6/November/2021The Captain’s dead but hard to forget. He has to be dead. Nobody¹s liver could survive all those years of poisoning.
Text by Mark Blickley
Second Hand Rose Ablution
by: Mark Blickley and Beverly RippelPainting “Moonscape” by Beverly Rippel
Text by Mark Blickley
That’s the word he used.
Never drinking or booze or alcoholism. It was poison that ruined his life.
The Captain was a romantic. So was I.
Years ago I tended bar in a flea-bag dump called The Second Hand Rose. I wanted to experience life and write about it so I dropped out of Rutgers for three semesters and poured the vinegar that my boss called wine into small cups for customers like the Captain and his mates. Mates. That’s the word he used for the sour smelling people he drank with.
The Captain was different, though. He had enough pride not to make excuses unless he thought they’d be believed. When the Captain spoke he nearly always made sense.
Last week I found a sealed letter the Captain gave me. I was supposed to deliver it to a woman customer who came into the Rose every Tuesday night. She always stayed for about an hour and sat at a table by herself, never saying a word. She told me she liked Scotch and that was the only time I ever heard her speak. But we communicated. She sipped Scotch until her glass was empty and then she’d nod in my direction and I’d bring her another one.
I never knew her name. But then I didn’t know the Captain’s name either, until I opened his letter.
One day she just stopped showing up so I wasn’t able to give it to her. I tucked it in a vest pocket where it lay crumbled for years. How many years? I’m not sure. There’s no date on it.
I give this note to Big Bob to give to you cause I know Big Bob’s gonna be tending bar Tuesday nights. You ain’t been here in weeks. For a year now you been real important to me and now you ain’t here no more. Please come back. I’m ready for you Miss. To meet you I mean.
The Second Hand Rose ain’t the same place anymore. Your perfumes gone and now piss and farts is all you smell on Tuesday nights. Even Big Bob said so. I miss you very much.
Hello Miss. My name’s Eddie but friends call me the Captain. I ain’t a real Captain or nothing. I mean I’m sorta a Captain. I’m the floor man on the Scrambler at Coney Island. I mean I use to be. I’m the guy at the bar with the sailor hat on. To be honest with you Miss I wear the hat all the time cause of my bald spot. It ain’t that big you know.
You look real pretty Miss. I mean there ain’t been no lady in Rose’s looking like you in years. Not by herself anyway. Not alone. I hope you ain’t sad or nothing. I ain’t sad. Being a little scared don’t count right Miss?
You like music? I’m musician. Play harmonica. Grandfather taught me when I was a kid. I’m what they call a street musician. Mostly old Italian songs. I play across the street from S.P.Q.R. in Little Italy. Ever been there? The Arabs in the kitchen treat me real good. On Saturday nights when its warm there’s a lot of bucks to be had.
You gotta come back to Rose’s Miss. I blown too many chances. You can’t take my Tuesday nights away like that. You can’t Miss. Your making me scared.
I know you don’t like talkin’ to people Miss. You don’t like being bothered. Me too. Big Bob’ll give you this. Its sorta like a letter of introduction right Miss? You gotta show Miss. Please. I’m the Captain the guy in the sailor hat at the bar. Or you can call me Eddie.
I wanna see you smile Miss. You don’t drink that much. I mean your never blitzed after your hour on Tuesday night. I respect that in a woman. You got all your teeth so I know you ain’t a tramp or nothing. Your a lady Miss. A real lady. And you ain’t fat at all.
Forgive me Miss but your real important to me. You make me feel like a man again know what I mean? Last year before you started showing up Tuesday nights I sorta let myself go. You know relaxed myself.
I dream about you Miss. I ain’t dreamed about a woman in three years since that fake redhead jerked me off behind the control booth at Coney. She didn’t like me or nothing just wanted a free re-ride.
I gotta be honest with you Miss. I ain’t much. I’ll tell you a story that might help you figure out who I am. Its something my brother told me. He once said I was the type a guy that sits in his room masturbating and thinks its an explosion. I ain’t exactly sure what he means but it sounds truthful.
I don’t know if you noticed Miss but I been cleaning myself up a bit each Tuesday night. I seen you looking over at me but I don’t think you seen me. You gotta come back to Rose’s Miss. I’m starting not to like myself again.
You make me feel like a man Miss. No disrespect Miss but my prick feels alive. I mean it kinda sings to me now. I forgot about that. You know after a while it just pissed all that stinkin’ juice I drink.
I dream about you Miss. I dream I see you with nothing on. Your beautiful woman Miss. You gotta return to your table at Rose’s. You gotta. I ain’t dreamed about you in two weeks. I need that dream Miss. I need to dream about me rubbing my nose against your belly and you laughing and smiling. I never seen you smile Miss.
Listen Miss. I don’t want this note to make you nervous or something. You don’t got to see me if you don’t want. Not right away anyway. Things take time sometimes. But give me back my Tuesday nights ok Miss? Sit down at your table and have some drinks. I’ll spring for some. I won’t spin around and stare at you. I like watchin’ you in the mirror over the bar. Lots a times I got to tell Big Bob to move the hell outta way cause he blocks my view.
Miss please please come back. Tuesday night I left Rose’s with pee stains on my pants. That don’t happen when your here. I’m real careful Miss.
Thank you for reading this note. I miss you Miss. That’s sorta funny ain’t it Miss? Missing you Miss. I wanna make you laugh.
The Captain (Eddie)
About the writer
Mark Blickley grew up within walking distance of the Bronx Zoo. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is the text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams. Clare Songbirds Publishing House - Amy Bassin & Mark Blickley
About the artist
Beverly Rippel is a multi-disciplinary Boston Artist who exhibits her work in museums and galleries nationally with works in the collections of Nokia, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, MIT, and in private collections internationally. She has received Awards of Recognition from Curators from MOMA and The Guggenheim in NYC; Carl Belz, Director Emeritus @ The Rose Art Museum @ Brandeis, and Malcolm Rogers, Director Emeritus of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. http://www.beverlyrippel.com