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by Big Ed Magusson
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by Robert Buckley
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Power and Glory
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A Rathskeller Jar
The Dread That Stained Kalos
I don't know exactly when I went crazy. I could have been nuts for years and just hadn't realized it. I mean, you see a lot of weird things in the city anyway, and in my line of work what's weird is just news. I do remember when I got my first hint that my right mind had taken a wrong turn. It was during an afternoon news budget session.
We were trying to cope with an unusually small news hole at a time when a half-dozen kick-ass stories were percolating and developing. Trying to ration space for them and the daily deluge of crime, accidents and politics had turned the afternoon meeting into a reverse auction with reporters and editors pitching their own stories to Cy Carmody, the managing editor.
"What's new on the Mob graveyard?" Carmody barked. The man's face looked like he had been weaned on sour cream.
Tyler answered eagerly. "They're just about to confirm that the guy they pulled out two days ago was Vinnie Parisi. And they're still finding bodies behind the Tunnelers Union."
"Goddamned Vinnie Parisi?" Carmody responded. "Motherless Jesus! He disappeared in 1958. What the hell they got there, an Arlington National of thugs?"
"Looks that way," Tyler beamed.
"Well, then, that looks like the splash."
"Hang on, Cy" Dave Rosen interrupted. "We also have the MIT dean running a B&D escort service. Looks like he was using students, and Sullie's chasing a tip that he was running a couple of Radcliffe girls as rent-a-subs."
"Rent-a-what?" Carmody barked again. "What the shit is a sub? I thought a sub was a fuckin' sandwich."
"Ah, no actually," Rosen tried to explain. "A sub is short for submissive. The girls get paid to let these guys give them spankings, and such as that."
"I don't believe it," the boss said, poking the air with his eyeglasses. "You know Andy Morin's wife? She's Radcliffe. Ain't nothing submissive about her. You know, in every relationship there's a fucker and a fuckee, and Andy is definitely the fuckee."
Everyone uncorked the obligatory belly laugh. Every day Carmody made at least one derisive joke at the expense of the editor of the broadsheet World Journal.
"Okay, Darcy, what have you got?"
Terry Darcy was filling in as city editor for Janet Wonkowski who was on vacation. The poor kid, they really tossed her to the wolves. The only woman in a room of seven guys reigned over by the rawest mouth in the business. I felt badly for her, but she had to go through it eventually.
I was studying the page budget trying to figure out where everything was going to fit when Terry stood up and said, "I want to tell you about the man who comes to me every night and makes me do wicked, filthy things."
You ever have that experience where you thought you heard something, but your brain just told you to ignore it, it's all a mistake, pay no mind at all?
Then Carmody growled back, "Tell us, baby!" Like a cheering section, the other five guys chimed in, "Yeah, tell us!"
Terry pulled open her blouse revealing a black sheer bra. No, not sheer, transparent. Then she slid a zipper down the hip side of her skirt and plunged both hands underneath and clenched her groin.
"Ohhh," she groaned, "He says he's going to make me his slut. He makes me suck his cock. I'm sooo bad."
"Yeah, baby" Carmody shouted. "Tell us how he makes you go down,"
Carmody's arm was making a pumping motion. I looked around at the other men and they were all making that same motion in unison. I could have been looking at a slant-6, but for Rosen who upset the symmetry because he's left-handed.
Terry raised her arms over her head, her fingers glistening with her pussy juice, and cried, "He's an alien! He's going to make me have his alien baby!"
She plopped back onto her chair and looked like she had just come. Tyler dove under the table and almost immediately I heard slurping sounds. Terry was writhing as the rest of the men chanted, "Eat that pussy, eat that pussy!"
I peered under the table. I had to see for myself what I couldn't believe I was seeing.
But, nobody was under the table. I caught a glimpse of Terry's thigh-highs, but Tyler wasn't between her legs and everything else seemed to be in order. Then I heard Carmody, again. "Danton. Hey, Jim, what the hell are you doing under there?"
I looked up. Seven sets of eyes were staring at me. Terry was completely dressed. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
"Uh, nothing," I said. "I just dropped my pen."
"We're going to splash with the Mob graveyard," Carmody said. "And run the kinky MIT escort service as an off-lead. We got jump space, or what?"
"Yeah, we can run 20 inches of Mob and 15 of MIT inside."
"Okay, let's get this edition out."
I started to get up, a little shaken. Duggan whispered behind my ear, "Hey, Danton, was she wearing pants?"
"Huh?" I jumped.
"Terry. You get yourself a nice look?" he laughed. "I never saw a lamer try to sneak a glimpse of snatch."
My jitters faded into irritation. "Fuck yourself with a banjo, Duggan."
Duggan laughed out loud and left the conference room. I followed him. Back in the newsroom a few minutes later I was standing by the copier putting together page assignment packets for the copy editors. I had nearly convinced myself that I had dozed off at the meeting and had had a really vivid dream. But then Randolph introduced himself.
I was looking over toward the business desk. In particular, I was looking at a recently hired desk editor, Evelyn Warren. She called herself Evie when I had introduced myself a couple of weeks before. She had offered a bright smile and warm dark eyes then. I guessed she was in her early 30s. Her dark blonde hair was cut into a short, soft helmet and her skin tone was like buttermilk. She had a Nordic look. Big hips, what my grandmother would have called good substantial child-bearing hips, and an ass that was off the scale for voluptuousness.
"Ummmm, ummm," spoke a voice that flowed like honey and bourbon, "That is some fine backside. Ain't no wonder you want to jump them bones."
I spun around to face a man wearing a crisp white shirt with puffy sleeves and arm garters. The shirt was encased in a gold and crimson brocaded vest that I guessed was pure silk. Cocking his head toward the conference room, he spoke again in easy, jazzy rhythms.
"That was some pretty weird shit that went down in there," he chuckled.
"Who are you?" I managed to croak.
"Name's Randolph." That's all he offered. To this day I don't know if it was his first or last name.
Harry Wilson called to me from the copy desk. "Jim, who the hell are you talking to?"
That shook me up some. Randolph was standing right in front of me. Harry couldn't see him. I walked over to Harry and he said, "You must have money in the bank, Jimmy. The way you been mumbling to yourself."
"Harry," I said, "Who's the guy with the fancy vest?"
"The black guy with the silk vest and the arm garters, he was just standing over by the copier."
Harry looked around. "Nope, haven't seen anyone like that. Who would wear a silk vest in this shithole anyway?"
"Never mind," I said. The rest of the night proceeded per usual. There was an hour and a half of straight-out panic trying to get everything in on deadline, then long downtime while we waited for the first edition to roll off the press.
During the break I made my way to a bank of coffee machines in the far corner of the newsroom. Randolph was there nosing around.
"Hey," I said. "Who the hell are you?"
His face expanded into a pearly white smile. "Well, there's three possibilities, you choose the one you like best. First, I'm just a figment of your imagination. Second, I'm the spirit of a dealer who died in a knife fight in a New Orleans gambling club in 1924."
I just stared stupidly at him.
"Tell the truth," he chuckled," It weren't much of a fight. I just cut my hand, but they said the sepsis set in. Took me away in less than a week."
"You're a fucking ghost?"
"Hold on, remember I said there were three possibilities. Now, as for number 3, I could be a manifestation of your unconscious self."
"Let me get this straight," I said. "My inner self is an elegantly dressed black man?"
"Well, shit, you can't tell what's in the book just by looking at the cover."
I resolved right then and there that even if I had gone nuts, I was going to try to disguise the fact as long as I could. But for the next two weeks I was beset by a constant stream of hallucinations. Occasionally Randolph would appear and comment on them.
There was the day I decided to take the cross-town bus to work and leave the car at home. The driver, a no-nonsense woman of Amazonian stature, resembled Grace Jones. I was seated toward the middle of the bus when I saw her stand and confront two passengers, a couple of slightly built guys.
"How many times I gotta tell you boys, exact change!" she scowled.
"We're awfully sorry," one of the guys implored meekly.
"I'm not hearing none of that," she commanded. "Grab the bar and drop your trousers."
The pair did as they were told. Holding the bar that led up the stairwell, their pants dropped revealing their skinny, pale backsides. The driver produced a long leather strap that looked like an old-fashioned barber's strop and proceeded to whale the guys' asses.
"Let me hear a count!" the driver shouted, and the rest of the passengers began to tally each blow. "ONE, TWO, THREE..." The two guys were crying like babies.
I clenched my eyes shut and counted myself. Then, holding my breath I opened them slowly. All was normal. My stop came and I practically ran off the bus, stopping briefly to look back at the formidable driver. The look she gave me back spoke volumes.
I got to work just as the page budget meeting was getting under way. I was practiced at, shall we say, ignoring things by then. Like the fact that Janet Wonkowski, now back from vacation, was completely naked except for a lethal looking strap-on cock. She was bantering with Carmody about how she was going to conduct some in-depth training on a handsome young editorial assistant.
The hallucinations never interfered with the business at hand, so I was able to do the job fairly routinely, but the strain was beginning to get to me. All around me was a bacchanal. Lauren and Patty, two of our general assignment reporters were doing a 69 on the city desk. The Gossip Girls, Gena and Paula, had their own scene going. Paula was gagged and her hands tied above a door frame. Gena was working away at her with some kind of vibrator. Elsewhere various sex acts were occurring in the routine rhythm of a normal workday.
Finally, the shift ended. Carmody was about to leave with his wife on his arm. Sandrine was a 22-year-old French girl whom Carmody, who was closing in on 65, had brought back from one of his frequent trips to Paris. She was a cute, dark-haired little morsel with a silly giggly laugh.
"Good job, everyone," Carmody bellowed. "We fooled 'em again." Then he stopped, spun Sandrine around and lifted her skirt revealing her bare ass.
"How you all like this stuff?" he bellowed again as the newsroom broke out in applause. "Go ahead, honey, wiggle it for 'em," he added and Sandrine complied. The applause grew louder.
Carmody waved and announced, "Tomorrow I want you all out in front of the building. You're all gonna get a crack at this little cutie, what'ya say to that, guys?" The applause turned to cheering.
Harry's voice was persistent. "Jim ... Jim, for crying out loud, snap out of it."
Carmody was gone. Harry looked at me with a mother hen's worried eyes. "What's up with you, Jim?"
I motioned him to follow me into an empty office. Without flipping on the light I began to tell him of my mental ordeal.
"Harry, I've been hallucinating. It's been going on for two weeks. Just now I thought Carmody invited us all to gang-bang his wife tomorrow."
"Jesus, Jimmy, I used to have hallucinations when I was drinking, but they were all about snakes and bats and shit like that."
"Harry, I wish I were drinking, but I'm not," I said, trying to control the panic welling up inside me. "Everywhere I look, in the newsroom, on the street, the subway, I see people fucking, screwing, spanking: girls-guys, girls-girls, guys-guys, inanimate objects, you name it, all over the place. Cripes, I feel like I'm walking through a Fellini movie."
"Listen, Jim, let me give you the name of this doctor. She helped me when I was getting off the bottle." Harry pushed a card in my hand. "I'll set it up for you."
Harry's shrink was a Dr. Brenda Saperstein. She must have owed Harry some favors because she saw me just two days later. She was an attractive brunette, early 40s.
"I see you are a widower," she said at the beginning of our first session. "When did your wife die?"
"It's been seven years."
"Seeing anyone since she passed away?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, I've had a couple of dates."
"But no ongoing relationship?"
I began to answer when she said, "Do you like my tits? Would you care to suck my nipple?"
The episode passed. Dr. Saperstein said, "Mr. Danton, did you just experience a hallucination?"
"Would you tell me about it. It's okay, don't be embarrassed."
"All right, I thought you were inviting me to suck your, ah, ... breast."
"I see," she said and scribbled a note. "And, are all your hallucinations of a sexual nature?"
"They sure are. So, what am I becoming, a crazy pervert?"
She responded with that canned bullshit about how sanity can't be defined and the rest of the blah blah.
"While the episodes involve sexual imagery, the underlying theme in your unconscious is probably non-sexual. You're experiencing a conflict behind the veils of your consciousness. That's what we need to focus on. But, as long as the condition doesn't interfere with your life, and you can work and take care of yourself, I see no need for hospitalization," she said.
I breathed a sigh of relief. We made another appointment and I left. Outside the medical building I hailed a cab and told the driver to take me home. He was whacking off.
"Damned fool oughtn't to be doing that shit while he's driving," Randolph said. I hadn't noticed him when I got in the cab.
"What are you doing here?" I asked him and immediately noticed the driver's eyes widen in the rear view mirror.
"Thought you could use some company tonight," he said. I didn't dare respond.
I paid the driver and he sped away after dropping me in front of my building. Randolph followed me upstairs to the apartment. I was beat. I kicked off my shoes and shucked off my clothes. I settled into a sweatshirt and pants and sat on my bed. I lifted Sally's picture off the bed stand.
"Oh, baby," I whispered. "I never thought I'd say it, but I'm glad you're not here to see me go nuts."
"Ummm, ummm," Randolph smiled. "She had a fine big backside, too. Didn't she?"
"Hey, watch it," I warned. "Hallucination or not, I'll knock your head right off your ass."
"I'm not meaning any disrespect," Randolph replied. "A fine big behind is something wonderful, something to be cherished. Your Sally, and that girl Evie, uh-huh, they ain't your typical bony-assed white chicks. No sir."
I thought, so long as I was talking to someone who wasn't really there, I might as well make the most of it. I said to Randolph, "Okay, let's say you are a ghost. I was wondering if you might have..."
"Don't you even ask, son," he interrupted me. "I know just what you're gonna say, and the answer is no. People think just cause you're dead, that you gonna run into someone they know that's dead too. Listen, if you knew someone in France, and if I came from France, would you ask me if I knew your friend?"
"No, I guess not."
"Damned right, cause France is a big goddamned place. Now, how many folks you think are alive in the world today?"
"I don't know, billions I guess."
"That's right, but you know, there's always more dead people than there is live people. You think I'm going to run into one in particular?"
"Sorry," I said. "I never thought of it like that."
"It's all right, you miss your Sally. You been missing her for seven long years, but you ain't going to see or hear from her again in this world. So, let me save you some of the money you're spending on that doctor. Get on with your life. Ask that fine big-assed Evie out, show her a good time, then take her home and love her like hell."
I laughed out loud. "I talked to her once, and since then every time our eyes meet she looks uncomfortable, like I'm stalking her. Can't blame her, she's got to be 15 to 18 years younger than me."
"That don't mean shit," Randolph replied. "I think you're afraid."
"I'm afraid of getting hit with a sexual harassment charge, yeah."
"Uh-uh, you're afraid you're going to hurt someone who can't be hurt any more."
Randolph looked right into me with his fathomless black eyes. I started to speak, but he waved me off.
"Sally doesn't want you to live out your life like some damned monk. She understands, you marry someone for a lifetime, but just for a lifetime."
My eyes were stinging, I couldn't keep a tear or two from spilling over. "How the hell do you know?" I said. "You say you never ran into her."
Randolph smiled. "Don't ask me how I know. I just know. And you feeling guilty, she wants that to stop right now."
"It all happened so fast," I sobbed. "We found out she was sick, and then she was gone. No time. No time to even say good bye. Damn, we should have had more time."
Randolph nodded, smiling like a fatherly old priest. "No, it weren't fair, that's for certain. But it weren't no one's fault neither."
The next thing I remember, I was waking up. It was late morning. I had time to shower and get ready for work. I decided to drive. I didn't want any part of public transportation for a while. When I got to the paper everything seemed pretty normal. Oh, the security guard was standing in the middle of the lobby getting a blowjob from Francine from personnel, but in contrast to the previous two weeks that was neither here nor there.
The budget meeting concluded without incident, and as far as I could tell no one had gone outside to bang Sandrine.
I spotted Evie poring over some press releases and started toward her but hesitated. Randolph's honey-growl of a voice poured in my ear. "Now's as good a time as any," he said. "Go ahead, talk to her."
"I don't know," I said. "I'm not sure. I think I make her uncomfortable."
"You're going to pass up that big fine ass, huh? Think about it. And while you're at it, think about her sweet pussy, too. I bet she's all golden curls down there. Ummm, I do like 'em woolly."
"What if she doesn't want anything to do with me," I whined. "What if she's married, what if she's seeing someone?"
"If-if-if-if," Randolph rasped in irritation. "IF the Pilgrims had eaten a cat instead of a turkey, we'd all have PUSSY for Thanksgiving!"
"That's right, IF don't mean shit, IF is nothing but what never happened and what's never gonna happen. Now, why don't you grow some balls and go talk to that fine-looking girl."
I approached Evie and she looked up, a scant smile crossed her face. "Hi," I said.
"So, how's it going? How do you like working for Ted Spender?"
"Really? Everyone else who's worked here thought he was an asshole."
Her face brightened into wide smile this time. "Yeah, I guess he is," she laughed.
We made small talk for a bit. Her shift was ending, but I had some time to waste so I asked her if I could buy her dinner.
"Aw, gee, the sitter's home with the kids..."
"Oh, you're married."
"No, not anymore. I don't even know where he is. But, I've got a girl, 10, and a boy, 12, and a sitter who will stay an extra hour, but is going to charge me another $15."
"Suppose I pay for dinner, and the sitter's overtime?" I offered.
"Okay, I'll call and let her know."
I looked around the newsroom. It was running S-O-P, nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing more than the usual chaos. Randolph whispered in my ear. "See you on the funway, Jimbo."
"Jimbo, I can read your mind. You're thinking about rubbing your hands all over Evie's beautiful big ass. And I've got no doubt it's gonna happen. You think I want to hang around and watch you have all the fun? Uh-uh."
"Randolph," I asked, "You telling me I'm not crazy anymore?"
"Shit, no! You the craziest fucking white man I ever knew. You're still talking to me, ain't ya? Anyway, there ain't no cure for what you got. And you don't want no cure either. Just stay crazy, man. It's the only way to live."
Just then I heard Evie say, "I'm ready. Who were you talking to?"
"Nobody," I said. "Nobody at all."
© 2000 by R.E. Buckley. Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.
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