Babel

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Babel

The Running Man

The Howl

My military stint in D.C. bordered on Twilight
Zone lunacy.
Federal agents shadowed me. There were 3rd
degree interrogations by the C.I.A. as well
as background checks, psychological tests,
interviews with the Pentagon’s assorted
military brass.
I was just a draftee. They wanted to train
me for a job that required a Top Secret
security clearance, absolute loyalty, and at
least a year of specialized and complex
studying.
Better than ‘Nam & getting shot or
bombed. I was against their war. I resented
being a prisoner. It was that or jail. D.I.A
was better than sitting in a cell.
I lived off post in a downtown D.C. flop
not far from the White House.
I couldn’t live on post with all that
spit and polish.
It was a sleezy cluster of backstreet dives
and dumps, by the Greyhound station,
filled with cheap rooms, pawnshops,
seedy bars, strip joints, porno book
stores, winos, druggies, muggers, pimps
and whores.
On army pay it was all I could afford.
Below the Mason, Dixon line it often
was too hot to sleep. I sat one night on my
tenement rooftop smoking cigarettes, sipping
Jack hoping I would crash. I had to get up
early, catch a bus to my post, change into
my class A uniform at the barracks, report
for duty, study photo images shot from space,
try to decipher what they meant in the scheme
of things.
Suddenly military choppers filled the air.
You couldn’t do this in Chicago, the buildings
are too tall.
They swept the midnight streets with their
spotlights.
They circled, crisscrossed, went back and forth.
Below them was a swarm of cops, chasing
through the deserted blocks.
Five floors below and two blocks down, I
spotted the Running Man – that’s how
I always thought of the guy I saw futilely
fleeing for his life – arms pumping, head
thrown back, chasing back and forth like
a rat in a trap. He was a husky man, athletically
built, dressed in a gray, three-piece suit.
Was he a saboteur? A spy maybe?
An informer perhaps? He didn’t rob a
Seven/Eleven to create all that
commotion.
I wanted him to get away, drop down a
sewer, disappear behind a secret door.
I wanted him to do a vanishing act. He was
running hard, but he was running out of gas.
Was I rooting for the underdog? – Maybe,
but we are all Running Men aren’t we?
Running for our lives, running from our lives,
running from the Man, running from death,
which will get us in the end.
Suddenly the choppers flew away.
The cops went away.
There was nothing about the Running
Man in the news the next day.

Meltdown

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Rex Sexton
June 4

June 29, 2014
FIRST FRIDAY:
June 6, 2014
5 – 9 pm
ARTIST RECEPTION:
Sunday, June 8, 2014
1 – 4 pm
Our Better Angels

Artists live where all dreams end. Truth, Illusion are a dance of apparitions. You try to capture them. Smoke and mirrors are what you usually get – sometimes life’s magic.

I remember the story Henry Miller wrote about the angel he painted quite by accident. I never painted an angel. Maybe I’ll find one hiding in my canvas as Henry did. An angel today, a devil tomorrow, nothing unusual for an artist’s studio. That is the sort of place one goes to ponder good and evil and to confront that meeting between thought and instinct, peace and violence, greed and giving, which we all share if we dare.

After decades of war and recession, discord and intolerance, this exhibit reflects upon the angst of those times and the hopes and dreams for better times to come.

– See more at: http://3rdstreetgallery.com/exhibitions/2014/meltdown#sthash.W65dgozk.dpuf

Slum Dog Zillionaire

Slum streets, cracks in the concrete to break
your mother’s back if you don’t watch your
step.
But you do watch your step. The slum taught
you early on how to live in a war zone.
Your mother’s back will break anyway, as well
as your father’s heart, and your siblings’ spirits
and any dreams you may have had about living
a better life.
Slum days – tumble down tenements, rubble and
weeds, hunger, danger, misery, poverty.
Slum nights – gang bangs and drive bys,
loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness.
Slum delights – not very many, in fact hardly
any. Not until I got into a television contest
and answered a number of extremely simple
and useless questions which any moron could
have answered and won millions of dollars –
plus saved my true love from the neighborhood
gangster/drug lord/pimp master, just like in
the acclaimed novel (Q&A) and the blockbuster
movie made from it which was a big crowd
pleaser and sold lots of popcorn and won
many Academy Awards and made everyone feel
better about poverty except the poor.
Well OK, that story is impossible. I got out
of the slums and made my billions because I
eventually discovered, when I was fifteen,
that I was born with a brain that rivaled the
greatest living scientists and mathematicians,
and Harvard and Yale and Princeton and Brown
and all the ivy league schools offered me
scholarships to study with them. The rest being
history of course with the money I made from
technology and engineering.
I’m kidding. I made my billions through my
athletic talents – boxing champion (like Rocky)
basketball superstar, football hero, baseball’s
“best player.”
Yeah right.
Just like that movie I’m pulling your leg.
What would help me and my friends get out of
this ghetto is a raise in the minimum wage.
That would be a miracle.

Night Life

Night haunts, night spirits, slipping through moonlit rooms, down starlit stairways, past mystery doorways into dream chambers, where love potions splash on ice, and music plays magic melodies for sleepwalkers who dance in a trance, arms holding each other, eyes blazing with rapture, mouths pressed together, as they devour each other, before youth is over.
“Confined in my cloud prison,
An invisible enchantress in an echo chamber sings on a CD played in the posh nightclub through surround sound speakers.
“I watch a rainbow arch across the heavens.
The crowd encircles Solo as she drifts away from her partner and dances on her own, something she does each night at the stroke of midnight.
“Dreams shimmer through fate’s prism.
The language of her body is a visual calligraphy, describing to every mesmerized yuppie passion, love, mystery – the slants, angles, spirals, tangles, as her black eyes flash and her raven hair sweeps in perfect circles
“I fall through life’s crystal ball.”
Beauty is a commodity, Stiletto knows. Even amidst night life’s harem of glamorous, high-maintenance, lynx-eyed temptresses scanning the scene for Prince Charming, Solo took desirable to a new level. Why wouldn’t she? Solo was a breathtaking anomaly for the young titans of capitalism whose lives, however grand, tended to be as manufactured as the products they bought, sold, made or invented – a trophy wife not only for show and domestic enjoyment but for erotic and existential fulfillment. She was a breathtaking anomaly to him as well, who had seen everything and had stories to tell.
“She would never dance away from me.” Stiletto brooded, as he stood like a night world shadow behind the bar in his fade to black Fab club designer uniform, satin shirt, silk slacks, jet black hair pulled back in a long, tight, braided snake down his back, his sculpted Aztec face with it’s high cheekbones and smooth skin like a pre-Colombian bust in a museum, polishing cocktail glasses with the flourish of a magician and waiting for the next drink order. They would dance together in rapture forever. Lips of fire were pressed to his, at least in his imagination as he watched her flicker like a flame across the dance floor, waving her lithe Latina body in syncopation to the echoing songstress and the sensuous bongo rhythms. They were locked in fire. He was breathing flame. Their bodies burned as their passion blazed. Even their souls were an inferno.
“Life’s road is a scar, Stiletto,” she had said to him the first time she sat at the bar and he introduced himself and asked for her drink order – maybe his name had suggested the allusion? – “cut by a butcher. You can only cover it up with playa powder.” She had said this with a sigh, a shrug and ordered a bottle of Champagne, which Fab club served its glam guests in a silver bucket as shiny as Mercury. She was dressed in a stunning rainbow weave of fabric, with silver and gold threads lacing through it, rich and exotic. Her cosmic, black hole, midnight in the unknown eyes seemed to look through him, not at him, as she talked softly to him, fro, some far away reality which was completely beyond him. Heaven? Armageddon?
“God would never let life scar anyone as beautiful as you are.”
Stiletto had said, not gallantly but matter-of-factly, as he filled her glass with the sparkling French delicacy.
“The tears of life cloud everyone’s cup,” She took a sip. “Each day is a balloon which flies away from us.”
An anomaly? No, an unfathomable mystery. In their subsequent brief encounters at the bar, before some yuppie Lothario whisked her off to a table, his exchanges with her were equally inscrutable.
“This morning I saw a robin, Stiletto. It was building its nest with black ribbons of mourning. Do you think that was a warning?” Or: “When I was a little girl I would stare up into the dark and make wishes on the stars. I thought they would fulfill all my dreams. But now it seems the dark beyond those dreams is the real meaning of living. Somehow, since I was a little girl, something happened to the heavens.”
What was she doing with these commodity exchange zombies? The BP oil spill, the Great Recession – greed beyond comprehension. That gas pipeline from Canada – now there was a weapon of mass destruction. Could she find love, passion with men with minds like adding machines or scrabble board games? Hearts? Souls? They had traded them long ago. Aztec gods danced with her across the nightclubs walls. Like fire on snow Stiletto saw her lying on their nuptial bed. “She would never dance away from me.” Stiletto brooded again. Stiletto was tall and lean and handsome. He looked exotic and women went for it. Over the years, he had had more than his share of love affairs. He found most women were much the same It was the same with men. But Solo inhabited a planet of her own. You could see that by the way she danced. Solo had a soul. She would free herself of her partner and express the passions deep inside her, mysteries which whispered her name. “She would never dance away from me, once she got to know me”
But what did that mean, to know Stiletto? He was the son of illegal immigrants, Indians from a village in the mountains. They rode the Death Train across the Mexican plains when they were teens, hurtling in wonder atop, inside and under the box cars. They settled in the San Joaquin valley. Stiletto was born in a shack, delivered by a midwife, his American birth duly recorded with a birth certificate. His citizenship was the harrowing journey’s purpose. His mother was “with child” on the Death Train. More than likely his parents were never married.
As a boy he worked along side his mother and father harvesting cotton, grapes, other crops. They traveled continually around the valley and lived in workers camps. His parents were caught and deported, complications with their green cards, when he was seven. Stiletto was left to be raised by the migrants.
When he was thirteen he and his friend Juan ran away to LA> There began a life for him in an urban underground, hard years hiding with “illegals” in an underworld brotherhood, working low paying jobs and surviving brutal barrios. Stiletto was sharp. That’s how he gor his nickname, not merely because he carried one for protection and let that be known.
He had another gift, beside citizenship, from his parents: he was handsome. His mother was as beautiful as Solo. His father was a stunning man. He knew this from the photographs left to him. Stiletto caught on quickly in the restaurant business, moving from dish washer to chef’s helper to waiter and bartender and when he finally got his GED, after much self studying and struggle, manager. He came to Chicago two years ago when the owner of the restaurant he was managing in Hollywood asked him to help his son with his new Rush Street club, manage the bar, the Latino kitchen. Stiletto was rich – at least from the perspective of his humble prospects.
Stiletto saw Solo hiding in his shadow. One day she would see him in hers. That’s what love was. That’s what his parents had. He could see that in the photographs. That’s what sustained them on the Death Train, in the work camps. Without that love one was dead.
“I’ll have a Gibson, Pedro, whenever you wake up from your dream world.” The Junk Bond King of Chicago was suddenly seated before him at the bar, blonde, blue-eyed, brash, young, younger than Stiletto, a baby faced billionaire, resplendent, as usual, in his designer glam-guy grab. He was staring past Stiletto into the mirror at Solo, his customary arrogant smirk twisting into a sneer as he studied her. “Dry, shaken, arctic cold,” he continued “and try to remember, Pancho, it’s garnished with onions not olives. Por favor.” Eyes riveted to the mystery in the mirror, who threatened with each movement to disappear, he fingered a diamond cufflink as though to reassure himself that what he saw was really there and that he was a young master of the universe and if he chose he could own her.
“Me llamo Stiletto.” Stiletto placed the drink before him. This was a game with them, initiated by the young titan who thought it was amusing. Someday, the wrong day, it would have a bad end.
“Stiletto? Isn’t that the heel of a woman’s shoe? Does that mean women walk all over you? Not very macho.”
“Stiletto is a blade, senor. A weapon for Chicano Zorros. Call me Zorro if you like. One day, I will be happy to demonstrate.”
“Touche Jose.” The broker lifted his cocktail. “Who’s the spic chick?”
The song ended and Solo rejoined her partner at the candlelit table. Regge played and new couples flickered in the multicolored light show. Stiletto searched out her silhouette and tried to fathom what kind of intimate conversation Solo and her latest beaux could possibly be having. It must have been as hopeless as their syncopation when dancing. He supposed she just sat graciously and listened.
“You have already met the beautiful senorita.”
Stiletto let the insult go. Every restaurant would go broke if they didn’t regard their obnoxious customers as jokes. Fab was a deck flush with them: a full house of jokers in every hand – Cobra ladies looking for young men, drug dealers, high priced hookers, sirens, doctors, lawyers, commanders of corporations, chiefs of nations, upscale bedlam.
“Yeah, we had our little moment. Not very illumination. Fill me in.”
Last week the Junk Bond King had discovered Solo at the bar and immediately sat down next to her.
“Hola Chiquita. Mind if I take this seata?” He set down his laptop and settled in. “Rough day in the trade but I made a killing. Do you think it’s nice in Nice? I’m thinking about traveling.”
Solo turned slowly and said to him thoughtfully: “We see death’s door at the end of every corridor. Before we go through that one we should open as many of the others we can.”
“How about I open yours?”
“I’m never there.”
“Where are you?”
“I am never anywhere.”
She said this after deep reflection and seemed to be surprised by her own situation.
Her escort came and they went away to a table in the corner.
“I never talk about the customers.” Stiletto took away his empty glass and served him another. “But I will in this case. I will tell you the rumors. You can hear them anywhere. Maybe after you hear them, you won’t bother her. She is Rush Street’s beautiful mystery. She has slept with no one, despite the parade of nightclub boyfriends. She comes and goes, from where no one knows. Some say she is the daughter of a Columbian coffee plantation owner. Some say she is the daughter of a South American drug cartel overlord, or his wife. Some say she is on a Holiday. Some say that she is here studying, others she is hiding. Solo is an enigma. Solo inhabits a world of her own. Solo is a phantom.”
“Interesting.” The baby faced billionaire sipped his drink. “But maybe she grew up in a Chi-town ghetto? Maybe she still lives there? Maybe she weaves those clothes out of the fabric she’s stolen from a day in a sweat shop in Chicago’s underground garment district? Her fingers look as nimble as her body. Imagine the Braille she could write over your skin in a night of passion! Maybe she’s just another Fab club gold digger, but one more clever? Maybe Ill have a detective agency investigate her. Princess, pauper? Whatever she is maybe I’ll have her for a night of pleasure. Money can buy anything, one way or another.”
Maybe you better not bother her. Stiletto brooded as he wiped the bar and moved away to another customer.
Stiletto had already shadowed Solo. He could not help himself. They were made for each other. He had to get to know her better. He had to sit and talk with her. He wanted the same one dance/one chance rendezvous as the others, for that’s what was going on. One Fab club interlude with Solo and if something was wrong you were gone. Everybody knew it. It had become a Fab club tournament – which prince could win the princess. No one was insulted. In fact they enjoyed the challenge. They were all too full of themselves to be offended. Besides, they had no hearts to be broken. Even the lynx eyed lovelies weren’t disturbed. Solo did not come as an eclipse over their sugar plum planet of French perfume, manicured nails, styled hair, tanning salons. If anything she made it easier for them to catch a man on the rebound. Solo was looking for a husband and she knew what she wanted – no dating games, party life, or one night stands. At first it seemed a little old fashioned and quaint in a world where “now” is all that matters anyway and nightlife was a drug one shot through ones veins, each night a new fix, night after night you looked forward to the next. But that soon changed into a fabulous Fab club game of speculation – who could temp Solo into a second date?
Solo wanted a mate. Stiletto knew if she got to know him she would see how right they would be for one another. But it was impossible here. He could not come back on his days off – it was against the rules. They were his rules. Fab was not to be a party place for the wait staff. It generated too many problems. He had learned that lesson managing the restaurant in Hollywood. This was not the right setting anyway, not for a meeting of soul mates. As far as the Junk Bond King’s speculation that she was just another gold digger and very likely a poor one, Stiletto had already considered that. If that were true – and after his obsessive stalking he still didn’t know, it was more complicated than that – her poverty might work to his credit. It was another bond they could build a life upon.
Stiletto was no longer a poor man. Stiletto was an affluent young professional and he had plans. Between the tips he declared and the tips he hid, which were tycoon generous, plus his salary as manager in one of Chicago’s most exclusive nightclubs, he easily made as much as a doctor – at least one who was in general practice. Small change, of course, in this rarified world of corporate magnets. Yet enough to live in grandeur – a deluxe apartment in a high rise in one of the worlds most beautiful cities, where he could sit on a terrace, surrounded by skyscrapers, and look down from fifty stories at a forest of parks, a treasure of mansions, museums, Cathedrals, public gardens with sparkling fountains, amidst a luxury of tree lines streets, abundant with art galleries, bookstores, cafes and expensive shops, all of it spread out along a sparkling fresh water sea dotted with cruisers, freighters, sailboats and yachts. One day he would open his own Gold Coast café. He had the savings, connections, backing, credit with banks. He knew what he was doing and everybody liked him. In time he planned to become a legendary restaurant owner. This bold renegade would carve a Z with his blade – a Z for zillionaire not zero, which he was when he was a migrant worker.
“THEM,” he once made up a poem when he was tired, defeated, working on his GED and fed up with how he was treated, by fate, society, because of his dark complexion and poverty. “They come with nowhere to go but the ghetto. They do their time at the bottom of the heap and the back of the line. There is no end to THEM. We keep letting us in.” Now in Arizona they wanted to pass a law where there was no citizenship for Hispanics like him born in America from what they called illegal aliens. They were against pathways to citizenship. Many states were.
He wanted to talk about his life with Solo. He wanted to tell her all his dreams and sorrows. He wanted to know hers. But shadowing her had been a bad idea. He had unexpectedly hounded her into a world of horror, puzzling and disturbing.
“With all the whores before me, Zorro, wither shall I point my dick?” The Junk Bond King asked Stiletto and laughed. “To paraphrase Mary Shelly, if you have any acquaintance with literacy.”
The drunker he got the more angelic he looked, with his blonde, designer hair and white, chiseled features. You had to look closely to see that his thin lipped smile got meaner. Angels and demons all morphed together – Heaven and Hell in the same Dream Chamber. This time of night, after hours of booze, drugs, echoing music and multicolored lights, the goblins, witches, and demons came out of the shadows. Fab began to resemble a vampire’s castle. “With all the world before me wither shall I bend my step/” Mary Shelley’s monster wondered`. Junking up a line from Frankenstein – how appropriate, how Junk Bond clever. Down the road to perdition is where they were all headed and taking everyone with them.
“I was the bard of Harvard Yard, Zorro. When they called me the Wiz Kid they meant in bed. You want to talk numbers? There’s only one amigo. Numero uno. Got a new name for you my friend: Apocalypto. Ever seen the Gibson flick? I started drinking these after it.” He lifted his glass. “You look like that doe-eyed Mayan guy, or whatever he was, running around naked in the jungle trying to save his ass after his village got mashed by the big boys. They all thought they were something those Aztecs and Mayans. Just like you do. It cracks me up the way you think you’re so cool with your braided, Indian pony tail. Must be something in the blood which muddles the head. So the flick goes from that piss ass little village of gathers and hunters where all your relatives lived, to the big kingdom of the gods with their pyramids and witch doctors where everybody thinks life is really rocking. That flick cracked me up. What a bunch of deluded fuck ups! I thought of you when I saw it. ‘Cause BAMMO! WHAMMO! Horror of horrors! Here comes the Conquistadors! That woke them up. I love that last scene. The big ship with the real masters of the universe floating like a nightmare on their piss ass sea. You can run little savages nut you can’t hide from me! I’ll have another Zorro, I mean Apocalypto, dry, shaken, arctic cold, and remember those onions, por favor.”
“But of course.” Stiletto leaned over and took his empty glass. “But let me tell you something.” He lowered his voice. “I mean what I say sincerely, my friend. I don’t like you.” And one day I may kill you, he added to himself. “But I feel that I must warn you. You must be very careful about Solo. For her sake as well as your own. There are things that you don’t know, things none of us know. You may get into a situation you don’t want to – or create one.” His mind flashed back to the mean streets he had shadowed her down, the dangerous characters, the mysteries. “I must warn Solo about you too. About the detectives you mentioned. I told you Solo inhabits a world of her own. She is something of an enigma. One must be cautious about involving themselves in the affairs of others. There is a saying among the people I grew up with. It was to remind them to stay out of trouble with one another. ‘Don’t start a fire you can’t put out.’ George Bush could have used that for Iraq. Maybe Obama for Afghanistan, definitely for Iran. And the bankers before they created the bubble that broke and brought on the recession, in which we still wallow to some extent. Although none of you seem to be suffering. One must be careful in life, proceed judiciously.
“You don’t warn a conquistador,” he smirked at Stiletto, “especially with barrio folk lore. All I need from you is the drinks you pour.”
Conquistadors galore – Fab was filled with commodities toreadors. Stiletto shook his head and made the drink, moved down the bar to take care of the next customer. These “masters of the universe” were masters of disaster to the world, themselves, their families ultimately. They couldn’t feel and they couldn’t think beyond their own lust for money and their power trip. This was a bad turn of things, muy malo. Stiletto wondered, seriously, if he should kill the Junk Bond King, tonight, follow him out and cut his throat in the dark. If he looked into the affairs of Solo, as Stiletto had, he might cause her trouble. Was the day the dark side of Solo’s life? By what he saw it seemed that way. Was she involved in a South American drug cartel? Chicago had its tunnels, funnels, cross currents like every world city. Maybe they led to a South Side Chicago drug running operation? Rich or poor, was she working Rush Street dealers? Was that what she was doing in Fab and the other high end watering holes? Was flirting and dancing her cover? her mode of contact? Was she on the run from a lover or husband with a stolen score from South or Central America and was cashing in on it, like a dying butterfly, across the night scene, door to door?
Stiletto’s mind was spinning with the mysteries and possibilities. All he had were the rumors, the puzzle of Solo and what little he had seen. She was staying in a grand hotel downtown, the Palmer House, an old money estuary with a lobby you would only find in a Hollywood movie. He had followed her there and watched her disappear into the rooms above on an elevator. The domed ceiling above him sparkled with chandeliers. Beneath it the lush, plush, expansive room was filled with overstuffed chairs and antique style tables at which one rested and enjoyed a cocktail. The wait staff, dressed in formal attire, ran around taking care of the guests like maids and butlers. Statues, fountains, paintings, completed the lavish grand hotel ambience. This was all fitting. Where else would the magnificent Solo be residing?
The lobby became his home away from home. Before work, on his days off, days he called off, he would hang out there, sitting in a plush chair, reading, having a drink, hoping he would catch a glimpse of her coming or going so he could casually run into her. But she never appeared. There were too many other entrances and exits to the grand hotel which she apparently preferred. Security began to eye him suspiciously. He had to give up the ghost, the ghost of Solo, admit defeat.
But then, quite by chance, he did run into her at the museum. Art was a passion with him. If Stiletto could wake up one morning with the ability to paint like Miro or Picasso he felt he would finally possess a real soul. She was standing in a gallery in the contemporary section with her back to him. She was dressed, casually, in a dazzling autumn print, gypsy dress with puffed shoulders and billowing sleeves, over which her raven hair cascaded like a tropical storm’s renegade showers or a poet’s dream. She was looking, intently, at the almost Surrealistic rendition of the beautiful opera singer Maris Callis by Gerhard Richter. With staccato brushstrokes of grey, white, black and silver, the artist captured the majestic woman descending a staircase from heaven – or certainly some grander realm than the one we live in – no place Stiletto had been or could imagine. The portrait brought to mind those old black and white silver print photographs of the glamorous stars of the Silver Screen from the Golden Age of filmmaking. But of course it was even more otherworldly and breathtaking. The painting shimmered. Maria looked like she would vanish before one’s eyes even though her presence was supernaturally vivid. She was at once haunting, chimerical, yet, rivetingly real. She looked like Solo, Stiletto suddenly realized, or a future manifestation of Solo which time and maturity would bestow. Yet despite the beauty and majesty of the woman descending the staircase, the expression in her eyes, her features suggested tragedy. There was a determination in her gaze, a stoic look of resignation, as though descending those stairs, into wherever she was going was her obligation, even mission. Was this Solo’s story?
Suddenly Solo had turned away from the painting and looked at him. Her face was stricken, with terror, horror, devastation. Her black hole eyes looked hypnotized. She walked passed him, shaken. She didn’t see him standing in the doorway. She saw nothing. Stiletto was too confused to move. Heart pounding he watched her zombie down a hallway and disappear around a corner. That was the beginning of his stalking nightmare.
She left the museum. He spotted her on the street getting into a cab. “I’m undercover.” He had said crazily to the driver as he hopped into the cab behind her. “Follow her.”
“Want to run that past me again?”
The cab driver looked in his rear view mirror.
Stiletto tossed a fifty in the front seat. The driver looked at it and started his ignition.
“We never had this conversation.”
They followed Solo to the worst Latino ghetto in Chicago. The buildings looked like bombed out shells in a war zone. The streets were crowded with gangs, as bad as any he had seen in East LA. They brought back memories of drug lords, stabbings, shootings. Stiletto was scared. What could Solo be doing in this dead zone?
“Far as I go amigo.” The cab driver pulled over to the curb. “I go down a side street I may get into trouble.”
The streets were closing in on themselves, dead ending as they toppled through their own small jumble in the urban jungle. Her cab was gone. Stiletto could have pursued her on foot but it seemed hopeless, and dangerous. He was too well dressed, a target. Sure he was Latino but he didn’t belong. His accent was wrong, as were all of his expressions, everything about him. The gangs out there would be on him in a minute.
“Take me back.” Stiletto reluctantly told the driver that day. He had to give up the ghost. A phantom was what Solo remained.

“Would you like to dance?” The voice of Solo roused Stiletto from his dream world. She was suddenly seated next to the Junk Bond King sipping her Champagne and staring challengingly at him.
“I don’t dance standing up Chiquita.” The baby faced billionaire stared back at her and grinned. “What I do is the Swim. One partner on top, the other on the bottom.”
“Let’s test the water.”
Solo got up and walked out onto the dance floor. The young conquistador smirked and followed after.
It was like watching a swan mate with a monkey, or a goblin chase a ghost, or a devil chase an angel through the fires of Hell with his pitchfork. The Junk Bond King, who was tall and gawky, slashed menacingly at the air, determined, it seemed, to sly the beautiful creature bef0re him. Solo eluded his lethal blows, weaving and feinting and twirling in and around him.
The crowd began to clap. They encircled the clashing couple, one who whirled like a dervish, the other who stalked like a monster. It was a horror show and yet it was beautiful and they raged against one another in dazzling disorder, eyes riveted, mouths twisted, with passion? defiance? It didn’t matter. Stiletto knew that he had lost her.

Doors in the rain, locked, lonely, all the same, where the endless night never sees a glimmer of daylight, and life falls through fate’s cracks like a vanishing act.
“We see death’s door at the end of every corridor. Before we go through that one we should open as many of the others as we can.”
Death’s door. That was the only one left down Stiletto’s corridor. Or so it felt. He sat bundled up on his terrace, the city sparkling below him with its panorama of Christmas, and read in the papers about the marriage of Solo and the Junk Bond King on Christmas Eve in a little town in Guatemala which no one had ever heard of.
“Life’s road is a scar, cut by a butcher.”
Solo was a teacher there, according to the article, who came to Chicago to visit her childhood friend on a holiday. The woman, Maria, was a dress designer who wanted to establish her fashions in America. She was living in poverty, illegally. Now Stiletto knew where she was going when he followed her that day and where Solo got her magnificent clothes. The Junk Bond King took care of Maria. He bought her a shop on Chicago’s Gold Coast, fixed up the legality of her residence. The Junk Bond King was taking care of everything. He was building a school for the town Solo came from and a hospital, and a factory where the people of the town could manufacture the products from his vast holdings.
Stiletto could read between the lines of the Cinderella story. The town had collectively raised money, just as the migrants had done for one another many times in his childhood to help the others and themselves. To send Solo to America. The beauty had done her duty. She had married money.
“Confined in my cloud prison,
Stiletto replayed Solo’s song in his head as he read, watched her dance again.
“I watch a rainbow arch across the heavens,
“Dreams shimmer through fate’s prism,
“I fall through life’s crystal ball

Fallen Soldiers

The homeless vet

bums a cigarette

as he leaves the

public library,

wondering,

while he smokes it

and enjoys the small

comforting glow.

of the burning tobacco,

where he’ll go next,

to survive the blistering

cold of Chicago.

Death like a bullet

shot from a gun,

is coming for him,

and everyone,

jobless, roofless,

hopeless – thousands

just like him

in every city.

His comrades in arms,

now missing in action,

abandoned by their country.

Dead on the sidewalk,

dead in the alley,

dead on the asphalt –

the vet knows death. He’s

seen enough of it.      .

The night is a war zone.

You survive or you don’t.

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