free website hit counter

Various fiction writings of Bryan Adrian [all stories copyright protected]


by Bryan Adrian

Little mink
scurrying in the mounting snow
seeking shelter
whiskers rippling
helter skelter
paws descending
in movements low


Fear not
the wind swept dunes
nor ice glazed rivers
casting blinding winter light
as swooping swallows importune
sweet rescue from your plight


Listen to your breathing
cut through sheets of cold
a secret sleeping in the silence
to you in fact is told
more bracing
than doubt's scheming


Distant lies a wooded knoll
and welcome comfort cabin
deserted long ago
by woodsmen
quite well rationed
caring nothing
about pelts or stoles


Make haste
before night's curtain falls
to black out your performance
for in that hospice beats
another heart
with Springtime's urgings
and call to mate
a family in the offing




"Permanent Friend"


As I voyaged on, I met a friend, newly found yet quite familiar.
His was supposedly a shocking personality, a unique blend.

This end of the galaxy sings of similarity.
I ask you, friend, have you the feeling that I am what you are to me?
Are you a concept or are you a pen?

A pen, ink and point, an instrument of the Supreme Will.
I sense that you agree with me, even though you do not speak.
What is it you're doing now?

The way you glimmer, prance and preen,
suggests to me ... you?
... a Queen?

Queen of what?!

You are my imagination.
Your are my love.

You are all there is.



"WHY NOT", by Bryan Adrian

Fighting and fractures and plundering
Ho hum

Man strives for money and energy
Dump truck

Tyrants burp loudly annihilate

Congress embezzles another year
Duck speak

Poultices sanitize hi-tech wounds
Chin up

Hospitals sanctify overdrive

Music drones listlessly out our lives
Top ten

Somewhere a mystic's chants mesmerize
Slow down

Industries profit with additives

Peaches and cream are for everyone
Oh rot

Stop stop stop Stop stop stop Stop stop stop
Why not?



by Bryan Adrian


Eating with face
muzzled to bowl
little baby goo goos
kitty coos


No flame flickers
caressing companionship
incandescent terror alone
projects from ill used eyeslits


No cries of mama papa
evoke sympathetic tears
torrents of parental resentment
drown junior's nightly meal


The creaking of the door
pursued by the smacks of fists
a daily spelling bee
lessons learned at daddy's knee


The dankness of the closet
does not surcease
welts that saddle on
to a black release


Time dimensionless
in suspended animation
measured and regulated
by sheer intensity of pain


A brief fusion
of the opposite sexes
brought into creation
a breathing contusion


The infant a fixture
in a slap happy home
a shadow
of society's seizure


another poem by Bryan Adrian


She has the airs of a Queen
although her eyes betray her
during each mincing
minuet of pomp
when the dukes
and the dauphins
hang out at the rump
sipping Champagne

Her thoughts go down
to the floor of the cabin
where her blacksmith's muscles
hammer out precision

For there she oft felt
her buttocks burn hot
held firm in the hands
of her horseshoer
from the Celtae Lands

(a Huguenot she preferred not,
she hadn't even
one Walloon to her name
for that lot!)

Her royal diet
had been heavy in gold
the sustenance of wheat
was seldom her treat

Like a poor sparrow
fed on such stuff
(she'd been snorting
much too much snuff)
till trapped she became
in this quite silly game

Trains of petticoats
pulled at her waist
yet none of the Court
dared to challenge
her high royal tastes

Or perhaps even show
their true animal faces
(Not even the Picards,
the Condes, nor the Bourbons!)

Emptiness took over
and drained her face pale
the powder and talc
like bread had gone stale

her heart ached daily
until growing quite frail
she craved new sensations
dirt caked
on every fingernail

At last her blacksmith
did something real fancy
he crashed through the ballroom
and crumpled the pansies
(they fought back
like jabbering dandies)

His exit a thrilling
and virile abuduction
without the slightest hint
of staying for luncheon

Once away
from the castle and gardens
and into the fields and forests untrodden
he deflected a spark
with his big hammer's bite
(the petticoats widened
her thighs flew like kites)

The flames
of her belly
vast freedoms
emptying her brain
of scruples and shame

Naked she sang
her song with the doves
filling his cabin
with echoes of love

For decades she blessed him
with legions of babies
the nobles reacted
as if they had rabies

They alerted their goldsmiths
and assembled round the clock
billions of baubles
ant armies
to caravan their adornments

The Order had reacted
as if the whole wide World
-- were indeed --

forgery -C-R-A-Z-Y !!




Greenpoint ...


(I Left My Tart in San Francisco)

by Bryan Adrian

I couldn't get over the feel of her neck in my hands. It was smooth. On the backside little hairs stood up bristly hard. She was scared.

These tarts in the dregs of Billyburg are an unscrupulous lot. None of them could bring me the happiness I had known in San Francisco. Perhaps that's why this Dominican hooker lay dead now at my feet. She wasn't nice and didn't pretend to be. Business was her only game. Drugs, stolen credit cards, flesh ... whichever paid best for the night.

Any Yellow Cab driver could see she was destined to sell herself short sometime soon on a night no different than this one. But that was three days ago. When they found her body it was not a pretty sight. Bulging eyes and knotted tongue.

It all happened very matter of factly. I had just finished speaking on the phone with my beloved San Francisco sweet tart. The air was rank coming in through the double-fisted size window of my Williamsburg hovel. The customary sunny airs of my San Francisco sweet tart turned stale when I told her that Billyburg would be my home for some months longer. I honestly thought she would begin cursing at me in Greek, her native tongue. She had been acting peevish ever since the first time I had extended my stay here in NYC telling her "be patient baby, it's only a matter of time before I'm discovered." Now she was outright sarcastic upon receiving word that I was making my seventh or eighth extension of time spent here, even perhaps wasted time.

"You won't recognize me or my place when you finally get back!" she admonished.

"There have been lots of changes. New faces hang around my apartment ... always," she warned me.

After hearing this, my whole life was hungover. I needed a drink or a unicorn's horn. I slammed the door behind me and walked towards Cokies to kick back several shots at the corner coke club there.

Just a few late afternoon alcoholics were inside killing time and lines when I arrived. I parked myself on a stool and drained down five or six shots pretty quickly. A Dominican hooker, local Billyburg girl, strode into the bar very hastily. She had bee stung lips and a bust that was too large for her strained cotton tee shirt. There was an empty bar stool next to me and she sat on it. You can imagine how she straddled it. I could smell the crack vapors in her hair.

Very abruptly, she ordered a gin from the bartender. Her hand steadied after she drained a few more of the same. The cocaine glazing her lungs and doing the butterfly kick in her veins found the booze a compatible associate.

"What are you looking at rat ass?"

I didn't want to reply and hoped that she was addressing one of the other guys, preferably someone stinking drunk. I knew I was still hours away from reaching that blissful destination.

"Hey, I'm talking to you blockhead ... you a sordo?

"Look lady ... lay off. Don't make my day any worse."

"Maybe I got something make it better baby."

I looked her over without violating any civil rights and decided she could give me plenty of something. Physical harm, bad drugs, unwanted attention, and a bramble bush of venereal viruses as a going away gift.

"Don't think so chica," I replied. "Try that gent over there. He waits for action every evening and gets nothing. That's his special recipe for staying harmless."

"What? You jokin. He's queer. Just sits there all night and acts straight. He ain't worth nothin to me! He don't like crack. Not the banana oil tasting crack, the cement fragrant crack, not the urine streaked crack that looks like marble, you know what I mean? He's a waste of time!"

I shrugged my shoulders and tried to remember how my girl looked the last time I saw her doing her belly dance act in San Francisco's North Beach. Damned good. Hell, did I miss her.

Smoke from the many lonely guys smoking away on their cigarettes began to undulate in the middle layer of air swirling around the bar's interior. This place made my crappy little Bedford Avenue studio rate almost as high in fresh air as a state-or-the-art respiration machine for asthmatics. I stubbed out my cigarette and with it any notion of dancing with my sweet tart anytime soon.

"You said something about streaked marble rock?" I queried.

"Yeah," she said cool and confidently. "I got anything you want."

"All I want is rock crack, a good stem, and a full torch. No surprises. No sex."

She picked at her bright red nail polish and removed a patch of ground-in ash.

"Alright alright I heard ya. You don't have to spell it out for me. I read these Williamsburg streets fucking day in and day out."

I tipped the bartender and signaled to him that the hooker's last couple of unpaid drinks were not in any way my concern. He's a quick bartender and waited patiently while his streetwise customer counted out enough change from the bottom of her purse to pay her tab. The hooker now had money on her mind and very little else.

"You gonna sit there and suck down whiskey all night or ya gonna follow me and wrap your face around something much stronger than sex or bourbon?"

I answered her by getting up and leaving and following along side of her through unknown parts of Williamsburg. This was her turf. This part of greater NYC made the Tenderloin back home look like a putt-putt golf course.

"Act cool white boy. We're going in there," she said and pointed to a hulk of a building.

I looked up at a red brick four-story tenement structure a few doors away from Black Betty's, with most of its windows boarded up. Many people had recently been forced to move out of here. The criminal rents and Hassidic landlords had long ago established themselves as fine Williamsburg traditions.

In addition to that, as luck would have it, several nice college girls seeking crack as a new thrill, hopefully bigger a jolt than sitting around Pete's Candy Store, recently had their teeth punched out by thugs in these shadows. Those new twenty-somethings that couldn't hack it in this part of Williamsburg had few other choices --- Redhook, Coney Island, or someplace much less charming way out in the Queens hinterland.

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a crack infested building and a newly gentrified yuppie apartment building. Some of the yuppie buildings accentuate the boarded-up look to deter dangerous elements and to make their building exterior look "in" for their friends who came down from Uptown for a quick visit. These are the same people who adore the School of Visual Arts advertisements plastered all over the city on the sides of Plexiglas bus stop shelters and subway overhead advertisements.

We entered the crack venue and felt our way through poorly lit stairwells. Piss streaked the walls and crumbling steps in variations on Jean Michel Basquiat's paintings. Construction workers with bloodshot eyes were busy going up and down the steps in hard hats and tool belts.

"They're working pretty late, aren't they?" I asked flatly to break the cold silence.

"Look Snow White. Them ain't workers, they're crack dealers. We got the cops paid off and this charade is to keep the decent neighbors still living here from bitching all the time to Brooklyn City Hall about what's going on twenty-four hours a day."

"We entered a busted up apartment on the fourth floor. The first thing I see is an ivory white complexioned nurse crying out in her New Jersey accent, "give me more, give me more, just one more hit!" She wasn't wearing her nurse's shoes tonight. I could see blood scabs in the spaces between each one of her toes where she had been shooting up also. The keys to her car were lying on a filthy tabletop and the Rx medallion on the key ring was clear for anybody to see.

She was a switch hitter. First heroin then crack, heroin then crack, then some speedball. "Up and down, kill the clown" I heard her say many times throughout the night. At the time I was trying to act as non-chalantly as I could on a cheap and rickety wooden stool. Just when I started to forget the precarious condition of the stool and was confident that I had my balance a troubling lament dominated all conversations and pierced the air.

"My kids my poor kids. What do I do? I was suppose to take my kids shopping for food and clothes this weekend and every bit of my six hundred bucks went into my high. What the fuck will I do now?"

The nurse sobbed until the drug lord of the house patted her on the shoulder, kissed her cheek softly and generously filled her crack pipe for her "on the house." My chair then collapsed from under my ass.

"Hey boss man, you!" he said to me. "You here to practice stunts or get high man ... huh! Get a hand on this."

I took a brand new stem with a robust shiny and silvery filter from the drug lord's hairy hands without bothering to get up off the floor. Then I sucked on the white plumes of crack for a full twenty seconds. A climax started in my brain and ripped through the rest of my body. This was beyond virtual reality. I was suddenly a woman being fucked by 500 Valentinos. I wanted more.

"Don't get too hungry man, there are many more mouths to feed here."

The drug lord knew his clientele and was a master at manipulating every character flaw ever discovered since the time of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. I gave back the stem and watched it make its rounds. There were several other miscreants here. A stressed out broker from Wall Street walking the wild side, not his first time in these drug warrens; a fat bit actor from several East Village gritty independent films missing a few teeth from falls down flights of stairs in drug tussles; a failed Joyce Theatre dancer who now scrambles around all Manhattan trying to pick up any kind of production assistant work she can find, whenever Hollywood crews are shooting in town; and a cast of predatory drug parasites willing to kowtow to anyone for yet another fleeting high.

"Put some money up fucker, it's party time!" The words crashed against my shoulders.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. The drug lord was in dealer heaven when he saw the C-note and declared to the rest of the room that the main course for the night would be distributed real soon.

"My man, we gonna take good care of you. The first rock, duke-sized for the man," he announced to the jubilant review board.

He packed the stem with consummate skill. He called it "Almond Roca". It was a rock big enough to get two large work horses high. I drew in on that stem more greedily that a colt on its mother, and then drew and drew and drew. I managed once to tear my eyes from the erotic cloud building up within the stubby glass shaft and take notice of the menacing envy on the faces of every onlooker.

"Hey man! Save some of that for us!" rang loudly from the narcotics starved chorus.

I felt as if I had rocketed up to God and was dancing on his head. Hitler was there too, telling me "don't stop now, TAKE THE WORLD! Each of my toes felt like a penile erection. A second wave of sensation suddenly hit me. It was a mutiny of my organs. They were beating their war drums and planning a major attack on my gut. I felt a surge of bile, a cramping of my stomach, and a choking sensation of oxygen deprivation. The seconds rolled by slowly like an oncoming tidal wave. From my mouth jettisoned a green stream of puke that splattered my comrade consumers.

"Get him out in fresh air and walk him around ... Quick!" commanded the drug lord.

The hooker helped me out into the Billyburg streets. My life in San Francisco reeled swiftly before my eyes. Galileo High, university at San Francisco State, afternoons in Golden Gate Park with my mother, cable cars for a quarter ... shooting pool in Market Street bars, reciting poetry in Mission district coffee houses, swilling Hennessey cognac by the tumbler in the soulful Western Addition. I could feel the tug of the Pacific Ocean carrying me out to sea and hear the fog horns and seagulls beckoning me back to land. I saw the line in front of Saint Anthony's Soup Kitchen and the nuns ladling out huge portions of steaming stew to the downtrodden.

I soon found myself flopped onto a mattress. All surfaces of the room were solid concrete, dark and foul. I was in an abandoned building somewhere in fucking Billyburg. Panic gripped me by the throat. I nearly let out a shriek. At that moment a ghostly luminous face bobbed in the dark with a finger at her lips, reassuring me, "Shhhhh .... sssshhhhhhh. Don't be afraid. Everything will be okay."

It was my sweet tart from San Francisco. She was wearing a cotton summer dress and leather sandals and had flowers in her hair. What magnificent luck! Thank you sweets was all I could murmur over and over. Let's go home, now!

The coarse fingers at my throat were not my sweet tart's. They smelled of chicken grease, cigarettes and gin.

Let me help you get your shirt off ... you're already having a anziety attack man. Too much crack in one pack. Chill out!"

The hooker was savagely removing my shirt from me. I put my palms down flat on the mattress to get some kind of grip on my thoughts as they rushed face first into eternity's belly. Many wet spots stuck to my hands. I wrenched my head to the side and puked again violently. This would be my own contribution to the wet and spotted smorgasbord beneath me. It could perhaps serve one day as a warning to some other idiot who foraged in Williamsburg and found this lost and lonely cul de sac. Perhaps even save his life.

"Now, now. Be a good boy. Let me help you out of your clothes and then you can shake them out when you feel better."

I didn't trust her tone. I could help myself. I was sure she had seen the two other hundred dollar bills in my pant's pocket when I peeled off that big C-note in the crack apartment.

Now she had my pants down around my ankles. Something warm encircled my prick. I looked down and saw red. Her breathing sounded like running bulls snorting furiously in a large Spanish coliseum. Lipstick was sticking to my inner thighs and prick. The hooker was walking my dog, but the dog wanted to sleep. She was determined. I motioned to her to stop as emphatically as I could manage at the time. She continued whistling at her work as she exhaled through her two missing teeth, never missing a stroke. Finally I grabbed her by the hair and tore a shank out by the roots, shouting all the while for her to stop.

"If I stop ... you still ... gonna have to pay ... me," she sputtered between blows.

A fear of death and dead-end alleyways prodded me to try to get her off me in a hurry. I squeezed her neck in my hands, gently at first. As time went by and my efforts were not at all acknowledged, I slowly applied a much more determined and strong ten-fingered clench.

Greek dance rhythms rippled throughout my shoulders and arms. Belly dancers with svelte silky skin swayed their hips to my tempo. Lamb meat sizzled on a pit. My sweet tart spoke softly to me, "come home my dear, it's not too late for San Francisco ... you can find me at Zorba's ... I'm working late tonight, please hurry honey!"

What kept me here in New York City I pondered in a state of delirium and exhaustion? Was I on a bad karmic journey, following the footsteps of a disoriented Trotsky, when he came to New York to discuss contributions to Esquire magazine, and ended up in Mexico City with an ice pick in his head?

Was I trying to outdrink that bottomless well, the ever-thirsty Dylan Thomas? Did I want to end up convulsing and writhing in drug overdose spasms like Jean Michel Basquiat? My questions misfired or drew blanks.

The hooker suddenly broke my hold, and nearly my wrist. She was a tough piece of survival. Strong like a jackal. She ran for the door with my trousers in her paws. I saw there was an opening where a door used to be, leading to the street. She was headed for it. I leapt from the mattress and lunged for the hooker with all my might. Her shoulder and forehead slapped against the cement floor after I tackled her.

With the single mindedness of a thousand hornets she began kicking and biting me, constantly struggling to pull me towards her knife. When she grasped higher and higher up my leg and then bit my abdomen, I reached around with all my might and grabbed her neck again. This time she wasn't going to get away, even if that meant punching her out if she bit me or if she got her damned knife near my flesh again.

Her feet kicked wildly. I squeezed harder, fearing she might get away. I told myself that I was going back to San Francisco as soon as I got out of this mess.

I wanted a cigarette.

Suddenly the smell of feces permeated the air. She had given in. I stood up and looked down at her. Her eyes were open and puffy and they never blinked. She resembled a beached mermaid that had been badly manhandled by a mad Captain Ahab. When was she going to blink? I stared at her opaque eyes waiting for a response.

Several blue reflections lit up her pupils and I cried out aloud in relief, surmising that she was merely defeated and still very much alive. There was still life indeed within her, I thought mechanically.

"All right fucker, hands up in the air!"

A half-dozen Brooklyn policemen seized upon me and escorted me forcibly into a paddy wagon. Many hours elapsed, maybe even days. I can only count intervals of time now by judging how hungry I am. This jail cell is much nicer than the hooker's concrete cube. I can hear the footsteps of a large cop walking towards me. He's a Greenpoint Pole. His steps now seem loud and deafening. He's bringing me food!

"Tarts. Tarts three days old from the Polish baker down the street. His vodka soused son's in jail again, so you all get a little taste. These ain't sweet tarts. Tough and dry. Get used to 'em, cause all you animals are in here for a long time! The day you go to the electric chair is the only time you get a heated one."


3,235 words

Bryan Adrian


***==>   Bryan Adrian resume and writing sample links:

(by Bryan Adrian)

"Come in, the door is open."

Rebecca entered slowly. Buck was waiting patiently. A large brown dog twitched
asleep near the fireplace.


Buck removed his glasses to get a better look at Rebecca. His eyes focused on a
beautiful redhead in her early thirties. He felt lucky to have such an
attractive lover, especially since he was approaching forty years of age.

"Do you like my thighs?" she asked teasingly as she threw her furcoat from a
considerable distance onto the armrest of a sofa.

"Better than ever," responded Buck as he put down his newspaper in anticipation.

"Then come over here and prove it before I call you a liar."

Buck got up and walked toward the fireplace where Rebecca was warming herself.
The fireplace brought out the fiery hues of her provocative strands of hair.

"Let's start with your neck," Buck said, placing his fingers in the hollow of
her shoulders, working upwards with growing emotional intensity.

"You're too rough. But don't stop now. I'll let you know when it's enough."

Buck turned her body around toward him and looked into her eyes standing. They
were bright and moist. He thought she must love him very much.

"I'm leaving tomorrow for Scotland," she told him.

Buck looked at her carefully. She was not leading him on as usual. There was
something sharp now about the features of her mouth. Her lips usually revealed a
weak character, but not at all now as she delivered this farewell. Tomorrow, he
grasped, she would definitely be gone.

"For how long?" he asked.

"A year, maybe two."

Buck walked towards the large wooden cabinet bar. It had been passed down in his
family for three generations. Inside the oak paneled heirloom were several
bottles of Kentucky Bourbon and Single Malt Scotch whiskey. He poured a generous
amount of sourmash for himself.

"Have fun," he told her.

She went for her furcoat and wrapped herself in it snugly.

"And don't ever come back," he added as he poured from the bottle again, looking
up at the portraits of his ancestors with a timeless sense of pride.





by Bryan Adrian


(a word to all pet owners)


If I had a pussy

I wouldn't let no one hold her

of course unless they promised

to feed her whenever

she got good and hungry



If I had a pussy

her hair would always be sleek and brushed

cause a good pussy needs to be rubbed

so that she looks good

when she's out and about



If I had a pussy

I'd keep her clean

cause everybody knows

that a poorly washed pussy

can get real mean



There are many things I'd do

if I had a pussy

but one thing I'd never ever do

You wanna hear it?


The one thing I'd never ever do

is give her to a dog like you!




"Pig Headed in Brasil" by Bryan Adrian

I first met Pete when he asked me for a job at our weekly newspaper in Greenpoint. Most reporters held him in high regard. He was a colorful and adventurous free-lance travel writer, who once in a while contributed a movie review. Good ones too. I always plugged them into the paper. It's a good thing Pete had a sense of humor, otherwise he couldn't have taken all the teasing from the permanent staff writers. "Gee we're jealous Pete ... what's next week bringing you, freedom or a paycheck?" This helped to pass the boring moments in the newsroom. The staff reporters were paid a handsome salary and given generous benefits for their loyalty to senior management. They're a bunch of nice steady, predictable guys.

Pete often complained to me about his slim prospects as a staff writer. In all honesty, I just couldn't hire him full-time as a reporter on our payroll. I am only a city editor, so my authority doesn't stretch as far as the publisher's. Anyway, Pete will always be too unpredictable and too radical in his politics for middle America. I gave him a sympathetic ear, sometimes, during our slower hours in the newsroom. He told me at these times much about his unhappiness in the advertising agency where he often put in a 40-hour week as a freelancer. He told me once in an angry tone that they paid him to produce copy for products made for the undeviating parade of mass consumption. His work was on a steady basis there. It didn't matter to Pete if he had to write up Mr. Coffee or Mr. Stephen Spielberg. To him they were birds of a feather. He hated to admit that he could swiftly discern the qualities distinguishing one consumer product from another. His artistic integrity gave him sufficient grounds to work up his spleen and go into furies. He became better and better at his quick wit and ready lies, despite himself, in writing effective copy about vacuous and superficial topics.

He grew so tense at times that a few of us at the paper asked him if maybe he ought to travel to Oregon, Georgia, or someplace like that, and unwind. Sort things out a bit. Well, he must have listened to us. It came as quite a surprise when on my return from a dull press conference held by the Fire Marshall, I found a thick envelope on my desk, postmarked Iquitos, Peru. It was from Pete, and our first correspondence in nearly half a year. The letter read as follows:

"Dear Ken,

I couldn't live with myself anymore on the same old track. Thanks for the encouragement to bust out of Greenpoint. Oregon and Georgia didn't appeal to me enough, so ... here I am, ... in Peru!

Hitchhiking to Miami was the easiest leg of the journey up to this point. From Miami I caught a midnight flight with a no-frills South American airline that dropped me into the Peruvian Amazon for the price of a budget night out in Greenpoint. I will try to tell you as much as I can and as quickly as possible, but for the moment, I have only one nub of a pencil with which to write.

On that night plane I had to put up with a gaggle of Cuban capitalists. They spoke forever about money and people they heard about who were "making it." The many platitudes spewing out of their mouths put me fast to sleep (the rum on board contributed too). Hours later, I awoke and found myself the only passenger still onboard. The stewardess vacuuming the carpeted aisles pointed brusquely toward an exit door, all the while giving me an irritated look. You know, the same look you always gave me whenever I asked you for a staff reporter's job. When I got out into the open air, thousands of raindrops, sharp as needles, lanced my face and arms. At that moment, I felt for the first time, how the victim of a piranha feeding frenzy might feel.

Torrential rains were wiping coconut tree fronds in swirls around the runway. Fecund scents prowled around more violently than unrestrained bloodhounds through my nose. It was great to have buried memories brought back to life, dredged up by my sense of smell like bodies thrown from freshly dug graves. Life rushed at me without mercy. Ken, it scares me ... I'm afraid I'll never be able to slow down. It's great being in the belly of the Amazon. I want a lot more from her. Body and soul, fire and ice. I think I'll be reborn in this green and moist womb.

At the dinky airplane terminal I caught a cab. The taxista drove me to what they call "el centro" in Iquitos. It was hard to see clearly out the window as the cab pulled into the center. Rain was flapping in huge wet sheets of wind. It was extremely late. I paid a small sum to the driver and walked into the only cantina still open for the night. The bartender came from behind the bar and served me himself at my table. I leaned my chair back and rested my shoulders against the wall, chatting him up a bit. After a couple of beers he became helpful and told me I didn't have much time left to find a room for the night.

After walking around for nearly a half-hour, I discovered a simple hotel with a night porter asleep in the foyer, deep within his large hammock. It took a while but he heard my shouts and let me in. He gave me a key for a room. The key was so large I felt like a child walking with it in my hands, looking for the door with the correct number on it. The room, once inside, was just large enough for both the key and me, plus my leather overnight shoulder bag. A new home without many rips in the mosquito net. A good enough star on a new continent.

The next morning and for the next several days I bent many ears in bars and culled all the jungle gossip I could collect. Many of the locals told me about another foreigner, a German named Rhinehart, who wanted to join an expedition going downriver into the capillary like system of narrow Amazon river tributaries. I sought him out and was quite surprised when I finally caught him in a popular cantina and cornered him tactfully into a friendly conversation. The townspeople had described him as exceptionally tall and harmless with the airs of a lost schoolboy. They forgot to tell me any of their judgmental observations. Particularly, that Rhinehart's presence made one feel instantly nervous and uncomfortable. Something hard to put a finger on made him come across as awkward. A backward Inca indian suddenly thrust into Macy's at Herald Square during the Christmas rush would seem much better adapted to his new and unfamiliar surroundings.

Regardless, Rainart and I got along fairly well and made plans over the course of the next week to set out on a jungle expedition. We prepared ourselves for a rough journey. The last item on our checklist was to swear we would not discuss women in the solitude of the wilderness. Talk of women would only bring frustration, and perhaps worse, trouble. Sexual and romantic desires were left behind with the starched shirts and credit cards.

Finally, after buying only those provisions which were absolutely necessary, we boarded a diesel powered fishing launch. Thirty to forty sweaty natives competed with us for scarce hammock space. This forced Rainart and I to squabble over the tight little hammock slot that still remained among the tangle of bloated bodies. Not the most auspicious beginning, but we persevered and made it safely through this five day trial and initiation.

The launch dropped us off at the very small mouth of a backwater tributary. The water was black from stagnation and stillness. We camped there a few days and explored the area. We found a small encampment of five or six jungle families. One of the men, Tito, was a hunter and he agreed to join us on our travels further downriver.

We cut and slashed and hunted and camped in that jungle hinterland for five months. It would have been much longer, but Rainart was terrorized by an Amazon armadillo. Well it's not called an armadillo in the Amazon, but ... I've run out of paper and will write more to you soon. Say hi to your lovely wife and kids.

Best regards,

Pete "

After this letter I didn't hear from Pete for ages. The reporters were always asking me what kind of trouble Pete was into now. I honestly couldn't tell them and usually just shrugged in response.

About thirteen months after that bewildering letter, a telegram arrived. It was very cryptic and much too brief.

It read:




I was beginning to worry that if harm had come to Pete it would be my fault since it was I who had suggested to him in the first place that he get the hell out of Greenpoint and try something new. It seemed remote to me when I mentioned this to him that I would suffer many sleepless nights because of it at a later date.

The elections came and went in the City and my paper was awarded for its even-handed coverage of political and municipal events. A few violent anti-Rudy Giuliani protests rocked the city, but the only damage was to his "Bunker" at the World Trade Center, and this only brought more construction work to the City, which many of my unemployed relatives sorely needed. My wife and I had our third child, our first son, who will not grow up to be in the newspaper business if I can prevent it. Then, when least expected, there arrived another envelope postmarked from Brasil. This one was not in the familiar Pete handwriting whatsoever. Even more alarming, it was written in Spanish. I have read it over several times with the help of a dictionary and now I can finally say that the broken handwriting is just legible enough to understand. But the contents are puzzling and full of contradictions.

The letter was penned by a political exile named Ricardo, a native of Montevideo, Uruguay. That's what he wrote in the letter in which he introduced himself. He told me that Pete was a friend of his whom he had met on a boat in the Amazon, near Manaus. He had been separated from him for quite a long time since his initial escapades with Pete and only recently had met him again, near Manaus. He told me he had important news for me and requested that $1,500 be wired to him at the Banco do Brasil of Manaus so that he could fly to Greenpoint and tell me the news in person. He gave no reasons why he must come in person to explain Pete's situation.

At first I was reluctant to comply, but after a few days I began to think that I owed at least this much to Pete. I wired the money to Manaus, and within three weeks Ricardo was in my office at the newspaper.

He looked anemic and had several days growth of beard. The first thing he asked was whether or not I had a cigarette for him.

I gave him a freshly opened pack and waited for him to get on with his story. He had difficulty speaking, and on closer examination I noticed that he had small cold sores on his lips and that his skin was quite sallow. His throat was very dry and he made raspy utterances when he tried to speak. I motioned for one of the cub reporters in the newsroom to bring him a large glass of water.

After several deep gulps Ricardo told me in Spanish, a language I don't speak well but understand well enough to follow if spoken slowly, that they were both in New York City recently, down to the last few bills of the money that I had wired to Manaus. He explained how Pete had caught up with him in Manaus after their long separation, but I can't reconstruct the details until I've had more time to think it over. Suffice it to say they were both down on their luck and needed more money. What little money they had left after the air fare from Iquitos to Manhattan they had spent in New York pubs until there was only enough left for one of them to come out here to Greenpoint and make one last appeal to my largesse. By the end of Ricardo's tale it was simple to understand why they ended up nearly broke in New York City. They were as foolish with money as two incorrigible children. I asked Ricardo why Pete hadn't simply telephoned from New York when they first arrived. No straightforward answer followed my query. Perhaps I am dealing with two merciless pickpockets, but I'll reserve such suspicions until later.

As I was trying to decide which of the two of them was in the worst situation, Ricardo in a state of near exhaustion in my office in Greenpoint, or Pete fending for himself in Washington, DC, with or without his brother's anticipated help, with very little, if any money at all, Ricardo fumbled around in his shirt pocket and withdrew a thick and badly stained letter. He handed it over to me and made a slightly audible groan as he doubled over onto the floor. I sent for an ambulance and held the letter in my hand stricken with fear. After Ricardo was carried away on a stretcher I sat down in my leather chair and opened the overstuffed envelope. The first page of the letter was badly soaked by a fluid that could have been sweat, or blood, or beer, it was hard to tell. Here are the contents of the letter, starting at point where Pete's words are legible enough to read:

I wrote to you previously, long ago about Rainart the German and Tito the Peruvian hunter. We hacked our way into the jungle to where no villages existed. Only tribesmen passed our way but very infrequently. The three of us took along only the most basic supplies to reduce our total weight and gear.

But Ken, all this is inconsequential to the most pressing story I have kept from you. My love for Boudaccia. I met her later but I feel I must tell you about her now. Perhaps I've known her forever. What I haven't done well up to this point is to keep her. If she is still alive, I pray she discovers I've told our story well and that she contacts me through the publisher of these memoirs that I'm writing about our time together. By the end of my letter, you too will share the heartbreak I cannot expel. Who is this Boudaccia? I'll try to tell you as much as I can before exhaustion forces me to stop. Please be patient if you are more interested in the adventures I fell into while on the road and alone, looking after only myself.

It was nightfall. A rainy afternoon had settled into a melancholic drizzle. It seemed to incorporate droplets of moisture from the tear ducts of all the poor of Brasil into one enveloping mist. Many of the restaurants and shops were boarded up for the evening and the only light cast upon the darkness came from solitary streetlights posted one to a street. I was about to give up my search for food, drink and merriment when a small cantina caught my eye. The light shed from its door illuminated not only the empty street, but also my heart, which had been buried too long in my cramped and squalid hotel room.

I entered into the aurora. Psychological intoxication set in quickly before my first drink. The room was amplified in scope and size by my mind into truly unbelievable proportions. The revelers within were highlighted with a supernatural warm glow of enticing camaraderie. The brightness of the room and the mirth of the guests caused a crescendo of retinal dilations, forcing my eyes into funny looking buttons as I stood in blind amazement.

A table full of Germans observed my disconcerted state and motioned me over to join them. For a moment I felt like a deaf and dumb fool with only his eyes to guide him in an awesome world. Rainer, Hans and Zigrid all introduced themselves and ordered me a capairinha, a sugarcane brandy-and- lime concoction.

There followed a breezy interchange of travel data not unlike the shoptalk between stage hands of the theatre. Hours passed. Many couples were enjoying themselves seated at tables in large groups. They all appeared to be lifelong friends, and were assembled in various stages of informality. As I studied the vista more carefully, I noticed the generous numbers of women. Many of them wore boldly printed tunics or tropical evening dresses or flashy halter top blouses. Most of these ladies found the knee of a sturdy young man more accommodating than the wooden chairs. The other less dazzling of the women sat comfortably on the laps of older gents.

Rainer, being a very somber German, sternly snapped his fingers under my chin. He proceeded to level his eyes into my own and stare into my thoughts. He remained expressionless, which further aggravated my perplexity. Finally, in a muted voice he warned me that all the ladies of this drinking establishment could be had for a price. I blushed without reservation, astonished by my own na�vete. Spurred on by this revelation I examined the faces much more thoroughly, this time with a calculated objectivity.

My eyes eventually rested on the most exotic beauty that I have ever seen. She was petite, mysterious, unadorned with cosmetics, excluding her plum-painted lips. Her features were elegantly carved and gracefully accentuated by an indian heritage. Her figure was regal, firm and poised. She noticed my impolite stare and subtly turned the corners of her mouth ever so slightly heavenward, displaying approval rather than indignation. I prolonged my stare until she turned her radiant eyes towards one of her friends with whom she had been speaking.

I began to deeply ponder mystical and metaphysical themes. Maybe ..., in each epoch of humanity, each millennium of tombstones, births and rebirths, only once does fate permit two searching spirits to indulge in a long awaited reunion. They leave a signature like a solar flare. The traces left behind by the millions upon millions of other played-out human lives are so ephemeral, in comparison, they can be banished by the mere sneezing of a child upon the surface of a rain puddle.

Before I could follow this train of thought another instant, a different disturbing and alien sensation overwhelmed me. It grew rhapsodic in its ever ascending intensity. I was certain a psychic phenomenon had me in its grip. I looked in the native girl's direction and confirmed my secret expectations. An identical an consuming joy was also reproduced in every contour of her face and figure. She emoted a far reaching, lyrical emanation that danced like a dervish in the face of destiny. This dervish was asking my hand for the next dance. I felt penetrated and captured by this spirit, and longed to be held captive by her, forever.

Rainer's expression, after I regained my senses, was one of grave concern. He sketched for me a verbal picture, in graduated lights and shadows, of the lady's habits at this saloon. Her name he told me was Boudaccia, twenty-two years old, a woman madly sought after in this emporium of whores. She was feared for her intelligence, and respected for her depth of emotion. Very seldom did she leave with clients. Still, she fared quite well in comparison with her more unscrupulous colleagues. Rainer had seen her with oil barons, ship's captains, and diamond merchants, and clucked his tongue in admonishment when he saw the hunger in my eyes. I scarcely heard Rainer when he cleared his throat and stringently warned me that this woman would bring me heaps of trouble.

I looked at him pleadingly to give him a chance to recant or perhaps revise his advice. He became adamant. My chest grew heavier and heavier. I thought that my lungs would burst holding-in this brooding pressure which resembled the heavy atmosphere that precedes a storm. Not able to control my attraction any longer, I strode over to the empty chair beside Boudaccia and sat near her.

She greeted me with casual aplomb, as if we had been husband and wife at some time in our past. I gave an introduction to myself. She studied my face, reacquainting herself with my eyes. We conversed in Spanish and Portuguese. The sound of her voice had the calming effect of softly punctuated harpsichord music. Both of us were oblivious to our surroundings as each respective tale was told.

We stumbled shortly afterwards into an ancient ritual. As soon as we undressed in a ramshackle hotel room we remembered making love in the same fashion hundreds of years earlier, or so it seemed, as passionate husband and loyal wife.

The next day we pooled our resources and set out for Rio de Janeiro. Our survival and happiness depended upon our cooperation and ingenuity, which we played between us in a perfect duet of four hands and four eyes. We swore that nothing would ever wrench us apart again. No force would be able to set us adrift. Our combined strength was ready for every threat and combatant. Never again would we unrequitedly linger century after century, desperately longing for one another as fate marked its cruel passage on the craggy terrain of time.

Within weeks the spoken word was considered no more between us than some clumsy device of archaic origins. It was no match for the empathy and intuition which circulated between us intravenously and transfused our essences one into the other.

But the transfusion suffered complications. When we arrived in Rio several months later we scarcely owned a cruzeiro between us. The time arrived when financial exhaustion was imminent and would lead quickly to ruin. Petty bickering and boredom soon eclipsed the brilliance of our transcendental festival of hearts. As we were beach combing the Copacabana coastline for food and money, on our first night without cash after many uncomfortable weeks, I grasped by the neck a bottle of blood-red wine from a three-foot pit. It had been dug near the waterline of the sea. This was a black magic macumba sacrificial pit which offered flowers, food, wine and a severed pig's head to the gods of the underworld. For many Brasilians, this gift placated the moodiness of both good and evil spirits, each capable of vengeful acts against humanity.

I nearly emptied three-quarters of the wine in an orgy of thirsty gulps. Somehow I stopped myself from entirely neglecting my Boudaccia while showing my enthusiasm for the wine. I offered her the remaining quarter-bottle and she bristled in reproach. Then she ran up the beach in hysterics. I chased her and then clenched my arm around her waist as I caught her. My apologies gurgled up along with irrepressible belches. Boudaccia tried to express something urgent to me, in words broken by sobs which ripped at her lungs as she tried to speak and break free of my hold.

My momentary lapse into greediness was not what had devastated her. She said we were cursed because I had blasphemously partaken of the feast left only for the spirits. This equated to a vengeful retribution from them, especially since they were fastidious about their bacchanals. Boudaccia's horror came close to paralyzing her and she slumped passively into a fetal position in the sand. I couldn't reason with her, nor could I undo the superstitious beliefs of over six centuries of Brasilian customs which she had learned since early childhood.

Earlier in the day someone had given us a free pass to the Boite Florida, a cabaret club in Praca Maua, a district of dubious character. So we decided this might lighten our mood and we went to the club to enjoy the floor show. Several naked and scantily dressed chorus girls wearing a handful of feathers came out lip-syncing to Liza Minnelli's song "Money, Money, Money" from the movie Cabaret. Boudaccia and I were not in any condition to dispute the message of the lyrics, "money makes the world go round."

That is why for several weeks we frequently returned to Praca Maua. Customarily I was in a comfortable hotel in bed before two o'clock in the morning, after an evening out with Boudaccia in the Maua district. Boudaccia, however, stayed out and worked until quite late, coming in customarily exhausted around dawn. We would then count the money together eagerly. There was never less than a hundred dollars in her little leather purse. She often was awarded a gift bag from the nightclub which contained a carton of American cigarettes and a large bottle of single-malt Scotch whiskey. Naturally, this line of work imposed a degree of harsh celibacy on our relationship.

Perhaps this was the curse of the macumba. In retrospect, I am forced to see the ramifications of my treachery against the macumba gods as something much more tragic ... the rupture of my relationship with Boudaccia ... and centuries stretched between us, again, through the void of time and death.

Boudaccia began to unravel now since she had reverted to her former life of self-denigration. She had, from the start with me, come to envision a healthier life. Here in Rio we had resorted to mutual debasement in order to survive, with the hope of pressing on ahead together, despite this sordid and very short chapter in our otherwise very rewarding life together. We caught hold of ourselves, somehow, before our descent into depravity was completely irreversible. We booked a flight to Manaus, back to her spiritual homeland and the support of her family in the jungle. For me it was also better. I was certain that my friend Ricardo was still living by his wits in Manaus or nearby in Benjamin Constant. Boudaccia and I made arrangements shortly after arriving at the Manaus airport to get married in the Teatro Amazonas, an opera house built long ago by Fitzcarraldo, the mad German explorer. Ricardo was to be our best man.

There never was an official marriage vow exchanged between Boudaccia and me in the old Teatro Amazonas. On the morning our wedding was to have taken place, I received word from the immigration officials that I was an illegal resident of Brasil and could not gain working documents through any type of marriage whatsoever. This meant next to no money at all for many long years if I tried to live with her in her country. Boudaccia and I would have to live like paupers until we struck gold or some other extraordinary piece of fortune. We decided I should return to America, the land rumored to have great and mythical opportunities for success. The land which issued a passport to me. The land which took taxes from me and spent them unwisely, leaving many people poor and uninsured and unemployed.

I tried to reassure Boudaccia the best I could. She held back the shock and showed little outward emotion. We agreed that I should leave immediately and try to get back quickly to America, where my chances were better. The next evening she walked me to the docks of Manaus. The crimson rays of the sunset carpeted our footsteps along the way. We both knew subconsciously that the macumba spirits had condemned us to another indeterminate separation, but we didn't discuss it.

Boudaccia ingested four tranquilizers on the way so that her hands would be steady enough to wave a final good-bye. As my riverboat pulled away from the platform, we both cried out the multilingual utterances of our pain as it seeped out of the wounds of our separation. I watched her from the stern of the boat until she became no more than a mauve colored speck, absorbed by the ever darkening skyline. When I got to Iquitos I was devastated. My health was acting up and the first symptoms of dysentery were appearing. The immense sense of loss at having to leave Boudaccia again and the grief of not having her at my side drastically weakened my immune system. In those endless lonely hours, Ken, I found the time to write this testimony to you.

... Let me get back now to the solitary travels and misadventures I had tumbled into before I got involved with Boudaccia.

Rainart, the aspiring German anthropologist, became unhinged as early as our third month camping in the jungle and suffered a nervous breakdown late one night while Tito and I were dead asleep. Rainart was roused from his slumber by a nagging bodily function. He walked silently out of our hut and headed for a small clearing where he might defecate. In the middle of this procedure, with pants dropped around his ankles, a full grown jungle armadillo trampled across the clearing directly in front of him. This armadillo was quite a bit larger than those of the American Southwest. Poor Rainart was a physical and nervous mess when he came screaming into the hut, collapsing onto a pile of provisions.

We waited a few days for a Peruvian military aqua-plane to pass overhead and signaled to it. Rainart was packed off to a hospital in Lima, and I have never heard from him since. I said farewell to Tito knowing well that his joy in life was to hazard the dangers of the jungle with each successive sunrise. He clasped me firmly in a departing embrace and wished me luck in my travels further downriver towards Brazil. Then he followed the tracks of his next prey in the sandy topsoil and disappeared into the brush.

I set out for the city of Belem, a port plugged like a tooth into the frothy seaside mouth of the Amazon River. The route to Belem started out with a three-day foot journey near the small settlement of Nuevo Rocafuerte. Through a succession of riverboats I slowly repatriated myself back to the civilized world. As I neared Leticia the river broadened sufficiently to transport many trees the loggers had felled. Leticia commanded its position at the three corners where Brazil, Peru and Colombia intersect. Leticia has only two large commercial banks. Both banks launder cocaine money for the three adjacent countries. On business days between ten and four o'clock a steady flow of not very respectable businessmen enter and leave the banks wearing loose-fitting suits and carrying leather briefcases. These briefcases contain bricks of tightly compressed $100 bills destined for Miami, Panama, Washington D.C., Israel and New York City. Only here in Leticia can a person easily write traveler's cheques in exchange for hard American cash dollars, without purchases, without complications, without fees. "Nada," is the answer at the banks when one asks what commission is charged. Money moves briskly here.

I was to find out within a short time also that Leticia boasts one of the most nefarious whorehouses on the continent. Easy money insists upon feeding the extravagances of Leticia's guests. The women and girls who market their forbidden fruits are painstakingly chosen by community businessmen based upon their shapely merits. Leticia is a very small rivertown diced up into a labyrinth of corridors of control. Interlopers into the grand scheme of cocaine and prostitution who na�vely seek adventure and fast money never tell of their mistake. Their perforated and machine-gunned corpses are seen with regularity floating around the shallow end of the loading docks.

After a few days hanging around Leticia, I boarded another small riverboat, piloted by a three-man Portuguese speaking crew. I wanted to bypass the big ports so we chugged toward Benjamin Constant, the narrow river gateway that feeds into Brazil. We threaded through Benjamin Constant and plied northeasterly deeper into Brasil. The Amazon river yawned progressively wider and wider as we drew closer and closer to Manaus. It wasn't long before neither bank of the river was visible to the naked eye. In this wide expanse of water the Amazon resembles an ocean and has as many moods. International freighters and oil tankers ply these parts with frequency. In Manaus I hopped from the diesel fishing boat onto a much larger iron ship which could carry up to 300 passengers.

On board I met Ricardo, a political exile from Montevideo, Uruguay, who had run out of money, but not out of luck. The chemistry between us was mercurial and a bond of brotherhood quickly welded together our interests. We discovered that poker was for each of us an easy means of increasing ones honor and personal finances. In countless games of poker we skillfully milked thousands of dollars from a large group of Frenchmen and smaller clusters of married Swiss couples. The cards were dealt out in the early evening and we played on usually until dawn. Ricardo and I quadrupled our stock of money through this first of our collaborative efforts. We were combining our luck and our money and all the merrier for it.

Our generator puttered to a stop. A scruffy band of Colombian counterfeiters came on board along with some river mechanics. Our huge ocean vessel became a travesty in the eyes of the monkeys, who chattered mockingly as our stalled ship rotated idly in slow circles. We were anchored mid-stream and too far away to swim to either shore. The counterfeiters were selling U.S. hundred dollar bills at minuscule exchange rates to rapidly growing numbers of susceptible passengers. After a few hours of this frenzy, a group of Spaniards from Madrid approached me and solicited my advice on the matter. I examined their bills. They felt much too light and airy. By sight alone the bills were flawless. I had several suspicions, however, and I told my unsuspecting audience these doubts. Angry protests spontaneously combusted from several onlookers who would not accept that they had been gulled. I demonstrated their folly with a simple test. The iodine test. Authentic American paper currency will repel a drop or two of iodine, whereas a counterfeit bill will generally absorb the red coloration of the iodine solution. All the bills tested stained immediately in blots the size of bottlecaps. Alarm rang out in concentric orbs of shock and shouting which rivaled the jeers of the riverside monkeys.

Ricardo beckoned to me furtively from a receded doorway near the men's room. When I approached him he warned me that the Colombians probably had sharp hearing, in addition to their lookouts, and as a result might be thirsting for my American blood. My legs began to feel rubbery and Ricardo, accustomed to life and death situations in Montevideo, remained calm and collected. He told me to wait in the hold of the boat with the tons of beer which were in storage. He proceeded to investigate the exact cause of the rancor of the Colombians. We suspected that it was me that had outraged them.

Three or four beers later I checked the time. Twenty or thirty minutes had elapsed, but I couldn't trust my watch. During such an ordeal any measurement of time seems faulty or inaccurate. Ricardo was stone faced when he finally returned. The Colombians were cleaning their pistols in anticipation of seizing me at night when all the others were asleep. They were out to kill me.

Ricardo was not only a skillful card player but also a brilliant strategist. He had a plan and spoke with the ship's captain in an effort to recruit his assistance. The ship captain nearly exchanged his entire month's wages for some of the bad hundred dollar bills before he had witnessed my chemical analysis. He wanted to return the favor by helping me in some useful way. He arranged by radio with another ship captain to dock along side of us. The second vessel steaming toward us was only ten minutes away. Our captain made an announcement on the public address system giving all on board and official sounding procedure for our short delay.

Within a quarter of an hour, I was onboard the second ship, the only passenger to abscond in such a fashion. Two days later I was in Belem feeling a bit dazed from the cumulative effect of all the excitement. The city life of Belem created an uneasy sensation of readjustment. The regimentation of civilization stood in sharp contrast to the unrestrained techniques of survival I had depended upon as a hunter in the jungle. I now understood the tremendous reassimilation required of returning war veterans who must monitor their concept of reality on a minute by minute basis, until the transition is complete. Otherwise, they are a danger to themselves and possibly a threat to society.

I found a quiet hotel in a neglected neighborhood and stayed underground for a week waiting for the Colombians to give up their search or any ideas of revenge. When I finally emerged, loneliness was my companion and I was aching for social intercourse.

Again, my letter is nearing the entrance of Boudaccia into my life. So I will slow my writing from a nervous restless pace long enough to ask you how Ricardo is doing. I suppose he is now under your protection in Greenpoint?

Ken, you know how love can make a man much more observant. It now seems terribly brutal here in Manhattan. The wild jungle life and predatory beasts and vicissitudes of nature in the Amazon didn't devour my life as much as the cash and computer driven clutch for money and property here in the Big Apple.

My first letter to Boudaccia from New York City was one of anticipation. I would find a steady job as a writer and send for her at the first affordable moment. I did not tell her about the total lack of European-style social benefits at home. Nor, that as an industrialized superpower, we lack universal health care coverage, job retraining for the unemployed, and old age pension guarantees for everyone.

I couldn't bare to tell her either about the dog-eat-dog mentality that obsessively fuels the American dream, nor that the great U.S. machine was standing idle now, deep in a recession, and that jobs are few and far between. Or, that our world is a consumer jungle, in a marketing mayhem, stripped of the spiritual benefits of her great race and land. Here in America, humility is only a virtue among losers. In Brasil, it is an art form.

Ken, I'm almost finished. With this letter, and perhaps with my life.

Boudaccia received my letter within a week and in return faxed me a photograph of a macumba ceremony which contained among other details, a prominently-placed, severed pig's head. Since she has faxed it to me, I have responded with numerous telegrams. She has never replied. I can only say to myself, rather than face rejection, that she must have died by her own hand to blot out our failure and wait again a few hundred years for yet another chance. Or perhaps her disappointment is so great, this time, that the karmic chain has been broken, forever.

Finally, dearest Ken, can you give me another chance at the newspaper. I've got only forty dollars left and would greatly appreciate an advance sent to me immediately, care of the Greenpoint YMCA on Meserole Street. Otherwise I'll be quite soon in a homeless shelter, rat mites and all, or even worse, in jail. My hotel bill in Washington is already quite outstanding. My brother's new wife didn't want me in their house, but my sympathetic sibling gave me $500 bucks and wished me luck.

Waiting anxiously for your response.



As an editor, and a friend, after reading Pete's incredible letter, I was visibly shaken. I took out my checkbook and wrote another check for $1,500 to Pete and mailed it immediately to the Greenpoint YMCA on Meserole. I also rented a small studio in the Puerto Rican section of Williamsburg for Ricardo, after the doctors informed me that he would pull through after a lot of rest.

I found a publisher for Pete's letters, his first person narration of adventures and discoveries, both metaphysical and geographical, down in Atlanta. The senior editor of the magazine which published it is an old friend of mine. I did a small amount of editing to tighten it up a bit. But I still think Pete will be disappointed when he returns to Greenpoint. Why?

I still can't offer him a job. Just freelance.
Some things never change.

# # # # # #



as published in Aran Isles AISLING quarterly

by Bryan Adrian

Civilization stood up
but fell
to its knees
and radioactive
free agents
unruly fleas

Sewers and streams weep
spewing out
tears run in rapids
and pools
recombinant militia

Earthquakes and ozone
knock at the door
of the pretty
plate glass houses

Plagues and pollution
at the bodies
of the poor

A struggling champion
of an unlucky race
he asks no pity
as he lifts his face

to the walls
of the crystal city
(then dances madly
as his heart
swells and bursts)

Birds fly at random
in frenzied circles
heedless to the
muted songs
of the seasons

They summon
their Phoenix
while against air
their wings chop
and smash into bits
when their beaks

Finger deformed
mutant monkeys
unable to swing
from trees
now lie on their backs

and stare at the moon
their psyches crack

A woman covered
by miles of misfortune
curses the rulers
that bred
her untreatable cankers

A rib dislodges
from her sunken chest
and falls before her
in an ironic jest

She laughs at the lessons
packed into holy books
"woman be submissive,
and do what you're told to"
("and don't give me that look!")

"A very high price,"
she snickers
as she picks off a tendon
"wouldn't it be great
if justice arrived late"
(better late than never)

The cult of the consumer
makes religion a joke
as Trade Lords continue
to covet
their throne
"uber alles"

Nature has to die now
that's the toublesome thing
she doesn't give a damn now
of her favourite spots
to sing

Not as great liberator
do our industries progress
but as subjugator
and controller
a replicating pest

(what more
could we expect
when we dirty
our own nest?)

Sometimes bold prophets
women and men
drop into our pockets
the forces of Zen
unleashing the divine
through telepathic transfusions

the Old Order
much much more
than the
nuclear pensions
and immuno-suppressions
left selfishly
at our door

If badly outnumbered
these prophets are snapped
in two
eternal slumber
reaching a hand out
to each "me" and "you"
(bye bye Osis and Isiris)

Contagions and canisters
modern mushrooms
of death
within the Body
and without

Wise men say
with a tinge of doubt
that technology
is the loom
of our doom
weaving its way
through the tapestry
of misdirected inventions

Neither our
free market jockeys
nor the famed horsemen
of ancient lore
can stop
the Machine

It will defeat
he plays
his own team.

BRYAN ADRIAN, an American, is living in New York City. He is a freelance journalist, teacher and writer.

"Take Two"

Bryan Adrian

Heidi Seiler looked in the mirror and saw her face replicated endlessly in the
fractured glass. Her eyes appeared sunken. The air was lurid and stale from a
dozen cigarettes sucked to their butts within the last hour. Livid circles under
her eyes gave in to her world weariness. She gnawed on the neck of an open
bottle of brandy and wiped mascara away from her cheeks. A stream of tears
flowed from her chin. She daubed her neck and chin with a soiled towel and lit
another sweat stained cigarette with her other hand.

"Christ! Tastes like generic soy sauce."

Not a soul was within hearing distance. She stubbed out her cigarette onto the
cosmetic stand and then stretched out on the floor. The telephone began to ring
only minutes after she had fallen into a deep trance. Heidi cursed as she
stumbled toward the phone half asleep.


"Heidi, can you meet me in fifteen minutes at B-Bar?

"What's wrong Art?"

"Nothing's wrong. Just hurry. Get there by 9:30."

"Can you buy my drinks? I'm broke."

"Sing me a new song," responded Art after a hesitation.

"I'll be on time," she replied nervously.

This kind of conversation with Art was a regular feature in their relationship
now. Art had dropped Heidi over a year and a half earlier but still kept alive
this somewhat useful alliance. Dialogue had been reduced to a steady sawing
sound, the missing teeth in the saw long forgotten. Within five minutes Heidi
was put together in her East Village thrift store fashion attire. She dressed
like many other production assistants for independent films, except for a few
minor details-sunglasses and a broad brimmed hat worn throughout the night. It
helped her hide red and often dilated eyes. For similar reasons she also wore
long sleeve shirts, even in the oppressive heat and humidity of August.

As Heidi locked up her apartment on her way out, a delightful wave of
anticipation overtook her.

"Maybe Art can hook me up with a PA job," she dreamed.

Heidi entered the B-Bar on Avenue B and East 7th Street at precisely 9:30 pm.
The tail end of a conversation was taking place at Art's table as Heidi threaded
her way to them through the phlegmatic crowd.

"I can't do it Art. She's my friend too and it's just not right ..."

"Fuck you Doug, you're the only one who knows how to tell it to her and make it
stick without pain."

Nobody noticed Heidi as she grabbed a chair at their table. She pretended not to
have heard any part of their conversation.

"It's good to see ya Doug. You're looking good Art. You still working on a film

"Yeah. No hitches yet. With a few more investors, we'll be unbeatable.

This film might even make it commercially. National distribution, the works!"
boasted Art.

"That's great Art. Do ... do you think I can get on as a production assistant?"

"Sorry. No," responded Art dryly.

The film talk ambled on self-importantly until the pair of friends and
filmmakers felt they were sufficiently cut off from the boring and hopeless
masses who didn't discuss the making of films. The common denominator that held
the patrons of this bar together was an utter lack of concern over whether or
not others could overhear their private conversations. It was a form of
Manhattan social masturbation, combined brutishly to exhibitionism. Only here in
the East Village, it could be even more pronounced than in the retail trade
subculture. Everyone was on the make, and each patron felt himself specifically
appointed to bring the latest word to all those not fortunate enough to live in
the local art and film mini-world. Posing and posturing had become a disease
making the New York scene dangerously anaemic, perhaps as destructive a force as
AIDS. Posturing and posing were now insinuated into the blood and heart of
social contact in both the arts and in the streets. Some wags already prophesied
that necrophilia would be the new, hot marketable theme.

Art's words didn't really matter much to his entourage in B-Bar. His discourses
were by now considered stock replies among those who knew him. The noise of one
hundred people honing their technique of self-aggrandizement created a deafening
insect-like noise in the bar. Gums and tongues rubbed like locusts' wings. The
barroom jukebox and its parade of eighteen hit songs had become nearly

Old institutions of the East Village still stubbornly remained. Drug dealing and
chronic abuse of substances ranging from cheap, strong Nighttrain wine to heroin
and amphetamines and explosive recipes like "Speedballs". It's often easy to
spot at least one drug dealer in an East Village bar with a simple checklist.
Look for the guy who never sits down or pays for a drink with his own money.
Constantly in motion with cigarette dangling sinisterly from moist, unkissable
lips, these entrepreneurs circumnavigate the bars like smoking garbage barges.

Heidi retreated deep within her thoughts. Her imagination leapt backwards in an
effort to reconstruct the conversation she had partially overheard between Art
and Doug as she entered the bar. To spend even a short amount of time with Art
had recently become increasingly difficult. Art's inattentiveness to her pain
and personal unfulfillment proved to be an ever widening cause of estrangement
between them. It had been more than a year since they quit living together. Now,
too, their friendship seemed fragile, subject to fracture by the slightest of
evening breezes.

Art took notice of the wistful __expression engulfing Heidi's mood. At one time
he could read her face as thoroughly as a computer printout. Now for him her
face bore resemblance to old and soiled cookbooks. Computers and cameras and
young starlets now commanded his attention readily.

"Heidi. I asked you here to get the 2nd set of keys back from my extra
apartment. I got to put up a cameraman from Los Angeles for a few months." Blood
drained from Heidi's cheeks and nearly stole the fortitude she would need to
endure the remainder of Art's edict. Authoritatively, he proceeded. "You got to
find new housing arrangements quickly. I told you from the start that this could
happen any time."

"This is why you called me here Art?"

Art didn't answer instead motioning to his acquaintance near the door to join
him. The fellow responded enthusiastically and headed for an empty chair.

Heidi felt the tissue of her security being torn as she slowly accepted the
reality of her sudden expulsion. Darning needles of paranoia knitted at her
brain, mincing it until it was no more reliable than soppy bags of spent coffee
grinds. A sinking anxiety descended from her temples slowly to her chest,
finding release through a tepid liquid as it trickled down her groin. Startled
and near nervous collapse, she abruptly left Art and his buddies, moments before
losing total control of her bladder in a spasm of relief in the dark and
miserable streets. Her eyes were puffy and moist.

Their itchiness compelled her to scurry home in even greater haste. Whenever she
looked up from the ground a drunken derelict or a victim of unemployment or
drugs invariably loomed out of the darkness and reminded her of the plight of
the disenfranchised. Several junkies and freebase obsessive-types noticed the
terror of alienation scrawled on her face. It looked as if some delinquents had
suddenly fallen upon her and sprayed graffiti all over her cheeks and forehead
in vulgar signatures. She pushed her way through the iron curtain of malingerers
and climbed the stoop leading to her apartment, six floors up.

Once inside, she flung off her damp and yellowing slacks and dropped down onto
her lumpy mattress on the floor. Shutting tightly, her inner eyelids became a
type of projector screen. She found small comfort in the images of bloody
tongues sticking out at her in derision. The mouths from which the tongues
rudely protruded heaped scorn in gobbets of saliva obscenely in her direction. A
litany of school bells rang in her head making her remember parochial school and
crave middle class comforts, or if that was no longer available to her, religion
or some other opiate for her struggling soul. She responded to their ultimatum.

Heidi floated quite some time in this delirium until piercing telephone rings
penetrated her thoughts. She walked mindlessly towards her cosmetics stand and
noticed that it was in sore need of a good cleaning. Then, remembering the
phone, she scrambled towards it and answered.

"Yes... Hello."

"Miss Seiler?"


"Heidi Seiler?"


"Good evening. I'm Bob Bartlett, program director for NBC miniseries. I wanted
to let you know, in all fairness, knowing you'll need every minute left to make
new arrangements for work ... uhhh ... well, it's impossible to use you on our
new project."

"I don't understand. You promised me the assignment weeks ago."

"Miss Seiler, I'm sorry. It was a very difficult decision for all of us. Our
regular set dresser returned from maternity leave and we can't dismiss such a

"Can't she wait a few goddamned months longer?"

"No Miss Seiler. ABC offered her a higher paying position this morning and we
don't want to lose her. She's returning to us more out of loyalty than financial
interest. So you see ..." An incandescent burst of color bathed Heidi's face in
red. A speeding ambulance passed in the streets below.

"Thank you very much for calling Bartlett. Call me again sometime you poncie
little motherfucker."

"... errr, yes. We will keep you in mind for the future. Good luck and

Heidi sat motionless. Her elbows dug painfully into her thighs as she hung her
head and let blood rush into her cranium making it heavier than lead. She began
to cry and cradled her face in her hands. Then she sat upright, and as if for
the first time, took a long look at her surroundings. They appeared
extraordinarily grim. Drab furnishings and colorless squalor entombed her in a
hell composed of stuffy air and frugality. She became sullen. Despite her
growing apathy, she picked herself up from the old chair and walked toward her
mattress again. Her depression continued to darken and rumble. Each fleeting
thought that bubbled up from her brain was absorbed by a dark force whose
immensity was more horrible than a starless and moonless nighttime sky.

Not a typical darkness, but one that resembled a hostile desert in which a
greatly reduced and badly defeated army makes its final retreat through a
pitch-black night. Immobility began its slow and deep extinguishment of her
desire for life, light and joy. A seductive inertness lowered her completely
onto the mattress and her head accidentally slammed hard against the uncovered
floor. Her eyes dimmed in syncopation to the dying thoughts that struggled for
token recognition in her descending grip on reality.

Sweat streamed from her flesh. The overall effect was akin to being dipped
alternately into hot and cold tubs by a behemoth sadist. A breeze coming in
through the window chiseled relief out of the heavy Manhattan humidity. Heidi
was suddenly animated and arose abruptly to throw open the window and climb over
the ledge and onto the fire escape. Her hair and bared breasts received
comforting caresses from the wind blowing in off the East River. She inhaled
deeply, filling her lungs to full capacity. A feeling of giddiness suffused her
limbs. She felt she was being picked up on the wings of a great bird and
liberated from all earthly concerns. In a sweeping gesture she arched her arms
above her head in a ballerina pose and stood on the balls of her feet. An
ecstatic smile spread across her face as she attempted to leap in perfect
balletic form from one wing of the great bird to its fully extended counterpart.

The bird vanished. The doctors in the trauma unit of Beth Israel Hospital made
another examination of their now familiar patient. Their routine report, as
always, unchanged, since the night of her admission-the night she had been found
shattered among the broken beer bottles and syringes on the sidewalk beneath her
6th floor apartment and directly in front of the customers of a sidewalk cafe. A
large card, stuck to the headboard of her bed, still notified the staff of the
ICU of her inert condition:


"Dr. Goldtaker. Do you think she'll ever come out of it?

"Who can say? It's only been three months. Haven't you heard? The interns have a
pool, guessing the day she'll pull out of it, if ever. It's growing almost as
big as the Lotto."

A young man carrying a shoulder sack and wearing a major Hollywood studio
tee-shirt entered the room. An air of guilt had been following him since Heidi's
morbid plunge. It badgered him to recall how he had egotistically pursued his
own career, often at Heidi's expense, neglecting her aspirations and needs, yet
grabbing everything she offered him like a hungry orphan. Very few people knew
the extent of Heidi's contributions to his success and the measure of support
she had given him during his formative years as a filmmaker.

A hospital staff member informed Art that there had been no progress. The cause
of her accident was still unknown and was no longer discussed. The police had
concluded that there had been no foul play and that they would perhaps never
learn if her fall had been accidental or suicide attempt. No one would ever
know, if she didn't recover from her coma.

Eight months later Heidi regained consciousness. She was slowly phased out of
the hospital, and on the day of her release was presented with a dazzling
bouquet of flowers from the doctors and nurses, including a note of
encouragement signed "from all of us" written in Art's most decorative

Art opened the door of the hospital for Heidi as she emerged from the First
Avenue main lobby. Shafts of October sunlight stretched toward her and gave her
a congratulatory warm kiss from the clear unadulterated sky. Her past with Art
seemed far away indeed, as did her other abusive dependencies. Now that she had
made a pilgrimage through the valley of death, the mere presence of his body
seemed mocked by the lasting substantiality she had found in that mythical
place. Even the shadows on the River Styx seemed to have more weight than Art.
She kept the lips of her Psyche sealed tightly around her thoughts, willing to
share such treasures only with the initiated or special spiritual types. Secrecy
had earned her respect since her special journey.

Art, in other words, had become insignificant.

All throughout their relationship, Art had erroneously thought that Heidi's
parents lived in an ashram in Germany, address unknown. It had fallen upon him
to act as responsible family member in the eyes of the hospital administration
and the police when they found his address and phone number in her possession.
He was the one who identified her broken form in the ICU on the night of the
accident, and who signed all authorizations for her immediate medical care. A
cab finally pulled up into the emergency entrance of Beth Israel.

Several ill and coughing homeless folk who were been sitting curbside, praying
and begging for admission, had to jump quickly to get out of the cab's
trajectory toward cash dispensing customers. Art and Heidi quickly entered the
cab. The cab bolted out into traffic and then careened in typical fashion around
a city bus that held up most of the traffic. Heidi sang out with exuberance.

"I think I'll go to Southern California to visit my parents! You thought you
knew all about me Art. Actually ... you don't!"

Art looked out of the window at a group of policemen standing around a mugging
victim, writing out endless reports, talking among themselves and laughing, not
noticing that the mugged businessman was bleeding fatally on the sidewalk,
pleading with his hands for help. Art knew the months ahead would be difficult
for him.

Through her parents, Heidi made arrangements to live in California. The days
went by more tempestuously than the crashing Pacific waves. Art didn't know what
role was required of him when he was around her or was asked by others about
their relationship. He was heard describing to a bartender a new film idea
titled "The Tragedy of Heidi" in an impersonal tone of voice which revealed a
callousness toward her suffering. "It has incredible potential to become a
mega-hit" he was overheard saying by several strangers seated around the long,
horseshoe shaped bar. One of those who overheard was a good friend of Heidi's
and she wasted no time reporting back to Heidi the next day.

After many emotional outbursts and accusations of an intimate nature, Art
accused her of being haughty. Heidi left Art. She told him he needed to be alone
with his fascination with himself and his incipient success. She then flew first
class to Malibu. Her parents, greatly relieved to have her away from her
destructive tendencies, rented her a beautiful bungalow with a sweeping view of
the beach below. From the tranquillity of her bedroom she contemplated the seas
of the world and watched the red ball of the setting sun bleed into the infinity
of the Pacific ocean. It rewarded her in a deeper sense than her discarded,
former pleasures. Heidi took up writing a film script with considerable gusto.
Her health and confidence rose on higher and higher tides of well-being.

Art finally came out to Malibu at about the time Heidi had completed the
withdrawal program and the final draft of her script.

Things hadn't changed much between them during the silent undertow of time. The
encounter was a hollow exchange for both of them, the emptiness of it mercifully
concealed behind a gridlock of courtesies and mock pleasantries. Art returned to
New York after a few days. His film schedules were getting tighter and tighter
and he had to return to Manhattan before things took an unexpected turn.

That's what he told Heidi.

Right before he left, however, Heidi noticed that he had betrayed his real
intentions by exhibiting greater and greater dissatisfaction with her new
independence and strength. Gone forever were the days when she submitted her
services and opinions to him like some kind of dog on its back, waiting for a
belly massage.

Nearly a year later a movie was produced and distributed based on Heidi's script
titled "The Disfigurement of Hope" about a young woman named Hope. The story
came to be known in the industry, particularly in the jargon of the studio press
releases, as a strong affirmation of the courage and nobility of the human
spirit. It starred a young East Village actress who, if not for this lucky
break, would have headed towards unwitting self-destruction. Heidi gained
celebrity status due to the overnight success of her script and the
well-publicized story of her survival after her fall. Investors contributed
without question to whatever new scripts she produced. Their overriding concern
was only that she give her approval for immediate production-films could now be
made nearly as quickly as TV episodes and market forces dictated constant

While reading West and East Coast reviews of her film, and still enjoying the
amenities of her Malibu retreat, a small two-paragraph review on the last page
of the Los Angeles Times arts & entertainment section caught her attention. It
was written by a stringer covering the East Village and the subject was the
directorial disgrace of her former mate, Art.

His film "i am what i am" had flopped into the abyss of reviled box office
disasters. Many elements of his film had repeatedly been ridiculed. Art's
directing career was doomed to be forever confined to his limited scope and
audience in the obscurity of the East Village.

Heidi put down the newspaper, leaned back and fell into an untroubled sleep of
peace, solitude...and gratitude.


"Twisted Whispers"

(a success story)

by Bryan Adrian

Jack, a pharmacist, had been Scott and Brenda's best friend for many years. He had known Brenda since his days of teenage lust which he had shared with her. Everyone found it remarkable too, how deeply he had earned Scott's trust over the years, despite his status as her schooldays "former lover."

Today, Jack hesitantly told all the relatives of Scott and Brenda assembled at the funeral that "the sum of Scott and Brenda's married life for the last decade weighs 22-pounds."

This weight included the fabric of the coarse thick sack containing the unaltered ashes of the couple. Each word was difficult for Jack to pronounce at the funeral. He said them, nonetheless, with a gentle authority. Jack knew several of the details of Scott and Brenda's deaths with precision, and not due merely to his scientific training.

He delivered the epitaph at the burial proceedings over in Oyster Bay, Long Island, where Brenda had first met Scott years back at a well known country club there. The very same country club which Jack had scorned privately for fifteen years, ever since Brenda had moved out of her family house in Harlem, stopped her frequent visits to Brooklyn to see him, and sailed among the Long Island nouveau riche. Jack had been left behind in Williamsburg, struggling with his common pharmacy in its infancy in a poor neighborhood, and bound by duty to support his invalid mother who lived nearby. Jack found himself also at that time in the awkward position of finding a new sex partner.

When a team from the coroner's office first arrived at the site of the housefire, they sighed relief to hear that the firemen had extinguished the flames before the fire could spread to other homes in Oyster Bay. Scott and Brenda's house was now non-existent. Not even furnishings nor wall supports remained. The coroner's men did find however, two human shaped white-and-chalky deposits upon the smoking ground of the blackened shadow of Scott and Brenda's former house. The residues of these deposits were powdered calcium and scorched earth, which together provided the materials used as "the deceased" at the funeral.

One of the city officials at the scene indulged in black humor and joked about the deaths as "eternal homelessness" and "permanently checking out." An African-american EMS driver who had chauffeured Scott on a few occasions when he was a part-time limousine driver employed by the insurance company which Scott managed suddenly shouted out "now that sucker know what it be like to be black!"

Being burned out and run out and black in America didn't appeal to these predominantly white government officials and inspectors, so they drove off as quickly and silently as possible in their sleek municipal car.

Years before this marital holocaust, Scott and Brenda had shared consuming passions. Love had flourished in the mixed blood of their marriage for a long and happy time. In those days they resembled a pair of dewy and decorative tulips, one white, one black, in the grassy meadows of the secluded North Shore of Long Island. Now, ten years later, nothing remained but a mound of ash bundled up in a canvas sack. Ashes of the same color and composition.

The police determined Scott and Brenda's deaths to be "accidental." They quickly negated all suspicions of foul play, especially a crime of passion.

Jack the pharmacist, however, knew several nefarious details. Details which had been stabbed into his ears by twisted whispers through the receiver of his Williamsburg drugstore telephone. Scott, and Brenda, had each called him independently several times, and confided to him their well calculated plan to ignite their marriage partner into oblivion. Each had thought that Jack was the only friend in the world who they could turn to and trust and confide in. Jack had shrewdly, from nearly the beginning, kept both Brenda and Scott thinking he preferred only the one of them, and that he too was against the other. Scott and Brenda often complained about one another to Jack, for years and years. He had never betrayed their confidences, at least never before their devilish inferno plot with its insurance scheme.

Scott and Brenda simultaneously, yet independently and without consulting the other, decided to torch their "till death do us part" partner in a housefire and to make it look accidental. It seems that throughout their years together they had become a marriage of equals. Sometimes a submerged thought in one of them that was just beneath consciousness became a full-blown idea in the head of the other. The scheme seemed a perfect plan. The living spouse would collect a handsome insurance payment. A nice hedge to beat back the endless years of global depression. The corrosive effect of cruel economic cycles and the increasing unreliability of their friends unhinged them and propelled them to act beyond reason and above the law. They had both become now initiates amongst the criminally insane.

Their marriage had survived many body blows during the bleak Dubya Bush years. In-laws suddenly developed racist attitudes, maligning each other because of the different color of their skin. They never looked at the spiritual poverty of the times nor at the sinister hypocrisy of many top layers of government as the probable cause. Hate and discontent were monstrously born from what had been at one time only minor social differences. Community values were replaced by communal hatreds. Scott and Brenda were driven apart and so were their friends and relatives, often on the basis of race. The international economic paralysis brought out the beast from the belly of the competing classes, separated from each other by limitations and imbalances, everything contingent upon economic mobility and race, which in its darkest heart was singly about money and class. Murder was continuously broadcast on television dramas, without any moral or political point. Such cultural developments promised to spew out toxins much deadlier than simply bad television advertisements and pointless productions bordering on carcinogenic.

Everyone started to think, "Why blame a guy, when he's up against the wall, to scheme a bit and get by? Any sucker next to me had better fend for himself, dammit!" With unblinking eyes millions of viewers were washed by waves and waves of electromagnetic garbage, the selfish and childish themes repeated night after night on television, sandwiched between advertisements that demanded more and more product consumption, requiring lots of money that not many really had anymore, to feed an endless anti-spiritual appetite.

Neither Scott nor Brenda had ever suspected Jack of leading them skillfully to execute their secret schemes in absolute synchronicity, one against the other. They never realized that Jack harbored an age old class-grudge against each of them for having established themselves into their much higher Oyster Bay social station, rather than toiling like himself in his bleak and humble Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where his best customer was a mailman.

Jack shed a minuscule tear as he dredged up yet another time, in the asylum of his evil thoughts, each lethal sequence of events which had lead to the double murder. He tried to control himself, but couldn't refrain from crying out loud and betraying his large dry eyes. His masterly woven crime wore the blemish of an imperfection. "Good lord!" he blurted out. It couldn't be true. A small detail had been overlooked. This kind of trifle always bothered him endlessly. One time he had measured out a prescription for a customer one pill short and nearly drove off the road thinking about it. His most recent oversight, however, could get him grilled in the big electric chair. Then, he too would be a loser and not one of the few lucky winners in the game of trade-offs, sellouts, rip-offs and betrayals on the national social scoreboard. Such failure felt to him even more difficult to endure than a slow and painful death.

Francine, the young cashier from Flatbush he hired less than half-a-year earlier, could possibly tip the scales of all his dead reckoning. She was only nineteen years old, cute, shapely and a very competent cashier. Nearly all the male customers, young and old, lingered at the over-the-counter medicaments rack to get a better look at her. Jack had never hired an employee like her throughout his entire career. He was very proud of her. He always let his male patrons linger and lounge their eyes on her body as long as they needed, unlike the manager of Manhattan pharmacies over on the wrong side of the East River. This way he kept his customers in Brooklyn and tripled his sales of Penthouse magazine.

It didn't take Francine long either to help Jack discover that her commendable cashiering skills were dwarfed when compared to her superior gifts in the art of backroom sex. She even did it with a smile. A wide, welcoming, enveloping smile. Somehow, every time he sighed in ecstasy, Jack knew that this habit would one day extract an unseen price. Especially when she begged him not to stop and snorted in pleasure during the moments leading up to her climax when she rushed towards it like a thoroughbred racehorse nearing the finish line. At worst, he reckoned she would ask him some day for a promotion to the assistant manager's position. He might even have to pay for her medical insurance. This thought caused him terrible distress.

He never suspected her to have blackmail on the bottom line of her personal accounting. Now he felt foolish for not having seen that her evil side neatly matched his own. Yet his envy of Scott and Brenda's success continued eating away at him with a hunger that devoured him, despite the conventional wisdom he had accumulated throughout his lifetime, and made him fallible. His greed was constantly fueled by the stories in the papers about Lotto winners and the corporate raiders pillaging the concrete canyons of the Wall Street area and of stupefying embezzlements on almost every Main Street in America. These were the nightly epistles of consumer television. A massive vortex of moral collapse and ambiguity was accelerated by decades of class anger and resentment and a senseless hunger for acquisition shared by all. Jack's own hostility toward the comfortable and cushy sliver of middle classes which still somehow miraculously existed now knew no bounds.

Francine's hunger for money and success was only just beginning to bud. Francine had a disturbing habit of eavesdropping momentarily on some of Jack's personal phone calls at the drugstore. He tolerated this because Francine gave him what his wife wouldn't give him by choice. Sexual gratification. Their marriage was both frigid and childless, in that order. All along he had thought that his sessions with Francine were only a minor indulgence on his part. Now he swallowed with difficulty as he remembered how imprudent he had been to conspire against Scott and Brenda on the telephone at the store. He had always prided himself on Francine's submission to his authority and had never once considered her in his detailed precautions. He certainly had underestimated the skillful range of her activities.

Jack looked down again at Francine's slender legacy. Her letter of resignation. Minutes earlier she had walked out on him, saying he had better come up with $350,000 if he wanted her to keep her lush succulent red lips still. She gave him one week to make up his mind.

This would be long enough to devise a plan to silence her, Jack told himself after he had thought long and hard upon the matter. He marshaled out his invincible logic, an aptitude that helped him build up his small business when he was younger. That nearly forgotten period of his life proved to him that he had the iron will necessary to eliminate former friends and classmates who were in the same business, also struggling to make a living, but had unfortunately been in his way. As Jack measured out the next customer's prescription a solution came upon him in a rush.

Slip a deadly compound into her regular beverage which she kept stocked in her refrigerator made up of chemicals leaving no trace of their effect behind in any unnatural way. A much less complicated project than Scott and Brenda he realized with satisfaction. He wouldn't have to invest much emotion in this exercise either. Brenda and Scott had been different. He had nearly reached with Brenda the plateau that poets have indiscriminately labeled "love" in the excesses of their inspirations, and he had also felt unusually comfortable with Brenda's family in Harlem whenever he visited her during their schooldays affair. Brenda's parents had never looked down upon him and had earned his undying respect. Coolly, Jack calculated that Francine would no longer be a threat, to anyone, after the weekend. He knew many of her domestic habits, timetables, etc., and still had a key to her apartment from a lurid weekend they shared when his wife was visiting her family in Israel.

Jack called his widowed mother in Bushwick where she had her little cottage to confirm his dinner with her at her home for that Saturday night. She asked him if he could stay over part of the weekend and help her with some lifting and gardening. He quickly answered yes, knowing full well that this was an iron-clad alibi. He then measured and mixed his solution from a few of the many viles and bottles on the rows and rows of shelves. His measurements were sure-fingered and smooth.

"How unfortunate that she must die," he thought to himself, as he finished off the last touches of orchestrating Francine's elixir. She was so much like himself, he reflected proudly, and she had shown an extraordinary level of endowment and gumption to get ahead. She would have gone far in New York if not for her youthful miscalculation. Her years of experience were no match for Jack's sense of survival.

He knew her death would be a great loss, to his working class pharmacy, and to the world at large. He sighed a moment, set his watch, pulled down the iron shutters and adroitly padlocked the heavy iron doors of his store on his way home.



Bryan drinking his favorite Irish whiskey on the rocks at RUDY'S BAR & GRILL in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, with his old German pal Norbert Bergrath


POETRY by Bryan Adrian published in "AISLING," in the Aran Irish-Scottish Isles

Short stories, blogs, poems, filmscripts, news articles, video & tramp journalism, by Bryan Adrian ... click this link