Each day a new section of David McWane’s Modern American Gypsy will be posted. Todays stories are spent with pimps and whores of Switzerland.
The brakes weren’t completely working, which means – they didn’t work. They slowed the Sprinter down a bit, down to about 25mph, but the turns high up on this Swiss Mountaintop motorway are sharp. And a sharp one came upon us.
We talked calmly.
“I got it.”
“Whoa brake, brake.”
“Whoa-o brake Dale!”
“I am, I am, the brakes are rubbish!”
We could hear him pressing down to the floor and could see the edge of the cliff coming. We all braced.
“I think this is it guys”, I said.
And the men winced at the truth.
Dale pulled the wheel hard to the left, pressed hard on the brakes and pulled the emergency brake. The Sprinter skidded, turned and pushed into the guard rail bending it. Over the windshield was only a drop. Then rocks. We all leaned back. Dale put the Sprinter in reverse and gave it some gas. First nothing, then a little more gas, a slight turn of the wheel and we got traction and pulled back onto the motorway.
“Bloody hell, I really thought that was it guys”, Dale said as we picked up speed. And when we all started breathing again he said, “Gotta get the brakes checked. They’re rubbish.”
Too many waterfalls to pass up. Too many lakes of blue to dismiss. We pulled the Sprinter over to a lake high up on the Swiss alps where waterfalls plunged and where moving fog over the still water made you feel as if you were in Sleepy Hollow. As some of the men smoked and some of the men pulled their pants up to wade, one of the men and myself, stripped down and dove into the water. For too many drives have these waters seemed out of reach. Too many thoughts of mine, saw me splashing and laughing. Too many chances missed.
The water was cold, heart stopping cold. I swam out, dove under and swam down, then looked up. It was dark around me, cold around me, but above was shimmering light. I dove lower to see more dancing light. My heart held it’s breath, he was weary of the idea, but my eyes won the vote. My body glowed like a new angle in space. I dove lower and my heart said, “No! Too far. I’m cold.” We all, all that makes me, respected that. Still glowing, I swam up to the dancing light.
When I came to the top, I looked all around at the mountains, waterfalls and distant castles, breathed a freezing mans breath and swam back to the men, before my appendages became to numb to use, before my heart stopped.
Flash Go, Flash Go
I try to do some writing
in my cramped seat.
I hadn’t been doing that much in Switzerland,
so that day was the day
to get the old
purrin’ motor going again.
But Switzerland’s motorways
are full of dimly lit tunnels,
going under its mountains.
Ten seconds of light
to five minutes underground.
And over again.
I tried to write
even when we went into
the tunnel but,
frustrated with the blackness
of my page.
I’d try and write what I could
during the flashes of yellow light
in the tunnel,
but it was just too hard.
Flash go, flash go!
could get two words down,
When I saw how
insane the page
I finally stopped trying
And put my book down,
put the pen in my pocket,
grabbed some food and drink
from under my seat,
chatted a friend up
‘The light at the end of the tunnel
will eventually come
and all these words with it.’
Warm Rooftops, Distant Snow, Future Wine, Olive Oil For Sale & The Tanning Prostitutes
My room was on the top floor,
so all of the men went up there
to have their smoke.
The windows were opened
we sat on the beds,
and talked about the finances
of our trip,
and of the condition
of our Sprinter.
The sun was coming in through
the open windows
and it’s heat was so pleasing to us,
that it led us all
to crawl out the windows.
We first found
It led us to the
hotel’s warm rooftop.
The smell of our meal being prepared
in the bottom floor kitchen
came with each passing breeze.
We were all hungry
and Michael, the owner,
always fed us well here.
I knew that there would be
many bottles of wine
on the table,
so there were great things
in our future.
The shingles we sat on
were red and curved.
Distant church bells rang the hour
from the north and the east
and someone far off was using a chain saw;
The summits of the Swiss Alps
were covered in snow,
but their bodies were not.
The gondola was still.
on everything shiny
and we had a bird’s eye view
of the small village
from the steaming rooftop.
Men walked with their jackets neatly hung
over their shoulders,
merchants sold homemade olive oil
and olive paste out of carts,
a cat crossed the street hesitantly and slowly,
one of the prostitutes
sunning herself atop a lower rooftop
and went back inside
and you could see her tan naked body
through the open shutter
as the other
long shiny legs
and began looking up at us men,
sitting above them,
on the roof top.
Then they waved.
Michael always treats us well. He’s a kind gentleman, who wants you to feel well, feel safe and enjoy life with him. He likes food, big dinners, wine, and beer, laughter, music, dancing, and singing, likes slapping your back and pulling you close, likes women, sex, orgies, and men, likes it when the Englishmen pee into bar mugs and have each other drink it down, likes razzing them up until they have unmentionables in different mouths at the bar, just for laughs, just for the razz of it all, just so us Americans cringe. His new Brazilian girlfriend, I forget her name so we’ll use Michael’s #1 Girl for it, is sugary fire, with big red lips, slow winks, long strokes on your back, arms and jaw, and she is always inching over to sit or stand closer and even closer to me. After the two hour sweaty concert and forty-five minute encore, at the Safari Beat Club, in Chur, Switzerland, after the Englishmen were done drinking each other’s pee from mugs, after the fourth round of 32oz mugs of frothy beer, after Michael’s #1 Girl was called back to Michael’s lap, and after the local smoke was put back in it’s cage, we walked to the street – Michael, Michael’s #1 Girl, seven Englishmen, a few Lovers of the Sound, the one Brit – Dale and us seven Modern American Gypsies, through the narrow stone alleyways lined with stone buildings that were almost kissing, down the midnight street, over the arched bridge with the agitated water beneath, and far off gondolas swinging back and forth in the distance, lining the snow covered summits that succeeded with all their might to pierce the stream brook clouds above, reaching for the white belly moon that giggled it’s wavering tummy down at them teasing.
The bar was boring to me. All my men spoke with the Englishmen and I was tired of travel stories. And tonight, I wanted nothing to do with getting chatted up at the bar only to make a forgotten friend. Michael and Michael’s #1 Girl can smell this feeling on a man like the cat that catches, in the blackest of nights, its most elusive hidden prey.
“Do you want to move on then, David?” Michael asked.
“You’re bored,” said Michael’s #1 Girl factually as she crushed her fresh cigarette down.
“Come.” Michael tossed money down and the three of us were back under the teasing moon. We took the road that led back to the hotel that Michael owned, the one us men were staying at, but took a small walkway down to the left and under a sidewalk buttress, to a light that illuminated a steel door that had a steel slider for the inner doorman’s eyes.
The door opened.
Inside looked like a 1960’s go-go club or a posh beatnick poetry pad. Every man had a cat. The cats clawed at the men’s chests and wiggled and squirmed from the sausage finger hands under their necks. Every man had his own table, own dirty red velvet horseshoe couch, own champagne bottles and glasses, own dangling lamp shade that shook and twirled light diamonds on the floor, on the tables, the cats hair, backs, and legs and you could see them on the cat’s hungry faces when they turned, looking over their shoulders to catch a glimpse of why Marcus behind the bar had just erupted in joy.
“MICHAEL MICHAEL, COME, COME, SIT, SIT, AH-HA, YES!”
Marcus was eight men in one. Seven feet tall, powerful, strong eyes with stronger eye brows, he had a full groomed black beard, an earthquake voice, when you spoke he looked for lies, when you spoke he waited for you to say something, anything that could make him boom out with laughter. He could take your head off with a punch; eat you for lunch. Simply, Marcus is Bluto from the cartoon Popeye incarnate.
We attacked the bar. Marcus slung beer after beer at us. He loved that I was American, never made a topic about it, but you could tell it gave him joy. He smiled when I spoke and roared when I was done, the hellcats feeding would walk by and give me looks of pleasure, they were curious of the man from America that could tune and bow his own song on their boss’s strings.
Marcus tended bar, beside him was a man that kept a sideway eye on the room, but also enjoyed the company as well. He smoked his cigarettes close to his face and closed his eyes when he smiled with closed lips. At the bar was Michael, Michael’s #1 Girl, two local men on either side of us and me. The locals had kind eyes and defeated posture. Their cigarettes hung over their beers and they drank down their malt like it was the only medicine that could keep them breathing.
“Will you have a woman?” Marcus boomed as he crashed me down a beer, spilling an inch of it.
“A woman?” I asked.
“You understand this place?” Michael’s #1 Girl said. “I tell you,” Michael’s #1 Girl repositioned, with the excitement a little girl has when she’s allowed to explain game rules to a group. “This is how it works, you buy a bottle of champagne from Marcus, 100 euros, and that gets you a room with girl,” she motioned to the girls against the wall watching us and to some of the ones with Johnnies peaking. “That, um, how do you say, awe, that buys you, rent, no, no, reserves you room. Is your room.” She points to an elevator I had not noticed in the back. “You go up, second floor. Yes?”
“Yes, second floor is where all the women stay,” Marcus took the conversation. “You work out a price with the girl, you probably nothing, you probably fine, bet the girls charge you nothing. You’re American. Young. Good looking boy. Buy a bottle, go, have a woman, choose, very nice.” Everyone smiled, nodded and looked back and fourth at me and the cats.
“No, I’m fine, I like hanging out with you all.” I didn’t want these woman, I liked where I was. I liked Marcus, Michael, Michael’s #1 Girl, even the men I didn’t know with us. I didn’t want to meet anyone, talk about the States, talk about me, ask about them. I wanted to joke, laugh, spit and get drunk with those who wanted the same.
We drank on. It was now about 4:30AM and most of the cats had brought their prey to their dens. We were all pretty tight by now. The local smoke was let out of its cage once again and Marcus opened one of the bottles of champagne, handed it to the man beside him to open and pour, and then lined up the glasses with his enormous plump hands for us all.
“I buy you bottle. It’s on me, my pleasure, on me. Take-take-take a girl, maybe she charge you, maybe she not.” Marcus turns to the locals hunched and smoking. “I don’t think they charge him. Good looking boy, American, musician…” Marcus turned to me. “They won’t charge. If they do, you can probably convince them not to. Barter. But they might and if they do, you have to pay, I only will buy bottle, one-hundred euros, you must pay the girl, maybe twenty-five euros, maybe fifty, depends, depends. I say free, yah free, American-musician, good looking boy. No charge.”
“No, no, I’m good. I like you guys, I’m good. Thank you very, very much though Marcus, very appreciative.”
“I used to work here,” Michael’s #1 Girl said. “The girls, they rent the room, usually stay for month, maybe many months, then move on. Sometimes a girl will stay for a year, but usually a month, Russian, Czech, German, Brazilian, come, go, then moves on to another place like the same.”
It was now 6:00AM and all the left over hell cats had headed up to the second floor hungry, to their rooms, to nap, with their paws tucked in and their tails wrapped tightly. The seven of us decided to walk down to get fresh coffee at a shop.
The light struck us as if an agitated god took a slice of us with his razor blade. Our faces were clay gray. Children watched our Zombie walk and listened to our demon cackles as we stood in line. The lot of us sorted our hair and fixed our shirts to seem sober, to seem like the ‘normals’. We drank our coffee and breathed deep as if we were better men, men with direction, responsibilities, men who were heading off to work, because society needed our wisdom. Then we head back for some more beer.
At 8:00AM the unnamed men headed home and at 9:30AM Michael and Michael’s #1 Girl did as well. I had to meet up with the Modern American Gypsies at noon, so I decided to press through. Marcus was a charming man and I was young enough and dumb enough to trust a man who’s weapon in life is charm.
“Come we go to the second floor. I show you where the girls sleep, their kitchen, television room, come.” We walked to the elevator.
“I don’t know. Marcus, what if you get weird, I can’t take you. What if, no let’s stay down here.” Marcus erupted in laughter.
“I no get weird, come, it’s nice, see where the girls sleep, nice kitchen, nice television. I show you my place. All very nice.”
“You sure? You won’t get weird? Promise? Marcus, you promise?”
“You think I’m dangerous, yes, with you, no, I have two sons, two sons, like you, come. We open wine. My shift ends at noon, new bigger man comes, then I go home to wife, two sons. David relax, I like you. You relax. It is okay. Come.”
The elevator door opened and we stepped inside.
“Okay, see here, this is the kitchen area, see very nice. Cupboards, each girl gets own cupboards. Food, see, food in here, ice box, refrigerator, keep cool, fruit, cheese, many cheeses there, all things, see all their food in here. See very nice.
And it was very nice. Clean counters, not a dish in the sink, cupboards organized, stocked fridge, an ice box, colorful flower designed plates with matching cups and a full wine rack. We walked down a small hallway to a big common area.
“Come, see here. This here, see this is very nice. Television, this radio, music, girls play music, dance, make party, many couches, sit, lay, talk, watch movies, very nice.”
And it was. The couches, television, stereo system were all posh, very new and clean. We moved on to a long hallway with multiple doors lining it.
“This is girls’ rooms, I’d like to show you inside, but they sleep now. If you still want girl, you can have, but I don’t like to wake dem up, I don’t so much like to do that. I wake dem up for you though, if you want girl. You want?”
“Yes, I don’t like to wake dem. “ Marcus made a face of discontent and then brought me to a room with opened bay windows, two large plush crimson chairs, gold framed paintings and a bar that looked from a 1960’s spy movie. Marcus took himself behind the bar, found a bottle of wine, popped it open, grabbed two glasses and a cigar box. He motioned for me to sit.
It was now 10:00AM and Marcus and I talked about our families. He told me about his two sons and how much he loves them, about his wife that he is still so much in love with and about his nice home just past the town over the gondola lined mountain where he has a nice spot of land, nothing too big, but a nice size. He grew up in South America, in the sewers, whore houses, surrounded by boiling drugs, hungry canines and stained blades.
“You must be careful, David,” he told me. He held up his shirt to show his massive hairy belly. “You see these?” There were four thick and long scars – slashes.
“Damn how’d you earn those?” I said and he laughed.
“I was in cantina, went to take shit. I sit there, den, BOOM! The door flies open, breaks off, err…breaks…off…hinge – hinges. Explode.” Marcus moved forward in his chair, spoke a few decibels softer and used his cigar to make sure I heard his next point. “You see, da man, he come and he follow me to stall area. He waits, very smart, very smart, but, no way to kill a man, honor best legacy for man.” Marcus sat back, took a long powerful drag from his cigar, finished his glass of wine and topped us both off.
“This man, BOOM! He comes at me with knife, get me here and here, I leap up, pants here around ankles, I leap up, spin him around, rrraw. Get him by neck. He slashes behind, get me here, here. I grab knife, rip it out of his hands. I grab knife and I kill that man – leave him there, in the stall, with my shit. You see, this man has no honor, so he dies with no honor. He dies with my shit.”
“What did you do, where did you go?”
“I left, went home. No one come after me, not for a man like him. They no care.”
We drank on.
“You have a good family David?”
“Yeah, two sisters, older.”
“I can tell, I can tell. Good mother, good father, you can see this. That is very nice, me, I don’t want no daughter, no – too tough. Crazy. You fight?”
“I’ve fought. I’m fine, I’m not big, but I get into it more.”
“Yes, important, that’s who wins fight. Know how to disarm knife, gun?”
“No, I mean…no.”
Marcus leaps up, grabs another bottle from behind the bar, pops it and says,
“Come, up-up, I teach you, come, we go to roof, I show you. Easy, but need to know. Important. You see.”
At 11:00AM I stood in front of Marcus. He held a branch that he had ripped off the top of a tree that blew its leaves onto the roof. Sunning chairs lay beside us and all around us birds flirted, teased and sang to one another. I squinted from the flashing reflecting sun and swayed, holding my full glass of punch drunk wine. I set the glass down, for I could see Marcus was getting into character. He crouched, shuffled his appendages and cleaned out his nostrils blowing them out one at a time.
“Okay, I come at you like this.”
For an hour, Marcus and I sparred, took turns attacking with our branch-knife, put each other in head locks, sleeper holds and choke holds and went over the best blows to the face, neck, eyes and ears to make your opponent dazed, so you could finish him off or flee.
“Good, good, David.” Marcus told me as we both sat on the sunning chairs. “I had nice night with you my new friend.”
“I did too, Marcus, thanks for the lessons.”
“No problem for me, very important to know. A man must know these things.”
It was now noon, and I could see the men coming out of the hotel. They loaded their bags into the Sprinter and stood around with smokes. We could hear Marcus’s replacement unlocking the front door and cleaning up the bar.
“Okay, I must talk to the man downstairs and get home.”
“Yeah, that’s my men there.”
Marcus and I had a hug on the roof and shook hands back at the front door.
“Take care friend, David.”
“Take care friend, Marcus.”
pimps & whores
pimps and whores are friendlier than your brother, sister, uncle, or teacher
but watch out
I slept all the way to Italy, only to awaken once by one of the men poking me.
“What?” I said.
“Just checking to see if you’re alive.”
Thanks for reading! I will post 10 pages tomorrow. You can find Modern American Gypsy here: http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/
And check out the bonus Poems below.
Bonus poem 1 of 2
a drainpipe in new orleans
my laughter was evil
and my grin had ideas
I was at my meanest then
we were on the second floor
of a rotting house
that slowly sunk into magazine street
located in a rotting town in New Orleans
I was being loud,
everyone was being loud
we were young and
our parties were true celebrations
our prison break
our parents’ homes
we drank like rats eat garbage
I turned to the sound of
noticed out the open window,
in the neighbor’s second floor open window
so I climbed out of the
sinking heavy house
crouched on the window’s ledge
and estimated the distance
to the neighbors
the sound of cars in the street whizzing by
and the screams from the drunks
on the street fed fires in my mind,
that mixed with the
wet sweat breeze
and the sound of
“you’re gonna fall”
was almost sobering
but not enough,
was at my meanest then
I leaped out and into an open window
the neighbor’s party was startled,
but soon erupted in cheers
almost asleep from drunk comfort
I realized I had made the jump
and was now inside
everyone started jumping
back and fourth through the window
they all loved it
and let out their approving war cries
everyone began mingling
this girl sitting on a couch
passed-out boyfriend’s hair
asked me to go into a closet with her,
for a little ohh la la
her boyfriend was out cold,
but a mammoth of a lug
and there’s no way
I was gonna let some twit
set two men up for a fight
I said, ‘no ms.’
the adrenaline from the window leap
was starting to fade
and she wasn’t the one
to boost it back up
my calculating eyes and
on a new idea
I put my head out the window again
and breathed deep
New Orleans’ slutty air
in the distance girls screamed wicked shrieks of pleasure
and gave the drooling men
a look at their breasts
but it wasn’t mardi gras
plastic beads in trade for a quick visual pleasure
– the genies of the valueless man
I noticed the drainpipe
it went up the house,
past the third floor
to the roof
the shadows of people inside and above
strobed the window
I climbed out
got my grip on the pipe
and listened to the girl talking
to her recovering boyfriend,
“that kid is sick, he tried to kiss me while you were passed out”
I smiled, peeked in, caught her eyes
and as my eyebrows deviled,
I gave her a wink
‘good for her’ I thought
and ‘good for him
I mean, he was bigger than me,
I was at my meanest then
outside was the calm,
that must be similar
to when you slip away
from the demons in hell
and there is that brief moment
when you can
listen to the screams
without being part of them
both hands on the drainpipe
fingers giving extra grip,
because of the voice of
my father in my head saying
“what the hell are you doing?
be god damn careful you idiot
the last thing your mother needs
is for me to tell her you fell
climbing a drainpipe”
I began to climb and
my adrenalin was back
but New Orleans is a cheap town
the drainpipe screws pulled
and the pipe disconnected from the house
I pinched the top of the window frame
and pulled myself and the pipe back
toward the sears siding
I decided to pause
and slow my climb
best to do dumb things
I looked around me
and saw my shadow
cast long on the street
creeping up the house,
like a gremlin that steals babies in the night
I tilted my head back
and listened to
the symphony of my
playing inside me
and began my assent again
but the drunk mind wanders
and the tightness of my grip loosened
I slipped and slid down two feet
my palms caught on the drainpipes brace
opening up impressive gashes in my palms
the blood ran warm down my arms
and dripped steady onto my shirt
in the style of a 1980’s after school art program’s
splatter paint design
I was shocked,
but I am stubborn
and can’t be beaten
there was nothing else to do
but keep going
one hand over the other,
I was almost to the third floor window
I would go through this window and not to the rooftop
the look of the blood was making my stomach wince
and I wanted a beer
I wiped the sweat from my forehead with my right hand
a poor choice – the blood smeared
all across my face
and onto my lips
the salt made my stomach churn even more
and my grin came back
I began to sober up a bit
I laugh at myself
‘what the hell am I doing I thought,
I’m a god damn idiot’
finally I reached the third floor window
it was left a couple inches open
and the glass was covered in condensation
I realized it was the bathroom window
and someone was taking a
propping myself up in a more sturdy
position on the pipe
I wiped the sweat from my face, giving it a
new coat of blood
and wiped the moisture from the wet window,
smearing it in
I pushed the window up, and now
had my ribs on the window sill
in the shower
two long girls
and rubbing their hands
all over each other’s bodies
they stood beautifully naked
in the cool water
with one arm still gripped on the drain pipe
on the honda accord beneath me
and my bloody face
dripping and drying from the spray breeze
the shower gave
I dipped my head back again
arching my back
my hair hanging wet,
smelling the blood mixed with
with an upside down gaze
I found the red moon
and smiled at it
my long shadow, shaped
like a growling gremlin
I was at my meanest then
Bonus Poem 2 of 2 & Audio Poem
the last walk
the old dog wasn’t sure what was wrong
but he knew it was to come to an end
he made one last walk through the house
and stopped at everyone
for a rub
he’d wished the old man was home
he loved him most
but he wasn’t
the old dog
scratched at the screen door
one last time
Sarah lovingly opened it
“there you go, Murf”
he relished her voice
and all her touches
he found the spot
under the pine
where the grass bowls
where he can see the old man’s car approach
he perched his head on top of his paws
and looked toward the road
and thought about the old man
and drifted away
‘a drainpipe in New Orleans’ is from the book Biting Lightening, Bloody Mary and ‘the last walk’ is from the book The Gypsy Mile. Both books can be found here: http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/
‘the last walk‘ audio poem is from The Gypsy Mile reading, which can be found at CDBaby.com.