Rick Edelstein was born and ill-bred on the streets of the Bronx. His initial writing was stage plays off-Broadway in NYC. When he moved to the golden marshmallow (Hollywood) he cut his teeth writing and directing multi-TV episodes of “Starsky & Hutch,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Chicago,” “Alfred Hitchcock,” et al. He also wrote screenplays, including one with Richard Pryor, “The M’Butu Affair” and a book for a London musical, “Fernando’s Folly.” His latest evolution has been prose with many published short stories and novellas, including, “Bodega,” “Manchester Arms,” “America Speaks,” “Women Go on,” “This is Only Dangerous,” “Aggressive Ignorance,” “Buy the Noise,” and “The Morning After the Night.” He writes every day as he is imbued with the Judeo-Christian ethic, “A man has to earn his day.” Writing atones.
You’re leaving me! She said, no not said, sort of screeched twice, no three times, you’re leaving me, she redundantified, I left you long before you packed your bags. Nobody leaves me. If anybody’s doing any leaving you’re looking at her.
Wait a minute. I’m beginning to feel like an old comedy act, who’s on first. Who’s leaving, who stayed, who packed their bags?
You never were a good listener. I’ll break it down. I, this dude sitting on a puffed up pillow because my hemorrhoids are acting up...
That’s more information than I need.
I packed my bag, singular, I don’t have all that much when you come down to it, and she, still in her ratty robe which she liked because it has character she said, reminding me, you should hear her voice, attitude dripping with what’s that word in German you taught me, when you get pleasure from someone else’s pain?
Yeah, shaden...she smiled as if she was the snake who ate a live rat, talking very slowly like she was serving a rare salad dressed in venom...
Nevertheless she said that I was not, N-O-T, spelled it out in case I missed the first time. I was not her first choice. You were never my first choice, she repeated because I didn’t fall apart the first time.
Let’s change the subject. She’s getting more air time than deserved.
Yeah, okay, I read a piece I don’t remember where but it was heavy with a point of view that our nature, what we call human nature, is a direct evolution from animals who kill each other for territory, fucking rights...
And if I wasn’t bleeding enough for her taste of retribution, she said loud and clear, you got me on a rebound, she said. The last guy Evander somebody...
What kind of name is Evander?
Tell me about it. Evander she described, as if I cared, was twenty two pounds over-weight and had the temerity, that’s the word she used, fat boy had the temerity to walk and now you think you’re the one leaving without even a note, no fucking way, if anybody is breaking up it’s yours truly, she ranted.
I thought you wanted to change the subject.
Good reminder. What were you saying about human nature and killing or something?
The article said and it makes a lot sense, resonates truth it does.
Run it by me again. What did it say?
Talk about lousy listeners.
Oh you’re going to start grading me like the self-appointed judge, jury and executioner when I forgot to go to Ralphs for some bread and shit.
She got you by the short hairs. Every time I try and talk something else you bring the bitch back up.
She ain’t a bitch. She has a good vocabulary. I have to look up some words like rectitude, ineffable, fatuous. No bitch uses such words.
Fatuous. Does that mean somebody who has a propensity bordering on obese?
No, I had to look it up...sorta’ means unintelligent if I remember. With such a vocabulary, I mean she’s many things unattractive and reprehensible...
Talk about a vocabulary.
Bu being a bitch ain’t one of ‘em.
Hello! Anybody home? You’re the dude who was dissing her, you’re the one who split and now you’re protecting the b...oops, what do we call her?
Can we change subject once and for all?
Like I said and was saying beyond your recalcitrant self...look that up, bitch...built in to the human impulses is not love, not kindness and sharing unless you’re a mother maybe but the male animal is addicted to warlike impulses, ready to do major hurting on a perceived enemy which may be a nation or some motherfucker who still hasn’t repaid me twenty-two dollars he owes from the game, violence is a fundamental aspect of human nature unquote.
Heavy. And I think I agree with you as I seriously considered violencing her righteous ass. Because frankly, I mean she kept the car and had the nerve, nerve, temerity is her favorite word, the fucking audacity to ask me to pay for the insurance until she gets up on her feet.
What’s wrong with her feet?
Just an expression. Until she gets a better paying job she says which may be never from the fact that she’s been working at Walgreens for three years, well, not as a clerk she says, I am assistant manager and handle the main register.
I figure you straightened her out.
In no uncertain terms.
So you’re not carrying the insurance tab on the car.
Just to the end of the insurance period, I think they call it a cycle.
Which is when?
A year and a half.
Well, I’m glad you stood up for a man’s dignity and told her where she can put it. I mean come on, man, you can’t be carrying her for a year and a half, tell me it ain’t so.
In a way...okay I gotta’ cop to the truth... when you come right down to it I will miss her.
Miss her? After all you told me and more that you haven’t. Miss her? You’re like a junky kicking bad shit and yet yearning for another hit.
We liked the same things and shared a kinda’ together fun-stuff, I mean show me a woman who will watch Russian car accidents with you and whoop and holler when they crash and burn. Or our favorite you can access it on YouTube which we did on a daily basis, sometimes twice. The World’s Most Shocking, and see crumbling cliffs smashing falling down on unsuspecting cars, total mayhem. We would scream and shout and holler at the cars with people in ‘em while the cliffs would give way and totally smother the unsuspecting cars. With people in ‘em for God’s sakes. It was like having sex watching those numbers together.
Sounds like you two really had something going.
Oh we did, we did.
Then why’d you leave?
She kept pissing me off.
She didn’t like the way I eat.
What’s wrong with the way you eat?
She said I should close my mouth when I eat which is ridiculous because how do you get food into it and then on top of that she says I don’t chew long enough and swallow too early and then I shouldn’t complain when my intestines are blocked up. She said I make too much noise when I get up and pee in the middle of night that I should close the bathroom door even though I’m mostly asleep stumbling to the toilet although I always, I mean never missed it, put the seat back down even at two a.m. But you think I’d get props for that? No way. Even shopping she was on my case.
What’s wrong with your shopping?
She said that she can’t trust me shopping as I forget sometimes to pick up something and when I do remember that I bring home tired fruit.
What can I tell you. She has a way of talking. I finally had enough when she got on my case for farting. Not in company mind you, just her and me, she said I was being inconsiderate. That cut it. I mean in the privacy of my own apartment, she said sometimes you fart so loud I’ll bet the neighbors could hear you. What the fuck should a man do with that excessive air demanding a voice?
I got to remember that.
Farting is excessive air demanding a voice. Deep. You should be a writer, a poet maybe.
I’m lousy at rhyming.
All poems don’t rhyme.
I try and read some poems in the magazines or sometimes in the newspaper but they never make any sense ending a line without a period and the next word is the next line but why should it be separated from the word before it when they’re connected, you know what I mean? And why are you wearing shades?
To keep from the glare.
What glare. It’s cloudy, the sun isn’t doing it’s thing, we’re glare-less if you know what I’m saying.
The metaphysical glare. The spillover from the corrupt corrupticians.
If I could understand what you’re saying I might just agree with you.
Listen, how long we been friends?
For fucking-ever, why?
I got your back right?
No doubt. I still appreciate when you went with me to retrieve my TV from that repair dude who was holding it up for more money than he quoted.
Yeah, I remember. You said bring a bat.
Instead you brought your piece.
Hey, one flash of my Glock and the dude melted like a piece ‘o butter in a frying pan.
Got the TV and even twelve dollars he overcharged.
Okay...so now it’s your turn.
What do you need? Name it.
That scram who owes me twenty-two dollars. I want to mess him up.
Enough for him not to look at the mirror without groaning. Enough for him not rip me off or anybody else for that matter. You’re in, right?
Well, I got your back but well you know.
I know what?
I mean...I show with you and flash a piece so no doubt he’ll cough up the bread faster than an orange peel caught in his throat.
Your food metaphors are impressive.
You’re into metas today, metaphysical, mataphor...
Metakiss my ass...you in or out?
Hey I got your back but I’m not actually into the muscle business of breaking somebody’s face for such a measly sum. That’s kind of picking at a scab with an ax.
Okay...let it pass.
I’m still your boy, right? I mean...we sometimes just have different approaches to roaches.
Let it slide.
It’s not crucial, right?
Unless I make it so.
What does that mean Meta-man?
It’s not the twenty-two dollars. He’s challenging me as if don’t have balls as if I’m pussy.
So it is crucial then?
Nah, fuck it...I’m just enlarging a print while it’s still in the camera. I don’t like the dude on g-p. He could get a PhD in smart-assedness wearing a watch he says cost fourteen large.
Get out of here. No watch costs fourteen thousand.
That’s what I said but he contradicted telling me it’s not a watch it’s chronograph.
What the fuck does a chronograph do?
So the bitch is watch.
Zackly. Here, look at it?
What the fuck! How’d you get it?
I took it off his lame wrist. Twenty two dollars or this chronograph. Turns out he ripped it off himself while the clerk wasn’t looking at Nordstrom’s.
But how’d you take it off his wrist, I mean didn’t he put up a fight or something?
He did. He lost.
You’re...I don’t know the word but...
That too, okay...okay...I’m still trying to figure you out...like if someone asked you what’s your life about, what would you say?
Are you asking?
Yeah, what’s your life about?
About 28 years plus.
Not your age, I‘m talking about your life, your experiences, I mean every man is after something which is like a rotating propeller on his butt.
You after something?
How’re you doing on that venture?
Fair. Problem is despite all the sexual freedom and birth control women still want more than just dick. You?
What are you after? The Bill of Rights guarantees the pursuit of happiness. What...
Declaration of Independence, “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
How’d you know that?
I was on a debating team in high school. The coach insisted I learn that and she was right because at the appropriate moment I was able to diss my opponent who said it was written by Tom Paine. We won hands down.
Cool...so in your guaranteed pursuit of happiness...
Pursuit of happiness, hmmm...I’m more into the happiness of pursuit.
That’s deep. Like what?
Your life has been about pursuing meaningful moments? Talk about a junky addicted to happy!
No, not necessarily happy. Some have been dark. Like the time I shot someone. That was a meaningful moment.
Did you really? Shoot someone?
If I say it a second time does that make it any more real?
Did you kill him, or her? Don’t tell me you offed a woman.
No, a man. I don’t know if I killed him actually.
How can you not know?
I shot, he fell back a few feet, slammed into the hoop’s post and I split. Rapidly.
Why’d you do it? What were the circumstance?
Less than admirable.
Come on, man, I need details, you can’t leave me hanging.
It was a meaningful moment, let’s leave it at that.
My boy shoots someone and closes the door on the five W’s. I’m not buying.
The five W’s?
Why, where, what, who, when?
Let it pass.
You are one recalcitrant mother.
Recalcitrant. Good word.
Not in this case.
Hey man, if I indulge you with the W’s, the meaningful moment dissipates, loses it’s edge and is no longer as meaningful.
Fuck meaningful. You can’t burn somebody...
Did not kill him!
Give me one W.
W as in why?
A basketball game in the schoolyard...you know pushing, shoving, elbow in the guts, whatever to score or stop someone...he was five inches taller and a gang ’o pounds bigger but he was a clumsy motherfucker as I faked him out almost broke his ankles trying to keep up with me and I accommodated him with a little push since he was out of balance anyway, I knocked him down and scored.
What happened then?
He got up, started to come at me like a cement truck gone amok...my team stepped in front of him saving my ass but he said don’t be coming back here. This court is out of bounds to your ass unless you want to lose your face!
Was he talking reality or metaphorically?
What’d you say, do?
I came back the next day. Carrying.
Who carries a piece to the playground!
Hey man, on a fair fight that scram would eliminate my face in perpetuity. My Glock was just an equalizer.
How’d it go down?
He saw me, grinned like he was about to feast on a rib-eye steak well done.
Come on, don’t ruin a rib eye by making it well done.
You’re losing the gist of the event.
Okay, right, yeah, it’s just rib eye steak just a touch over rare makes me hard even as we speak.
You wanna’ hear what happened or not?
I do. Roll it.
He growled I warned you. He stomped toward me, all two hundred plus pounds of him. I pulled out my piece, he laughed, you don’t have the balls he said. I shot him in his protuberant gut. He fell screaming like a little girl. I walked out of the yard as if I was a hero in a Western who just shot the bad guy.
No then...I chose not to partake of that court ever again. I chose. Got it? It was my choice. Nobody runs me off my home school yard. My choice.
Whew...heavy. Whoda’ thunk. My boy’s bad to the bone. You still carrying?
My Glock is sitting in a velvet enclosure in the back of the shelf of a dark closet. Just in case.
Just in case? In case of what?
Of somebody trying to mess with me.
Right...some dude messing with my boy and he does what? I got it. He says hold on a sec you ugly specimen of a human being, I got to stop by my closet and retrieve my equalizer.
That’s not how it will go down.
Yeah, I’ll fake him out as if he won, as if he’s the baddest ass on the planet talking to this coward number one. I slink off, get my Glock, run into him in a dark place and teach him not to mess with a messenger.
Sounds like a movie I saw recently where an American punk made fun of a British soldier standing guard with the high hat. Movie was boring.
You know those red coats that British soldiers used to wear?
I guess he was wearing a red something along with his ancient armament maybe just an old kinda rifle I think they’d call it.
Way back in those not-so-good-ole-days that red dye was produced by crushing tens of thousands of parasitic insects that live on cactuses.
Where the fuck did that come from?
Debating team. I never got the chance to use it.
So how does it feel being a single man again.
Frankly, not all that good. I kinda’ got used to company, you know, and the fact that she is such a damned good cook. I miss all that. And her laugh.
Yeah, it was like those tiny chimes people hang out on the porch when a gentle wind does its thing.
You’ll get over it.
A few hours ago.
Wants you to pick up your shit?
No. She misses me. She cried on the phone and apologized.
What’d you say, do?
I miss her, too. A lot.
Don’t tell me.
Tell you what?
Okay, all right, with all that I hate being single. I hate coming home to dumb little dusty apartment and for company I turn on the TV. I hate that.
You’re going back aren’t you?
It’ll be better this time, I know it.
How do you know it? How do you know the same critical shit won’t come down on your ass again.
She changed. I changed.
In what way.
Well, fuck it, I don’t have to have a reason to hate being alone. A man needs a companion.
Not one who is always on his ass.
Even that I sort of got used to. I even miss her dissing me.
Sometimes you’re too weird for words.