the poor little kids sanity?   He then said that he told his mom that he didn’t want to know her anymore.

I had listened in shocked silence but that sent me through the floor. I was immobilized by the end of his story. Darius then actually kissed my hands and said I was the only friend he’d ever had. Just about that time Jack Warden shows up and orders me out to the car. ‘What are you queer?’ he says in the most derogatory way. ‘No, I’m not queer.’ I say, not even knowing what queer was at that time. I didn’t know what it was but I knew if it was bad I couldn’t be it.

So, I left Darius standing there.

If I was Darius’ best friend he was in sadder shape than either of us knew because I couldn’t use his distress. I had enough of my own. If I had added his to mine it would have broken me. I just couldn’t do it, he would have to fend for himself. Life was just as hard for me too. I dismissed him from my mind, didn’t think about him at all until two weeks later I read that he’d solaced his mental problem with a load of buckshot.

A shotgun. Wow! The kid sure as hell had a lot more nerve than I did. But, you know, I’ve thought about it and I don’t really think he was trying to commit suicide. This may sound funny but I think he was just trying to put his eyes out. Somehow he didn’t think the buckshot would go any further than that; it would stop short of taking his head off.

That’s what I think. His eyes had seen too much. His intellect and will had been totally emasculated. It was something like George Bernard Shaw who thought his peculiar vision of the world was the result of being able to see more accurately than other men, or Jackson Brown who makes the same complaint in his song Doctor, My Eyes. Darius’ reaction was much the same as that of Oedipus who put out his eyes with the clasps of if his mother who was also his wife’s brooches when he could no longer deal with the reality that he had married his mother. A little further in and he too would have committed suicide. The minds of both he and Darius were incapable of resolving their mental dilemmas. So I suppose you could say Hirsh murdered Darius. It was a good law and order crime. At the time I knew nothing of Hirsh’s involvement. I couldn’t recognize Hirsh. I had my own eyes and mental emasculation to worry about.

In way I was almost relieved that Darius had done it because I had no room for his troubles and my own. Saving his life hung over me. How did I even know he wanted his life saved. I mean, he had every reason to believe that he had been deserted by his mother, he was down there in that infant’s hell hole, alone and deserted. How fearful he must have been of his tonsil operation. When he passed me in the hall he did say that he had to go and die now. So, maybe he had a death wish. Maybe he’d already had enough then. Maybe subconsciously he was taking advantage of an opportunity so his subconscious mind made him hemorrhage. Maybe I ruined his chance to change this world for the next and so he made me responsible for the rest of his life. It sure seemed like he thought I owed him something. I didn’t care. I didn’t want any part of it. I was just being a good scout, that’s all.

I stood on my knees with my hands on my hips for some few minutes before I closed the door on that one and moved on to the next. There were lots of news items I hadn’t read yet and besides I hadn’t even gotten to the funnies