by Arnold M. Herr
I think this occurred sometime in July 2003:
Mickey Tsimmis had just walked into my used bookshop on Fairfax Avenue, followed by a strikingly beautiful blonde young woman asking for books on American Indians. I pointed out the bookcase filled with books on American Indians and ethnology. It was halfway down the length of the store. She walked down the aisle and I turned to Mickey.
Mickey: A production company wants to use my shop as a location for a day in two weeks.
Me: Uh huh.
Mickey: You know Industrial Design Magazine once said that the interior of my bookshop is very tastefully arranged.
Me: No, what they actually said was “it’s where good taste goes to die.”
Mickey: Well, what do you think I should charge them? I’ve done this before with film companies, but I never know if I’m undercharging or overcharging them.
Me: If they’re bringing in a major film star, figure they have a large budget and can probably afford whatever extortionate amount you come up with.
Mickey: Sounds like a good rule of thumb.
Me: What are they filming?
Mickey: Breaking Wind, Fart II.
Me: I heard Fart I was pretty successful. Go for the gold.
Just then the pretty blonde returned to the counter.
Blonde: I can’t find what I’m looking for.
Mickey: Something specific?
Blonde: Yes, something about a tribe in Illinois.
Me: Do you know the tribe’s name?
Blonde: Yes, the Red Sox. They used to live in the Chicago area.
Mickey: I think they lived in New England.
Me: Yeah, close to Boston.
Blonde: Are you sure?
Me: No, I’m not sure of anything anymore.
I had dropped by Mickey’s and he asked me to briefly spell him at the front counter. As usual, the radio was tuned to static. He hadn’t slept well the night before and needed to lie down in the back room wherein he dwelt. I told him I could only stick around for an hour or so and he said that would be plenty. He asked me to call him on his cell phone to wake him up when I was ready to leave and he would come out front so I could split.
I phoned him an hour later and he said he would be right out. He sounded a little groggy – the air in the back of the store is a miasmic effluvia - and he told me he would have liked to have dozed a little longer, but he’d be out in a jiffy. The doorway to the aisle that leads to his living quarters was badly cluttered and clogged with boxes, broken furniture, tires, bones and other assorted rubble. It’s impossible to walk through this avalanche-prone debris field, but Mickey didn’t mind crawling around on his hands and knees. The door in the doorway was too blocked to close, hence the clutter, to deter easy access by unwanted and light fingered guests. There was a small opening at the bottom so Mickey could crawl in and out. It resembled a vent more than a doorway.
From where I was behind the counter, I could see a large woman standing in front of the doorway and facing away from it while reading a book. Her feet were spread apart as Mickey’s head and shoulders emerged through the opening. Mickey was maybe halfway through when the woman glanced down and noticed him between her shoes.
“What the fuck?” she exclaimed.
Startled, Mickey twisted around and looked up - between her legs and up her dress.
“Arnold,” he said, “Your beard’s gotten darker.”
The woman raised one leg and was about to stomp him.
“No, no, please don’t,” whimpered Mickey, “I’m just a little old man.”
I walked over, placating her. “It’s OK ma’am. He’s the CEO of this establishment.”
She stomped him anyway and his head bounced on the floor. A guy from farther down the aisle walked up to her and said, “Velma, I didn’t know you were about to deliver.”
Velma (to the guy): Shut up, wiseass!
Guy: I’m your husband, yet I’m always the last to know these things.
They left the store. Mickey was lying peacefully on the floor enjoying probably the first deep sleep he’d had in days. I didn’t have the heart to disturb him, and the wounds could probably wait until later for dressing. I went back to the counter figuring I would probably stick around for another hour or two and let him snooze. Every now and then I’d look over at him and I noticed flies entering his open, drooling mouth. Some flew out carrying Krugerrands.
Next: Rupert Barnyogurt bites it in the book shop and the body must be disposed of.