Poetry for the Curious across the Religious Spectrum

     (from Nightwork}


Gus Karsky had had a lot to put up with in his life.  At least he thought so till he lost the first leg to sugar and ended up in Twin Oaks and fought his way out of there with a brand new prosthesis and then lost the other leg and that one contracted at the knee and wouldn’t heel, and then his insurance ran out and he was just about to get shipped out with nothing to walk on but the stub.  And, Gus felt, you had to blame it on Reagan, after all, much as he liked the guy.  Some obscure way you had to blame it on the man, that big old cowboy, that red-haired SOB.  It was the one thing he kept up on, Gus Karsky, and that was politics, reading U. S. News and World Report cover to cover every other week and as much as he could stomach of the liberal county rag and watching CBS every night.  Gus was pretty sure Reagan was the reason he was sold short with the second prosthesis, not 100%, but certain to no mean degree, and certain to where his bones ached that it was right he had voted for Mondale, not Reagan and not for that other creep, not Jackson cause you had to admire his mouth, but that other terrible terrible creep, that Yuppie, Gary Hart.

     He had spent some time reading up on the whole phenomenon, about the way they combed their hair, the raincoats they wore, the sneakers, even their underwear and their briefcases.  After all, what was a briefcase anyway but a fag pocketbook?  And they had special kinds, and even their shirts had animals printed on them, and there were degrees of success even in that, for Gus had learned that for the Yuppie the alligator was the highest.  And what was an alligator anyway but a mean nasty critter that ate its own leavings and bit into people, anywhere it felt.  Gus had read all he could on the subject long before Hart even happened, and then just four weeks past he had met one.  He had hated Fudd more than even God for the longest time, the fat Italian that slept in the other bed, and he had come close to swatting the drooling little wimp, but then the Yuppie had moved in across diagonal, and then he knew what he really hated because now at first hand, more horrible than the worst kind of minority you could think of, was everything he knew deep in his heart was evil, was eating at the innards of the Country, and before it was over he was going to fix his pompous fat little face, his beady little shoe-button eyes, his slimy pouting lips, Garth Bellweather, and what kind of name was that, the only real live Yuppie Gus Karsky was ever going to meet, circles he traveled in, the only genuine specimen and the only one whose tail he was going to fix for him in the biggest final way.

     It was partly the way he came in there and took right over about whose radio was too loud and who was going to get first at the carts and who was going to get special helpings of the good stuff at mealtimes, and really the whole summation, lording it over the rest of them, even Gus Karsky, cause Garth Bellweather was a graduate of some big college in New England in mathematics and was high up in some corporation before they booted him and was only 35 and earning nearly six figures as well, lot of good that did him now with the tumor they finally took out of his spine and that had him walkiing more stiff-assed than Reagan or Hart himself but confidence with a capital C that he would just waltz out of there to a new and better position while the Italiano in the corner would end up on Chronic for the rest of his life, and the Negro as well—right now he was already gone—and Karsky, who he noted first off was Polish and kind of smirked over it, would end up in a rented room with a nineteen inch black and white TV and maybe a radio and not enough on Social Security to even pay for a good bottle of Scotch to tide him through a depression over the general state of the economy and the way Reagan was fixing to push the button and how Hart was going to help out all the guys that didn’t need it, guys like Bellweather himself with his fag alligator shirts and his bikini briefs and the way he had of looking through you or just past your shoulder as if you was just some kind of low filth of garbage and not having the right to three squares or a piece of extra pie for lunch, just sub-human.

     Christ, there was no life in that young fellow’s eyes.  Little black agates like you’d get on a raccoon, and then that smile that played over the fleshy lips like he just got done eating up a big slice of something so tasty it could have never come from the local kitchen, and all his talk about his friends from Rutgers and Montclair State and other expensive institutions, dentists and the like, from Fairleigh even, posh place that that was, and Gus and even Fudd there had never gotten past tenth grade, and the black man that left for Building 8 couldn’t make out a shopping list or spell his name out for you even before his strokes and amputations, suffering devil that he was and stinking so, not that Bellweather had the right to spray him.

     But then that was what gave Gus his idea.  That was what was going to be the equalizer.  That was what he had in the bottom drawer of his cabinet behind some towels.  That was what he was saving for his last night there, waiting patiently and reading the label on the pale green aerosol can to get the whole effect.  Anti-fungal, germicidal.  Kills most viruses.  And wasn’t a Yuppie a virus?  Waiting his time, biding it till early on August 3, maybe 5 AM, he was easing down into his chair, not even breathing loud enough to scare the roaches, easing down into it and hefting the contracted stump over the swivel leg rest, and making his way across the diagonal to where the Yuppie lay sleeping, the pouting lips, the face gleaming in the light from the parking lot, dead quiet in there, the only sound coming from way off in the north wing, some tortured creature trying to raise a nurse with a broken call system and only the benefit of her lungs.  There in the moonlight with the can of Staphene on his lap and the fierce determination to right things, to put the screw back where he came from, back in the slime, easing close where he could make out every last pore in the young creep’s upturned face, moonlight and silence, only the roaches conscious, and now the biggest roach of all . . . and he reached the aerosol can through the rails, easing it through careful just to avoid clinking it on the chromium, and he aimed down into the upturned lips and the eyes, and he let it go with a WHOOO-SSSSSSHHHHHH that ignited the room, and you could hear the holler all the way across 300 yards to the main building, the initial horror and shock, the splutter, and the others kicking off, and Garth Bellweather bolt up and gagging and screaming and choking and thrashing his way blindly through the darkness, and even later when they had their hands on him and were holding him back from administering another dose of the same medicine, four aides and a nurse, and the Yuppie coiled up against the wall and twitching, and Fudd and all the others kicking up the worst kind of fuss, Gus Karsky knew for a certain fact that he had not lived in vain, that even the sugar had its place in the whole scheme of things, the cut-off legs, the phantom pains that sunk their teeth in in the middle of the night to scream HIM half erect, knew beyond the nuance of a doubt that life made sense, Karsky’s life, Karsky himself with the long moustache and the dark wide tilted eyes and the big nose and the pitted face, made absolute perfect, total, irrevocable sense, for that night he had eliminated his first Hart, his first Bellweather, his first blighted suck of a Yuppie.