Unpublished Novel: Excerpts from Part Three, Chapters 27 and 28

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Bob’s Novel: A Carraway Card Game

Burke Carraway ripped, quickshuffled the cards, clamped his ill-fitting and despised dentures down on his formidable cigar, sent the pasteboards skimming expertly to their destinations across the kitchen table. He fanned his hand before him with a practiced flip, grunted and reached for his glass, foam-flecked above the low beer line.

“I’m going to tear you a new asshole this time, you halfbreed pigmy,” he said to Rudy ‘The Rug’ sitting across the table. This little man, who was very little, a fraction under five feet in height, ignored him. His swarthy face revealed a Syrian ancestry, his hair steelgray at sixty-three. He arranged his hand in a businesslike manner, squinting through steelrimmed spectacles.

‘The Rug’ was a professional gambler, or to be more exact, a numbers writer, a horse book, one who had no knowledge whatever of the sporting field, but who possessed a sure knowledge of odds and percentages. He had never progressed beyond the third grade, but he had never worked a day in his life. A bit better than smalltime he had netted twenty, some years even thirty-thousands, by never doing anything but playing at cards.

Burke Carraway’s insults he had borne for close to fifty of his years. The moniker ‘The Rug,’ occasionally modified to ‘Monsieur Le Rug,’ stemmed from his father’s trade in Persian imports. But Rudy only retracted his turtle-like skull into that metier when a certain kind of heat, of a police variety, shot its rays too near for comfort.

He looked up and around the table at the familiar, but oddly dissimilar ‘suckers’ immersed in tonight’s game.

“Open for three.”

“I thought you would, you refugee bastard.” The blasphemy was matter of fact, without rancour, continuity of a longstanding social congress.

Burke looked further to his left at a handsome woman in her forties who sighed and ante’d. Garnished with too much make-up and fighting a losing battle with her Playtex Living Girdle, this was Madge, his youngest sister. Fresh from an hysterical love-affair with her doctor, melodramatic, her powers in decline, big-eyed Madge could play the gadfly perfectly.

Her husband, the craven Harvey, passed as usual. Despised by all and especially by Madge, he had never been accepted by the Carraways because of an incurable predisposition to penury – one unforgivable sin in that family.

“For Christ’s sake Harvey stop scratching yourse’f!” That was Maude, Burke’s eldest sister, a mannish sixty, beloved by all. She was the best player of the lot.

“Scratching the best action’s he getting lately,” giggled Madge.

“Here Shithead bet something,” Burke threw a couple of chips in Harvey’s direction.

The hand of the clock frittered on… the late hour more attuned to amenable insult than expert poker.

“Will you please tell me, Wetbrain, what possessed you to stay with that pitiful pair of tens?”

“Put something in your mouth, Sister,” though pleased when Maude began to express herself. When at war his sister could curse like a harridan off 7th Street.

“Time for a little serious drinking,” called the worthy Madge, pushing chips and cards to the center of the table, a cheap yellow linoleum, awkwardly extended by the addition of a seldom-used, more vibrantly colored leaf.

The kitchen itself was surprisingly large, painted white with a Wedgewood blue ceiling. In one corner stood an enormous refrigerator that still had a compartment for a block of ice. All the fixtures were outdated, but shining, painfully clean. Mrs. Margaret Carraway was an immaculate housekeeper.

She hovered now gingerly around the obstreperous crew, partaking of the perimeter of their smiles, passing around clean glassware, not involved in any banter. She hoped the party would break up soon.

She suffered much from Burke’s excesses, the strong drink, nor did she approve of the gambling. But she was a sensible woman, and did not attempt to inflict her views on others. She tried to be tolerant of those foibles she secretly regarded as childish. She managed this, as she did her assiduous churchgoing, with an intrepidity which never ruffled the feathers of those she chanced to come into contact with. This is a very rare gift. The legendary ‘good woman’ is always subject to having her motivations and validity dissected, especially amidst a free-booting, bibulous company. But Margaret was universally respected, though still abused regularly by both husband and only son.

[This is Bob reflecting on his mother… on that ever-patient martyrdom to a wild-living husband and son. He admires her closed-mouth, her ‘intrepidity.’ At that time in his life he had no idea what he was taking out of her.]

“Is Breck really going to marry that knocked-up blonde?” Maude’s question, as usual, cutting through all the fripperies and pretense, exploding on target.

Margaret in the next room overheard and blanched at the barb. She removed herself from earshot, down the long narrow hall, to a soothing late movie on television. She didn’t want to think about Breck and his muddled affairs right now. Tonight it was ‘How Green Is My Valley,’ and a little tranquility of spirit.

But what he had told her, that day they’d had lunch – about leaving the bank! Vee seemed a sweet girl, and Margaret’s heart went out to her widowhood. But she didn’t think it was the right move for Breck. Her eyes brimmed with tears… she wanted a grandchild so badly.

Burke was holding forth, “She’s a good-looking bimbo! If I was ten years younger I might do her some damage myself.”

“Shit, you mean thirty years,” concluded the Syrian bookie.

“At least I wouldn’t have to pay for it,” and though this was intended as a low blow, his eyes twinkled at his diminutive pal.

“I ain’t ashamed to pay for it, you white-headed old bastard. I might be sixty-three, but I still do ’em alot of good. And I can afford to pay for it. Unlike some others I could mention.”

Maude was in hysterics, and Madge, eyes bright as the talk had turned to her favorite subject, leered across the table at Rudy:

“How much would you give me for an hour? I bet I could teach you something new.”

“I doubt it,” piped doleful Harvey.

“You son of a bitch!” his wife shrieked, her genuine hatred raking the family nerves, chilling even that gregarious crew, “A hand job and two aspirin tablets would put you out of commission for six months! If you weren’t too goddamned cheap to buy some life insurance, I’d lock you up and screw you to death over the weekend! And that wouldn’t take longer than twenty minutes!”

Burke put in his two bits, “You know, one thing I’ve never screwed is a bookie. I may try you on before I die, Rudy.”

The reply was unprintable, and Maude roared back, “Bookie Nookie! What’re the odds you could hit bottom, with that turdy little peenie of yours?”

Rudy’s ancient face assumed a dignity and aplomb, as he turned to look Maude up and down, and full on: “Honey, it may be small, but I tell you – I can open cans with it.”

In the turbulence which followed, they never did get back to discussing Breck’s new alliance. Madge glared malevolently across the table at her husband, her lips forming a phrase she repeated over and over —

“Fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you –”

The look in her eyes was demented.


Chapter Twenty-Eight: Violated By Parties

That colorful Carraway party Bob writes up so gleefully gives me the willies.

My childhood was violated by noisy parties; the night-time sound of constant merry-making I believe made my nerves go bad. At the time I just worried that I couldn’t fall asleep, that I wouldn’t get up in time for school, or Mass. But how could I not have physically suffered from constant stress like that.

The character of Robert in my own unpublished novel “The Degenerate” weakens himself in throwing the same kind of tantrums I threw; is also tortured by fury over the drinking. My dysfunctional childhood is all written up there; perhaps one day we’ll all read it again.

Bob and Gloria enjoyed their drinking parties, and why not. No sympathy for a little girl, who every time she fell asleep was awakened by screaming laughter. The grown-ups didn’t care if the little girl slept or not, no shame in their debauchery, what’s wrong with a few friends over and cocktails?

So little Terry began to throw fits to make everyone behave.

In the novel there’s a scene where little Robert – I made myself a little boy, who has my father’s name – puts himelf through a prolonged, theatrical tantrum in order to make all the partners get out of the apartment. He’s screaming, crying, throwing himself on the floor, sobbing, not giving up until he’s made everyone tiptoe out, over his prone and quivering body.

The reader can draw the conclusion: no wonder the character Robert eventually goes insane, has hallucinations, goes into a psychotically introverted state, and finds his life work in contractor murder. Because his people were degenerates, he would flower into one as well.

After a few of these fits, Terry’s punishment-nickname became “Party Pooper.”


A start of a story entitled “Drunken Parents”

“By the time the police knocked on our apartment door, the fighting was totally out of control. My mother was screaming as my father beat her, and my sister and I were screaming for them to stop.

The neighbors in our apartment building regularly called the police. Nowadays my sister and I would have been removed immediately from the house. In 1965 they merely left us with a warning.

The tall, starchy figures, covered in brass buttons, that flawless navy blue, the military aspect probably instigated my adult ‘police fetish.’ Even though they scared me, they were kind. Even though they would punish my parents, they seemed to love me.

In some respect the Police served me as God made manifest.

If only God had taken us away from them — or them, from us.

But no — after all, they were but a worldly authority. And in 1965, we had to stay with the criminals.

Bob’s mother, my grandmother Louise’s constant imprecations that we never smoke, never smoke, should have included, never drink. For whatever reason, it did not. I never smoked. But for a while I drank, and I drank alot.”


A completed story relating to the same era, entitled

“First Pervert”
by Terence Sellers

There are childhood torments that never abate… For example, what about that ‘lady’ who crawled into my bed?

That lady, Jeanne, was a lurid woman, always drunk, exuding a strong and civetty perfume. Chanel Number 5, Shalimar, or Joy, whichever, Jeanne was very glamorous: a divorcee, with a mink, in big swishy striped skirts, black satin and metallic gold, puffed out with petticoats.

In the course of Jeanne’s divorce, her husband had gotten custody of their girl. So while this made Jeanne free, it also made her sad. My father told me we should feel sorry for her, and to try and be very nice. But even so, though I was told just these facts, still I felt she was a bad mother. Because the father had taken the girl away… because glamourous Jeanne was always drunk.

My parents, Bob and Gloria, would have met her at some Georgetown boite. Or maybe just at the local dump, The Oxford Tavern. Jeanne had stinking cigarette breath mixed up with whisky. But she was always laughing and falling over pretty on her high stiletto heels. Even at my age I knew that Jeanne was ‘hot.’ Always with some guy nearby, ready to ‘hump.’ Was she a whore, or just a slut? Even for a thirteen-year-old such questions enthrall.

Jeanne wanted to bond with me. When she was very drunk, that is almost always, she’d cry over the lost daughter, who unfortunately was named Christine. MY middle name being Christine, that seemed to settle it — Jeanne was going to turn me into her daughter.

Bob told me to be nice, because she was lonely for her daughter. But anyone could tell that Jeanne was just wrong.

I liked glamorous things, but Jeanne repelled me. Because I was a Catholic I was not supposed to believe in witches, but it seemed to me that Jeanne was a witch. And as she wasn’t a Catholic, she probably was.

Jeanne had black hair, like my mother’s; and my mother had a dress just like Jeanne’s. Such a dress had a low-cut neck, and the big swishy skirt, horizontal-striped gold metallic with sheer black organza — fabulously over an enormous black tulle petticoat.

Gloria was I think trying to become more glamorous and Christ were these women all over me, ruling my life, bawling laughter, smoking their cigarettes, crawling in my bed, bitching at me, but most of all they were acting pissed off — for one thing, about having to be mothers.

Such were my Queen Mothers, Christ almighty.

To stop their cruelty cold I was going to have to become more glamorous than even they were. But at thirteen I had no evening dresses. In fact, I still had a babysitter! I’d watch Jeanne and Gloria dressing up, enjoying a few starter cocktails. Then as Gloria dialled the babysitter, I’d go into a rage which she ignored.

Gloria and Jeanne would put on their wraps, and go out with Bob and whomever, always a new guy after The Witch. Going wherever in all hell adults go, to get their stinking drunk on. They left me behind, not quite a child, in pajamas in a rage with milk to drink.

It was near Xmas, my father’s birthday time, when party followed party, occasions requiring friends to be more than ever falling-down-drunk, and spilling drinks, and wrecking furniture and that damned off-key carolling…

At Xmas now Jeanne was especially glamorous because more tragic. Because she wasn’t allowed anywhere near her daughter. No, not at all, not even over Xmas. Because that wicked divorce-say husband snatched her Christine away, to the Caribbean isles, where anyway a girl belonged… in the Care-A-Being Sea. Wasn’t that better than having to look at a drunken female of a mother?

I was as usual trying to hide in my room, wishing for the hundredth time the door had a lock on it — as drunk after drunken over-friendly colorful type that I had to be polite to burst into my room. To say Merry Xmas, to exclaim over how cute I was, to keep me wide awake. Making a bed in the closet was no use, because Tennis-Bum George, Goldwater George, Sleeping-on-the-Couch George, Rudy the Rug, and finally Jeannie Hot and Evil found me. These adults were as one in holding up the cocktail glass, after cocktail glass, after glass, downing every lurid content, standing over me, partying, while I stared at the wall.

One night Jeanne fell over into the Xmas tree. The Witch who ruined the Xmas tree! How much more symbolism did you need.

Another night in some bar or another Jeanne started crying so hard that Bob and Gloria had to bring her along home. She didn’t want to be alone, so they put her on the couch.

Jeanne didn’t stay on the couch.

I wasn’t sleeping when my door opened, and here came Jeanne in her civetty-smelling slip. Crying, getting into my bed, clutching me and snuggling, and holding me tight, and tighter, and biting me, and licking my neck and kissing me and crying…

I screamed! for help, and screamed! into that delirious face, smiling and petting me happy and pleasured, then changing to guilty, guilty, and terrified.

The lights went on. They dragged Jeanne off me. I was in hysterics and fell out of bed. The attack was absolutely sexual, horrible, and hot. I was excited and angry the witch had made me sin…

In the days that followed, Bob tried again to explain that Jeanne was just very, very sad. I guess that was supposed to make it alright, that I got to be her crying-in-Kleenex baby? I screamed “I despise her!” that new word DESPISE so perfect to say, about what she had done.

So thank you anyhow Bob, for being there because, despite your kindness, Jeanne never came to see me again.

The following fall, around my birthday, my parents had me come along to visit Jeanne’s new apartment. Jeanne had moved out of our neighborhood… anyhow, Bob and Gloria shouldn’t have done it… I had almost forgotten about her. I didn’t want to go, but Bob let me know that Jeanne was still sad, and still very sorry. She wanted to make up to me for what she had done. And that I shouldn’t hold a grudge. Bob was right about that.

At Jeanne’s apartment, I was so put upon as to be the recipient of an enormous chocolate birthday cake. My parents got all gushy about how exciting it was, that Jeanne had made it just for me. I tried to eat some of it. I really wanted to. The cake was fine. I just couldn’t eat anything.


Copyright and All Rights Reserved
by Terence Sellers