Lou Rowan

 

The Accounting: a Mystery
                                   for Randy Polumbo

-1-

The cat nuzzled her leg, first she felt the whiskers, then the jawline, and as it pushed, the teeth. The cat's purrs got her hopes up, until it pushed so hard she might as well have been furniture.

The familiar knock: good old Bob. He took her shoulders and kissed her so hard their teeth hit. His hand moved up her thigh as they drove—taking it away for the sharp turn through the stream of traffic defining the mall, to start anew at her smooth knee. It was a hot midsummer night; she wore as little as she could. She hated to perspire in public. The air conditioning at the Little Italian would hit her skin like a cold martini hitting her chest cavity.

Bob was good old Bob because he pursued her doggedly from the day they met. He was balding, and polished his pate. His beard was dark and rose every six hours to resemble magnetized iron filings. He tried a mustache once, but looked like the famous serial killer who doubled as the pillar of a fundamentalist Midwestern church. She had two inches on Bob, and wore flats with him, though she loved what high heels did for her legs and profile as she passed picture windows. He took care to dress in the kinds of clothes she liked, and in their three years together she'd prodded him to replace most of his wardrobe. Bob's eyes were brown; from his chin hung a pouch soft like his body that was strong but seemed without muscles. His back was dark with hair. She loved to pet and stroke him there. She never ceased to be startled by the size and redness of his genitals.

She was an accountant. After college she decided a number of things: she would enter a profession that was open to women, that was fulfilling, but which she would not need to bring home every night; she would go to bed only with men about whom she was serious, never men from work; she would live in a suburb near the big city, where she could afford a luxury condo; she would join a health club; she would travel outside the country alone or with girlfriends; she would invest carefully. She acted on each of these decisions, and the only unexpected events in her life were the arrival of the cat and her relationship with a bald man.

The cat arrived when her best friend died suddenly at the health club. They were running on the treadmills with a view of the City across the Meadowlands, following as always synchronized cardio programs. Suddenly the friend was flung backward from the track, to lie splayed and twisted like a neglected doll, her eyes and mouth wide open. The friend's mother, who looked like a hardened version of her daughter, and who seemed to live at the club, insisted the accountant take the cat as a memory and a token. Her other child, a professional athlete, was too rootless to care for the animal.

Occasionally the cat attacked her, and she shut it in the laundry-room. She kept a tennis racket on her dining-table to ward it off, and never let it into the bedroom.

Her late friend had been surprised by her "settling for" Bob: "Hey, you're too good-looking for a guy who looks like a primate actuary."

But Bob was a famous trial lawyer—the "Mouth of the Mob", in the print and video tabloids. She was ignorant of his fame when they met on a nature-hike near the Shawangunks.

The Little Italian was owned by one of Bob's clients, but he never presumed on the relationship, settling for whatever table the headwaiter suggested. He too had resolved to leave work at the office. They shared the feelings their work elicited, the stresses. and their problem-solving techniques, never the facts of his cases.

Meat lay heavy in the accountant; she ate it only at Bob's urging, and she picked at it as he complained about his expanding practice.

"Why can't you say you're too busy?"

"If you do what they want they trust you. Refusing cases wouldn't be doing what they want. They never want to hear about your problems."

"I see. It's like sewing up a sector. It's a great strategy, but it takes work."

"Yeah, it's like that.—like the way you get all the money manager accounts. That's great business. Loads of money floating around."

"Yeah, they're swimming in it. Doesn't get any better. But you know, Bob, I'd never trust those guys with my portfolio. They charge fat fees, they live the good life, they're exciting, but they don't know the first thing about managing their business. When the market's up they hire people, when it's down they lay them off. They never know where they stand financially. All they care about is the ten-year future and the put/call ratio as a negative indicator."

"Yeah, I'm glad we're not like that."

"Yeah, Bob, I'd hate to lay you off."

"Hey, Babe, you think I'm a drag on your bottom line?"

"No, honey I think you're in the asset column."

And they touched glasses.

He was proud. He was proud to look across the table at a woman whose blond hair was utterly convincing, whose neck was graceful, and whose tan was natural right down to the lines inside her clothes where her skin went white-pink. Visions of pink flesh floated in his head as he gulped and chewed. But it was her bones and muscles that excited him as he gazed at her across his osso buco: the cleft between her collarbone and the SCM muscles that topped the scaffolding of her shoulders.

He grinned at her confident use of trade jargon. He loved earning her total compensation times seven, for he felt that when he asked her to marry him one of these years—that was the closest they got to discussing it, "Hey, we ought to tie the knot one of these years"—he would be attractive to other women if she rejected him and blew their thing away. He was in no hurry: he hated her cat. He'd be happy to dump it into the swamp bubbling behind her high-rise.

Meanwhile the sex was great; it was weirdly exciting that her muscles were defined and his were insulated. Neither was bothered when the other cried out someone else's name at heated moments. It brought them closer, allowing them to share about past relationships.

The nausea from her greasy lamb shanks disappeared when Bob's hand stole back to her thigh under the table. They decided to skip the movie because she had an early plane to Chicago.

As she crept out at 5:00 AM, Bob looked like a hairy troll drooling onto her pink silk sheets.

Her practice had spread from the greater metropolis to Chicago, where she took Milton's Mob—hyper-aggressive hedge fund traders named for their patron saint at the University—by storm. She gained their accounts, nay, the virtual management of their treasuries by confronting them with their financial management lapses dressed in business suits that ended abruptly in miniskirts. They called her Numberbabe, and were dumbfounded when their wining, dining, their skyboxes, sports cars and private jets failed to seduce her. The young president of a fund whose results surfed the crashing waves of the markets without a spill would not take no for an answer.

He combed his full glistening hair straight back. His perfect tan was real, and his arms and shoulders were elegantly sinewy, not grossly clotted with muscle. He worked out at the East Bank club, where they had their first (she hesitated to call it) date, playing tennis, jogging, and eating health foods including chewy game-meats washed down by his private-label microbrew. The East Bank Club, the planet's most elaborate facility outside the United Arab Emirates, sports the unofficial motto, If you don't have a good body, you'd better drive one. Thirty tennis courts, four Olympic-size pools, a quarter-mile track looping around picture-windows behind which rank upon rank of perfect bodies in spandex lifted, danced, and inserted themselves into machines—all under one formerly-industrial roof. As she wondered why she'd settled for dependable Bob, with his fatted-seal body, the young president's eyes swung from a pert ass passing their booth to her own breasts in the tennis jumper—"Hey, Numberwoman, you're the hottest thing going here. Come to my yacht tonight."

"Nope, you keep forgetting I'm here on business."

"Yeah, you make me forget. Why don't you?"

"I can't. A woman has to take care of herself."

"Even accountants need some fun."

"You don't need to tell me that."

"Am I offensive, unattractive?"

"No, you're a dreamboat."

"This is weird. No woman says no to me. I'm star here. A guy like me, I take huge risks every day, and I need it bad."

"Listen, honey, do you want me to introduce you to the woman attached to the ass that walked by? Maybe you'll have better luck with her."

"OK, OK. But you know, you're like a sports car that just sits in the garage. I could rev up that engine of yours."

"You're sweet, honey, but I'd better get back to the Ritz."

The young president insisted she experience what his Testarosa could do, blasting her through a loop along the Lake Shore, skidding to halt beyond the dark Amoco tower at the boat basin, where the sounds of wavelets lapping and halyards striking rigging seemed the upbeat rhythms of the life the wanted, but she complimented him on his persistence and insisted he drive her back to the Gold Coast.

These trips exhausted her, and she took to reading true-crime books at hotels and on the planes. She found the Mafia fascinating but disgusting. One quiet night in bed she asked good old Bob about Vincent Patriarcha's Piranha Limited, a loan-sharking crew in Boston that terrorized deadbeats by dipping their arms into tanks of the carnivorous fish. He leapt from the bed screaming, "Why do you want to read that crap? Why can't you read something intelligent? I thought you had a brain. That's crap, do you hear me, CRAP?" He threw the book into the toxic swamp below.

She said yes to the young president on her next trip to Chicago. What wasn't imported teak on the deck and in the hold was imported mahogany. The thrilling luxury of the ambiance made up for his selfish ineptitude between the sheets—or so she told herself as she lay awake swaying in the gentle currents of the lake beside the snoring entrepreneur. He'd interrupted his necessary but sloppy attempts at oral sex to yell, "Come on, baby, you're getting it good good good!"

She'd never slept on the water, never set foot in a yacht. The rhythmic movements of the deflected tides from the great lake fused her unsettled senses and her imagination: she realized that Bob and the young president were stepping-stones toward a new life incorporating trendiness and Manhattan, a good life that would exclude both men.

One Indian summer morning so bright you could see Michigan she called the young president's private line, groggy despite her tall latte from a private party atop the Hancock Tower. His personal assistant was breathing heavily: "There's been a horrible, horrible tragedy, our leader was murdered on his boat. Haven't you seen the news yet? How can you just casually call like nothing happened!" The accountant wrote the assistant's hostility off to shock. How could the snippy little thing blame her for what after all was a non-exclusive relationship on both sides? Probably she harbored a secret crush on him, despite her hatchet face and her flat figure.

She flipped on the news: her lover's head was mounted the bowsprit, his torso on the mast, his legs and arms on the rigging. Crows and gulls fought over him. The silhouettes (edited of the scavengers whose cries punctuated the breathless at-the-scene reports) were an unprecedented montage beside the studio portraits of the smiling, even cocky, mogul whose precocity dominated adoring chronicles of his career and glowing reflections on it by executives canny enough to invest in his high-flying funds.

Now Bob's wizardry in bed became overwhelming, his knowledge of her anatomy preternatural. He yelled in horrible but stimulating triumph in response to her cries. She wondered why he screamed out the name of her late workout partner, but relief that passion could still seize her despite the Chicago horror dulled her curiosity. Sexual health was crucial to her.

The Chicago police took control of the case so tenaciously that the FBI, the SEC, and the IRS complained to the media about local hoarding of evidence and leads. Mayor Daley defended his troops, "A rising star in the Chicago economy has been snuffed out prematurely and tragically. I know this is a hot potato, but in Chicago we take the bull by its horns, and we fully intend to get to the bottom of the bloody trail. If we bother anyone by digging aggressively, that's their problem. I shall not rest until the heinious perverted perpetrators are nailed."


-2-

Before I purified my life, I gave you the pop-ups on your computer. I was angry with the jocks, the business majors, the frat-boys who scorned me as a nerd. So thanks to me a big hairy finger popped up dead center when they logged in, and I laughed myself silly as they grunted and moaned about their computers flipping them the bird. I smoked weekends with my comp sci professor, who saw my talent and treated me like a buddy: we'd giggle over the herd of fools on campus. When I let him in on my little joke suddenly he was straight and quizzing me about how I did it. "Wow, man, I think you've onto something big!" The next thing I knew he'd taken a job with the Evil Empire in Medina, Washington. Soon he was the hero of all the computer rags for inventing the new advertising paradigm. He'd stolen my intrusion codes.

And so everything I'd been struggling towards was gone. Why had I been such a good boy, avoiding all the scrapes, all the troubles with drugs and girls and the law "healthy" boys, especially Italian boys, plunge into like surfers into white water? Why had I studied so hard, gotten the academic prizes, the scholarships, why taken such good care of my poor widowed Mom—why, if there was not some payoff?

But when I took Asian studies, known to most as "Rice Paddies," for distribution credit, and, beginning to eschew teleological thinking, I realized that the very notion of a payoff, a reward, a prize that could be in any way measured or defined was an illusion. The mantra of the computer world had been let go of linear thinking. It remained for me to read Dr. Suzuki and the masters of spiritual being to understand that I needed to let go of linear living.

And so I drove my poor mother crazy by refusing offers from Apple and Google, rich offers that would have let me telecommute from our little home in Mahwah, where I cared for Mom, who's never been the same since Dad shot himself two days after coming back from Operation Desert Storm. I arranged for her to join a Merck control group, and the rotating anti-psychotic cocktail held her in check. No longer did she sneak into neighbors' houses to steal their family memorabilia. No longer did she worship in her basement Shrine to the Family, arranging the stolen pictures and trophies with crucifixes, icons, smiling portraits of Pope John, and lighting candle after candle to vintage vinyl albums by Jerry Vale and Julius La Rosa.

But she continued to scold me for wasting my talents. Flight attendant was my first job out of college: I flew for an airline that would let me see the world, especially the Far East. Then I settled into administrative work for an accountant, "a woman already," as my mother kept saying. Flying gave me more than enough insight into people and cultures. My second job allowed me the peace, I hoped, to perform routine tasks in quiet, earning enough for my simple needs, and enough to complement my mother's always-diminishing retirement benefits from my late dad.

But the Managing Partner of our office insisted on sharing her personal affairs with me. She thought me gay because I'd been a flight attendant and because I am quiet and gentle. She cannot realize that for me giving up the intoxicating pleasures of the flesh is like giving up meat and dairy products: it takes time to feel the benefits, the serenity and the insights, that a vegetarian spiritual diet provides, and I have taken that time.

My boss's story deepens gratitude for my holy withdrawal. I knew from the start that Bob was a poor choice, and I told her flat out that no number or intensity of orgasms could make up for real affinity. When she fell for the young president, I told her to watch out, for I saw him as a shallow plaything, and I sensed sinister depths in Bob.

She stared at me like a trapped animal, all the self-confidence and all the brashness drained from her as she slumped behind her huge mahogany Partner's desk, wondering if she'd caused her Chicago lover's grizzly death. The perfections of her honed visage and body, her styled clothing blurred and collapsed into the lumpy sobs and wails of an ugly little girl, and my heart went out to her, the foolish heart I'd worked so hard to quell. I resolved to solve what I knew to be double murders—his, and her former workout partner's.

"You need a vacation, honey. You just hop a plane to your favorite island, and I'll take care of everything, even that nasty cat."

I studied the file photos of her friend's fatal collapse in the gym. I communed with the images of the victim's mother, with my memories of her. Why was she there with workout clothes identical to the younger women's? I saw a woman approaching the climacteric, driven to overcome nature's inevitable outer decay, the shriveling and drooping of the outer layers encasing her spirit. I saw that outer shell hardening, cramping her inside. Evidence of cosmetic surgery on her face, neck, arms, buttocks and thighs summoned for me the spirit, nay the demon, of health-club competition run amok. Mother and daughter shared the name Elizabeth, the older using Lizzie, the daughter Betty. I pondered the seeming benevolence of granting the daughter this independence. If the daughter was independent, why was the mother always there in the background, looking like the daughter's decayed future self?


-3-

Mayor Daley and Chicago's finest were relieved when serial assaults on Muslims in Cicero and South Chicago extracted the media's attention from the Money Master Murder.

Seamus Heaney, a politically-ambitious detective stayed with the case, even though he found it difficult to receive backup from a department strangely indifferent to a homicide it so tenaciously protected from the Feds. He reasoned that once he solved it, contributions from the young president's grateful peers would fuel a city council run. Or they could give him consulting work on security, and cut him into investments that could assure the future of his burgeoning Catholic family.

The love angle went nowhere. Seamus dismissed the accountant as one of a stream of women making the evening commute from the East Bank Club to the yacht. None of the women was pregnant, or in any way attached to her lover. The only female showing devotion to the young president was his admin assistant, but she lived with her mother and siblings who could account for her whereabouts minute by minute. She'd spent most of the fatal evening ironing her work clothes.

That left the business angle. The day before his dismemberment, the president had landed a new private account, but the fund-wire had been voided before the new positions the hedge fund took could settle. According to the portfolio team, voiding an account without notice was unprecedented. They'd hustled for two days to unwind complex market exposures. The placement had occurred directly with the young president, and his notes on it had vanished. Funds had arrived through the Royal Bank of the Cayman Islands, in the name of a Cayman Islands LLC managing a hedge fund-of-funds whose investment objectives were so vague as to invite SEC scrutiny. The scrutiny had lasted for more than 3 years as teams of New York lawyers fought the watchdog agency over each request for information. The Limited Partners in the fund-of-funds were professional athletes, many of them notorious for hotly-contested suspensions for steroid and stimulant use, their cases handled by the same law firms fighting the SEC. Oddly, the Managing Partners were lawyers and accountants based in the Caymans, not money-managers, and they made it difficult to clarify the fund-of-funds' structure and management by asserting the client confidentiality so respected in Caribbean finance. One Limited Partner, an Italian slugger whose legs would no longer support his squatting behind the plate, was infamous for denying his gay propensities.

Seamus Heaney retreated from this maze, to hound the South Chicago Imam Mayor Daley denounced on the evening news. The violence against Muslims and outrage at them for provoking attacks on them and their mosques with their attire and their suspiciously-complete absence of connections to terror cells roiled the Windy City.


-4-

I wore rubber gloves entering her condo. I took care with the small bottle of chloroform. I knew the cat would lash out, and worked with precision in thick clothing to extinguish its senses, not mine. Just as I suspected, a tiny listening device was implanted in the cat's shoulder, in the feline meridians that fuel aggression.


-5-

People don't get it about homicide detectives. Some of them think we're real brainiacs like the guys on TV. Some of them think we're dumb bureaucrats who follow routines. This fag who worked for the highfalutin accountant must have thought I was suicidal crazy. He comes in here with a story of a nice cat that's a bad cat because it has a listening device installed by Bobbie Bonanzo who's in cahoots with the murdering mother of that bimbo whose heart stopped in the yuppie gym, and he's sure the mother and Bonanzo are longtime lovers and she's having remote control sex with him by listening in while Bonanzo gets it on with her daughter's friend. He's certain that the momma and the daughter both being Elizabeth is a "vital clue." Clue, my ass, you dumb flit. He's sure Bobbie arranged the hit on the Chicago yuppie, but not sure if the murderous mom knows that. "That's where the case stands, right, sir?" the puny excuse for a wop says to me. He wants me to protect him from Bobbie no less, while I contact Chicago's fucking finest.

He'd forgotten to look up the mom's Old Man. There's some things you've just got to know in this world. But I wrote down everything he told me, real slow in pencil to frustrate him because he wanted voice recognition or some shit, and I thanked him and told him he'd be hearing from us. Sure, kid, I'm going to give up a nice living for the pursuit of justice. I started an office pool on whether he'd be dead in one two or three weeks, win, place, show.


-6-

The detective's body language gave him away. Criminals have a way of going still, like a snake about to strike. I remember that from my Uncle Bruno's bar in Mahwah.

I have set up a Crummie Trust for my mother.

Time to spend my frequent-flyer miles.


-7-

It's amazing how little sex connects to what we are thinking and feeling. The accountant suspected that Bob was behind the president's murder and behind her administrative assistant's sudden disappearance. But she could not, would not keep him from her king-size extra-firm mattress. Nor could she question him about her cat's disappearance. She accepted his proposal, and they are raising twin boys in a mc-mansion in Summit. Bob wants them to be Jersey politicians, sending them to the best private schools, to whose endowments he makes substantial contributions. The accountant has sold her practice, keeping busy with the boys, social clubs, charities and a health club.

The Don Juan legend is the story of surviving and thriving in hell. Bob knows more about the grizzly practices and the greasy manipulations of New Jersey's Mafia than anyone on earth. Despair for his soul drives the priapism of this small, hairy man. Early on it drove him into the arms of Elizabetta Montevenero, the ripely mature wife of Enrico (The Jackhammer) Montevenero, who had earned his popular soubriquet not only with violence but also with dazzling success developing gamey landfills into high-end commercial and residential properties. When Bob realized whose favors he was sharing, he dragged Elizabeth and himself back from the abyss, and they substituted perverse schemes of perverse unfulfillment for their elaborate copulations. These schemes included the seduction and then the snuffing, to fulfill Elizabeth's jealous frenzy, of her own daughter by means of a toxic electric dose from her treadmill. The mother had thought she could satisfy her jealousy of her daughter's fresh body by pimping her to Bob. The daughter laughed at him, enraging her mother further. Then Bob scored her pal. But Bob's crying out her daughter's name, never hers, as his copulations with the accountant came to her via the transmitter in the cat were gall and wormwood.

Amphetamines and exercise bulimia pour fuel on the rage Elisabeth will take to her grave. Meanwhile she watches paunchy, perspiring mobsters like her husband bed any bimbo they want.

Bob and Mikie Mont, the famous catcher of dubious sexuality, are the only members of the extended Montevenero family to have suffered financial damage when the hedge fund-of-funds that wired the money to the young president's company in Chicago collapsed, a collapse forcing the Fed to provide liquidity to several banks based in New Jersey.

Seamus Heaney, disappointed that his year-long unbeaten streak convicting Imams under Patriot Act statutes failed to create a popular groundswell, returned to the cold Money Master Murder case, computer skills enhanced by his cyberwork exploding Muslim charitable fronts. He ran checks on all Limited Partners in the young president's hedge funds. Senior executives from Chicago's huge roster of Fortune 500 enterprises were in. The great Milton Friedman was in. But what was the family trust of Augusto Pinochet doing there? Did he maintain, even in his harassed dotage, close contact with the great monetarist? Had their connection menaced the young president? You could scarcely call the M.O. of his murder a "disappearance."

Then Seamus dug into the bankrupt fund-of-funds whose phantom contribution to the young president's enterprise sent a flickering beam into the world of athletic-star money management. Why would a hedge fund-of-funds mysterious as any criminal cartel specialize in juiced jocks? What, if any, was the criminal element behind the mysterious but bland-seeming group of Managing Partners in the Caymans? Why did accountants to the stars steer them to this fund, whose performance trailed that of many popular mutual funds? Were Seamus to answer these questions he might resolve many mysteries.

Good old Bob and his wife live the good life to perfection. From their autos to their clothing to their appliances to the automated devices that facilitate the family's learning and entertainment, their life-style is a perfection they continuously upgrade. Most Sundays Mom, Dad and the boys enjoy Sunday dinner at the Little Italian after Mass.

The Jackhammer continues to rule the Mafia and to manipulate the politics of New Jersey undisturbed. No one knows how much he knows about this case: he is a swamp into which human affairs sink.

Does he care that one of three persons on earth who could bring him and his crew down shares his bed, her muscular personal trainer bending her legs back beside her vials of prescriptions? Another loyally fights the law. The last chants in Tibet, concentrating on the spirit entering and leaving his body through nostrils dry from the altitude.


-8-

Mikie Mont was sick of the world's curiosity about his medical supplements and his sexual preference. Early as the fifth grade he knew his talent at and behind the plate would be his tickets away from his family. He knew from Pop Warner League, when his father would show up in a limo accompanied by lithe heavy men in leather jackets, that his Dad was different from other dads. He saw the pitchers setting him up with fat ones down the middle. He winced when fielders booted his grounders, and his coaches went crazy telling his Dad about Mikie's exploits. For he sensed that he would have no friends if this kept up: it was tough enough being the best player by far, now he had to suffer from the world's fear of his father.

His mother was no help. On the few occasions when his father stayed at their gated mansion in Orange, she needled the big man or screamed at him so continuously that meals were unbearable, and Mikie would plead and plead to be excused until finally he'd leave unnoticed. In the sixth grade he came home to find her doing what he and other boys called the hula-hula with a small bald man swathed in black hair. He believed her when she told him she would have him killed if he ever told anyone about it. The next day she gave him a dog, a Doberman Pincher that showed Mikie no affection, was unresponsive when Mikie tried to teach him games, and was run over chasing one of Mikie's few visitors from the front gate. Mikie ran after the dog, and the car that wiped the dog out grazed Mikie's left arm.

A week later Mikie's Mom screamed at him, "How am I supposed to have any friends if the neighbors get killed for running over that dog you never took care of and you running into the street into traffic?"

His father set him up in the back yard with a batting cage and a pitching machine, and in the basement with a state-of-the-art Cybex circuit, a complete home entertainment system, and tapes of World Series and Yankees highlights from the last 5 decades. When it was clear Mikie's piston legs, his uncanny tolerance of pain, his sense of baseball strategy, his rifle-throws to second were leading him to be a star catcher, his father arranged for weekly private coaching sessions in the back yard with Yogi Berra, who told him, "You can be even greater than I was if you take care of your legs and keep your hands off the bimbos."

Mikie's younger sister went to Catholic schools because they taught girls how to be good girls and because their inferior athletic programs were a lesson for girls to modulate ambition. She was quiet, skinny, and plain until age 15, when suddenly she bloomed into such a beauty that her parents sent her to boarding school where the nuns would protect her from boys. She broke every possible sports record at her school by Junior year, but her parents never visited her or showed interest in her exploits,. She refused to meet with college recruiters, settling for an admin assistant's job in a huge chemical company headquarters. She and Mikie lost track of each other, and then she was dead.

Mikie followed Yogi's advice to develop his career slowly "You'll go faster if you take it slow"—and he went to Rutgers where he studied art history and brought that college's baseball program national renown, if not a championship. He grew tired of reporters asking him how it felt to "carry the team on his back." He filled his sketchbooks with nightmarish creatures that seemed like an addict's twisted dream of jungle plants and jungle rodents, but he never took a drink or got high as an undergraduate.

His father assigned Yogi to negotiate with the tens of franchises that wanted Mikie in their fast-track farm systems, but Mikie insisted on a far-West team, and settled for Rupert Murdock's niggling offer to join the Dodgers, where the rest is history, a history that passed in front of Mikie like a documentary of someone else's life until his rbi totals dropped below 90, his homers into the teens, and his batting average below 290. At this point George Steinbrenner sought to bring him to the Yankees, but after conferring with Yogi, who salted his advice with the first profanity he had unloaded on Mikie in his 15 years as mentor ("That asshole thinks he's a big dick, but he's just a little prick"), Mikie took a lowball offer from the Mets, amidst a storm of cacophonous punditry.

The jars of green pills behind the bandages in the Dodgers' dressing room never tempted Mikie, who slept regular hours, worked out off-season, and avoided, as his mentor suggested, even the tastiest bimbos that seemed to generate themselves like sprites and nymphs from the wide beachfront before his Malibu home. Mikie drove a simple Japanese sedan, appeared at a minimum of charitable functions, and politely refused all social contact with his father's associates in entertainment studios, racetracks, and Las Vegas. He had neither seen nor heard from his mother or father since the days of his brief visits home during college.

He was called the most eligible bachelor in California sports, but his name was never coupled with those of any women in the print or video tabloids.

In his whole life, he had had only one true friend, an intense, long-haired computer geek, who'd pulled the fast one on Mikie's college teammates. The long-haired geek shared the anguish he suffered from his digital mentor's betrayal, shared the beginnings of his spiritual quest with Mikie, for whom these intense discussions at a New Brunswick teahouse were like replacement sparkplugs for the missing cylinders in the engine of his consciousness. They told stories of their difficult mothers, and the geek was the only person on earth to whom Mikie divulged his exasperation, anger and fear at being the son of a Mafia don whose surname he no longer used in full. Occasionally they flirted.

Mikie's life unconsciously illustrated Gilbert Sorrentino's encomium on the purity of baseball, a sport requiring a minimum of contact between opponents, a sport eliciting the music of geometry and physics. For Mikie's devotion to baseball was the devotion of a novice, a monk, an abbot, perhaps a saint.

It embittered him that consistent speculation about his sexuality eliminated his cherished goal: to redeem inner-city boys through baseball.

Bitterness at the persistent rumors, at losing his dream of saving boys from the miseries he'd experienced, at his loveless existence, led him to play for the Mets with the fury of desperation. But as the crouching and the pounding took its toll upon his legs, feet, hips and hands, his numbers slipped even further than they had in Los Angeles, and his devotion to the workouts that had kept him ahead of his competitors waned. He wanted above all else to show the world that was scorning him (every time he struck or grounded out, he heard, "Fag! Fag") he could still be MVP. And so he hired a personal trainer who knew his way around supplements, and was as handy with a needle as a weight station. Mikie knew this could be suicide, but he wanted it, he wanted out.

He wondered where steroids had been all his life. His workouts became more exhilarating than circling the bases or catching the leadoff batter stealing second. The sight of his bulging muscles and amazing ass, the upward curve of his Vo2 max were ecstasy. But after the game, no matter how great a showcase for him, he found himself angry and snappy with the reporters. He raged at the Queens traffic. He wrote a check to a Ronkonkoma dealership for a black Hummer with tinted windows. It was relief to roar the engine at smaller cars while blasting rap music on his state-of-the art stereo, but when he got to his condo in Great Neck he was unable to stop the seething, could not sleep without drinking a fifth of gin mixed with lowfat milk. He spent restless hours with gay and straight porn, but was unable to pleasure himself before falling into a stupor that seemed to last 5 minutes before the alarm rang. He drove to clubs in lower Manhattan, where his black military vehicle became a landmark, and once he went home with a young woman who'd rescued him from hurting two drunken fans making jokes about which end of the bat he used and where, but all he could do was snivel and moan into her lap. The big car became dilapidated and required frequent repairs as Mikie fell asleep under viaducts on both sides of the East River, and as he scraped pillars and walls in his manic urge to get going despite the miasma of obstacles the great city seemed to place before him above all others.

Suddenly his MVP season took a nosedive. A Daily News pundit gave unforgiving fans new fuel when he pronounced Mikie's season "maniac depressive."

His batting average plunged below 280, and after an August goose-egg day at the plate, he stormed into the press room and throttled a reporter who'd written kind words about his community service donations.

"You can't call me a fag, you little prick."

It took four security guards to pull him from the prostrate veteran reporter, who'd praised Mikie's "good heart" and his "dignified sense of privacy that never left him, whether his numbers went up or down."

The League suspended Mikie for the balance of the season and required inpatient treatment for drug dependency. The reporter declined to sue.


9.

If you want a game thrown, get to the pitcher and catcher. Sure, you can persuade batters to lie down, fielders to miss plays, but it's not easy to smell it when the catcher's calling a dumb game and the pitcher's putting it where the batters like it. I call it insurance when I have #1 and #2 in the bag. So when Mikie Mont starts using one of our trainers to get juiced, I'm watching. When he goes to the rehab our insurance company owns, I'm happy. Two weeks into his program I pay him a little visit upstate, but the big fag is too doped up or just too stupid to understand how we can beat the odds bigtime, and the night of my visit upstate I'm drinking in the club bar by the Canal off Third when I get a call the Boss wants to see me. I'm happy about that till I get to his office behind the repair shop in Bay Ridge and instead of "How's business, Joey," for which I have a good answer ready, he head-butts me over the eye, gives me a forearm to the throat, and the bleeding and the wheezing are killing me so bad I don't get what he's screaming until the "assholes" and "cocksuckers" slow down and I hear, "Don't you know who Mikie is, you piece of shit?" And when he tells me I'm almost begging him to beat me some more just so I stay alive because I don't want to die before I pay off my book debts and leave my old lady in the clear. Or I'm thinking Witness Protection. When you hit the wall the wall wins.


10.

I can't stand Tibet. Why did I think it so cool to be a monk? I've been vegetarian for years, but that doesn't mean I lived on white rice seasoned by white rice. The robes itch and the floors are hard. If the athletes and movie stars hadn't taken over this place, I might have gone back to the States for good food, running water, and comfortable clothes. I guess I'm a little like poor kids who believe the military recruiters and then hit basic training to get sent to Iraq and Iran. No matter what my danger, I would have gone back to normal living if Richard Gere, Phil Jackson and all of them hadn't led our Master to tone the place up. Now we have laptops and play stations, a hearty balanced vegan diet. I hate the press and film crews ordering us around—we call the preparations for a big name's advent "Gere-ing up, " and I tell myself that the limit will be when Barbra Streisand begins to lead the chants. But the celebs are a necessary evil if we are to maintain our new level of amenities.

Now I am free to wander the amazing landscape every day for hours, pondering my goals in life.


11.

Mikie Mont wore the Arms Acres T shirts more happily than he'd worn any uniform. Once his withdrawal from the medley of stimulants, sedatives, and hormone enhancers that would have killed a weaker body was complete, he stopped crying and sulking and began to listen to the hopeful things his counselors and his fellow-addicts were saying. Two things were weird: he believed what people were telling him, and he felt that his semi-private cot and the ugly green corridors filled with people so ordinary he wanted to spit on them when he was high and to hug them when he his head cleared and he was able to sleep unaided—that these unprepossessing physical and human circumstances were his first home on earth. He was proud to be in Group 6, and convinced the Group 6 nurse, an inarticulate black man who stumbled weilding the jargon of the counselors, was the kindest heart in the Acres. The social worker, a short aggressive Jewish woman, who, whenever Mikie tried to describe a situation, called on members of the group to get up and help him "sculpt" it, was the strongest soul on earth. When she took his family history, her questions were the most profoundly far-reaching he'd heard, and the family tree she designed with him was artwork beyond any trees of Jesse he'd seen in church. He cried inwardly and often outwardly at the stories of spousal or parental neglect endured by his group-mates, he forgave them for the bad and dumb things they'd done to themselves or others, and he never wanted to leave his home group or the Acres.

Visitors from his team or from the world of business went by in a vague whirl. He expected no visits from his family, and there were none.

The nurse began to prod Mikie to attend the 12th-step meetings more regularly. He told Mikie that he was a graduate of The Acres, and that he'd been clean and sober for 12 years. And because he loved the nurse, Mikie joined Alcoholics Anonymous. The social worker gave him the greater New York AA meeting book, dropping Mikie's spirits by telling him he's leave the facility soon, but raising them by saying she could see him as a private patient, and that if he went to the meetings and stayed clean, he would regain his self-esteem.

Mikie ran from the session with the social worker to the nurse.

"Joe, Joe, I've got to leave soon. I don't want to leave. I'm scared to leave."

"Mikie, separation anxiety, man. That's normal, man."

"But I'm all alone, I don't know what to do."

"You've got the program, man. The program, it's like a surrogate mother and father. Shoot, my Mom's a junkie and I never had no Dad, man, but I've got my program and my self-esteem, man."

"I'm scared, Joe. You really think I'll be OK?"

"You've got to trust the man with the plan, that's God, Mike. You think He can't figure this out?"

When Mikie left the rehab he was 10 pounds heavier from all the cake and junk foods, and he had the beginnings of an addiction to coffee. His emotions raced from high to low like a roller-coaster, but he knew that his suspension gave him freedom to go to as many meetings as he needed.

He was almost relieved to learn of the collapse of hedge fund to which he had entrusted the preponderance of his assets on the advice of his personal trainer who told him it could only go up. He had just enough to live on without his baseball salary.


-12-

Elliot Spitter wanted to stay alive. He could be of no use to the public if he hounded the Mafia the way he hounded Wall Street and the insurance industry, for if he were rubbed out he could never run for governor, and he beloved state would never know the class of good government he alone could provide. The young lawyers who spurred themselves and each other to follow leads and develop cases for the crusading attorney-general, subsisting as they put it on a diet of work, caffeine and triathalons, could not fathom their hero-chief's reluctance to cut off the mob tentacles grasping unions, finance, politics, and a few resigned to join white-shoe law firms in protest.

And so the eyes of his staff were trained on the wiry body and the firm jaw of the AG when the fund they knew stank to high heaven—The Beautiful People Fund of the Caymans—pulled its vanishing act, reducing household names in sports and entertainment to financial ruin. What would the Teddy Roosevelt, the Tom Dewey of our day do as the scandalous headlines echoed about his chiseled cranium?


13.

The nurse and the social worker became Mikie's mother and father. It was a necessary transference, for Mikie never had a Dad to reassure him when he was unable to live up to his mother's guidance or a mother to provide the guidance. The nurse became his easy-going sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous, and the social worker became his hard-driving counselor, impatient with his complaints about his family, insisting on rubbing his nose in his sexuality.


-14-

Dominant animals never take their eye off the ball, or their prey. They take no time off to bask in contemplation or celebration of their superior strength, stamina, agility: dominance is achieved by relentless, repetitious acts of aggression and intimidation. A dominant animal never rests.

Enrico (The Jackhammer) Montevenero knew it would be lonely at the top, but he was ready. He'd watched too many mob leaders turn into pussies and get caught or shot. He was always ready to kill and maim to attain his objectives, but he knew he needed to find instruments of control or torture beyond violence, and when he sought out a fate worse than death his dominating instincts led him to the insight that made him king: Their balls are in their wallets.

The Jackhammer read The Wall Street Journal and Money Magazine. He knew that of the traditional sources of Mob revenue--gambling, porn shops, prostitution, extortion, embezzlement, and drug-dealing—only gambling and drug-dealing were truly growth industries. Like Warren Buffett, he declined to invest in industries he could not understand, and so he assigned two capos to develop case studies on internet porn, withholding any commitments until he was sure he understood its ins and outs. He was pissed at his motherfucker partners Trump and Griffin for screwing up so badly in Atlantic City; he knew enough about global warming to stay away from riverboat casinos; and he was content with the return on his 5% ownership of Las Vegas. The minority stake in Vegas put him in harmonious contact with his peers, and he liked to pick their brains occasionally, never letting them know that was what he was doing.

And drugs: drugs were crazy. How could you find a reliable source in all those fucked-up South American and Mideast countries? The Jackhammer believed in vertical integration, and he hated a business dependent on loco cartels and dictators propped up by the idiot CIA. He needed his own dictator.

But where else could he grow?

The answer was blatant, ubiquitous: entertainment. Stars and jocks sat atop of a global growth industry ruling a nation addicted to distracting itself. He loved it. He began to bankroll, through investment banks that managed his unions' pension plans, movies and TV series on organized crime by Coppula, Scorface and other prominent directors. He studied the balance sheets of independent and corporate-owned sports franchises. And he counted on his son's baseball career to afford his crew opportunities to network with sports figures.


-15-

That fucking fat dago yells at me about my pills. He's too stupid to know he drove me to them. We had a deal: I'd stay home and do the traditional Italian family thing, and he'd be faithful and be a real father and husband. I'd take care of my looks, not like those fat mamas that drive the goombas to bimbos; I'd keep the house perfect and he'd keep his pecker in his pants. Not that he was any goddam gift as a lover; I've known plenty better, Bob, my Bob above all. But I was OK with the deal until he started spending nights away and his goddam underwear started smelling like pussy. So two can play that game I thought. Yeah, that's what I thought until we had our "little sitdown." The cocksucker just outs and tells me he can do what he wants because of who he is but if I do he'll arrange an accident for me, maybe in the gym, maybe in my car. He tells me there's plenty of women who'll be better mothers to my babies. I tell the pencil dick he's welcome to any girl or boy he wants and he'd better kill me right now because if he doesn't my next call is the FBI. He screams I can't do that, and I start walking to the phone. He says, "Ok, how about this: you do whatever you want, I do whatever I want, but you be careful because I can take care of anyone or anything," and he shows me a picture of my personal trainer in his white gym suit in a pool of blood. The poor kid, he was gay, and the only thing he wanted to get into was my wardrobe.


-16-

In therapy Mikie learned that mistrust is self-pity that isolates you from yourself and prevents you from getting on with your life. He learned that love is hard work, but worth it. He received no guidance on whether to pursue men or women, "It makes no difference, humans are humans, and if you spend your time wondering what you want not going for it, you'll be the same old withdrawn Mikie that almost killed himself. I don't care what you do with your genitals, as long as you take precautions." That kind of talk hurt Mikie's feelings and made him want to quit therapy.

But after he'd been sober six months he found himself in a morning meeting staring at a long-haired man in shorts and a tanktop, and the long-haired man caught him staring and asked him out for coffee anyplace but Starbucks. Mikie had moved into Park Slope because there were so many meetings you could walk to, and the long-haired man led him to the coffee bar at the back of the Community Bookstore. A famous novelist Mikie knew from the meetings pulled up to the store on his skateboard. A soft-spoken intelligent young man he knew from the meetings was putting books away. A bearded man was denouncing the President to a woman whose wild hair mixed her natural gray with the red, blond, and orange dyes she'd tried over the years of its growth, horizontal stripes that reminded Mikie he had once loved archeology. For the second time in his life Mikie felt at home on earth, an overwhelming joyful sensation, and he realized as he looked at the long-haired man's legs and ass that he was in love.


-17-

Seamus Heaney thought Elliott Spitter was an asshole. The motherfucker negotiates with his targets fucking jogging in Central Park? These protestant pussies act tough, but they're just playing games and running for office, and if Spitter goes after the Beautiful People Fund, I'll eat my wallet. Fuck I'd like to eat Daley's wallet, but that guy's too smart to let his private deals get near his public career.

Seamus realized he was jealous of Spitter's fame, and of the staff that enabled Spitter to get to the bottom of cases. Seamus knew he could crack the Money Master Murder case if he had resources, and he knew he'd fry some big fishes if he did. And the connection between his murder and Spitter's potential case against the Beautiful People's Fund tantalized Seamus like the vision of the Virgin Mary his grandmother in Cicero kept claiming when he brought his bored family to her yellow-sidinged row house.

There must be thousands of ambitious policemen hoping to crack the cases that would bring down the pretty faces in the news, policemen whose genetic code slapped ugly ethnic mugs on their crania, but whose brains whizzed far more efficiently than those behind prettier faces adorning the crania at the top. They struggled through life without access to the lithe slender bodies in places like the East Bank Club, the dowdy clothing and the fat arms of their mates an eternal social judgment. Only two men in history have combined ugly mugs with social refinement: Humphrey Bogart and Jean Paul Belmondo, and they were Seamus' heroes, to the puzzlement of his family, friends, and colleagues.


-18-

Mikie's sponsor and his therapist told him he should avoid serious relationships until he was sober at least a year. Dating was fine, but no commitments or sex. That was a relief to Mikie, who knew that the passion kindled in the bookstore could prove a challenge greater than drugs and baseball. The big difference was he wanted this challenge more than anything.


-19-

The Jackhammer wished he could find his own dictator without hope his desire could be satisfied. But one day his investment banker from CitiCorp told him that Chile was an economic miracle wrought by the god of modern economics, Milton Friedman. The investment banker, hyper-aggressive because he toiled at a large bank rather than a true-blue investment bank and because he attended Rutgers rather than one of the Big Three Ivies, was the only banker Enrico worked with gutsy enough to use the word "Mafia." Enrico gave him business because he sensed that the tonier bankers despised him as they rang up the big fees he generated. He despised them too, but he needed as many ladies and gentlemen in his professional life as Wall Street could afford him.

The Rutgers boy introduced Enrico to hedge funds, and soon the Jackhammer's ROI jumped from 11% to 17%. And he found Enrico his dictator.

It is difficult for a deposed dictator to preserve the wealth he has extracted from his country. He may maintain ties with the generals and colonels who put him into office, who created the steady flow of corpses that kept him in office. He may have been convicted of no crimes, and the business community of his native shores may long for the order and logic of his rule. But the international banking system's computers are like the conscience free market-practices must ignore to remain free, and wealthy dictators run easily but hide their billions less easily, particularly dictators whose drive and ambition make it difficult for them to contain restrict their restless strivings to Monaco or Caribbean Islands.

And since Augusto Pinochet continued a major presence on the world stage, feted especially by Great Britain's metallic female Winston Churchill, he was galled by his inability to evade the global funds transfer systems, and to grow his wealth in peace. It frustrated him mightily that his generals and colonels controlled the coca cash crop, but that he could not benefit from the generous land-grants with which he had secured their loyalty. He entertained a series of proposals from investment bankers who thronged his sumptuous quarters in Spain and Great Britain, but no one could solve the problem at which he could only hint until an unmannerly young man from CitiCorp introduced him to an underground economy whose power unleashed the dictator's measly rate of return. In his gratitude he gave the young Rutgers graduate his signed first edition of Money is Freedom by the Nobel Laureate from Chicago.

But the unmannerly banker was asked to leave the room when the Jackhammer and his dictator had their first sitdown at a location he was assured he would lose his genitals or his life for divulging.


-20-

When I was 12 and beginning to get looks from the boys in the school across the street I decided they were a lot more exciting than a bunch of girls giggling in braces, and I began to let the best-looking guys dry hump me. Jesus how they screamed and cried when they came. I lay there with my legs spread thinking there's something in this dirty stuff, something strong that turns boys into girls. Then I got tired of them having all the fun and I taught them how to finger me. I was too smart to give it away until freshman year in college when I stole my roommate's guy by fucking him while she held out. The sex was fun, but it was more fun to watch her crack up and leave school.

I never saw why it was such a big deal whether a guy stuck his piece of meat into my hole. Sometimes it was fun, other times boring, but it was never a big deal. Then I met Enrico. I knew who he was from the papers, and I thought well maybe this one won't be boring. He wasn't: he'd already killed five guys. He told me he was already worth ten million. He told me these things because he loved me, and he wanted to see how I'd feel. I felt good. But when most men would put the move on, he told me he wanted to marry a virgin, and asked me if I was pure, and you know what I said. He warned me that when we married he'd have to kill me if I ever told anyone anything I knew. That felt good too: finally something was exciting in my life.

So we get married and we get the big house and he becomes the big boss and I've got to say it was all pretty boring and the most boring part was in bed, but that was no big deal until I met Bobbie eating lunch alone at the Little Italian, and there was something about his deep voice and his shiny head and all the black stubble on his face that made me want to ball him right there on the red tablecloth. And when he got his shirt off in room 20 at the Quality Inn on Route 17 and I saw all that hair I melted like I'd never dreamed of melting. The sheets were dripping and the room smelt like a gym. It was like I was breathing sex.


-21-

I've used no intoxicants since my college weekends with the mentor who betrayed me. The pleasures of the mind far exceeded the rush and the giggles the noble weed gave me, and when to the pleasures of the mind I added the more pure and exquisite pleasures of meditation and contemplation of universal wholeness, I had, until I arrived here in Tibet, all the pleasure I thought I would ever need. And so I arrived at this spiritual source expecting a refined joy I would breathe until my spirit migrated from my body, but humiliation have not caused higher pleasures to absorb my being. Tibet was a bummer until our famous patrons freed me to walk and dream alone, and what has entered my being so profoundly I want to cry out to the far cliffs is the realization I have ignored love, that amazing being that stares most humans in the face until they flinch from its strong regard, dissipating it into lust, jealousy, anger. I know I am at last ready for love, and as I wander these ancient trails I realize its mystical but sensual ecstasy is my destiny. I realize.

As I descended towards the village, a tall strong man from my past strode up the trail with a smile so bright I cried.


-22-

Perhaps—since they told me only the highlights, we'll never know-- the most exquisite pleasure of Mikie and Joseph's lovemaking was their giggling, snorting, and roaring with laughter while physically entangled. The Best Western's Quiet Comfort Series had appeared in their once-modest village, a perfect honeymoon-spot for men of straightened means. In scores of raptly exploratory positions they found themselves unable to cease giggling over one-liners featuring "Worst Western" and "Best Eastern." A mini-bar attendant who happened upon them and withdrew in a silent consternation they compared to Cortes, "silent upon a prick in Darien," and to twenty variants of Moses and the burning bush--flaming pansies, burning faggots, humping hollyhocks, gloves off the fox, up in smoke, we are what we are, no you are, yes I am, maybe you're not, fucking around the campfire, boy sprouts, sizzling wieners, mellow marshes, hairy prophets, Charlton Hairstyle, the parting of the red face, burning tushies, here's smoke in your eyes, hot buttered come, smoked Buddhist bologna, and say that I Am sent you away happy.

For two men whose roots would always be New Jersey, it was a modern wonder they had needed to and did find Tibet to get laid.


-23-

Elliot Spitter studied female erogenous zones, quizzing his wife on hers, so that he could always leave the bed satisfied he'd done a thorough job. Enrico Montevenero didn't give a flying fuck how the babes felt as long as they acted like they loved it. His assistants always instructed new babes carefully. The reliable chemics in the bodies of Good Old Bob and the former accountant fizzled when the twins arrived, but they both decided that screwing around was dangerous to their elaborate lifestyle. Despite her fat Irish arms and sloppy thighs, Seamus Heaney's old lady remained a great roll in the hay.


-24-

On the fourteenth day of their honeymoon, Mikie and Joseph decided to change the world. It was time to discuss something besides their next fuck, next walk, or next meal. The 12-step meetings in their village were suffused with a New Age mentality Mikie struggled to respect. And so they decided to return to the good old US of A, Mikie shaving his head, affecting flowing Eastern garb, and resuming his natal name. Joseph Vitale cut his hair, exchanged his contacts for glasses, dressed a neat business casual, and bought a powerful laptop. They found a garden apartment in Brooklyn.

They knew that the past cannot be undone, the fate to which our families subject us cannot be reversed, but joy led them to believe that truth, justice, forgiveness, humor could go a long way towards affording mistreated mortals the serenity they now enjoyed—and cutting the Jackhammer down to size could be great fun. They would "pool their resourcefuls" and see if they couldn't work some magic on the state lying across the dirty, cluttered harbor from their new home.


-25-

It is not impossible for two bodies in love making love to tell lies, inwards or outwards, but it is less likely than in other circumstances. The blindness of love could without paradox be called visionary, the blindness of justice a lie. I love both Joseph and Mikie, and I have a grudging affection for Seamus Heaney. I've not met the wife. As I take these three men forward, I fear for their lives. I fear for all our lives: Joseph and Mikie will venture where fools and derelicts tread. It's as if they received travel brochures for Caribbean islands and Rhine Cruises, but chose to wade barefoot in the suppurating waters of the Meadowlands for holiday sport—and you the reader are in a Jersey Central train looking down on those idiots as you cuff your evening paper into shapes that will not intrude upon the stranger sharing your seat. It would never occur to you to erase the fate to which your genes, your family history, your work, the very limitations of your body have dictated. Why should it? And if you knew what good intentions fueled by love will lead Joseph and Mikie to, your contempt for their naivete would heat to anger. And if you knew the stranger sharing your seat worked for Enrico Montevenero, you would allow your legs and your buttocks to go to sleep as you risked cramping your whole body by plastering it to the grey streaked window and its soiled frame.


-27-

"Why would you question that I, with my unbroken record of defending the consumers and investors of New York would pursue the perpetrators of the Beautiful People's Fund until I brought them to light and to earth? I have been amused by the news stories speculating I would hold back. Elliot Spitter never holds back. And when I am elected governor, my first phone call will be to my replacement AG to encourage him or her to get to the bottom of this sordid affair."

When the returns handed Spitter a victory more resounding than any poll or any pundit forecast, his first call was to his Hong Kong tailor, his second to his largest donor, his third to his prep school football coach, and his fourth to a high-end interior decorator willing to take on an old dump in Albany. For Spitter had promised to roll up his sleeves and make the governor's mansion his predecessors had shunned home, saving money for the taxpayers. His children had overcome the 907-to-1 odds against admission to the finest prep schools in Manhattan, and would be in the hands of caretakers from whose wages FICA would be deducted while their parents turned the state around.


-28-

When the returns handed Spitter a victory more resounding than any poll or pundit forcast, The Jackhammer did not bother to call the young CitiCorp investment banker who'd stepped ahead of his colleagues on Wall Street to become Spitter's largest donor and most active fundraiser. He knew the young man's computer prompted him to call his most powerful client weekly.


-29-

A modern city resembles a jumbled pile of bodies buried alive, a hecatomb ever-growing like a landfill on Staten Island. The impacted limbs, the frozen skeletal structure is the network of earthbound buildings, abandoned tunnels, intersected by the gigantic stakes the superstructure in which we live drives into the earth and bedrock to steady itself. The still-beating hearts are the transformers implanted without thought to their useful remaining futures. And the veins and arteries so complex not even their makers can map them are the ever-more-sophisticated wiring and piping we need to energize the technology with which we work and play.

Ever since he touched Mikie Joseph had dreamed in words. Happily, he analyzed this strange and sometime boring change from unconscious movie to unconscious caption as the healing of his soul by the beloved sight for his sore Tibetan eyes.

He wondered whether to disclose these nocturnal dictations to his spouse, but he knew the dear boy would look for a cure—and might not these messages be from the very Ground of our Being he has sought from the beginning of his spiritual journey, and might not his feeling bored and pestered by them be the resistance so many prophets from Jonah to C.S. Lewis have felt to their being called?

For he knew that if he and his partner against crime were to succeed, it would be his intuitive explorations of wires and microprocessors that would lead them to their shrine of justice.

-30-

Mikie' s dream began in Camden, where scarfaced pugs were battling, as their managers put it, according to Marcus of Queensbaby, refraining from kidney and groin shots, leading with their sinister gloves not their shoulders and elbows, and when they got home after a day of following their perilous dreams without emolument, they listened to the angry railings of their scrimping spouses patiently, politely, and a chorus of sweet words from ugly faces promised to find compromises between breadwinning and their bloody ambitions.

And every coal-fired plant was so effectively scrubbed and dampened that its emissions were no more toxic than the pantings of a large dog.

Along the Delaware River the aging colony of hippies in Flatbrookville turned to a natural high, and walked through the woods they had plucked of non-native plants hand-in-hand with children and grandchildren about whose real parentage they ceased to wonder or rankle, they were all so beautiful.

The mayor of Hoboken recently photographed asleep naked on his porch surrounded by a Stonehenge-like array of beer bottles and cans called his sponsor, returned to his home twelfth-step group, and joined the nearest Gold's gym, while without bitterness his wife and children did six months worth of his laundry and erased his voice messages from bars and whorehouses.

Squadcars on the Parkway, the Turnpike, and routes 17, 78, 80 and 287 pulled over upscale white speeders, searching their smooth upholsteries and hi-end sound systems for illegal substances and, refusing even the most romantic cash bribes, remanded them to slammers normally reserved for the racially-profiled.

Three extinct species of waterfowl were discovered in Seacaucus.

Nuns already hopelessly lost driving from their Brooklyn convent on a mission of mercy to the trailer people of New Orleans airports found a gas station looming seemingly from nothing in the Meadowlands. The owner threw down his pornographic reading to set them straight, and as they were thanking and blessing him, St. Francis rose from the fresh spring that bubbled through and around the owner's curse-laden patches and plugs, and the saint's rise from the asphalt was hailed by a chorus of once-extinct tree-frogs whose ethereal rendition of the "Sanctus" from Paletrina's "Missa Papa Marceli" did indeed sanctify this New Age's rediscovery of plainsong.

Beaming clerks at tollstations handed out free passes to Jersey Transit and Erie-Lackawana trains.

Something told the Coney Island Polar Bear Club to do their thing in the Meadowlands, and the perfumed waters over which wafted a clean sea breeze across Staten Island that carried a thousand emanations from garage bands better even than the Beatles or Etta James confirmed their pilgrimage seeking new waters to shock their brazen skins.

Urgent orders from every restaurant listed in Zagat's Guide to New York City, as well as in its miniscule New Jersey footnote, arrived at dying family chicken farms.

No bribes were offered to or solicited by public servants.

Cars idling on Route 80 West were abandoned for roadside Scrabble, Bocci, and Charades. Ski resorts in the Poconos groomed their artificial snow and stocked their lodge bars in vain, while yuppies who had never noticed places like Patterson enough to wonder what they were used their considerable aerobic fitness to explore urban landscapes and to chat with their natives.

No pesticides or chemical fertilizers were purchased anywhere in the Garden State.

Gun redemption sites became arsenals that could have menaced the independence of most American client-states, and spilled over into precinct parking lots that came to resemble Western gun fairs.

There were 1221 football games scheduled that night, during which not one parent got drunk and threatened his team's coach, not one coach or trainer blew up at an erring player, the cheerleaders opted for modern dance routines designed by Cunningham and Tharp, the local vocal talent substituted "We Shall Overcome" for the "Star-Spangled Banner," the halftime bands played Ellington's sacred music, and everywhere could be heard parents comforting restless children and coaches comforting weeping athletes in a magically convincing sussurus of, it's not whether you win, it's how you play the game.

Her legs were freezing in the miniskirt but the dumb blond at Drew University knew that the only way to pass Anthro and become the first member of her family to earn a college degree was to meet the Professor that night in his office. She ran into him playing catch with his preteen son near the steps of Kean Hall, and he gave her the name of a graduate student who could tutor her for a nominal fee.

The food on the Amtrak trains climbing and descending New Jersey was superb.

The air smelled of the earth and its cooling and falling vegetation, and of the many rivers and wetlands that adorn the state.

It was a big night for sports at the Meadowlands arena, football outdoors and basketball indoors, and the Jets and Nets both lost, but you'd never know it from fans who ordered only sushi, salad, unbuttered popcorn and bottled water, or from players who found themselves enjoying games unmarred by fouls and trash talk, perhaps because coaches, trainers, and players had forgotten somehow to receive injections or ingest their pills. And there was no rush for the parking lot when hope ran out for the home heroes.

The Jewish teacher in the poorest part of Newark had hated his job, which consisted of subduing a group of 7th-grade boys and girls for whom contempt would be a mild word for the attitudes he express at his AFT meetings just in time for the period to end, but today he loved the children who asked him to tell them about Paul Robeson and the idealism that had led him to chose teaching over computer science flooded him like the floods of being in Emerson's eyeball.

No lead or steel pellet whacked out a turkey in the Bergen County. All the oversubscribed controlled hunts for which one could qualify only with a low-gage two-barrel gun worth more than $5000 purchased through the club's exclusive agency were canceled and the subscription money donated to CARE.

The feral cats and the monster rats in battling for turf at the Homeland Security Depot along the Raritan River curled up together for warmth as the night advanced.


(continues....)