StreetLegalPlay by Kyle Thomas Smith

A Sorcerer on Montmartre – (Chapter 13)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on July 3, 2014

SRO

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)

CHAPTER THIRTEEN:

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?”

“What?”

“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.”

“What?”

“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?”

“Yup.”

“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.”

“Jude—”

“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—”

“What?”

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

“What?”

“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.”

“Paid?”

“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…”

“Margie?”

“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.”

“Who?”

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.

 

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