Friday, June 1, 2012

Jackie Vera's Dead (Short Story)

                                      By Bill King

Only eleven people were on hand to pay their respects to slain musician Jackie Vera. They were tabbed the lucky eleven since most of Jackie’s friends, business associates and acquaintances were either dead, missing, in the witness protection program or married. I was on hand and so was Father McQuinty who spoke few words as they lowered Jackie’s coffin in the hardened earth. Even his presence was no more than symbolic. It was like Jackie had ingratiated himself with every person he’d come in contact with even the good Father McQuinty. 

Jackie would drape an arm around the young priest’s neck and croon, “Where The Boys Are” well past the point of tolerance. McQuinty would nervously smile then peal Jackie’s fingers from his garment. Jackie was relentless. The greater the distance McQuinty put between the louder Jackie would sing. By the time the young priest cleared the doorway Jackie would  be dry-humping pals Benny Wathum , Vinnie “ The Geep” or Joey “ The Screw” Romano and sometimes me, Willie “the Monk” Buggatti.

 I never totally figured why I spent so much time in his company other than he could be over the top hilarious when he chose and had this charisma about him that seemed to ignite the most epic of events like the night the three of us showed up to hear Jackie play at this rich Jewish broad’s wedding reception.

Everywhere you turned there where these Hebrew men in black suits dancing shoulder to shoulder in a wide circle with long braided tassels flipping around below wide brim hats like shriveled sausages. They’d never touched any of the women in fact the broads were mostly out of view. Jackie didn’t know any Jewish songs so he faked it. He was so stoned one could barely see the pupils through puffy eyelids - but he was still all smiles. The car ride down Vinnie kept asking “Anything we can ding there?”

Benny would say -”Yeah, the fucking doorbell”. The shit we was smoking made you so horny Joey’s cheery pink lips looked inviting. Man, did he have a large set of soup coolers. You’d never know the dude was a gumba.

Anyway, the three of us show up when this rich bitch opens the door and stares at us like we come to collect furniture for the homeless or something, so Vinnie says,

“ Who you looking at bitch?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to offend, can I help you? She

Vinnie breaks it to her gently, “Where’s fucking Jackie?”

“I’m sure there isn’t anyone named Jackie here. Perhaps you have the
wrong address.” Vinnie pushes her aside and heads for the make-shift

“Hey, Jackie ? What the fuck’s going on? I thought you said we’ve
been invited to a party?”

“Vinnie, you shit.Where’s Joey and Benny?”

“They’re stuck in the hallway.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

Jackie plunks down the guitar mid-song and heads for the front room. “Joey, Benny, and Willie get your dago asses in here. There is free women everywhere. The “ Dancing Hat’s” got their own thing going on over there just ignore them.” Meanwhile, the bandleader is shitting himself.

“Jackie, you gotta play. You just can’t leave the bandstand when you feel.”

Jackie’s expression hardens “ We’ve been playing this snake charming shit for more than two hours and I’m about to piss myself. So why don’t I take a leak and you pay me now instead of six months later.”

The guy stares at Jackie. “What you lookin’ at ?”, says Jackie. “You want me to drive that clarinet up your ass. Give me the hundred bucks!” The guy reaches in his wallet and pulls our five twenties which Jackie immediately swipes.

 “Look Malcom or what the fuck your name is let me show you guys how to party. I know some songs that’ll get you people together.”

 “Jackie please don’t do that these are my friends. If people hear about this nobody will ever hire me again.”

Jackie ignores Malcom walks to the microphone and announces. “I see you guys are having a hard time connecting with the chicks. I’ve got the right tune to hook you up.” Jackie rips the junior bow tie from his collar and unbuttons the tuxedo shirt exposing a hairless pink chest. Now that’s the peculiar thing about Vera. He had sandy-red hair, red mustache and pink skin. If I hadn’t grown up with the guy I would have sworn he was a mick.

Anyway, Vera drives the Fender amp up to ten and starts doing his best” Wicked, wicked Mr. Pickett” imitation. You know that “Funky Broadway” shit. Jackie always envisioned himself “Soul Brother” numero uno. He then whipped off some nasty blues licks. Vera knew rhythm and blues and played it like the brothers down at those greasy chicken joints in Jersey.  Jackie directs the drummer where two and four is so there’d be no mistaking the groove then the three of us start dancing. The only problem was no one else caught the feeling. So Jackie’s gets pissed off and yells over at Vinnie, who’s eyeing some fine Dutchess and says,” Bring out the Johnson!” Vinnie turns around unzips his fly and drops eleven inches of crotch weasel in front of the bitches. Wham! You’ve never seen such a panic - all squealing and running. Joey pretends like he wants to have one of those “Bride and Groom” spotlight dances with Vinnie. Vinnie then waltzes around with meat swinging half down his ankles with Joey snuggled on his shoulder. I swear it was funnier than shit. I mean the night should have ended there but Jackie decides to marry Joey and Vinnie in this public like ceremony so the two stand before him down front of the wedding cake while Jackie puts on his black beret. I don’t know why he loved that stupid thing - he looked like a fucking chimp in it. He then does that Vinnie you fuckin’ “Geep” shit - I now pronounce you man and wife - then orders Joey and Vinnie to consummate the marriage before us. “The Screw” don’t want no part of this and takes an arm full of cake and pastes Vinnie’s schlong. All the while Jackie keeps egging them on.

“There ain’t nothing wrong with a lover’s quarrel on wedding night,” Vera screams. Meanwhile, the “Hats” return with a couple security guards. Jackie intercedes. ” Look fellows everything’s all right. They’ve got those wedding night jitters. I was trying to get the newlyweds into the bedroom to consummate the marriage. They’ll make up before we hit the street.”

The ride back Joey keeps telling Vinnie he’s going to cut his dick off. Vinnie tells him he’s going to make him dry clean his pants, underwear and every pair of shorts in Chinatown.

 To know Jackie you had to know his parents especially his father Vito who tended bar afternoons in lower Manhattan. Every time we dropped by somebody would get smacked usually Jackie. “Fuck you, you bastard,” Vito would yell. “You’re killing your mother and the good Lord knows you’ve all ready drove a stake through my momma’s heart. What did she tell you the other night?”

“Pops, what are you talking about? The old broad sits at that window all fucking day and night. I can’t walk in that house without her nasty ass blowin’ wind in my face .

"You watch you mouth! That’s mother you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, yeah ,yeah. You should build a cage for her and stuff her in the attic and feed her bats and flies.”

“What’d you say?”

“I said, you should put her to bed early so she don’t stink up the house. She smells dead or something”

“You want me to fuck up that big-ass head of yours - you piece of wasted

Jackie starts laughing hysterically. “Pops you can’t waste shit. Shit
is waste!”

“You know what I mean, you moron.”

“So, what’s for lunch? Fix me a hero with extra tomato sauce.”

It was a weird kind of love these two had for each other. Vito got Jackie his first two hundred dollars driving for Benito Anapurno. Every Friday Anapurno sent someone around to collect receipts from his bookies. Jackie got the gig with much help from the old man. Anapurno would say, “Jackie I thought you were studying to be Puccini or something. Your dad says you’ve got the talent but you’re just wasting time singing that colored music. Look at you, you ain’t colored - your pink.” Jackie would take a drag from the ever present Pall Mall, grunt and look ahead. As soon as Anapurno was out of the car he’d light up a long thin stick.

“This is the boo, the real shit. The shit will make you poke death in the eye.” Jackie would say.

Long before Colombians earned a reputation as international gangsters, Jackie was buying pot from them. He knew they dealt the best shit in town and somehow made the connection in Brooklyn. They also sold the “The Blond”, primo hashish from Lebanon.  When he didn’t find the organic shit gratifying then he’d buy China White. Oh man, did he ever like the high. Anyway, he landed this gig in the Catskills with a ten piece show band backing a bunch of dancers and this fucked up black comic named “Lester”. Lester did all those white and black jokes, you know “We’re movin’ to your neighborhood shit”, so Jackie decides Lester needs new material and he’s going to write him a few laughs. Lester didn’t give a fuck cause Jackie was a walk-in clinic. He had Quaaludes, smack , pot , hash and amphetamines. Lester just wanted to get high.

Jackie tells him he’s got to do jokes that piss white people off like “Do you know where your daughter is? Riding my cousin Otis’s, Johnson.” Shit like that. So Lester lets Jackie “Sex” things up a bit. Well, the first night Lester uses Jackie’s material the shit hits the wall. The mayor of New York City just happens to be in the audience. Lester don’t know this but singles the man and his pretty wife out and starts doing this bit about getting head and keeps sticking his fist in his mouth. The mayor signals for two of his aides who wait back stage for Lester then drag his ass out through the kitchen and beat him silly. We never saw him again. Jackie just laughed and said, “He should of tried the jokes out first in Harlem.”

Benny, me and Vinnie rented a double suite. Somehow I ended up sleeping on the fold-up cot. Jackie would come by after the gig to watch television. He was hooked on those John Agar classics where those big titty girls get chased around by a bunch of deformed looking aliens.  Jackie would pull out the Weed , roll a tight one and suck on it like it was a peppermint two thousand dollar bill. He’d nearly lose all consciousness. I’d fall to sleep and he’d still be changing channels at five in the morning.

 I rarely saw him with a woman. As a matter of fact, besides a couple hookers, I only remember that Puerto Rican girl Luba and her skinny friend Dolores share the same bed with him. He hustled them while working up on 85th and Broadway in a joint called “The Palace”. All night he threatened them with the most inconceivable acts bringing terminal ecstasy. He also got them high on that aphrodisiac weed and invited them back to my apartment. Jackie lived at home. He’d never think of sex around his grandmother – she’d post some of those Catholic demons around his bed.

“Willie, why don’t you put some music on while I warm the bitches up,” he says winking at me.

“ Jackie, what do you want to hear?”

“Marvin is the right man for all night love Willie.,”he's say in a low dangerous tone.

Meanwhile the girls are sweating sex, lying all around my bed with Jackie in the middle.

“Willie, tell them why they call you "The Monk,” Jackie says.

“I don’t know - why Jackie, you’re the one who started that “ Monk”

“Well, maybe it’s because you look like a fucking tree monkey. How tall are you?” Whenever Jackie liked to humiliate me he’d bring up my height or lack there of.

“It ain’t how tall the tree, it’s the length of the branches that count,” I say.

“If that’s the case, I’ll have to save some of this sweet nectar but you realize there’ll only be drippings left ”. The girls giggle and purr about Jackie’s chest.

I try tuning them out but the smell of potent weed and heavy breathing nearly overwhelms then out of the corner of my left eye I see Jackie mount the short one then get off as fast as he could prop her legs up.

“ What’s on TV you fuck, he yells at me?”

“Kirk Douglas in Spartacus ,” I say.

“Willie, you ain’t shitting me? Kirk Douglas? Come over here and take care of these broads for me. How long you think the flick’s been on?”

The next thing I know I’m in this sticky ass bed with two horny love toys jousting about and Jackie’s totally focus on this fuck’in chariot race.

Benny Wathum scared Jackie. He was the connection with the Remo brothers, two greasers from the Bronx who’d snuff their mother for a veal sandwich. When Jackie took things to far Benny would roll a fifty dollar bill and slip it behind Jackie’s ear then say, “ For another fifty I’d rip both your lungs out and feed them to the homeless.” Jackie never pushed to hard on Bennie, just made sure he got the first hit of the Colombian.

Benny turned Jackie onto the stretch limo. Jackie saw Benny riding around in a Chrysler Imperial big enough to carry a half dozen Rockettes, wigs and all so he put money down on a mile long Lincoln. It was painted a sparkling coat of dark green with black leather interior. Although it was five years old the upholstery was immaculate. Parking the tank was a bitch.

Jackie would pick us up around noon and we’d still be driving at four in the morning. It was that kind of ride - soft and smooth. Vinnie would ask Jackie why there were never any broads in the car, and Jackie would reply, “Don’t want no bitches stain the leather.” Then he’d laugh that stupid horse laugh of his.

Jackie had this chin that looked like a pig’s ass. It stuck out beyond the rest of his body usually the first thing in your face when he looked at you. A piddly ass thin strip of flaming red moss hung like a third eyebrow above his upper lip. That matted sparrow’s nest of kinky red hair would puff up as the day wore on making him look like he took a wrong turn into a “Looney Toon” or something. He never stopped the ribbing or as he would say, “Fuckin’ wit’ you.” That was the real test of survival in his company.

I remember Joey sister’s twenty-first birthday party. I had this date with this new chick in the neighborhood, Rosie Tucci. She had thick black hair, tits the size of cantaloupes, nice ass and plump red lips. I mean she looked sex. I didn’t even have to take a taxi we just walked over to the Romanos.

 Young Stephanie looked radiant. Joey’s old man bought her a new MG convertible. He totally worshipped his daughter. The two of them sounded like a couple of cooing pigeons. Joey didn’t take that shit to well. Stephanie was always kissing on the old man - the longer the bouts the greater the gifts. You tell me the girl wasn’t working the sorry bastard. Joey would warn her about that incest shit but she’d just laugh it off and flash a handful of twenties in his face.

We arrive before Jackie and have a couple sips of grape when we hear all this commotion at the front door. Mrs. Romano draws the Venetian blinds and there stands Jackie with two black hookers dressed like traffic cops. I’m embarrassed for him, the Romanos and for what is about to transpire. Mr. Romano says” Jackie somebody here didn’t pay a parking ticket?”

“No, nothing like that ole man. I brought these kittens to play jail with us. Want me to get them to arrest you?” Romano don’t know what to make of the silliness but lets Jackie and the girls in.

“Hey, fuckin’ Willie, where’d you find those ruby lips?” Girls, stay away from Vinnie, he’s going queer.” Mama Romano I could smell the pasta up in Queens. Stephanie, twenty-one, just the right age for uncle Jackie.” Meanwhile Bennies watching all this from a corner chair when Jackie yells,” Cuff him girls.” On cue the two slide over and abruptly clamp the bracelets around the wrists locking the three of them together.

“Jackie , tell the bitches to take the cuffs off. Nobody puts that shit on me,” screams a less than amused Watham.

“Benny enjoy it they’ll do more than that if be nice to them.”

Ole man Romano don’t know what to make of all this, tells Jackie “ Maybe you should do as the man says and uncuff him?” Jackie looks back and says, “Bennie’s never been laid. Tonight he gets double fuckie.”

Romano goes hysterical, “Get the fuck out of my house you two bit piece of shit and take your
friends with you.”

I’m trying to make a connection with Rosie while all of this is going on when Jackie walks over and whisper’s something in her ear.

“Jackie leave her alone,” I warn. Rosie stands, slips on her taffeta coat and heads for the door.

I’m stunned!

“Rosie what’d he say to you?”

“I can’t repeat that!”

“What’d he say to you?”

“He said you have herpes!”

I reach for this large brass ashtray and smack Jackie dead center the forehead. Blood spurts everywhere. Then I climb up his overcoat and kick him repeatedly in the balls. The Romanos start pushing everyone through the front door on to the street. Man, was they ever screaming. You couldn’t decipher the profanities from the good lord Jesus’s. 

Jackie and I became friends after the death of my father. Dad worked as a valet at this fancy midtown hotel then one day this van goes berserk and crushes him against a utility pole. Mom and I were devastated.  Dad was kind of a cool sort of guy who knew everyone even those theater people. His favorite was Angela Lansbury who'd stay at the hotel when she did one of those long Broadway runs. Dad was no more than five three but his head made him look near six feet.

 I was about eleven at the time and I’d take the D train into the city and walk the streets in misery when one day I meet up with these punks from Brooklyn. The big red headed one looks at me and says,“ Man, I know you. I saw you in the movies? I swear I’ve seen you in the movies.” I look at him like he’s crazy.

“ Aren’t you the star of “ Monkey Boy?”

I don’t know how to react to this shit so I say, “Wasn’t your momma screwing the “Tidy Bowl Man" before they drowned in your toilet?”

The guy walks over and punches me in the face. I’m to startled to fight back, so I say, “If I’m ” Monkey Boy” you must be “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle”.

The dude cracks up, nearly pisses himself.

“Monkey Boy says I must be Sheena Queen of the Jungle. What’s your name little shit?” We exchange names, addresses, telephone numbers and all that crap. “Remember my name, Jackie Vera. One day you’re going want my autograph when they make me Prince of the Apollo.” I say to him, “but your white. No, I take that back, man you’re pink. No pink boy going to win any contest at the Apollo!” He just laughs.

Jackie had four years on me so he could slip into all of the good clubs. The guy had talent. If Howlin’ Wolf was in town Jackie would sit three feet from him and study his finger positions. He’d do the same to B.B. King and Steve Cropper. One day we hear about this new ”King of the six string” from England named Eric Clapton so I cop us a couple tickets to hear his band at the Cafe A Go Go. I tell Jackie they call themselves “The Cream” and he’s got to meet me by eight so we can get a front row seat. Jackie hesitates then says,“ What kind of name is that ?” I remind him they are British and everybody knows British musicians are part queer. Well, Jackie don’t show until past ten. I’d been holding these choice front row seats when I look over my shoulder and see Vera come stumbling between the benches. I’ve never seen him this fucked up.

“Willie, where’s this mother fucker?”

“Jackie shut up, they’ll be on again in a minute. Where the hell you

“ Getting fucked up so I can see this pasty ass Brit fuck up!”

“Jackie , I’m telling you the guy can play. He can probably smoke
your ass.”

“ Nobody smokes Jackie Vera’s ass unless his pockets full of primo

“ Jackie, shut up!” I insist. Jackie don’t give a shit, keeps on yelling while Clapton , Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker walk back on stage
decked out in buckskin. I mean these guys looked like Wild Bill Cody’s daughters.

“ I thought you said these punks were blues musicians. They’re fuckin’ gay buckaroos”, Jackie announces.

“Jackie, you’re embarrassing me, just shut up and listen.”

Clapton and Bruce strut in front of this stack on monster size Marshall amps enough to wipe out all humanity then strike this bombastic chord. The impact hits Jackie like a truck of exploding dynamite inciting him to stand, then yell, “Clapton, you suck! All you phony British pussies suck”. Vera then pukes all over himself - three seats in front - freshly dry-cleaned my Nehru jacket then falls backward and passes out. I’m so disgusted I run to the washroom and clean the shit off my jacket and leave the bastard laying half in the isle.

I don’t speak to the creep for two weeks. I don’t know what it was was but shit was sure boring without Jackie so I was the first to make the call. Jackie’s grandmother answers,

“Jackie’s gone to hell where he belongs.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah grandma Vera , can you put Jackie on the

“He’s going to ruin you like he ruined his mother. Jesus wants to beat him and hang him on on a rugged cross”

“Can I please talk to Jackie?”

“Your a stupido too!”

It was past one and Jackie was still in bed. I could hear the screaming, the” Fuck yous”, then Jackie yell, ”Why don’t you fill the tub with water and a can of Drano and drown your ass for me! Willie, where you been?”

“ Jackie, what do you mean where have I been? You embarrass me!”

“ I know, - it was the junk and gin - should never mix the two.”

“ Jackie that shit’s going to kill you.”

“ The weed wasn’t bringing me to Jesus.”

“ Jackie, do you have to see Jesus every time you get high?”

“ Who should I see, fuckin’ Oral Roberts?”

“ Jackie, you ain’t listening. You’re twenty-six and you’re going down

“ Willie, tell me where I fit in.”

“ Jackie meet me at Sal’s in an hour, let’s talk.”

I show up at Sal’s, no Jackie. Two hours pass, still no Jackie.I call Joey, Benny and Vinnie, none of them spoke with Jackie. We meet at Jackie’s dad’s bar but the old man was out too so we hang around until to nearly six when the both come stumbling in.

 “Jackie, what’s going on?, “ I ask . “I was hanging at Sal’s all day waiting for your sorry ass.”

“Willie, I was telling my ole man someday you’re going to be a jockey. I can see it- the first monkey to ride a winner in the Preakness.” The two of them nearly smash their heads on the bar in laughter.

“ Jackie, you ain’t got many friends left.”

 “What’ll you mean. I’ve got you, Joey, Benny and my main man Vinnie. Ain’t that enough?”

“No, Jackie! You’ve got that shit in your veins. That’s your best friend. Jackie’s ole man, looks up like someone zapped him with a stun gun.

“Jackie, you doing that evil shit again? I’m asking you, are you fuckin’ up all over again?”

“No, no,....Just playing.”

“Get the fuck out of my sight you unworthy bastard.”

Like on cue, the four of us pile into the big Lincoln again.

“ Jackie, this shit ain’t fun no more.” Vinnie says.
“Vinnie, you know the trouble with you. Your dick’s underfed. You should carry some pussy in a plastic bag,” says Jackie.

“Shut up Jackie. That ain’t no way to talk to a friend.”

“I ain’t speaking directly to your dick, am I?” Jackie laughs. Suddenly , it was like old times.

Jackie wasn’t getting many gigs anymore. The reputation he earned as a first call rhythm guitarist was replaced with that of ” Persona non grata fuck up”. Consequently, he was driving more for Benito.  Bentio paid him well as long as he showed up on time and delivered the goods. If he had any inclination Jackie was hooked on the powder he’d drop his ass faster than Cassius Clay. The last night I spent with Jackie was at a stag party thrown for Vinnie who finally got engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Ida Padrino.

The Padrino’s didn’t have big dollars but borrowed enough to give their only daughter a three star wedding. Vesuvio Padrino, Ida’s father offered Vinnie a decent job mixing cement in his construction firm. Vinnie seemed resigned to the fact that his carousing days were numbered and recognized destiny. Benny and Joey were nearly thirty and feeling heat from their families who wanted them to get on with their lives. Vinnie’s stag was to be the ultimate break for all of us but Jackie would have none that. 

  We rented a penthouse room at the Essex and invite every wop in Brooklyn and hired about twenty hookers. Everything’s going along just fine until Jackie shows with ten drag queens. Whatever possessed him to bring this shit to Vinnie’s big night is beyond me. Vinnie hated queers let alone a bunch of guys prancing around in duck feathers and G strings.

“Jackie, where’d you find these faggots?” asks Vinnie.

“Vinnie, you know I love you but I think you better try some of this before you settle down,” says Jackie in a mocking tone.

“Jackie, are you fucked in the head? If Ida’s family hears about all these "Puffs"  at my stag party, they’ll disown my ass. Get that shit out of here.”

“Come on Vinnie, these are my friends, be a man.”

“So this is what you’ve been doing Jackie. No wonder you don’t want no women in your car, you’re a flaming faggot, aren’t you?”

“Vinnie, you don’t understand. These guys can be women too.”

“Jackie you’re all high on that shit aren’t you. Get the hell out of my sight and take the boy’s club with you. You’re a sick mother fucker.”

None of us ever suspected Jackie to be light in the boots but it kind of answered a lot of questions. I felt sorry for him and I suppose relieved. There was little affection in his life. If these guys gave him the love he never really experienced then I guess its best things turn out this way. I guess to each his own but dammit the thought just makes me want to puke.

 Jackie’s activities became subject of rumor and wild tales. He’d call on occasion all fucked up on smack - voice sounding no more than a low drone. I had little patience for that shit. Most everything he said was incomprehensible. Vinnie and Joey refused to speak with him.

They’d never talk to any man they suspected of sleeping with another man - that would fuck with their masculinity. And Benny, he never said much anyhow. Nearly three years pass when I get the news of Jackie’s murder. It was murder no doubt. Maybe even a hit nobody really says.  It seems Jackie and his” Fairy princess” were selling dime bags of smack and cutting them with talcum powder. Several leather boys entered their apartment and stripped them of the drugs. It seems Jackie’s drugs were fronted through some transvestites he knew in Queens. When he couldn’t cover the losses they sunk a bullet in his skull and cut his lover. It was a sorry ass mess making page one on the New York Post. I can’t say I feel any love or much emotion for the Jackie, he kind of shit on everyone, but man when he was around, shit happened. It’s hard to believe Jackie Vera’s Dead!

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