the mountain had turned upside down in the rain, like a branch floating in a swollen stream, and gertrude was walking through the clouds with her favorite sheep, the one which had been carried off by a wolf the previous winter.
the old woman was a rock and was waiting for her on the other side of the mountain.
the rain was not getting them wet, but they had to stay on the clouds to keep it from doing so.
suddenly the sheep turned into a gray cat and the clouds disappeared.
saint james and the archangel and a third person - a young woman in a long blue dress - appeared out of the rain. saint james pointed to gertrude and the other two laughed.
gertrude woke up. she immediately forgot the dream, as she always did. nor did she wonder "was it a dream?" she never did.
something was pressed up against her - not a sheep or a dog.
it was dark - pitch dark. she was in a hut, and could hear a very light rain beating on the roof of the hut.
she remembered she had accepted the offer of denise, the sheep-shearing girl, to spend the night in her hut. it was denise who was pressed up against her, with her left arm across gertrude's back. they were both lying on a straw pallet in the middle of the hut.
there were no windows in the hut, and only one door, which must have been shut tightly as no light was coming in from the edges of it.
gertrude gently pushed denise's arm off of herself, and sat up in the darkness.
she had never slept so close to another person, when the old woman was alive they would sometime sleep together in the hut on winter nights but with gertrude in a corner and the old woman in front of the door.
she remembered denise giving her some food on a plate and herself eating more than she had ever eaten at one time in her life before. and denise laughing at her because she ate so little.
and denise had given her a little cup of what she called wine. gertrude had heard of wine before, but had never tasted it.
*Assistant Professor of Fantastic Literature, Associate Rugby Coach, Olney Community College; editor of Return to Harrowgate and 37 Other Tales of the Working Class by Horace P. Sternwall, with an Afterword by Johnny Carson; Olney Community College Press.
Lying on his filthy bed in his wretched single room the doomed romantic poet Hector Phillips Stone considered his options.
One good plan would be just to walk out to the middle of the Williamsburg Bridge and take a flying leap.
Or, and this would call for considerably less effort on his part, he could go downstairs, walk to the nearby corner of Bleecker and the Bowery, wait for a large truck or bus to come rumbling up and simply step in front of it.
For that matter, and requiring even less physical effort, he could just get out of bed, go to the window and throw himself out; after all, six floors down to the hard pavement should do the job well enough.
Hector had smoked his last cigarette and he had no more, as well as no more money and no more whiskey, and so with a resigned sigh he dragged his emaciated body off of his bed and went to the window, his only window, which overlooked the Bowery. He pulled the sash up, not without difficulty, but eventually he got it up, and the fetid air of the slums below wafted in to merge with the even more vile atmosphere of his room.
Hector looked down, everything was so much less ugly now that it was nighttime: the elevated train tracks and the street below, the passing cars and trucks and their headlights, the wretched drunks stumbling along the sidewalks.
Then he remembered that he was afraid of heights.
No, he didn’t have the guts, not to do it this way.
He wouldn’t be able to jump off the Williamsburg Bridge, either, who was he kidding.
No, his only reasonable choice was to step in front of a fast-moving truck.
And would he even have the courage to do that?
Well, he would see.
He considered shaving first, just to leave a reasonable last impression on the world, but he remembered that the only blade he had left was horribly dull and rusty, so he passed on that
He put on his suit jacket, his only suit jacket, a tweed, as befitted his calling.
He even put on a necktie, the only one he had left, his old school tie from St. Joseph’s Prep.
He put on his genuine Basque beret, and, the final touch of the poet’s uniform, his burgundy scarf, which was in fact the official scarf of the St. Joe’s Prep Aesthetics Club, of which he had been president in his senior year, at least until he was finally expelled for drunkenly vomiting in Father Flaherty’s confessional booth one wet Saturday afternoon in March.
carla stood under the awning in front of the hotel belmore and watched the cab
disappear down the dark street.
she shook the rain off her coat and her beret as best she could and went inside.
the girl at the front desk was reading a romance comic and blowing bubblegum and hardly glanced at her when she crossed the lobby and headed for the elevator.
the lobby was empty. the belmore was a women only hotel - no men past the front door - and unlike some other similar establishments that carla had stayed in, it was very quiet, the way she liked it, with no nosy chattering females filling the hallways and lobby.
the elevator was empty too, and she did not see anybody in the corridors leading to
her room. was she the only person in the place?
she heard voices - not too loud - in one of the rooms. she felt reassured for some reason.
when she got to her room she took her time getting her wet clothes off, drying herself off, and putting a bathrobe on. there was a small lamp on the table beside the bed and she turned it on, leaving the overhead light off.
she had plenty of time - almost four hours before she had to go out again. she would allow herself one cigarette and then have a nap. she had a perfect internal clock and could always wake up when she wanted.
she did not have to look outside to see if it was still raining. she could hear it, and the wind, louder than ever. she hoped it would stop or at least let up before she went out again, but what could you do? she never worried about things she could not control.
as she blew smoke rings toward the ceiling she thought about the guy in the cab, jeff. what a jerk! but maybe she should have been nicer to him, strung him along a little, set him up to maybe use him down the line. she might need some help, someone to watch her back. even an oaf like that.
but she had been feeling lousy, in no mood to turn on the charm, and he had caught her off guard. thinking about it, she realized he had reminded her of larry, even though he didn't look anything like him, with that same smirky bulldog way.
did bulldogs smirk? whatever. maybe he would pop up again. like he had been so happy to point out, he was just across the street. maybe she would sound him out, see if she could use him. but she didn't want him around tonight, that was for sure.
a sudden thought popped into her mind. what if he hung around outside tonight, saw her go out again? then she laughed at herself. at three in the morning? and maybe in this rain? he would have to be the most puppy dog guy in the world to do something like that, and that wasn't this guy, whatever else he was.
no, that was the least of her worries.
she put the cigarette out in the ashtray beside the lamp, and turned the lamp off. it was nap time. carla could often - not always, but often - dream what she wanted to dream about. tonight especially she wanted to dream about being back on the beach in portugal or morocco with larry, only this time she would get the better of him, instead of the other way around.
but as she started to fall asleep she saw the guy in the cab instead, that she was so sure she could handle.
and then she remembered how crazy larry had been, and how jealous, and how sure she had been that she had him all set up for the double cross -