The whole machine smelled good, holy, and sad; the thing fascinated me like graveyards and pictures of the dead, and the night went well. Later in the night I even found a lone record in the belly of the machine and I put it on:
"He's got the whole world
in His hands
He's got you and me, brother
He's got the little babies
in His hands
He's got everybody
in His hands....."
This scared me so much that the next day, hangover and all, I went out and got a job as a stock boy in a department store. I started the day after. Some old gal in cosmetics (she seemed to be at the bad age for women 46 to 53) kept hollering that she had to have the stuff RIGHT AWAY. I think it was the insistent shrill insanity in her voice. I told her: "Keep your pants on, baby, I'll be along soon to relieve you of your tensions...." The manager fired me 5 minutes later. I could hear her screaming over the phone: "If that isn't the damndest SNOTTIEST STOCK BOY I ever heard!!! Who the hell does he think he is?"
"Now, Mrs. Jason, please calm yourself ..."
At the dinner it was confusing also. The daughter looked real good and the husband was a big Italian. They were both communists. He had a fine fancy night job somewhere and she just laid around and read books and rubbed her lovely legs. They poured me Italian wine. But nothing made sense to me. I felt like an idiot. Communism didn't make any more sense to me than democracy. And the thought often did come to me as it came to me at the table that night: I am an idiot. Can't everybody see that? What's this wine? What's this talk? I'm not interested. It had no connection with me. Can't they see through my skin, can't they see that I am nothing?
"We like your writing. You remind us of Voltaire," she said.
"Who's Voltaire?" I asked.
"Oh Jesus," said the husband.
They mostly ate and talked and I mostly drank the Italian wine. I got the idea that they were disgusted with me but since I had expected that, it didn't bother me. I mean, not too much. He had to go to work and I stayed on.
"I might rape your wife," I told him. He laughed all the way down the stairway.
She sat in front of the fireplace, showing her legs above the knees. I sat in a chair, watching. I hadn't had a piece of ass in two years. "There's this very sensitive boy," she said, "who goes with my girlfriend. They both sit around and talk communism for hours and he never touches her. It's very strange. She's confused and ..."
"Lift your dress higher."
"I said, lift your dress higher. I want to see more of your legs. Pretend I'm Voltaire."
She did show me a little more. I was surprised. But it was more than I could stand. I walked over and pulled her dress back to her hips. Then I pulled her to the floor and was on top of her like some sick thing. I got the panties off. It was hot in front of that fire, very hot. Then when it was over I became the idiot again:
"I'm sorry. I'm out of my mind. Do you want to call the police? How can you be so young when your mother is so old?"
"It's grandma. She just calls me 'daughter.' I'm going to the bathroom. Be right back."
I wiped off with my shorts and when she came out we had some small talk and then I opened the door to leave and walked into a closetful of overcoats and various things. We both laughed.
"Goddamn," I said, "I'm crazy."
"No, you're not."
I walked on down the stairway, back over the streets of San Francisco, and back to my room. And there in the pan was more beer, more wine, floating in water and ice. I drank it all, sitting there in that wooden chair by the window, all the lights out in the room, looking out, drinking.
The luck was mine.