Issue 89, Fall 1983
I had to sue my landlord to get out of my apartment and then sue him to get back in and get my stuff. Here’s how it works. Every evening I go in with two uniformed patrolmen and check on my bags. I suspect my landlord would like to steal them. He is stealing them.
The reason he’s stealing them is that he talks with Rhenquist.
I’ve been in that godawful place for years. They never fix anything. The toilet upstairs leaks into mine. I’ve got Polaroids I showed the judge. I explained that the flash didn’t work and the camera was out of focus and there’s a reason for that but I can’t explain that now and that’s what I told the judge. They’ve taken me off medication so I put in thirty-five miles a day.
They had a three-week party upstairs and I called the cops every weekend but they never came until the final weekend when someone got shot through the ear. It was quiet after that, though the blood did leak into my toilet.
I talked to half of Rhenquist the other day, his housekeeper. He doesn’t talk to anyone. He carries around a debugging device.
Sims is suspicious.
He worked the same outfit I did, the company that publishes that financial paper. He’s a civil engineer, and they put him on the street seven years ago. They fired all of us. He broke his hip kicking a drunk and it took him a year to get back on his feet. Has a new job, company that does credit ratings, he won’t tell me about it, he won’t tell me about anything. He doesn’t like me here, and I’ll leave soon, after I talk to Rhenquist. Someday I’ll tell you all about Sims.
I complained about Rhenquist years ago but he had degrees with M.D.s pasted all over them and they fell on their pants when they saw them. I was in jail during the war over a union thing, but I’ll talk about that later. I’m leaving Sims. Did I tell you about the Geese?
After the apartment and before Sims I had a motel on Long Island prepaid for two weeks, I think the money came from Rhenquist to keep me quiet, right next to a garbage dump which they renamed a bird sanctuary. Geese talk almost as much as I do. I went down and listened to them.
I told Rhenquist he was a fool and told him it was nothing personal which of course it was but he took it seriously which is just what he shouldn’t have done which is why he did it. I was just returning from the wars, full of patriotism, idealism grew behind my ears, and I tried to explain that to him.
My old lady, whom you don’t remember, she’s my ward, has been mugged five times with scars on her neck and I bring her candy and the New Left Review. She carries a hatpin with a large pearl nobbin on one end which she sticks in teenagers’ necks. I do her dentures for her. She worked for Rhenquist years ago but he fired her, left her with nothing, said she was too friendly with me. That was when I was married to Helen, a very bitter time, before she shot herself.
Even then Rhenquist could have intervened when the papers came out. It was all over the front page. The company was upset, I tried to explain the union problem, and the Party wanted me to keep the whole thing quiet which is why I married Helen in the first place knowing she was pregnant and not knowing who did it maybe even me. Rhenquist called me into his office. You remember, you were there. Weren’t you going out with Betty at the time? Sweet little Pennsylvania Dutch girl. I could tell you some things about her—she spread it around. But I didn’t have to be in that office. They had no legal authority to call me in. If we had been unionized by then, which I fought and I think you know the reasons for that, I would have been protected.
It was our black hole. We all got sucked into it. Even you. I know you say you had nothing to do with it, but you helped prepare the papers, even volunteering to type them. (How do I know that? I know, I know. Sweet Betty, what do you think she did when you went away for your two weeks of summer training? But don’t let that prey on your mind.) Just doing your job, of course. Not that I hold it against you, or if I do, it can be, was, or will be worked out.
Rhenquist, you know, doesn’t walk well. One of his patients, an ex-patient now, ha ha, shot him in the leg. Here’s why. He spilled some chicken fat on fresh plaster and his cat licked it up and as a result the vet said the cat had plastic insides and it would take months of castor oil which the cat hated and he kept shitting out this resin in hard little balls all over the doctor’s—why do I call him that? —office. He joked about it with this ex-patient, who was a cat lover.
Rhenquist has taken up target practice. That’s why Sondheim left him. Rhenquist had been treating him for lip palsy, seven years. A thirty-oh-six, shoots it in the basement under tons of sound-deadener.
Rhenquist was under tons of booze and who wouldn’t with what he’s got growing in his brain but I was also under the booze but I junked the booze at the place that made me junk the pills. Now I only take one pill a day and you’d crap a green turd if you knew what that was for. I have tea before ten, fruit until six, and two protein meals a week after ten. Usually Chinatown, some big pork fest, with lots of rice and those little green slimy things they grow in the sewer.
That union thing bothers me though I got out of jail with a pardon and I’m sure Rhenquist knew nothing about it. He didn’t even know there were American workers. Did you know his goatee was fake? Bought it at Kresge’s and dyed it blue. Smelled awful in the summer, had to smell it when he had me on the couch. I never told you how long he was treating me before I got the job. Then surprise! He showed up at the same company. Thought it would be old times, you know. Party psychiatrist, but no, he knew all about me, considered it his duty to protect the company. I asked him about his goatee.
A doctor’s confidence. Served papers on him. His housekeeper said he’s taken a trip to Tibet. Right after my apartment was sealed for evidence. How can he walk in Tibet? I’ll tell you why I didn’t pay for that damn viola. I need the damn thing for evidence. Tell the music store. I have all the receipts from the Feds and can send them. It’s a delicate case, or would be if Sims hadn’t complicated it. When they came to the door I told him what to say and he quickly forgot and told them his partial version of the truth. Damn engineers need an instruction manual for everything. Forget to pick their nose if it wasn’t in a book. Anyway, that’s how I got the subpoenas and that’s how you got served with your subpoenas, so I’m finally getting around to that part of the story and I’ll bet you thought I’d never.
Sims wants me out, and I just may get the process-server to come around to him. Simply a matter of caprice. I am not a malicious person, though I am functioning on a post-Kantian level after insulin shock therapy. Find that it works best in this state, which of course you or no one else knows about, and ten cups of tea a day deadens all emotions, which helps. Just takes a while for your penis to unshrivel, but don’t worry, the little beggar will come out when he’s called.
If you had a spare room...well, I won’t even go into that. All I have is one bag, a radio, typewriter, and some personal stuff that doesn’t concern you. I hope you’re not still upset over Betty or what I did to you on your last job. It was a question of historical necessity, try to keep that in mind, and you& and Betty were never meant for each other. Did I tell you what she did with Ted?
He’s in Bellevue. He thinks she is sending his picture around to all the agencies warning them against him. He hasn’t worked in a year. She says he beat her, cheated on her, none of which she really minded. But he thinks she got together with a group of Wall Street semi-conductor types and cheated him out of an encoding device and then sent his picture around to all the agencies so he couldn’t get work. He’s trying to get a copy of the paper they put out on him. It won’t do him a rat’s-ass bit of good.
I can call back the subpoenas. If you’d let me stay I’d be happy to. Of course it’s just temporary. My staying, I mean. Rhenquist had me followed. Was that on your orders? Hope not. Not that it really matters. Ted had the goods on Rhenquist, caught him on tape compromising a company official, so that explains Ted’s mess. And then Rhenquist and my landlord are very thick. Alway have been, which I never knew until after I moved in. I filed a brief in small claims court for my belongings which my landlord must return only he’s skipped to Florida, which is where all landlords live, so I had to serve his lackey who I happened to know from the old picket-line days. That was in Ohio, when I joined the Party and in New Orleans where they picked me up.
Of course the money didn’t count. Who was I married to then? Oh yes, Helen. She was a lawyer, worked for an insurance company, put me through philosophy and got pregnant and still was writing briefs for the Party. They never paid her. They never paid for anything, even the union printers which is why they had such a bad name, but that’s not why she put the pistol to her head. I got over that quick enough. Why didn’t you come to her funeral? She bled down there, couldn’t fuck, couldn’t consummate anything except putting a hole in her head.