Tag Archives: San Francisco

The Adventures of Joe Blade (unlicensed) Private Eye!

bogart

Author’s note: I wrote this in 1995, and lost it for many years. It’s a very politically-incorrect Private Eye Spoof set in 1990s San Francisco. I found it recently, while going through boxes of old papers and stuff to get rid of. The writing is a little rough, but hey this was written twenty two years ago. (I cleaned it up a tiny bit–but not much. If I rewrote it that would be cheating.) It’s still a nice memory piece of my days in North Beach before San Francisco was completely taken over by super-wealthy stuck-up techies. This was written right around the time I was the editor and a regular contributor to the now-defunct zine The Dagger. Shortly after this, I went to work as a reporter for the AVA (Anderson Valley Advertiser) in Boonville, CA. Mark Heimann and I teamed up as investigative reporters for several years.  In 1999, we moved back to New Orleans, Mark got his P.I. license and we worked together as private investigators for a few years before Hurricane Katrina.    SJ 2017

The Adventures of Joe Blade, (unlicensed) Private Eye

Fiction (Written in 1995)  © Copyright 2017 by Sara Jacobelli

San Francisco

1995

Chapter One

“The Big Fish”

(Heaton Fenton gets a new name and a new career!)

I rented a depressing windowless dump in the Tenderloin on Hyde Street. So this is San Francisco. Big Fuckin Deal. Started drinking in neighborhood dives Bacchus-Kirk and the Overflo. It was a miserable rotten rainy January. My unemployment checks would run out on February 1st. “Fuck,” I said, taking a drag on a smoke while walking down Powell Street. “It’s like knowing when you’re gonna die.” Picked up a free paper called the Learning Annex, flipped through the pages while sitting at a grimy lunch counter. “Get a new career!” “Take a class!” I stubbed out an unfiltered Camel.

“Tuna on toast. Whole wheat. Black coffee.” I ordered. “Yes, yes. Coffee, coffee” said the old Chinese broad. What can my new career be? I wondered. All I’ve ever done is: cab driver, bartender, bouncer, heroin addict, alcoholic, pick-pocket, second-story man, drug dealer, prison convict, security guard. Hmmm, what do they got here? “Be a screenwriter.” Nah, can’t spell, got that dyslexia thing. “Underwear model.” Nah, beer belly. “Cake decorator.” No way. Sounds too fruity. It’s gotta be something the babes go for.”Run a day-care center.” Fuck no! I hate screaming brats. They’d probably run a background check on me and find out I owe all that back child support. What else? “Be a clown at children’s parties.” Ditto. Here’s one! “Learn to be a real Private Eye. Attend a one-day seminar with licensed Private Investigator Sam Black, author of “Be Real Nosy and Get Paid for it!” Only $49.95. “Hey, that’s it. That’s me. I can sign up for this here class.” I emptied my pockets. “Only twenty bucks left. Can’t really afford it. Uh, fuck this Sam Black dude, stupid yuppie. I’ll bounce a check on em.”

I took a gulp of coffee. “Let’s see, now all I need’s a new name. Heaton Fenton’s a lousy handle for a Private Eye. Hmm. Sam Spade. Taken. Sam Black. Ditto. Hey, sweetheart, can I take a look-see at them there white pages?” Flip. Flip. “Lemmessee,  Antonio Anzollone. Nah, too ethnic. Barry Baggot. Too wimpy. Heh-heh, here’s one. Joe Blade. Macho. Sexy. Easy to spell. Got that dyslexia thing. Hope this dude’s got good credit. That’s me, Joe Blade. Private Dick.”

“Well!” The cute blonde with the big boobs sitting next to me split, gave me a dirty look on her way out the door. “Hey, I ain’t talkin nasty or nothin, honey, I’m a Private Eye. It’s my New Career.”

“Very nice. Private Eye. New Career.” The old Chinese broad plopped down my sandwich and refilled the coffee.

“Oh fuck.” I looked around the dingy, forties style diner. “Soon’s as the cases and cake start rollin in, I’ll be eatin at the–what’s that joint fifty stories up? The Cornelius Room? Cornelian Room? Whatever.” I crunched on potato chips.

I paid the tab and swiped the buck tip the blonde left. “This here’s for you, babe.” I put the dollar under my coffee cup.

“Thank you very much! Good by! Good luck, Mister New Career!”

“It’s BLADE! Joe Blade!”

“OK. Bye Mr. Joe Brade! You come back soon! I’m Mae, Mae Wong!  Welcome to Mae’s Diner.”

I headed toward Market Street. Stopped and listened to a fat black dude sing some dynamite blues. “The thrill is gone. . . oh yeah, baby.”

I walked past the chess players and incense sellers near the cable car turn-around. “I need a fuckin trench coat. Like Bogart. Sam Spade. William Powell. The Thin Man.” I marched to Union Square and walked into Macy’s like I owned the joint. Might as well get the best. I selected a grey London Fog, it fit like a glove. Found the perfect dashing black fedora. Slunk out the door without paying. “Hey, my career’s movin right along. Tomorrow, I’ll take that class. Then–before you know it—I’m on a case.”

*****

That night I hung out in North Beach. Shot nine-ball for ten bucks a game at Gino and Carlo’s. A hot, young red-head sidled up to me. “Whadda-you-do?” She winked seductively. How else do you wink?

“Can’t tell you, babe. It’s a secret.”

She wiggled. Ran her hand along my neck, tickled my ear with her finger. Jesus Christ. I was glad I kept the trench coat on.

“Sounds exciting. Can I have some money for the jukebox? Do you like classical music, like the Stones and the Dead?”

“Yeah, sure. My stones ain’t dead. Heh-heh.” I gave her two bucks. I knew I had to win the pool game. I was down to three dollars and would have to back-door it if I lost. I watched her squiggle through the crowd. “Hey, play some Coltrane while you’re at it.”

“WHO? Hey, Mister, I’m twenty-three. I don’t know EVERY has-been sixties rock band.”

“Hey, Casanova, your turn.”

“Right.” I stuck a cigarette between my teeth. I slammed the balls into the pockets. Twenty fuckin three. Great. I’m forty-six. It’s depressing being exactly twice as old as some babe. What am I gonna do? Invite her to my one room cell with the Murphy bed, black and white TV and no cable? She’s probably never even SEEN a black and white TV.

I slurped my Budweiser. I finished it and crushed the can. I decided to switch to gin. Sounds more Bogart-like.

“Hey pal, ya won.” The dude handed me a crisp ten-spot. “I’m surprised, you seemed distracted. The name’s Sergio.”

We shook hands. “I’m Joe. Joe Black. I mean, Joe Blade.” I pocketed the ten. “Guess I should get some card’s printed up, so’s I can remember my fuckin name,” I mumbled. Seems like ever since I became a Private Eye, I couldn’t stop mumbling.

Yeah, I’ll have some business cards made. Soon’s I can afford a phone. Blade. Joe Blade. Private Eye.

*****

maltese-falcon

Photo Credit:  “Bogart Wearing Fedora.” Hub pages. http://tinyurl.com/z95rhfs

“The Maltese Falcon.” Misterio Press.  http://tinyurl.com/jmogr92

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The Heiress and The Transvestite: Part Four

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

The Slice of Life series

The Heiress and The Transvestite

© 2015 by Susan S. Barmon

 Julia attempts to move into her new apartment. . .

Chapter 4

Our move didn’t happen as planned. The dope dealers, Joanie and Bob, moved in, as did Philippe, the French boy, but we had to put it off a couple of weeks when Matt was called away to Bangkok on business. It was just as well since things were getting pretty chaotic. The Transvestite was supposed to complete some electrical work at the gallery prior to an upcoming show, but he was busy fighting with The Heiress about drug dealers living in the basement with his girls upstairs, and just what would he get out of them living there? There had to be a perk for him! The Heiress said he always created problems at crucial times and never pulled his weight when he was really needed. The fact that she kept asking him was all part of the little dance they did. Her constant refrain was “This is why I just couldn’t let him be in business with me.”

Tensions were already running high because The Heiress disclosed to me that her property taxes were delinquent. “My mother is being evasive about helping me refinance,” she said.  It seemed completely natural to me that a woman who was practically on her deathbed might not be overly concerned about her daughter’s finances. After all, she had helped her buy the North Beach building as well as the building that housed the gallery, but with interest rates in the double digits, the trustees of her mother’s inheritance were understandably reluctant to cooperate.  “All this wouldn’t be happening,” she said, “if it weren’t for the Lesbians. They owe me $60,000.” While Marty half-heartedly worked on the electricity, The Heiress told me the story of the Lesbians.

Her grandfather had bought her the house in Sacramento where she lived for several years with her daughter, after getting breast implants and then leaving the child’s father on the houseboat he rented in Sausalito. The Lesbians, whom she met while living in Sacramento, learned that she had access to money and hit her up for a loan to open a Halfway House under the auspices of the state. All of this was before she’d left her daughter with some elderly neighbors and married the parapsychologist. She told me having a child was like being in jail and anyone who wanted to participate in her upbringing was welcome to bring a new perspective to the process. The elderly couple were thrilled with the prospect as was The Heiress. The marriage was short-lived and ended badly when he went to jail for dealing cocaine in Reno. A porter at one of the big hotels, he became the “go to” guy for guests who wanted blow. “It was a lot of fun,” she said, “drugs, limos, concert tickets, all while hobnobbing with the rich and famous.” The Heiress went back to Sacramento, took custody of her daughter again and decided boarding school for the girl, who was at the point of being incorrigible, was a good plan and New York might be a good place to live and remove her from any more questioning from the Nevada authorities regarding her ex-husband’s activities. It worked for about a year until the daughter got kicked out of her third boarding school and The Heiress headed back, this time to San Francisco, to live. The daughter went to the father she didn’t know-  consequently running away back to Sacramento, getting pregnant, marrying a drug addict and becoming one, all in a summer. The Heiress had cut her off completely financially when she took flight so her mother, in Las Vegas, sent her money while she, her husband and multiple children lived in Sacramento with his mother. It sounded like a hot mess. Upon arriving back in the city The Heiress rented a room in a large apartment near The Tenderloin off of Polk Street, and, with the sale of her Sacramento home and help from her mother, started looking for properties to buy in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Lesbians reneged on their $2000 a month loan repayment, leaving the Heiress with no money to pay future gallery costs or maintenance on the building, hence the hurry to try a refi. When the Lesbians and The Heiress were negotiating the terms of the loan they mentioned that one of their brothers was an attorney and he would be happy to do all the paperwork for them free of charge. The Heiress accepted, did not read the fine print and got screwed. She had little recourse to try and recover what they were not paying and constantly blamed them saying, “I never should have trusted them.”  It caused quite a rift with her Sacramento girlfriends left behind because, from her telling, they all sided with the Lesbians. Even the woman who was a Jail Guard and close friend defended them, which incensed The Heiress to the point of screaming at her one day in the middle of the street that she “felt no loyalty to their years of friendship” It was the last time the Jail guard came to visit and quietly said after The Heiress finished her middle of the street rant, that she had done this to herself and there was no reason to defend her loyalties.

As The Heiress finished this explanation Marty reared his needy head, while supposedly fixing something he said he fixed months ago. He started ranting that she didn’t appreciate all he does for her. The Heiress just stared at him as if to say “Really?”

It was a very tedious day and the sniping continued as Marty left in a huff because he was pissed off at being ignored.

A few days later,  Philippe came to the gallery to finish the job. While he cleaned up what Marty wouldn’t, I readied the mailing list, made postcards for the show, and listed it in the weekly Pink Pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. We got in touch with the artists for the new show and made arrangements for them to deliver their work.

Back in North Beach, Philippe was settling into the office side of The Heiress’ basement not seeming to mind all the activity going on in the space he was living in. We were working in the office addressing the postcards, and going over the schedule for the artists and other gallery details feeling good that we were making progress for the First Thursday gallery opening. With all the moving and gallery activities the Balinese forest was popping leaves off left and right. They were scattered all over the back patio as if it was autumn. The Heiress, in a fit of total frustration waving her arms around and pursing her lips, kicked the little wooden leaves into a rather large colorful pile. She told Philippe to throw them out. Marty, who was sunbathing on the deck off their living room, heard all of this and came flying down the back stairs wearing nothing but his green silk bikini underpants, just in time to see half of the Balinese forest moving toward the trash bin. He scurried around behind The Heiress and the French Boy, retrieving the leaves and branches as fast as he could, tossing them in a box as The Heiress and Phillipe dumped them in the garbage all the while muttering and eventually screaming, “I’m in jail here!” The box soon joined the others on the Dope Dealers’ side of the basement. Philippe took all of this in stride, with a blank expression on his face. He was very handsome and seemingly kind, with blue eyes, lanky build, and that killer French accent. After The Transvestite left to go back to the deck assuming his forest was saved I asked The Heiress how she knew Phillipe.

Back when the gallery had just opened, a lovely French woman named Sophie stopped by to inquire about submitting work. She was a painter from Paris, petite, with very curly, blond hair that rested on her head like a halo. Christophe, her adorable little two year old boy had the same curly blond hair and was usually dressed in black and white striped tights and flowery tops from the best thrift stores in Noe Valley where they lived. Sophie and her husband Gaston were in San Francisco for his work. He was a sought after computer game designer and had a three-year contract with Adobe. Philippe became Chistophe’s nanny/babysitter when Sophie saw his ad on the bulletin board at the Alliance Francaise. He had been nanny for a young couple in Pacific Heights, but lost the position when they had to move. Homeless and jobless in a foreign country, Philippe moved into Sophie’s garage with a small stipend in exchange for helping with Christophe.

This worked for a while until Gaston grew tired of this young guy, whom he didn’t really know, traipsing in from the garage whenever he needed to use the bathroom. To complicate things further, Gaston’s mother would soon arrive from France for an extended visit. When Sophie called and asked The Heiress if she could find a place for Philippe, The Heiress jumped at the chance, offering him $30 a week and the office room with shared bath and laundry for doing whatever she needed him to do. Philippe liked to paint murals and would fit in well. It was fortunate that he owned little and traveled light, and his easy disposition was a plus. For their part, Joanie and Bob were used to such arrangements, living as they did couch surfing or staying in SRO’s with bathrooms down the hall, when necessary. The Heiress offered them the other side of the basement. In exchange for their Mendocino Gold, they had a room whenever they needed one. This was a “win, win” for The Heiress. If The Transvestite refused to pull his weight around the house and the gallery, now she had someone who would and she could get high in the process.

Crowded out by The Heiress’ copious collections, Joanie and Bob, living on the other side of the basement liked Phillipe and although they had to go outside to the office side to use the shower and toilet the three of them seemed in sync and easy with each other. Joanie and Bob purposely set themselves up way in the back corner of the huge basement room under a small window. Their view was of people’s feet passing on the sidewalk and the occasional peeing dog. Screening themselves off with The Heiress’ copious collections of packed boxes they weren’t visible from the door, and were away from prying eyes. Marty, in spite of his protestations, was always aware when they came in and high tailed it downstairs to see if he could get free samples. The girls had no idea what was happening and never came down to the back because The Heiress always told them she had to work and they disturbed her. This was not a new thing and happened before all the tenants were living in the basement. I liked Joanie and Bob. They were funny, smart and interesting because their lifestyle was unusual and different from people we had known. They did most of their business away from The Heiress’ mainly because they didn’t want The Transvestite to know when they were around as it always occasioned “a visit.”

Joanie was a writer and “would be” filmmaker, and when they weren’t in town selling dope, they played in professional backgammon tournaments in Las Vegas to augment their incomes.

The gallery show was scheduled for the first Thursday of every month in the city when all the galleries had openings. The Heiress looked  very happy it was actually happening. It was a beautiful evening, one of those “postcard nights” when the weather was perfect and the twinkle lights in the trees added an air of excitement and celebration for the gallery opening. The Heiress said, “It was the best turnout I’ve experienced since opening the gallery, even though nothing sold.” The crowd, wine in hand, spilled out onto the sidewalk “ready to party.” It was at this point that Marty chose to make his entrance. I guess because his daughters were staying with their mother in Alameda, he decided to change up his wardrobe. He wore  bright red pants, like chinos only red. The Heiress said these were ONLY worn at Christmastime, and a white shirt. The kicker was the black knee highs paired with his black patent leather “fuck me pumps.” He swooped in weaving between the pedestals of fine modern ceramics greeting old friends and glad handing the newbies. Announcing to anyone who would listen, “I did everything to prepare for the evening.” He even went so far as to say “I had to fix what Phillipe had done so the gallery could open.” I rolled my eyes. The Heiress, looking very urban in a new long black skirt and sweater, ignored him while repeatedly pursing her lips when he crossed her line of vision while waving her hands around to dismiss him. He then grabbed me so I could meet The Heiress’ old friend David, from “the old days” when she lived on a houseboat in Sausalito with the drug addicted boyfriend who was a drug counselor and the father of her child. David was a nerd, short, chubby and very studious looking. A telemarketer living in a rooming house in Berkeley, David spent a lot of time in coffee shops in the city writing his novel. He told me he was a huge Cormac McCarthy fan. A couple of times when “The Heiress and TheTransvestite” went away, David came to stay with the girls. I don’t think that happened very often, but it did happen once when Joanie and Bob were there. It was when Marty’s father died and he had to go back to Boston for the funeral. Sophie, Gaston, baby Christophe were there along with Joanie and Bob and Phillipe made an appearance. Marty planted himself outside the door as if he was a doorman welcoming anyone who walked down the street. The Heiress introduced me to an old friend, Elizabeth who lived around the block. She too was a writer who occasionally liked to play tennis. Bingo, finally someone with a common interest. We made plans to meet at the North Beach tennis courts the following week. From a social standpoint the evening was a success and although nothing was sold Marty added to the memory of the evening.

Matt returned from Asia a few days later and we made arrangements to move into The Heiress’ the following weekend. Physically, it was an easy move since most of our things were still in the East Bay storage unit, but it wasn’t without its complications. The entire time we were carting boxes up the stairs, The Transvestite stood by our front door repeating his “I’m in jail here” mantra to anyone and everyone on Stockton Street. On their way to market, the little old Italian grandmothers, who’d lived in North Beach forever, stared at him as though he’d lost his mind. Marty was a familiar figure in the neighborhood and people avoided him because he owed all the merchants money. Matt and I looked at each other as if to say, “We may be making a huge mistake, but at least he’s comic relief.” Joanie and Bob welcomed us to our new flat with samples of their best merchandise, which helped to soften the reality that we had just moved into an incredibly dysfunctional building. Slow learners, indeed.

.

The following Monday began harmlessly enough. I enjoyed helping out in the downstairs office. We tackled some of the work left over from the recent show, but mostly we smoked a joint while watching Phillipe paint a mural in the shower stall. The Heiress wanted to liven up the area and Philippe couldn’t wait to get started. The result was a sort of Disney version of a view from a Greek hotel on the Aegean, with a smattering of islands floating in the distance. It looked very cartoonish and he was not using the right kind of paint for a shower stall, but those little details didn’t matter to The Heiress. “I like encouraging budding artists,” she said, “It’s my passion.”

It was one of those rare San Francisco days when the sun is shining and there is no fog in sight, just like the night of the gallery opening, memorable. We took a break from watching Phillipe to get some lunch and were no sooner up the back stairs into her living room when Marty, who’d been sunbathing on the tiny deck, burst into the room. It was then that I realized he was startlingly hairless and reeking of baby oil, his mullet was pulled back into a ponytail and again he was wearing the same green silk bikini underpants. The Heiress was visibly annoyed as he slithered around the big black marble dining table asking a dozen questions, all while thrusting his pelvis back and forth in a modified bump and grind. “Where are you two going? I want to go with you. Can I come too? What is Philippe doing downstairs? Would you buy me a sandwich too?” “No,” The Heiress said, “not unless you give me money.” “Unemployment is making him way too comfortable,” she told me. “He owes me money and if he doesn’t work, I’ll never get it back.” Marty made me uneasy in general, and half naked made it more uncomfortable to be around for these little spats. I wondered if having a man around the house was enough of a reason to live with someone for whom she had so much contempt.

I don’t know if Mercury was in retrograde or what, but when we returned to the office, the shit began to hit the fan. We came in to find The Transvestite frantically reconstructing his Balinese Tinker Toy Forest and glaring at Philippe. The little leaves were scattered around him as if he was guarding them before he reattached them. Phillipe had done all he could for the day in the shower stall and was washing his hands in the laundry sink when Joanie appeared, sidestepping Marty’s efforts at reconstruction. She  came right to the point and asked The Heiress if she could buy a shower curtain for some privacy in the shower. I forgot to mention there was no shower curtain. Just the Aegean Islands in the shower stall. She was after all the only female using the downstairs shower and toilet. Seemed like a “no brainer”, but again I forgot the certain drama driving all these lives. I looked at The Heiress in disbelief when she said, “No. I don’t think so. I don’t want a shower curtain. They’re ugly and it would block the view of Philippe’s mural.” She then asked Philippe to gather all the scattered wooden leaves Marty was attempting to reattach and box them up. “I don’t care if it makes Marty angry.” she said. “He’s useless. I’m over those damned plants and he needs to sell them!” This enraged Marty and he pushed Philippe aside screaming, “Get the hell away!” He began berating Joanie for speaking to people whom he and The Heiress hated years ago. It seems that David saw Joanie and Bob talking to The Transvestite’s former friend, someone he’d thrown out of the space where they live now. Joanie informed him that whom she and Bob chose to speak to was none of his concern and that there would be no more free samples of their merchandise. “Who do you think you are?” Marty screamed. “I know who we are,” she responded,  “and we will NOT be censored by the likes of you!”

At that point, The Heiress realized, thanks to her boyfriend, that her free Mendocino Gold was in serious jeopardy. Meanwhile, Philippe and I backed our way discreetly into the garage and out to the street. During our escape, we heard The Heiress tell Marty to keep quiet as he began his “I’m in jail” routine. Joanie followed me to our flat where she told me that she and Bob would be leaving as soon as they could get some money together. “The SRO on Green Street isn’t any worse that this, and maybe it’s a record, we lasted 6 weeks staying here. That was longer than our friend, who David told Marty and Mary Jane, that we were seen with.”

I sat in our apartment, waiting for Matt to get home and reviewing the events of the day, wondering if I was as pathetic as these people were. My Mom used to tell me and my brother when she didn’t like who we were hanging around with, “Tell me who you go with and I’ll tell you who you are.” “Is this the future?” I thought. This latest re-invention of our lives was shaping up to be nothing at all like anything I had ever experienced. Part of me said, ”Julia, just go with the flow, it’s California.” The other part said “Get out while you can.”

************

Note: If you need to catch up with previous chapters, just type “The Heiress and the Transvestite” into the search box.

 Photo Credit: “A pair of high heeled shoes with 12 cm heels,” by Wikipedia.  Public Domain Photo.

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Page & Spine

My San Francisco-set short story “Dealing” has been published in Page & Spine, an online zine showcasing emerging writers:

http://www.pagespineficshowcase.com/oct14.html

 

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World Book Night 2014

Globe in houten stoel | Van Langren, Arnoldus Florentius

I just found out that my application has been accepted to participate in World Book Night!  What is World Book Night? Well, you know how they have all of those give-away events for kids, where the kiddies get to take home a free book? This is essentially the same thing, but for adults.

Each year, between 30 and 35 titles are selected. Now, the authors must agree to waive royalties on these copies of  their books. Various participants around the globe give the books away. The idea is to try to reach a target audience who CAN read—but doesn’t read much. You select your title from that year’s list, choose an audience, suggest where you will give the books away.  If your application is accepted, you will be given 20 copies of your chosen book to complete your mission.

I selected “Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin. My target audience will be in the gay bars in New Orleans! I’m thinking of going fairly early in the evening, before the heavy partying scenes really start, and talking about the book, even reading excerpts from it if anyone will listen. “Tales of the City” is a fun, lively, crazy romp through San Francisco’s gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community in the late 70s and early 80s. It is broken up into short chapters, because the stories were originally serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle. The short chapters are perfect for a morning or evening commute on public transportation; so even someone really busy who ‘doesn’t have time to read’ can read this book!

Maupin also put together two more collections with the same characters, “More Tales of the City” and “Further Tales of the City”, and the BBC produced a TV series of the “Tales” gang in the 1990s. It was filmed in San Francisco and considered very controversial at the time.

If your application is accepted, then you arrange to pick up your books at a location in your area. Book Giveaway Night is April 23.

Another way to participate is to agree to give away two books of your own to anyone you encounter, whether on the bus or streetcar, in the laundromat, the park, etc. Remember, you do want to match up the book with the person, as best you can!

For more information, here’s the World Book Night website:

http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/books/2014

(If you click on any of the 2014 books, a description of the book will pop up, along with an author bio).

**********

 

Photo Credit: image: Dries Van den Brande. Stedelijke Musea Mechelen. CC ShareAlike.

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Page & Spine

 

My San Francisco-set short story, “Dealing,” has been accepted for publication in Page & Spine, a weekly online literary magazine. Not sure of the date yet, but I’ll put a link to it when it’s published.

Page & Spine publishes short stories by both new and established authors. They do publish reprints. “Dealing” has been published before, but only on Capitare a Fagiolo. Not only did they accept it for publication, but they are also paying me! (OK, not much, but still it’s always nice to feel appreciated for one’s work).

This is a link to Page & Spine. Check out their stories, or maybe send in one of your own:

http://www.pagespineficshowcase.com/

 

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The Heiress and The Transvestite: Part Three

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

The Slice of Life series

Fiction

“The Heiress and The Transvestite”

© copyright 2013    Susan S. Barmon

All Rights Reserved

The Heiress and The Transvestite: Part Three

Monday when I arrived I could hear the vacuum running. I called up the stairwell and started up. I was almost at the top of the stairs when the vacuuming stopped and I heard The Transvestite calling out as he walked down the hall. Those weren’t Reeboks I was hearing on the wood floor. He came through the door exaggerating his walk and posture, reminding me of an emaciated runway model. Kids playing dress up also came to mind. I almost started to laugh. He looked like someone’s brother dressed up in his sister’s clothes. It was our first meeting, and when he saw me he said, “Ah Julia, How nice to meet you. I’m Marty Sparks and I’ve heard so much about you from The Heiress. ”

What really surprised me was his face, pock-marked and nicotine lined and makeup-less. His hair was cut mullet style with a short ponytail. The cut-off jean skirt and nondescript knit top capped off the outfit. It was all very disconcerting. He looked like a “wanna be”  drag queen in early training. (Although I don’t believe any self respecting drag-queen-in-training would be caught dead in that outfit).  He gave me a big hug hello as if this was the norm and we’d been friends for years. I was a little uneasy and at a loss, not knowing how to respond. He seemed very unpredictable. I didn’t know if I should make a humorous crack or be really serious, although it was really beyond me to take this man and his clothes seriously.

I opted out of saying anything, just standing there feeling very stupid. At that moment I missed my mother so much and wished we could have a good laugh when I called to tell her what was happening. Knowing that wasn’t going to happen, I pulled myself back to reality. Smelling faint traces of The Heiress’s perfume, mixed with his strong smell of cigarettes, he threw his arms around me as if we were long lost friends, announcing that he would take me to The Heiress. “She’s downstairs.”

Guiding me to the back stairs, he carefully sashayed down the narrow, winding stairs teetering in his four inch black patent leather spiked heels and forties style seamed stockings. When we reached the side of the basement where The Heiress was he dramatically threw the office door open, announcing my arrival as a bunch of leaves fell off the Balinese Tinker Toy jungle just outside the door. The Heiress’s jaw dropped when she realized what he was wearing. He slithered in, grabbed her ass, rubbed up against her like a horny dog, asking if we need anything else. I think he was disappointed when she didn’t say, “Yes, you.” But she did say,”Pick up those damn leaves and reattach them when you go back upstairs. And the girls will be home from school soon.” The girls being Ali and Hannah, his daughters.

I didn’t say anything to her about him and she ignored what had just transpired. We just started to get on with gallery business. Later I saw the future flat and was excited to share the news with Matt. It would be the largest space we would ever have in San Francisco, in a terrific neighborhood. And best of all we would be able to get rid of our storage unit in the East Bay and have all of our belongings in one place. Seemed like the tide was turning.

I brought Matt over to see the flat. No one was around except The Heiress. He liked it and the neighborhood as much as I did and we started to discuss money and move-in schedules with The Heiress, figuring that it would probably be another month before the current tenants were gone and the space made ready for us.

Looking back on the timing, we were ready for the change but blind to the future pitfalls. I think we were just slow learners.

A couple of weeks later at the gallery, The Heiress told me we “were a go” to move in at the end of the month and, “The French boy is also moving in that day. He will be staying in the office side of the basement.” Who, I wondered, was the French boy?

to be continued. . .

 

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Photo Credit: “A pair of high heeled shoes with 12 cm heels,” by Wikipedia.  Public Domain Photo.

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The Heiress and The Transvestite: Part Two

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

Slice of Life Series

Fiction

©  copyright 2013  Susan S. Barmon

All Rights Reserved

The Heiress and The Transvestite:

Part Two

 We met The Heiress through her Mexican Folk Art gallery in the Fillmore neighborhood, while walking around looking for “For Rent” signs. It was hard to get our heads wrapped around another move, but with little left to lose and most of our stuff in storage it became a matter of safety. We had been robbed recently and thought it would be a good thing to look for another place a bit more secure than our tiny garden apartment in Pacific Heights.

 The Heiress’s gallery was a storefront in a Victorian building with two rental flats above. The MJMoore Gallery, neatly painted on the deep green awning, was inviting. We had been collecting Mexican folk art for years. After schlepping it cross country and throwing it all into our storage space in the East Bay, we were curious. The large room had a lot of natural light from the window facing Post Street. It was filled with folk art: from Day of the Dead statuary on strategically placed pedestals, reliquaries on the walls, and wonderful fabrics from Guatemala. There were the requisite cards, posters and jewelry from local and Central American artists, and a small office space and bathroom way in the back. Her small desk was near the jewelry display case by the front door.

 After introductions we told her about our collection and our interest in hers. She wanted to know if we wanted to consign anything with her. It hadn’t occurred to us up until then but Matt told her we’d think about it and get back to her. We then asked if any flats were for rent and she told us her four-unit building in North Beach was going to have an available apartment in a couple of months and she would love to get it rented before the current tenants moved out. That would alleviate any stress on her end. After exchanging information we left, continuing on our apartment search. Matt and I discussed selling some of our art and figured we could consign a few pieces and see if they sold.

 When The Heiress called a few days later we set up a time to meet the following week, giving me time to get to our “home away from home” in the East Bay to dig around and find what we were willing to sell. Meeting at the gallery was good. She liked our selections, suggested we run across the street to grab a cup of coffee and come back to the gallery to talk.

 The Heiress started telling me about her life. You have to remember I knew no one and was amazed I was actually speaking, in the flesh, to someone in the same area code. She also told me not to call her Mary Jane. She preferred The Heiress. It was her favorite over the several names she had used in her life.

 The Heiress was a small woman, about 5’5” with perfect posture and a tiny waist. She always stood and sat ramrod straight, hands manicured and folded, never speaking much unless the conversation was about her. Her breasts had been lifted after her daughter was born twenty-five years earlier and they had stood the “perky” test for a woman in her late forties. Her wiry long burgundy hair was piled on her head for lack of anywhere else to put it, except perhaps under hats, which she wore often.  The Heiress had an awkward way of waving her hands around when she spoke, as if  she wasn’t sure what they were and why they were at the ends of her wrists. The clumsiness of the movement always made me think perhaps her nail polish never dried. She wasn’t comfortable with her hands, but I think she thought the gesture was feminine and ladylike, something I learned later she always strived to be.

 The Heiress had a nervous habit of pursing her lips whenever she was asked a question. She thought it gave her a contemplative, thoughtful “look.” She had great lips, full and heart-shaped, that is until she had them altered with plastic surgery after her mother died. Then they were caricatures of their previous beauty; looking as if a duck’s bill was about to sprout out of her face.

 I realized after I’d spent some time with her that MJ didn’t laugh much. I later found out she wasn’t lacking a sense of humor but more importantly she didn’t want her face littered with laugh lines. Her wardrobe was stylish, mostly consisting of expensive long black skirts and pants to accentuate her small waist. (The Transvestite would later tell me, “Julia, I like to stand at the bottom of the staircase and when she comes down the steps I like to photograph up under her skirt.”)

 She asked me to come back to the gallery in a few days because she got lonely sitting there all day and thought perhaps my background in Art Direction and location photography might help her self-promotion efforts. She couldn’t pay me with money but had wonderful connections to Mendocino Gold which she could give me in exchange. She told me her dealers came to the city about once a month from Mendocino and stayed in one of the empty spaces in her basement. The other basement space she had turned into an office with a small stand-up shower and a tucked-away toilet in a closet.

 I said “Yes.” I knew no one and I was tired of talking to the cat. “Any port in a storm” was my motto and if it came with a little weed, so much the better. It was a lonely existence. When I showed up at the gallery the following week to help she closed up, locked the door and lit a joint.

 Then she proceeded to tell me about her life. I was discovering that we shared some things in common. My mother had just died and hers was starting the process. We both had a daughter with a troublesome past, and thinking back on it, I think we were both “oddities” to each other and that created curiosity.

 The phone kept ringing while we chatted. Her boyfriend and his two daughters, she explained, lived with her in her North Beach building. An electrician by trade, Marty worked little, which was a constant source of irritation to her. He was calling to tell her he had done the laundry and was cooking dinner. She told him not to bother because she didn’t want to eat, forgetting that the kids might be hungry.

 She met him when she finished taking some neon classes at the Art Academy and wanted to open a neon studio with two friends. They found a cheap space in the Tenderloin neighborhood. He was the electrician they hired. He really screwed up their studio electricity- wise, which infuriated the landlord when they left. They sold nothing and left the studio because they couldn’t pay the rent and The Heiress wouldn’t pay everyone’s share. The Heiress said, “Julia, I love a project and I needed a man around to do everything in the house I couldn’t and those two little girls were adorable and needed guidance. I had just bought the North Beach building, with help from my mother, and it didn’t matter at the time that he was a crummy electrician. He and those girls were as cute as they could be.”

 She didn’t let on about his proclivities but when I went to use the gallery bathroom I got a nasty shock turning on the light. She said, “Oh, he did that when I moved the gallery in here and he just won’t come and fix it and I won’t call anyone to do it because it’s his job.” She went on to say, “We were supposed to do this gallery together, but he was constantly challenging me and the arguments got to be too much. So I just did it on my own. There was also supposed to be  wood work from Bali in here. On a vacation trip to Bali (Bali and Goa being the preferred vacay spot for monied San Franciscans) he bought all kinds of Balinese flower and leaf carvings that fit together like Tinker Toys. You know any configuration you want as long as the carved post fits into the carved hole.” Immediately I imagined a Balinese Tinker Toy jungle forest.

 Continuing she said, “I begged him not to buy them but he said even if they didn’t sell in the gallery he could sell them mail order. I didn’t want them in the gallery and refused to have them here.” I asked if he knew about the mail order business? Negative. The Tinker Toy jungle was now set up outside her basement office and many large boxes were stored on the side of the basement where the dealers slept when they were in town.

 I left that afternoon saturated. We made plans to meet the following week at her home office in North Beach. We could work on the mailing list and other mundane stuff for the gallery. MJ told me to come in the door as it was rarely locked, and come up the stairs. In the kitchen was a door leading down to the basement. She would see me there and show me the flat that was coming up for rent.

to be continued. . .

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Photo Credit: “A pair of high heeled shoes with 12 cm heels,” by Wikipedia. Public Domain Photo.


 

 

 

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