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The International Writers Magazine: New York Stories

Vincent's Wine
Karen Maxwell

Nothing belonged to him. Only the dry mouth from the shots at The Sky Bar on York last night, but that was changed with his toothbrush and a coffee with milk within the hour of swinging his legs around and stepping onto the pre-fabricated oak floor. 

Dan came out from his bedroom.  In a high-rise building in New York City on the 36th floor, apartment # 11-B has the divorced men living with drooping eyes and grieving erections. They need specialized drugs to keep their “Charlies” hard until the finish.  Ed is a man’s name but today it’s referred to an older man’s dick that has erectile dysfunction.  Their medicated dicks keep them in their pre-marriage lust in the lie of excitement – even Johnny Walker wouldn’t interfere with a “woody” now.

Prostate triggers unknown and they vow to get theirs checked as the urge to frequent urination keeps them with their zippers down.  The old men in the cave on the East River cry into the internet searching for female contact. They recreate their personas to heroic creatures. Aiding poor, sad dicks that no matter how hard they get, how hard they try, they can’t find a home –
“I’m a nomad,” Vincent said to Dan - who at 68-years old would only date 30- year old women.  “I need…”
“Don’t start … not again … too much with that shit. I need the place to myself tonight.”  Vincent stood up, his dick not even hard in the morning before peeing. He was heavy on top and his stomach blown-out like a fat man’s, bird-like legs bending under the balloon. He waddled side-to-side walking to pee into Dan’s toilet. The same plumbing and sewage that the tenements had on the street was shared with the fancy building with a view of Queens. It set Dan back $3,400.00 each month for a one bedroom and a living room with a kitchenette. 
“I’ll stay with Sonia, I’ll call her… a bit bitchy but I think she’ll let me stay...” Dan ignored Vincent.  “…couple of drinks and I’m in like flint.” 

Bill banged on the door, Barney scratched. “Stop that goddam scratching, that goddam dog.”  Together Bill and Barney weighed 400 pounds. They hammered any loose planks in the oak floor back into place with each step they took.  Barney barked at Vincent who immediately grabbed the animal’s nose. 
“You were in my dream last night,” Vincent said. “Dog jumped right out the window.” 
“That’s terrible,” Bill said covering up Barney’s ears. 
“Stop treating that animal like it’s human,” said Dan. 
Vincent took his pants off the back of the chair. “Let’s get coffee,” he said to Bill.  Dan stood in the doorway scratching his ass and watching.  “Bring me back a large,” he said, “and a cruller.”  The door was closed. 

“When is he going to remember they don’t have crullers there?” Bill said.  Barney looked up waiting for the smack on his nose from Vincent. Bill shook his head: “Don’t do it,” he said. The avenue smelled like dead fish in July. “Ah yes the smell of bad fish and shit…” Vincent said. “Can I stay with you tonight? on the floor, anywhere.” 
“You can stay. The Jap comin’ over?”
“Someone is … it’s just not me … he wants me out tonight.”
“What’s happening on the Island?” Vincent went after Barney tapping his mouth from side-to-side.
“It’s drugs and it’s dog shit all over the house…it’s not my house any longer.”
“When are you going to sell the damn thing, seriously sell it already.”
 Barney barked so loud his front legs went in the air with him.  “More papers to sign. I can’t believe my yard is destroyed the plants look out of control growing like a bum’s beard.  It was a fine drink last night. Met a sweet woman I want to see some more of her.” 

Vincent has no money. No job. No prospects only the deed to a house on the Island. At 60-years old he had no reality of a new life – the old one was the only one he wanted.  The wife, the 3-kids and 2-dogs the high powered job on Wall Street even the ride home on the train to his now rotting house.  “I met a pretty woman, a nice woman you know the kind you can’t get out of your thoughts?  Smart and kind; special.”   
“Your divorce wasn’t enough?” 
“Doesn’t matter she’s nice, nice like real people nice.”  He threw his head up to the sky, “I miss them but with the drugs my kids are no longer my kids – their adult addicts now.”  The drug scales, marijuana smell in the house from his son’s room, the tiny, tiny bags with white powder and rocks and more tiny bags empty waiting to be filled with cocaine and sold to young noses. Sniffing, partners the children of hard workers and hard drinkers like Vincent. 

He wanted to be out of the life he was living. His beauty was now in his pain. From this walk he found compassion, always thinking that he was the new version of homelessness.  “I’m a kite with a pain in my belly,” he said to Bill. 
“Pet the dog you’ll forget where you are.”
“Don’t want to forget, I just want my family back.”  
“They are not kids any longer, they’re adults who’ve made choices…” 
“I’ve lost her too.” 
“She made her choice …wives grow and change…” 
“She defended their drugs…” 
“Right, like I said, she also changed.” 

Vincent’s kids died in front of him. He flew out to the FDR Drive by the water, the current of the East River took his brain and turned over. He wanted to eat. He would eat anything now-peanut butter and jelly, turkey and cheese but no money for his hunger, no heart for his loss, no alcohol for his pain to drown. The river below wrapped his name in white caps. The call was in from Dan’s son, there was another death of the unnatural kind. His mother had jumped out the 11th floor window in her bedroom. Where could he cry now? No place to sit and sob and wash his wetness off his face. Filthy streams washed down and he wished that the tiny dancer he met was next to him now. Close to him sitting across from each other in the night when deep kisses were only inches from their rattling tongues. Vincent ran his heart over her body. She felt it from him but it was in between two sets of skins. The pulse was like a long distance race in the snow. Vincent’s wine became his disease.  
His kids plucked away from his heart one failure after another. His heart rhythm getting slower and slower as each kid took a petal from his flower. Tides disappeared from the way he lived in cycles with the moon and women and a pay check every week.    
Bill tied Barney to the traffic meter post on the avenue, The two big-daddy’s walked in for their morning hits of coffee. “When Dan leaves are you going with him?” 
“I’m homeless again. Nowhere to go. I can stay with Marie on the beach house.” 
“No imagination, what can I say.” He opened his coffee lid and waited for the hit. Barney whined and barked. “Dry. She’s a good egg though, you know that. I’m goin’ to call the tiny dancer from last night. Small and sweet, sensual I can tell. Ooh baby, sit on my lap and dance.” 

Dan opened the door watching them walk toward his place. “Where the hell did you two go and why so slow for a coffee and a cruller?” 
“They don’t have crullers, how many damn times we gotta say it? Have a donut, a crème filled thing…” 
“Get that goddamn dog out of here he stinks like shit.” 
Vincent threw his head down. “You sound like my mother, you know that?”  She called him a son of a bitch bastard and that he would never amount to anything, just like his father. 
“Get outta here,” Dan yelled. “Goddamn coffee’s cold.  
“It’s called Ice Coffee, it’s July. I’m taking a shower first.” 
“So the Japanese girl is coming tonight?” Bill said. “Better change those sheets…” 
“Yeah, she don’t like flannel, said Dan.” 
“Silk, she likes silk,” Vincent said turning on the shower.  “Gimme the phone.” 
“The City again?” 
“Yeah, the York Tavern asked me about the illegal Mexicans in the basement of the flower shop, they are cooking all night long with no sinks nearby…violations all over the place. They only got a hose and hot plates. They’re gonna have a fire down there.”
 “So you get to be the boss again?” said Dan. 
“Yeah, I do.” Recapturing his power against the immigrants the identity he now understood. An American but a fish-out-of water in his own land. Wall Street and made-to-order navy blue suits and red ties over fine white shirts. All those threads now hung in a closet on Long Island. The big Irishman who now wore a cowboy hat and confederate shirts was hit with the hammer on his Wall Street Analyst head when he was layed-off. He held his joints together with imagination. His balls so sweet his clean hard Charlie where thoughts of the tiny dancer gave him a whimper of what he once could do without Viagara.   

He went in to the shower. The pain in his belly came again and he waited for the kite. It came and it was blue. He doubled over and crunched his 220 pound 6 foot 2 frame into the tub. He held his gut. His eyes wrinkled in the corners. He heard his mother over the water and the kite was now his for flying, so he grabbed it until his face stopped squinting in the windowless bathroom. The steam was a fog in the clouds and the bathroom light was the sun on the beach where he had a summer house with his young children and wife from years ago. He heard them laughing. He saw his two boys. And he went to see them again.

Karen Maxwell March 2008

Conversations With the Trees
Karen Maxwell

We pushed off from the side of the lake with Jonathan’s strong arms and his paddle extended onto the shore line. We paddled into the center on our way, to cross over, to the other side. I sat straight with the paddle in my hands grasp.

Karen Maxwell

Seeds of winter are alive in Montauk.  You can hear them under your boots; easy to confuse with small tree branches or bones

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