Friday, July 1, 2016

OFF-SEASON by Peter Nolan Smith

In late-April of 2008 I left Thailand after a ten-year stay. My two families accompanied me to the sprawling Bangkok airport. Happy European tourists were heading home from vacations. I kissed my children good-bye and hid the tears by burying my head in Mam's neck.

Her belly was swollen with our new baby.

My other wife glared at us.

Nu knew better than to say a word.

"You come back soon." It was a wish, not a question.

"Soon." I could not say when.

My ticket was one-way to New York.

I said good-bye to the mother of my first daughter.

"No forget us." Nu possessed little English.

"I never forget anyone."

"I know."

She had done me wrong.

I'll never say how and I waved good-bye again.

My departure was on time.

I was leaving Thailand.

"Pai Geone, ban nok."

Bye-Bye Sriracha.

The polar-bound 747 traveled from Bangkok to Tokyo to Anchorage. Winter gripped Siberia, Alaska, and Canada.

Two returning pipeline workers recounted their Thai holiday highlights.

Go-Go bars, bar girls, and beer.

They had blown their money on a good time.

I had known it well, however my last $1000 had gone to Mam and Nu. I kept $100 for me. Neither amount lasted long in Thailand or New York, especially since I had nowhere to live.

My East Village apartment was history, however my good friend Drew had promised me a soft landing in Brooklyn.

The Hamptons architect, his wife, and two children resided in a Fort Greene brownstone.

The Atlantic Terminal was two trains stop across the East River from Manhattan.

I slept on the TV room's couch.

The advanced remote control was too complicated for surfing the channels and I read books instead of watching HBO.

The next day the sun rose early over Brooklyn for a jet-lagged man.

I sat on the brownstone's stairs and read the NY Times. The US economy was in shambles thanks to foreign wars and the banks' housing scam. There weren't help wanted ads in the papers. Anyone without a job was fucked and I was fucked too.

That evening at a party my old boss Richie Boy said that he had a spot for me.

"I'm opening a jewelry store in the Plaza Hotel."

"When?" I was hoping to hear 'tomorrow'.

"September."

I had five mouths to feed not counting my own. September was very far away from today, but not that far and I said, "Count me in."

In the meanwhile I needed a source of income or benefit for the munifience of the world's greatest money trough, however no one in New York cared about my family on the side of the world.

Things were tough here too.

The banks had stolen everything.

But not the elephants in Thailand.

And certainly not the baby khangs.

Some creatures were eternally sacred to anyone other than westerners.

Money.

I called old friends.

"I'm willing to do anything," I told a movie actor.

"I wish I could help." Bill's film premiered at Lincoln Center.

ANTICHRIST had won an award at Cannes.

I slept through the premiere at Lincoln Center.

"You already have." He had bought my airplane ticket back from Thailand. The film was too violence for my tastes and I left the theater before the end.

Brooklyn was a long walk from Lincoln Center.

Around midnight I reached the Brooklyn Bridge.

I turned around in the middle.

No one was on the bridge.

In 1962 Sonny Rollins had composed THE BRIDGE on the bridge north of here.

No one was on the bridge.

Not even tourists.

No Sonny Rollins redux.

Only cars.

This wasn't New York in 1978, then again neither was I.

It belonged to the rich.

And I hated them.

The next morning Mam called for money. She needed to go to the hospital.

"Baby come soon."

"I'll get some 'taeng' in two days." I hung up the cell phone and contemplated my options.

Richie Boy had two guns in his safe.

Robbing a bank was an act of desperation.

Especially with a smile, but I had little choice.

No one desperate does.

At the worse the courts would send me to Riker's Island.

The city prison offered three meals and a cot.

And the possibility of a shiv in the gut.

Or even worse.

And Albert Fish, the serial killer, found out how much worse on the Sizzle Seat.

I had to come up with another plan.

I drank beer instead.

That evening my flip phone rang late.

It was Tully from Palm Beach.

Down in FLA.

"Hi, Petey."

Tully was the only one who called me that.

The two of us knew each other from Paris in the early 1980s. She had been working for Armani and I had been the doorman at Les Bains-Douches.

Tully had a loving son nicknamed 'Pickle'.

Kristopher was 16.

He was still 'Pickle' to his mom.

Me too.

"I might have a job for you here. Taking care of a mansion and a dog. The pay is $400/week."

The Philadelphia native went on to explain how her mother, a wealthy Polish emigre, had married a has-been crooner. Her new husband wanted everything from the estate.

After a half-hour harangue, Tully asked, "So you want the job?"

"It might work." Mam could live on $300 and I got the rest.

"I'll live on jug wine."

"It won't kill you."

"No, it won't, but it might make me wish I was dead."

"Bad wine gives bad hangovers." Tully liked beer. Her favorite was Corona.

Ice Cold from her fridge.

"You should buy better wine."

"I don't deserve any better."

"You could get a part-time job at 7/11 on Dixie Highway. They have to pay the minimum wage.

"I'll think about it."

Not.

"Johnny will call you later. He's one of us."

Her friend's wealth came from the sale of mobile cell-phone towers. Lisa's family fortune was anchored in fashion. They knew each other from Philadelphia and not North Phillie.

Johnny phoned from the SFO airport on his way to China.

"I heard you were arrested in Thailand."

""You heard right."

"The Bangkok Cyper-Crime unit arrested me in Pattaya."

"For what?

"I was selling bootleg F1 merchandise online. My website was placed before Ferrari. They hired a detective agency to find me. The Tam-Luat raided my house, but were strangely respectful. I was never cuffed or asked for a bribe. They bought me beer and food. In Bangkok I was put in an office instead of the Monkey House and later was on national TV, then they cut me loose for three months before my trial. My fine ended up being $100."

"Unbelievable." The Bangkok's Klong Toey prison was infamous around the world and not for its cuisine.

"I'm a lucky man. I asked the police why they had treated me so well and they said that they had spoken with my neighbors who reported that I was a good man." I still didn't understand why none of my neighbors had informed me that the police were asking questions about me.

"Probably like you said. You're a lucky man." Johnny liked my story and said, "I'll fly you down here. My wife, son, and I are going to Italy for the summer."

"I like Italy."

"You know it?"

"Only Rome." A trip with cartoonist Tanino Liberatore.

I had several of his galleys.

They were worth something, but no one was buying anything in the Greater Recession.

"Rome sucks in the summer. Too hot and too many tourists, so you want to take care of the house and my dog."

"What kind?"

"An Airedale."

It sound like a kindly dog.

After hanging up I googled the breed on my Mac. An expert had written in Wikipedia 'an Airedale is swift, formidable, graceful, big of brain, an ideal chum and guard. ....To his master he is an adoring pal. To marauders he is a destructive lightning bolt'.

I was good with dogs. My dog Champoo was a Tzi-Shu. She loved me more than she loved herself and almost love me as much as my daughter, Angie.

AP and I discussed the offer.

"A rogue Yankee-Mick was made for Palm Beach. You go down there and find an eighty year-old heiress with three weeks to live. You'll inherited her fortune and life will be cherries and ice cream. What have you to lose?"

"My place on the sofa."

"It will be here for you no matter what." AP was a good friend and a better architect.

A week later I flew out of JFK.

At 55 I was the youngest man at the West Palm Beach Airport.

Lily waited in the departure lounge with her son.

Pickle had grown into a young man.

He hugged me and Lily kissed my cheeks. We were friends.

Nothing else, but friends.

"Welcome to Florida."

"You have that right." And for the first time in weeks I breathed easy. "Can you take me to the beach? I feel like a swim."

"All we have is beach."

I loved my swim.

The beach was at the end of the street. At this hour a bathing suit was optional and I stripped off my clothes.

The next dawn I woke on her living room couch. Lily and her son were asleep upstairs. I tried to call Mam in Thailand. There was no answer and I got to my feet.

Ready for another swim I exited from the Moorish mansion

The Gulf Stream glowed pink with the rising sun.

A police car cruised north on Ocean Boulevard.

I was the only person on the beach.

The officer was used to northerners in love with the ocean and as long as I didn't drown on his watch, I was a free man. I ran into the warm sea and swam for thirty minutes. I hadn't felt this good in a long time.

After toweling myself dry I wandered down to the main drag.

The traffic on South County Road was mostly pick-up trucks loaded with Mexicans. They tended to the gardens and the houses during the off-season.

A police car was parked at the City Hall. The young officer eyed each and every driver. None caught his attention. He took one look at me and decided that I was more a threat to myself than public safety.

I returned to Lily's house. The flowers by the pool were in blossom. She was brewing coffee in the kitchen.

"Nice swim?"

"The best."

"Care to accompany me into West Palm." She had to run errands. It was how people passed the time on Palm Beach.

"Why not?" I wasn't meeting Johnny until later.

West Palm Beach wasn't in good shape. Florida had achieved record foreclosures after the bank collapse. Empty work sites were the norm.

More than ghosts.

"Everyone thought they could make a million flipping houses. Somebody had to be left to hold the bag." Lisa owned her house outright thanks to her mother. She was almost safe, but was wary of a future dominated by the state's GOP. "Never know who that will be."

Downtown was in even worst shape.

"They tore down these buildings for future condos. They have over 10,000 empties in this county. No one is saying how many in the state. Maybe a million."

"Tough times." I hadn't seen a single HELP WANTED sign at any of the convenience stores or supermarkets. "You know anyone needing a good worker?"

"Not this time of year, but I'll ask around."

A Palm Beach police officer was renting Lily's pool house. She told him that I was taking care of Johnny's dog.

"Pom Pom?" Kevin shook his head. "You be careful. That dog is on a list. If it's seen off its lease, we have the right to shoot it."

"Shoot it."

"It's attacked two dogs on its street and one on the beach. Pom Pom is no sweetheart. Only a question of time until it bites a person." Kevin walked down the driveway to the police station. It was less than three minutes away.

"Dangerous?" I was thinking about wild animals.

"Not to you? Let's go have a beer." She meant at her house. I nodded in agreement. Beer was always good in the tropics.

That evening Lily and I met with Johnny. I asked him about Pom Pom.

"My wife rescued her from the pound. She's sweet most of the time. You shouldn't have any trouble with her from what I hear about you."

I had a reputation from working the clubs in Paris and New York. I had been a doorman back then.

"Can I meet her tonight?"

Johnny waved a finger. "We're packing for Italy. You'll meet her tomorrow."

After he drove away in a Mercedes, I turned to Lily. "I feel like I'm going on a blind date with a psychopath."

"It won't be that bad. Besides what choice to you have?"

Only to drink more beer and Lisa's fridge had plenty of Coronas.

Early the next morning Lily, Kris, and I rode over to Johnny's mansion in her BMW. It wasn't a new car and Kris' soccer gear was strewn across the backseat. He wanted to play for the Premier League like millions of other boys and teens around the world.

Evryone had their dreams.

We turned off South County Road.

Johnny's house had once been part of the Wentworth Estate.

The perfectly manicured lawn was surrounded by meticulously trimmed trees .

"You don't have to do anything, but walk the dog."

"Yeah, it's a breeze." Kris was 16. Teens that age are experts in sarcasm.

The estate's inner courtyard was a Moorish paradise with a pool sparkling in the sunlight.

This was me and I laughed. Lily asked what was so funny.

"When I was a kid, I thought I had been kidnapped by my family and came from money."

"Everyone thinks that." Lily chuckled, because her emigre mother had married rich. I couldn't blame her mother, whose walk out of Russia to Iran during WWII was a story of legend and even more so, because it was true.

"More wish it then think it." I knew my place in this world.

Johnny greeted us at the fountain and introduced me to his wife and son. Lucinda knew my good friend Tem's wife from college. "Caroline says such good things about you."

"I was Tem's best man at his wedding."

"Excuse us, we have to finish packing and please take good care of Pom Pom. She's a little crazy, but sweet as pie in the end."

I wished them a good trip to Italy and asked Johnny, "Where's Pom Pom?"

Johnny led me into the living room. Lily went upstairs with his wife. Kris stayed in the courtyard. Johnny waved me through the French doors into the spacious living room.

A simple Basquiat hung on the walls and a polished grand piano was in the corner. There was no TV.

"I don't watch TV."

"Me neither."

I had thrown out my Sony Trinitron years ago.

In Thailand our TV had been usurped by Mam to watch soap operas. Each one shared the plot of a poor girl loved by a rich boy without a Cinderella's happy ending.

"I hate the remote controls."

"Me too."

Johnny was more like me than I thought.

A growl rumbled from behind the sofa.

Pom Pom bared long white teeth. She was a big dog and showed no signs of ever having competed at the Westminister Dog Show.

"Her smile is worse than her bark." Johnny kept his distance.

I offered my hand and she snapped at my fingers.

I swatted her muzzle.

Pom Pom scrunched up in surrender, but her eyes said, "Just wait."

"She's a testy dog. The man at the pound said that she came from a crack den in Riviera Beach. That's a bad neighborhood to the north."

"I know how to handle her." It wasn't like I could leave. I had $50 in my pocket and New York was a two day hitch from Florida.

"You can drink anything in the kitchen, but nothing from my private stock."

"It's a deal."

We shook hands and he handed me the keys to his life in Palm Beach.

"So what do you think?" Lisa asked after Johnny and his family left.

"I think I'll be fine." I dipped my toe into the pool. The water was the right temperature and I had checked the kitchen pantry. There was enough liquor to last the summer.

"I thought you would."

I got my bag from the car and Kris said, "Good luck. You'll need it."

I knew that he was telling the truth, because he was a good boy.

Alone in the house I wandered from room to room. Mine overlooked the pool. There was no view of the sea, unless I stood on the bed.

For lunch I heated up left-over pasta. Lucinda was a good cook as expected from an Italian. Pom Pom appeared at the door. Her scarred nose twitched in anticipation. To get on her good side I slung several strands of linguini in her direction. The Airedale snatched at them with the expertise of a shark. After licking her fangs Pom Pom picked up a thick leather lease.

"You want a walk?"

It looked like she nodded yes.

We exited from the house and Pom Pom lead the way like a racehorse looking to escape the glue factory.

On South County Road Kevin passed in his cruiser. He pointed a finger at Pom Pom. I got the meaning and waved that I was in control.

Pom Pom had another idea.

On the empty beach she slipped the collar and ran north.

I chased her without any hope of catching her, but the big slug tired after two hundred yards. She panted harder than me and I slipped on the collar with the viciousness of an unpaid dominatrix.

"Putain chien." I knew how to swear in six languages.

Pom Pom understood them all.

That night we listened to Lou Reed's TRANSFORMER. Pom Pom seemed to like WALK ON THE WILD SIDE furthering Lisa theory about the Airedale's troubled origins. She wagged her tail to SATELLITE OF LOVE and I patted her head before laying down Johnny's first edition of Melville's TYPEE.

I fell asleep dreaming about Fayaway.

I woke early to Pom Pom's panting.

The sun was breaking from the sea.

She wanted to pee.

Johnny's wife had suggested a dog walk in West Palm Beach.

I drove there in the Benz.

Pom Pom lasted in Haverhill Park one minute.

She lunged for a Poodle with pyschopathic fury. Its owner screamed in horror. I lassoed Pom Pom with the shortened leash. A tug of the leash cut off her air.

"What the fuck are you thinking?"

Her big brown eyes replied 'nothing'.

"I know the feeling."

The two of us left the park.

Back in the Mercedes I gave Pom Pom a talking-to.

"You're a fucked up dog."

Pom Pom glanced at me. I guessed her age for 3. Someone had beaten her.

Bad.

We headed someplace safe.

We stopped on Bingham Island.

There were no other dogs.

The sunrise was growing on the clouds.

Kevin drove by in his cruiser.

He nodded 'smart move'.

Pom Pom wasn't cool around other dogs. That said one thing.

Fight dog.

And she hadn't won every fight.

She had plenty of scars.

I patted her skull.

It was thick as a brick.

Neither had I.

That first week I only drove to the island to walk Pom Pom or to buy food to Dixie Union. Gas was over $4/gallon. I rode a sea-rusted bike. WD40 resurrected the Raleigh and in the afternoons I pedaled north along the Lake Worth Trail.

The houses lining the Intracontinental Seaway covered a wide range of architecture.

None of them geographically belonged in Florida.

The flowers were beautiful. They breathed air and exhaled the lazy fragrant drift of paradise.

It was not that way for everyone on the Golden Coast. The Western Union off Dixie Highway attracted a needy crowd. I met one.

Jim had been living under a bridge for a year. He smelled of the grave. Times were tough off Palm Beach.

Condos were not selling and houses sported FOR SALE signs. It was an election year.

Black versus white.

GOP versus the people.

Florida was important for Obama.

White people had nothing good to say for him.

Lily was backing the Kenyan candidate.

"He's my guy."

Mine too.

We wanted change.

And so did Lily.

I met the Newport, Rhode Island exile at a dinner chez Lisa. I drank a lot of wine. Alison didn't seem to care. She was no Christian, despite her Mainline school years and Newport summers.

"My family sailed yachts in America Cup. Our cottage was huge."

"My mother was a beauty. None crazier too. One afternoon I come home with school friends and my mother is passed out the garden wearing lingerie and holding a shotgun. No one thought anything of it."

"I suppose they wouldn't." Lisa then told a story about a rich heiress shooting dead her philandering husband with a 12-gauge. The police reported the death as accident. The money was hers.

"That was back in the 60s. Times were different then."

"That's the truth." I envisioned Palm Beach back then. "It had class."

"That's what some people called it."

I said good-night to Lily. She was a little younger than me. I thought about asking her back to my place, but I was faithful to Mam.

Even halfway around the world from Jomtien.

I rode the bike under a midnight moon. The ocean lay to my left. Palm trees swung with the wind. Not a car was on the road and the Breakers appeared deserted, except for ghosts.

This was the depths of off-season.

Nothing was open on Worth Avenue. A Duane Hanson cop kept an eye on the art gallery. I was no thief and the statue was too big to steal.

Pom Pom and I reached an understanding. I fed her food and took her for walks. I made sure no other dogs were on the beach. No humans either. I spoke to Pom Pom. She was a good listener. I talked about missing Angie and Mam.

I showed Pom Pom photos. She seemed to like both of them. At least she didn't growl at their pictures.

Johnny had written the checks by week. I had tried to cash them all at once. His bank refused the transaction.

I started drinking his more expensive alcohol.

Lily and I walked the beach. The clear water was home to small fish. I loved swimming. Some days I only bathed in the sea. Pom Pom liked the smell of the sea.

Every day grew warmer and people complained about the humid heat. The pool became a second ocean. Pom Pom never went in it and I washed her with a hose. She liked dirt better. We both did, since our odors offended the few rich left on Palm Beach. I didn't get invited to many parties.

I was there to write a novel and I wrote about a teenage boy in the 1960s trying to sell his soul to the Devil in order to save his parents' marriage. It had the feel of a best-seller.

I wrote on a Mac Blueberry laptop. It had style.

Every morning I walked Pom Pom on the beach. We were getting along okay.

Afterwards I ate breakfast, sat at the dining room table, tapped on the computer, swam at the beach, wrote some more, swam in the pool, walked Pom Pom, ate dinner and drank wine, while watching videos I got from the West Palm Beach Library.

I dined at Lily's cottage on a couple of occasions.

Photos of her mother adorned the walls. Diana had been dead for ten years. Beauty ran deep in their family.

She had been a cute kid.

A pretty teenager.

I thanked her for dinners with a kiss on the cheek and then rode the bike from North Palm Beach to Johnny's house.

The beach at night was dark.

Police cars checked me out.

None of the officers were Kevin.

He worked the day shift.

I arrived at the house. Pom Pom was waiting for me. She didn't like being upstairs by herself.

Lily invited me to lunch at the Breakers for my birthday. I had a lobster roll and swam in the ocean. The Breakers were a relief from the grind of no money. Lily had a story about the fabled hotel.

"Henry Flagler opened this place in 1896. He held a party for the workers and while they were celebrated his henchmen burned down their homes."

"And there hasn't been a poor person stay here since," Pickles quickly added, glaring at the clientele. He was a good kid.

I thanked Lily and Pickle for my birthday lunch and rode the rusty bike along the Lake Worth Trail.

I pedaled slowly past the shuttered mansions.

The rich weren't feeling any pain about the economy. Gas remained high. Food prices were climbing. The USA was fighting two useless wars and everyone acted, as if we were at peace, except at the mention of Barack Obama, who had promised to end both wars.

Lily's mother's second husband had nothing good to say about the Democratic candidate.

He used the N-word to describe the Senator from Illinois.

I expected nothing less from an Italian and while I was half Yankee and half/Irish Boston, I didn't share his view on the black-skinned presidential hopeful.

I held my sand at these dinners and openings and parties.

The rich have thin skins when it comes to criticism of their wealth.

Only Pom Pom listened to my tirades about the filthy rich.

She didn't responded other than to bark, which was a good thing, because if she did then I was going crazy and there were plenty of crazy people on the deserted beach.

A mad woman lived in the bushes of an estate. When the gardeners came to work on the grounds, she came out onto the beach and spread a towel to take the sun. Her skin sagged off her bones. I tried to give her money.

"Don't you know who I am?"

I mentioned her to Lily.

"That's Ella. She owns that house, but likes sleeping in the rough. No one knows why."

Rich people weren't like is and I needed to be with my people.

My best friend was teaching school up A1A. Andy and I had hitchhiked across the USA in !974. The pianist smoked pot. No one in Palm Beach broke out weed.

His wife answered the phone and said come up. I checked my pockets. $15 bought enough gas for a round trip to Jupiter. Pom Pom looked like she wanted to come, but I didn't trust her anywhere other than the beach or the estate.

I drove the Benz. It had better mileage than the Rover.

I-95 was a faster route, but added 15 miles onto the trip and people drove on the wide expanse like they were auditioning for a Nascar 500 movie. Car crashes were seldom simple on the Interstate.

The traffic on A1A was light. I could drive at my speed.

Slow.

The shops along the Dixie Highway were closed and mini-malls were dying under the high tide of Walmart consumerism. Shopping in big malls made Americans happy. There was no one on the sidewalks.

Like in the rest of America.

Andy drove me and his two sons to Jupiter Beach.

The waves were higher and stronger than Palm Beach. People were in the ocean unlike the empty waters off Palm Beach. Jupiter Beach had girls; teenagers in bikinis and moms exercising in the sun. It was a beach of the peopleand Andy loved the surf.

"Makes me remember Jones Beach."

"Jones Beach is cold." We took off on a wave. Andy rode it to shore. His kids played in the shallows. he went back for them. They got their paddleboards.

Like father like sons.

After the beach we headed back to Andy's spacious house. His wooded neighborhood bordered a manmade lake. An alligator lurked in the high grass. The reptiles loved small dogs. The backyard fence was strong enough to resist an attack. So were those of the neighbors. They were all white.

"There are pluses and minuses. Schools aren't bad. My house was cheap. I have a steady job and you saw the beach. How's the house in Palm Beach?"

"It's more a mansion than a house,"I described the courtyard, the fountain, pool, garden, crazy dog, the empty beach, and quiet nights. "It's sometimes feels like I'm the only person alive there."

"Certainly one of the youngest. You should hook up with an heiress."

"That's what everyone tells me."

"Those women don't associate with my kind."

"Some must."

Maybe they do." I was thinking of a photo of Alison's mother. Diana was a wild woman according to her daughter. She rode horses. Sometimes they bucked her.

After dinner I drove back to Palm Beach. The Breakers glowed imperial in the dusk and I remembered Lily's story about Henry Flagler's torching the workers' barracks.

Only the rich got to sleep on Palm Beach.

Pickle, his mother and I watched Euro Cup 2008.

The Irish weren't in the competition, but neither were the English.

As long as Italy or Germany didn't win, I would be a happy man.

Pickle favored Spain.

He got his wish and so did I when the Iberian squad beat the Germans in the final on a goal by Torres in the 35th minute.

I drank a lot of beer.

Not Lisa, since tomorrow we were driving across Florida to drop Pickle at Soccer Camp.

I slept at their house.

Dreaming of a road trip through the Everglades.

The next weekend Bruce came to visit with three friends. His lover was a young man from Alaska. Bruce liked them crazy. I hid Pom Pom in a back room. She was no good around strangers. Bruce loved the house, but said something was missing from the picture.

"Where's your mistress. I can see her in my mind. Just like Gloria Swanson in SUNSSET BOULEVARD."

"Oh, yes, a ninety year-old divorcee with a month to live. That's what you need." Bruce's boyfriend was into easy answers to Life. He was only 19.

"They tend to outlive boyfriends. A friend of mine told me about a rich woman killing her boyfriend with a shotgun. He had come in the front door. The police bought her story about she thinking her lover had been a thief."

"Who's surprised at that? The rich think everyone is trying to steal for them, when it's them that sold from all of us."

"They make money the old-fashioned way. They stole it," said Bruce's lover.

The two men seemed very much in love.

"Get yourself a mistress. It's not right you're living alone."

"I have a dog."

"It's not yours and bestiality is so Adam without Eve."

I asked Bruce to stay the night, but he had to go back to Miami Beach."

"It's so so gay." His boyfriend kissed me on the lips.

Bruce gave me a look.

He didn't like rivals.

Even ones as old as me.

Pom Pom didn't care how old I was.

She was maybe thirty in dogs years.

Neither of us were interested in anyone else.

No one lived here in off season.

Just Pom Pom and me.

Neither of us like the sun too much.

Lily didn't go out at night.

I was having trouble sleeping.

The night was a little spooky in the big house.

Pop Pom thought the same.

The only affordable strip club in West Palm Beach offered happy hours beers for $3.

The dancers were crackwhores or fat crackwhores.

A lap dance with either was almost scarier than staying home.

I gave them a miss and apologized to fat Rose, "I'm married with four kids."

"Is your wife here?"

"No, and I'm not either."

I dropped a tenner on the bar and fled the Kit Kat Club.

The following day I lunched with Lily at the Sailf.hed at the idea of 300-lb go-go dancers' lap dances.

"Headline - MAN CRUSHED BY STRIPPER."

"I bet it happens a lot there."

As far as I knew they never made the police blotter and that night I went to the bars along Royal Palm. The crowd was very young. I was old. Very old. I had two drinks and left the bar.

The PD were checking for DWI.

I was driving the Mercedes.

The cops nodded with respect.

Old guy. Benz. He'll get home okay.

They were right.

I drank myself to sleep at the house, dreaming of Thailand

1990 Bangkok the Chao Phyra River.

I was younger then.

No amount of money could buy back youth, although cheap wine helped forgetting the past.

The telephone woke me. I woke the next morning with $20 in my pocket.

I needed money.

Mam was going to the hospital this week.

I thought about

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