Letter From Milo: The First Three Pages

June 3rd, 2019

Dear friends and readers:

As promised (or threatened) here are the first few pages of a work in progress. I plan to serialize the first chapter on this blog site, unless the police, Catholic church, or mobs of torch-carrying peasants intervene. The serialization will run for 4-5 days, every Wednesday and Monday. Those of you with tender sensibilities, sensitive stomachs, high ethical standards or high literary standards may wish to avoid this site on those particular days. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The Aristocrat House
Milo Samardzija

“God gave us sex to make up for all the other awful things he did to us.”

Chapter 1

It didn’t take long to figure out that Uncle Rudy was a worthless human being. I discovered, early on, that he was lazy, a liar, a petty thief, a drug abuser and a habitual drunkard. He was a bully when he was drunk and mean-spirited when sober. He was also coarse and profane, a spiteful, unrepentant racist and misogynist, and completely unreliable. When it came to money, women or responsibility of any sort, he simply could not be trusted.

That said, Uncle Rudy did have a few things going for him. He was a good dancer. And he dressed well when he could scrape up the money to pay for the cheap, flashy suits he favored. And he spoke with a trace of a Slavic accent, which, as he explained to me, “Most cunts can’t resist.”

Uncle Rudy was not a bad looking man, in a raw-boned, beaky Eastern European way. He was tall, slender but strong, with a head of dark hair that he slicked back to cover a growing bald spot, and he had all of his front teeth. He fell just short of being handsome, however, by a receding chin, shifty, calculating eyes, and excessive hairiness.

As I mentioned, Uncle Rudy was pretty much of a disgrace as a human being. He lacked character, conscience, scruples and dignity, but he was all the family I had. I was 15 years old and without him I would have been alone in the world.

We were staying at the Aristocrat House, a seedy, roach-infested transient hotel near the factory district. It was a horrible place, reeking of urine, disinfectant, unwashed bodies and other nauseating odors. The rooms were small, dimly lit and sparsely furnished. The paint on the walls was peeling, the plaster was cracked and crumbling. Yellowed, fading signs on every door read “No cooking or open fires allowed.” The communal bathrooms, located at each end of the long, narrow and trash-strewn hallways were rank, stomach-churning pigsties. In fact, calling them pigsties would have been a compliment. They were so nasty that the Spanish Inquisition could have used them to wring confessions from heretics.

Despite its proximity to the local mills and foundries, I doubt if even one honest working man rented a room at the Aristocrat House. I couldn’t imagine anyone with money or a steady job choosing to live there. It seemed to me that most of the residents were damaged souls, low-lifes and losers, the unemployable and the mentally ill, people who had to look up to see rock bottom. For them, it was the Aristocrat House, the institution or the street.

As disgusting as the Aristocrat House was, it was still a step up from our previous accommodations. For the past week and a half, Uncle Rudy and I had been living in his car, a battered and rusting five-year-old Ford Fairlane that he had received as part of his last divorce settlement.

“I’ve seen worse,” Uncle Rudy said, as we walked into our room and dropped our luggage; a duffel bag, two beat-up suitcases, a couple of shopping bags, and a canvas backpack that held my sketch pads, charcoal sticks and colored pencils. Looking around, he added, “Yeah, I’ve seen a lot fucking worse.”

“Well, I haven’t,” I replied.

“That’s because you’re too fucking young and stupid to know better,” he said, as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pint of whiskey. He took a long drink and gestured at me with the bottle before screwing the cap back on. “When you get a little older you’ll find out that there’s always a place that’s worse. Anyway, this is just temporary. We’ll get the fuck out of here as soon as I get my hands on a bitch with some money.”

“Speaking of money,” I said, “how are we paying for this place?”

A few hours earlier we had no money at all. The only reason we hadn’t starved to death was that there was still a bartender in town who was foolish enough to extend Uncle Rudy credit. We lived on bar snacks for a close to a week.

Uncle Rudy ignored my question. He was standing in front of the small mirror above the dresser, absorbed in combing his hair, taking particular care to cover the bald spot on top of his head. When he was satisfied with his appearance, he stepped back, cocked a finger at his image in the mirror and said, “You are one good looking motherfucker. And don’t you ever forget it.”

I looked out of the small grimy window for a while. It wasn’t much of a view, just enormous piles of slag, railroad tracks and billowing smokestacks. And in the distance beyond the factories, shimmering like a murky mirage in a wasteland, was Lake Michigan. I thought about going out later and drawing some sketches of the dismal scene, but I was tired and decided to wait until the next morning.

“You didn’t steal it the money, did you?” I asked. I knew he stole it, of course. That’s how he lived. He preferred to steal from women. They were his favorite target. But he would steal anything, at any time, from anybody. Once, in the back seat of his car, I found an empty charity canister, one of those things you find on store counters asking for donations to fight diseases and other righteous causes. I don’t remember what cause that particular canister was collecting for, but I do remember that there was a photograph of Jerry Lewis on it.

To be continued…

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