Dearie – 28

Dearie Final Cover© Bruce Louis Dodson

“He insulted me!” she told Max, staring at me with a look of hatred that was irreversible.

“We don’t insult the ladies here,” Max said. “You owe this girl a drink and an apology.”

“I don’t want any trouble, I’m just waiting for my friend who went in back.

“You can’t stay unless you drink.” Max smiled the way enemies smile.

“I’ve got a drink.” I held my bottle, showing it was still half full.

“But Angel’s glass is empty.” Max bent forward with his hands flat on the table’s edge. A closer look at his tattoos: a pinup girl, a heart, an anchor, and the letters, M A X. Biceps asbig as coffee cans. The veins in his thick neck begin to swell.

“I’ll have to wait until my friend gets back,” I told them. “He’s got all the money.”

“Shouldn’t come here broke,” Max said. “You’ve been here long enough. Drink up and then vamoose. Wait for your friend outside . . . or I could help you out. You want it that way?”
Max’s face was close enough that I could smell his fetid breath. My heart begin to hammer in my chest.

“Just let me wait here for my friend. I’m sure he won’t be long.”

“He’ll be gone long enough for you to have another drink.”

“Okay. I’ll leave.” I slid out carefully, holding my bottle, knowing that it offered no defense. I gulped the last of what was left and headed for the door. I could feel Max’s eyes glued to my back until I stepped outside onto the sidewalk. I’d escaped unharmed, but what if they slipped Frank a Mickey, like those bastards did to me at Jimmy’s place? If he did not return, should I go looking look for him, take a chance of getting whacked myself? Or go home with a load of guilt to take his place? I could hear Dearie doing Charlie Chan inside my head, ‘If befriend donkey, must expect to be kicked.’

The only thing that I could see to do was wait for him inside my car. I found a parking ticket underneath the windshield wiper. Shit! The fine was fifteen bucks! I put the ticket back and shoved five nickels in the meter, got my keys out, and had started to unlock the door when Frank rejoined me.

“That was fast.” I was relieved that nothing bad had happened to him, glad to have his less than welcome company again.

“I changed my mind,” he said. “She wanted too much money, and they made me pay for your last beer.”

“I didn’t have a last beer.”

“Well, they said you did.”

“Max kicked me out. I only had one beer.”

“Well, now you owe me one,” he said.

“Yeah, right.” In less than thirty minutes we had gone through over thirty dollars, with the parking ticket . . . almost one week’s pay for me.

“We’re not done yet,” Frank said. “The night’s still young—like you. Come on. You’re going to get a State Street education. There’s a lot of other places.”

“Maybe just a couple more.” I could hear Dearie doing Charlie Chan again, ‘Smart rat know when to leave the ship,’ but some of my still youthful curiosity remained.

Cal Bars 1 Fixed
As we moved on it seemed the bars had been arranged in a descending order. Beer got cheaper, and the women fatter, older, less attractive. Now a streetwalker approached us, dope-eyed, fuzzy and unfocused, maybe drunk inside a short skirt and a loose, white, halter top.

Cal Girl Fixed
Her stomach wore a scar, an operation, or result of someone’s rage. “Are you boys looking for a date?” she asked. “Four bucks. I’ll give you anything you want.”

“You’d probably give us both a dose,” Frank told her.

“Fuck you!” she said.

“Slut!” Frank called after her. She teetered down the street, still cursing us.
I worried some avenging pimp might find us next.

“I think it’s time to go, Frank.”

“Nah, still early, and need to get our ashes hauled.”

Not me, I thought, but tagged along. We took a look inside the ‘Chances R’, a bar with slot machines, crap tables and a roulette wheel. We were the only customers. I lost a dollar-fifty betting fifty cents a spin on red. “I’m good for one more stop,” Frank. “This is it. I’ve had enough of Calumet.”

“You’re such a drag,” Frank told me as we left the place.

We passed a few more bars that didn’t seem worth looking into, and were now beside a flickering neon sign, ‘The Last Chance’. Seemed a fitting place to end our tour. “Let’s go in here.”

“Okay,” Frank shrugged. Inside, behind the bar, a time worn metal sign announced, ‘Cal City Beer. Three working girls on bar stools looked a bit like Eskimos, high cheekbones, short-cut straight black hair, black eyes, and overweight. I checked my watch, one-thirty. I was tired and there was work tomorrow, Monday morning.

The three Eskimos were less aggressive than the pair who conned us at the Paddock. There were no champagne suggestions as we ordered beers, a dollar each. I paid, and saw Frank give five dollars to a girl with a small scar below one eye. “I’ll be back,” he told me—wait.”

They disappeared behind a faded curtain stretched across a doorway and the two remaining bar girls asked for drinks, but I refused. They didn’t make a fuss about it, and ignored me as I lit a cigarette nursed my beer ‘til Frank came back some fifteen minutes later, followed by his whore.

“She’s good,” Frank said. “You want to take a ride?”

“I think I’ll pass.”

Frank shrugged “Okay with me. I thought that’s what you came for.”

“I’m for going back,” I told him. “You can go with me, or take a bus. I’m leaving.”

“Bus don’t run on Sunday. Christ, I only made this trip for you.”

“I’ve seen enough,” I told him as we left and started walking back toward the car. It felt good to be in charge for once, but Frank was pissed. A few more weeks and I would never see the jerk again . . . but until then it might be wise to keep us more or less at peace.

“God Damn!” My right rear tire was flat.

Frank said, “You must have hit a nail, or broken bottle.

I squatted down and saw someone had stabbed the sidewall with a knife. The hooker’s pimp? Who knew? I popped the trunk, removed the spare, and jack, and tire iron.
Frank just stood there like the useless shit he was as I sat on the grimy curb and knocked the spinner off the hub. Thank God my spare was good. I bumper-jacked the right rear end up high enough to pull the flat off, and began to shove the spare on as two guys came up to watch.

“Looks like you had some trouble,” one told Frank.

“Somebody slashed our tire,” he said.

“You need some help?” One of the two hunched down beside me in a dirty dark-gray sweatshirt and torn khaki pants. His words were more an order than an offer. “Won’t cost you much.”

I had the tire iron in my hand, but wondered what the two of them might carry as persuaders.

“Got a cigarette?” the other one asked Frank.

Frank gave him one.

“Ran out of gas,” he said as Frank got out his lighter. “Need a couple bucks to get us back to Indiana.”

Frank told him, “We’ve already spent the money we brought with us.”
I could hear the worry in his voice. This wasn’t good. I got the spare on, slammed spinner back in place, and backed the jack down with the tire-iron, keeping it in my right hand. I threw the jack and ruined tire into the trunk. Could Frank be counted on if trouble started? Maybe . . . maybe not.

A black & white approached us, but the cops just looked the other way and passed us by.

“The bulls don’t care too much what happens here.” The guy who’d hunched beside me stood. His teeth were yellow and he smelled of sweat. His clothes looked like he slept in them.

I kept the tire iron in my hand and I slammed the trunk lid shut as our new found friends stepped back a foot or two, eyeing the tire-iron warily. They didn’t look as though they could afford a gun, but knives were cheap.

“I got a dollar left,” Frank passed it to the jerk beside him.

“Thanks. That helps,” he said. “You two be careful. Lots of shit can happen here.”

They walked away and we got back into the car, I slid the iron below the driver’s seat and locked the doors. There was no way to wash my grubby hands and I had gotten something on my pants.

We drove back in silence. I was pissed, and disappointed. Thirty minutes later I pulled up in front of Frank’s apartment building. He was staring at a car parked at the curb. “She came back early.”


“My wife.”

“Good luck,” I told him, holding back a grin.

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Didc Head

Bruce Louis Dodson

Our enemy is faster
Without doubts and
Unencumbered by the cloth of ethics
Without mercy
Wearing skins of every race
Beyond the reach of simple justice.

Do not think that he is beaten in a single battle
Or in many
He will follow us through lifetimes
Killing as he goes
Unseen by most
And weakened only be the love of men
For one another
Strengthened by their hate and anger.

Do not feed him!

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Kat Art – 8

Kat art 8From: FATCATART.RU

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Observing Sweden – Driving Me Crazy

One of you asked about my progress with my Swedish driver’s tests. As the nun said, “It is not good.” As most of you following know, I’ve gone through hours of alcohol & drugs class. I have passed the famous icy road test, (hit the bakes at 60 Kph brakes to see if you can keep from spinning out), and have paid fees to take three pre-test, tests. Socialism is so expensive.

I’ve paid for driver school, and had 3 private lessons in a car which they provide, and is unlike my own. I’ve paid for books, and a computer on-line practice site. There are seven varieties of the computer tests, each variety having its own variations of the tests. Must be near a thousand possibilities. Takes me twenty minutes to do a test, which is faster than required, a half hour is allowed. Answering the questions is like being in Las Vegas. What will come up next?

“If a 3,500 kg trailer must be left at the said of the road, what lighting it have: A. white lights in front and back. B. Fog lights and tail lights in back white lights in front. C. White lights in front and yellow lights back.”

Got me with that one, only seen it come up once in all the 107 practice tests I’ve taken since May of this year. That’s more than 30 total hours of on-line practice. I got good at them I never failed to pass a practice test . . . at home. I felt secure and confident on entering the driving tests building, two floors of first class, modern architecture. There was even a fair sized library with thousands of books about drivers, cars, rules, laws, and such.The Swedes are very series about driver safety. Their goal is to experience a year with no fatalities in the rear future.

I went up a flight of stairs with twenty others, (seven Swedes, the rest of us from other places) to a test room with computers, desks, and earphones for translations for those who could read Swedish, or English. Cell phones must be turned off. An administrator walked up and down an aisle between computers, keeping an eye on things.

I saw only 5 familiar questions on the test. Some of the others required only logical answers, but the rest . . . I was clueless. After ten minutes it was obvious I wasn’t going to make 63 points and I kind of slacked off, answered all the questions, but without thinking a long time about the ones I didn’t know. It takes 63 points to pass the practice tests for P/Cs I was given. “You either know it or you don’t,” I told myself. Young Swedish guys were first to finish, then myself, a mix of other races left behind, still thinking and with time still left to do that. I scored 51 on a test and found out I only needed 53 to pass. I could have been a contender!

Now I’m reading the book the school gave me ─ lots of pages. Wife says I should keep doing the computer tests. They might be the questions asked next time? It’s like Vegas, but I guess I get to play as long as I have money. I will try again, and have a feeling I will get to pay a fee to take the test again.


It gets worse!

Even after failing the computer questions you are moved on to take the driver’s test, which worried me a lot after driving with my practice driver from the school. They’re nuts about slowing down for cross streets and that possible running away bus that hurls itself at a you from a blind spot.

“Made that left turn too wide. There may have been a car there,” the instructor tells me.

“But it was obvious there was no a car there.

“Doesn’t matter on the test,” he says.

On being older.

The practice tests had questions about people who were 75, or more. “Not as able to think about more than one thing at the same time.” Stuff like that. I feel driver’s license people’s hawk eyes watch me like a rabbit. “Look Ingrid, these goes one of those old fukers. Don’t let him pass the test!”

I had to take the test in the driver’s school’s car, which has a passenger side foot brake the instructor can use to avoid certain death if headed in that general direction. An employee from the driving school dropped me off, and a few minutes later the inspector showed up with her laptop and with a twenty-something woman who’d just failed the test. Bad sign.
We got inside the car and I was asked some simple questions for official records, “Did I have any other European driver’s license?” Stuff like that. Then it began.

Another trick. I need to safety check the car before I drive. I’m told to turn on the front windshield wipers. I was clueless. I knew about where the switch should be, but no idea what it looked like, or how to operate the thing if found. I found it, and managed to fumble the thing on. “Now the washer fluid,” she said.

That’s when it all went sideways. The back window washer came on. I tried to turn it off and somehow manage to get the front window wiper going at top speed. I flipped every switch I saw and couldn’t turn the damn things off. I must have gone through maybe 30 seconds very fast intermittent, spasmodic, squirtings, and wipings. It seemed much longer at the time, but at last I got the damn things stopped. I saw her writing on her laptop, “Old man. Do not pass.” Something like that.

I was totally rattled and wanted to tell her, look, there’s no sense going though the motions. Why don’t you just fail me now and we’ll save time. But I drove on. Not knowing is the strength of man and beast.

Do you know what the speed limit is where we are?” she asked when we were on the road.
I’d glanced at it, but had no memory of what it said. I was sure I wasn’t over the limit. “Not really,” I told her.” Another mark in the book. “It’s 100 Kph here. You’re only doing 80 Kph. You will slow up other cars, behind you.” Made no difference that there were no other cars behind us.

“Turn left at next crossroad,” she said. I turned right, realizing what I’d done too late. There was some kind of a parallel road running alongside ours, and a connecting blacktop lane between the two. I had no idea if it was legal to drive there, but took a chance and used it to back up, with expertise, I must admit. I got us turned around and got us started back the way she wanted.

We went in to town next and into one of the many roundabouts in this area. This one was without the usual divider lines. I drove to far to center and failed to look and see if someone was coming at me from an exit to the right, even though I have already scanned that exit when I entered, and had the right-of-way.

She was on the keyboard again and made a few final pokes as we entered the parking lot where we began. Something about the way I crossed into the area, something unsafe.

I figure we’re up to about $700 now in fees and driver school costs. I will be taking 3 more practice drives with instructors, and another computer test, then the on-road driver’s test . .  .  . again.

I want my life back!

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The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish, and when
the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten.
The purpose of the rabbit snare is to catch rabbits.
When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten.
The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the
ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.
Where can I find a man who has forgotten words?
He is the one I would like to talk to.


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November – Sweden

November Morning

This morning’s sun unable to gain altitude
floats parallel above the frosted yards
its momentary blinding light
spears through my window
circling the horizon
passing by, not over
hard blue sky above
soon to be arctic cold.

The air so fresh and clear
it almost hurts to breath
exhilarating if it doesn’t kill you
the beginning
snowfall soon
it will get colder

I look forward to it.

Sun Good
1 p.m. Borläge, Sweden

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Dearie – 27


Dearie Final CoverDearie – 27
© Bruce Louis Dodson

Sin City

Sunday evening Dearie’d gone somewhere with George and Marvin, so I left a note to tell her I would be home late. I filled the tank, then drove to pick up Frank on Randolph Street. I found him waiting on a corner he had specified. He smiled a “Glad ta see ya,” smile, apparently relieved I had arrived.

“The drinks and pussy’s cheaper Sunday nights,” he said as he got in. The scent of Old-Spice aftershave clung to him like an aura. “Janice took the car,” he told me.
Janice was his wife, I guessed.

“She and the kids are sleeping over at her mother’s house, and won’t be back ‘til six, tomorrow morning. We got all the time we’ll need. Won’t take us long to get our ashes hauled.” He lit a Camel with his Zippo, and then snapped it shut. “I’ll pay for gas.” He pulled a billfold from his pocket, handed me two bucks.

“Okay.” I stuck the money in the pocket of my shirt and asked, “How do we get there?”

“Take I-90, south, until you see I-94, then take that to the State Street exit. That’s where all the action is. Won’t take us more than half an hour. You’re gonna see things like you never seen before,” he told me.

I was sure I would. Hugh Heffner’d opened up a Playboy Club, downtown Chicago, but such luxury was far beyond my short financial reach. If what Frank said was true I’d find the same thing in Cal City, beautiful young girls, but less expensive, and no cover charge or membership involved. I had great expectations and was anxious to arrive. The night was warm, mid-seventies. I’d left the top up, but we’d rolled the windows down to catch some breeze.

“How did the Calumet, Sin-City thing get started?” I asked, knowing such historical inquiries made Frank feel important, and I wanted us to get along.

“Big Al Capone owned seven bars on State Street in the early thirties. Prohibition. got things started . . . bootlegging. The cops were paid to leave State Street alone. When prohibition ended, drugs and prostitution were brought in. Nothing much has changed since then. It’s still wide open. Anything you want.”

His words brought back a comment Allen Ginsberg made about these kinds of bars—where patrons can do anything they want. That also means the other patrons, owners, and employees, can do anything they want to you. I thought about it as I turned onto the Interstate.

“How you like working for the railroad?” Frank asked. “Seems like you got friends upstairs.”

“Not really.” I did yard work for the Crumbrine’s when I was in high school. I don’t really know the man. My mother babysat their little girls sometimes.”

“Yeah, babysitters . . . Um.” Frank flicked his Camel out the open window, and I watched sparks pin wheel in the rear-view mirror. “You’ll marry someone in a year or two. You gonna come back here to work with us?”

“That’s hard to say. I might get married, though. For sure I’ll come back to Chicago.”
Frank lit up another cigarette and offered me his pack.

“I got my own.” I lit a Viceroy with the lighter from the dash.

“Stay single if you can, Dave. “Marriage ties you down. You get a kid, house payments . . . end up working for some shit, like Snitzer.”

“Yeah. I always thought I’d wait ‘til I was thirty before getting married, but I got into this thing . . . a girl from school. It could go either way, but doesn’t look so good for marriage.”

“How come?” Frank asked.

“Long story.”

“Well, you got the right idea, Crumbrine’s boy, but you ain’t never going to make it up to thirty. No one does, unless they’re queers. Some gal will hook you. Wait and see. It’s just the way things are.”

Our conversation slowed as we wove though some floodlit night-construction on I- 94. Ten minutes later we turned onto State Street, three long blocks of nothing but saloons and strip shows. I drove slow enough to read some of the garish red, and green, and yellow neon signs: Beginner’s Luck, The Owl Club, Silver Bar, The Green Door, Zig Zag, Top Hat, Crow Bar, Night Owls. . . .

Cal Bars Good 1

“Damn. How many of these places are there?”

“Fifty maybe. Guess how many cops Cal City’s got? Fourteen . . . all of them on the take. The hardest thing they have to do is keep from running over drunks.”

I stopped to let some boisterous sailors cross in front of us.

Frank scanned the street. “So, Crumbrine’s Boy, what do you think?”
“I’m not sure, Francis.” It was hard for me to like Frank, but he seemed to know his way around, and it felt safer not to be alone.

“Chicago cops can’t go outside the city limits,” he continued, “and the Indiana cops can’t cross the border into Illinois. That’s how these places stay in business.”
Some prostitutes, not much to look at, sat along the vacant curbsides, looking tired, or bored, or both. There weren’t a lot of people on the sidewalks, not much traffic.

“Pull in here,” Frank told me. There were parking meters, but they didn’t matter, this was Sunday night. I parked and locked the car in front of some place called, The Paddock Club. ‘SHOW GIRLS,’ was painted on a dingy, stucco wall in three-foot high red letters.

“You been here before?” I asked as we went in.

“Not this one, but it looks like a good place to start. Off to the races. Get it? Paddock Club?” Frank grinned. He seemed enthusiastic. I was having second thoughts.

ID Sign Fixed

The Paddock’s windows had been hung with thick red drapes, so you could not see in . . . or out. The inside of the place was dimly lit. Green and blue lights revealed a bar on one side, opposite a row of empty booths. A dozen large, framed photos of race horses served as decorations on the walls. There was a stage in back, and two black-curtained doors that led off somewhere on each side. We had attracted notice from the bartender, and several listless strippers perched on bar stools, smoking cigarettes. We seemed to be the only customers.

The two of us took places opposite each other in a booth as music came from speakers hidden somewhere out of sight. One of the women got up wearily and climbed onto the stage.

CAL Stripper Fixed

She went into a listless bump and grind as two of her companions came to where we sat. Both ‘girls’ were well into their thirties, nothing to write home about. This was no Playboy Club.

“Mind if we join you?” one asked.

I was ready to say no, but Frank moved over to make room.

“I’m Sally,” she said.

“My name’s Angel, ” her friend told me. “I can take you all the way to heaven.”

Right. I followed Frank’s example, and made space for her to slide in next to me.

“You want to buy us girls a drink?” she asked. Her dull gray eyes were full of bad luck, and her hair mass of coiled up, braids. She looked like a Medusa with blue shadowed eyes and gloppy-black fake eyelashes.

“Yeah, sure,” Frank answered for me. Angel gently put a hand on my left thigh.

I asked, “What are you drinking? How much does it cost?”

Frank looked at me as if I’d breached some kind of gin-mill etiquette.

“I’m sure you can afford me.” Angel winked and made a smile that stopped short of her eyes.

The bartender, his name was Max, came over and now stood before us in a gaudy green and red Hawaiian shirt, a dirty apron tied around his waist. He was an easy six-foot-something, and at least two-hundred fifty pounds. His eyes raked over us, a hawk observing bunnies—forearms covered with tattoos. I looked away, not wanting to make eye contact.

“I’ll have a Schlitz.”

“Me too,” Frank told him. “And whatever Angel here, and Sally want.”

“The usual for us,” said Angel, and Max left to get our drinks.

“You boys from Indiana?” Sally asked. There was no hint of kindness in her face. Her skin was pale, as though she’d seldom seen the light of day. They both wore tops that showed a lot of cleavage, short tight skirts, and high-heeled shoes, the highest heels I’d ever seen.

“We’re from Chicago,” Frank said, lighting up a Camel. “You?” He held the pack out. They both took one and he lit them with his Zippo. Click.

“We’re both from lots of places,” Angel told him as I watched the stripper’s shuffling progress. She had gotten down to pasties and a glitterized bikini bottom.
Max brought drinks and we were charged a dollar-fifty each for beers, three for the girl’s drinks, shots they said were whiskey. I had doubts.

Frank pulled a five out of his billfold and I did the same. Max didn’t ask us if we wanted change. Ten dollars for our first five minutes in the Paddock Club, equivalent to four hours labor in Chicago & Northwestern’s drafting room. Frank made a little more than me, but not much more, I guessed as Sally asked him, “Would you like to go in back? You can do anything you want when we’re behind those curtains.”

“Sure. Why not?”

He seemed to like the woman. Christ.

“Let’s go,” he said.

She downed her shot. “You’ll have to buy a bottle of champagne,” she said as he got up. “Ten bucks.”

I watched him think about it.

“Yeah, okay. Take care of David, Angel.” Frank and Sally disappeared behind one of the doorway’s curtains.

Angel finished off her drink. “How ‘bout it, David?” Angel’s hand moved further up my leg.“No one will bother us if we go in the back. Just the champagne, and me.”

“No. I don’t think so. I’ll just wait for Frank.” I planned to make my beer last, though I still had twenty dollars of the money Dearie gave me in my sock, five singles in my billfold.

“Just one more round for little me?” asked Angel as she waved her empty glass to get the bartender’s attention.

“I can’t afford you. Maybe later,” I said as I watched the words take hold in Angel’s eyes.

“You just stopped by to drink a beer and waste my time?” Angel was working up to something.

“I don’t remember asking you to join us. Didn’t look like you were all that busy.”
Angel jumped out from the booth as if I’d goosed her. Hands on hips, she glared at me.

“Don’t you have any manners, you damn rube?”

“Just go away,” I told her.


“You havin’ trouble, Angel?” Max left his place behind the bar and was now heading my direction.

Continued Every Wednesday


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