Letter From Milo: A Broken Man

August 5th, 2019

It’s been bitterly cold in Chicago the last couple of weeks. Temperatures have rarely gotten above 10 degrees and the wind chill has been below zero for days at a time.

The other day I had to run some errands which required me to spend a considerable amount of time outdoors, waiting for buses and el trains. Being a man of some experience, and a devoted watcher of the Weather Channel, I know that the secret to staying warm in inclement weather is to wear layers of clothing.

When the weather turns Canadian on me, I pile it on – shirts, sweaters, corduroys, two pair of socks, a down vest, a thick scarf, insulated gloves, and over that I put on a heavy parka. In the words of the great Howlin’ Wolf, “I dress for comfort, baby, I don’t dress for speed.”

Living in the Midwest most of my life, I have discovered that the most important component of cold weather layering, the essential element in keeping warm in Chicago in January, is a good pair of long underwear. Yes, sir, you can’t beat lumberjack lingerie for taking the bite out of winter.

Anyway, that morning, as I was preparing to go out and deal with the elements, I couldn’t find my long underwear. I spent a few minutes vainly searching for them, then asked the lovely Mrs. Milo, “Honey, have you seen my long underwear?”

“I threw them out.”

“You did WHAT?”

“I threw them out.”

“Jesus, why? They were the only pair I had.”

“To be honest about it, they were just nasty.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, they were ripped and torn and they had stains all over them.”

“Stains? What kind of stains?”

“The usual kind. Let’s just say they were the color of earth tones.”

“Damn it! I could have bleached those stains out.”

“I doubt you could have gotten rid of the stains with battery acid. Besides, you’ve had that particular pair of long underwear for at least 25 years. Just go out and buy new ones.”

I would have continued the dialogue, but I could see that it would eventually deteriorate into our usual heated discussion of each other’s faults and shortcomings. And, brother, that’s an argument I have yet to win. So, grumbling and muttering vague threats, I hopped into the car and drove to the Target store on Peterson.

Except for buying groceries, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, I don’t care for shopping. It’s poor sport, in my opinion. But I don’t mind Target too much. It’s what I imagine all stores would have looked like if the Soviets had won the Cold War. Unfortunately, this particular Target was out of long underwear. Puzzled, I stopped a store employee and asked, “How can you be out of long underwear in the middle of winter in Chicago.” The employee gave me a blank stare and went about his business. I figured English wasn’t his preferred language.

I called Mrs. Milo to complain, but she brushed me off, saying, “Just go to the Target on Elston.”

Unbelievably, the Target on Elston was out of long underwear, too. Now I was getting pissed. I didn’t even bother asking any of the employees about the underwear situation. I just got back in the car and called Mrs. Milo. I was just starting to get into a good rhythm of bitching and complaining when she cut me off. “As long as you’re on Elston, drive north to the Kmart,” she said, then hung up on me.

It wasn’t my day. The Kmart didn’t have any long underwear either. Now, I was steaming. “What the fuck is wrong with these people,” I said aloud, while listening to a CD of Black Joe Louis and the Honeybears. “Don’t they understand that long underwear are a necessity of life in certain parts of the world.”

I was driving aimlessly, feeling sorry for myself, thinking about picking up a short dog of Jack Daniels (another good way to stay warm in winter) and wondering what the world was coming to, when I drove past the Sears store on Lawrence. Aha, I thought, if anyplace on earth had long underwear, it would be Sears. I parked the car, dealt with Mayor Daley’s farce of a parking meter system, and rushed inside the big store.

Oh yeah, they had long underwear, except they cost 32 fucking dollars. The description on the package said that the underwear were made of two ply materials, one being a specially formulated synthetic that wicks away perspiration and the other being fine Marino wool that traps heat and keeps you warm even in subarctic conditions.

I’ll be damned if I’ll pay 32 dollars for a pair of long underwear. I don’t care if they are gold lame and made by Nudie, Elvis’ favorite tailor. Those cocksuckers at Sears can take their 32 dollar long underwear and stick them up their collective asses. I ought to report them to the Better Business Bureau. No wonder Sears is on the verge of going under. Serves the bastards right.

Of course, it was all sour grapes and empty threats on my part. As much as I complained, the sad reality was that I no longer owned a pair of long underwear. I would have to live with the consequences. And, in Chicago, those consequences could be brutal, if not fatal. The future looked grim.

When I left Sears I was a broken man.

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Letter From Milo: Loser City

July 28th, 2019

Due to the fiduciary lawlessness of Mitt Popovich, my sleazy fucking brother-in-law, The Third City Blog site has fallen on hard times.

That lousy mother fucker was the accountant of this scabby barely literate outfit. He claimed to have a degree from an esteemed online university, but the truth is we only hired him because my wife made me.

Now he’s run off to Argentina with our corporate assets, including $33.14 from petty cash.

The sad truth is that The Third City is broke. My last two paychecks have bounced. Yesterday, someone posted an eviction notice on the door of our Michigan Avenue corporate office. Our fleet of company cars has been repossessed. The company tab at the neighborhood bar has been cut off. The local whorehouse won’t take our checks anymore. And, worst of all, my drug dealer won’t return my phone calls.

I never thought it would come to this. When I left my last job, as Ethics Professor at the Moody Bible Institute, to join The Third City, I thought I was set for life.

After all, Big Arnie Raven, the Barn Boss of this flatulent outfit, had assured me that The Third City was one of the most popular and respected blog sites in the world, averaging close to a million readers a week. He told me that the site was on the short lists of both the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize committees, in several different categories, including news, sports and porn.

“Stick with The Third City, kid,” Big Arnie said, when I was hired. “The sky’s the limit.”

Well, the sky has fallen in on us. The Third City is in dire straits. Sadly, this may be the last blog we ever post.

But, I’m not a quitter. I refuse to let The Third City go under. This blog site is too important to the American people. In the words of some political dumbass, The Third City is “too big to fail.”

That’s why I’ve decided to hold a fund raiser. Yes, if NPR, Jerry Lewis and the Kiwanis can hold fund raisers, why can’t The Third City? We are every bit as deserving of feasting on the public tit as the above named organizations.

I have been working hard to keep this site afloat. I’ve been in contact with the new owners of the Chicago Cubs about using Wrigley Field as the venue for a fund raising benefit. My good friends, U2, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan have agreed to appear. Prince Charles is considering acting as emcee. Steven Spielberg has offered to create a 60 second TV spot to publicize the event. Monica Lewinsky has offered her services, in a capacity yet to be determined.

Despite the big name talent that has offered to help, it’s going to be you, our faithful readers who will make the difference. It is your contributions that will help keep The Third City a beacon of civilized discourse in a world of idiotic chatter.

That’s why I’m asking each and every one of you to reach into your wallets and purses, pull out a 20 dollar bill, place it in an envelope and mail it to me. I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention this to Big Arnie or Benny Jay. I want to, ah, surprise them.

I’m counting on you good folks out there to come to Third City’s rescue in this time of need. Just put that 20 dollar bill in a plain white envelope and address it to Milo Samardzija at 262…

HOLD IT! This is Mrs. Milo. I was just passing by Milo’s desk, saw what he was writing and chased him away from the computer with a broomstick. All he’s doing is trying to scam people out of money. Anybody that sends him money is a bigger idiot that he is. As for that crap about company cars, I doubt if Big Arnie, Benny Jay, Milo or that creepy Jon Randolph have enough brains between them to pass a driver’s license test. And the only corporate office they have is the corner coffee shop. Jeez, what a bunch of losers.

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Letter From Milo: China Or Canada

July 22nd, 2019

You can imagine my absolute shock when, just the other day, I learned that there were gay people living in China. I had no idea. I thought the only gay people in the world lived in the lower 48 states, with a few owning condo timeshares in some of the ritzier neighborhoods of Paris and London.

The Chinese are pretty tough on their gay population. Just the other day I read that the police broke up a parade that was to celebrate the coronation of Mr. Gay China. It must have been pretty tough picking one guy out of a population of a billion and a half people to represent gay Chinese, especially when, just a few years ago the Chinese government claimed that there were no gay Chinese at all.

The Iranian government also claims there are no gay people in their country. That must be the reason that Iran has terrible food, ugly architecture, no fashion sense, shitty haircuts, and no decent boutiques or antique shops.

I consider myself an extremely intelligent man, but there is one thing about gay people that confuses me. Where did they come from? If I remember correctly, there were no gay people at all in the USA until the early 1970s. They just appeared one day and made themselves at home. I was determined to find out where all the gay people came from, so I called my friend Benny Jay, who’s smart as a whip and asked him.

“Hey, Benny, have you noticed that there are an awful lot of gay people around?”

“Now that you mention it, I have seen a lot of them recently.”

“Well, where the fuck did they all come from?”

“Canada.”

“Canada? Are you sure?”

“Positive. It was all part of that NAFTA deal.”

“Makes sense to me. By the way, do you know anything about this Mr. Gay China?”

“Guy China? Yeah, he’s on my bowling team.”

“No, no. Mr. Gay China. He’s this dude that supposed to be the epitome of Chinese gayness. They were going to have a parade to honor him but the Chinese police broke it up. They broke a few heads, too.”

“They must not have had a parade permit.”

Someone once said that the quality of a civilization can be judged by the way it treats its elderly. A better measuring stick, in my opinion, would be judging a civilization by the way it treats its minorities.

So, what’s the problem with gay people? Why do countries as varied as China, Iran, and, yes, the good ol’ USA, discriminate against gays. As far as I know, gay people do not commit terrorist acts. They rarely agitate for separatist states. Their hygiene standards are above average. They throw great parties. And if they move into your neighborhood that usually means your property values are going up. Other than an aggravating fondness for Broadway show tunes, they are generally good citizens.

I was still confused about the origins of gay people after I got off the phone with Benny Jay. So, I thought I’d call Big Mike, the Barn Boss of this scabby, low-life outfit. Big Mike knows everything. The man’s a walking encyclopedia, an oasis of wisdom in a desert of ignorance. He knows more shit that Professor Irwin Corey.

“Hey, Big Mike, it’s me, Milo.”

“Make it quick, asshole, I ain’t got all day. I’ve got a blog to run.”

“Ok, no problem. Have you noticed that there are a lot of gay people around?

“So what.”

“Well, I was talking to Benny Jay and he said they all came from Canada, part of that NAFTA deal.”

“Benny Jay’s an idiot.”

“I thought so, because I know a gay guy and he’s from Ireland.”

“You know what, Milo?”

“What?”

“You’re an idiot, too.”

“Good talking to you.”

“Always a pleasure.”

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Letter From Milo: Living To Learn

July 16th, 2019

You’d think that someone who had heart surgery a few months ago would know better. You’d think that the person would have learned a lesson. You would suppose that someone who came this close to riding shotgun with the Angel in the Sharkskin Nightgown, would consider changing his wicked ways.

Well, I had open heart surgery recently and the only change in me is that my body has a few more scars to show off at the beach.

Against all common sense, against all medical advice, despite the anguished pleas of my wife and children, Ol’ Milo is at it again. Yes, folks, I’m drinking, eating red meat, sneaking the occasional cigarette, toking on the occasional joint and, once again, enjoying impure thoughts. Yes, sir, the Bum Gene (see one of my earlier posts) is in full roar.

Now, the obvious question is: How fucking stupid does a man have to be to continue a lifestyle that nearly killed him?

The obvious answer is: Very, very fucking stupid.

A short while after coming home from the hospital, my good friend, I’ll call him Bruce Diksas to spare him undue embarrassment, came by to visit. He brought along a few bottles of wine, a joint and a pack of Camels.

“You look pretty good,” Bruce said, uncorking one of the bottles. “Got some color in your face.”

“Yeah, I feel pretty good,” I replied, though I was still sore from the surgery where they had cracked me open like a lobster tail, then sewed me up like a hog being prepped for the barbeque spit. “Should be as good as new in a couple of days,” I added, lying.

“Here, have a drink. You’ll feel even better.”

“Good idea.”

As we sat at the kitchen table talking about the White Sox, the economy, pussy, the criminal incompetence of the Bush Regime, and Bruce’s upcoming trip the Bali, it occurred to me that just a few years ago Bruce had undergone some pretty serious surgery himself. I won’t go into details, but he came through it with his flag waving high.

It also occurred to me that many of our friends are suffering health problems. Granted, most of my friends have lived rather checkered lives, overdoing just about everything there is to overdo. But the undeniable fact is that they are all aging baby boomers, living at the tail end of the great post-war bubble . If our lives were basketball games, we would be entering the fourth quarter. Although there is always the chance of overtime, the sad truth is that you can’t count on it. I’ve had good friends die in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. In one case a good friend died at the biblical age of 101.

They’ve died in all sorts of ways — car accidents, gunshot wounds, explosions, diseases, drug overdoses, jealousy, broken hearts, suicides and poor judgement. The common thread running through all these deaths is that, except for suicide, most people don’t have a say in the time and manner of their passing. It’s a lottery where the main prize is oblivion.

So, I suppose living into your 60s is an accomplishment of sorts. Although it’s a piss poor accomplishment, at best.

As Bruce and I started on the second bottle of wine, toked on the joint and lit up Camels, we smiled at each other, both of us aware of the game clock but happy to still be in the game and able to partake of some of our favorite vices. We clinked glasses and made a toast.

“To your health,” Bruce said.

“And yours, pal.”

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Letter From Milo: The Bump On Uncle Rudy’s Head

July 9th, 2019

Here are the last few pages of the 1st chapter of “The Aristocrat House,” in which Uncle Rudy learns one of life’s great lessons (see the last sentence).

The Aristocrat House

The bump on the head seemed to calm Uncle Rudy down. He sat up and looked around curiously, blinking his eyes, as if he had just awakened and was confused about his whereabouts. His chafed, swollen and bleeding face had a placid expression that slowly turned to a look of great sadness. Shaking his head and sighing deeply, he rose unsteadily to his feet and stumbled into the kitchen.

I followed him into the kitchen, just in case he attacked Vivian again. I didn’t know how I could stop him, or even if I could stop him, but I knew I couldn’t let him do anything more stupid than he had already done.

Uncle Rudy ignored Vivian, however, and went directly to the sink, where he turned on the tap and began splashing water on his abused face. After gingerly patting his face dry with a paper towel and lighting a cigarette, he turned to Vivian and said, “Viv, baby, we can work through this. It was just a little misunderstanding.”

Still seated on the floor and crying, Vivian blubbered, “Get out! Just get out!”

Trying to compose his battered face into a smile, Uncle Rudy replied, “Come on, honey, be reasonable. Every love affair has its rough spots.”

Vivian looked up and laughed bitterly. “Are you crazy! Get out before I call the cops.”

“Baby, baby, there’s no reason to…”

“I mean it! I want you out of here.”

Uncle Rudy tried to turn on the charm. “Sweetheart, you mean the world to me. What about all those great…”

“If you’re not out of here in 10 minutes, I’m calling the cops.”

“Ok, ok,” Uncle Rudy said, holding out his hands in supplication. “If that’s the way you want it.”

“10 minutes or I’ll have you arrested for stealing from me,” she said, angrily. “And take that pimply brat with you,” she added, unnecessarily, I thought.

20 minutes later we were driving away from Vivian’s, all of our belongings stuffed into the trunk or piled on the back seat. Uncle Rudy had pinched a couple of whiskey bottles before we left and had one propped between his legs, sipping from it as he drove.

“I can’t believe that one-legged cunt had the nerve to throw me out,” he commented, morosely. “And just when I was getting close to her money, too.”

“What makes you think she had any money?” I asked. I wouldn’t have guessed that Vivian had any real money. She dressed plainly, lived in a small apartment and drove a car that was three or four years old. If she had any substantial money, she hid it well. It seemed to me that she was just a lonely woman, desperate for company, who had run into some bad breaks, one of them being Uncle Rudy.

“Think about it,” Uncle Rudy continued. “She must have gotten some compensation for that leg. They’ve got laws in this country. You lose and arm or a leg on the job, they’ve got to pay you for it. I bet she was sitting on 10 or 15 thousand dollars.” Wistfully, he added, “You know what I could do with that kind of money?”

He drove a while in sullen silence, muttering and drinking, no doubt thinking about the fortune that had just slipped through his fingers. After working his way through a third of the whiskey bottle, he seemed to snap out of his self-pitying funk.

“It just goes to show you,” he said, ruefully, his words beginning to slur. “A woman doesn’t need two legs to walk all over a man.”

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Letter From Milo: Rudy’s Fight With Vivian

June 19th, 2019

As threatened, here is the third installment of the 1st chapter of a work in progress called “The Aristocrat House,” in which Uncle Rudy engages in a savage, no-holds-barred fight to the finish with a one-legged woman named Vivian.

The Aristocrat House

“No, baby,” Rudy answered, innocently, “I haven’t seen them.”
A few days later, she asked, “Rudy, sugar, I can’t seem to find my wristwatch. Will you look around for it?”

Uncle Rudy spent 10 minutes rummaging around the apartment, searching for Vivian’s wristwatch. Scratching his head in consternation, he said, “I can’t find it, Viv. But I’m sure it’ll turn up sooner or later.”

“That’s strange,” Vivian said, looking thoughtfully at Uncle Rudy. “I wonder what the hell happened to it.”

If she would have asked me, I could have told her exactly where to find her wristwatch and ear rings. The wristwatch was on display in the window of Woodside’s Pawn Shop on Washington Street. And the ear rings were adorning the earlobes of a wife or girlfriend of one of the bar flies at Kaiser’s Old Style Inn, where Uncle Rudy had sold them while I waited in the car.

The end came when Vivian caught Uncle Rudy going through her purse.

“What the hell are you doing?” She was standing in the doorway of her bedroom, leaning against the doorjamb. She wasn’t wearing her leg and needed the doorjamb’s support to keep from toppling over.

Uncle Rudy was caught in mid-theft, with Vivian’s open billfold in his hands. “Nothing honey,” he sputtered. “I was just, ah, just looking for some cigarettes.”

“I don’t keep my cigarettes in my billfold, you son of a bitch,” she snarled, then turned and hopped back into her bedroom. When she wasn’t wearing her prosthesis she hopped on her good leg to get around her apartment. Or, if she had been drinking heavily, she scuttled crab-like along the floor. In a moment she hopped out of her bedroom, holding something behind her back, and hopped up to Uncle Rudy. Before he could react, she sprayed him with mace.

Uncle Rudy screamed in pain, clutched his face and fell to the floor. “Oh, God! Aaahhheee! What the fuck did you do! Sweet Jesus I’m blind! You rotten fucking whore! Oowweee! I can’t see! I can’t see!”

While Uncle Rudy was screaming and rolling on the floor in agony, Vivian leaned over, as best she could, and sprayed him again. Then she turned to me. “You little bastard,” she hissed, her face contorted in rage, and aimed the can of mace at me.

Before she could spray me, I ducked to the floor and tried to scramble away. In my frantic effort to get away from her, I inadvertently bumped into her good leg. She teetered for a moment, arms flailing, and crashed to the floor, losing her grip on the can of mace in the process.

Uncle Rudy was still on the floor, writhing in pain. He had pulled his shirttail out of his trousers and was vigorously rubbing his face with it. His agonized screaming had subsided to low moans, raspy grunts and muttered curses and threats.

“You gimpy fucking slut! Oh, man! Are you crazy! Ooohhh, shit! What the fuck is wrong with you! God damn!”

When he realized that Vivian was squirming on the floor next to him, Uncle Rudy reached out and grabbed her remaining leg. Vivian tried to crawl away but he had a good grip and held tight. “I’ve got you now, you greasy spic cunt,” he hissed, murderously. “I’m going to rip off your good leg. You hear me! See how you like that.”

I was scared to death. I had never seen Uncle Rudy like that. He looked like some sort of monster, his tear-stained face was swollen, red and raw, and his eyes had narrowed to bloodshot piggish slits. I knew something terrible was going to happen but had no idea of how to prevent it.

When Vivian felt Uncle Rudy grab her leg she squealed in terror and tried to shake him off. When he tried to pull her closer Vivian wrapped her arms around the base of a heavy floor lamp.

“Leave me alone!” she shrieked. “Let me go!”

“I’ll fix you good, you ugly old Mexican whore,” Uncle Rudy growled.

“Please, Uncle Rudy,” I pleaded, frightened that he might seriously hurt her. “Let’s just go. This is crazy.”

“You, shut the fuck up!” he barked at me, then tugged roughly on Vivian’s leg. But she held her grip on the lamp and couldn’t be budged. Uncle Rudy yanked harder, but the only thing that gave way was the lamp, which rocked back and forth a couple of times, before falling and crashing down heavily on Uncle Rudy’s head. He howled in misery when the lamp slammed into his head, its glass shade shattering and showering him with shards of glass. He immediately began bleeding from several small cuts on his face. Releasing Vivian’s leg, he clutched his face again and moaned, “Oh, fuck me.”

As soon as her leg was freed Vivian scurried into the kitchen, out of Uncle Rudy’s reach. When she was out of harm’s way, she sat up with her back propped against the refrigerator, placed her head in her hands and began sobbing.

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Letter From Milo: Lovely Vivian

June 12th, 2019

As promised, here are the next few pages of a work in progress called “The Aristocrat House,” in which Uncle Rudy begins taking advantage of an unfortunate one-legged woman named Vivian.

The Aristocrat House (next couple of pages)

“What the fuck do you care where I got the money,” he replied, still admiring his reflection in the mirror. “Swear to God, sometimes I think all that artsy-fartsy scribbling you do is turning you into a faggot.” Turning and pointing at my backpack, he added, “Why don’t you quit wasting your time with that shit and do something useful for a change, like learn how to shoot pool or play cards, something that’ll bring in some money.”

Ignoring him, I said, “Doesn’t matter to me where you got the money, but all those cop cars pulling up downstairs seem real interested.”

Uncle Rudy’s swarthy face turned as pale as a doily. He yelped “shit!” and rushed to the window. He had a terrible fear of incarceration. He had been in jail a few times and the experiences didn’t agree with him.

When Uncle Rudy peeked out of the window and saw nothing but the bleak landscape of factory refuse, his ashen face returned to its normal ruddy color. When he heard me laughing, he muttered an unintelligible curse and half-heartedly swung a backhand in my direction. But I knew it was coming and ducked away. He was generous with his backhands, though none too accurate.

Still staring out of the window, Uncle Rudy reached into his pocket and pulled out his bottle. “I still can’t believe that whore threw me out,” he muttered, morosely, then had a drink, smacked his lips and put the bottle away. “You’d think a bitch with only one fucking leg would have more sense.”

Sighing deeply, he walked to the edge of the bed, sat down and rested his head in his hands. “Stupid fucking cunts,” he muttered again, “don’t even know when they’ve got it good.”

For the past month or so we had been living with a Mexican woman named Vivian, in her small apartment near the lake. Vivian had lost her right leg, above the knee, in an industrial accident. She was a heavy drinker and I suppose that’s why she and Uncle Rudy got along so well at first. They stayed up late every night, drinking themselves senseless. When Vivian got good and drunk she would start crying about her missing leg.

“You don’t know what it’s like for a girl not to have two good legs,” she said, sobbing. “I can’t even wear a decent dress or high heels. Can’t go dancing. Can’t even go for a God damn walk in the park.”

Uncle Rudy did his best to soothe her. “Oh, baby, you’re my sweet little angel,” he told her, drunkenly, his eyes welling with sympathetic tears. “You mean everything to me. I’d love you if you didn’t have any legs at all, or arms, either.”

“You mean that, Rudy? You’re not just saying that?”

As I mentioned, Vivian had a small apartment. She fixed me up with a roll-away bed in the pantry, just off the tiny kitchen. But I was just a few feet away from the living room and could hear everything they were saying and doing.

“I would never lie to you, baby,” Uncle Rudy assured her. “You want another drink?”

“Please, honey, and drop another cube in it.”

There was silence for a while, then drunken giggling and laughter, followed by a lengthier silence. Then I heard Uncle Rudy’s voice again, thick and slurred.

“That’s it, Viv, don’t stop.”

“Do you like it, Rudy? Do I make you happy?”

“You’re the best, Viv. Swear to fucking Christ, nobody does it better.”

I couldn’t help myself. I had to look. I snuck out of the pantry and carefully peeked into the living room. The lights were low and all I could see was Vivian’s prosthetic leg, with its elaborate system of buckles and leather straps, leaning against the coffee table.

I poked my head farther into the darkened room and saw that both of them were still on the couch. Uncle Rudy’s eyes were closed and his trousers and underwear were bunched around his ankles. Vivian’s head was in his lap and she was greedily tending to his erection, her head bobbing up and down like a plump strutting pigeon. When Uncle Rudy opened his eyes and looked down at Vivian, an odd expression came over his face. It wasn’t a look that I recognized or had ever seen before. It wasn’t passion or excitement or even drunken lust. The only way I can describe the expression was to call it a look of perfect serenity, the same idiot’s smile that I’d seen in pictures of the Dalai Lama, the Pope and some of the more inbred members of the British royal family. It was as if he had come through a terrible storm and had finally reached quiet waters. The hard edges of his face seemed as if they had been buffed away. The crafty gleam in his eyes had softened to a dull glaze of contentment. He had eaten well that day, was drinking to his heart’s content, and was now having a woman cater to his sexual needs. All was right in Uncle Rudy’s world. He was at peace.

We stayed at Vivian’s for a little more than a month. Vivian didn’t pay much attention to me. She was indifferent to my presence, rarely speaking to me or acknowledging my existence. I figured she tolerated me, the way a dog lover tolerates fleas, as the price she had to pay for Uncle Rudy’s company.

Still, living there wasn’t too bad. I had plenty to eat, a warm place to sleep and clean clothes to wear. Vivian was grouchy in the mornings, which was understandable, considering the amount of alcohol she drank in the evenings. But I learned to avoid her until early afternoon, when she and Uncle Rudy started their drinking and carousing.

I would have been content to stay there a while longer, but, of course, Uncle Rudy ruined it for both of us. He began stealing from Vivian. I knew we were in trouble when, one morning, I heard her ask, “Rudy, honey, have you seen my pearl ear rings anywhere? I thought I left them on the coffee table last night.”

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