Page Title: Gerasene Writer's Conference: The Fox's Confessor: Chapter Five

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Page Text: The Fox's Confessor: Chapter Five The Burgundy was Lytlewood’s retreat From larger universes. Renting peace Of mind, he found his refuge bittersweet – At once a cure for the common disease Of life, and sure reminder that when lease And rent come due, the vacancies remain The first concern. In its halcyon days The hotel spilled with bouquets and champagne; Today, it’s real estate prostitutes Mnemosyne – A fact the hotel’s current state drove home As Lonnie drove Lytlewood into view: The faded facades of dismantled Rome Could never have filled Caesar with more rue – Its garish art-deco and neon threw Enough electricity to trace its dark Abandoned silhouette. As evening grew It spread its stain against the sky in stark Majestic hints of heydays and high water mark. With tears of practice, Lonnie got the hang Of driving without thumbs. – But Lytlewood Soon realized he wasn’t worth a good damn For carrying bags – This bed is mine I made... He was left with baggage at the colonnade That announced The Burgundy’s grand entrance. As Lonnie went to park in back, he stood And saw the hotel’s old ways – a sentence Scrawled above the arch to welcome with faux-pretence: Check Your Cares At Door, Ye Who Enter Here! With a short strained sigh tucked under his breath Against nostalgia, he opened the door And stepped inside. In crossing underneath The jamb, he thought he heard the hotel breathe, Exhaling years and years of quiet years… The lobby’s marble floor echoed with His falling steps – like mourning – without tears He thought – or echoing for years and years. And years… A furtive movement caught his eye: someone Retreated into the office behind The desk – as if to avoid detection. But Lytlewood was rather disinclined To follow up. Instead he looked to find A concierge or bellhop. Then the bar Recalled him to its modest doors; they dinned The clank and hum of business, familiar Enough to guide him back to find his old north star. He was too weak with his sickness to think To want his old proclivities: a box Of choice cigars beneath his arm; a drink In hand to start the night…Scotch – hold the rocks! The Burgundy’s bar – called “The Legless Fox” – Had naturally attracted Lytlewood – Though few guessed his big shoes would leave the tracks Of little Reynard behind...And once, I could… He weakly pushed the swinging doors and stepped inside. There were only three others in the room: A bartender toweling a whisky glass Behind the bar, another pushing broom, His back to Biggy, and – seeming out of place – A single patron crouching comatose, Nursing drinks at the bar’s far end, his mood As black as his attire. And then a voice Yanked at Biggy with its unlikelihood. It’s good to see you again, Mr. Lytlewood. As Lytlewood knew that the gangster’s life Was full of strange and bloody things, and one Was just as soon accustomed to mooncalf Grotesques, stupid lore and superstition Of underworld and overlord, as to gun- Downs and garottes, the sign and sacrament Of thuggery itself: still, the phenomenon Appearing now before his eyes was different – Virgil Strong – not quite spirit, not quite corpulent. It was Lytlewood, after all, who first Appealed to Music’s Machiavellian Propensities, suggesting, worse to worst, Divine authority cows even villains – “A taste of blood will only whet the thirst,” He said to Music, “but feed the will on fear And even vice and crime are all but forced To pay the gods respect.” He helped, therefore, Convert dishonest souls to Music’s strident care. Oh, sir, the ghost continued, why surprised? – You act as if the boys had hacked your tongue Instead of mine. But you must have realized We’d be waiting here – with spring in step and song In heart – and ready to bring you along With us. But Lytlewood simply stared Down the bar, long and cool. Don’t get us wrong, Mr. Lytlewood – no expense was spared – If you’re to die, we’re here to make sure you’re prepared. It’s Music’s little pastime, Lytlewood Suspected – testing him around the edges, To see if age and pleasure had destroyed His hardness, mollified his ancient grudges Against the world. If Lytlewood budges, So Music speculates, then who else might Betray me? Sham sureties, bogus pledges – Surely these more than bullets took the fight Out of Music? Still, there’s something here that’s not quite… “Say, Virgil, you keep referring to ‘we’ And ‘us’ – but I see only us in the place,” The gangster thought to say – with levity To show he’d play it out. Don’t remember us, Good man? – Remember Eddie the Puss? That’s Eddie Pusarchik right over there At Table Eight. Recall how you hopped him Up on smack and made him rape his mother? I think he whacked his father, too – for good measure. Then standing over there by the jukebox – That’s Tony Romula. No? You had him kill His brother over phony rotten stocks In city real estate. Talk about shill And shell games: A regular Cain and Abel, Those two. If Jimmy hadn’t played both ends Against the middle, skimming from the till On top of all…I always said, you bends The rules enough and nothing in it recommends. And Hector “Horsey” Harriman is here – The stable trainer for Mr. Music’s Arabians? If I’ve the story clear, The bookie – Parrish Bowes, was it? – tried to fix A race in which Achilles’ Heel, Music’s Prize thoroughbred, was running. Hector slipped It’s feed a mickey; Bowes slipped him greenbacks; And didn’t Music have you have Hector strapped And dragged behind Achilles ‘til his spine was snapped? Oh, he’s there by the cigarette machine With Bowes now…What became of Bowes again? That’s right. Once you got Hector to come clean – Before his last ride – you “found” Parrish in Bed, committing fornication With Mr. Music’s mistress. What a knack You had for fabricating a fiction. Didn’t you show him counterfeit Kodaks? Is that what makes a fellow swallow Clorox and Ajax? As Virgil Strong continued his catalog Of Lytlewood’s auld lang syne alumni, Biggy’s gaze began to drift like fog From face to ghostly face to – suddenly He sensed almost simultaneously Two curious facts: the barkeeps were gone And, he noticed, during Virgil’s litany The barfly in the corner tying one on Was following this one-sided conversation. …Again involving Mr. Music’s mistress – What was her name? Oh, hell! (Sorry, Sir!) But that’s it! Hell – hell – Helen Crosby! Yes! I’m sure of it. Strong paused. It makes me sore, I must confess (It’s just a harmless figure Of speech, Sir, but apologies, of course!) As I was noting, it’s just like a whore To fail to keep appointments. This will force The Master’s hand – and you know how he hates remorse. “What do you know about Helen Crosby!” Interrupted Lytlewood. “And who the hell Are you! I’m dying, as you correctly Surmised – but look, the joke was going swell Until you mentioned… Helen.” His voice fell. “Please tell me. What the hell is this about!” Exactly so, dear Mr. Lytlewood. Hell. And we have just the place for down and out Fatalities like yourself. Let me explain it By taking all your questions one by one – No, better yet, let this answer for all: This cocktail party (which cannot begin In fact until Ms. Crosby’s arrival) Is in your honor. For being faithful To the Master, we’d propose a fitting toast – Except the whore prevents it – so until She shows, the Master has but one request: It would be best to ignore that nosey goddamned priest. Posted by JOB at

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