Monday, November 11, 2013

47) In the Lifeboat For Losers Cafe.

Arthur snapped out of his reverie at the raucous croaking of a pestilential drunk called Robert. Looking like a Werewolf from a war-zone, he had thrust his scabrous mug into Arthur’s face and was demanding a cigarette. Arthur sighed, he was sitting in the same window seat at the Yobbo Yo-Yo Cafe that he’d sat in for an eternity, entombed like some royal mummy in a crypt as if all time, space and movement elsewhere had been an illusion. 

It was sometime in the mid ‘Nineties and life in Sydney had been an awful trial, his dream of success in the arts fading fast, he was wallowing in the muck with countless other wannabes and possibly about to get trampled in the stampede to the Big Nowhere. Looking back he was amazed he'd survived the  years of exultation, horror and danger, but that had all just been a warm up for old age in the gutter, from now on it was do or die time. As Robert kept on hassling for a fag, Arthur flicked the bum a butt then turned his back on him, all the while perusing the flawed human cargo stacked around him in the Lifeboat for Losers Café.
Across from him sat a kooky old crone dressed like a teenaged Punk, in black leather mini-skirt, torn fish net stockings and studded dog collar. Her hair was razored into spikes, her eyes were huge, glazed empty pools, the smacked out eyes of the Omega People with a flood of mascara leaking down her craggy face. Most surreal of all was that she clutched on her lap a little pug dog that had the same face, haircut and dog collar as she did, like a vision from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and Arthur had to blink twice to get a hold on reality.
At the next table sat the dreaded Tax Collector in his baggy suit and tie, a tireless bore, he droned on and on in a monologue to nobody in particular about his weekend hobby, Druidic Pagan Rituals. This is where he would transmogrify from his tedious, real self to an heroic warrior dressed in cape and Viking's helmet, uttering streams of mumbo jumbo while he tried to get his hands on the Scarlet Whore of Babylon perched on the sacrificial altar. When Arthur told him to shut his cake-hole the bureaucrat hissed, “You useless deadbeat, what contribution have you ever made to society?” Arthur snapped in return, “As if a Tax collector is the epitome of an active social conscience! Stick it where the sun don’t shine, douche-bag!”
Sitting with the Taxman and nodding sagely at all the nonsense was Marcielle, the American braggart in his cowboy hat and tooled leather boots. He swore he was the script writer for the science-fiction spoof “Flesh Gordon” and had lived off the royalties ever since, though he taught script-writing at Sydney University for an extra crust. Any movie that got a mention in the Café’s interminable film-lore rant he was sure to have worked on or been present at during the shoot and he purported to have met everyone who shone in Hollywood. There was even the night he’d had dinner with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, only he’d taken a whore as his companion and she’d dipped her fingers into the pate and ruined his reputation.
He was a horny old devil, dripping with excitement when recounting all the teenage popettes he’d screwed in cheap hotel rooms. He commented loudly upon his hobby of trying to pick up sex in Internet chat-rooms, reading out his sordid e-mails, crowing over his deviousness. He looked more worn than his purported age of fifty-five years, with a drawn, creased face under long white hair, skin the texture of cottage-cheese, his sexually confused cyber-space  suckers were in for a big shock if they ever did meet him in the pallid flesh. Arthur figured Marcielle’s much trumpeted celebrity and sex spiel was a fantastic web of lies spun by a cocaine crazed con man and he sneered at all his sordid tall tales accordingly.
A scraggy prostitute by the name of Corinne ran into the Abandon All Hope Café crying for sanctuary, her rat’s tail hair in her face, her nose bloody, her lip-stick smeared and her black-lace dress torn apart causing her scrawny breasts to flap about like wet socks. She’d just ripped off a mug and he was hot on her heels and she screeched for Vitto to save her. She flung herself behind the counter and cowered there, Vitto stepping into the breach and blocking any sight of her behind his dirty apron. A fat oaf then came to the door, panting and eyeballing the crowd of misfits. Not finding what he wanted he ran on, and after a few minutes Corinne crawled forth, sniveling to Vitto to give her some hide-out cash. 

The Old Contrary Mary laughed in her face and told her to hide down in the toilets, not bring her troubles to his doorstep. She was reputed to have been a great beauty once, the toast of the jet-set, enjoying the high life, and then scag had got a hold of her. Twenty-one years later she was a haggard, villainous crow, scraping her next heroin-hit from the gutters, reduced to rifling the pockets of the dickheads desperate enough to go with her. She rushed out of the Café followed by the regulars' derisive taunts, they’d suffered her misadventures day in, day out, even Robert the Wino Werewolf laughed at her with the few brain cells he had left.
Robert the Werewolf continued gibbering into the lumpen faces around him and they listened attentively to him as if he were Professor Shlockendork. He sometimes dried out and studied medicine at University, only to sample the lab alcohol from the specimen jars and fall headlong into the heebie-jeebies again. His hairy face was a mass of wounds from his falls and his fights, he cherished a good beating, his pain receptors having got twisted from the imbibing of methylated spirits, fighting made him feel wanted. Arthur swore Vitto humored the drunk into hanging around so as to have company, any company, during the graveyard shift. Arthur felt a pinch on the arm from Vitto as he whirled past doing his usual dervish dance, making coffee, emptying ashtrays, washing dishes, sticking up photos of the penultimate shlock film-stars, fussing and fidgeting, making Arthur tired just watching him.

 Arthur took in the cluttered Café and seemed to glimpse through the haze of marijuana the faces of the many dispossessed souls who'd come and gone over the years, like ghosts still hovering in the corners. There squatted the shrewish Jan Eager, vomiting black bile as she pissed defiantly on the floor for all to see. She was a brilliant painter but as furious a misanthrope as Medusa, and she died alone in her Kings Cross flat, her corpse lying undiscovered for several weeks. Arthur could still see Mad Alice sitting at a table, lifting her blouse to flash her tits at unsuspecting strangers. She had long been a sex worker and had developed full-blown AIDS and was slowly rotting to bits. Covered in weeping sores and bandaged like a nuclear fall-out victim, she often sat on the wall opposite the Café for a breath of fresh air and still got propositioned by the deadhead pussy-punters who’d dribbled down Roslyn Street from the main drag of the Cross, blind-drunk and egregiously horny.
 His reminiscing intensified: out the door flounced a livid Fat Michelle after her one millionth argument; larger than life, mortified at being a blimp, she was the most belligerent of people. With a beefy arm she slammed the glass door hard and it shattered into splinters, earning her a lifetime ban from the Bete Noir Café. There were desolate nights when Fat Michelle yet loitered in the neighborhood to gaze longingly through the window at the crowd of deadbeats, wanting very much to belong, even if it was to a gang of misfits choking in their cloud of marijuana smoke. She had a bent crush on a creature called David Massacre and hung about the street like an ill wind hoping to catch a glimpse of her boyfriend’s cracked head.
The tragic specter of David Massacre shimmered between the two rows of tables at the Café’s center, that area being a strange attractor for flipped-out freaks. The poor fellow had an ugly dent in his forehead from where someone long ago had hit him on the head with an axe. He was forever plucking away at a beat up guitar, out of tune, making a horrendous noise as he whined bits of a song he was trying to write. With manic flourishes he promised everyone he’d been signed up by a record company, and was on his way to fame and fortune for his song would definitely be a hit on the airwaves. He was so brain-damaged he never realized the only hit he was ever going to have was the one he’d already had on the head with the axe.
He creaked on till he lost his reason completely and sued Vitto and the Café for harassment and psychological injury, after he’d rioted and broken everything he could lay his hands on. They all had to go to court and Vitto had to trundle forth umpteen witnesses to declare that, in truth, it was David Massacre who was torturing him, coming to his Café and smashing the place to bits in a psychotic melt-down. This was the same maniac who had previously sat down and played guitar on the Sydney Airport runway to stop the capitalist machines from landing. They dragged him off the runway but they didn’t stop him from marauding, and it was the Café No Skyway in the High that he set his deluded attentions upon, intent on destroying the dump. Finally he became yet another of the sorry stiffs found in their grubby apartments weeks after they had dropped dead, from alienation and exhaustion.
Arthur focused on reality when Karl, the most notorious drunk on Kings Cross, staggered through the door squawking his usual stream of abuse and splashing his cheap wine about. He played Frankenstein to Robert’s Werewolf, with his clothes in tatters and skinny frame covered in suppurating lesions from having fallen flat on his face innumerable times. He looked like a leper who’d fallen under a train, as mangled as a tub of KFC chicken, and trailing dirty bandages behind him. He took perverse pleasure in placing his filthy, cadaverous hands on the chic designer-clothed shoulders of the few nice, middle-class customers Vitto could attract into the Necropolis Cafe. Karl had made a fine art of terrorizing the good burghers of Kings Cross, scuttling dead drunk through their shop doors, demanding a hand-out and screeching obscenities when refused.
The moment the old soak showed his face, Vitto started screaming for him to “Get out!” over and over, but the crafty old sot ignored him and continued to shout his warped opinion of the “horrible fucking world” he was forced to live in. This had gone on for years, Vitto being reduced to a helpless, quivering jellyfish in the face of Karl’s resolute obnoxiousness.
Karl stayed glued to his seat, spitting and cursing, with Vitto shrieking and wailing for him to “Fuck off!” Arthur got totally wound up, he’d had it with the years of abuse from this useless old pisspot, with poor Vitto on the verge of a nervous breakdown, brandishing scissors, ready to cut Karl’s tongue out. Arthur jumped up and grabbed the drunk’s wine bottle by the neck, Karl making a grab for it at the same moment, his bandaged claw latching on to the bottom of the bottle and clinging to it steadfastly. Like a dog on a lead, Arthur used the bottle to pull him from his chair and drag him out of the Café, Karl clasping his end of the bottle as if his life depended on it. Arthur pulled him across the road where he was plonked down on the ground and the bottle wrenched from his grasp. He then poured the wine onto Karl’s mangy head, screaming, “If you want booze, have it, have it all!” Karl stiffened, hunched his shoulders and screamed as if boiling coffee was being poured upon him.
When Arthur glanced up, he saw Robert the Werewolf, Karl’s partner in drunken outrages, stumbling towards him in slow motion, fist upraised in a punch and Arthur was easily able to reach in and give him a good shove in the face that sent him toppling like a collapsed wine bag. Then Karl lurched up and tried to throw a punch, feeble and pathetic, Arthur was like a speeding bullet in comparison, casually reaching over and pushing him on his arse again. By this time Robert had got to his feet and made another slow motion attack and just like in a George Romero zombie movie, Arthur found these walking dead-men child’s play to push over, no matter how many times they came at him. Karl had somehow got hold of a chair from the Bad Voodoo Café and he came staggering up with it raised shakily above his head as if to crush Arthur to smithereens. Arthur grabbed the chair and spun it, Karl spinning with it and then falling to the ground with his butt up in the air. Arthur gave him an almighty swift kick up the arse that sent him sprawling.
Robert tottered up again, wanting more attention, but the brawl was getting tedious, with all of Roslyn Street watching in grim satisfaction from their shop doorways and someone yelling, “ Kill ’em, Artie, kill ‘emmm!” He asked Robert if he really wanted it and Robert nodded assent, desirous of an orgasm of pain, a resigned Arthur giving him a hard Wing Chung kick to the balls. He flinched but kept on coming and he got a second, harder kick in the nuts. He stopped for a second, as if questioning his senses, then lumbered on, hands out groping mid-air just like a zombie. He got one last, hard kick in the crotch and he stopped in his tracks, his eyes rolled up into his head, he stuttered and drooled, he was kind of ecstatic, he’d had enough, a veritable orgy of violence, and he reeled away.
Arthur strode back to Nurse Ratshit’s Glass-box Café, having finished giving his bad therapy, only to confront Vitto clutching at his face a la Anna Magnani, eyeballs popping like he’d seen the Devil’s spawn in action. Arthur tried to drink his café latte with tranquility, as though nothing had happened, when the two piss-heads reappeared and tried to shove their way into the cafe, crowding each other out and getting stuck in the doorway, as if in an absurd Laurel and Hardy skit. Karl was naked except for a pair of yellow, silk boxer shorts and one red-boxing glove which he had miraculously managed to dredge from the gutters of the Cross in seven minutes. They created a god-awful ruckus and Vitto was reduced to shrieking mindlessly again.
The Old Mole blamed Arthur for creating the disturbance and insisted he leave the premises, throwing him like a sacrificial lamb to the wolves howling out on the street. Arthur made a pompous speech about friendship and betrayal, loyalty and shallowness, while the old Maestro of Melodrama looked on disgruntled from behind his coffee machine. Arthur then strode to the door and pushed the drunks out of the way and left, swearing it was the last time he would honor the dump with his presence. He had the Sydney art-world to conquer, they were a much nastier crowd than these fools and, while fighting zombies was great training, it was beneath a man of his talents. As far as Arthur was concerned, the Café should have been called the Gladiator’s Shit Pit and he was never going there again.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.