Once upon a time, Kenny Becker had a barely tolerable girlfriend and a miserable job. Now, unattached and unemployed, can he stop the downward spiral of his life?
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Richard Price is the author of seven novels, including Lush Life, Clockers, Freedomland, and Samaritan. He wrote the screenplays for the films Sea of Love, Ransom, and The Color of Money, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. He won the 2007 Edgar Award for Best TV writing as a co-writer for the HBO series The Wire. Price was also awarded a Literature Award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
MONDAYSO THERE WE WERE. Me, I was doing my usual hundred and fifty sit-ups. My feet were jammed under the couch for leverage and I was holding a five-pound barbell behind my head like an iron halo. La Donna was in her black Danskins sitting by the wall doing dancercizes. I had a stomach that looked like six miniature cobblestones. La Donna was so limber that standing and without bending her knees, she could work her head down between her legs and kiss her own ass. How very nice for the both of us. She was a twenty-eight-year-old bank clerk would-be singer; I was a thirty-year-old door-to-door salesman and we both walked around all day like Back to Bataan.When I was doing my sit-ups I liked to watch TV — Lucy or Fonzie, whatever reruns I could get a hold of. That was not allowed when La Donna was around. She needed silence to stand there, pull one foot backward, up over her shoulder, and tap the base of her skull with her heel. I could have worked out when she wasn’t around, but six weeks before, on a Sunday morning after she finished her dancercizes, she came over to where I was doing sit-ups and just sat on it. There are aborigines in New Guinea who have been squatting by an air strip since 1943 because a plane once landed and dropped off food. Six weeks ain’t that long. Meanwhile, if I needed extra money I could do exhibitions, have two-ton semis drive over my stomach at state fairs.La Donna walked past me on the way to the bathroom, a thumb-pinch of tush peeking out over each thigh. My stomach queered and I couldn’t do another sit-up. I lay flat on my back and stared upside-down at the wall unit across the room. I followed her into the bathroom. She was hunched over the sink spitting out toothpaste. I stood behind her, dropped my gym shorts and got into the shower.“Comin’ in, babe?”She looked up at me with a werewolf froth of toothpaste and spat into the sink again. “I’m gonna work awhile.”The shower curtain had a box design with alternating white and clear plastic squares and I watched her wash her face. When she finished she started to work her dusty black leotard down her shoulders and thumb-hook it below her hips to her knees so she could pee. She had tits the size of fists, hard and muscular with long, rubbery, dark brown nipples. That was unusual because her skin was as pale as dough. She sat on the pot and wiggled her toes which still had weird bumps and corns from when she had been trying to make it as a dancer. I leaned against the wall in my soap overcoat and pulled on myself.Love. We fought like the U.S. Marines, and the only pleasure we ever got with each other was the hour between the end of a fight and sleep. That was the only time we really talked or fucked. The rest of the time we walked around afraid of each other, not really understanding or appreciating each other; what I found funny she thought pathetic or mean and what she found funny I usually considered a major yawn. I loved good balling and good movies. She was into modern dance and nightclub-type singing.On the other hand, she had this cute big head with matching big ears. She never smiled and always had an incredible serious look on this outrageous baby face — round, with round gray eyes and a Danish nose, broad but upturned like Hitler intended. But I knew how to get her laughing, and when she did, that serious baby face broke up, went east and west, and she would cover her mouth and touch the tip of her nose with her index finger like a high-class Japanese hooker and she was a kid and she was human and I loved her. She needed me. I knew she needed me. And I wasn’t stupid or shallow. I knew all about sexism, and productive relationships and growth, but I’m talking about love. I’m talking about irrational, illogical passion. And you can go to all the forums on meaningful concepts, you can have all the shared interests you want, but the bottom line with what I’m talking about here was how her arms felt wrapped around my neck when she was coming, how she looked at me when I made her laugh. And how I knew she needed me, how I felt in my heart she needed me. The rest was all good and well, but it wasn’t from the gut and it wasn’t love.“Kenny? When you come outa there I wanna run down ‘Feelings’ a few times, okay?”“Sure, babe.”She got up, flushed, pulled her leotard back up to her hips and left the room. I waited until I was sure she was dressed before I came out of the shower.
“Anytime you’re ready, babe.” I didn’t feel like listening to her sing again, but she had the showcase that night and it was important. She sat cross-legged on the living room floor back against the wall frowning and staring at her nails.“I wanna wait awhile, Kenny, okay?”“Sure, you mean like a few minutes?”“Awhile.”“You want some coffee?”“No thank you.”It was a small apartment and the living room was off limits now. I went into the bedroom and turned on the TV low, but the room was blasted with sunlight and it made me feel like an invalid to have the box on. I turned it off and scanned the titles of books on the shelves. I had a million books. I loved books. My father loved books. I rebrushed my hair in the closet mirror. I could hear La Donna breathing through her nose in the living room. I felt like a big cat in a cage at the zoo. I had taken the goddamn day off to be with her, to be supportive. It was high noon. I couldn’t take her goddamn depression, her goddamn isolation. I paced, fists on hips, then walked into the living room ignoring her, snagged a book from the wall unit and returned to the bedroom. She never looked up from her nails. She was frowning so hard her eyebrows were touching. I threw the book on the bed and changed my shirt. She never even thanked me for taking the day off. I didn’t make money when I took off. I didn’t make money, she didn’t take singing lessons. She got paid in peanuts at that bank. After taxes she didn’t even have enough money for a 45 let alone singing lessons. And she wasn’t very good either. That fucking music teacher Madame Bossanova or whatever the hell her name was told her she was the next Liza Minnelli, but if I stopped forking over for lessons all of a sudden she’d hear the truth from that old Russian cunt, and the truth was that she couldn’t goddamn sing. I put on my coat and headed for the door.“See ya later,” I mumbled.“Okay.”Now she was biting her nails.I stood by the elevator feeling like a class A pud. Where the hell was I supposed to go? She didn’t even ask me when I was coming back, where I was going, nothing.We lived between Broadway and West End Avenue on Seventy-seventh Street. I walked to the deli on Broadway, sat at a window table and ordered coffee so I could have a few cigarettes. It was a windy sunny nothing of a February Monday. There was nobody out on Broadway except bag ladies and street whacks. In a way it was just as well I took the day off. Door-to-door really bit on a cold day. Fuck the job. That job sucked in any kind of weather. If I had any balls I’d quit, go back to school and get a teaching degree. I’d teach English. Books. Books were bitches. I always had this fantasy of teaching English in some little ivy-covered brick schoolhouse in New England — running down Jack London to all these blond little plumpling dumpling kids. Or it’s Halloween and the leaves are turning and I’m sitting up there on my desk reading them The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, or The Monkey’s Paw, and maybe some of them have nice, blond, thirtyish divorced mothers and fourposter beds and heavy patchwork quilts and dream on. Maybe next lifetime. I would have been a bitch of a teacher though. I could talk about books like nobody’s business. Hemingway, Baldwin, Stephen Crane, Poe, Richard Wright — you name it, I read it, and I could talk your ass off about it too. Talk. Talk, talk, talk. Cold days with nothing to do always brought me down. I liked the night better. It was too dark to notice the weather. I liked night life. I thought of the evening to come and I swallowed a lick of panic. She was going to get butchered. Every Monday night this joint over on the East Side, Fantasia, had an amateur night. First twenty people off the street got ten minutes onstage. If you had talent they invited you back the next week. About one in ten thousand went on to become famous entertainers, but the management milked the legends of those people for all they’re worth and every week twenty clowns with dreams of Johnny Carson shows, Vegas and all went onstage and got massacred by audiences who made the Roman Colosseum fans look like humanitarians. And that night one of those clowns was going to be La Donna.And didn’t she know it. She had to know it. I didn’t care what her goddamn singing teacher told her, she had ears, she was intelligent. I thought of her sitting in the apartment staring at her nails. She knew it. And I knew me. I wasn’t going to say dick. I couldn’t. In the beginning we could say anything to each other, but now it was too dangerous; if we started cracking on each other with truths at this point we would inevitably get to the bottom truth, which was that we had no damn right being together anymore, and I for one was scared to death of the alternatives. So I settled for the bullshit low-key rage of two people going through the motions of a relationship, a life; and I would let her humiliate herself at Fantasia in the name of not rocking the boat even though the boat was capsizing fast, and I w...
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Book Description Houghton Mifflin. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0395270820. Bookseller Inventory # QP-HJGH-3SFI
Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1978. Unknown. Book Condition: New. Tight, unread copy with rubbing and a one inch tear on DJ. Bookseller Inventory # 67449
Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1978. Unknown. Book Condition: New. Tight, unread copy with light foxing on top edge. DJ does not have the usual rubbing but is lightly worn. Bookseller Inventory # 67450
Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1978. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0395270820
Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1978. Unknown. Book Condition: New. Tight, unread copy with light rubs on back of DJ. Bookseller Inventory # 67296
Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1978. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110395270820
Book Description Houghton Mifflin. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0395270820 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1070752
Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1978. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0395270820