Story: A Scene from 1940

This story is a little more vulgar than usual as it’s based on a Charles Bukowski poem I love. Experimenting with manifesting emotion and reactions in readers by using intense narratives rather than descriptions.

I don’t recall ever enjoying school. Most of my time had been a blur, with much of it having been spent either drinking in cleaner’s cupboards or boy’s bathroom stalls just to get me through until the end of the day. Although, there is one particular day that appears to me often clearer than the present.

He caught me in the boy’s bathroom. I thought I’d locked the stall behind me but with my lack of sobriety I’d clearly made a grave mistake and soon enough, Johnny kicked the door in hoping to go for a lash but instead discovered me gulping from a 35cl of white rum like my life depended on it.

“What the fuck Casey?” he snarled.

I shrugged and got up, slightly disgruntled and completely dishevelled. Johnny was an alright guy, he wouldn’t care too much if I offered him a swig. As far as I could care, I was on my way to the cleaner’s cupboard to polish the bottle off before lunch was over. Johnny, however, didn’t want to move as you can probably expect.

“I knew you were a bad-ass.”

I stared at him for a long time and he didn’t break my gaze. I had to back down. I vividly remember this harmless kid had made me feel so pathetic all within a matter of seconds.

“You always sat in the back of my art class and never said anything. Then I saw you in that fight with that kid a couple days ago, the small cunt with the straw hair. You know him? You beat him up real bad, Casey.”

I don’t know what he wanted from this conversation, or lack thereof, and I won’t ever know. Did he think I would be his friend? I tried to break past him again and retreat into my serene bubble of me, my rum and my own head but he really wanted to talk.

“You’re rare, Casey. Guys like you sure are rare. You’re raw, you don’t give a fuck. You make your own rules!”

Beaming like a puppy, I knew I had to kick him down from his pedestal.

“Fuck off. Get your fucking face out of mine.”

I was as venomous as I could be whilst wobbling from side to side. He saw this. I gritted my teeth and gripped my bottle so hard I felt as though I might just smash it over his head but he backed off and I waded away from him.

“You see what I mean?” his shout echoed in the bathroom.

I was exiting by now, bottle now in pocket and already feeling more cool-headed. I could’ve befriended Johnny that day. Perhaps I would’ve had somebody to sit with me in bathroom stalls and talk about my dad with. Or maybe, just maybe, I’d have shown him the scars and the bruises, and he’d have brought me home to his quaint family and they’d have taken me in like one of their own. Maybe I’d be making a living right now rather than drinking my own weight in cheap red wine and using loose change to pay to fuck women who resembled my worst nightmares most evenings. Trawling through rejection letter after rejection letter and deliberating ways to kill myself.

But the thing with Johnny was that he had outwitted me entirely. Of all the things I was strong enough to handle; copious amounts of alcohol, my dads’ fists, a lack of guidance in life… praise was the only thing I couldn’t handle.

I was fifteen then.


Story: Laureate of an American Lowlife

A short story dedicated to the life of Charles Bukowski. Based on the following writing prompt: Strangers at a bus stop, trying to mind their business, are persistently engaged with by a chatty, seemingly homeless, man.

The ridicule that came alongside refusing to follow the values which society held was what demoralised him. He didn’t mind the fact that he was different to those who surrounded him, but he did mind the fact that there was little justice for the creative; there was no stability or safety for the ones who were deemed to be weaker.

He spent most of his lifetime expecting to be adored, with smiles in his direction and hats tipped towards him as he graced the streets, but little did he know that his only friendship would be with a bottle; occasionally, a decrepit typewriter. He didn’t see the problem with drinking. If something bad happens, you drink to forget; if something good happens, you drink to celebrate; and if nothing happens, you drink to make something happen. Whilst sobriety coats his mind for a little while longer, he wonders if that’s how he got here – finding his only solace at a cramped, communal waiting area. Things were bad and really, they were boring. As much as he tried to form an ordinary life and earn an unremarkable wage, there was no comfort to be sought out in the routine nine to five.

Many regulars were confused by his placement. He was never without a bottle and never in his life had he thought to groom his face or his hair. His shirt nipped at his armpits whilst revealing the underneath of his ample stomach – presumably from all the bottle-contents he happened to consume during his rounds of people watching. Many found his face hard to look at, bulbous and grotesque; some found him comparable to the Hunch Back of Notre Dame. He begged to differ. He thought that he was handsome, a treat to every lady that saw him. They all desired him, but this was only after he’d had his third bottle.

He never boarded the bus, but he still chose to stand around for hours on end making pathetic and occasionally resentful chatter when he had the chance. They all thought he was entirely demented, but little did they know that they were speaking with a genius. A respectable man; that’s what he thought.

“You all just blindly grab at whatever there is!”

This wasn’t uncommon. Something was brewing inside of him that wanted to escape. Whilst a few would hope he’d stop wandering and leave, many knew that this was the start of his usual ‘fuck you’ to the world. Particularly those who stared him down up until this point, wondering why this filth wasn’t eradicated already.

“Communism, health foods, zen, surfing, ballet, hypnotism, group encounters, orgies, biking, herbs, Catholicism, weight-lifting, travel, withdrawal, vegetarianism, India, painting, writing, sculpting, composing, conducting, backpacking, yoga, copulating, gambling, drinking, hanging around, frozen yogurt, Beethoven, Buddha, Christ, carrot juice, suicide, handmade suits, jet travel, New York City, and then it all evaporates and falls apart. People must find things to do while waiting to die! I guess it was nice of me to have a choice!”

Nothing out of the ordinary. After his first bottle, bitterness consumed him once again. His art was his craft, and nobody appreciated him then – as a failing writer – and nobody had a care in the world for him now, as the maniacal preacher. He found this to be his fuel, the fire in his loins that graced him during these outbursts and the reactions he summoned motivated him. Fear was evoked in many of the women surrounding him, just wishing to make their way to work on time. The stares weren’t enough to make him leave but rather, enough to make him want more stimulation.

“Your eyes – they’re beautiful. They’re wild, crazy, like some animal peering out of a forest on fire.”

This was the first time he’d warmed up to a lady in a few days which seemed to be a surprise to those who where regular to the stop. He frequented the women with aimless flattery most mornings and many evenings, none of which was ever reciprocated. These compliments shrouded in fakery where the only times that he softened his voice. He hated women. He didn’t want to, but they didn’t like him, so he hated them. Just as much as he hated everything else.

Nobody knew that once upon a time, his antics and deliberate clownish performances had once made him the king of an underground scene where ladies worshipped his words and men wished to bow down to him. He was a loyal man and up until his presence had been forgotten and his art form failed. He was a cordial man.

Now, all that he did was act as litter to a public space and persist that those who dared look at him were subordinate. He found them to be fools for not having a literary appreciation and even more so for not wishing to hear his poems or lyricisms.

“Oh, what! You don’t like the word cunt?”

Perhaps his most vile outburst to the crowd that gathered, nobody quite understood the gritty, darkened truth behind his magic. Nor did he, anymore.

Little did they know that he resided in a shed with his few clothes, his empty wine bottles and typewriter. He had a bed, not habitable by a human but fit for a monster. As his career went down in flames, his passion for alcohol soared with it. Everything that came from his mind was in a disarray, cluttered with profanities and vexation – the commoners at the bus stop didn’t want to hear it and neither did L.A. anymore. The underground had no time for him and whilst he looked for his ammunition from a bottle at a local bus stop each day, he remained an outsider.

Who would want to be such an asshole?