Tag Archives: bukowski

Mother Knows Best

Another piece that isn’t worth $2500, $1000, or even a set of steak knives.

He could’ve been lighting a cigarette and at first, that’s what I thought he was doing. I had begun going deaf in my ear that winter, so the pop of the bullet leaving the gun, the already muted sound of it hitting my flesh, the squish of its burial, my own gasp or the scream right after, could all have been louder. There are things to be grateful for.

My mother told the reporters that my stepfather wasn’t normally a violent man. A statement that wasn’t true and that they did not believe. “Normally?” they said. “How often was he abnormally violent?” they’d ask right before going to a commercial break.

She never changed the channel, even as they berated her with their clever, legally-advised and subtle accusations. She’d sit resilient through the commercials – her thirty to sixty seconds of reprieve.

In the mornings, she made me breakfast – sausage and eggs, chocolate chip pancakes, biscuits and gravy. I knew these were not her apologies so much as her way of showing me she did not blame me for being involved in my stepdad’s imprisonment. “Grandma’s recipe,” she’d say after I complimented the biscuits, her world suddenly revolving around family and its preservation. Eventually I started getting up before the sun rose, leaving the house before she woke. I tiptoed more out of habit than necessity; she rarely budged before noon from where she was splayed out, her bottom lip loose, mouth open, her frame gaunt except for the pop of a stomach underneath my stepdad’s t-shirts that she’d taken to wearing.
She met my stepdad at a bar years before she left my dad and – she says – years before anything happened between them. He’d spilled a full pint of beer on her and made her buy him another one. She obliged – she tells me, repeating the story when she’s drunk like some old family legend – because of his eyes. “Like dark pools and I, in need of a swim.” She shakes her head when she says this, nudges me with an elbow as though we’ve ceased to be mother and daughter. As though we’re exempt from any parent/child code of conduct. She knew then, she tells me, gripping the pen as she signed the credit card slip for her bill, that it was the beginning of something.

“His nickname was Bukowski,” she says, slurring and spitting, proud of that man as though she’d given birth to him herself. Each time she tells me this story, my shoulder burns.

She forgets her keys in the ignition, forgets my birthday, but she always remembers to talk into my good ear when she recounts that night they met.

“He was an asshole, you know,” I said once.

She slapped me then and, more than the sting, I remember the dullness of not being surprised.

“And he was a damn good writer,” she said.

“Not a bad shot either,” I said when I was out of her reach.

The Flying Poet of the Seven Seas

Not everyone knows how I came to ride The Flying Dutchman — as I understand it, one tends to suffer an amnesic streak following the shock of death, you see — but it is well known that I eventually came into the company of Charles Bukowski, him also riding the ghost hsip. We quickly became drinking partners, often interrupting the work of the ship’s crew with our inebriated antics. For what were to care how we interfered with their work? Consequences become a thing of the past once you’ve died. There’s no, “Oh, I’m dreadfully sorry for vomiting on your freshly swabbed deck.” It’s more “I’m fucking dead, I’ll do as I like!”

(Not that the dead actually vomit, which makes postmortem binge drinking such a delightful past time, but I digress)

Things between Charles and I were not unlike a honeymoon — a very manly, nonsexual honeymoon that is, one in which we discussed poetry, and art, and life, and other such manly topics. On one particular day, we found ourselves discussing theatre over yet another pint. Charles and I loved to debate about the nature of art — we were both cynics, he and I, but I tried to maintain a more optimistic outlook on things regardless, and this often led to heated discussions between us,

At some point during this binge session, I had decided to argue that one’s artistic merits in a specific field did not necessarily justify or guarantee the quality of artistic endeavors in yet another. As an example, I cited the play The Tenant, composed by the late sculptress Linda Kang. Despite her undeniable skills as a sculptor, she was sadly a terrible writer, and an even worse dramatist, I said. I would have continued with my rant by clarifying that I did not think any less of her as a person for this artistic misstep, but by the time I opened my mouth to continue the statement, Charles had already grabbed a loose harpoon from nearby and drove it through my chest with all his might, accompanied by a mighty battle cry.

It’s not that the attack brought me any physical pain — such are the benefits of postmortem incorporeality mdash; but the mere shock of such an attack drove me into a fit of blind rage. I have always been a man of a calm, nonviolent disposition, even in death, but, well, when a good friend spears you through your ethereal heart, it tends to piss you the fuck off.

(Later, as Charles and I drifted flotsam and jetsam along the River Styx, forever lost to our phantom seafaring vessel home, he would explain, in no sweet terms, how my statement drove a spear through his own ethereal heart, thereby justifying his actions. How was I to know that Charles and Linda had a relationship and that he had actually performed The Tenant on stage at her side? I never read Women! Why, I had never read Bukowski at all until death, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.)

Instead, I smashed my mug into the side of his face. As the glass shattered, I drove the broken ends of the handle into his cheek. He recoiled and pulled at the handle as if opening a door to his old bloodied face, spun around, and cracked his wooden chair against my back. The wood splintered everywhere, but Charles kept his grip on the two broken legs, wielding them like medieval swords, or perhaps those sparring katana you see in Samurai films. I instinctively flipped the table towards him and snapped off a leg to use as my own weapon.

This clever defensive maneuver forced Charles to step backwards, a steady movement that he continued as I sauntered towards him with weapon in hand. I drove him back and back until finally his right foot missed the edge. Charles was able to regain his footing and balanced, but quickly realized that he stood at the end of The Flying Dutchman’s plank, and I was actively walking him off of it.

Petrified, he looked down at the blue-black depths below him, and back up at me. So I kicked him, right in the fucking gut, off the plank and down into the ocean far below. A brief wave of sobriety washed over me, and I offered my table-leg weapon as an olive branch to my once dear friend.

The old bastard pulled me into the water right along with him.