William Teets is an author and poet born in Peekskill, New York, who has recently relocated to Waterford, Michigan. He immensely misses New York pizza, the Hudson River, and his beloved Mets. He will write. He will survive.
Mr. Teets facilitates a writers’ workshop in Waterford, along with poetry open mics, in hopes of enhancing the literary arts in southeast Michigan. With both published and unpublished writers, and support from the local community, the Waterford Writers’ Workshop has been a success. Temporarily derailed by Covid-19, Teets is confident the workshop will be able to resume soon.
Mr. Teets’ works have been published in Chronogram, The Deadly Writers Patrol, Ariel Chart, Cajun Mutt Press, Art and Life, as well as in numerous anthologies.
The Coliseum Bar housed regulars: scholars and scallywags, sinners and saints, beggars and businessmen, poets and profiteers. An alliteration of drink-broken losers stranded on an island of misfit drunks. I attended confession when I could, mass always. Lapped up spirits with both lions and Christians. Tossed quarters, lied about dollars, stole dimes in midnight hours. Paradise on Earth, and not one time was I forced to say, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”
I woke up drunk again and dreamed I was in Spain—no, wait, that’s another work from another time. Manderley? Of course not. No, I was in my bed—drunk, yes—in a one room rental, above a one-chair beauty salon named DeDe’s, in Poughkeepsie, New York.
I smelled the Hudson’s currents proudly roll two avenues south of my lair, only to realize the pong emanated from a half-eaten McDouble perched on my milk crate nightstand. I strained as I tried to raise my head. Someone had stepped on my face last night.
Before I dared to rise, I surveyed my dank cavern for clues. A candlestick, a revolver, was Colonel Mustard hidden beneath my futon? Through salted sandy-stuck eyes, amid piles of clean-dirty clothes and worn paperbacks, I spied four twenty-five ounce fallen heroes, and that damned half-eaten McDouble.
There had to be more.
Another hint of more decadence, more vice. As I half-rolled to sit up, an empty fifth of Crown Royal speared me in my right rib. I had taken a bottle to bed again. The shoe print of a tightened-leather sole upon my cheek stretched and re-contorted and cracked. A rub-shake and silent yawn brought some suppleness to my red, dry-hewed, string face.
Seated—fearful to stand—I knew my knees would crack like gunshots. Schools of red herrings swam madly in my mind. A small sliver of cold sunlight gifted by Ra sliced through my broken blinds. My dog-bayed, duped mind became clearer about last night. I was on a scent. I smelled a fox on the run. Tallyho, lads, it’s the morning after election night and America has a chosen a mad king. I needed to recalibrate. To regain all I had lost
“What up, fat man?”
“Isn’t it a little early in the morning for you wanna-be gangsters to be out harassing folks?”
“Who you callin’ wanna-be? You just lucky Miss DeDe don’t let us do you.”
“And what would you get if she let you do me? My salvation? Would I get absolution? You gonna gamble for my clothes?”
“I know you all ain’t messin’ with Mr. William?”
“No, Miss DeDe. We was just chattin’.”
“Mmhmm. You good, Mr. William?”
“A little rough after that election last night.”
“Oh, yeah, you sure got that right. I’m sick to my stomach. That man is a liar and evil to boot. He’s gonna be the nail in the coffin of us all. Where ya headin’ off to?”
“New York City. I’ve got to see my confessor, Dr. John.”
“Cracker bastard probably voted for that nigga.”
“Hush your mouth, Ramsey.”
“Not me, brother, I’m a Revolutionary Christian.”
I was free.
My body—my soul—involuntarily swayed and bumped and jerked with motion movement. No one could stop me, no one could find me, no one could call. My future was ahead of me, or if I slid one seat across, my past faded away. Sweet romanticism, written and sung about in so much song, so long ago, made me smile. My hounds quelled. Run fox run.
I dreamed I was in Eden. Glorious, enchanted, divine. But just before my maiden, naked and bodacious, arrived on her white horse—the ethereal universal woman—my feet were violently stirred. “We’re here, man. You got to get off. New York City. Grand Central.”
I exited at Vanderbilt and headed downtown.
The election of the new commander of dunces, along with my self-bereavement, acted again in my mind. Winter, too. I knew wailed winds of uncertainty waited around the next city block—up in a cut—like stick-up boys do. Realizations that reflect mirrored feelings of isolation, despair, and cold-ass drama.
I was beaten down. Haggard and scared. Fearful to look at my shadow. Had I grown old overnight? Was I a ghost from unfulfilled yesterdays? I watched as so many people walked the city sidewalks, eyes sacredly fixed on hand-held devices. Ears plugged into alien dialogues. So many spoke aloud to themselves—they would have been deemed mad, not long ago—and answered voices I could not hear. Did she just speak to me? Did he just ask me to meet him at The Slaughtered Lamb?
Has society’s technological race, which runs so rapidly past me, made my life a memory, a one-time dream? Am I lost forever in a world where nation’s leaders tweet and twitter in pre-dawn hours? Alas, I am a dinosaur near extinction due to a millennial generation’s birth. An illiterate un-programmed-prisoner captive to an advanced overt culture. Sentenced to a junkyard of non-essentiality, relegated to so much waste, so much carnage. I had to get downtown. I walked faster. I festered.
Check books-extinct, deposit slips-extinct, withdrawal slips-extinct, cashiers able to count change-extinct, ability to do simple math-extinct, ability to do difficult math-extinct, grammar-extinct, spelling-extinct, cameras-extinct, old photographs-extinct, books-extinct, handwritten letters-extinct, handwritten letters in cursive-extinct, wall calendars-extinct, maps-extinct, newspapers-extinct, magazines-extinct, ability to read an analog clock-extinct, imagination-extinct, truth-extinct, honor-extinct, shame-extinct, humanity in the year 7510 . . . .
“Yo, watch where you walkin’, my man, damn.”
“You heard me. Watch where you walkin’. You got a problem?”
“Yeah, do you read books? Can you read a clock?
The Coliseum waited.
Dr. John, too.
As the fall day bemoaned, I impeached the false prophet carnival barker who now masqueraded as president. Chased winter away over my unseen shadow’s shoulder. I was closer to home. The prodigal son, broken, busted, but returned, nonetheless. Two concrete steps are a safe number to descend. Three or more of anything should be denied. Left side, mahogany altar, right side, seven low-tops, back wall, our choir. After so many years, I remembered all so well.
However, I walked left into a wall, looked right at blonde wood, the choir gone. No smell of wine or smoke or splendor. I shook my wooly head. Have I lost my way? Did I make a wrong turn? Have Visigoths and Vandals sacked my stock and laid all to ruin? A sneered, dismissive voice said, “Hey.” I turned right, again looked left.
I was not home.
“What’s up, mate? Restrooms for patrons only.”
Was I that poorly dressed? I’ll refine myself no finer than I am. These clothes are good enough to drink in, and so be these boots too.
“What’ll you have, now, if anything? What da ya want here?”
Where was Dr. John from Cork, Courtney from the Boogie Down Bronx, the flag-stuck-on-their-heads union workers? Where was Bobby O and his little cousin, Colin, O’Donnell the cop, my homegirl, Mac? Sweet Chelsea and Jamie-Love from the Iron Horse? Where was I?
“Like I said, mate, restrooms for patrons only.”
“Double Crown Royal neat and a Budweiser back.”
“Hmmm, I see.”
“No, you don’t see.”
“No mind, my brother, obviously Dr. John has gone and went away.”
The Coliseum had been gentrified. Bastardized. Crucified. Pushed into yesterday, its myth discarded. I learned from the money changer behind the stick my hallowed ground had been sold years before. John returned home, across the ocean from Queens. This hipster-fake-holy man from Kings had never served any of my brethren. I asked about the choir, which we all sang so loudly along with, and he said, “No, we have Sirius for that now. No music ‘til after ten. We serve fine food and cocktails, now. Don’t you know?”
On the wrong side of the room, at that sacrilegious false alter, I stared deep into my second or seventh double and conjured up unholy sights: ravens and doves, albatrosses and sea-stressed sailors, windswept trumpets and devilish piped horns. Sirens sang unmelodious songs. I yearned for the sound of a cathedral bell, a bell that rings for any and all.
A galley of people from my past sailed a battered boat between shores of non-existence and matter and memory. I smiled sadly. I crusaded on those ships, had denied, and been denied. Lost and won small fortunes with scattered bones. Opened my soul for all to gape. I had been cast out of the belly of a whale after being swallowed whole. Saved through my damnation. As my past thoughts collided with the dusk of day, this day after a foul election, I understood the arrival of ever-closer winter could not be saved by any son of York. This battered boat, my damaged vessel, listed toward port.
“I like you, mate, we’ve conversed a bit now, and I’ve enjoyed the craic. You’ve had a few, though, and the man just walked in and gave me the eye.”
I viewed the evil-emperor-proprietor at the end of the bar. Steadfast at my end of time. As I walked out of the Coliseum, past my shadow, past my not-king, I shouted, “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”
The bartender smiled.
The owner frowned.
A young couple seated for dinner asked, “What?”
The new high priest rampallian, in another corrupted temple across town, chased me out the door. Knocked me to the ground. Heeled me in my head. Told me never to return. But before he did so, the millennial with the crazy tats, the too-old-wanna-be-down yuppie with his cropped brow, a new lost generation of NYU students, and other scattered ne’er-do-wells, all begged me to share my tales. A crowd had gathered. Cheers of triumph and joy. All wanted to know more of my whiskey stories of the Coliseum, and how songs from Barry White to Black Sabbath sounded on a ghost-relic music box. How did we all sing along? How did everyone know your name? What were bones? Who threw stones? Who were holy? Who were damned?
Who were we?
Through neo-poetic clouds of EZ-Cigs smoke I snitched to the huddled masses of how each day is a Halloween Bag filled with gifts of sweets and sours and apples and nuts. Loose coins and an occasional razor blade. I told of the people of the Coliseum, before blonde wood bar tops, fanciful mixologists. Before nefarious fare, before these now debased times. We were drunks. Functional drunks. All royalty. Each lord and lady surely had their own bag full of faults and disabilities, but our disabilities, personal blunders and horrors were noble. Made us honorable. There are worse things in the world than mad dogs who bark at and bite one-legged mailmen. Just read Sunday’s Times.
As my court grew larger, as I stated my State of the Bar Address, victorious roars resounded. Shots and spirits flew about the room of my roost. Tidbits of wisdoms shared from the Bible and the Bard impressed and excited everyone, except for the guard behind the slab.
“Hear now, you can’t be doin’ that. Time to push off, my man.”
“No,” I rebelled.
And I was seized and sacked, my kingdom, my fiefdom, scourged. Abandoned by my horde of serfs, blood flowed freely down my forehead. I begged for but received no absolution. I would not be pardoned. A city sidewalk is cold in November gloom. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men . . .
More involuntary than after forever, I again was rocked, swayed, and jostled. The unclean around me were still programmed and controlled by unheard commands from distant dimensions. I wished to rail, but instead weltered in my morass. Why had I gone back into the belly of the whale from which I was delivered? Why do captains sail to the ends of the world where they know only dragons be?
I three-stepped up my block. The faux stick-up boys hollered and danced when they saw my blood. They taunted, poked at my wounds, and denounced. They licked their lust. They shouted primeval screams in the night. My blood lit darkness. None could look away. Only after I was gone, did the madness cease. I creaked up my stairway of pain. I faintly heard Miss DeDe shout, “Ramsey, where is your mother?”
I heard seven hounds howl.
With my back leaned heavy against my door, I slid the bolt lock and fell to the floor.
In my tomb, all still stank of alcohol and McDonalds. I lay down and awaited the foot monster. I thought of how tomorrow may offer new tricks or treats. How my blood might dry. How I will wake up drunk again, winter still winged around the corner, Spain and Manderley only in ether. America will still have a two-bit conman as leader, and somewhere a bell will ring, clean and soft or dirty and cantankerous. An embarrassed albatross will land unwelcomed on a schooner, a mighty captain will sail into dragon lore.