Wednesday, April 13, 2016

# 99 Easy Street, Part Nineteen. Louis Shalako.

Louis Shalako

Mark arrived home with a few parcels and a whole new attitude. With all the pot-smoke, still lingering in the apartment, he wished he had some way…maybe some dry-cleaner bags or something, to keep the film of yellow smoke-stains off the shoulders and collar. It was a good feeling though, and he still had money left over.

The shoes were going to be fine as well. It was lucky he had found a pair of black ones on sale, seventy percent off. His old ones had disappeared, along with most of his stuff, over the course of the last few years.

The last thing he expected to see when he came in the door was Amy.


“Hi.” Amy was barefoot and radiant.

The floor had been freshly swept, possibly even scrubbed, if the liquid detergent and damp rag sitting on the kitchen counter by the sink was any indication.

She was wearing cut-off jeans and a halter top and her hair smelled like strawberries.

Mark opened the fridge, slightly stunned to see green vegetables, a gallon of milk, bread, peanut butter and jam, more stuff than he could take in immediately. More stuff than he could reasonably eat. That had to be some kind of a sign.

There were still a few beers, stubbies in brown glass bottles of a brand that Mark had never heard of. He pulled two of them out to celebrate.

“Wow. What’s up?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” There was a mischievous tone. “I would hate to see the poor guy starve to death.”

She took a good look at the shopping bag.

Her mouth opened at the heavy black paper, with the logo in silver script, prominently displayed.

“Oh.” Mr. Wong’s.

He smiled, tightly.

“Come on. Check this out.” They had a lot to talk about, but Mark turned and was heading to the bedroom.

“Mark.” This time the tone was distinctly different.

He turned back.

“Yes, Amy?”

“That creepy cop was here again.”


She’d brought her own shopping, thinking to stay over for a few days. Mark had no problem with that. After looking for Duke to let her in but not finding him, she’d resorted to the fire escape, getting lucky in finding his front window open.

“You shouldn’t have done that—really.”

All of a sudden he was terrified—why is she doing this.

He took her in his arms again.

“Don’t be falling off that God-damned fire escape.”

“I know, I know. Anyways, I wasn’t here five minutes when he came knocking at the door.”

“And what did he say?”

“Well, nothing really. I told him you weren’t here and I didn’t know when to expect you home. I offered to give you a message but he just ignored it.”

“That’s it? What else did he say?”

They were standing in the living room, Mark’s new clothes temporarily forgotten.

“That’s it. Thank you, young lady, and he was gone.”

Her eyes traveled to the bedroom door, where his new suit lay on the corner of the bed.

“So, what’s up with you?”

Right about then Duke was at the door, and then it was Maude, with Duke paying her a little more attention today, and Mark wanted to be a little bit careful about what he told all of those people—Amy included.

Even so, talk tended to revolve around the mysterious and sensational events around the building.

They were all very happy for him when he finally made his announcement. Now the suit, that impressed the hell out of them—even Duke, whom Mark would have thought sartorially imperturbable.

When the pounding started up from somewhere above, Mark threw his head back and laughed and then they all did.

Thank Christ for beer.

After a while, what was becoming a small party turned to other topics, gossip about their fellow human beings included. More than one stranger came and went, and more than one joint went around, and more than one person made a quick trip to the corner liquor store. The temptation to put on his new clothes and play the horn for them was almost overwhelming, but he just couldn’t do it.

That would just be nuts and he knew it.

From an image by David Shankbone, (Wiki.)
It was a small building, and after a while everybody knew everything about everybody else.

In that sense, number ninety-nine was one big happy family. However temporary a state that might be.

It could only be, temporary.


Mark’s bedroom door was locked from the inside. Occasional muffled noises came from in there.

Tiring of the hard maple chairs, Mark and Amy were cuddling, half asleep and pretty drunk, on the parka, which wasn’t being helped by this sort of treatment. Thankfully, in another week or two he wouldn’t need it. Tempted to burn it, his better instincts told him to hang onto it for next year. But maybe things would work out. Maybe things would be better, somehow, some way, in some shape or form.

For one thing, he wouldn’t be in Bellevue.

The bedroom door opened, the light on inside, and Maude came out looking very pleased with herself.

The windows still had no curtains, and their faces were hidden by a bar of shadow.

“Bless you, my children.” Some kind of odd-ball witch, at least according to her, she made some sort of obscure hand-signs and then cracked the door.

She stopped and turned in the opening.

“May Yggdrasil watch over you.”

The latch clicked into place. Unusually for this building, she had learned how to close a door quietly behind her.


Amy giggled, snuggling up close, arms around his neck, but he struggled free.

“I think she’s nice.”

“Hmn.” Mark unwrapped himself and got up. “Ruthlessly nice, in fact.”

She was always going around and giving people food. This was a recognized diagnosis…

Going to the bedroom door, Duke was positively embedded in the warm and yielding waterbed.

“Huh.” The figure, looking like Wiley E. Coyote stuck in the desert floor after falling from a very high cliff, the satiny coverlet tossed aside, all arms and legs, sheets all over the place, snored asunder, oblivious to the world. “I’ve been wondering where you guys got off to…”

The snoring continued and the figure didn’t stir.

He turned back.

Amy nailed it.

“Shit. The nerve of some people’s kids.”

Mark laughed.

He stood there, looking at Amy, up on one elbow and possibly wondering what was in the fridge and easy. If so, she knew more about it than he did.

“What I was thinking…is why.”

She chuckled, low and throaty.

“Well, they are young, Mark.” Coming from her, this was an interesting statement.

“No, not them. I mean this—all this.”

Amy sat up cross-legged, more awake now.

“What do you mean, Mark?”

“All these bodies. That ain’t cool, baby. But all them bodies got to be coming from somewhere. It has to be happening for some reason.”

That reason might be unfathomable.

But a reason there must be. Somebody somewhere knew what that reason was. An interesting thought.

If only we knew what questions to ask—where to even start.

“There’s something beautiful about all of this.”


Mark snorted.

She was awake now.

“Sorry. Just something I read somewhere.”

He stood at the window, looking out over the street, totally deserted, not a car or a bus or a body moving, a quiet moment having overcome it.

As Amy went into the kitchen and snapped on the light, yawning, Mark went back into the bedroom.

“Duke, Duke, Duke, what are we gonna do with you, boy.”

Duke lay there, naked as a jaybird, with a ridiculously small thing, encrusted with cubic zirconiums it was not, and a bush that would make a Doukhobor proud.

Mark leaned over and gave that hot damp shoulder a shake, averting his eyes from his friend’s pecker.

Duke’s eyes popped open in sublime incomprehension.


Mark couldn’t help but grin. It was just so stupid, the guy was practically drooling, but Duke was his friend or so it seemed.

“Come on. Either you get up and go home on your own—or I call the mental health people and tell them you’ve been threatening to kill people.”


Mark grinned, waiting.

“I’m not kidding buddy, I’m tired and this is my bed.”

Duke lurched up from the bed. Mark handed him his clothes, boots, and jeans although there didn’t seem to be any socks. He was pretty sure that must be it.

Taking the clothes, stark naked, Duke headed for the door as Amy set the water on to boil.

Unexpectedly, he stopped just at the door and looked back.

“See you tomorrow?”

Mark nodded.

“Sure. Why not.”

Amy came out of the kitchen in time to see Duke walk out the door, naked as the day he was born.

(End of Part Nineteen.)

Thanks for reading.

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