I never met George V Higgins but there were none ever better describing where I live. This short excerpt ends one block from my current perch, written weeks before he died 8 years ago at 60.
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At End of Day
George V Higgins
A man slightly bent at the waist backed out through the swinging doors behind him, dragging a large dark green plastic tub with black wheels over the steel threshold out onto the loading dock. He wore jeans, heavy black lug-soled work boots, a long white bloodstained lab coat and a dark grey scally cap. A large tan-and-white cat lithely extending and narrowing itself trotted swiftly though the doors alongside the tub, jumping on top as the man pulled it through and the doors slammed behind it. The cat sat down, fixing its gaze on the man in the cap, and balancing itself regally rode on the tub the rest of the way out to front of the dock at the dumpster. There it craned its neck and peered down over the edge of the tub at Rascob and Naughton.
"Mouser," Rascob said absently, ignoring the man in the scally cap and using the same respectful tone to greet the cat he would have used to acknowledge another person. The cat registered him and shifted its gaze back to the man in the grey cap and long white coat. It licked its chops.
The man straightened up and put his fists on his waist. "Goddamn you, I told you No", he said to the cat. The cat cocked its head to the right, raised its right paw and waggled it at the top of the tub, as though explaining something. The man laughed. He turned and faced Rascob. The front of the grey cap was bloodstained. "Max, can you beat that?" he said. "This fuckin' cat. There's meat in this - beef scraps, I been makin' up roasts and he wants them; he thinks they're his. We keep him for the same thing we kept his mother, Rosie, sixteen years for, to keep the mice out of the place and catch the ones that come in, don't know the policy here. And she did an excellent job. But he's too fine for it. His taste runs more to steak, and fresh cod.
"No," he said, disgustedly, looking back at the cat. "`Mouser' my ass. We got mouse shit under the bakery shelves. We got mouse-shitty droppings inna backrooms. Anywhere you wanna go, anytime you wanna do it, make an effort, move some shelves and really take a look, you'll find mouse shit inna store. From which I'd conclude at least that we've got some mice, probably quite a few of them. Board of Health'll think so, too, next time they inspect us, and they'll shut us down - unless first we get the rat-'n'-bug guy, cost us three-four hundred bucks, shut the place down for the day, keep everybody out, Stop and Shop gets all our business, so that he can gas the bastards. And then after he gets through, come back the middle of the night, tear the goddamned place apart, cleanin' up the mouse shit. Which is a big pain in the ass, and why we keep a cat around - so that we won't have to do it.
"This would be you, Official Cat. But you don't do your job. Far be it from you, go runnin' after mice. At's beneath your dignity."
"You don't hafta take this, Mouser." Naughton said. "You can report him for upsettin' you, insultin' your feline gender diversity. You happen to be a cat that doesn't like huntin' and then eatin' mice. Most boy cats don't. And for this he's threatenin' to discriminate against you.'
"And you can stay outta this," the man in the grey cap said. "You don't understand what's involved here. A principle. This's exactly how welfare families get started. Feed one shiftless breedin' bastard, pretty soon none of 'em work. Lookit what his momma did - hooked up with some fly-by-nighter, hadda raise her kid by herself. 'S why we had this one gelded. Put a stop, this foolishness."
"Right," Rascob said, "and that's probably the reason Mouser isn't following his family profession - you had his balls cut off. You expect him to do cat work for you, after you did that to him? Stopped him from acting like a self-respecting tomcat? Would you work for a man who had that done to you? He thinks you owe him a living now - I think the cat is right. Whadda you think, Todd?"
"Absolutely," Naughton said. "Give the cat some meat, Doran."
"Uh huh," Doran said, nodding, but turning and bending to lift the lid on the tub, causing the cat to jump off at once, turning acrobatically in midair so that it landed next to Doran's right foot, sitting down immediately and rising up on its haunches, fluttering its front paws at him. "Here we got the cop-to-be, promotin' free loadin' - I'm surprised you're not tellin' me to get him a cruller an' coffee." He opened the tub and reached in, sorting through it for a moment before bringing out a handful of red-and-white flesh trimmings that he held up for a moment, tantalizing the cat into beseeching him further by meowing and rising off its haunches, climbing partway up his right leg.
"And," Doran said, glancing slyly at Rascob, "also the man who keeps the books, always very sensitive about the balls and what their purpose is, and even more so lately, huh?" He raised his eyebrows and tilted his head as he dropped the scraps onto the platform and the cat pounced on them, using its front paws to gather them expertly into a neater pile, then settling down on its stomach to eat, growling huskily in its pleasure as it chewed the flesh.
"Isn't that so, Max?" Doran said. "New life in the old boy lately?" Rascob's face reddened deeply. He did not say anything. "Or did I hear that wrong, Todd?" Doran said to Naughton, laughing. "I thought someone or other said best news Max had in years was Sweeney givin' his poor lonesome sister a job here, she finely kicked her husband out - first she'd seen of him this year."
"You know, Doran", Naughton said, "the big problem the department's gonna have, day we find you inna harbor with a couple in your head, is where to find a place that's big enough to round up all the suspects. Foxboro Stadium, I think, unless by then the Pats've finally built a new one."
"I don't have time, this happy horseshit," Rascob said, turning back toward the car. "I got to get the work in."
Choad, no doubt you've already read Tough Guys Don't Dance by Norman Mailer, if not you should check it out. Lots of salty New England flavor along with porn stars, drug dealers, ex-cons, corrupt psychopathic police officers, drinking to oblivion, machete beheadings, marijuana stashes, Christian swinger parties, ouija boards, pirate witches and lots more juicy fucked up stuff. The movie, directed by Mailer himself, holds cult appeal for many due to its David Lynch style & pace. The film also features Penn Jillette in a very curious role.
At dawn, if it was low tide on the flats, I would awaken to the chatter of gulls. On a bad morning, I used to feel as if I had died and the birds were feeding on my heart. Later, after I dozed for a while, the tide would come up over the sand as swiftly as a shadow descends on the hills when sun lowers behind the ridge, and before long the first swells would pound on the bulkhead of the deck below my bedroom window, the shock rising in one fine fragment of time from the sea wall to the innermost passages of my flesh. Boom! the waves would go against the wall, and I could have been alone on a freighter on a dark sea.
Last edited by lechero (2007-11-06 21:46:00)
Choad, no doubt you've already read Tough Guys Don't Dance by Norman Mailer,
Higgins delinated character in pitch perfect dialog.
Out of left nowhere, the Cape Cod Canal nears the top of the 7 Blunders of the Modern World, where-ever-after 1913, Cape Cod became the island that does not exist.