Chapter 3

Bets on Blacker?
Any bets on Blacker?


Vic had seen enough of prison and walked away from the courthouse not knowing what to do with himself. He’d fallen in with a couple of guys too smart for their own good who had just as much money as Vic, but one of them had a stolen credit card, so the three of them lived it up for a week and a half; fancier restaurants every night, draining the liquor stores dry, and taking any pretty girls they’d happen to meet out for a night on the town. Vic never signed anything, but he knew what he was doing and he was doing it because he was hungry as hell.

The father of the guy who had stolen the credit card had been in banking for thirty-five years investigating fraudulent claims for one of the largest banks in town. The bail money came as soon as his father found out about it. The judge spat that three such finely bred boys should want to squander their talents on such a two-bit life. Since the money had been recovered to all of the various establishments and the judge had just finished a most delectable quail for lunch, the lads were given suspended sentences of twelve months each and set free.

The boys decided to get a celebratory bottle of Bushmills as they left the courthouse, but Vic managed to lose them as he ducked inside a music shop to fondle a burgundy acoustic-electric six-string that cost as much as his bail. He’d spent eleven days in custody; eleven days away from his own guitar, and the first tune his hands fell to was "Here I Am, O Lord Send Me". He rattled it off a few times, dashed off a few scales and hit the street. He started whistling to himself "Jesus Loves The Little Children," the same innocuous little ditty one of the guards would always whistle whenever he’d dish out Jello and custard for the inmates of the remand ward. Vic couldn’t help but pity the guards, who were the real lifers. Never playing pool with any of the inmates, always missing the last part of the movie on videotape like everybody else when it was time for lights out. Imagine their parties where they haven’t even gotten any war stories to trade, just the supremely noble, supremely wretched task of baby-sitting in a uniform. And at night after the final lock-up when some of the inmates would holler across the yard to each other, the guards would have to stroll past every cell door every half hour and make sure no one was being smothered or hanging themselves as the strains of "Happy Birthday to You" warbled and echoed from wing to wing.

Vic thought of his cellmate who had been inside once before and had recognized one of the female guards as someone he’d gone to school with. They’d chat whenever they could and she would always slip him giant hunks of ham and fruit; hash when she could get it; drafting pencils, anything. The guy’s cellmate became insanely jealous and one day when the two of them were working in the prison store, his cellmate had returned from an errand, unlocked the door and found the two of them entwined. He found the nearest guard he could and yelled rape, which cost her a job and her boyfriend a month in solitary. When he got out of solitary, he found his old cellmate, smiled and asked him how he’d been. All the other guys on the wing had blackballed the nark and agreed that he’d probably be dead inside of a month. He hanged himself in just under three weeks and Antony the skinhead cleaned up a dozen packs of Old Holborn from the pools. A few months later the guy was released and she was waiting for him. They bought a 1956 Chrysler Futura, set off south and crashed into the sun.

As Vic tramped the streets he cursed all the lovers he saw who had no right to play their little games with each other when they could go to the river whenever they wanted, buy a bottle of Bordeaux, fly off to Luxembourg.... They’d never have to know rationing your tobacco or only having one shower a week. Always cutting each other to shreds because the phone bill was late and the daffodils this birthday weren’t as nice as the Mr. Lincoln’s last birthday.

Vic hoped he’d never find whom he wanted because he knew the temptation of taking them for granted. But that never stopped his eyes from scurrying around as many faces as he could just to see if she were still out there somewhere. His image of her had become very finely carved over the years and he more or less knew exactly who she would be. The battle, though, lay in the surrender; of having to deal with the obligatory words and laughter that parry and retreat, duck and roll until the eyes give way.

Vic gave in to his stomach and searched for the first diner he could find. He needed a Reuben.


Estrelica & Vic, Chapter 4

Do ye write letters? Do ye write long letters?