Cabel just couldn’t shake it. He couldn’t shake this widow’s veil of tiredness that seemed to cling to his whole body, that always made him feel a little foggy, especially in the mornings.
Right now the blankets are up to his neck, heavy quilts that spread out from the mattress onto the floor. He opens his eyes, fixing a look in mid-air, focusing on dust flying through the room. His eyes are black, jet black. So is his hair, and the growth of beard coming out unevenly on his face. His hair is cut in patches and he has an old scar across his forehead.
He turns over sideways and looks into the little clock. It’s almost one in the afternoon. Then he jumps out of bed fast, runs over to the gas heater and bends down to look in. His body is small and thin, no more than five feet five inches, but his quick rat movements are very powerful. The blue flame in the heater has gone out and he has to get matches out of a nearby drawer and jump back up and re-light the burner.
Eileen comes into the room from the hallway. Door was unlocked. She is a few inches taller than Cabel, is wearing blue jeans and a heavy sweater. She is smoking a thick cigarette and has brown unevenly cut hair down to her shoulders. She has a very butch, optimistic way of walking in, like a high school athlete.
EILEEN: (loud, trying to sound less educated than she is) So what happened to you last night? I peeked in before and you were dead to the world.
CABEL: (dressed only in a long rumpled t-shirt; speaks in a raspy cracked voice) I have to take a leak. I didn’t even take a leak yet this morning and I just got up. That burner was out. I’m lucky I wasn’t asphyxiated. That means all that gas has been seeping in. Wait here.
Cabel passes Eileen and zips out the door. Eileen goes to the bookcase and hunts around in the paperbacks for awhile. Walks over to the black pulled-down shade covering the only window in the room. Then picks up a pot, fills it with water from the corner sink, paint flaking, and puts the water on to boil. Cabel walks back in, shivering.
CABEL: It’s freezing.
EILEEN: I’m making you some coffee. You got any more?
CABEL: Under that pillow.
Cabel nods his head toward a Navajo-looking pillow on a big dilapidated easy chair. Eileen finds the jar and starts to make two cups of coffee.
CABEL: If that guy doesn’t call today I’m sunk. Oh shit.
He goes over and puts the receiver back on the white phone on the floor by the bed.
EILEEN: What guy?
CABEL: The guy who wants me to write Gothic novels for the supermarkets. That guy.
EILEEN: Do you think I could do that too?
CABEL: I thought you was making out as a hat-check.
EILEEN: Shove it.
CABEL: You’re not? I mean I thought you were really. I didn’t know anything went wrong.
EILEEN: No nothing went wrong. But you think I’m gonna do that forever?
CABEL: And you think Gothic novels is a step up from hat check? Is that what you’re hoping for?
Eileen comes up and hands Cabel his cup.
EILEEN: No plans. Except to move to a warmer climate. I think I want to be a governess.
The top of the coffee is a swirl of dark grains of instant, deep brown shades of melted coffee, and swirls of milk.
CABEL: They don’t have governesses any more.
Cabel gets dressed in black corduroys, white thermal t-shirt, white socks, black Chinese slippers, and a slick black leather jacket. He blows into his hands and rubs them together. Then he sits down in the big chair, putting his feet up on a discolored ottoman. Eileen walks up behind him and starts laying his long black hair over the back of the chair, rubbing over it with the flat of her hand.
EILEEN: Here, I read this terrific sentence in the introduction to this book while you were out.
CABEL: Which book?
EILEEN: (going to the shelf and picking one out and flashing it fast in his direction; he nods knowingly) Listen. “She reassured us a few years later that had she not had to put layers of New York Times between her blankets that winter. I knew for a fact that she had to stuff newspaper in the window cracks; we did, too. We all stayed healthy, nevertheless.” Pretty, huh?
CABEL: Oh I don’t have much of an ear for writing any more. Especially when the author seems down and out. I’d rather read something rich . . . So what are your plans for today? Huh?
EILEEN: (sweeping her hair back) My plans are to take a train to New Jersey, in the north where I used to live, and to take a walk in some fields and maybe to this duck pond, and then to turn around and come home.
CABEL: (cowboy accent) Where I come from they lasso young girls like you and set them up on a good farm.
EILEEN: You wanna come?
CABEL: I’m too lazy to do all that. You know that. Just going out for brunch is plenty.
EILEEN: Brunch at Kiev?
Cabel nods and gets up. He gets keys and money from a little pile on a table. Eileen goes out and comes back dressed in a dull brown pack-coat. They leave the apartment and exit out on to Bowery on their way to the Second Avenue restaurant, Kiev.
The day is gray and clear and wet and windy. Pigeons are crowded close together on the tops of the curved tops of street lamps. A few bums ask for money. Cabel’s favorite, the one he calls The Bird, is asking for money non-stop at the top of his weird voice to no one in particular, wearing a brown coat down almost to his ankles, a coat which made no sense during all those summer months, makes perfect sense today.
CABEL: See if you wait long enough you’re sure to come into style.
Eileen looks like she doesn’t understand.
CABEL: The coat. I mean the coat.
They go down Third Street past the Men’s House of Detention, veering to the right and left, by instinct, avoiding certain characters, and make it to Second Avenue, turn left, and continue on a freer path.
Whenever two people are walking together they throw each other into a new relief. Eileen brings out a kind of elfish aspect of Cabel which is not always obvious. She has a flat-footed way of walking which compares with his nimble way of walking on the front halves of his feet. Cabel’s small and unprominent shoulders accentuate Eileen’s which seem very masculine and broad.
Eileen stops once to look in the window of a stationery shop.
Cabel stops once to look at a peeled-away poster showing four young men in black and white with cut black hair and instruments who make up a band.
EILEEN: They played already.
CABEL: I’m just looking at the faces, not the particulars.
And they stand at an outside newspaper stand, scanning headlines. They get to Kiev and wait in line.
CABEL: I think someone will offer me a job today in here.
EILEEN: As a hit man?
CABEL: Hopefully. Or maybe that Polack waiter is an unwitting agent of the devil. I’m dying to sell out.
EILEEN: Beware the dragon. He is lying in wait by the side of the road.
CABEL: I’ve been looking all over for him for 20 years. When I was a boy in and around Pittsburgh . . .
EILEEN: Vampire land.
CABEL: Some . . . Anyway, in and around, and I went in the forest one day to look for the devil but didn’t find him.
EILEEN: Are you serious?
There is a place at a double table with a person already there. They sit down, sizing up the man at the connecting table as they settle in. He is gray-haired, in his forties or fifties, wearing a brown two-piece suit and conservative tie. His skin is a little translucent which shows up lines and blemishes. He has bushy gray eyebrows and looks sick somehow.
Cabel sits next to him, Eileen across from him diagonally. They order kielbasa and eggs and coffee. Then Cabel, who ignores old friends on the street, starts up a conversation with their table partner.
CABEL: What’s that ring on your finger, sir?
MR. BROWN: (clipped) It’s an ivory ring which has been in my family for years. I inherited it when my grandfather died. Now it’s mine.
EILEEN: (clumsily) Obviously.
Mr. Brown looks over at her for a few seconds, no change of expression on his bland face, then looks back towards the window, finishing his cold borscht. Eileen looks towards Cabel for help but he just stares her down. She is getting anxious and wants to make up.
EILEEN: (to Cabel) I’m just kidding, what’s the big deal?
The waitress, who actually looks a lot like Eileen, except she’s in uniform and speaks with an Eastern European accent, brings their food. Mr. Brown asks for his check.
CABEL: (to Mr. Brown) I’m sorry about my friend. She tries a little too hard sometimes.
EILEEN: (shocked) Cabel. What are you up to? . . . Look I don’t feel so bad. I don’t even remember what I said already. Do you?
MR. BROWN: (smiling, looking at Cabel) It’s very cold today. This is the first cold day of the season, I mean really bitter cold, and I’m having trouble with the heat in my apartment. I have a fireplace but the flue isn’t drawing.
CABEL: Maybe I could help you with it. To fix it. I’m pretty handy.
EILEEN: (bravely) It’s hard to get Cabel moving, he’s a yellow person, you know like in the Middle Ages, yellow bile, so he’s predominantly melancholy and lethargic. But he does know how to fix things.
MR. BROWN: (to Cabel) How long have you been in the city?
CABEL: (enjoying the attention) I was born here. Then I was in an alcohol hospital for a couple years and now I’m back.
MR. BROWN: Name?
MR. BROWN: Age?
CABEL: 29, 28.
EILEEN: We’re both 28.
MR. BROWN: And are you healthier now, Cabel, do you get much exercise?
EILEEN: Not to state the obvious, but I feel like the younger sister, left behind.
MR. BROWN: Oh I’m sorry. It’s just that even though I’m a relatively young man, I have a heart condition, a murmur. I was never good at handy work anyway, I thought your friend Cabel would be able to help me. With you, unfortunately, I don’t have any real use.
EILEEN: (angry) What? Where did you learn your manners? Mars?
Cabel however feels relieved by Mr. Brown’s brutally direct, honest and suave manner.
MR. BROWN: I was in a seminary for many years when I was a young man. At that time I tried to modify my behavior to be that of the kind of man who, if everyone was like him, would be the best man . . . well I don’t even want to say that much.
EILEEN: And now? How do you make a living?
MR. BROWN: I am an art consultant for people buying Eastern Orthodox icons. I’ve bought Ukranian ones from the owner of this very diner.
CABEL: I don’t like icons.
MR. BROWN: I don’t care that you don’t. It’s my occupation.
CABEL: When do you want to leave?
MR. BROWN: Now.
CABEL: (to Eileen) You want to come?
EILEEN: And be insulted?
MR. BROWN: I’d like you to come. But I’d like you to wait downstairs. My apartment is very very tiny and more than two people would upset it. Very much.
EILEEN: You’re crazy. What’s your name anyway?
MR. BROWN: Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown is standing at the cash register slowly folding his hands together, then pulling them apart again, waiting. Eileen and Cabel are talking by the table.
EILEEN: I don’t want you to get any ideas. Like that I can just be dragged around. Get left and then picked up.
CABEL: But he said he wanted you to come.
EILEEN: Yeah. And wait.
CABEL: It’s up to you.
Eileen feels like crying. But she goes along anyway, getting deeper and deeper into a funk. They are walking down Third Street, between First and Second Avenues.
MR. BROWN: I think that I’m a nice man. It’s just that I’ve lived alone for a long time.
Mr. Brown flashes a knowing smile at Cabel who returns the smile, though not really knowing why. They get to stairs leading up to a building.
CABEL: (to Mr. Brown) How long will I be?
MR. BROWN: Not long. Fifteen, 20 minutes.
CABEL: So how’s that? Do you want to wait?
EILEEN: (anger stopping-up her speech) Forget it. I’ve gone far enough. And you, you’ve gone too far. (She starts walking down the street, looks back) And don’t expect to bum cigarettes later.
Eileen is shaking and getting hot and cold flashes. She walks fast, looks hard at a group of Hell’s Angels girlfriends hanging out on some brownstone steps. Soon she walks into Tompkins Square Park, between Avenues A and B. It is getting dark. Cabel and Mr. Brown walk upstairs. Mr. Brown’s room is very tiny. Big stuffed furniture and a double poster bed take up all the space. On the walls are different icons under which candles are burning, or over which there are electric lights to make the icons more vivid in the dingy room. Cabel walks over and examines one little painting that shows John the Baptist standing wrapped in a sheet, holding his own head on a pewter platter, and giving off flames under and around his feet. A puddle of flames. Mr. Brown pours big glasses of coppery whiskey and gives one to Cabel.
They sit in stuffed armchairs and drink. Mr. Brown stays in his suit and Cabel in his jacket. At some point Mr. Brown gets up and starts showing Cabel the fireplace and explains the technical problems to him.
Cabel takes off his jacket, jerks around energetically for awhile, poking in and out of the big hole which is the fireplace, shivering and commenting, and after about a half an hour he gets the thing fixed. They put in newspaper and twigs to get the fire started. Then lay on big logs. Eileen has been darting around the park, furious, changing directions, trying to think how she can get revenge on Cabel. She is arguing with him in her head, telling him off over and over again. As for Mr. Brown she’d like to be angry with him but just gets such a nothing feeling, almost as if he doesn’t exist or doesn’t have any feelings, that she can’t get worked up towards him. She notices that she is getting come-on looks from decrepit-looking young guys sitting on the backs of the benches. Here, an oversized radio, there an offer for loose joints. Eileen splits.
Upstairs, Mr. Brown scribbles down his phone number and gives it to Cabel. Cabel does the same, writing his number on a book of matches. Mr. Brown puts his arms around Cabel who comes up to his chest for a long hug which makes Cabel feel a little creepy, like he wants to get out of there.
Soon Cabel is going down the wooden steps a few at a time. Eileen is walking down towards Second Avenue again, same block. Now she does not seem so confused, her walk is very determined and assured again, like when she walked into Cabel’s room first thing that day. She also looks prettier than before, the way her face picks up the yellow light from the street lamps. When she gets to the steps leading to Mr. Brown’s, she just goes up, finds his name on the buzzer, and rings.
Mr. Brown is warming his hands slowly in front of his working fireplace fire. He answers and asks the name, she gives it, long pause, then he buzzes her in. She nudges the door open then lets it fly back shut.
On her way up the stairs she meets Cabel.
CABEL: What are you doing here? (chopping up his words in a kind of stutter) What, were you, have you been downstairs, from before? Who let you in—
EILEEN: (a bark) Brown.
CABEL: When? Just now? Why? What do you have in mind?
EILEEN: You sound jealous. I have completely nothing in mind. But just because I met you on the steps isn’t going to stop me. So do you wanna come with me or not? I figure since you just fixed the fireplace it must be warm up there, right?
CABEL: I did fix it.
Eileen is already on her way to the fifth floor apartment. Cabel crunches one side of his face up, then decides to follow. By the time she knocks he is by her side.
Mr. Brown opens the door and stands in it, looking at Eileen. It seems to be an effort for him just to look at her. For awhile no one says anything. Then Eileen, in an iconoclastic mood, starts talking.
EILEEN: I know you’re probably not crazy about seeing me here, but I just felt if I didn’t come in here and get to know you, that my life would be screwed up. I mean I take every minute seriously. I don’t like to be bothered.
MR. BROWN: (bending head forward in an exaggerated listening pose) I didn’t expect it . . . But you do have this manner about you. I hadn’t noticed it in the restaurant.
EILEEN: Can I come in? I don’t want to have to pass any tests.
CABEL: I’m sorry Mr. Brown. I’d be glad to leave you alone. Eileen’s acting nuts.
MR. BROWN: (slowly) Well the two of you can come in for a few minutes.
Mr. Brown gets out the whiskey and glasses again. Cabel sits in a big chair near the fire. Eileen sits on a couch. Mr. Brown hands them whiskies and sits on the couch, too. He still has his suit on, but has taken off his shoes, and is sitting with knees crouched up on the sofa.
EILEEN: I’m not really a pushy person. Something just came over me.
MR. BROWN: Well no point standing in the snow.
CABEL: Eileen never just stands in the snow.
EILEEN: It’s not even that. I mean it is. But I also wondered where you lived. I mean what it’s like inside. It was killing me.
MR. BROWN: (falsetto) You were wondering that much?
EILEEN: And all the furniture squeezed in here.
CABEL: She’s curious as a cat Mr. Brown.
MR. BROWN: Hmmmm. And cats chase rats.
CABEL: (annoyed) Nice fire, huh, Mr. Brown?
MR. BROWN: (stands up and paces two steps in one direction, three in another, etc.) The furniture is mostly over a hundred years old, very fine stuff. I used to read the obituaries and, for a few weeks after an insignificant death, I would walk repeatedly by the outside of a tenant’s building, to see what pieces were discarded. Always the landlord, impatient to rent the place. (then, spitting it out) Jews.
CABEL: (getting up in a flash, rubbing hands together like a prosecuting attorney) That’s how I got my wood cane with the gold top. Remember Eileen? (confiding to Mr. Brown) I had seen the deceased with it.
MR. BROWN: (smiles a long smile: gold speckles here and there in the backs of his teeth) The older I get the less I steal from the dead. (claps one loud hand clap)
EILEEN: (twisting around to look at a blue-gold painting over the back of the sofa) And what about the icons? Where did you find those?
MR. BROWN: The street.
EILEEN: (emphatically) No!
CABEL: Where do you think he found them Eileen?
MR. BROWN: Give us the benefit of the doubt Miss Eileen, hmmm?
Mr. Brown sits on the couch, hunched up. He looks over at Eileen closely, without twitching or blinking. She tries to outstare him, blinks, giggles, then recovers her presence again.
EILEEN: You win. But it’s cold outside. Why don’t we just hang out here awhile. Not make any effort. And then stop it. Okay?
MR. BROWN: (scratching zig-zags into his palms with his nails) Not past 12:00. I mean 11:00. I go to bed early.
Cabel goes over to a cigarette pack on a table, takes one out and lights it. After one or two puffs he makes a disgusted face and puts it out. He goes back and sits down, gets up every so often to put a new log on the fire.
Mr. Brown makes some grunting singing noises in his throat. All of a sudden he feels very sad and relaxed. To show this, he goes behind a transparent neck-high silk screen, his guests looking over suspiciously every so often, undresses to his underwear, and puts on a long red smoking robe. He emerges: paces back and forth. Eileen feels responsible for the strained situation and goes to lie down on the couch. She lets her abdominal muscles loose, they have been pent up for hours now, lets out a loud Aaaaaaah. Then she does it again. Aaaaaaah. She sneezes.
CABEL: What’s missing is music.
MR. BROWN: There’s the piano. (referring to an old upright brown wood piano stuck in a corner) Can you play?
CABEL: I could learn.
Cabel goes over to play, finds the cover locked. Mr. Brown notices his predicament and starts hunting around for a key. He is opening and slamming drawers for awhile. Finally finds the key and comes over and opens the cover.
MR. BROWN: (putting a hand on Cabel’s shoulder) There.
Cabel is sitting down on the round piano stool. He looks very out of place, feet planted flat on the floor, legs bent, bending over the yellowing keys. Waits for Mr. Brown to move away before he starts playing. But when he starts playing he really belongs. He starts playing a piece by Chopin, filled with note-changes and mood-changes. Hard to play. The sound of the piece fills up the room and both Mr. Brown and Eileen concentrate completely on the music. It is sad music. During the loud, driving parts Eileen and Mr. Brown are able to feel alone and well, but during the soft parts some of the support seems to cave in, they are forced to notice each other and their own tenderer feelings at the same time. Mr. Brown stands stock still. Eileen lies there, her sneakers up over the arm of the couch, breathing in and out rhythmically. Cabel plays the predictable end, no one claps or anything. He closes the cover.
CABEL: (crack of a smile) Surprised you.
EILEEN: Something else good might happen if we can stay just a little bit longer. And not babble.
Mr. Brown opens the door to his knee-high miniature refrigerator. There is no food inside, just some milk and orange juice and little vials of cloudy medicine.
MR. BROWN: I ran out of drugs.
CABEL: Just as well, man. I’m a born again.
EILEEN: My ass.
Cabel squeezes around the edge of Mr. Brown’s bed and opens up a window a crack, then lifts it up farther. He looks out on East 6th Street which looks European, much classier than in the daytime. Closes the window. Painted-over glass panes.
Mr. Brown takes the bottle of whiskey again. Doesn’t offer any but sits down on the edge of the couch where Eileen is lying, pours the whiskey into his glass. Starts drinking it, feels his insides getting warmed up as the liquid travels down, feels a burning in his stomach that he loves so much that he drinks another gulp and feels it again.
EILEEN: (still lying down) Man, I just don’t get any feeling from you at all. It seems like you wouldn’t show up on a photograph or something. You’re a real frustrating man to know.
MR. BROWN: (apologetically) Well we’ve got all night. It’s not like you have to leave at 12:00.
EILEEN: Cabel, do you feel it, dull?
CABEL: You know why.
CABEL: Because you’re horny as a cat. Because you keep hearing sounds in the street, a man yelling, a siren. And they’re making you hot. So let it out.
EILEEN: (exasperated) Not again.
CABEL: You see Mr. Brown, Eileen is a kind of nymphomaniac. I’m sure you’re not shocked or anything.
MR. BROWN: (looking pleased for the first time) Not at all. I love it when people are still able to turn into things. Into sexy things. Or mean things. But what do you do for her? Will you give her her fix? (eyebrows seeming to rise up by themselves)
EILEEN: I’m still percolating.
CABEL: No. I just encourage her. But I don’t satisfy her any more.
EILEEN: Please Cabel. You have to satisfy me. I love you. I can’t keep still.
MR. BROWN: (rubbing his penis through his robe) She can’t keep her legs still. (amazed) Look. I’ve never seen anyone behave quite like this.
CABEL: You’re glad we came up, right?
MR. BROWN: Absolutely. I thought you just wanted something from me. But this, this is for me. But is there any way to stop her, besides . . .
CABEL: I don’t know. It depends on the night. Every night is really different.
Mr. Brown starts petting Eileen all over her body and calling her “my Kitty.” Then he gets a bowl of milk and puts it on the floor, asking his kitty to go over and lap up the milk. Eileen doesn’t respond.
EILEEN: (to Mr. Brown) Jerk.
MR. BROWN: (rushed) Eileen. I was in a seminary for a long time. All through my twenties. I wanted to be a priest. Then a morphine problem, for those years. I went into this business, icons, especially from aristocrats who left Russia and came to America, and left things to me, many of them, because I got close to these people, I got their trust. I love the way you’re moving your leg, Eileen. I love it.
EILEEN: I’m getting tired of it. I want Cabel. And I want to get shot up, too, by you Mr. Brown.
MR. BROWN: No.
Cabel comes over and squats over the edge of the fancy couch, on the arm. He puts his legs on either side of Eileen’s head. She puts her arms back and grabs on to his legs.
EILEEN: Cabel, baby, talk to me in that voice of yours, that deep voice that sounds like it has rocks scratching around in it, you devil, scratch your throat out, like you used to do, and talk to me all night, and I’d listen baby, remember?
CABEL: You’re just horny, you’re just losing your other feelings, but I’m not, I’ll be here just the same when you get tired.
Eileen lets out a slow yelp, real different from her Aaaaaaah a little while ago.
EILEEN: (bending up to see Mr. Brown) What time is it pussy-baiter? (then she laughs)
MR. BROWN: Thirteen o’clock.
EILEEN: And what are you gonna do to embarrass yourself? Do it.
MR. BROWN: I’ve got milktoast skin. I can’t believe I’m saying it. And so I guess I’ll show it.
CABEL: Oh God.
EILEEN: Just strip, Mr. Brown, and show it. Just bend over frontwards and spread your cheeks like we’re a doctor.
MR. BROWN: Are you kidding?
EILEEN: Are you serious about getting some sleep tonight, without feeling all stopped up? All cottony and weak and milk-toasty?
CABEL: (nudges Eileen with his foot) Keep a little self-respect . . . I mean what you said, “milk-toasty” . . .
EILEEN: . . . and “lily-livered.” Did I say that?
CABEL: Just follow me a little bit every so often. I mean look at me every so often.
EILEEN: Okay. Okay.
Mr. Brown is finishing stripping, hopping around, underwear still down around his ankles. His body is bony, his penis is long and thin, with hairs like roots digging into his pale skin. Then he turns around and bends over and shows his asshole. Most of his fear has died down, so he squeezes wide, then perfunctorily stands up.
MR. BROWN: (hearing feet on the stairs, waits until he hears a door slam) Thank God humans can act this way. I’m having such a good time. You don’t know how much this means to me . . .
EILEEN: (knowingly) Cabel.
Cabel nods. Jumps off the couch backwards and lands on his feet.
CABEL: You want me Mr. Brown?
MR. BROWN: Of course I do Cabel. (dramatic pause) Of course I do.
CABEL: Then go up on your plush spongy bed and kneel facing the headboard and I’ll come to you.
MR. BROWN: Like in the springtime right? Ki-ki-ri-ki.
CABEL: (sarcastically) Riiiight.
While Mr. Brown is getting positioned, Cabel pokes Eileen in the shoulder and motions for her to get her things. She stands up and they half tip-toe to the door, like two characters in a dark children’s story, like Hansel and Gretel. When they get to the door and have it part opened, Cabel opens his mouth.
CABEL: Mr. Brown. We’re taking off now. I’ve had it. And Eileen. We’ve gotta split. We’ve gotta.
Mr. Brown makes a contorted turn around on the bed. He is screaming as the door is shutting.
MR. BROWN: You dirty sons of bitch-bastards. You should end up in the can. They should really give it to you. Like a thief, (then, screaming for help) Thief. Thief.
Cabel and Eileen rush down the steps. Eileen lets out a hoot, snapping back her head. Her hair sweeps back over the collar of her brown coat. Her face is bright and she is breathing hard, in gulps. Cabel’s eyes, a little glazed, are fixed on the chintz curtains on the front door. He loses his balance every so often, missing a step, ripping the thin curtain as he grabs for the handle of the door. Slam.
“Mr. Brown” was first published in Jailbait, Brad Gooch’s collection of short stories published by SeaHorse Press, 1984.