Category Archives: Short Stories

NIGHT SHIFTINESS

I’m not a morning person, or an afternoon person. Actually I’m not an any time of the day, or night person. I’m curmudgeonly and I’m jaded. I grew up in L.A. Whaddya want from me? It takes roughly 2 to 3 hours to muster a mild amount of patience and tolerance for me to even leave the house. I can get up and go if there’s a fire, a flood, or an earthquake, and even then it’s with some misgivings.

This is a qualifier for why I prefer to work swing or graveyard shifts. In most cases, these shifts attract a bizarre, creepy, and just plain odd individuals. I fit into all three of those categories. Let’s talk about the staff. The names have been changed, to protect me from these fucking lunatics.

Gerardo is the dedicated overnight man. He’s been doing room service for over 19 years. A pint-sized Filipino, with a mild speech impediment. He comes in at 11:30 every night and says the same thing, ‘Wush up, wush up, wush up?’ (What’s up). He never listens to or doesn’t care what the reply is. His next line is, ‘Ah, wuz bishee?’ (was it busy)? Again, he doesn’t care about the answer. Occasionally he will answer, ‘Oh is shat sho?’ (Oh, is that so) Gerardo’s sole purpose on an evening-to-evening basis is to get out of doing any sort of side work. I understand that it sucks, but it has to be done. But he is notorious for this, as even other employees have experienced.

There’s always side work, polishing silverware, restocking condiments and sodas, cutting butter, lemons, and limes pre-setting trays for deliveries, there is always things to fucking  do. But the truth is Gerardo has been here way too long and tries to delegate these jobs to me.

He says passive /aggressive things like, ‘Um can you focush on the silverwaresh?’ (Polish silverware, this seems to be something that he never wants to do.) ‘Run de florsh’ (go check the floors to see if there are any dirty trays, or morning breakfast orders hung on the door). I usually say the same thing every time he asks, ‘Your not my boss, I already did that’ or, ‘Gerardo you’re going to have to do some side work, there’s no way out of it.’

I mean, I come in at 5:30 and have been working my ass off. He just got there and he doesn’t want to do anything. I put him in check quickly, and if that doesn’t work, I just don’t do the side work and tell the supervisor he ain’t doing shit. They already know this though, and they do NOTHING.

One night I was coming off the elevator and heard him talking LONG shit about me to the chef, Julio. Something about ‘not doing my shares’. He doesn’t really wants shtoo be here, he wants shtoo write, we needs peoples thats are dedicated.’ I stood behind him and started laughing uncontrollably. Laughing like DeNiro playing Max Cady in Cape Fear. Julio walked away. Gerardo turned and looked at me with horror in his eyes. He walked away punching into the air. I didn’t care. I said to him, ‘So check this out Gerardo, you got something to say, say it to me, or talk to management Julio ain’t gonna help you.’ He immediately lied, ‘Oh no, we jush talking about 86’d itemsh, foods we ran out ofsh.’ I put him in check continually, but he forgets. Sometimes when it gets really busy, he walks in circles and tosses his hands in the air like a malfunctioning robot. He also freaks out if there are more than two orders. Some nights I’ve done 30 orders before even gets there, so I realize the silliness of this fear immediately. He also repeats himself constantly and loves top forty music. I listen to him drone on about “Taylor Shwifts, Maroons Fives and Iggyes Azaleas.’ By the time I leave at two AM, I seriously feel like I’ve been on a 72-hour hold in a psyche  ward. It’s a wonder I stay sober or sane.

Now let me tell you about Julio, the night Chef. A rotund 68-year-old Columbian man with a deep voice, an accent, a shady past and a limp. Julio comes in and depending on his mood will 86 (cancel) anything on the menu that he doesn’t feel like making. This he tells us after the guest has already called in the order. We have to call them back and say we are out of said item. Then he changes his mind and decides to make it. So you call the guest back again and say, ‘oh my mistake turns out we have it.’ This happens 2 or 3 nights a week and it’s so fucking maddening you want to throw hot grease on him or spray oven cleaner in his eyes! I swear to god it’s like working with your God Damn grandparents!

One night while I was waiting for Julio to prepare an order, he told me he was the private Chef for Pablo Escobar. He said that Pablo was an incredibly generous man, with a big heart, who really tried to help people. (I’m sure there are many folks that said the same thing about Hitler). He said cooking for the children’s birthday parties was always a fun time. Even though the kids were fat little-spoiled assholes. Once while preparing a dinner for the family, little Manuela Escobar was screaming and crying because the pony she got for Christmas had no wings, ‘she wanted a pony with wings,’ Julio pleaded. I laughed. Then Julio turned dark. ‘Months later at her birthday party, a man walked in with a pony that had wings.’ He went on to say that Pablo had the wings taken off an eagle and surgically implanted on the horse. To which Julio replied, ‘But you know, nature doesn’t play that game and three days later the pony died.’ I stood there aghast. he looked at me and grinned. “Oh, here, your chicken quesadilla for room 219 is ready.’

Another excerpt from my book ‘#1 Son And Other Stories’ Available on Amazon.

Wakayama Bar Fly Round Eye Fire Face

 

…He hands me the flaming shot and without even a second thought, I rally it back. Suddenly I smell burnt hair. My goatee is aflame. My collar and neck are aflame. Riae and Shuyu are screaming pointing. Yoshi is in shock. A Japanese woman in traditional garb dumps a pitcher of beer on me and there is another one behind her with another pitcher like they’re trying to douse a four-alarm brush fire.

“OKAY, OKAY!” I yell.

The smell of burnt hair and beer permeates my nostrils. I pat my face, I rub it, my cheeks feel like melted cheese. “Ha Ha Ha! Fuck!” I’m fucking wide-awake and so present it’s electrifying.

“Shit,” I say, “you trying to kill me Ricardo?”

“Fuck that shit, I’m sorry.”

I get up to go to the bathroom. The whole thing is surreal. People are staring at me, when I look at them they immediately looking away. I move quickly through the bathroom door, there is sweet, slow, traditional Japanese music playing overhead. I look at my face in the mirror. I don’t feel so pretty, or smooth and I’m definitely not bored. I let out a loud laugh. I’m an ugly American, real ugly. Is this my little dose of karma for H-bombs past? The skin has melted away two or three layers on both sides.

“Wow,” I say loudly. “I’m not a doctor but I’d say second-degree burns, Nurse Ratchet.”

As I say this, a very short Japanese man walks in, “Sorry sorry,” he bows, and runs out.

Fuck. My girl will understand.

The day after my face caught on fire…

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#1 Son And Other Stories is available now on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/0999614185/

Also, check out my Interview with Marc Maron on his WTF podcast.

http://wtfpod.libsyn.com/episode-876-michael-marcus-dr-steve

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Another excerpt from my book ‘#1 Son And Other Stories’ Available on Amazon.

THIEVIN’ PINK PILLS AND PSYCHOTROPIC THRILLS

Monday night, Jeff’s apartment, Q-107, 11:30 pm. I was pacing back and forth because I couldn’t get the patio sliding door off its tracks; it usually wasn’t a problem. How the fuck…? I had to get in. What do I do now?

I knew Jeff kept an English cookie tin of pills in his studio apartment, he’d showed it to me a couple of weeks ago. I needed to steal it; I needed to get high. I needed to throw the ultra-heavy little hibachi through the sliding glass door: Crash! Slam! Chinkle, chinkle, chinkle…

I rushed into the apartment. There was briquette dust in the air and all over the floor. He had concert posters and Playboy centerfolds taped to the walls: Hendrix, Mott the Hoople, Humble Pie…complete with black lights. The floor was strewn with dirty socks and underwear. The coffee table had paper plates with food still on them from the weekend, along with an open container of Vaseline and Swedish Erotica porno vids.

I searched under the bed: No.
The closet: No.
The bathroom: No.
The refrigerator: Yep! The cookie tin was in there and loaded with pills. So many colors and designs! I grabbed an Alpha Beta paper bag, threw the tin in the bag and walked out the front door.

I quickly walked to the exit of the building. I ducked inside a doorway. I saw the little Oakwood security cart hum by, the guard looking like business as usual. No sense of urgency, just making his rounds. I was in and out in probably two-and-a-half or three minutes. Oakwood has twenty-six buildings, lettered A through Z, three doors each. Five guys handled all the security, two vehicles. Easy pickings.

#1 Son And Other Stories is available now on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/0999614185/

Also, check out my Interview with Marc Maron on his WTF podcast.

http://wtfpod.libsyn.com/episode-876-michael-marcus-dr-steve

 

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When Carl Met Mary

April 1959

     Mary Agnes Lydon was a registered nurse living in Miami and working at Cedars of Lebanon hospital. She had come from New York that same year to escape the cold winter. She worked the swing shift. Mary preferred this shift so she could go to the beach with her friends before duty, as well as hang out in the clubs and dance after her shift. This was a far cry from Beach 115th street in Far Rockaway, where Mary grew up. It was comically referred to as ‘The Irish Riviera’ by the locals. Mary had shared a one-room bungalow with her two sisters three brothers and her mother and father.

     Around the same time in 1959, Carl Marcus had just arrived in Miami. He had just been released from Elmira State Prison in February 1959. Carl came up hard in the Bronx. He was raised in a sixth-floor walk-up with his 2 brothers and 3 sisters. At 16 he was convicted. Now he had completed a 6-year bid for a stack of charges including theft, breaking and entering and grand larceny. while he was in prison Carl Had learned from another inmate that you could open vending machines with a simple pair of vice grips. Upon his release, Carl and his friend Hal hit the road. Hal had just done a three-year bid for passing bad money, specifically washers and slugs rolled as coins, real coins on the end of each roll, with slugs and washers throughout the rest of the roll.

     Off they went roaring down the eastern seaboard Route 95 south in a 1959 black Cadillac convertible, hot-wired and stolen by Hal Blake from a Jack Bernstein’s Used Car Autorama (a car dealership in Flushing, Queens). They’d hit rest stops, laundromats, gas stations, hotels, automats (fast food restaurants where simple foods and drinks are served by vending machines), anywhere and everywhere that coin operated machines existed. Carl went into these establishments armed with Vice Grips while Hal stood guard. Carl would pry open the machines with the tools just enough to access the container that housed the coins and he’d empty them quickly and methodically into a pillowcase which then went into a briefcase.

Nickles, dimes, and quarters, bags and bags of coins. In the wee hours, they’d roll the coins in the car, Hal, dosing each roll with the proper amount of slugs and washers. Minutes after the banks opened Hal and Carl would separately hit as many banks and grocery stores as possible trading the coins for cash. They’d quickly move on to the next town repeating the process over and over again. Carl Marcus told me that they cleared about $17,000. Give or take a couple of hundred in loose change.

     In April 1959 mary and her friends were hanging out at the Boom-Boom room in the Fontainebleau hotel. A couple of different guys were hitting on Mary. She was quite the looker, black Irish, brown eyes, long brown hair and dressed impeccably. Carl barreled his way through the crowd. At six feet four inches, sporting a shark skin suit, a gold-tone watch, and alligator shoes. He approached her and gave his spiel said he was looking at real estate ventures in south beach, where he was from, and what his intentions were. They made a date for dinner the dinner.

     The following night Carl picked Mary up and they swapped New York stories, Carl telling Mary how the Irish Catholic kids called him Kike and Christ killer and beat him up on the beaches of Rockaway. He stopped the car and asked Mary if that was what her brothers or cousins did. Mary laughed and said, “yep!” after a walk on the beach he took her home.

     He picked her up two nights later at the end of her shift at the hospital telling her they must go quickly that he had a surprise for her. They pulled up to an exclusive club where Frank Sinatra was about to perform. It was sold out. Carl offered the Maitre’ d $50.00 and they sat at the edge of the stage. Mary was totally in shock, and Carl beaming with satisfaction. After that night they spent almost every day together between Mary’s shifts. One night when they were all hanging out in Hal’s hotel room the cops barged into the room and apprehended Hal for alleged having sex with an underage girl. The police took Carl mary and Hal down to the station. Mary was swept up in the excitement, she had never been in trouble with the law. After a lot of manipulation and lies, Hal, Carl, and mary left the station.

     That night all drove off, back up Route 95 north. Now they were back in  New york at the Plaza Hotel. Carl had a fake line of credit and used that phony line of credit to throw an engagement party for his sister Susan. The next morning the jig was up. The front desk called the room and questioned Carl about the alleged line of credit and the bank in Miami that it was drawn from. He said he would call and straighten it out. He hung up and he and Mary quickly packed and ran down 15 flights of stairs and roared off. They were married and settled in Freeport Long Island where they had two children, Lorraine, born June 1961 and Michael (me) born in 1964.

 

 

 

An excerpt from my book ‘#1 Son And Other Stories’ Available on Amazon

Going For A Drive

 

Motoring up the 101, he pointed to the north and said, “See that area there? That’s where all the low lives live.” Then pointing towards the beach he said, “That’s where all the winners live kids.”

“What are low lives dad?”

“Scumbags!” he shouted, “columns of human waste, they live in clapboard houses, or if they’re lucky, stucco shit holes with screaming shmucky kids! They work dead-end jobs with fat wives and 30-year mortgages and 5-year car notes, they have pension plans and punch a fucking clock all day, just plain shnorras.”

“What’s a pension daddy?” My sister asked.

“Baby Lorraine it’s when assholes work year after year for twenty or thirty years, and in the end, they only get a little bullshit stipend.”

“What’s a shnorra Daddy?”

“Mikey, it’s men or women who freeload and sponge-like leeches at corporate or government jobs because they have no original thoughts, business sense, or ambitions.

AND EVEN WORSE, they have no panache or hustle. You never want to get caught up in that garbage kid, it’s a dead-end life. A real fucking horror show.”

“OK, Dad.”

He turned up Frank Sinatra and ran his gold rings on the Caddie’s plastic steering wheel. He sang “My Way” as he gunned the red Eldorado up the 101 past Cambria.

My father drove us all over California. We motored from Point Conception to the Mexican border, from San Fernando to San Francisco, Burbank to Barstow and all the nooks and crannies in between. He feeds us Ghirardelli chocolates, Pismo Beach clam chowder; date shakes from Hadley’s, root beer floats from A&W, fried shrimp from Howard Johnson’s, and pea soup from Andersen’s. On many occasions, he would wad up the check and stick it in his pocket, and we’d just walk out. “Let’s play a game kids. It’s called dine and dash.”

Little Mikey Maniac

Early on I remember being very bored.

I loved playing with matches. I torched the backyard. Nobody knew it was me. I was a good liar. That was the first of many incidents with flame. Garages, beds, vacant lots, my fingers.  

Stealing was wonderful too.  The shrink said it was to get attention. I disagree. The feeling I got from stealing and burning things was a feeling of power.  I imagine it was the same feeling a stockbroker gets from greenmail or inside trading.  Probably the same feeling a woman gets who marries for money and has young cocky studs on the side.  The same feeling a dictator gets when…well, you get the picture.  

Power is relative from age 5, right to the grave.  

I stole a socket set from a neighbor, Steve.  I pretended I was a mechanic. I lay under the bed for hours, running wires in the box spring, tightening nuts and bolts. Loosening and re-tightening nuts and bolts.  I was so bored and lied constantly.  

My uncle PJ was staying with us.  He had come out of the service.  I don’t recall if he saw any action or not.  Nor was I even old enough to be interested; in war or peace or women or money or masturbation or drugs, gambling, or tobacco and alcohol.  

I just really enjoyed stealing and burning things…  

oh yeah, back to my uncle.  He would sleep in the spare room upstairs.  I remember mom, dad, and sis being gone, Uncle PJ was asleep, I had run of the house. Wow, that still excites me having the run of anywhere. Anyway, I had a G.I. Joe talking doll.  I used to pull the string and hold it up to my uncle’s ear while he slept.

“Up the hill, men”, the doll squeaked.

“A-Ten-Hut!!!”  This command seemed really loud.  My uncle would jump outta bed, grab the doll.

“Hey, what the hell?  I’m trying to sleep!”

I would look at him. Laugh. And walk away.

He smoked a lot of pot at that time. Once I found his pot and fed it to our Doberman pinscher, Heidi.  That really pissed him off. Mom and dad weren’t happy either.  

But the dog seemed fine.  I loved that dog. The first dog I’d ever seen, played with, lived with. Good old’ Heidi. Once I tried to put together a slot car set I had received for Christmas.  

I was told not to touch it.  I didn’t listen. I never listened.  What they knew was slowly killing them–and I was next in line.  

So I attempted to set up the slot car set.  It didn’t work out. The dog chewed up pieces of track. Then she snatched one of the cars and ran.  That’s when I panicked.  There were only two cars.  “Heidi!  Heidi!”  She didn’t listen, nobody listened, not even the dogs. She chewed up the slot cars chassis.  My uncle was plenty mad when he got up.  He put the track together and even the chewed up car worked. He wasn’t too bad, my uncle PJ. But I was on my way to being a nightmare, for all of them.

REST IN PEACE PJ.