Tuesday, June 21, 2011



Chloe complains about the bathroom. She complains about this room. I keep hoping that we’ll leave here and go outside. Chloe keeps promising to show me the bust of Rodin’s Balzac. She says that it sits where Boulevard Raspail meets Boulevard du Montparnasse. Boulevard Raspail makes me think of Hemingway writing The Sun Also Rises. I tell Chloe that I would like to go and see the bust. I tell her that I would like to visit the Rodin Museum and the Musee Picasso, and take a long walk along the Left Bank. We have not seen the Seine yet. Chloe has but that was years ago. She says that we will go. We will go to the museums and we will walk along the Seine. Chloe says that I will love crepes. A big man like you, she says, as I hold her cigarette while she smears Camembert on an old baguette; a big man like you will enjoy crepes. We will get crepes, Chloe says. But we have not left the room.

Chloe uses the bathroom and she complains. She says that she cannot use the bathroom in a room as small as this one. She says this to me because I booked the room and I chose to stay here. I did not know it would be as small as it is. Chloe says that I can hear her piss and shit. I tell her that I can’t and when she goes into the bathroom to do either, I turn on the television to the BBC World News, and I keep the volume up. Someone pounds on the wall of the room whenever Chloe uses the bathroom, but I am helpless. I do not want her to think that I can hear. I do not want to hear her. It is enough of a fantasy for me to imagine Chloe wiping her cunt after she pisses. I think of her squat with childlike embarrassment on the toilet bowl, skirt pulled up and panties at the ankles, legs pressed together, and one hand between them. I think of Chloe like that and it is enough.

I use the bathroom whenever Chloe is finished. She lights a cigarette and tells me that I am disgusting. What if I’d taken a shit? She asks. What if? I tell her that I cannot help it. I tell her that I’d like to leave the room when I am done in the bathroom. I have addresses in my bag, I tell Chloe, as she glares at me and smokes. I have the addresses where writers and painters lived. We can see where Picasso painted Guernica, I tell her. We can see where Beckett lived and where Henry Miller stayed. Chloe says that she has already been to Villa Seurat. But that was years ago. She says that she will take me to La Rotonde after we’ve seen the Balzac bust. Your precious Picasso drank at La Rotonde, Chloe says, between drags her on cigarette. She takes a bite on the old baguette. There is Camembert on the corner of Chloe’s mouth. I will not tell her about it. I go into the bathroom and the toilet seat is up. Chloe always leaves the toilet seat up when she is finished. She is like a man in this way. I want to say something to her about it. She will do nothing but shrug as I speak. Chloe will look at me and smoke her cigarette. When I am done speaking she will tell me that a big man like me will enjoy crepes. Then Chloe will complain about the bathroom again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

...give me just a little more time

dear few of you actually reading Edwin Balder

sorry for the delay. was in Madrid and then
had a visit from the folks. also, need to go back
and read what i've written so far in order to continue
posting a very very very rough draft of The Life and Times
of Edwin Balder in the Real World.

so....most likely i'll be back with more Balder some time
next week.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

...On a break

Blood Drips will be on a break until Tuesday,
May 24th.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Let ‘Em In

Edwin Balder was lying on his bed when he heard his doorbell ring. He made no move to get it. Edwin’s doorbell had ringed a few times over the last three weeks that he’d been holed up in his apartment, and he’d gotten used to the sound. Of course, most of the rings were not for him, but were people on the outside ringing the wrong apartment, or food delivery men who’d gotten confused. The exterminator had ringed twice in the same Saturday, which had been the day’s highlight for Edwin. Lawson rang once one week and then twice the next week, but he hadn’t come by to ring at all this last week of solitude, before Edwin had to get it together and get back to work, back to life, back to being Edwin Balder in a world that belonged to the Life and Times of Edward Bedoor in the Real World.

The phone had ringed as well, but Edwin let the answering machine get. Mr. Owen Chase had called a couple of times, inquiring where Edwin had been. His first phone call was full of compassion and concern, but the second was a tad bit more irritated and direct. Chase mentioned something about being AWOL which Edwin, half drunk on scotch while lying on his couch, unwashed and unshaven, covered in a pile of old McSweeny’s, thought quite amusing. How could one be AWOL from an office job? It wasn’t as if they were in Iraq or Afghanistan. Edwin pictured fat old Owen Chase trudging through the desert wearing fatigues and toting a machine gun, and the mental image made him laugh. Imagine the amount of sweat, he thought. Would Chase still be able to assault the McDonald’s Dollar Menu in Kabul? Then Edwin thought that if he and Owen Chase were in the military together, he’d frag that man for sure.

Mary rang and Edwin took the call soon after she started speaking into the answering machine. The folks in HR at the Insert-Massive-Conglomerate-Here Invoicing Company had offered him leave for mental exhaustion and stress over the coming office closure. Mary had filed the paperwork and Lawson had forged Edwin’s name, she said. Edwin didn’t speak. Mary told him that the kind folks in HR were nervous and worried about lawsuits as this juncture, and that they simply wanted to cover all pertinent bases with their employees. Mary told Edwin and his answering machine that the kind, generous folks at HR were sending additional paperwork should Edwin need to take part in the free family counseling offered as a benefit to employees of the Insert-Massive-Conglomerate-Here Invoicing Company. Mary told Edwin that he’d have to return to work in three weeks or take part in the Family Leave Act. Edwin thanked Sour Bear for all of her help, and hung up the phone. Then he went to the post office and canceled his mail for three weeks, before stopping at the Liquor store to buy a case of Duncan’s Scotch Blend in 1.75ml plastic bottles, and hitting the grocery store for a mother-load of Hot Pockets, boxed macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, and pizza squares.

The doorbell rang again and something told Edwin to get it. The exterminator wasn’t due for another week, and it was an odd hour of the day to be ordering food. It couldn’t be Molly Brown, as they had not spoken since that fateful day in the city. They passed each other in the hallway, when Edwin left his apartment that is, like strangers, exchanging weak smiles and half-hearted waves. But they were still connected. After all, this estrangement certainly did not keep Molly Brown from stamping her feet across her floor like some Neanderthal, or jumping Matthew Joy’s bones whenever she got the chance. According to Edwin’s schedule they did it twice a day; once at nine o’clock in the morning, and once again at eleven o’clock at night. Sometimes they had a random middle of the day fuck, but this was rare. Edwin made a special effort to be in his bedroom during these trysts and had gotten quite used to and accustomed to the soothing noise of bedsprings creaking away in ecstasy.

“Who is it?” Edwin shouted at his door when his buzzer rang a third time. “I swear to you I’m armed and I’m thinking of purchasing a Pit Bull.”

“Edwin?” a muffled voice said.

“I know who I am. Who are you?”

“It’s Arlene.”


“Arlene Pollard.”

“What are you doing poking around here, Tybalt?”

“I came to see you,” Arlene said.

“Do I owe you money?”


“Well, I don’t sell drugs,” Edwin said. “And I’m not going to spot you two Ecstasy pills either so that you can go and get some glow sticks, and hit a rave on the way back to Manhattan. No, I’m afraid that if you want drugs you’ll have to go and see the little hussy who lives upstairs.”

“Edwin, will you just open the goddamned door?” Arlene said.

“As you wish.”

Edwin opened the door and a beautiful brunette with ice blue eyes was on the other end. Of course, he knew that. Arlene had her hair straight to her shoulders and it had a slight curl to it at the tips. Obviously it wasn’t a natural curl, Edwin thought, but that didn’t bother him so much. He had grown used to people being false and insincere. She had on a black Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt, God awful baggy jeans, and a flannel shirt tied around her waist. Arlene was wearing a pair of green Doc Marten boots.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hello,” Edwin said. “Lollapalooza isn’t for another three months.”

“May I come in?”

“Only if you brought your Soundgarden tapes.”

Edwin stepped aside and Arlene Pollard walked into his apartment for the first time ever. If this were any other time in his life, Edwin would most assuredly be embarrassed by the state of the place. There were unwashed dishes in the sink and empty scotch bottles piled on the kitchen floor. Dried booze glasses were set randomly on counters, on the table; one glass was actually lying on its side on the floor. Edwin had thrown it after finishing The Life and Times of Edward Beddor in the Real World, not realizing the thing was plastic. The living room was a sparse mess. It seemed strange to Edwin to have hardly a book on the book shelf, nary a CD, no pictures on the wall, and still have the room look as if it were in shambles. Perhaps it was a lack of sun that made it seem so cluttered and gloomy. But the sun was over-rated, Edwin thought, as he and Arlene walked into the living room.

“This is a nice place,” Arlene said, sitting on Natalie’s old side of the couch. Despite what the novel said, Edwin had never sat on Natalie’s side of the couch. And he’d never drank red wine. Wine was for women and Italian stone masons. Everyone knew that. Of course there were a lot of discrepancies in that book. Edwin had tried to let it go but had failed miserably. Fiction was fiction, he tried to say, before falling into weeks of depression. But amongst the other transgressions that had taken place in Natalie Chappel Presley’s book, he could not live with the idea of people thinking him a wine drinker.

“Are all of you Pollard’s liars?” Edwin asked. He didn’t sit down, but began nervously straightening the few books on one of his shelves. “The place is a dump.”

“It’s double the size of my place in the city.”

“Boo hoo. Poor little Manhattanite doesn’t have everything.”

“I wasn’t complaining, just stating a fact,” Arlene said. “My close proximity to the Grassroots makes up for that.”

Edwin spun and pointed a finger at her. “Never mention that place in here again!”

“I’m sorry. I thought you liked the Grassroots.”

Liked being the formative word.” Edwin went back over to the foyer and picked that plastic glass off of the ground. “I suppose you’ve heard all about my horrible ordeal these last few weeks.”

“Yeah,” Arlene said.

Edwin looked at her, watching as she played with her hair. “I suppose I’m the great big clown amongst the aging hipster set.”

“Let’s just say most of your old friends aren’t feeling so sorry for you.”

“You’ve come by to mock me as well?”

“That’s not why I’m here.”

“Selling girl scout cookies?” Edwin asked. “You’ve some to the wrong place.”

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“The real question is why would you want me to call you?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you mean?”

Arlene gave Edwin a confused look. “Can I have something to drink?”

“Yes,” Edwin said. “Would you like me to draw blood as well?”

“We’ll see how the afternoon goes,” Arlene said.

Edwin went into the kitchen and grabbed two glasses off of the counter. He sniffed them. They seemed all right, but he gave them a cursory wash in the sink just to be on the safe side. He’d run out of liquid detergent weeks ago, so good old water would have to do. Then Edwin opened the fridge and pulled out one of the scotch bottles. He still had two bottles left to help him get through the next week’s return to work. He opened the bottle and took a swing on the caramel-colored liquid, before pouring two sloppy shots into the waiting glasses. Edwin opened the freezer and took out a couple of ice cubes, dropped them in the glasses, and was back in the living room in no time.

“Are you happy now?” he asked, handing Arlene her drink.

“I was thinking water or soda, but I guess this is good,” she said. Then she patted the seat on the other side of the couch. “You can sit. I don’t bite, you know.”

“I’ve been bitten enough by women lately,” Edwin said.

“So the book was that bad?”

“It massacred my soul. I’m a shell of a human being. I am, as the kids say these days, a hot mess.”

Arlene had some scotch, winced at its cheapness. “You seem okay to me, minus the scraggly beard and uncombed hair.”

“What do you know, Pollard?” Edwin said. “I ache as I’ve never ached before.”

“Well, you should’ve called me.”

“And discuss what?” Edwin had a good pull on his scotch. “My shrinking self?”

“We could’ve gone out and had fun,” Arlene said.

“What’s fun? One man’s Othello is another man’s tractor meet.”

“That makes no sense at all.”

“Look, Missy, I’m lord of this manor. It makes sense to me.”

“You’re not going to make this easy on me, are you, Balder?”

“Make what easier on you?”

“Coming by to make you feel better,” Arlene said.

“Unless you have a magnum bottle of scotch wrapped up in that flannel of yours, you’re wasting your time, girl Pollard,” Edwin said. He had some scotch.

“How about some lunch?”

“I detest food.”

“A movie?”

“The art of film is dead.”

“We could go to the MoMA.”

“I’d rather congregate with bed bugs than that crowd.”

Arlene was quiet a moment. “You could just get over that book and have a life.”

“Now why didn’t I think of that,” Edwin said. He finished his scotch with one last pull. “If that was your last attempt at cheering me up, could you go now and save us the trouble of watching you wither into yourself?”

“I know how you feel, Edwin,” Arlene said.

“I doubt it.”

She took a drink. “I do. Have you ever heard to the band Non-Fiction Diction?”

“Do I look like I’d listen to a band such as that?”

“I guess not.” Arlene bit her lip. Edwin, through his anger and torment, found it to be a subtle and cute expression. “Well, I used to date, William Bond, the lead singer of that band.”

“My condolences.”

“No kidding. Non-Fiction Diction’s last album was called, For Arlene: May She Rot.”

“So?” Edwin said.

Arlene had more scotch. “I think all of that scotch has gone to your head. I’m Arlene. The album was totally about me, and how I ruined William’s life.”

“Women will get no sympathy here,” Edwin said.

“Except I didn’t ruin his life,” Arlene said. “He ruined mine by basically sleeping with every girl that he could, including my best friend, Audrey.”

“Good Lord. This story is turning into one of those teen dramas or telanovelas that the Hispanic cashiers at the Food City are always going on about.”

“I’m just saying that I understand. The whole album went into explicit detail about what William did. He somehow turned all of it, the cheating, everything, into my fault.”

“I’ve had enough of this,” Edwin said, standing, tuning and walking toward the kitchen for another drink. “I see what you’re trying to do here, Pollard, and it won’t work drawing these comparisons. My life was torn to shreds by literature, a searing work of art, and not some teeny bopper’s fantasies being played out for the thumb typing, iTunes set.”

“It’s the number one album in the country,” Arlene said. “Rolling Stone gave it a five star review….and William is married to Audrey.”

Edwin stopped in his tracks. He turned around to look at Arlene, who had her chin almost buried in her chest. In an instant, the anger of the last three weeks began to slowly slip away. “Give me thirty minutes to get ready,” he said. “Lunch is on me.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An excerpt from The Life and Times of Edward Beddor by Natalie Chapple Presley

Nora Patterson sat on the couch with a glass of red wine in her hands, letting the thick rogue of the drink shine off of the light from the lamp. She was waiting on Edward to emerge from the bedroom, and make another of his grandiose pronouncements. She could only guess what it would be this time. That he was leaving her? Or that he was making them move once the lease was up in the spring, something that Edward had threatened their whole six year run at the Castlebloom Apartments. Or perhaps he would just continue to take his wrath out on the neighbors, Nora thought. After all, Edward had been in the bedroom pouting for an hour, shouting up at the neighbor who lived above them for playing the slightest bit of music, and pounding the ceiling with a broom handle. Nora asked Edward to shut the door when he did this, as she no longer wanted to be a party to his lunacy. Besides, he had already been in the living room for an hour, pounding on the wall, shouting, and doing whatever he could to lower another neighbor’s television. Edward had no clue how he’d ruined the night, the weekend, had ruined nearly everything between them in the last few years.

It was true. Nora had finally had it with Edward. She’d had it with his paranoia and his profligate manner. She’d been putting up with it for nearly ten years. Nora took her eyes away from the glass of red wine, her only salvation in a night of arguments and distractions, and looked around the apartment. The five bookshelves were stuffed with novels that Edward had bought but had not read. There were cabinets filled with CDs. On the coffee table was a brand new laptop with one terabyte of memory that Edward was going to use to finally write his novel. Nora had seen him use the machine for writing once, when Edward had written a strongly worded letter to the Castlebloom’s management complaining about the people smoking outside their bedroom window, and complaining about the upstairs neighbor, a kindly old man named, Franz, whom Edward accused of incessantly flushing his toilet. Other than that, he’d used the machine to update his Facebook status and to troll the blogs of successful writers.

They were in debt. Again. Nora looked away from the mass of consumerist junk and focused on the pictures on the wall. There were photographs of her and Edward in London. There they were at the Tower Bridge, smiling, a moment of happiness to blot out all of the pain and boredom that had come between them. She looked at the picture she’d taken of the Eiffel Tower and smiled. Wouldn’t it be great to go back to Paris again? She thought. But she could not go, not with the debt that Edward had leveled on them. Twenty-four thousand dollars. Spent on what? Nora wondered, swirling her wine. On piles of books and music. On a laptop that he had to have, because writing for the sake of writing wasn’t good enough. On writer’s workshops and countless lectures at the 92nd Street Y that Edward attended when she taught night classes. On memberships to the MoMA and MET that he did not tell her about. On bottles of wine and single malt scotch bought to impress his new online friends. To maintain their lifestyle after he’d quit his teaching position to take a job in a warehouse, to live as a writer would live?

“What is that?’ Edward said, after he flung open the bedroom door. He pounded down the hallway and stood in the living room like a madman in his ripped boxer shorts, wine-stained t-shirt, and that broom handle still affixed in his hand. Edward hasn’t shaved in almost two weeks. Nora looked at her husband and did not know whether to laugh or cry. She chose neither. “Do you not hear it?”

Edward went over to the living room window. He pulled up the blinds and opened the window, letting in the cold air, and the noise of sanitation trucks rumbling on the street. He opened the screen and stuck his head outside.

“Edward, it’s cold,” Nora said. “Please close the window.”

“How can you sit there with that noise going on?” he asked, poking his head back inside. Edward closed the screen but did not shut the window. He left the blinds up.

“I didn’t notice it?”

“Didn’t notice? It sounds like Iraq out there.”

Nora had more wine. “How would you know? You’ve never been to Iraq.”

“I’ve seen movies,” Edward said, looking back outside the window. “There has to be at least four trucks out there.”

“They’re probably plowing the street,” Nora said. “I mean we did just have a blizzard.”

Edward looked at her with his mouth open and his eyes wide behind those pretentious, thick glasses. “It’s Sunday night!”

“It’s big city.”

“Well, well,” was all that he could say. Edward paced around the living room. He was drunk and in his drunkenness, stumbled over some piles of books that were on the floor. Edward kicked at them, sending a stack of New York Times critically acclaimed novels fanning across the floor. Nora valued their worth at around two hundred dollars. It was then that she got up off of the couch and padded over to the window. She shut it. “What are you doing?”

“I told you that I was cold,” Nora said.


“Give it a rest, Edward.” She sat back down as he stood there looking sharply at her. “We only have a few hours before bed, and the beginning of another long week.”

“So you want to live like this? Surrounded by ignorance and noise, like some kind of dirty immigrant? Like dogs?”

“Edward, this isn’t the turn of the twentieth century here,” Nora said.
“Don’t be funny.” Edward smiled, evilly. “I swear I think you like this. You like hearing some Chinese woman’s television all day. Or some lousy Kraut flushing his toilet when you’re in the shower. It makes you feel humble, perhaps? Poor little rich girl slumming it in big, bad Brooklyn.” Edward went over to the window and opened it again. He looked back at Nora. “You like big, sweaty union heathens infesting your street with noise on a quiet Sunday night?”

“Quiet how?” Nora asked. “You haven’t shut up all day.”

“That is certainly not what I meant.”

“I can’t do this anymore,” Nora said, getting up off the couch a second time. She stepped over the scatted books to find her boots.

‘And where are you going?” Edward asked.

“I’m going to find out how long these guys are going to be on the street,” she said. “Anything to stop another argument from happening.”

“Well, I didn’t ask you to do me any favors,” Edward said.

“You never do,” Nora said, putting on her forest green hooded sweatshirt.
‘Well, you can’t go out like that.” Edward pointed at Nora’s ensemble. Aside from her hoodie, she had on her purple pajama bottoms and her boots. “They won’t take you seriously at all.”

“Like I care, Edward.”

The night was cold. The wind blew up from the estuary and Nora shivered into herself, as she passed her living room window. Edward had taken her seat on the couch and was sitting there as if nothing had just happened, sipping a glass of wine. Flakes of old snow hit her in the face as she walked up 75th Street toward the sanitation workers and plows. It had snowed almost two feet that weekend, not that Edward had noticed. He was too busy ranting and raving about the apartment, or talking about the book he was going to write. Or the play he would work on once he bought the collected Tennessee Williams, and learned how to do it correctly. Edward has spent hours commenting on blogs and buying music from iTunes, getting drunk on scotch, and complaining about his warehouse job. Nora watched the snow fall from the couch and wished that she was a little girl going out sled riding, or making snow angels in the park.

“Excuse me!” she shouted over the din of garbage trucks and plows that were busy removing mounds of ice and black snow. “Excuse me!”

A crew chief sitting in a sanitation car picked his head up from a clipboard and examined Nora. He looked right at her purple pajamas and shook his head. Goddamn you, Edward, she thought. “Yeah?”

“What are you guys doing on the street this late?”

The crew chief looked at his watch. “It’s nine o’clock.”

“It’s Sunday night,” Nora said. “You know, Sunday, the day of rest.”

“We’re removing snow.”

“Why so late?”

“It’s a big city, sweetheart,” the crew chief said.

Nora cursed Edward again. “Well, when will you be done?”

The crew chief pointed at his clipboard. “Says here we can be out here until eleven.”

“Eleven? But there are kids on this street. People have to get up for work.”

The crew chief smiled at Nora. “Look, little lady. Why don’t you go on home and make yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate and watch Desperate Housewives. Let us take care of all of the angry neighbors, okay?”

“But,” Nora began.

“Have a good one,” the crew chief said. He rolled up the window on his sanitation car.

Nora backed away and took a look at the action on the street. The plows were big and orange and were using their claws to throw snow into a huge bin that stood stock still in the middle of 75th Street. Cop cars blocked off both ends of the block, and garbage trucks picked up the trash that had been hidden under piles of snow for days. Some neighbors were on the street, walking their dogs, or watching the cleanup effort. Unlike Nora, they were dressed for the weather. A couple walked by, a redhead and her bearded boyfriend. Nora knew them from the Castlebloom. They were enemies of Edward’s for no reason other than he didn’t like the way they looked. Edward hated the couple, called them hipsters, and accused them of gentrifying the neighborhood. As if he really liked Bay Ridge in the first place. As if Edward weren’t a hipster himself with his tight clothing, his books and laptops, and lack of essential ambition. Edward Beddor was the quintessential pot calling the quintessential kettle black.

Nora began to cry as she walked the few paces back to the apartment. When she got to their place she looked inside, and there was Edward, still in her place on the couch, drinking her wine, and laughing at a cartoon on the Fox Network. In an instant she felt nothing but hatred for him. It was a cold and blinding hatred, the sort of hatred typically reserved for the tax man or international terrorists. In a phrase, Nora did not love Edward Beddor anymore. She knew this. She had known this. Her friends knew this. Hell, Edward’s friends knew this; Gregory Paladin had even offered Nora his couch if she needed it. The only person who was still living under the delusion of marital bliss and harmony was Edward Beddor himself. And it wasn’t even bliss or harmony, Nora thought, so much as regiment and ritual. It was the dinners he loved, the coming home and having everything be as it should. Edward had no passion left in him. Whatever passion he had went to buying material things, or arguing with the neighbors. Edward would never write a novel or a play. Nora would never fulfill her own dreams living this way. She knew it. Something had to be done once and for all.

“So did you make a complete fool out of yourself,” Edward said when she was back in the apartment.

Nora stood there staring at her husband on their couch, perhaps for one of the last times like that. “They can be on the street until eleven.”

Edward rose and went over to the window. He pulled up the blinds and lifted the window and screen. “Why that’s preposterous! I was thinking of getting up and working on some notes for my novel tomorrow morning. Early. If I can’t get to bed at a reasonable hour I won’t be able to work.”

Nora shrugged. “What do you want me to tell you?”

“Well, did you tell them that?”

“I didn’t know that you wanted to get up early,” she said

“I only have a bloody laptop sitting right there,” Edward said, pointing toward the machine. “I only bought it to write in the mornings.”

“That was four months ago.”

Edward shook his head. It was a final disappointment, Nora thought. “Did you say anything of value to those heathens?”

“There wasn’t much to say,” Nora said.

“Then what good are you?” Edward asked.

“No good, I guess.” Nora shrugged a second time and then walked down the hallway toward their bedroom. She dressed quickly and packed a bag. Actually she’d had a bag half-packed for about a month. It held a pair of her jeans, some underwear, and travel packages of essential toiletries. When she came back into the living room, Edward still had his head out the window as if staring at the sanitation workers would make them go away. “Edward.”

“Not now, I’m preparing to shout some obscenities at these men, and I need to be prepared to shut the window quite quickly.”

“Edward, I’m leaving,” Nora said.

Edward Beddor took his head out of the window and looked at Nora’s bag. “Again?”

“For good.”

Edward sighed and closed the window in total. He pulled down the blinds and walked over to the couch, pouring a final glass of wine from the bottle. “And what did I do this time?”

“It’s not just you,” Nora said, trying to be diplomatic. “It’s me too. I’m….I’m just unhappy.”

“Well, welcome to twenty-first century America, dear,” Edward said, smiling.

“That’s not funny.”

“I didn’t mean it in jest. I simply meant that you can’t run away when the going gets tough.”

“The goings been tough for a long time, Edward,” Nora said.

“And whose fault is that?”

“Yours, actually.”

“Mine?” Edward said.

Nora went to set her bag down but thought better of it. She wanted to be able to leave within a moment’s notice. “Yes, Edward.”

“I don’t see how.”

“You don’t? You don’t see the lunacy in smacking a broom against your ceiling? or buying all of this crap that you’re not even using?”

“There’s nothing wrong with buying books in music,” Edward said.

“Within reason,” Nora said. “We’re twenty-four thousand dollars in debt.”

“I don’t want to hear that.” Edward drank down half of his wine. “My purchases were all essential.”

“To what?”

“To my sanity! To waking up every day into a miserable world. To suffering jobs and people, and conversation.”


“You played a very small part in it, I want you to know,” Edward said.

“Fine.” Nora went for the door. “There’s no talking to you.”

“If you go, I swear I’ll have those locks changed within a week.”

“You do what you want to do.”

“And I’ll begin dating younger women. You’ll see,” Edward said. “I’ll have a younger version of you in no time.”

“I’m sure you’ll wear her out just as easily,” Nora said.

“And just wait until I write that novel,” Edward said. “One of these days you’ll be walking down some miserable street with some inadequate new lover, and you’ll pass a bookstore and my face will be staring back at you.”

“I wish nothing but the best for you,” Nora said. She opened the door and Edward got up from the couch.

“What about all of this stuff?”

“You keep it,” Nora said. She looked over at the picture of the Eiffel Tower and pointed. “When I get set up, you can mail that to me.”

“I’ll throw it away the minute you leave,” Edward said.

Nora smiled. “That’s okay. I plan on going back.”

“But where will you go tonight?” he said.

“To a friend’s apartment,” Nora said. “And then I’m going home for a bit.”

“Back to mommy and daddy, I presume?”

“You know everything, Edward.”

“More than you, I’m sure.”

“I know,” Nora said. “And you never get tired of telling me that.”

Nora left the apartment and shut the door. She heard a wine glass break and began walking faster so as to not have a confrontation with Edward in the hallway. Back outside, the cold hit her harder than before. Nora began walking up 75th Street. She passed the sanitation crew chief in his little sanitation car, but he did not look up. Nora felt sad and happy at the same time. She always thought emotions such as those were clichéd. But that was exactly how she felt.

“Nora!” a voice called up to her. She turned around and saw Edward standing out in the cold in nothing but his t-shirt and boxer shorts, and boots. From her vantage point he looked so small and pathetic. Weak. Time and old emotions tugged at her heart. Oh God please don’t let him say the right thing, right now, Nora thought.

But, “You’ll be sorry,” was all that Edward Beddor had to offer his wife, before he bent over and began making snowballs with the dirty snow and ice. Then he began throwing them at the plows and garbage trucks on the street. The sanitation crew chief got out of his car and began shouting at Edward to stop. Edward shouted back as snowballs plunked the huge removal vehicles. Nora just turned around and began walking up toward the next block.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Edwin Balder staggered down 75th Street with the wind from the estuary blowing in his sore, swelling face. When he reached the Salmon awning of the CrestSeal, there were people outside smoking; an elderly woman and a middle-aged man. Edwin hated them. He hated listening to their inane conversations as they blew smoke into his living room or bedroom window. He referred to the couple as May/December because of their awkward age difference. But what in the hell were they doing out at this hour? How late was it? Edwin wondered. He removed a hand from his face and checked his watch. It was only nine o’clock at night. Good Lord that mugger sure worked the early shift, Edwin thought. He must be high up in the union. How does one get a gig like that? Edwin laughed. He had no choice but to laugh. What else could one do when the private contents of their life had been put on display publically, and they’d been mugged twice in just over a month?

“Good evening,” May said. Edwin looked at the man’s red checkered hat, and his dirty, brown Member’s Only jacket, and wondered how many years he’d get for manslaughter. Of course it would be involuntary manslaughter. After all, Edwin would be doing a service to all and sundry at the CrestSeal and most probably society as a whole.

“May I ask you a question?” Edwin said.

“Sure,” May said, taking a drag on his cigarette.

“Can you tell time?”

May looked at December. He looked confused. “Sure.”

“What time is it?”

He looked at his watch. “Around nine-fifteen.”

“Precisely,” Edwin said. “A tad bit too late for good evenings, isn’t it?”

“He was being nice, young man,” December said.

“Oh really? Do you know what nice would be? At least my definition of the word this fine evening?”


“Judging by that ancient blank look on your face, you don’t. So I’ll tell you.” Edwin walked closer to the couple but not too close. He was certain that December would smell of rusted canisters of Ensure, and May already reeked of desperation and loneliness, and Edwin had enough of that scent on him already. “Nice, to me at least, would be you two tobacco conglomerate sycophants finishing up you cancerous pow-wow and removing yourselves from outside my bedroom window. I’ve had a long and arduous day, which I’m sure neither of you could possibly understand, what, with the unemployment checks and Social Security money rolling in at a steady rate.”

“Hey,” May said.

“Correct me if I am wrong.”

They both fell silent.

“I’ll bid you a good night then,” Edwin said, before opening the first set of glass doors and walking into the foyer which smelled of dog shit and more cigarette smoke.

“What happened to his face?” Edwin heard May ask December.

“Probably alcohol related,” December said. “Did you smell his breath?”

Edwin shuttered and walked slowly down the hall to his apartment, as his face and leg were both hurting him quite considerably. He just had the key in the door when the superintendent’s wife came around the corner with a push broom and a bucket of gray, soapy water hooked into her elbow.

“Good evening, Meester Balder,” she said.

“Great,” Edwin said to himself. “More of the time challenged. Good night, Mrs. Sheppard.” He made to go inside of his apartment.

“Edween, did you see the letter from the management?”

“The one that so eloquently addressed the pideon problem that we’ve been having?” Mrs. Sheppard gave him a confused look. “I’ve not perused my own copy yet, but the new light-footed upstairs neighbor, Molly Brown, was kind enough to bring me down her copy to look over.”

“They are looking for the marijuana,” Mrs. Sheppard said. Then she was quiet, staring at Edwin.

“Well, surely they don’t think that I have any of it.”

“Meester Sheppard saw you on the steps last night. And he heard music coming from the girl’s apartment,” Mrs. Sheppard said. She set her bucket down and moved the push broom back and forth as a matter of course. “And Meester Gerhardt came by this morning.”

“As if you should believe that sociopath,” Edwin said. “The man has a scatological obsession.”

“He said that he saw you in front of the girl’s apartment early in the morning.”

Edwin sighed and took the key out of the door. He smiled at Mrs. Sheppard, even though it hurt his face to do so. Poor, lowly immigrant Mrs. Sheppard, Edwin thought. So simple in her tasks, and in her station in life. She really had no business playing detective. “Mrs. Sheppard, let me assure you that I was not upstairs smoking marijuana with Ms. Brown and her houseboy last night. To be quite frank, they were making noise, and I went up there to register a complaint. I knocked on the door and there was no answer, so I went about my business, determining that it was more a matter for the police to handle. That was when Mr. Gerhardt came out and saw me. He began making a ruckus, shouting about toilets and the like, and in an effort to get away from him I descended down the steps, tripping on the last few.”

“You fell?” Mrs. Sheppard asked.

“I fell quite hard,” Edwin said. He rubbed his left thigh. “In fact, I’ve just returned from consulting with my lawyer about this matter.”

“Oh, Meester Balder!”

“Oh, is right, Mrs. Sheppard. I pay too high a rent to be worrying about my safety on those steps.”

‘I didn’t know,” Mrs. Sheppard said.

“Well, of course not,” Edwin said. “You Roma can’t be expected to read into everything, not with all of the housework and begging to do.” Edwin turned and placed his key back into the lock on his door. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.” He held up his Strand bag. “I have intellectual pursuits to attend to.”

Edwin stepped inside his apartment, slamming the door just as Mrs. Sheppard had begun assaulting his sensibilities with another sentence structured in broken, immigrant English. He put his Strand bag on the table and looked around the place. It was sad and empty, just as he liked it. There was his couch, his radio, a lamp, three near empty bookshelves, and one picture hanging on the wall. Nails still hung in the spots were old pictures had hung, the ones that Natalie had taken with her when she left. The bookshelves were empty from Edwin selling off most of what he and Natalie had owned. She never took a book when she left, and he no longer wanted them around as reminders of their old life together. The apartment was better with less clutter anyway.

Edwin walked down the hall and into the bedroom. It too was empty and sad, as befit the last two years of his life. There was a bed. There were navy blue curtains to keep out the streetlights. There was an unused desk, the top of which was covered in liquor store and Food City receipts. Nails hung crookedly in the sea green painted walls.

Edwin sighed and sat on the bed. These were the times when he felt as if he were seeing his apartment and his current life for the first time. It was as if Edwin expected to walk in and find Natalie reading a book, a glass of red wine at her side. Or he imagined she’d be in the kitchen with one of her R&B singers in the iPod dock, singing away to some song from the 1990s, making an elaborate meal for them to linger over. His stomach growled at the thought. Edwin didn’t even want to think about the goings on in the bedroom because the idea depressed him too much, because now Charles Ramsdell, that old hack, was enjoying a lost Sunday with his Natalie, post-coitous, caught in the afterglow, listening to the classical station as they sipped wine and let the day go to waste, before rising to make something deliciously devoid of preservatives.

He needed a drink. Edwin rose off of the bed and stormed into the kitchen. He grabbed the Pimm’s bottle and poured the rest of it into a semi-clean pint glass. It crested the top. Edwin sipped until his could fit an ice cube in the pint. Then he grabbed the Strand bag from off of the table, and went back into the bedroom. There was noise from upstairs. Voices. Faint music. Edwin was thankful that Molly was taking him into consideration today. Perhaps she pitied him. But then the sex started. Molly’s bedsprings began squeaking. Bounce, bounce, hunka-bounce. Bounce, bounce, hunka-bounce. Molly screamed. Matthew Joy moaned. In two minutes it ended, and everything was silent once again.

Edwin put his drink on his nightstand. He sat on the bed and took of his shoes and coat, tossing them against the wall underneath his window. He lay on the bed, stretched out and sighed. He leaned over and picked up the pint, having a tall pull on the Pimm’s. Edwin took The Life and Times of Edward Beddor in the Real World by Natalie Chappel Presley out of his Strand bag. He looked at the red and white cover for a moment. And then he began to read.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mugging : the Sequel

Edwin Balder realized that he was very drunk around the time that he turned off of 3rd Avenue, and began the longish decent down 75th Street. He had drunk too many scotches and made quite an ass out of himself once again. It was that damned Lawson, Edwin thought. If only Lawson had leveled with him about Natalie Chappel Presley then they could have a peaceful evening at the joint; and if Lawson knew nothing, as he’d claimed, the least he could’ve done was join Edwin at his low level instead of espousing such tawdry optimism. At least Ivan and Benny were there to soften the blow of strained friendships and deceitful ex-lovers. Ivan and Benny couldn’t care less about Natalie Chappel Presley and The Life and Times of Edward Beddor in the Real World. Edward Beddor, my ass! Edwin shouted, shaking his Strand bag into the cool night. He tried emulating Ivan’s new dance, knee slaps, arm rolls and all. Edwin stopped dancing. He sighed, looked at dark, milky Gotham sky (it had, in fact, drizzled a little bit), and started walking back to his apartment.

It was at Ridge Avenue that someone crudely took ahold of Edwin’s arm. Then he felt a knife in his back. “Is that you again, Mr. Mugger?”

“Don’t look back at me, don’t say a word,” the mugger said. In that moment, Edwin knew that he was in the presence of his old, brutal friend. To say nothing else of the moment, he was excited to have such a drama bestowed on him twice. “Just move.”

The mugger lead Edwin half way down the block and then turned him left into that familiar, small alleyway between apartment buildings. He turned Edwin around but between the dark and shadows of the alleyway, the streetlights casting a glare, Edwin could still not make out the mugger’s face. He wondered if anyone had found his wallet from the previous mugging.

“Are you going to mug me again?” Edwin asked.

“Again? Shit. Wait, I said don’t say a word,” the mugger said. He leaned in. “Damn, what have you been drinking?”

“A little of this and a little of that.”

“A ham and cheese Hot Pocket again?”

Edwin chuckled. “I do believe I’ve forgotten to eat a proper meal today. It’s a good thing Ivan bought all of that beef jerky from the corner bodega.”

“Veganism is the way to go, nigga,” the mugger said.

“Oh please,” Edwin said. “As if your precious soy-based cuisine wasn’t responsible for killing field mice and crows."

The mugger pushed him into the cold brick and alley wall, smacking the back of Edwin’s head a little rougher than he’d have liked. “At least I’m not roasting them.”

“A death is a death,” Edwin said.

“Are you calling me a murderer?”

“Well, you started it with all of that veganism business. Honestly, you vegans are like Democrats. Why can’t you be quiet about your causes and let us regular people get on with the business of living?”

“Because the world is an imperfect place, motherfucker,” the mugger said. “And if we don’t change it then who will? You know, we didn’t inherit the world from our parents. We’re borrowing it from our children."

“Fantastic soliloquy,” Edwin said. He shook his Strand bag. “Now could we get on with the mugging because I have important legal business to attend to.”

The mugger put the blade up to Edwin’s face. “Didn’t I tell you not to talk?”

“You addressed me first.”

“Did not.”

“Did too,” Edwin said. “You asked me if I’d been drinking again.”

The mugger was quiet a moment. “Yeah, but you said is that you, Mr. Mugger.”

“That was a salutation and does not count in terms of conversation.”

“You spoke first.”

“Agree to disagree.”

“Fine, but I’m telling you to be quiet now.”

“As you wish,” Edwin said.

The mugger withdrew his knife a little bit, and began to pat down Edwin Balder in the alleyway. He opened the buttons on Edwin’s pea coat and searched the pockets. He patted Edwin’s pants until he found his new wallet and took it out. Then the mugger backed away into the darkness of the alley to check the wallet’s contents.

“Dag,” he said, coming back into the shadows and light. “You have like two hundred dollars in here.”

“I just got paid,” Edwin said. “Sorry it’s all in twenties, but you know how those ATM machines are”

“You know it’s not safe to carry around this kind of cash,” the mugger said. “Especially in this city.”

“Obviously. But I’m old fashioned. I refuse to be a slave to the debit card.”

The mugger hit Edwin in his stomach twice, and Edwin fell to the ground. This sort of brutality was expected from such a heathen as this mugger. Sure, he wouldn’t eat a lousy cow but he’d beat a man to a pulp two blocks away from his apartment. Humans had such skewed logic. Oh why did everyone have to be so pompous in their ignorance in this country? Perhaps Europe was better. Edwin wondered if they had invoice processors in Madrid. Then he went to rub his stomach but the mugger kicked his hand away.

“Get up,” he said. Edwin slowly rose until he was face to face with the black void that stood in for the mugger’s visage. “I suppose I shouldn’t even ask you about a cell phone?”

“I think you know the answer to that one,” Edwin said. “By the way did you ever get your Android?”

“Last week. I took it from some Chinese kid who was walking down 86th with his head buried in it.”

“Don’t you just hate that? The ignorance.”

“The little fucker almost knocked into me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my cell phones,” the mugger said. “But people just don’t know how to act sometimes.” He pushed Edwin into the wall again, this time a little bit harder than the last. Edwin wanted to clasp the back of his head, for he feared eventual brain damage from these continued assaults, but the mugger made him put his hands above his head while he frisked Edwin once again. “What’s in the bag?”

“A legal matter not worth discussing with you,” Edwin said.

“Why not?”

“Because you don’t know the parties involved. Also, it’s embarrassing.”

“It looks like a Strand bag” the mugger asked.

“I’m impressed,” Edwin said.

“Why? I know how to fucking read. Plus Strand is the bomb. It has like eight…”

“….miles of books. Yes, I know. But I don’t quite care for the place myself.”

The mugger slapped Edwin across the face. Edwin squealed like an excited child, although he didn’t mean to. “That was for dissin’ Strand.”

“Pardon me,” Edwin said, struggling to recover his masculine composure.

“Anyway, so what’s the book about,” the mugger said.

“If you must know it’s about me.”


“Yes. My former paramour has written a tell-all in the guise of a work of fiction.”

“Your girl wrote a book about you,” the mugger said. “That’s harsh, bro.”

“Harsher than you think,” Edwin said.

“Is it any good?”

“First of all, I don’t know. I was on my way home to read it until this pleasant encounter took place.

“What’s it called?”

Edwin sighed. “The Life and Times of Edward Beddor in the Real World.” The mugger was silent a moment, as if ingesting the title for future reference. “I suppose you’ll be taking it along with the contents of my wallet?”

“Nah,” the mugger said. “I’ll wait and see what the New York Times Book Review has to say about it.”

“You’re supposing that whore will get a review in the Times.”

The mugger raised his hand again but thought better of it. “Just because the woman sold you out doesn’t mean you have to call her a whore.”

“Why not?” Edwin said. “Perhaps you’d feel differently if someone wrote a book about you.”

“Damn right,” the mugger said. “Come to think of it, I’m changing my opinion. I think it might be cool.”

“So is walking home from the pub without being assaulted….twice.”

“I’d be like a celebrity.”

“I’m sure all of your hommies would get a kick out of it,” Edwin said. “Now can we end this transaction?”

“What’s the author’s name,” the mugger said. “I like to read new authors.”

“Natalie Chappel Presley,” Edwin said. “Tell you what, as soon as I get an angle on her address I’ll give it to you and you can go and mug her for her royalty money. In the meantime, I hope the entirety of my spending cash helps you out in all of your other endeavors.”

“I might actually go and visit my parents,” the mugger said, stuffing the cash in his pocket.

“At least yours don’t live on separate hippy communes.”


“Ever been to Slab City, Mr. Mugger?”

“No. But even if my folks did live on hippy communes I’d visit them,” the mugger said. “A man has to visit his folks.”

“I suppose,” Edwin said. “So can I at least have my wallet back? It’s new.”

“Sure,” the mugger said. “If you can find it.”

He turned and tossed Edwin’s wallet down the dark alleyway. Then the mugger turned back and punched Edwin twice in the face. The first time he caught Edwin off guard and this time knocked his glasses off, but with the second blow he was able to put up his hands and block the mugger’s punch. The second punch got Edwin on his wrist again, and it hurt like hell. He dropped the Strand bag. The punch must’ve hurt the mugger too, because he yelped and backed away in pain, shaking his right hand. Then he righted himself, and kicked Edwin so hard in the stomach that he thought the scotch and beef jerky would come streaming out at any moment. Edwin hit the pavement and lay there on the cold concrete. It was as good as any bed to him.

“Happy reading, motherfucker,” the mugger said, leaning down to Edwin’s ear, before taking off.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It’s the Joint

Edwin Balder sat slumped over his stool in Rooney’s, his glass of scotch untouched in front of him. After seeing Natalie Chapple Presley making out with Charles Ramsdell at the intersection of Broadway and Lafayette Street, Edwin had wanted to do little else but go home and sulk in what was becoming the only place on Earth where he could find any comfort or solace. Clearly, he was not over Natalie, despite her heinous act of betrayal. Seeing her making out with Charles Ramsdell had only made matters worse.

Ramsdell of all people, Edwin thought, as his drink sat there. Natalie could’ve taken up with anyone. Why did it have to be their old literary mentor? Edwin slammed his fist onto the bar. Molly Brown, who’d given up trying to communicate with Edwin about an hour ago, sat still with her vodka and soda, texting Matthew Joy on her smart phone device. Earlier, when she’d asked Edwin if he wanted to talk, he waved her off, and said he’d be damned if he told his tale of woe to a woman. He said that if she wanted to be a credit to her inferior, malicious species, the least she could do was do him a favor and call a certain Lawson Thomas. Molly, feeling pity rather than anger toward Edwin Balder, took the number and did as requested. They had been silent ever since.

The thick, humid door on Rooney’s pulled open, and Lawson Thomas walked in with his usual look of caution. Of course, heads turned. Many of the denizens were of the beefy, racist persuasion but hardly ever saw an honest to goodness African-American in the flesh. They had to rely on the news blotters and their singular, condescend hatred of the current President of the United States in order to keep the fires of prejudice burning in their loins.

“Are you the friend?” Molly Brown asked Lawson, barely lifting her eyes from the illuminated screen on her phone.

“Depends on the day,” Lawson said. “Lawson Thomas.” He extended his hand which Molly took limply.


Lawson gave Edwin a look. Edwin shrugged and then waved him off when he smiled. It was his second chance to wave someone off, yet with the circumstances at hand, Edwin was unable to enjoy either of them.

“So are you guys cool?” Molly asked. Before Lawson or Edwin could answer, she downed the rest of her drink and got off of her stool to put on her plastic hot pink coat. “Take it easy, Edwin.”

The entirety of Rooney’s watched as Molly Brown exited the bar, allowing a small sliver of gray light to enter their dim, orange gloom, before they all fell into quiet conversations about the value and loss of a young “piece of ass,” as Edwin had hear her being referred to during Molly’s short time at the joint. A better man would’ve defended her. But Edwin Balder was less than a man at that time than he’d ever been before.

Lawson Thomas sat down and the bartender, some hobbling drunkard who worked the day shift, came down and took his drink order. “So Ramsdell, huh?”

“Must you say his name?” Edwin said, before slumping back toward the bar.

“It could be worse.”

“Natalie Chapple Presley has written a tell-all novel about me, and is dating my former literary mentor. How could it be worse?”

“I don’t know,” Lawson said. “Mary has me on this optimism kick and I thought that I’d test it out on you.”

“Consider it a failure,” Edwin said, as the bartender slammed down Lawson’s cranberry and vodka. He had a pull on his own scotch and water. “If you and Dr. Sour Bear plan on working on any other social experiments please leave yours truly out of them.”

“Duly noted.” Lawson had some of his drink. It was more cranberry than vodka. He looked down the bar at the bartender, in order to express his disproval, but Lawson’s eyes were met with several others starting back at him. “Lousy crackers,” he muttered, before turning back to Edwin.

“How did this happen?”

“They both teach at NYU now.”

“So? I get on the bus every day with the same toothless, old Russian hag,” Edwin said. “You don’t see me squiring her about Brooklyn, do you?”

“That’s different,” Lawson said. “Ramsdell and Natalie have a past. They’re colleagues now. Peers.”

“Don’t give me that hooey about peers,” Edwin said. He had more scotch. “Natalie Presley is a first, and most probably only time, novelist, and Charles Ramsdell is a washed up third-rate pugilist with the word. His plots are Mailer-light. His characters are fifth-rate Hemingway, and his prose is on par with Bukowski on a bender.”

“Yet he’s your literary mentor,” Lawson said.

“Was,” Edwin said. “Pardon my misuse of tense.”

Lawson had a pull on his drink. “Man, I don’t ever remember you liking Charles Ramsdell. In fact, if I think back on it, I get a sense of déjà vu in what you just said about him.”

“He was a teacher and I was a student. Is that not enough for mentorship? His services were there if I wanted them to be.”

“Didn’t you once say that reading Charles Ramsdell was like reading a bar drunk’s grocery list.”

“Yes,” Edwin said. “I believe that issue of the Washington Square News won awards.”

“It almost got you suspended,” Lawson said.

“Truth tellers always bear the burden of censorship in this backward thinking nation.” Edwin had more scotch. Then he laughed. “Of course, who’s the drunkard now?”

“I heard Ramsdell’s clean.”

“Of course,” Edwin said. “I’m sure that he’s found God as well. They all do in the end. The worst become the most moral. In fact, I’m willing to bet that Natalie and Ramsdell’s little dalliance on Lafayette was just a brief moment of religious revelry before they both headed off toward Saturday evening services.”

“Didn’t he give you a C,” Lawson asked.

“Are you here to help or hinder me?”

“He gave me a B minus.”

“Good for you, teacher’s pet,” Edwin said. He finished off his scotch, raised his glass, and shook it. “Barkeep! Another round over here!”

The bartender glared at Edwin but hobbled down the length of the bar. On the television the evening sporting events were getting started. Basketball. Hockey. It was hard for Edwin to tell which one was which. “Around here, we say please and thank you,” he said.

“To the roaches or the mice?”

The bartender pointed. “Don’t be a smart ass, or I’ll have you and your…friend…put out of here for the evening.”

“He’s sorry, sir,” Lawson said to the bartender. “It’s been a bad day.”

“Bad day, bad year, bad decade,” Edwin said. The bartender shuffled off to fix a new round of drinks. Edwin turned to Lawson. “Did you know about this?”

“What? Am I Natalie’s publicist? I’m your friend, dickhead. I haven’t talked to Natalie in almost two years.”

“Surely you know people.”

“I know the same people as you do,” Lawson said. “And I see them almost as regularly.”

“Oh, what am I to do?” Edwin put his head in his hands.

“Did you even get the book yet?” Edwin reached down and picked his bag up off the floor. “Strand. Cool.”

“Yes, too cool.”

“Have you read any yet?”

“I’d planned to tonight,” Edwin said. “If you hadn’t noticed, I was in the presence of a lady when you came in this joint. We were all set to have a fine afternoon in Manhattan when I came across that lustful scene on the street and it ruined everything.”

“So that was Molly Brown?”

“The very same.”

“What’s she like?” Lawson asked.

“She’s a little tart. But she was good company today,” Edwin said, as the bartender slammed down his new drink. Edwin took a good pull on it. “We’ll probably never speak again.”

Lawson had some more of his drink. “So what’s the game plan, man? You just going to go home and read the book, and let this go, like you should?”

“That’s exactly what I’m not going to do,” Edwin said. “I plan on reading the book, yes. I plan on reading the book so closely that Natalie Chapple Presley’s lawyers won’t know what hit them when I come a-barreling down the old street.”

“I don’t think you have a lawsuit,” Lawson said.

“Why not, Patrick Henry?”

“Because she’s changed it up enough. It doesn’t even take place in New York City.”

“Edward Beddor?”

Lawson chuckled. “She doesn’t treat you that badly. In fact, I’d say she gives it to you both pretty evenly.”

“And you’ve read the entire book then?” Edwin asked.

“Enough of it.”


“And it’s a decent first novel, Edwin,” Lawson said. “It won’t win any prizes, but Natalie’s got talent.”

“Well, it’ll certainly have the lion’s share of litigation attached to it.”

“Why don’t you just let it go?” Lawson said.

“What!” Edwin shouted, attracting the attention of several bar denizens.

“Have you even called Arlene?”

“Do I look like a man who has the time to make house calls right now? My sanity hangs in the balance of destroying this book.”

“To what end?” Lawson asked. “The book is already out there. You and Natalie are the past. She’s with Ramsdell now. Shouldn’t you be trying to do you, brother?”

“Don’t swirl your ebonical sayings at me, brother,” Edwin said.

It was then that the door to Rooney’s swung open and Benny and Ivan stepped inside. Both were dressed in their New York Rangers hats and jackets. Ivan’s face was as redder than usual, and Benny’s eyes were slits. The two looked as if they’d already spent half of their Saturday drinking in one of the other drab public houses that lined 3rd Avenue.

“Hey, Eddie,” Ivan said. He staggered onto a stool to the left of Edwin. Ivan looked down at Lawson. “Was’up, bro?”

Edwin turned to Lawson. “Look, bro. A fellow traveler where dialogue is concerned. Should I leave and let you two converse in your native tongue?

“Shut up, Edwin,” Lawson said. “I’m not hanging around if you’re going to get belligerent.”

“Belligerent? I’m just tryin’ta be down, bro,” Edwin said. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Hey, guys,” Benny said, coming over. He slapped Edwin on the shoulder then staggered back and pulled a few dollars out of his wallet. “Anyone want to hear some jukebox music?” Benny tapped Lawson on the shoulder. “What about you, bro?”

“I’m cool,” Lawson said, sinking down into his drink.

“I’ll play you something anyway.” Benny staggered over to the jukebox and began feeding dollar bills into the machine.

“This place creeps me out,” Lawson said to Edwin. “Let’s go get a couple of tallboys and go back to your apartment.”

“For what purpose?” Edwin asked. “So that we can stare at Natalie’s book? Take in my sparse surroundings? Or perhaps we could listen to Molly Brown ride her little boyfriend like a show horse, all to a hippity-hop symphony?” Edwin finished off his scotch and raised his glass toward the bartender for another. “I’d rather stay here and rot.”

Music came from the jukebox. Rap. 2Pac. “Yeah, bro!” Benny shouted to Lawson as he continued pumping dollars into the machine.

Lawson shot down the rest of his drink and got up from his stool. “I’m leaving. This scene is tired, man.”

“I’m staying,” Edwin said. “I have a new drink coming and my friends have arrived.”

“Suit yourself.” Lawson put his coat on. “You can’t let it get this way, man. The past is the past. Live now. Call Arlene.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” The bartender slammed Edwin’s new drink down and he took a long pull. “Give my regards to Sour Bear.”

Lawson left the bar, as Benny staggered back over. Voices murmured and subtle slurs were thrown around. “What’s that dude’s problem?” Ivan said. “We like everyone in here.”

“Yeah,” Benny said, taking Lawson’s seat. “We’re open minded.”

“That’s what I keep trying to tell him,” Edwin said.

Then they all had a drink.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Seeing The Real You At Last

Edwin Balder and Molly Brown got off of the R Train at Union Square. As a rule Edwin did not like people very much, and Union Square was filled with people. But there was something about the hustle and bustle (yes, Edwin occasionally used hustle and bustle to describe action) of the place that made him feel somewhat decent inside, as if he would not drown in one of the dirty rivers or backed up sewers in the city. Edwin liked walking amongst the street performers and the artists selling their hackneyed works of art to unsuspecting, simple tourists who managed to make their way down Broadway from the glowing hell lights of Midtown and Times Square. He liked walking through the farmer’s market even though it was full of aging hipsters such as himself, buying arugula and freshly packed tofu for whatever ungodly vegan dinner they were concocting. Edwin liked stopping at street corners around the edges of the Square to listen to the Jews and Arabs argue about Israel and Palestine as if they were real places, or he liked to watch the Falun Gong practitioners do dances and exercises that he didn’t understand, as they held signs railing against the Chinese Government. Molly seemed to like them too because she got choked up at the pictures of people seemingly beaten to a pulp by that repressive regime. Edwin wondered if he could buy her a cup of Wonton soup to soothe her soul.

He was in Manhattan. Being in Manhattan made Edwin feel as though he were really in New York City, wherein living in Brooklyn just made him think that he’d made some bad financial choices throughout his life. And wasn’t that the truth? Edwin thought, laughing as Molly stopped to look at a kiosk full of cheap jewelry. Edwin thought about Arlene and how he had yet to give her a call. After all, she was back in the picture now that Natalie had become anathema to his very being. Of course, there was, again, the possibility of Molly Brown. It was not quite a May/December relationship, so he didn’t feel like a silly old man chasing a young girl. But Molly seemed prone to outbursts of tears. Plus there was the ghost of Matthew Joy to consider. And Arlene, despite her penchant for early 1990s fashion, had been kind to him that evening of the party. It had been a long time since a woman had been kind to Edwin Balder.

But it didn’t matter. Arlene was out of Edwin’s reach. He’d forgotten where it was that she actually lived in the city, or perhaps she’d never told him. No, she had. Edwin was just never good at remembering anything women told him. Natalie Presley, that opportunist shrew, had, close to the end of their relationship, accused Edwin of being a misogynist. She said that she was surprised it had taken her this long to realize it. She said that Edwin valued the opinion of the dumbest male over the smartest woman, something that he vehemently disagreed with. Edwin had plenty of smart female friends, he told Natalie. When she reminded him that most of them were, in actuality, her friends, Edwin accused Natalie of being on “the rag” as the lower classes were so fond of saying. Edwin Balder ate dinner alone for the next three nights after that.

“Where do you want to go and look for the book?” Molly asked Edwin, as she purchased a cheap Jade knockoff of a Buddha from one of the artists in the Square.

“What book?” Edwin asked, looking around, and then settling on a group of break dancers surrounded by throngs of tourists in New York City hats, carrying New York City bags.

“The one your ex wrote about you.”

“Of course!”

“We could either go to Strand or to the Barnes and Noble.”

“Which do you prefer?” Edwin asked.

“I like Strand,” Molly said. “I like to shop locally and act globally.”

“I like to leave people to their own foolish and reckless devices,” Edwin said. “But Strand is as good as anywhere else.”

They walked toward 14th street. Memory after memory shot at Edwin Balder so quickly that he barely had time to duck. He saw himself and Lawson as college students, hanging around the area, trying to figure out where it was that Warhol had his Factory. Edwin remembered drinking at Cedar Tavern with their gang, thinking that they were big shots for hanging around a place of such literary significance, until a wiser old timer told them that the original artists’ hangout had been demolished and that this one was new. Edwin remembered the many Saturdays that he and Natalie had spent going through the long aisles at the Virgin Megastore as loud music rained down on them, giving them a headache, and how they never bought anything that they intended to buy because they could not think straight. It seemed fitting that the store closed the same year that he and Natalie split up. It was a bank now. And a Duane Reade drugstore.

“Are you all right?” Molly asked Edwin, as they made their way toward the big Red signs of Strand.

“I’m fine,” Edwin said. “I was just admiring your jacket. How does one find that shade of hot pink?”

“Shut up.”

“I’m serious,” he said.

“I could ask you the same thing about your tight pants and thick glasses,” Molly said. She smiled at Edwin. “Hipster chic was so 2010.”

“So I’ve been told,” Edwin said, thinking of Arlene.

Edwin Balder and Molly Brown entered Strand. Edwin realized how much he didn’t like the store. It was always packed and hot, even in the dead of winter, no matter the time of day. Plus the place was too big for its own good. It wasn’t that he got lost in Strand’s so-called eighteen miles of books so much as he could not stand the store’s layout. Philosophy belonged with literature, he always thought, for one always lead to the other. Edwin hated the clientele and its snotty staff. Yes, yes, you work in a world famous bookstore, but you make seven dollars an hour hocking the work of has-beens and never-weres to tourists and denizens with nowhere better to shop. True, the occasional celebrity came in, some cable television hack most likely looking to get recognized instead of being just out and about getting the new Lethem novel. Plus Edwin was still mad that Strand had not hired him when he was in college. You confuse George Elliot and George Bernard Shaw in an interview, and that suddenly makes you ineligible to shelve Anne Rice and Danielle Steele books? Perhaps he would try again now that the old invoice shop was closing its doors.

“What’s her name?” Molly asked.

“Who?” Edwin said.

“Your ex. What’s with you today, Edwin?”

“I’m sorry. I’m having acid flashbacks. Or the mid nineteen-nineties, early two thousands version of an acid flashback.”


“These are my old stomping grounds, you see. I went to college at NYU.”


“Is it?”

“It’s only like one of the best schools in the country,” Molly said. “I wish that I went to NYU.”

“Where do you go?” Edwin asked, to be kind. He could already feel the sweat on his brown form the heat of Strand.

“Stupid Brooklyn College.”

“I’m sure it perfectly suits your needs.”

“Whatever,” Molly said. Edwin followed her over to a table full of new books. “What’s her name? And I swear if you say ‘who’ this time, I’m going to knee you in the nuts.”

“Ah, that would be Natalie Presley,” Edwin said, making sure that his testicles were protected.

Molly scanned the books on the table while Edwin watched a female Strand clerk bend over to pick up a pile of books. Her khaki pants fell low in the back exposing the top of her thong. It was called a Whales’ Tale, as George Pollard Jr. had told them all one night. “Here it is!”

“Let me see that,” Edwin said, grabbing the book from Molly’s hands.

The cover was a pale red with the title The Life and Times of Edward Beddor in the Real World scrawled in a ghastly white and black with the name of the author, Natalie Chappel Presley, in the bottom right hand corner. Edwin opened up the back flap to see the author picture, and suddenly there was Natalie’s image looking back at him. It was a color photo. How tacky, Edwin thought. The hard-up publishing house was probably playing up Natalie’s looks, as her youth had been taken by time. And she did look good. She still had those rich brown eyes that glowed, and that angular, tan face with a chin that came to a definite point at the end. Natalie’s hair hung to her shoulders with brand new (at least to Edwin) bangs that edged toward the left side of her face. She looked professional and happy, and Edwin was sure that he hated her for real.

“She’s very pretty,” Molly said, looking at the author photo over Edwin’s shoulder.”

“She’s a dog,” Edwin said. He snapped the book shut. “And she’s going to be paying me a lot of money when I’m through with her.”

“So the book is really about you?”

Edwin looked at the cover again. “Supposedly. I guess I’m this Edward Beddor character. What a stupid, unoriginal name. I could come up with a better name in my sleep.”

“She didn’t seem to stray too far from the source,” Molly said.

“She stayed too close to the source,” Edwin said. “A bad move as now I can get her on libel or slander, or whatever it is that lets the world know that Edwin Balder will not stand for this kind of treatment! And to think that she assaulted me with a book! One of my favorite tangible articles in this cruel world!” He held the book up and shook it. “This is a blood purchase! A blood purchase!”

“Edwin, calm down,” Molly said. She tried to take the book away from him but he snatched it away. “People are beginning to look.”

“Let them! Let them see what true violation looks like! Let these cows, the walking blobs of flesh and blood and bone see what true pain and agony looks like! Edwin lowered the book and glared around the bookstore. No one was looking except for the old security guard, and even he appeared bored. Still, the sight of a uniformed protector of the law calmed Edwin down.

“Why don’t we buy the book, and then we can look at it over a few drinks,” Molly said, taking the novel from Edwin.

“Edward Beddor!” Edwin started again, but quickly quieted down. “Why not Evan Spelndor? Or Eden Tender? Or some other trite name?”

“I don’t know, Edwin,” Molly said, heading toward the long, ubiquitous line toward the cash register. “The world is a strange place.”

“Its slop,” Edwin said, falling in behind her. He looked at the people in line. Most of them were carrying boring run-of-the-mill best sellers at discount prices. A few were trying to look smart with their history books. Some were holding classics that they’d never read; that dusty copy of Moby Dick that would be acting as a coaster in under a month. Edwin hated everyone, and he felt as if he were going to be sick. At least none of them were carrying a copy of The Life and Times of Edward Beddor in the Real World by Natalie Chappel Presley. Chappel? Where did she come up with that one? “I need to step outside.”

Molly touched his sleeve. “Okay. I’ll take care of this.”

Edwin stepped outside of Strand, but not before the security guard gave him a steely-eyed glare. It was cool outside, but a bit warm for late March. Spring was coming, Edwin observed, although thanks to Natalie Presley it would be the winter of his discontent. But why not spring? Edwin hated spring anyway. He hated seeing people going back outside, skateboarding, jogging, or just loafing on the corner. Edwin hated the dog walkers and all of their dog shit on the concrete. He hated kids eating ice cream cones, and big, dumb Italian men walking down the street with flopping slices of pizza on stained paper plates. Edwin hated the people in his building, lingering in front of the apartment, smoking, and telling the stupidest stories about their boring little lives. If nothing else, none of the denizens at the CrestSeal apartments had a book written about them.

“Here you go,” Molly said, handing Edwin a red and white Strand bag. He hated those two colors for sure now.

“What do I owe you?” he asked.

“Nothing. Consider it a gift.”

“But you hardly know me.”

Molly smiled. “Then consider it a thank you for making me feel better this afternoon.”

“Okay,” Edwin said.

“And just think you didn’t have to actually buy the book.”

“That’s true,” Edwin said. They were silent a moment. “May I buy you a drink or two?”

“Sure,” Molly said. She took out her cell phone, checked it quickly, and frowned. “It’s not as though I have anyone to go home to.”

“I’ll try not to take that the wrong way.”

“Please don’t.”

Edwin Balder and Molly Brown began walking down Broadway toward Astor Place. Edwin decided that he would take Molly to one of his favorite taverns, The Grassroots. Sure, it was another place full of old memories, but he reasoned maybe today he could make a few new ones. And Edwin needed some good nostalgia for a change.

He looked at Molly, dressed in her plastic pink coat, and smiled. May/December, perhaps. She looked back at him and smiled too. Then Molly put her arm in Edwin’s and the two of them strolled down Broadway like young lovers. Well, youngish in Edwin’s case. Soon they were turning down 8th. It would become St. Marks Place and Edwin decided to tell Molly everything that he knew about the musical and artistic history of the area. Maybe she would like it, he thought. But then they passed a diner where two people were outside kissing. It was a raven haired woman and bulky man with sparkling, silver hair. Normally Edwin couldn’t care less about such brazen displays of PDA, but this time he stopped short and clutched his stomach. It was as if the wind had been knocked out of him.

“Edwin, are you okay?” Molly asked.

Edwin pointed at the couple, who had now separated and were walking hand and hand down Lafayette Street. “Natalie.”


“Natalie. With Charles Ramsdell,” was all he could say.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Edwin Balder heard the pounding on his front door but did not go to it immediately. He turned to his right side and looked at the alarm clock. It read two in the afternoon. It couldn’t be, Edwin thought. He raised his head and it still hurt a little bit. How much had he drunk the night before? Judging by what welcomed him in the kitchen earlier in the day, a lot. The Plastic jug of scotch that Edwin had bought only lasted two days where it typically lasted a week, and there were two or three beer cans strewn about, random cans found in the back of the refrigerator after crawling back into his apartment from that fall. Edwin felt the side of his left leg. It was tender. The bruise was shaped like Australia and was black with a yellow-orange center. When Edwin saw it in the mirror he vomited and then went back to bed.

Someone pounded on the door again. Edwin put his pillow over his puffy, alcohol soaked face to drown out the sound, but he knew that he could not hide forever. Edwin had to get up and get himself directly to a bookstore, to find out what it was exactly that Natalie Presley had written about their life together. That conniving tramp! Edwin thought, tossing the pillow away and slowly rising from his mattress. How could she? Had he really been that bad to her? That deceitful? That untruthful? Enough to write an entire novel about him? Plus she’d beaten Edwin to the punch. True, he’d had his notes and character sketches done up for his own “break-up” novel, and Lord knows he entertained his fantasies of writing some massive Proustian or David Foster Wallace tome to the full extent. Edwin had his delusions of grandeur of setting the literary world ablaze, and making enough money to get out of his work situation (pre-corporate asset liquidation, of course). But it had come to nothing.

The knock on the door came again, urgent. Edwin assumed that it was some faceless, soulless representative of the building management come to serve him an eviction notice for the shenanigans that had taken place during the early morning hours, so he took his time dragging his wounded leg down the hallway. Edwin reasoned that if the building management was intent on tossing him to the streets, so be it. But he would not go down without taking Molly Brown and Gerhardt with him.

Edwin opened his door and Molly Brown was standing there holding a letter. Her hair was pulled back and tied with one of those retro “scrunchies.” She had hardly a stitch of make-up on and looked as though she’d been crying. Seeing Molly’s appearance this bare and pale, Edwin noticed just how pronounced her nose was on her face. Still, he felt a rumbling in his loins. Once again, Molly was wearing that “Brooklyn Girls Do It Better,” t-shirt and a pair of jeans that did not cover her mid-drift. Obviously the outfit was a popular one with Ms. Brown, Edwin thought. Or Matthew Joyless liked seeing her dress up like a 3rd Avenue hussy with an open invitation to free and proper fornication plastered across her small chest.

“Yes,” Edwin said, formally, of course.

“Edwin can I come in?”

“Now is not the time for me to be entertaining guests.”

“Please,” Molly said. And then she began to cry.

Edwin let her into his apartment and guided her toward his couch. He had Molly sit on the end the cockroaches typically stayed away from, and went into the kitchen to get her a drink while she sobbed. Edwin looked around and noticed a bottle of Pimm’s that he hadn't gotten to in his drunken state. He’d bought it over at Astor Wines in the city when on a New Orleans kick last summer. Edwin was going to learn how to make the world’s best Pimm’s Cup, but had never gotten around to buying the other drink components. He usually ended up taking a nip on the Pimm’s when he ran out of scotch. Two Pimm’s it would be, Edwin said to himself. He opened the refrigerator and there was not an ice cube to be found. Two Pimm’s neat, Edwin re-stated, throwing a shot into two glasses that may or may not have been entirely clean.

Edwin came back into the living room. He put the drinks on the coffee table and then sat on the other end of the couch while Molly continued to cry. He had no clue what to do. Edwin hated when women cried. Their tears made him nervous. Whenever Natalie cried Edwin had to leave the room. Sometimes he had to leave the apartment. If he was the one responsible for Natalie’s tears, Edwin often got on the R Train for a couple of days of male bonding with Lawson, never fully shaking the sight of his beloved’s crying, hoping she’d get over whatever he’d done and wouldn’t tear up anew when he returned home. And now this virtual stranger, this aching sex kitten, was sobbing in his apartment, on his side of the couch, where issues of McSweeny’s were read in comfort and Hot Pockets were consumed with the careless glee of a bachelor on the prowl.

“Molly, what is it?” Edwin asked, while trying to maintain his distance. The Chinese woman’s television blared through the walls, so he had something else to focus on. Thank goodness, Edwin said to himself, while pounding on the walls. Still, once the old hag turned down the television Edwin would still be left with the crying strumpet on his couch.

She held out the letter. “Did you get one of these?”

“I haven’t gotten my mail yet,” Edwin said.


Edwin took the letter and read it:

Dear Residents of the CrestSeal Apartments,

There have been some on-going issues with occupants in the building. We would like to address this issues and make sure everyone is aware of the policies and the consequences for violating these policies.

First off, we have received notice from the NYC Health Department about a complaint made regarding allege an unsanitary condition and pubic nuisance caused by pideon waste existing at the building. Residents must not allow pideons to create nuisance condition on private or pubic property. There violations can result in fines ranging from $300 to $3,500 per violation. We ask that you please DO NOT FEED PIDEONS.

A major concern we have is drugs. Their have been reports of residents smoking marijuana from specific apartments. No DRUGS of any kind will be tolerated. If it continues, the police will be notified and you WILL BE EVICTED. This is a final warning regarding this matter.

Edwin folded up the letter and handed it back to Molly.

“What do you think of it?” she said.

“I think that letter was written by an absolute illiterate,” Edwin said, sipping his Pimm’s. The alcohol turned his stomach a bit. “Not only should this person not have a job, they should be paraded around the city and beaten with thick, bamboo sticks.”

“I don’t even know what a pideon is,” Molly said. Then she began crying again.

“I’m sure it’s another word for homeless or vagrant. They seem to mill about more in the later winter, early spring.” Edwin had more Pimm’s. “Nevertheless, be careful whom you share your Egg McMuffins with would be my advice.”

“But what about the drugs, Edwin?” Molly said. through tears.

“Shhhh,” Edwin said. “Do you want them to raid us right now?”

“Matt and I were smoking marijuana last night.”

“Surely I don’t want to know anything about that,” Edwin said, rubbing his thigh.

Molly shook the letter. “Someone does!”

“Do you honestly believe that someone from the building management smelled your marijuana smoke, raced home and composed this letter last night?”

“They could have.”

“True. And judging by the prose it’s quite likely that they did. But I highly doubt that some corporate shill was lurking outside your door at four in the morning.”

“How did you know that we were smoking at four in the morning?” Molly asked.

Edwin took a long pull on his Pimm’s. Molly hadn’t touched hers. “I picked a random hour.” He was silent a moment. “Plus….well…I heard you.”

“You heard us?”



Edwin nodded and Molly began to cry again. He moved closer and tried his best to be comforting. Edwin patted Molly on the knee but all it did was give him a slight erection. “There, there, it’s not so bad.”

“I’m so embarrassed.” Molly looked up at Edwin. Her face was red and tear-stained. She had snot coming out of her nose, and Edwin thought that he was going to be sick again. To try and quell his shaky stomach, he got up and went back into the kitchen. Edwin got a paper towel for Molly, and a generous refill on the Pimm’s for himself.

“Really, you have to allow for these small embarrassments in apartments,” Edwin said, thinking back to the old upstairs neighbor who used to pound a broom handle on Edwin’s ceiling whenever he and Natalie made love, or, later, when Edwin was drunk, alone, and loud.

“I had a fight with Matt today as soon as I saw this letter,” Molly said.

“What was it over? His PS3?”

“No.” She gave Edwin an irritated look. “It was over the pot, Edwin.”

“Of course!” Edwin had more Pimm’s. “And did you send Mr. Joyle…Joy packing as was your right?”

“Matt doesn’t smoke pot,” Molly said. “I do.”

“I’m sure we can frame him,” Edwin said. “Make it look as though he took advantage of you.”

“I don’t want to frame him. He’s mad at me because I won’t stop. I lit up a J after we….and he started yelling at me.”

“Hence the rap music on full tilt?”

“I’m so sorry about that,” Molly said.

“Well, as they say in the game, life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money.”

Molly smiled a little and then turned sad. “He left like right after the fight. It was still dark out. That creep, Gerhardt, was in the hallway. He started yelling at Matt about the scent of marijuana and about flushing toilets. It took forever for him to go back inside his place.”

“Talk about a man I’d like to frame and send up the river,” Edwin said.

“And I haven’t heard from Matt since he left,” Molly said. She started crying again. “I don’t know if he got home safe or what.”

Edwin looked at his watch. It was nearly three in the afternoon and he hadn’t even showered or ranted in his journal. “Dear, what you must do is go back to your apartment and call this Matthew Joy.”


“Yes…Matt. You need to call him and straighten this business out right now.”

“You sound like you’re trying to get rid of me,” Molly said. She stood up from Edwin’s couch.

“I’m not,” Edwin said. “After all, we have a standing date to listen to Gershwin. It’s just….it’s just that this cruel woman has written a book about me, and I must get to a bookstore and get a copy so that I can begin building my legal defense.”

“Someone wrote a book about you?” Molly said. Her face brightened. Edwin was not surprised. The young these days were easily tempted by the slightest bit of celebrity. He thought perhaps to use this to his gain, but decided against it in Molly Brown’s delicate shape.

“My ex-girlfriend.”


“I highly doubt that,” Edwin said.

Molly was quiet a moment. “Can I come to the bookstore with you?”


“Please. I’m having such a bad day, and I really could use the company.”

“I…I guess so,” Edwin said. He motioned for Molly to sit back down on the couch. She did. “You stay here. Take in the ambiance while I shower and get myself ready.”

“I have to say, you look terrible today, Edwin,” Molly said. She finally picked up her Pimm’s and had a drink.

Edwin smiled. “And I don’t see much chance for improving as the hours wane.”

“I hope you know that I was kidding.”

Edwin went over and looked at himself in the mirror. “No you weren’t dear.”

They were silent a moment and then Molly Brown leaped up off the couch. “Pigeons!”


“That’s what they meant in the letter,” Molly said. “Pideons are Pigeons!”

“Obviously,” Edwin said. And then he went into the bathroom, closed the door, and began running the hottest shower that he could stand.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mr. Telephone Man

Edwin Balder staggered into his bedroom, turned on the light, and fell onto the bed. What a night, he thought, before he was able to take in the cacophony of sound that surrounded him at such an ungodly hour as this. It wasn’t rap that Molly Brown had playing this time, but some kind of screeching metal music with wailing guitars and the kind of bass that might as well make it your standard hip-hop song. To make matters worse, Molly’s bedsprings began vibrating and pounding down on Edwin’s ceiling in a torrent of sound. Bounce, bounce, bounce-wacka-bounce. Bounce, bounce, bounce-wacka-bounce. He heard Molly scream and Matt Joyless moan as if someone were beating him instead of copulating with him. Edwin had no choice but to put his pillow over his head and wait for it to stop, which it did, in less than two minutes. Then the music stopped and he heard voices, the muted, banal conversation of the unsatisfied. Edwin heard Molly get out of bed and pound across her room as was her fashion. There was a brief silence and then her toilet flushed. Edwin felt as though he were going to be sick.

He managed to get back out of bed and stumble into the living room. The Chinese woman’s television was on low, so it only hummed. Edwin heard bedsprings above him again and felt as though he were being taunted by some cruel spirit, but it was only Gerhardt turning in his lonely, sexless bed. Edwin sighed. It had been quite a night, he thought a second time, as he picked his ancient, cordless phone up off its stand. He dialed Lawson Thomas’ number as he walked into the kitchen, intent on fixing himself one last scotch before it was time to retire from the horror show that had been this day.

“Hello?’ Lawson said in a muffled, exhausted voice.

“Don’t hello me, Benedict Arnold!” Edwin spat into the phone. He took a sip on his scotch and water, and hoped that he had been loud enough.


“Don’t mom me. You know damned well who this is, you lousy Tory.”

“Edwin, what in the hell do you want? It’s…” Lawson was silent a moment. “It’s almost four in the morning.”

“As good as any a time to call my back stabbing ex-best friend.”

“I have to get up in an hour to jog.”

“Not my concern,” Edwin said, taking his phone and his drink into the living room. “At least you slept this evening. I just got home and I was forced to listen to wild kingdom raining down on me in my bedroom.”


“Never you mind, Benedict. It was a pathetic display of underdeveloped machismo anyway. I hope the harlot was left unsatisfied and embarrassed in her musical choice.”


“Rap would’ve been so much more preferable,” Edwin said.

“Look, man, I have no clue what you’re talking about. If you don’t get to the point I’m hanging the fuck up,” Lawson said.

Edwin stopped short. Lawson rarely swore at him. He usually kept his invective reserved for The Man. “You know exactly what I mean.”

“I assure you that I don’t.”

Edwin has more scotch. “When were you going to tell me that Natalie was back in town and working at Hunter College? The next time I stopped by for one of those cafeteria lunches that you’re always bragging about?”

Lawson sighed. Edwin could almost picture him on the other end of the phone, hunched over the side of his bed, head in his hands, and acting the role of martyr. “You’re assuming that I knew that Natalie was back.”

“She works with you, does she not? You two are colleagues.”

“Where did you come up with that?”

“I had a deep and fruitful discussion with my two new friends, Benny and Ivan, and we came to the conclusion that you’ve been holding out on me, Benedict Arnold. You’ve kept this vital information stored in that head of yours all this time.”

“You discussed this with two bar drunks,” Lawson said.

“They’ve been hurt, all right. And don’t you slander my friends that way,” Edwin said. “Explain yourself, man!”

“Can’t we talk about this tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow I’ll have forgotten your small existence.”



“Stop calling me that,” Lawson said. He was awake and probably pacing around his bedroom now, Edwin thought. Good.

“I’ll stop calling you that when you begin flapping your gums, and start spilling those beans of yours.

“I told you that I didn’t know Natalie was back.”

Edwin finished off his scotch. “But you know now.”

“Can we talk about this tomorrow, please, Edwin,” Lawson said.

“Now,” Edwin said.

“Who is that?” Edwin heard a voice say.

“It’s Edwin,” Lawson said to the voice.

“Is that Sour Bear?” Edwin asked.

“Mary’s here,” Lawson said. “You woke her up too.”

“It’s just as well. You artsy Brooklyn animals just can’t wait to get into the sack with the next so and so.”

“We’re dating. Exclusively.”

“Tell the little strumpet that playtime is over for the night.”

“That’s it I’m hanging up,” Lawson said.

“You do and it’ll be the last time we talk, sir!”

“Hold on.”

The other line went dead for a moment or so. Edwin thought that Lawson had hung up on him, and got up off his couch and began pacing his living room. Cars drove by. Buses roared up the street. Edwin looked out of his cracked, wooden blind, at the bright streetlights on 75th Street, and seriously considered moving out of New York City for the first time. There’s simply no peace here, Edwin said. To live in New York was to live with the dregs of society. Maybe it was just Brooklyn. It had to be better in Manhattan, he thought. Then Arlene came to him; beautiful Arlene with her black hair and blue eyes. Edwin suppressed the very idea of her, for it was Natalie that he still wanted. Still, it was a pity that nothing would ever happen between he and Arlene.

“Are you there, asshole?” Lawson asked.

“Well, haven’t we developed the keenest of vocabulary,” Edwin said. “Is that Sour Bear’s influence, or are you watching some urban crime thriller?”

“I was sleeping. But you want to talk, so let’s talk.”

“Fine,” Edwin said. “It’s always right down to business with you, isn’t it, Mr. Teacher?”

“You called me,” Lawson said.

“Oh did I?”


Edwin was silent a moment. “If you say so. Now tell me what you know about Natalie.”

“All I know is that she moved back at the end of the summer, and that she started teaching creative writing at NYU in the fall.”

“Ah Ha! So you do work together!” Edwin shouted. But then he remembered that Lawson taught at Hunter College.

“There’s more,” Lawson said. He was silent a moment. So silent for such a moment that Edwin’s heart began to beat faster.

“Spit it out,” he demanded.

“Natalie’s written a book.”

“So? I’ve written ten books in my head.”

“Yeah, but this one’s been published. On paper,” Lawson said. “Or you can download it on an E-reader.” Edwin said nothing. He took the phone back into the kitchen and poured himself another scotch and water. He opened the fridge but there were no ice cubes left. “Edwin?”

“Well, I’m not surprised,” he finally said. “Natalie was always creative and she had quite an intellect when she wasn’t so bogged down in being a woman. If anyone other than myself was to do anything on a creative level, I expected it to be Natalie.”

“I have four books out there,” Lawson said.

“Theory books,” Edwin laughed. “On college presses.”


“So where can I get her book? The campus bookstore?”

“Mary and I downloaded it from the Sony Reader Store,” Lawson said.

“How twenty-first century of you,” Edwin said. “And was it worth it? What did she write about? The trappings of being a modern woman with infinite choices?”

“That’s the thing, Edwin.” Lawson paused. “The book is about you.”

“All flattering I assume.”

“It’s about your relationship with Natalie.”

“That’s…” Edwin stopped himself. “She wrote about that?”

“All of it,” Lawson said.


“Look, man, I didn’t want to tell you this over the phone, not at this hour. I was going to call you tomorrow, or I was going to stop by.”

“How much of me is in there?”

“Enough, Edwin,” Lawson said.

Edwin downed his scotch and water in one gulp. Then he staggered into his bedroom and fell upon his bed a second time. He could hear the television from up in Molly Brown’s apartment, and she and Matthew Joy laughing at some stoner comedy that the networks only had the gall to play after the witching hour.

“Edwin,” Lawson said.

“Well, I’m sure I don’t know what to say right now,” Edwin said.

“Are you all right?”

“I…I just don’t know how I missed this. I mean I keep close attention to new authors. I have a standing subscription to McSweeny’s. I’m on the up and up with this sort of thing. I make it my hobby, if you will. Not only am I offended that Natalie Presley, for that’s how I’m forever refereeing to her, in the formal only, has taken to writing a tome about me, but I’m angry as an avid watcher of new literary talent, for not being first out the box in discovering her.” Edwin slumped into his pillow. “This is quite a load to carry, Lawson.”

“I know, Edwin,” Lawson said. “I’m going to come over tomorrow and we’ll talk or something. I’ll bring the E-reader if you want.”

“Don’t bother,” Edwin said. “And I mean that in the kindest of ways. You and your devil device, please spend the day with Sour Bear. I plan on being at the Barnes and Noble quite early tomorrow to pick up this slanderous piece of fiction. And then we’ll see whether or not I have a lawsuit.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Edwin said. “You are free to go about your business.”

“All right, man.”

“And to think I was going to give her a second chance.”

Lawson hung up and Edwin lay back in his bed, feeling repulsed by the very idea that Natalie Presley had written a book about their relationship. True, Edwin had often had flights of fancy where fame was concerned. He’d imagined writing a popular yet edgy novel numerous times, and seeing his name in all of the journals. In his head, Edwin has been interviewed dozens of times, and had squired and bedded so many young starlets that it would make the common man’s head spin. He’d even once imagined himself the lead singer in a famous rock and roll band or two. But these delusions, for as Edwin got older he knew that’s what they were, were always on his terms. They were not dictated by someone else. But now with this book people would know. They’d know all about him. Old friends would know more than they should. Acquaintances would be able to make assumptions. Of course strangers wouldn’t know a thing, but that wouldn’t stop Edwin from thinking that they were looking at him as he passed them on the street.

Oh how he both hated and loved Natalie Presley in that moment. Oh how he wanted to cry. But there was no time for that. From Molly Brown’s apartment the music started again. It was rap for real this time. What sort of callous little hussy played rap at four o’clock in the morning? Then the bedsprings started squeaking. Bounce, bounce, bounce-wacka-bounce. And Edwin got out of his bed determined to kill someone.

By some miracle, or by sheer alcoholic adrenaline alone, he reached the second floor of the apartment and Molly Brown’s hellish red door. The hallway smelt of marijuana smoke and you could hear the gross, sweating animalistic moans and grunts going on inside. The rap music thumped with power, and Edwin was truly surprised that he was the only neighbor in the building poised to knock on the door and create a scene. Had everyone else given up? Did no on care for the sanctity of peace and quiet? Edwin always had to go it alone with these community saving endeavors. He should just give up and let it all go to hell, he thought. He was just about ready to knock on the door when the panting, moaning, bouncing, and rap music stopped. Quickly he backed away.

“I heard youse!” Gerhardt shouted from his doorway. The old curmudgeon was already fully dressed. Gerhardt pointed at Edwin and sniffed. “Is that dope? I smelled youse smoking dope!”

“Surely, you don’t think that was me in there with that hooker?” Edwin said to his only other known enemy. “I was merely coming up here to complain.”

“You’re a drunk!” Gerhardt shouted. “A drunk and I heard youse having sex, and smelled youse smoking dope. I heard youse flushing your toilets and listening to Gershwin, and I’m going to call the landlord about all of youse!”

Edwin had no recourse but to run before someone heard Gerhardt shouting. He made it around the bend and down half a flight of stairs, before he realized that if no one heard the racket that Molly Brown was making, then no one would hear Gerhardt shouting. Unless it was reality television or some smoker’s dull soliloquy on the front stoop of the building, the denizens of this apartment were deaf to their surroundings. Edwin tried to stop running, but in his inebriated state he could not. So he tripped and rolled down the other half of a flight of stairs, landing on the very last step. For a moment he laid there. Edwin’s hip and thigh were burning. His knee on his left leg was throbbing. He wondered if this night would ever end. Then the super, Mr. Isaiah Sheppard, came by pushing a broom. He sniffed. Edwin knew that he could smell the marijuana.

“What are you doing on them steps at this hour?” Sheppard asked. “Meditating?”