Jack Galmitz

Three Short Stories for Jill Chan (who I learnt to love through words)

What We Share

                It was Thanksgiving Day and taking into account the chill factor it felt like ten degrees. The sun was extraordinarily bright and nearly blinding on the used car lot’s metallic streamers just outside my window. My wife and I agreed we’d eat at the Georgia Dinner at about 12 PM. We were both worried about the possibility of a large crowd of people.
                Going to the Georgia Dinner for the holiday had become a tradition for us. It was easy. No cooking or cleaning up afterwards. If we were thankful for anything, it was this.
                We wrapped up warmly against the blustery wind and my wife held my arm. She dragged on me, hurting my back, but I didn’t say anything. We didn’t go out often and it was good to just enjoy each other’s company as best we could. We were getting old and besides my wife’s son, who lived in China, we had no family.
                My wife kept saying “Oh, my God” against the biting wind and I was glad when we finally arrived so I didn’t have to hear it anymore. The maitre-de brought us further and further back into the restaurant and ended up seating us in the very corner of what looked like the children’s room in the rear. I was about to complain about it, but I realized we were no longer the most attractive couple and I was wearing a flannel work shirt, dungarees, and sneakers, so I let it pass.
                The waiter brought us the menus. I had already seen the menu online, so I was one step ahead of my wife and I could tell her what the choices were. I usually ordered prime ribs, but having seen an internet segment on the slaughter of cows that morning, eating beef was out. Frankly, I contemplated eating blintzes, but I suspected they would serve over baked frozen ones and that was unappealing. I decided to go with turkey. My wife went with chicken and shrimp and said we could share.
                We had clam chowder to begin with and mashed potatoes and glazed carrots with our meals. The potatoes came cold and I complained and when they brought it back reheated it made all the difference. I distinctly recall ordering spinach pie as an appetizer and now that I think of it we never got it.
                I ordered a coffee and got refills through the meal. The coffee was the best part of the meal. It was really good. As to the turkey, it was thinly sliced and piled on top of an apple and chestnut filling and covered with a cream sauce. It was a replica of last year’s and the year before that and I figured that they didn’t cook these meals; they were pre-ordered and delivered from some industrial food supplier. My wife’s food tasted better, but not much. The glazed carrots, which should have been warm, were cold and miserable and as I said we never got the spinach pie or any bread at all. If I wasn’t old and on Social Security, I would have made a scene. Being old, I accepted what we got and decided I would never come back again.
                My wife and I hardly spoke, except to comment on the poor quality of the meal. We hardly had anything to speak about anymore and it was sad considering each of us was all the other had in this world.
                My wife had brought a plastic container with her to put food inside to take home. I told her they would wrap it for us, but she insisted on her way of doing it. She also took raisins and some nuts and poured them in a napkin and put them in her pocketbook. She always did that. I picked up the ketchup bottle and told her we needed it, as we were almost out at home and she laughed. I also told her for twenty-five years we had never bought salt and pepper shakers and the ones on the table were nice: why not take them, too? Again she laughed. She enjoyed being ribbed by me.
                When the waiter brought the check and was collecting things from the table, a knife dropped and my wife bent to pick it up. The waiter told her she didn’t have to do that and I tried to persuade her to sit up in her chair and not get on her knees to fetch silverware. It suddenly occurred to me why that was the etiquette.
                In a restaurant, there was a hierarchy and those eating were superior to those serving and that’s why we generally didn’t help pick something up that had dropped. It was designated for someone in a lower position. I suddenly found myself totally against this view and let my wife get on her knees and fetch the fallen knife. I hadn’t come to a restaurant to be treated like someone important.
                Another waiter brought us a bag to carry home with two slices of pumpkin pie inside. We were both so full that we couldn’t even think about eating them.
                We left a generous tip and made our way out of the restaurant. Passing the maître d', he didn’t even give me a nod of recognition. I despised him.
                Getting home was not easy. The wind was as strong and painful as it had been before and my wife kept ducking behind things to avoid the cold. I was limping from my bad knee and I felt that this was hardly a life; the pumpkin pie, the one joy we had to look forward to, would add more weight to my already growing girth and spike my glucose level.
                Most men, I knew, spent the remainder of Thanksgiving Day watching college football games on the television. As for myself, I would have preferred to learn how to make homemade bombs on the internet than watch a college football game.
                When we got home, my wife flung a huge piece of chicken in the cat’s bowl and I retrieved it and broke it into pieces that she could swallow. I went directly to the computer and my wife went directly to her telephone on which she stored her karaoke songs. I could hear her singing as I read through my messages.
                About six hours later my wife asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I said “no,” as I was still full. I watched some television before I went to sleep.

There and Back

                I was excited to find that there was a sex shop in walking distance of my house. It had a strange address, 78-3 Roosevelt Avenue, so I wasn’t convinced that it existed, but I decided to walk over and see for myself. It was located under the El on Roosevelt Avenue, a poor neighborhood, but one with a vibrant street life.
                I was looking for anal beads and I wasn’t sure I would have the courage to go in the store. I mean asking to see a set of anal beads would certainly raise the eyebrows of the salesgirls, if not set them off in titters. And I couldn’t explain my situation. I could no longer get an erection and my slight heart condition didn’t allow me to use Viagra. So I had taken to watching porn with women wearing strapons and pegging men and then I would strip naked on my bed and imagine I had gone to a club and was picked up by one of these woman and she fucked me good. In this way I was able to have an orgasm.
                The problem was that I was no longer able to bring myself to completion without some actual object stimulating my prostate gland. So doubtful that I would have the courage to enter the store, I walked through the dilapidated streets of my neighborhood to London Boutique, which was the name of the shop.
                The reviews of the store on its internet site were all good. One person thought they were a bit pricey, but other than that everyone had good things to say about the service and the stock. I laughed to myself when someone wrote the ladies were very helpful because I needed all the help I could get.
                I had to walk up steep streets that always left me winded. I had never measured the upward incline of the streets, but I figured they were at about a 20 degree angle for a long stretch. I would stop now and again and lean up against a street lamp to catch my breath and ease the pain in my arthritic knee.
                As I made my way slowly up the streets, I noticed how lovely the small withered wild flowers looked in the small gardens of the aging homes. I realized for the first time that these flowers poking through wrought iron fences and leaning against crumbling cement walls were all I needed to make me happy. I didn’t need grand landscapes. The simple beauty of these nameless flowers changing with the seasons would do nicely.
                I reached Elmhurst Hospital and took a break. I was halfway there. Then I continued along the Emergency Room Entrance of the hospital with the FDNY ambulances parked and ready in the small lot. Nurses occasionally came in or out for lunchtime or relatives of patients came out for cigarette breaks. I was in a different neighborhood and most of the people were from Central America or Jamaica or Haiti or India. The streets overflowed with so many people coming and going it was as if I was at nature’s womb.
                I continued on until I reached the broken light on the avenue slicing through the El. I could read the addresses and still questioned whether such an address as 78-3 existed, but from across the street I could make out 78-13, so I crossed and had a look. I thought I had been hoodwinked when I suddenly saw this very narrow store and sure enough the address on the door. And in the storefront window were quite glamorous looking vibrators in expensive looking boxes. There was a mannequin reclining in the window wearing a red and nearly transparent nightgown.
                At the corner was a Spanish man with a drooping moustache and leaning on a cane. He looked like a gaucho who had made a wrong turn on the pampas and ended up at the corner of 78th Street and Roosevelt Avenue. And although he was leaning on a cane, it might just as well have been a sword from the rough expression on his face.
                He gave the impression of a stealthy, criminal man who stood at the corner near the London Boutique to insinuate himself with the female patrons of the store. I had a bad feeling about him. And with him there I had no intention of going into the store and asking for anal beads. It would have been like spreading my legs for him instead of standing up to him.
                I hesitated and finally I saw that there was a mirror blocking everyone’s sight of the inside. I gave the door a push so I could see what it looked like. It was well-lit and narrow and there were many sex toys hanging from the walls. I did not go inside even to look around.
                I turned and began to walk home. I didn’t feel defeated. I knew in my heart that I had never intended to actually buy anal beads. It was simply that while I fantasized having beautiful Japanese women wearing strapons peg my ass till I came, in reality there was no way I was going to indulge this behavior.
                When I was a teenager, during the free love period in the late 1960s, a friend had stuck her finger in my ass just as I was about to orgasm. It enhanced the experience and I exploded inside of her. It was as memorable as she was.

Out For a Shoot

                I went out to take photographs. The light was not good, but I had some shots in mind from yesterday. I knew it was chancy. What looks great one day may not look so great the next day. Still I had to see for myself.
                The area was an industrial one, mostly car repair and car parts shops. Most had shuttered their windows and would never open again. I was having a hard time remembering where the one shot I wanted to take was located. It was a driveway that had been covered in graffiti to the top of the concrete side walls and along the back wall as well. Even the dumpsters had been spray painted. I thought it would make a marvelous shot, giving the viewer the feeling of being immersed in street art, as if they were in the photograph.
                But it was nowhere to be found and I realized it must have been shuttered, as it was Sunday. I took some shots through fencing of crumbling walls and rusted structures, but I couldn’t shake off my disappointment. The only other possible good shot was across the street; it was an abandoned store that had sold wholesale Entenmann’s goods for decades. Now it was gutted and I thought I could capture the emptiness and the light on what fixtures remained.
                I was out of luck. I could see through the smudged window, but the glass reflected too much in the camera lens to get a shot of the interior. I walked around the building to see if I could find an angle to capture the light in the barred windows, but there wasn’t any.
                I looked down the boulevard towards home and the light caught a young blonde woman walking in my direction. The light played with her as if she were enshrined in it. I could see from her dress, the way she walked, and the motels that existed in plenty here that she was a young prostitute.
                I felt a thrill go through me that I hadn’t felt in years. I thought we could have a short party around the old Entenmann’s building and judging from the stirring I felt in my pants I felt sure I would overcome my sexual difficulties. She got nearer and she was as light skinned as Fay Wray with bobbed blonde hair. The way she insouciantly swung that small pocket book and her short tight skirt so delighted me that I forgot about any disappointments I had had that day.
                I took out my camera to get a photograph of her approaching, but my telephoto was not strong enough and besides there really was no photograph there.
                When we were parallel, I said “hello,” which may seem meek, but for me to say something to a stranger was bold enough. She looked at me askance and didn’t say anything in return. I noticed she was walking ever so slightly in the street and not on the walkway, as if she was afraid.
                I didn’t understand. There was no question that she was a prostitute. I thought she might have been returning to one of the motels in the area to her pimp and that she only went where he sent her. But still, for a prostitute to walk away from a quickie, just didn’t make sense to me.
                As I walked on, I happened to see myself reflected in the dark glass of a store window. I was shocked. I was so heavy that my stomach stood out like a beach ball and my baldness made my appearance even worse. I used to be strikingly handsome. And now I was repulsive to myself and I assumed to the young prostitute as well.
                Thank goodness for the young Indian woman who had scattered stale bread to the pigeons near my house when I first went out. I had hoped to capture the birds rising and surrounding her, but instead I was only able to capture them flying above me alone and in small groups near the telephone lines. They would make good photographs when I edited them.

Jack Galmitz was broken in the world when he was around twenty-seven. He never found a way to repair himself. His writing and photographs are vestiges left by his efforts.
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