July 2004

“blind pierre usta play down the gypsy cafe on reggio street,” says carl. “i seen him ever saturday night we usta go in there, have a spaghetti dinner with garlic bread and red wine, blind pierre was playing. some fiddle player, blind pierre. them strings, they’d practically light up like stars the way he played, sometimes to make you cry like a babe in your mama’s arms, sometimes fast as a bordello handshake, like the cops was after him and he had to finish before they bust in and drug him off to the slam.”

“their sauce wasn’t so hot,” big tony says, “watery, ya know? but the garlic bread? make yer mouth water, make yer hips do a jig.”

“what about blind pierre?” i says. “i remember him. I seen him play downtown once–”

“nah,” big tony says, “wasn’t him. he never went downtown.”

“nah,” carl agrees. “never. not blind pierre. strictly a morgan streeter, blind pierre. musta been somebody else.”

“i’m telling you, i saw him. he was playing jazz with a combo down the old blue moon club. amazing stuff, i wouldn’t have believed it if i hadn’t heard him myself. what about him?”

“oh, he’s dead,” carl says around the walnut he’s cracking between his teeth.

“dead? when?”

“yesterday, yesterday night, whenever.”

seems carl was passing by blind pierre’s place on jimson drive just off morgan when he sees all these crowds of people milling around on the sidewalk and they all had these black armbands on, so he goes over to see what’s up, he don’t think right at first it’s got anything to do with blind pierre, he’s just curious. you know. but it’s got to do with blind pierre alright. it’s his funeral.



one night, belinda c, a woman of substance, a woman of enormities, passed through her back door and into her tiny garden like a warship oozing from the dock and heading out into a sea hardly big enough to contain it. there were noises in the garden, noises that did not belong and that she should not have been able to hear above the surface noise of the street, strange noises like clucking and high-pitched giggles and the sing-song falsetto of a 33 record played at 78.

it’s never really dark in the city. the garden was lit by streetlamps on both sides, neon lights from commercial signs on the roofs of nearby buildings, the spill from the rooms where wakeful neighbors watched television with the windows open, and even by the headlights of a passing truck or two. it was about as dark as a very very cloudy day.

she rumbled, the machinery of the warship’s cannon searching for a target. the noises had stopped. she stood for a moment, not sure if she had heard anything at all; maybe it was the whiskey whispering low and sultry and playing tricks on her like it used to do in the old days before she got better, before the house of pain. and then the noise came again, off to the right, near the fence. she swiveled carefully, quietly for a woman so large, and focused her guns.

she was prepared for a rat. she was prepared for a kid swiping her tomatoes, dry, shriveled things that they were. she was even prepared for a burglar, though what he might have hoped to steal in a neighborhood like this would bear explaining. of all the things belinda c was not prepared for, at the top of the list was what she actually saw–a leprechaun perched on her chickenwire fence, munching on a lettuce leaf and talking to himself. or maybe that was singing.

“shoo”, she said. “shoo. shoo.”

the leprechaun–if that’s what it was and what else could it have been?–looked up at her with mild amusement in his tiny hazel eyes. “i’m not a housefly,” he said. “or a timid field mouse with his racing shoes on at the slightest crack of twig. i’m not that easy to get rid of, if that’s what you’re hoping. why don’t you sit down in that old stuffed chair you threw out last year, and we’ll have a talk.”


cat-blonde went into the emporium for a piss and came out with a pile of laundry attached to price tags. she didn’t mean it, it was just one of those things, just one of those fabulous flings, a trip to the moon on credit card wings, just one of those things, but she was pretty sure big tony wasn’t going to see it that way, big tony being what you might call a bit of a stinge, or cheap, to use the vernacular (and why shouldn’t we? it’s as much ours as anybody else’s). so she went to another emporium and bought a plastic trash can. then she tore all the tags off the new laundry, threw them into a passing egg crate, and stuffed the now tagless new laundry into the trash can. when she got home, big tony was on the porch, sunning himself in the shade (big tony likes the idea of sun, he just doesn’t like the fact of it since he insists he has delicate skin that burns easy only nobody knows whether that’s true or not because nobody’s ever seen big tony go out in the sun long enough to find out), and he says, “what’cha got there, girl?” and she says, “nothin big tony. a trash can is all,” and he says, “whad’ja buy a new trash can for, we already got one.” and she says, “it’s got a dent in it big tony, i’m ashamed for the neighbors to see you carry it out when it looks like that. this one’s plastic and it won’t never dent.” big tony just shakes his head–wimmen–and goes back to sunning himself without taxing its strength by actually being in it and cat-blonde takes the trash can around the back.

now she’s got a problem, see, she’s got to get the new laundry with the tags missing out of the trash can and into the house without big tony seeing her and there’s no telling if big tony’s going to pick that very moment to decide he doesn’t want to sun himself any more and come back into the house where there’s a layer of brick between him and it, so she just leaves it there. which is a good thing because big tony picks that minute to come in after all and he would have caught her with her arms all full of new laundry with the tags missing and they would have had words and cat-blonde doesn’t like having words with big tony because he doesn’t have any and it ain’t a fair fight. so she leaves it there with the missing-tag new laundry in it and goes on into the house where she makes big tony his favorite meal–baked beans and franks with plenty of salted onions–and they watch tv and then after awhile, in the natural course of things, they go to bed and a little while later big tony is snoring like a moose and cat-blonde sneaks out of the house and downstairs to the kitchen and snaps on the outside light and goes to get her new laundry with the missing-because-she-threw-them-into-a-passing-egg-crate tags out of the trash can.

only when she comes out on the back steps she sees, froze there in the light like a scared baby rabbit is all her new clothes setting on a totally different female body other than hers.


they say there are 8 million stories in the naked city and i intend to tell every one of them but only if they get some clothes on. it’s disgusting. man, i can’t look at you when you’re like that. at least turn around….