StreetLegalPlay by Kyle Thomas Smith

Cafe de La Lune

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on February 17, 2020

By Kyle Thomas Smith

Full Moon.jpeg

So I was just in Cafe de La Lune (not its real name but close enough), around the corner from our apartment in San Francisco. I figured I’d get some more French homework done before my husband Julius finished his workout. This one hairdresser in our neighborhood, who has emerald hair and was sporting a puckish, steampunk frock coat, ordered her usual nightcap of rosé. The octogenarian Irish couple was stationed at their usual table in back, he a mathematician who usually ends up with a Guinness mustache, she—I don’t know what she did before going gray and having her nightly white wine glass but this is their nightly rite now. It was the usual, last-call crowd.

I said to Rhonda the barista, “My friend keeps texting me about caffeine addiction. I mean, I know I have one but it’s just iced tea.”

She said, “What are you gonna do? Switch to chewing gum or Jesus?”

The hairdresser side-eyed me like, “Like you know what addiction is, choir boy.”

Well, she seemed to be under the impression that gay men don’t know how to side-eye back. When, in fact, we practically originated the sport…when we weren’t busy originating democracy and cosmetology and operettas. Plus, it kind of brought me back to those high-school ego clashes—“I’m the badass, not you.” So I walked by her with my sleeve rolled up to expose my Infinite Knot tattoo and sat down with my iced tea to translate the biography of Pamela Churchill from French to English—and that Pamela was one saucy broad, so who’s the badass now, huh?

All of a sudden, this guy walked in, thin as a stick with short-cropped blond hair, wearing nothing but a black t-shirt. No pants, no underwear, no socks, no shoes. And he’s screaming and crying. Rhonda said, “Can I help you, sir?”

With a blood-curdling screech, he said, “A rat tried to gnaw off my foot! Bugs, they’re crawling all over my legs. And they’re out to get me.”

“Who?” said Rhonda.

“Them!” He screamed and left it at that as he scratched his legs up and down, opening scores and scabs along the way.

The Irish lady’s top eyelids rolled up like nightshades that’ve been yanked down too fast.

Rhonda brought him a dish towel, a day-old croissant and a plastic cup of water. Next it’d have to be the police, she supposed.

The hairdresser ran up, though, and put her hands on the guy’s shoulders, “Listen. Listen. It’s okay.”

“No! There were rats! And there are bugs! And…”

She said, “Here. Come here. Let’s sit down.”

And she sat him at the table across from me, on the chair facing mine. I just went on doing my translations and surreptitiously glancing over.

I heard snippets. She said she’d been where he is. He’s just whacked out on meth. He’ll be fine. He said a rat stuck its fangs in the side of his foot and started gnawing while bugs went in for the kill. She said shhhh and “Remember, it’s not real. I know it feels like it is but it’s not.”

“We need to call you an ambulance,” she said.

He was suddenly calm. And he nodded. And she stood by his chair and kept her hand on his shoulder as she called: “Hey, yeah, hi. We need an ambulance…Cafe De La Lune…There’s this guy. He’s on drugs…Yeah, yeah. Track marks. Gassed-out teeth. I guess thirties? Forty?…Forty, he says…How soon? ‘Kay, thanks.”

She said to him, “Okay, five minutes.” And she told him she was in rehab and was in the psych ward but now she has people from all over the world wanting her to do hair design for them. He crossed his legs, covering his naughty bits, and just sort of casually talking about what it’s like to do hair. And what it’s like to do heroin. And how addiction sucks. And how there’s too much you have to watch out for on the streets of San Francisco. How he’s had to turn to survival sex at an age when he’s no spring chicken.

The EMTs showed up. They asked his name. He said Alex. They asked if they could take his pulse. He said okay. They said they’re taking him to the hospital. He said okay. They asked him to follow them out. He said okay and he did.

Rhonda comped the hairdresser’s wine. The old Irish lady went up to her and said she‘d handled it beautifully. Even the mathematician seemed impressed, but you can’t really tell with him.

The hairdresser said thanks. She’s thinking about going back to school to work in an addiction psych ward. She knows them all too well. But she’s making a killing in hair these days and the people in her chair usually aren’t much different from that guy when you get right down to it. “You just have to talk to them like they’re people. They calm down. That goes for everybody.”

I continued translating. I still couldn’t bring myself to get up and doff my hat to her. She and I had gotten off on the wrong foot and I just hate having to give credit where it’s due. Plus, compared to her, I guess I am a choir boy.

Matthew and the Magpie

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on May 15, 2019

By Kyle Thomas Smith

magpie drawing

By Kyle Thomas Smith

(This is a story about why I’m heading to the U.K. next week.)

In London, people often build a little cat door in their kitchen doors so their cats can go in and out as they please. It’s not like here in America where the rescue shelters make you  sign a contract stipulating that you will not to let your cats out.


I have to say, I’m partial to the American model. Both our cats Giuseppe and Giacomo are indoor cats, and all my cats have been ever since I was 11 when the outdoor cat we had, Kasper, got hit by an Amtrak train. Outdoor cats are far more vulnerable to diseases and traffic mishaps than indoor cats. They don’t usually live as long. Outdoor cats also kill untold numbers of birds. In fact, they are the number one threat to birds over and above any other environmental hazard.


Our friend Matthew, who lives in Islington, has a cat door for his cat Jethro. He never saw any problem with it. He grew up in Nottinghamshire where it seemed almost cruel to not let your cats frolic in the woods and dales. Besides Jethro rarely made use of the cat door. He much preferred the sofa and, if he’d run around London more, Matthew figures he might make less of a dent in the sofa cushion over time. Even though Matthew is a strict vegetarian, mainly out of compassion for animals, he felt he could trust Jethro not to drag in a kill. Any cat who sings the arias that Jethro does at his food bowl every morning would seem too much the prima donna to target quarry.


A few Sundays ago, Matthew was working on a law brief at his kitchen table when he heard the cat door creak. Matthew didn’t look up. He just kept right on working as he heard Jethro pad over to the sofa. When Matthew did look up, he saw Jethro lick his paw and lay down on his side. Matthew kept right on working.


Matthew’s husband Neil, a novelist and freelance writer, had been working in his office upstairs. They had been together 20 years. Every Sunday night, Matthew always knew it was bedtime when Neil would come down to the kitchen to put his coffee mug in the sink. As Neil entered the kitchen on this particular Sunday night, Matthew stacked his papers, put them back in their file and moved his right foot slightly forward. Neil was washing his mug in the sink but fumbled it when he heard Matthew scream and kick back his chair.


Matthew shrieked at the sight of a decapitated magpie under the table. “My God,” Matthew shrieked, “Neil! Take care of it! Take care of it! I can’t touch it! I’m a bloody vegetarian!”


Neil walked over. The bird with the lustrous black feathers was big as the cat. The head was nowhere in sight. “Oh my God, Matthew,” said Neil, “That’s bad luck. That’s bad luck!”


“Oh, spare me your New Zealand folklore rubbish and take care of it!” Matthew shouted. He left his papers on the table and ran upstairs, past Jethro who sat up on the sofa cushion, eyes raised at how the one gift he had ever given them had been so poorly received.


A few Sundays later, Neil was upstairs working on an article. Matthew was in the kitchen working on a brief. Jethro was taking his twentieth nap of the day. The hours passed. Matthew finished his brief. He felt a little high from the achievement. When he’d first sat down to work on the brief, he didn’t think he’d get even halfway through it before bedtime. And yet here he was, finished. Jethro woke up and gave a little yawn from the living room. Matthew stretched and looked at the clock.


One a.m.


How had so much time passed? Neil hadn’t come down with his coffee mug. Matthew walked to the stairs. He could hear Neil snoring. He must have left his coffee mug in his office and gone straight to bed. It wouldn’t be the first time. Was it? Was it?


Well, in any event, tomorrow was work. Neil would be going in earlier than he would so he’d wake up when Neil would wake up. Matthew turned on the little nightlight near the closet and changed into his pajamas as Neil snored. He turned out the nightlight and crawled in bed next to Neil. He could go to sleep knowing he’d have all the less work to do at the office tomorrow now that the brief was done and dusted.


The room was flooded with light by the time Matthew woke up. Islington was going about its day. Jethro was asleep at his side but had now begun to stretch out. Matthew sat bolt upright. He looked at the clock.


9:40 a.m.


Neil hadn’t set the alarm, hadn’t woken Matthew up. “Neil!” Matthew shook him.


Neil’s skin was cold to the touch. “Neil!” Matthew turned him over. Neil’s face had the look that Matthew had heard so many families, dressed in black, describe of their departed—“peaceful.”


The postmortem was inconclusive. A possible brain aneurysm. At this point, Matthew says, it’d be of little comfort to know for sure.


Matthew said that going quietly in your sleep is a blessing for both partners when you’re old but not when your partner has just turned 57 and shown no signs of illness. Not when you were supposed to have decades more together. Not when you were already saving to retire in a newly restored castle in Dordogne. Not when you did not even get a chance to kiss goodnight because he didn’t come down to wash his coffee mug.


Now Matthew is putting the money he was going to put toward the castle down on one of the few remaining plots in Highgate Cemetery. We talked to him yesterday, also a Sunday, and he said the last thing he’d been expecting to do over the weekend was shopping for a coffin for Neil. “Highgate Cemetery is expensive but I don’t fucking care,” he said. I’d never heard Matthew curse before. I’m sure there will be more where that came from.


Matthew says his family and Neil’s have rallied. His own parents have come in from the Midlands and are staying in the guest room. The front parlor looks like the display window of a flower shop now. Neil’s niece had recently moved to Islington from Auckland and she drops by every day and helps with odds and ends. Matthew has gotten compassionate leave from work. When he can’t sleep in the middle of the night, he presses WhatsApp and calls New Zealand, where it’s afternoon and he and Neil’s family grieve together.


Matthew said that he and Neil had already been saying the house in Islington was too big for them but Neil liked the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood. Now Matthew tells us that he is planning to sell within a year and move to Highgate, a few blocks away from where Neil soon will be buried. Taking a page from Thomas Hardy, Matthew will only have Neil’s heart cremated. Half of the ashes will be given to his family. Half will be scattered near the beach that Neil so loved in his boyhood.


Matthew has not slept in the bedroom. He has thrown out the mattress, though, and will buy a new one when he’s up to it. Jethro can tell something is wrong. He comes up to Matthew for more and more pettings and has made room for him on the sofa, where Matthew will sleep until he feels he can sleep in the bedroom again.


Matthew hasn’t locked the cat door. Jethro can still come and go as he pleases. Yet he’s begged him not to bring in any birds, and absolutely no magpies.



Self-Parenting (Like a Total Dork)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on July 15, 2017

By Kyle Thomas Smith

There’s a new barista at the place where I write. He is swathed in tattoos. He has two nose rings and cartilage piercings descending to his ear spools. His black hair is streaked with green, tassled back and wrapped in a dark blue bandana. He is young-Axl-Rose-scrawny and wearing a Joy Division “Unknown Pleasures” t-shirt with the sleeves cut-off.

He is at least 20 years younger than I am but all of a sudden I’m 14 again and thinking this guy is soooo kewl. But back when I was that age, a big part of being kewl was acting like you were sooo over-it. And I am. I’m 43. But now I’m back to being 14, so now I’m not over-it but I have to act like I am.

He says, “Hi.”

A consummate adult in a J. Crew t-shirt and nothing punk about me anymore, I say, “Hi. Can I have an iced coffee and a Smart Water please?”

He reaches for the cups, “A large?”

“A large,” I say riffling through my wallet like its ragged interior is so much more fascinating than the regression I’m undergoing.

As he digs the ice out of the ice-maker, I say to my inner teenager, “No! You are not going to say you like his shirt and you are not going to say you saw Joy Division’s last show in 1980. That’s a flat-out lie. You were five in 1980, plus the lead singer killed himself the day before they could even go on their U.S. tour. No fibbing. I forbid it.”

My inner teenager calls me a dick, lights a Marlboro and wanders off somewhere. My 43-year-old self holds out my money like a battle-ax school marm in a starched collar and pumps.

The barista puts the water bottle in front of me and says, “Do you think this Smart Water should apply for a MacArthur grant?”

“I’m sorry?” I say.

“You know what that is? A MacArthur grant?”

“Oh, you mean the Genius Award?”

“Yeah,” he says with a Jeff Spicoli voice and Spicoli eyes, “It should apply. I mean it is…Smart. Water.”

So it’s a dumb joke and he isn’t giving me much to work with, but still he is trying to be friendly so I think I owe him a response. “Well,” I say, “It is an inanimate object and it doesn’t have a cerebral cortex so I don’t know what its chances would be. But as long as it has an email account, it should at least download the forms. Of course, one doesn’t ‘apply’ for a Genius Award. The MacArthur Foundation selects its genius candidates. But who knows, maybe it’s this bottle’s lucky day.”

He dead-stares at me. My inner teenager comes back and face-palms. I sidle away with my beverages and just like old times, I walk over to my table (in my J. Crew t-shirt, no less) feeling like a total dork.*

*Even though, arguably, he was a dork first with that MacArthur line.

Scruffy AristoCat

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on August 26, 2016

Scruffy Aristocat

By Kyle Thomas Smith

I grew up on the northwest side of Chicago and went to high school on the near south side. This meant I’d have to take the EL train 14 miles from my middle-class/upper-middle class neighborhood and through (what were at the time) low-rent areas that artists had been moving into. As I’d watch this Midwest La Bohème society board the train for their day jobs or art-school classes every weekday morning, my heart would swell with the feeling that I was seeing my own destiny unfold.

A lot of shit-paying jobs in and out of college ensured that I had indeed been watching my destiny unfold. I did go on to live in some cheap places in some happening areas but when the leases would be up, I’d be priced out of those areas and into neighborhoods that I and other white artsy types had been pushed into after our pale faces had made our last neighborhood a little too safe for building-flippers and plucky Yuppies.

There was a certain glamor to living where you could get mugged on your way to or from a simple toothpaste-run but, after a while, the sounds of shoot-outs and stray dogs fighting, and stray cats mating, in the alley every night and the sight of a new line of bashed-in car windows on my street every morning on my way to work got to be too dispiriting.

So I couldn’t pack up the U-Haul fast enough when a family friend let my mother know that her son had moved out of the condo they’d bought him on Sheridan Road. They asked if I’d like to live there instead at the cost of the assessments, which came to a grand total of $400 a month.

Twice I’d live in this family’s place: once in my mid-twenties before I went off and failed as a writer in Europe and New York and again in my late twenties when I was saving almost half of each paycheck to move back to New York.

Living on Ramen noodles most nights, I might have looked, dressed and acted like a character in “Rent” but I sure wasn’t living like one. Sure, I was paying peanuts for this apartment but it was on the ninth floor of a 28-story high-rise that stood right on Lake Michigan. It had floor-to-ceiling windows with a north-side view of a singularly Chicago cityscape. I’d fall asleep to the sound of waves breaking on the Granville Avenue rocks. It also came fully furnished with a Murphy Bed built into the other side of the kitchen wall. And by my early-late twenties, my time in the grant-writing trenches had landed me a much better job writing for a fair-housing organization, which was good for both my conscience and my savings account as I was able to squirrel away more and more money for the comeback I was staging in New York.

In the meantime, there was love to find and online dating to do.

Aside from one actor friend who had never managed to so much as find the on-off switch on the retooled word processor that had been donated to our theater and that had sat gathering dust on his desk for a full three years, I was the least tech-savvy person I knew. Nonetheless, I did manage to go to Kinko’s and scan and upload to the dating site a couple surprise Polaroid shots that were taken of me gorging at the chips-and-dips table at one of our cast parties. I’d also written and rewritten my ad to show I could rub two brain cells together, all so I could meet a guy who could do the same.

I ended up meeting a lot of cement-heads who were just out for hook-ups, though, and while I was game for that, I was also naive enough to think these crash-and-burns would lead to something. They never did. For however streetwise I pretended to be, my heart was too fragile not to break when it’d all be over in the morning and no messages would be left on my answering machine and no had-a-nice-time emails would land in my inbox.

I started missing even more meals so I could save more money so I could move to New York quicker and get away from the mood that was building up and taking over my sweet-deal apartment. After so many lonely nights and blue Mondays, I began to refer to this sweet deal in my journal as “my tomb with a view.”

I still left my dating profile up, though I was now scrolling through profiles of guys in the greater New York City area as I counted down the days till I could date them.

But then a guy in Chicago wrote me. He was a young oncologist named Nelson who was completing his residency downtown. “Wow!” he wrote, “Right when you’re just about to give up, you find the ad you’ve been waiting for all along.” He gave long and winding reviews of all the books I’d listed as my favorites. He said that picture of me dipping my carrot stick in the French Onion dip should be on display in galleries. I looked at his profile. He had a clean-shaven head and coruscating emerald eyes. My heart swooned. I came clean in an email to Nelson, though: “Like I said in my profile, I’m moving to New York.”

He shot back, “I know. But you’re here now, aren’t you?”

We exchanged phone numbers and, though we had to make it quick since we were both at work, we made plans over the phone to meet in person. He told me to meet him at a chi-chi bistro in Andersonville.

“Oh, yeah. I know it,” I said, “It’s not far from my apartment.”

He said, “It isn’t?” He seemed astonished. I was in too much a rush to ask why, though, so I said, “No. It’s really close by. I’ll see you there.”

“Okay,” he said, “It’s a nice place but there’s no need to dress up.”

“Um, okay,” I said, screwing up my eyes, “Like I said, I know the place. I’ll probably be coming right from work.”

Our workplace was casual so I wore jeans and my usual rings and things to the restaurant. I had gone to Citibank first and withdrawn more money than I’d hope to for dinner but it’d been so long since I’d had a good date that I sucked it up and crumpled the ATM receipt without so much as looking at it.

Nelson was every bit as handsome as his profile and he gave me a huge hug and kiss on the cheek when I got there.

We sat down. We both ordered the spaghetti frutti de mari and he chose a wine called Sangiovese. Nelson tasted it, approved it and after the waitress poured it for both of us, he raised his glass and said, “To you.”

It was hard playing it cool when someone says that with such green eyes but I’d taken what I’d learned from actors and played coy.

Nelson said, “Wow, you’re really pasty.”

I gulped, “Yeah. I’m afraid my first ancestors were the last in line when they were passing out pigment.”

“No, no,” he said, “I like it. I’ve always had this thing for Irish guys, especially when they’re artists.”

Say that to a guy who hasn’t worn shorts since he was laughed out of no-uniform day in fourth grade, you’ll get him rethinking his plans to move out of town.

Nelson was of German extraction. He grew up in small-town Pennsylvania but he had a most resourceful mind that had made him his town librarian’s special favorite. At dinner, I discovered he knew even the minor works of August Strindberg as well as Ingmar Bergman’s variations on them.

Nelson shared with me how his mother and father used to go on a long walk together each and every night and how, the one night his mother decided to stay home because she was tired, her dad went out on his own and was run over and killed by a hit-and-run driver. I gasped and Nelson put his hand over mine, closed his eyes and shook his head.

He changed the subject to how, after his first year of med school, he’d somehow gotten an audition for a touring company of “Rent,” even though he’d never been an actor and hadn’t sung a lick since he was in the boys choir. The casting director stopped him two bars in and called the next singer on but that one experience a lot was a lot more fun than all of med school had been.

“But I figure I’m better off saving lives,” he shrugged, “It’s what I’m meant to do.”

Nelson asked if I wanted crème brûlée. Nobody had ever asked me that before. In my head, I repeated the words, “crème brûlée, crème brûlée,” as though I were rolling around in a whole vat of it.

Aloud, though, I said, “Lemme check my wallet.”

As I went to reach for it, Nelson put his hand over mine and said, “I’ll pay for it.” I said, “Don’t be silly.” He said, “Come on. Please. How often do I get to take out a starving artist?” I wasn’t sure if this was a rhetorical question but before I could hazard a guess, Nelson said, “Besides. You need to save your money. New York ain’t cheap.”

He was right. The last time I’d failed there proved that. I put my wallet away. The crème brûlée was delicious enough to put a muzzle on my ever-growling stomach.

Nelson offered to drive me home. We both wore bashful smiles as we walked the two blocks to his car, which I noticed was a jet-black BMW. He opened my side first and closed it when I got in. Nelson hopped into the driver’s seat and smiled as he turned the ignition.

“So, how do we get to your place?” he said as we headed east. I told him to take a few right turns and then there we were at my high rise, the waves breaking on the shore up ahead.

“Wait,” he said, looking at the building, “You live here?”

I said, “Yeah.”

He said, “But this is a nice place.”

I didn’t know what to tell him, so I just said, “Well, my other apartment is in the projects.”

Nelson looked down. After a few seconds of pro forma canoodling, I said good night and exited the BMW. My building’s doorman let me in and I took the elevator nine floors up. My phone didn’t ring for the rest of the night.

The next morning, I emailed Nelson that I’d had a good time but he didn’t write back. Despite myself, for the next several days, I’d call to check my answering machine but there were no messages from him. His online profile showed that he’d been active every day since our date and, by the next week, he had added pics of himself and his friends partying during the weekend he’d just spent in Baltimore.

It seemed when he’d written me, Nelson was in the market for a stray but what he’d gotten instead turned out to be a scruffy AristoCat. It was time for him to call the next character from “Rent” on to the audition stage.

This was the last date I’d ever have in Chicago. I decided to skip even more meals so I could move to New York even earlier after already having moved up my move date.

I traded in my $400-a-month apartment in a doorman building on the Chicago lakeshore for a studio in Fort Greene, Brooklyn that was half the size and two and a half times the rent. Even that apartment was considered a steal, though, even after the broker’s fee and two-month’s deposit. Later I found out why I’d lucked into such a bargain. I had a backyard apartment that looked out on to an abandoned building where prides of feral cats lived. Now instead of falling asleep to the gentle undulations of waves, I was grinding my teeth and twisting my limbs in my blankets to the sounds of female cats screaming blue murder during mating season.

Kyle Thomas Smith is the author of the novel 85A (Bascom Hill, 2010 – He lives in Brooklyn with his husband Julius and his cats Marquez and Giuseppe. Their lives together are chronicled in Kyle’s newest book, “Cockloft: Essays and Flash Scenes from a Gay Marriage,” which will be released when he can find a publisher for it.

Mindfulness & Bones: A Six-Week Writing & Meditation Course

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on August 17, 2014




A Six-Week Meditation & Writing Course

Wednesdays, September 17 to October 29

7:00 pm – 9:15 pm


Beating yourself up for not meditating and/or writing enough?

Thinking you need to be thought-free on the meditation cushion or word-perfect on the first draft?




And experience Mindfulness & Bones, a new course that combines Buddhist-inspired mindfulness techniques and spontaneous writing exercises à la Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones).

These practices will help you: 

  • Enter the flow of meditation and writing in a supportive environment;
  • Establish daily writing and mindfulness practices;
  • Draw on the depth of your own experience for more vital writing and living.

All levels welcome – Beginner’s Mind ALWAYS encouraged!

NOT a submission/critique group. Simply an experience of the fluidity of meditation and writing.

Park Slope location.

Tuition for this six-week pilot course is $120. Enrollment is limited, so please inquire early at

Kyle Thomas Smith is an award-winning novelist and essayist, a longtime meditation and dharma student, and a teacher in training with the UK-based Mindfulness Institute.

A Sorcerer on Montmartre – (Chapter 13)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on July 3, 2014


A Sorcerer on Montmartre

By Kyle Thomas Smith

© 2013

Thirteenth chapter from the novel I’m writing

(Click the following for Chapters 1234, 5678910 (p. i)10 (p.2)10 (p.3)111213)


Single Room Only

Simon laid his head back on the lice-ridden tablet of a pillow they gave him at the Hotel Columbus on 8th Avenue, where he’d discovered there’s nothing quite like the sight of lead paint peeling off a flop joint’s walls to give one pause. The sheets, which the hotel hadn’t changed once in the sixteen days since he’d checked in, were as lousy as the pillow and the gray army blanket; and consequently so was every hair on Simon’s body now. No-one had run a broom or a mop over the floors in all that time either, so dust bunnies had begun amassing into steel-gray tumbleweeds. The mattress he kept kicking the sheets off of every sleepless night appeared to be splotched with gravy (only those weren’t gravy stains) and was itself no stranger to parasites. But the vision of the bottom coats of green lead chromate breaking through era after era of other green lead-chromate coats on the walls was what drove home the point that this is where the buck had stopped in Simon’s life, so the only sensible thing to do was to lay back and try enjoying the spectacle of corroding paint.

The soles of Simon’s feet were ripped-apart and blistering from his walking around all day, every day, these past two and a half weeks, so today he had his feet up with their sores festering on the bed’s iron guardrail. Initially, when Simon would be out walking around, it was to look for work but the shabbier he appeared over the course of his stay at Hotel Columbus, the fewer job applications were handed to him and potential employers started asking him to leave their establishments before he could even uncap a pen. His appearance—the lice, bedbugs and fleas crawling on his unwashed suit and hair; the patchy, peach-fuzz beard growing scragglier by the day; the dirty, scabby skin and bones he’d drag up to store counters or hostess stands—worked all the more to his disadvantage when he’d have to explain that there was no number employers could call him at since he didn’t have a phone so they’d have to set up an interview on the spot. After being out on his ear enough times after these stabs at self-promotion, he started walking around just to pass the time, just like he used to do when he was working for Paula and living with Robert O.

He’d walk famished until the soup kitchens opened. He’d found a whole list of them in the first one he’d gone to, St. Brigitte’s in Tompkin’s Square Park, and he’d mapped out routes to all the names listed, from one end of the island to the other. His favorites were Central Synagogue Caring in Midtown for breakfast (they served day-old bialys every once in a while, and it turned out Jews, especially the ones who fed him, weren’t as bad as Menard always said), Bowery Mission for lunch (always good for a baloney, cheese and wilted lettuce sandwich) and all the way up and over to Community Kitchen of West Harlem for dinner (their fish sticks and tater tots were at least half-cooked, something he couldn’t say about the ones at St. Joseph’s). The other hard-ups would try making conversation with him but he’d pretend to be a deaf-mute who couldn’t read sign language, lest they prove even crazier than he thought himself. He also took full advantage of the soup kitchens’ washrooms, where he could brush his teeth with his pocket toothbrush, evacuate his bowels into an actual toilet and wash his hands, face and feet in the sink, when the security guard wasn’t looking.

Simon couldn’t do such ablutions or evacuations at Hotel Columbus. There were too many thugs pushing drugs in the shared bathroom or lunatics braying down the halls or junkies nodding out in doorways—and every time he’d gone in to use the men’s shower, he’d find another rancid body passed out in a pool of vomit or another goon with big-house tattoos price-gouging, saying to get to the shower you had to go through him first. And the manager was too busy drinking beer and watching game shows behind the grill at the front desk to poke his head down the halls and make sure no funny business was going on, even though that’s just what he’d promise the cops every time they’d stop by—“No funny business goin’ on’ere, off’sirs, I’m always on da lookout for do’s kinda t’ings…”—and Simon sometimes came back to Hotel Columbus to see some of the scattered-toothed hags, the ones who’d stand outside their doors and ask Simon his name and try bumming smokes off him he didn’t have, coming down the stairs and giving the manager his cut of their pay once the sleazeballs had gone back to their wives or their can’t-get-any-any-other-way lives.

The manager was sure to be upstairs at Simon’s door today, though. Simon was supposed to have checked out two days ago but he couldn’t rub two dollars together to pay for the days he’d overstayed. Sure enough, as Simon lay in a daze, there was a pounding on the door. Simon merely licked his teeth and stared at the ceiling. The door shook. How high’s the Brooklyn Bridge?, Simon wondered. Don’t matter. You gotta have good enough feet to walk there. Simon kept his feet up.

Hotel Columbus was as lousy with deadbeats as it was with lice, but to be one of the ones who got to stay, you had to get in good with the grizzled longtimers who’d plead your case to the front desk if they liked you. But Simon had played as mute with his fellow hotel guests as he did with the soup-kitchen folks, so there was no one to speak for him now.

Ten days into his stay at Hotel Columbus, he’d tried talking to God. It took a lot out of him, God being the same Being Menard had always talked to—or, mostly, talked about—so Simon questioned whether God would want to talk to the bad seed Menard had banished, seeing as Menard and God were such peas in a pod. But one day, the security guard at the Bed Bath & Beyond on Broadway had escorted Simon out for walking in to answer the Help Wanted sign when his body had so clearly been begrimed in his hotel bed and hadn’t been in a bath in weeks, so Simon shambled down to Columbus Circle where a fat woman with kinky hair stood at the base of Russo’s Christopher Columbus statue, singing in a lispy singsong, with her hands down the front of her powder-blue sweatpants, “They-ew muth-t be a God up they-ew thumb-way-oh!/They-ew muth-t be a God up they-ew thumb-way-oh!” It was a one-line song that she’d made up on the spot and kept singing over and over again in a baby voice, her stupefied eyes looking up to somewhere miles above Trump’s hotel and the CNN sign as a traffic jam slogged around her.

At first, Simon wasn’t sure what it was about the woman that made him want to stop and ponder her. Everyone else who’d seen her had taken their conversations or sidewalk-cart food over to the Circle’s outer rims. What’s more, in spite of the lyrics wheezing out of her vocal cords, the woman also had a big round button on her frayed blue down coat that read in brassy red party letters “Make Yourself Useful & Get Naked!!!” Still, she was at Columbus Circle singing about salvation and here there was a statue of Christopher Columbus, and here Simon was looking to get the hell out of Hotel Columbus and into a better life, so he put all the signs together and took them all as a message from Grace, even as the messenger had her fingers nested in dirty pubic hair. “They-ew muth-t be a God up they-ew thumb-way-oh!” Simon decided to put his attempts at atheism on hold and crossed himself and crossed the street and started walking to the church he’d passed so many times down on 44th Street. (Sartre and Beauvoir would be none the wiser: they were dead anyway and they’d made it known in their writings they weren’t going to be looking down or coming back after they’d pass.)

Simon had seen the church many times but never had the interest to glance at its name. He’d missed its name this time too but only because he was running into it so quickly. He’d also missed its denomination. From what Simon could deduce, it was somewhere between Baptist and Pentecostal, but it was nothing like First Stone Mountain Calvary Baptist. For one thing, most of the congregation was black and so was the preacher, and instead of Calvary’s plain white walls, wooden cross and oak altar, there was a blazing, neon yellow cross coruscating behind a shiny white marble altar.

It was a Sunday and there was a service going on. The congregants didn’t sing their hymns like dirges like they did at Calvary. No, they got up and danced and clapped and there was a gospel choir in mulberry robes and a band with an electric guitar, an impassive bass player and cymbals clashing in time to drums and oh, there was spirit! And to get more into the spirit, Simon got on his knees in a back pew and said: “Father, You know what my daddy thinks of me and, unlike him, You know where I am right now. And I don’t know what You think of me—different people say different things—but I’m sorry, I’m with the existentialists on this one: I don’t think You authored that Big Book. I always had the feeling different people put their own ideas down in it and passed them off as Yours. But if You’re up there and You’re willing, I could sure use Your help. Specifically, I could sure use a job and a place to live I wouldn’t mind coming home to…oh, and a change of clothes…”

Simon was well into his prayer by the time the choir and band had stopped and the assembly had gone back to their seats up front. A man in a shiny teal suit came up and introduced the preacher, Reverend Baker. The congregation cheered and called his name over and again. Reverend Baker had to hold up his hands at the pulpit to get them to stop howling for him. Once they let him start, he said: “Society don’t go the narrow path.” Lots of the women in their smart hats nodded and shook their heads in agreement. They said, “No No. No. No it don’t,” or some variation thereof. Reverend Baker said: “It lets all kinds of things slide by. Deems all kinds of things okay that it shouldn’t.” A lot of the men shouted Amen and a lot of the women concurred, “That’s right. Preach it.”

Reverend Baker went on as Simon watched from the back: “Other day, I had my cute li’l baby granddaughter over and she’s bouncing up and down on my knee. And I’d had a tiring week, people. If I wasn’t visiting the infirmed at the hospital, I was talking to city council, and if I wasn’t at city council, I was downtown rallying in the cold to stop predatory lending. And if I wasn’t trying to keep our seniors in their homes, I was over at the youth center, telling our boys, the black man’s an endangered species in case you haven’t noticed, so preserve yourselves and while you’re at it, learn yourself some self-control and self-respect and stay in school and keep goin’ to church and gettin’ the Lord’s blessing, and I was telling our young sisters, keep-’em-closed, keep-’em-closed, keep-’em-closed until the night after you walk down God’s aisle.” The clapping thundered all the way up the aisle to which Reverend Baker had been referring, as did the rumble of knowing laughter from those who’d made the same mandate with their daughters or granddaughters.

Reverend Baker circled back to where he’d started: “So, brothers and sisters, I thought—woo!—I needed a breather before I could start a mean game of peek-a-boo or maybe tell my beloved granddaughter some good, clean Bible stories. So, I got a little lackadaisical. You know, I did what too many of us do with the young’uns God has put on this earth for us to love and guide in accordance with his Word. I confess to you all, I picked up that remote control and said to my baby granddaughter, ‘So, let’s see what’s on the tee-vee, little lady…’ And I’m here to tell y’all, out of the twelve or thirteen or fifteen channels I flipped through, there wasn’t one program on that set—not one program—that was fit to show the innocent eyes of my precious little wonder. And if it ain’t fit to show her, an innocent flower who knows nothing of this world, it sure ain’t fit to show the Lord Almighty, who knows ALL.

“Just what are we showing Him, people? Music videos where you got these women grinding up against each other? Bad enough what they doin’ with the men in those videos—but now they with the women too? What, we gonna show Him these sitcoms where you got these grown men prancing around like little girls, tellin’ us funny little jokes, amusing us with their antics, trying to lull us into believing it’s okay to accept the perverted, the abominable, the unnatural? And where does it stop? Is there an end to it all?

“Well, yes. There will be an end. Scripture promises that. There will be an end, but at the rate we goin’, we as a world ain’t comin’ to no good kinda end…” As the congregation clapped louder and louder and crooned a chorus of assent for these words, some even standing up and waving their hands, even those congregants who themselves regularly indulged the same trespasses they now so avidly joined in condemning, Reverend Baker looked up from his pulpit to see the church door swing open and shut, as yet another candidate for salvation had slipped his grip.

Past a certain point of the sermon, Simon just couldn’t see daylight between Baker’s church and Calvary and, as he stood in the bright winter sun on W 44th Street, he could feel the ghosts of Sartre and Beauvoir telling him they’d told him so. The whole visit made him want to make a beeline back to those secular and irreligious books he’d devoured in the library, but he didn’t know of any library that was open on a Sunday and anyway he hadn’t been in any since checking into Hotel Columbus. Instability in general and hunger in particular had made it too hard for him to concentrate on reading. Now, six days after that moment in the church, as he laid on his back watching paint peel and listening to the door bang, the only thing he thought might save him was to maybe turn to deadweight once the manager would walk in to drag him out.

The door rattled some more. Pounding had now turned into crashing. And then he heard his name: “Simon! Simon! Are you in there? Please, Simon, open up!” Simon? The front desk didn’t know who he was. He just gave them cash and they gave him a key. There were no names exchanged. Simon crawled up on to his elbows, “Who? Who’s there?” The door crashed open and in lunged Bucktrout. Simon looked up, a freaky clownish expression on his filthy face. Bucktrout was clean, by contrast, and wearing a nice black peacoat and in-tact Levis blue jeans and black Georgia mountain boots that guarded against the snow so much better than the thin-soled Italian boots that Robert O had given Simon and that Simon had marred beyond recognition by now.

Bucktrout stood and huffed with exertion. He gathered himself together, took a long look at Simon, “The guy at the desk sent me up to kick you out.”

Simon said, “You know him?”

“No,” said Bucktrout, pulling up the metal chair from the rotting-wood desk in the corner, “But I described you and he sent me up. I came a couple days ago too. He didn’t give you away then. Suddenly today, he’s all, ‘go up n’ get ’im.’ He says you’re delinquent on rent.”

“On that and many other things.”

“Mister, you smell like…”

“Like what? What, Jude, what do I smell like?”

“Like…something between a hot subway tunnel and death.”

“Hmmm…death in a subway tunnel. Now there’s an idea. I was going to use the bridge but the subway tracks…hmmm…Tell me, Jude, are you the angel of death?”


“Well, I only met you once, Jude. And now you’re turning up in my room out of nowhere. So this must be like something out of Touched By an Angel.”


“It’s my mom’s favorite show. She cries every episode. You were an angel before, when you were bartending, only I didn’t know it. Now that I’m about to die, you show back up. You’re about to shine a bright light all around yourself now, aintchu?”

“You’re about to die?”

“Well, I figure I must be. How the hell else did you get here?”

“I’ve been following you for over a week.”

“Guess I just can’t dodge the creepos, can I?”

“No…not that kind of following-you. Jesus, no. I’ve been trying to find you, see if you’re okay since you slunk out of my apartment.”

“But how’d you find me here?”

“I talked to Paula.”

Simon sat up and put the back of his head against the wall, “Oh, yeah? She tell you she fired me?”


“She tell you why?”

“Something about phone calls.”

“Yep, from Robert O. He kept on calling when I told him not to.”

“She said he swore at her a lot.”

“Like I could control him. Like anybody can control him.”

“I told her what happened.”

Simon shot forward, “Why?”

“Simon, I walked into the restaurant, hoping you’d be working—”

“How’d you know where I worked?”

“You let it drop at my kitchen table.”

“Oh,” said Simon, “You got a good mem’ry.”

“I’m an actor. I have to. So, I asked if you were working. She said, ‘He’s not with us anymore.’ I said, ‘Where is he?’ She said, ‘Some things don’t work out.’ I said, ‘When’d this happen?’ She said, ‘Last Sunday if it’s any of your business.’ I said, ‘You know that kid was drugged and assaulted the night before you canned him?’ Suddenly she wasn’t such a hard-ass anymore. We sat and talked.”


“What, Simon? Why didn’t you tell her?”

“I don’t know. It’s…embarrassing.”

“Nothing to be embarrassed about. You didn’t do anything to make it happen.”

“Didn’t I?”

“What you mean, boy? How could you have ever done anything to bring that on?”

“I stole.”

Jude paused. As gently as he could, he said, “You stole from the guy who threw the party?”

“No! Never from him! No, I stole from restaurants.”

“You stole from Paula?”

“No, I’m talking about from restaurants when Belinda and me were driving up—all the way from Georgia.”

“Um-kay,” Jude said, leaning in like he was trying to follow, “What’d you steal?”

Simon covered his eyes, “Well…once some tip money that was on the table already when Belinda and me sat down. And then, y’know, we wanted to save the money we had on us—which Belinda ended up spending on drugs anyway, but, y’know, at the time, we were trying to get good at saving, so we’d eat-and-run in places.”

“Okay. That’s bad. But what’s that got to do with what that Robert O guy did?”

“Well, it all goes back to that thing you were talking about, right?”

“What thing?”

“That thing you said in the apartment, about where what goes around comes around.”

“You mean karma?”

“Yeah. Been thinkin’ that.”

“Wait, you mean you’re thinking you got drugged and damn near gang-raped because you pocketed someone else’s tip money and beat some checks?”

“I’ll never steal again.”

“Well, that…that’s good to know, Simon, but…it ain’t exactly the punishment fitting the crime, is it?”

“I’ll never steal again,” repeated Simon as he pushed back his greasy head of hair, where the dye had faded and the roots showed like a thicket of parched weeds.

“Oh, Simon,” Bucktrout shook his head.

“You did that a lot—”


“You did that a lot when I was at your place.”


“Shook your head and said, ‘Oh, Simon…’”

“That’s cuz I got my work cut out for me with you.”

“What you mean?”

“C’mon. Your bill’s all paid here. We’re going.”


“I paid it. Come on.”

Simon and Bucktrout agreed on leaving Simon’s soiled undergarments and Strand bag behind, though Simon insisted on keeping Euro Boy, which Bucktrout would only let him do if he kept it covered under his shirt, which was going to pieces and turning into one big stain every minute he wore it.

As Bucktrout escorted Simon out Hotel Columbus’s front door, Simon dropped the key off at the front desk and saluted the manager, who didn’t salute back. One of the resident hags slumped against the lobby’s hard stucco wall and said, “Bye-bye, honey. Good thing your big brother found you out. Mine just ate me out. Hahahaha!” Simon wanted to stop and clarify that Bucktrout was no blood relation, but it’d blow his whole deaf-mute cover, so he kept walking.

On 8th Avenue, Bucktrout told Simon to stand on the sidewalk and not run off while he hailed a taxi. He said, “No cab’s gonna stop for us with you looking like that.” Simon recognized he was in no position to take offense or to run off. If Bucktrout had enough for a cab, he probably had enough for a square meal too. A cab came, Bucktrout got in, opened the door and waved Simon in after him.

Simon had never been in a cab before but from the time he shut the door behind him, the experience was already shaping up to be just what he thought it’d be: one big big-city brouhaha. Bucktrout told the driver to take them to Scholes Street in Brooklyn but the driver refused, saying it was too far out of his way and he had to be back up in the Bronx in an hour. After about five minutes of squabbling, Bucktrout waved a cop over from the other side of the street and the cop told the driver he’d have to take them since his roof light was on when he pulled over. The driver gave in, griping most of the way about how he had to drive with his window down, even in this kind of cold, since Simon reeked like a bad case of gangrene. Bucktrout and Simon acted like the driver wasn’t even there, though, now that they’d bested him.

“Paula says you can have your job back,” Bucktrout told Simon.

“I don’t want it back.”

“C’mon, Simon, what else you gonna do?”

“How’d she know where I was stayin’ anyway?”

“She didn’t. The other waitress…”


“Yep, she told me she was on her way to work one day and thought she saw you stepping into that hotel. She saw you again, about a week later, stepping out of it. She said you looked like warmed-over shit. And you do, mister. You do.”

By the time Simon had returned to Bucktrout’s apartment, even more of his stuff was ending up in the trash, specifically all the clothes he came in wearing. He also once again ended up showering naked in front of grown men. This time it was different, though. After making sure the coast was clear, Bucktrout handed Simon a garbage bag, along with Peter’s bathrobe, and had him remove all his clothes in the first-floor hallway, stuff them in the bag and toss them out with the rest of the trash on the side of the stairwell. “Phew!” said Bucktrout, marching a robed but barefoot Simon up the wooden stairs in the fusty dark stairwell, splinters and debris sticking into the blisters on Simon’s feet, “Mr. Caivano’s gonna be glad to get that bag out come garbage day. It’s stinking up the whole building already.” Simon entered the apartment, where Bucktrout said to his blond-haired, blue-eyed, fellow-theater-artist boyfriend, “Peter, this is Simon. But look away. Look away! Look away for now. This boy needs a shower bad before he’s presentable.”

Peter said, “See you a little later, Simon. Enjoy your shower.”

It was a simple stand-up shower but after life in Hotel Columbus, washing in it felt every bit the luxury he imagined a bubble bath would at the Plaza Hotel, which he’d wandered into and gotten kicked out of more than a few times the past couple weeks. He marveled at how the weeks of dirt and grime washed down the drain thick as sludge. To get clean, he had to scrub and scrub and Bucktrout leaned in from behind the curtain and helped him scour. Bucktrout found that Ivory soap wasn’t going to be enough to kill all the bugs on Simon, though.

Bucktrout brought out the same clippers he’d used years before for when he played the skinhead in Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories at Wyckoff Theater. He also sent Peter out to CVS for mathalion lotion and lindane shampoo. Peter came back bearing disposable razors and shaving cream and bandages too. They had to send Simon back to the shower right after he got out and dried off. They gave Simon the shaving cream and razor and gave him a chance to shave his face. He also unwrapped a spare toothbrush that Peter had brought back from a Holiday Inn in Philadelphia, where he’d stayed while directing two one-acts at the New Plays Festival downtown. Simon’s gums bled and burned as soon as they came back into contact with a decent toothpaste like Tartar-Control Crest. Bucktrout and Peter said they were sorry to have to get so personal but lice required special treatment. Simon said he didn’t want lice anymore. Bucktrout said there was only one thing they could do then.

They broke it to him that, if he truly didn’t want lice (and they truly didn’t want him to have it either, especially in their apartment), all his hair would have to come off now. Simon felt confident they weren’t Krishnas and they’d been nice so far, leaps and bounds nicer than Robert O, so he let them sit him down in Peter’s robe and drape a towel and a whole bed sheet around his front and back. Every strand of the fancy haircut Robert O had given him fell to the floor, along with the grown-out, weedy roots.

This was the first time anyone present had ever had to treat this kind of problem. They began to consider that the lotion Simon had spread all over himself might not be up to the job either, so once again, they all went back into the bathroom and Simon took off the robe again and they all took part in shaving Simon’s chest, legs, arms, armpits, buttocks, and pubes, where many microscopic dead white bugs had assembled. At first, they used clippers but it became clear that clippers didn’t shear close enough to the skin. Simon let them help him out with the shaving cream and disposable razors since they were better at not nicking him than he was. He did insist, though, on getting the hair on his own scrotum with tweezers and scissors. The whole ordeal still wasn’t enough to take Simon’s mind off food, so Peter fed him orange slices from the other side of the shower curtain as Simon once again soaped up and rinsed, and it seemed like every time he showered more dirt was sliding out of his pores and making its way down the drain. Bucktrout began sweeping and mopping up soapy, shaven hair the whole while.

Simon got back into Peter’s robe and took a seat in the kitchen across from Peter, who inspected the soles of Simon’s feet and determined that they’d have to pop and drain each of the scads of blisters on them. Simon placed himself in Peter’s hands. Peter took out a few sewing needles and sterilized them with rubbing alcohol. Simon wailed each time another blister got stuck with a pin and panted every time the fluid in it got drained and seethed each time Peter pressed a cotton swab full of povidone-iodine on it. As Peter dressed Simon’s lesions with gauze, Bucktrout sat on the windowsill taking in the pages of Euro Boy.

“Peter, sweetie,” he said, holding up a blowjob tableau featuring two tan civil servants on their lunch break in Ljumbljana, “Think you’ll be a while? These Austro-Hungarians are making me a little too hard to keep sitting here.”

“Go ahead and finish yourself off in the bedroom,” said Peter, “I’m busy. But be quick about it. We’ve got shopping to do.”

Simon said, “I can’t go shopping.”

Peter said, “Not you. You’re going to keep your feet up and get some rest. Right after you eat.” Peter stood up and put Simon’s feet on the seat where he’d been sitting. He took a box of Honeynut Cheerios out of the cupboard and poured it in a bowl that he then filled with 2% milk.

“What are you goin’ shopping for?” Simon asked.

“For you.”

“What, what are you buying me?”

“Well, to start, some clothes.”

“Oh, no,” Simon took his feet off the chair, “That’s just what he did.”


Bucktrout looked up from the magazine and answered for Simon, “That scumbag in the East Village.”

Simon said, “He bought me all the finest feathers off the rack. Then he took ’em all back. Left me with nothin’. And, y’know, there was hell to pay for him takin’ me in for free, so…”

Peter handed Simon the cereal bowl, “You can start paying rent when you start working again. And trust me, the clothes we can buy you, I don’t think you’ll want to keep.”

“How much is rent?”

“We’ll talk about it when you get a job.”

“Where will I stay?”

“So, like I was telling you in the cab, our roommate moved out about three weeks ago,” Bucktrout said, “You can have her room. It’s barely big enough to stretch a midsized body out in but it’s better than church steps, at least this time of year.”

Simon began to weep into his cereal bowl but pulled himself together enough between thank-you’s to ask for seconds. Once his belly was full, Peter and Bucktrout lifted up Simon’s chair with him in it, so he wouldn’t have to walk on bandaged feet to the site of his new little bedroom. There was no bed or mattress in it but they’d laid out clean sheets and blankets and pillows on the floor.

Bucktrout helped Simon into a pair of ruby-colored 1920s lounge pajamas that Bucktrout had worn in a production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives and that Bucktrout had laid claim to when the play had closed early due to a plague of empty seats. The pajamas were big on Simon but enough good meals could take care of that. Peter arranged a bolster for Simon’s feet. Simon laid down, got under a pile of wool blankets and asked Jude, “What you doin’ all this for me for?”

Bucktrout shrugged, “For good karma,” and tossed Euro Boy on to Simon’s chest.

Bucktrout turned out the lights and closed the door. Simon felt around his scalp and under his shirt and down his pants. It was like he was a newborn baby—hairless, swaddled up in blankets, unable to walk, dependent on others for care. And indeed it was in this apartment that a new playwright was born.

Kyle Thomas Smith is the author of the novel 85A. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband Julius and his illustrious felines Marquez and Giuseppe.


A Sorcerer on Montmartre – (Chapter Twelve)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on July 1, 2014

Brooklyn at night

A Sorcerer on Montmartre

By Kyle Thomas Smith

© 2013

Twelfth chapter from the novel I’m writing

(Click the following for Chapters 1234, 5678910 (p. i)10 (p.2)10 (p.3)111213)



By the time Simon was able to locate a subway station anywhere close to Bucktrout’s East Williamsburg apartment, it was still news to him that he was even in Brooklyn. It seemed this would’ve been the kind of thing Bucktrout would’ve mentioned at his table, but it never came up, somehow. There were overpasses, an expressway, a bridge and a river just like on the Lower East Side, but what spun Simon’s head was, when he looked across the water, he could see Manhattan sure enough but he wasn’t on its shores anymore.

Where he stood, the houses were nondescript, clapboard with aluminum siding, not far off from the kind you might see around Wizard’s Stone, though here they were offset by warehouses and colossal tenements with imposing fire escapes, the kind you might see by Clinton Street. Defacements jumped off the sides of buildings like hatchet men and a lot of the side streets he wandered down were as empty as the shuttered factory towns back home.

The main drags, though, looked every bit the bric-a-brac bohemia that St. Mark’s Place was. The faces were younger and fresher, with not all that many more lines on them than on Simon’s face, but the denim was just as skinny and tight as it was on St. Mark’s, vendors stocked used paperbacks and vinyl records on card tables all down the blocks even in winter and there was one jam-packed, clattery café after another, each redolent with espresso and unorthodoxy, just like in both Villages, West and East. It would have given him some context if he had at least seen a storefront or a billboard or a masthead bearing the name Brooklyn—and there were plenty around, but his bewildered eyes kept shifting right past them. Instead Simon had the feeling he’d been transported to some parallel universe, but he’d already been spun around enough for one weekend to want to go exploring it.

From a distance Simon saw the G train station at Metropolitan-Lorimer, so he ran over to it and down its dark brick stairs to ask a station attendant just where he was and how to get to where he was going. The attendant was an east Indian, Simon noted, maybe even one who worships tens of millions of gods, which he knew Menard would’ve deemed an even more salvageable situation somehow than having just that one god, Allah—except Simon also remembered being taught there are hundreds of millions of Indians who follow only that one god, Allah, although the Sunday school teachers somehow failed to mention that Allah is the same god as God. Simon didn’t see a red dot on the subway agent’s forehead, though, so it was a good bet he was one of those Allah worshippers himself and, if that were so, then he and Simon were heading for the same eternal furnace—in Calvary’s book, if not in Allah’s.

Help was help, though, heathen and hell-bound or otherwise, and the station agent turned out to be a great help indeed. Simon told him he was looking for this one place, a bar called Lucky 13, and the attendant took the time in his scratched-up Plexiglas booth to flip through the newest edition of the White Pages for it. When he found it, he said in a reedy timbre, “S’in Pa’ Slo’.” It took a few iterations before Simon was sure he’d heard him right, but finally the words Park and Slope came through loud and clear, words which rang a bell for Simon from the few chats he’d managed to have with Belinda about her jobs (or about anything at all) these past many weeks. The agent wrote down directions—actually wrote down directions. Not the reputation New Yorkers had back home, but there the Good Samaritanism was in writing on the slip of paper the Indian handed him: “Take Dntwn Bklyn G to Smith-9th—Trans to F—Get off, 4th Av. —Walk S to 13th & E to 5th Av.” It was only then that Simon came to see he was in Brooklyn and the station agent squinched his eyes at Simon for not knowing that much already.

Subway directions still read like hieroglyphs to Simon, but he’d also started noticing how much more decipherable they became once you rolled up to the actual stops. Simon had hours just to wander through Park Slope, where the limestones and brownstones were stately and landmarked, so unlike the rachitic neighborhood he’d just left. Simon had never heard about Brooklyn being any kind of place where there’s money. He’d always pictured overloaded clotheslines, strung between tall apartment buildings, and smudged, barefoot children waiting up on stoops for dads who wouldn’t be home until way past their bedtimes after having drunk or bet away a whole week’s low wages—the latter part of the picture being something akin to Wizard’s Stone back before meth started taking the place of booze and jobs. But here well-to-do mothers abounded, pushing high-end strollers with scrubbed-up kids in the newest Nikes in tow. More and more, though, he was coming to know New York as a place full of surprises, so he was starting not to get too surprised by his own surprise on this end of town.

Simon went to Lucky 13 and saw on the hours sign that it wouldn’t be open until after nightfall. There was a cold snap in the air that his new suit coat was no match for, so he decided to walk around some more just to keep up his body temperature. He found Prospect Park and there he did what he’d become such a pro at doing, just loitering along until enough hours could pass to be where he needed to be. It’s a good thing Simon had remembered to keep his wallet in the suit that Robert O had made him put on at the party and which he was still wearing, and it’s a good thing the wallet hadn’t fallen out when he’d been unconscious and his pants were below his kneecaps. His head still reeled from the mickey Robert O had slipped him and he hadn’t put anything with calories in his stomach besides that one chemically altered Coke for almost a full day, yet he was loath to spend money on food since he knew he might have to shell out most of what was in his account on any cheap hotel with a room for the night.

Hunger got the better of him as more hours crawled by, though, so he stopped into Purity Diner on 7th Avenue (Brooklyn, it turned out, had a 7th Avenue too) and splurged on a tuna on rye that didn’t taste one bit different from the one they made at Chelsea Night & Day, but with the help of some fries and Saltines, it did the job of filling him up so he could go back out and keep on walking in Prospect Park.

He had to make it work, this life up north. Walking past the endless species of trees and across the Lullwater and Fallkill Bridges and the vast lawns in the park, Simon vowed to himself that, even if he were winnowed down to protruding ribs and a French fry a day, he’d never call down like a prodigal for a Greyhound ticket back home. Who knew whom there was to rely on for help out in the elements, though? Maybe Belinda knew of better options than sleeping on the streets like those dead-end kids Simon would so often give money to. He knew he was too out of the know to take asylum among roofless punks and goths like Belinda could; he had a feeling he’d be too white and inept to cut it with the kids he’d sometimes see break-dancing for loose change in Times Square or Union Square or on subway cars, and he couldn’t see himself making a good Krishna, though he’d once overheard some Chelsea Night & Day customers say they have a yummy buffet at their temple and if there’s one thing he was good at, it was eating. If only there were an existentialist cult that fed, clothed and housed its disciples, he’d be first in line to join. He could handle wearing an overcoat and horn-rims and studying in libraries, like they all used to do; heck, he’d even take up smoking if he had to! But the Krishnas’ sikhas, robes and tambourine playing, he just couldn’t get with. Alas, existentialists didn’t form a society unto themselves—at least not officially—they were typically loners, and besides it was an outdated 20th Century movement with nobody in it anymore.

Simon walked around until after seven o’clock on this late winter’s day while his headache grew worse. Shortly after six p.m., a policewoman told him the park was closed and he’d have to vacate, so he kept walking within a three block radius of Lucky 13 Saloon warming his hands in his front pockets for the next few hours, hoping Belinda would be working so he could talk to her about what to do next. He had quarters and dimes from the change from his bill at Purity so he’d stop at payphones to call Belinda’s cell phone but she wasn’t picking up.

Yet when Simon walked into Lucky 13, there she was, peeling lemon rinds and putting the mise en place in place for the long night ahead in the dark bar. A guy in a yellow Suicide t-shirt and black leather vest sat on a studded, red leather-topped stool. He had a green and black Mohawk that he hadn’t bothered putting up (but that was a foot and a half high when he did), so it just draggled like toxic slop down the sides and back of his head. He was doing Jägermeistershots with Belinda. No customers had come in yet. They were listening to Johnny Cash’s “At Folsom Prison” for laughs before any sort of crowd could roll in wanting a fast and loud nihilist ruckus.

For a frozen moment, Belinda just glared at Simon as he stood in the doorway. She couldn’t remember ever mentioning to him where she worked, but she had and he’d found her. The Mohawk guy looked at Simon like he was a twerpy nobody and even scowled at how a chick like Belinda could waste her time gawking at somebody who was nobody. Simon in turn looked at Belinda under the overhead lamp and saw for the first time how hard living was going to war on her face, how by now her skin was something no self-respecting burn victim would trade her for. Finally, Belinda slugged down the Mohawk guy’s next shot for him and said, “Kick him out. He’s not 21.”

“Look, Belinda,” Simon said, “I don’t know what you heard.”

“What I heard? What I heard is Robert O could lose everything now.”

“He had it coming.”

“Get him out,” Belinda shouted. The Mohawk guy did a push-up off the bar, kicked his stool to the side and rubbed his hands together as he walked on over to Simon. He was six foot six and was saying something about how they could do this the easy way or the skull-busting way he liked to do it, but by now Simon was too used to threats to pay attention.

“We gotta talk, Belinda.”

Using just the finger pads of one hand, the Mohawk guy pushed Simon out the door by his bony chest. Simon stood his ground outside, though, and before the door could swing all the way shut, he could see Belinda coming out from behind the bar. Next thing, she was standing on the walkway with him in the brisk night air. For a small stretch of time, neither one said a thing to the other, though Belinda’s flared eyes and nostrils made it clear that Simon had better start talking.

“I wish you’d been at the party,” said Simon.

“Well, too bad,” Belinda said, lighting a cigarette, “I wasn’t.”

“You coulda seen for yourself. You coulda stepped in.”

“I was working. And I’m working now. So, quick, what’s your side? What happened?” She folded her arms, the cigarette smoldering about an inch off her black sweater.

“Y’know, down in Georgia, you had all day to sit and jabber,” Simon said, back-talking for the first time in his life, “Get you to New York and suddenly your time is money. You’re practically snappin’ in my face.”

“Take up any more of my time, your face’ll get a fuck lot worse.”

“They tried taking advantage of me, Belinda.”

“Oh, please.”

“Did a lot more than try. They did. They got me in the bedroom.”

“You got two fists. And lungs for screaming in case your arms are too noodlely to fight off a bunch of pansies.”

“They drugged me.”

“Okay, so? You live, you learn.”

“Learn? You blamin’ me?”

“I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying that’s life, kid. I had to deal with it. You think my mom’s boyfriends stuck around cuz a her? You think they always woke up in her bed? And I didn’t want ’em. I was just a schoolgirl. I couldn’t help it I was growing tits in my sleep. I couldn’t help it Ma wasn’t home reading me bedtime stories. She was out with them. But a lot of times I’d wake up to one of her scum, with their fingers in me, tellin’ me bedtime stories—about bears playing doctor on Goldilocks. And it was shit and I hated it…but it was supposed to be that way.”

“It was supposed to be that way?”

“Yep. Because it’s life. Life showing me its real face, right from the get-go. And the sooner you learn people are like that, that they do that kinda shit, the better off you’ll be.”

Simon looked to the sky, “Makes me want to run screaming back to church when I hear talk like that.”

“Why? You think they’re any better there?”

“They didn’t drug me in church.”

“Only cuz they don’t drink. Sure raped the shit out of your mind, though. And it’ll be a lifetime before you shake that off.”

“I need my stuff.”

“Your stuff? He bought it for you. It’s his. And don’t go expecting more free haircuts either. Your roots look like shit, by the way.”

“So, I’m not getting anything back?”

“You can try. But Robert O is gettin’ out tonight, darlin’. His boss is posting bail. I’d stay well out of his way.”

“He’s not going up the river?”

“We’ll see, but he’s gonna tell the judge a lot of the stuff wasn’t his. He might turn in some names for leniency, do some rehab, some community service. He’s got a good lawyer—that other guy you got busted got the lawyer for him, from his firm.”

“You mean, the Jew.”

“His best client…who you got busted. Don’t know if he’ll be his client anymore after this. Might lose his law license if he gets a record.”

“Oh, he’ll be back,” said Simon, “Robert O’s just gotta hold out some coke and that Jew’s nose’ll be right back sniffin’ at his hair chair.”

“Whoa, Simon, honey,” Belinda said, “Never heard you so hostile before. Chip off the ole bigot.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just—that guy…Look, how long’s Robert O in the tank?”

“Could get sprung any minute. The lawyer thinks he can bargain for house arrest. He’ll have to wear one of those anklets. He can go to work and home but nowhere in between, and he’ll have to do some pop-piss quizzes. I went to see him this afternoon before they shipped him to Queens. He says he wants to kill himself, but I don’t think he means it. He says he wants both us out, though, and he means that. He put a message through to someone to change the locks. And he got some guys to put our shit in bags too, I don’t know who they are, and I don’t know how they know whose shit is whose but I don’t want your paws on any shit that’s mine, got it? Robert O said the bags will be next to the dumpster. He doesn’t want us coming up when he gets home. He wants to be alone to think.”

“Maybe sitting and thinking’ll help him change. Maybe this experience helped change him.”

“That’s the angle you churchies always work, isn’t it?”

A few customers started coming up the walkway. They shouted out to Belinda, who gave them a disinterested wave as she cashed out her cigarette with her combat boot.

“Where you staying?” Simon asked.


“Ain’ t you gonna ask where I’m stayin’?”

Belinda opened the Lucky 13 Saloon door, “Nope.”

“Is that all you got to say?”

“You mean, besides fuck off and good luck and thanks for getting me evicted? Well, one more thing: Get off the walkway or you’ll find out what it’s like getting the cops called on you.” Belinda walked back into the bar. Simon didn’t even try telling her it was Bucktrout who’d called the cops. It’d be like talking sense into a badger. She’d only believe what she’d made up her mind to believe.

But even after all that had happened, and even after how Belinda had left things, Simon still couldn’t agree that everyone was like those white-trash lechers she’d talked about, with their dirty lullabies. Bucktrout wasn’t like that. The station agent wasn’t like that. Not even Belinda would be like that if her mom’d had better taste in men. And there was Margie at work, who got Simon the job as soon as he hit town. And the cashier with the big glasses and stringy strawberry blond hair at The Strand, whose name Simon still hadn’t learned but who always gave him a big smile and remembered what he’d bought the last time he’d been in, she wasn’t one of the bad guys. As he wandered away from Lucky 13 in the cold, Simon continued running a counter list of names in his head, comprised mainly of customers who’d say please and thank you and treat him like an equal when he’d refill their water glasses or bus their dirty plates. Granted, it wasn’t a roster to rival the “begat” chapters of Genesis, but there were enough people on it from the past couple months to keep him from throwing himself on the F train tracks as he waited on the platform to go back and collect his things from the rubbish pile next to Robert O’s building.

But then he got to Clinton Street and saw the by-now familiar sight of his few meager chattels stuffed in garbage bags; only, in this newest set of bags, he’d found even less than he’d come to New York with. There were only two bags left outside for both him and Belinda and scavengers had already gotten in and picked the best bits out of both—that is, after Robert O and whoever had helped him pack had decided on what they’d keep for themselves and what they’d toss. Not even the tattered orange russet winter coat he wore on his first day was there anymore. Most of the stuff was women’s wear and bondage gear, all belonging to Belinda and nothing Simon would want, though he did recall how much fun it was acting all camp in that negligee during that Bette Davis movie. About all Simon managed to find of his own were a couple pairs of underwear and socks and fortuitously a canvass shopping bag from The Strand to carry them off in.

None of the mounds of books he’d bought at The Strand were in the trash, though. (Who knew Robert O or his packers were such big readers? Or maybe whatever dumpster divers had gotten there before him were?) But his copy of Euro Boy had found its way into the pile, so Simon picked it out and put it in the Strand bag as a memento of being cast out of the Bible belt. Simon knew this was the part where the Prodigal Son had better make that call home before he’s forced to dine on pig feed, but he also knew that if he went back to Menard’s house, he’d be the fatted calf before he could even open his mouth to say father.

Simon looked up to Robert O’s apartment window. The only lights he saw came from Robert O’s HD TV set, which vibrated a frenzy of colors on to a gallimaufry of fine art and conspicuous consumerism, all meant to underscore Robert O’s good taste, though the overall effect was that of a Cockatoo’s acid trip. Simon gathered up his little bagful of unmentionables (not the least unmentionable of which was Euro Boy) and walked back to Chelsea Night & Day to see if Paula might be able to furnish him with a replacement uniform, a free dinner and maybe some flattened cardboard to sleep on for the night behind the leaky refrigerator in her restaurant’s kitchen.

Kyle Thomas Smith is the author of the novel 85A. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband Julius and his illustrious felines Marquez and Giuseppe.

A Sorcerer on Montmartre – Chapter Eleven

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on June 30, 2014

Wburg apt

A Sorcerer on Montmartre

By Kyle Thomas Smith

© 2013

Eleventh chapter from the novel I’m writing

(Click the following for Chapters 1234, 5678910 (p. i)10 (p.2)10 (p.3)111213)


Scene Study

“So, whose slippers are these?” said Simon.

“Those are actually Peter’s,” said Jude Bucktrout as he poured Simon some Lipton tea.

“Then where are my shoes?”

“I think they’re in that pile of stuff that we scooped off that value-of-nothing guy’s bed.”

“You think my shoes are in the pile?”

“Well, we could only grab what we could. We’re busy hustling you out, all deadweight. Sorry I didn’t organize it for you. I’m no good at putting things in order. Just ask Peter.”

“And my shirt? And my jacket?”

“Maybe it’s in the pile. I didn’t look through. But, yeah, that’s Peter’s robe you got on too.”

“I still got pants on.”

“And underwear. They were both around your ankles.”

“Did they—?”

“I don’t know, Simon. I know you had, like, three guys on you. They were just getting started when we busted down the door. You should be alright.”

“But you don’t know for sure.”

“You were right side up. That’s a good sign.”

“But you don’t know for sure.”

“No, Simon. I don’t. But I think you’re safe. If I didn’t look up when I did, you might not be. They were just dragging you in. But enough of us were there to break it up. We all got fired for it, but we got you out.”

“You lost your job, Jude?”

“Oh, pfft. It’s just something on the side. Still got my regular job. And the show. Don’t worry about me. You’re the one I’m worried about.”

“Because? Why? You do! You do think they…”

“No. No. Not that.”

“I gotta get tested.”

“I think you’re alright, Simon.”


“Well, if it’ll give you some peace of mind. You got insurance?”

“Insurance? Paula don’t gimme none of that.”

“I know a free clinic.”

“Are you?”

“Am I, what?”


“Nope. Clean bill of health.”

“Sure? I mean, aren’t we all?”

“All what?”


“How d’you mean?”

“I mean, don’t we all got it and it’s just a matter of time before it comes out.”

“Got what?”

“You know.”


“Uh huh.”

“Wait. Simon, you think it’s something you just have if you’re gay.”

“Well, isn’t it?”

“Jesus, Simon, it’s something you contract. It’s something you acquire. It’s right there in the acronym: Acquired Immune—”

“So, you’re not born with it?”

“Well, some are. There are AIDS babies.”

“And they’re all queers?”


“I’m just sayin’, I don’t know. I’m new to all this.”

“Simon, AIDS babies have AIDS because one of their parents had AIDS.”

“Well, neither of mine did. My daddy hates people with AIDS. Doesn’t even call them people. Just diseased. Diseased reprobates.”

“Glad to see so much’s changed since I left Georgia,” said Bucktrout, returning the teapot to the sink.

Bucktrout had been able to slip away from home a lot more graciously than Simon. After graduating from Rome High School, he had gone on partial scholarship for theater to University of Evansville in Indiana and went for a junior year abroad to University of Harlaxton in Grantham, England. After college, he acted in Chicago’s fringe theater scene and got into Yale’s MFA program, where he studied both acting and directing. From there, Bucktrout hit Manhattan. He’d had some Off-Broadway luck, better Off-Off Broadway luck but, alas, a lot less luck on Broadway, where he’d only landed chorus roles. Yet all the Yale and Shakespeare under his belt couldn’t keep him from slipping back into a down-home drawl upon exposure to a back-home peach like Simon.

“Okay, Simon,” Bucktrout said, “Let’s take it from the top. What do you know about AIDS?”

“Not much.”

“But what do you know? Let’s talk it out.”

“My parents got a special dispensation from the state to drag me out of health class. And most science classes too.”

“Oh, sweet Georgia,” said Bucktrout, casting a look to the ceiling. “Okay, then, so what you learned, you learned at the kitchen table?”


“And what was it you learned?”

“Just, my dad would lift up a glass to God and AIDS.”

“God and AIDS?”

“Yeah, sometimes he’d have his friends over. And he’d have us thank God for AIDS.”

“Thank God for AIDS?”

“He said, ‘It’s killin’ off the niggers and the queers.’”

“Jesus. Was he Klan?”

“Not officially. Most of his friends were. But he made it plain he could only go so far with them. Some of the churches he’d go speak at sometimes thought less of the Klan, so he told his buddies he could only tip his hat.”

“Oh, Simon.—But didn’t you notice you weren’t sick all this time? I mean, you were who you were this whole time and you never had it, right?”

“Jude, I don’t know what I have or don’t have. I don’t know what I am or what I’m not. I don’t know what to believe or not to believe. I just know my head hurts.”

“I’ll get you another aspirin.” Bucktrout went to the medicine cabinet and, in fact, came back with Excedrin.

“Thank you, Jude,” Simon gulped down the Excedrin, “Let’s see, what else? Um, my daddy said you have it but you also get it.”


“It’s what he said.”

“From the pulpit?”

“And at home. He said queers have AIDS, right? But then one day there was this kid in the teen Bible study who asked about it. Y’know, this kid, he was this troublemaker-type. He liked to ask about sex in Bible class. Real rebel, you know. And the reverend who proctored the class, Reverend Jones, he hated this kid for it. But once my daddy sat in and the kid asked, ‘If two gays don’t have AIDS but they do it, do they get AIDS anyway?”

“Stupid little fuck,” said Bucktrout, “I mean, hello, zero plus zero equals zero.”

“That’s not what Dad said. He didn’t even give Reverend Jones a chance to answer. Just pointed at the kid, said, ‘Listen here. They both got it already. It’s their stigma, their shame, their curse, their Mark of Cain. Both of them. And if they don’t both got it before they do it, they’re gonna get it when they do do it.’”


“That’s what I said.”

“And then what he say after you said that?”

“Said what?”

“After you said ‘whaaaa?’”

“Oh, I mean, I didn’t ‘say-it’ say it. I just thought it. You don’t question with my daddy. You just nod and go along.”

“Well, you’re gonna have to break that habit here. There are people in this town who’ll play you till your doom if you let ’em.”

“Like those guys at the party.”

Exactly. Like them.”

“Are they all like that?”

“Who’s they?”


“Am I, Simon? Am I like that?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

Bucktrout decided to spare Simon the lecture about how Simon himself was one of the they’s he’s so scared of. The kid could only take in so much and what’d happened the night before was too much for any living being to have to go through.

Simon said to Bucktrout, “You sure are cute.” He imagined it’s how a lot of the scenes in Euroboy got started.

Bucktrout said, “I sure am taken.”

“Then why’d you say that thing about me?”

“What thing?”

“That I was some kind of magic out of Wizard’s Stone?”

“I said that?”

“Something like it.”

“Well, I got eyes, Simon. Peter’s got eyes too. But we keep our hands only on each other.”

“So you don’t want it?”


“Something in return?”

“Simon, you got to learn to trust people.”

“What? You just said the opposite before.”

“Well, good for you, Simon. You’re learning to question what people say.—What I meant was, you gotta trust the right people. You haven’t met them yet. I mean, ’til now.”

“How can I know you’re one of them? The right people?”

Bucktrout said, “Good. Not taking anything at face value. Good for you.—Look, you look tired. If you want, you can go back and crash on the bed. I won’t bother you.”

“No thank you,” said Simon as he drank more tea.

A few minutes passed, though, and Simon’s Rufenal hangover grew worse. Simon decided to take Bucktrout up on his offer.

Bucktrout’s boyfriend Peter would be coming home from Pennsylvania and Bucktrout would have a lot of explaining to do. Bucktrout drummed his fingers and drank refill after refill of Lipton out of his Harlaxton mug. Then he saw he was acting too much like he was in scene study, so he bit the bullet and called Peter.

After he revealed to Peter that he’d lost his cater-waiter job and that now there’s a scallywag in trouble in their apartment, he said, “Bunch of us got in a brawl to get the guys off him. I took out my cell and called the police. Told ’em those sickos were all set to rape the poor kid. But when I told them we intervened, the police were all set to dust off their hands and hang up on me, like we just did their job for them. Well, no, they still came cuz then I let them know there was a drug-bust goldmine in there, y’know, case they were a little behind on their quotas.

“Must’ve done some good. When Strasberg called to fire me this morning, they said the host is probably going to jail because of me. Him and a lot of the guests…I don’t know, he had this fucked-name, Robert O. He’s famous for something, I don’t know what. I’m gonna try to get the kid to press charges, take his ass to court. But he’s in our bed now and, you got my balls-oath, nothing happened between me and him….Cute as a newt, but no, nothin’, I swear…I’m talkin’ this way cuz this is how I get when the old south comes up for a visit.”

But Bucktrout was wrong. Simon wasn’t in bed anymore. While Bucktrout was on the phone explaining things, Simon had found his genuine-leather Italian boots in the pile the cater-waiters had gathered up for him, along with his velvet jacket. (The shirt he picked out of the pile wasn’t one of his. It belonged to one of the guys who jumped him and it wafted a heavy eau de cologne. It was way too big for Simon too but he wore it anyway.) Bucktrout continued talking matters over with Peter as Simon tiptoed to the door in his stockinged feet. He’d had enough of other people’s hospitality for one weekend.

Kyle Thomas Smith is the author of the novel 85A (Bascom Hill, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his husband and two cats.

A Sorcerer on Montmartre (Chapter 10 – Part III)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on June 28, 2014

LES at night

A Sorcerer on Montmartre

By Kyle Thomas Smith

© 2013

Tenth chapter from the novel I’m writing

(Click the following for Chapters 1234, 5678910 (p. i)10 (p.2)10 (p.3)111213)


Cockatoos (Part Three)

 As Robert O pulled him through the crowd, Simon kept overhearing snatches of conversations, certain words and phrases spouted again and again in reedy, weekend-warrior falsettos: “our surrogate,” “our timeshare,” “this one twink who…,” “we’ll be in East Hampton starting…” and “after I made partner, my salary jumped to…” It all made Simon want to run back out and find some tattooed faces to play cards on cardboard with. But he was being dragged up to a lot of leering dandies who did everything but open his lips and check his teeth. Robert O said, “So, here he is. The host of honor.”

“Host?” said one fellow by the name of Sanchez, who earlier had been making it clear to everyone who’d asked that he came from a mucho-dinero part of Mexico City, not a barrio bajo, and he’d come up even higher in the world since he made partner at S— & C—, thank you.

“Of honor?” chuckled Brad Tannenwald, who a few minutes before had been saying the only reason he had to wait until his late thirties to make partner at his firm was that he’d been sidetracked with a PhD program in International Relations at Harvard and, after that, had been living in Hong Kong as Head of Asian Markets for two of the big three banks (according to Tannenwald, he was working for one when the other just wouldn’t stop wining-and-dining him until he’d come work for them). Tannenwald gave Simon another appraisal, “What honor? When I was in the chair, you told me you trawled this one out of the gutter.”

“Well, kinda,” said Robert O, “He showed up on my doorstep. Little Bible Boy from Miss Scarlett Land. And it was after I told you that, Brad, that you said he sounded like your kind of trade.”

“Well…” said Brad Tannenwald, looking bashfully away as he adjusted his Swarovski cufflinks.

“So don’t you go dissin’ this monster I created,” Robert O continued, “Or you don’t know what I might do next time you in my chair. Might walk out with one of them lesbian mullets.”

“Oh, Robert O, tell ’im vat you did to da ot’er guy in da chair?” said his Bosnian junior stylist, Elmir, who was done up in a silvery paisley shirt and ruby crushed-velour jacket. Elmir’s style had come a long way since he’d first shown up in Queens as a shell-shocked refugee child.

“What other guy?” said Robert O.

“Japanese guy,” Elmir said.

“Oh,” Robert O started laughing. Robert O’s assembly gathered in closer. “So, this was, what, couple weeks ago? So, yeah, this Japanese business guy, right, or maybe he was an ambassador, anyway, some big-wig, right, found out about me from someone I worked with on this runway show in Tokyo and, so anyway, he made his secretary book an appointment with me, like, a looong time ago. Anyway, the day finally came when he could see me. He came to New York, I dunno, he was here on business. This little guy, right? And he’s, like, no emotions and he’s wearing a black suit and, y’know, like, a black tie.”

“As they do in Tokyo,” Tannenwald affirmed with a nod.

“Right, so. He comes in, bows, sits down. And I’m doing okay so far. I’m Steady Freddy. You know, I bow. So far, so good. But I was up all night. Waiting for this one,” Robert O pointed to Simon, “This one never came home. All night. And I didn’t know where the fuck he was, so I worried, you know. And I was up waiting. And I was tripping hard too. See, Elmir, here…Elmir got me some primo sid from out in Long Island City and he gave me a tab before I left work and hey, yo, Elmir, I swear that shit was cut with speed cos I was like up. Okay? I’m like up watching Animal Planet and shit and they got this special on, okay, and it’s on cockatoos. Muchachos! Ever see those birds?”

Robert O’s audience guffawed and nodded. Even Simon joined in and nodded. He’d seen cockatoos at a fairground in Fayetteville when he was nine years old. He began to lean in closer, hoping the rest of the story might resonate with him too. Robert O’s monologue went on and, with grand, sweeping gestures, Robert O began to illustrate the cockatoos’ plumage for the guests, “These birds, they came in this color wheel, okay, this overload of colors. No two the same. Some of them had this flaming orange hair and some of them wear, like, white and blue, you name it. And these birds all had these Mohawks shootin’ out of their heads, right? And so I started thinking, I could set this trend. Y’know, a whole other signature look, and I already got lots of those, right? Everything I do is signature. But we’re talkin’ career game-changer here with these Cockatoos. I mean, Sally Hershberger, move yo’ ass over, bitch, ’kay? And I could call this new style ‘The Cockatoo.’ But then I thought, no, that’s probably too ahead-of-its-time, the name, y’know, ‘The Cockatoo.’ People who don’t know cockatoos might be wondering why they wanna be goin’ around lookin’ like one. But I thought, no, I’ll work on the name later. First, let’s get the style right. And then I forgot all about this one—” and he pointed back to Simon, “And I’m all into this new style that could at least, at least make the cover of Allure or Us. So, I’m, like, watching these birds…and so I was trippin’, so, like, ’cuz I was trippin’, there were, like, a lot more colors I was seein’ on the screen than were probably even there in the fucking first place, but I’m, like, the more the merrier, so I get up and get my drafting board and color pencils and I start drawing these intense-ass pictures and…next thing I know, it’s the next morning, and Elmir and my other assistant Ambrosia are once again in my apartment trying to get me to get to the salon. I got the Japanese guy waiting for me, they say.

“Now I’m telling y’all, I didn’t go into Copenhagen that day with any kind of cut in mind, girlfriends. No, by time I got to the chair, I was already kind of gettin’ over all this cockatoo shit. But the Japanese guy, he didn’t really tell me what he wanted either. He just sits there. Says, ‘You do.’ I say, ‘I do…what? I do, what?’ I mean, I gave homeboy a chance. At least, from what I remember, I gave his ass a chance. I do remember I said, ‘What, you want it short?’ He said, ‘I hear you…YOU, Robert O-san, da best. So, just give me haircut. Yours. One of yours.’ What can I tell ya, honeys, he left the door open. And the rest of the sid must’ve kicked in ’cuz I still wasn’t comin’ down. And so I took over. I mean, I got out the blond dye. And I got out some fuschia. And I got out the green. And I got out the clippers.”

If Simon didn’t think he was in the hands of a madman before, he did now. And Robert O just kept going on, “And he’s just sittin’ there through it all. At the sink, in the chair, while the dye’s processing, the whole way through, right, he’s just got this rock-solid face, like somethin’ on the side of Mount Rushmore and shit, or somethin’ at a funeral, y’know, like, in the coffin and shit, right? Rock-solid. And he’s all Japanese and shit. And at some point, he even pulls out the financial section of the Times–he had it in the chair with him the whole time, right–and he, like, starts reading it and his hair is fuckin’ bleach blond, green and fire-engine red now. And he’s wearin’ a tie and I’m all blow-dryin’ his hair and making some bouffant-type-Mohawk-type shit out of it with hairspray and gel.”

“What’d his face look like when he saw it in the mirror?” said Sanchez.

Robert O said, “Honey, I don’t know. First rule of trippin’ is: Don’t look in no mirrors. You gonna see too many things you don’t wanna see. All sorts of demons be flyin’ out at you. Oh, no. No. So, I didn’t look in no mirrors at all, the whole time, even when I turned him around in the chair to get him to look at himself. I mean, I was in tact enough to know not to do that. Could you imagine if I did? No, po’ baby’s having a hard enough day already.”

“But…but what did he do?” said Tannenwald.

Elmir answered for Robert O, “He just sit there. Robert O take off smock. Guy stand. He straighten tie. He turn. He bow.”

Robert O said, “He had a red fuckin’ flame—I mean it looked like a fuckin’ rooster on fire—blasting right out his head. The whole back of his head was green. The rest was bleached.”

“He could’ve sued you,” said Tannenwald.

“Sued?” sang Robert O, “Oh, honey, he tipped me. Tipped me plenty.”

“Tipped you?” asked Tannenwald.

Elmir said, “He tell him, ‘Thank you, Robert O-san.’ He walk to cashier. He pay. Come back. Pay more in tip than for haircut.”

“They don’t tip in Japan,” gasped Tannenwald.

“They do when they come here. Number one-ah A-merican-ah custom,” said Robert O, imitating the Japanese with a couple bows, “And you know how they’re all up in their customs, grrl.”

“Well, I wouldn’t have tipped you,” said Tannenwald.

“Of course you wouldn’t, Jew-boy.”

“I would have sued you for every penny you’re worth,” Tannenwald laughed.

“And then who you gonna buy your blow from, snowbird?”

Elmir agreed, “Robert O always gets da best.”

Simon said, “If the Japanese don’t tip, then how do people working in their restaurants survive?”

Sanchez sneered, “Salary, I guess.”

“I couldn’t get by on my salary,” said Simon.

“You can’t get by, period, squatter,” said Robert O.

Tannenwald said to Simon, “So, what do you do, young man?”

Simon said, “I work in a restaurant.”

“A diner,” Robert O rolled his eyes.

Tannenwald asked, “Are you a waiter?”

“No,” Robert O answered for Simon, “Not even. He’s a busboy.”

“And I do dishes,” Simon chimed in.

The whole circle laughed. Simon looked down. Tannenwald came forward and put his arm around Simon’s shoulder, “Oh, c’mon, guys. What were you all doing when you were—how old are you, sweetie?”


Tannenwald looked down at Simon and smiled. The salt-and-pepper hair and easy smile, the crinkle about the eyes, the cozy embrace, the kind Simon used to long for back in Wizard’s Stone, it felt warm but nothing he felt safe hugging back.

“How about we sit and talk?” Tannenwald said to Simon. He signaled to Sanchez and Robert O and the congregation.

Simon shivered. They all pulled Simon in the direction of the couch. Simon said, “There are people sittin’ there.”

Robert O said, “No they ain’t. Not on my couch.” Robert O walked right up to the couch and told everyone on it to get off. Some were passed out and had to be pulled off, but the space eventually freed up and the men pulled Simon over and sat him down. Simon sat sandwiched between them and they all homed in with their stares. A few, at intervals, reached over and fondled him. Simon thought of edging away but there was nowhere to edge unless he wanted to be in someone’s lap.

“Gotta loosen up, boo-boo,” Robert O said. “I’ll get ’im a drink.”

“No!” Simon jolted off the couch.

“You sit back down, bitch,” said Robert O.

Simon tumbled over all the legs on the couch. They all stood up and stared him down. Simon said, “I’ll get my drink. I’ll get it.”

“You even know what to drink?” said Robert O.

“I’ll get it,” said Simon.

“Your ass better be back on this couch in two minutes, bitch. Remember, I know where you live.”

The bartender had green eyes, short black hair and a dimple in his chin. “Hey,” he nodded to Simon, “What can I get for you?”

Simon said, “Um…listen…I’m not so good at this. I don’t know what to order.”

The bartender said, “A martini, maybe?”

Simon said, “I’m not 21.”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” the bartender chuckled and whispered, “But, um, it shows.”

“See, I never drunk anything before.”



“Alright, then. Let’s start you off with something easy. A beer?”

“No, see, I don’t want nothin’. Just, could I have a Coke maybe?”

“Yeah, sure,” said the bartender, “No problem.” The bartender filled a glass with ice and poured Coke in from a two-liter, “Sure you don’t want something in it? I can go easy.”

“No, please. Don’t.”

“Do I detect a drawl?”

“Yeah,” said Simon. “Guess I ain’t no good at hiding it.”

“Where from?”


“Yeah,” said the bartender, “I’m from Rome.”

“Wow. Sound red-blooded ’merican to me.”

“Rome, Georgia.”

“Oh. No wonder you kind of sound like from back home.”

“What part you from?”

“You prob’ly never heard of it.”

“C’mon, where?”

“Wizard’s Stone.”

“Oh! On the way to Stone Mountain.”

“Well, hour or so outside, but, yeah, on the way…”

“I remember the town sign.”

“You do? Don’t know why you would.”

“I don’t know either. We just drove by, me and my family, on vacation one summer. Saw the sign, guess it stuck. Always thought something magical might be comin’ out of there some day.”

Simon smiled and looked down. The bartender handed him his drink.

“I’m Jude,” he said, “Jude Bucktrout.”

“Simon.” They shook hands. “What brought up here, Jude?”

“Same as anyone in this racket. Acting.”

“Still do it?”

“Of course. Ain’t bartending for my health. Starting rehearsals next week. Got a part in The Homecoming at La Mama.” Simon didn’t know the play or the theater but he nodded like he did. Bucktrout smiled, seeing through his ruse.

“What about you, Simon? What brings a boy like you up to the Big Apple?”

“Had to get away.”

“And you had people here?”

“No. Didn’t know nobody.”

“And how’d you end up here? At this party?”

“This is the guy-who-took-me-in’s place.”

Bucktrout stopped and looked at Simon. Robert O stepped up.

“Get him a drink,” Robert O told Bucktrout.

“He’s got one,” said Bucktrout.

“A real one,” said Robert O.

“I got one,” said Simon as he turned to take his Coke back to where he was expected on the couch.

Robert O glared at Bucktrout but other guests started coming up for drinks and Simon had returned to where he’d been expected, so Robert O went back and joined the others.

“Over here,” Tannenwald said, extending a hand to Simon, “This way.”

Simon took Tannenwald’s hand and sat down next to him. Tannenwald had been cutting lines on a hand mirror on the glass table. He had a C-Note rolled up tight between his thumb and forefinger and made his way up the first line. Tannenwald jittered a little as the powder burned on its way up his nostril. “Here,” Tannenwald said, holding out the rolled-up bill to Simon. Simon shook his head. “What, are you afraid of my boogers?” Tannenwald pretended to look up the aperture. “I can’t see any in there, son.” He smiled some more at Simon, “Take it. Give it a try.” Simon had been used to seeing this stuff in Robert O’s funhouse, but Robert O and Belinda never tried pressuring him into using. For one thing, they didn’t want to waste their share on a newbie who’d do it all wrong. But the more Simon shook his head at Tanenwald, the more Tanenwald pushed.

“Or maybe you just relax,” said Elmir, who held out a smoldering joint. Simon shook his head again.

“Or have a drink,” said Tannenwald, lifting his own rum-and-Coke.

“I already got one,” Simon said.

“But that’s a virgin Coke,” said Sanchez.

“Simon, my dear, that’s not a real drink,” Tannenwald said.

“It is now,” Robert O said, nodding to Tannenwald. Tannenwald sat back. Robert O said, “Alright, Liza. If you don’t want to do no coke, I’ll give you special permission to go ahead and sip your Coke, so long as you relax. Okay. Relax and be friendly with the guests.”

Simon took a gulp of his soda, unaware that, when his head had been turned toward Tannenwald’s hundred-dollar bill, Robert O had gone to the trouble of transubstantiating his Coke into a double Rufenal-and-Coke.

Simon sipped his drink and it didn’t take long for him to go under. And as Simon went under, he returned to a space that was familiar to him, to that dream he’d had where he’d made love to Noah Saber on a tent-bed while taking opium smack in the middle of what in real life had been Chelsea Night & Day Diner. But that tent-bed was gone now and so was the first tent-bed he’d arrived on, the one that had been on the sidewalk, haloed in incense smoke. Noah Saber was gone too. All the fornicators were gone—they must have picked up their Arabian cushions and trundled off to some other party.

In the reprise of the dream, it was still the dead of night, but all the candles were blown out now. The whole front of the room had been removed and street pollution and after-hours traffic noise swept in from 7th Avenue. Simon saw that the white silk pajamas he’d been wearing in the previous dream were gone off him now. He saw himself lying naked on the floor, shivering in a fetal position. The Chinese host was crossing to the other side of the street, past some cabs and cars zooming by, with his back to the den of iniquity, as if he’d never even been in it in the first place. Simon imagined Noah Saber had gone back to China by now, either for more opium or to start preaching again or both.

The music had stopped playing. The room was all dark, except for one light from a small bronze lamp that was fastened on to a small lacquered oak table, where Simone de Beauvoir was sitting. Beauvoir was writing in an ordinary notebook with an ordinary pen as she observed Simon’s wretched form. She was not old yet. Her hair was in a bun and there were only a few gray wisps peeking out. No longer did Simon hear Noah Saber’s chant—“brothels, iniquity, opium.” Now he heard something Beauvoir was writing again and again in her notebook, a line Simon remembered from The Second Sex, chanted in a woman’s voice: The clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.” It was something Beauvoir had actually written about housework, which she characterized as a Sisyphean task, but Simon felt sure she was saying it about him now and maybe she even meant it about all life, given Beauvoir’s penchant for generalizations. The clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.”

The Top Cats from the stairs to the New York Public Library sat on either side of Beauvoir, the one representing Patience on her left, the one representing Fortitude on her right, and Fortitude was wearing bandages on his head and legs. Patience stood in tact, though. The clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.” Beauvoir continued observing Simon and continued writing the same quote from her manifesto over and over again in her notebook as Simon lay shivering naked.

Kyle Thomas Smith is the author of the novel 85A (Bascom Hill, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn with his husband Julius and his cats, Marquez and Giuseppe.

A Sorcerer on Montmartre – (Chapter 10 – Part II)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on June 27, 2014

Washington Square

A Sorcerer on Montmartre

By Kyle Thomas Smith

© 2013

Tenth chapter from the novel I’m writing

(Click the following for Chapters 1234, 5678910 (p. i)10 (p.2)10 (p.3)111213)


Cockatoos (Part Two)

So Simon stalled on the night of the party. He worked a double and, after knocking off at about eight, proceeded to walk through Greenwich Village. He shambled along the sidewalks in the dark and squinted to read all the plaques on all the buildings and houses where all the famous authors and artists had lived. He pretended the streets made up a gigantic, open-air museum, a rarefied sanctum, even as people came spilling out of jam-packed bars or lined up to get into restaurants that were too in-demand to accept reservations. He sauntered in zigzags across cobblestones, splotched with streetlights, from the West Side Highway to Waverly and MacDougal, all in an attempt to run out the party’s clock.

When stopping to contemplate Washington Square, Simon’s love of literature was still too new and his education too rudimentary for him to have discovered the likes of Henry James or Edith Wharton, but as he bided his time on a park bench and looked over to the Washington Arch in the flood of night, he imagined some pretty important people must have lived in the area and written about the place. He wasn’t so green as to think he could be the first to discover it. After all, it already had two statues of George Washington, so at least one founding father must have dropped by at some point, and then there was the likeness of some Italian guy from the nineteenth century who must have done some pretty important stuff too, hence the statue.

And across the park was New York University, which seemed to have left its stamp on all the buildings surrounding the park. Simon thought about what a treat it must be to get to go to school there, how it probably grooms you to be as good as all those people whose names get their own plaques. Simon knew working at Chelsea Night & Day or anywhere else with just a high-school diploma wouldn’t put him through school at NYU. As it was, he couldn’t afford to lay his head down anywhere else but on Robert O’s tent-bed. But he began to consider that maybe he too could be up there with the names on those plaques someday if he gave it a good-enough whirl. He could hang out in cafes like Beauvoir and Sartre, or like all those serious types wearing scarves and suit coats at the al fresco tables on MacDougal Street. Maybe it was a good thing he couldn’t afford school. Maybe you get too cozy on your laurels once you get out of your cap and gown and the band stops playing “Pomp and Circumstance.” Maybe you start thinking you know enough already. But Simon was already beginning to envision the city as a much bigger, better and more constant classroom that could teach even the best and brightest a lot more than they think they know.

Simon leaned back on the bench in Washington Square. A whole tribe of men of all colors banged on turned-over plastic tubs with drumsticks. Others were playing chess at the stone tables. In a little amphitheater, some black guys had corralled a whole crowd of spectators—people from all over the globe, a more dressed-down version of the United Nations—for a street show that included improv, break-dancing and audience participation. There were all sorts of things the city could teach you if you let it in, thought Simon. There were all sorts of things the city could teach you, but Simon didn’t know quite what yet. He’d just have to wait and see what.

One thing was certain, though. The night wasn’t getting any younger and Robert O wasn’t going to wait up much longer, so Simon made his way home to Clinton Street, though without too much hustle. When he reached the building, he could hear the party thundering from all the way up the walkway. When he reached Robert O’s door, smoke from cigarettes and sundry drugs was pouring out and disco-diva crooning blared over redundant, high-octane techno beats. Simon had heard too much of this kind of synthetic squall whenever Robert O was home. To him, it always sounded like a cat getting dragged by the tail through some souped-up spaceship. He never knew how anyone could stand it if they weren’t already on something, and Simon had never been on anything, his lips had never even touched alcohol. Robert O’s had touched plenty of it that night, though, and much harder stuff, which was all too apparent when Robert O confronted Simon as he walked in.

“Where the fuck you been, bitch? I been callin’ your ass ’n’ callin’ your ass.”

“You called the restaurant?”

“Where else?”

“I told you not to.”

“And I told you to get your ass home. With actions come consequences, Ms. Liza.”

“I might not have a job now. I already got warned when you called the first time.”

“So what? Not like you make enough there to pay me rent here anyway.”

“Belinda said we didn’t have to.”

“Everything’s got a price, baby. And now, you gotta get your ass in a shower and into the outfit I got hanging up.”

“I, I might not have a job now, Robert O.”

“Baby doll, I can get you a much better hook-up at this party. So long as you don’t fuck it up.”

“Where’s Belinda?”

“Workin’. Now move!”

Robert O turned Simon around and pushed him over to the bathroom. Robert O barged in on two guys who were making out by the sink. They both had their shirts off, their belts and zippers undone and each other’s cocks in their hands. They both looked up. Robert O pulled Simon into the middle of the bathroom. “Strip,” he told him. Simon looked every which way. He stared at the two guys who had just stopped their carryings-on. They stared right back at him. Simon looked at Robert O who came over and started unbuttoning Simon’s shirt, “You heard me. Strip.” Robert O walked over to the shower and turned the knob all the way to hot. “You still smell like that stank-ass diner. That cannot be. Not on the night of your little ball, Cinderella.” Simon noticed the two other guys still hadn’t zipped up but now they seemed to be enjoying this disruption. Robert O stood and blocked the open doorway. It was clear this was that kind of party, so Simon thought it best to comply with orders. He took off his clothes and walked into the shower.

Simon pulled the shower curtain closed but Robert O came right back over and threw it open. For the better part of a second, Simon covered himself but Robert O continued holding the curtain back, so Simon got busy lathering himself up with Lever 2000 soap. “Get every part,” Robert O insisted, “Every part. Every part squeaky clean. And use shampoo.” By now, the two other guys had zipped up and put their shirts back on but they didn’t leave. They moved in closer and were still watching.

Simon held back from doing anything but what he was told, yet tears he never knew would well up, tears that hadn’t dropped since the last time he’d heard Menard’s shotgun, suddenly started tumbling down his cheeks. Soon he had to say, “Robert O, can I at least get a little privacy?”

“Oh, so now lil Liza’s into privacy? You didn’t gimme none of that shit when you came frot’ing up to me in bed that night.”

“Came what?”

“You heard me. I was in my hundred and something-th dream and all the sudden I find you beggin’ for some somethin’-somethin’ in the middle of the night—”

“I wasn’t begging.”

“Then why’d you get me in my sleep, bitch? Why?”

“I didn’t get you. Not like that. I…it…it was the first time in a long time we were home at the same time. I thought it was something you might like. You did it to me that way.”

“Because I can. Remember, you owe me, not the other way around.”

Simon continued soaping up. Robert O didn’t know the other guys in the bathroom. They came with friends. But they all introduced themselves and chitchatted with him while Simon rinsed off.

“¿Dominicano?” asked the Dominican.

“No,” said Robert O, not looking at him.

“Hablas como un Dominicano, vato.”

Robert O didn’t answer. He just went on watching Simon’s ablutions. The Dominican’s Puerto Rican lover put his arm around him, “El es un puertorriqueño autentico.”

Robert O said, “I’m from Texas.”

“Ah, Mexicano! ¿Pensé que eras bastante gente?,” said the Puerto Rican and the Dominican smiled along with him.

“Do I seem fucking quiet to you!” Robert O shouted.

The smile dropped away from the Dominican’s face and the conversation between the Spanish speakers in the bathroom stopped cold. Simon’s tears weren’t sexy to look at, and though his physique was taut and lean, it wasn’t a gym body, so the two spectators grew bored and left even before Simon was all rinsed off. Robert O came and brought a towel and, with the door still open and the party in full swing, Robert O dried Simon off. “See?” Robert O said, “How’s that champ? Feeling vulnerable? Feeling exposed? Yeah? How’d you think I felt?”

Simon said through a gale of tears, “I’m sorry, Robert O. I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong that night. I just thought we were gonna do what we did before.”

“You ain’t goin’ out there all cry-baby and shit. Dry up them tears.” Robert O threw the towel over Simon’s head and moved him over to his room. Robert O locked himself in with Simon and walked him over to the closet where he had Simon’s new garb hanging up.

The outfit was something pretty spectacular. Simon even stopped crying once he got a look at it. It was a black light-wool suit with an embroidered white chemise. Robert O also got Simon some long, elegant black silk socks, which he could accessorize with the black Italian boots that zipped up the side, which Robert O bought for him on their shopping spree and had shined up special for the night. Simon put it all on and buttoned up all the buttons on the shirt but Robert O came over and undid the top five buttons and spiffed up his hair with some product from Copenhagen Essentials. “Now, look,” Robert O said, “There are people in there—kind you never met before. Where you’re from, people are pretty just for having teeth. But these people are a breed apart, which means…you gotta look the part.”

Simon said, “Why do you want me meetin’ ’em?”

Robert O dusted some lint off Simon’s lapel, “An initiation.” Simon stepped back. Initiation? That’s what kids back home, who were into Satan, put other kids through if they wanted to join up, and they had to do disgusting mutilation things to small, innocent animals and virgins. Robert O dragged Simon into the main room.

The impossible disco screeches were still sounding from an elevated turntable station, where a black guy in a tam was mixing disco, techno and house all together without rhyme or reason. A lot of guys, most of them white, stood around in tight shirts. Some were muscular and others wore Rolexes to make up for time not spent in the gym. Many of the guests grabbed the cater waiter’s asses at will or said things like, “This is a half-ass martini. Take it back.”

Kyle Thomas Smith is the author of the novel 85A (Bascom Hill, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his husband and two cats.