Life had gotten
too clever for Hondo Molovinski. Cleverness was at the core of all his broken relationships: clever women, yoga instructors and lawyers, women from rich families who slummed with Hondo because he was reasonably good looking, knew the names of obscure punk bands, and could fuck all night with the aid of a little coke. He hadn’t realized back in the early nineties that there was no such thing as “recreational” drug use among the poor. Class was a matter of how much “reality” you had to really deal with. The richer you were, the less “real” things like drugs and poverty had to be. Some of these women had been “druggies” and “poor” until they reached their late twenties, then they landed back on their parent’s door steps, straightened out, got MFA’s from NYU, and married hipster stock brokers who voted Green Party. It was all a scam, all of it—the bumming around Europe, the weird sex, the year or two spent in a “dead end” relationship with Hondo Molovinski. They had safety nets. They could afford to be “crazy” because the class structure provided them with a safety net for whatever tricks they performed. Hondo, unfortunately, was a genuine “loser.” That had added to his allure, at least while he remained in his twenties and early thirties, thin, and familiar with the names of Bulgarian punk bands, and able to fuck all night with the aid of a little coke. In retrospect, he should have heeded the wisdom of “Cunt Neck” James, the Haitian lathe operator he’d worked with for a year at the mold making plant in Cortland. They called him Cunt Neck because he was magnificently obese, with a neck that folded at the back in such a way that it resembled, according to other plant workers, a black woman’s shaved vagina. Cunt Neck liked Hondo because he was the only guy on the night shift who didn’t put his finger in that fold and make sounds of sexual ecstasy while Cunt Neck’s enormous ass swallowed the stool he sat on. “Listen to Cunt Neck,” said Cunt Neck, “You one of dem dumb white boys dinks smart white womens with no tits, no asses, is able to love. Dey don’t love no one like you, man. Dey office womens…Dey just be usin you for a dick…remember, white boy, you just a niggah like Cunt Neck with freckles. Get off dem drugs. Da bosses ain’t never you friends. You listen to my word…Dem womens belong to the bosses. You gonna fall, white boy. You gonna be shaken from de tree of life…”
A year after the prophecy of Cunt Neck, Hondo was layed off and broke, and strung out on the drugs he took recreationally and he went twelve step and gained a lot of weight and stopped talking about Bulgarian punk bands and he no longer got laid. He hadn’t been layed now in two years. He’d eventually gotten another job, as a hod carrier, but his back went out and he was no an “entrepreneur” at flea markets around Jersey and the eastern sections of Pennsylvania.
Here, the cleverness of life turned into shrewdness, without the subtle snotty self consciousness of x generation bohemians. Actually, there were a lot of generation x bohemians hanging around the flea markets, but they were the ones who hadn’t been so good at snotty self consciousness. Either that, or they hadn’t had well off parents. Here, they mingled with truck drivers who collected antique fishing equipment, waitresses looking for cheap t shirts for their boyfriends, retired school teachers who loved vintage records, recovering drug addicts who stayed clean by getting up at four in the morning and driving half way across the state to drink coffee, smoke hand rolled cigs, and “buy and sell.” Hondo felt at home here, in the motley world of buying and selling, the smell of earth still damp from a late night rain, the pleasant, bitter sweet encounters with pretty, vaguely “artistic” girls in black t shirts, camouflage pants, expensive work boots who bought records from him, or who hung lightly on the skinny arms of boy friends who were into vintage reggae and who, oddly enough, never haggled with him when he named his price.
Hondo’s record collection wasn’t extensive. He was a mutt dealer, someone who resold whatever he could buy early in the morning, or scrounge at garage sales, or “collect” on those days when people in rich neighborhoods put out their junk. He re-sold whatever he could, never made more than a hundred bucks. Truth be told, Hondo was a lousy businessman and he supplemented his income by a series of temp jobs. Hondo made just enough to get by. He lived in a boarding house in New Brunswick. He stayed sober by driving his junker 1985 Toyota from flea market to flea market. Since going off drugs, he ate nothing but grease, chain smoked, and was unintentionally “chaste.” He jerked off twice a day, usually early in the morning with one of those extra stiff piss hard-ons. He’d look down at it and say: “All dressed up and no place to go.” Then he’d remember some great episode from his past and whack away. He never jerked off to the memory of Ronda, the one true love of his life. She was a free jazz tenor sax player, a painter, and an expert at power yoga. She could put her long legs behind her ears and keep them there for an hour She could make good Indian food, used drugs only occasionally, and fucked him in ways he thought were supernatural. Then, around her thirtieth birthday, she read Edith Wharton’s “The House of Mirth,” decided she wanted kids and a family and must “marry well” and dumped Hondo for the owner of a health food store. Together, she and the owner started a “wellness” center, complete with yoga, re-birthing, and “poetry therapy.” Hondo never thought of her when he jerked off, except, on holidays except when the first snow of the year fell on New Jersey and he got suicidal, and had a two hour jerk off session, at the end of which he called up his sponser and asked him if suicide was really such a bad thing. “Suicide will fuck up your sobriety,” his sponser said. “What should I do?” “Stay alive and sober until you’re dead.”
Hondo still talked to Ronda, occasionally. She’d tell him what herbs to get, the importance of remaining “centered.” He hadn’t called her now in a year. She, too, was a drug. He kept dreaming that she showed up at one of these flea markets, still smelling strangely and wonderfully of wood shavings, with her beautiful twin daughters and her owner husband. He’d yell, “Ronda!” and she’d break from her wellness and live with him in the New Brunswick boarding house where they’d fuck for three days in all the positions of the Kama Sutra, and turn into twin stars glimmering in the branches of the swamp maple above the Chinese take out…
Hondo Molovinski wanted to die, but he was afraid of death. He wanted to live, but he had no particular talent for living. Instead, he went to flea markets, and worked temp jobs, and attempted to write stories about his “experience.” These he showed to Dave Roskos, a record dealer, and extremely underground poet who spoke with the soft, mellow voice of Peppermint Pattie.
“You can’t have a character like Cunt Neck in a post modernist short story.”
“Why not Dave?”
“Because….post modernist short stories are all about fragmentation, the death of coherent characters, the impossibility of constructs, all save for the construct that is aware of itself as a deconstruction….Cunt Head’s one of those cliched primitive black wise men…usually it’s a fat old black woman…the one who knows more than the white people she serves…but it can be a black man, too…talks in dialect…says folksy shit, a sort of down home shaman. There’s all different variations on the the basic structure. Will Smith played one of the spins in that golfing movie…Whoopi Goldberg did a take on it in Ghost Story. Whoopi Goldberg made a living healing the souls of white yuppies.. .Thi is the “intelligent, street wise” version. Ain’t nothing new. The Russians did it with serfs. One of the hang overs from the enlightenment that seeped into modernism is the belief in the primal, the primitive “wisdom” and aesthetic superiority of indigenous cultures…Cool jazz and free jazz rebelled against this state of affairs by making jazz rigorous and esoteric, but then they came up with their own take on the myth of the raw. Morgan Freeman is a perfect example. Look at him in “Driving Miss Daisy,” or in “Million Dollar Baby.” He has great dignity and knows what he’s about. They put him in movies to teach white folks how to live. The secret premise is that the ruling class is just waiting for some black guy or woman to teach them how to live.. .Notice that it’s never a white trash shaman… they’re too associated with reactionary right wing politics. They are haters. Black folk are lovers…It’s all standard bull shit….you can only have a guy like Cunt Neck in your story if you are aware of the construct underlying his being there.”
“But Cunt Neck is real Dave…He existed. He still exists. I have his phone number. We can call him up.”
“Real has nothing to do with it…We’re talking literature.”
“So you won’t take the story?”
“It’s got a man in it with a neck like a shaved black woman’s pussy, a man who claims that skinny white women with no tits and asses belong to the ruling class….It would offend my readership… but I like the energy of it. Maybe if you take Cunt Hair out of it, I’d consider publishing it.”
“I’m not a post modernist.”
“You just think you’re not a post modernist…that’s one of the signs of post modernism.. .self aware unawareness.”
“I’ve got that Neil Young record you wanted.”
Hondo like the “Rosker,” as he refered to him. Dave knew more about Bulgarian punk than he did. Dave could roll a cig one handed. He had gone to Harvard, but dropped out and became a roadie for a Ska band out West. He studied critical theory: Derrida, DeMan, Barthes, and he published a lit zine called Booger. Dave liked coffee as much as Hondo. They had both read Harvey Pekar at an impressionable age. Hondo had never been literary. He hung out on the punk/ska scene and fucked literary women but he always faked being well read. The only book Hondo had ever read all the way through was “The House of Mirth.” He read it after Ronda dumped him. He had now read it a dozen times over. Dave had given him a reading list: Rimbaud, Ginsberg, Hugh Selby, John Ashberry, Williams,’ Kerouac, Corso, Blake, Reznikoff, Jerome Rothenberg, the Russian poet, Alexander Blok. Hondo liked poetry because it was shorter than novels and it didn’t seem to make much sense. Hondo knew that life was this terribly clever thing that didn’t make sense, a “formosan straight bird—a species of fowl that flies around and around until it flies up its own asshole.” Here, at the fleas, clever turned into shrewd and the world of buying and selling was distilled to its purest essence. It was the only genuine free market he had ever encountered. Today he had old video tapes, a hand carved chess set, a couple of home made patch work quilts, and some vintage comics to sell. It had rained the night before and the ground was slightly muddy under his work boots. The clouds raced by, big, brooding cumuli, the sun a pale yellow disk above the fall trees. He could smell the dead leaves, almost taste them. Soon, the first snow would come and he’d jerk off to Ronda and call his sponsor, and his sponsor would convince him that, if he just stayed sober, death would eventually come without the slightest bit of effort on his part.
“I wannah be SEDATED.”
A pretty punk girl, with streaks of blue in her hair, and the necessary black t shirt was staring at Hondo with the most maniacally green eyes he had ever seen. She was definitely high, and not at all sedated, in spite of her singing the old Ramones song.
“How much for the chess set?”
“You play chess?”
The girl gave him a “fuck you, you old lech” look without shifting or varying her gaze. She was maybe eighteen.
“How much asshole?”
“Hey.. .watch your language. Why you calling me an asshole?”
“Cause you’re staring at my tits and being friendly in that really corny way assholes like you always are.”
She was right. Her sense of truth delighted him. He decided to fully embrace being an asshole.
“How could I be staring at your tits? You don’t have any tits.”
She didn’t back down.
“Enough tits for your sorry ass. How much?”
“Twenty five dollars.”
“I got eighteen.”
“If you give it to me for eighteen, I’ll let you live.”
“That’s really big of you.”
The girl licked her lips. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a bunch of wrinkled bills.
“What do you want a chess set for?”
“I want to put it on my father’s grave.”
This answer intrigued Hondo. She didn’t seem like the sentimental type.
“When’d he die?”
“Before you did, dick face.”
“Didn’t he teach you how to talk to people?”
The girl smiled at Hondo, a sweet, beatific grin. She reached into her pocket again, fishing for more bills. She had nice tits, little firm breasts, the nipples hard in the early morning cold. He decided to look more freely now, now that the truth was known between them, now that she smiled. She was young enough to be his daughter, had the same dirty blonde hair. He’d gotten three women pregnant in his life, all of whom decided to have abortions. He had paid, even went with them. He was a stand up guy that way. He kept looking, noticed the rip in her jeans at the knee, the sweet, oak pale skin. He had a hard on. He looked back at her tits. They were lovely. He’d like to kiss them, rub his two day growth of beard against them.
He kept looking. She kept smiling. There was hardly anyone at the flea market yet, except the vendors. She slowly raised up her shirt, smiling, exposed one breast, bare, and pale, the pink nipple hard and pointed in the air. He did not see the razor as she pulled it on him, and quick, quickly and gracefully, like an angel, slashed his face open.
“Fuck,” he said, “Fuck.” She grabbed the chess set, ran, dodging among tables and the sparse crowd. “Fuckin hey,” he said, “Mother fucker!”
He yelled the last curse loud enough for people to notice. He held his slashed cheek and jaw, felt the sting that turned into a throb as the blood started to pour between the fingers of his hand. Dave came over. “Shit,” Dave said, “What happened?” A few of the vendors gathered around him now. He could still see the girl running in the slightly foggy distance, escaping the market grounds, disappearing into an old van. The cops were called. The ambulance came. It was not a fatal wound, but it was deep and sharp and painful.
“Fuckin kids are crazy,” Dave said.
Hondo said nothing. He felt strangely, even happily unreal, in free fall from the reality of the event. He had a towel to his face now. The paramedics were walking swiftly towards him. He did not feel upset. He did not feel angry. A sweetness came over him, the tiredness of an afternoon nap. He loved the girl. He loved the girl. He had sen her all his life and it had come to him as he deserved, a sort of blessing, a weird sort of truth. He took the towel from his face and let the blood pour freely, onto his shirt and work boots. He was happier than he’d been in years. He was, for the moment, fully and happily and gratefully alive.–Joe Weil