Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Night’s Work

Scene: A snowy November evening, 2005. I am walking along Second Avenue in New York City, smoking a big stogy cigar, shopping for Christmas presents, and I spot an old friend, Martin Jose Luis (some ancient Inca last name I think), carrying a bulging bag of materials, he used to live in Lima, Peru, I knew him well then, he was an editor of a magazine. He is trying to keep his undersized hat on his head, it is cold, and snow is falling, it’s about 5:00 p.m., and it gets dark early. He is quite shorter than I am a five-footer.

Like I said, he used to be a professional writer, editor for a magazine, but now works as a car washer at night cleaning men’s cars who work during day hours. He tells me he makes eight dollars an hour, works seven days a week. He works nearly ten hours a day, maybe more, perhaps less depending.

For the most part his customers require him to clean the car, inside and out, once a week.

Martin Jose is eighty years old, he has lived in New York City off and on for forty-years or more, and the past six years he has not returned to Peru. He is not married, his Peruvian wife died several years ago. He does have a married son who lives in Chicago, and three grandchildren, he calls them his: ‘Special rug rats!” Refers to them as: Rug Rat One, Two and Three: and always ends up by saying—when he talks about them—‘Bless their little rug rat souls!”

Martin is short thin, pale, drinks too much I think, and drugs; he has a dark brown color to his skin, he likes negro women, and proud to say it. I’ve known Martin for eons: and when in Lima, periodically we used to get together; he did some articles on my books years ago. He used to be really conscientious and diligent in his work.

I suggested to him I follow him around this evening so I could do an article on him—this here short story (although I’ve not circulated it until now 2012, the reason being, he died in February, and I am now rewriting it in March of 2012, but it took place in 2005), he’s known many people in his heyday, which is apparently long gone. He tells me I can stand by why he does his work, if I give him twenty-dollars; he needs another bottle of wine, or perhaps its whisky. I agree.

DS: What do you have in that bag of yours?

Martin: Rags, sponges, cleaning material, you know, that kid of stuff. I have to go to their hotels and houses and into their garages, and I have these keys they leave me, and I have this little vacuum, and I have to wash the car and vacuum it, and they don’t have time to tell me anything, all wound up in their own life. They call me on the cell, and that’s about it. It takes me about three hours to wash and clean it; they put the money in the glove compartment.

DS (after entering the first garage at this large hotel, there is a fair size car to the right, bluish color): Yup, I see what you mean. This new Cadillac looks as if it went through the Grand Canyon.

(Inside the car are hamburger wrappings, cardboard containers that say: Big Mac, and KFC, and bottles of Coke, and 7-Up, empty cigarette wrappings, etc. There are also catch-up and mustard packages all about the front and back seat, wine bottles, no cans.) Why do you think he drinks just wine bottles no beer cans, and all that fast-food?

Martin: He’s an Engineer on a Train! He’s used to wine, and always on the go.

DS: Oh, yes that makes sense.

(His cell phone rings, he’s looking for it can’t find it, it is someplace in his pants pockets or overcoat he thinking, he’s putting the vacuum cleaner down and looking for it, but can’t find it. Then he finds it, it’s in his bag…)

Martin: Who’s this?

A Man’s Voice: This is a friend of TC, are you cleaning my car?

Martin: This is Martin!

The Man’s Voice: I know that, are you cleaning the damn car?

Martin: You don’t have to swear, yes, I am cleaning your car right this very minute as we talk.

The Man’s Voice: Make sure you take the panties out of the clove box and get rid of them before my wife sees them, okay?

Martin: I guess so, but don’t give me that: make sure stuff, I can do it, but I don’t want any trouble with your wife.

The Man’s Voice: For gods sake, just please get rid of them.

Martin: Well, that’s better; sure I can trash them for you—again!

DS: Trouble with the customer?

Martin: Yes, he thinks I’m his nigger-goat.

DS: Who’s TC?

Martin: Who do you think it is?

DS: No idea.

Martin: Truman is his first name, that queer, you know.

DS: You know him?

Martin: I know lost of goofballs. Look here what it says on his dashboard, I’ll read it to you:

‘Ernest, Ernest Hemingway

Always liked his own way

He was a little brat, which ate

Dead cats, and I’m glad he blew

His head off, like Sylvia Plath’

DS: Is this fellow a poet?

Martin: No, not really, but he’s always writing something on his dashboard. Things, just things that don’t make any sense; here, look at this you know what this is?

DS: A plastic penis?

Martin: He’s like that queer TC.

DS: You mean Truman Capote?

Martin: You know who I mean, TC, he’s an egomaniacal, sadist, queer, like his fag friends: William Burroughs, Allen Ginsbergs

DS: How do you know Truman had them as friends?

Martin: I never saw one that didn’t like one: like to like you know: heathens, they’re all heathens.

DS: Is this guy a gay person, or bisexual?

Martin: you’re really polite, he’s a nigger-queer, rich too with a wife, Jewish kind of fellow, can you beat that, he has all the ingredients.

DS: It’s kind of stuffy in here.

Martin: Queers, they all ought to be in an aquarium.

DS: How about Poets and writers? Which ones do you like and hate. And what works do you like of theirs?

Martin: Well, is this all for your research.

DS: Of course.

Martin: I like the short story: “Mountain Victory,” by Faulkner. I like the book: “Men Without Women,” by Hemingway. I like Truman Capote’s “Music for Chameleons,” even if he is queer. I like Plath’s poems, “Ariel,” I like Sherwood Anderson’s “Windy McPherson’s Son,” that’s the only thing he wrote worthwhile. I like some of Dylan Thomas crap, he liked his booze like me (he takes a bottle of Windsor Whiskey out from his coat pocket, and gulps half it down). Want a swig?

DS: No thanks, tell me more.

(The car is clean, and now he’s polishing the chrome.)

Martin: Mind if I take another swig?

DS: Please. Go ahead, be my guest.

Martin: I heard you quiet some time ago?

DS (he drank the whole bottle down, and now he is getting unpleasantly pleasant, if you know what I mean, too much to drink, his moods are shifting like a dizzy wasp): I got to get going, looks like you’re almost done with this car anyhow, I got all the research I need.

Martin: If you have to go, you have to go.

#892 (3-29-2012)