From UNTIME, by Steven Leech
The smell of hot sand and the fuchsia. Around the corner from the airfield. In the shadow under an airplane wing. Swastikas and hot blaring sun. Around the corner Rick's. At night spotlight searchlights present it under surveillance. Inside Rick's all colognes from all over the world. Herr Heinz thick of French cologne remarks: Imagine us in Paris. In London which'll it be?
Herr Heinz asked the question got official privy. Could be several answers especially because of the one answer given in this case. It looks like a black and white world but you may not think so. Not here or anywhere. The colors under the surface are not here.
Let me introduce. The name's Ghedé. I take refuge in Rick's at end of the runway. I weigh the possibilities. They aren't too heavy. So light in fact no one sees them. But ask the wrong question and you keep me from my duties. Old wild west I'd be the card shark riverboat gambler. Yeah I know Rick's got gambling in the back but those are just dead end games for me. I've been around a couple of times. I'll give you better numbers later.
Heinz asked that question. The magic word was "imagine." That set me off and got caught up in what almost all completely misunderstand the web of time.
"Ask me when you get there," Rick answered.
Oops. Snapped into the picture when I overheard. Shit we're gonna get into this dance. Always comes in times of war. This time especial. Gotta big one this time with atom stopping power. Gonna split it all open in some world. This time shit folks can't see past. Not as it truly is. And they're gonna pop this world if I don't get some fuckin' goin'.
Every night Rick take a girl at the Blue Parrot for a treatment that how swell he is. Neon got him the night in wash of spotlight. The war heats up and currents cross. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world. Heinz has got to ask the question in my place. Interjecting. Off the cuff. Oblique and obscured enough to present the power of possible. It was time to get out the bag of tricks. Or else a smart ass retort.
Gotta step down into the Blue Parrot a coffee and wine place by day. A front for the blackest markets. At night the lady's lookin' for favors Rick can make.
Rick's got some numbers there in the gambling in the back. Hand out a number for whatever he wants. He can be definite get certainty like a good fuck or a rare drug. But for me the numbers click on different cylinders. Here are the possibilities:
1. It looks more likely than not that the Nazi's are gonna march into London. Could be soon. In which case it's curtains for a thousand years of stupefying bliss. Could be a world where there's no place to hide.
2. Could be the Nazi's never march into London. Some one pulls a fast one some sleight of hand. In this case there is some place to hide or perhaps a place to make the only escape available. It may take fifty years a lot of time that makes you forget. Escape may come to you only because you ain't supposed to be. That would be number 4 but don't count on it. You gotta see it first even if you ain't supposed to be.
3. Heinz could be a shipping clerk in Dresden charming clocks chiming every 13 minutes and 42 seconds. Ilse an exclusive domanitrix in Olso. Rick's a club owner in the hippest boho deep downtown in Gotham. None of 'em know each other but an introduction could be made in a flash.
5. It is 1963 in all above. Victor Laslo workin' Gotham's major daily in the back pages. Deep stuff. Ilse a housewife made good use of her looks ten years before becoming a nuclear homemaker now with a baby boomer finally. Sam the piano player's got a club in the Hoodle.
None got the news yet about Pearl Harbor such a long distance. There's still some time to work here though the consequences could put the squeeze on the sentimental. Some one's gonna half to be the Jesus. Odd enough. I'll make sure of it. I'll be the other half and catch them in my nets here there and everywhere they don't spin when I am there around them everything else spins instead in our transfix with each other.
In Paris May June. Old romance Hemingway Gertrude & Alice & Pablo lost generation one time prohibition flapper swank in swell café all wine and bread. Oil pigment linseed scent Ilse and Richard and Eiffel. Under Notre Dame and haunts of Henry and June. Anaïs and La Belle Aurora find Rick and Ilse there.
Rick made a big pile offa prohibition in New York I wouldn't advise you go there. Lost it in the Depression. Embezzled a heap from a shark in Hell's Kitchen and split. Bought a whole lotta big guns and put 'em to good use in Ethiopia and Spain. Made a whole lot more bought some good time en Paris right before I came along to transfix things and fold some necessary possibilities to get this jam out of it.
Ghedé could come out of a barrel of a gun not this time. I would find Jobe at crossover made by turbines tuned just right. The Blue Parrot has flies.
Rick and Louis find hiding in Brazzaville far south in forest land vent ghosts and babies and gents like me. You could get lost in it but probably not. Just think that way for a hunnert years. I'll keep you writhing serpent in lithe loins of forest lights in the pitchest night. In time before you know it your life is gone. Or gunned down and chopped up. Some may look for Rick's bone's in wet rot exotic funk growin' off it. Some deep forest tribe of ghosts and babies ate the best part of him and discarded the rest. Maybe got transformed into a hyena by a Bocur. Maybe he just gave life to those maidens of mine who suck him out and feed him what all forget. In any case Rick'll never come back. Gotta be that way. Just gotta be. Or else.
THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
He like the name Chele Fujaba best. Name for him found down next to where the vermin cleaned out vacant lots let the sun shine in. Got no name for the place. Just a place where he could find a name. Some ancient. Some historic they say. They responsible. Sometimes you can find one. A name.
To get there Chele walks up to ol' 4th Street. Old course stone asphalt over most of the old pavement blocks. Some places worn smooth and even. At West Street the abyss begin. Matter of exterminatin' vermin the reason they tore the place down. You know who they are. Left a maze of shanties. Most you could stand up. In some you could dance. In some you could only lay down.
Chele live in Hedgeville border to Browntown. Charmin' Chambers Street the walkup fire 'scape to his pad. He got the far deep corner inna little room above the screen downstairs. Theater got its own separate entrance dull lit but fancy 'neath an old dark marquee. He got some old magazines left over from the 1930s under the bed. He got a toilet just outside. Kept clean only two there. He and the projectionist. In the morning, Chele clomp down the back in his laced up boots black got to last. He's startin' to grow out of his pants. The only ones he's got. The year 1963 and Chele now 20 and stopped growin'.
His job's to sweep out the theater in the mornings. The Capri Art Theater. Free coffee to the gents. That's all they get from thems that own the Capri Art Theater. After he sweeps it out candy wrappers, spent tubes of unctions, undies and lace garters, syringes, cotton symbols of the South old times there they ain't forgotten. Look away. Look away Chele often must – when he gets a sticky blob beneath a cloddy black boot. Second part of the job get the mop. By 11 he's done.
Many days if it was rainin' Chele stay in his pad a bed a table and chair and an old typewriter heavy like hell and built by that good patriot Underwood. He writing. Free to do it don't matter if it got no place to be read. But when the sun shine he gone to that place got no name. His name is good enough to go there. That's where he got his name in the fus' place.
He start by Adams Street he just walk up. Named after this guy Don Adams? Walk up to the top of the hill. Could almost walk in the middle of the street wide under sky. Depend on who you don't wanna meet. Then you get to the abyss.
Ain't like the Eastside. No one moved back there after the vermin exterminated. Just left brick shells in almost a roofless maze of depopulated sanitized enclosed walls. All sectors connected by either 4th Street, or Front Street run along railroad yards train station.
Chele walk to top of the hill. Washington Street intersection. Named for old capitol of once the United States. But since 1944 Chele live in the grand United Corporations Of America. In the slim between is ye ol' downtown between Eastside and the abyss, ol' Market Street where vacant lots made from buildings torn out in order to exterminate vermin. In between on sides of buildings left standing you find the billboards display the herald of new day. Display black swastika emblazoned over the imperial rising sun red with its rays neatly controlled and emanating toward the imposed borders of each large billboard. Remind all that: "A New Tomorrow is Here Today. Together We Meet in the New United Corporations of America!" But Chele rarely go far as downtown Market Street. Nothing to buy there except the barest necessities. Besides, Chele don't have that much money. Only jingling change he get from sweeping out the theater in the mornings. He save his new pennies with Jefferson Davis embossed on 'em, his Nietzsche nickels and Vagner dimes to buy paper his only splurge. Typewriter ribbons he get cheap from black market stolen property from the abyss.
Old magazines under his bed his only reading material unless he wanna read Céline, Nietzsche, Goebbels, Mussolini, Hitler Mein Kampf. Maybe some Tijuana comics. Today it's raining so he go back revisit them the only things his father left him killed and dishonored in the war down in New Guinea. Among them one called, "Official Guidebook of the New York World's Fair 1939," his favorite. At the top of the title page it say, "Building the world of tomorrow." In it he pour over pictures of superhighways, multilevel street intersections in cities of tall sleek buildings, other kinds of modern buildings the kind now being built in Berlin and Tokyo. But none of it here in little old backwater Wilmington. But he got his magazines, his World's Fair guidebook, and one little novel he's read three four times, entitled The Illustrious Corpse, by Tiffany Thayer – a Popular Library paperback book detective novel from 1930, complete and unabridged. Got cars in it. Got cityscape in it from New York City. All Chele got left besides his magazines under his bed, and his typewriter, is his imagination and those who live in the abyss who he visit only on the nice sunny days.
They are the one's who already had. Before the dawn of a new day in the United Corporations of America that is. The good new UCA. Gesellschaft Rockefeller. Neue General Electric. duPont's Farbin Seimans. Morgan Carnegie Suzuki. Reynolds Colgate Palmolive. Daimler Chrysler Mitsubishi. Names of patriots. Committees of 100. Councils. Run things. For us. Those you can see. That is. Got their politicians straw men.
Chele hear their names behind the news. The way they talk. In the barbershops. Over subs and pizzas. Chele walk past them up and down Maryland Avenue. With lights bright behind small broad plate glass windows. With shops specializing in trinkets. With small documents to get around. Chele had none. Could go downtown but what for? Up and down Maryland Avenue but Chele have no money for that. Could go to Five Points. Timmy there for that. Or go to the abyss on bright sun shiny day. No UCA for Chele. None of that stuff touch him.
Browntown Hedgeville where Chele live buzzing on its own. Anything he could get his hands on is right there. But none of it he need except maybe get a sub and a fizz one and a half a week. Wednesday mostly. Rain or shine.
Once a month Chele get haircut gotta go beyond Five Points to Elmhurst at party sponsored barbershop at McFritz' a party syndicate supporter who believes all young men look better cropped. Like Eric Von Stroheim. Never mind he got great comic books contraband ol' McFritz permitted to have. Got a monkey inna cage. And a parrot in another says hello to all the customers. Usually on a warm sun shiny day. Then he walk up to Five Points corner of Matthes and Timmy'd be standin' by the glass doors of the drugstore sippin' a Coke fizz. You could count on it.
Right there on the street. She like it so much and like to be seen. Chele fall right to it. Found Tommy feelin' her up right there in the 18th year in the dawn of a new day UCA. Right there in the afternoon after Nazi haircut people comin' in and out of the drugstore and Chele feelin' up Timmy whispering in her crisp little ear how he'd lick it up any time she ready. All she do is giggle.
Timmy the one got the television set. In the afternoon on Howard Street a dive one room from front to back. There sit Timmy. In the near dark lit only by television light sit Timmy. Watchin' Betty Goodwin talk in a little gray image of her movin' in a box and Timmy squirmin' feelin' her up. Talk about Westinghouse and General Edison division of Neue General Electric all great patriots. Old cartoons. Looney Tunes and Popeye. Pinky Lee and Molly Bee.
So Five Points is quite a bonanza. Comics at McFritz. Television at Timmy's feelin' her up for free. Nothing else to do. Chele just sink in. Drink some fizz. Watch old Valentino Mussolini flicks.
In his hand Timmy is. There she swim in his hand. To Mussolini Valentino. Then Bob Crosby and his Bobcats. Carolina Moon. She show under. For Chele Fujaba. In his hand she calls him. Melting. In his hand. Her face go far away. Her eyes see in a dream. Where his hand sends.
By his eyes he is filled. His breath is held in his head. Of her perfume juicy fruit. A thrill warms his arms with sweet aching. His shoulders yield to her touch. Where she is in his hand.
"Guido!" she'd squealed for that's who she tell him he is.
Heading back from Timmy's at supper time Chele walk down to Race Street then up an over the hill clopping black boots and a smile and Timmy smelling all in his hand. Nothing for him back home. Long afternoon shadows in front. Only pictures of tasties in the windows below VanBuren Street. Dark when he get there. But a lamp by his typewriter and the rhythm of the dance coming up from the movie screen below he write.
THE WORLD OF YESTERDAY
1944 when Chele was almost one and a half Lindbergh signed the Articles of Confederation and then all this. Considered by the Axis as a Peace Treaty, so they declared peace and dissolved something called government. Cleaned out the vermin sent them to camp. Tore holes out of downtown Market Shipley King. Maybe a movie theater every now and then. Maybe some hot peanuts some rock candy. Father died in the war in the south seas is what he's heard. Mother went off. Friend and Party member on his mother's side of the family got him room over the Capri Art Theater. Outside it's sometimes charming on a sunny summer's morning.
Under new Articles of Confederation two states in the south reinstitute slavery. Sometimes can't keep track of the money there's so many kinds. Got wild west places out west. Just like it used to be Johnny Mack Brown Hoot Gibson Kent Maynard. Look we won the war. We beat the Slobs into radioactivity. They can call it the Soviet Union. Here it's called a wasteland. Moscow and Petersburg are now safely in the hands of National Socialism. Everything on the other side of the Urals don't go there the next hundred thousand years. They call it the Soviet Union.
In the Official Guidebook of the New York World's Fair 1939 USSR as it's called look like the Confederacy of States. Republic must be Soviet for state best as Chele can figger. They liked these guys Lenin and Stalin. Don't know why Chele wondered. Don't have company after their name. Don't say what they made. Maybe committee is the word for company in Soviet. Still don't say what they made. Maybe that's why they're all Slobs.
Ain't no words about Germany in the Official Guidebook of the New York World's Fair 1939. They were way ahead of everyone. Don't need country. Countries don't lead. Countries're just place where put companies. Where people work best. Places where you could sink a well and make it rich. Companies do that. They do that not countries.
In pile of magazines under the bed Chele got one called, LIFE dated December 7, 1936 'xacly five years before the war started. There was an article with photos of The Man of Destiny, the leader through the War. Now he and Mussolini, the Grand Inventor, enjoy their retirement vacation in Spain with Franco and Salvador Dali.
Suddenly there's a knock on the door. It's 4 PM. It's Tommy the other side of Timmy. It was Tommy who put her in his hand. Did it with a word. Anywhere he'd say, she'd be waiting for his hand. Said he'd find her next haircut on a rainy day Five Points as usual. At Donovan’s on Matthes Avenue. Sittin' in a booth having fizz and cheese crackers. Said she'd be ripe for smackin lip smackin good. It was Chele's turn. After the next haircut.
Chele consulted his calendar. It is Lemuria. In the 18th year after Roosevelt died in his mash potatoes. Chele in his 20th year and Timmy was the Virgin for it and Tommy delivered. A nice wad.
Steven Leech wrote his first fiction in 1959 and was first published in 1966. He has been writing ever since. His literary works have appeared in Dreamstreets, and a number of others including The Broadkill Review. He has been forced to self publish five novels, three novellas, a collection of four interrelated short stories, and a motley collection of poetry. He has also published Valdemar’s Corpse, an extensive work about Delaware’s secret literary history. He currently lives in a cramped apartment in a modest and aging apartment complex within the suburban sprawl between Wilmington and Newark, Delaware. It is here that he not only staves off poverty but yearns for life as a recluse, conjures new contributions to the local cultural environment, strives to gain a better understanding of the world and cosmos around him, and communes with the ineffably divine spirit dreaming in every sentient being.