had actually missed the whole stabbing opera. I was mercifully away
at my gig in safe Princeton, New Jersey, a culture away -- 45 miles
out of Manhattan. I almost drove home at 1:00 AM after my set, but
stayed at the hotel at the last minute, to revel in the oversized
bed with the extra channels the hotel TV had to offer. At approximately
2:00 a.m., Chi-Chi had apparently belly-crawled down the two flights
of steep steps in our pre-war walk-up, and bled out in front of
my door on the chipped, off-white tile floor, apparently trying
to knock for help.
the bum who lives on the stairs in our lobby, saw nothing. We call
him a bum, but he drinks Perrier, and sleeps by scented candlelight
every night sprawled across our lobby steps, under his tattered
winter coat. He opens the door for me when I stumble home sloshed,
sometimes lecturing me about how I shouldn't drink so much or stay
out so late in the mean city, that I should love myself more than
that. He doesn't like any of my dates, and has no problem asking
them what their intentions are when they stumble home with me. Most
of them intended to wake up with a hangover, and get on home.
weighs about 300 pounds, with a stomach the size of a bean bag chair,
leaving us all wondering how he could afford to feed that lumpy
beast. He has a wrapped bum leg, swollen to the size of a side of
beef. It looks like someone wrapped the leg up with a crutch in
claims he has a lawsuit brewing and pretty soon we'll be seeing
the last of him, but he'll still swing by and pick us up in his
limo if we want. He's been living in our lobby for over a year and
generally knows what time everyone comes home, who runs out for
what at what time, but he saw and heard nothing about Chi-Chi. He
is a sound sleeper, and quite often I'd have to shake him hard to
wake him up when I got home, as his bloated body made it impossible
to pass through the lobby over his sprawl. So we all assumed the
moiderer stepped right over him.
just make me wanna fro up," said Robert. "It's time for
me to find a safer place to live. This is a dump. I can do better
the cop was winding down with me on the phone, so I turned Nancy
Drew, "Do we have any leads?" I. pressed.
think he died because his John didn't care for his schlapinki,"
said Office McCool. "Can't really blame the guy. Most Johns
don't like dicks on their whores, if you'll excuse my French. That
makes one too many as far as I can tell," he said in an accent
suddenly thicker. "I wouldn't want a hooka wid a dick, would
you? Would jew?"
I said quickly. It was a no win question he'd thrown my way. A bit
unfair, really, I thought.
you know she was a he?" he asked, as if he were romancing me.
Sir, I did." I always call cops "Sir" lest they ever
decided to turn an investigation towards me, or haul me in. I hadn't
done anything to be hauled in for, but how could we know for sure?
I'd seen all the corrupt cop movies in the '70s. I saw Serpico
-- twice -- and never looked at my city's finest the same again.
Sir, she had a beard. And she was really, really big. And, uhm,
there was hair on her knuckles. And she had a deep voice."
I said, trailing off, wondering how quickly I could pack up and
like you two spent a lot of time together."
I felt like I was on the phone with the block yenta, not the desk
detective from the 128th precinct.
wasn't very pretty or anything," I continued, "I mean
she wasn't even a good looking transvestite. She looked a bit like
a redwood in a dress."
redwood in a dress!" laughed McCool. He covered the phone and
started throwing my simile around the room at the precinct.
I asked if they thought they'd find the guy that did this heinous
he said, as if I'd asked if he wanted a schmear on his bagel. "We
don't really care about a Hispanic transvestite prostitute. Good
riddance we say, good riddance. These people eventually extoiminate
each other, and then themselves, if we let them go. If only
we could get the rats and the roaches to toin on each other
too, then we'd have a nice place here for decent folks to live."
why did you call me? Why are you gathering evidence," I asked,
already knowing the answer: He was a yenta, and even he
had never -- in his life -- seen a dead Puerto Rican transvestite
hooker. This was bigger than both of us.
he said as if I should have known. Ah yes, the "file,"
the proverbial file. I remembered all about files from watching
I joined the neighbors gathering in the lobby stairwell, relaying
to them that the cops didn't give a rat's ass about our moidered
left him lying there all night. You're so lucky you weren't home,"
said Betty, a dancer who lived upstairs. I hadn't spoken to her
since I organized the rent strike the fall before. She's a ballerina-in
training at Lincoln center, with a ballerina body, long and thin
like pulled rope, her hair brushed back in a tight ballerina knot,
and sunken cheeks. I liked to offer her cookies, just to watch her
eyes weep as she said no. I doubt she'd had a cookie since Jimmy
Carter was president, and she was so self-absorbed I doubt she even
knew that a Jimmy Carter was president. I never saw any of the ballerinas
in the building except on their way to their rehearsals, which was
all the time. They'd prance bowlegged down Columbus Avenue, like
graceful praying mantises, passing all who got in the way of their
dreams. They made great neighbors.
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