BUT… I’m sitting at a comfortable 2490 words between the 90 minutes I got this morning and the hour I pounded out at lunch. That means I only have 47,510 words to go? No problem! The only problem thus far is that I can;t get the fucking widget to work over there on the right of this page!
My current plan is to drag my bulky ass out of bed at 5AM every day this month, go to work hella-early (so as not to wake the kids… or decide to just keep writing and NOT go to work) and get at least 90 minutes in. Then write at lunch and try to pick up an hour after the jabroni brothers are tucked safely in bed round 9PM. I should also have a good couple hours on Saturday morning whilst I wit for my car to be fitted with new rubber.
Anyways… check me out on the NaNoWriMo site (I’m inmate # 587589) or check back here or on twitter for updates.
Now click on for the first little morsel of the story: HOT SINATRA
The first thing you notice, upon entering the Florence Henderson Continuing Care Center, is the expanse of the modern open foyer. The next thing you notice is the lingering stench of bleach and urine. Pops went out in a place like this. He was riddled with cancer, fighting to breathe, yet still tough as nails and charming as the devil himself. The last thing he said to me was ‘Carry on, Mossy boy. You’re the man now.’ I was 15. That was 20 years ago. And I’m still doing this shit – doing his job – trying to be him.
I shook off the malaise (and the stink of incontinence) and made my way to room 224. The first thing Obadiah Stetch notices is my hat.
‘What are you supposed to be Bogey or something? Ain’t nobody wore them hats in years. You look fucking ridiculous. At least wear a suit with it. What kind of gumshoe are you anyway? You’re supposed to be Moe Rossi’s boy, no?’
It’s my grandfathers hat. Pops’ hat. It’s a 1953 Stetson fedora. I take a lot of shit about the hats. I took the hat off and sat in a chair near the bed, folding my jean-covered legs and setting the hat on my knee.
‘Mr. Stetch, you didn’t call me down here just to rag on my choice of headwear, did you?’
He picked thick-framed glasses from somewhere in the mess of sheets covering his legs and searched my face through even thicker lenses that magnified his rheumy eyes and made him look like an old bulldog.
‘No, kid. I got a job for you… if you can handle it, that is.’
I took a second to brush his obnoxiousness off, along with some imaginary dust on my leg.
‘Well, that all depends on the job, doesn’t it Mr. Stetch.’
The old bastard took the glasses back off, apparently satisfied that I had ‘moxie’ enough to be worth his time. Obie Stetch had been a rich, powerful and fairly notorious man-about-town in his day. That day had passed about 35 years ago. Stetch had been a club owner, musical agent, boxing promoter and self-involved prick as far back as 1940, and as recently as the mid-70’s. Now he was another old man facing a lazy death and steadily declining amount of respect from the world. I figured throwing him a bone wouldn’t kill me.
‘Mr. Stetch, sir. I know you’re an important man and you probably have other business to deal with today, so why don’t we get down to why I’m here.’
He took the bait as most lonely old pricks do and straightened in his bed, a glimmer of life lifting a snarl onto his face.
‘Don’t need to kiss my ass, kid. But you’re alright. I think we can do business.’
He hefted a book out of nowhere, one of those pleather-bound photo albums that’s supposed to look like an impressive volume of English poetry and flipped it open on the sheets. He flipped a couple of pages and pointed to a photo of a younger version of himself standing with a very young Frank Sinatra in front of a stage full of musicians. I guessed it was taken in 1948, on account of the banner hanging over the stage that said ‘Happy New Year 1948’.
‘That’s me with Sinatra in 1948.’
I rolled my eyes and held back the urge to hit him with the book.
‘He was playing my place in Van Nuys. The ‘Mocambo’. I had a very important, very rare piece of wax cut from that show. You know what a record is?’
I tried harder not to slap him in his bald-spot.
‘That record was made for me by my late wife and was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I had it here with me. It was framed up on the wall there…’
He pointed absently at a spot on the wall where the paint was a shade darker in the rectangular shape of a picture frame. A dozen other pictures and framed memorabilia surrounded the bare spot, but it was clear by its position in the center that it was the piece d’ resistance.
‘Somebody stole it?’
‘Oh, somebody give that boy a lolli! Yeah somebody stole it! You shit-for-brains! And I fucking want it back!’
I had been regretting taking Stetch’s call since I hung up the phone that morning, but at this point all I wanted was to get up and walk out and straight into the bar across the street. I took a deep breath of antiseptic and decrepit ass and immediately regretted that as well.
‘Any idea who would have taken it?’
His pale and puckered bulldog face lit up red.
‘Yeah, cuz nobody would steal an autographed fucking SINATRA RECORD. You FUCK!’
A fat nurse with too much blush stuck her face around the corner with a stern look of disapproval.
‘Everything alright in here, Mr. Stetch?’
‘FUCK YOU!’ he bellowed back.
She shook her head and disappeared from the doorway. I stood up and twisted my head to crack the tension out of my neck. I wanted to head-butt the old cocksucker. Instead, I leaned in close to his bed and gave him the goods in as harsh a whisper as I could manage without drawing attention from the nurses station outside.
‘Listen, you belligerent old fart. Nobody gives a fuck about an old record missing from your wall in this cut-rate nursing home. You want me to find it? Cut me some slack, answer a few questions… without being a prick… and maybe I can help you’
I stood there, trying to be menacing (probably managing ‘imposing’ at best) and waited while he composed himself, laid back and drew a deep breath of resignation.
‘Alright. I’m sorry, kid.’
‘My name is Mister Cole.’
I stared a hole through him, hoping it would bear fruit and end the stupidity once and for all. A crisp Scotch & Soda was definitely on the menu the second I left that shithole.
‘Cole, then. Anybody could have stolen it. Fuckin’ Vietnamese nurses and spic janitors they have in this fucking place. Every one of em’ is a goddamn thief.’
Obie Stetch certainly was a piece of work. I thought of trying to knock some sense into him, imagined myself wrapping the cord from one of his machine around his scrawny neck, maybe slapping him with that photo album until his spindly little head popped off. Instead, I forced myself to focus on the work, like Pops always told me. ‘Everybody’s an asshole. You have to be able to work around em’.
‘Look, Stetch. You’ve got a lot of impressive trinkets up there. More than any sane person would keep out in a place like this, but I get it. You want everybody to know that you used to be a big shot. They took the one piece. Only that one. That speaks to pre-meditation and motive. That means that whoever took the Sinatra record was only after the Sinatra record. Was there anyone who showed an express interest in it? Anyone who would have profited especially from that one piece?’
I hoped to Christ that he was paying attention and understood what I was trying to explain to him. If not, the whole morning was a waste of my time and his money, although I was much less worried about his pockets than my sleep schedule. He sat heavy, slumped forward. I was beginning to think he’d fallen asleep, or died while I was talking, when he suddenly sat bolt upright with a hard glint in his eye.
‘Who is Ramone? One of the people here in the hospital?’
He flipped the photo book open again and quickly found the picture he’d shown me before. He jabbed his finger at a trumpet player in the background. A real pachuco with a pencil thin mustache and slick hair. He looked like a stereotypical Big Band musician. Like DeNiro in New York New York.
‘It couldn’t be Ramone. He’s dead. Been dead since 48’. Maybe one of his people…’
Could this asshole be more of an asshole? Racist bastard.
(to be continued…)
November 3, 2009