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аВНИЫЖ чЪХЛЮЗХС. нВЗЗХВЖЭ СЖ НВЖКЭЯ ЗЧЛНКСХЛЮ (engl)
Charles Bukowski. Short stories collection
Confession of a Coward
God, she thought lying in bed naked and re-reading Aldington's Portrait
of a Genius, But... he's an impostor! Not D.H. Lawrence, but her husband-
Henry-with his bauble of a belly and all the hair he never combed and the
way he stood around in his shorts, and the way he stood naked before the
window like an Arabian and howled; and he told her that he was turning into
a toad and that he wanted to buy a Buddha and that he wanted to be old and
drown in the sea, and that he was going to grow a beard and that he felt as
if he was turning into a woman.
And Henry was poor, poor and worthless and miserable and sick. And he
wanted to join the Mahler Society. His breath was bad, his father was insane
and his mother was dying of cancer.
And besides all this, the weather was hot, hot as hell.
"I've got a new system," he said. "All I need is four or five grand.
It's a matter of investment. We could travel from track to track in a
She felt like saying something blas+ like, "We don't have four or five
grand," but it didn't come out. Nothing came out: all the doors were closed
and all the windows were down, and it was in the middle of the desert-not
even vultures-and they were about to drop the Bomb. She should have stayed
in Texas, she should have stayed with Papa-this man is a goon, a gunnysack,
a gutless no-nothing in a world of doers. He hides behind symphonies and
poetic fancies; a weak and listless soul.
"Are you going to take me to the museum?" she asked.
"They're having an Art Exhibit."
"Well, don't you want to see Van Gogh?"
"To hell with Van Gogh! What's Van Gogh to me?"
The doors closed again and she couldn't think of an answer.
"I don't like museums," he continued. "I don't like museum-people."
The fan was going but it was a small apartment and the heat held as if
enclosed in a kettle.
"In fact," he said, peeling off his T-shirt and standing in just his
shorts, "I don't like any kind of people."
Amazingly, he had hair on his chest.
"In fact," he continued, pulling his shorts down and over the end of
one foot, "I'm going to write a book some day and call it Confession of a
The doorbell rang like a rape, or the tearing of ripe flesh.
"Jesus Christ!" he said like something trapped.
She jumped off the bed, looking very white and unpeeled. Like a candy
banana. Aldington and D.H. Lawrence and Taos fell to the floor.
She ran to the closet and began stuffing herself inside the flying
cloth of female necessaries.
"Never mind the clothes," he said.
"Aren't you going to answer?"
"No! Why should I?"
It rang again. The sound of the bell entered the room and searched them
out, scaled and scalded their skins, pummeled them with crawling eyes.
Then it was silent.
And the feet turned with their sound, turning and guiding some monster,
taking it back down the stairwell, one two three, 1, 2, 3; and then gone.
"I wonder," he said, still not moving, "what that was?"
"I don't know," she said, bending double at the waist and pulling her
petticoat back over her head.
"Here!" she yelled. "Here!" holding her arms out like feelers.
He finished yanking the petticoat off over her head with some distaste.
"Why do you women wear this crap?" he asked in a loud voice.
She didn't feel an answer was necessary and went over and pulled
Lawrence out from under the bed. Then she got into bed with Lorenzo and her
husband sat on the couch.
"They built a little shrine for him," he said.
"Who?" she asked irritably.
"They have a picture of it in that book."
"Yes, I've seen it."
"Have you ever seen a dog-graveyard?"
"Well, what about it?"
"They always have flowers. Every dog always has flowers, fresh, all in
neat little clusters on each grave. It's enough to make you cry."
She found her place in the book again, like a person searching for
solitude in the middle of a lake: So the bitter months dragged by miserably,
accompanied by Lorenzo's tragic feeling of loss, his-
"I wish I had studied ballet," he said. "I go about all slumped over
but that's because my spirit is wilted. I'm really lithe, ready to tumble on
spring mattresses of some sort. I should have been a frog, at least. You'll
see. Someday I'm going to turn into a frog."
Her lake rippled with the irritating breeze: "Well, for heaven's sake,
study ballet! Go at night! Get rid of your belly! Leap around! Be a frog!"
"You mean after WORK?" he asked woefully.
"God," she said, "you want everything for nothing." She got up and went
to the bathroom and closed the door.
She doesn't understand, he thought, sitting on the couch naked, she
doesn't understand that I'm joking. She's so god-damned serious. Everything
I say is supposed to carry truth or tragic import, or insight or something.
I've been through all that!
He noticed a pencil-scrawled piece of paper, in her handwriting, on the
side table. He picked it up:
My husband is a poet published alongside Sartre and Lorca;
he writes about insanity and Nietzsche and Lawrence,
but what has he written about me?
she reads the funnies
and empties garbage
and makes little hats
and goes to Mass at 8 AM
I too am a poet and an artist, some discerning critics
say, but my husband wrote about me:
she reads the funnies...
He heard the toilet flush, and a moment later, out she came.
"I'd like to be a clown in a circus," he greeted her.
She got back on the bed with her book.
"Wouldn't you like to be a tragicomic clown stumbling about with a
painted face?" he asked her.
She didn't answer. He picked up the Racing Form:
POWER 114 B.g.4, by Cosmic Bomb-
Pomayya, by Pompey
Breeder, Brookmeade Stable.
1956 12 2 4 1 $12,950
July 18-Jam I I/16 1:45 1/5ft. 3 122 2
1/2 3 2h GuerinE'Alw 86
"I'm going to Caliente next Sunday," he said.
"Good. I'll have Charlotte over. Allen can bring her in the car."
"Do you believe she really got propositioned by the preacher in that
movie like she claimed?"
She turned the page of her book.
"God damn you, answer me!" he screamed, angry at last.
"Do you think she's a whore and making it all up? Do you think we're
all whores? What are we trying to do, reading all these books? Writing all
the poems they -send back, and working in some dungeon for nothing because
we're not really interested in money?"
She put the book down and looked back over her shoulder at him. "Well,"
she said in a low voice, "do you want to give it all up?"
"Give WHAT all up? We don't have anything! Or, do you mean Beethoven's
Fifth or Handel's Water Music? Or do you mean the SOUL?"
"Let's not argue. Please. I don't want to argue.
"Well, I want to know what we are trying to do!"
The doorbell rang like all the bells of doom sweeping across the room.
"Shhh," he said, "shhh! Be quiet!"
The doorbell rang again, seeming to say, I know you are in there, I
know you are in there.
"They know we're in here." she whispered.
"I feel that this is it, " he said.
"Never mind. Just be quiet. Maybe it will go away."
"Isn't it wonderful to have all these friends?" she took up the joke-
"No. We have no friends. I tell you, this is something else!"
It rang again, very short, flat and spiritless. "I once tried to make
the Olympic swimming team," he said, getting completely off the point.
"You make more ridiculous statements by the minute, Henry."
"Will you get off my back? Just for that!," he said, raising his voice,
"WHO IS IT?"
There was no answer.
Henry rose wide-eyed, as if in a trance, and flung the door open,
forgetting his nakedness. He stood there transfixed in thought for some
time, but it was obvious to her that nobody was therein his state of undress
there would have been quite a commotion or, at the very least, some
Then he closed the door. He had a strange look on his face, a round-
eyed almost dull look and he swallowed once as he faced her. His pride,
"I've decided," he announced, "that I'm not going to turn into a woman
"Well, that will help matters between us considerably, Henry."
"And I'll even take you to see Van Gogh. No wait, I'll let you take
"Either way, dear. It doesn't matter."
"No," he said, "you'll have to take me!"
He marched into the bathroom and closed the door.
"Don't you wonder," she said through the door, "who that was?"
"Who what was?"
"Who that was at the door? Twice?"
"Hell," he said, "I know who it was."
"Who was it, then?"
"I said, 'Ha!' I'm not telling!"
"Henry, you simply don't know who it was, anymore than I do. You're
simply being silly again."
"If you promise to take me to see Van Gogh, I'll tell you who was at
"All right," she humored him along, "I promise."
"O.K., it was me at the door!"
"You at the door?"
"Yes," he laughed a silly little laugh, "me looking for me! Both
"Still playing the clown aren't you, Henry?"
She heard the water running in the basin and knew he was going to
"Are you going to shave, Henry?"
"I've decided against the beard," he answered.
He was boring her again and she simply opened her book at a random page
and began reading:
You don't want any more of me?
I want us to break off-you be free of me, I free of you.
And what about these last months?
I don't know. I've not told you anything but what I thought was true.
Then why are you different now?
I'm not-I'm the same-only I know it's no good going on.
She closed the book and thought about Henry. Men were children. You had
to humor them. They could take no hurt. It was a thing every woman knew.
Henry tried-he was just so-all this playing the clown. All the poor jokes.
She rose from the bed as if in a dream, walked across the floor, opened
the door and stared. Against the basin stood a partly soaped shaving brush
and his still wet shaving mug. But the water in the basin was cold and at
the bottom, against the plug, green and beyond her reach at last and the
size of a crumpled glove, stared back the fat, living frog.
Black Sparrow "New Year's Greeting" 1995
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN TOWN
Cass was the youngest and most beautiful of 5 sisters. Cass was the
most beautiful girl in town. 1/2 Indian with a supple and strange body, a
snake-like and fiery body with eyes to go with it. Cass was fluid moving
fire. She was like a spirit stuck into a form that would not hold her. Her
hair was black and long and silken and whirled about as did her body. Her
spirit was either very high or very low. There was no in between for Cass.
Some said she was crazy. The dull ones said that. The dull ones would never
understand Cass. To the men she was simply a sex machine and they didn't
care whether she was crazy or not. And Cass danced and flirted, kissed the
men, but except for an instance or two, when it came time to make it with
Cass, Cass had somehow slipped away, eluded the men.
Her sisters accused her of misusing her beauty, of not using her mind
enough, but Cass had mind and spirit; she painted, she danced, she sang, she
made things of clay, and when people were hurt either in the spirit or the
flesh, Cass felt a deep grieving for them. Her mind was simply different;
her mind was simply not practical. Her sisters were jealous of her because
she attracted their men, and they were angry because they felt she didn't
make the best use of them. She had a habit of being kind to the uglier ones;
the so-called handsome men revolted her- "No guts," she said, "no zap. They
are riding on their perfect little earlobes and well- shaped nostrils...all
surface and no insides..." She had a temper that came close to insanity, she
had a temper that some call insanity. Her father had died of alchohol and
her mother had run off leaving the girls alone. The girls went to a relative
who placed them in a convent. The convent had been an unhappy place, more
for Cass than the sisters. The girls were jealous of Cass and Cass fought
most of them. She had razor marks all along her left arm from defending
herself in two fights. There was also a permanent scar along the left cheek
but the scar rather than lessening her beauty only seemed to highlight it. I
met her at the West End Bar several nights after her release from the
convent. Being youngest, she was the last of the sisters to be released. She
simply came in and sat next to me. I was probably the ugliest man in town
and this might have had something to do with it.
"Drink?" I asked.
"Sure, why not?"
I don't suppose there was anything unusual in our conversation that
night, it was simply in the feeling Cass gave. She had chosen me and it was
as simple as that. No pressure. She liked her drinks and had a great number
of them. She didn't seem quite of age but they served he anyhow. Perhaps she
had forged i.d., I don't know. Anyhow, each time she came back from the
restroom and sat down next to me, I did feel some pride. She was not only
the most beautiful woman in town but also one of the most beautiful I had
ever seen. I placed my arm about her waist and kissed her once.
"Do you think I'm pretty?" she asked.
"Yes, of course, but there's something else... there's more than your
"People are always accusing me of being pretty. Do you really think I'm
"Pretty isn't the word, it hardly does you fair."
Cass reached into her handbag. I thought she was reaching for her
handkerchief. She came out with a long hatpin. Before I could stop her she
had run this long hatpin through her nose, sideways, just above the
nostrils. I felt disgust and horror. She looked at me and laughed, "Now do
you think me pretty? What do you think now, man?" I pulled the hatpin out
and held my handkerchief over the bleeding. Several people, including the
bartender, had seen the act. The bartender came down:
"Look," he said to Cass, "you act up again and you're out. We don't
need your dramatics here."
"Oh, fuck you, man!" she said.
"Better keep her straight," the bartender said to me.
"She'll be all right," I said.
"It's my nose, I can do what I want with my nose."
"No," I said, "it hurts me."
"You mean it hurts you when I stick a pin in my nose?"
"Yes, it does, I mean it."
"All right, I won't do it again. Cheer up."
She kissed me, rather grinning through the kiss and holding the
handkerchief to her nose. We left for my place at closing time. I had some
beer and we sat there talking. It was then that I got the perception of her
as a person full of kindness and caring. She gave herself away without
knowing it. At the same time she would leap back into areas of wildness and
incoherence. Schitzi. A beautiful and spiritual schitzi. Perhaps some man,
something, would ruin her forever. I hoped that it wouldn't be me. We went
to bed and after I turned out the lights Cass asked me,
"When do you want it? Now or in the morning?"
"In the morning," I said and turned my back.
In the morning I got up and made a couple of coffees, brought her one
in bed. She laughed.
"You're the first man who has turned it down at night."
"It's o.k.," I said, "we needn't do it at all."
"No, wait, I want to now. Let me freshen up a bit."
Cass went into the bathroom. She came out shortly, looking quite
wonderful, her long black hair glistening, her eyes and lips glistening, her
glistening... She displayed her body calmly, as a good thing. She got under
"Come on, lover man."
I got in. She kissed with abandon but without haste. I let my hands run
over her body, through her hair. I mounted. It was hot, and tight. I began
to stroke slowly, wanting to make it last. Her eyes looked directly into
"What's your name?" I asked.
"What the hell difference does it make?" she asked.
I laughed and went on ahead. Afterwards she dressed and I drove her
back to the bar but she was difficult to forget. I wasn't working and I
slept until 2 p.m. then got up and read the paper. I was in the bathtub when
she came in with a large leaf- an elephant ear.
"I knew you'd be in the bathtub," she said, "so I brought you something
to cover that thing with, nature boy."
She threw the elepahant leaf down on me in the bathtub.
"How did you know I'd be in the tub?"
Almost every day Cass arrived when I was in the tub. The times were
different but she seldom missed, and there was the elephant leaf. And then
we'd make love. One or two nights she phoned and I had to bail her out of
jail for drunkenness and fighting.
"These sons of bitches," she said, "just because they buy you a few
drinks they think they can get into your pants."
"Once you accept a drink you create your own trouble."
"I thought they were interested in me, not just my body."
"I'm interested in you and your body. I doubt, though, that most men
can see beyond your body."
I left town for 6 months, bummed around, came back. I had never
forgotten Cass, but we'd had some type of arguement and I felt like moving
anyhow, and when I got back i figured she'd be gone, but I had been sitting
in the West End Bar about 30 minutes when she walked in and sat down next to
"Well, bastard, I see you've come back."
I ordered her a drink. Then I looked at her. She had on a high- necked
dress. I had never seen her in one of those. And under each eye, driven in,
were 2 pins with glass heads. All you could see were the heads of the pins,
but the oins were driven down into her face.
"God damn you, still trying to destroy your beauty, eh?"
"No, it's the fad, you fool."
"I've missed you," she said.
"Is there anybody else?"
"No there isn't anybody else. Just you. But I'm hustling. It costs ten
bucks. But you get it free."
"Pull those pins out."
"No, it's the fad."
"It's making me very unhappy."
"Are you sure?"
"Hell yes, I'm sure."
Cass slowly pulled the pins out and put them back in her purse.
"Why do you haggle your beauty?" I asked. "Why don't you just live with
"Because people think it's all I have. Beauty is nothing, beauty won't
stay. You don't know how lucky you are to be ugly, because if people like
you you know it's for something else."
"O.k.," I said, "I'm lucky."
"I don't mean you're ugly. People just think you're ugly. You have a
We had another drink.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Nothing. I can't get on to anything. No interest."
"Me neither. If you were a woman you could hustle."
"I don't think I could ever make contact with that many strangers, it's
"You're right, it's wearing, everything is wearing."
We left together. People still stared at Cass on the streets. She was a
beautiful woman, perhaps more beautiful than ever. We made it to my place
and I opened a bottle of wine and we talked. With Cass and I, it always came
easy. She talked a while and I would listen and then i would talk. Our
conversation simply went along without strain. We seemed to discover secrets
together. When we discovered a good one Cass would laugh that laugh- only
the way she could. It was like joy out of fire. Through the talking we
kissed and moved closer together. We became quite heated and decided to go
to bed. It was then that Cass took off her high -necked dress and I saw it-
the ugly jagged scar across her throat. It was large and thick.
"God damn you, woman," I said from the bed, "god damn you, what have
"I tried it with a broken bottle one night. Don't you like me any more?
Am I still beautiful?"
I pulled her down on the bed and kissed her. She pushed away and
laughed, "Some men pay me ten and I undress and they don't want to do it. I
keep the ten. It's very funny."
"Yes," I said, "I can't stop laughing... Cass, bitch, I love you...stop
destroying yourself; you're the most alive woman I've ever met."
We kissed again. Cass was crying without sound. I could feel the tears.
The long black hair lay beside me like a flag of death. We enjoined and made
slow and sombre and wonderful love. In the morning Cass was up making
breakfast. She seemed quite calm and happy. She was singing. I stayed in bed
and enjoyed her happiness. Finally she came over and shook me,
"Up, bastard! Throw some cold water on your face and pecker and come
enjoy the feast!"
I drove her to the beach that day. It was a weekday and not yet summer
so things were splendidly deserted. Beach bums in rags slept on the lawns
above the sand. Others sat on stone benches sharing a lone bottle. The gulls
whirled about, mindless yet distracted. Old ladies in their 70's and 80's
sat on the benches and discussed selling real estate left behind by husbands
long ago killed by the pace and stupidity of survival. For it all, there was
peace in the air and we walked about and stratched on the lawns and didn't
say much. It simply felt good being together. I bought a couple of
sandwiches, some chips and drinks and we sat on the sand eating. Then I held
Cass and we slept together about an hour. It was somehow better than
lovemaking. There was flowing together without tension. When we awakened we
drove back to my place and I cooked a dinner. After dinner I suggested to
Cass that we shack together. She waited a long time, looking at me, then she
slowly said, "No." I drove her back to the bar, bought her a drink and
walked out. I found a job as a parker in a factory the next day and the rest
of the week went to working. I was too tired to get about much but that
Friday night I did get to the West End Bar. I sat and waited for Cass. Hours
went by . After I was fairly drunk the bartender said to me, "I'm sorry
about your girlfriend."
"What is it?" I asked.
"I'm sorry, didn't you know?"
"Suicide. She was buried yesterday."
"Buried?" I asked. It seemed as though she would walk through the
doorway at any moment. How could she be gone?
"Her sisters buried her."
"A suicide? Mind telling me how?"
"She cut her throat."
"I see. Give me another drink."
I drank until closing time. Cass was the most beautiful of 5 sisters,
the most beautiful in town. I managed to drive to my place and I kept
thinking, I should have insisted she stay with me instead of accepting that
"no."Everything about her had indicated that she had cared. I simply had
been too offhand about it, lazy, too unconcerned. I deserved my death and
hers. I was a dog. No, why blame the dogs? I got up and found a bottle of
wine and drank from it heavily. Cass the most beautiful girl in town was
dead at 20. Outside somebody honked their automobile horn. They were very
loud and persistent. I sat the bottle down and screamed out: "GOD DAMN
YOU,YOU SON OF A BITCH ,SHUT UP!" The night kept coming and there was
nothing I could do.
**A Lovely Love Affair**
I went broke --- again --- but this time in the French Quarter, New
Orleans, and Joe Blanchard, editor of the underground paper OVERTHROW took
me down to this place around the corner, one of those dirty white buildings
with green storm windows, steps that ran almost straight up. It was Sunday
and I was expecting a royalty, no, and advance from a dirty book I had
written for the Germans, but the Germans kept writing me this bullshit about
the owner, the father, being a drunk, they were deep in the red because the
old man had withdrawn their funds from the bank, no, overdrawn them for his
drinking and fucking bouts and therefore, they were broke but they were
kicking the old man out and as soon as-
Blanchard rang the bell.
This old fat girl came to the door, and she weighed about between 250
and 300 pounds. She kind of wore this vast sheet as a dress and her eyes
were very small. I guess that was the only small thing about her. She was
Marie Glaviano, owner of a caf+ in the French Quarter, a very small caf+.
That was another thing that was not very big about her --- her caf+. But it
was a nice caf+, red and white tablecloths, expensive menus and no people
about. One of those old-time black mammy dolls standing near the entrance.
The old black mammy doll signified good times, old times, good old times,
but the good old times were gone. The tourists were walkers now. They just
liked to walk around and look at things. They didn't go into the cafes. They
didn't even get drunk. Nothing paid anymore. The good times were over.
Nobody gave a shit and nobody had any money and if they had any, they kept
it. It was a new age and not a very interesting one. Everybody kind of
watched the revolutionaries and the pigs rip at each other. That was good
entertainment and it was free and they kept their money in their pockets, if
they had any money.
Blanchard said, "Hello, Marie. Marie, this is Charley Serkin. Charley,
this is Marie."
"Hi," I said.
"Hello," said Marie Glaviano.
"Let us come in a minute, Marie," said Blanchard.
(There are only two things wrong with money: too much or too little.
And there I was down at the "too little" stage again.)
We climbed the steep steps and followed her down one fo those long long
sideways-built places ---I mean all length and no width, and then we were in
the kitchen, sitting at a table. There was a bowl of flowers. Marie broke
open 3 bottles of beer. Sat down.
"Well, Marie," said Blanchard, "Charley's a genius. He's up against the
knife. I'm sure he'll pull out, but meanwhile- meanwhile, he's got no place
Marie looked at me. "Are you a genius?"
I took a long drag at the beer. "Well, frankly, it's hard to tell. More
often, I feel like some type of subnormal. Rather like all these great big
white blocks of air in my head."
"He can stay," said Marie.
It was Monday, Marie's only day off and Blanchard got up and left us
there in the kitchen. Then the front door slammed and he was out of there.
"What do you do?" asked Marie.
"Live on my luck," I said.
"You remind me of Marty," she said.
"Marty?" I asked, thinking, my god, here it comes. And it came.
"Well, you're ugly, you know. Well, I don't mean ugly, I mean beat-up,
you know. And you're really beat-up, you're even more beat-up than Marty
was. And he was a fighter. Were you a fighter?"
"That's one of my problems: I could never fight worth a damn."
"Anyhow, you got that same look as Marty. You been beat but you're
kind. I know your type. I know a man when I see a man. I like your face. You
got a good face."
Not being able to say anything about her face, I asked, "You got any
"Why sure, honey," she reached down into that great sheet of a dress
and pulled a full pack out from between her tits. She could have carried a
week's worth of groceries in there. It was kind of funny. She opened me
I took a good drain, then told her, "I could probably fuck you until I
made you cry."
"Now look here, Charley," she said, "I won't have you talking that way.
I'm a nice girl. My mother brought me up right. You keep talking that way
and you can't stay."
"Sorry, Marie, I was just kidding."
"Well, I don't like that kind of kidding."
"Sure, I understand. You got any whiskey?"
"Scotch is fine."
She brought out an almost full fifth. 2 waterglasses. We had ourselves
some scotch and water. That woman had been around. That was obvious. She's
probably been around ten years longer than I. Well, age wasn't any crime. It
was only that most people aged badly.
"You're just like Marty," she said again.
"And you're not like anybody I've ever seen," I said.
"Do you like me?" she asked.
"I've got to," I said, and she didn't give me any snot over that one.
We drank another hour or two,. Mostly beer but with a bit of scotch here and
there, and then she took me down to my bed. And on the way down we passed a
place and she was sure to say, "That's my bed." It was quite wide. My bed
was next to another one. Very strange. But it didn't mean anything. "You can
sleep in either bed," said Marie, "or both of them."
There was something about that that felt like a putdown-
... ... ...
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