She gets up from the recliner. She’s wearing her old robe and pink sweatpants. I fix her a plate, pull out a chair for her. She sits down and starts to eat like she’s starving. I know better than to ask when she ate last.
The stove is a disaster. Beneath the towel, charred patties congeal in an inch of greasy water. The whole stove smells rancid, caked with ashy spatters. The calendar on the wall–December 1981, when Pop died–is singed at the corners.
I feel my anger rise. “You’re just lucky you didn’t burn down the fucking house.”
Graduated from RSDI, the got an MFA from Pratt. I wanted to be another Basquiat, take the New York Art scene by storm, selling out a show and buying some old farm in the Hudson Valley, convert the old barn into a studio aka Jackson Pollack.
But nobody was impressed. I couldn’t get a show at the crappiest gallery, couldn’t even get work selling illustrations to magazines. All I had to show for my education was a mountain of debt and three huge boxes of unsold paintings.
So, you want me to draw you on an elephant, or a lion?
This all started when Pank nicked the panel Morris.
“Got it Manchester,” he’d said. “Bloody fuck all looking for it in Bristol.”
He’d fitted it out with magnetic panels he’d gotten from Amazon, a lovely irony that made us both smile.
For a few months it was our main occupation, both of us in smart gray coveralls and caps, driving the neigbourhoods on the spy for left packages.
Pank hit the idea of following the real Amazon bloke, hot on his heels to un-deliver his latest batch.
That’s what caught us up in the end.
People sure buy some weird shite.
“Now remember there are two of those casseroles.”
“So you said.”
“Well, just don’t forget about the one in the freezer.”
“I did the dishes again.”
“You didn’t have to.”
“It’s no bother. You know it wouldn’t be so hard if you kept up with it.”
“I know. I just…didn’t have the energy, I guess.”
“Well, God helps those who help themselves.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“How about you go for a walk? That might clear your head.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Seriously. Get out of that recliner. There’s a whole big world out there.”
“Don’t I know it.”
Ford To City: DROP DEAD. They was golden words to us.
Back then, there was at least two New Yorks.
There was TV New York, the one you see at the beginning of TV shows like Barney Miller or Welcome Back Kotter. Long shots of skyscrapers, maybe cut with a street scene or two.
Them scenes got as much to do with real New York as Bugs Bunny does with a real rabbit.
We lived in the park then, your mother and me, in a cave they since filled in with concrete.
Dangerous? Maybe. But at least we was free.