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Fiction by James Hayward


“No! No! It can’t be done. The Post Office changed the rules and they can’t be sent through the mail any longer.” Why did I pick up the fucking phone? “Going through the U.S. Mail was an essential part of the piece”.

Sue comes stumbling down the hall, half asleep and half naked. I’m staring at her pussy when I realize she is mouthing, “Who is it?” The bullshit on the phone continues.

“I don’t give a fuck how rich the S.O.B. is. I’m not in the business and never heard of the dude”. Doug has some studio mogul on the hook and is determined to land him. I continue trying to explain why this simply can’t happen. “The United States Post Office changed the rules ages ago. It can’t be done. Final! End of conversation!”

I return the phone to its cradle with a crash. Can’t do that with a cell phone. I grab my shirt from the hook and pull the folded envelope I keep rolled joints in from the pocket. One left. Perfect. Sue is now grinding coffee at the sink, wearing just a tee shirt. The water on the hot plate is steaming and so am I. She looks over her shoulder and asks, “Who was that?”

“Guess. What time is it”, I ask, shaking my head, attempting to jar my brain to consciousness. I pull up my jeans and can’t help but laugh. “That cocksucker must be truly desperate, to call here this early.”

Sue smiles and nods knowingly. She continues pouring her boiling spring water through the fresh grounds. I bring the joint, lean against the sink and hold it up to her lips. She tilts her head forward and has a pull, still pouring water.

“Doug has some studio big spender, who just has to have one of my lead envelopes. I told him I haven’t done one in years, not since they changed the postal regulations in the mid seventies. It’s like trying to reason with a dog. All he knows is what he wants. Fuck reality.”

“That’s Doug. You were warned and often.” She brings fresh coffee, we sit to talk and finish our morning herbs.

The lead envelopes were my personal response to Richard Nixon asking the American people to do something to solve the energy crisis. I was inspired. They were cut out of sheet lead, using an unglued, opened up, letter sized envelope as a template. Names and addresses were stamped into the lead, one letter or number at a time, and then they were then folded back into an envelope. I would put a Eugene O’Neal one dollar stamp onto the envelope, have it hand cancelled, and in days they would be delivered all over the country. I had to quit making them when the clerk at the post office handed me a new sheet of rules and regulations and refused my latest envelope. The damn things had started out as a joke but ended up being commissioned by clients for more than I was getting for a small painting. Good riddance. And now, over a decade later, this rich S.O.B. just has to have one. Bull shit!

About two weeks later my asshole dealer calls again. He has made a point of withholding money since our last conversation. Hungry artists are so much easier to deal with. Now he is running his rap on me.

“Look, I know we need to make a sale and I have one, just oh so close. But I need a little help, just a quick lunch at the house and if we can set something up I can spot you a grand or two on the spot. It’s so close that I can hear the ‘ca-ching’ of the old cash register. Help me make some music.”

We are flat broke, living on the small balance left on this or that card. I’m over a barrel and we all know it.

“When?” I ask. We agree to meet the following day at one. He’ll call back if there are any changes. The things we do for dollars.

As the appointed hour approaches, we buff and polish our way out the door. I have rolled three fatties for our big adventure. It is an hour drive to Beverly Hills. I light the first just as we are pulling onto the freeway. Pot heightens the humor quotient in almost everything, allowing one to smile through just about anything. We are all smiles by the time we reach the top of Coldwater. I check the address and turn onto Mulholland as instructed. We soon arrive at an immense gate set in an overwhelming wall of bougainvillea. I pull up to the speaker, push the button, wait for a response and announce myself. The right side of the huge gates begins to slowly open. We proceed up the long pink driveway to the way too large, hangar of a house.

“Charming, isn’t it?” There are a few large dark Mercedes and Doug’s Jeep. ‘Do we really want to do this?’ I ask myself aloud. Sue, checking her eyes in the visor mirror, turns to me and smiles. “We’re here.” Then she gives me Gary Gilmore’s very last words. “Let’s do it.”

At the top of the steps, we arrive at a set of very ornate and expensive gates; the inner doors are open. I ring the bell and, magically, a huge man dressed entirely in white, from loafers to too tight tee shirt, is standing before us. He opens the gate and greets us.

“Welcome. My name is Robert. Will you please follow me?” Robert spins and heads off into the gigantic structure. We follow, glad to have a guide.

The house is the most amazing pastiche of whatever struck his fancy, such as toys I haven’t seen in ages. We can’t help but look in every open door as we pass, totally awed by the diversity of styles and treatments and the overt abundance of bad taste. He has large paintings by Stella, Warhol, and Johns, looking real cool on the flocked floral wallpaper. There are suits of armor, tapestries, Persian rugs, Navajo blankets, medieval weapons and way too many big game trophies. Sue is particularly disgusted by the full Siberian tiger. I am feeling sick to my stomach, ashamed, just for being here. As we enter the main living room, Robert stops, turns to give me the ‘behave’ look, and announces us.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hayward have joined us.” He steps aside and gestures towards the circle of sofas in the middle of the room. Doug and Mr. Maurice stand to greet us.

“Richard, I would like to introduce you to James and Susan”.

“Call me Dick”, he says, offering his hand to Sue, “and I’ll call you Sue and Jim.” His eyes are locked on Sue.

“Nice to meet you”, she says, her hand still in his. She’s polite as a preppy as she coolly withdraws her hand from his.

“What would you like to drink? Have a seat”, motioning toward the sofas. We drop into one of the three Italian leather sofas that surround the seven-foot square glass table. My mind is wandering, even attempting astral flight, when familiar words bring me back.

“Might you have a Bass ale or a Sierra Nevada?”

“Same for me.”

“Two beers Robert, and some hors d’oeurvres.” The great white whale disappears from whence he came, almost ghostly.

Dick turns to me and asks, “What do you think of the house?”

I thought everyone understood that when you ask an artist a question, you run the risk of a truthful answer.

“Is there an indoor polo field?”

Dick smiles, patient as a proud parent. “We did go a bit overboard, but Doug tells me you painters just love big walls.”

“Big is slowly losing its charm”, I hear myself saying, then, “It’s just too fucking easy to understand. Almost as easy as money. Any asshole can understand money but they don’t understand life, except on the most simplistic of levels.”

Dick is a dapper little prick, with an indoor tan, in his mid fifties. Snappy as a show dog, and just as lean, manicured perfumed. His wavy gray hair is coiffed like one of Burt Reynolds’s toupees and his moustache is trimmed to perfection. All this in a red silk Jacard jumpsuit, with matching loafers and no socks. I wear neither cologne nor jewelry, preferring both on women. Dick is layered in jewelry, from his king sized Rolex, to a pinky ring with a diamond the size of a pea. But it is the overwhelming stench of his cologne and the gold chain that give me the shivers. This is not my kind of guy, but then I’m not here to get married. Clients can be forgiven just about anything. My remarks now have Dick almost as red as his jumpsuit.

Doug intercedes, “Easy Jim, Dick just wants your ideas about a few large walls. He’s been to the gallery and loves your work.” The look on his face is that of a mother trying to quiet an unruly child. Robert returns with ale, chilled glasses and appetizers. Dick, about to explode, jumps up from the sofa and says, “I’ll show you how much I love ya.” He proceeds to the fireplace mantle, above which two gigantic medieval axes are crossed and takes a small object from the ledge. He returns and hands me a lead envelope addressed to him. It looks like one of mine, but it isn’t. Wrong stamps, no postmark, somebody else’s return address. I turn to Doug who is now smiling sheepishly, look him in the eye, and shake my head from side to side. I pull my pen from my jacket pocket and my joint envelope from my shirt and start to copy down the return address. I catch a glimpse of Dick, his eyes burning bright again.

“Take that from him”, he orders Robert, who has been standing off to my right. Robert moves immediately forward, but seems unsure of what he is supposed to take, as he slowly reaches toward me. I drop my joints to the floor just ahead of Robert’s grasp, and without thinking, grab Robert’s fingers, with both my hands, and bend back with all my strength. The bones crackle like dry brush beneath hiking boots. He grimaces and reaches for me with his other hand. I sit back, yank hard, and pull him lurching forward and off balance, face first through the huge glass coffee table. It splits in two beneath the weight of Robert’s torso, which continues its inevitable fall to the floor. Even with shag carpet, “Moby” makes quite a thump and in slow motion a huge half of the glass falls across the side of his neck, severing it almost through. Blood spurts on the underside of the glass and quickly, Robert’s head is disappearing in a sea of red.

In silence and disbelief, everyone comes to their feet, as if somehow moved by the loss of Robert. I turn to Sue, who is standing beside a telephone, and ask her to call 9-1-1, hoping to distract her from the horror at her feet. She slowly sinks back into the sofa, picks up the phone and is dialing. I turn to Doug, who has gone catatonic, and then notice Dick racing towards Sue. He slaps the phone from her face, knocking her sideways and the phone across the room. Instantaneously, I am moving in behind him. My left foot plants and my right leg swings like I am attempting a sixty-yard field goal, only my target is much closer. My foot comes up between his legs and stings the top of my arch, as I make full contact. “Thwack!” Dick huffs hard, exhaling heavily, trying to scream, eyes bulging, face contorting, blowing bubbles in his own drool, as he falls face first, hands clutching at his mangled manhood.

I lean over to help Sue.

“Are you okay?” As she looks up to answer, I see the trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth.

“Just scared and a little faint”, she replies. I whirl and bury my boot, deep into Dick’s ribs. He “oofs” real hard spilling a pool of drool. I turn to Doug not knowing what to say. “Nice day for a white wedding.” He looks confused. Who isn’t?

“We’re going. I suggest you call 9-1-1.” He stands motionless, speechless, eyes glazed over. I gently take Sue by the arm and start for the front door. As we are about to leave the living room, I hear footsteps running towards us. I push Sue flat against the wall and join her. In runs yet another large attendant, all in white, with a handful of blue steel automatic, still another about to arrive behind him. I spin and bring my left leg full force, belly high, and it meets the second bodyguard in the gut, as he too races in, gun drawn. The blow stops him, paralyzed, save for gasping for the air that just isn’t there. I step behind him just as his predecessor turns and opens fire. “Pop pop pop!”

I grab the huge, huffing bodyguard from behind, holding tight to my mountainous shield of flesh. I can feel his body shudder as each bullet impacts. My shield is slowly slumping and I don’t have the strength to hold him up. Desperately, I reach for the weapon, still in his hand, but I can’t pull it from his grasp, so I frantically squeeze his huge hand trying to discharge the damn thing. The first man is continuing to fire. “Pop pop pop!” My cover is slowly succumbing to gravity, me now on my knees, still squeezing when the damn things fires, then again and again. A miracle. The bodyguard is hit and pirouettes clumsily backward, firing into the carpet, then up the wall. “Pop pop pop!” Running out of ammo and time almost simultaneously, he crashes at Doug’s feet, dead. My heart is attempting to beat its way out of my chest. There is no spit in my mouth and words seem impossible.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here!” Sue needs no further encouragement and is moving towards the front door, ahead of me, when Dick breaks the sacred silence with a softly mumbled threat.

“You’re dead. Your wife’s dead. Your entire family’s dead.” He is still lying on the carpet, clutching his balls. His words, though soft and muffled by a mouthful of spit, are still believable enough to stop me in my tracks and I return, to hear him repeating his mantra of mayhem. Bewildered, my mind goes blank, my gaze floating slowly about the room, in search of answers, when it falls upon the crossed medieval axes, above the mantle. Without thought or hesitation, I move to the mantle, lift one free, raise it full above my head and bring it down on Dick’s neck, burying the blade deep in the wood floor, beneath the white shag, between Dick’s body and his head, which continues to rock and roll while the other simply oozes and twitches. I turn to Doug and see he has wet himself.

“Fun day. Let’s do it again real soon.” He looks at me, and then at Dick, who is now all still and quiet, a threat to no one. He wants to say something but can’t, so I say it for him.

“This is no way to treat a client, is it?” The whole fucking scene is far beyond surreal.

“This time, I am leaving.” I feel in my pocket to make sure I’ve picked up the joints and head for the door. Sue is leaning against the wall down the hall. She raises her head and turns to me saying, “let’s flush out of this toilet”, flashing a weak smile.

“Great idea”, I say, tossing her the keys. “Start the truck.” She leaves and I return to the living room. Doug is still standing exactly where I left him. I grab Dick by his pretty curls and carry him to the bathroom by the front door.

“One last whirly for the road motherfucker”, dropping his head into the toilet bowl and flushing. That’s a first.

I join Sue in the truck. She has Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” blaring wonderfully loud and she’s smoking a roach from the ashtray. I light a fatty and pass it to her, trying to figure out my next move. We’re slowly rolling down the driveway and trip some invisible trigger, which opens the gate. A sign from God: time to go. We are back on Mulholland. It is still the same sunny Southern California day it was before all the mayhem ‘I should have stayed home’, I’m thinking. Then, inspiration.

“Have you ever been to the Polo Lounge?”

Sue hands me the joint asking, “What?”

“The Polo Lounge. Have you ever been there?”

“Why the Polo Lounge?” We finished the joint and I light another, our last. Hendrix is now doing “Hey Joe”. I hand it to her saying, “it’s close”, and head south on Coldwater. We slide off the hill and are on Sunset in minutes. All contraband is consumed by the time we arrive at valet parking. The power wagon is filled with the sweetest smelling cloud this side of Maui. The attendants welcome us, smile, and inhale deeply, joking as they drive away.

“I’ve always wanted to stop here for drinks”, Sue whispers, “but why now?”

“Seems like a cool place to kill a little time and I remember hearing you could get a phone at your table and I have a call to make.”

We’re shown to a table and the waiter takes our standard order, “two Bass ales please”, and leaves us alone with a menu and a phone. I call information to get Jack’s number. He is a lawyer pal who looks out for a group of artist friends and lives just a few blocks away. If he is home, he can be here in minutes. Maybe even before Doug manages to call the police. It’s ringing.

“What time is it?”

“Very early.”

“Who the hell can be calling at this hour”? I’m thinking emergency as I pick up and answer, “Hello.” It’s Doug.

I just had the most amazing dream and you were in it.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“Here goes.” I tell him the entire dream; it’s his dime. When I finish, he says, “That’s better than the last three films I’ve seen. Write it down and I bet I can sell it for you.”

I never did. Until now.



JAMES HAYWARD is a Los Angeles based artist. His work can be found at Roberts Projects.





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